Stop Begging for Favors

Photo cred: GreyBlueSkies

If you find yourself constantly asking for favors in business, you’re doing something wrong.

This spark came  when I was watching Alpha Dog the other day.  Yes, my inspiration for posts come from some really weird places…

The one guy was pitching a drug deal to Emile Hirsch’s character.  When Emile started questioning him, the guy said “I’m not looking for any favors… if it makes sense, then do it.  If not, fuck it.”

Whether you’re pitching bloggers, seeking partnerships, looking for funding or seeking any other kind of business arrangement, you can’t go into it with the mentality that you need them, and that they’d be doing you a favor by helping you.

I see it all the time.  I’ve even done it myself.  You reach out to others to see if they’ll be kind enough to promote your blog post, or your projects.  You want them to help you.  You need them to help you.  How else can you succeed?  This causes a few problems:

  • You come across as needy. It makes you look bad and degrades your image as a confident professional.
  • You become reliant on others. Always relying on others to help you succeed, you’ll quickly fail as soon as that option is no longer there.
  • You use up your resources.  People aren’t going to help you all the time.  You cash in on a favor, and you may not get many more.  In fact…
  • You’re indebted. Asking everyone else for help means that you would now be expected to help them whenever they call.

Instead of looking for favors, look for opportunities to help them.  If you can propose a deal that benefits both parties, you’re not doing each other favors, you’re doing business.

When reaching out to bloggers, don’t ask them to review your website.  Explain to them exactly why your website will be valuable to their readers, how else you can provide value to them and explain what you would expect in return.

When you’re creating partnerships, make sure you’re identifying value for both parties.  They need you just as much as you need them.

I’m not saying you should never turn to others for help.  It’s important to know when you can use someone else’s help and be big enough to ask for it.  Business can be personal, but it’s still business.  It’s exchanging value for value.

Are you focused on asking for favors or doing business?

The 3 Stages of Mentorship

Photo cred: Chewy Chua

Already three months into the job, the new PR professional sat at her desk uncomfortable and lost. She wanted to ask her manager how to do it, but that would make her look stupid. Putting it off would only make it worse.  She knew, if she was going to finish this project, she was going to need some help…but from who?

Mentors continue to be one of the most valuable resources in my career.

Graduating and being thrown into the crazy startup world 2 weeks later, I may have skipped a few steps.  The lessons learned in an entry level job provide young professionals with the basics, and allow them to learn from the systems that their managers have developed over the years.  I never got those lessons.

That’s why I am so grateful for my mentors, and why I have so many!  But not all of my mentors are at the same level.

Depending on who you ask, a mentor can be a lot of different things.  I have 3 different levels of mentors.

Stage 1: Passive Mentor

  • I can ask them questions once in a while.
  • I’ll always get a response but it may not be prompt.
  • It’s possible that they have no idea I consider them to be a mentor.
  • They want to help, but aren’t necessarily concerned about my career.

Stage 2: Committed Mentor

  • I can ask questions whenever I want and will usually get a prompt response.
  • I feel comfortable asking for an introduction.
  • They recognize that I consider them to be a mentor.
  • They care about my career and like to stay updated.

Stage 3: Mega Mentor

  • I will get a prompt response whenever I have a question.
  • I connect with them regularly on a professional and personal level. (They’re a friend too)
  • I can turn to them for help with pretty much anything and they will help me.
  • They’re always asking about my career and trying to help.  They want me to succeed.

Having mentors in all three stages allows me to find help whenever I need it, whether the problem is big or small.

Up until now, I’ve never broken it down like this.  I don’t have a system where I try to push mentors from stage 1 to stage 2.  All my mentorships have been developed naturally.  Some get to stage 3, most stay at stage 1.  Regardless, I’m grateful for all.

Not only can you have different levels of mentors, but you can also have different types.  Providing yourself with a support system of mentors will ensure that you’re not going through your career alone.

How do you build your network of mentors?

Read more about mentorship.

Are Young Professionals Forgetting to be Young?

Photo cred: Davo

Yet another interesting discussion sparked by the bright minds in #u30pro.  My friend Jon Klar shared,

“I think social media is making it much easier to grow up too fast. Young professionals need to remember to be young while they can”.

Social media platforms have allowed me to tap into so many resources that wouldn’t have been available to me otherwise.  I learn new things from thought leaders, I connect and engage with professionals that I never would have had access to, I’ve developed mentorships, I’ve shared my own ideas with a large audience and the list of benefits goes on...

…but is it a double-edged sword?

I’m 22 but I don’t feel like it. My ’09 graduation feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I now work full time, run #u30pro, maintain my blog, engage with my network regularly and more…  I have more things going on since I graduated about 7 months ago than many people I know who have been working for years.  Without social media, I wouldn’t have so many opportunities, but I also wouldn’t have so many responsibilities.

I don’t think I’d have it any other way.  I’m in a phase of my life where I am very career focused and I’ve set many high goals for myself.  I realize that I have to make some sacrifices in order to achieve those goals.

…and I’m still enjoying my personal life.  I still go out on weekends.  I still hang out with my friends regularly. I still get my share of video game time in there.

And when I look at many of my old high school buddies and what they’re doing, I don’t feel envious of the extra time they have to “be young”…I feel lucky to be gaining so much experience so quickly. I feel like I’m spending my time wisely.

In 10 years, will I look back at my 20’s and wish I spent less time building my career?

Am I growing up too fast? Are you?

(Perspective of those who have been there and done that are welcome and appreciated)

Home Away from Home: Building Community OFF Your Blog

This is a guest post from Matt Cheuvront and is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants (an epic journey of over 75 guest posts). Want to learn more about Matt & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

Photo cred: Poe Tatum

I talk a lot about building community, and then I talk about it some more. David, as the community manager of Scribnia, has probably talked your ear off about community as well. But, you know, there’s always room for just one more “building community” post – and this time, I won’t focus on what you should be doing on your blog – but instead, giving you a few ideas to cultivate community elsewhere.

Get active on other networks

Now we all know the big three (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) – those are no brainers. But what about Brazen Careerist, Twenty Something Bloggers, and (wink wink) Scribnia? You’ve probably heard of them, but are you really using them? These networks are out there for a reason – and they’re a great resource to tap into if you’re looking to discover new bloggers and network with new people. Everyone doesn’t hang out in the same place – so if you’re only hanging around Twitter and Facebook, you’re missing out on a huge untapped resource of amazing people. Invest some of your time building relationships around the web and leave some breadcrumbs that will lead folks back to your neck of the woods.

RSS Subscribers

Have you ever thought about this one? We’re all constantly urging people to subscribe to our blogs through e-mail and RSS reader. Why? Because it helps us build “loyal” community of readers. This is obviously an imperative goal (that you should be measuring regularly) throughout the development of your blog. But RSS subscribers can be both a blessing and a curse. They may always read your posts, yet they might not ever visit your actual site – thus missing out on that big ol’ community thing you have going on.

What’s the point? You need to invite and entice your RSS subscribers to click through. How? ASKING QUESTIONS is a good place to start. Make an effort to objectively ask questions in your post that instigates a response from your readers. In other words, force them to come to your “hood” in order to see people’s responses (and hopefully leave one of their own). The only way to get people to click through their Google Reader is if you give them good reason to.

Email

With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, and a plethora of other social networks, e-mail seems to be a dying trend. But it shouldn’t be, at least not for a rock star community builder such as yourself. Every time someone leaves a comment on your blog, you are blessed with an email address – or as I like to call it, a “gateway to a relationship”. Use it (wisely – not spammy) to your advantage. A blog can be a great place to start a discussion, but email can be a beautiful way to keep it going. Your friendships and connections don’t have to stop in the comment section – and taking the time to follow up via email (when it makes sense to do so) shows that you are really committed to building a relationship with that person.

IRL

Ah yes, three letters that we are starting to fade away: IRL or “in real life” – there’s still that distinction between our online lives and the ones we live when we’re not in front of a computer screen – but it’s fading fast – the two are quickly becoming one in the same. So when we talk about building community, it would be stupid not to mention the great connections and friendships that can be found over a cup of coffee or an ice cold Black and Tan.

The beauty of blogging and Social Media is it provides a gateway to opportunity – whether it be personal or professional, making friends or finding clients – it may all start with a blog or a tweet, but it doesn’t ever have to end there. Focus on building community and relationships everywhere – and your blog will become a much more fulfilling place for you and your readers to hang out.

Twitter is for Losers

Photo cred: Jesse CourteManche

That’s apparently what a lot of people think…

At another lively #u30pro chat last night, we discussed where social media might fail for young professionals.  One of the topics of discussion that developed really intrigued me.  It seems that not one, not most, but almost ALL the participants shared their experience of being mocked by their friends for using twitter.

If you’re on facebook?  That’s okay… who isn’t?

If you’re on linkedin?  That’s okay too…you’re just trying to network.

From my experience, the two things that seem to draw mockery are twitter and blogging.  They’re still viewed as “lame” by many who aren’t involved. And if your friends are saying it, you can only imagine what strangers are thinking.

Does it really matter? No. I know why I do what I do, and if someone has a problem with it…fuck em! Being mocked is just part of being friends.

But it’s interesting isn’t it?  The most open forms of social interaction online draw the most mockery while those platforms which essentially allow you to do that same, but within a “closed” or private network, are acceptable.

Why?

Have you been mocked for using twitter or blogging?

CNN Relies on Social Media in Haiti Earthquake Coverage

Firstly, my thoughts are with all the people suffering in Haiti after this horrible tragedy.  The Red Cross tweeted that you can help by texting “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to relief efforts.  If you know of any other ways to help, let me know and I will add it here.

This just went up on Mashable… 9 Ways to help Haiti

As I was just watching the news on CNN, there was a clear presence of social media in their reports on Haiti.  In fact, it was ALL social media.

They were pulling pictures from twitter and facebook, they used google earth to show you where the earthquake took place.  The only piece of investigative journalism they did was interview the people posting up twitpics!  I also saw other media sources commenting on pictures, asking the person where they took the picture? (the extent of their background check)?

They provided literally NO original content.  The CNN employee sitting at a computer monitoring social networks was doing the same thing as any other web savvy user seeking out news.  They were as investigative as anyone using twitter search as they filled in time by scrolling through the same 10 pictures they found on twitter, and teaching us about earthquakes…

It’s great that they’re implementing social content into their coverage, but now it just seems like they’re relying on it…

When social networks become an investigative journalist’s best resource, do they still have a purpose?  Are they no better than automatic filters, choosing which information we get to see?

Note: I realize that this may be an exceptional case.  Among other variables, as I was watching the news, it was still very unsafe for reporters travel into Haiti.  Still, I believe it’s a possible trend worth discussing.

EDIT: I just want to point out that this post was meant to discuss a possible trend.  It was not a statement of the current situation.  The day after writing this, once CNN was able to get to Haiti, Anderson Cooper showed us that good journalism still exists and how important it still is.

How Advertising Lost Half Its Credibility

Photo cred: Scotty Perry

Advertising has gone through some huge changes over the last few years.  Today, we’re seeing major brands dropping their Superbowl ad spots, newspapers quickly declining in numbers and even online ad spending has dropped for the first time since 2002.  Do you think advertising is failing? Perhaps only part of it…

Advertising tends to follow a simple model: provide entertainment to catch people’s attention, then make the pitch.  It essentially aims to accomplish two things: Increase Brand Recognition and to Convey a Message. I’ll argue that the latter is no longer effective.

The advertising message is dying.

Today, if you put up a commercial of a guy getting rocked in the balls, people will watch, and probably be entertained, UNTIL you try to sell them the cup. That’s where they tune you out.

So, if people pay attention to the content and ignore the message, we can understand why advertising on the internet is failing. Online, the content isn’t in the ad, it’s on the page. Internet ads, usually just make a sale (there isn’t much room for entertainment), which is what we’ve become so good at ignoring.  Online, it’s very easy to take in content without paying any attention to the ads.

One area of advertising that continues to grow is in online video ads and that won’t change soon.  As more viewers move from the television to the internet, so will the advertising dollars.  Watching a show on hulu feels just like watching it on tv, just with less ads (for now). Similar to television though, the message will be lost.  It’s even easier, since you can click on something else for 30 seconds.

It comes down to credibility.

Brands shoot for two kinds of credibility with their advertising campaigns:

  • Credibility as a brand
  • Credibility in the message

Seeing a well produced ad (especially on television) lends credibility to the brand name.  It lets the consumer know that the brand is the real deal. So credibility as a brand is still gained through advertising.  Whatever they have to say about their product in that ad, however, has no credibility, and would be lucky to make it in one ear and out the other.  Credibility in the message…cut.

Brands, I don’t care what you say your pill does, or how much your competitor sucks.  Hearing about it from you, or the actors in your ads, means nothing to me.

So is advertising still worth it simply for the brand credibility? Would businesses be better off investing in other platforms to share their message?  How will advertising campaigns adapt to these changes in 2010?