Coming Out of the Closet

Coming Out
Photo cred: DeathToStockPhotos

“I am a writer.”  It took me decades to admit this publicly.  For years I had written in secret, filling up stark white notebooks and leather-bound journals with my words, short stories, and poems.  I had received awards for my writing as a child and was placed in gifted writing programs in high school.  When it came time to choose a major for college, I went with my other passion: human behavior and science.  I set upon a course that would lead to a career in psychiatry; a path where story and humanity intersect.  What happened along the road that led me to a business career is a story for another day…  The important point is that I re-discovered my voice as an adult and took up my pen once again.

Words poured out of me like a geyser and once again I began to fill up .doc files on my pc, having traded my pen for a keyboard. I entered into an enriching relationship with a local feminist writing academy and it was here that I could stand up and say, “My name is Michelle and I’m a writer.”  I began the process of setting aside my love for the short story format and embarked upon writing a novel. Halfway through the story, I became enamored with an emerging industry that was changing the world and turned my focus into building a social media marketing consulting firm.  I believe that social media is the quintessential conduit for bringing story, human behavior, and science (analytics) together.  I had discovered my passion, but in the process of helping companies share their brand voice, their stories, I lost the time to work on my own.

I truly believe in Karma and the universe putting people and experiences in our paths for a reason. I recently had lunch with an amazing writer whom I first met via Twitter. We shared our stories and she encouraged me to find the time to write. Just a few days later I received an email from a writer that I do not know (not sure how I got on her mailing list) sharing a heart-felt and inspirational post. At the bottom of the post was a message about the difficulty in finding the time to write with a link to a book she had just written on the subject.  Her words chilled me and inspired the post you are now reading.  Here’s what she said,

It’s not an easy thing to take time to write. The world says that writing doesn’t matter much. Our families and jobs need us. We have to make money. The ugly voices in our head tell us we’re not good enough. There are a ton of reasons why we choose to not write. . . and yet, if we are writers, we must find a way to the page. Over and over again.”

So once again I am coming out of the closet and claiming my title. Thank you universe for sending me people and  stories that inspire and move me to action.

Always Read the Chapters….

DeathtoStock_Medium4WARNING: This post exists at the intersection of digital and IRL, because meeting people where they are should be the goal…..

Over the years I have become very interested in working with groups that lift up women and girls- groups that work on building confidence and self-esteem.  I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who believed in me, encouraged me to achieve, and told me the sky was the limit as to what I could accomplish.  I also had a religion teacher/liturgical music director in high school at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, Maryland, who greatly believed in me and encouraged me to take on leadership roles that bolstered my confidence. I passed this on to my own daughter, who is a shining example of a strong confident teen, very active in leadership roles in her school and in the community.

I have seen how peer pressure and life can beat down upon women and girls like a strong driving rain through a broken umbrella.  If women/girls can find inner strength and a belief in their personal gifts and talents, I think this knowledge would help sustain them against peer pressure, bullying, and gender discrimination.

I recently attended the kick-off meeting for a pilot program created by St. Vincent de Paul- Cincinnati: the Empowerment Path Program.  The program was established to complement education, employment, and other social service programs pursued by women to address financial stability, to help them overcome social ills, and to break systemic cycles getting in the way of growth.  It involves the paring of female coaches with women from multi-cultural backgrounds (including different races, economic status, and religions) in the Winton Hills community of Cincinnati in order to build collaborative, open, and accepting relationships.

As a coach, I will walk the path of life with one woman for one year, helping her define steps to achieve a goal that will make a major difference in her life.

I will be there to help her plan

To help cheer her on

To give advice

To cry with her

And to experience the joy that truly giving to another human being can bestow.  I think that in the end, I will be the one who is blessed for having experienced another’s life so different from my own.

The director of the Empowerment Path Program opened our kick off session with a great analogy. She said that we tend to approach people that we don’t know like a book; making judgments about them based on the cover. We define our perceptions of them by their outward appearance and the life-long tapes running through our heads.  In reality, it is the chapters in a novel that truly define the story, not the cover. We need to remember this as we meet people that we don’t know and who may walk a different path than we are accustomed to.

A group member in her 70s, who is pursuing a life-long dream of receiving her GED, summed this up so succinctly:

“What we see of others on the outside is just a shell, but what’s on your inside- your soul, your heart, that’s what’s important.”

Make sure you always read the chapters……

graphic created by Michelle Beckham

More about me HERE.

People Behaving Badly on Social Media

Hate speech. We see these words flash by in news headlines a lot these days. Far from the maddening crowds chanting these words as a form of protest or as reactionary behavior, we see hateful words play out as status updates and comments to news articles on social media.  What happened to civilized discourse?  When did we as an American people decide that it is more important to sway someone to our way of thinking vs. being champions for freedom of thought?  What happened to respectfully disagreeing with someone vs. bullying them to a digital pulp?

Many commentators portray themselves in a negative light with their biting words and adversely affect public opinion of their personal brand.  Either they are incredibly naïve with regard to how social media works or they simply don’t care. I suppose that some would suggest a third option: that they are just plain stupid.

I really can’t imagine that in-person social discourse would lead to the hate speech and bullying comments that I see posted online.  A screen gives people the power to say things that they normally wouldn’t say in public:  a type of virtual courage.  These statements are attached to identifiable data: a name, a face, a location, and any other public information that is shared on individual profiles and gives the reader the ability to find out more about this vocal commentator.

Liquid Courage (1)

We hear you.

We see you.

We know who you are.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could leave the vitriol behind, stop trying to convert everyone to our way of thinking, and follow the simple golden rule of treating others the way we would want to be treated?

What do you think? I really want to know.

Communicating With Your College Student in the Digital Age upon a time fully-loaded family station wagons deposited fresh-faced first year students on the steps of their new college home.  After a quick hug, maybe a photo on their 35mm camera, and a couple of tears, mom and dad drove off into the quickening sunset.  Except for the occasional pay-phone or in-room call, communication ceased until the first big holiday break.  Junior went on to acclimate to his new surroundings and make life-changing decisions on his own (Do I drop Calc I?  Should I sign up for alternative spring break?). Parents went on to adjust to being empty nesters or devote more attention to the ones still left in the nest.

Today’s social-media infused world leaves contemporary parents with a completely different set of circumstances.  No longer do we have huge absences in quality communication, but we can speak with our kids easily at any time and watch their lives unfold in real time on Instagram and Twitter.

I personally traveled 500 miles away to attend a Jesuit university in the Midwest.  It was a rare occasion for me to have any direct communication with my family.  The ability to call was always there, but the need was not a pressing one.  My peer group was of the belief that we were independently taking care of business for ourselves.  Today, the 18 year old who told me at the close of Family Orientation that she would not be calling us, has maintained a pretty strong connection via iPhone calls,  DMs on Twitter, Facebook comments, and Instagram tags.  I guess you would say we have a pretty close connection if she actually tags me on Instagram.  We have learned of her test grades as she is walking back from the professor’s office; found out about her selection as a student ambassador for the school via FaceTime, and have seen super-magnified slide photos of the fruit fly brain research she was working on via text.

While social media has maintained a window into her world, it is has been purely just that: a window.  We have let her initiate communication with us and celebrate her successes while keeping the conversation/Face-Time, Texting, etc. short.  Where social media broke through the looking glass of voyeurism and transformed into a crucial assist was when she was stranded in the airport of one of largest cities in the U.S.

Photo by C. Kenzie Corbin -tumblr_nhprowVbH61u7rxrvo1_1280

She had her cell phone, and despite existing on low battery, was able to plug into one of the powering stations in the terminal. She called to let me know her situation, and I immediately left my business lunch to get in front of a screen larger than my cell phone to figure out how to get her from point A to point B in the midst of a major storm.  I could easily check websites for airlines, trains, busses and taxis as well as be in communication with her school, all while keeping her on the line.  In the end we figured it out.  She took the first cab ride of her life on a 2+hr trip with a driver who spoke very little English.  I crossed my fingers and hoped she would arrive in the right place.  She did.

Image by Michelle Beckham
Photo of FaceTime session

Times have surely changed in terms of parent-college student communications and I for one think that could be a good thing.  I guess we can say that the closing of the SUV hatch does not signify the end of the relationship.

Speaking from the sociological side of social media- Cheers to you!


People Behaving Badly

Monday, April 6, 2015 It's Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds. They open the season against the Pittsburg Pirates The Great American Ballpark in downtown Cincinnati. The photo is shot from the Great American Tower at Queen City Square.  The Enquirer/ Liz Dufour
Monday, April 6, 2015
The photo is shot from the Great American Tower at Queen City Square.
The Enquirer/ Liz Dufour

Like it or not, we live in an era where our private and public conversations can become instant fodder for the media monsters. Our thoughts, whether consciously or unconsciously spoken, are ingested and churned out into a multitude of managed social media platforms and carried along by the viral river of instant sharing.

Two recent examples of people who “went off” in public with the cameras rolling are Cincinnati Reds Manager, Bryan Price and Nancy Gordeuk,  the Principal of TNT Academy in Lilburn, Georgia.  I would imagine that both are very familiar with the media and the repercussions that could occur if their words were to become ‘the shot heard round the internet’. Despite this awareness, their innate behavior reared its head and plunged them forward.

Reds Manager, Bryan Price erupted in a series of F-bombs as he shared his frustration with media leaks about his team.  Ms. Gordeuk  lost her cool and reverted to racist speech, “Look who’s leaving … all the black people”, after forgetting the Valedictory address and dealing with families who did not want to remain after the graduation ceremony was completed to hear the speech. In the school situation, I get the impression that the principal is inherently racist and losing her cool allowed those private thoughts to bubble up into public words and actions.  You can watch the video and judge for yourself.

No matter whether these were personality aberrations or part of Mr. Price and Ms. Gordeuk’s  regular behavior patterns, their words were captured for all to hear and make judgment upon their personal brands. Everyone should follow good reputation management principles to monitor their brand and be aware of how they will be perceived. With apps like Periscope, tweeting live streaming video and sound recording devices like Kapture, memorializing our words in bite-size segments, one just might go viral without a marketing plan. Better make sure the product is a good one or you may end up stating “the devil made me do it” on national media.

You can find more information on social media here.

Mea Culpa & Sociological Side of Social Media

Michelle Beckham's Blog- post on being AWOL

My sincerest apologies for letting this blog lay shuttered and gathering dust for such a long time.  As many business owners know (especially service providers), the first order of operations is to serve your clients. Unfortunately, I have been extremely busy at C3. Creating Connections Consulting, LLC assisting some amazing businesses in tightening up their social media marketing strategy; creating new training materials for our workshop series,  staying on top of the latest in the digital industry; and doing the occasional speaking gig. Throw in life and I had very little time for writing.

I have to be honest, this truly pained me. I am a writer at a heart and have been at the practice since I could hold one of those large yellow pencils and put words to lined paper as a kid. I have been published in several magazines and news stories and am a co-author of a social media book.  Once upon a time I was writing for four different blogs and working on a suspense novel.

I’m carving out time into my schedule to return to this practice that I have loved so much. I hope to continue to share my personal perspective on all things digital here in this space. If you are looking for more hard-hitting posts on social media best practices, you can find them on my C3 Blog here.  This space is for me to examine digital through my eyes and to view the world through the sociological side of social media that we are all living through.

I’m so glad to be back!

Maximizing LinkedIn for You & Your Business

“Maximizing LinkedIn for You and Your Business”:  This 2 hr seminar on April 10th is for users ready to leverage the power of LinkedIn Marketing with tools and applications to help you reach your personal and business objectives.  We will cover all of the latest profile changes introduced for 2013 and how they enhance your online brand. Learn how to optimize your profile for search engines so that you can appear in top search results. Bonus 30 minute session on marketing with LinkedIn Pages for your company follows.  4/10 from 2:00-4:00/4:30 at the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce.  For more info and to register click HERE.

C3 gifts one Free LinkedIn Profile Review each month. February winner:  Chrissann Ruehle
C3 gifts one Free LinkedIn Profile Review each month. February winner: Chrissann Ruehle

Enter the monthly drawing  for a LinkedIn Profile Make-over and 30 minute phone consult HERE.

Visit our website for more information on strategic social media marketing services provided by C3:  HERE

Examining the sociological side of social media!


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