Five things my influencers taught me in 2016

1 Comment | by Elise Perkins

2016 was a big year for me. I began my second full year as an entrepreneur; launched an online course; and, grew and birthed a human. So, you’ll forgive me if this “year in review” post is about three months late.

But as I am slowly returning to the workforce with an entirely new, and demanding, set of priorities as a mother, I thought about what my influencers taught me last year to help me prepare for 2017 and beyond.

In no particular order – but equal amounts importance – I give you five solid lessons I gleaned from my influencers last year:

Creating something of value takes more hard work and resilience than you realize.

If you’re a communicator and not a part of Shonali Burke’s kickass online community the Social PR Posse, or even better, her top secret (but happily welcomed into) club the Social PR Virtuosos, get on board because the train is leaving. Shonali started building this machine YEARS ago and it has paid off in spades, but through some seriously long days, and months. She owns the #SocialPR space, and she’s contributing daily, and most often, hourly (sometimes by-the-minute, which is superhuman). Shonali has created a vibrant community for communicators to connect across the country (and world), as well as dreamt and executed a pristine online program to help enrich our hectic lives in the Social PR Virtuoso (get on the damn waitlist!), and now the Social PR Apprentice. Her forums allow for open and honest dialogue and real-time crowdsourcing for advice and recommendations. It’s been a revelatory experience for me to participate it, and invaluable in terms of network expansion. Shonali has taught me (among countless other things in 2016) to put my heart and mind into building wonderful things, but be prepared to work much harder and much longer than I originally envisioned.

Parenthood is just another form of leadership, and likely to be the toughest yet.

In this Spin Sucks post, inspired by my twitter conversation (one day I look forward to a face-to-face one!) with Gini Dietrich, she wrote about Five Leadership Lessons Learned from a Toddler. Originally I think I asked her for advice on how to work with an infant at home. Short answer – not easily. Gini assured me in no uncertain terms that my penchant for routine and organization would go out the window for the foreseeable future. Melding parenthood and career is already proving more difficult than I envisioned (sleep deprivation, schedules awry, and more), but understanding that it’ll get easier and placing importance on enjoying this season of my life is a happy reminder that time makes everything easier. (Side note: I am currently pumping breast milk while writing this post, it’s all about productivity, people).

Publish or perish.

Mark Schaefer is a behemoth, this we know. How he churns out compelling blog posts day in and day out is awe inspiring, but apparently not too difficult according to him (there is a post on his method that I cannot find for the life of me, and that you will excuse me for!). And now he’s written my dream book, KNOWN, about how to become an influencer and develop your own brand. Mark knows the importance of writing consistently and writing well. I love (and read) most everything he writes, but this post in November extolled the simple principles we need to use to begin, and to continue producing great content: read aloud, cut excess words (note: I could have cut WAY more words in this post), use the RITE filter, re-write your work, and most of all, begin. Writing is difficult: we fuss over choosing the right topic, worry about our expertise in the area, and perhaps obsess over how it will be perceived by our peers. But, it is important, and writing more frequently helps us develop our voice as well as lay the foundation for brand building, which does not happen overnight. Publish frequently, and keep polishing your pieces as you go.

Embrace change.

When Snapchat arrived, Gary Vaynerchuk leapt on it before most people had downloaded the app. He didn’t know if it was going to be a big thing or not, but he knew he first had to try it. When new products, technologies, and trends appear – communicators shouldn’t look the other way. Putting in the hard work of learning when we’ve seemingly reached the pinnacle of our careers (as Gary has) is admirable, and an example to follow. Fearless is a part of Gary’s brand, and a major reason why he has been so successful. Communications and marketing has changed tremendously in the past five years, and solid professionals need to know how to navigate these new waters. Gary embraces change when it appears, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. His followers appreciate that. I leapt at the opportunity to see him this past Spring at the University of Maryland. Thanks for embracing change with a full heart, Gary. I’ll be thinking of that a lot this year.

You can, and should, do better.

Tim Ferris’s book The Four Hour Work Week was the catalyst for starting a business when I read it back in late 2013. As he’s done for many millions of people, Tim’s affinity for human guinea-pigging (at the benefit of his audience) ranges from his personal health to business ventures and beyond. Whether through his podcasts or blogs, he is approachable in his recommendations and writing, and kind to his community. He truly wants to be better at most everything he could, and if you do also, he’s happy to teach you. His storytelling taught me that taking a chance at entrepreneurship could be one of the most incredible gifts I’d ever give myself. We have to stop saying no to ourselves; stop letting others “no” stand in our way; and do the hard work of discovering what we can and should be doing better – in work and in life.

So, here they are, my top takeaways from my influencers in 2016:

  1. Creating something of value takes more hard work and resilience than you realize.
  2. Parenthood is just another form of leadership, and likely to be the toughest yet.
  3. Publish or perish.
  4. Embrace change.
  5. You can, and should, do better.

What did your influencers teach you last year?

About Elise Perkins

Elise Perkins founded ep communications in 2014 after seven years of working for trade associations and think tanks. Today she focuses on building brands for businesses and people, using a savvy mix of content and influencer strategies. She sits on the board of Washington Women in Public Relations.

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