Day 31 – Mentoring

November 11, 2010

Mentor a young marketing professional.

I attribute much of my career success to a cadre of wise and compassionate people who served as my mentors.

They coached me. They believed in me. They helped me to reach my full potential. They cared about me and gave of themselves without expecting anything in return. I valued these mentoring relationships and often expressed appreciation. Time, though, has helped me to more deeply recognize the profound impact each mentor had upon me, my life and my career.

In gratitude for what others have done for me, I feel a social obligation to pay it forward. After all, part of my life mission is “to share unconditionally the abundance in my life.”

In recent years I have mentored three young professionals through a structured, six-month mentoring program. With an even broader definition of mentoring, I can count many more people whom I’ve mentored.

I will continue to help others, especially those who are eager to learn, who are curious about the world around them and who are committed to making a difference in the lives of others.

I will share of myself, expecting nothing in return. Yet, paradoxically, I’ve never found a mentoring relationship to be a one-way transaction. I have always received much more than I have ever given. I pick up new ideas, I experience a renewed flow of energy and, in a life of service to others, I am rejuvenated!

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Day 30 – Empowering Questions

November 10, 2010

Ask empowering questions of myself and others.

Appreciative Inquiry is a particular way of asking questions to envision and create a desired future. It builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, or an organization.

I like a positive focus that looks for what is right, not what is broken and needing to be fixed. By asking positive and empowering questions, Appreciative Inquiry seeks to discover what is already going well.

I’ve learned that whatever we focus on in life expands. We usually find what we’re looking for. Problem solvers, for example, go looking for problems to solve. In so doing, they find even more problems. The more they look, the more problems they encounter.

In this world, some people chose to be critics. They search for flaws and somehow they think they’ll look smarter by pointing out what is wrong with a particular situation.

I prefer to ask questions that focus on what is already going well. What is right? What are the strengths? When did we experience a time of exceptional success?

I also want to look at my job and to focus on what is going well. The more I focus on that, the more it will expand. I want more of what is going right, so I will probe into those areas and find ways to bring even more success into my life.

I value the advice given in Philippians 4:8 (NIV) which says “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

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Day 29 – Quadrant II Time

November 9, 2010

Set aside to do work that is important but not urgent.

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People, Stephen Covey gives excellent advice for rejuvenation.

He suggests we divide our work into four quadrants and then spend more time in Quadrant II doing work that is important but not urgent.

The urgency of our fast-paced lives often demands that we spend time in Quadrant I doing work that is both important and urgent. We are thereby tempted to procrastinate doing important work that does not scream for immediate attention because it is not urgent.

The work we do in Quadrant II will vary from person to person. For me, work that is important but not urgent includes physical exercise, journaling, project planning and reading.

I set aside two hours every Tuesday morning. I mark “Q-II time” on my calendar. I usually spend this time at my favorite table in a local coffee shop. There I have wi-fi access, but I deliberately turn away from digital distractions because they pull me back into the world of the urgent. Just for two hours, I want to remain there in my private sanctuary where I can get away from the bustle that awaits.

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Day 28 – Study Areas

November 8, 2010

Create a learning plan for topics I want to understand better.

I hope to always approach life with an inquisitive, childlike sense of curiosity. I also want to be a life-long learner, never ceasing to explore the intriguing world in which I live.

Frequently I’ll encounter a word, a phrase or a topic I’m not familiar with. I try to capture those learning opportunities by sending myself a note on my smart phone or by jotting down a question in a notebook I usually carry with me. Later, I will Google the topic and explore the subject to whatever depth my time and curiosity permit.

I work at the American Red Cross, a complex, multi-faceted organization. Within that maze, I deliberately look for programs or services I want to understand better. I then set aside time to research those programs so I can be conversant on the topic.

Learning is something I inherently value, and I can usually rejuvenate myself by embarking on a my own customized journey of discovery.

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Day 27 – Life Challenges

November 7, 2010

Tell the story of a time when I overcame a major life obstacle or career challenge.

For me, journaling is an exceptionally invigorating exercise. With a fountain pen and blank book, I can retreat to the privacy of my own hidden sanctuary. There I can wrestle with tough issues, organize my thoughts and even relive the triumphant times when I was victorious in overcoming insurmountable odds. Most of my public blog posts, for example, began as embryonic ideas written just for myself during a journaling stream of consciousness.

In these journaling sessions, I’ve recalled stories of how I thrived when I was between jobs. Though the process was painful, I wouldn’t trade for anything what I learned during that time. During a job search I was able to reinvent myself and re-energize my career. Retelling those stories help me to better understand how I was led through the wilderness. That gives me hope and strength for whatever uncertainties I may face today.

I’ve also fought and overcome cancer. Being diagnoses with the “Big C” puts everything else into perspective. Being victorious in a life-and-death battle gives me courage to take on whatever might come my way.

As I remember the dramatic, defining periods of my life, I am rejuvenated. I am reminded of a favorite quote that sums everything up:  “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us in the past.”

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Day 26 – Career Benefits

November 6, 2010

Explain to a young person the benefits of pursuing a career in nonprofit marketing.

One of my most satisfying career ventures was teaching at Rockhurst, Kansas City’s well-respected Jesuit university. For several years I taught the class Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations.

Although I’ve earned my master’s degree in marketing, the classroom where I learned the most was the one where I stood at the front as the adjunct professor. I say that not to extol my talents as an educator, but rather to underscore the intrinsic value of explaining something to someone else. As Joseph Joubert said, “To teach is to learn twice.” I certainly understood marketing much better as I taught it to inquisitive college students.

Likewise, one of the best ways to appreciate my chosen career path has been to explain its benefits to a young person considering his or her career options.

Here are several things I would like for a young professional to know about a career in nonprofit marketing:

  1. Marketing is more than a job. It is a career path, a high professional calling.
  2. A marketing career can be a life-long pursuit and not necessarily a springboard to becoming the CEO or something else.
  3. Nonprofit marketing should be a stand-alone profession that is not subjugated to fundraising.
  4. Not everyone can do marketing, even though most people believe they are pretty good marketers.
  5. The best marketers combine their natural talents with formal training. There’s no substitute for a solid education.
  6. Don’t quit learning. Although marketing principles will remain unchanged, the tools and technology you’ll be using in10 years probably haven’t been invented yet.
  7. A good mentor can help you learn and grow. Find one.

By the way, later this month I have the privilege of returning to the university as a guest speaker. The invitation to speak came from the class instructor, whom I’m proud to say, was one of my star students in the very first class I taught.

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Day 25 – Social Media Plan – Personal

November 5, 2010

Define how social media can help me to blend the personal and professional facets of my life.

A couple of decades ago, workers were encouraged to compartmentalize their lives. “Don’t bring your work home,” admonished spouses of workaholics. Meanwhile at the office, supervisors would counsel employees, “Keep your personal life separate from your work.”

Today, things are different. We live and work in a 2.0 world where our personal and professional lives are inevitably blurred. It’s now impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

I’m okay with not having a clear line of demarcation between who I am as a person and what I do to earn a living. There are key advantages to not having to role play and to compartmentalize the various dimensions of my life. I’m at ease living in a 2.0 era that demands transparency because I can always be my authentic self. I can live and work comfortably “in my own skin” without trying to pretend to be something I’m not.

The social media revolution invites us to live with greater integrity—with transparency, authenticity and openess.

On a personal level, I will continue to be authentic and purposeful as I connect with others using the various social media platforms at my disposal.

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Day 24 – Social Media Plan – Business

November 4, 2010

Develop a social media plan that integrates new and traditional media.

Some people are so obsessed with social media technology that they overlook their communication strategy.

They are so focused on gadgets, applications and tactics that they completely miss the obvious:  These are only tools!

Tools are used to create or build something. Tools, technology and tactics are all a means to an end. The “end” is often defined in a well-written marketing goal. A goal articulates what success will look like and offers a clear, measurable definition of the desired outcome.

A communications plan should 1) target a specific audience, 2) define key marketing messages and 3) select the appropriate channels to deliver the right message to the right audience.

These communication channels should include a mix of traditional and new media. I define the two this way:

Traditional media primarily push information outward from a centralized source. They “broadcast” information in one direction. Examples are television, radio, newspapers, direct mail, newsletters and brochures.

New media (sometimes called social media) work best when the content is user-generated. Rather than broadcasting outward, new media rely upon interactions and conversations. Examples of new media are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress and other social networking platforms.

Traditional and new media must be integrated if you want to build a strong and effective marketing communication program.

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Day 23 – Impact of Marketing

November 3, 2010

Define what would be lost without a marketing program.

Valuable insight can be gained by asking, “What would be lost to the organization or to the community if the marketing department were downsized or even eliminated?”

A mission statement focuses on why we exist, our raison d’être. Sometimes, though, it helps to understand our mission by looking at things from a negative vantage point.

I always love watching the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. As you may recall, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) hit rock bottom. In his despair, he was given a glimpse of what his small town would look like if he had never been born. By examining his life from that perspective, he could clearly see his inherent value. He realized how much others really needed him.

Occasionally, I will mentally create my own version of the Wonderful Life movie. I visualize what the American Red Cross would be like without an effective marketing program. How would the organization be less effective in fulfilling its mission? What would go missing if there was no marketing? What would be the measurable impact upon the bottom line? Would revenue be lost, either directly or indirectly?

The questions can drill even deeper:  What intangibles would be lost if current donors were uninformed because of a lack of communication? Or if prospective donors were never made aware of the impact they could have? Or if potential volunteers did not know the needs they could fill?

I am convinced marketing helps to make a more “wonderful life” for the thousands of people who rely upon the humanitarian services of the Red Cross. As a nonprofit marketer, I find that to be professionally rewarding and personally rejuvenating.

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Day 22 – Marketing’s Unique Role

November 2, 2010

Differentiate marketing’s unique role from that of fundraising.

The better I define marketing’s niche within my organization, the more effective I am in producing results.

To help clarify my unique role as a marketer, I regularly ask myself, “What do I do that no one else can do as well?” On a departmental level, I also ask, “What contribution does marketing make that cannot be made as effectively anywhere else?”

Too often in nonprofit organizations, marketing and communications are relegated to be subordinate to fundraising. In my opinion, such an organizational alignment weakens marketing’s effectiveness and ultimately hampers the organization’s success in fulfilling its mission.

Granted, marketing must support fundraising, but the two are not one in the same. Marketing is a unique profession separate from that of raising money. Kivi Leroux Miller, in her excellent book The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, says:

Although you can have successful long-term (nonprofit) marketing campaigns that don’t involve fundraising, you cannot have successful long-term fundraising campaigns without marketing. Marketing and communications are how you talk to your donors in between those times when you ask for money.

My efforts as a professional marketer can result in donors being more engaged, volunteers giving of themselves in more meaningful ways and customers making better purchasing decisions.

As I think about the unlimited potential of a differentiated marketing program, I find renewed energy. I am professionally rejuvenated.

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