Category Archives: PUBLIC RELATIONS – Advice, Encouragement and Community

Choosing a Path

forkintheroadWhen I started this blog, I was at that metaphorical “fork in the road”. My kids were in school full time, I knew I wanted to do something that would flex my creative and intellectual mind, but what was that elusive perfect pathway. I didn’t want to go back to work full-time, my kids are still relatively young, but I needed to give myself something that I could say I was accomplishing. So, what do you do when you come upon that fork? You know you want to go in some direction but you’re not sure which one.

My theory is to hang out in the intersection for a little while. You don’t want to idle there, though. You need to be active, keep revving your engines, get a feel for the road, an understanding of your options.  If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, make a list of all the things you are interested in, then throw them out there and see what sticks. That’s what I did with this blog.

I liked the idea of designing a blog. I liked writing. I liked the psychological journey of self-discovery. I liked creating self-help workbooks. I liked using humor. I liked writing about the creative things I do with my kids. So, I put all of those things together within this blog.  I then spent the last few months getting feedback on what resonated with my readers and tuning into what parts of this blog I liked doing the most and which area I thought I could turn into a viable pathway for myself. And that has turned out to be sharing my thoughts on how to raise a more creative child.

So, it’s always good to hang out in the intersection for awhile, but at some point, if you want to move forward, you need to narrow your road ahead and choose a path. You may find that once you’re down the road, the path you have selected isn’t quite right for you. That’s o.k., just turn around, go back to the intersection and choose something different, but you need to keep making active decisions and taking actions that keep moving you forward.

I will keep working on this blog because it is here where I will be able to share my business ideas as I move down my selected path, and I always have to have somewhere to share my daily-life rambles. However, I have also started on a new journey, my chosen path to help raise awareness on how important it is to help your child build their creative mind. In 2010, Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary shared the results of her study of 300,000 Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) scores of children and adults. She found that over the last two decades, as we’ve entered this new electronic age, the measure of creativity in our children has been spiraling downward. Kim says, “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant.  It is the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade – for whom the decline is most serious.”

blogpicThe good news is that all children are born with some degree of creativity. When parents become educated about creativity, they can help their children preserve their natural inclination to it. Research has shown that creativity can be nourished and taught and that creativity training can have a strong effect. Real improvement doesn’t happen overnight, but when creativity is fostered through a child’s everyday process of home or school, brain function improves.  It is to this end, that I created a new blog called “www.RAISECREATIVEKIDZ.com”.  In that space, I will share more research on creativity in general, and supply ideas and activities to help you nourish your own children’s creativity.

This is the path I have chosen to explore. I hope you will visit me there, as well as, keep on coming here to this blog for my perspective on being a mom in general – the good, the bad, the funny, the sad – and maybe pick up a tip here or there to help you choose your own path.

http://www.raisecreativekidz.com  Research shows children’s creativity is declining at an alarming rate. Luckily, as parents, there is much we can do.

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Good Packaging Isn’t Just For Products

Last night I received an email from a past co-worker’s wife, Cherry. She is a fascinating woman, as a former US Army Aviation Officer and now a mother of three, she has capitalized on her unique background to become an aspiring political thriller author, having written her first manuscript and started on her second. To that end, she has put together a blog in an effort to draw some attention to her novel. As I was giving her marketing advice on the contents of her blog, it got me thinking about everyone’s favorite topic, or maybe just mine – thematic marketing.

Most of my corporate background has been in packaging and presentation, so, now it’s kind of the way I view everything. Companies spend millions of dollars coming up with the right way to display their products in an effort to be attractive to the consumer. And it’s not just about how good something looks, it has to make the consumer think about the product, relate to the product, and ultimately want the product. I used to tell this story when I worked for JPMorgan: When Folgers Coffee was coming up with a new marketing campaign back in the eighties, they hired a firm to do research on consumers to uncover what it was that got people thinking and wanting coffee. They discovered it was the smell of coffee that made people think of family, comfort, home, holidays. So, they changed their advertising theme from “Folgers Crystals…coffee rich enough to be served in America’s finest restaurants”, to  a student returning home from college, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee awakening his parents and alerting them to their son’s arrival – “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

Advertising has evolved over the years to take advantage of what we know about how the human brain really works, and companies use that to capitalize on the consumers innate desires. Everything associated with a product, the commercial, the jingle, the packaging, the spokesperson, where’s it’s placed in the store, every decision is made around the central goal of what emotional, physical, psychological reaction the company is trying to extract from the consumer upon any interaction with that product.   It’s all tied together.

Consumers are bombarded all day with all sorts of stimuli from all sorts of products throughout their day – the Hallmark commercial that makes you cry, the magazine ad that makes you actually feel “the sensation you get when you bite into a York Peppermint Patty”, or the smell of freshly-brewed coffee.  So, if you are looking to be portrayed as more than just a mom, what marketing techniques are you using to package yourself? Pop stars do it, actors do it, CEOs do it. They decide on an image that they want others to have about them and they package themselves in a way that will evoke that image when others think of them. They do it by the way they dress, where they are seen socially, what causes they volunteer for, what extra-curricular activities they participate in, what products they endorse.  Just like companies do with consumer products, it’s all tied together.

So, how can you do a better job at packaging yourself to influence how you want others to perceive you, or your new hobby or your new business endeavor? First, it starts with how do you want to see yourself. For everyone it’s different, for me, I want to always show that there’s more to me than the part that is a mother. So, at 7:15 in the morning, when I am down at the bus stop with my son and the only people I run into are the four other middle-schoolers at the bus-stop and the female bus driver, I still make sure I’ve taken the five minutes to throw on a pair of jeans, brush my hair, and apply some lipstick. I do it for myself. As rushed and almost out-of-control the mornings seem to be, just by demanding those few minutes for myself, I feel more in control and that I haven’t let the chaos of the situation change who I am.

When it comes to my new endeavor with this blog, I have put a lot of thought into how I wanted to package it as a reflection of the image I want portrayed of myself. I want to be seen as a business-minded woman, who is creative, intelligent, funny, empathetic, intuitive and fun. When I talk about the struggles of being a stay-at-home mom, I make sure to keep those thoughts light and humorous and not whiny. That’s not to say that I haven’t gone “whiny” with friends after  a few cocktails in the game of whose life sucks more, but that’s not who I am, nor who I want to portray myself to be. In the year I took to put the idea of this blog together, I redesigned its structure a dozen times. I kept asking myself, will the reader get what I’m trying to do here, did I lay it out in a way that defines my passion and draws people in, and I would tweak it as I tried to ultimately come up with the design that would give the reader the experience that I wanted to invoke.

Going back to my friend Cherry, the former Army Officer, my advice to her was that she has a great marketing story in her self with her background, which leads right into the product she has created based on that, so, she needs to capitalize on that to its fullest extent within her “packaging”.  Everything in her blog should be written with the intent that she is hoping to get people to want to read her story. Her story is a political thriller about a tough, skilled, yet sexy, former black-ops, now stay-at-home mom who finds herself having to prevent a terrorist attack.  The main character embodies many of Cherry’s own traits. As a novelist, not only are you selling your book, but you’re also selling yourself as the author. So, as I keep saying, everything needs to tie together. In marketing, we call it “touch points”. Every interaction a reader or potential publicist has with Cherry as an author, should be making them think of the product she has written, because with her background, she is her best marketing tool. Every time I write a post, I think to myself, did I tie my “story” back to the theme of my blog in some way, and I advised her to do the same.

I am throwing a “launch party” for my blog in a few weeks. Mostly because I’m always looking for a reason to have a party, but because I’m trying to build back my image of being a creative, business-minded, inspirational woman, I am using this party as another “touch point” in enhancing “my packaging”. Instead of it just being another girls’ cocktail party, I decided to invite a life coach to do a mini-interactive session. I also invited a few “expert guests” to stimulate interesting cocktail conversation, including a fashion stylist, a lifestyle nutritionist, and even a gynecologist who is an author. To me, it’s all about the packaging, and having my guests come away feeling that it was more than just a fun party, it was “an experience”.

So, good packaging isn’t just for products, it’s for people, too. As you continue on your journey of self-rediscovery, think about who you want to be, and how you want to portray yourself.  Then think of all the touch-points that you have at your disposal where you can actively influence not only other people’s perception but also your self-perception of that image you are trying to build or rebuild. It could be as simple as what you wear to the bus stop, or conversation topics for the next cocktail party you attend, or putting a business card together for your new project, or even what PTA committee you want to be a part of, or do you want to lead it.  If a company can reduce you to tears by showing you a make-believe story about a family member reading a mother’s day card, you certainly have the ability, using the same techniques, to sway public opinion about your own image or product. Many of my blog readers don’t know me personally, but just from stories I’ve told, the pictures I’ve posted, the feelings I have stirred in you, as well as the stories I haven’t shared, all tied together, have painted you a picture of the image I want you to see. Everyone has an idea of who they would like to be, who they believe they are and wish others could see, you just need to bring that out in yourself, package it up, and present it.  What’s your marketing plan for your new re-discovered sense-of-self?

For those of you who are interested, you can check out the first few chapters of Cherry’s novel, Smoke – Operation Black Diamond, at her blog www.cherrylaska.com.

What’s Your Recovery Plan?

I think we can all agree that the most important role we have as parents is raising our children, as they are tomorrow’s resources for the world.  But if you are like me, and are saying that’s great and I love that part of my life, but I do have other talents beyond helping with homework, and devising strategies for dealing with peer behaviors on the playground, then hopefully, at some point, you will find the breathing room, to go back to spending some time on your other talents as well. This is all about our journey of trying to recover our sense of self beyond parenthood. The first steps on the journey are to discover what you’re passionate about and then mold that passion into something more concrete. Those steps can be taken in my series of posts under the HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT – THE ROAD TO SELF-REDISCOVERY. But once you discover your passion, uncover how to be creative in defining that passion within the scope of a job, hobby, or philanthropic effort, it’s time to build the action plan that will lead you toward your recovery. So, whether it’s a goal on your bucket list, a hobby you want to enhance, or a small business idea you’ve been kicking around, building a “Business Plan” can help you move closer to turning your idea into a reality. This positive momentum can help you recover your sense-of-self by allowing you to put some focus on something you are passionate about.

As a former marketing executive, I believe the most important thing you need to establish, to move any idea forward, is your “business” plan. I like to have a plan for everything. We’re taking the kids to the zoo? What’s our plan? It’s a gorgeous weekend day out so we want to have a family outing? What’s our plan? I have to get the house clean before company arrives? What’s my plan? I am a true believer in the adage “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”.  Having a plan, will also help make you more confident in your ability to achieve a successful outcome. Your idea doesn’t have to be something that’s going to make you money in order for you to build a “business plan” around it. It can be a hobby. It can be a volunteer effort. It can be a bucket list.  The steps I’ve taken in the past to create a successful corporate business plan, are the same ones that I am using to build on writing this blog, and the same ones you can use to help build your plan to help recover your sense-of-self. You basically want a plan to help you take your idea, dissect it, and then build up each aspect of it, so you can turn it into a reality. Here are four basic steps to help you build yourself a good “Business Plan” for your Recovery:

YOUR EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – You want to take all the work you did in my HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT, and write out a Mission Statement. You want to state what your main goal/purpose/idea is. You want to include your talents, experience, background, and decisions that led you to want to start this endeavour. You want to discuss how you plan to make this idea go from a passive idea to an active one. For example: It’s not just that I like to write. I would include the experience I have had in writing, as well as summarize my idea of writing within a blog format, and discuss the theme of the blog. You also want to include a brief Market Analysis here. Why is there a need for your idea and where would it fit in. That could be within your family, or your friends, or your community, or even on a larger scale. And then you want to finish this section with what your Future Plans are. This is where you would briefly detail where you see your idea going. You want to describe how you see your idea growing within the context of the ultimate vision of your goal.

YOUR STRATEGIC FOCUS – If your idea lends itself to a Target Market, this is where you want to really flesh out what that market looks like. You want to delve into their distinguishing characteristics, their demographics, and their needs. Most of my career has been based on Target Marketing, so I am a huge believer in coming up with a niche and building that into a real strength. For me, I’m thinking about who I want to target as readers for my blog. If your idea is to become a dog-sitter, then your target market would be the type of families who travel a lot and don’t like the idea of kennels. If your idea is to go mountain climbing, your target market could be looking for adventure groups with members within a similar demographic as you.  So, how does your idea fit into a group, what does that group look like, and where are the places you would you find that group.  Under your Strategic Focus, you will want to include your Market Research. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel for two reasons. If there are ways that other people have found to take a similar idea and put it into action, then  you should familiarize yourself with those ways. Also, you want to make the “wheel” you’re inventing have characteristics that you like in similar “wheels” but you also want to make sure you know the competition and ensure, if need be, that your “wheel” is distinct and different than others that are out there. If your idea is to join a volunteer organization, here is where you want to discuss the organizations you have looked at, the pros and cons of each, perhaps the feedback you have received, all leading up to why you have decided on your ultimate choice.

YOUR IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY– Here’s where you take your mission statement, and apply your Target Market and Market Research to it, in order to come up with Actionable Steps. You want to outline the  steps you are taking to turn your passive idea of a goal into a reality. Through step one and step two, you have really dissected your idea and taken a look at all the angles, and now with a full-picture of it in your head, you can outline your plan. You also might want to include a general time-line, making it flexible enough to take into account all your other day-to-day responsibilities that will continue to be on-going.

YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY – So, you’ve put your idea into action, but it doesn’t fully take on the purpose of helping you recover your sense-of-self, if you don’t communicate out this new side of yourself. For many people that’s when you really feel the change. For example, it’s great that I’ve finally started my blog and made it public, but a marketing strategy will bring more readers and turn my idea into something even more substantial that I can feel good about. So, depending on what your idea is, will determine how substantial your Marketing Strategy should be. It could include a strategy on further penetrating your target market. It could include your strategy on how you plan on growing your audience.  It could also include a strategy on how you plan on distributing or diseminating your idea, getting it out there. You then want to outline your Communication Strategy. This could be as simple as posting on Facebook, your plan to achieve one of your goals on your bucket list. It could be a plan to post flyers at your local library letting people know the new service you can provide. It could be your plan to have a family meeting and talk to the kids about doing more around the house so that you can spend more time on your painting that you plan on submitting to a local art show at the end of the year. Or it could be as involved as a strategy that involves promotions, advertising, public relations, personal selling, and getting your idea to come up on google searches.

Now that you have your Business Plan, you need to keep it somewhere handy so that you can refer back to it and make sure you’re keeping yourself on track. It’s your set of instructions on how to go about your own recovery plan. By putting it in black and white, it makes it doable. When you find yourself becoming doubtful or overwhelmed, go back to it and remember you designed your plan with the ultimate vision that it would be successful, so have faith in it and, in turn, faith in yourself.

It’s time to get out of your head and all the wishful thinking and all the frustrations and make your move forward. Scientifically momentum is mass times velocity. The more substantial or thought-out your idea is, combined with how fast and in what direction you are making that idea a reality, the more momentum towards success your idea will have. What is your Recovery Plan going to look like?

Building Courage From Encouragement

I don’t know about you, I can talk a good game but when it comes down to it, it’s easy to get in my own way.  I come up with an idea. I expand it and then I stuff it with more. Then, I proudly declare my intentions and seek out feedback. But all the while, I’m expecting the feedback I receive will really just prove that my subconscious doubts are actually justified. Whatever my aspirations, I’m inherently waiting to be talked out of it. Why? Because it’s that age-old, if you don’t try, you don’t fail. You sort of lose sight of the fact, if you don’t try, you never succeed either. It’s the constant struggle of wanting to be strong, wanting to believe in yourself and your ideas, but then constantly worrying if you have the courage to go through with it, and risk not being good enough. Like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of OZ:

Cowardly Lion: “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”
Tin WoodsmanScarecrow: “What’s that?”
Cowardly Lion: “Talk me out of it!”

Over the last few years, I’ve started a few novels, written a few songs, come up with a few product ideas. Through all my start-up initiatives, instead of building on the momentum of the encouragement I received, I would drop the idea for the first person who wanted to talk me out of it. I sat on the idea for this blog for a year, only sharing my thoughts with a select few. One day I would be full of confidence, but then the next I would start to doubt myself and want to quit. But then, one afternoon, I was talking about my blog to a  random acquaintance and she was very encouraging. Maybe it was because I felt she wasn’t obligated to be nice, or maybe I was finally ready to accept it, but things changed for me that day. I started building courage from encouragement, instead of dismissing it.

Not all of us our courageous innately. For instance, one morning I spent a good hour on top of the center island counter in our kitchen having a stare down with a mouse who kept peeking his head out of the pantry – neither one of us willing to make the first move. So, where do we get our courage from when we aren’t feeling brave enough to believe in our own talents? The Wizard of Oz didn’t give the Cowardly Lion a magic potion to drink, he gave him a medal. He gave him a symbol of encouragement. He was saying that he believed the lion had it in him. And instead of the Lion questioning why getting a medal on the end of a ribbon would all of a sudden make him have courage, he chose to accept that the Wizard really saw him as being brave.

So, on your journey of rediscovering your self and your inner passions, you have to open yourself up to building your courage from the encouragement you receive from your friends, family and peers. Hear the words when someone is complimenting you or what you’re doing, and instead of seeking out the naysayer, tune them out.  Allow your friends to help build you up, but then you need to believe that “medal of courage” means you really are “brave”. The Cowardly Lion didn’t need the Wizard to remind him every day in his belief in him. He took the Wizard’s encouragement and built it into a belief in himself. So now, I bestow on you, you’re own medal of courage.  And I repeat the words the Wizard of Oz proclaimed to the Cowardly Lion, “You are now a member of the legion of courage”. Now build on that and go out and become your own “king of the forest – not queen, not duke, not prince.”

(Image and quotes from Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Beware of “The Year of No”

While I was out last night with some friends, another mutual friend came up to us and when we asked her what she had been up to, she proclaimed that she was just coming off “a year of no”.  No volunteering. No PTA. No tennis groups. “Can you?” No. “Would you?” No. “Just one?” No. Having gone through a year of no myself, I have to say it can be really quite liberating. You hear that word so often from your children and so rarely have the opportunity to use it yourself, when it comes as an answer to a task request. Our kids are great at it: “Can you clean your room?” No. “Can you take out the garbage?” No. “Can you finish your homework?” No. “Can you turn off the t.v.?” No. But when we’re asked, “Can you make me something to eat?’ “Can you wash my favorite pants?” “Can you drive me to soccer practice?”, though we would like to say “no”, our answer usually is the obligatory “yes”. And when that overflows to volunteer activities, many times we get sucked into the same mode. “Can you help out at the book fair?” “Can you run the carpool?” “Can you head up the coat drive?” At first, you appreciate having something to do while the kids are at school. But pretty soon, if you’re not careful, when you say “yes” too often, you find yourself spending your time doing things that you’re not passionate about, albeit they’re all good causes.  Even if you wanted to try to come up with a way to discover what your inner passion would be, you have no time to explore it. Sometimes, when you go too far to the left with “Yes”, then you find yourself wanting to go far right with “No”, and that’s when you can find yourself experiencing the sabbatical called “The Year of No”.

If you’re the type of person who has trouble saying no, then perhaps the only way you can make yourself say it is to draw a firm line in the sand and just make “no” your blanket statement. That way you don’t even have to think about your answer, start to feel guilty and then perhaps change your mind. Usually when you have something personal on your plate that you know you have to spend time on, you get terrified of over-committing yourself. So then, you feel the only way to ensure you don’t say yes to too much is to go with “no” across the board. This is what happened to me a few years ago when we moved houses. I knew packing and unpacking and decorating and getting the kids assimilated into a new school, would take up much of my time, so that is when I entered my “year of no”.

Having time off from outside obligations and being able to just concentrate on your family, can be a good thing at times. But what no one tells you, which is what I want to tell you today, is that when you say “no” too often, after a while people stop asking. And initially you think that’s a good thing because it takes the pressure off, but the problem happens when you find yourself wanting to be finished with your “year of no”.  That’s when you may find out that maybe no one is around anymore. And that can be a lonely place to be. After my “year of no”, my friends stopped asking me to go out places, because they had come to expect my answer was going to be no. I didn’t get the emails to help out at the book fair. The coat drive ran fine without me.  The friend I was speaking with last night was going through the same thing coming off her “year of no”. She said, “Now that I’m ready to get back in the mix, no one is calling me anymore. I find that I’m having a hard time even finding someone to play tennis with.”

So, the moral of this story is though it’s perfectly o.k. and good for your state-of-mind to find a way to feel as comfortable saying “no” as you do to saying “yes”, be careful of making blanket statements of “no” for such a length of time that would make people start expecting that as your answer. You never want to pigeon-hole yourself in a way that it is hard to break back in when you’re ready to come back. So, mix it up a little. Pick one or two things within each of your social groups (friends, school community, town community), that you think you can fit into your schedule during your “hiatus”, and start off the year knowing that when those things come up, you will say “yes” to them. Schedule in time to check in with your friends, even if it is to comment on their Facebook page, or send a quick text, “Still trying to get my head above water, but looking forward to getting together next month.” Keep the lines of communication open and don’t let people forget about you. If you need a “Year of No” once in awhile, just turn it into a “Year of No, But With Some Specifically Designated and Well-thought Out Times of Yes”.  That way, when the pressure has eased, and you’re ready to jump back in, you don’t find the pool closed and have to struggle to reopen it again.

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