Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Meaning of Life and Prevention

How often do you think about it? You know, the big question ... the meaning of life?  I didn't think about it much when I was younger but it seems the older I get the more I think about it.  You?

Jonathan Fields is doing amazing things.  This video is an inspiring compilation of some of the most thoughtful change-makers I know as part of The Good Life Project.  Their answers really will inspire and awaken you. How would answer?

For me, I was lucky to learn prevention from the many amazing people at the Southwest Prevention Center.  In those days we described prevention as a proactive process for nurturing personal attributes and creating community conditions where people come together to make good things happen (my paraphrased version).

To me this proactive process is all about the meaning of life.  As I see it, the meaning of life has a lot to do with setting an intention every day to be happy and make something good happen in some way. It may be as simple as a smile and warm greeting for the person at the drive-thru window or as complex as taking part in a big community project or policy change.  It means celebrating the people around us for the good they do. It  means noticing even the smallest of actions of those around us doing good and applying technology in prevention -- post photos, video and stories to our social networks to share and seed the good.

At the Southwest Prevention Center we always aimed to think systemically, to see connections and points of pattern interrupt where a new or different action would produce a massively good result. Thinking this way is really about large scale conditions. That always inspired and energized me, knowing that conditions matter and that we can actually adjust in ways where good things will naturally happen as a result of the conditions we create - a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious one). Still makes my tummy do flips.

What do you think?
What gives your life meaning and how is that aligned with your work in prevention? 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Emotion Over Information

How many models, methods and approaches are there for reaching the changes we imagine and dream of? How can our efforts be made more effective by enabling change to happen naturally or happen more quickly?

While scanning the bacn, I came across a  Heath Brothers newsletter (you can sign up here) and I felt myself sit up in my chair and lean in toward my computer as I read the following statement.

"In [the book] Switch, we stress that what motivates people is emotion, not information. We cite John Kotter's "SEE-FEEL-CHANGE" model: People change because they see something that makes them feel something that gives them the desire to change."

What sparks for me is that we've known for a very long time that information alone is insufficient to achieve any kind of change, right?  There's got to be something more.  I like this model because it forces us to reconsider our informational and educational strategies, taking them a couple of steps further to nudge change.

One way to apply this way of thinking with technology in prevention is to put the abundance of creative, visual communications tools to work for us.  For starters I like:

  1. Easely (online/app) a theme-based web app for visualizing data into infographics for sharing
  2. Animoto - (app) use photos on your smart phone to create a video with music and share it. 
  3. Instagram (app) photo sharing app with tools to add effects
  4. Recite turns a quote into shareable goodness
  5. Wordle (online) turns text into a visual word cloud 
  6. PicMonkey (online) photo editing with great filters, frames and effects
  7. PicStitch (app) a photo app that enables you to create a multi-image collage 

The idea is to present visual information in a way that touches emotions and nudges action.  One of the simplest ways to do that is pictures and pictures are one of the most shared bits of content you can produce.  The online and mobile apps above make it so much more doable -- easy and fun.

Action: If you haven't tried it, try this simple action.  Click over to Recite and create a visual quotation. Pick one of your favorite quotes and give it a go.  Once you've made your masterpiece share it via your social networks like Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook (tag me please with @coyenator).  It is easier than ever to produce meaningful visual content that is readily shareable with the opportunity to influence and engage people (remember see - feel - change).  Most data bites I see (share, or create) don't have the feel-change part.  I'm rethinking what I create and share, learning and adjusting as I know you are too.

What are you learning about sharing content online? 
To what extent do you use (or see value in using) the SEE-FEEL-CHANGE approach?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

You Might Be Surprised

How often do you review your social media actions and interactions? No, not your data (although that's important too).   I mean how often do you actually go to your profile and scan your posts on Twitter, Facebook or wherever you show up online to get a sense of the flow and how others see your posts? Sometimes this little review can be really helpful in seeing your posts through the eyes of your followers.

What kind of "poster" are you?
Are your posts optimistic, informative, realistic, airy fairy, funny, educational, practical or useful? Are they "chicken little" posts (the sky is always falling) or do you mix it up?

Are you posting a stream of content and getting no likes, replies or comments -- no shares, no retweets and no pins?  This situation brings up questions about the content (is it missing your intended mark) or is it something more along the lines of doing social media marketing and forgetting the real purpose of social media -- to be social -- to connect, interact and develop some degree of relationship with people around content you both care about?

Three things to consider when you do your scan.

1. Notice your posts.  Are most of them complaints on the issues, negative remarks, pitty-potty moments, rants or otherwise a downer OR do you like to keep it positive and encouraging, or informative, or funny, etc. If you're like me there's a bit of everything but sometimes we can get caught in a crummy place and start sharing mostly the crummy crap (negative stuff). Confession: I just recently unfollowed a person I really like but whose posts were like rapid fire bad news bullets!  The last thing I need in my workday is the worst of the worst news. I know where to go to get that! I don't know how you feel but I find it is far better (and often challenging) to remain in a positive place -- lifting others and the world up.  That isn't to say you can't post about bad things that happen, or rant once in a while, just not most or every post.


2. While its fun to post about what you're doing it is also important to post about others and what they're doing, in fact it may be even more important to post about others. I see that I can do better at this.  Always posting about ourselves or churning out our well crafted and sometimes overused message is like going to a dinner party or event and having someone talk about themselves all evening, non-stop, hardly taking a breath so you can't get a word in edge-ways?  The cure?

Listening!  Listen so you can post about others.  What does that mean? Well, who else are you paying attention to as you scan through your listening post and what ideas do they spark for you? Include their thoughts along with your own to add value and robustness to the conversation.  Nothing replaces a really good listening structure for not only giving you something to talk about but helping you include others in the conversation.


3. What about consistency and volume?  Some argue that being consistent in your posting is a good thing - and it is. The ranking algorithms like consistency -- meaning that you post regularly AND interact across the full scale from likes, pins and retweets to replies, comments and shares. If you tweet, take a look at your Twitalyzer profile to see how you're doing.  When it comes to Facebook, check your Insights and even consider your EdgeRank.  Different social networks have a different sense of time and volume, there's some great advice over on Social Media Today that helps explain how often to post to different social networks and the four things you need to have to be successful.  Lastly, remember to sprinkle your posts throughout optimal portions of the day so they don't all come at once. Use a scheduler like Hootsuite or Buffer to help you.

Be sure to mix it up. By that I mean to consider cross posting but not so much from within the platform you're on but between them. What are you finding on LinkedIn that would make a great post on Facebook? What posts from Facebook would make a great addition to Pinterest or what tweets really resonate that you could share on any of the other social networks where you hang out?  AND what posts are you finding that you can bring onto your own blog and add value or bring in-house to your organization or agency for internal discussion and learning?

There's more you can do to increase your signal to noise ratio (Brian Solis gives great advice). I think of signal and noise like the old television sets where you often had snowy screen and very little picture versus today's HD television image.  The former is noise, the latter is signal. So, take a moment to think about it, do a scan of your content from the past few weeks and see how you're doing.


In a nutshell:

  • Revisit and pay attention to the sentiment of your own posts. Check it and make sure you are sending the messages you intend. Change up if needed.
  • Set up and use a listening post to help you find and share great content and be sure to add value to it -- add your perspective, curiosity and experience. 
  • Be sure to follow more than the usual suspects (the same news generators) everyone else is following in your line of work or otherwise you'll find you're just re-arranging the same content -- unless you do the that awesome thing of adding value with each share.  Some of the best and most engaging content comes from looking at happenings in other places completely different from your own and making connections to your own work. 
  • Make sure your posts are mostly signal, less noise. 
  • Lastly, decide what consistent means to you and then follow through with enough posts to keep it interesting but not so many that people stop paying attention or feel overwhelmed (and unfollow you).  

What would you add?  What are your best ways to monitor and adjust your own social media posts? What is useful to you when it comes to managing social media? Challenges? Wins?  Tell me more :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Laughter at Work

Creative Commons: Eder Capobianco
Where has all the laughter gone?  There's an old saying that Laughter is the best medicine. I think its actually true. There's plenty of evidence like the Norman Cousins story of how he controlled his serious arthritic pain through laughing and actually got well.  In fact he says, "laughter puts the best in us to work" and that our "attitudes are powerful factors". If you don't know his story check it out (just click on "complete article" for the 3 pages).

There's a lot coming from brain science these days, neuroscience in particular, about how thoughts create our reality (reap what we sow) and how much our attitude affects our success.   Seems laughter is hand-in-hand with attitude.  In Norman Cousins day there wasn't such research.  His ideas and experiments were way out there but are now being validated through our ability to see and test for things we couldn't before - like we do now with fMRI.  While we don't know everything about why laughter works, one thing is very clear -- laughter increases the endorphins (happy chemicals) in our brain so we feel better when we laugh - a real natural high that reduces stress -- and who couldn't use less stress these days?

You don't need to wait until you're sick.  Have a preventive laugh

Start laughing here. What might those early conversations between dignitaries back in England and visitors to the New World have sounded like? Bob Newhart gives us a glimpse that is bound to make you laugh. Take a moment to increase those endorphins in your brain -- have a listen and a laugh and then there's more.

Knowing just this much about laughter, how do you (or could you) put laughter to work in your work? Here's three things to try and do add your ideas in the comments.

Start a new tradition for your routine meetings.  Open them with a funny cartoon, video clip or story. If you happen to be in charge and can bequeath such things, give those who share some laughter an extra half hour for lunch or some other cherished gift.  Maybe start a "laugh wall" in the break room and/or on an internal web page? Do your own experiment.  Try something that increases the laughter and see what difference it makes in your meetings and with your meeting outcomes. As you collect you'll have plenty of laughter to choose from to add into your trainings and presentations.

Trainings and Presentations
Speaking coach Linda Coles suggests to plan your funny bits and get to your first one in the first minute!  She also suggest to give people permission to laugh.  Sometimes the atmosphere is formal and serious and people hesitate to laugh so if you laugh your audience/participants will laugh along with you.  Use a funny video, cartoon or a funny story or line from your favorite movie to make a point.  Laughter is a helpful tension breaker and stress reliever and waker-upper (useful right after lunch). 

Social Media 
This may seem like a no-brainer but what better place to laugh along with your network or customers than through social media.  Its so easy since so much funny content is online these days from dance videos to babies laughing to comedy routines like the infamous Dave Grady conference call and I'm betting you've had that experience!  Its so easy to just grab the link and share with your circles (remember email is the place where good stuff goes to die so make it social).  Do you want them to share (retweet) with their circles too? Just ask.  Research shows when we ask we receive.

Jump in. 
Laughter puts the best in us to work, so how many ways can we make sure that we include laughter in our work?  How do you use laughter to raise people's spirits and energy?  What makes you laugh? How have you used laughter to break the tension or energize a group you're working with?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Four Building Blocks between Relationships and Influence

Influence flows from our relationships. It can flow both ways. Each of us influences others and we allow ourselves to be influenced by others as we learn and grow personally and professionally. If we expect others to hear us out, then we too have to be willing to suspend what we know long enough to listen and consider ideas that may be quite different from our own.  That doesn't mean we abandon what we know although that's possible. It simply means we are open to the ideas and experiences and wisdom of others. Like my friend and colleague Stephanie Nestlerode says, "Wisdom is wisdom, no matter the source".  

I've been thinking a lot about why individuals and organizations would want to actively engage in social media. From my perspective social media offers a way for people in prevention to not only inform and increase awareness but to also listen, learn and respond to people. Social media offers a creative outlet to host conversations that connect us in ways that establish a foundation for more.  I see four building blocks between the bookends of relationship and influence.  While our offline, face-to-face relationships are absolutely essential, our online relationships (and networks) are equally important in today's social media rich environment.  As I think about it, these four essential building blocks actually apply to both online and offline relationships.

Connection: Just like in any community or organization, making connections with people is the first step toward establishing relationships and it helps people feel a sense of belonging.  Connections lets us see possibilities for partnering, cooperating or collaborating that we might otherwise miss.  Without connections we find ourselves withdrawn, isolated and removed from the very community to which we would like to belong.  In social networks, our connections help us stay up with information, resources and news as well as provide insights into our work and the community. Our connections open doors to additional people and groups to which we can belong and serve.

Visibility: We can't connect with others if they can't see us (or we can't see them).  While a website used to be enough for an online presence, that's no longer true and hasn't been for quite some time.  Websites are essential but insufficient. Just like putting a sign out in front of your business helps attract customers, you'll also want to do far more if you want your business to thrive e.g., join local groups, support local causes, etc.  It is as important to be visible online as it is to be visible offline in the community. Being visible online opens possibilities for connecting and engaging with people.

Relevance: When is the last time prevention was the hot news of the day -- the lead headline in the local news?  What does it mean to draw relevance?  I got a chance to learn more about this from Dr. Paul Evensen who does an awesome job with this (podcast here).  He asks, what are the top four hot news items in your community that most everyone is concerned about? What is the relationship of prevention to these concerns? How do we keep our work relevant with all the competing sources?  We can't really expect people without prevention experience to make the connections, right? Take a few minutes to listen to Paul as he offers an example of making prevention relevant to the hot local news of the day and then try the activity yourself.  Prevention is our work and the onus is on us to draw the connections or be increasingly ignored, overlooked or tossed aside as irrelevant. When we can connect to the hot issues, hashtags and trends we can make the case between those things and prevention, strengthening our community's understanding.

Engagement: While outreach was once our aim, social media has shifted the landscape so that engagement is the ultimate action and metric.  We can be on social media, posting several times a day but if what we are posting isn't engaging, if people aren't liking, commenting, replying, retweeting or otherwise showing interest and taking action, then we've missed the mark. I find this is one of the most interesting and creative part of social media -- discovering the content, tone and perspective that will entice people to engage with us on the topics we care about.  Engagement takes us closer to influence.

So now what?  Here's a set of questions that may help.

  1. How connected am I (or are we)?  Just in sheer numbers, how many connections do you have? How are they growing? From an organizational view, do you have one person or one team that takes care of your social media or do others across the organization get involved to support and create a ripple effect?  
  2. How visible are you? Where? Is it working?  Is your organization still using email and print-based newsletters as your primary communications method? Ouch! Do people see your posts regularly? How many? How often? How recent? When you search on your name or organization, what comes up? Is it recent? Do you like what you see?
  3. How relevant are your posts to local and trending topics?  Are you able to make a case for prevention related to the hot news? How do you support others who do work that is relevant to yours?
  4. How much and what type of social media action are you getting? Simple likes or compelling comments and shares?

Let's talk. 
What needs to be added? What questions have helped you with building relationships?
Where has social media enabled you to establish relationships and exercise influence?
What obstacles have gotten in the way? How have you overcome them?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Offering Shareworthy Content

One of the ideas I love sharing and talking about is the notion of shareworthy social media content.  You know, the content we post that gets a response -- that gives people something to talk about!  Shareworthy content aims for social media action.

A great post from Social Media Today referenced a study by the New York Times,
describing what motivates social media sharing.  When I reviewed the responses (below) a set of nutshell descriptions jumped out at me [in brackets]:
  • They process information more deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully when sharing it (73%) [Develop information skills] 
  • Reading other people's responses helps them understand and process information/events (85%) [Develop Understanding] 
  • Sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinion or encourage action (49%) [Inform & influence] 
  • Carefully consider how the information shared will be useful to the recipient (94%)  [Determine Value/Relevance] 
  • Share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about (68%) [Establish presence] 
  • Share information because it helps them connect with others who share their interests (73%) [Nurtures strong connections]
  •  Share information because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with (78%) [Nurture loose connections] 
  • Share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world (69%) [Feel involved] 
  • Share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about (84%) [Visibly support causes/issues]
So, shareworthy content is information that helps you and others do the things you set out to do with social media (goals, objectives). Content is shareworthy when it captures the attention, sparks an emotion of those that see it and they respond with a social media action e.g., like, friend, follow, comment, digg, share, update, tweet, retweet, pin, text, reply, or post.  Most usually that content is visual, meaning it includes an image or infographic, or it includes a link, a quote or some combination of these things.

So, what helps when it comes to focusing on shareworthy content?

Put the content you're working on, or about to post, to the test?
The short test; Is the content visual? Does it include a quote?  Does it have a link to content that adds value?  Better, does it live up to any of the nine motivations noted above? Finally, would you share it in your circles if it was posted by someone else?

Develop shareworthy content (or seek it out online).  You don't always have to develop the content yourself, or talk about what you're doing -- in fact, its better if you don't.  Sharing what other smart people develop honors their work and makes a difference to your network too.  Since images, quotes and infographics are among the top shared content, seek out or develop some of your content to fits these forms. If you need ideas, go exploring on Pinterest or scan your Facebook news feed.  There's abundant examples of shareworthy content including infographics and beautiful quotations. If you want to learn to develop your own infographics, try any of the courses on this topic at Lynda.com. (One of my favorite online learning places.)

Guidance tool for content delivery.  Finally, it is important to develop and use an editorial calendar. Why? An editorial calendar helps you stay on track and deliver your shareworthy content regularly.  It will help you establish your presence as a conversation starter, pot stirrer, newsbreaker or a thought-leader in your field or discipline.  An editorial calendar supports you and your organization in curating key content that establishes you as a go-to source for your topic or issue.  If you don't have an editorial calendar, consider this downloadable, editable, 2014 editorial calendar from Lightbox. (Gratitude to Beth Kanter for the post showcasing the newly shared calendar).

The list from the NYT study captures most of what I experience with social media with the exception of humor (my personal favorite).  Not every thing we share is going to get a huge response. However, when we're growing relationships while aiming for and measuring visibility, connections, relevance and engagement, seems to me its essential to post shareworthy content. Otherwise, its just making noise rather than sending a clear signal.

What's your experience? What resonates? What'd I miss?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Creating Shared Experiences

Why did you begin working in Prevention?   

For me it was when I discovered Developing Capable Young People with H. Stephen Glenn (I know, that was a long time ago) but it became even more important to me (in terms of adult learners) when I learned two fundamental truths from the staff at the Southwest Prevention Center.
  1. Skilled, knowledgeable, local people best solve local problems. 
  2. People support what they help create.
The latter is probably the single most important prevention learning of my life.  In this age of service provision it seems more important now than ever to remember it.  As I digested this post from Brian Solis it made me think again how important this principle is in this digital age.  While Brian writes specifically for business, and about the Zero/Ultimate Moment of Truth, what he's saying has implications for the work of prevention too so I've plucked some ideas to translate -- let's see how this goes. 

While it is challenging to provide services and training, coach community coalitions, give presentations and conduct promotional campaigns (and much more) it is even more challenging (and a bit vulnerable) to also engage with people about prevention in an open, public way on social media. We know that not everyone will agree with prevention solutions and sometimes our differences of perspective get in the way of us finding common ground.  When it comes to social media, we are continually looking for "strategies and tactics for how to show up at the right place at the right time and with the right content" otherwise known as Zero Moment of Truth. While some are stuck in simply pushing content, most are actively interested in the sweet spot of these strategies - engagement.

So, what is the Art of Engagement?  Brian defines it as something that locks in an interaction or exchange meaning actions, reactions or transactions.   I think of these as choice points which in social media include:
  • read
  • click
  • like
  • favorite
  • reply
  • retweet
  • pin
  • follow
  • subscribe
  • comment
  • download 
  • post
  • share
We tend to track and monitor (count) these things through our analytic data.  The "share" is considered an essential measure because it means a) the message resonated enough that people chose to share it with their circles and b) more people see the message as a result opening more opportunities (impressions) to connect and engage. But there's more.

    More important, what kind of experience do we create so that people share it thus creating a shared experience? Ultimately, do we give people something to talk about? To Brian's point, did we touch an emotion, cause people to feel anything? He says:
    "If you love something, you share it. This isn't just about impressions; this is about expressions." 
    What is shared experience? Our offline experience can (and should) become a shared online experience, right? The two are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, it happens all the time.  By way of simple example, on Monday this week, I posted a picture of Lucy (our Boston Terrier) mentioning how she makes my day better.  A short time later 41 people had "liked" the photo and four commented on it.  A simple shared experience. With technology our offline experiences can easily become a shared online experience and each one [action, reaction, transaction] builds on the others to create that collective index so that all these things together become our online identity -- our presence -- or in business terms -- our brand.  

    What do you share or see others sharing?  Most of what I see posted from people in prevention (including my own posts) include:
    • coalition meeting info
    • news stories
    • inspiring quotes
    • bites of data
    • promotional campaigns, PSAs
    • links to products, posts or reports 
    • commentary, opinions and the occasional rant 
    If experiences form impressions .. and then impressions become expressions (when they're shared), and then IF these expressions subsequently form new impressions that are then shared again ... the beat goes on.  Over and over again experiences create a positive reinforcing cycle,  so people get clearer -- eventually find their own moments of truth - those actions, reactions or transactions. (we support what we help create). So it begs the question, what kinds of experiences are we creating and are they resulting in positive social media action?  Brian suggests:
    "This is a new way of thinking.... you have to create the experiences you want people to have and share, and reinforce that through positive conditioning, so those are the things people find -- over and over again. To get people to share more positive things, you have to first make sure they have a positive experience."

    What strikes you about this way of thinking/doing? Where have you seen social media working in a positively reinforcing way? What missed opportunities do you see?  Let's give 'em something to talk about!

    NOTE: More of Brian Solis work here. He writes about the impact of technology, culture and business but a lot of what he discusses has meaning for technology in prevention. One of his early books, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations taught me a lot about the social media shift and potential impact on the field of Public Relations and all of us who use that model in our work.