My Paradox of Choice

I recently listened to a TED talk that confirmed what I always knew. Choice is bad.

So having a lot of choice is bad because you are buried alive under an avalanche of options and it’s impossible to choose any one option.

That’s my life in a nut shell (hello, first world problem) . There are so many possibilities for what I can do with my time and my life that I just can’t make a decision.

This careeraphobia means I’m usually like a random visitor peeking inside any given industry/career/expertise area.

I do internships, I study random courses, I wander into weird niche part time jobs, I hang out in underground establishments and I sign up for things only to back out of them three seconds later.

All these things I do are great in their own ways but I leave as confused and unsure as I was to begin with.

Here is a brief list of the things I’ve studied/done/worked as: media, journalism, economics, marketing, psychology, copy writing, science, accounting, dispensary tech/customer service, hotel concierge, production runner, english teacher, editorial assistant, telemarketing, script writing, linguistics

The upside: I learn a little about a lot

The downside: I learn a little about a lot

So I’m coming to a point where I’m sick to death of jumping in and out of things. Partly because I am a high achiever. Partly because I don’t want to end up like my dad’s best friend Igor –

Igor (who lives in Moscow) also couldn’t make up his mind about what he wanted to do. At one point he was:

A professional tennis player

A professional chess player

A professional table tennis player

A teacher

A guinea pig breeder

None of this brought in much dough so he immigrated to Israel and joined the military service. He soon got bored of that and came back to Russia.

He still breeds guinea pigs, smokes like a chimney and has moved on to a new obsession – coffee brewing. I don’t think that’s likely to bring in much dough either.

So back to my dilema. The final straw for me was an entrepreneurial event I attended last week.

As a dabbler and a commitment-phobic I go to events only to blog about them, to hear inspirational people and to chat casually with people who are actually doing shit.

But an odd thing has been happening lately. I’ve been having the following conversations:

Me: So your business is about X? Tell me more!

Entrepreneur/business owner attendee: Yes my business is about X. Let me tell you about X: XXXXX XXX, XXX: X, X, X, X. XX! XX? – XX! What about you? What’s your business?

Me: Oh, I don’t have a business.

Entrepreneur/business owner attendee: makes this face ——>

………………….Ohhhhhh. So what DO you do?

Me: PR and social media.

Entrepreneur/business owner attendee: But one day you’ll start your own business…..right?

Me: Er….

Entrepreneur/business owner attendee: Well it was nice to meet you. Hopefully the next time I see you you’ll have your own business. (But, secretly they’re thinking —-

In perspective this is not a big deal. This is like the opposite of a big deal. I mean people are dying in other countries, right?

But if I don’t stick to something, whether it’s building a business or doing something else, I’m less likely to be able to help the dying people with my awesomeness, skills and expertise so it’s in everyone’s best interests really for me to find something to focus on.

Over the past two years I’ve met amazing people from all walks of life and they all have one thing in common. They have laser beam focus. They have one path and they don’t deviate from it.

They are freaking awesome. And it’s time for me to be freaking awesome too.

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Why Won’t You Network, Damn It!

As I sat in my first strategy client meeting today, discussing PR tactics and eyeing the Tim Tams someone conveniently placed on the table, the subject of networking came up; or rather, the lack there of in the company. The problem was that the employees in the company networked much less (well, actually, not at all) than senior people in the company. I don’t know if that’s always true so I won’t make a generalisation, but it is definitely true for the people and the companies I’ve had a chance to speak to. Based on this I’ve developed my own (cynical) explanations for networking laziness:

  1. People don’t do things unless there’s something in it for them: as the boss, why should you expect people to network on your behalf? What personal benefit would the staff get out of it? I, for example, love networking but if you ask me to go to a networking event for accountants because you want to me to find you an accountant I’ll refuse to go because I don’t care about accounting and it has no value for me.
  2. People don’t understand reasons for networking and how it ties in to business: When people don’t know why they are doing something, they are less likely to do it, especially if it involves effort and especially if it’s ‘extracurricular’ effort.
  3. Networking is hard: many people find networking outside of their comfort zone. I mean, it’s a bit like being a clown in a circus. You have to be entertaining enough to make sure that some randoms you’ve never met before keep paying attention to you. In the evening. Far far from home. When all you probably want to do is eat, drink, sloth and sleep.
  4. Work life balance: personal circumstances can be a bitch. If you have to suffer through terrifying traffic/stuffy bus rides/cramped  train rides you’ll be justified in telling anyone who tries to force you into networking, to F^$$K off.

To sum it up: People are motivated by their own self interests. ‘What’s in it for me’ makes the world go round. Even those of us who do seemingly selfless humanitarian acts do them out of self interest: gratification, satisfaction, personal sense of self worth, achievement, the feeling of being needed… you get my drift. It always comes down to reasons. And it follows that everything you do should have a good reason…. correction: a reason that’s good for you. So when people think about networking they should think about their whys. And when bosses want their people to network they should think about the team, not about their own goals. Because let’s face it, the best way to get someone to do something, is to give them a reason that’s good for them.

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Pioneering Philanthropy in The Tea Room

Young Professionals Network- Pioneering Philanthropy 

I should really stop being on time for events. Being punctual in the event world is the same as showing up unfashionably early. No one is in their seat, the guest speakers are lost somewhere in the crowd and I end up getting slightly drunk at the bar to pass the time. Of course it helps when the venue is The Tea Room at the QVB and the event is part of the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA), which was the case this time.

This was the first official event organised by UNAA Young Professionals Network – a very fresh initiative which launched late last year. Titled ‘Pioneering Philanthropy’ the event featured four guest speakers from the non profit sector who spoke about the way they had brought about change through their organisations.

The speakers (right to left) were:

Sam Prince- founder of healthy mexican food chain Zambrero  and non profit organisation One Disease at a Time.

Robert Purves – President of World Wildlife Fund Australia and Chairman of Sustainable Business Australia (amongst many other things).

Rachel McLennan- co founder of Private Ancillary Fund Service for Social Ventures Australia and the CEO of Australian Philanthropic Services.

Mike Pritchett- director of Trapdoor Productions and co-founder of Kenya Aid, a non profit organisation established to support the Shikunga area in Kenya.

Philanthropic Insights

phi·lan·thro·py/fəˈlanTHrəpē/ Noun: The desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed esp. by the generous donation of money to good causes. A philanthropic institution; a charity…in case you didn’t know 😉

Each speaker had their own distinct way of looking at things. They spoke about how they got to where they are and what inspired them to create something on their own. Many awesome things were said. Most of them won’t be in here due to the fact that I forgot to record the whole thing. I did however manage to get some insights down thanks to the ancient art of pen and paper.

Sam (on what it means to be an entrepreneur): It’s about seeing a gap in the market, closing your eyes, having the vision and backing yourself to do it.

Rachel (on different forms of philanthropy and change making): A better description of how people can get involved is Time (active involvement), Talent (skills) and Treasure (donations).

Mike (on philanthropy): I don’t smoke a cigar or drive a limo so I don’t think the word ‘philanthropist’ applies.  

Rob (on different forms of philanthropy and change making): People are no longer satisfied with simply sending a cheque to a non profit organisation, they want to be more actively involved by offering their skills and talent.

The Wrap Up

The event organisers

It’s always great to hear inspiring people speak about their experiences and this time was no exception. Judging by the high caliber of the speakers, this is the beginning of a good year for the Young Professionals Network.

I’m curious to see whether the next event will focus on a more specific angle or topic. It may be just my journalism degree speaking but I love it when an event has a specific focus. I find this tends to bring together more like minded people with the same goals and aspirations, which leads to awesome networking opportunities and business opportunity “match making”.

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Networking Like a BOSS

I don’t have a business card. I know business cards are like a compulsory networking item. Yet every time I make a solemn vow to get them printed, something goes terribly wrong.

For example:

1. I procrastinate. I do the dishes, I play with my hair, I lie on the floor, I have a nap, I instagram random stuff like this:

2. I argue with the Kwik Kopy girl about this design:

-Kopy girl: “You want a double sided card? That’ll be about $220 for 100 copies.”

-Me: “It’s alright, just print them for me right now and then I’ll cut them out and glue them together myself. I’m going Lean.”

-Kopy girl: “….Weirdo….”

-Me: “…..What?”

3. I file a complaint on an Office Works girl:

-Me to Office Works girl: “I’ve been in here twice today, I bought the right memory stick and changed the file format like you asked me to do and NOW YOU TELL ME YOU DON’T PRINT BUSINESS CARDS??”

-Me filing a complaint: “She moves like a SLOTH, has no idea as to what she is and isn’t trained to do and she tried to hide behind the printer when I confronted her.”

So there you have it. I’ve given up. I’ve developed a parasitic way of networking. I just hoard people’s business cards and the poor dears get my details through manual labour. So this all may seem a bit stupid, but actually this type of laziness did spark a trend of startups for paperless business cards. I’m not sure if this trend is still going but I’m down with it.

There are a few apps for online business cards and virtual networking, so obviously there are others who are ready to move on from the cave man custom of swapping little pieces of paper.

Have a look:

1. Cardcloud

You can sync the app with Linkedin to create a business card based on your profile info and send it to someone’s email address by typing it in. OR if someone else is using the same app you can beam your details to them wifi style, but only if the app can detect them.

2. Cardflick

Works in a similar way

3.Bizzabo

Is an interesting one: It’s an event based app that allows people to RSVP to events and see who else is attending the same event. People can share their information with each other, eliminating the need for exchanging business cards.

Have a look at the demo.

4. Identyme

A one stop shop for your profile, resume, business card, portfolio and social networks. Not quite a virtual business card, but it’s on the right track.

Here’s a demo.

I’ve actually installed most of these on my phone…but then I realised I was too lazy to bother with them too. However, I’ve come up with the perfect solution for paperless networking.

High fiving.

Seriously. Imagine if you could get any person’s details by high fiving them? High five networking. How awesome is that?  It would make every event so much fun, especially after a few drinks. Drunken high fiving crowds. Sure your hand could get a little sore but that’s a small price to pay for paperless networking, I say.

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Press Idols: Pitch to Media

My event wanderings took to me to Press Idols (where 5 businesses pitched their businesses and media releases to a media panel), back to The City Hotel. The place is seriously becoming my second home because of how many events I attend there. I was particularly interested in this event though because I love learning about how media knowledge can help startups and small businesses.  

So let’s get to it.  

THE EVENT

Blurb: Press coverage and PR are great ways to get the word out there about your business so practical information from experts is priceless. Press Idols allows small businesses to pitch their ideas and media releases to a panel of journalists and media experts. The panel then gives their feedback and provides presenters with useful tips about how to improve their media releases in the future.

Hanging out before the event

GUEST PANEL

Editor of Nine to Five Editor: Matt Young 

Inner West Courier Journalist: Rashell Habib 

Shoe String Launch Founder and Editor: Matt  Beeche


BUSINESS PITCHES

Five businesses pitched their ideas to the audience and the panel and from what I understand they are all very new ventures, which makes it all the more exciting.

#1. Evolvex Furniture (presented by co-founder Priyanka Rao)

 

Evolvex is a family business, that Priyanka started with her father and allows people to design their own furniture online. It offers affordable, environmentally friendly products that are made with the input from the buyer.

#2 MyShout (presented by co-founders Myron Festejo and Arri Khan)

 

MyShout lets friends send friends free drinks through an iphone app and redeem them at their local bar. In other words you get a virtual voucher for a free drink. The aim is to give people an incentive to socialise with their friends, using free drinks as bait to get them out and about.

#3. Jane Winter (also known as The Princess of Sales she helps SMEs and startups develop their sales skills)

 

Jane offers sales coaching programs to women in business. According to Jane, the problem many women face when running their own businesses is their inability to effectively sell their offering or get customers.

#4. Women As Entrepreneurs (presented by founder Orsolya Parkanyi)

 

Orsi is the creator of a meetup for women entrepreneurs (Women as Entrepreneurs) that seeks to connect entrepreneurial women and to offer them support.

#5. Think Big Online (presented by co-founder Samuel Junghenn)

 

Think Big Online is a marketing agency which created an e-book report to reveal dodgy practices of SEO companies that only claim to be experts in their field without actually knowing how to get results.

LEARNINGS FROM THE PANEL

  • Supporting facts and figures should be included in the media release.
  • Use dot points instead of writing long paragraphs and essay styled media releases.
  • Saturate social media with your message. Make it tailored to your business.
  • Don’t formalise the language in the media release.Use the language the reader is going to understand. Don’t use technical jargon that no one but you is familiar with.
  • Use quotes from existing customers as something to catch the journalist’s attention and illustrate business traction.
  • CRUCIAL: Include contact information such as phone number, email and the website on the media release.
  • Press kits do work – packages catch attention.
  • Include high res photographs of your team or the product when sending out a media release.
  • Think of an angle (an aspect of your business) that makes it unique or interesting.
  • You are part of your brand. If there is something interesting about you, use it.

JOURNO TERMS

  • Photo Op/Photo opportunity: You can grab a publication’s attention by offering their photographer a photo opportunity (for example if you’re running a PR event such as a launch party or a promo). When sending a photo op suggestion, include your contact details, the location where the event will take place and briefly state what will be happening.
  • Press Kit: a package with information about your product/service. This can include product samples, backgrounders, photographs and much more.

THE ORGANISER SPEAKS

 

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Sean Grobbelaar and I’m the host of Pitch to Media run by Press Idols. I am the Networking Coach, Sydney’s leading networking coach. I do training in effective networking. I also run a company called Night Out With The Socialite.

How did Pitch To Media come about?

Press Idols was already started from September Small Business Month last year. We ran three events (as part of Press Idols): Pitch to media, Pitch Your Website and Pitch For Funding. Pitch To Media was a real success so we set up Press Idols. Pitch to Media allows small businesses to engage learn and meet actual journalists and people in the media profession. That way they can learn how they can write an effective press release to capture attention of the journalist and get media coverage.

Favourite Meetup?

Mobile Mondays is really fun for the techy space and there are a lot of others. Young Professionals meetups are a lot of fun.

VOX POPS

My-linh Dang

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m an ex lawyer and I’m actually starting my own business in retail online. Mylo*dee is women’s active wear with a customisation aspect, which means women can design their own active wear. The concept is finding things that everyday women (not necessarily athletes) can wear and be excited and motivated to wear.

What did you want to get out of tonight?

I have no background in PR at all so  I wanted to get information about press releases and getting in contact with the media to help me with my business. I’ve learnt loads today, so it’s been fantastic.


Izhar Basha

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m the co-founder of Firehosiery, a premium Australian leg wear label. I was a lawyer for five years prior to starting the business.

How did you find out about this event?

From Shoestring Launch Magazine. I also contribute to the magazine and write various articles about legal strategy.

Favourite meetup?

Generally entrepreneurial things where we can attend and meet like minded people, discuss new business opportunities, help people out.

EVENT REVIEW


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How To Get Media Coverage For Your Startup

Learnings from the Media Relations 101 for Startups event: [The basics of talking to media and getting media coverage for your startup]

If you didn’t make it to Media Relations 101 for Startups, read what was covered in the event below.

THE SPEAKERS

In all their wise glory

  • Corrie McLeod – Director of Espresso Communications and a PR professional with experience in the IT industry and working with startups.
  • Jeanne-Vida Douglas – BRW journalist and editor with ten years experience reporting in the IT industry.
  • Mahesh Sharma – Freelance journalist reporting on startups.

THE TOPICS

  1. Contacting the media
  2. Getting the media to want you and your story
  3. Building relationships with representatives of media
  4. Making your business media friendly

THE CROWD

Yes, some of us sat on the floor and it was awesome (as was the free beer)

 THE BREAKDOWN

Slideshare courtesy of Jeanne-Vida Douglas (BRW) and Corrie McLeod (Espresso Communications)

(Good) Reasons for PR

  1.  Support sales – the more exposure your business has, the more people will know about it. More people equals more customers.
  2. Talent – convincing an awesomely skilled person to work an early stage business can be hard. Media exposure can help you build a reputation, so you don’t have to beg for someone to join you.
  3. Other business ends – PR doesn’t just work on a B2C level, it can also help you secure partnerships with other businesses by making it easier to approach them. Instead of saying “Hello I know you’ve never heard of my business but…”  you’ll be able to say “Hello, you may remember my business from such publications as TechCrunch and Mashable…” . Need I say more? Reputation, reputation, reputation.

Key Media Messages 

  1. Who are you? Explain concisely. Imagine you only have 30 seconds to spit it out.
  2. What do you do? Again, sum it up in 30 seconds, people.
  3. Who do you do this for? Who are your users and why would they prefer your service?
  4. How are you different? – What makes you stand out?

Think like the journalist. Ask yourself, “What would make a good story?” For example personal experiences make good stories. Have your users advocate the business by sharing positive experiences. If you don’t have any users yet, ask someone you know to be an advocate.

Media Toolkit 

  • Media Release – write the most newsworthy info at the top, include quotes from the founders that support your newsworthy info. Keep your sentences short and simple and write in the voice of the publication you’re sending your release to.
  • Boilerplate – a boiler plate is your organisation’s information. It is usually found at the bottom of the media release and includes the facts that journalists want to know: When the business was founded, the number of customers,  business vision and achievements.
  • Executive photography – photographs of your team can make your story more appealing to the journalist and more appealing to the reader. Make them good. For extra brownie points be creative. Creative images will capture attention, if nothing else.
  • Product images – high quality images that show your products in the best light.
  • Resource gallery – on your website include press releases that mark all worthy milestones such as the first customer, the first investor, the 100th customer, new functionalities, new additions to the team. Why? A journalist will have more information to work with.

Media Strategy

  • Build relationships with media bloggers, influencers and journalists- leave comments on their blogs and articles, offer advice, engage with them.
  • Pitch a story for a specific section of a publication instead of targeting the entire publication. This will show you are familiar with the publication and have thought about the target audience.
  • Think of whats relevant to the biggest audience – journalists write about things that are relevant to the majority of their target audience.
  • DO NOT send out press releases to the publications you don’t read.
  • DO NOT send out press releases to journalists whose copy you haven’t read.
  • DO NOT send them to journalists you haven’t spoken to.

Executive Profiling

  • Have ONE spokesperson – a personality becomes linked to the brand so keep it consistent.
  • If you are the spokesperson – write down numbers and important details before interviews and remember them so you don’t get misquoted.
  • Create a blog that gives a human face to your business: record your experiences and share business progress with your readers.

Useful Links 

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