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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yes, Women Buy Your Products. No, Laundry Soap Does Not Make Me Happy.

This blog post is a public service announcement from one woman with a voice (representing the millions of other women who feel the same way) directed to the countless number of companies out there who:

  1. Have identified that a target market of women 25-54
  2. Think that women find great joy and contentment in: clean floors, clean laundry, a clean toilet, minivans, 100% fruit juice for our children, etc. etc. etc. (insert stereotypical product purchased by women from circa 1950 to present here)
  3. Think that women are the only ones who buy their products.
First of all, I commend any retailer, mass merchandiser, CPG manufacturer, ad agency, or market research company that is reading this blog. And furthermore if you pass it along to someone else who should read this, too. 

Second -- News flash: it is 2010 people. Um, the guys know where the grocery stores are, too. And with women representing just over 50% of the workforce, and slightly more women earning college degrees than men -- you can bet your precious ad dollars that there are many households like mine where my husband does the shopping. He picks out the cleaning products. He buys the juice. And he actually DOES take great joy in buying a new cleaning product. He prides himself on trying the newest stuff.

Don't get me wrong. I love being a mom and a wife. I am also proud to be a woman who has a very fulfilling, full time job. The time I spend with my son and husband is very valuable to me. And having "me" time to work is just as equally fulfilling for me. Nowhere in my list of things that make me happy will you find fabric softener that sticks like a magnet to the side of the dryer. And while I enjoy watching commercials (probably because I work in marketing), nothing makes me cringe more than a stereotypical commercial about women who are just so giddy because their kitchen floor is clean. Please. Even the silly mop sucking water from a straw while an 80's love ballad plays in the background is not going to get me to buy your product. Egad.

What gets me to buy something? Here's one example: 
I was watching Mad Men a few weeks ago (a great show for men and women, by the way, and I particularly enjoy watching the old boys' club and work environment that women had to live through) and during a commercial, they showed a retro spot about Klondike Bars. I appreciated the fact that they tied the commercial into the retro feeling of the show. Plus it's on at 10pm - prime snack time. My mouth was salivating and I told my hubby to buy Klondike Bars the next time he went grocery shopping.
==> focus on the relationship to the programming

How about cleaning products? Well, despite the popular belief that women take great joy in having a clean shower, believe me it's the LAST thing on my mind during often hectic weekends. What I like though is those commercials that focus on what the product does: there are some great Seventh Generation cleaning products at Target that don't have all the chemicals in them. Oh, and the scrubbing bubbles that do the cleaning for you. Those little buggers are like having a maid in my bathroom.
==> focus on the product and what it does - not on me and my frilly apron and endless smile from a well scrubbed tub.

Nice Job, Subaru. 
Brenda Meller
How about cars? There's a great a great commercial - I think by Subaru, where the dad sees his little girl in the driver's seat taking off. Then the camera flashes back and she's suddenly a teenager. Guess what? No women in the commercial at all. And it still appealed to me.
==> you don't need to show women in the commercial to appeal to women buyers.

So for all of you companies out there pouring millions of dollars into your fancy ad campaigns - I beg of you - please check your calendars. It is not 1950. You don't need to follow the same ridiculous stereotypical storylines. Not all women are the homemakers anymore. (Do they still even exist?) Not all women do the shopping. And when we do see your commercials, if it offends us, chances are we aren't going to buy your product. And we'll complain to our friends about them on Facebook, so they won't like you either.

There, I've had my say. And I'll be happy to offer more comments - as would many of my female friends. All aged 25-54.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Staying Current with Trends is NOT a Fad

Nowadays it seems everyone has an e-newsletter, a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a YouTube channel, etc. etc. As an inquisitive marketer I'm always hungry for information and I admit I have a "To Be Read" folder in my Outlook that is never read (it's impossible to find that spare 1/2 hour a day). And once or twice a year, that folder is emptied without a second thought. 

"An entertaining must-read." - Brenda Meller
I'm sure there are tons of great articles and nuggets of information. But there's also a lot of recycled info that's pretty useless, or worse, outdated. 

If you're a marketer like me, you like to keep a pulse on what's hot and what's current, and also keep an eye open for what's next. 

There's a great e-newsletter that I opened today that inspired this blog entry: from 

Here are just a few trends they highlighted in this week's and last week's issue. I'm citing the sentences that summarize each story the best, and that piqued my curiosity.

  • "31Projects is a new online platform that helps connect such graduate students with companies and organizations in need of business expertise."

    This could be yours... for a swap.
  • "Luxe Home Swap allows people with high-end dwellings to swap accommodation with others all over the world."

Apparently he can get his own doggie bag.
  • "FIDO FACTOR — Fido Factor is a US directory of dog-friendly restaurants, venues, bookstores and other establishments."

I hope you enjoy the read. And I'd love to hear your favorite marketing / inspiration sites, too. Because watching trends will never go out of style.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Power of Volunteering

I attended a great networking session at Lighthouse of Oakland County today. They started a new program offering job seekers a free monthly breakfast plus workshops led by individuals in the community.

Beth Grossman, an Executive Search Director from Angott Search Group, spoke about a variety of candidates she has worked with who have use their career transition time to volunteer at a charity or other non-profit organization.

Twelve hours after the presentation, here is what is most memorable for me:

1. Volunteering fills that gap in your resume. It demonstrates your desire to stay active and be productive. Plus it gives you something current to talk about in an interview.

2. Being a volunteer can help to lift your spirits. It's tough being unemployed. It's frustrating. And knowing you're not alone doesn't always help. By volunteering your time to help a cause that you are passionate about, you redirect your energy toward helping others. And that feels good.

3. If you're trying to change industries and don't have work experience in your desired area yet, you may be able to gain some experience in a volunteer capacity. That may be just enough to open doors for your next career.

4. When you volunteer and assist at events such as those put on by Lighthouse, you have the opportunity to mingle and interact with a variety of working professionals. Sometimes these individuals are board members or senior executives. And making a name for yourself in a volunteer capacity will give them a very favorable impression of you.

5. It's nice to get out of the house. Or the library. Or the Michigan Works office. There can be something quite calming about working in an office setting that you can't quite achieve at your home office. If you miss the interaction and hustle of office work, you may be able to find a temporary office space as a volunteer.

6. Volunteering gives you something to talk about to friends and family, instead of rehashing your job search. We know they all mean well, but hearing "you'll find something soon" and the gentle head nodding and acknowledgment of the hours you logged on Monster this week can get old really quick.

7. Volunteering gives you a chance to help give back. Maybe you're a whiz at Excel spreadsheets. Or perhaps you've worked as a marketing director. Or maybe you simply enjoyed supporting a team in an administrative role. We all know every company has had to cut back, and many companies are struggling because they can't afford to build back their teams... yet. Non-profits and charities have their own challenges. Many organizations like Lighthouse are finding themselves in the unique situation of finding that previous donors are now clients needing help. You've got the time and expertise, why not volunteer? You might not have the dollars to donate, but you have intellectual insight which can be equally valuable.

So now I've got you convinced to look for some volunteer work. Where do you start?

Pick a charity. Any charity. Preferably one where you have a personal connection or personal interest. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • You could consider the American Cancer Society because you lost a loved one to cancer. My mom lost her battle with cancer when she was 46. One of my personal goals is to someday volunteer for the American Cancer Society, hopefully in a speaking  role.
  • If you love kids, you could consider The Twitter hashtag is #fightchildhunger. This program serves Forgotten Harvest, Gleaners and Food Gatherers in SE Michigan. Two good friends of mine, Jennifer Marsik Friess and Susan Ferraro of Volare Public Relations have been assisting this program, and they've recruited me to help. 
  • Lighthouse of Oakland County has a great volunteer program in place, and many success stories as a result. They mentioned their goal of providing support and inspiration to move people from crisis to self-efficiency. This is in the form of housing, food, counseling, and much more.
  • Need something to sweeten the deal? Target is offering a "Scoop it Forward" promotion where you can earn some Ben Jerry's ice cream just for volunteering at a local charity. You just enter your hometown (or metro area) and follow the instructions to find volunteer opps.

Do you work for a charity and need volunteers? Reply to this post.

Are you a job seeker who needs experience to fill a gap on your resume? Reply to this post and tell us what type of volunteer work you are seeking. Or, better yet, contact the PR dept of your desired charity. 

We all can work together to help one another move forward. Don't you agree?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Need Help? Hire an Intern (You'll thank me later...)

The economy has forced us all to tighten our belts, possibly reduce our staff, and for some folks, find a new career altogether. Some of the jobs that were eliminated aren't coming back - requiring refocus.

What this means for all of us is that we need to work more efficiently with reduced resources. I always joke that if you feel that you are overwhelmed at work, then you are working at capacity and that's a good thing. :)

I'm noticing a lot of connections lately who are hesitant to post a job opening because they are leery of being overwhelmed by responses. Or, they are seeking to hire a contract position and if business continues to grow, they may expand it to full-time. All good signals that things are starting to rebound.

From the job seeker perspective, they may be seeking new positions in new industries, and have little to no experience in these areas. And we all know how hard it is to find a job when you have no experience in that area.

This brings me to the topic of today's blog: interns. I'm a big fan. And I'm referring to paid internships - not free labor. That's just not right, in my opinion.

When you find the right intern, you'll find someone who is eager to learn, hungry for work, interested in the job / your company, and a dedicated employee. You get the benefit of having a second pair of hands, at a low cost, without a full-time commitment. Plus you are helping someone to get a foot in the door of a new industry, and possibly in a new position. They get the benefit of gaining valuable on-the-job experience.

I've recruited and hired several interns throughout my career and have always had a positive experience.

Keep in mind though that interns aren't always college students. Sometimes they are experienced individuals who are changing industries. The advantage here is that experienced workers (or, older workers) are more reliable, confident in their abilities, and sometimes more polished. I give everyone equal consideration when it comes to applying for an internship. I'm more concerned that they are seeking an internship for the right reasons -- a foot in the door in the industry -- than how many years they have been in the workforce. If I'm reading in between the lines that the only reason they want the internship is for the money, or to get out of the house, etc., then they aren't a serious candidate. I'm seeking interest, passion, and enthusiasm. Because if you have those traits, you'll be a great intern.

Many colleges and universities offer Career Services to their students and alumni, and often will help you develop and post paid internships. My employer, Walsh College, helped me with my internship posting and I would gladly refer them.

What do you think? Have you hired interns before? What value do they offer you -- both personally and professionally?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Powerful Women -- quick... who comes to mind?

Without thinking about it too much, who comes to mind when you think of Powerful Women?

I'll give you a minute.

Okay, done?

So, who came to mind for you?

At the top of my list were Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Oprah, Suze Orman, Ellen Degeneres, and maybe a musician or two (Lady Gaga, Madonna, Britney Spears). I'll admit Sarah Palin was an afterthought for me. And she always reminds me of Tina Fey.

Thinking that I might be biased because I'm a woman, I asked my husband the same question. Surprisingly, his answers were similar. He also debated whether the Queen of England was powerful or not, and I prodded him to skip her if he wasn't sure and to name off as many women as he could.

What if I were to ask you to name Powerful Women who were local to your city/state? For me, Jennifer Granholm (Michigan's governor) comes to mind. As does Michelle Hodges (President of Troy Chamber of Commerce), Stephanie Bergeron (president of Walsh College), Terry Barclay (President of Inforum Michigan), Rhonda Walker (WDIV reporter, whom I heard speaking at an event last week), and Beth Chappell (President and CEO of the Detroit Economic Club). I'm sure there are dozens of others but those come to mind for me.

Now what if I were to ask to name Powerful Men? Or, Powerful People? Chances are, your list would be filled with politicians, businessmen, entrepreneurs, etc. etc. You'd probably mention a few CEOs who are men, too. If you had to name any CEOs who are women, you'd probably be hard-pressed to name a few.

Maybe this exercise was really easy for you because you follow Powerful People on a regular basis. And if you're not interested in Powerful People at all, you're not reading this post (yes, I'm talking to you... oh wait, you ARE reading this...).

There's been a shift over the past few years with more women moving into leadership positions. This was definitely highlighted by the last presidential campaign. As women, we know that we're still under-represented in many industries and within leadership positions. I was at an Inforum Michigan event today where one of the speakers was (is) a powerful woman: Charlene Begley (president and CEO of GE Home & Business Solutions and a senior vice president for GE). She mentioned that in her current role, she typically travels Monday through Friday. She further explained that up until a few years ago, her job did not require her to travel this much.

A question was asked during the event about work/life balance, and about women moving into leadership positions. Often women will not ask for promotions or more challenging roles. Some women don't think they are competent enough - nor do they want the added responsibility - that may come with those roles. Still many others who may be the breadwinner for the family are still the primary caregiver. We will make choices about having a successful career, but when it comes to deciding whether to accelerate into senior leadership positions, the family wins out.

I'll admit in some ways, it is our responsibility as women to find a careful balance between career success and personal/family happiness. Too often you see women who have successful careers who end up divorced, or without children by choice because the timing is never right. Having a supportive spouse and an extended network of family members and friends to help with family care-giving helps. And from there, it's up to us to decide how far we want to go in our career.

In other ways, our careers may be limited by the culture of the company. I've seen the good ole boys network alive and well at past employers and know I'm not alone in this observation. Even though we want to move ahead and move into leadership, the opportunities never come to fruition. Certain women acknowledge this and move on to find success elsewhere. Others accept the culture and come to terms with the environment.

Ultimately, it's up to each person to decide for herself -- or himself -- how far they want to go in their career and the choices or changes that will need to be made to achieve those goals.

As for me, I find it inspirational but also necessary to look around and identify Powerful Women. They can share their learnings. They pave the road for so many women behind them. They serve as mentors -- some directly, and others indirectly.

So who else is a Powerful Woman to me? In addition to the above, I think the list should include those who are just starting out in their careers and already demonstrating a quest for knowledge, and pursuit for excellent in any task - large or small. Amber Kaipio @akaipio, is a marketing intern at Walsh College who exemplifies this.

It should also include women in the Detroit Social Media community who are experts at building relationships and networking. Shelli Gutholm @shelligutholm, Carrie Roeder @ideationista, and Jennifer Marsik Friess @JenMarsikFriess to name a few.

Plus it should include those who have great presence in any group - positive energy, and a genuine, likeable woman. The kind of women who immediately bring a smile to your face and make you feel special, whether you're meeting with them one-on-one or see them in passing at a huge networking event. Susan Gibson at Corp! Magazine, Lori Williams @loritwilliams, Patty Buccellato of Refined Images, Tember Shea of Inforum Michigan, are a few that come to mind for me.

What do you think? Who comes to mind for you as a "Powerful Woman"?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blog? Why Bother?

Blogging can be a chore for some, and a dream for others. I fall into the latter category.

I've always enjoyed journaling and/or writing in a diary. I've written books cataloging my teenage and college years and look back on the entries fondly. My audience for these books was me only -- although I think you always secretly wonder when you're writing a diary if someone else might someday stumble upon the books! :)

So why do I blog now? Great question. The best answer I can give is that I simply enjoy it.

Sometimes your thoughts just need a place to go. Sometimes there are themes I see reappearing in my personal and professional life and it's almost like I'm being led to the blog topic. Real life is my inspiration, you see. If you forced me to sit down and free write about something, I'd probably have a hard time getting started.

Sometimes I blog about companies and people. I always try to keep my blog topics positive. Nobody really wants to read a pessimist's blog, do they? Or a complainer's blog. Or a whiner's blog. Or do they? I know I don't.

Sometimes the companies and people I blog about read my blogs. That's not the reason I blog about them, but I keep in mind that they might read it. And sometimes it's pretty cool to see that people do read my blog. After all, I'm just me. I'm no Seth Godin or Ellen Degeneres. Well maybe not yet anyway...(yes I'm kidding).

Sometimes I blog because I haven't blogged in a while and I want to continue to be an active blogger. It gives me an opportunity to practice my writing style and tap into a different level of audience participation. Someday I hope to write a book and maybe a blog entry or two may make it into the book, so this is kind of progress toward that life goal for me.

But most of all, I blog for me. I can whatever I want and leave out whatever I don't want. Nobody tells me what to blog. I choose what to blog about, when to blog, and how often to blog.

There are a lot of other reasons you might choose to blog, including:
1. Demonstrating expertise on your field of interest
2. Cataloging some portion of your life: a trip perhaps
3. Gaining attention of potential future employers. Yes, it happens.
4. It provides you with a creative outlet - esp for writers
5. It's interesting to know that when you blog, the entire WORLD can read it. (more realistically, a few dozen might only read it, but still... the whole WORLD...)
6. Documenting a topic where you've gained life experience. I've read blogs about parents dealing with a child's illness and triumph when they are healthy again, women struggling with infertility and their insights gained along the way, an entrepreneur who has bumbled along and then finally found their life's calling, and so much more.
7. You think you are FASCINATING and want the rest of the world to know, too. See #5 above.
8. You have something to share
9. You think you have nothing to share -- but by blogging you discover that you DO
10. You like organizing thoughts into a list of 10 items

And that, my friends, is why I blog.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WANTED: women's retailer -- professional attire

I need a women's retailer who sells professional attire to join us for a Professional Image event at Walsh College in Troy, Michigan on Thurs, April 29 from 6-8:30p. We need a retailer who can provide their own models and maybe 4-5 outfits, including professional (interview) suits as well as professional work attire (including casual fridays) for a fashion show. We would prefer they bring their own "models" but we can pull from our staff if needed.

I'm holding a meeting at Walsh next week with the men's clothing retailer and our image consultant who is delivering a presentation at the workshop. I'm hoping to have the women's retailer locked in by this date so they can join this meeting.

I do not have a budget to pay for this retailer. They will have the opportunity to distribute discount coupons, if desired.

We are expecting 100-130 attendees, all students and alumni of Walsh College. Walsh is the area's only all-business college. Many attendees are already in the workforce, while some may be just getting started. In today's economy, having the opportunity to display your professional fashions to a captive audience may be just the *free advertising* that you need to help make your monthly goal. :)

Let me know if you have anyone in mind. Please feel free to forward. Have them contact me asap at

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Changing careers? First career? Get Thee to an Informational Interview

The current economy has placed many workers-in-transition in the position to evaluate their careers, something they never expected. We have all grown accustomed to the fact that if you do your job, show up on time, and do what is expected (and maybe even do MORE than what is expected), that we'll be gainfully employed until we retire.

So many people have had this dream shattered over the past two years. I've met many people with this scenario and my heart goes out to them. Even my dad, who was employed with the same company for over 20 years, was let go from his job. He had planned to retire within the next 10 years. He was a hard worker, often working overtime or coming in on weekends when requested. But like so many others, his position was eliminated and he was escorted out of the building with a box of possessions from his desk. Ouch. And then some. He's fine now, but it was pretty traumatic at the time.

For many others, their layoff occurred at different points in their career and they've been taking advantage of the many free workshops and networking events for the unemployed. Some are still looking and waiting for the job they had to come back with a different employer, while others have bid farewell to that career and have turned their heads in another direction. These "career changers" are the inspiration behind this blog entry.

One technique I suggest to job seekers who are changing careers is to set up an informational interview. An informational interview is different than a job interview because you are NOT interviewing for a job. You are instead interviewing a person so gather information. These informational interviews are highly suggested by many career counselors as a way to learn more about a particular industry and career path.

Let's take the example of Steve (name and some details have been changed to protect the identity of this person). Steve worked in retail for over 20 years, moving into progressively higher positions. He changed retailers every few years (common for the industry) and made minor gains in salary and job titles. His experience has included hiring and firing employees, managing schedules, maintaining inventory, and working with the public in a sales capacity. Steve left the retail industry after the last holiday season and is now considering moving into a non-retail position, possibly with HR or Sales.

When I was speaking with Steve about his background, I suggested he first revise his resume to highlight the skills that showcase his experience in HR and eliminate any accomplishments from his resume that aren't specific to this new field. I also suggested to Steve that he set up an informational interview with a person in my network who has worked in various positions in HR over the years.

The process for an informational interview is as follows:
  1. The job seeker requests a connection to the person they would like to set the informational interview with. I highly recommend doing this through your LinkedIn network.
  2. When the connection is made, the job seeker mentions to the interviewer that they are seeking an informational interview to learn more about jobs in their industry, and also mention that you are NOT looking for a job; just to gain some insights.
  3. Mention that you are looking for just 15-20 minutes of their time. If they give you 45 minutes, they like you.
  4. Bring your resume, but do NOT offer it unless it comes up in conversation or they ask for it.
  5. At the start of the interview, mention again that you are NOT looking for a job, but you are looking to gain some insights from their perspective.
  6. Ask questions: how did they get their start in the industry? What positions are available/in demand? Based on your background, how would they suggest you get your foot in the door? Use this time to pick their brain.
  7. Dress professionally, just as you would in a job interview.
  8. Have a list of questions prepared. Don't rely on this person to guide your career.
  9. As you approach the 20 min mark and if you're not finished with your discussion, mention that you want to be considerate of time and ask if they have a few minutes. (this gives them an "out" that might be awkward for them to mention, but will be appreciated)
  10. At the end of the interview, request a business card, thank them for their time and their insights.
  11. Send a thank you note.
  12. Did you read #11? Make sure you send a thank you note. Yes, it's THAT important.
  13. Follow up on their tips and send them a follow-up note. You never know where your future will lead and it's good to start building your network now, before you're even in the industry.
Regardless of your circumstances or the reason for your career transition, an informational interview can provide you with insights that you won't learn during the job interview process, or even through casual networking. It's important to have the right qualifications to move into the career, but you might not know what the "right" qualifications are unless you've had an informational interview with someone who works in the field.

From the perspective of someone who has been on both sides of the desk for informational interviews, I'll say they are helpful and essential if you are moving into your first professional career or moving into a new field. And as someone who is passionate about marketing, it is flattering to me when someone asks to pick my brain over coffee. I also like to know that I could be helping someone in the quest for their next career. Because hey -- if we all help someone else out -- it's going to help improve the economy all around, wouldn't you agree?

As for Steve: I'm going to keep close tabs on him. I have a feeling his career change will be the start of some great things.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

LinkedIn tip-of-the-week: ANSWERS (wanna be an expert?)

Quick tip-of-the-week on LinkedIn: ANSWERS section -- earning "Expert" ratings

LinkedIn has a great site feature where you can post questions or answer questions. If you're familiar with this area of the site, you know that some connections have been rated as an "EXPERT" for questions that they have answered. We all have egos - and we'd all like to be ranked as an expert, right? Plus, it provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your professional expertise and be rated by peers.

One technique I've learned is identify low-hanging fruit. Look for the questions within your area of expertise and identify questions with five or fewer responses. Chances are, these are the tough questions or those that aren't appealing to anyone else. The fewer people who respond means more of an opportunity to be ranked as a "good" or "BEST" response - earning you the highly coveted "EXPERT" ranking by LinkedIn.

read more here:

Friday, March 19, 2010

LinkedIn Etiquette: Beyond "please" and "thank you"

If you're reading this post -- my guess is that you're not quite sure of etiquette on LinkedIn. Or, maybe you think you know it all and want some reassurance. Regardless, here are a few social media etiquette tips that I've learned over the past few years of using LinkedIn.

1. Personalize EVERY invitation to connect.
If you use the standard "I'd like you ask you to join my professional network on LinkedIn" it's like the equivalent of sending spam. It tells your requested future connection you don't even care enough to type a few keystrokes to refresh their memory. Or, you really don't know them and you're secretly hoping they'll connect with you so you can try to sell them something. Give your contact a frame of reference and a personal greeting.

2. Say please.
Wouldn't you rather be ASKED than TOLD to do a favor for someone on LinkedIn? Whether it's requesting to connect with someone, asking their insight on a topic, or help with a problem, saying "please" shows respect.

3. Say thank you.
When someone gives you something of value or helps you out, you should say thank you. Always. Even on LinkedIn.

4. If you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all.
If you've ever read through the "ANSWERS" section and seen a snide comment, you know what I'm talking about. Nobody wants to read sarcasm on a professional networking site.

5. Don't send out blanket solicitation or "just checking in" messages.
Yes, it's a professional networking site. No, this does not give you the right to send out professional yet unpersonal messages. If you really care to keep in touch, personalize the message to me with "Hi Brenda...." instead of "We haven't chatted in a while and..." It comes across as very impersonal and shows me that you don't get it.

6. If you want to apply to a job within my network, make sure you're 100% qualified and 100% interested in the job.
I'm always more than willing to help anyone in my LinkedIn network to connect, especially when it comes to applying for a job. But if I help to make a connection for you and then you decide against applying for the job or acting on my approval to forward the invitation to a connection, it could potentially impact my credibility with that connection. Plus that connection is going to remember it the next time I ask them for a favor.

7. Don't post your birthday, marital status, horoscope sign, or any other personal information on your LinkedIn profile.
Enough said. This message brought to you by

8. If you don't feel comfortable giving or receiving a recommendation, don't.
I've ignored requests to offer recommendations for people for a variety of reasons. It could be that we don't know each other well enough yet. If you're giving a recommendation and I don't accept it, it could be because the recommendation you're offering me doesn't seem genuine based on our professional knowledge of each other. Your professional credibility is tied to the recommendations you give and receive.

9. Use a professional photo on your profile. You don't need to pay a professional photographer, but try to at least pose on a solid, light-colored background wearing professional attire, with a head-and-shoulder shot. Smiling. No sunglasses. No full-length body shot. Nobody else in the picture with you. Even if they are cropped out. (yeah, we can tell)

10. Help your network.
Be a resource. LinkedIn is not just about you. It's about how you can help your network.

Please share this with a connection who is just getting starting on LinkedIn, and tell them your favorite tip from this list. And if you're already following ALL these tips, take a moment to pat yourself on the back.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

If you know Conan O'Brien, tell him Warren Toastmasters needs a speaker

At the Warren Toastmasters club meeting tonight, I presented a speech on our club's upcoming Open House event, which we are scheduling for Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.

The objective of an open house is to generate awareness about Toastmasters in our community and to hopefully sign up some new members. We're a small club and looking to grow and could use some new members to help us along the way, and we'll help them in their quest for communication and leadership development (or in "public speaking" as is what most people know about Toastmasters).

I spoke to my club about the event basics: who, what, where, why, why, and how.

In addition, the marketing side of me is always thinking about the audience perspective, the WIFM or "what's in it for me." So I mentioned that our audience for this event is going to be the unemployed. I strongly believe Toastmasters offers job seekers a lot of great skills that will help them in their job search, including confidence, practice in thinking on your feet for those tough interview questions, unique networking opportunities, camaraderie, and lots more. Click here to read more about benefits for Job Seekers. Toastmasters helped me personally in my job search and I know it's helped others, too. Plus, we won't ever fire you from Toastmasters. Even when the economy gets bad.

But we need something really special to make this a fabulous Open House. And that's where you can help. I read that Conan O'Brien had started a twitter page because he's not able to be working right now. His bio on twitter reads: "I had a show. Then I had a different show. Now I have a Twitter account." Now that is funny.

So I'm thinking he knows what career transition is like. Granted, his perspective is a lot different that those unemployed in Michigan, but he's in transition nonetheless and has a perspective he's dying to share. And I'm sure he has plenty of free time right now.

So I tweeted asking Conan if he'd like to come visit Michigan and be a speaker at our Open House. View my tweet and RT me here. No, he hasn't replied nor do I expect that he will. He has over 400,000 followers and growing steadily.

brendameller hey @conanobrien Warren,MI Toastmasters club is seeking a speaker for Apr openhouse 4 a pep talk on finding new careers in MI. U interested?

I admit I'd probably have an easier time getting a commitment from Conan if our club were anywhere in the Los Angeles area, but hey -- if you don't ask the question, the answer is always "no," right?

Now I have thought this through a bit. If he were to agree to come to Warren, Michigan to be our guest speaker, we'd definitely need a larger room and we'd probably partner with a few other local Toastmasters clubs and move to a larger venue. I have connections and I could make the arrangements.

And I know it's a long shot that we'd be able to book a celebrity like Conan for a Toastmasters Open House. Because come on -- it's a Toastmasters Open House. But stranger things have happened. And sometimes celebrities do the unexpected because it is unexpected. And it's funny. And it makes the news.

If nothing else, the one good thing that this recession has done is given the Detroit area more visibility throughout the US. Hey -- we even had Jay Leno in town a few months back for a free event for the unemployed, so people know we're here and that we need help.

So my plea to you: if you know Conan, ask him if he'd like to come out to the Detroit area to give job seekers a pep talk on career transition at our Toastmasters Open House. Michigan could use the comic relief and we promise to bring in a crowd for his talk. Or maybe you don't know Conan, but you might know of another local comedian, or a celebrity who used to live in Michigan, or someone who would be a great motivational speaker for the unemployed. If you do, please send me a message on Twitter ( or reply to this blog. Our Warren meeting room holds about 50 and I plan to fill every seat for our Open House event.

Warren Toastmasters Open House
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
6:30 - 8 p.m.

No, we don't have a speaker or travel budget, but we can promise you that it will be one fabulous Open House. And the speaker can help provide inspiration for a few people out of work while helping to give some visibility to our great Toastmasters International organization.

And that is no joke. :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

This Toastmaster's Quest: IgniteDetroit

I heard from a friend, Brandon Chesnutt on about an upcoming event called Ignite Detroit. When I initially read the description, I thought it sounded like an interesting concept but not for me. Then I YouTubed (is that a word or am I inventing as I go?) the event and watched a few videos from another Ignite event. And I thought, "hey, I could do that!"

The concept of Ignite Detroit is simple: 15 speakers, each have a 5-minute speaking slot. Here's the twist: each presenter must use 20 PowerPoint slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds.

Toastmasters has given me endless opportunities to practice and refine my public speaking and presentation skills. I'm always open to learning more and know I can still improve, which is part of the reason that I stay active in Toastmasters even after I've earned my "Competent Communicator" designation.

Sometimes I compete in the Toastmasters speech contests. Competition is a great way to keep you on your toes, as well as to learn speaking techniques from other experienced Toastmasters.

This is part of reason I'm interested in competing (performing?) in Ignite Detroit. There are 36 speaker submissions and only the top 7 vote-getters earn a spot. The other 8 spots are chosen by the Ignite Detroit organizers. I have a feeling they may take into account the number of comments left by voters, but this is just speculation on my part. I haven't been asking people to comment but they've been leaving comments. I have 19 comments and 151 votes as of today, Saturday, Feb. 6th. This puts me into 9th placed based on votes. I thought voting ended yesterday and had a few friends helping spread the word within their networks, which resulted in enough votes to earn me 7th ranking for a few hours. Today I'm back to 9th place - just 15 votes behind 7th place, so as you can probably tell, it's anyone's game.

The topics submitted for Ignite Detroit range from retraining the unemployed to end of the world tips to fundraising and much more. The intent of the event is to inform, inspire, and entertain the audience. Right now, there are 200 seats and the event is sold out. (well, not technically "sold" out because the tickets are free.... but all tickets have been spoken for!

You can read all entries by visiting this website:

My topic and description:

And You Don't Even Have to Buy Me Lunch.

Plug an inquisitive marketer into social media and what do you get? A bucket load of cool tips - the kind that earns me a lunch or coffee invitation just about every month. You'll be inspired by stuff you never knew about social media - and you'll definitely want to try out at home. Think of this as "easter eggs" in social media. This 5-minute presentation will give every Ignite Detroit attendee -- from the beginner to the social media expert -- some new insights. I'll share with you some of my personal favorites - some of which I've never shared in front of a group. And speaking of... don't just take my word for how great this presentation will be. Check out my linkedin profile to read a few recommendations I've been given from folks who have attended my presentations over the past year. Pull up a chair and I'll share a few tricks up my sleeve. And you don't even have to buy me lunch.

Voting ends Monday. If you're interested in voting, the process is pretty simple and takes about 2 minutes of your time.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to vote:

1. Visit to see all entries, or visit to visit my entry.

2. To the left of the topic name, there is a box with the total number of votes received. Under the box there is a button "VOTE" - click on this button.

3. Sign up using any of these accounts: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID, MySpace, Windows Live ID, Blogger, Verisign, Hyves, AOL, Wordpress, or you can create a UserVoice account.

4. After you sign up and log in to vote, you'll be taken back to the list of entries. If it does not take you automatically to the entry you'd like to vote for, you may need to scroll down the page. Or, type in one word from the title ("Lunch" for my entry, as an example).

5. Mouseover the box that appears below the total number of votes for the entry. You'll notice that you can cast 1, 2, or 3 votes for an entry. You are allocated a total of 6 entries that you can use across all topics. But, no more than 3 votes for any one individual entry.

6. Click the number of votes and you're done.

7. (optional) Send a message on Twitter or Facebook telling people that you've voted, and encourage them to vote, too.

Hope this helps! Happy voting and hope to see you at IgniteDetroit.

ps - Learn more about Ignite Detroit by visiting:
On the web:
Follow on Twitter: @ignitedetroit (you can view comments without having a Twitter account)
Become a fan on their Facebook fan page

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How's Your Social Media Karma?

The more I use Social Media, the more I find myself to be a conduit of sorts to my network. I'm able to successfully link one connection to another via a virtual rolodex that didn't exist for me years ago. I've only been active on LinkedIn for a few years, and on Facebook and Twitter for just over a year.

I believe in karma, especially in Social Media. The more I help my network, the more my network helps me. I'm creating friendships and connections that make my job easier to do. Plus, there's no comparison to receiving "The Note" in my LinkedIn inbox from a job seeker who is back to work, and thanking me for the social media tips they learned along the way that helped them in their job search.

In addition to my network working through me for career opportunities, they also seek help in other areas. Sometimes they have job postings (seems like more and more of these lately - perhaps a good sign?). And sometimes they are looking to connect for networking purposes.

Back to the career seekers / job posting topic for a second. There's a phenomenon I see in my network which I call the "Titanic Effect." You'll recall the part of Titanic's timeline when the boat was sinking fast and the lifeboats were not all completely full, but they were rowing away from the crowded ocean for fear that the lifeboats would be overtaken and all would be lost. The same thing is occurring with some hiring managers nowadays: they don't want to post a job on monster or even on LinkedIn because they don't want to be overwhelmed with 500+ resumes and inquiries. Even though they know there are a lot of talented people seeking work.

There was a show on TV once about the Titanic and they had a group of grade-schoolers brainstorm ways that more passengers could be saved. They thought of dozens of solutions, the most memorable of which was bringing all the lifeboats together and using fabric and furniture to create a tarp to hold more passengers inside the circle of lifeboats. The kids put their heads together and thought of creative solutions, and so should we.

We all want the economy to improve and some of our lifeboats have space to spare. But if the fear of being capsized is greater than the belief that we can help, we're frozen to do anything (no titanic pun intended).

So I ask you: if you have an open position at your company, do something - reach out through your network with a description of your job. It's like extending a hand to an adjoining lifeboat and opening up a few seats as a result. I'm not saying to post it on Monster or advertise it on your nightly news. But if we all did a little something today, and then tomorrow, and then the next day, we'd start building more positive momentum. And that positive karma would create more positive karma, and would come back to us. It could be in the form of more business for our company. It could be in more leads from our network. It could be in stronger relationships with our clients and customers. But in order for anything to occur, the process needs to start somewhere.

Sometimes karma stalls out like a ball in motion that loses momentum. Push it forward a bit or even down a hill and you've got some serious speed. Don't expect it to come back to you. It will -- eventually though. Because that is the power of social media karma.

My goal is to help one person in my network before the end of the night. I challenge you to do the same. See you on linkedin, facebook, or twitter. And share your own challenges here.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

My secret: how I learn new marketing techniques

I attended a Toastmasters* Leadership Institute event yesterday in Dearborn, Michigan. The purpose of this event is to bring together all the Toastmaster members in our District (which covers metro Detroit, Windsor, and Toledo) and train the club officers as well as to keep us all updated on upcoming district events. There are also a free breakout session on various leadership and communication topics.

It's a great event for several reasons:
1. It's free and they give you breakfast. Hey - we all gotta be cost-conscious these days!
2. Gives me a chance to chat with other Toastmasters from clubs across the metro area, many of which I keep in touch with through social media (facebook, twitter, linkedin), but only see a few times a year.
3. Even though it requires me to give up half of a Saturday and forgo sleeping in , I look forward to going. I know I'll leave with more information that will help me and my club and I will be inspired. I've found once you start seeking inspiration, you tend to become addicted. :)

I could go on but you get the picture.

So onto the real topic - my secret for learning new marketing techniques: I find the people who are doing things really well, and I learn and then mimic their techniques. I figure out what works for me and what doesn't. Sometimes I ask them to suggest what techniques they would suggest for me. Sometimes I just read about their techniques, or notice what they are doing, or notice what they aren't doing (and see that golden opportunity) and voila I find something. And sometimes through trial and error I find a technique that works even better for me.

What does Toastmasters have to do with any of this, you ask?

Public speaking.

Egad. Even the mention of it is enough to cause a few of you to stop reading this blog right NOW. And a handful of others to recall their high school or college class when you gave a speech and thank god you don't have to do one again anytime soon. There are probably others of you who speak in front of groups regularly as part of your job and it no longer phases you.

Well, not me. I'm an introvert at heart and I'll ALWAYS have to work at my public speaking skills. But by paying close attention to those in my industry who are widely successful, I figured out that I'll need to be a confident, engaging, charismatic speaker in order to be successful in my future. Sure, I could be mediocre. But as my son will tell you, mediocre is "okay" and I want to be better than "okay."

So I joined Toastmasters. I was so nervous going to my first meeting. Would they single me out and ask me to speak? Would the group be so advanced that they would laugh at my speaking ability? And more importantly, would I have enough courage to commit to their program?

Well, nearly 2 1/2 years later I can share that I completed one manual (10 speeches) and earned my "Competent Communicator" award; I completed in an area contest and won best area speaker (funny story actually); I served as club president for a year; and I sponsored a new club and helped that club to charter within a month. But I think the biggest accomplishment for me was that I found my voice. I figured out my speaking style. I worked out many of the insecurities I had about myself speaking in front of groups. I'm proud (and still a bit surprised) to say that even though I still get a bit nervous before I speak in front of a large group - and we're talking groups of 50-100 or more - that I ENJOY speaking.

I also realized that I will always have to continue to practice public speaking and hone my skills. Remember, I'm an introvert at heart. That means that the nervousness I have will never completely go away so I have to chip at it all the time to keep my nerves at bay. That's why you'll always see me raising my hand when there's an opportunity to do so.

Over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to meet many, many, many talented public speakers in Toastmasters. And this brings me back to my secret marketing technique: learning from others. Surround yourself with those who are experts, and you will learn. I look at what they are doing really well - their timing, their gestures, their audience engagement, their jokes even, and I also look for areas where they could do better and think about what I would do differently. I'm continuously soaking up as much as I can from my fellow Toastmasters, and when there's a lull in a presentation, I'm jotting down notes for future speeches, and sometimes for techniques that I can bring back to my club.

Okay, so now you know my secret. Let's just keep this between me and you, okay? Oh, and the world wide web. :)

* If you're not familiar with Toastmasters, a lot of people know it as the "public speaking group." Toastmasters has been around for years and it's an international, professional development group. Its focus is to help people to improve their communication and leadership skills through self-paced programs. Plus, it's pretty inexpensive. I pay $35 twice a year. Read more at