Category Archives: Personal PR

The Art of Being Assertive

I got married in August – which is why all my dreams of reviving this blog were, yet again, pushed aside in favor of catering coordination, bridesmaid management, and marriage counseling. Sorry for that.

We were engaged for 9 months prior to the wedding, and it took almost as long for me to learn just how I should plan a wedding. You see, when you get engaged, everyone has ideas about how things should be done – everything from who should be in the wedding, what time the wedding should be, the kind of meat and beer served at the wedding, the easiest way to decorate tables, how long the waitstaff should be expected to stay. It’s endless. It’s awful.

I’m not a timid person, but throughout the wedding planning process, I have had THE WORST time filtering these outside opinions so that they make sense to me, and lead to decisions. Whether or not these people are important to me, their opinions have become expectations in my mind. Fearing an uncomfortable situation with future-in-laws or friends, I’ve enthused: “oh, wow, what an awesome idea!” when I’ve inwardly cringed at their suggestion.

Don’t get me wrong – most of the suggestions have been truly helpful, but the best advice I got came in a question posed by my mother: “Meg, what do you want?”

It occurred to me that what I’d always counted as one of the attributes of an outgoing person, is actually an acquired skill – assertiveness comes with practice. And since this epiphany, I’ve realized that my days are fraught with opportunities to sharpen this skill. And in working remotely, this skill couldn’t be more important. Making sure that you’re understood, informed and confident is elemental in telecommuting for two reasons:

  1. So the work gets done efficiently and correctly, and
  2. So you’re taken seriously and your ass is covered.

Details

In emails, it comes in the form of clarifying details and situations, and making sure that what you want or need from someone is always on the table at some point. In emails, you can finesse the language of the “ask” or “clarification.” On the phone, it gets a little harder.

Whether I’m on a call with a client or my team, or even a recent call working out the parameters of a campaign with a promotional partner, I need to speak up if I feel like there’s some confusion on my part or overall. You can look a little less poised if you’re asking for info you may have missed, but I’ve learned the hard way to get my questions addressed on the phone rather than “off-line” with a teammate (who 50% of the time also likely missed the detail I’m looking for).  It’s doesn’t look good if you get off the phone looking buttoned up, and then send a email illustrating the opposite.

Impressions

Besides details, being assertive gives teammates, clients and media an important impression of the remote worker. This, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of it. I’m a relational person and need the people I work with to take me seriously. So I make it a goal to speak up, ask a question, chime in with an idea on every call I’m on (that isn’t a media briefing). It’s important because it communicates an element of control and let’s the other participants of the call know that you have some stake in the conversation.

Assertiveness = Balance

It’s a delicate balance to strike on the social spectrum between passive and aggressive. There’s always the temptation to be polite and refrain from voicing concerns, but this is a passive way to communicate, and people will walk all over you. On the other hand, an aggressive nature will give the call a tense dynamic and people won’t want to work with you – they’ll feel run over and defensive.

Here’s the bottom line: when you’re remote, your emails, voice and ideas are frame your colleagues’ impressions of you. It lets them know whether to trust you with a partnership negotiation, pitching a curmudgeon journalist, or presenting a plan to a client. Good work gets done when people can communicate openly with each other, and being assertive is your best shot at making sure that happens.

And making sure that there’s NO IVY in your wedding bouquet.

Working Girl’s Year One

Year One

It came rather quickly, I’ll admit. In fact, it wasn’t until this last weekend that I realized that I moved to San Francisco 1 year ago on July 4th and started my job 1 year ago today, July 7th. To think of where I was then, quaking in my new heels, ready to burst with questions and anticipation, head equally full of knowledge meant to prepare me for adulthood, never expecting the road that I’ve traveled to get to NOW.

I adjusted at first — and this could have been shock, at the time — rather easily. Emotionally tackling the sometimes-turbulent road from easing in, yet hitting the ground running, then phasing to swallowing pride and comfort for the challenge of taking criticism, learning to work hard, sleep less and take it all in stride. The last few months have seen the much more enjoyable transition of becoming a team player, (more detail-aware — I’m making progress, people) being confident that a job well done means client satisfaction and not personal gain, and realizing that loving my job makes me luckier than most.

That said, I have sorely neglected this blog, which turned out to be a vehicle for employment for me, and I’d like to take this post on this momentous day to make some resolutions for the new year as a “LaunchSquadder” and an employed person.

For this blog I resolve to:

  1. Post 1-2 times a week
  2. Write well
  3. Discuss current media issues
  4. Discuss more challenges for the (intended) benefit of those who come after me
  5. Write response posts
  6. Link more relevantly
  7. Present clear and active thinking about my work, my life, and my goals
  8. I will listen more and better

As an employed person I resolve to:

  1. Do more phone pitching
  2. Read more literature on the train
  3. Post on the Exclamation blog more
  4. Make fewer typos
  5. Continue to be an early-adopter of new technology as it remains a fantastic way to stay engaged in the space
  6. Take on more writing-intensive projects
  7. Understand the give-and-take with journalists and pursue more mutually-beneficial relationships
  8. Recognize my responsibility to myself to commit to more responsibility, initiative and leadership on my teams.
  9. Every day, be thankful for my current employment and the daily opportunities presented to learn and be taught.
  10. Every day, do better work than I did the day before.

The nice thing here is that I generally believe that this framework will not only make me a better employee and PR professional, but also a better and more committed person to not only my work, but my future and the opportunities it probably bring. Hopefully.

Anyone else closing in on a year and having some thoughts about it? Let me know what you guys are thinking… Maybe I’m the only one who’s seeing this as some existential milestone, but I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Also — a quick “Congrats!” to my coworker, Sara Schulte who also started last year on 7/7 at LaunchSquad. 🙂

Details, details… Why You (as a young PRo) Need To Be Nit-Picky NOW.

picture-1I am not the most detail-oriented person. Not by a long shot. I am more what you’d call a “Big Picture,” conceptual person. Which is why, in the first months of my job, I struggled a lot with not seeing the value in details and not grasping for a while just HOW MUCH I needed to harness those details on all of my teams.

If your work environment is anything like mine, you’re on multiple teams and it’s very collaborative. Everyone does everything until the job gets done. It’s nice to see the managers of accounts chiming in and even sometimes drafting pitches and releases.

These are wonderful things to be able to expect from your teams and and managers. However, bear in mind what is expected of you at the bottom of the totem pole:

1. You are the gate-keeper of information. Your account managers will often be overseeing all of the high-level activity in several accounts, not just yours. It’s up to you to be on top of every single detail and moving part within your account so that if they need to know if a client has sent their feedback on a release, you can update them right away.

2. You are the task master. If someone’s been assigned a new Washington Post target, you need to check and make sure they’ve been pitched. You need to be sure of everyone’s pitching progress at any time. You need to know everyone’s progress on everything at all times. Don’t be afraid to manage up on this one.

3. Your clients probably care. Client-facing emails, especially with small companies aren’t uncommon for the young AA or AAE. Typos (and believe me, I am THE WORST with typos, just read some of my past blogs) look so bad to clients. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short, logistical (“Please use the usual dial-in”) message or a large, content-heavy correspondence. Same for client deliverables – PR reports, tracking sheets, whether hard copies, PDFs or Google docs, these need to be flawless.

4. Your teams DO care. They definitely care if they can’t trust you to send simple messages that are error-free to clients. Especially avoidable errors. Spell-check and have them proofed (it’s a killer to your writer/communicator’s ego, but worth it when you start to pick up the nuances of client communications). Never send a client email without letting your team know, or CC-ing them (once again, please learn from MY mistakes here).

5. It kind of becomes second nature. At some point you just learn how to do it without thinking about it. And you’ll find that as your organization increases so does your productivity. So it’s definitely worth the extra care and time that you put into it now.

6. Important: If you let them, disorganization and small mistakes WILL run the way you do things and define you as a professional. Small mistakes that go unchecked can quickly brand you as sloppy and unprofessional and will even faster become habits and harder to manage and rid yourself of.

This has been one of the most aggravating things to learn as I’ve gone out into the “real world.” Do whatever it takes to incorporate this into your work habits even if you’re cursing those detail oriented, anal-retentives who sit next to you. Eat some humble pie and learn from them.

*Organization tips to follow. Photo courtesy of Details magazine.

Don’t mess with my SEO – Battles with middle schoolers

I found another Megan Soto — IN OREGON.

#8 In the results for the Google search:

picture-32She does the long jump for Cascade Middle School’s track team.

picture-22What are the odds?! I mean — seriously.