Archives for category: Education

More questions.

Because what is fun about knowing all of the answers?

When I was in college, my favorite classes were the ones that I felt comfortable asking questions in. There were certain classes that were structured to be a forum; an ongoing conversation. In those classes, I felt the most engaged and would go the extra mile to find out what questions I should be asking. By finding out what those questions were, I was able to discover the answers that really matter.

When I started my job hunt, I asked the professionals I knew for advice and guidance. In fact, at my last college internship, I emailed the entire office with a list of “lingering questions” before I left. I was searching for the right questions to ask, so that come time to interview, I would have the right answers.

Now that I am officially a communications professional, working in the real world, I am searching; Not for answers, but again, for the right questions.

Voltaire once said “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” And that is an adage I want to live by. As I take that next step in my career, I will not forget what got me here. I will wear that Voltaire quote on my sleeve, and I will also remember a little tidbit Socrates mentioned: “Question Everything.”

I believe those two quotes will guide me to success.

So what is your best question? I’d like to hear it.

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My blog  just turned 40.

Like most that experience age 40, my blog is questioning itself in a weird mesh of reflection and bewilderment.

“How has there already been 40 posts?”

“Ugh, those paragraphs aren’t as tight as they used to be.” 

“Have I, after 40 posts, been successful?”

The interesting thing is that I feel a forty-year old would come to terms with the above comments much like I am coming to terms with this blog. A lot has happened over the time period of those 40 posts. The writing may not be as ambitious or written with the same intellectual vigor, but it has developed a tone; it now has structure. And yes it has been successful. It may not have won any awards, but it has carried a message, and has been received well by people.

So… am I supposed to buy a Corvette now or something?

Well, my blog is 40, not me, so I think the Corvette will have to wait. But in the meantime I do have some ideas for what I am going to do:

       1.     I am going to write to an audience, an audience that will listen.

When I started this blog it was intended to demonstrate that I was familiar to blogging, and meant to be a device to help me develop my writing skills. But I got tired of writing to some mythical job recruiter, and I decided to focus on writing to people who can identify with me. I will continue to offer this blog as a tool to recent graduates, employment seekers, and emerging communications professionals.

       2.     I am going to tell a story.

As I look back on some of my past writing, I realize that my best posts reveal something to the reader, and give them something that they can feel. A persuasive argument has no emotion, but an inspiring story can be quite persuasive and can hit people in the gut, where it really counts.

       3.     I am going to continue to strive for excellence.

While I feel I have made great strides in my writing, I want more. I want to engage a readership. I want to see a conversation take place via comments sparked by a thought-provoking post. I want people to tweet about my posts; to ignite conversations of their own. I want my pursuit of betterment to make other people better.

I do realize that those are some pretty lofty goals. But how else do you achieve greatness other than by setting the bar high?

I am fortunate though, to know what I need to do to achieve those goals: Listen. I will listen to criticism, I will listen to advice, and I will listen to my audience to make my online presence, worth something to others.

There is one more thing that I will try do start doing more frequently; leave with a call-to-action. So I say this to you: write. Write with everything you got. Put your head down on a piece of paper; punch out your thoughts on a keyboard. And if you are already doing that, great. Show me what you got. Share your writing with me, as I share with you. So that by the time you and I turn 40, our achievements will allow us to afford that Corvette.

If you are in the professional communications field and are worth your salt, you “know your audience.”

You have probably heard that phrase so much that you instinctively nod at the words like one of Pavlov’s dogs. But it isn’t the phrase you need to be worrying about, the thing you should concern yourself with is what that means.

Can you define what it is to know your audience?

What does that mean? Does that mean you know what kind of coffee they drink in the morning? Does that mean you know if they prefer flip-flops or running shoes?

Knowing your audience is a phenomena that extends beyond their superficial preferences. It is something that sticks to their soul. It is not knowing that they like a bold blend of coffee with two french vanilla creamers, it is knowing that they like that because that is what their grandmother drank when she visited every Thursday morning.

Being able to hit the audience on a sensory level creates a bond between you and them. It provides your audience with that feeling “it just feels right.” Whether you are trying to persuade in a political argument or just trying to get hired, it is understanding that feeling your audience gets that is key. You need to know why that person is not in favor of gun control, or why that employer is excited when you said you prefer Linux over Microsoft.

Next time you are communicating with an audience of any kind, remember that you need to be able to do more than just picture that person in your head; their quirks and idiosyncracies. You need to know why they have those ins-and-outs so that you can connect on a completely different level.

I know you aren’t listening.

It’s not that you don’t want to, it is that you are physically incapable of doing so. If you aren’t on Twitter then obviously you are out of the question. But what if you are on Twitter? What if you claim to be engaged? Whether it be your personal Twitter handle, or the one you manage for work, I can tell you why you aren’t listening.

I consider myself actively engaged within my subset of the Twitter community. I can validate that claim because I tweet, re-tweet, and engage with new people whenever I get the chance.

I guess you do that too, don’t you.

But do you use Twitter lists? How many hashtags do you follow? Have you set up a Seesmic, Hootsuite, or TweetDeck account?

The reason I know you don’t listen is because there is just too much information flowing your way to comprehend it all. I follow over 800 people on Twitter, however I only actively engage with about half of that number. That group of 400 or so are categorized into about 15 different lists, and about 6 different hashtags. I do the same with my Google Reader account; sorting my 70+ RSS feeds into about 8 different folders.

I am not saying that I listen the I possibly can, nor am saying that there is a “best” way to do so. But I want to highlight the capabilities technology offers us that enable us to listen and listen more efficiently. Because the bottom line is that there are some brilliant people out there talking about brilliant ideas, and I would hate to be the one to miss out because I didn’t hear about it.

I just came across this luncheon webcast of Michael Slaby at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive/events/luncheon/2010/03/slaby

I highly recommend watching this in its entirety because the conversation is so tangible to so many different kinds of organizations and situations.

Slaby dives into his experiences on the Obama campaign team and then follows up with various discussions regarding the Obama campaign technology to Web 2.0 and how online strategy can turn into offline movement.

My personal favorite discussion was about maintaining the campaign narrative through the online channel  and how web 2.0 applications were used as a tool for people to tell the story instead of web 2.0 trying to tell the story.

This was a very engaging discussion that definitely sparked my interest and brought forth many questions for me. Hopefully it will do the same for you. And if you happen to come across other webcasts that are similar in nature, please send them my way!

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