13

Here’s a personal branding question worth considering:

  • How do you describe yourself to others?

Seems like there are three options. You can primarily describe yourself based on:

  • Who you are
  • Who you were
  • Who you’re going to become

This personal branding question struck me after looking at the Twitter profile of a writer formerly at a well-known business publication. She had been downsized along with many others as part of a cost cutting move. In her 19 word personal Twitter profile, 5 words described her interests, 5 stated where she’s working now, and 9 dealt with her former job.

Nothing’s wrong with that necessarily, but it makes it seem as if she’s a lot more invested in what she had been doing than what she’s doing now or where she’s headed in her future.

When I describe myself to others, it’s primarily about where I am, with a little bit of what I was, and really nothing of what I hope to become. In fact, using my “Brainzooming” Twitter profile to judge, only 4 words talk about where I am now, with the other 8 words pointed toward what can be found at this website.

That doesn’t really cut it.

My challenge is creating a new description that incorporates where I’m headed along with more personal sharing about who I am as a person, not just a business.

How about you? How do you describe yourself?Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, personal branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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5
This Christmas reflection on God’s time is adapted from another blog I write called Aligning Your Life’s Work. The blog covers much of the same territory as Brainzooming, but from a decidedly spiritual perspective. I start nearly every business day at church because my faith is the most important thing in my life. It is truly an incredible way to start the business day. This year, it’s helped me better understand that in every circumstance, things have to all unfold in God’s time:


It can be difficult to understand when and how God is actively working in your life. As a result, I pray often to be open to participating in whatever divine plan should be guiding our lives. Despite the inherent challenges, something happened early in 2010 where the bigger picture was so clear, even I could see it.

Leaving a big corporate job in the fall of 2009 was a major test of faith. I firmly believe God created the situation and asked, “Are you willing to make the right decision for others and surrender your will?” Through prayer and consideration, the opportunity for my departure to allow several people to keep their jobs became clear. There was no choice but to leave if I wanted to be true to my life’s core purpose.

Since then, despite challenges, I’m at complete peace with the decision. In so many ways, God has placed signs along the way signaling, “I’m watching out for you. Believe.”

Early in 2010, even with the progress on the business at its start, it was clear we needed to secure a significant project. At that same time, Lent was approaching. During this period, we are called annually to a life of greater prayer, sacrifice, and giving to others. For part of our Lenten giving, I committed to donate a certain portion of a new project’s fee to EWTN, the Catholic television network, which has been a tremendous blessing in my spiritual life for years.
Sure enough a potential project in the works for months came to fruition as Lent started. True to the commitment, Cyndi and I made an online donation to EWTN of $500. While it would have been comforting to keep the money, it was a vital promise to fulfill.

One Thursday a couple of weeks later, we received an envelope from EWTN with a receipt and a note saying we’d be remembered in their prayers during the first week in April.

In the same mail was another envelope, this one was from our insurance company. It referenced a car accident we had in August 2004. Headed to an outdoor theater, our car was t-boned (and totaled) by a big, old pickup driven by a driver with no insurance, no license, no tags, and no apparent inclination to yield the right of way.Thankfully, no one was hurt, although we were stuck in a bad part of town with an inoperable car, a dying cell phone, and a need to find a ride home. Cyndi’s sister was traveling through town, however, and came to get us. As we waited, the Kansas City police officer stayed at the scene much longer than he would have had to, watching out for us. So beyond missing the show, having to find a new car, and covering the deductible because of the other driver’s lack of insurance, we were really none the worse for wear.

The insurance company’s letter let us know the pickup’s driver was now making payments. Because of his commitment to repay the debt, the letter contained a check for $500, refunding our deductible!

Okay, I may be tremendously dense, but even I could put all this together.

Think about it. We pray and expect God to answer immediately, not appreciating that God doesn’t (and doesn’t have to) act on our timing to provide for us according to His plan and His will.

In this case, an apparently random (and potentially tragic) event five and a half years previously (which was no more than a nuisance) had to occur to allow God to care for us at a time when $500 had taken on much greater importance.

This wasn’t t the first time something like that has happened since leaving my job. A number of times, just what we needed, whether financial or simply a word of encouragement, has arrived at exactly the right time.

The message?

Pray for the foresight to get out of God’s way and allow Him to direct you. Then be prepared and patient to allow the plan to unfold, even when it’s not clear what it all means. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter if you understand it; God understands it. And that’s what matters.

That’s a wrap on the “planned” Brainzooming blog posts for 2010. There may well posts next week, but I have to shift attention to a book proposal that’s been on my to-do list for WAY too long this year.

It’s also the time to put in some more thinking and planning about 2011 and where to place our priorities in the coming year. And yes, I use all the tools shared here on Brainzooming to do our own planning!

One last note though: this story I found last night about someone who received a gift this Christmas that also came at exactly the right time for them, and how they’ll look to pass on the same gift to someone else next year.

Best wishes from The Brainzooming Group to you and your families for a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season! Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4

Back home over Thanksgiving, my mother and I talked about coming up with creative ideas for dealing with the collection of books I bought during high school that are still left at their house. The books include both great literature and big coffee table art books. Quite honestly, we have no room for them at our house or any interest in lugging them back to Kansas City.

Beyond my books, there are also hundreds of old books my dad bought to fill the newly installed shelves of the remodeled home when we first moved in years ago.

My best creative thinking was to sell all of them together and hope to get $15 for the whole lot. It’s sad, especially given how much money I spent on them originally, but they are, after all, simply old, used books.

Obviously though, I wasn’t being very creative with my idea.

A few days later, Cyndi and I visited C.S. Post, an intriguing store located in downtown Hays, KS that you wouldn’t be surprised to find in NYC. Started more than 10 years ago in conjunction with a restoration of downtown Hays, its owner designs furniture featured in popular design magazines and sold around the world. Go figure that this creative vision springs from a small Northwest Kansas town.

Nonetheless, it’s clear the C.S. Post folks are very creative when it comes to boosting the price point on used books.

We discovered this bin in the store. As close as we could tell, it looked as if they took old books, cut them from their covers, and soaked them in some type of liquid (maybe starch?) to get the pages to curl and stick together. Each had a ribbon tied around it and a $6 price tag since they were now “Rustic Books.”

With that kind of creative approach, my parent’s books collection could be worth thousands of dollars. Talk about using creativity to add value to an asset…or at least making a bold attempt to do so!

I personally can’t wait to hit C.S. Post over Christmas and see if the Rustic Books are selling at a brisk pace.

Whether the books are selling or not though, the folks at C.S. Post have more than earned my respect for taking something worthless and using creativity to build value and a new cache around it! Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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6

Whether creating social media content for yourself or for an organization you support, here’s an easy-to-use strategic thinking exercise for generating relevant topic ideas. Consider three vital areas:

  • What do you Think?
  • What do you Know?
  • What do you Do?

Consider your target audience’s needs and interests as a backdrop. Then use Think, Know, and Do as starters for three mind maps to help explore a range of social media content ideas.

Working with Nate Riggs at Social Business Strategies, we used this exercise with a business-to-business service client recently as part of developing content strategy for its collaborative blog. The organization’s new social media team generated nearly 140 separate topic ideas in just 15 minutes. We accomplished this by having small groups rotating among the mind maps and building on ideas already generated. We had the team use a variety of other exercises as well to quickly generate more than a year’s worth of blog topic ideas in a very short period of time.

Think, Know, Do.

What do those three words suggest for potential topics about you or your organization?Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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3

These life lessons certainly apply during the holiday season. But importantly, they’re life lessons which can help you embrace a more positive, successful perspective every day of 2011 and beyond.

  • Recognize your personal limitations and become successful despite them.

  • Your greatest challenges can be the seeds of your greatest successes.

  • Humility can never be overrated.

  • Serve first. Serve second. Serve third. Now, what do you want to do next?

  • Nice manners will make up for most (if not all) of your shortcomings.

  • Bad manners just make all the other marginal stuff you try to get away with seem all that much worse.

  • Sure you’re busy. Give yourself and the other people around you a break and take time to be pleasant. Don’t let “crazy busy” be your excuse…or your epitaph.

 

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other business and life lessons to your conference event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike Brown can get your audience members Brainzooming!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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31

It’s pretty common knowledge that implementing an effective social media strategy takes time. That makes tips on how to maximize your social media productivity, such as those shared by Todd Schnick, co-founder of #Innochat, on his strategy for allocating your time very valuable. Todd’s recommendation was to divide your social media participation time into thirds, with 1/3 of your time within each category:

  • Observing / listening in others’ social media outlets
  • Participating in others’ outlets through commenting, guest blogging, etc.
  • Creating content and being active within your own outlets

Ever since Todd shared that concept in early 2009, his social media productivity strategy has been front and center in my mind (and ensconced in my social media strategy presentations). The truth is I rarely come close to this balanced approach since creating Brainzooming content definitely represents the majority of my time.

One way of improving your time allocation though is by investing your effort in activities which contribute to more than one of these categories. The following list includes some of the multi-category approaches I have tried.

13 strategies to maximize your social media time efficiency

1. Use tweets with your original content as input to create a blog post. For example, this blog post on 5 personal strategies started as a series of individual tweets.

2. Comment on another blog and use the comment as the basis for an original post on your blog.

3. Do a post comprised of comments (or links) other people have shared on Twitter you’ve found valuable.

4. Incorporate Twitter-based responses you’ve received from others on your content / ideas / tweets into a blog post.

5. Write a post inviting guest posts for your blog, then tweet links to your invitation post to solicit guest bloggers.

6. When you come across someone interested in topics related to your blog, ask them to do a guest blog post (and refer them back to the post in #5).

7. If you write a guest post for another site, do a complementary post on your blog pointing your followers to it.

8. Participate in Twitter-based chats on topics of interest (#Ideachat – Monthly, 2nd Saturday at 9 am ET) and use your comments during the chat as the basis for a blog post.

9. Create your own Twitter chat linked to your blog topic to benefit your audience.

10. Use answers you’ve created for LinkedIn Q&A or other discussion groups as starters for blog posts.

11. Write a response article to a blog post you’ve come across via Twitter, RSS feeds, etc.

12. Use what people on Facebook, Twitter, or other networks are talking about as the inspiration for a post. Be sure to include links to the original conversation, including letting the people you’re referencing know about it so they can promote it within their networks.

13. Answers to reader questions can be reformatted into blog posts. This post was originally an email response to a reader’s question about how to strengthen his social media participation without taking too much time from necessary business development activities!

What are you doing to maximize your social media productivity? Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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3

I’ve already been told The Brainzooming Group “World Headquarters” is going to have a document clean-up and organization day near the first of the year. It’s been a long-time coming, I know, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less of a chore. I’ll admit to retaining a lot of project documentation materials.

Quite frankly, I successfully go back to and use previously developed models and outlines from previous projects quite a bit. Before leaving the corporate world, I was handed a quick-turnaround assignment to develop a strategic marketing communications plan for a very infrequent business event. Interestingly, we had done a strategic plan for a similar situation years before. I was able to retrieve both paper and electronic copies of the document, creating an updated strategic marketing communications plan in only a few hours.

Long story short, if you can retrieve a project document when you need it, the strategy of retaining your past project documentation pays off in enhanced efficiency.

But in thinking about the decision making process for which documents to throw away, maybe these strategic guidelines I’m creating for myself will be helpful to you if you struggle with the same situations.

Here’s my strategy for three types of project documentation I’m planning to jettison:

  • Old Reference Material – In fast-developing markets, a lot of reference material simply isn’t relevant anymore. With changing business dynamics, the usefulness of historical studies and reports is likely deteriorating at an accelerating rate. The trick is figuring out which reference materials are worthless and which can still be good future inputs.
  • Anything that Can Be Retrieved on the Internet – There’s no need to house a lot of secondary market research information that’s easily obtainable via the web. I’ll be clearing out historical project files and simply searching to find updated information if I need it in the future.
  • Forgotten Work – If you can’t remember the work, and it’s not part of a filing system, you aren’t going to be able to get to it when you need it! You might as well work from memory and take the extra time to address it with a fresh perspective when it counts.

Let me know if you have any other tips!

I’ll be printing this post out and keeping my document retention strategy close when combing through and making decisions about the many boxes of old project documentation files waiting for me!  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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