Inspiration for the New Year: What Makes B2B Communicators Tick?

It’s the start of a new year, and I’m in need of new inspiration. Whether it’s post-holiday funk or the biting winter chill, I’m in need of a motivational re-boot – and maybe a warm-weather trip.

Since a good dose of Vitamin D won’t hit my system for another month, I went searching for advice from several BlissPR colleagues and a few other B2B communications pros to learn what “words of wisdom” impacted them most professionally over the last year.

  • “Experiment.” In early November, I heard Rik Kirkland of McKinsey, and the genius behind “What Matters,” talk about the state of journalism, publishing and public relations today. He told a story about how before the invention of the printing press, when monks were transcribing documents by hand, there was a roughly 100 year period before anyone knew how communications would evolve. He compared this time to then, and said something along the lines of “if anyone tells you he knows where communications is going, he’s a liar.” That helped me to take a deep breath. He also advised that this is a good time for experimentation, for “test and learn” scenarios, and reminded us that at some point – and it won’t take 100 years – we will look back and understand the bookends of the latest communications evolution. – Abby Carr, Managing Director at BlissPR
  • “Be present.” It’s a lot harder than it sounds. Despite how busy you are, your time and interest may make the difference in someone’s day. – marketing manager at an international law firm
  •  “To learn, read. To know, write. To master, teach.” My favorite piece of advice last year came from this Yogi tea fortune. I also focused on listening more…to everyone. It makes you a better professional and a better student.         – Cortney Rhoads Stapleton, Senior Vice President at BlissPR
  • “Be open to – and foster – unstructured discussion.” I have a tendency to be more process-driven, so my manager encouraged me to meet with people (especially those I manage) without a formal agenda more often. Having these informal meetings has helped me to listen better, and uncover and address issues that otherwise may have festered. Likewise, it prompts important discussions about topics that may never have bubbled up as an agenda item. I think it has made me a better manager, encouraged fresh thinking and improved the functioning of my teams.  – Caroline Handorf, Vice President, Issues Management at Edelman
  • “Rehearse your disasters.” My grandmother gave me this advice many years ago. I’ve always thought that caution meant “plan ahead to avoid nasty surprises.” But now that I’m knee-deep in social media projects, I’ve started to think about the advice differently. It may be time to actively pursue disaster. In an “A vs. B testing” world, we routinely pursue failure, hoping that the intelligence we gain gives a larger pay-off later. My younger self would have recoiled in horror at the notion of telling clients “expect failure.” But my older self feels empowered and excited about the deeper success I may be able to promise them down the road.     – Elizabeth Sosnow, Managing Director at BlissPR
  • “Follow an agenda, not a to-do list.” When I attended the Council of PR Firms’ Harvard Leadership Program in June of 2009, Dr. Ashish Nanda, a Harvard Business School professor who leads the program, advised all of us to look up from our daily work and stay focused on the big picture. We created a five-bullet point list of the goals and initiatives that are most important to us this year. Now everything that comes across my desk gets run through this filter. I ask, “How does this allocation of my time support my agenda? How can I help the people on my team realize their agendas?” – Margy Sweeney, Vice President at BlissPR

As for me – my theme for 2009 was “Why Not?” They were words that came from my father who passed away very suddenly in March 2008. An entrepreneur whom he mentored over the years shared memories about how my father would constantly push him to do more and take on new challenges. When he’d start questioning whether he was capable of a new venture or achieving a difficult project, my dad would just look at him with a baffled expression and say “why not?”

I tried to take those words to heart, and it was no easy task. I have a tendency to stress about jumping into new things – I like to research possible options and think through how I can get a successful outcome before diving in. So, you can imagine my hesitation about getting into the social media space. Rather than my typical “eek, not sure I have time for this” reaction, I repeated my mantra “why not?” this year and pushed myself to experiment. I’ve played around on Twitter, I’ve written several blog posts, I started commenting on other posts, I helped with social media audits and launched a web site. Have I succeeded in everything? No. But, I’m learning through trial and error. It has made me a smarter adviser to clients and pushed me in new directions professionally. I’m in a totally different place than I ever thought I’d be a year ago.

It has been an interesting year of change for communications professionals, and more lies ahead. The insights I collected gave me new motivation for the year ahead.

What has inspired you?


To reach Kellie:

Twitter: @kshe
LinkedIn: Kellie Sheehan