Nostalgic Nerd Alert: #Pi Day, Socialmediaphobe Style

Pi Day

At my grandmother’s house, the weeks leading up to holidays involved many conversations about pie. Who would be coming to dinner was directly related to the quantity and flavor of the pies to be made. On Pi Day, I can’t help but remember those three days or so of preparation as some of my favorite memories. As a communications strategist, I can see how several of my grandma’s pie baking rules apply to content strategy.

  1. One pie is never enough. Engaging branded content should leave people wanting more. Content leads not only to “likes” but to followers; it increases your searchability; it helps people to know and trust you. You should leave them wanting more.
  2. Always have more than one flavor to offer (i.e., don’t bake 2 apple pies if you can make and apple and a cherry). Not sure whether you should be producing video, writing blogs, snapping pictures, or sending well-crafted Tweets? What most connects with your audience? Chances are, it’s a little bit of everything. With new algorithms being rolled out almost daily, it can be hard to keep up with new media trends. If you don’t have time to keep up with the latest research, hire a team to do this for you. It’s important to measure the outcomes of your strategy (i.e., did your content increase traffic? leads? sales?) quarterly to reassess its efficacy.
  3. Some people like it a la mode, some like it plain. Some like it hot, some like it cold. With content, it’s not just about what you offer, but where and how you post it. Find out when and where your audience likes to consume information, and make sure you have a presence there. Good news: like a day-old slice of pie that is reheated to taste oven-fresh, content can often be tweaked and repurposed.
  4. It’s better to have leftovers than to run out. I remember once being so busy handing out slices at my birthday party that we ran out and I didn’t get any. Since then, it’s always seemed more important for us to make enough and freeze the leftovers for a rainy day. Content can be similarly stored for times when business picks up, or when you go on vacation. Your audience doesn’t take breaks with you: be prepared by thinking and writing ahead.

Happy Pi Day everyone!

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Sebastian Thrun: Failure Is Beautiful

Sebastian ThrunWhen Sebastian Thrun approached the podium at Cleveland Clinic’s Ideas for Tomorrow Wednesday, I was both intrigued and put-off by his saunter and his eye-wear. It’s not his fault – I generally approach fame with a certain sense of skepticism. But when one of his opening lines was: “I hope to show you how often I fail,” I was hooked.

It turns out Thrun and I have a common passion for entrepreneurism, for experimenting with new processes in order to change our industries significantly. But, thinking and creating without boundaries involves a great deal of risk taking.

Thrun gave us a chronology of his successes by highlighting his failures because he claims “there is no learning without failure.” Health-tech entrepreneurs often risk everything – investing countless time and money developing ideas that may never work. Or they’ll get their gadget to work on Wednesday – only to find that someone else brought it to market late Tuesday night. These challenges are part of the process of innovation, which Thurn describes as a process of testing and failing.

Process of Innovation according to Sebastian Thrun

Each failure brings us a little closer to our goal – even reshapes the end goal, transforming it into something we wouldn’t have dreamed possible at the outset. If you told me 20 years ago that by 2012, approximately 76% of people would consult the Internet, Dr. Google, before calling their physician I never would’ve believed you.  But then computers became smaller and smaller, information more and more easily accessible, and it’s changed not only the way we ask questions but the very questions themselves.

Someday, someone is going to make health as addictive as video games – and make it lasting – and I want to be there to see it happen. Industries are changed by people who are fearless. Failure teaches us an important lesson: hard work is no substitute for vision. You have to have vision when the experiment you’ve been working on, the app you’ve been developing for years, or the pitch you’ve been researching for months, goes wrong. Without vision, we’d all throw in the towel and learn to love a 9-5 job. “In all these failures,” says Thrun, “there is some beautiful insight that drives us forward.”

Let’s cling to the vision.

The Ingredients of Innovation by Sebastian Thrun

Photo of slide from Sebastian Thrun’s Cleveland Clinic Ideas for Tomorrow presentation

#Start-up Insomnia: Do Entrepreneurs Ever Sleep?

woman with insomniaI read an excerpt from a book about to be released by Andrew Yang called Smart People Should Build Things. In it, Yang describes starting a business as something like having a baby. Now that I have done both – had babies, and start a business  – I can see the similarities.

When my first child was born, she slept in a bassinet beside my bed. As with most babies, she was a noisy little sleeper – but I didn’t know the difference between her sleepy grunts and fussing. Every peep that came from that bassinet was like a clap of thunder over the house. My daughter was (and still is) a restless sleeper. For months, I fed her every time she moved. (So, every half hour or so.) I can’t remember ever being so tired – or so obsessed with something.

When my second child was born, he slept in the bassinet for two nights. I had by then realized that babies stir in their sleep. But that stirring set off all my hormonal motherly responses and prevented me from sleeping. I moved him into his own room on his third night home. And we both started sleeping for four hour intervals.

Now my children are older and – save the occasional nightmare – generally take care of their own middle-of-the-night needs. But I have a new baby to keep me up.

My business, a boutique communications firm for healthcare and tech start-ups, was born from passion. A passion for innovation and improvements in health care delivery and behavior change that sets my heart racing. I’m only in the very beginning stages of entrepreneurship and it’s very much like having a newborn baby in the house. I lie awake thinking of calls to action, of new ways to measure the impact of our work, of new story ideas, of new ways to engage customers and venture capitalists. I think of making subtle changes to websites I’ve developed. Of cutting the paychecks. Of strategies – mostly for my clients but also for my company, because I don’t get enough daytime hours to think of it.

I’ve got to figure out how to be a business owner and still sleep. How to be a business owner and be a wife/mother who might occasionally discuss topics other than her baby business. I’m a new mom. It’s terrifying. Exhilarating. Exhausting. But, at least I’m not lactating.