What do Clint Eastwood and the Leaning Tower of Pisa have in common? Not much, as far as your brain is concerned. But take a look at a picture of the famous actor and landmark together, and your brain will link the two, thanks to neurons that rapidly encode associations between people and places, according to a new study. The discovery is a “first step” toward understanding how the brain encodes complex, movielike memories of past events, says study author Itzhak Fried, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. About 10 years ago, Fried and colleagues discovered a bizarre phenomenon. While probing a deep brain region called the medial temporal lobe (MTL) in people with epilepsy, who had part of their skulls temporarily removed so physicians could pinpoint the source of their seizures, they discovered a single neuron that started to fire like crazy whenever the patient saw a photograph of actress Jennifer Aniston. The team went on to show that other individual neurons in the same region—which includes the hippocampus, a structure long known to be vital to memory processing—responded to different celebrities, such as Julia Roberts and Halle Berry, and even specific events in 5-second clips from The Simpsons.The now-famous “Jennifer Aniston” neuron supports a widely held hypothesis that specific brain cells in this region encode discrete representations of places, people, and objects. These neurons have an “amazing” property, called invariance, which sensitizes them not just to one image of their “preferred” stimulus, but to many different versions, Fried explains. In his 2005 experiments, for example, the Aniston neuron responded to images of the actress in any outfit and with any haircut. The only image the cell did not respond to, oddly enough, was of the actress holding hands with Brad Pitt. It’s not that just one cell responds to Aniston’s image, Fried emphasizes. Thousands, if not millions, of other cells in the brain may also be sensitive to the actress. 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So in the new study, Fried and colleagues showed 14 people undergoing exploratory surgery for epilepsy 100 to 200 randomly ordered images, including pictures of their loved ones, celebrities such as Clint Eastwood, and volleyball player Kerri Walsh, as well as landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the White House, and the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. Each patient already had electrodes sunk deep into their MTL to detect aberrant electrical activity, and scientists used the wires to listen for cells that fired up in response to different images.Of the roughly 600 neurons the team recorded in each patient, between 2 and 28 cells fired vigorously in response to at least one image. Next, the researchers presented participants with digitally altered photographs in which a neuron’s “preferred” image, such as a photo of Clint Eastwood, was superimposed on a background the neuron had ignored in a previous trial, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In a series of memory tasks, the participants were asked to match pairs of separate images based on the doctored composites. If they’d seen the Eastwood composite, for example, their task might be to pair a photo of Eastwood with a separate photo of the tower.Even after one exposure to the composites, neurons that had previously fired exclusively in response to one picture—like that of Eastwood—significantly increased their firing rate when exposed to the image with which it had been combined—in one case, by 230%, Fried and colleagues report today in the journal Neuron. The fact that an individual neuron can adapt its firing rate so quickly could help explain how large, dynamic neuronal networks form complicated memories of past events, Fried says.The findings are “very consistent with results from a number of animal studies” that show rapid changes in hippocampal neural activity during learning, says Loren Frank, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. “This is indeed the sort of thing that has to happen” in the brain to store memories of once-in-a-lifetime events, he says.Fried hopes the new study will contribute to efforts to restore memory in people suffering from traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease, such as an ambitious Defense Administration Research Project Agency (DARPA)-funded initiative aimed at restoring memory function in neurological patients in which his lab is participating. Many scientists have expressed skepticism about the DARPA project, and Fried notes that bridging the gap between basic research on simple associations and clinical memory treatments is “a formidable challenge.” Such projects, he says, “should avoid the pitfalls of unrealistic expectations for early ‘big wins.’ ”
Deborah Elizabeth Finn has a great new review of the book, Philanthropy Reconsidered by George McCully. She notes:George explains how our rhetoric (and perhaps therefore our thinking) has shifted, as we’ve moved from the industrial age to the information age in philanthropy. It’s no longer about grand patrons giving away their bounty to the deserving poor – it’s about all of us wanting to make a difference, working together, and investing in the change we want to see in the world.We tend to make use of terms such as “nonprofit” to describe our organizations, thus allowing the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to define not only our sector, but to define the taxonomy by which we understand our missions. In his book, George proposes an alternate taxonomy that he developed in the context of his work with the Catalogue For Philanthropy. He points out the need for terminology not based on postive rather than negative definitions (e.g., “nonprofit” or “nongovernmental”), and a taxonomy that orients us to philanthropy as an integral part of our human mission.I agree with that for sure.It reminds me of what our friends at For Impact like to say: We’re not not-for-profits at heart. We’re for impact. And we need as many people behind that as possible.
New Delhi, Sep 3 (PTI) Nine new faces were today inducted into the Union Council of Ministers including four former senior bureaucrats and BJP leaders from Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which are scheduled go to polls next year.Here are their short profiles –1) Sixty-four-year-old Ashwini Kumar Choubey was a health minister in Bihar. A BJP veteran, he was born at Dariyapur in Bhagalpur and did BSc (Hons) in zoology from Science College, Patna University.At present, he represents the Buxar Lok Sabha seat. Married to Neeta Choubey, he has two sons.He played an active role in the JP Movement in the 1970s and was taken into custody during the Emergency. The movement was led by Gandhian socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, who was popularly known as JP.Chaubey is credited for the slogan — “ghar-ghar me ho shouchalaya ka nirman, tabhi hoga ladli bitiya ka kanyadaan”. He has helped in the construction of 11,000 toilets for Mahadalit families.2) Virendra Kumar, 63, is the Lok Sabha MP from Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh.From being the convenor of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Sagar in 1977-79 to becoming a Union minister, it has been a long journey for Kumar, who was elected for a sixth Lok Sabha term in 2014.Kumar had participated in the JP Movement and was in jail for 16 months during the Emergency. He hails from the Scheduled Caste community and hold a masters degree in economics and a PhD in child labour.3) Sixty-five-year-old Shiv Pratap Shukla is a Rajya Sabha member from the electorally crucial Uttar Pradesh. The lawyer-social worker was earlier a minister in UP. He was appointed a vice president of UP chapter of the BJP in 2012.advertisementA law graduate from Gorakhpur University, Shukla was imprisoned for 19 months during the Emergency.4) Anant Kumar Hegde, 49, has been a member of the 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th and 16th (present) Lok Sabha from Uttara Kannada in Karnataka. He is an agriculturist by profession.At the young age of 28, he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. During his multiple stints in Parliament, he has served as a member of parliamentary standing committees on finance, home affairs, human resource development, commerce, agriculture and external affairs.He has also been a member of the Spices Board of India for four terms. He is a practitioner of martial art Taekwondo.5) Satya Pal Singh, 61, is a Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh. A 1980-batch Maharashtra cadre IPS officer, he resigned as the Mumbai Police chief to take a plunge into politics.He was honoured by the central government in 2008 for his services with the Antrik Suraksha Sewa Padak and a special medal for extraordinary work in naxal-hit areas of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in 1990. Singh has written books, including on topics like tribal conflict resolution and naxalism.Born in Basauli village in Baghpat, he has MSc and MPhil degrees in chemistry, an MBA in strategic management from Australia and an MA in public administrationnas well as a PhD on the naxalite movement.6) Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, 49, is a Lok Sabha member from Jodhpur in Rajasthan. He is also a national general secretary of the farmers wing of the BJP.A sports enthusiast, Shekhawat has participated at the national and all-India inter-university level in basketball. He currently is a member of the All India Council of Sports and the president of the Basketball India Players Association.He has MPhil and MA degrees in philosophy from Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur.7) Hardeep Singh Puri, 65, is a 1974-batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and served as Indias Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013.Known for his experience and expertise in foreign policy and national security issues, he is the president and chairman of the think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS). He was also the vice president of the International Peace Institute, New York.His four-decade career in diplomacy included critical roles as Indias ambassador to Brazil and the United Kingdom, and the Permanent Representative of India to Geneva.An alumnus of The Hindu College, Delhi University, Puri was a student leader and active during the JP Movement. He briefly taught at St. Stephens College in Delhi before joining the IFS.8) Raj Kumar Singh, 64, is a former IAS officer of the 1975-batch Bihar cadre and a former Union home secretary. He is a member of the current Lok Sabha representing Arrah in Bihar.Singh studied English literature at St. Stephens College and is a law graduate. He also studied at the RVB Delft University in the Netherlands.advertisement9) K J Alphons Kannanthanam, a Kerala-cadre IAS officer from the 1979 batch, quit the service in 2006 to join politics. He was also a practicing advocate.Kannanthanam was known as the demolition man during his stint at the Delhi Development Authority between 1992 and 1995 for having ordered razing of thousands of illegal constructions.He began his political journey by becoming an independent MLA backed by the CPI(M) in Kerala in 2006, but joined the BJP in 2011. He is not a member of either House of Parliament.Born in a non-electrified Manimala village in Kottayam district to a World War II veteran, he pioneered the literacy movement in India as the district collector of Kottayam by making it the first 100 per cent literate town in the country in 1989.He was elected as an Independent member of the Kerala Assembly from Kanjirappally in 2006.Kannanthanam is a member of the committee set up to prepare the final draft of the National Education Policy, 2017. He has authored a book — Making A Difference. PTI Team ADS SC DIP
Over the past weekend, my husband and I got to enjoy a date night. As those of you with young children probably know, date nights become few and far between once the kids come along, so we were pretty excited to get to spend some time together.The date was your standard dinner and a movie affair. We went out to our favorite restaurant then headed to the theater to check out Oz the Great and Powerful.I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I’ve been to see a movie in the theater. The ticket price was a bit alarming. We saw the regular version of the movie, and the cost was $11. If we’d chosen the 3-D version, it would have jumped to $20 per person.We gripe about the cost to go see a movie, which is now just over $8 nationwide (not counting 3-D movies). But, the average cost to make a movie is over $65 million, as of 2007, which makes a $10 or $11 ticket pale in comparison.While $65 million seems like a lot to most of us, it is nowhere near the cost of the most expensive movies. Check out the film budgets of the 10 most expensive films.Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s EndIt’s amazing that a movie franchise based on an amusement park ride would cost so much. But, the third installment in the popular Pirates series bears the honor of having the highest movie budget, ever.It’s production budget was $300 million dollars, nearly five times the average cost to make a movie.TangledIt might surprise you that an animated film makes the list of the most expensive movies ever made. Tangled, which was a retelling of the tale of Rapunzel, had a budget of $260 million.The high cost of the film is thought to be because it’s a combination of hand-drawn animation and flashy computer animation.Spiderman 3The third installment in the first Spiderman trilogy was the biggest disappointment for fans, but also the one with the highest movie budget. The final film had a budget of $258 million.Although it didn’t do well with the critics, the film did manage to gross nearly $900 million at the box office.John CarterPoor John Carter. The long-awaited film version of the classic sci-fi novels had one of the biggest film budgets, but also proved to be a bust at the box office.The movie did manage to earn back its budget, but attendance in the US was dismal.Harry Potter and the Half Blood PrinceThis film, the sixth from the popular Harry Potter series, had a budget of $250 million, like John Carter.Unlike John Carter, it ended up grossing more than $900 million at the box office.AvatarThe movie Avatar was a game-changer. It was also one of the most expensive movies made, with a budget of $237 million at the time it was made. Avatar broke records by grossing more than $2 billion worldwide.The Amazing SpidermanThe first movie in the relaunch of the Spiderman series had a more modest budget than the third installment of the first series, especially when you take inflation into account.Its budget was $230 million in 2012 dollars and it ended up grossing more than $750 million.Chronicles of Narnia – Prince CaspianThe second film installment of the beloved Narnia series also had a pretty hefty budget – $225 million. The film brought in a decent, but not jaw dropping, amount at the box office – $420 million.Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s ChestThe second Pirates movie had a more modest budget than the third, but not by much. Its budget was $225 million. It ended up grossing more than the third film, bringing in more than $1 billion worldwide.The AvengersA movie about a team of superheroes, The Avengers had what could be considered a modest budget of just $220 million, especially when compared to other action movies.While it has the lowest budget of the top 10 most expensive movies, it earned more than almost all of them (except Avatar), bringing in $1.5 billion at the box office.“The Top Ten Most Expensive Movies Ever Made” was written by Kelly Anderson. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related Post navigation
Did you know Giving USA reported that in 2018, Americans donated over $410 billion dollars?! It’s around this time of year especiailly that giving back becomes top of mind for many. Whether it’s for a particular occasion or we’re looking… Full Story,Dressing up for Halloween is one of the best parts of the holiday, especially if you’re a creative person. But buying a Halloween costume can get expensive, with many costing more than $50 a pop. And unless you plan to… Full Story,Open enrollment season is here! We’re expecting to receive a big packet from human resources with all the options and benefits that our employers’ offer. While I won’t say that this is an exciting thing, we are eager to go over… Full Story,What are some of the biggest lessons you received about money growing up? For me, a few things stand out. We didn’t get too many formal lectures about money, but from time to time, I’d get a lesson sprinkled in here… Full Story,As the year winds down, you may find your spending picks up. With holidays approaching, families may be preparing for trips to see their loved ones or they’re buying gifts. However, if you haven’t been saving beforehand, it can mean… Full Story,While Raleigh is not exactly super close to the beach (we used to have a tiny apartment right across the street from the Chesapeake Bay when we were first married), it’s pretty easy to hop in our car and have… Full Story,How much money are you planning on spending this year during the holidays? For the average American family, it’s a good chunk of change. During the 2017 holiday season, Bank of America found that of those surveyed, they spent on… Full Story,It’s amazing how things change when you have kids. Before kids, weekend getaways and trips were fairly easy. When we needed to take a break, I remember we could look at the calendar and twenty minutes later, have a few… Full Story,How much does your family spend on food? If you’re like most, food is one of your top three expenses (the other two being housing and transportation). While it’s an essential expense for sure, but when digging around those receipts,… Full Story,If you’re a parent, helping your kids avoid or minimize college debt is a goal you’d like to help them tackle. Right now the average price for a public four-year college is $25,290 in-state ($40,940 out of state) while a… Full Story
So you have debt. As you probably know, you’re suffering in good company. According to the Federal Reserve, total household debt is at a staggering $13.86 trillion — and has been steadily climbing. While you might be one of millions… Full Story,We’ve all heard the expression “less is more,” and the concept of minimalism embraces that fully. While it is not a new concept, the minimalism trend has gained popularity in recent years, especially amongst Millennials in the United States. From… Full Story,Saving more money is one of those big goals that a lot of people have, but get stuck. I know this because we use to be right there too. The year would fly by and we were nowhere near our goal…. Full Story,Have you ever heard of “discretionary income” but felt unsure about exactly what it means? You’re not alone. Many people are aware of what they spend, but not the financial lingo behind it. Discretionary income refers to the remaining funds… Full Story,Mastering the personal finance basics feels pretty good. Getting a firm grasp on your expenses and budgeting like a pro is a reason to celebrate—you’re building the foundation for a solid financial future! This, of course, goes hand in hand… Full Story,While the traditional definition of financial freedom is that you have enough in investments, savings, and passive income that you don’t have to ever work for money again, it can also mean that you reach a point where you don’t… Full Story,Do you ever feel on edge because you’re not sure if you have enough in your bank account to cover your bills and put food on the table? If so, you’re far from alone. A recent study by the United… Full Story,Starting your journey toward financial fitness can be overwhelming. If you take a gander at the Center for Financial Services and Innovation (CFSI)’s eight key indicators of financial health, which include spending less than your income, having sufficient living expenses… Full Story,This Independence Day, as with each 4th of July, I’m reminded of the great leap of faith my parents took more than 37 years ago when they bought one-way tickets to the United States. Their move from their embattled Iran… Full Story,Earlier this month I had a major #fangirl moment. It was a full #fangirl evening, in fact, when I teamed up with New York Times bestselling author and Girlboss founder Sophia Amoroso to share in a very special money event…. Full Story
If your goal is to save money, budgeting and tracking your spending can go a very long way. But now, thanks to science, there are some new discoveries proving that building wealth and having more self-control around spending has much ado with having the right mindset and certain disciplines.Consider these four behavioral tricks that have been proven to help keep more money in our bank accounts.1. Shop, But Don’t “Check Out”Sometimes we just like the “idea” of having something – a new car, watch, purse – but once we own it, it fails to fulfill the fantasy.A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that materialistic consumers may receive more pleasure from just wanting products than they do from actually purchasing and owning them.So the next time you find yourself shopping online, feel free to add items to your cart. But then, walk away. And if you’re in a physical store, leave the item with the cashier (you usually have 24 hours to come back and buy it). Give yourself the time and space to distance yourself from the merchandise. Do you still want it? For what it’s worth, data finds that in the last six months, 78% of online shopping carts were abandoned.2. Exercise MoreWant to save more? Start doing some push-ups! It’s not only good for your heart, it’s good for your wallet. Multiple studies have now made the connection between your physical and fiscal health. Most recently, a study by the American Heart Association found that patients with heart disease who exercised regularly saved $2,500 a year on health costs. Even healthy patients who exercised as recommended had lower average medical costs.And if you ask me, another reason working out is a smart way to save is because it keeps you from performing other, more expensive deeds – like shopping online!3. Stay OrganizedClutter can be costly. It’s not just because we’re holding onto items that can be recycled, donated or sold (or spending hundreds of dollars a month on a storage facility). An academic study found that a lack of organization in a room can stimulate a greater desire to spend. To quote the study, “All participants were asked how they felt about paying for a variety of products ranging from an HDTV to movie tickets. The authors found that people in the cluttered room said they were more likely to purchase the products compared to the people placed in the organized room.”4. Keep Crisp Bills in Your WalletEver get a new $50 or $100 bill and spend the first minute or two examining it? It’s kind of hard – painful even – to break a $100, isn’t it? (Maybe that’s just me?) But the fact is, we tend to be more wow’d by bills in larger denominations, perhaps because we don’t come by them as frequently. Big bills also tend to be in nicer, physical conditions in my experience, which makes me give them a special place in my wallet. Don’t believe me? A Journal of Consumer Research study found that “people are more likely to spend dirty, crumpled currency and hold on to new bills.” Post navigation Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at email@example.com (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related
Is skim milk the healthiest choice? Will dairy make you congested? This might just change your mind.Myth: Skim milk is the healthiest optionTruth: The health benefits of fat-free dairy may be overstated. Recent research has found that people who eat full-fat dairy aren’t any likelier to develop heart disease or diabetes than people who eat low-fat dairy. Other data has linked full-fat dairy to lower odds of obesity. The reason: Certain fatty acids in dairy may be linked to fullness; when you eat fat-free versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese, you may feel less satisfied (and eat more later). Low-fat milk helps your body absorb key nutrients from milk, such as vitamins A and D, as well as important fatty acids, says Katherine Tucker, PhD, nutritional epidemiology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Myth: Milk causes congestionTruth: Dairy won’t make your cold any worse. Any uptick in congestion you feel after drinking dairy is probably in your head. Milk drinkers with the common cold didn’t experience more coughing or runnier noses than those who didn’t drink dairy, according to a Swiss report. The only people who reported increased respiratory problems after drinking milk were those who believed dairy produces more mucus, the report found.Myth: More milk means stronger bonesTruth: Study results are mixed when it comes to the skeleton-strengthening benefits of calcium. A BMJ study published in 2015 found that middle-aged adults who took calcium supplements or who got high levels of calcium from their diet were as likely to experience fractures as people who consumed less calcium. “Dietary calcium intake is not associated with risk of fracture, and there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures,” the study authors concluded. “Evidence that calcium supplements prevent fractures is weak and inconsistent.” More research is needed to determine the best ways for adults to maintain strong bone health—and prevent fractures—into old age. Weight-bearing exercise (walking, running, dancing), as well as exercise that emphasizes balance (yoga, tai chi), appears to be critical.Myth: Most people can’t digest lactose wellTruth: The body can adapt to tolerate more milk. Even people who have a hard time digesting lactose rarely show symptoms with a small serving, especially when the dairy is paired with a meal, says Dennis Savaino, PhD, a nutrition science professor at Purdue University who has been studying lactose digestion for more than 30 years. “Every poison—or food—has a dose,” Savaiano says. “With lactose or milk, there’s a dose that gives symptoms, and that’s usually more than a cup.” Drinking milk regularly can make your body more used to digesting lactose, even if you’ve shown signs of intolerance before, he says. If you’re a dairy lover with lactose intolerance, talk to your doctor about ways to safely dabble in dairy without causing stomach upset or other symptoms.Myth: Milk is the best beverage source of calciumTruth: Other drinks have comparable amounts. With 30 percent of your daily value of calcium in one cup, milk is by no means a shabby source of the mineral. But it’s not your only option for calcium, which helps bones, muscles, the heart and nerves. A cup of calcium-enriched orange juice has 35 percent of your daily need, and enriched soy milk can serve a whopping 45 percent.Myth: All dairy products have the same vitamins and mineralsTruth: Milk and yogurt are more nutrient-rich than cheese and cream, Tucker says. Cheese is a middle ground between cream and milk; it has more nutrients than cream, but is not fortified with vitamin D the way milk often is. “Cheese is still a good source of calcium and a reasonable source of protein,” she says, “but there’s not as much vitamin D or magnesium because it’s diluted by fat.”Source
Quality control was carried out afterwards by comparing the identified land cover with the number of trees counted. For example, if a local participant identified an image as having just three trees but later identified the same image as forest, the researchers knew there was human error and further review was required.The Collect Earth tool allows users to navigate between multiple windows and select the best imagery for each particular data point These map-a-thons were designed so that people with first-hand knowledge of local landscapes could participate. No knowledge of remote sensing or any technology beyond internet literacy was required. The expertise needed was the understanding of regional landscape and land use. This practical knowledge of the region was critical as the participants were not only able to count individual trees but also identify the type of land use and trees they saw on the Google Earth images.This research only “discovered” new forest in the sense that Columbus “discovered” the New World. The drylands forest was always there, and the people who live in the area always knew it was there. In fact, they were the only ones who had the background knowledge to identify subtleties like whether an image of a plant in their region was a shrub or actually a young tree, or if what appeared to be a tree was just a perennial plant. A few common perennial crops, including coffee and banana, looked like shrubs in the satellite images, but local participants had no problem identifying them correctly as perennial crops instead of shrubs, a distinction that would have been impossible with satellite imagery analysis alone.Collect Earth Map-a-thon Event in Gatsibo, Rwanda. Google Earth collects satellite data from several satellites with a variety of resolutions and technical capacities. The dryland satellite imagery collection compiled by Google from various providers, including Digital Globe, is of particularly high quality, as desert areas have little cloud cover to obstruct the views. So while difficult for algorithms to detect non-dominant land cover, the human eye has no problem distinguishing trees in the landscapes. Using this advantage, the scientists decided to visually count trees in hundreds of thousands of high-resolution images to determine overall dryland tree cover.Local Map-a-thons using Collect EarthArmed with the quality images from Google that allowed researchers to see objects as small as half a meter (about 20 inches) across, the team divided the global dryland images into 12 regions, each with a regional partner to lead the counting assessment. The regional partners in turn recruited local residents with practical knowledge of the landscape to identify content in the sample imagery. These volunteers would come together in participatory mapping workshops, known colloquially as “map-a-thons.”To lay the groundwork for the local map-a-thon events the team identified both an entry point, usually a university, that could help recruit participants, as well as a facility with the capacity and internet to host the map-a-thon. Once trained, any given analyst could identify 80 to 100 plots per day.Example of Collect Earth grid set for data collection. No single person could ever hope to count the world’s trees. But a crowd of them just counted the world’s drylands forests—and, in the process, charted forests never before mapped, cumulatively adding up to an area equivalent in size to the Amazon rainforest.Current technology enables computers to automatically detect forest area through satellite data in order to adequately map most of the world’s forests. But drylands, where trees are fewer and farther apart, stymied these modern methods. To measure the extent of forests in drylands, which make up more than 40% of land surface on Earth, researchers from UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Resources Institute and several universities and organizations had to come up with unconventional techniques. Foremost among these was turning to residents, who contributed their expertise through local map-a-thons.Technical Challenges, Human SolutionsTraditional remote sensing algorithms detect tree cover in a pixel rather than capturing individual trees in a landscape. That means the method can miss trees in less-dense forests or individual trees in farm fields or grasslands, which is most often the nature of dryland areas. Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA tree cover data displayed on Global Forest Watch. Green pixels represent tree cover with greater than 20 percent canopy density but do not count trees outside of these pixels. Note, coarse pixels as shown above may be more efficient for rapidly detecting large scales of deforestation, while individual mapping techniques as described below may be more effective for monitoring land restoration and degradation. This human identification component, along with the ability to zoom into sub-meter resolution with cheap and available technology, has helped achieve the breakthrough result of forest cover identification 9 percent higher than previously reported. Local Ownership of the Map and the LandUtilizing local landscape knowledge not only improved the map quality but also created a sense of ownership within each region. The map-a-thon participants have access to the open source tools and can now use these data and results to better engage around land use changes in their communities. Local experts, including forestry offices, can also use this easily accessible application to continue monitoring in the future.Global Forest Watch (GFW) uses medium resolution satellites (30 meters or about 89 feet) and sophisticated algorithms to detect near-real time deforestation in densely forested area. The dryland tree cover maps complement GFW by providing the capability to monitor non-dominant tree cover and small-scale, slower-moving events like degradation and restoration. Mapping forest change at this level of detail is critical both for guiding land decisions and enabling government and business actors to demonstrate their pledges are being fulfilled, even over short periods of time.The data documented by local participants will enable scientists to do many more analyses on both natural and man-made land changes including settlements, erosion features and roads. Mapping the tree cover in drylands is just the beginning.
The transition from coal to gas has been responsible for significant emissions reductions in the U.S. power sector over the past few years. But there are growing concerns that too much reliance on natural gas breaks the carbon budget and undermines efforts to transition the country away from fossil fuels (see here, here and here). Carbon emissions from U.S. power plants rose 0.6% in 2018 following three straight years of decreases, as utilities switched to natural gas to meet record electricity demand.4. Renewable energy consumption is growing, but still constitutes a small portion of the U.S energy mix.The renewable share of energy consumption in the United States was 11.4% in 2018, reaching a record high of 11.5 quadrillion Btu. Compared to that, renewables’ share stood at 6% in 2005. Solar and wind showed the largest growth, driven largely by capacity additions.That’s tremendous progress, but renewables (especially wind and solar) are still a small share of the overall energy mix. EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2019 outlines the challenge ahead. It forecasts a fossil fuel-dependent future (78% of total energy consumption) for the United States even in 2050. Renewables will account for an increasing share of electricity generation through 2050, but electricity is just one piece of the pie. AEO 2019 projects wind and solar to supply 7% of total primary energy needs in 2050—up from 3% today—despite providing 23% of electric generation in 2050. All renewables (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass) are expected to meet just 14% of U.S. energy needs, while accounting for 31% of generation by 2050.The potential for renewable energy in other sectors remains largely untapped. Increasing the use of renewable electricity in transportation and for heat in homes and industry, which make up a significant portion of U.S. energy consumption, could go a long way to reducing emissions and meeting long-term climate goals.A Massive Decarbonization of the U.S. EconomyFossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas and coal—continue to dominate energy U.S. consumption. Renewable energy is growing, but too slowly to meet climate goals in the United States and globally. Meanwhile, climate scientists warn that we are running out of time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The world has just 11 years to cut emissions by 45%, and must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 to prevent temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees C). This necessitates immediate action and an economy-wide decarbonization program on an unprecedented scale. We reviewed the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) June 2019 Monthly Energy Review publication to unpack the energy consumption data. Our analysis reveals a glass half-full and half-empty. The good news is that clean energy sources such as solar and wind are rising and helping to slow the growth of carbon emissions. The bad news is that the shift away from fossil fuels isn’t happening quickly enough.Here are four key takeaways from EIA’s energy consumption data:1. Coal is being phased out in the United States.Coal consumption stood at 687 million short tons (MMst) in 2018, the lowest level since the beginning of the 1980s. Coal consumption peaked in 2005 and has declined 42% since then. EIA forecasts coals consumption to fall to 567 MMst in 2020.All signs point to a bleak outlook for coal. This is despite the Trump administration’s periodic efforts to revive a collapsing industry by pushing initiatives to keep failing coal plants open and relaxing pollution rules for coal-fired power generation. In 2018, the United States set a new record for energy consumption: 101 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy. Of this total, 81 quadrillion Btu (or 80%) were from fossil fuels: petroleum, natural gas and coal.What does this growing consumption mean for climate change, and is it still possible for the United States to get on a path to reduce emissions at the pace needed? The U.S. electricity sector consumes more than 90% of the country’s coal. However, the increasing availability of cheap natural gas and renewable energy, coupled with flat electricity demand, has led to a steady decline in the share of U.S. electricity generated from coal—from 51.7% in 2000 to 27.4% in 2018. The transition from coal to natural gas and renewables has led to a significant drop in carbon emissions from the power sector over the last decade, a plus for the environment.A recovery in U.S. domestic coal demand appears to be highly unlikely. Recent research shows that the United States has reached the coal cost crossover point, where 74% of the nation’s coal plants are “at risk.” Building new wind and solar power capacity locally, within 35 miles of each coal plant, is less expensive than the combined fuel, maintenance, and other going-forward costs of running those plants. By 2025, 86% of the existing coal generation fleet will be at risk.2. Fossil fuel consumption is being led by oil, principally in the transportation sector, highlighting the challenge ahead for decarbonization.In 2018, U.S. petroleum consumption increased to 20.5 million barrels per day (or 37 quadrillion Btu), its highest level since 2007. Petroleum has been the largest source of energy consumption in the country since surpassing coal in 1950. Petroleum products include transportation fuels, fuel oils for heating and electricity generation, and feedstocks for making chemicals, plastics and synthetic materials.The biggest increase in oil demand came from the industrial sector: a 6% growth in 2018, compared to a 1% growth for the transportation sector. This is likely related to increased manufacturing and petrochemical production.The transportation sector, however, continues to account for the majority of oil demand. Since 2000, the transportation sector share of total petroleum consumed has ranged between 66% and 71%. The transportation sector—which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains and shipping—has also emerged as the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States. In 2017, it replaced the electric power sector as the top source of CO2 emissions.For the world to stay well below a 2 degree C (3.6 degrees F) increase in average temperature, the transport sector needs to be decarbonized rapidly. However, reducing carbon emissions in the transportation sector has emerged as a huge challenge. Even with improvements in average new vehicle fuel economy and the growth in electric cars, the vast majority of motor vehicles on the road rely on fossil fuels. In 2018, motor gasoline accounted for about 63% of total petroleum consumed by the U.S. transportation sector and 44% of total petroleum consumed across all sectors. Demand for motor gasoline has increased since 2000, raising significant concerns about the pace of transition to cleaner fuels and vehicles.Two other products comprise big chunks of total petroleum consumed by the transportation sector: distillate fuel oil, which includes diesel fuels used in trucks and jet fuel used in the aviation sector. An increase in trucking and air travel demand led to an increased demand for distillate fuel oil and jet fuel in 2018—by 5% and 1.7%, respectively. Since 2000, the demand for distillate fuel oil has jumped 29% while jet fuel demand has decreased by less than 1%. All this highlights the challenge of decarbonizing in the “hard to abate” freight and aviation sectors.Even as the data points to the need to decarbonize the transportation sector, the Trump administration has been trying to backtrack on regulations that would set tougher emissions standards for cars and trucks. Recently four of the world’s largest automakers reached an agreement with California to establish a standard of about 51 miles per gallon by 2026. This deal is a hopeful step in pursing climate action in the transportation sector.3. Natural gas consumption is rising steadily in the electric power sector.U.S. natural gas consumption also set a new record in 2018: 82.1 billion cubic feet per day. Demand for natural gas increased across all sectors, primarily driven by weather-related heating and cooling needs. Natural gas consumption increased in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors by 13%, 10%, and 7% respectively, compared to 2017. However, the electric power sector saw the biggest increase: 15% over 2017.The spike reflects an ominous trend. As more and more natural gas-fired power plants have come online, natural gas consumption by the electric power sector has increased by a whopping 82% since 2005. Compared to that, natural gas demand in industrial, commercial and residential sectors saw relatively smaller increases (at 32%, 17%, and 4%, respectively).
Topics: Blog Optimization This article is the second in a series called Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing. The previous article was Part I: Executive Level Metrics.Part II: Website MetricsContinuing in the series of articles about what metrics to measure in marketing, I want to turn to website visitor metrics. These are the 5 most important metrics I like to look at when specifically investigating my website visitors (the very top part of the sales and marketing funnel).1) New vs. Repeat visitors – Not only do I look at the total number of visitors, but I like to look at the portion of my visitors that are repeat visitors. Is my site “sticky”? Are people coming back more frequently and in higher numbers? If more of my visitors are repeat visitors, it means they found something compelling on my site and came back to find more good stuff.The balance here is you need a healthy ratio of new visitors as well, because if too many of your visitors are repeat, you’re not growing your business. Most websites get the vast majority of traffic from new visitors, maybe 5% are repeat visitors. I like to see a ratio of about 15% of visits be repeat visitors, which to me indicates a healthier site. Too far above that (perhaps 30%) and you are probably not growing your business the way you would like.2) Referring sources – Where is my traffic coming from? One of my favorite things to look at is the sources of traffic. Did I get a new link from a big website? Is my traffic from SEO or organic search increasing? Most websites get about 20% of their traffic from search engines, but most of that is based on searches for your company name in most cases. A healthy site gets 40% or more of traffic from organic search, and that extra 20% comes from words that are not your company name. Knowing where you stand is important so you can decide how much to prioritize SEO.3) Conversion rate – How many visitors are becoming a lead (or customer)? Monitoring the overall rate at which your website visitors complete your desired outcome (buying something or filling out a lead form) is really important, because that is the whole reason you have a website. I like to view this data weekly, and compare it to what marketing events I have been running and my major sources of traffic for the week. It can give you a great sense of if the traffic from PC Magazine or the Wall Street Journal Online converts better into leads or customers and pints you in the right direction for future PR and advertising.4) Page popularity – What is the most popular content on my site? knowing what people like to look at on your site can help you produce more content that people enjoy and find engaging and remove the content they do not enjoy. One recent “ah-ha” I had was that as a small company, I was surprised about the number of people viewing the pages about our company and management team. Boring stuff, right? Well, maybe, but prospects actually wanted to know if we were good people with smart backgrounds before they decided to do business with us. Were we a bunch of college dropouts? (Actually, being a college dropout seems to be a positive thing, just ask the founders of Microsoft or Facebook.) Or did we have real business experience and actually know something about the software we were building. Knowing this helped me re-write the profiles and change a few things on the site to help people feel like we were more trustworthy and a good company to do business with.5) Traffic by keywords – This can refer to a number of different metrics, but what you are trying to understand is what terms and phrases people are searching on to find your site, and how much traffic you are generating from organic search. To investigate this, I like to look at a couple things. First, the number of people coming to my site using search keywords. Second, this portion of my traffic as a percentage of my total traffic. Finally, (my favorite) all of the search terms that people have used to find your website. This isn’t really a “metric”, but I find it fascinating and I think it provides a lot of insight into how your company is viewed on the web and if you have built your website to generate the right kind of traffic (qualified visitors).For instance, this blog is on the first page of Google for the following search terms: “google search tips”, “don corleone”, “website redirect”, “powerpoint best practices”, “free advertisement on google”, “understanding meta keywords”, “case studies on marketing strategy for small business”, “understanding RSS”, internet marketing graph”, “obama internet ranking”, “case study blue ocean”, and “why CRM”, just to name a few.I know many of you out there have lots of other metrics you enjoy, but I wanted to limit my list to only 5, o I certainly left some good stuff out. I am sure some people will comment about site paths and click heatmaps or click overlays to see what people are drawn to on a given page. So, let’s hear it… what metrics would you add to this list and why? And also, what would you remove and why? Leave a comment below. Originally published Sep 4, 2007 12:28:00 PM, updated July 03 2013 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
inbound marketing kit Topics: Originally published Jun 2, 2009 12:49:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 at InboundMarketing.com “Don’t know it? Don’t show it.” Inbound Marketing Kit Enlightened Stupid Marketer If you’re a marketer and you don’t take yourself too seriously Here’s some of my favorite quotes relevant to the inbound marketing mission: It’s not that digital marketing isn’t proven, it’s that I can’t conduct a thorough ROI. I prefer someone to be aware of my product than to not purchase it. They can’t convert if they’re not aware. Download our I don’t do ROI on the rest of my media mix. But, that’s because they’re proven.” Learn more about inbound marketing and how to combine blogging, SEO and social media for results. “You’ve got to hone your marketing mix. I like to stick with proven offline strategy … to drive awareness. Amused? Vote for . , you will be rolling on the floor after you watch this. For instance … Why would you give paid search credit for a certain conversion when it might just be a spillover of awareness of a USA Today Newspaper ad … that noone looked at? Switching to Inbound Marketing Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Remember that kid in class who always asked your teacher how long his term paper needed to be? Most teachers (the good ones) responded, “However long it needs to be.” Length as a poor indicator of content quality rings just as true in business blogging as it did in school.Just compare Brian Solis’ latest 1,000-word blog article with Seth Godin’s latest 100-word post. They’ve both been shared hundreds of times on major social media networks; so what gives? Let’s break down the reasons why word count in business blogging is unimportant and talk about the more important things you should be focusing on for your blog instead.Download 6 Free Blog Post Templates NowWord Count Doesn’t Matter, But Mobile Optimization DoesAccording to mobiThinking, half a billion people worldwide accessed the mobile web in 2009. That number is expected to double by 2014. In fact, in the U.S. alone, 25% of mobile users are mobile-only, meaning they don’t even use a desktop, laptop, or tablet to access the web. It’s unwieldy for mobile readers to browse through content on mobile screens that are too small to display it.What You Should Focus on Instead: Optimize your blog for a mobile environment. Your blog should load to fit screens on an iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android device so users don’t have to scroll and pinch to make your content fit. Then either write short-form content that can be easily absorbed by professionals on smartphones, or long form content that displays nicely on them.Word Count Doesn’t Matter, But Effective Formatting DoesPeople aren’t reading every word on the page. Readers have short attention spans, and they’re scanning your content for its main takeaways. The July Google Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter tells us the average time on site in the U.S. is 6:06 minutes, viewing 4.7 pages per visit. That averages out to people spending a little less than a minute and a half on each page of your site. That doesn’t sound like an in-depth read.What You Should Focus on Instead: Make it easy for readers to absorb the main takeaways by getting really good at formatting. Include images, break up content with bullet points and numbers (like Godin), and use bolded text to tell the reader where to focus their attention (like Solis). This will make it easier for people to glean the main takeaways, thus more likely they’ll keep reading your content and sharing it with their social networks.Word Count Doesn’t Matter, But Clarity & Depth DoSome topics take 100 words to explain, some take 1,000 — and that’s okay. Great bloggers are concise in their writing. They recognize that some great points may only take a couple hundred words to get across, and they avoid writing more just for the sake of writing more.However, if a longer blog post will make communicating your idea more effective, will ultimately help your readers either learn how to do their jobs better, or provide them with valuable content that they can share with their networks to make them look super smart, then let the words flow. Just as belaboring a simple point will increase your bounce rates, trying to squish a complex concept into an arbitrary low word count will disappoint readers who expected a deeper discussion of the topic when they clicked on your blog post.What You Should Focus on Instead: Before you start writing, put in time up-front to narrow down the scope of your topic and outline the points you want to cover. Completing this exercise will help you understand if your topic is appropriate, or if you’re writing about something that is better covered in something like an ebook or whitepaper. And if you refer to other concepts throughout the blog post that require more in-depth discussion, don’t be afraid to link to longer form content you’ve developed around that topic. It not only enhances the reader’s experience, but it also helps move them through your site to landing pages that can capture them as leads.Have you found your shorter blog posts perform better, or do your readers prefer lengthier blog articles?Image Credit: Maria Reyes-McDavis Originally published Nov 11, 2011 1:30:00 PM, updated October 02 2019
Topics: Originally published Nov 16, 2011 7:30:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 Piggybacking on newsworthy information in marketing often leads to big successes. Historically, we have encouraged marketers to keep track of newly released industry reports, upcoming events, and opportunities to tie their brand to a story that is currently generating a lot of buzz in the news. Such techniques help us become more agile marketers and gain stellar public exposure.David Meerman Scott’s new book Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage invites marketers to look around themselves and spot more “newsjacking” opportunities.Here is an excerpt from David’s new book, Newsjacking:As journalists scramble to cover breaking news, the basic facts—who/what/when/where—are often fairly easy to find, either on a corporate website or in competitors’ copy. That’s what goes in the first paragraph of any news story.The challenge for reporters is to get the “why” and the implications of the event. Why is the company closing its plant? The corporate website may offer some bogus excuse like “because it wants to spend more time with its family.”Competitors may quote some expert’s speculation on the real reason, but a reporter can’t cite that without adding something self-demeaning like “according to an expert quoted in the New York Times.” Journalists need original content—and fast.All this is what goes in the second paragraph and subsequent paragraphs. That’s why the newsjacker’s goal is to own the second paragraph. If you are clever enough to react to breaking news very quickly, providing credible second-paragraph content in a blog post, tweet, or media alert that features the keyword of the moment, you may be rewarded with a bonanza of media attention.If there is one organization we all count on for a quick reaction, it’s the fire department. So it is encouraging to find that the London Fire Brigade (LFB) is able to newsjack at lightning speed.News of the rescue, along with photos of the dramatic fire, quickly became the lead story in media worldwide. But the story was thin, few outlets had an original angle on it, and no one had reporters in the British Virgin Islands. For editors in the ferociously competitive UK media, situations like this are hideously stressful. So imagine their collective relief when the local fire brigade showed up to the rescue.Within hours of the initial reports on the fire and Winslet’s role in the rescue, the LFB offered Winslet the chance to train with firefighters at its training center. The offer was made in a story written by the LFB and posted on its website.This clever newsjack got the LFB huge attention, as the offer to Winslet was featured by news outlets worldwide. What the LFB did—quickly posting the Winslet offer on their site and alerting reporters—took no more than a few hours and probably cost nothing. But the resulting media exposure was worth millions. It was a gambit that succeeded because the timing and the message were perfect. You can newsjack, too.This excerpt clearly communicates the value of following what’s in the news and being able to remix it in a marketing context. So what should a marketer do in order to be prepared to newsjack?Follow the NewsIt might sound simple, but the importance of following the news cannot be emphasized enough. Read not only your favorite media outlets’ websites and blogs, but also sign up for Google Alerts to receive notifications when certain (industry) keywords are being mentioned.Follow JournalistsBy following and building relationships with influential journalists who cover stories in your industry, you expose yourself to more opportunities to hear about what they are interested in and to pitch them ideas. Muck Rack is one tool that can guide you in this task — it helps you to find journalists and follow the conversations they engage in.Be QuickIn order to take advantage of newsjacking, you need to act fast. Most likely, you won’t have time to develop a full-fledged marketing strategy. There might be time to only host a quick brainstorm session with your team. Make sure you are prepared to involve the right people and assets in this process.Have you had success with newsjacking? Share it with us in the comments below. Newsjacking Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
Topics: Remember what you thought when you first saw the Old Spice guy? When you heard the musical stylings of Carly Rae Jepsen in the emotional roller coaster “Call Me Maybe?” How about when you saw the inexplicably catchy “Gangnam Style” dance? These are some examples of virality (the marketing kind) at its best.Thing is, viral marketing is not easy. There’s just no way to know if that funny new video you’re creating is going to get 1,000,000 views, or 10. So what can you do?Newsjack virality, that’s what you can do. In other words, you can take something that’s already gone viral, and piggyback on its success by creating your own awesome spin on it. There are several companies out there who have done it — and done it well. So we’re going to highlight them in the blog post to help inspire you to jump on the next viral craze! Or, you know, so you can just relive funny viral trends. Whatever works.7 Companies That Jumped on Viral Crazes in the Nick of TimeT-Mobile Gets the Royal Treatment In April 2011, the world was obsessed with the Royal Wedding. You remember … white dresses. Hair fascinators. Pomp and circumstance. The Prince of England marrying Kate Middleton. That whole thing.Just two weeks befor the event, T-Mobile launched this parody video. The actors and actresses look surprisingly close to the real people they are portraying, too!With all of the media outlets practically flooded with the topic, it was a great way to get in on the action from a different angle than everyone else. It also aligned with T-Mobile’s message “One’s life is for sharing.” Since the video was posted, it received 26.5 million views on YouTube.Dollar Shave Club Takes Inspiration From The Ultimate ManOld Spice has become a go-to definition of viral marketing — they were the first example in our intro for a reason. Their 2010 release of the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” video led to a multitude of other videos they created based on customer suggestions… and of course, hundreds of other parody videos from other companies. That’s why it was smart for Dollar Shave Club to not parody the Old Spice videos, but take inspiration from them for their now iconic video:With this video, a small start-up that people had never heard of all of a sudden had a viral video with nearly 7 million views. Needless to say, piggybacking on the success of the Old Spice video’s tone and theme worked pretty well here.LevelUp Might Call You. Maybe.It’s no secret that one of the most popular viral videos of this year was Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” If you’ve never heard it, you might be one of the lucky few — not because it’s a bad song, but because it’s so flipping catchy you can’t ever get it out of your head. That also helped launch it to viral video status, and of course, soon it was being parodied left and right by the likes of the U.S. Olympic swimming team, Jimmy Fallon, and, the folks at mobile payment app LevelUp:The video got about 5,500 views — not the hundreds of thousands some others in this post got — but it was the talk of the start-up community, and showcased the company’s personality. Jumping on viral crazes like this are key to establishing yourself in your community when you’re the new kid on the block.uShip’s Channels Their Inner ZuckerbergIn 2010, everyone was anxiously awaiting the launch of the movie The Social Network. Online shipping marketplace uShip jumped on the popular craze by creating this viral video promoting their product using The Social Network as a twist:uShip was the first company to make a parody like this for the film, and their timing was perfect. Just as the movie came out and was gaining popularity and media attention, they launched this video that just happened to align perfectly with their product. Soon, uShip because a hot topic of its own in the media, getting them exposure to a new audience of potential customers and influencers.NASA’S LMFAOHoly acronyms, Batman! LMFAO’s song “Sexy and I Know It” hit the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in September 2011. With its catchy tune and unique music video, many other people and companies started creating parodies. But did you expect NASA to jump on board? No, don’t think many did. Take a look at their spinoff:Since the video was posted in August 2012, it’s gained nearly 3 million views. The video proved to be a great way for NASA to show they can have some fun, but also get more people on board with their programs. And if you’ve been following their work on Twitter via the Curiosity Rover, you know they’re not just a one trick marketing pony.Hunter PR Says Stuff PR People SayThe Sh*t People Say videos started a viral craze that led to popular videos like Sh*t Girls Say, Sh*t People Don’t Say, and more videos with the same theme. PR agency Hunter PR in New York City caught on at just the right time to make a creative video that got people talking.The video gained a lot of popularity on Twitter and eventually got nearly 100,000 views. Top PR blogs including PR Daily wrote about the creative video giving Hunter PR media exposure to the perfect audience — not just other PR professionals, but students who could be recruited and companies who could sign on as clients.HubSpot Does It Gangnam StyleRecently, Korean rapper Psy’s video “Gangnam Style” went viral. The music video was released on July 15, 2012 and has gained over 280 million views on YouTube ever since. It has also been featured on Saturady Night Live, Ellen, and the Today Show. Here at HubSpot, we took the opportunity to create a parody of the video, quickly jumping on its viral craze before it lost its luster:Within one week of posting our version of the video, it’s accumulated over 100,000 views on YouTube and has been written about in the Boston Herald, BostInno, and Buzz Feed. For HubSpot, it’s not only a great way to grow our social reach, but a way to give insight into our culture, too.What other companies have you seen jump on the viral video craze?Image credit: nuskyn Video Marketing Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Originally published Sep 28, 2012 9:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016
Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Topics: Marketing Advice Originally published Apr 18, 2013 9:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Today is my first day as a marketing fellow at HubSpot. In my last job, I was the editor in chief of a technology news site called ReadWrite. Before that I was the technology editor at Newsweek, and before that I was a technology columnist at Forbes. I’ve spent my entire career in the media business, and now I’ve bailed out.In the end it was a pretty simple decision. I came to the realization that advertising is dying, and therefore any business that depends on advertising to pay the bills is a dead end. I also had grown less and less enchanted with the kind of work I was doing as a “mainstream” journalist.Media companies need a new way to make money — one that doesn’t depend on advertising. But so far nobody has come up with anything. That wouldn’t be so bad, if at least they were aware of this problem. The truly scary thing to me is that publishers either aren’t aware of this, or won’t admit it.Instead of inventing a new business model, media companies keep trying to tweak the old one. By that I mean they keep trying to invent new kinds of advertising. It’s a pointless exercise. They’re like blacksmiths who are responding to Henry Ford and his automobile by trying to create a better horseshoe.For a long time I didn’t want to admit how serious and profound were the challenges facing the media business. I wanted to believe, as many still do, that somehow everything will work out. Like most journalists, I get a little romantic about the news business.But the thing is, I’m also a business journalist. As a business journalist, I could see the disruption taking place. I could see that the entire foundation of the industry was crumbling. And I knew that when that happens, in any industry, it’s time to get out.In future posts I’ll write more about advertising and describe what it’s like to be living inside the nightmare of an ad-supported business these days. But for now that’s enough on why I bailed out. The more important question might be why I came to HubSpot.Why HubSpot?It’s mostly because I’m a content guy, and HubSpot is all about content. These days other companies are figuring out the value of being publishers, but HubSpot was a pioneer in this space. There’s a lot to learn here, and I’ll do two things I love best: write and speak. In my mind I’m still working as a journalist. I’m just not working for a traditional newspaper or magazine.At my first meeting with HubSpot, they told me about one of their customers, a company that used to spend $800,000 a year running newspaper ads but now spends $12,000 a year for a subscription to HubSpot and gets better results.My first thought was, “So you’re the bastards who are killing my industry.” My second thought was, “Hey, are you hiring?” Turns out they were, and the more we talked the more it seemed like a fit.Another factor for me was fun. I’ve been covering technology companies for a long time, and one thing you learn is that people working at disruptive companies have way more fun than the people whose companies are being disrupted. Unfortunately, for the past decade I have been on the side that’s getting disrupted. It has become less and less fun. I’ve experienced the heartache of working in an industry that’s collapsing. I’ve seen good, smart, talented people struggling (and failing) to breathe new life into a dead business model.I’ve also spent the past few years writing “articles” that were less and less interesting — they were basically just SEO chum thrown out onto the internet in hopes of catching traffic. I’ve watched the editorial department get pushed into ever more unnatural positions to suit the demands of advertisers. I’ve sat through too many pep talks where someone from management explains that business is down, and we’re laying people off, but hang in there. We’ve got a plan. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve read too many goodbye emails from colleagues drifting off into other fields.But in the last year or so, many have started finding work as journalists inside companies. That new appetite for “corporate journalism” makes it easier than ever for journalists to leave their posts. Intel, IBM, GE, Oracle, and countless others have hired reporters. Some companies have a blogger or two; others are building full-fledged news organizations.The result is that these days a lot of good journalism is being committed outside the walls of traditional media companies. As my friend Kevin Maney, a longtime tech columnist at USA Today who bailed out of mainstream media a few years ago, has written, “Traditional media is increasingly a bad place for a good journalist to work.”My theory is that in the age of the internet, it’s what you write, not where you write it, that matters. If I can have a platform to write interesting things, if I can work for a company that’s growing and having fun, if I can depend on something other than advertising to deliver a paycheck — if all those things are true, then I’m in a better place.So that’s why I left the media business, and that’s why I’m at HubSpot, the coolest company in Cambridge. Let the fun begin.
Topics: Lesson Learned #2: Lead generation doesn’t have to be complex. This was the first time we saw how email marketing could generate new leads, even when we were only emailing people already in our database.This didn’t seem so strange at first because of how we classified people as leads. People who gave over their email address via Website Grader were not considered leads — we called them “prospects,” and they lived only in our ESP. Once these prospects signed up for a webinar, they became leads for the first time in our marketing database (HubSpot). So we could email that list of prospects and still generate new leads, purely because of our lead classification.But even as we generated more leads and started promoting new webinars (and later ebooks) to our lists, we saw that email helped us generate new leads — even if the people on our lists were already leads. We surmised that this was because the content was valuable enough that subscribers would forward emails to others. Email became a key lead gen source for us.Lesson Learned #3: Inbound email marketing can also generate new leads.After about a year of our simple playbook, we started to scale it. Instead of one offer per month, we created TWO. Instead of one email that month, we sent TWO. November 2008 was a blowout lead gen month.Lesson Learned #4: More content, more leads.This was also the month that we outgrew our webinar platform of the time. The platform supported up to 1,000 attendees, and for one of our webinars, we let up to 2,000 people register, assuming that only 50% would actually show up. It was a fail.More people showed up than we anticipated, so we tried running multiple webinar events at the same time in the same room. That resulted in awful sound issues that just made our attendees even more frustrated and angry. The month after that debacle, we signed up for a bigger scale webinar platform.Lesson Learned #5: Recognize when something is working and invest in the infrastructure to support it.Phase 2 (2009-2010): Segmentation, Nurturing, and New FormatsIn 2009, we started segmenting our database for the first time. Before that, we had still been sending the one mass email a month to our opt-in database (though I had learned not to use the word “blast” in all of the email conferences I attended).The segmentation was simple and sweet (and even to this day, our segmentation is pretty similar). Here’s what it looked like:We also launched our first lead nurturing campaigns (drip emails via HubSpot’s lead nurturing apps) along with our first middle-of-the-funnel content offers in the form of product-related webinars (e.g. How to Generate Leads with HubSpot). Until then, we had focused completely on top-of-the-funnel offers that could generate new leads, which gave us a substantial number of leads to begin nurturing into customers. Here’s what our nurturing looked like:Lesson Learned #6: You need a significant number of leads in order to do segmentation and nurturing right. Focus on filling the top of your funnel first.This is also the time when we started testing other email formats and content. We launched our first newsletter, tied to Inbound Marketing University (the precursor to HubSpot Inbound Certification). We had only been doing the single-offer-promotion-email for years, and this newsletter style was an interesting test to see if we could build up a separate audience with a different email cadence and format.After rigorous testing and measuring for a year and half, we decided to close this channel. We recognized that it wasn’t yielding the results needed to justify the effort going into it.Lesson Learned #7: Measure everything and be ruthless about cutting what’s not working. Phase 3 (2010-2011): Email Automation and TestingBy 2010, we were on to our fifth ESP. We were switching nearly every year due to cost or functionality. I got very good at taking screenshots of our email campaigns, downloading analytics, and exporting/importing all of our lists.I found that the differences between each tool were minor, but the most recent ESP choice was going to be different for one key reason: Salesforce integration (and thus HubSpot integration). While this functionality did not completely pan out as expected, it reflected a huge pain point: the lack of systems integration led to a ton of manual work, constantly exporting and importing data between databases so that we could do our increasingly sophisticated marketing campaigns.We did our first revamp of our lead nurturing campaigns around this time, measuring the response rates, updating the content, and changing the calls-to-action to a variety of qualified options — not just demo requests, but also inbound marketing assessments and case studies. Lesson Learned #8: When you change lead nurturing campaigns, know what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to measure the effect. Here you can see the before and after of one of the lead nurturing tracks (focused on social media). Email Marketing … which brings me to another lesson.Lesson Learned #9: Your emails don’t need to be beautiful to be effective. (Though thank goodness we ultimately hired some designers.)Mid-2010 we started doing A/B testing. By then, we were sending about a million emails a month.The first A/B test was pitting two similar offers against each other for half our email list, then sending the winning offer to the other half the next day. This resulted in doubling our email leads that month and getting us to a new level of lead gen. From then on, we consistently A/B tested each of our email promotions — even going with drastic tests like changing the offer completely. For more on what we tested, check out these email A/B test ideas.Lesson Learned #10: Do simple, drastic A/B tests consistently. Phase 4 (2012-Present): Quality, Segmentation, and SpecializationIn early 2012, we shifted the team’s focus. Until that time, we had been very focused on generating a ton of new, top-of-the-funnel leads, and it was working…. But we head grumblings from the sales team. And our executives. Grumblings about compromising quality at the expense of quantity of leads.Our CEO called our top-of-the-funnel leads “white bread,” and said he wanted healthier “wheat bread” leads. So marketing shifted focus to generate “wheat bread” leads, which we later renamed to Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).Turns out, when we set our mind to something, we can hit crazy goals. When we broke all sorts of “wheat bread” records, this is what showed up on our CEO’s desk:How’s that for a live infographic? Marketers — always creating content. Lesson Learned #11: Clear goals yield clear results. If you want to drive a new metric, make it a top priority.This was also around the time that HubSpot launched our own email tools and we made the best and final ESP switch. We exported and imported our lists for the last time and shifted to handling our email marketing efforts completely in-house. The best part for us, the marketing team, was that so much of our experience — what we had liked, what we hadn’t, what we had hacked in our previous tools — went into some of the product development. The tools we used were very much a reflection of how we actually did marketing.In the middle of 2012, we did a marketing team reorganization that involved creating new persona-focused roles. We called them “mini CMOs” and those people would be responsible for supporting one of our persona-based sales teams, as we now had multiple. As a result, each segment marketing manager got control over the email list for their segment. Some months, we would coordinate promotions across the team to increase overall lead gen. Some months, we all sent separate, more middle-of-the-funnel emails to support our sales teams.After a year of this segmented approach, we saw some benefits … but also some drawbacks. The main benefit: sales and marketing alignment. There was a marketing manager for each sales director, which made communication and prioritization much easier.One of the drawbacks was we had half a dozen people doing the same thing and yielding lower results. In the process of doing more middle-of-the-funnel email promotions, we had increased MQLs but cut top of the funnel lead gen, which was trickling down the funnel and causing problems.Lesson Learned #12: Don’t focus on the middle of the funnel at the expense of the top of the funnel. After all, if you’re not generating new leads, you won’t have leads to nurture.And Lesson Learned #13: All segmentation is not good segmentation. Test every practice to see if it’s truly “best” for your business.After all of these tests, we decided to re-centralize our email marketing efforts. We kept business units separate (Americas Channel vs. Americas Direct vs. EMEA vs. APAC) but centralized the persona segmentation within them. The goal was to get world class at this function by having a single person focus on it full time. We started to see lead gen increase again, while also dramatically cutting down on the amount of time we spent on email marketing.Lesson Learned #14: Focus builds expertise. If you want to get great at something, have someone focus on it.All in all, you can see that our email marketing strategy is a living, breathing thing that adapts as the company changes and grows. You can also see that it’s not particularly complicated, even today, when we send millions of emails per week. We spend much more time on content creation and experimentation than creating complicated email segments or niche workflows. A simple approach that emphasizes good content and testing is exactly what drives results for us — even seven years after we were founded. Webinar Metrics Originally published Dec 16, 2014 6:00:00 AM, updated October 30 2019 Over the last eight years, lots of things have changed in HubSpot’s marketing. When I first joined, we had two marketers; now, we have seventy. We used to have a database of a few thousand; now, it’s filled with millions of contacts. And our monthly lead numbers? They used to hover around a few hundred. Now, they’re up in the tens of thousands. As we’ve grown, our strategies have had to grow with us — especially on email.We thought it’d be fun to look back at its changes over the years. Here’s the inside story of how our email marketing strategy evolved as our company and database grew.Phase 0 (2006-2007): Building Our Opt-In Email ListOur email marketing program truly started a year before we had an email service provider (ESP) or even an email marketer. At this time, many marketers were relying on purchased email lists.We tried something different. We launched our first free tool, Website Grader (the precursor to Marketing Grader). This tool was something one of our founders had created for himself. He thought it would be interesting for others, so he unleashed it to the world. I say “unleashed” because it really did take off — over the course of its first year, it garnered thousands of opt-in email addresses.By the time I joined HubSpot and started our email marketing program, we already had thousands of people we could email — a lot more than you’d expect at any company, let alone a startup no one had heard of.The early success of HubSpot’s lead generation playbook can be attributed to this single asset and opt-in strategy. Later, this strategy was the basis of the official Inbound Marketing Methodology.Lesson Learned #1: Quickly build an opt-in email list by creating awesome free content and tools.Phase 1 (2007-2009): Starting With a Simple Lead Gen PlaybookFrom there, our lead gen program — with email playing a key role — began.We created one offer (a webinar on 5 Tips to Turn Your Website Into a Marketing Machine) and promoted it to our entire email list. We were blown away by the response: 400 registrants from one send.So we did it again the next month, and again the following month. We created one offer per month and sent one mass email to our entire opt-in list every month. Offers, email, and lead gen became synonymous — so much so that our key monthly metrics included the size of the email list, views of the landing page, webinar registrants, and webinar attendees.Here’s an example of what our reporting looked like. (Note: the numbers are not real.)Email Metrics Don’t forget to share this post! 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Edith Wharton once said, “Ah, good conversation — there’s nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.”Ms. Wharton had a way with words (written and otherwise), but she would likely be horrified to know that most of our daily conversations nowadays start with shorthand texts or three-line emails.Click here for our free guide to improving your presentation skills.And yet, in spite of the proliferation of texting and emailing in modern conversations, you still have to know how to strike up a conversation to get a raise, build your network, ask someone out, or provide someone with feedback. It’s as important now as it ever was to know how to break the ice, get to the point, make a connection, and frame a request.But it’s hard. That’s why we put together this handy guide on talking to anyone about anything. We hope these tips help you navigate everything from cocktail parties to conference rooms with the greatest of ease.Ask better questions to get better answers.If you ask yes or no questions, you’ll get yes or no answers. Most of us are conditioned to ask and respond to the same questions at every cocktail party we attend — so do everyone a favor and leave the “what do you do for work” as a first question at home.Asking more interesting questions gets you undeniably better answers. So instead of probing on what someone does now (which typically leads to awkward humble bragging), ask what they wanted to be when they grew up, what their first concert was, what magazines they subscribe to, or which celebrity they’d want to invite over for dinner. Doing so relieves people of the boring back-and-forth of typical office party conversation and into far more interesting territory.The same rule applies to business settings. I’ve never once hired someone who didn’t have solid questions for me about the market we compete in, the team he or she would be working on, and the company work environment. Whether you’re networking for your next career move, interviewing for a job, or meeting with a potential new vendor or partner, your goal should be to ask questions that can’t be answered with a quick Google search. I’ve included some examples below:On CompetitionGood: Who does your company compete with?Better: I noticed that one of your competitors recently released X feature. How do you think that will change your competitive strategy moving forward?Best: Many people view your competition as Y and Z, but I really think long-term that Company A could be a threat, given that you’re both converging toward the ecommerce space. How do you think about your long-term competitive strategy as it relates to Company A?On a Specific RoleGood: What does this role entail?Better: I know this role entails a significant amount of customer interaction. Can you tell me a little bit about how much of the expectation is around customer service versus upsells?Best: I read on Glassdoor that people in this role are expected to deliver roughly 30% of all upsells. What is the training process like to deliver this, and how does your comp structure reward over-performance on that goal, if at all?On Work EnvironmentGood: What’s it like to work here?Better: Your company has recently doubled in size, and I’ve read a lot about your commitment to flexibility and autonomy. Has that changed at all over the last year?Best: Recently, one of your tech leads wrote a blog about how engineers ship code during their first week on the job here. How does that same principle of autonomy apply on teams outside engineering?Just as you wouldn’t show up at someone’s home for a party empty-handed, don’t show up to a networking event, meeting, social event, or dinner without some thoughtful questions for your counterparts. The best conversations start with better questions, so do your homework. Anyone can do a quick Google search; go a level deeper to inspire more thoughtful and engaging conversations.Leave the weather outside.It seems that regardless of context, the ultimate conversation-filler is to talk about the weather. On the surface, that seems fine … but do you know anyone who actually enjoys talking about the weather other than Al Roker? Didn’t think so.Weather is the fastest way to end a good dialogue, so leave the weather outside (regardless of how frightful it is) and work on other ways to fill awkward gaps in conversation. Unless you’re a meteorologist, the chances that you or anyone else has something truly interesting to say about the weather is extremely small.To avoid weather talk, check out TheSkimm, your Twitter feed, or other news sources to find at least two topics more interesting to talk about than precipitation before you arrive at your next event.Find yourself stuck in a vortex of weather-talk already? (Sadly, this is an all-too-common occurrence in New England this year.) To get out, switch gears to something more interesting by asking who in the group has a forthcoming vacation plan to escape the weather. Regardless of whether they are heading North, South, East, or West, talking about people’s vacations is infinitely more interesting than just talking about the forecast. Plus you might get some good travel recommendations out of it.Want to change the subject altogether? Ask everyone in the group which website they visit first when they get up in the morning. Doing so reveals a lot about their personality without being overly revealing — and whether it’s CNN, Reddit, TechCrunch, US Weekly, or ESPN.com, it helps you understand what your new friends are most passionate about without violating their privacy or confidence. That’s a heck of a lot more fun than playing group meteorologist.Master the Bridget Jones introduction.In Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary, the book’s heroine (Bridget) is a woefully poor conversationalist who makes a resolution to introduce people with thoughtful details. While she may not be a fountain of wisdom for dating advice, her counsel on introductions is extremely wise. Instead of thinking of introductions (of yourself or others) as transactions to be completed — “Jill, meet Brad, Brad, meet Jill” — think of them as conversation starters.For example, my colleague Lia works on our product marketing team, and I could easily introduce her to someone else accordingly. But for people who don’t work at HubSpot or in marketing, that type of introduction doesn’t help spark a good conversation. Instead, I typically introduce Lia as having been to nineteen Justin Timberlake concerts in the past year. Doing so inspires reactions from JT fans and haters alike, and it also tees up Lia to tell stories about her travels — a much more interesting topic than how long each person in the conversation has been at their respective companies.In addition to the quality of your introductions, make it easy for new people to enter the conversation. If you don’t know someone by name, give them a chance to jump in based on the topic with something like, “We were just discussing the very serious topic of which restaurant in town has the best margaritas. Do you have a strong vote on the matter?” Making people feel included from the start makes everyone feel more at east, prevents awkward “should I or shouldn’t I” introductions, and ultimately makes it easy for people to come and go seamlessly.Improv-ise.Tina Fey’s book Bossypants outlines some cardinal rules of improvisational comedy, one of which is mastering the “yes, and” principle. Let me give you an example: Let’s say your improv partner states a fact, like “the police are here.” It’s your role as their improv partner to respond first by acknowledging the truth of what he or she is saying, and then by adding to it. Something like, “Yes, and who knew they’d bring tanks with them, too?”Responses like this build the storyline for an improv audience — and they have a similar impact on real-life conversations. So the next time someone says, “Did you see the movie Wild?”, don’t respond with a simple “yes.” Follow the queen of comedy, Tina Fey, and offer up something else: “I sure did, and I liked it better than Into the Woods. Do you think Reese Witherspoon will get the Oscar?” Alternatively, if someone asks if you saw the Super Bowl, don’t just nod or shake your head. Give them some direction, either with an “I did, and as a Pats fan, I’ve never been so grateful the Hawks decided to throw. Can you believe it?” Or if the game wasn’t your thing, say, “Of course — I already have my left shark costume for Halloween next year. What are you going to dress up as?” “Yes, and” is a formula for significantly better comedy and conversation, so do the math and plan accordingly.Be warned, though: “Yes, and” can quickly become a vehicle to talk more about yourself — but the trick is to do exactly the opposite. Listening is as important as talking, so instead of trying to “one-up” the people you’re chatting with, it forces you to think deliberately about adding value to the conversation and acknowledge their input. Furthermore, thinking about conversations as mini improv sessions also forces you to take more risks. Tina’s wisdom rings true here again: “You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”This trope is as true of conversations as it is for other risks in your life: No matter how extroverted you are or how many people you know in a room, everyone still gets nervous in first-day-of-school situations, whether they are personally- or professionally-oriented. So instead of watching people pass and wishing you had spoken up, take a risk, pick a new improv partner, and practice your very best “yes, and” skills. The absolute worst that can happen is thirty seconds of awkward conversation (which, let’s be honest, probably would’ve happened anyway).Learn to be a play-caller.In football, the coaches who call the plays are responsible for reading what’s happening in the game and then calling the best play possible for their team given the scenario. They have some set plays they know their players can execute on, and the team (and other coaches) look to them for exactly what to do when time is tight and the stakes are high.The best conversationalists become de facto play-callers in conversations: They help bail people out of awkward situations; they know how to switch gears when the chatter takes a turn that is too serious or too personal; they include people in the conversation who may have otherwise been left out of the conversation.The most important step in becoming a play-caller is recognizing that it’s not about talking more. In fact, if you’re an effective play caller, you might make someone else the star of the show. Instead, becoming a good play-caller means reading a situation well, listening actively, and knowing how to put the spotlight on others without putting them on the spot.Not sure where to start? Try giving someone a genuine and thoughtful compliment. If you’re in someone’s home, don’t just say “I love your house.” Instead, choose a single item you really like and ask them to tell you the story behind it. This invites them to share more than just a polite “thanks so much” and often leads to a travel narrative or anecdote that others in the group can relate and add to.Self-deprecating humor also works wonders in a play-calling setting. For example, I’ll often offer, “Has anyone else already completely botched their New Year’s resolution already? I know I have, and it’s only going to get worse tonight!” When people are uncomfortable, one-upsmanship has a funny way of working its way into the conversation — so making fun of yourself makes everything significantly sillier and invites others into the conversation, instead of making them feel like they need to boast or promote themselves.Focus on the positive.If people wanted to join the debate team, they’d go back to high school. When cocktail parties turn into debates, the only “winners” are the bartenders– because everyone just drinks heavily and goes home earlier. So even if you’re stuck talking to the world’s biggest party pooper, try to find the silver lining. Then everyone will feel more at ease.This is not to say you need to agree with jerks for the sake of polite conversation. If someone offers a rude version of a differing political opinion in a professional setting, I’ll typically try to change the subject by saying, “Given that debate’s been going on for decades, it doesn’t seem like one we’ll reconcile tonight, so let’s focus on a more pressing issue in front of us: where we locate more of those appetizers they had on our way in.”Even more tragic than overly politicized conversations are those that put people on the spot. For example, let’s say you’re in a group networking setting and someone remarks, “Gosh, you’re still single? I had no idea,” or makes an off-putting remark about someone’s appearance, health, or awkward family situation. As a general rule, make it your goal to have everyone leave a conversation you’re in happier or more relaxed than they were when it started.If someone is put on the spot, take an active role in helping them out: Change the subject, crack a joke at your own expense, or offer them a compliment that changes the course of the conversation. That kind of karma comes back to you in spades.Don’t try to ask all things of all people.Let’s face it: It’s hard to ask for a job, for money for your startup, or for advice to help accelerate your career. But in order to avert the awkwardness and potential rejection of a one-on-one email or conversation, far too many people try to be all things to all people — asking dozens of people for input, advice, or opportunity. You’re far better off investing time and energy up front to identify a small group of people, investors, or companies where there is mutual potential value and follow with a thoughtful ask and conversation.Arlyn Davich, the founder of New York-based startup PayPerks, notes, “The best kind of investors are those whose expertise you value more than their money. Once you’ve identified who those people are, be specific as to what they are uniquely qualified to help you with.” So instead of asking your entire LinkedIn network for job advice, or everyone you’ve ever met to invest in your business, identify a small cadre of people who can truly impact your decision or influence your success in your industry.Don’t beat around the bush if you have a clear, concise ask for someone. Just make sure you find an appropriate setting to introduce yourself. (Mid-meal with their family doesn’t count, nor does when they are on a conference call). Provide a brief introduction of your background or company, and clarify where you think they can most help and why. Be polite, avoid presumption, and be prompt in your follow-up — should they agree to help you out. Above all else, make it easy for others to help you. If they agree to chat, then travel to them, show up on time, and be absurdly and ridiculously prepared when you go.I had a friend in college who loved to kick off group conversations by asking how much a polar bear weighed. After some quizzical looks (and the odd guess or too, usually from an engineer or scientist), he would deliver the punch line (“enough to break the ice”) just in time for some awkward laughs and to get a conversation started. While his joke was horribly cheesy (and occasionally bombed), it’s proof that everyone is a little awkward and uncomfortable in conversations with people they don’t know.All right, folks. The next time you’re entering a networking event, showing up for your first day at a new job, arriving at an interview, or attending a housewarming party, you can arrive armed with the tips above. Here’s another important insight from another woman I greatly admire: Amy Poehler once said, “There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”So take a risk, strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know, and ask an unconventional question. The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work and you end up talking about the weather — and that was likely going to happen anyway. Networking Originally published Feb 23, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated August 29 2017 Topics: Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack
Giving and Receiving Feedback The last constructive criticism I received was from my cat. After presenting her with the organic, gluten-free food that I’d spent arguably too much money on, she refused to eat it. Can you believe that? Does she even care that I consulted blogs and veterinarians about the best diet to put her on? Unfortunately, we’re not great at communicating feedback to each other because we’re of different species.Luckily, that’s not the case when giving feedback in the workplace. It’s easy to communicate criticism, but it’s not always easy to do it effectively. This can especially be the case when providing peer feedback, which is a trend that’s growing in different workplaces.Part of assembling a great team means providing helpful feedback so they can grow, and peer-to-peer discussions of strengths and weaknesses is a way to round out the top-down feedback employees receive from their supervisors and glean a fuller picture of how they can improve. In this post, we’ll discuss why peer feedback matters and how to deliver it effectively.Why Feedback Is ImportantFeedback is an important and necessary part of anyone’s career path, whether you’re in your first job out of college or have been a CEO for many years. Feedback from managers, peers, and reports is critical to identifying performance strengths and weaknesses. It provides employees opportunities for growth and education in their roles. What’s more, it often results in improved communication and better understanding of expectations between employees.You might think that employees dread giving or receiving feedback, especially if it’s negative, but that’s actually not the case. There are some surprising statistics about the importance of feedback to employees who receive it, especially if it’s negative:Zenger/Folkman surveyed nearly 1,000 employees, and 72% thought their performance would improve with the help of feedback. Additionally, 57% preferred corrective feedback over praise, and 92% of those surveyed agreed with the statement that negative feedback, when delivered correctly, is an effective way to improve performance.It’s clear that negative feedback is not only desired by employees, but it’s beneficial. So, now the question is how to deliver constructive feedback correctly so employees aren’t demotivated and discouraged by it. One answer to this question is the peer review, or the 360 review.Peer reviews are designed to provide a broader picture of employees and how they work with others, not just their supervisors. They’re not intended to replace or contribute to regular performance reviews or salary negotiations.Instead, they’re designed to help employees set goals related to interpersonal and professional skills in the workplace based on feedback managers and peers provide. The goal of peer review is to provide a clear picture of a team’s performance from the inside, out, and to create a team culture and spirit of positive reinforcement as well as constructive feedback from those who know the employee best.To shed some light on ways to give feedback to your peers that’s helpful, actionable, and not uncomfortable, I’ve rounded up suggestions from my own peers and trusted leadership sources to get you started.8 Tips for Giving Great Peer Feedback1) Assume good intent.This is good advice for anyone on the receiving end of constructive feedback, but it goes for those giving peer feedback as well. As uncomfortable as you might feel providing feedback to your peers, they want to hear from you: 76% of employees surveyed were motivated by positive feedback from their peers.I asked my colleague, HubSpot Marketing Director Rebecca Corliss, what advice she gives for providing great peer feedback.“For those who feel uncomfortable giving feedback, I hear you. Especially if you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, it can be really difficult.” Corliss suggests that peer reviewers and feedback recipients view the comments as a gift. “If your feedback is shared constructively and with genuine care for the other person, you’re doing it right.”HubSpot Sales Blog Editor Leslie Ye echoed this sentiment. “Your peers are there to help you improve, not cut you down or make you feel bad,” Ye says. “Their feedback isn’t a reflection on your worth as a person. Remind yourself of this to make feedback feel less personal.” 2) Review regularly.If peer reviews are incorporated regularly over the course of a working relationship, they won’t be viewed as a sporadic and dreaded event only followed by an employee’s mistake. Instead, peer reviews will be part of an ongoing two-way discussion that allows for honest and open communication and faster problem-solving.I have a weekly check-in where I receive feedback from my manager, and I receive peer feedback each time I submit a blog post to HubSpot Marketing Blog Editor Carly Stec for her review. Communicating regularly about my progress and growth makes it feel less like a review that I dread and more like an ongoing conversation that I look forward to as a way to improve my work.Stec suggests, “make giving and receiving peer feedback a consistent habit, and it’ll start to feel less intimidating.”3) Come prepared.Fractl surveyed 1,100 employees about how they felt about difficult conversations in the workplace, and they found that respondents were more likely to be somewhat or completely satisfied by feedback conversations with a direct report than with a superior. The promising result? Nearly 50% of respondents were somewhat or completely satisfied with difficult discussions with peers.How do you ensure that feedback conversations between peers are productive and leave all parties satisfied? Come to feedback meetings prepared. A whopping 85% of the survey respondents said they prepared for difficult conversations in advance, and that’s smart advice for any feedback meeting, no matter how casual.When preparing for a feedback meeting with a peer, have the following questions in mind to ensure that the time is well-spent:What are your goals? What are you both seeking to get out of this meeting?How can you both work together to achieve them? How can you help your peer grow and improve?4) Learn the other person’s style.As you may already know from previous career experience, feedback can sometimes rub you the wrong way. It might be the content of the feedback, or you might be taking criticism personally, but it could also be because you and your colleague delivering feedback have different communication styles.Stec suggests that peer reviewers “take time to learn how the person you’re working with prefers to receive feedback — and package your notes accordingly.”Ye encourages expectation-setting prior to giving feedback so colleagues know what to expect from you early on. “I’m a very direct person and my feedback is the same way. I know that my feedback can come off as blunt or abrupt, so I set the expectation early on that that’s my style, so people receiving feedback aren’t taken aback.”The easiest way to learn your colleague’s style is to ask: Do they prefer in-person discussions, or emails? Do they want big-picture feedback, or do they want to dive into making changes? Consider asking colleagues about personality assessments, such as the DiSC test, that might provide you with greater insight into how you colleagues communicate and work best.5) Get to the point.We’ve written before about the importance of not giving feedback in the form of a “sandwich,” wherein constructive feedback is preceded and followed by positive feedback to lessen the sting of criticism. It can often make your peers feel patronized and condescended to, so skip the sandwich.Instead, try a feedback flatbread (bear with me here, I’m hungry). Instead of prefacing constructive criticism with praise, dive into the feedback head-on, and follow it up with discussing how their strengths can be used to solve the problem.In another study, Zenger/Folkman surveyed nearly 4,000 employees who’d received negative feedback asking them if they were surprised by the criticism they’d received, and 74% had already known and weren’t surprised by the feedback. So when you’re preparing to meet with a peer about ways they can improve their work, it’s safe to assume they know themselves fairly well. Address areas of growth and ways they can use their strengths to improve, rather than following a compliment-critique-compliment sandwich recipe.Ye notes that the compliment sandwich can “obscure the true feedback and often lead to more rounds of back-and-forth,” but she echoes the need to interweave positive comments into peer feedback discussions. “It’s discouraging to not receive any positive feedback, and it’s a missed opportunity to call out and reinforce good habits.”6) Encourage a growth mindset.Are you familiar with the fixed mindset and how it compares to the growth mindset? For a quick overview, these concepts were coined by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.”When providing peer feedback, phrase your comments and challenge your colleague to think in terms of a growth mindset. Instead of focusing on individual tasks your coworker didn’t accomplish, give them feedback about how the skills they’re learning to tackle contribute to the bigger picture of their professional success.Praising or criticizing peers by telling them what they are — right or wrong, good or bad — can inspire a fear of failure and making mistakes that stagnates learning. Corliss says it best: “Most folks see feedback as a time to sit down and tell people what they’re doing wrong or what they need to do better. While that can be true, I think there’s a better way to view feedback: offering people a reflection of themselves that they may not be able to see.”Producing successful work is important, but as a peer, it’s important for you to provide feedback that gives your colleagues a fuller picture of their progress and growth that empowers them to experiment and learn new ways to define “successful.”7) Use the passive voice.I know, you probably read the title of this section and wondered, “wait, doesn’t this advice go against a cardinal rule of writing?” Before you write me off, hear me out: The passive voice is integral to giving productive peer feedback that’s helpful without being personal. It allows your feedback to focus on the problem, not the individual who you’re critiquing.Compare these two styles of feedback on the same hypothetical article:“You didn’t support the claims you made in the article.”“This article would be stronger with more research to back its claims.”See the difference? While the two critiques are communicating the same thing — the article needs more support for its claims — the second is a more productive way to provide feedback to a peer. Focusing feedback around the subject instead of the individual makes it less likely that your peer will become defensive of themselves and will lead to an altogether more productive conversation.Remember, 57% of Zenger/Folkman’s respondents said they preferred corrective feedback. Your peers and colleagues want to know how to improve, and if it’s your job to help them in that process, you owe it to yourself and your coworkers to have the most productive conversation possible.8) Embrace technology.It’s 2016, and it’s time for peer feedback to get with the program. As we mentioned earlier, it’s courteous to learn how your peers like to receive feedback to tailor an approach that works for their learning style, and that can include technology.Experiment with different ways to deliver constructive criticism electronically, such as via email, Google Drive comments, Slack, or Evernote. One benefit to communicating peer feedback electronically is that it can be documented and saved for future reference.On the other side of the coin, there are many ways to electronically harness positive peer feedback as well. Here on the HubSpot Marketing team, we use TinyPulse to gauge employee engagement and happiness, but also to give “cheers” to our peers for great work that their supervisors might not have noticed. YouEarnedIt lets employees provide similar real-time praise.Your peers want to succeed in their roles, and feedback from managers and peers is integral to making that happen. The next time you sit down for a feedback conversation with a peer, ask yourself if you’re doing the best you can to make your criticism fair, actionable, and empowering.What’s your favorite way to receive feedback from a peer? What’s your advice for giving constructive criticism to your coworkers? Share with us in the comments below.Want to learn more about giving feedback? Check out How to Give Negative Feedback Without Sounding Like a Jerk. Topics: Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Originally published Oct 5, 2016 6:00:00 AM, updated April 18 2018
Career Development Topics: Is there someone (or hopefully, several someones) at your company who it seems like everyone wants to work with?Maybe they always get pulled into brainstorms, or maybe your team’s leaders consult with them. Or maybe it just seems like everyone on your team just really, really likes them.It might be because they’re the nicest person in the world, or it might be because they have a finely-honed set of soft skills.Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.What exactly are soft skills, and why are they so important to growing your career? Keep reading to find out.What are soft skills?Soft skills are the combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and personality traits that make it easy to get along and work harmoniously with other people.Soft skills can be taught, but they’re not as straightforward as hard skills: those specific qualities and skills that can be clearly defined, measured, and taught for success in a job.Hard skills can be quantified and advanced. You can learn advanced mathematics or writing skills, and you can get better at shipping code.But when it comes to soft skills — things like small talk, empathy, and flexibility — it’s not as straightforward.That doesn’t mean soft skills aren’t worth investing in — and practicing. You need hard skills to land a job, but you need soft skills to progress in your career. So we’ve rounded up a list of the soft skills most critical to building a successful career — and how you can brush up on them.7 Soft Skills You Need to Achieve Career Growth1) Emotional IntelligenceEmotional intelligence is often referred to as the ability to recognize and manage your emotions and the emotions of others. It’s made up of five key elements:Self-awarenessSelf-regulationMotivationEmpathySocial skillYou can read more about the specifics of the attributes of emotional intelligence in this blog post if you want to learn more, but in the context of the workplace, emotional intelligence boils to a few key abilities:Can you recognize and regulate your emotions and reactions in the workplace?Can you build rapport and positive relationships with other people?Can you empathize with others?Can you give — and receive — effective, constructive feedback?It might not sound like the most important skill for job growth and success, but in some cases, it is. In an analysis of new employees who didn’t meet expectations during the first 18 months on the job, 23% failed due to low emotional intelligence. (Take this quiz to rate your emotional intelligence and identify areas where you can improve.)2) Team Player AttitudeThe ability to play well with others is a soft skill you’ve been working on — unknowingly — since your first day of pre-school or daycare. You might not have known it when you were fighting over blocks or figuring out the rules of a made-up game, but you were actually preparing for a lifetime of workplace collaboration.Whether you’re an individual contributor or a people manager, you have to work with other people — in meetings, in brainstorms, and on various cross-functional projects within your company. A positive, can-do attitude when it comes to working with others is essential to team harmony, which means you need to be able to run an effective and inclusive meeting, be open to new ideas, and work respectfully with others.Read our guide to running better meetings for all personality types here, and brush up on these rapport-building questions to get to know and work well with any team member you encounter.3) Growth MindsetIn any job, no matter what the role, you’ll encounter roadblocks, disappointments, and other situations that might frustrate you. A soft skill that’s critical to your ability to persevere is having a growth mindset — a term psychologist Carol Dweck coined to refer to a frame of thinking that reflects viewing your abilities, talents, and intelligence as skills you can grow and improve upon.Someone with a growth mindset might look at a failure to meet a quarterly goal as an opportunity to identify their strengths and weaknesses to tackle the next quarter’s goal. A person with a fixed mindset, however, might say to themselves, “I’m not good at blogging,” and let that negative outlook — without any belief in the capability of improvement — impact their next quarter’s success, too.Watch Dweck’s TED Talk to learn more about the growth mindset here — and try to find places in your daily correspondence or reflections where you can reframe your outlook by viewing a challenge or setback as a way you can grow.4) Openness to FeedbackThis is part of emotional intelligence, but especially when it comes to the workplace, being open and able to receive development feedback is critical to success at a job — especially a new job.Think about it: Constructive feedback helps you do the best job you can, and if you take it personally or react defensively, you aren’t able to hear the feedback and adapt it to your current strategy.The key to giving and receiving feedback is to come into the conversation from a place of kindness: You aren’t receiving constructive feedback because that person hates you personally, it’s because they want you to be the best you can be. You should be chomping at the bit to receive feedback that can help you more effectively hit your goals.If you don’t feel comfortable with feedback yet, try immersion therapy — make feedback a part of your daily to-do list. Ask for feedback from more people you work with to get immediate help honing your skill set — and to help make it easier to take.5) AdaptabilityNo matter what your role, and no matter what your industry, the ability to adapt to change — and a positive attitude about change — go a long way toward growing a successful career.Whether it’s a seat shuffle or a huge company pivot, nobody likes a complainer. It’s important not only to accept change as a fact of life in the constantly-evolving business world, but as an opportunity to try out new strategies for thriving in environments of change (remember the growth mindset?).If you don’t feel comfortable with frequent changes, either on your team or at your company, write down your feelings and reactions, instead of immediately voicing them. By laying out how you feel and why you feel a certain way, you’ll be able to distinguish legitimate concerns from complaints that might not need to be discussed with your team.6) Active ListeningYou probably can tell the difference between when someone is hearing words you’re saying and when they’re actively listening to what you’re saying. If someone is typing while you’re presenting at a meeting, or they’re giving you that slack-jawed look, they probably aren’t really hearing what you’re saying.Active listeners, meanwhile, pay close attention to meeting presenters, offer up clarifying questions or responses, and refer back to notes in future discussions. They don’t need things repeated to them because they heard them the first time — making active listeners not only respectful colleagues, but more effective workers, too.If you think you could stand to improve your active listening skills, challenge yourself not to look at your various devices during meetings — instead to focus completely on speakers, and take notes by hand if needed (which is proven to help with memory retention).7) Work EthicYou can’t succeed in a role without being willing to put in the time, effort, and elbow grease to hit your goals, and company leaders and hiring managers are looking for people who will put in the extra legwork to succeed without being asked.If you want to get a new job or get promoted, it’s essential that you hone your work ethic — so quit bellyaching and put in the extra time you need to succeed. Or, if excelling means learning new skills or tools, dedicate time to learning those outside of work hours so you can make your time in the office as effectively as possible.What weaves all of these soft skills together is a positive attitude. It might sound cheesy, but believing that there’s a positive outcome in any and all challenging situations will help you navigate the day-to-day of your job while making other people really want to work with you. These soft skills are harder to teach, but the payoff might be even bigger, so make sure you’re investing time and effort into auditing and improving your soft skill set. Originally published Nov 16, 2017 6:34:32 AM, updated June 25 2019 Don’t forget to share this post!