One new idea every day

When I published my memoir, Growing Up Country, my goal was to implement one new marketing idea every day.  With marketing I was finally in my comfort zone! After 30 years in marketing, I knew that even the best product in the world wouldn’t sell one unit if no one knew about it.

I was reasonably successful with that lofty goal and book sales showed it.  Now that I’ve had books in hand for over a year, I’ve backed off demanding ‘one new idea every day,’ but the week doesn’t go by that I don’t think about getting in front of people with my book somehow.
 
My latest marketing approach is to look for opportunities to write about childhood or farm memories. As we Boomers age, nostalgia is a natural and more media are responding to this interest. My book mention comes in the descriptive author tag.  Just last week, I wrote such a piece for the Des Moines Register’s fiftysomething insert.  Titled “Playing in the sky,” my recollection was about Dad and Mom helping us kids build and learn to fly kites. 
 
Whether this piece will result directly in book sales or not remains to be seen.  But what I do know is that having my name and book title in front of my target market pays off over time.  A gentle reminder.  

Just right

Along with many millions of other residents of Planet Earth, I was glued to my TV yesterday watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama.  As a public relations counselor for more than 30 years, I listened to his inauguration speech with one ear tuned to my own reaction and the other ear gauging how the speech would be received by the media and the public.

As President Obama spoke, I listened to the structure, the cadence, the content, the meaning, the message.  I listened for the memorable sound bite.  President Obama is certainly capable of soaring rhetoric, he could stand toe to toe with Martin Luther King, Jr., but in this speech, he did not deliver the one phrase that stands above all else nor did he whip the crowd to a frenzied peak. Was this a mistake?  I believe not.
 
Our new President spoke to the world on the topics and in a manner that were most appropriate to the occasion.
  • He spoke to who he is: “I stand here today, humbled by the task … grateful for the trust … mindful of the sacrifices” 
  • He spoke to a new outlook: “we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord”
  • He spoke to our pride: “there are some who question the scale of our ambitions … but their memories are short. For they have forgotten … what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage’
  • He spoke to the world of a new America: ‘we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals’
  • He spoke to our strength: “I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. … But know this, America – they will be met.’
As I watched the faces in the crowd, I saw that people were drawing from the speech, the day, the experience, just what they needed. Each person would hear the phrase that spoke to him or her. President Obama didn’t deliver one phrase for everyone, he delivered one phrase to each listener’s heart.
 
He was presidential. He was a statesman. He was true to who he is – an intelligent, thoughtful, wise man. A leader.

What do you need?

Recently I stopped at a deli for lunch.  When I walked up, tray in hand, the young man at the cash register said, as they always do, “How are you today? Did you get everything you need?”  I said – as I always do – “I’m well, and yes I did.”  I said this as I fished through my purse for the money to pay. Then, I hesitated, remembering my some-time vow to note and call people by name, so I looked up, caught his name from the badge, and added, “It’s a nice day. And how are you, Jason? Got big plans for the weekend?”

“I’m looking forward to seeing my family. They’re coming in from Colorado. Thank you for asking how I am,” Jason said.  
 
Our little exchange lasted maybe 30 seconds.  But it was his comment, Thank you for asking how I am, that has had me thinking ever since. 
 
We interact with people every day, many of whom provide us some service. I value all these people who facilitate my life, I truly do. But it’s easy to look past them. Easy to be in a rush. Easy to stay lost in my own thoughts, my own agenda, my own problems. Easy to overlook that another human being has just entered the sphere of my life.
 
It is quite likely that Jason did not see running a cash register as the job he’d most like to have in the world. Just as likely that after taking money from hand after hand, he felt more like a robot than a person. So when someone called him by name, he was pulled out of anonymity, validated as a person in some small way. 
 
I am glad he noted that my comment meant something to him.  Because when he did, he made me think about what I need, perhaps what any of us needs. What we really need may be for someone to take a moment to see us – and talk to us – like real people.
 

Using the right equipment

People tell me writing a blog should be easy. After all, they say, I’m a writer. But from my perspective, being a writer makes it all the harder. I know how much I labor over the words in the articles I write, in the book I published. To spend precious time writing something that I don’t have to write … well. At the same time, I keep tripping across little things – having these little experiences – that I just know I’m supposed to notice, and write about. Today the little thing is YakTrax.

 
I’m a walker. Almost every day, regardless of weather, I head outside for a walk. Mother nature has thrown down the gauntlet this winter in Iowa, rotating ice and snow on a weekly basis. But I am not deterred. If the Alaskans and Norwegians can survive and thrive in all that snow, so can I. 
 
My theory is it’s all in being prepared, having the right equipment.  A face mask against the wind. Mittens that let me expose my fingers without freezing my hands. Still, before my husband came home with YakTrax, I resigned myself to the treadmill at winter’s first sign of ice. Walking every step afraid I’d fall just wasn’t worth it. But once I slipped these little gizmos made of rubber and metal coils over the soles of my shoes, I found I had traction. I could step out with confidence. I didn’t worry about falling.
 
In his book On Writing, Stephen King talks about how important it is for writers to have the right tools in their writing kits.  Perhaps writing a blog will be like YakTrax. One more piece of equipment I’ll discover lets me step out with confidence.