Working On and/or In Your Business – The Crucial Distinction!

As a small business owner and an entrepreneur, one of the hardest challenges faced is how to balance time between working in the business and working on the business. That in lies a critical distinction. For a business like mine here in the Upstate of South Carolina, I have to consistently looks for ways to refine and strengthen my business model. I am a Storyteller and I make money off of telling others’s stories using video, digital media, and social media.

If you are self-employeed or own a small business, you have probably started at day one doing both. It goes in cycles, you spend lots of time growing your business and when you take on clients, you then focus on serving those commitments. This is a good business cycle to have, so we should maximize our time and remember that when are not racking up billable hours, we need to grow our business.

Defining our terms:

Working On Your Business
This is when you are spending time and energy away from those billable hours to do the following:

  1. Business Development – seeking out new business opportunities, partnerships, or forging relationships and creating a plan.
  2. Working the Numbers – spending time not only servicing the books (finances) but also thinking strategically how to grow your business financially. Creating budgets for growth areas and contrast them with what is necessary to operate your business.
  3. Marketing – spending time working on your business message and delivering that message to the right audiences, using the right mediums. Creating and evolving your marketing plan and budget.
  4. Seminars/Conferences – spending time to grow as a business owner. Seeking out venues for you to meet like minded people and those who can help you grow.
  5. Rest – spending time away from your business to enjoy family and friends…the things that make you smile. ROR is crucial for reflection and critical for ROI.

Working In Your Business

  1. Generating billable hours – working with your clients to serve or satisfy your contractual obligations
  2. Business Development – executing time to pitch those clients, meeting prospects, generating proposals for your next set of billable hours.
  3. Servicing the Numbers – making sure that you are keeping up with your invoicing, liabilities, expenses, and operating costs. This is crucial to do weekly, monthly, then quarterly to get ready for Uncle Sam and his state friends.
  4. Servicing your relationships – writing thank you notes, taking a client to lunch, making follow-up phone calls, things necessary to be considered your clients “go-to” person.
  5. Marketing – executing daily, weekly, and monthly your marketing strategy.

It is my belief that a small business owner should spend the same amount of time on Working On Your Business as the billable hours your generate when you are working in your business. For every hour you bill a client, you should spend that same amount of time growing your business.

Brand Ambassadors Leading the Brand

The more and more I work with large hospitals working to integrate a social media strategy, educate the organization, and build a community of social media communicators…the more I am learning that the only way you can eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Not as social media communicator, but as a practitioner.

The next task on my agenda, work with a department outside within a “service line”. I had an appointment and met the director and a nurse. What I realized, they had already built a solid strategy for this department’s social media approach: build a community. They just used technology to connect and share branded information that allowed the patients to trust and learn more about the organization.

I sat back and thought…large organizations have so many tentacles, so many messages, so many “brand ambassadors.” We as practitioners need to be careful when implementing a social media strategy before evaluating a the communication strategy. A communication strategy with the organization’s audiences and with the organization’s “brand ambassadors.”

More and more large organizations are talking about a huge social media issue, they have tons of “brand ambassadors”! This is a good thing and can also pose a challenge. If you take a large hospital that has lots of service lines, departments, and thousands of employees that represent the face of the organization…there are probably lots of active social media accounts that are not a part of the strategy.

We are social creatures and we are also technology creatures as well. We want to use something that will connect us with other people that share the same ideas and conversations. It may be a receptionist in a doctors office of a major medical university. The front line relationship for that office because they are the ones who meets the patients on a daily basis. they might think, hey…start a Facebook group to connect with patients and offer them some information that might help them. Connect with them daily and build a relationship with them. The reality, they are one of many people out there doing the same thing, inside an organization.

What comes of this can lead to some interesting conversations. Right now, hospitals across the country are scrambling as fast as they can (especially in marketing departments) to not only understand the social media’s but also create repository of all the accounts and set-up some best practices. Their is a brand identity conversation and for hospitals, a HIPPA conversation.

So…what to do? COMMUNICATE!

You now have “brand ambassadors” within your organization that you can work with to build a Social Media strategy for the whole organization. They are the front line people meeting with those who use the organization’s services. Empower and engage the “brand ambassadors.”

First step…build a team! Empower those “brand ambassadors” in your organization and engage those who are the tentacles to all of the service lines and departments. Build an advisory team and meet regularly.

Second…do a social media assessment of the organization. Spend time finding all of the social media accounts that have been created and identify those who are managing these accounts.

Third…after you have built a list of all the social media accounts within the organization (or someway represent part or whole of the organization), do a message analysis of these account. Learn what messages they are transmitting, what conversations are taking place, and the frequency of these messages.

Fourth…identify the audiences each one of these social media accounts are engaging. Be as specific as possible, drilling down to the very core of this group.

Fifth..compare notes between the messages of the “brand ambassadors” and the organization’s brand. Find the consistencies and the discrepancies.

Sixth…write a social media mission statement for the organization and all the tentacles that fall under the brand. Engage your “brand ambassadors”.

Engage, Communicate, and Tell the Stories.

Building a Social Media Presence around Video

Using video is one of those mediums that can really enhance your social media presence and can add so much to your campaign. BUT, you gotta think through this little bag of tricks. If done incorrectly, this integrated marketing tool can make you look like a dummy! (I almost just typed a bad word).

I am not going to talk about message development, that is a whole other ball of wax. I am going to talk about how using video online can help generate traffic, relationships, and enhance your SEO.

First…create a series of short messages around a campaign, event, and idea.  When I mean series, I mean more than 3 different video messages. These need to be targeted at a specific audience and a specific topic. This over-arching theme will bring these messages together.

Second…have a home-base for these video messages.  Whether it is a blog, a video section of your site, or the homepage; these video messages need a home so people can find them within one consistent place.

Third…these video messages need to have a equal treatment in production quality as the message itself. If it is meant to be shaky and  dark…your message better represent the reason why it is shaky and dark. But, be controlled in the delivery of the production quality. The person watching needs to understand your message, the production quality needs to enhance the message not detract.

Fourth…create a channel on YouTube, Blip.tv, or Vimeo to host all of these video messages. Once the messages are created, upload them to these channel and spend time developing the title for each video, the description, and the tags/key words. I sometimes use the URL of the homebase for these messages in the title.

Fifth…schedule a release of these messages. If you have produced 5 of these and you want to share all of them…maybe release them once a week. Use the embed code provided by YouTube, Blip.tv, or Vimeo and place them within the site. Once placed…tell the world!

Sixth…tell the world that they are updated on your home-base. Use TweetDeck and/Hootsuite to regually tell the world that a new video has been updated. Use email marketing and even LinkedIn to tell your spheer of influence that is it live and people can go watch it. Ohh…when you tell them, use the URL where it is located at the home-base and shorten the URL using TweetDeck or Hootsuite. This will allow you to track the clicks. This works well in a blog where you have a specific URL for each blog post.

Seventh…create a discussion around the video that was just updated. Get on your social networks and tell people about the video and ask their opinion about the content, create a discussion.

Eighth…repeat this process. Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) talks about consistency and frequency when using new media and social media combined. It is smart thinking.

Video in Blogs: more than the brain dump!

Video production is one of the most time consuming efforts one can take on when trying to create content for online media. It is not only one of the most time consuming but can be one of the most labor intensive and cost prohibited methods to engage an audience via a message. Now, I know that it has become easier to take that small video camera, shoot some video, upload it to YouTube, and post it to the site. But there is a balance: when to use professional based services/equipment and consumer based services/equipment.

As this is one of my areas of offering…I understand the market is shifting with online video content being created and offered by more consumer based models. But, with that said…this leads me to my argument. There are times and places when to use video content for the blog. There are times and places when to use consumer based equipment and when to use more professional based services. Bottomline…it comes down to MESSAGE. Yep!

Regardless of how and why you approach the production, video for the blog can be POWERFUL…Yes, if used the right way! Now, I am not an expert, just a person that understands user-centered applications of video content. I did get my graduate level education based in user-centered design and audience analysis and I been working behind the camera since 1992 with numerous awards for broadcast television excellence. That was the credibility spin for you…but it was to let you know I am not just shooting you a line of bull.

Here are some thoughts to consider when creating video content for your blog:

  1. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket. Basically, no need to feel like you have to record an eight minute video about your thoughts when you can spread out the topics to multipurpose the content.
  2. Multipurpose the content. You are going to invest in time in setting up the equipment to shoot the video, shot lots of short video segments that can be used not only in the blog but in other areas.
  3. Keep the video content to around a minute, and no more than minute and a half. Remember, the attention span of a quick clicking web browser can only engage in video content so long.
  4. Create multiple short video segments within one shoot. I worked with a client and we shot a whole years worth of content in one day, enough to release one video on his blog once a week.
  5. Know that the video content for the blog must either take the complimentary position to the written content or the reverse. Know which is the most important content and shape the post based on this concept.
  6. Research a good technical set-up for the shoot, if you are a one man show. DO NOT sit in front of a mirror or window…the camera will not like that. You can also use a household standing light as your “key light” filling your face to make you not look so dark.
  7. Make sure you have a good audio set-up. This means invest in a microphone that can record you; so you not sound like you are standing across the room.
  8. Consider hiring a video producer/message creator/videographer for this production. This person will help you formulate your message and keep you on task with the message and delivery. They will also help you with the technical side so you can focus on the delivery and not if the camera is going to tip over.
  9. Use the power of YouTube. It helps you with SEO and also with that big homogenous linkage system that powers Google. Plus, it can play on almost all the mobile devices so anyone can view your message within your blog.
  10. If you want to consider private hosting, consider someone that deliver to mobile devices via HTML5 or other javascript based applications. I use Sorenson360 and it has great user analytics from viewership to length of video watched.

So…take with a grain of salt. Give me your thoughts and ask questions.

Remembering A Fallen Hero from Iraq: Memorial Day

When I was working in Special Projects for WCNC-TV back in 2006, we were putting together a special show for fallen heros during the Iraq Conflict. A story came across our radar, one that was done for the News Department on a nightly turn around. This story touched my boss Allison Andrews and she came to me to see if I could re-edit the story, add some touches to it for a special show she wanted to put together.

Some of you do not realize, but in larger television markets; some stations have Special Project/Investigative Units staffed specifically to take stories that had more layers to investigate and invest for in-depth review and production. These stories had a little something different that was worth the extra time and effort. The News Department was tasked to find stories to find and produce within the same day. Sometimes they needed more attention. This story caught our eyes, ears, and hearts. This takes a lot!

You see, I have visited more houses during my time as a journalist, interviewing families who have lost loved ones serving our country. I have conducted more interviews, edited more stories about loved ones lost during their service. More stories than I choose to remember. But I should remember, because it is their service that provides the mere freedom and luxuries that I take for granted during my daily life. I am the only male on my father’s side of the family that did not serve his country. I was a mathematics major at Clemson and should have been in the Navy flying jets. But, I had asthma and the armed services threw up a red flag. Because of this…I try to find some way to honor those who have served in my place.

This Memorial Day, I remember a story from 2006. Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Ramseyer from Lenoir, North Carolina lost his life in a road side bomb in Iraq. It was April 20, 2006 to be exact when his mother and wife received the news that he had past away. He had two girls. I remember you Staff Sergeant Jason Ramseyer, and I am forever grateful for your service to this great nation. You have laid down your life in front of this altar of freedom, more than I could ever do for this great nation.

Here is the story we produced in his honor.
Marine Killed

Here are some links to learn more about Staff Sergeant Jason Ramseyer:
Arlington National Cemetery
Fallen Heros Memorial
Military Times
Black Five
Palm Beach Post

As they stand…this Memorial Day

As they stand…
As we sit in services across this great nation
and we ask them to stand
they stand for us
to remind us
how many who stand for us.

We sit and wonder who are these people that stand around us
Each has a story
Each has a plan
Each has a time they have served.

We have asked in so many services
across this land of vast liberty
in churches
in schools
in meetings
in our homes
to ask those who have served to stand
to be recognized.

We asked them to stand and serve
to serve what for what they believe
to serve for what others believe
for what we as a nation believe.

As they stand…
We remember those who are not with us
thankful for those who still stand with us
reminded of what they stand for
reminded for what they stood for
proud of their time served.

As I sit…
I wonder
what have I done today
to serve this great nation
that provides this fertile ground I call home.

As I sit…
I look at those who stand
honored to be among great leaders
those who stood strong
and carried the altar of freedom
in their hands
holding firmly to protect
lightly enough to not to shatter.

As I  sit…
honored
thankful
humble
I remember to recognize
those who stand!

As they stand!

——————-
I wrote this in the middle of church service today, the day before Memorial Day 2010. I was struck when the preacher asked for those who have served this nation, stand to be recognized. Men and women of all ages stood, hundreds of them from all walks of life, those with different ethnicities, ideologies, ages, branches of service, and times served. I was struck by the visual of those standing, as I sit in the pew wondering the true definition of Memorial Day. So my pen took over and I filled up every white space possible on my bulletin. But as I wrote, I was inspired three times in the service: when they stood, a passage from the litany*, and the chorus of the hymn**.

* From the Litany of Psalm 90
“People: May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.”

** From “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!

I memorialize those who faithfully served this great nation, to provided the very freedom I enjoy daily!

I leave you with this letter by President Abraham Lincoln to a Mrs. Bixby, one I think of all the time. So eloquent the words I feel explains the true blessing this nation has been afforded by those who we memorialize.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
A. Lincoln

What does it really mean to tell a story? Finding the Zone!

What does it mean to really tell a story? What does it mean to be in the zone? To feel totally connected with the idea you are trying to reach into, understand, taste, smell, iterate? What is the zone…that common place that we feel extremely connected to something not beyond our reach, but beyond our discourse, the language that describes.

Telling rich stories is finding the zone of understanding, comprehension, imagination…and turning that realization into pieces translated so others with like minds comprehend and give language. Language is symbolic. Opposing arguments create connected drama.

I am always in search of a good story. One that puts me in the zone. I am in search of people that want to tell their story, regardless if they admit it or not. I am in search of people and organizations that have a story to tell but yet have no discourse by which to translate so others can see their viewpoint through their lens.

I am looking for layers. Stories with layers engage and are memorable. It is easy to tell the beginning, middle, and end…but what about the stories that are not that simple. Stories, layers, richness that require thought, context, and multiple viewpoints to bring the audience into the zone of complete and utter comprehension. Connection.

What is the zone…the true commonplace. The space that is closed between your idea of comprehension and the place where the orator brings you to see his/her viewpoint. You know that place. It is the place similar to the movie theatre when slowly but surely you loose your peripheral vision and you are totally and completely engaged with the storyline. You forget your surroundings so much that you can almost smell the flowers in the screen, you can feel the water around you. Have you been there before. What does it take to create you own theater? An emotional connection.

The zone is the place where the author/orator meet the audience and they dance to this merry little song where you can recite the words just the way the writer meant for you to sing. That moment at a concert where the singer on the stage pauses during a common part of the song and the audience sings without skipping a beat…you know the zone. The place where audience and author/writer/orator are in complete cadence.

What does it mean to tell a story? Well…it is helping the audience find your zone, their zone and see the same red-string, the same theme in complete agreement.

Trust…Building True Social Media Relationships! The Real SM ROI!

Over two years ago, I ventured into this world of Social Media by opening my first Twitter account. I remember being on Facebook and watching my friends simply updating their status with “I am Twittering”. I was wondering, what the hell are they talking about. I had just opened my Facebook account a few months prior. So…off I went and I was trying to figure out this crazy world of Social Media and the technologies that support this crazy interaction.

I think I remember engaging in the Social Media Club here in Greenville, SC and attending one of the early Monday morning events. It was a new crowd that I have ever been exposed and thought, I need to figure this out quickly! As I navigated this new paradigm, I realized that the only way I was going to figure this mess out is find thought leaders in my community…to not only engage online but meet in person. I quickly starting using this new found 140 character communication pathway to follow people. Those who had lots of followers and were relatively close to me in my area.

I met so many interesting and diverse people. We had a common theme…figure this crazy thing out! Along the way I met this one person via Twitter. This person walked to a similar beat as myself. I started following this person’s Tweets and began to realize he not only had something to say but also had a good sense of business…and this crazy new paradigm shift. As I followed him, I started going through who was following him and who he was following. Honestly, I followed as many of people he was following as I could. I spent the first three months just watching the conversations. Learning the lingo, understanding the relationships in this place, figuring out who was doing business and who was just shooting from the hip without a leg to stand on!

This was right before the market “crash” and the marketing world was turned upside down. As I began to watch the conversations and see who was chatting, I quickly learned who the “thought leaders” were and who were those that were capitalizing on others ideas. I also learned how to leverage online relationships. Engage in thoughtful conversations and at the same time ask questions to help me figure out this new exploratory art, but not ask for  too much info. You know, that free consulting thing that no one wants to give out.

I began to notice that this one individual had some street cred and he also shared some similar passions, using digital media and visuals to engage audiences. He was a photojournalist at heart! So I dropped him a DM and said, hey…can I buy you a cup of coffee. He agreed and one morning over two years ago in the Coffee Underground, I sat at a table and wondered if online business relationships could translate to in-person conversation. My new friend (and now colleague) and I shared a cup of coffee and a bunch of war stories about storytelling, photography, and this thing called Social Media.

Over two years later, we catch up, talk some business, have a few beers, and chat about dreams and possibilities! From branding, photography, documentaries, and even some local gossip…that beer every so often has turned into mutual trust. We have traded business, referred each other to potential clients, shared billable knowledge, and just shot the shit. Trust.

So, how can you measure your Social Media experience? He is actually one of the thought leaders when it comes to Social Media ROI. I think he is getting tired of talking about this broken record debate, but he has a consistent valid point, it is more than numbers. So what is my Social Media ROI after two years of engaging with this new fangled technology? Well…here it is: I have made a few friends, learned some cool knowledge, gained some followers, and even increased measurable web traffic to my site/blog. But here is the true Social Media ROI…I have made a good friend! I am blessed to have friends like Olivier Blanchard not only in my contact list, but in my quick dial to have a beer! I am fortunate to be able to say hey, this is more than all of this marketing bullshit! I have gained a colleague, one I can look up to and even call on for a favor! Ok mister @thebrandbuilder … I have an iPad waiting! Enjoy your trip to France!

So here is my question…who have you met via a Social Media and truly created a real relationship?  This is not a corny question! Who? Who can you say you met online using one of the technologies and now have taken the relationship beyond the digital interface? What is your Social Media ROI?

When I will not use FourSquare or Gowalla: Checks & Balances

The big debate and controversy is when people choose to tell the world when and where they are using Social Media. Basically checking in via Foursquare or Gowalla. Beyond this, using the geo-location option in Twitter via updates. So I have been thinking about when to use Foursquare and Gowalla to tell my location, and Twitter to tell what I am doing and where. My thoughts:

When I will not use Twitter, Foursquare, or Gowalla to update my status:

  1. When I am home – I will not allow these geo-location media’s to pinpoint my location at my house or say I am home and here it is on a map.
  2. When I am working with a client – unless it is used to educate the client via potential use of this technology.
  3. When I am at my family’s houses – I will not use geo-location to pinpoint my location. Their privacy is just as important as mine.
  4. When I am away from my house for an extended time and no one is there to watch the house. Even when I am on a vacation, I will not update my status using geo-location unless I am sure someone is watching the house.

Why have I sat back and made these distinctions? Well, last year I was robbed at my house in the middle of the night. I had over $13K in camera equipment stolen. The person only stole this equipment specifically and nothing else. They knew I where it was and watched my movements. The only way they knew my movements was based on some Twitter updates stating what I am doing and how I would be traveling. I do not want to disclose anymore, but after lots of research and retracing my movements…I know almost for certain that this happened because of my Twitter updates. I was new to the game and was not thinking through some of my comments and posts. I have learned a VALUABLE LESSON.

Have you sat down and thought through how and when you use Social Media’s and geo-locators? Here are some questions I think you should ask yourself or thoughts to ponder:

  1. When will I disclose my location via geo-locators?
  2. What places warrant updates, letting the wide world know where you are currently.
  3. Do you understand when you are updating your location at one place, you know that it means you are not somewhere else?
  4. Do you think there is an audience that can leverage the knowledge of your location to benefit them positively and impact you negatively.
  5. How can you benefit from this geo-location service? What benefit does it bring to your routine?

Geo-location is fun especially when checking into Starbucks, getting a badge, and then getting a discount. It is fun to find friends and others via geo-locators…it is like “being in the in-crowd.” But, can this fun new tool cause you more harm than good? I have learned and will continually learn how to leverage these fun tools and create a system of checks and balances for my daily use.

The question of the night, should I take my iPad to Church?

I know this is a business blog with business related topics, specifically storytelling, video, new media, and social media. But tonight I am at an interesting crossroad. This is a post about technology. You know I love my iPad and all of it’s relevant uses. About a month ago I received my iPad 3G in the mail. Ever since then, I have found so many uses beyond just content creation. From reading books, social media, games, drawing, mapping, even writing blog posts.

One of the uses I am looking forward to this fall is using the iPad  to teach my Business Writing class at Clemson University. I will not only be able to download the books but also attach it the overhead projector and interact with the class as well.

But here is the cross road, I also use my iPad to read books that I like including the Bible. I have downloaded the Bible HD application that has this most popular text in numerous translations and version. I also take part in a class before I go to the church service. Some call it Sunday School, well we do not. It is one of those unspoken classes during the traditional Sunday School time period. It is kind of hidden away and we like to discuss religion from a whole new lens. I am probably to youngest person in this class…actually my wife has that claim. All of the other members of the class have 30 years minimum on us. Our class is known to many as the Heretics. We call ourselves the seekers.

Dictionary.com defines heretic as a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church.

Right now we are reading “The Soul of Christianity” by Huston Smith. It is not trying to counter or be skeptical of the past but Huston Smith tries “to show how the first-millennium Christianity can surprise the present with new life.” Great book and it makes me think.

Why am I writing this? Because I am debating whether to take a piece of technology into a Baptist church, as a reference to the Bible and this book we are reading. Walking into a class of 20 others where we are the youngest by 30 years with an iPad to take part in a discussion???Hmm…Martin Luther pissed off the Catholic Church by mass producing the books of the bible for others to read. He used technology to mass produce Bible for others to read.

Jesse J. Anderson in his blog talks about “How the iPad Will Change the Church” in his utilitarian explanation of how each piece of functionality will enhance the church experience. Jesse Orndorff in his blog post entitled “iPad for the Church?” talks about how he sees this tool helping pastors and the church. He talks about sermon research, media creation, and he says this “…now imagine what you can do with a iPad app. Embed full size video, sermons, notes, and bible verses. This could be really big for churches in this area.”

So I am torn. I do not want to be flashy yet unassuming. I am learning to use this piece of technology based on utilitarian opportunities. But, I do not want to piss off a church whom might be opposed to something they may not understand. Bringing technology into a southern church will be interesting. It is one thing to take into the class, but how about a southern church sanctuary.

What does this iPad represent? The changing role of technology? What has Apple brought into our lives? Just the other day I watched a movie with people walking around with thin like screens, thin as paper that represent portals of information. Will these mobile pieces allow us to educate and empower tomorrow’s quest for understanding? I will let you know after church tomorrow! I am still seeking…regardless of the technology.

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