Behind the Scenes: 10 Lessons from a "Chaos Coordinator"

Behind the Scenes: 10 Lessons from a "Chaos Coordinator"

Since I've just come off a major festival for my company, I wanted to share a behind the scenes look at what I value, what I like to focus on, and what I've learned from our bigger festivals. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned as an event planner.

Balance is something you create.

Raise your hand if you have ever googled “how can I find a work + life balance” or “how do I find a life outside of work?” Maybe you’ve been researching time management skills or planning to hire someone onto your team.  Even though I can’t see that hand raised, I have a pretty good feeling that I am not alone in this never ending quest to be more productive and still have a personal life. 

So for April’s quote, let’s try this one:

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Sure, there’s tons of advice on the finding your balance.

You can try time blocking on your calendar, focusing on 1-2 hours of deep work, and inbox zero techniques. There’s this concept of closing your computer at 5 pm or using all your vacation days. There are daily timelines, email organization techniques, Trello organization boards, and utilizing no meeting day ideas. There are assistants and interns and colleagues. There are gyms and yoga studios around the corner, and Pinterest boards full of ideas for your next meal prep session.

We can find all kinds of ways to help us stay balanced and find a happy medium.

But ultimately, it all starts with you. If you don’t really use the techniques and Google search results, you are not going to find balance. If you don’t have the resources to make that hire, or buy that software, what’s next? If you don't try a few new techniques, how will you ever find something that works best for you? 

And, if you don’t know what that balance looks likes for you - how can you even find it? 

I hope throughout my monthly series, you have been able to figure out what your balance looks like. And if not, it's time to figure it out. 

  • Enjoy a fast-paced life? 
  • Maybe you prefer daily time to spend with friends and loved ones?
  • Do you need to alone time - to relax or read or just be? 
  • Does working out make you more creative, or catching up on the news make you want to pick up a pen and paper or open up your blog? 
  • Are you wanting to find the newest restaurant, or discover the newest music sensation so you can be the first to tell all your friends?

What is it that makes you feel accomplished and at peace at the same time? If you can figure that out, you can create your own balance.

Instagram's New Highlight Feature

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Instagram has enabled the latest and greatest tool for marketers - Instagram Highlights

Here's Instagram's quick version of how to create highlights. Personally, I didn't feel like this was enough, so I wanted to share what I've learned so far.

First, I'm going to backtrack a bit here. if you aren't using stories, you absolutely should be. Stories are a phenomenal tool for marketers. You can craft your content in a whole new way. I like to think about them as a mini blog -- that's animated. Stories are short clips that allow for both videos and photos, so there are a TON of ways to be creative.  Plus, Instagram places your story at the top of the news feed for all your followers, and it also highlights them again as you scroll down your news feed. But, they are only available for 24 hours.  More about stories to come in a later blog post. 

Now, back to highlights.  

In a nutshell, highlights are created using clips from stories you have posted.

Click on the video to the right to watch me in action.

Quick side note - this was my first ever attempt at a screen recording, much less a video with me talking. I laughed at myself a lot, learned some new techniques after about the fifth try, and hopefully have created a video you can find helpful.

Marketers NEED to take advantage of this new tool. Highlights are featured right on your Instagram profile page. So now, anytime someone clicks on your profile, they will see the beautiful and creative graphics in your photo feed plus, now, they will see these featured "stories" too.


Key Takeaways:

  • Highlights can only be pulled from stories you have posted on this Instagram account.
  • You can pull from any archives that have been posted on the account, but they have to have been on your account that full 24 hours
  • If you want to add a cover image, that image has to be dated first in your story. So prior to loading any of my "Stuck on Projects" images and video, I had to add that graphic to my story. 
  • I tried to add a image & video, and then delete them. But it will be removed from both your story and your highlights too. Instead, try to be creative as you add these. You could add photos & videos that your followers have already seen on a Throwback Thursday, for instance, and then pull them over to your highlights.
  • As you add content to your highlights, the order changes. It keeps the most recent content the most important. This is really important to remember if you have several highlights on your profile but want one promotional highlight to always be first on the page. 

Are you testing this out for your clients? I'd love to hear your feedback or anything you've learned in the comments below!

Do you have a content calendar?

I hope the answer is yes!

I'll admit I didn't really have an official content calendar for social media for a while.  Through a bit of research, I've found a system that works pretty well for me. It keeps me on track and offers a few ideas of things to focus on each day. Now, there can always be more time to plan; there can always be more time to be creative. But, I feel pretty confident in my system in that I have a fair amount of good content, so I'm ready to shake things up.

I read this article from Hootsuite - challenging marketers to think about shaping out their content like magazine's editorial calendar. How clever!

If you've ever pitched to a magazine or even bought an ad placement, I'm sure you are familiar with their editorial calendars. You want to match the theme, and craft your story to fit the idea, or have you advertising design or copy - at the very least - to have similarities to the theme. Or you might just buy when your brand fits best in this calendar.  

I wanted to research this a bit on my own, focusing on calendars I felt would fit both work and my personal content. I researched a few magazines that I love, plus ones that are focused on families, which are a bit more fitting for my job. 

My big takeaways from the research include:

  • Overall themes - plus plans for recurring features in issues -  really help PR specialists know what to pitch for their brand. Content writers can use these same ideas to craft monthly topics and features.
  • "Best Of" months are prevalent. Now I'm sure most of the popularity is that this big name brands are recommending their favorites to their readers,  and who doesn't want that? But, content writers could create a "best of" list to spin their brand and products too. 
  • Make sure the content you produce is always complimenting your brand. Each of these calendars shape the overall purpose of the magazine, from fonts to colors in photographs to content. The brand is amplified with each.

Here's are a few examples:

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Couple of takeaways from this Southern Living:

  • Notice the focus on Southern Living's brand image throughout the calendar. Even through the images on the side bar, a reader knows this magazine is all about lifestyle, food, and decor. 
  • The content plan seems fitting for calendar months in the South. Readers are much more likely to think about outdoors when the South is seeing have warmer temps outside.
  • Many magazines have an entire month dedicated to "Best Of."

 

 

Takeaways from Real Simple:

  • Images are real and simple....get it?
  • Their brand is consistent, even on the content calendar and color - notice the green hues across each month, aligning with the green in the logo.
  • Monthly themes are very broad in this example.  The direction is given through the photos. I think it's a bit easier for brands to pitch to these ideas.

Takeaways from Family Fun:

  • Themes for this magazine are certainly playful, appropriate for families.
  • I love that they went in-depth with each feature, so not only do they provide you with their overarching theme, but they also have shaped the remaining stories inside the magazine as well. 
  • They also break down sections of the magazine that are present every month, like "explore" and "last bite."

 

Takeaways from Parents

  • This is very similar to Family Fun's calendar, so I feel positive something working right for them.
  • One difference between this magazine and Family Fun is that all issues do not have an overarching theme -- compare March vs April.
  • I see several ideas that could work for our Baytowne account - maybe I need to focus more on how moms enjoy The Village, for instance.

Next, I deleted a few pages from the media kit, but the below is Martha Stewart Living.

Takeaways from Martha Stewart:

  • Themes are short, and simple. And, I love the alleteration with Savor Summer - perfect!
  • I also love the idea of provide opportunities for marketing partnerships and events. If someones looking at your editorial calendar, it's important to also provide demographics, reach, and other ways to be involved with the brand.
  • I liked they were a little more focused with February. They didn't just have a "love" section which would seem fitting for a month that hosts Valentine's Day, but focused on what to love - yourself!
  • As expected, the brand is consistent even with the media kit. 
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Takeaways from Travel + Leisure:

  • I was really hoping this would offer some creative ideas for my work content calendar, since we are a resort destination.
  • You still see that "best of" theme here for August.
  • Interesting how they've grouped activities for travel - shopping, adventure, culinary, and photography. They've also grouped popular spots to travel, and I would assume the release date would align when most travelers plan trips to those destinations. I would think February - when most of America is over the cold weather - would be a great time to promote the Caribbean.

Takeaways from The Magnolia Journal:

  • I can't do research without including my favorite personality - Joanna Gaines! This magazine is pretty new to the scene, with an overall them of inspiration for life and home.
  • Again brand image is consistent. From the fonts, to the pictures, you know exactly how to craft a story to fit this brand.
  • This magazine is only published quarterly, so the themes are certainly broad, but still focused on the lifestyle/home ideas of Joanna's brand.
  • They've also highlighted features that are in every issue, which gives a little more direction for your pitch. 

 

You’ve gotta nourish to flourish

During my tenure as President of my chapter's Florida Public Relations Association, I've challenged myself to explore this year's theme: Finding Your Balance. For this month's writing piece, I stumbled across this quote:

You’ve gotta nourish to flourish.

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What a great statement. We are constantly challenged to be better, be more efficient, be more present, just be more. And, I don’t know about you, but I want to be more. I want to tackle challenges. I want to flourish in my career.

Sometimes though, we need to take a step back from trying being better all the time, and pause.  What makes us happy? What makes a smile? And, I don’t mean just finding what makes us tick -- even those things can be draining. I mean a "relaxed" happy, a calm "happy." 

What gives us peace?  What are some ways we can slow down and appreciate everything?  

Personally, I had to figure out how I can calm down in those high-stress events and projects. And part of the process was knowing when those moments hit. I know I will always get an adrenaline rush when we open gates for our festivals. I will always tense when I hit “send” for an email campaign blast or a press release. I will always pace. I will always have a plan b, c, and probably d. I will always overcommunicate.

But, I need to be able to stay grounded. I need to be able to figure out how we can get back on track when something isn’t going the way I want. I need steps to refocus. In order to be better, I need to figure out how I can maintain a healthy heart, soul, and mind.  

I’m by no means suggesting you should quit whatever is problematic in your life and max out your credit card at the spa. But, what I am suggesting is to take 10 minutes, every day, to take care of your head and your soul. Start small, and maybe you can establish a few rituals of your own.

Here are 8 ideas you might be able to use:

1. Take back your mornings, and maybe your evenings too!

Have you ever tried this? I’m experimenting with just that. Mornings are becoming much more important to me. I need to get myself ready for the day. I need to get all the thoughts I’ve had overnight, or while I was in the shower, down on paper or typed in a note. I need time to be thankful. I need to move around. And that might even mean getting up a little earlier for this night owl.

2. Challenge yourself

The above link is from 2014, but I still find so many things relevant today. When’s the last time you did a crossword puzzle? Or tried brushing your teeth with your opposite hand? These are small, simple challenges for your brain. 

3. Read more

I don't think I can accurately convey how creative I become after reading a good book, even sometimes a bad book, or re-reading a classic favorite. It just does something to my brain, and I’ll pull out a paintbrush or open my laptop and start writing. Maybe you could even join a reading challenge. I’ve completed 7 of my 48 books for the year.

I’m also trying to shake up my normal reading habits by reading things other than fiction. Right now, to brush up on my wine knowledge before our big festival, I’m reading: Rose All Day!

4. Step outside

I am so fortunate to live in this beautiful area of the world. I am literally steps away from turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. I challenge myself everyday to get out and enjoy it. Maybe you have a place you can enjoy. Walk on the beach. Ride your bike around the neighborhood. Drink your coffee, or enjoy your lunch, on a patio. Breathe in the day!

5. Surround yourself with people you love

Spend time with those that nourish, those that make you feel better about yourself. Hang out with people that want to have a quality conversation, and who care about what you say and think. Don’t force yourself to be around those that don’t.

Can we all join in with a Lauv sing-along- “I like me better when I’m with you?”

 

 

6. Unplug

I "unplugged" about two weekends ago. It was fabulous! If you are exhausted, or just need a break, hide your phone. Turn off your notifications. Use the do not disturb feature, and only allow emergency contacts to call you. Don’t check your email. Or maybe only check your email in the morning, or in the evening. And if you cave and just have to check it during your break, try to only respond to emails that are actually pertinent. I promise the others can wait.

7. Declutter

Can you say spring cleaning? Time to purge! I’ve tried several methods on this because I’m very sentimental with my stuff. For example, I was holding onto a dress that I wore to my first Auburn football game, and – regardless of the fact that it definitely did not fit anymore – I couldn’t even tell you if we won while I had it on! Why did I need it? If you need to tell your stuff’s story, invite a friend and have a party – with plenty of garbage bags or donation bags around!

8. Be kind to yourself

I saved the best for last. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be kind. If you need rest or a break, take it. If your pants are a little tight, put on a dress. If you forgot something, apologize and move on! You are your best cheerleader. And you’ve got this!

I hope you will try to nourish your head, heart, and soul this month. This is how we find out balance and flourish.

Taking back my mornings☀️

One of my 'new year, new me" goals for 2018 was to build a better morning routine.

I have never really been a morning person. But, I've read so many articles about people who are able to do so much before they ever step foot in their office. I want to be one of those people. But, I can remember as a teenager struggling to make it to school on time. My mom yelling "It's time to go!" or "This car is leaving!" from downstairs, and I was still groggily brushing my teeth. It's like my deep sleep would happen right before I'd wake up, and I had to scramble to get ready on time. Except instead of scrambling, I'm moving at a sloth-like pace. Mornings were rough

Many years have passed, but I'm still a really hard sleeper, and I still usually wake up in a fog.  But this year, I wanted to become a morning person. So, I'm trying to find ways to combat my early morning grogginess. The goal is to wake up earlier. I'm not restricting myself to a certain time I have to be up - but I want to be able to get a few things done in the morning. Honestly, I just want to change the terrible habit of getting out of bed 30 minutes before I'm supposed to be at work! 

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Three things that I think will really help:

  • Consistency with my morning and nightly routines
  • Falling asleep at reasonable hour
  • Falling asleep in my bed, and not the couch

I'm happy to report this week, I've made great strides in setting up a routine. As soon as my alarm goes off, I'm out of bed. I've walked into to kitchen straight to my Keurig for a cup of coffee and even have had enough time to cook breakfast. I've managed to walk on the beach for early morning sun, twice. I'm caught up on laundry and cleaning in my house. Yesterday, I finished reading a book. And, today I'm writing a blog post. 

Each evening, I've been in my bed - pj's on, face washed, and teeth brushed - by 9:30. I've read books in bed and have tried a few podcasts dedicated to sleep. And - probably the biggest helper of them all - I've put my phone down at 9 pm and not looked at it until 8 am. It's hard to do, but the complete disconnect has been worth it. And probably the next biggest helper - I haven't hit the snooze button. It's one of my big downfalls in the morning - which I blame on my bed being too comfy. I wish "snooze" had never been invented. It's amazing what I've been able to accomplish by not trying to get 5 more minutes of sleep, which for me, usually turns into 30 more minutes. 

And my momentum toward this goal is building. When I woke up this morning, I wanted to get up so I could blog about my progress. I wanted to get up because I knew I could have enough time to enjoy my breakfast. I wanted to get up so that I could enjoy the sunshine on my back deck with a cup of freshly made coffee.

I'm so proud of what I've gotten done in these moments before work, and I want to continue the progress. Here's to more early mornings for this girl!

New year, new me? Checking in on my 2018 Goals

When I counted down to 2018, I was pretty excited to wave goodbye to a lot of things from the prior year. I don't know what was about this year's annual countdown - the neon sparks illuminating the sky, the music, the freezing cold jolt of water on my face from the rain - but something seemed new and refreshing and creative and promising. 2018 was going to be a great year, I just knew it.

By 12:01 am, it was a new year and a new me. Well, maybe just an updated me with better goals and direction. I had a plan. 

Side note - to help me in this process,  I completed the Year Compass booklet in December, which helped me close out 2017, and set realistic goals for 2018. I would recommend this workbook, as I think it really gave me a clear path for what I want to do and achieve. And, I  do not think it's too late if you still want to set some goals!

I thought this weekend - since it's pouring down outside - would be a great weekend to check-in on all those personal resolutions. Just how am I doing with my goals?

My 2018 goals center around these six ideas, in this order:

  1. Financial Stability
  2. Health/ Personal Improvement
  3. Travel
  4. Spirituality
  5. Community
  6. House Projects

I've broken down these ideas into a quarterly Trello board - with deadlines - to help make these ideas and goals a little more manageable! 

Results as of Feb 11:

  • Set up autopayment to my savings account
  • Completed taxes and will use refund to pay off debt
  • Developed a personal monthly budget, that accurately reflects what I spend
  • Read 4 books
  • Completed one yoga session each weekend and worked out at least three times every week
  • Consistently added 16 oz water to my daily intake
  • Attended two social media webinars
  • Spoke on traditional marketing at ER for PR conference
  • Developed a plan for months leading up to DYW scholarship program (community project)
  • Finalized two major goals for FPRA chapter: created a savings account that will cover three months of expense for the chapter and developed a travel expense policy for speakers and board members
  • Took daily vitamins
  • Attended church regularly

A few things that haven't quite happened yet:

  • I'm still working on a better daily routine. I really want to be a morning person. 
  • I want to write more. 
  • I want to see more sunsets.
  • I've used zero vacation days.
  • I've seen zero of my niece/nephew's games or recitals.
  • I still need to update my passport.
  • I need to save more - either in personal savings account or contributing to my 401K.

I feel pretty accomplished so far, but I still have a long way to go. Time to get to it!

 

Merchant Monday

One very successful campaign for 2017 was Merchant Monday.

Here's a full link to the campaign presentation if you are curious

This  campaign's main goal was to position our brand as the best option for vacationers to shop, dine, and play, utilizing social media outlets.

The campaign focused on building brand awareness for our merchants, allowed me to experiment with new social media trends and platforms, and establish consistent messaging. 

Here are a few key points from our results:

 

Even though this campaign was a very simple idea, it's a great way to highlight the variety of merchants we represent and build a consistent content posting plan. As you can see with our results, it was a succseful campaign that we are carrying out for 2018 too.