messaging

Divorce (And Other Yuck) PR

About a year and a half ago my life blew up. Both in an epic way and also a private way.

My husband walked out and I unexpectedly found myself looking for a new place to live and getting divorced… while still trying to do the things I typically do in my life like running businesses. Honestly, I was pretty non-functional for a few months (and am grateful for my Breaking Even team for pulling my weight for awhile while I melted down) and felt a range of emotions that was very similar to how I felt when my father died.

There are certain personal life events (say, going through a divorce) or business events (say, going through a legal battle) that you have to manage communications about.

I am sure I could have handled my own communications better but I have learned some things, from my own situation and others, that I can pass on about how to deal with this online.

Note: I get that I am a very open book person… and some of you are less so or not at all. I think this post is still helpful, wherever you are on the communication spectrum.



Think of how you want people to help you.

I know this seems like a silly first thing to think of but what you’ll find is that most people are good and want to help. And if you don’t give them something specific, they are going to think of their own ways to help you, which you may or may not appreciate.

Asking someone to pick up your kid from daycare or leaving a positive online review (or whatever you’d appreciate) isn’t selfish. It gives that energy people have somewhere positive to go. I asked for help finding housing, for help moving, even for dinner occasionally. I feel like the people I asked were the opposite of resentful. Asking family, friends, and customers for help isn’t a weakness but a strength. And you’ll know it once you try it, which I hope you don’t have to do anytime soon.

Get ahead of it, if it makes you feel better.

Going through a divorce means you find yourself in the rumor mill. And you have two options: you can let things circulate or you can get ahead of it.

If you want to let the rumor mill do its work, that is a fine way to go. “Let people talk,” and keep doing your thing.

But as a direct person, I really wanted to get ahead of it. An elevator speech will help with this.

Mine: “Derrick recently left me. I’m doing ok but currently looking for someplace to live if you hear of anything.” (See how I combined elevator speech with asking for help there?)

The elevator speech helps you manage one on one interactions and feel better doing so.

If you are comfortable and want to take ‘getting ahead of it’ a step further, a blanket social media statement will also help you really start cooking with gas.

This is how I handled it:

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Perfect? No. But good enough.

And in case you want another idea, here’s how Elizabeth Gilbert handled her divorce declaration on her Facebook business page:

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We could argue that, despite Elizabeth Gilbert’s post being a much more mobile friendly one, sharing it made absolute sense since she wrote a book about marriage, whereas my marriage has nothing to do with my brand. My opinion though is the right thing to say, and whether you say anything at all, is an individual judgement call.

I do estimate that my Facebook post saved me about 400 uncomfortable conversations I would have had to have over the last 2 years. In other words, it was worth it to me.

Assume no one knows because it makes things easier.

Even when you ‘get ahead of it’, I can’t tell you how loaded the ‘How are you?’ question was for me for awhile (and even now when someone I don’t know well asks me).

But consider these two scenarios: a room full of people who know NOTHING about your situation and a room full of people who know SOMETHING about your situation. Wouldn’t you prefer the room that knows nothing? I do and so that’s how I treated everyone who asked me ‘How are you?’

Practice your answer to ‘how are you’ or ‘how’s business?’ as if the person you are talking to knows nothing. The ‘how are you’ answer may be your elevator speech or something else.  If you are caught off guard, you may end up crying at the bank or something.

It does get easier every time you say it though. Promise. Just keep it short, stick to facts, and be honest about how you are feeling.



Frame positively and get help doing it.

No one wants to be around a giant bummer, online or off. If you can frame something positively, do it.

If you need help making sure you’re not a giant bummer, have a friend (or hey, even us) read your public social media posts, blog posts, email newsletters, etc. before they go out for awhile. Even when I am not in the middle of a divorce, I can be hugely self deprecating without meaning to. Having a company policy that someone else reads copy before it gets published has been a good way to us to police ourselves in that respect.

Be authentic.

So I once went to a marketing conference that had a panel of small business owners. The owner of a local drive-in was one of them. She told stories about her business and personal struggles and rather than making me think less of her, it actually allowed me to respect her more. And while I don’t remember her name or story details, I still remember positive associations about the Saco Drive-In. 🙂

Don’t pretend you aren’t struggling if you are, or vice versa actually. People can smell it a mile away, even on the internet. Authentic is not guttural (see ‘positive framing’ above), just truthful.



Vent privately (or keep the negative as unpublic as possible).

No matter who you are, you need to vent. Get a therapist. Spread your vents out over some trustworthy, vault-like friends. Write in your diary. Go to a retreat.

Me, I got a divorce coach, very accidentally. This gave me someone to text when I had a petty thought, or someone to call crying when needed. I loved that this person was completely unconnected to my daily life and had no stake in anything. I will be forever grateful he came into my life when he did and hope to return the favor to someone else someday.

In other words, depending on how you want to interact with your negative thoughts, there is a way to privately do it.

Take the perks.

People will bring you booze, or give you a project you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Or something that feels like a benefit you’re receiving solely because of what you’ve been through.

I spent the first month feeling bad about this. Then I started identifying “divorce perks” as they came in and acknowledging the goodness of the people extending them. And it felt awesome. Seriously, in this truly awful time in your life, take the good.


I hope none of you reading this are in the middle of a crappy situation… but if you are, I hope this gives you encouragement that you can not only manage how other people see it but in turn, manage how you do as well.

Onward and upward. You’ve got this. I’ve had several people tell me they were ‘jealous’ of my year. You know what that is, folks? Marketing.



The Internet of Good

“Life is full of ups and downs, you know that. But please take a deep breath, I can’t understand what you’re saying right now”- my mom.

And she’s right, I do know that, and so do you (the ups and downs, anyway)- it’s something we’ve all been told at some point or another. Over the past couple weeks, it seems the world (or the world according to me) is collectively experiencing the down. Some people are saying it’s the moon, but I’m not entirely convinced. It feels like every day, we wake up to more stories about data breaches, violence and terrorism, death, illness, and ongoing issues (drought out west, Ebola in Africa) that I’ve forgotten about because of the newer threats we’re presented with.

But, you know what? There’s always going to be a disaster or craziness. As I became increasingly overwhelmed (and called my mom, because she always doles out the facts of life when I need them), the notion of “you see what you look for” popped into my head. Basically, if you’re looking for something bad, you’ll find it. So, I thought it’d be refreshing to actively look for ways that people use social media and the internet to demonstrate kindness in all shapes and sizes.



Using Internet fame for a cause. Singers and actors are often praised for their charitable actions, but there are quite a few internet famous people who contribute to causes. You may have heard of certain memes using their notoriety for a cause. For example, all proceeds that Lil Bub (the cat) generates go toward animal sheltersThe girl behind “Overly Attached Girlfriend” created a fundraiser that donates to a different, predetermined charity every month. There’s also people who are famous in certain circles, like the gaming world. YouTube famous World of Warcraft player Athene created a charity called “Gaming for Good” after realizing tens of thousands of people regularly view his videos.

Kid President is another example of internet fame for a cause. He spreads his positive messages through short videos and social media in the hopes that it encourages kids and adults to work together to make the world a better place. His pep-talk video is one of my favorites:

These are all people (or cats) who have decided not to rest on their laurels of internet fame, but decided to use it to make an impact besides general hilarity.



Sharing the tough stuff. We’re all on a journey, right? While most people (myself included) share only their highlight reel on social media, some people share their difficulties as a way to raise awareness and/or help others who are also going through difficult times(like the “It Gets Better” campaign). These stories, wherever they are shared, are demonstrations of courage that encourage others to start a conversation.

Yesterday I saw this article about a girl on who has been on a difficult road to recovery since 2012, when she received  up paralyzed from the waist down. In spite of complications along the way, she started a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and documented her recovery process-the good, the bad, and the ugly, on Imgur (a site I admittedly know nothing about).  You can check out the original post hereI’ve also read a lot from those recovering from addiction, abuse, and eating disorders (here is one I read this morning). Even when these stories are submitted anonymously, they comfort people who, like me, tend to internalize their struggles.

A website built around sharing stories of everyday people, Humans of New York , shares stories of those who live in the city. Just the people you walk by on the street. The mini-profiles remind us that there’s always more than meets the eye.

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Reading these stories reminds me that a) everyone is experiencing their own adversity, and b) it’s pretty amazing that we can identify with people we’ve never met before.



Losing and Finding. This is probably the most common type of post I’ve seen, and a lot of times, it can be the most heart-wrenching. Any time a local pup gets lost, I’m amazed at how responsive people are on social media. People band together in interesting ways during moments of loss, including loss of tangible things. I guess the amazing part is that things get shared by strangers who have no connection to the people who have lost something- they’re just passing a message along and hoping for the best. No investments or ulterior motives, just people trying to help each other out.

This man found a wedding ring while scuba diving and shared it on Facebook, and after diligently wading through false claims, was able to return the ring to its rightful owner. Little did he know, the couple had been enduring an incredibly difficult time with the deaths of loved ones (on both sides), so the return of the ring served as a reminder “‘there are a lot of good people still out there.'”



Inviting Participation. People have created Facebook groups and websites dedicated to recognizing acts of kindness and general connections with humanity. It’s basically a way to pay it forward. I’m part of an “Awesome Acts of Kindness” Facebook Group, and basically people share the acts of kindness that they’ve either witnessed or experienced and want to share with others. There’s also “Giving Tuesday” and other funding related efforts. Inviting others to participate can mean sharing a photo, using a hashtag, making an online donation, or asking for physical volunteering help.

As a final thought on “The Internet of Good,” I couldn’t ignore Marcel the Shell, who always looks on the bright side (and is the best use of YouTube I’ve ever come across).



3 Instagram Apps To Make Your Life Way Easier

I am the first person to admit my life is hardly Instagrammable it seems. But I’m trying to take this opportunity of Instagram to be a sort of ‘stop and smell the flowers’ kind of thing. What little thing can I notice that’s interesting? What artistic spin can I put on something ordinary?

But I’ve recently been looking at Instagram a lot and realizing some people are either way more attractive/on top of it than I am… either that or they have some tools at their disposal I hadn’t considered. Of course, it was (mostly) the latter.

Here are three categories of app you may have wished Instagram had (and other social networks seem to do already) and how you can be the master of your own destiny.

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Instagram Feat #1: Being Really Ridiculously Good Looking

So I just thought everyone on Instagram was good looking… until I discovered some apps. In particular, moreBeaute2 (I appreciate the Frenchness of that, personally).

There are tons of apps that make you look better with but the subtle(ish) Photoshoppy quality of this one, it is my favorite. Some lipstick, my hair done, and a better camera angle and I would have been Instagram worthy today too! (Apparently VSCOcam can also take this to another level if you like messing with color balance, temperature, etc. but honestly, the moreBeaute2 was enough of an improvement for me.)

Before (yes I tie my hair back usually when I’m working):
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After (Yes, I used this crappy picture on purpose- Imagine how ridiculously good looking I could have been had I used a great one!)

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Instagram Feat #2: Resharing That Person’s Clever Post

So I saw this go by a couple weeks ago and was like YES! (Mainly because I had an accent at one point in my life but worked hard to get rid of it because people made me feel less than with it):

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So how do you reshare something? Well there are two ways:

1) Use the Repost app (gives an obnoxiously large attribution on the image).
2) Use the Instagrab app.

I kind of wish there was a way to attribute that was a little less subtle than having something in the comments and a little less obnoxious that attribution covers up an important part of the image but alas, Instagram can’t be everything.

Instagram Feat #3: Messaging People

So there is no way to message people in Instagram… or so we think.

Kik exists for just such a purpose... but according to Derrick appears to mainly be porn bots looking for victims (um, I mean, send targeted traffic to a paid site). Maybe we’re just not the target audience (apparently 16-20 year olds are the heaviest app users).

There is also Instagram Direct, which is a way for users to somewhat contact other users directly and privately.

Instagram is a lot like Twitter in that its open platform have allowed others to develop using it. Facebook is a more insular model: as users, we have to wait for Facebook to create the things we want.

There is no doubt other things you want to do on Instagram but those seem to be some of the big things available in some other social networks out there. Have at!

P.S. If you want to read an article to make yourself feel better at all those effortless-seeming Instagram posts you see other people do, this article is for you:  http://www.bustle.com/articles/32177-what-i-instagrammed-vs-what-was-really-happening-or-my-entire-life-is-a-lie As someone who has not yet pissed off a loved one or been late to work due to Instagram, I hope my streak continues… but maybe with some better photos in my stream.

 

I Versus We: What To Use When Marketing My Business?

shouldimarketmybusinessasA client emailed me a question I was asking myself about my own website/marketing:

“Should I use ‘I’ or ‘we’ when I write content for an email newsletter, Facebook page, etc.?”

It’s one I’ve had to ask myself again after two years of having a definite answer. Here’s how I made my decision, and how you can make yours:

Do you do everything yourself? In my case, no. To pretend I can market my business, run my business, do classes and seminars, and serve roughly 40-50 clients a month is ridiculous and completely inaccurate. I don’t want a client to get the impression that I am the only one who is ever going to do the work, because that is false.

Are you relying on others for some of the skills you are marketing? An example: one of the things the company offers is database manipulation. I can’t do it but it is something that periodically needs to happen on a project. Instead, I work with Ashley, who is a database expert. Since I don’t have this skill, when I refer to it being done for a client, I always refer to Ashley doing the work because 1) it is accurate and 2) I don’t feel like a slimeball taking credit for someone else’s work.

Aside: I am probably over sensitive about the giving credit thing. One time in a meeting, an old boss took credit for an idea that I had and got a lot of praise from upper management. In that awkward and infuriating moment, I decided I would never do that to someone else.

Will your clients/customers be talking with other people related to your company’s work? So Alice did some site maintenance and occasionally, had a follow-up question for a client. Now if I was pretending she wasn’t there, I’d have to email the client her question and forward her the email response from them. Can you say ‘bottleneck’?



Instead Alice emailed the client directly, which is quicker and easier. Since clients talk to other people in this company, I really ought to knowledge their existence.

So depending on your answers to the questions above, you’ll see if you’re a ‘we’ or an ‘I’. In my business’ case, even though I’m technically a one full time employee show, Breaking Even works with others to do good work. Breaking Even is a we.

Now I want to take a moment here to say there is nothing wrong with being an ‘I’. Some people really like working with the owner/work-doer directly as I learned the first couple years when this company was very much an ‘I’. But pretending you have a team of people when you don’t is as disingenuous as me pretending I do everything all the time at Breaking Even.

My point: Embrace who you are and market accordingly. Whether you are an ‘I’ or a ‘we’, if good work is happening people will take notice.

Note: I vet any new subcontractors/potential employees with work for Breaking Even before ever putting them on a client project. That way if they screw up, it’s my site/project, not yours.