Are you really ready to hire an agency? 4 Questions to ask yourself.

You’re an entrepreneur or a small business that hasn’t had the funds up until now to hire outside marketing or PR services. Fortunately for you, business is looking good and you can now consider spending some marketing dollars.

Before you even narrow down your short list of possible agencies you’d like to work with, you need to ask yourself the following questions. If you can’t answer “yes” to all of these questions, you may want to consider holding off your decision until you can.

1) Am I ready to trust someone else with my business goals? Trust issues and entrepreneurism often go hand in hand. Your can-do spirit, hard work and laser vision have brought you where you are today, but realize that even the best leaders can’t do it all alone. You need to go into a new partnership with optimism and a certain level of trust.

2) Am I ready for a partnership, or do I just want an order taker? Agency-client relationships are doomed from the start if you are just looking for “yes” men. If you care about your business, isn’t it best to hear out and respect other points of view that could possibly lead to a great insight and subsequent break though for your business?

3) Can my ego take it if someone has better ideas than me? Yes, it’s great that you have landed where you are by working your fingers to the bone and making great business decisions for yourself and your company. Moving forward with marketing experts on board, can you be objective enough to hear them out if one of your ideas isn’t considered the best approach or will you take your marbles and run?

4) Am I patient enough to give a partnership time to grow and settle in? Or is your attitude, “what have you done for me today?” As with any type of relationship, business relationships work best when both parties are committed to shared goals and a common outcome. Sure there will be bumps along the way as you both get accustomed to each other, but only a partnership that’s in it for the long haul can achieve the results you want.

5 Ways to Make Your Internship Program a Win-win for You and Your Intern

You’ve hired your summer interns, but are you doing your best to ensure that they and your organization are getting the most out of the experience?

There is no doubt that internships should be a mutually beneficial experience for the employer and the intern. Too often, I hear about disappointing internships where an intern’s primary responsibilities were relegated solely to making copies, answering phones, organizing online files or making frequent coffee runs.

While students should embark onto an internship experience knowing there will be a fair amount of clerical (aka grunt) work, the point of an internship is that it provides a real educational opportunity for students to receive hands-on, real-life training in the field of their major. Many former interns will admit that their internship experience was far more valuable in their decision to pursue their career than anything they learned from textbooks and classroom lectures.

I understand that you are a busy executive and that you don’t have the time (and possibly the patience) to hover over an intern all day. I don’t think you should have to, but I do firmly believe that as well-established experts in our field, we have an obligation to guide our industry’s future leaders, just as our mentors did for us.

In order to prevent any daily hand-holding sessions, employers can adhere to a few tricks of the trade I’ve acquired over my years overseeing various agency internship programs.

What Employers Can Do

1. Make a job description and stick to it
Doing this lets the intern understand the required duties but also lets your team know the boundaries of what they can and can’t ask of an intern. Once you get to know your intern’s capabilities and skill set, you may be able to add some specific tasks to the job description.

2. Have a program/timeline in place
Interns need structure. Don’t expect your intern to wait enthusiastically each day for you to decide what projects to give him or her. Understanding that you can’t anticipate every scenario, at lease have some structure and consistency in the program/schedule (e.g., Every Thursday is a “Lunch and Learn” session where the intern(s) brown bag their lunch and listen to company experts talk about their job and provide career advice)

3. Make the internship an enriching experience.
It’s typically understood that interns will be given a fair amount of grunt work, but make sure you allow them to have access to real business experiences. A client conference call may not seem like an exciting activity for you, but it can be a great learning experience for an intern.

4. Be a mentor
I know you are a very busy person, but as I stated earlier, I believe we professionals owe it to those interested in our field to provide them with an accurate glimpse into the field they would like to enter and the skill set needed. Make it a weekly habit to monitor your intern and give them feedback – whether it’s positive or negative – since it’s part of the learning process that lectures and textbooks can’t teach. Lead by example.

5. Don’t’ burn bridges.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been burned by a bad intern experience. As much as you’re ready to boot them out the door or vow never to have another one again, remember that the interns are still very young and don’t have much finesse in professional settings. And, though it’s hard to imagine, you never know how your paths might meet again (your intern’s aunt might be the contact you’ve been wooing for new business for years).

Best wishes for a great internship partnership this summer. If you have any additional tips to how you make internships an all-around success, please feel free to share them.

4 Leadership Tips From Pope Francis

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Whether you’re a Catholic, a non-Catholic or an Atheist, we can all learn some great leadership tips from Pope Francis.

  • Speak plainly – Many of his predecessors were heavy on theological dogma and spoke in terms that often confused or bored their audiences. However, Pope Francis – though a theological scholar in his own right – understands the power of keeping it simple and speaking in plain language, which puts his audience more at ease and instills a sense of inclusion. Remember that a message can often be lost in flowery language, high-brow words, confusing graphs and overuse of industry acronyms.
  • Lead by Example – Pope Francis doesn’t sit in an ivory tower and dictate orders. He demonstrates leadership by practicing what he preaches. He chooses to ride around in a Fiat, not a Mercedes and insisted on paying his hotel bill in person after the Conclave. He doesn’t make rules that apply only to others and doesn’t ask those to do what he wouldn’t.   A successful business leader does the same.
  • Be authentic – The Pope stays true to himself. He chooses not to live in the Papal Palace but instead chose a small suite in the Vatican guest house because he feels more comfortable there and can interact more with people. No one respects him any less for that. Being genuine, being authentic and acknowledging who you really are, ultimately helps us interact more comfortably and in turn, more effectively with others.
  • Follow the Golden Rule – The Pope has talked about following the Golden Rule. Do you treat your colleagues, your customers, employees and vendors as you wish to be treated? Or do you lose your cool, pull rank, impose impossible deadlines and blame others? My words, not the Pope’s: “Don’t be a jerk.” You know who you are.

5 Positive Things a Cancer Survivor Learns

This week I received some sad news that a friend was just diagnosed with lymphoma.   Fortunately, they’ve caught it in the early stages and the prognosis is very positive. However, this news naturally has me revisiting some tough memories.

There’s no denying that cancer has forever changed me. Of course it has. But, upon further reflection, it’s not all for the worse as some might imagine.

I will never argue that cancer doesn’t bring you to your knees and shake you down to your core, but today I can honestly and truly appreciate some of the positive things that resulted from my battle and win over the Big “C.”

I thought I’d share them:

  1. I can do it. I’m equipped with a new mantra. Hurdles that tripped me up before seem more easily surmountable now. If I managed to get through the physical and emotional turmoil of battling cancer, I figure that I can easily get through that big presentation, new business pitch or job interview.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Look, I’m still going to be marginally annoyed if the driver in front of me doesn’t use the turning lane or they forget the fried rice in my takeout order, but most of the things that seemed really important before just aren’t so now. Honestly.
  3. Know who you can count on. When the going gets tough, you can really see who you can lean on in bad times. I remember every card, word of encouragement, potluck, nice deed and supportive conversation that was bestowed upon me. It makes me feel good that I have a network I can fall back on and I treasure that.
  4. A greater empathy. I have always considered myself a sensitive person but going through an illness can really illuminate the pain and suffering of other people and how you react to them. I’m more thoughtful and less quick to judge when I see a person in a bad situation. I fully believe it’s true that you cannot understand someone’s burden unless you’ve walked in their shoes, or have come close.
  5. Appreciate what you have. This is not always easy when you are back in the full swing of life – morning commutes, useless meetings, kids’ tantrums, etc.  – but I am often able to acknowledge my gratitude and cherish the simplest moments as some of the most joyful ones. The cliché that “it could be worse” never holds more true than now.

Sending good vibes to my friend and to all of those brave souls battling life-threatening illnesses.

10 Tips for a Hassle-Free European Vacation

European vacation - AustriaSummertime and a currently stronger dollar against the Euro make for a great reason to take a European vacation. As I embark upon another vacation overseas, I thought I’d pass along some of the tried and true tips I’ve acquired over a quarter century of traveling abroad. Most of them are pretty pragmatic and have saved me time, money and hassles in the past.

1. Don’t pack at the last minute. If you wait until the night before your trip, you don’t have time to actually think through your clothing choices and tend to throw in as much as you can fit. This leads to egregious over packing. I actually do a trial pack the week before my trip and keep eliminating clothing items and any duplicate toiletries each time. You’d be surprised how much you can streamline things. Plus, part of the fun of traveling, is the anticipation and planning involved so getting a head start on packing will put you in a happy travel mode.

11 days: 5 shirts, 2 dresses, 1 pants, 1 shorts, 1 nightgown, 9 underwear, 1 bathing suit, 1 blow dryer, 1 case of toiletries, 2 pairs shoes (in side compartment), 1 hat. (Wearing: shirt, pants, sweater, jacket, shoes, scarf)

11 days: 5 shirts, 2 dresses, 1 pants, 1 shorts, 1 nightgown, 9 underwear, 1 bathing suit, 1 blow dryer, 1 case of toiletries, 2 pairs shoes (in side compartment), 1 hat. (Wearing: shirt, pants, sweater, jacket, shoes, scarf, 1 carry-on bag, 1 small purse)

2. Travel light. I mean it. This seems pretty obvious but I’m always surprised when I see frustrated Americans lugging a heavy suitcase that they can actually fit into. Remember, if you’re taking a train or will be on a bus tour, you will have to load and unload your own suitcases. You can plan on getting 2 wears out of shirts and tops while a black dress, jeans,pants and shorts can be worn 2 times if not more. Mix and match tops and bottoms. Also, unless you have a formal event to attend, 2 pairs of shoes – two pairs of comfy walking shoes – will suffice. Toiletries account for most of the weight of my suitcase. There’s no need to bring full-sized products– buy some travel size items at the drug store – or fill your own shampoos and lotions in mini bottles. Trust me on this – save your back and keep it light. It also makes more room available for souvenirs!

3. Roll your clothes. Rolling your clothing items actually frees up a lot more room in your suitcase and also helps prevent wrinkles. I swear by this. Putting them in plastic bags (I prefer Ziploc bags) will also prevent them from further wrinkles and from getting dirty. I convinced my brother to try rolling and he loved how much room it saved.

4. Notify banks/credit cards in advance.   If you are not a frequent overseas travel, consider calling you bank and credit card companies to let them know where you’ll be and the time frames. This way you don’t have to worry about having your ATM or credit cards frozen due to suspected fraudulent activity. This happened to a friend of mine.

5. Consider buying travel insurance. Believe me, from experience, I insist that you do not want to end up in a foreign hospital. Check your current U.S. insurance coverage to see what services (Out of Network, obviously) may be covered in an emergency.  Purchasing travel insurance is a safeguard because you never know when the need will strike. At only 32, I once spent eight nights in a French hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy. I was glad I had bought travel insurance. You can go to https://www.insuremytrip.com to determine which carrier and plan will be best for you.

6. Make copies of important items (passport, credit card customer service #s) I always make a copy of my passport and credit cards as well as my credit card customer service numbers so that , in the event where my passport, or credit cards are lost or stolen, I can quickly and easily contact the necessary entities to report it. I also leave copies for my family or a friend back at home, in case they can help make those phone calls. There are also services like Final that you can purchase that will automatically notify each credit card company on your behalf. Check out https://getfinal.com/.

7. Be sure to purchase the correct adapters for countries/continents. The electrical volt systems across the world are different than the U.S. If you are bringing electrical items (flatiron, hair dryer, electrical razor) or those that will need to be cAdaptersharged (camera, laptop, iPhone, iPad), you will need to purchase (or borrow) an adapter to be able to use your device overseas. Continental Europe’s adapter will not work in the U.K. – the U.K. requires a different adapter for American electrical products. To determine what adapter you’ll need, visit: http://abt.cm/1Ie3HcH.

8. Write out postcard addresses on labels. It’s fun to sit in a café eating a croissant and drinking café au lait while you write a quick postcard to friends and family. However, this task becomes laborious if you have many cards to send and from different locales. To save some time during my vacation, I like to pre-write my postcard recipients’ names and addresses on plain white labels – I do this when I have a spare minute or am watching TV. This way, I just have to bring the label sheet with me and only write out the message while I enjoy the scenery.

9. Learn to say “please and thank you” in your destination’s language. You don’t have to necessarily take language lessons before your trip (unless you want to – it does make it more fun), but at least study some key phrases including please and thank you.   I frequently see many “ugly” Americans who still expect everyone in other countries to know English. Don’t assume this. You’d be surprised just how more receptive and friendlier taxi drivers, shop owners and waiters will be if you try to say a few phrases in their native tongue.

10.  Smile! You’re on vacation! This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. The universal language that everyone understands is a smile. You’d be surprised just how far this gets you when your thousands of miles from home. Smiling is especially useful if you’re in a market and need to haggle for a discounted price – or if say, you mistakenly forget to punch your TGV ticket (normally a $200 fine). It works!

If you have any additional tips, you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.

Safe and happy travels!

3 Grammar Rules I Cannot Adhere to (and yes, I ended this with a preposition – see point #2)

Photo by Jesse Wojdylo

Photo by Jesse Wojdylo

There is no doubt that I have had many visits from the grammar police over the years. Most times I am guilty because of an oversight or error. Then there are other times when I just don’t agree with some of the rules as they apply to language and the way we communicate today.   The following grammar rules are the ones I violate the most often, and here’s why.

1.  Single space after a period
I suppose this is more of a punctuation rule. Nonetheless, I don’t stick to it, mainly because I am physically unable to. I’m told the double-spacing rule was originally made for the typewriter in order to mimic the style used by traditional typesetters. But as my friend, Charlene, likes to point out often, the double space rule is dead. I guess I’m just in denial. No matter how hard I try, it’s a reflex for me to type two spaces. After all, I did learn to type on a typewriter in typing class (when it was called that and not ‘keyboarding’). As to why this post seems to be only single-spaced, I believe WordPress automatically adjusted it.


2. Ending a sentence with a proposition

I think this rule was created by a bunch of tea-drinking British linguists from centuries gone by – back when the written and spoken words were much more formal. In any formal writing I do I try to abide by this rule if it doesn’t sound too unnatural, but in everyday emails and conversations, I don’t worry about it. Again, no one talks like that anymore. For instance:

Scenario 1 – my way

“Good morning, Stacey.”
“Good morning, Clovis.”
“You sure are in a hurry. Where are you running to?”
“I am. I have another meeting to go to.” (I stub my toe on a box in the kitchen) “Oww, I just stubbed my toe.”
“Oh no, what did you stub it on?”
“This dumb box.”

That’s typical conversational American English, no? Here’s the same interaction going by the rule:

Scenario 2 – By the rule

“Good morning, Stacey.”
“Good morning, Clovis.”
“You sure are in a hurry. To where are you running?
“I am. I have another meeting to attend. (I stub my toe on a box in the kitchen) “Oww, I just stubbed my toe.”
“Oh no, on what did you stub your toe?”
“A box, alright? Stop sounding like such a snob, Clovis!!”

My case is rested.

3.  Never write a one-sentence paragraph
Oh poppycock. Sometimes using just one sentence is needed to underscore a point. I occasionally use it – even in an occasional news release (gasp!) – For emphasis. There’s no point in writing another sentence just because there should be two, and especially if it only detracts from the point being made in the first sentence. Novelists do it all the time. I don’t have a specific example from the book itself, but I’m sure Colleen McCullough used this technique in her risqué and tantalizing novel, The Thorn Birds, which I read many, many years ago.

Are there grammar rules that you don’t follow or that you disagree with? What are they?

Mad Men? Been there, done that.

Upon meeting me and discovering that I work in the field of advertising and PR, it’s really strange that a good amount of those people end up telling me how much they love the show “Mad Men” and its main character, Don Draper.  They gush about it.  They then ask me if I watch it.Mad men

My reply is “No, I already lived it.”

Well, I didn’t live in the hey day when the show takes place (50s/60s), but when I took my first job in 1990 at the largest advertising agency in Cleveland at the time, the mad men work/lifestyle was nowhere near extinct.

I’ve only watched a handful of “Mad Men” episodes, but enough to recognize that I witnessed and experienced the tail end of that era filled with the same antics and behavior which I have seen glorified on the show.

There was the drinking. Lots of drinking.

I was genuinely shocked on my first day of work when my boss and our SVP took me to lunch at the Hermit Club. They ordered manhattans and the SVP tried unsuccessfully to get me to do the same.   What kind of business was this, I thought?

Well, I quickly learned just how acceptable and important drinking was in the industry.   Typically, it was the old timers who wheeled and dealed at the 2-martini lunch.   Most of us youngsters only grabbed a few beers a couple of times a week or whenever we could afford it. But it was the mad men, with their endless expense accounts, who perfected the liquid lunch as well as  schmoozing, and wining and dining.

By 1990, most of the quintessential “mad men” were approaching their 60s, not quite ready to retire because they were “still in the game,” or so they thought in more ways than one. There was a bar conveniently located on the first floor of our building in what had been the vault room of a bank that was formerly located there. My friends and I might grab a quick drink after work occasionally, but for the mad men, it served as an endless watering hole. To be honest, I visited that bar more during office hours.

Since there were no cell phones at the time, when a client called looking for one of the mad men, we didn’t even bother looking first in the office. Instead, we immediately checked the bar. It wasn’t sad or pathetic at the time. It was just the way it was.

On one occasion, I was sent to find one particular mad man, who had a very angry and unhappy client on the other end of the phone looking for him. Of course I found him at the bar “just having a few highballs.” Imagine me at 5’ 3” struggling to help a 6’ plus, 200 pound man stumble to the elevator. In heels, no less (me, not him).

Oh, and don’t forget happy hour! Those guys rocked it. The famous Friday Happy Hours occurred precisely at 4:00 p.m. in the president’s office which had a fully and frequently stocked liquor cabinet. Typically, only the pretty, buxom administrative assistants were invited to mingle with the mad men. Somehow, I think I was invited once or twice.

Inappropriateness abounded.

Often when I tell my stories to 20 & 30-somethings today, they find it hard to believe that these things actually happened.   I can’t even remember the countless inappropriate things that were said or done on any given day. After all, the phrase ‘PC’ was not yet widespread.

One of the stories I do remember is so incredulous, it’s actually funny to me now:

I sat next to my friend, another traffic coordinator. She was pretty, thin and extremely smart and efficient at her job. Oh, and did I mention she was blond?

We had a blast sitting near each other and muttering sarcastic quips under our breath or rolling our eyes at the antics that never ceased to amaze us.  One day close to Christmas, my friend received a call from the president’s secretary (yes, at that time the president didn’t even make internal calls). The secretary said that the president would for like her to come to his office.   My friend looked scared. We imagined what she could’ve done to get herself in trouble, but we came up with nothing.   In fact, we didn’t even realize he knew who she was.

She trudged slowly down the very long hallway and finally into the corner office. Not even five minutes later, I see her walking back with a weird look on her face – carrying a very pretty wrapped clothing box. She had a gift in her hand from the president.

She said that he had said to her. “I bought this for my girlfriend, but we broke up. You look to be about her size so I thought maybe you could take it.”

“It’s a silk scarf!” I blurted out, eager to see what we knew would be an expensive gift meant for the ex-girlfriend, a 30-year-old model.   “Maybe it’s a nice pair of leather gloves,” my friend said cheerfully, carefully unwrapping the box.

Once the paper was off, she lifted the lid off the box; the object was blocked from my sight by tissue paper. “I can’t see it. What is it???” I demanded. She said nothing. Her mouth was completely agape and she just stared absently at the box.

“Oh my God,” she said as she pushed aside the tissue paper and held up a very lacy and very red teddy with black trim.

All we could do was burst out laughing.

But that was then, and something like that would never fly in this day and age. I hope I’m right.

 

Care to share any of your mad men stories? I’d love to hear them.