12 Daily Must-Dos for PR & New Media Pros (Plus a Challenge)

By Tiffany Monhollon

In my new role, social media is officially a part of my title. And so is managing. These two things along would be plenty to fill the week, but right now, the demands of time mean there’s also a lot more on my plate. Since corporate communications is the other part of my job, I spend a great deal of time on internal and external communications, media relations, and content and project management. Oh, and don’t forget the meetings!

So, I’m putting a plan together that will help me manage my daily tasks better and make more productive use of pockets of unplanned time. I’ll be using three tactics:

  1. Daily Dozen (idea adapted from John Maxwell: mine focuses on workday).
  2. Custom Action Item List
  3. Monthly Goal Meetup

My Daily Dozen

Social Media
Since social media content, monitoring, and management often gets pushed aside in favor of larger deadlines, immediate requests, and long-term projects, it’s something I am putting squarely on my plate each day. Now, when I have small portions of time, I can go to these items and get them checked off the list more often.

1. Monitor news, Google Alerts, digital media clips & HARO
2. Check and update company Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn
3. Interact or connect with 5 people in social media
4. Approve / respond to comments on company blog

My team is responsible for nine monthly-to-weekly publications, so editing is a major part of my job. We also help with the editing process for our marketing and advertising team to make sure everyone’s on the same page editorially. So, every day, I edit anywhere from 3-15 articles, publications, ads, or collateral pieces. I must admit, keeping up with this pile is one of my biggest challenges these days. Sometimes, just keeping up with the content is so overwhelming, I miss out on opportunities to encourage the learning mentality, the writing and research process for my team because it’s not built into my daily routine. So I’m putting these editorial duties squarely on my list:

5. Edit content
6. Read an article, participate in a live chat online, or attend a webinar
7. Share articles, tips or ideas with team or leadership

Big Picture
Managing all these daily tasks and keeping up with action item lists ongoing is enough to keep my busy. But it’s also critical to take some time in each day to focus on the big picture. This includes follow-up with customers, keeping my team in the loop, keeping myself on task with projects, deadlines, and meetings, and taking time to see how it all fits together. So, here are the big-picture things I want to take time for each day:

8. Follow-up on e-mails, phone calls, requests from customers and media contacts
9. Check in with / encourage my team
10. Manage my action item list
11. Intentional, unscheduled time to reflect, brainstorm, or make decisions

Projects, Meetings & Follow-Up
Managing projects, meetings, deadlines, and follow-up is another big part of every day. To keep track of all the action going on in my day, from meetings to deadlines to project action items, I use a daily action item list, a GTD hack I’ve built for myself to make the system work for me. This is the most difficult part of the day to manage, since the work I need to take action on varies from weekly or monthly deadlines to new projects and proposals. But it’s also critical, because it can be so easy to get bogged down in the rest of the day and miss out on the opportunity to move. So, to make it simple, this last part of my daily dozen is broad yet energizing to me:

12. Take action

You can download a template of my daily/weekly action-item list at the end of this post if you’d like to check it out. Items on this list include I need to accomplish that day or week, like:

Tracking Success

Since I created this daily dozen for myself last week, I have been pleasantly surprised. I’ve managed to accomplish each of these 12 things (yes, including the action!) every day. And interestingly enough, it hasn’t made me compromise on deadlines or projects. Instead, I feel like I’m making better use of the spare minutes that tend to accumulate, or focusing more on each item as I tackle it instead of letting my attention wander or succumbing to the pressure to multitask. And that gives me incredible daily momentum.

But, I know myself, and over time I’m curious how this system will evolve. So, I’m going to audit my time every once in a while to hold myself accountable and keep track. Several years ago, I created a form I use for this. I break the day down into manageable chunks (30 minutes or so) and chart my progress as I go along. You can download and customize a copy of the chart if you’d like to try this for yourself.

What will success look like? I am hoping this daily dozen will help me better manage my work so I can accomplish some of the goals I’ve set up for myself this September, a part of the new monthly goal meetup my friend Rebecca is putting together for emerging leaders to use as an extra-employment accountability, encouragement, and ideation group.

September Career/Life Goals

1. Read a book devoted to spiritual growth.
2. Make more time for friends and family, celebrating my sister’s upcoming marriage.
3. Create launch plan for new comm program (launching in October)
4. Create a monthly writing and blog outreach plan.
5. Determine plan for completing master’s degree.

The lines between work and life are continually blurred for me. But I see these goals not as distinct phenomena. They’re all related, because they’re all very important – to me. When I’m more in tune with my spiritual needs, I’m better in relationships, at home and at work. When I’m more productive – and aware it – at work, I feel more energized and confident to accomplish my personal goals. When I’m sharing ideas and connecting with people, I am learning and growing more equipped at work.

So, this is where I’m starting, in this now. Will it change, will it evolve? Time will tell. But simply the process of creating and using this daily dozen has already proven to me the power of intentionality. I’m confident these short-term goals will do the same.

The Challenge: Your Daily Dozen

Do these daily tasks hit home with you? Motivated to create your own daily dozen? Simply post them in the comments section or, better yet, post your own daily dozen to your blog and share your post with me by linking to this post or sharing the link in the comments section. Next month, I’ll feature a roundup of all the daily dozen posts that participate! If you want to talk about this idea on Twitter, use #dailydozen and spread the word!

GTD Tip: I formatted and printed my daily dozen and put it in a clear plastic presentation cover so I can mark off each task with a dry-erase marker as I get them done.

Free Stuff

Topics: Blogging, Do This, Goals, Leadership, Productivity, Social Media, Time Management, Tips, Work | 20 Comments »

5 Lessons for Moving into Management

By Tiffany Monhollon

Last week, I took a day off to celebrate. And by celebrate, I mean spend all day reading and avoiding housework. Not checking my work e-mail (which means only checking it twice), and trying to give myself permission to not check in on my team.

It was my first day off since moving into management.

Don’t worry, you haven’t missed the announcement. This is it. That’s because the first few weeks were hectic to say the least. The day before the big announcement of my promotion went out to my team, a team member gave their notice of a career change, so my first official day as a manager, I was in what-the-heck-do-we-do-now meetings all day long, figuring out how we’d cover the workload for the already short-staffed team – by Friday.

I probably wouldn’t say it was an ideal moment, but then again, in hindsight, maybe it was. There’s nothing quite like that kind of moment to bring you firmly into not just awareness of, but operation in reality.

If anything was ever an opportunity to learn by doing, I’m pretty sure this qualifies. So, now that I have a few minutes to rub together, I’ll share some of those insights with you. If you’re moving into management during a time of change in your organization, here are the lessons I’m learning:

1. Build relationships with peer leaders before you need them.

Dealing with change is difficult enough without the added stress of trying to handle it all alone. Lucky for me, I’m a part of several communities for emerging leaders, and the first one I tapped into when this challenge arose was my team of peer leaders at work. Because we’d spent time building good, working relationships in the midst of the change this year has brought to our company, instead of bogging down into sticky traps like territory, I was able to discover that a member of someone else’s team would be a great fit for mine, and we were able to find a solution that was really a win for everyone involved. My new team member is now able to flex even more of their skills and abilities, and we were able to make what could have been a progress-halting transition without missing a beat (or a deadline).

2. Make time for planning, brainstorming, and innovation.

Getting ahead of the curve on change relies on you thinking ahead of change before it happens. So, think about scenarios. The what-if scenarios and the please-no ones too. When you’re equipped with solutions and ideas, you’ll be ready to put them in place or advocate for them when the time comes. And it will come. If you’re not equipped with ideas, moving into management may also include a mourning period and feelings of incompetence.

With tight-to-impossible deadlines, we are bringing to bat several ideas we’ve been talking about for leaning up processes during the changeover period. And I feel energized, excited, and inspired to lead my team into a new way of work. Together.

3. Keep unscheduled time (for your team and yourself).

I know it’s true for me, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s the case for many leaders, but I have a stack of deadlines, projects, and initiatives – work – that truly never gets smaller. Keeping up with my e-mail could be a part-time job. So, managing my calendar and keeping unscheduled time is a difficult to impossible task most weeks. But it’s critical. For two reasons. One is, you need time to think, process, filter, and decide. Personal time. Door closed, I’m-thinking-and-the-radio’s-on time. Focused, quiet time. But you also need another kind of time. The friendly, door open, yes-I-have-time-to-help-you kind of time. Other people time. What your team, peer leaders, and boss need from you. Because in addition to all the other work you do, people also need your time.

4. Contribute to a community outside the office.

So, my official title now, if you’re wondering, is Communications and Social Media Manager. It’s a new role combined with an existing one, and the journey that’s lead me to this exciting new time where I am leading and building a program for a billion-dollar, international company has been interesting and at times terrifying, and it ain’t over yet.

One thing that built my confidence and competence enormously over the past few years is contributing to a community outside of the office. In professional spaces that help me grow, flex, and explore the possibilities of working in PR, communication, marketing, new media.

One place that’s been vital is being a part of the Brazen Careerist community since it was no more than a crazy business dream of some of my first blogging pals. It’s a place where I can contribute, learn, lead, and grow. Today, that community is announcing exciting news and cool launch. They’ll be focusing even more on user tools and ways you can share ideas and get to know other young professionals across the globe.

I love this part of social media, the part where I’m more than a talking head. Where ideas and relationships shine. Where possibilities widen and potential is written, shimmering, across every page. It helps me grow and challenge myself as a thinker, as a professional, as a leader. It can help you too.

5. Give yourself a break.

This is the part I still struggle with feeling guilty just typing. I’m afraid I’m struggling against the pressure to be a workaholic. Well, I guess that depends on how you define work. Because sometimes, it seems like whether at the office or at home, a good (how much of my day am I not sleeping?) well, 90% of my waking hours, anyway, could be classified as some sort of work.

So taking Friday off last week, unplugging, and leaning on the strength of my team was a huge test for a new manager. It was important, not just because I needed a break, but I needed the confidence boost that my team was at a place where they could handle things without me. Where work would get done, deadlines completed. And guess what? It did.

So, Monday rolled around and with it I had a new wave of confidence, a new sense of possibility. Because if I’ve learned anything so far in the past few months, it’s that you don’t have to have a title to be a leader. 

But when you actually get one, it’s nice to watch yourself settle into those new shoes and keep moving.

Topics: Business, Career, Community, Leadership, Networking, Personal Branding, Personal PR, Relationships, Social Media, Tips, Work Life Balance | 10 Comments »

Business or Personal? Your New Media Rules

By Tiffany Monhollon

When it comes to personal branding and new media, there are countless examples of professionals, businesses, and individuals who have built popular and effective networks of followers, friends, and business contacts. As new media tools and strategies become an increasingly important part of the business world, PR, marketing, and communications professionals are adopting these tactics for both personal and professional use. So, what’s your new media strategy? Do you mix business with personal on Twitter? Do you only accept friend requests from those you know on Facebook? Are you a virtual free-for-all networker across the web?

Let’s talk about your opinions, stories, and theories about how professionals should use new media.

Topics: Authenticity, Blogging, Business, Personal Branding, Personal PR, Social Media, Transparency, video | 5 Comments »

How to Talk About Change at Work

By Tiffany Monhollon

It’s like clockwork. Every thirty days or so for the last five months, a seismic shift at work.

What I’m focusing on is that I’ve learned a fair amount already. Both observation and mounting experience are incredible mentors in a pinch. Along the way, I realize that I’m learning some things at a breakneck pace, but one lesson is still presenting itself throughout the process. And that’s how to talk about a change you’re trying to figure out — precisely while it’s happening.

But it’s important to figure out how you’ll talk about change, because your speech shapes so much - you, others, the future. There’s an incredible power in language. Tone, illustration, metaphor. Each time I talk about the change, I hone my body language, inflection, examples. But as time has gone on and I’ve talked more about the change, I’ve also grown to understand it better, starting within myself. So here’s what I’m learning about figuring out how to talk about change that’s happening at work, wherever you talk about it.

Discover your reality.

Find a group of people or a quiet, safe place so you can talk out the reality change is bringing into your life. Get it all out. The good and the bad. When a change happens at work, especially one you didn’t fully understand or anticipate, your first impulse will probably be to go into denial or wait for someone else to tell you what to do next. Instead, take time to immediately and honestly diagnose exactly how the change will affect you, your co-workers, your friends and family. Your workload, your career, your ideas. Change doesn’t have to be a bad word. Which is where the next point comes in.

Envision a positive outcome.

Immediately choose to see the bright side of the change. Almost every time there will be one. So, even if you aren’t sure right away exactly what could be good about the change, decide you believe that it exists. This part takes a certain amount of faith, but it’s necessary. This part is mostly about self-talk. But it’s critical. Because how you talk to yourself about the change will shape your attitude. And attitude has incredible power. Not just over others, but also over yourself. So, it all cycles back around, and you can’t escape your feelings in the end. You won’t fool anyone, least of all yourself, if all you really see is a bleak, unpromising future ahead when change happens. So, after you’ve taken some time to hash out your reality, go right from challenges into believing there are opportunities. And then you’ll be ready for the next step.

Define the change as a benefit.

It’s so easy to focus on how change sucks. Believe me, I’ve had my days. Weeks even. But really, all that does is suck the life out of you and keep you from moving on. What I’ve learned is, there’s a narrow window of opportunity when change happens to influence new outcomes. So you have to be quick to the draw, (or however that saying goes.) But before you can do this, you have to figure out exactly what you want those outcomes to be. Here’s why it’s important to figure out how to influence new outcomes: to talk positively about change as time goes on, you have to actually move into the process of making that change really an actually great thing.

Wait. There’s an important point here I don’t want to gloss over. Because leadership during change is a tricky thing. Specifically, you may not have a title or formal leadership position. If you don’t, you may be tempted to let this hold you back. Push past the awkwardness of this, and continue on in this exercise. Because regardless of your position, tenure, or role, what your leaders need from you during times of change is your ideas, your energy, your solutions. And your advocacy. So, figure out how to talk about the change well right now whatever your title, because ultimately, your leader will appreciate this more than you may ever know.

So, to define change as a benefit, think of some specific, concrete examples of how the change is good. There’s a fair amount of creative flexibility here, that’s why I used the word “define.” Let go of your assumed constraints. Break out of some silos. Cross some scary boundaries, go crazy. Dreaming big may seem like a risk during a time of change — after all, who wants to be seen as an opportunist? But if there’s ever a time to take risks at work, it’s now. (And anyway, people who bring solid benefits during change are much more likely to be seen as strategists, problem solvers, team players.)

Choose your own change.

When change happens around you, you have two choices: stay the same and get swept away by the current, or remain and choose to be shaped by it. What’s hard about allowing change to shape you is that rarely do we see this as a choice, and rarer still as an opportunity. But it is. Every change that happens, whether at home or at work or in the grocery store, is an opportunity, if you choose to see if that way. When they run out of asparagus, go for the green beans. (This metaphor works for me, because who wouldn’t rather asparagus, but green beans work, too. The point is, something will work.)

Figure out how you will change in response to the change that’s happened to you. Make it your change, your opportunity. Make it about progress, not obstacles.

Remember reality.

So, when you’re talking about change, these are the steps you need to go through first, to get your mind around what’s happening. So you can understand what to say. But just because you have to go to an almost insane positive extreme to project yourself into a future that’s moving forward doesn’t mean you forget reality when you talk about change. Because if you skip out on reality at this point, the only person you’ll convince is a maybe-delusional version of yourself.

Here’s how I pull this all together: “In the last five months, we’ve gone through a major restructuring.” It gets at the daily reality of what we’ve gone through and at the same time tells you that we’re moving forward. And that’s where I choose, every day, to be. In the progress you can create out of change. In the possibility you can embrace.

It’s also what I choose to say. Words like potential, possibility, progress. When you put them together with action, they’re not just words. They’re power.

So, say them more. And be them more. Starting today.

Talk it out.

Have you gone through change at work? Are you struggling to find a balance that explains your reality but empowers you to move forward? Let’s chat about change in the comments section. And if this post hit home with you, please share it on Twitter, or come chat with me there!

Topics: Business, Communicating, Leadership, Learning, Life, Personal PR, Work | 10 Comments »

Integrity Matters Everywhere

By Tiffany Monhollon

At Work

One thing I know right now about the world of work is this: it’s stressful.

No matter who you are or what you’re doing, I’m sure you can relate. There are certainly signs of hope in the economy, but reality is, not one of us is standing on completely solid ground.

And it’s hard in the face of uncertainty, change, and more uncertainty to focus anyway and keep pressing on, every day. Day in, day out.

But more and more, integrity at work boils down to just that. To keep pressing on. In the midst of everything. Anything.

Because change is nothing new.

Uncertainty is a promise we accept at the dawn of every day. It’s a bargain we strike each minute. No one ever said that was anything, fair or unfair.

It just is.

In a Social World

Sometimes, I think about this world I’m a part of. Not the great, blue planet we inhabit, though I think about that too, but this world. This one, right here, where I’m running like so many threads through so many others, a big, important tapestry of energy, ideas, passion. This vibrant, insightful community of thinkers and doers and learners and mentors and peers. Sometimes, because it’s easier to explain it this way, I call this “social media.”

Whatever we call it, I love this place, because of what it teaches me about things that are important to me. Work. Life. Leadership. Innovation. Collaboration. Integrity. Creativity. Dreams.

I love the ability to communicate and connect with every reader, Twitter friend, and connection I have in real life. I love how the lines of my thoughts and relationships blur against those of others. I love the challenge of new ideas, and the race to understand them, share them, build on them, put them into action and set them out into the world, a working, living thing.

I think about integrity and what that means in this space, too. About things like how important it is to be the true version of yourself everywhere, whether Google reads it or not.

Because integrity is one small, solid little word. But unpacking it is hard. Sure, what you do when no one’s looking is really important. But what you do when people are looking matters, too.

In an Evolving Reality

Here is something else I know about work right now. For me, at least, and maybe for you, the lines are blurring. Like it or not, work is no longer one, solid, concrete concept across the board. That space between work and life? Between personal and professional? Between my time and theirs? Between who I am and what I do?

It’s changing.

The most effective professionals have already accepted this as fact and are figuring out how to lead boldly into this new reality, where a business contact may also see the photos from your weekend (even if all you did was try out a new recipe).

Which is why integrity, today, matters everywhere, more than ever before.

In Every Moment, Every Day

This is not as daunting as it may seem.

Really, it’s a gift, if you choose to see it that way, of focus.

What should you post, omit, disclose? What should you say? What should you do?

Your integrity is there, holding up its shining answer.

The question is, what will you do with that answer? Wherever you are, and no matter who isn’t, or is, looking?

What’s your take? Does integrity matter? Should your professional “persona” be consistent with your personal self? Or do you draw a clear line between “work” and “life”? Come chat in the comments section or bring the conversation to Twitter.

Topics: Personal PR, Social Media, Twitter, Uncategorized, Work, Work Life Balance | 4 Comments »

Where’s the Line? Professional Gets Personal for Women

By Tiffany Monhollon

In the world of personal branding, the emphasis on branding your name is understandably strong. One of the first steps to branding yourself online is always to snag your name’s URL – or the closest substitute you can find. To market yourself, your brand name, online, your best bet is to write, and comment, under your name as often and as broadly as possible. Online identity calculators can determine how big your brand is, how effectively your name is representing you across a multitude of popular pages.

Name, name, name, of course, is synonymous with “brand” in the personal branding lexicon, so it makes great sense.

Until, of course, you decide to go do something crazy like, say – change your name.

When I started blogging and stumbled into the world of personal branding, I never dreamed all of this would make much difference to me whatsoever, much less impact my real life decision of whether or not to keep my maiden name when I got married nearly a year later. Then, I was struggling with whether or not just to blog under my full name.

But here I am, two years into this, looking back at the strange journey that’s led me to a place where I function under a somewhat lopsided identity, fully functioning under my maiden name for work and online and under my married name “at home” – which really means at church and on holiday cards, I guess, when I really think about it.

It may sound odd, but really, I can’t tell you I’d do anything differently.

It took a long, hard time getting used Monhollon, as a name. I’d finally come around to appreciating its uniqueness, as a writer, and there I was, contemplating leaving it behind.

And let me tell you. I thought about it. We talked about it. Hashed and rehashed it. The great debate. Should I change my name? Hyphenate? Leave it the same? Oh, so many thoughts and worries and unknowns. Concerned looks from confused friends. Awkward introductions.

When I think about it now, it’s when I’m counting syllables on my fingers on the drive home from work. No hyphenated guest expert on NPR has yet to tie my new nine syllables, and I think I’m coming to a place where I can embrace that, too.

That’s the thing about it, I guess. A question that burned so strong in my mind, now seems so simple.

When it comes down to it, your name is your name. However much of it you want to use or keep or change. There’s nothing to fear in embracing it. Now, or ever.

I had to realize that having someone worth thinking about changing my name over also meant being lucky enough to have someone who already accepted all of me.

First name, last name, and whatever I chose to do with the rest.

Your Turn

What do you think about women, personal branding, and the name debate? Single gals, what do you think about the name change tradition in our culture? Guys, could you handle it if your wife didn’t change her name to yours? Anybody know examples of where this has gone well, or horribly wrong?

Men and women, please chime in and share your thoughts in the comments section! I’ll be waiting to talk it out.

This post was originally published in Personal Branding Magazine. You can snag a free sample of the latest edition here.

Topics: Blogging, Career, Life, Personal Branding, Personal PR, Transparency, Women, Work | 26 Comments »

The Trouble With Paying Dues

By Tiffany Monhollon

“It’s going to be at least a year, isn’t it?” His eyes are full of impatience, frustration, and maybe even a dose of fear. After all, it was just a year ago that he was spending every waking moment of our first few months as a married couple penciling, inking, lettering, printing, making the perfect pitch.

“Yeah. So what?” I say, realizing, in the back of my mind how harsh that probably sounds, since we’re only talking about his childhood dream here.

But I have my game face on with him, now. Reality is, we are on the same page with this struggle. He is an incredibly talented artist. Opportunities are aligning already for him. I’m impressed with not just his efforts but the skill and insight and success he’s already achieved just a few years out of college.

Being married to a creative person when you work, live, and dream in that world yourself is not without its challenges. Honestly, it’s hard enough dealing with my own crazy dreams and expectations sometimes. Knowing he deals with the same types of hopes and aspirations for himself can be overwhelming. All the energy, ideas, and drive pouring through our house means even on our days and hours off work, we’re still on duty. Building, dreaming, making.

It’s no wonder our dog has developed a chewing problem. Like right now. He’s chewing up his new bed because I’m sitting here, writing this post. [Oh, wait. Update. He's now destroyed a wooden meat tenderizer. Great.]

Luckily, Rob and I balance well. Whether it’s pure coincidence, sheer effort, or pure adoration, his creative good days tend to balance my not-so-great ones, and vice versa. And it helps to have your best friend get exactly where you’re coming from. Even if you have a hard time grasping it yourself sometimes.

But regardless, it’s still there, haunting us both and every day of our creative lives. The love affair our culture has for the youthful success story. Each day that passes adds to a year more of our lives, of our time, spent waiting. Watching. Working.

What are we waiting for?

Read the rest of this entry »

Topics: Career, Generations, Learning, Success, Work | 20 Comments »

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