Archives for category: Thought Leadership
Invest in Family Togetherness

Invest in Family Togetherness

It’s hard to read your Facebook news stream and not see an abundance of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun promotion raising awareness and resources for a good cause.  But for those of you balancing a career and raising children, I have a different challenge for you: The Dinner Challenge.  No need to pour freezing water over your head or post a video; instead, the next time you are dining out, look around you.  Scan across the restaurant at other tables and notice the interaction amongst family members.  What you see may shock you—or perhaps resemble you.

On several occasions, we’ve observed entire meals with each person at the table independently engaged with a mobile device, phone or game, almost oblivious to one another.   Families, from the point of sitting down to when the food arrives—and sometimes while eating—electronically plugged in and sadly devoid of conversation, completely alone while sitting together.  We live in a technologically advanced age with connectivity at our fingertips and yet we are a society starved for connection: human relationships.  The art of conversation.  Genuinely enjoying being with one another.  We spend our days building professional communities yet our family communities are slowly drifting away.

As parents and working professionals, we have the power to change that.  As simple as making a commitment to eating a meal together as a family and using this time to talk and interact, you can begin to reverse the disconnected trends and make a positive difference where it matters most.  Challenged by the thought of family dinners?  You are not alone.  In the past 20 years, the frequency of family dinners has declined 33%, replaced by busy schedules and structured activities outside the home. (source: NYU Langone Medical Center)  But in the interest of raising confident, healthy kids with strong family values—our future workforce—I urge you to make family meal times a priority.  Drawing from my own mistakes and successes, here’s what I’ve learned along the way for maximizing our time together:

Unplug during meals.  At our house, we have tech curfews and boundaries.  This includes the table.  No phones.  No texts.  No TV.   Facebook can wait.  Make meals a community occasion—your time to spend 30 quality minutes with undivided attention to each other!

Eat at a table.  Even if you’re eating take-out, resist the urge to eat on the couch or in front of the TV.  Not only is it just easier to eat at a table, but a table is also more conducive to conversation.

Make the table a “safe zone.” Fear of correction, judgment or criticism kills the desire to participate.  If you want your kids to enjoy family meals, avoid correcting, criticizing, arguing or nagging during meals.  Instead, talk about fun topics—sports, positive events from the day—and be genuinely interested in the things your kids want to share, good, bad or beyond you.  Our son enjoyed talking about his favorite class…physics!  I have to be honest.  Physics is one of those “beyond me” subjects; it’s just not my thing.  But listening to his excitement and watching his enthusiasm as he shared, I couldn’t help but be interested and engaged in the conversation. Over time, your kids will look forward to meal times for reasons other than the food.

It’s never too late to start. Maybe your kids are older.  Or your work schedule is demanding, requiring long hours.  It doesn’t matter.  I encourage you to start somewhere, even if it’s small.  Make a commitment (and keep it) to eating together two nights a week.  If dinner doesn’t work, target lunch or breakfast.  Start with a manageable schedule and once you’ve established a pattern that works, look for opportunities to expand your frequency.

I cannot encourage you enough: engage with your kids. Take an active interest in who they are; invest in family togetherness.  There’s plenty of time to work and climb the corporate ladder, but our family time will eventually come to an end.  Yes, there will be times when you question if your efforts are really making a difference.  But one day, when you least expect it, you’ll know it was all worth it.  Before our daughter left home to start school at Montana State University, she asked if she could call in for family dinner times.  I smiled as she unknowingly confirmed our family meals were less about food for the body and more about refreshment of the soul.

To everyone reading this post, I nominate you: take The Dinner Challenge.  You’ll be glad you did.

From a very early age, I’ve been entrenched in music.  As a young child, my parents took me to watch dress rehearsals of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  By preschool, I could name every instrument in an orchestra.  In elementary school, I began learning three instruments.  By college, I was a music major and playing in a symphony.  So where am I today?  Why, I’m a content marketer.  Makes perfect sense, eh?  Actually, yes, it does.  You see, musicians are natural story tellers.  We play beyond the written note to communicate the passion of the composer and the story behind the work—and to move an audience emotionally.  A truly great performance is memorable for the audience and hugely rewarding for the creators.  Likewise, a great content marketing campaign can be very profitable for all involved.  Here are three key themes to ensuring your content marketing generates customers who sing your praises.

Content marketing is more than a note on a page

As “conductor” of Energy Central’s content marketing, I am often asked by our customers what constitutes “content marketing,” and how much of it do I need?  These questions are asked in the context of the old media “pay-to-play” model; perhaps you’re familiar with it: Spend xx dollars in advertising and the editor will write about you for free.

Is this content marketing?

Technically, yes, an article is a component of content marketing, but there’s far more to it than that.  I’m sure you know from other articles written on the subject that content marketing is a journey; it takes time to establish your thought leadership and develop customer relationships.   While receiving editorial coverage can heighten your brand awareness and industry positioning through a perceived endorsement (although I think your audience is smarter than that and can see through insincere content), if all you are doing is getting an article sporadically written about you, your content marketing strategy falls short and the long-term benefits of content marketing will not be achieved.

Let me give you an analogy:

a single piece of content is like an eighth note- it goes away quickSuppose you are asked to create music.  You write a note, a single note. But, you hire the best musician to perform it, and it’s played beautifully.  Is that music?  Technically, yes, I suppose you could say that it is.  And people might talk about your note for a brief period, but when the sound dissipates, your note does also.

Then, someone else comes along and creates a string of notes.  They compose a brilliant mix of notes (content types) to create rhythm and phrasing (topic/theme joining the content types).

effective content marketing is like a musical phrase

effective content marketing establishes a memorable theme

In short- they’ve created a melody, a theme that is remembered by their target audience.  And, over the course of time, their target audience begins to sing their praises.

Which of these two bits of “music” better achieved their objectives?

Effective content marketing is well orchestrated

To deliver a truly great content marketing performance, you must be purposeful in your preparations: Topics are thought out and in tune with your audience.  Content releases are planned and scheduled.  Resources to produce and place content are secured.  Frequency is consistent.  Metrics are monitored and adjustments are made along the way.  Great content marketing doesn’t just happen by chance.   If you are disciplined in your preparations, you are more apt to have a rewarding result.

Create variations on a theme

There are many content types you may choose to incorporate into your content marketing strategy.  Assets such as articles or blogs are relatively easy and inexpensive to do.  Then, there are more complex content types, like a conference, webinar or case study, which require considerably more time and expense to put together.  Look for opportunities to create “variations on a theme”—to transform your subject matter into a new content asset that can be distributed through different channels to maximize your content and audience reach.  For example, a webinar recording can be transcribed and turned into a white paper, and a case study or key findings from a research paper can be turned into a webinar. Some articles naturally lend themselves to infographics.  Think expansion.  Think past that single note. And, over time, when your customers need answers about your topic, they’ll think of you as a thought leader on the subject.

You can be a content marketing rock star.  Your keys to success: Be in tune with your audience, be consistent, and be purposeful.  Then it’s only a matter of time before others begin singing your brand’s praises.