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Mentor Up!

Portfolio review practice Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Portfolio review practice
Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

After attending a weekend portfolio building workshop at University of Oregon’s SOJC, I was reminded of the power of mentorship.

Many of us, at one time or another, have benefited from a personal or professional mentor in our lives. In fact, Public/Private Ventures conducted a study for Big Brothers Big Sisters and found that after 18 months of meeting with their “Bigs,” “Littles” were:

  • 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
  • 52% less likely to skip school
  • 37% less likely to skip a class
  • 33% less likely to hit someone

But what does this look like in the professional world?

Erica Ciszek speaks with Brian Bradley about his portfolio Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Erica Ciszek speaks with Brian Bradley about his portfolio
Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Traditionally, professional mentorships consisted of a learned authority figure granting wisdom and knowledge to a newcomer. This model provides a safe and supportive environment where skills can be built and lessons can be learned with a safety net in place.

Today, mentors realize that a two-way relationship creates a “learning organization.” When business leaders welcome the fresh perspectives of young industry novices, the return on investment can lead to organizational growth.

Shared Ideas Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Shared Ideas
Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Marina Khidekel’s article in Bloomberg Businessweek clarifies a few mentoring strategy terms utilized by business leaders today.

  • “Peer mentoring” or a “lean in circle” used by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, consists of similar-minded individuals meeting to share with and support one another.
  • “Reverse mentoring” compliment of former General Electric’s Chairman, Jack Welch,  occurs when younger employees help older employees stay current.
  • “Speed mentoring” events hosted by New York Women in Communications facilitate a speed dating style exchange between potential mentors and mentees.
Kathryn Kuttis leads our informative and collaborative workshop Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Kathryn Kuttis leads our informative and collaborative workshop
Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Each organization must navigate its own mentorship approach based on internal culture and objective goals. But, ultimately, the safety nets for creative growth can be found and harnessed on all levels.

Thank you to the many and memorable mentors and mentees who have bravely ventured into the uncertain world of personal and professional growth!

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November 15, 2013 · 6:52 am

It’s The Most Messagy Time of the Year

Image courtesy of anthonycz at 123RF

Image courtesy of anthonycz at 123RF

As the holidays approach, we may be bracing ourselves for message overload. Mailboxes are stuffed with pamphlets and newsletters. Inboxes are loaded with bold-faced, unread emails asking for donations. Petition slingers line the streets. And newspapers tip the scale at 4 pounds of sale ads.

No one is plotting a daily dose of guilt for us. We are not the designated prey of vicious marketing hounds. But it feels like it sometimes.

This is a volume issue: quantity and intensity.

So, in these days of mass messaging, how can organizations stand out and harness our support? David Wallis’ recent article in The New York Times highlights a few issues and solutions.

Wallis addresses an increase in quantity by citing the National Center for Charitable Statistics study that showed an increase in the number of registered nonprofit organizations by more than 21 percent between 2001 and 2011.

In addition, Wallis describes the intensity of messaging as shock, noise and vulgar expression. We’ve all seen examples of messaging turn-offs. More is not always better.

However, intensity, if done well, can be compelling and can incite action. It can even be fun and, more importantly, sharable.

McCann Erickson’s Melbourne marketing team created the “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign for Metro Trains in 2012. The goal was to increase safety around the train station. Make safety appealing to young people. Hmmm. That’s a tough one.

McCann decided to go with funny, irreverent, a little gross and super catchy. And they nailed it!

The original song and video went viral. Mobile apps followed and even an interactive game starring the video’s animated characters. The likable and sharable campaign spurred social media interests to do the legwork for Metro Trains.

Is creating the next viral video the right answer for every organization? Not necessarily. Instead, message creators should consider segmenting their key publics as much as possible. One BIG idea, even if you crank up the volume, will not be heard and certainly not responded to by everyone.

In this year’s sea of holiday messaging, ask yourself “What catches my attention?” And more importantly, “What messages compel me to act? And why?”

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November 15, 2013 · 3:00 am

Data Visualization: Then and Now

Data visualization is a hot topic. Business leaders in a variety of industries are learning about and making room for infographics in their public relations, marketing and advertising plans. Infographics are a great tactic when large concepts or amounts of information need simplification – not omission – to increase message accessibility and absorption within key publics.

Alex Lundry, VP and Director of Research at TargetPoint, explains that “we should expect to see more visualizations used for messaging purposes … And add visual thinking to our citizenship toolkit.”

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/g9M1gbi4eQI.x?p=1 width=”580″ height=”300″]

In a 2011 interview with The European, visionary George Dyson claimed, “Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive.” With tsunamis of input – compliments of the digital age – bombarding our daily lives, it is increasingly difficult to distill data. It is even more difficult to find meaning within all of that data.

Though I refer to data visualization as a ‘hot topic,’ that is not to say that it is a new topic. The search for meaning in a sea of information has been a challenge throughout history.

Infographic: Library of Congress via The New Yorker

The above infographic came to my attention via Gareth Cook’s recent article in The New Yorker. Cook describes President Lincoln’s “Slave Map” as heavily shaded in regions with a high slave population.

By cross-referencing demographics with region, Lincoln was able to see opportunities for pro-Union support in the South.

This simple infographic allowed Lincoln to view the South as a political landscape. And it afforded him a meaningful and, therefore, useful context. The states were no longer simply Union or Confederate; their individual complexities became a source of hope.

Like Lundry, Dyson and Lincoln, we are appreciators of information. But what we truly desire is meaning. And data visualization helps us transform chaos into clarity.

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November 8, 2013 · 9:57 pm