Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Unsolicited Feedback (Nicknames) Can Help You Identify What Your "Brand" Is (first of a multipart series)

Over the last 30 years I've received a lot of feedback on my work--some direct, some indirect. Sometimes I only was able to fully fathom the meaning of specific feedback after many years. The nicknames bestowed on me fall into the latter category. I believe they capture the essence of who I am as a person and professional in ways I could never have imagined. 

I didn't ask for these specific nicknames. I didn't solicit feedback that in turn inspired that individual to come up with a nickname for me. Instead, each nickname emerged almost spontaneously during a conversation with a colleague. That they were shared with me in this fashion makes them even more meaningful.  The individuals who shared these nicknames with me have long since come and gone from my life. But their words stuck. 

In short, I consider these nicknames as evidence of my "brand." They reflect personal attributes and attitudes, not so much what I do. They nonetheless stand out. They offer ways for me to talk about my achievements through others' eyes. 

Over the next few weeks I'll share the stories behind three of these nicknames. More important, I'll share why each remains relevant in my work as an educator and consultant. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Learning to Know When to Quit

In a 9/23/21 interview published in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Warriors' coach Steve Kerr commented on his longevity as he has the third-longest tenure of any coach in the NBA (National Basketball Association). That achievement in part speaks to the rapid turnover in the coaching ranks of all professional sports. Kerr acknowledges this fact, recognizing that sometime, someday, he too will leave his position. To that point, he states:

“It will be obvious when that time comes. It will be obvious for the organization and the team when change needs to be made. It will be obvious to me, too."

Kerr's remarks beg the question: how will he know when it's "obvious," i.e., time to relinquish his position? What criteria will he use (consciously or unconsciously) to make that decision (assuming he gets to make that decision before it is made for him)?

I don't know Kerr, so I can't ask him. Nor can I glean his thoughts from other interviews with him that I've read. What I do know, however, is that knowing when to quit is as much an art as it is a science. And it's one I've had to learn--and continue to practice--over many years.

The decision starts with the recognition of changes, both in the environment and yourself. In regard to the former, perhaps it's shifts in personnel. You no longer have the opportunity to work with a group of people you've grown to trust and like. Perhaps management has changed. Maybe your role has changed. In short, the context you've become accustomed to (and even enjoyed) no longer exists.

On the individual level, that means perhaps you're not up for the task of adapting to the changing circumstances. You may no longer feel challenged. You're not learning. You're not growing. You can't see what else you can achieve in the position.

It's time to step away from your role, you conclude, while good feelings about your work remain palpable. Yet sometimes, you can't, or simply won't. The familiar seems better than the unknown; moreover, if you've invested considerable time and energy, you might consider quitting a waste of what you'd achieved to that point. In short, you remain in the role--even while you have that feeling in your gut--one that you might not be able to put into words--telling you that it's time to leave.  

Here's where the situation can deteriorate rapidly. You grow more short-tempered, frustrated by daily tasks you at best once tackled with gusto or at the very least with calm professionalism. A dark cloud of sarcasm, criticalness, and negativity may invade your space. You find it difficult to stay motivated, often feeling like you're going through the motions. You may even feel depressed. 

You don't want to get to this last phase, which I've experienced at times throughout my career when I didn't take heed of that feeling pointing me in the direction I needed to go.  Not only  was it not good for me or anyone around me, but it also made it more difficult to extricate myself from the position. 

So the challenge becomes, how do I know the precise point at which to leave, and how do I do so with all due professionalism and enthusiasm? My bottom line: it's time to go when 1) I feel like I have to force myself to do what's essential to my work over a period of time 2) my enthusiasm for the challenges I'll like face wanes, or 3) I simply don't work every day to improve my work. It's time to plan my exit while moving on to something bigger and better. 

At the same time, I recognize that I have a choice. I can choose to stay in the role and remain stuck in my negative feelings, or I can leave. 

Entrepreneur and author Derek Sivers has captured these sentiments in his standard response to opportunities presented to him. In his wordsit's either "hell yeah!" or no. You're excited about the opportunity, or you aren't. If you're not, pass on it. To that I'll add, regarding an ongoing opportunity, when my natural enthusiasm wanes, it's time to change

Steve Kerr continues to say, "hell yeah!" to his work as the Warriors' coach. I'll be curious to see how he evolves in the roll, and how he manages the circumstances of his inevitable departure. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Upcoming Panel I'm Moderating: Navigating Choppy Ethical Waters in Public Relations (9/30/21)

September is Ethics Month in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), when its members cast a critical eye on ethical practice as embodied in the organization's Code of Ethics. No matter where one works, whether as an independent consultant, for an agency, or in-house for an organization, PRSA members will inevitably be called to draw on this document and their experience while providing ethics counsel to clients, coworkers, and other key stakeholders. That makes preparation vital for public relations professionals to help them to handle any ethical dilemma, large or small.

To this end, join me for a panel I'm moderating, featuring three senior-level members of PRSA's San Francisco Bay Area chapter, on Thursday, September 30 from 5 - 6 pm PDT (register here). You'll learn how to navigate the often choppy ethical waters typically encountered in today’s uncertain, and often unpredictable, times. 

Our three presenters, each of whom has earned their APR (Accreditation in Public Relations), will share their experiences and insight gleaned into how public relations can be practiced ethically, day in and day out. They are:

Catherine Brozena, APR is the founder and creative director for ColorThisWorld Communications, a mission-driven communications consultancy dedicated to serving organizations and initiatives working for positive social change. Her work includes visual design and branding, creative storytelling and messaging, and communications strategy development for the non-profit, public health, environmental, education, and social science sectors. 

Katina Tinka Bush, APR has over 13 years of experience in public relations, strategic communications and digital marketing. In 2021, she joined Calhoun & Company Communications as a Account Director, and works on brand storytelling and media relations campaigns for wine and spirits industry clients. She has worked across several industries from agencies supporting sports, entertainment, food and beverage, and hospitality clients, to in-house counsel for premier non-profit and higher education institutions. Tinka is a 2009 graduate of San Diego State University and earned her APR in 2020. 

Sarah Grolnic-McClurg, APR is a media relations specialist who launched her solo practice, Pounce PR, in 2000, after earning her APR. This January, she joined forces with impact firm Thinkshift Communications in San Francisco as senior associate. Thinkshift builds brands and credibility exclusively for sustainability-focused organizations like CNote and RSF Social Finance, and Sarah has been affiliated with the agency and its inspiring work for more than a decade.

Register here for this 9/30/21 panel, which is sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America/San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. Don't hesitate to let me know if you have questions. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

My Upcoming Workshop: How to Plan and Gain Approval for Your Media Training Program (12/7/21)

As public relations professionals charged with oversight of the media relations function for our organization or clients we serve, we often hear that we need to train executives and others to help them improve their skills in speaking with journalists. But beyond that suggestion there’s precious little guidance available to help even the most seasoned practitioners navigate a sea chock full of media trainers ready, willing, and able to help. That's why I've developed the workshop How to Plan and Gain Approval for Your Media Training Program. It will be offered by The Communications Board on December 7, 2021 from 11:30 am to 1 pm EDT, to fill this void in information by providing public relations professionals the opportunity to step back, reflect, and strategize about their media relations program objectives before undertaking media training programs. It will address not only how to get your media training budget approved, but also how to convince your executives and senior leaders to commit to regular media trainings.

Among the issues the How to Plan and Gain Approval for Your Media Training Program workshop will address are the following: 

  • Whether you should invest time and resources in conducting media interview training for individuals in your organization or for your agency or individual clients;
  • The critical success factors for your particular media training program;
  • How to sell the need for training to senior executives and other key stakeholders, and to keep them engaged in the process in the short and long term; 
  • How to get your CFO to approve your media training budget and convince your executives that they will benefit from training;
  • What the ideal program would consist of content-wise given specific challenges, budget, and other factors;
  • How this training should be delivered, whether that’s live and face-to-face; live and virtual; asynchronous, or some combination of these options;
  • The advantages and disadvantages of these different options;
  • Who should conduct this training, whether that’s you, another staff member, an external agency, an independent consultant, or some combination of these options; 
  • The advantages and disadvantages of doing it yourself as opposed to hiring an independent consultant; 
  • How to prepare to both impart information about the media relations process and build the skills of staff who will be speaking with journalists, assuming you choose to conduct the training yourself; 
  • What to look for when hiring a media training consultant, should you opt not to conduct the training yourself and instead hire an external agency or independent consultant; and 
  • How to measure and evaluate your media training program. 

How to Plan and Gain Approval for Your Media Training Program has been designed to help you grapple with these topics, among others, to help you assess your need for media training, and how to best proceed once you’ve gained clarity. Whether you consider yourself a seasoned media trainer or new to the function, you’ll find considerable value in this workshop. 

Please note that this workshop will not be an actual media training per se, where you’d learn how to respond to a journalist’s questions, although the content of such training will be addressed. Instead, consider this workshop as an opportunity to take a broader look at the media training itself and its role in your media relations efforts. 

The successful media trainer is a subject matter expert on media relations, and the particular challenges faced by an organization or cause; a trainer, who understands the difference between providing information and building the skills of others and knows how to design and deliver material to achieve the latter ends; and a coach, whose confident, friendly, but firm hand can transform an otherwise mediocre experience into one that’s informative, memorable, and enjoyable. You’ll have the opportunity to explore each of these roles at this workshop in the process of thinking through the challenges outlined above, and will leave with greater insight, clarity, and enthusiasm for media training. 

For more information and to register, go here or contact me. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Acceptance into Fulbright Specialist Program

I’ve been accepted for admission into the Fulbright Specialist Program, which is part of the larger Fulbright Program. It offers year-round project opportunities for qualified U.S. academics and professionals of two to six weeks in length with host institutions outside the U.S. (primarily universities). These institutions look to Specialists to deliver seminars, trainings or workshops; consult on faculty or workforce development; develop academic or training curricula and materials; lecture at the graduate or undergraduate level; and other complete other related activities—all of which support the host institution’s priorities and goals. 

Now that I’ve been accepted into this program, I am eligible to be matched with approved projects designed by host institutions in over 150 countries. My next step, therefore, is to apply for specific projects that fit my geographic interests (Europe), academic discipline (business), other qualifications, and availability. It’s a two part-process, in other words. My appointment is for four years. 

I’ve had serving as Fulbright Specialist in my sights for many years, so this represents a significant professional achievement for me. I look forward to sharing with you details on projects I’ve been matched with over the months and years to come. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

"Special Act Award" Received for My Curriculum Planning Contributions

I recently received a "Special Act Award" for my work at the Naval Postgraduate School, as follows:

"This special act award recognizes Senior Lecturer Friedman for his personal initiative and leadership in developing an interdisciplinary certificate delivered jointly by faculty of the NPS (Naval Postgraduate School) Computer Science Department and GSDM (Graduate School of Defense Management). Mitchell worked extensively with Computer Science faculty members to ensure that a robust level of managerial communications material was included in the certificate curriculum, and he provided sound advice and recommendations on the certificate structure and delivery, which will help ensure its appeal to a broad range of NPS students. Mitchell's efforts are the epitome of and set the standard for the type of interdisciplinary collaboration and coordination envisioned in the NPS mission. This certificate will have lasting significant benefit for a broad range of students and DoD (Department of Defense) components."

I received two "Special Act Awards" in the past, the first in 2019 for my contributions to the school's strategic communications planning, and the second in 2020 for my achievements in transitioning from face-to-face to online learning during the pandemic. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Rethinking Networking through the Lens of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM): Reflections After Five Weeks

Since the last update about my experience in Harold Jarche's Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) course, I've done more thinking about the course content than actual hands-on effort in completing different activities. No doubt I'm resisting, at least a bit; that said, I'm attempting to integrate the course principles with what I've already done, what I currently am doing, and and what I would like to do (as opposed to what I need to) do. I'm committing to coming up with what's at least a first start on what Jarche calls a "sensemaking practice"--even if it's bare bones--and sharing it here. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I've found the PKM philosophy seeping into my other work. Take, for example, a talk on networking I'm giving this Friday, May 21 on behalf of the Public Relations Society of America/San Francisco Bay Area chapter.  I completed a graduate course on networking, have read numerous books and articles on the topic, have taught it, and have attempted to model "best practices" throughout my career. Indeed, I wouldn't be overstating the case to say that I owe most professional opportunities I've had to my willingness to reach out and connect with others. Many students I've worked with over the years have benefitted from my guidance in this regard.

But the kinds of networking I practiced no longer fit my current professional (and personal) life. The relative isolation of the pandemic no doubt has largely inspired this thinking. As I think about the subject and plan my talk this Friday, I keep coming back to PKM's emphasis on learning as a social activity. Learning serves as the point of connection, in other words. That might sound basic to most, but to me it's a concept far removed from my prior networking activities. I'm now feeling that what I want to learn should inform my networking--not the other way around. As I enter the latest phase of my career, simply meeting people for the purpose of meeting people doesn't excite me as much as it once did (it still does, mind you). I best identify my learning goals first, and then align with them whatever subsequent action I take, and where I choose to direct my energies, whether that's on Twitter, LinkedIn, face-to-face, and/or in any other venue I seek out.

I know I'm attempting to change a lifetime of behavior when it comes to networking. I also recognize that the return to "normal" in the post-pandemic world will be gradual and uncertain. That said, I feel like I'm in the midst of a sea change in my perspective. I'll share more about that in the brief time I'm allotted this Friday, May 21. I invite you to join me then. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Personal Knowledge Mastery Course with Harold Jarche: Reflections After the First Four Weeks

It's been almost two weeks since my last update about my experience in completing Harold Jarche's Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) course. During this period I've struggled to complete some of the suggested activities, despite avidly consuming the posts and related articles. That's not to question the relevance and importance of said activities; instead, my appetite for the course content, alongside my reluctance to apply what I have been learning, has given me pause. 

I returned to my original motivation for taking the course: to develop greater clarity, focus, and purpose in terms of what information I captured, how I captured it, and then what I actually did with it. I've been inspired to expand the scope of what I routinely consume to include more blog posts, newsletters, and podcasts. I still feel overwhelmed by the volume at times; that said, I feel much more confident that I'm expanding and deepening my perspectives on topics that interest me. 

I've tried using some of the tools recommended to facilitate the seek-sense-share model outlined in previous lessons (e.g., Feedly) while I'm hesitant to revisit my past use of others (e.g., Diigo, Pocket). None has stuck so far. Yes, I've expanded the number of sources of information I routinely consider but that's where I've hit the wall. I find many things interesting and worthwhile; the challenge then becomes, what to do with them?

For one, I've learned I can do a better job at staying current on issues related to my job. That's been a significant, positive outcome for me so far from the PKM course. I can see my learning curve is steep, without an end in site; my challenge has been (and will continue to be) identifying the best sources to keep me moving ahead on the path. On occasion I feel it's appropriate to share what I learn with my colleagues but by no means is there a steady stream of information in either direction. 

More broadly, as I noted in a tweet yesterday, I've discovered I'm motivated to learn when I have a specific purpose for doing so: a class I'm scheduled to teach, a workshop or webinar I'm scheduled to deliver, etc. I'm far less motivated, and tend to drag my feet, when I don't either have a clear deadline for a project (like for an article I'm writing) or a specific tangible, assured outcome (like teaching a class). For example, I've been inspired by the PKM course to return to the field of European history I studied as an undergraduate and graduate student many years ago. Yet that inspiration has yet to translate into consistent action. I'm not scheduled to teach a class in the field, nor do I have any other outcome associated with this learning experience. So I've come to the realization that I best put the interest aside, at least for now, until such an opportunity presents itself (i.e., either I make it happen, or it is presented to me via other unknown means). 

Yet I continue to face the challenge of what to do with information I find that may either relate to something I'm working on now or could relate to a future project--but which I don't use or need right now. I hope to make some progress on this front over the next few weeks, by revisiting the lessons I've learned in this course. 

Indeed, as Harold Jarche noted in his lesson entitled "Seekers and Catalysts," learning on one's own can be difficult and lonely. That's especially true for me given that my primary learning mode for much of my life has been solitary, i.e., read the books, articles, etc., then write the paper, deliver the speech, etc. Overcoming that mindset has been difficult, even given the inspiration the course provides. I feel like I've tried many times over the years to foster the kind of professional and social connections to make a more collaborative learning effort possible, but even so I've been stymied in this arena more than I feel like I've made much progress. I can't put my finger on who exactly my "fellow seekers" would be at this point in my life as I often feel my professional journey is far too convoluted to make it anything other than a solitary trip. But I haven't given up entirely. In the past few months I've uncovered renewed energy for fostering such connections via Twitter (thanks to this course) and in a professional organization's special interest group I joined earlier in the year. So I remain hopeful.

What I've been longing for for a long time--for my entire career, in fact--has been a sense of community. A place where I can be myself. A forum for sharing my ideas, getting feedback on them, and receiving support, guidance, and even "tough love" at times (which I know I need at times, as much as I resist it). Whether what I'm looking for incorporates PKM's concepts of "challenging assumptions" and "sharing complex knowledge," I'm not totally certain. But I believe that's my personal holy grail here and it enables me to acknowledge my own resistance, while at the same time pledging to see the process through to wherever it takes me.  

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Personal Knowledge Mastery Course with Harold Jarche: Reflections After the First Two Weeks

I've complete the first two weeks of a forty day course on Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM), taught by Harold Jarche. Check out my four previous blog posts on this experience here, here, here, and here

As I've read course materials, completed the exercises, and thought about the course content, a number of points come to mind. They are as follows:

  • PKM is a process that takes time to fully understand, embrace, and practice. It takes effort. It offers neither a simple nor easy path. It's unreasonable to expect to achieve anything close to mastery in forty days. 
  • PKM requires proactivity. I can no longer sit back and accept whatever information comes my way, much less where I obtain it from. 
  • PKM requires vulnerability and an appetite for risk taking, seeing how I'm sharing what I do, how I think about it, and my experiences in applying new ideas, among other activities.
  • PKM is about social learning, which is very much the antithesis of my largely solitary learning experiences as a student and practitioner from the earliest part of my life through the present day.
  • PKM changes for each of us over time, as we learn and change and as new tools and options emerge to help us "seek, sense, and share" information.
  • There's no "secret sauce" or formulas to "achieve" PKM. It requires methodicalness, patience, and persistence.
  • There's no guarantee of any specific result or outcome through the practices associated with PKM. 
  • PKM isn't about achieving "social media influencer" status, acquiring a certain number of Twitter followers, number of retweets or page views, or any other such metrics typically used to currently assess Internet behaviors.
  • PKM isn't one size fits all. It's up to me to determine how I can best apply the lessons I'm learning. I'm eager to see how others apply course concepts while at the same time I remind myself to adopt only what I works for me. 

No doubt I'll glean additional insight about PKM in the days and weeks ahead, which I will continue to share here. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Personal Knowledge Mastery Course with Harold Jarche: Days 5, 6, and 7

We’ve looked at two topics during the last three days of Harold Jarche's Personal Knowledge Mastery course: narrating one's work and the "seek, sense, share" framework. Here are my related thoughts:

Narrating one's work: Narration here refers to writing about what you do while reflecting on the experience. That means you identify challenges, glean insights, etc. It's a two-part process that doesn't come naturally to me. 

First, I rarely consciously step back from my work to think about what I do, how I do it, and why I do it. I tend to take for granted, and even trivialize, what I know and do. I short-circuit self-reflection that stokes curiosity and with it a desire for self-improvement. 

Second, such narration is written. I can draw on more than 20 years of personal journaling, so it's a muscle I've developed and used on personal matters. My challenge: cultivate a regular writing practice on professional issues that can make narration insightful, rewarding, and enjoyable. 

"Seek, sense, share" framework: After clarifying what to learn, one must identify and gather related information, hone in on what's most relevant and interesting; interpret/analyze/"add value" to it; and share it with others. 

As I noted in my post about the first day of this course, I find the initial task (seeking) extremely challenging. Instead, I find it easy to let my mind wander in varied, different directions (e.g., European history, language learning) to the detriment of real insight into topics that matter most in my work every day. So, I'm taking it one small step at a time, by focusing on one work-related subject at a time. I've made great progress in focusing my efforts on Twitter so they're more in line with what I'm working on. I've also resumed using Feedly and Google alerts to collect a consistent stream of information on relevant topics. 

I'm struggling with the "sharing" component, as it requires "knowing when, with whom, and how, to share." Indeed, these are acquired skills that run counter to the “share often about anything” mindset that dominates social media. I'm mulling over Harold’s guidance on this matter: to identify what people need and want, first and foremost. Then, share it via a blog post, as it can be sought out at one’s convenience (or shared when appropriate). That approach fits how I’ve attempted to use my blog over the past decade. That said, I hope that time and effort in cultivating a PKM mindset will translate into more consistent posts on important issues.