Positive thinking. These words are actually a little bit foreign to me. Whether it is my British background, my inner scientist or I am just a real Grinch, optimism is not my normal state. What about yourself, are you a positive thinker? There are available a whole raft of online tests to analyse your position, including those of Pennsylvania University.
Depending on whom you ask, optimism as a state of being is associated with longevity, better mental processing and physiological health, as well as increased success in the workplace. Importantly, findings suggest that optimists have stronger coping strategies and are more likely to have better outcomes when faced with adversity or stress. Optimists are more likely than pessimists to achieve their goals.
So perhaps we should all be looking inwards, identifying areas for change within ourselves and practicing positive thoughts. After all, who wouldn’t want to lessen the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease or be better thought of by our peers and work colleagues?
Dr. Martin Seligman, a well-known psychologist in the field of positive thinking cautions against assuming that this is a pseudoscience and belongs in the realms of highly marketable self-help books. It is a Science with real aims and factual real and continuing studies attached to it. In fact should you wish to attend the inaugural conference headlined by Dr. Seligman amongst other notable psychologists, it will be held in Texas this July.
The field of positive psychology aims are that psychology should be:-
• As concerned with strengths as with weaknesses
• As concerned with building strength as repairing weaknesses
• As concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling and nurturing high talent as with healing
Dr. Martin believes that you can permanently change a pessimistic outlook into a positive one through the practice of looking differently at how you view and interpret events around you. He classifies three different groups of happy people.
1. The Pleasant Life
Happy people look like this: they have a wide social circle and are in a romantic relationship (that’s the glossy version). What makes them happy people, is positive emotions. This kind of happiness can suffer from overexposure and is somewhat thrill seeking when we cease to be satisfied by the ordinary.
2. The Good Life
You can be extremely happy and not be in a relationship however. If you have experienced ‘flow’ during work it is when you have been perfectly challenged by a task, it’s intrinsically rewarding and you feel an intense sense of accomplishment. Ideally we should gravitate towards projects where we can express our key strengths and experience this sense of flow, where time flies and we don’t feel anything. If at work we are unsatisfied in a mundane job we can recraft it to include a key strength where we can flow more, we just need to be creative. These are happy people Mark 2.
3. The Meaningful Life
The third group of happy people know their strengths and use them in the meaningful service of something larger than themselves, e.g. charitable good deeds.
Are we therefore able to intervene in each of these happy lives and deepen the positivity? One quick example is how to intervene in Happy Life 1 by learning to be more mindful of the present moment and how we gain pleasure from events and situations, whether it is better to be philanthropic or lead a life of hedonistic fun. To begin to explore and use our strengths and recognise them in others.
We do live in unsettled times with uncertain futures and economies so we have to be adaptable and be able to rebound from setbacks. We need to be able to flourish in all aspects of our life, developing positive relationships, deeper meaning to our lives and being better engaged in the workplace. If we apply the tenants of positive thinking to business and build on our individual strengths and focus attention on well-being, what might be possible? ‘Learned Optimism’ is a path to sustained well-being and can benefit all areas of your life, not just your work environment.
When you know a bit more about the Science of Positive Thinking, you can start moving towards using some rational thinking exercises and mind tools as well as identifying your negative triggers. I have discovered I just might be happy after all, just not in the conventional sense.
ISM’s John Hill will be running a ‘Power of Positive Thinking’ Workshop during our Summer Short Courses week from June 26th to June 30th, Dubai. Get in touch if you would like to know more. Pessimists are encouraged to apply.
Not all businesses have the budget of Emirates airlines to spend on their public relations. But having a little or no PR budget shouldn’t stop you from doing it yourself. PR is a key part of building awareness of your business brand and to show people how it is relevant to their personal or business life.
Get to know the press
The most important part of PR is getting to know the press very well – and letting them get to know you. PR is a people business. Creating relationships and building trust is essential to getting your story out into the world. Don’t just write up a press release, find a list of names and send the email blind. At best your story will be stacked up for a slow news day, at worst it will be dumped in the bin. This is because the reporters need to know the source is good, and the only way they’ll know it is if you take the time to talk to them personally.
So before you even write the press release, construct the survey, or begin your social media campaign, take the time to talk to the people you want to work with. Either ring them, or even better, try and meet them at a conference or industry event. Making a personal connection with people working in the media will give you a much greater chance of your story getting into the press when you want it to.
The press release
One of the biggest sources of company stories is the press release. Most of the time journalists and bloggers are very busy and if the press release has everything in it that is required for print, it will have a better chance of being printed. The press release is very traditional and it can work really well if done properly. If you have never written one before, take the time to study how a good one is written. The best press releases are often printed almost exactly as they are sent out. That’s because the writer has found out the average word count (the number of words in the article) the media outlet usually prints, has identified the news angle most likely to draw attention straight away (e.g. patients are seen quicker with a new patient logging system), and written the press release as though it were a news article, including quotes from customers or an industry spokesperson to back up any claims made.
Crime figures lowered by using a certain security business, aging lines significantly reduced by using a certain lotion, drinking this, eating that wont/will pile on the pounds: we’ve all seen the headlines in newspapers and magazines. But behind the stats and stories lies a well honed PR machine paid by big business to keep their brand profile in the public eye, or launching new products or services into the world.
Being on a tight budget means you have to cut out the expensive PR firm and learn how to do it yourself.
Firstly, take a look through the papers, magazines, blogs and websites most likely to be read by your target audience. Then identify how your business can help customers. Sometimes this is simply showing how using your products has saved people money, improved efficiency, or helped people make time for their families. And then create a survey to back up what you believe is true. You may think your new office chair will reduce back pain, but without the empirical evidence of your customers, no-one will truly believe you. It’s very easy to do online now with sites such as Survey Monkey. Load up your questions and send out an invitation (possibly with a prize attached of 10 percent off their next purchase to encourage people to take part) via email to your current mailing list. When people fill in the survey, the site allows you to view the results in a series of graphs, breaking down the demographics for you, so you can compile a story based on the results.
Surveys are a great way to gauge how your customers really feel about your company. If the results aren’t what you expected, that’s perfect for honing your products to give your customers what they really want.
Social media can be an incredibly powerful PR tool. Get it right and your business will grow as a result. But get it wrong and you’ll end up spending a lot of time and possibly money repairing the damage. Which is why, if you are trying to do your own PR, it’s really important to spend time understanding the different social media vehicles and choosing the right one for your business. If you are selling make-up and you spend all your time on LinkedIn, you aren’t going to reach your target market. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are much better avenues for you to pursue.
PR can be done on a small budget, but like all tightly controlled financial endeavours, if you move too early without thinking it through properly, you could end up wasting a lot of time with nothing to show for it. Better to plan thoroughly, and research carefully, before dipping your toe into the public relations arena.