Monday, November 30, 2009

Should our professional identities be kept separate from our social life?

Should our professional identities be kept separate from our social life?

This question is definitely relevant within the domain of personal branding, but I would like to approach this question from a place of mindful inquiry.

When I linked my Twitter to my personal profile on Facebook, one of my friends made a comment suggesting that many of her friends on Twitter had chosen to keep the two separate. And more recently, I volunteered to help with the promotions of a community event for which I created really cool invites, which were sent out with my signature including my professional credentials. Again, I was asked by a colleague, if it wouldn't be better to send the invite out without my credentials as this was coming from my "casual, neighborhood personality and not business." A very good question.

What do you think? Do you keep your identities separate - is your professional persona different from your social one? When you volunteer are you one person and when you provide the same service in a professional setting are you a different person?

From personal branding perspective, you would want to promote your personal brand across all dimensions of your life and the answer is quite simple in that case - you keep your signature consistent in all your communications.

Assuming you do put your professional signature on all communications - even your social and personal ones - wouldn't that make you a pushy marketer?

Here in lies potential for inner conflict and fragmentation and choosing to go one way over the other without mindful inquiry would lead to a decision that is not authentic and optimal. I would encourage you too to meditate on this question and find what feels true to you. You may be amazed with what you find in yourself, beliefs that are holding you back from your highest expression of Self.

I will share my truth on this subject. I see my Self as compassionate, creative, and mindful and that is who I am across all aspects of my life and with all people in my life. Separating my identities into social and professional to me is creating false identifications and fragmentation, which is not my experience of who I am. I am innovative, authentic, mindful. Period.

Should I feel guilty in promoting my work when I volunteer in my community? In my head, letting people know who I am is not a bad things because I am providing valuable service and would like people to know what solutions I can provide to make their lives better. Of course, if promoting my work becomes the priority in my volunteer work, then I am not being true to the task at hand and would feel inauthentic to me. So, if doing my best job as a volunteer allows people to know what I have to offer professionally, I think we have a win win situation here :)

I believe our lives should rest on win win situations and that is only possible if we are mindful (not operating out of guilt and limiting beliefs), authentic, and innovative (because fining win win situations often requires thinking out of the box and getting out of our comfort zones.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Voices of the Valley: Interview with Denise @WRNX

To hear the interview click on link below:

zSHARE - DW_B0057.wav

The interview discusses how personal branding, social media, and mindfulness can be used to build a unique positioning for yourself as an employee or someone looking for a new job or if you are self employed.

The tools discussed in the interview can be found on my post on tools and resources to deal with unemployment.

Personal Branding Tools & Resources to Deal With Unemployment

With unemployment and uncertainty on the rise, it is important now more than ever before, to build a strong personal brand. Personal branding is the process of clear and consistent communication of your unique skills and passions and how you use them to solve problems in unique ways. The idea is for you to be clear about your strengths and let everyone know what your unique problem solving skills are so you stand out as a distinct identity making valuable contributions instead of being invisible among the many employees of businesses.

Check your online presence and identity to see whether you are visible in meaningful and consistent ways.

Personal branding involves self-awareness, authentic differentiation, and effective communication and here are some tools and resources for each category.

1. Self awareness: Connecting with skills, passions, purpose, and experiences that make you unique.

Finding inner purpose exercise

•Other ideas to connect with self

2 Authentic differentiation: Using your skills and passions to solve problems in unique ways.

Learn from changing trends and your competition how you can contribute and solve problems in unique ways.

• Stay informed about changes in environment that are relevant to you by setting google alerts and set Twitter to listen to key words:

3 Communicate and connect: Communicating your unique problem solving abilities in ways that are consistent, meaningful, and visible to your target audience.

• Find out how visible and meaningful your online identity is
• Create a free online resume using multi-media at
• Connect with companies and recruiters on Twitter using
• Create a google profile, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc and make sure they are integrated and consistent
• Prepare your elevator speech
• Create an authentic and strong presence by using your skills to Blog, teach, or speak. If you like to write, start a Blog; if you like to teach, hold workshops in your organization or in your community; if you are a good speaker, participate in panels.

Other resources
• Social media, marketing and mindfulness consultancy made affordable at iAM Business Consulting
Perspectives on how the environment, your efforts, and your beliefs affect outcomes in your life.
•Cool article on How to find a job on Twitter
•Cool article on How to build the ultimate social media resume

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Unemployed, Now What?

When I left my fantastic job at the University of Utah to be with my family in MA, I trusted a job will miraculously open up for me and it didn’t. After acknowledging my disappointment and seeing through my own limiting beliefs that were responsible for my actions (which is the topic of another posting), I got down to recreating my career. This post speaks to three factors that impact the outcomes in our lives – the environment, our efforts, and our inner beliefs. If you are unemployed or face the threat of being unemployed, I encourage you to think about these three factors and how they are impacting the outcomes in your life.

The Changing Environment

Change is the only constant. Yet, we ignore changes in our environment until they hit us. Admittedly we do not have much influence over changes in our environment – social, political, economic, and technological, amongst others. But here are some suggestions for what we can do with respect to changing environment:

Anticipate: Stay aware of the changes taking place in your environment. Personally, I am not a big newspaper reader because most of the papers report depressing events that have already taken place. Instead I use google alerts, Twitter, and Blogs to stay informed. I do subscribe to the local newspaper to support them and stay tuned with local affairs.

There are other organizations providing trends that I wrote about in my article on environmental scan.

How do you stay informed?

Learn: I have learned so much post PhD. If I stayed attached to my accolades as a PhD I would not be able to succeed in my new business as a consultant. No doubt my research abilities and marketing knowledge are helpful, but I had to learn the new social media tools that are only beginning to be discussed in academia. We cannot bask in our past glory and need to continuously update our skills.

What are the changes in technology, your industry, your consumers, your competition, and in the economy that may require you to learn new skills? What do you do to update your skills?

Innovate: Related to the idea of updating our skills is the need to change our mindset and business paradigm. We may have done our work in a particular way, but the new environment may not support old working habits. We cannot continue to thrive as an employee or business if we are stuck to old thinking patters. Some suggestions to promote creativity:

1) Meditate – to break away from the mind oscillating between past and future to be more present and open to new opportunities. Watch Dr. Phillipe Goldin’s talk at Google on the effects of meditation on the brain leading to lower stress and higher creativity.

2) Try new activities – Research has shown that being exposed to new perspectives and disorienting experiences can push creativity. Try a new activity, or visit a new place, or event.

3) Observe yourself – When exposed to new ideas, do you automatically arrive at a conclusion or do you actually Listen. If you jump to conclusions, it probably means that you are acting based on past thinking patterns. At times like this breathe, and watch your thoughts. Allow new thoughts to emerge. Innovation is a way of being – if you are open to different perspectives, may not agree, but open to processing different points of view, you are likely to come up with novel ideas.

Are you innovative?

Your Efforts

In addition to having skills, efforts need to be driven by purpose, intensity, and hard work. If any one of the ingredients is missing you may not get the results you are looking for. There is nothing we cannot achieve if it skill is backed by purpose and accompanied by intensity and hard work. It is not going to be easy perhaps, and desired outcomes may not happen immediately, but you will start to feel right about it immediately – you will know.

Are you working with purpose, intensity, and giving it your 100%?

Inner Beliefs

If you are doing all of the above and more but still not finding results, then you need to reflect on your inner beliefs or hidden fears that may be limiting you from achieving the desired outcomes. Beliefs impact the life we create. This is not some wishy-washy fact but being supported by scientists, like Bruce Lipton, a cellular biologist. By changing beliefs I don’t mean just positive thinking – ‘oh its going to be a great day,’ but every cell of your body is screaming ‘its terrible, life sucks, I am doomed.’ Beliefs affect outcomes in many ways:

1) Impact our behavior – 90% of our communication is non verbal (Zaltman, a Harvard scholar). When you go for an interview and you say you can deliver the job or as a sales person you say this is the best product but inside you feel otherwise the other person knows

2) Not present to current opportunities - When we are caught up in our internal dramas from the past we are not present to the opportunities available to us. We speak about some people just being so lucky – how they were at the right place at the right time and got that job or made that sale. I believe we all are given similar opportunities the difference between the lucky and unlucky is that the lucky noticed the opportunities and went ahead while others did not even notice them because they were stuck in the past

You can read some suggestions that I made on discovering hidden beliefs and how to deal with hidden fears here.

Are you aware of your hidden beliefs that may be limiting your fullest experssion of higest potential?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tools to Discover Your Digital Identity

"Once we have connected with what we have to offer in terms of our skills & passions, then there will be people out there to receive as customers - we only need to connect with them"
Personal branding is about communicating who we are and what service we can provide in very clear ways. The purpose of this post is to list tools that you can use to check if you have a strong and meaningful online presence.

My approach to authentic personal branding includes three components:

1) Self awareness: Awareness of passions, skills, and experiences that make you unique.

2) Authentic differentiation: Clarify how you can use your personal strengths to solve problems in unique ways and different from everyone else doing what you do.

3) Effective communication: Once you have the first two figured out, then you have to find ways of communicating with customers in ways that are clear and consistent.

Here is a list of tools that I have found so far that can assist in gauging how you and your customers are faring in terms of building an online identity that is visible and what you want it to be:

1) Check your self on It is interesting to see all the information about your past and present that is there. This site does a good job of pulling out all the information that there is about you. A few things to take note of:
  • Are your pictures current?
  • Are your emails current?
  • Check your tag cloud and you can click on particular tags in the cloud to bring up info related to that term.
  • Overall what is showing up, is it conveying a meaningful and consistent picture of who you are?
2) The Online Identity Calculator is a very cool tool, which has you go through a couple of simple steps using google search and comes up with your online identity based on volume and relevance. The four categories along the two dimensions are Digitally Distinct, Digitally Dabbing, Digitally Dissed, and Digitally Disastrous.

3) If you use Twitter, the Twitter Grader is very interesting because it tells your grade based on criteria including number of followers, following, tweets, re-tweets, and the kind of people following you. It also ranks you in your location and has cool graphs to plot your progress on Twitter.

4) And then there is Identity Web 2.0 Applications and Tools that lists 35 different websites, literally, that can be used to build your online presence. I have used a few of them like TwitDir and PeekYou. I would love to hear from you if you have used any others on the list and what do they do.

5) What I also have my clients always do, is to look up their category of service in their area to see if their names or business show up in google search. For example, if you search for "marketing consultants Amherst, MA" my company's name iAM Business Consulting shows up. The idea, as if it is not obvious, is that if your potential clients are looking for a solution that you provide and they don't know about you then they will type in the problem or service for which they want a solution, so your company should show under those search words.

I would loooooove to learn from you, if you know of any tools to evaluate and even build strong personal brands.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finding Inner Purpose and Writing an Authentic Mission Statement

"More men fail through lack of purpose than through lack of talent"
- Billy Sunday

If you are clear about your inner purpose you can jump to step II right away. But if you are not clear about your purpose or need to revisit it, here are some steps to help you reflect on your past, present, and future as a guide to connecting with what is important to you and finding your inner purpose. Please also note that self awareness is a journey and you may find your purpose also changing as you get to know your self more. I have given suggestions for bringing self awareness as an ongoing process in my post what is missing in current discussions on personal branding.

This post describes an exercise, not in lieu of, but in addition to other practices for self awareness and purpose.

I Reflections on your past, present, and future to find inner purpose

The Past…

1) Make a list of activities you have participated in the past that you felt most inspired to do so at the time.

(Hint: Think about things you have done in the past, which made you push your comfort zone or extend yourself in ways that you normally do not and you were able to do this because you were inspired. These are activities that make you feel most energized and empowered. Inspiration here refers to an inner urge, belief, or drive and is not related to external motivations related to financial, social, or ego gains, even though the latter may be an outcome.)

2) List people who inspire you and what are the qualities in these people that inspire you.

(Hint: There are many inspiring people in this world but who inspires you tells a lot about what is meaningful to you. Specific traits and talents in these people are important to you because they reflect values that are important to you and are likely to be the ones that will influence your business practice.)

3) Think of the challenges in your life that have impacted you profoundly – what did you learn from those challenges?

(Hint: we learn most from challenging situations because it forces us to find new solutions to deal with them; they push our mental limits. Often the challenges have a recurring pattern because they are meant to teach us something of value that we can then share with others – what have you learned from your personal experiences that you would like to share with the world?)

The Present…

4) What are you naturally curious about?

(Hint: What are the things you enjoy learning about, what kind of documentaries do you enjoy, what kind of books do you read? Answers to these questions point to your natural inclinations and interests. Your ambitions can be influenced by external factors, but your natural curiosity is something inherent to you and it doesn’t lie.)

5) Make a list of things that you enjoy doing most. These could be related to your work or not.

(Hint: Be honest in describing what you enjoy doing with your time and resources. These could be activities completely unrelated to your current work. You could make a good livelihood out of activities you enjoy such as music, art, and cooking. But even if you did not pursue these activities as a career, a comparison across such activities will point to some underlying themes that reflect your inner purpose. For example, I love to read and learn about how the mind works, I love to help people find their purpose, I love to meditate, I love to create healthy and tasty foods, I enjoy finding solutions to unique business challenges, and I love my research. These activities do not seem to have much in common on the surface, but they involve creativity, mindfulness, self awareness, and problem solving and all of these feed into my work of inspiring purpose and finding profitable solutions that are mindful.)

6) What characteristics or traits do you love most about yourself?

(Hint: Ever so often we get intimidated by the accomplishments of others. At times like these, it is important to reconnect with what we love about ourselves and what we can uniquely bring to our work. Again, it is not important that these qualities do not seemingly relate with what we do at work. For example, you may be a nurturing mother, an adventurous cook, and innovative shopper. Now you can bring all those qualities of nurturing, adventure, and innovative thinking into your work Authentic entrepreneurs are integrated people and who you are at home and with your family is the same as who you are at work with your employees and customers.)

The Future…

7) What is the one change you would like to see in this world?

(Hint: What sort of things that you see or read about that make you angry, what is the change that you are most passionate about seeing in this world? The transformations that you want to see are opportunities for you to find your purpose.)

8) If money and any other limitations were not a problem, what work would you dedicate yourself to?

(Hint: Often we set artificial barriers to doing what we truly love. If you could imagine that none of these barriers exist and you are free to dedicate your life to doing one thing – what would it be?)

9) How do you want to be remembered?

(We postpone things that are important to us and before long it is too late. Use this time to reflect on what really matters. How do you want to be remembered as a partner, a parent, a friend, in your community, and as a human being? What difference did you make in the lives of others during your lifetime?)
Once you have answered these questions, highlight important terms and note them down. Look at the noted terms for patterns that reflect what is meaningful to you, what is unique about you, and what is your unique purpose. You are now ready to write your mission statement.

If there is anything that has helped you in finding your purpose or if you liked what you read, please leave a comment.

II Writing your mission statement

A good mission statement helps to build authentic communications with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. It provides a broad framework defining your purpose and values within which you run your business. It is particularly useful in challenging times as a reminder for what the business stands for so people don’t lose sight of what is important. It also provides a unified focus for all members in the organization to move towards a common goal. Communicating your mission statement clearly will help in attracting the right kind of people as your customers, employees, suppliers, and other collaborators.

In order to write down your mission statement, refer to the list you created of terms that reflect what is meaningful to you, what is unique about you, and your unique purpose. Use that list as a guide to write your mission statement. An authentic mission statement has five parts:

1) Your core purpose - the overall mission
2) How will you achieve your purpose - your products and services
3) Who will you benefit - your target market
4) How will you benefit them - specific benefits you provide
5) What is unique about you - your core competencies that make you unique

For a good example see Ben and Jerry’s comprehensive tripartite mission statement including social, product, and economic missions. For a more detailed example, I would like to use the mission statement that I am more intimately informed about because I wrote it for my consulting firm. The mission for iAM Business Consulting reads as follows:

The mission of iAM Business Consulting is to inspire people to recognize their highest potential and give it expression in ways that are meaningful, profitable, and enjoyable (1). We aspire to make innovative marketing and mindfulness tools accessible to all individuals, who may be self-employed or employees (3), so that they can build strong personal brands and market their unique potential in authentic ways (4). Our personal branding services emphasize self-awareness, authentic differentiation, and effective communication using traditional and innovative tools like social networks and social media (4).

Our workshops and consulting services (2) are founded on a combination of research in business, science, and mindfulness to provide new ways of thinking about business challenges (5). While we provide marketing solutions to navigate the external environment successfully, we also promote mindfulness to move with ease and grace in all aspects of our lives (5). We are interested in empowering individuals to live their highest potential (4).

In writing the mission statement, I addressed all five points that are necessary for an authentic and clear communication.

(1) Clearly, the over all purpose is to inspire people to find their purpose and express the purpose profitably.

(2) The specific products include consultancy and workshops.

(3) The target market comprises individuals who may be self-employed or employed in an organization.

(4) The specific benefits to the target market focus on
building strong personal brands and marketing their unique potential in authentic ways. Our personal branding services emphasize self-awareness, authentic differentiation, and effective communication using traditional and innovative tools like social networks and social media. We empower individuals to live their highest potential.

(5) And our core competencies comprise an integrated approach
founded on a combination of research in business, science, and mindfulness to provide new ways of thinking about business challenges While we provide marketing solutions to navigate the external environment successfully, we also promote mindfulness to move with ease and grace in all aspects of our lives.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What is missing in current discussions on authentic personal branding?

In my recent tweeting past I have been reading so much about personal branding and there is much value in what is being said and taught in these forums. Yet, as I read some of this work, I have a strong feeling that something is missing in this discussion. The purpose of this posting is to reflect on what is missing in popular personal branding forums.

Many people have written about personal branding. The credit of spawning the personal branding movement perhaps goes to Tom Peters, who wrote in a famous article in Fast Company in 1997, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called 'You.'" Another contributor to this stream is Catherine Kaputa, author of the famous book, “U R a Brand!” and more recently articles like, Top 10 Ways to Use Your Female Advantage in Business.”

Two speakers that I have been following on this subject in twittersphere are Hubert Rampershad and Dan Schwabel. While there is an overlap in their message, they do have unique personal brands. I love Hubert’s emphasis on authenticity and expressing the inner genius that each of us has. Hubert teaches social media for personal branding, yet his own tweets are repeats promoting his books or his workshops and lack originality and the spark, in my opinion. On the other hand, you have to love Dan for the activity he is generating around his Blogs, videos, and engaging people with social media. Dan speaks to authenticity but his focus, in building a personal brand is slightly different from Hubert's. His definition, “Personal branding is the process of how we market ourselves to others.” speaks to his emphasis on identifying and articulating your “unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal.”

So many tweets and blog posts about personal branding – what is missing in this stream of thoughts and voices? Even though personal branding is about authentic expression of your inner genius, why is the discussion dominated by managing external expression. Even posts dedicated to expressing our “real selves” describe superficial strategies that appear to be a forced attempt at being unique and different. For example, the post, “Break Out of the Social Media Prison,” on Dan’s Personal Branding Blog, is an attempt to get people to be their “real selves.” Let’s look at the author’s suggestions to be our authentic selves:

1) “ONLY leave a comment on a blog IF you completely disagree with the author’s point of view.” So we are talking about being real, but to be “real” we need to comment only when we disagree? What if I agree and love what the person is saying – would I be more real by acknowledging my appreciation or by not commenting so I can be unique?

2) “Go through your Facebook and Twitter profiles, and un-friend/unfollow people who you are not close friends with.” The author find this very liberating and good for him. But does it mean that everyone in order to be “real” needs to follow him? No, we all go to social media sites for different reasons, to learn, to share, to grow, and we can do all that without being “intimate” with each other.

3) “Find a topic in your niche that is HOT. Find one that is very biased towards one side of the argument and write a post arguing for the other side. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with the other point of view, as long as your argument is well thought out, coherent, and makes people want to debate with you. You’ll not only stir up a great conversation online with your post, but you’ll drive more traffic to your blog and gain a new readership.” Notice that the purpose of the post was to bring out the “real” self in readers and we end up with suggestions to increase readership by writing a controversial post that we may not necessarily agree with as long as it is coherent.

I do not mean to pick on this one post, there are ample examples with other leading writers on the subject who I am sure are also writing with good intentions, but I am amazed at the superficiality and even obvious contradictions in these writings. For another example, please also read, Top 10 Ways to Use Your Female Advantage in Business” by Catehrine Kaputa.

If indeed personal branding is about clear articulation and expression of our unique selves, where is the discussion about the “self”? Who are you? And how do you get to know the real you? How do you go beyond what these Blogs, your parents, society, or anyone has every told you about you? Even if your personal brand is an expression of service and compassion to the world, how do you know that is who you really are or was that also a desirable identity imposed upon you? There are many blog posts, books, and workshops on using social media and technology to create a consistent brand identity, an impressive identity, and all of these things have their place, they are important tools, but what about the “unique you” that is dying to speak but has been thwarted by all the voices of personal branding gurus telling you how to be and what to say?

I meet people everyday who have something very unique to offer not only because of the natural gifts they were born with, but also the unique life experiences that have taught them many valuable lessons. I believe each of us has something very unique to offer but very often that gets hidden under many layers of conditioning, fears, and expectations. If we jump to a well-articulated and coherent expression of our personal brand without internal reflection of who we are, will we not be depriving ourselves of living our highest potential and a truly remarkable life?

There seems to be such a focus on our external worlds and appearances within these discussions. Reaching for our goals, a constant strife to get somewhere other than where we are right now is what we are taught. While goals are important and hard work is also important, after 40 years of an amazing life, which includes an amazing family, challenges, several academic qualifications including PhD, and professional success, I am realizing what is most important is self-awareness. As I have learnt to get more in touch with who I really am and get rid of who I am not, I am finding myself more peaceful and energized. I am learning that my inner world is creating my outer world. As I gain clarity internally I am able to more clearly manifest my external reality, not by doing, of course there is doing involved, but that doing is a natural outcome of who I am. I don’t mean to get philosophical on you but am speaking from a very practical, and even scientific perspective. If you are not familiar with the work of scientists like Bruce Lipton, I encourage you to do so because they are now showing scientifically how our inner worlds are shaping our outer worlds.

Suggestions to find Self and Purpose

Well, I hope to blog more about personal branding from this perspective of authenticity and mindfulness. In the meanwhile, I would like to leave you with some suggestions and invite suggestions from you as well, with respect to the important step in personal branding about finding your self. I understand this is a journey and not a destination. That being said, here are some ideas for your journey of self discovery:

1) Ignore everything I just said and everything else you have ever read about personal branding and listen to your own self – who are you? Not who you want to be, not what you want others to see, but who you are you?

2) I offer some suggestions to tap into your inner purpose in an exercise I have written about elsewhere. You are welcome to try that. Doing all the steps in that exercise should surface themes that are important to you in your life.

3) Devote some time (I like to spend at least 30 minutes) every day to being with your self alone – use this time to connect with your self through breathing, walking mindfully, sitting in nature, or anything else that preferably doesn’t involve much doing, but just being.

4) Devote some time to doing things that you love – could be cooking, dancing, sports, etc.

5) Try to bring some new activities in your life in the form of doing something new, or reading, or traveling to new places, or even doing the same thing but more mindfully this time.

6) Join a group that is built around mindfulness or study of the self. Being in the company of people interested in the topic will open up new doors for you to view the world and your self differently.

7) Non-judgmental acceptance and loving your self – We often hide away parts of our selves that are not perceived to be desirable by some standards. Being mindful of how we feel, listening to our body, and thoughts, without judging, just observing can be a powerful teacher about our selves. Next time you feel angry or have any negative emotion, do not rush to hide it, move to a quiet place and stay with your thoughts, simply observing and see what happens when you become the observer of your own thoughts.

These are some of the things I do to find myself a little more each day so I can express myself in ways that serve my highest purpose in authentic and mindful ways. This is my first post inspired to write about the missing element in our discussions on personal branding and I am sure there will be more thoughts about this in the future...

I would also love to hear what you do to find your authentic self....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Word Cloud for Mindful Marketers

This is the word cloud for the Mindful Marketers Blog. You can create your own at:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Integrating Social Media into your Marketing Plan

Many people are using social media tools without clearly understanding why it is important and how it contributes to the overall marketing strategy of the organization. This article lists seven questions you need to ask when developing your social media strategy. You can use social media to convey your authentic voice and build authentic relationships, if the social media strategy is integrated with your marketing strategy.

7 Questions for Integrating Social Media in Marketing Strategy for Non-Profits
Social media can be defined as all Internet and web based technologies that allow mass scale communications among people. As oppose to broadcasts that went from one to many, this reflects a many to many format where there can be a dialog among many people. Social media (SM) is definitely not a fad and is here to stay. Especially, if you are a non-profit or a small business with a purpose, SM can be used very effectively to mobilize your cause, volunteers, and even funds to support your work.

You can continue to create ripples by engaging people in online communities. But many people are using it because everyone else is using it. Even though social media can be a powerful tool, it can also be a waste of resources and ineffective if not integrated into the over all marketing strategy. Here is a list of questions that are helpful when developing your social media strategy.

1) What is the organization’s purpose?
Every marketing plan needs to start with the company's main purpose or the corporate mission. If you do not have a clear purpose or corporate mission, there is a lot written on the subject, including suggestions in my article - translating inner purpose into a mission statement.

2) What is the purpose of Social Media?
The next question to ask is how SM can further the organization’s goals? What are the specific goals and objectives of the SM plan in order to support the overall company plan? Goals refer to the broader purpose of SM, which is typically ongoing and cannot be measured. Objectives are the measurable and specific outcomes you would like to achieve within the specified period.

You can define several goals that are consistent with the corporate mission. For example, MotherWoman, a non profit with the mission of empowering mothers to bring positive personal and social change, can use SM to create a social network to support mothers by sharing experiences, resources, and information to empower mothers and build a strong social presence using social media tools. Another goal can be to stay informed about changes in the environments in terms of new grants, new technologies, new research, etc.

The more specific objectives can be to connect with specific number of mothers during specified periods who can benefit from this program, to connect with new donors, increase website and Blog traffic, increase participation of workshop mothers in online sharing, etc.

3) How will Social Media reach its goals?

I recommend what I call the L.I.P. Approach - Listen, Inform, and Participate.
a. Listen: Social media is a powerful tool because it allows a dialog among many people. An essential aspect of dialog is listening. While traditional market research methods like focus groups, surveys, and interviews are still important ways to listen, a more active and continuous form of listening is possible using social media tools like Google Alerts, Facebook, and Twitter. You can now listen to what your customers are saying, people who believe in your cause are saying, learn from other organizations, and learn about changes in your environment. Make a list of people and organizations as well as topics of interest that you should be following and then figure out the channels you will use to follow.

b. Inform: The second powerful use of social media is with respect to informing the relevant stakeholders – like your benefactors, donors, and other organizations – about your services, ideas, and beliefs. Instead of paying millions of dollars to celebrities who have no interest in your product, to be in a ad that is very often blocked out by people, you can now speak from a place of passion and authenticity to people who care. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and YouTube are becoming very popular to get your message across to people in fun, creative, and yet meaningful ways. Make a list of things you need to get across to the relevant audiences, such as events, new service announcements, any media coverage, new ideas, and volunteering opportunities. And then identify the right channels to communicate the same. This will involve decisions like should you use Facebook Pages or Facebook Groups. Should you be on LinkedIn or MySpace or both?

c. Participate: The third aspect of a good SM plan is to create effective ways to participate. An important aspect of dialog is to reciprocate. If you find an interesting Blog, make comments. If you find an interesting Tweet, make sure to Re-tweet giving credit to the original tweeter. These are ways of recognizing and appreciating the contribution of people in your social network.

4) To whom is it targeted?
The choice of social media channels will depend upon where you think your target audience will be. Where do you think your customers go to connect or learn about the kind of product or service that you provide? Your choice of social media channels will depend upon where you can find potential donors, benefactors/customers, collaborators, and information to help you move towards your goals.

5) Who is responsible for implementing your Social Media strategy?
SM is time consuming but it can be integrated into your marketing strategy in a way that it feels more organic and natural to the people involved. While they may be one person overseeing SM, there are ways to integrate other employees, guest bloggers, customers, community members, and other people passionate about the product, cause, or service that your organization is promoting. Just ensure that you have clear rules around who and in what way each person will be involved.

6. Measuring impact periodically
The good news about many of the social media tools is that you can track some aspects of the impact you are making very easily. For example, in quantitative terms Twitter gives you statistics related to your Tweets on certain applications; Facebook pages gives you statistics; and the sheer number of followers and fans helps to some degree in telling about the response to your efforts. Some applications like stats counter can be added to Blogs to assess visitors. It is good to pay attention to the qualitative data related to your organization in terms of what people are saying about you. Over longer periods of time you can correlate the increase in SM statistics with increase in sales and traffic to better understand which channel is most productive for your goals. Very often, it is a combination of SM tools that will promote your goals and it may be hard to separate the effects of each.

7. What is the opportunity cost?
SM does take time and perhaps money away from what you could be doing with those resources instead. Make sure that your benefits in the long run exceed your costs before adopting a social media strategy. The key is to think long term.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is Embracing Diversity In Spaghetti Sauce "The Surer Way To True Happiness"?

This post is my initial reaction to a Ted's video featuring Malcolm Gladwell that I have posted on website.

In this talk, Malcolm Gladwell, author of the Tipping Point and Blink, acknowledges Howard Maskowitz for his contributions to business and to consumers. Howard Maskowitz was hired in the 80’s by Campbell to help with Prego, which was struggling against Ragu, the top brand in spaghetti sauce at the time. His market research revealed that there is no one best kind of product and instead the company needs to cluster their customers to understand what product will satisfy each group. Based on his advice Prego came up with the first extra chunky spaghetti sauce, which was an instant success and over the next 10 years they made over 600 million dollars selling super chunky spaghetti sauce.

And that’s when you started getting seven different kinds of vinegar, and 14 different kinds of mustard, and 71 different kinds of olive oil…That’s Howard’s doing. That is Howard’s gift to the American people.” And from diversity in product offerings, Gladwell jumps to embracing diversity in people as a sure way to happiness. His whole talk at Ted’s is about variety in spaghetti sauce and all the products we find in the super market today to meet consumers’ diverse needs and that he believes is what will make people happy? It is not about the artificial ingredients and genetically modified ingredients put in the sauce to make it appealing to a particular cluster but it is about providing choice and doing what ever it takes to make your customer happy, in the short run at least. Because we all know in the long run, it takes more than spaghetti sauce made with artificial ingredients to keep you healthy and therfore happy.

Indeed, Howard had some remarkable insights about how consumers’ responses in surveys can be misleading. And yes, consumers can be clustered according to their preferences. But is the best we can do and talk about is how to sell more spaghetti sauce? Why do the innovators and great minds not use their insights to improve consumer health and well being? For example, how can we cluster people to make mindfulness practices more appealing? How can we ensure that the products we offer cater to the health of the customers and the environment? What kind of innovations in the distribution system can ensure that there is more equitable distribution so that both waste and scarcity are eliminated?

How can we use innovations in marketing to improve not only your business but also the well being of your customers, employees, suppliers, and the environment? I believe there is a way…

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Do or die: Why you should learn the new social media technologies

I posted a new video on my website and you can watch it by clicking here.

This video provides some powerful uses of social media in the context of bringing awareness to issues that would have eluded us in the absence of these powerful new technologies. If you are a business with a purpose, you are very lucky to be operating in an environment that has so many opportunities for you to reach out to your target audience with your authentic content on a very small budget.

It may be intimidating to try these new technologies or we may pledge that we are too busy. Yet it is important to note the resistence you have towards these new opportunities, because you may be using the same mindset of resistence to view other opportunities that surround you, but you miss them because of a closed mindset. On the other extreme you may be so excited about all these new technologies that you lose perspective of how they integrate with your overall purpose. Using these technologies without authentic content that is meaningful to your desired audience is a waste of time for everybody.

Stay open, learn, and then decide how to use these technologies mindfully to deliver content that is authentic and meaningful to your target audience.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are You An Authentic Entrepreneur?

"The high prize of life, the crowning fortune of man, is to be born with a bias to some pursuit which finds him in employment and happiness"
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Finding and living in alignment with the inner purpose is the foundation for fulfilling your outer purpose. It is the basis for true success. Without that alignment, you can still achieve certain things through effort, struggle, determination and sheer hard work or cunning. But there is no joy in such an endeavor, and it invariably ends in some form of suffering".
- Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

"Think of your life as a house, with a bedroom for your personal life, a study for your professional life, a family room for your family, and a living room to share with your friends. Can you knock down the walls between these rooms and be the same person in each of them?"
- Bill George, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean, and Diana Mayer, Harvard Business Review

Living in alignment with your purpose is something that has been discussed by philosophers in the past and spiritual teachers today. Interestingly, this ideal is finding its way in business as well. Many successful entrepreneurs like Bill George (former CEO of Medtronics), Tami Simon (Founder of Sounds True), and John Mackie (CEO of Whole Foods) are beginning to describe an emerging business paradigm that is known by different names including authentic leadership, integral business, conscious capitalism, and mindful marketing.

What these emerging business models have in common is the idea of running a business that is inspired by a higher purpose that goes beyond making profits. While profits are necessary for business, they are not the raison d’ĂȘtre, just like food is necessary for humans to survive but is not the reason for living or at least that would be the hope. These alternative paradigms are becoming more relevant in the face of changing consumer sensibilities, new technologies, and failures of traditional business models based on the narrow vision of maximizing shareholder value.

So, what is purpose driven or authentic leadership? Heppner and Kernis (2007) provide a comprehensive definition of "authentic functioning as involving four distinct, yet interrelated components: awareness and knowledge of one’s self-aspects, unbiased processing of evaluative information, behavior that is aligned with one’s true self, and a relational orientation with close others that fosters openness and connectivity." Many of these components reflect ongoing activities rather than characteristic traits that can be acquired once and for all. For example, awareness of self is a continuous process of reflection and contemplation on the self; to be aligned with true self assumes that true self is knowable in one go and permanent, but in fact we know that just like everything else, self is ever changing and so is our knowledge of the self. As such, it is more constructive to think of authentic functioning as a process rather than a stable trait.

Authentic or purpose driven entrepreneurship includes other processes that are unique to the business context. In addition to the processes described under general authentic functioning, authentic entrepreneurs are driven by a higher purpose that contributes positively to the world. In addition, they are courageous, committed, and creative; open; and enjoy the many challenges of being authentic entrepreneurs. Each of these aspects of authentic entrepreneurs is described next:

1) Inspired
Authentic entrepreneurs are inspired by a purpose beyond profits. Inspiration is different from motivation. While motivation is driven by external factors like financial and social benefits, inspiration arises from individuals’ unique life experiences and passions. In a recent Harvard Business Review article Bill George and his colleagues describe the inspiration authentic leaders derive from their life stories and the transformative role of challenges in their lives. Inspired people are energized and empowered to do things that normally people are not able to accomplish. Dr. Larry Brilliant, epidemiologist, successful entrepreneur, technologist, author, philanthropist, and former executive director of, is a perfect example of an inspired leader. Because only an inspired person can spend six years traversing India, enduring floods and drought, sickness and fatigue to help the WHO eradicate small pox from this world.

What is your inspired purpose?
(Here is a post to help you reflect on your inner purpose if you need additional help)

2) Positive Contribution
An authentic entrepreneur is inspired by a higher purpose that makes a positive contribution to the world. John Mackie describes conscious businesses as benefiting all stakeholders rather than only shareholders. This does not mean that businesses in certain sectors like fashion or entertainment cannot make a positive contribution. For example, Bonnie Siefers, an eco-designer and owner of Sami Designs Inc. is inspired by her love for fashion and the environment. She designs and sources clothes that are environmentally friendly, cutting-edge, and providing fair wages to workers.

What is your positive contribution?

3) Integrated
The values and purpose guiding authentic entrepreneurs are not merely strategies to win a loyal customer following but are their natural way of being. Such people live their talk not only at work but also in their personal lives. It is easy for customers to assess when the values of authentic leaders are integrated fully into the company and when they are being used as a strategy. For example, when Starbucks says it is selling fair trade coffee, it refers to a small percentage of its entire coffee purchase (3.7% according to Organic Consumers Association) that is offered only once a week to its customers, where as when a company like Deans Beans says it is selling fair trade it means 100% of it’s purchase is fair trade because it is not a strategy but a well integrated value. Like Bill George et al, I believe life can be much simpler if we can be the same person in all aspects of our lives. Gandhi’s quote on happiness is relevant here: "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

How integrated are you across different aspects of your life?

4) Self awareness
"When the 75 members of Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop, their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness" (Bill George et al). While colleges and schools provide ample training in various skills and disciplines, they do not provide any training in self-awareness. However, many leading business people, like John Mackie (CEO of Whole Foods), Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia), Bill George (Former CEO of Medtronics), and Michael Rennie (McKinsey Managing Partner) are beginning to openly discuss the merits of practices like meditation and mindfulness. In addition, there is a lot of scientific research to provide evidence to support these practices. As an authentic entrepreneur managing your business mindfully and innovatively requires some time out of your daily routine to spend in silence to connect with your self and find your truth.

What do you do to get in touch with your self?

5) Courage, commitment, and creativity
Having a higher purpose is inspiring but can be challenging because there are many willing to take shortcuts that an authentic entrepreneur will not consider. Being an authentic entrepreneur is certainly not for the weak at heart. Neil Crofts (2005) has a very interesting quote in his book, Authentic Business, by Arthur Schopenhauer, "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." If you are an authentic entrepreneur, be prepared to be challenged. You will need not only courage and commitment but also a huge dose of creativity to compete with others while balancing your purpose with profitability. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, provides a good example of an entrepreneur who followed his passion relentlessly for ten years without making a profit. Tim O'Reilly nicely captures this in a quote by Jeff Bezos, "There are a few prerequisites to inventing.... You have to be willing to fail. You have to be willing to think long term. You have to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time."

Are you courageous, committed, and creative?

6) Open and receptive
I love the quote by Gloria Steinem, "The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off." Authentic leaders are open to feedback - both positive and negative. They are humble enough to acknowledge mistakes and smart enough to recognize that there is much to be learned from them. The other dimension of being open is that they can deal with multiple perspectives and generally have wide-ranging experiences and expertise. This renders to their natural curiosity to learn and innovate.

How open are you to feedback and multiple perspectives?

7) Support teams and networks
Authentic leaders do not work alone but build effective networks by empowering people. Bill George et al describe support teams as necessary to authentic leadership. These should be mutually beneficial collaborations and include personal and professional relationships. Examples of such networks include family members, business groups sharing common purpose, and online network communities. They take years to build and the key to success is creating a platform for people to speak their minds honestly without fear of being judged.

Are you building strong support networks?

8) Enjoy
Last but not least, authentic entrepreneurs enjoy the journey as much as the destination. In fact, another way to know that you are following your inner purpose is by asking the question -

Do you really enjoy what you do?

Crofts, Neil (2005), "Authentic Business: How to Create and Run Your Perfect Business," Capstone

George, Bill, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean, and Diana Mayer (2007), "Discovering Your Authentic Leadership," Harvard Business Review.

Heppner, Whitney L and Michael H. Kernis (2007), "Quiet Ego" Functioning: The Complementary Roles of Mindfulness, Authenticity, and Secure High Self-Esteem
Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, 1532-7965, Volume 18, Issue 4, 2007, Pages 248 - 251