Category Archives: Inspiration

A new dawn for JRM Comm

I’m beyond thrilled to kick off the month of August with a rebranded JRM Comm. Watch the video below to learn more and browse JRMComms.com to see how we can work together to bring you success through smart strategies!

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The Four Pillars of Personal Branding

They say you can’t go “home” again; I say that’s dead wrong. On March 21, I went back to a place I called home for my college days, Temple University. Walking around the campus, which has changed by leaps and bounds since I was there, brought back lots of great memories and emotions.

The reason for being on campus was the second annual TU Invitational, hosted by the university’s outstanding PRSSA chapter. I’ve been lucky to get to know many members, both past and present, over the last few years. They make me incredibly proud to be an alum and to now call public relations my career. I spoke at this year’s Bell Tower at Temple Universityevent on being the “CEO of You.”

When I was at Temple in the mid-1990s, I had no clue about personal branding. However, I always tried to uphold the traits that I now speak about when giving talks around the country. Those traits are the pillars of my CEO of You sessions. If you want the best out of your brand, online and off, you need to embrace these four pillars.

Trust– There isn’t a brand around, personal or otherwise, that can survive without having trust. Never put your brand in a position where you sacrifice the trust you’ve built.  I would rather you be last and right, than first and wrong. Do it right the way first!

Honesty Being honest about the expectations of your brand. Never oversell something you aren’t able do, or be something you can’t. You also need to be honest with yourself. How many times have we met people who try to be someone else, or something else? That isn’t honesty. Never over inflate your abilities.

Transparency– We often ask clients to be open and transparent. That means, there is no way someone can look at you and not know who you are or what you represent. Being transparent also helps if you are in a crisis. CEO’s that hide are believed to be keeping something important a secret. Don’t hide behind secrecy.

Responsibility– You need to take responsibility for who you are and what you do in person and as a professional on social networks. Having a Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram account, and a blog should be handled with great responsibility. You have the power to enact change as well as lead with these tools. Use them smartly and wisely.

At the end of the day, your personal brand needs to be real and have passion. If you can’t or don’t want to be real, you are wasting your time on social networks. Your brand will be fake.  It’s harder to correct your brand than it is to be real from the start.

People gravitate toward passion. They can see through your BS a mile away. If you aren’t passionate about the work you do – or if you try to fake it – those you lead will pick up on it immediately. To truly inspire others and establish yourself as an expert, you have to love what you do. The drive to be the best is fueled by passion, without it, you may tend to view your work or activities as something you have to do, rather than something you get to do.

How are you upholding these four pillars? Let me know in the comments!

The Grad School Debate

For years, we’ve heard the steady drumbeat of those that say it’s imperative to get your Master’s Degree if you want to move up in the public relations or marketing field. There are also many that disagree, saying it’s not at all necessary. I disagree with both schools of thought. It’s not imperative, but it’s also wrong to say it isn’t necessary. Let me explain.

Late last month, I was accepted into Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication for its online master’s degree program. I’m beyond excited to get started and continue to better myself as a professional from a great university. My internal debate about grad school started with a simple question: “Do I WANT to go or do I NEED to go?” And that is the question you should ask yourself if you are considering the same.

The argument that it isn’t necessary, or that you shouldn’t go is silly and antiquated. This isn’t me learn-64058_640saying to you that you MUST go for your MBA, Master’s in Communication, etc. This is me telling you that it is YOUR CHOICE and not someone else’s to make.

I went back and forth for years about whether to get a higher degree. After I received my undergraduate degree from Temple University (yes, I’m #TempleMade), the thought of going back to school was not something I was keen on. However, as I got older, the idea of challenging myself to be more than what I am now became exciting.

Here’s what my thought process was:

1. Research– It’s one of the pillars of public relations, right? Well, I researched a ton of schools and spoke with a number of trusted colleagues and friends. My wife is a professor and she just attained her Ph.D. in July of 2014. So, I had plenty of good information about what direction to go in.

2. How will it help me- Look, it’s ok to be selfish here. You aren’t just going to get a higher degree because it would be great fun. You’ll work hard so that it can help YOU in the long run. Not anyone else. Do it for you. Not for what your boss thinks, your friends, or anyone else. Your name will be on the diploma.

3. Online or on campus- Since going to campus would be tough with two kids and two parents working, I sought out the highly reviewed online programs. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out what the “brick and mortar” programs offer. I will say that distance programs no longer come with the “Oh, you are doing online?” stigma. My wife earned her Ph.D from the Medical University of South Carolina’s online program , save for a yearly residency week on campus in July.

4. Time- If you can’t commit the time to put in the work, don’t go for your degree. We budget time for clients, social postings, and more. You need to do the same for that Master’s Degree. Once I was accepted, I went into planning mode and created calendar dates. The more you plan, the more time you’ll have to study and focus.

5. Believe- Can you do it? Of course you can. I’ve used this quote from Robert F. Kennedy for years. “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” From the moment I committed to applying for my Master’s Degree at Purdue, I asked “why not?” Why couldn’t I do this? Why not now? Believe in your talents, skills, and determination and you’ll succeed.

Remember, you don’t HAVE TO get a Master’s Degree, or any higher degree for that matter. What you do have to do is listen to what you WANT TO do. That’s what is most important.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Hustle Series: Darren Meenan and The 7 Line

You’ve all heard a story that intimates that a successful business that once started in “the basement of their home.” In the case of Darren Meenan, this isn’t a stretch. It’s fact. What started with Darren, a huge New York Mets fan, wearing a simple t-shirt he made that stated “I Survived” in 2009, ended up becoming the wildly successful, “The 7 Line.”

Meenan didn’t just settle on the fact a number of people asked about that one shirt. He sensed an opportunity and created his hustle. It began with equipment he bought on eBay and he created a few shirts in his parent’s basement. Since Mets fans (myself included) haven’t had too much to cheer about since 2006, Darren used these t-shirts to echo fans sentiment. One design said, “I Was Born into This Mess.” What Mets fan doesn’t feel that way sometimes? As 2009 turned into 2010, his hustle and entrepreneurial spirit began to pay off.

Photo Courtesy- ESPN.com

Photo Courtesy- ESPN.com

By wearing newer designs to Citi Field, the word began to spread about The 7 Line and Darren’s quality of work. It also didn’t hurt that he worked hard to spread the word, as well. Darren held signs with his website around the ballpark, some of which showed up on TV. More shirts, more exposure equals needing more space. So, Darren moved into a warehouse not too far from the ballpark.

While Darren’s story sounds like it happened overnight, it didn’t. He needed to work hard to conceptualize, print, and distribute everything with little help. His hustle has been featured on, among others, CNN Money and in the New York Times. Oh, and a little show called “30 Rock” featured Darren’s shirts, by request from the producers.

Darren has even been able to get the support from Mets’ players. A few years back, he traveled to spring training a gave a bunch to hand out in the clubhouse. Now, that’s hustle (and smart marketing, too). Mets players loved them and can be seen wearing the shirts before and after games.

Despite the Mets struggles, you’ll never hear a negative word from Darren. While fans may be frustrated, his hustle has helped create a new faction of fans. He thought it would be a great idea for Mets diehards to sit together, cheer on and support the team. “The 7 Line Army” was born. That one game spawned into the army not just going to games at Citi Field, but Wrigley Field in Chicago, Marlins Park in Miami, and AT&T Park in San Francisco to name a few.

Darren’s ability to bring fans together with his infectious attitude and excitement is a testament to dedication, hard work, and a never-ending hustle. See, Darren loves what he does because he works hard at it. He doesn’t cut corners. No one who hustles the right way does that. The Mets even noticed and The 7 Line now has a kiosk at Citi Field and is a licensed Major League Baseball brand.

What’s next? Darren has mentioned in interviews and on Twitter that he wants to open a bar one day next to Citi Field. If his hustle with The 7 Line is any indication, the bar will be a huge hit.

Develop Your Hustle

“Nobody’s hustle is like anyone else’s” – Robert Downey, Jr.

I’ve been very open about how much of a fan I am of Robert Downey, Jr. He can act, sing, and he’s pretty good with a crowd. He’s also someone I derive inspiration from.

A few months back, I watched Downey on “Off Camera with Sam Jones.” It was a great look at how the Academy Award Nominee prepares for a role and how he views his impact on the world. Downey said something during the show that really hit home for me.

I think the greatest gift anybody can give anyone is the opportunity to develop your hustle. Sam, you didn’t
wind up with these great pictures on the wall and documentaries in the can because it was all handed to you. You have to develop that, and nobody’s hustle is like anybody else’s you know?

Think about that for a moment. You can’t fit your career goals, ambitions, and dreams into someone else’s box. 20140731-075807-28687361.jpgSo, while you may look to people for inspiration, your trip in this life will not mirror what they have done. Nothing is ever handed to you.

In 2010, I landed hard after getting let go from my job. But, I didn’t expect any handouts and wanted to work for everything. That is absolutely what you need to do, as well. Focus on your hustle… Make your hustle like no one else’s.

Over the coming weeks, I am going to focus on people who have developed their hustle. These will be folks that haven’t been given a handout; they’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into their careers.

I’m excited to feature these hard-working and great folks.

The JourneyCast Podcast: Michael A. Brown, Sr., Ph.D.

Over a year ago, Michael Brown, Sr. reached out to me and asked if he could use one of my blog posts in his upcoming book. It was flattering to be asked, since I’ve never been included in a book, and I agreed.  Fast forward to April 2014 and that book is now out. Michael is the co-author (along with Tracy Schario, APR) of the book, “Social Media 4EVR: Identifying, Achieving, and Nurturing Social Capital.” 

MikeBrownWebsiteIn this edition of The JourneyCast Podcast, we discuss Michael’s career, his unique skill set, and why the book is important for new and experienced pros.

The JourneyCast Podcast, episode 7- Michael A. Brown, Sr., Ph.D. 

You can find Michael on Twitter, @MichaelBrown76

Let me know your thoughts on the podcast and leave a comment below.

You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

What I learned from Illinois State PRSSA

Me with some of my new friends at Illinois State University.

Me with some of my new friends at Illinois State University.

A few weeks ago, I was absolutely thrilled to visit the campus of Illinois State University and it’s nationally recognized PRSSA chapter. The visit was part of “March Brandness,” an extension of my CEO of You talks I’ve held via Skype and at various conferences.

This talk wasn’t something that was thrown together by ISU PRSSA, it was months in planning. It started back in December of 2013, when Hailey Lanier reached out, followed by Marrison Worthington, the chapter’s president and vice president, respectfully. After Skyping in to a chapter meeting (and getting jealous about the Jimmy John’s they were eating), I was able to see why they have been recognized as an award-winning group. When it was finally time for my visit, I was treated to, frankly, some of the more professional students and future pros I’ve ever met.

Here are three things I, ultimately, learned from my visit and being a Redbird for a day.

Proper Planning- From the moment I gave the thumbs up to visiting the campus, ISU PRSSA shared ideas on promoting the talk via email, Skype, and phone conversations. Planning is a key component of any successful event. If you haven’t planned for every possible contingency, something will go wrong. In this case, chapter leadership thought of everything. From transportation to campus visits, ISU PRSSA even gave me an itinerary of what the day would look like from the minute I landed to the day I left.

The Value of Mentors- One my first stops on campus was Fell Hall (the mecca of ISU’s Communications program). It was there I was introduced to, among others, Dr. Pete Smudde and Tom Lamonica. After talking to both gentlemen, I realized why the students held them in such high regard. They have taken a vested interest in the education and development of these students. They have helped to shape the future careers of many of the chapter members. Both also stressed the importance of the March Brandness event. Every student needs a mentor to give them support, honesty, and advice when necessary.

Show Off Your Surroundings- When I landed, I was greeted by Marrison and Hailey at the airport. Both ladies gave me the lowdown on Normal, Ill., including what businesses were based there, as well as a great understanding of the ISU campus. I was given a great tour by both ladies and then was joined by Ali Seys, who discussed the unique food truck, Two Blokes and a Bus. From there I was treated to lunch at the Pub II’s, with its outstanding cheese balls (and members of the e-board) and Sugar Mama Bakery’s delicious cupcakes. I felt as if I had been to campus and surrounding Normal before, thanks to how well the group educated me and helped me understand this great area. It also proved to me that working and living in a town or city is more than just saying, “I live in XX.” You should know as much as possible about your surroundings. It could come in very handy.

Ultimately, this trip also proved to me how outstanding PRSSA is. I’ve spoken to many chapters and students over the years; I have never, ever been disappointed in the passion, drive, and dedication each of these student show. Case in point, on April 9, it was announced that Illinois State’s PRSSA chapter was awarded a Pacersetter for the month of March 2014 from PRSSA National because of how well March Brandness went. I could not be more proud to have been part of such a great event with great people.

Big thanks also go to Ryan Smart, Melissa Fortes, Abby Brennan, Shelby Ray, and the many other great members that made this trip so memorable!

Learn more about Illinois State’s PRSSA Chapter by checking out their website.

 

 

The JourneyCast Podcast with guest Matt LaCasse

44424_4521832122001_1058374680_nMatt LaCasse and I are another example of developing a relationship from social media. I’ve (unfortunately) never met him in person, but have talked with him in every other way possible (except carrier pigeon and the string cup phone).

I’ve never been disappointed with something I retweet or share from Matt because I know he recognizes the importance of what he puts out on social networks. His only failing? Being a Chicago Cubs fan. Why do I pick on him about that? Because I’m a New York Mets fan.

In all seriousness, I’m really excited for everyone to listen to this episode with Matt because he shares some really great insight into how he started out in public relations, why he feels microvideo will dominate in 2014, and adjusting to being a parent and balancing work along with it.

The JourneyCast Podcast, Ep. 5 with Matt LaCasse

Let me know your thoughts on this episode, by leaving a comment below!

You can also subscribe to the podcast, via iTunes. 

Can You Be a Leader, But Not Lead?

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” —Gen. George S. Patton

Think of a great leader or someone you believe is a great leader. What are their leadership qualities? What have they done to prove to be a great leader? These questions should be easy to answer, however, they aren’t as easy as you think. Why? Because the word “leader” is thrown around like “jedi,” “ninja”, and “expert.”

You can be called a leader, but not lead. You’ve seen the statement, “John Smith is considered a leader on social networks” or “When it comes to public relations strategy, John Smith is a leader.” In some cases, these statements are true. But more often than not, the word “leader” is not fact. For example, most people believe that CEOs or presidents of companies are leaders. But, just because they have that title, one shouldn’t assume they can lead. Sure, they may up provide stability and maybe even help the bottom line, but that doesn’t make someone a good leader or good in leading employees.

I began to think this week about leadership and what it takes. There’s an old quote from Vince Lombardi; he said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made.” That is absolutely true. To be a great leader you have to show three qualities:

Mark Messier is considered a great leader

Mark Messier is considered a great leader

1) Trust- You need to trust your colleagues and they need to trust you. If you don’t have either, you are sunk. Trust is the ultimate quality in a leader.

2) Patience- You must be calm in the good and the bad times; especially the bad. Your fellow pros and co-workers will be more apt to listen to you if you show calmness in the face of rocky times. Regardless of your political beliefs, people like President George W. Bush and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed great leadership in the days and weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. If not for their patience, the recovery may not have been what it was in the U.S.

3) Humble- You can be confident in your skills and still maintain your humble nature. People don’t like cocky and overconfident, especially in a leader. They want confidence, but with the ability to show that you are willing to give credit where credit is due.

So, how can you be a better leader? Start by setting an example for those that will come after you, whether it be as a PRSSA leader or in a local Social Media Club. Want to be your own boss one day? Start showing people you can handle criticism with grace, you are willing to sacrifice for the greater good of your chapter, organization, or club, and, most importantly, be trustworthy.

Who are good example of leaders? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday Tip: Being Humbled

Every once in a while, we need to fall flat on our butts to wake us up. Here’s how I was given a wake-up call and why I’m better for it.

How have you been humbled? Let me know in the comments!