Fail to plan and plan to fail; How pumpkin pie taught me a valuable lesson

What does pumpkin pie have to do with proper planning? Well here’s the story.

In my early college days, I decided I wanted to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. If you know me now, 19 years later, you’re wondering why on earth I would ever volunteer in the kitchen (I was young and didn’t know better is the short answer). I looked up the recipe, got all the ingredients and I was ready to make this contribution to our family meal on Thanksgiving.

My mother is amazing in the kitchen and I can taste her full Thanksgiving spread even as I write this. So for her to trust her young amateur daughter with such an important fixture at the dinner table on Thanksgiving was quite a leap for her.

The moment came after dinner when I served my pie. It was not met with the expression I was hoping for, everyone had a sour “something’s missing” look on their face. Yes, I forgot the sugar. Without hesitation my mom sprung up, ran to the freezer and said “I bought a backup just in case!” And there lies the lesson I learned it from my mother, clearly at a young age.

Proper preparation is important in all things, finances, business, health, etc. but I thought about this because September and October are heavy event planning months for our firm.

I recently had a venue cancel on us 13 days before our big client event. I never meet these challenges with panic, because I know there is always a path to the right answer, even if you take detour. I called our host venue and asked if I could add additional space because we had a scheduling issue at our original venue. Her response “Kristen you booked it months ago just in case.”

My mom may think I didn’t listen to her, but clearly I did.

Batteries die in microphones, venues cancel, speakers cancel (yes that happened this year too), but you always need to worse case a situation and have backups in place so the event goes off without a hitch. At the end of the day, the event is only as good as it is well planned. Details matter.

-Kristen

Entrepreneur’s 8 Examples of Brilliant Instagram Marketing

Social media was once a new, novel way of reaching audiences, engaging with new target markets and building brand awareness. Now, it’s old hat, and an essential tool in every marketer’s toolbox. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and WordPress are all important social media tools, but Instagram remains arguably the most influential social media platform right now.

For those managing and creating social media content, finding creative ways to engage audiences on Instagram can make all the difference. This is especially true with Instagram moving away from the traditional “likes” measurement for posts.

So looking for some creative inspiration on how other brands and influencers are engaging and growing their audiences on Instagram? Entreprenuer recently published the article 8 Examples of Brilliant Instagram Marketing to share some creative tips on how others have used the platform.

One of my favorite examples in the piece is what Lego did in 2018—capitalizing off of the Royal Wedding with recreated video of the wedding built of Legos. They also used the #RoyalWedding which was already being utilized heavily on social media to help insert themselves into that conversation.

Another great example is how AirBnB is utilizing great posts from their users traveling around the world to help generate their own content. It’s a way to engage with fans of their service and feature them directly on their feed. Travel is also a big segment of Instagram (who hasn’t had trip envy looking through friends’ posts?!), so it’s using their target market’s interests and posts to grow their own brand. On AirBnB, the article notes that this strategy “also generates a steady stream of engagement for every single post, which is a far better strategy for service-based brands than aiming for one-hit wonders.”

Want to check out more thoughts about Instagram and how you can find inspiration from others on how to grow your social media presence? Check out the article here.

-Chelsea

Earned Media – What is it, and how to obtain it.

Earned media is publicity gained through promotional efforts other than paid media advertising, something you earn organically when people start talking about you. (Hopefully in a good way!)  In other words, earned media is shared by word of mouth. Most commonly this happens through getting information to journalists.

Earned media can take several different forms – from blogs, to social media sharing, to press mentions and publicity from media outlets -- all of which can be helpful in getting your brand and content to the right audience. 

I want to focus on earned media through publicity and media outlets, which comes with both pros and cons. 

Today, earning media coverage is more difficult than ever. Journalists cover multiple beats and platforms and they are receiving more pitches than ever. This type of media also means you have the least control over the outcome and can risk bringing up negative publicity. It also takes time and effort up front. However, if you are willing to invest the benefits can be exponential, including increasing your credibility, heightening your brand awareness and significantly expanding your reach. 

It’s important to not only make sure your message is getting to the right journalists but also that the earned media your company or client receives is always as positive as possible. One way to achieve this is to focus on managing and controlling the message you put out. Take the time to think strategically, create and put together the content you want to share. Plan ahead, then you can focus on getting your content in front of others. 

Now that you have your content, how do you pique interest and get yourself media coverage? Journalists and newsrooms are spread thin, so they are picky about who and what they cover. First, it is important to develop a rapport. This means building a relationship, sending friendly emails and check-ins, or meeting for coffee or lunch. Putting in this extra effort to get reporters and journalists interested is well worth the extra effort. 

In addition to building and maintaining relationships with media outlets, send out a press release. Make it memorable so it doesn’t get pushed aside with all the other releases that end up in their inbox. Choose journalists who cover your topic area. Make personal calls, offer as much information as possible and offer to answer any questions they may have. 

While earned media can be time consuming, obtaining it helps expand your reach and build a level of trust with your audience. Earned media placement through trusted media outlets, especially local and community-centered outlets, validates your message and builds your credibility. 

-Melissa

KK’s First Leadership Minnesota Trip

This month I started the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Minnesota program which is a ten day (spread over five months) program for business leaders across Minnesota to learn more about our state’s economy, what makes our businesses tick and how public policy at the state capitol is impacting our businesses.

Our first trip was to Mankato where we toured Taylor Corporation and Cambria – two amazing Minnesota businesses making a difference and helping our state’s economy every day. Learning more about how these businesses are navigating issues like trade policy and workforce shortages was eye-opening and will make me a better leader of my own company.

We introduced ourselves with an interesting exercise called Real Colors where we learned more about our natural personality instincts and how that would impact us and others in the workplace. In the first hour I learned something about myself that will make me a better communicator at the office (hopefully). I urge everyone to take it and understand more about your color strengths and weaknesses.

As you’ve read before, we at K2 take personal and team development very seriously. If you aren’t moving forward you are moving backward.

Next up is Grand Rapids and I look forward to spending more time with a great group of people.

-Kirsten

The Leadership MN 2019 crew at Cambria

The Leadership MN 2019 crew at Cambria

Cambria’s Marty Davis had an incredible story about US trade policy

Cambria’s Marty Davis had an incredible story about US trade policy

K2 Bookshelf – 59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under a Minute

For most of my adult life, I have enjoyed reading books about great leaders, wars, or events that have shaped history. But even I get tired of the same old historical story every now and then, so I’ve recently tried to venture into new unchartered reading territory.

Enter the self-help and psychology genre.

I’ve always loved reading books about leaders and the obstacles they’ve overcome, so I thought I would check out some books that tell those types of stories but in a different way. The first book I chose in that vein was 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute by Richard Wiseman.

Billed as an “easy-to-use, concise guide to changing your life,” the book gives an overview of many of the latest academic psychology theories and tries to apply lessons from that research to real-life situations that are relatable. I was intrigued by the book initially because Wiseman specifically rejects much of the self-help industry, which he says is full of snake-oil salesmen telling people what they want to hear about happiness and success. As someone who wants to read about how to be a better person, happier, or more successful but without all the bull, I was hooked from the introduction, and Wiseman did a good job of keeping me engaged throughout most of the book.

The best part of the book is that it covers many really interesting and diverse psychological theories and applies them to real-life circumstances in a digestible format. True to the title, each chapter ends with a 59-second blueprint for navigating life and learning how to apply the psychological research. The chapters cover practical methods for achieving success at Happiness, Persuasion, Motivation, Creativity, Attraction, Stress, Relationships, Decision-Making, Parenting, and Personality.

Wiseman could have probably cut out some of the redundant stories that makes the book drag on toward the end, and the topics are so diverse that they could have been broken up into two or three books. But all in all, 59 Seconds was a good first foray into the self-help genre. I recommend it.

-Nick

K2 looking for a paid intern

K2 & Company is looking for a paid intern at our office in St. Paul. We are a growing Public Relations and Public Affairs agency in the Twin Cities with clients across the Midwest and nationally. We are looking for someone who can multi-task and work in a fast-paced environment on local, state and federal public affairs issues.

Role/Title:

Paid internship

Responsibilities:

·       Support account executives on communications and public affairs projects

·       Draft short and long form written materials for clients

·       Work with media on behalf of our clients

·       Work events from registration to execution

·       Work with influencers, grassroots and grassstops individuals on advocacy projects

Location:

Office is in St. Paul

Contact:

Melissa Wolf, mw@k2andcompany.com

Our thoughts on Lynne Robertson's "One Step at a Time, and Beware of the Barbed Wire"

As a working mother of two young children, the future is constantly on my mind. Even though both of my kids are under two, I am constantly thinking about things like where I want them to go to school, or what will happen if they need orthodontic work, or when we will outgrow our current house. Sometimes it feels we are living in the future, rather than the present.

Recently, I read an interesting article about leadership by Lynne Robertson titled One Step at a Time, and Beware of the Barbed Wire, that offered an important reminder to not ignore the present. It can be easy to get caught up in the future by visualizing where you want to be, professionally or personally, in five or ten years. I know I am not the only one guilty of constantly setting new goals and figuring out what steps I need to take to achieve them. But if we forget to plan out how we want to get there, we might miss things that will keep us on track, or worse, we might make missteps that set us back.

The part of her article that struck me the most was that the future happens whether you plan for it or not, and things that once seemed far in the distance, are suddenly behind you. About two years ago, before my son was born, I remember wondering what he would look like and what his personality would be like. I blinked and now I have an almost two-year old who looks just like his dad and has the most spirited and loving temperament. Having two young kids at home, working a full-time job that I love and navigating a social life with family and friends can be overwhelming. But I have found that whether I am ready or not, the days, weeks and months continue. In her article, Robertson discusses how you can prepare for what is ahead:

·       Study the map – Know your success metrics and watch them like a hawk.

·       Care for your crew – Never get complacent regarding talent, and don’t ever believe that your key players are easily replaced. They’re not, and their absence leads not only to a culture drain, but a brain trust deficit as well.

·       Plan checkpoints – Focus on three things to accomplish by the end of the fiscal year. Make them concrete and measurable.

Robertson’s article focuses on planning for a professional future, but whether it is your career or your personal life, the only way we can achieve the future we want is to make sure you have a plan and pay attention to the steps that will get you there.

Just as my son did while learning to walk, I am learning to take the future one step at a time while keeping my eyes on what’s ahead.

-Melissa

The Working Woman’s Handbook

Women in the workplace. From salaries to paid family leave to breaking glass ceilings to just trying to balance everything expected of the modern working woman, there are numerous pieces of advice out there.

The New York Times put out a collection of articles this summer called the “Working Woman’s Handbook.” It provides a wide variety of viewpoints, opinions and guidance for women. These pieces provide a lot of different perspectives, ideas and thought-provoking advice, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

Here are a few highlights:

What to Do When You’re the Only Woman in the Room

Focus on excellence, not perfection. The adage that you will need to be twice as good as everyone else may be true. Research shows that when you’re the “only one,” you are held to higher standards. That might explain why women often hold themselves to near-impossible standards — in other words: perfection. But that promise of perfection actually makes it more difficult for women to take risks or fail. Try to focus on being "excellent" — not perfect — and let yourself make mistakes. Think of a failure as a guide map for the future, not a stop sign.

How to Hustle Without Burning Out

Stop glorifying stress. In “girlboss” culture, we often wear harried lifestyles as a badge of honor, as if stress, anxiety and sleeplessness are prerequisites for success. But we do ourselves no favors by normalizing unhealthy work habits. Who are we performing all this stress for, anyway? You can be successful without sacrificing your sanity. Beware of the lies we tell ourselves about busyness. If your calendar stays packed with meetings and social obligations, consider scheduling quarterly check-ins with yourself. Are you O.K.? Are you prioritizing what matters most to you? Are you neglecting aspects of your life that bring you joy? If so, why?

A Woman’s Guide to Salary Negotiation

Women face unique challenges when it comes to negotiating, beginning with the fact that we are often viewed as “unlikable” when we do it. Women also have a tendency to underestimate their professional value, and we have been socialized to avoid assertiveness, an essential quality for a successful negotiation. These obstacles make negotiating more difficult, but no less important — which is why you’ve got to be extra prepared.

A Misfit’s Guide to Navigating the Office

Most people — misfits or not — experience this sort of vacillation. We think confidence is a requirement to be successful. But instead of focusing on confidence, set your mind to developing your competence — and becoming better at what you do. When there’s a big presentation or a proposal you need to crush, instead of worrying that you’re not confident enough to pull it off, pour yourself into the work itself. Become radically honest about what you still need to learn (and still want to learn) and work toward developing the daily discipline it takes to improve. Becoming really good at what you do will help calm your insecurity and give you a sturdier foundation to help you go after what you want.

There are lots of great articles in this series with interesting advice, perspectives and ideas. Whether you are a woman in the workplace, or are just looking to gather some different perspectives on workplace issues, I’d recommend checking out The New York Times’s Working Woman’s Handbook series.

-Chelsea

School crisis – advice from a mom (and a PR pro) on crisis Communications

I got one of those bad phone calls last week “the school is on lock down and there are police there.”

I was leaving a meeting in Roseville on a normal busy day to meet my son off the bus and it turned into me scrolling the social media parent group (this is why I have Facebook people) and calling/texting all of my parent friends to figure out what the heck was going on at the school!

I grew irritated when I had not received any communication from the school, which quickly dissipated when I reminded myself that they were dealing with something not good and there was a reason for the no communication as scary as that may be. Sure enough by 4:39 (39 minutes after what seemed to be a lifetime of the unknown) I had a short quick update with an explanation from the school.

Then the PR pro side of me kicked in – I thought, well done.

The situation reminded me of the panel Kirsten and I were on earlier this year. It was on communications planning around school crisis with representatives from 18 different schools in the room – crisis not being lice, crisis being something much worst. It was a hard panel but we did what we advise clients to do every single day regardless of the industry. Look at what you need to do in the event of the worst case scenario, write the plan, communicate the plan with your team, and hope you never have to use it.

I’m coming to you as a mom – I sit on both sides of the table here, but also as a PR pro. Take notes and please call us so we can help you make sure you’re prepared for the worst. These are the things you can do, today, by spending a few hours to get your ducks in a row.

  • Identify who you need to communicate to: parents, a board, media, maybe it’s all of those but with varying levels of information.

  • Know your parameters – especially with data privacy. Share what you can, knowing that more time LATER will allow you more opportunity to prepare with more details.

  • Identify the platforms you need to use to communicate: email, phone, text, social media and figure out what you should use and cross populate knowing people communicate differently.

  • Document where that list is stored and HOW to access it (including two step authentication and back up procedures in the event someone else needs to access it).

  • Find out who your chain of command is - who drafts the email/social post/text?

  • Identify your approval process to get a communication out and who will physically press send on the email, post, text etc.

This is just the beginning of planning your crisis communication and perhaps we will dive in later. But at the start of the school year we encourage you to spend some time preparing.

Emotions drive a response to crisis. We are only human and there is no getting around the things that make us feel what we feel. But as a professional, having a very simple plan to execute will save you from the rumor mill and angry parents, and will show you are doing the best you can with a situation none of us is truly ever prepared for.

-Kristen

Loving KARE's Women Crushing It Wednesdays Campaign

At K2 and Company, we pride ourselves on being woman-owned and operated.  It has taken a lot of hard work, grit and tenacity to get where we are today. Each of us has had strong female role models that has shaped us into who we are and we are constantly inspired and amazed by our female peers. To that end, Kare11 is celebrating all of the incredible things women are doing in their communities and their professional lives.

Each Wednesday morning, Kare11 features one Minnesota woman – they could be your neighbors, coworkers or family members - who are inspiring and achieving great things in their jobs and daily lives. They have highlighted women from all walks of life, industries and backgrounds. From Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, the highest-ranking indigenous woman ever elected to executive office in the country, to Winny Brodt-Brown, captain of the Minnesota WhiteCaps Women’s Hockey Team who just won the National Women’s Hockey League Championship.

As a new women-owned and operated business, we know the incredible successes and persistent challenges women face in all facets of life. Recognizing the growth and accomplishments and supporting women right here in our state and communities is crucial to motivating and encouraging not only each other but the next generation of female leaders.

If you know of a local woman who is “crushing it,” help us celebrate her by nominating her  here.

We are so excited to hear about the wonderful women in all your lives!

-Melissa

Football season is upon us!

My favorite season is here. And no, I’m not talking about fall (although I really do love fall), but rather late August/early September means we’re entering into the beginnings of another football season. College football and the NFL are here to dominate my weekends, as I work to stay on top of the latest news, scores and playoff picture.

 But football is more than just a game. It’s more than just cheering on your favorite team and players. It’s more than who wins and who loses.  It’s a dominant part of American pop culture, and the brand of football, particularly the NFL, has become a behemoth in its own right through marketing, fan involvement, and partnerships. I think there are things other organizations and brands can learn from the NFL too.

 First, I think a key piece of the NFL’s strategy is that it has made itself not just a sports franchise, but an entertainment company that keeps their fan base engaged year round. If you can engage your customers or audience throughout the year—that’s huge. For the NFL, there’s the season, post season, training camp, the draft, trades, and of course the Super Bowl. Plus, there’s volunteerism, community events, contests, and fantasy football. And through all of these components, the most important thing the NFL does is control its message and image. Even through scandals, stepping (however unwillingly) into the political arena, and more, it keeps fan engaged and works to keep a consistent image and each decision they make is made through the lens of how it affects the NFL brand. Through partnerships, its own TV network and more, even when the news isn’t always positive, it can highlight the message they want to get out about their brand through their own channels and continue marching forward with what the NFL believes its brand represents.

 And of course, working on its overall image and getting out positive stories means you need to invest in communities too. Community involvement is a pillar that the NFL has integrated into its brand well. If other brands want to emulate the success of the NFL, being seen as an active community partner who is invested in its people, its economy and its culture is key.

 Naturally, when people think about community with the NFL, they think it’s about loyalty to favorite teams, and that means you’re purchasing merchandise and buying tickets to see your team play, but it’s more than that. The NFL has started their own volunteer organizations, partnered with other non-profits and community organizations, and worked to publicize their work to give back. We’ve all seen the stories about the NFL coming to teach kids about healthy habits or a local player visiting a hospital. Advertisements, news stories, features during games and more all highlight how individual players, teams and the NFL are instrumental partners in the community who give back.

 That kind of work to build up brand connection with community can be huge. Think of the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina, or how much Houston Texan star J.J. Watt raised to help victims of Hurricane Harvey last year. Community connectedness is an essential piece of building up brands.

 Finally, I would point to how well the NFL has done on building new audiences and engaging new target markets as a way to build their brand. Finding women to be a growing demographic of their audience, they’ve created marketing campaigns around women, expanded their merchandising and worked to expand a sport that was traditionally marketed solely to males. As they expand their brand overseas and grow their markets, they are now hosting annual games in Mexico City and London too. And what’s more, they’re actively engaging a growing Latino fan base, celebrating Hispanic Heritage month annually, and also reaching that audience through NFL Español.

 The NFL has positioned itself as one of the most influential and engaging brands in the country, and I think there are definitely opportunities for other brands and organizations to look to football as a guide on how to build, grow and strengthen their own brands.

 So happy football season everyone! Oh, and I may be a Minnesota girl, but shout out to my six-time Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.

-Chelsea

 

K2 spoke to the new MN chapter of Network of Enlightened Women (NeW)

Recently, Kirsten and I had the opportunity to present to a room of women entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs at the launch of the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW) chapter in Minnesota. Being in our third year in business, we've learned quite a bit along the way - enough to make it an entire day seminar – and we were happy to share our insights with a wonderful group of women! Thanks to NeW for having us - we cannot wait to see you expand in this market. Along with sharing our best practices and things we do to honor our time and relationships, we gave away three gifts that represent three key values in our business.

1)    Make Lists and Manage your time. Don't let your clients down - commit to managing tasks daily with making a priority task list. In this day of constant news, social media, and quick mobile access it’s easy to get off task. Whether it’s electronic on your phone or a hard copy (we gave away a notebook), write down your key goals for the day and week. Daily list making is important, but even more important is to spend some time Sunday nights organizing your priorities for the week and setting your intentions of what you actually want to accomplish. You will be surprised how easy it is for your day to get away from you and how easy it is to stay on task by working your list.

2)    Personal Development: Kirsten and I are huge believers in constant self-improvement so we can do a better job of representing our clients and working collaboratively as a team on a daily basis. We take personality tests to figure out what makes us tick and how best we work and operate. We gave away the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as a reminder to spend time working on who you are as a person. Authenticity, in all things, matters, and having those hard conversations to grow are key in business and in life. If you are not improving and moving forward, you’re moving backwards.

3)    Business Development: We love the book How Goodness Pays by Paul Batz with Paul Hillen and we hope the lucky winner at NeW reads every word. Business is hard. Managing people is hard. Managing client expectations and our own is hard. But actions that come from a place of honest, kind, intention will make a difference in business. This is a great read.

These are just a few of our business tips that we shared last week.

NeW, a national organization, educates young women on conservative ideas, cultivates a community in which to discuss and strengthen these ideas and emboldens young women to stand up and speak out on college campuses and in their communities.

Thank you again to the women who took time out of their busy schedules to come to the NeW event. We love seeing women and organizations like this grow in our communities and across Minnesota.

-Kristen

The Great Minnesota Get Together

While many of us in Minnesota believe we have the BEST state fair in the country (we do), fairs are also an all-American tradition. They are great opportunities for interesting brand awareness campaigns. Read here

While we’re at it, we asked the K2 team what their favorite fair food is. Here you go:

  • Kirsten: Cheese curds (the real ones -fried- to all of my Sconnie friends)

  • Kristen: Fries with a lot of malt vinegar

  • Chelsea: Honey ice cream sundae

  • Melissa: Pickle dog

  • Nick: The classics - funnel cakes and corn dogs

K2 Bookshelf - MFCEO Project Podcast

I’m going to cheat and recommend a podcast even though we’ve been reading a lot of good books lately. I’m not a big podcaster in general, but I love this one. He speaks my language (OK not so much the swearing but that’s his style and his message is worth it). MFCEO Project Podcast is the #1 recommended entrepreneurship podcast by Inc., Entrepreneur and Yahoo! The host, Andy Frisella, gives straight up hard to hear advice about how difficult business (and life) is and calls out our laziness when we aren’t honest with ourselves. He talks a lot about drive, integrity, the fear of the unknown, the American society and the concept of winning, and how to get results from yourself and others. Here’s the podcast: https://andyfrisella.com/blogs/mfceo-project-podcast

This one is a good one – Go Hard In The Mother F*cking Paint, with Andy Frisella – MFCEO305.

Ready to take on new, exciting challenges with K2

Hi! I’m the new Vice President and Director of Public Affairs for K2. After working with various members of the team on projects over the years, I’m very excited to join the team full-time and look forward to taking on many new, exciting opportunities and challenges ahead.

I live and work from my home state of Illinois. My wife Brittany and I live in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago with our 11 month old black lab, Augie. We love to visit nearby parks, so Augie can work out some of his boundless energy. Brittany and I love to travel, enjoy Chicago’s incredible restaurant scene, and spend as much time as we can with friends and family. I enjoy playing golf (not well), watching most sports (especially college football), and reading about all things history, politics, and geography. I am a proud Illinoisan and native downstater (not Chicago), so I love learning about the state and its colorful history.

Prior to K2, I served in a variety of capacities as a political operative, strategist, and lawyer. For the last five years, I worked as the Executive Director and Special Counsel for the Illinois Republican Party and senior member of Governor Rauner’s team from the beginning of his term, including his historic election victory in 2014. Prior to that, I was a prosecutor in St. Clair County under former Democratic Congressional candidate and current Director of the Illinois State Police under Governor JB Pritzker, Brendan Kelly. Before and during law school, I served in various leadership and consulting roles on state legislative, statewide, and presidential campaigns – beginning with the events team for John McCain in 2008. We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of one of my most memorable and honored assignments – to serve on the select team of former staff that planned and executed Senator McCain’s four-day memorial services in Arizona, Washington D.C., and Maryland.

I am very much looking forward to the new opportunities and challenges that await at K2. I thrive in fast-paced environments where I can use my hands-on experience to navigate complicated challenges, so I know I will be right at home at K2. As the first full-time employee outside of Minneapolis - St. Paul, I am excited about the unique role I will play in growing the firm’s footprint, diversity, and exposure. K2 already has an incredible reputation throughout the Midwest and Washington, D.C., and I can’t wait for the chance to strengthen and deepen it in Chicago, the state of Illinois, and throughout the country.

-Nick

The New York Times Dives into What Makes People Charismatic

We all know that person who just seems to draw people in. They seem to be a natural leader, they are engaging, they make personal connections easily, and they always have the best stories. Charisma is a trait that many of us view as either something we have or something we don’t. But in a recent New York Times article “What Makes People Charismatic, and How You Can Be, Too,” the author argues it’s very much a practiced trait and there are different kinds of charisma we can learn.

While we all seem to be able to identify people or celebrities who have charisma, we often have a hard time quantifying or describing what exactly makes someone charismatic. The article says there are three basic pillars of charisma:

The first pillar, presence, involves residing in the moment. When you find your attention slipping while speaking to someone, refocus by centering yourself. Pay attention to the sounds in the environment, your breath and the subtle sensations in your body — the tingles that start in your toes and radiate throughout your frame.

Power, the second pillar, involves breaking down self-imposed barriers rather than achieving higher status. It’s about lifting the stigma that comes with the success you’ve already earned. Impostor syndrome, as it’s known, is the prevalent fear that you’re not worthy of the position you’re in. The higher up the ladder you climb, the more prevalent the feeling becomes.

­The key to this pillar is to remove self-doubt, assuring yourself that you belong and that your skills and passions are valuable and interesting to others. It’s easier said than done.

The third pillar, warmth, is a little harder to fake. This one requires you to radiate a certain kind of vibe that signals kindness and acceptance. It’s the sort of feeling you might get from a close relative or a dear friend. It’s tricky, considering those who excel here are people who invoke this feeling in others, even when they’ve just met.

I think breaking down charisma into pillars is an interesting perspective, and as people look at building relationships and working to improve their professional image, it’s a way to think about how you can be more charismatic and engaging.

Many may find it hard to master all three pillars, and that’s why it’s key to look at your personality and see the best way to play to your strengths. If you’re a people-person, working on exuding warmth and ensuring you’re present and engaged in what people have to say may be the best way to become more charismatic. If you’re someone who’s an issue-area expert, you can lean on the power pillar like article examples Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.

-Chelsea

Level up your LinkedIn

Unlike other social media sites, LinkedIn is specifically geared toward professional connections, making it ideal for career and business networking. With millions of users in the U.S. alone, more and more recruiters are using the site in their candidate searches. Most likely you are missing an opportunity to leverage your LinkedIn profile, connect with peers, recruiters, companies and grow your personal brand.

If, like me, you are only updating your profile now and then, you are not fully utilizing all LinkedIn can do for you. Below are some tactical tips on how you can leverage LinkedIn to expand your professional network and land your next dream job.

  • Add a quality photo: Include a clear, welcoming and preferably professional photo of yourself.

  • Be personal: Although your LinkedIn profile should include your current position, work history, education details and skills, your profile should also project your personality, values and passions.

  • Tout your achievements: Include your promotions, leadership roles and any other high-performance achievements.

  • Update your status – Just like Facebook and Twitter, you can update your status. Share an interesting article or photo from your latest event.

  • Use LinkedIn groups: LinkedIn groups are a valuable source of information, ideas and support. Exchange knowledge with others in your group.

LinkedIn can be a valuable online tool for professionals, students and businesses alike. From finding jobs, exploring opportunities, hiring employees, locating leads and business partners, discussing interesting topics with other professionals, building relationships, the possibilities are endless.

-Melissa

Freedom of Speech in the Age of Social Media

As Americans, freedom of speech is considered our pinnacle right. After all, the First Amendment is first for a reason. But as social media becomes the source of choice for many to express themselves and ever more integrated in how we communicate every day, it’s leading to fresh discussions about freedom of speech and censorship.

Politicians, politically minded groups, and everyday citizens are turning to social media giants like Twitter and Facebook to get their message out and share their thoughts. These companies have their own policies about what is acceptable and unacceptable to post on their pages, and what content is taken down or banned is oftentimes controversial.

What’s clear is that as companies and as a society, we’re struggling to find a balance between freedom of speech and what constitutes censorship online.

A recent example, is Twitter temporarily suspended Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign account for sharing cellphone videos showing threats against him made by protestors outside his home. The backlash was quick, with many Republicans pointing to no clear Twitter policy on this type of post, and instead calling it political censorship.

Talking about this incident, Kalev Leetaru of Real Clear Politics noted that, “In essence, Republicans have afforded a private company, most of whose employees are known to be liberal, some measure of control over their official government and campaign speech. And as talk among prominent Democrats increasingly turns towards regulating social platforms, they too may find their own speech curtailed.”

On the other side of the issue, many Americans are concerned about social media as a venue for hate speech and violence, which some argue are fueling violent actions like the recent tragic shootings in El Paso and Dayton. How can social media monitor this speech, and is there a way to stop these tragedies—preventing violent words from becoming violent actions?

In March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a piece in the Washington Post calling on government to be a better partner in how they monitor social media. He said that “we need a more active role for governments and regulators. By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it — the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things — while also protecting society from broader harms.” He went onto argue for a more standardized set of rules to monitor major social media platforms.

Since the founding of our nation, our country has struggled with the question of what free speech really means, and social media and the internet make those discussions more complicated than ever.

Leetaru’s piece on the McConnell’s Twitter incident ended by reminding readers “of the enormous dangers inherent in allowing the whims of private companies to dictate speech, particularly that of government officials.”

Freedom of speech is a critical and essential American right. But has its meaning and the viewpoint of Americans on this issue changed in the age of social media?

-Chelsea

Why network?

Career networking isn’t at the top of everyone’s to-do list. But it should be. While networking can be time-consuming and, for some, awkward and draining, the power a strong professional and personal network can have on your success cannot be overstated. Investing your time in developing long-term relationships can help you land jobs faster, can give you a competitive edge throughout your career and can improve your skills throughout the course of your career development. 

Networking is about establishing, building upon and nurturing long-term relationships. Networking gives you the opportunity to find out what is happening in your community, make meaningful connections, ask for introductions and let people know more about yourself, business and expertise.

Professionals agree that the most connected people are often the most successful. In fact, according to a report by LinkedIn in 2016, 70 percent of people were hired by a company where they had a connection. 

While career development is influenced by a number of factors, including formal and informal educational training, the jobs you hold and your personal and professional experiences, networking gives you the unique opportunity to take control of your development. 

As you network with individuals in your company, industry and outside your field, you will find and uncover opportunities that are endless.

Here are some tips on how to become an effective networker:

  • Think outside the box – networking can be with past or present co-workers, supervisors or colleagues, clients and customers, alumni and acquaintances in your personal life. However, it can also include individuals from your gym, church, a community event or a volunteer organization.

  • Keep in touch – keeping in regular contact, even if it is just a brief email to say hello, is an important piece of building and maintaining relationships.

  • Pay it forward – Networking is not a one-way street. Providing help and opportunities to others in your network not only deepens your relationship but it makes it more likely they will help you!

It is never too late to invest in your network. The best way to improve your skills and expand your opportunities, both professionally and personally, is to get out there and try!

-Melissa