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Sometimes we just want to erase crises.

Sometimes we wish we could erase a crisis.

Recently I had the distinct honor of spending one hour on the phone with “America’s crisis guru”™, Jim Lukaszewski. I had recently wrapped up some crisis communications work for a client and eagerly wanted to do more. After listening to Jim on a recent webinar about the Brian Williams scandal, I decided to “learn from the master.”

Here’s what Jim shared about crisis communications (which he defined as “people stopping, reputational stopping, show stopping, product stopping, victim creating and sometimes high profile work.”)

1. Call it Readiness Review. No boss every wants to believe they will have a crisis. Generally speaking they are correct. As Jim says, true crises, such as violence in the workplace or an executive caught in an untruth are few in number. So ask the boss “What are you ready to handle? What are you not ready for?” Make a list of things that can be done better.

2. Tell a Story. Jim said that stories are the second most powerful way of learning. What’s the lesson in the story? Boil down the lesson into teachable elements like numbered lists.

3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes. Say something that matters to the other person from their perspective. Remember, it’s less and less about “me.” Focus on the person. Be interested in them and their perspective.

4. All Problems are Management Issues. Is it a management/leadership problem or a followership problem?  No one knows the business like the boss – it’s their business. What are the options? Communicators are really option providers as opposed to solution providers as some professionals call themselves.

5. Ask Good Questions. What would the boss tell his/her mother? Jim said most great leaders have a close relationship with their mothers. That’s why this question is one of Jim’s favorites. No doubt it brings any matter to a simple truth. It’s certainly one question we could all use in business more often.

What are some actions you would add in a “readiness review?”

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Matt Overby, Executive Director of Summit Leadership Foundation

Matt Overby, Executive Director of Summit Leadership Foundation

Recently I’ve noticed a trend among my 30-something friends with young children. When it comes to social media, you can’t find them (or their babies.) One of those friends, Matt Overby, the 37 year old Executive Director of the Summit Leadership Foundation, decided, along with his wife, to “cut the social media cord” when their infant son was born last year. I was interested in why a very tech savvy, marketing-oriented leader would choose to do this. So I sat down to interview Matt and ask him about it. Matt has extensive training in the hospitality industry both at Starbucks and at Chick-fil-A, and he is a student of Leadership Guru John Maxwell. Our seven minute conversation is well worth the listen to see the insights into a young father’s mind as to why he did not want his baby on Facebook, twitter, instagram or any other public platform.

Although I had seen this trend with Matt and others, in researching this pos,t I found only one article about it called “No Baby on Board: Many Parents Keeping Info About Their Babies Off Social Media.” Ironically, after I left the interview with Matt I bumped into another young father and shared our discussion with him. This very tech-savvy dad told me he also quit social media when his first child was born. “Not with facial recognition,” was his comment as he shook his head “no” when asked if he posted his kids’ photos on social media platforms.

What’s been your experience with other parents of newborns? Are they staying on social media or quitting? I would love to hear from you.

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Beautiful Christmas decorations adorned the Martha Washington Inn weekend when we were there in early January.

Beautiful Christmas decorations adorned the Martha Washington Inn.

The first month of the new year is a fresh start for everyone. We all begin at the January starting line together. Many of us work on our company’s strategic plans over the holidays and prepare for what lies ahead. But how many take the time to create a strategic plan  with their spouses and families?

Four years ago my husband and I sat down for the first time in our then 16-year old marriage and wrote down a plan for the future. We have literally checked off the “action items” we created in that meeting one by one over the ensuing years.

This year over the first weekend of 2015  we took an overnight trip  to the Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon, Virginia (one of our favorite getaway locations and location of our honeymoon night!) The Inn’s General Manager Chris Lowe gave us a wonderful meeting room space, complete with a roaring fire, to work on our family’s plan. The idea of being in a neutral, quiet location with the chance to talk is one I highly recommend. Also, by spending the night at “The Martha” we had an opportunity for some fun together time (like swimming in the indoor salt water pool) and it wasn’t “all work.”

Here are our tips for your family’s planning:

1- “Begin with the End in Mind.” That famous Stephen Covey statement is a great place to start. Decide on a family mission statement and work backward from there OR work until you come up with your family mission statement as we did during our first meeting several years ago. That gave us a starting point for this meeting.

2- Get away! Go to a neutral and preferably “get away” location where you and your spouse can have some fun too. Do not try this at home or at either person’s office. (We know we’ve tried!)

3- Ditch the Devices: Take calendars, notepads (the kind with paper) and pens or pencils. We turned off our mobile devices during our meeting and just focused on one another. We manually wrote down the tasks and goals for 2015 and beyond. We wanted to focus on each other and not on our screens.

4- Follow up: Be sure to turn the notes into an easy to reference “action item” list to refer to throughout the year. Post that list in a prominent place in the kitchen where you’re bound to see it. Then check-off items as you complete them.

5- Share with your children: Include your children in some portion of the planning process if they are old enough. Our “tween” has great insights and unique points of view (particularly about family vacation planning). When we returned from our “getaway” we shared some of our discussions with our son to get both his input and his ideas to make the 2015 Miller family plan even better.

Have you created a strategic plan for your family? If so what tips would you add?

 

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ToDoListIt’s time to roll out another new year and with it all of the hopes and changes that a new season brings. Old man 2014 withers and fades and the bouncing new baby of January 2015 is upon us. So many times we think “big” when we think of the changes we’re going to make in the new year. Perhaps that’s why gym memberships balloon like December waistlines each January, only to fall off once the sore muscles and routine of discipline sets in.

Instead of declaring broad, sweeping changes like to “lose 20 pounds in two weeks” or “win the lottery” what if we take time to examine our lives and make one, small change? That’s right. Just one, small change that we can implement daily.

In 2014 I did something so simple that not only worked, it streamlined my life. I’m delighted to share this tip with you. (I learned it from Success Magazine publisher Darren Hardy.)

Each night before you go to sleep, write down and PLAN the following day! Simple right? But it works. If you actually wait until the new day is upon you (as I did for years!) you will feel overwhelmed.  Write down the night before what the next day will look like. Quite simply, plan ahead. You will be amazed how much more smoothly the day will flow and how accomplished you will feel when you chart your course the night before.

What are some simple and small tips that you will be using to meet your goals in the new year?

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The Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Leadership 2015 class

The Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Leadership 2015 class

Today I had a fascinating round table discussion with members of our Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Leadership 2015  class. Since I only had a brief time to meet with them before they headed out on their “Technology Day” I shared the latest Equalman Socialnomics video. These videos are always professionally done and the fast-paced, statistic-packed video served as a great conversation starter for my question:

How has your business (or you personally) been positively or negatively impacted by social media?  

Here is a quick sample of the leaders’  answers:

1- Smart Phone Stress: Are we ever “off?”- One leader said, “I now feel like I have to work from the deer stand.” With smart phones he asked, “when can we manage to turn it off? When do you stop and decompress?”  The same man said that he deliberately left his phone behind when he went to Ireland for nine days and when he returned he had 1,600 emails to return. “I paid for it,” he said of his time “unplugged.” Others commented that if they are up at 3 AM texting they expect others to do the same. Our work cycle has moved toward 24-7.

2- Power-full: Representatives (and customers) of the power board mentioned how handy it is now to gain real time information about power outages. One class member and customer said how very appreciative she was of the regular updates from our power board versus other places she had lived.

3- Increasing student enrollment: A representative from the Gatton College of Pharmacy mentioned how she deliberately engaged students before they attend the school on Facebook. She welcomed them as “members of the class of 2018″and gave them a sense of belonging and engagement. After this type of outreach, enrollment numbers went up.

4- Everyone’s a publisher: Conversation was lively concerning the “double edged sword”; the ability to publish but also the ability to move quickly and not take time to check the facts as in certain well publicized recent news stories.

5- Checking out future workers and colleagues: The leaders cited the ability to go onto LinkedIn and quickly assess people to see their resume, their connections and more.

6- Not EVERYone is online: Two leaders who work in the highly regulated financial services industry two  said they are extremely limited as to what they can and can not do digitally. “Everything must be recorded” said one leader. “Even our instant messages have to be recorded.”

7- Go Paperless (Really): One Human Resources director said she really enjoys the elimination of paper work in both the job application process and recruiting thanks to the digital workplace. “An applicant now never touches a piece of paper until they come to work for us,” she said.

How have you as a leader been impacted by social media and our digital society for good or for bad? I would love to hear your story.

 

 

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Learning to be thankful leads to a joyful life.

Learning to be thankful leads to a joy.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a day-log session at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina with Author Stormie Omartian. Hearing Stormie and her testimony was truly spellbinding. As a gift to all attendees The Cove gave everyone the book, “Choosing Gratitude, Your Journey to Joy” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

To summarize, the book emphasizes the importance of keeping an attitude of thankfulness in our hearts no matter what we are facing. DeMoss, a Christian author, asks the question: “Are you more prone to focus on what you wish you had (or didn’t have) or on the blessings you do have that are far greater than you deserve?”

For several months at the beginning of 2014  I wrote down something each day that I was thankful for about my husband, Danny. Then I shared it with him each morning. You would be amazed how that one act of kindness and gratitude lifts the spirits of your spouse. I highly recommend it to all married persons.

At this season of Thanksgiving I would challenge you to write down 10 things you are grateful for TODAY and share them with your loved ones as you’re passing the pumpkin pie! As for me, I’m grateful to you for faithfully reading this blog and commenting throughout the year. Furthermore, I’m extremely grateful to my clients and referral sources for providing me with work for over five years.

What’s something you are grateful for this Thanksgiving?

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Those of you who’ve been following my posts know that  I was inspired by Kid President Robby Novak’s YouTube video calling on local communities to collect new socks for the homeless during “Socktober.” The results are in and it was a resounding success!  With some fantastic team work we soared past our goal of 750 pairs of new socks, actually getting 1053 pairs!

With the help of a number of  local businesses and the Johnson City Morning Rotary Club, we collected new socks in all sizes and for both genders. This week we gave the warm, new and often colorful socks, to United Way of Washington County, TN for distribution to the United Way agencies that serve the homeless.

Socktober sponsors turn in socks to United Way President and CEO Lester Lattany.

Socktober sponsors turn in socks to Washington County TN United Way President and CEO Lester Lattany.

“We would like to thank all of the coordinators and participants of this year’s Socktober campaign. The socks will be given to our agencies that provide direct services to children and homeless families in our community. This campaign is another expression of the very caring spirit that is in this great community” said United Way of Washington County’s President and CEO Lester Lattany.

Johnson City Schools Homeless coordinator Bonnie White said the sock donations are vital necessities. “These new socks are very much needed,” White said. “Many children come to school with shoes that are too small or too large and they get blisters on their feet from not having any socks at all.”

United Way of Washington County TN and Mary Ellen Miller of MarketingMel with  over 1,000 pairs of new socks for the homeless.

United Way of Washington County TN and Mary Ellen Miller of MarketingMel with over 1,000 pairs of new socks for the homeless.

MarketingMel along with Summit Leadership Foundation, Spine & Sports Chiropractic and Appearances Hair Salon and the Johnson City Morning Rotary (at Johnson City Country Club) were Socktober sponsors. This year many great drop off locations participated including: Appearances Hair Salon, Cumberland Marketing, Exalt Academy of Cosmetology, First Tennessee Bank, Johnson City Country Club, Spine & Sports Chiropractic, Summit Leadership Foundation, Tri-City Community Bank and Princeton Arts Center. Additional businesses that heard about the campaign and asked to be a part were Chick-Fil-A Crossings and Robinson’s Animal Hospital.

A great big THANK YOU to all who took part. If you’re reading this blog, did your community take part in #Socktober?

 

 

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Students in MarketingMel's "Gettting Professional With LinkedIn" workshop at Milligan College.

Students in MarketingMel’s “Gettting Professional With LinkedIn” workshop at Milligan College.

LinkedIn is one social media platform woefully underused by college students. Recently I was invited to present a LinkedIn workshop to a group of Milligan College Juniors and Seniors. The students who attended came on their own time so the classroom was full of soon-to-be graduates who were eager to learn.  It was a two-part session with the first hour sharing information and questions about LinkedIn and the second being hands-on creation of individual student profiles. Students brought their laptops.  Each student brought their resume to class in order to have it handy for the LinkedIn profile creation. First we extensively reviewed the demographics of LinkedIn which leans heavily male 25-54. Income levels skew $100,000+ and the typical LinkedIn user checks in around 8 AM and 5pm, before and after work. Clearly, these are the business professionals who will be making the hiring decisions for these students in the future. Here are a few of the tips I shared with the college students.

  1. Professional Photo: Probably one of the most critical elements of LinkedIn is the good, professional head shot. The school provided a professional photographer. Then each student had a professional head shot made to upload for their profile creation during the hands-on portion.
  2. Professional attire: All students were advised to look professional for the photo. In other words wear clothes appropriate for a job interview.
  3. Use LinkedIn to find potential job leads: LinkedIn has an excellent internal search engine specifically for jobs. We used this as an example in class to look for “marketing jobs in Johnson City, TN” as an example.
  4. Join Groups and ask pertinent questions: I showed the students how I used an actual LinkedIn group, the Public Relations and Communications Job Community, to crowdsource in helping me prepare for the talk with them. We received 25 very helpful comments on using LinkedIn to find a job that I shared with the class.
  5. Updates: Post regular updates on LinkedIn that will be of use to your business audience.
  6. Get references: When we went to the hands-on portion of the workshop I invited students to connect with ten people, then seek out a written reference and  give someone they know a written reference. (In LinkedIn as in life, what goes around comes around.)

What tips would you share from your LinkedIn experiences? What recommendations would you make to help seniors in college as they prepare to enter the workforce? Do you have a need for a similar workshop at your college, university or place of business? If so, please contact me via this web site.

View the prezi created by MarketingMel intern Alex Quillin for the workshop:

 

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