Expert Connexions: Personal Experiences of Working Through a Crisis

Expert Connexions Covid-19

When we think of “experts”, we don’t often think of interns. But imagine having your senior year of college all but cancelled — and this season of sheltering in place with businesses shut down? This becomes your job market.

In this virtual chat, our Student Strategist, Joel Beeker shares his story during our special Expert Connexions Marketing Roundtable.

Julie Holton, Alexis Neumann, and Katie Frankhart also talk about the ups and downs of working through this crisis. We’re not afraid to share the lessons we are learning, both the good and the bad.


Julie: Good morning. Welcome to our special Facebook live series called Expert Connexions. We are nearly one month into this series of live interviews. We have heard from Attorneys, Business Loan Experts, and of course Marketing Experts. My name is Julie Holton, I’m the Founder and Principal Strategist of mConnexions Marketing Agency. We work with businesses of all sizes from startups to large corporations. Today we’re going to get a little personal in our live talk and I am so excited to have join me as a member of our mConnexions team. Alexis Newman is a Digital Marketing Strategist. She excels in strategy, writing, design. Katie Frankhart is one of our writers who also works for a major university in Michigan and so we’ll talk about both of her roles today and while you might not always think intern when you think expert, I’m really proud to have Joel Beeker join us this morning. He is our student strategist and mConnexions and talk about trial by fire right now as an intern in the marketing world. Good morning you guys.

Alexis, Katie, Joel: Good morning.

Julie: And good morning to everyone tuning in. Stephanie good morning we can see that you are there. Stephanie is also on our mConnexions team and I’m so glad to have you along. Give us a thumbs up if you’re tuning in. Let us know you can you can hear us and feel free to join in on the conversation as we go along today. So I am ready to dive right in and Joel I’m going to start with you. Your very first Facebook live and like all of us your first pandemic and we laugh you know we’re not just working through this and advising our clients we’re also living through this and so this tends to get pretty personal pretty quickly. Joel you are a graduating senior at Michigan State University, so let’s start with the kind of easy topic, how has MSU been and what has MSU been doing to keep students informed?

Joel: Yeah, so MSU has done a fantastic job keeping us informed throughout this whole process. About in like January, February when it kind of started to show up over in China they were sending out emails just keeping us informed you know there’s no need to panic at that moment just because there were no cases in Michigan or the US so they really started from the beginning and then when things started to escalate they were sending out one maybe even two emails a day just informing us on the current changes, what was going on, best practices to stop the spread of it. So they’ve done a fantastic job. There was never really a point I didn’t know what was going on with the university. So yeah they did a great job of balancing both the not enough information and too much information. I think when things escalated they were able to provide a lot more information to keep us all updated on it.

Julie: I’m sure it’s interesting for you too because you’re on the inside with us working on crisis communications for our clients, but then also from the university standpoint you are you’ve been on the receiving end of this crisis communications. What are some things that you noticed that MSU has done really well as far as how often they’ve been communicating?

Joel: Yes, so we get when like the first couple weeks when we are transitioning our classes and everything when it was really escalated, the president was sending out one to two emails every day about just kind of keeping us informed on everything that was going on you know they didn’t use words to panic everyone, but they also didn’t under underestimate it at all. It was a good balance of keeping that concern that we all need you know to know how serious this actually is.

Julie: Absolutely and I mean it’s so interesting you know of course we talked about this a lot internally on our team. Katie I know from your aspect you work for another university in Michigan you work for the University of Michigan and you do a lot of writing there, so how has this you know is what Joel’s saying resonating with you and what your team has been doing as far as getting messaging out?

Katie: Absolutely the University as whole you know echoes what Joel said. They’ve been really great about releasing enough information to keep people updated, but also try not to make people panic. UofM is kind of at the forefront of a lot of the stuff simply because of the research team that we have and the Michigan medicine team. So you know that has helped as far as being able to send out mass communication. They have enough detail to share with people, but as far as on my end the person that is doing a lot of the writing again I echo what Joel said because it’s a very fine line you have to walk with. You don’t want to be tone deaf, but you also have to address it and it’s all about finding that balance which is really tough. Something I never ever thought I would have to think about you know. A lot of the stuff obviously right now as many of you have probably heard U of M’s commencement is cancelled which is a very it’s a big deal for every college student specifically at U of M it’s just this crazy tradition at the big house and so all these students are you know understandably devastated and there is a piece.

Julie: Joel I’m sure you can relate to that. As a student at MSU absolutely. So Katie you’re keeping in mind students like Joel.

Katie: Yeah absolutely and I’m sure actually Joel I would love to hear your like take on this, but as these students are preparing for this biggest moment of their life all the scene I was working on a mailing that was going to go out to these soon to be new grads and parents and the entire tone was this what an exciting time, you’ve worked so hard for this, you’re walking across that stage and I was like you go ahead and tell that printer to stop right now. You cannot send that out and so it’s just been shifting all this language and having to put yourself in the mind frame of you know we were supposed to launch a travel program, we have a career program, all that language we had to tweak of now people are looking for jobs and again Joel you can speak to that a completely different way. They have different needs and right now they may not know what those are. So we’ve been shifting programs and kind of treading lightly and making sure that we give enough information and we are addressing the issue you know not being tone deaf so.

Julie: Absolutely and Alexis I want to bring you in on this as a writer and as someone who guides our team on writing, words matter now more than ever.

Alexis: Yeah and you know Katie I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said you know putting yourself in the mindset of who’s going to be receiving this information that you put out there because that’s really what we want to remember you know as communicators, as writers, as marketers, is that the people that are receiving this message, the people that are reading our words and hearing our words, they’re human. They’re people just like us, they’re going through things just like we are, you know they have complicated emotions and concerns and we just want to remember that they’re looking for that kind of authenticity and they’re looking for that reassurance while also recognizing you know that this is a serious situation and you know we’re in kind of uncharted territory at this point, but I think really keeping in mind like you said you know putting yourself in the mindset of the person who’s receiving this message and keeping in mind that human aspect and if that is what drives your messaging and your marketing then you’re going to be doing a really good job. You know you’re going to be on the right track if you keep that at the forefront.

Julie: And words are how we connect with people. So and it doesn’t take much to actually break a relationship that you’ve had for a long time that you’ve been working for a long time to build and nurture and grow and so I think especially now more than ever when we don’t know what to say, that’s when we know that our word choices matter the most. I’d love to hear from our audience the people you know tuning in if any of you know want to share what organizations are you a part of or what types of organizations and how have you been dealing with wording and messaging and being able to reach out and connect whether it’s with your clients, your constituents if you’re a non-profit. You know how are you connecting right now, we’d love to hear from you. I want to come back to Joel. Joel how I mean I imagine like all of us in every industry, every scope, this current situation that we’re in has affected our lives. It has changed how we work, it has changed how we do school, so tell us more about how your life has changed especially as it comes to classes. What does that look like for you in your senior year?

Joel: Yeah so all our classes are all online now. It was a fairly quick change. Within a couple days they moved all MSU classes online and for my major my marketing major a lot of my exams, quizzes, assignments are already done online, so the transition for me was fairly easy, just the lectures which we use zoom now for, but I think it really impacts the hands-on majors a lot. For example, like healthcare, journalism, those people taking lab classes, I think it really impacts them a lot, but MSU overall has done a fantastic job doing this transition. I can’t imagine trying to move all classes online within two days. You know so they’re very and I like the word adaptable, they adapted to the situation and were able to move all these classes online so quickly that it’s like we didn’t even miss a beat you know.

Julie: I think that’s going to be one of the really incredible traits of your entire graduating class Joel and I think that says a lot about you. I mean obviously we’re biased because we work with you and know you and we know your skill set and your abilities, but certainly I love that you use the word adaptable because that’s going to be one of the greatest skill sets that you’re going to have to offer the workforce because you’ve been able to transition to as you said almost seamlessly or virtually seamlessly being able to do schoolwork remote. Fortunately for us we were already a virtual agency so it’s been work as usual and a number of ways as far as our technology and things are concerned, but I imagine for a lot of students it’s really been a big change, but a change that you’ve taken in stride and you’re able to go with. Katie I mean you essentially overnight had to transition to working from home, working for a university that as I’m sure like every University every work office in the country scrambling to transition to a virtual office. Tell me about what that has been like for you?

Katie: Madness if I’m being honest, but I think everything in life has kind of can be described as madness. I think you know Julie you talked about obviously mConnexions as a virtual agency and so I’ve been very used to working from home in that sense. You know I may get home from the office, I’m able to sit down at my desk or wherever it is at my table and do that work virtually because that’s all I’ve ever known for mConnexions, whereas working with the University you know I was in the office every day 9:00 to 5:00 and as stuff started progressing you know we had caught word of you know we might be sending people home and then within a 20-minute time span it was pack up your stuff, we don’t know when you’ll be back. So we were grabbing monitors and chairs and you know trying to figure out what we need and it was just you know a lot of our tech people were trying to figure out how they’re going to be able to set people up you know when they’re at home and not here and a lot of our time our teams didn’t have the chance to touch base in person one more time, all of a sudden this just happened. So I think the biggest things in this change has been learning how to be flexible especially when it comes to shifting your environment and you know even work times people’s work times have been changing because they have children and you know again we’re in foreign territory with this and it’s changing the way we work in general and directly communicate and so that you know also points to us having to stay creative and stay in touch and it’s building our team in a lot of great ways, but it has been tough an abrupt transition that I think will really affect how we work in the long run. I’m hoping in good ways and I think in good ways because we’re learning the power of virtual communication so.

Julie: And Alexis you know jumping in on this too I think this adaptability is important, but while all of this has been going on everything Joel and Katie are describing we have all Joel and Katie included have been continuing to work with our clients and continuing to work you know when you under the gun working on crisis communications, when you’re helping businesses figure out how to suddenly reorganize, how to help them work from home, how to help them maybe even change course and offer different services or you know we look at restaurants with their delivery services and some of our clients that are now offering entirely different you know opportunities for you know to stay open. All of this and as all of these adjustments are going on we’re still having to connect with clients.

Alexis: Yeah and I think making those connections you know this whole work from home process and all of these transitions it can be really isolating and it can be you know you can kind of feel like you’re operating in a vacuum at times, but these connections are so important and we are going to get through this, this is going to get better and when we come out the other side of it we want to make sure that those connections are intact. We want to make sure that those relationships are intact and that we’ve fostered that loyalty and that trust you know personally and professionally. You know reaching out to the people around us, to our co-workers, to our employees, to our friends and family and our clients you know communicating like we talked about already you know that appropriate communication both in how much information you’re sharing and how you’re sharing that information, Katie use of the magic word earlier creative. So creative uses of technology we’ve got to think a little bit outside the box. This is a situation that is a that is unprecedented so we’ve got to figure out you know what are the tools that we have at our disposal and how can we make those tools work for us in this situation because we really want to maintain the relationships that we already have and if we can you know grow more relationships and really put ourselves out there so that we don’t get lost in that feeling of being alone or being isolated or feel like we’re living on an island. We really want to keep reaching out and connecting to people.

Julie: Absolutely and Alexis you just really drove the point home I want to I want to connect the dots for everyone. The reason why today we chose very purposefully to talk about personal and professional is because we are all humans. We are all living through a pandemic for the first time together, we all wish we weren’t, but none of us can change that situation and you know we really take it to heart when we work with our clients and when we work with each other to make sure that we are connecting in ways that show our human side. We work really hard to be transparent with each other, with the people in our lives, and that includes with our clients and I think one of the biggest lessons to learn is that transparency, no matter what kind of business you are, no matter what kind of industry you’re in, that transparency helps build connections. It lets people know hey we’re not perfectly okay right now, but we’re working on it and we care about what we’re doing and we’re connecting with you in the best ways we can and maybe we can work on this together and I think that in and of itself is what will get us through, all of us through, this really difficult time because everyone’s feeling it on so many levels. I mean and some people, I saw a really great post yesterday on social media, where it described you know some people are actually able to enjoy this season. They’re able to spend more time with their kids, they’re maybe not feeling some of the financial or health pressures that other people are, and that’s wonderful. Some people are feeling maybe a little more pressure, maybe a little more financial pressure. Others might be feeling more of the health safety pressures. Others are essential workers and they are working on the front lines. I mean they’re all gradients, all varying degrees of what people are feeling right now and every single level is okay to feel and it’s okay to embrace what you’re feeling. If you’re enjoying this season, then that’s great. Like this is your time to enjoy that time and if you’re not, if you’re really on the opposite end of that spectrum which many people are, we’re here to support you and I think that’s so important in the marketing we do as well. Marketing is not just separate. It’s not just like now we’re in business mode and we’re going to market services because tell you what if you’re doing that right now that is the wrong tactic. You’re going to break every relationship you’re trying to build. Those emails that I get go right in my trash folder you know. So it’s you know it’s really balancing that personal with professional and I can see that a lot of people in our audience are doing that as well. I asked you to chime in and now I want to read some of these comments because these are so great. Okay so Seth Barnhill says he’s been doing – I’m sorry Alexis and Joel this is covering up part of your faces there we go. Okay so Seth says we’ve been doing a lot of work to help clients figure out how they can authentically be part of the solution. You are speaking our language Seth and really be helpful rather than just more noise in the ad landscape and Seth I know Seth works at an advertising agency, creative brain there. Seth I really love how you’re working with your clients and I love you know being a part of the solution rather than just more noise. Alexis I’m going to throw this over to you because we were just having a conversation this morning about not, with some of our own marketing for our clients, not ignoring the situation. We don’t always necessarily want to like to make it front and center because I think people need a break, but Alexis is it fair to say like we can’t it’s not just business as usual right now?

Alexis: Yeah I mean at the same time; you don’t want to you want to scare people right. You know we don’t want to use you know fear to you know as a motivation, but you can’t pretend like this isn’t happening and you can’t pretend like it’s not a really abrupt departure from what we’re all used to. So if you try to ignore it or you try to brush past it or you try to pretend like you know oh everything’s fine and we’re good we’re just going to keep on keeping on, then you’re not being authentic because everyone knows that if nothing else, on a human level and a personal level, you can’t possibly be feeling that way. You know even like you said Julie even if this is kind of a you know a good thing for you right now maybe it is an opportunity to spend more time with your family and you know you’re feeling ok about it and things are going fine, it’s still different and it’s still unique and just because it is that way for you doesn’t mean it’s that way for your loved ones, your neighbors, co-workers, and it’s important to recognize that. You know you really have to be aware and as marketers that’s our job right. To be aware of what’s going on, to be aware of how people are feeling, and how they’re receiving our message and Seth I just love that you use that word, authenticity. That’s I feel like connection is our you know number one key word at mConnexions, authenticity is number two it’s right behind there because it’s such an important part of how we communicate with other people and so it’s really important to keep that in mind.

Julie: By the way Stephanie shouts out to you, I’m actually drinking from my favorite mug. I’m trying very hard to connect with people right now, Schitts Creek season finale tonight you guys, but I will say this mug was a lot funnier when I received it before being quarantined at home, but thanks anyways Steph I still love it. Okay we have another great comment and I really want to call out this person because she’s been such a huge supporter of mConnexions, of our clients, of our entire Greater Lansing community, Sarah Pierce says, I admin a large community Facebook group 517 living community, make sure and look it up and join if you’re in the five one seven area, and she says it’s been very challenging. I try to highlight the good and factual and keep my personal opinions to myself for the most part. Wow Sarah that’s got to be first of all you’re doing an incredible job with your group if ever there was an example of how to foster community and to really grow community marketing on Facebook this group is a great example of that and I imagine that especially now I would think personally that it may be that starts to get overwhelming or feel like overload may be overwhelming is the wrong word, but you know you’re constantly everything you know all these updates and it’s hard when you admin a group or a page to not be able to step away from that. So Sarah, my hats off to you because you’re doing an incredible job of this group and thanks for joining in this morning too to talk with us. Joel, Stephanie wants to know how is it going with finishing your classes? What is that looking like? Are you doing all tests and things online? Does it change any of your academic plans and timeline?

Joel: Yeah so everything is online. Tests, quizzes, assignments everything. It doesn’t really change the timeline of anything, I’m still on track to graduate at the same time as normal, but really the professors have been and MSU have been really helpful throughout all this. They’re even offering an option to do pass/fail now. A lot of the professors are offering free points, extra credit, to help kids transition through this phase because for a lot of them it can be challenging and I imagine that working online if you’ve never done it before and having everything go online it’s definitely a challenging process. So they’ve definitely done all that they can to help us through that. So everything’s all online, same timeline, same graduation coming up at the end of this month, so yeah.

Julie: Joel I can’t give you enough credit for you knowing everything you’re going through and you and I have had some conversations about the job market and what this is going to look like. I think you know our first focus and attention for those of us who were kind of naive to the whole you know I don’t have a high school senior who’s missing out on you know in my family that’s missing out on prom and in all those sports milestones you know and thinking about when I thought about you as a college senior and thinking like wow like okay that gosh suddenly your semesters, not over cause you’re still doing the school work, but you’re not interacting with those students, you’re not going to class, you’re not you know all those hands-on things you talked about you know commencement and all of those things that are really big milestones, but then it’s like the next step and looking ahead to what comes next after graduation and you know how was the university supporting you? How are you feeling as far as you know the job market?

Joel: Yes, so it is definitely affected because of all this. Most companies I feel like are putting a pause on their hiring process at the moment. I know a lot of people actually like my friends have some internships or they had some internships lined up for the summer, and they’re all cancelled now so if they’re planning on doing that and I think that’s really going to affect the sophomores and juniors that require their major requires them to have an internship. So I think not only is it affecting seniors in their job search, it’s also affecting the sophomores, juniors, freshmen, getting these internships as well. So yeah definitely working for mConnexions, at a virtual agency, has allowed me to help with this transition so much and it’s almost seamless for me you know and it’s given me a lot of experience to be able to handle a lot of these. Like the jobs that are still looking to hire right now, it’s all virtual for the most part. You know virtual interviews, phone calls, so yeah it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when this is finally over and what companies are doing. Are they even going to be looking to hire? You know even after this is all over because they’ve been impacted so much. So yeah it’s definitely a lot with one focusing on trying to finish school and graduate right now with all the changes and then two, after the fact you know the graduation aspect and getting a job and so yeah it’s definitely affected. MSU has definitely been really helpful. They send us a lot of resources, they send us job openings all the time so they definitely are aware of the situation and have been doing anything they can to help.

Julie: Absolutely and I think I should I probably should have prefaced that for our viewers by saying that Joel isn’t going anywhere from mConnexions, so it’s you know so we’re asking him about the job market, but he has a place with us and so you know I don’t want to make light of the situation. This is you know very you know high anxiety time for a lot of people and Joel I thank you for sharing your story because it is representative of what so many college students are going through right now and I appreciate your openness and transparency to talk about it and we are very glad to have you on the team and glad to you know continue that you’re going to continue with us. So in case anyone’s thinking gosh that was really caliber to ask him. It was kind of.

Joel: It’s the overall aspect we are talking about, not just me.

Julie: And Joel is an integral part of our team. You know is commenting this morning with someone that I really think too that you know normally we don’t think of an intern as an expert right, but we have so much to learn from people on all levels throughout our entire lives and I learned so much from the interns who come and work with us at mConnexions, Joel included and I know an internship is it was a really critical time in my life when I was interning in TV news and so there’s so much you’re just you know under the gun learning and so yeah, but there’s so much that we can learn and Joel I think that really when we all come out on the other side of this I truly believe that you and others in your situation are going to have an entirely new skill set that we just haven’t ever learned before and so I think there’s a lot to learn from what you’re going through. So I thank you for sharing your story. I want to get back to a couple of the comments here so let’s see, okay so many to go through, thank you guys for commenting. You know Stephanie says I imagine that colleges and universities are still recruiting, but how is that process changed? I would think it would be very hard to try and host meetings, tours, orientation at a time like this. Yeah Stephanie, and Katie I’m sure you have a front row seat to a lot of things that we’re not even thinking about that are changing for universities.

Katie: Yeah it has changed pretty much everything at UofM. I know that sounds dramatic but that really is the case. I mean like I said commencement was cancelled, all of our obviously all our sports season, Student Orientation has been cancelled. So imagine as a freshman coming you know you’re going to the University of Michigan there’s so much to take in and you want to be able to see the campus and now that’s all online and I know how much that really does change the experience. While they still get to you know go through orientation, it’s not the same as you know crossing the diag and you know seeing the bell tower and all these things that really excite them about becoming a student and so I know I don’t know much about recruiting, but I do know that it has majorly affected again with sports there are a lot of seniors that specifically in baseball I know a few, who were this was kind of their chance to be you know recruited and have the chance to have one last year of claim and they no longer have that opportunity and of course as seniors moving on they will not get that opportunity. So it has changed. I mean again meetings, all their meetings are virtual and everything other than that has been canceled. So it’s a weird time, it really is. It’s crazy to walk through UofM’s campus and it’s just a ghost town, it’s interesting.

Julie: As it should be, right?

Katie: Yes, that’s a good thing.

Julie: Right but yeah what an odd an eerie feeling and normally this time of year with spring here and commencement around the corner that yeah it’s just not what we would like to see and hopefully we see, with all of these losses, we see some may be new ideas, new opportunities, new gains to replace these. Nathan says overload is the understatement of the month. Nathan is the owner of Creswick farm, so Nathan we feel you and we thank you for all of the work that you and your team are doing to keep us fed and to keep our supply chain moving. Also we have a comment here from Jerry Norris. Jerry is the founder of the fledge in Lansing. We profiled Jerry and talked with him a couple weeks ago, three weeks ago when we first started this series. Jerry I can’t believe it feels like it was yesterday seriously, it’s been almost a month. Jerry says, Julie I quote you almost every day, this is back to marketing, if it’s not COVID-19 it doesn’t matter and Jerry I stick to that and Dave agrees thanks guys for agreeing with me. Dave says I use that quote too. Key to success that he’s having and getting national speakers with his coping with COVID series. Dave’s running a series every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday specifically focused for startup founders and Dave’s going to be featured with us on Thursday. So that’s coming up on Thursday we’ll hear more from Dave and his advice for startups so thanks for tuning in you guys. You know I wanted to really emphasize those comments not because they’re applauding me it’s really not me it’s just this theme of when we’re in crisis communications mode that when you have an and it can be something like a natural disaster like a hurricane, it can be any kind of crisis. It can be a hyperlocal crisis, it can be a major crisis, but when that crisis is happening nothing else matters. I mean it’s like the world stops. There’s a reason why, those of you who use social media scheduling tools, there’s a reason why there is a pause button that will immediately pause all scheduled posts and it is because when something major happens it is not life as normal and obviously unfortunately right now it is not life as normal so that’s why as I’ve been talking with Dave and with Jerry and with a lot of the startups that we work with, it’s that if it’s not COVID-19, it doesn’t matter. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t make your messaging relevant even if it’s not related. It just means that you always have to have that top of mind and focus when you’re communicating with people. You don’t check in at the end of the conversation, you check in at the beginning of the conversation. Things like that, that we need to do in adjusting our own messaging and so I want to bring this back Alexis because you and I have had some conversations on you know over the years about working from home and work-life balance and you guys it seems like that balance idea has really gone out the window because it is just as Nathan said, overload all the time understatement of the month. So Alexis what are some ways that you’re finding some balance or maybe some guidance that you might have especially when balancing personal with professional because let’s face it when we are working from home there is no like punching the clock and clocking in and clocking out you’re just always on. So what are some of your tips for that balance and achieving balance?

Alexis: Yeah you know it’s so easy for those lines to get blurred. When you’re not leaving the house and going to your place of work and then coming home it’s really easy to kind of feel like well you’re just sort of on all the time. It can lead to you taking on more than you would have if you were working in the office because it just doesn’t it can be really hard to find that disconnect and that time to like okay when am I turning this off? I like what someone had said earlier about that overload. That’s a really dangerous concept with working from home because that happens too easily and it takes some time to even notice I’m feeling a little bit burnt out, feeling a little bit overwhelmed, so my kind of my suggestion is to determine when you’re accessible versus when you’re taking a break and be really clear and upfront with everyone in your life about that, Your employees, your co-workers, your clients, your friends, your family, yourself. Set those times for you know between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. I am on. I am here, I’m present, I’m working, I’m connected and between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. I’m off. I’m taking time for myself, I’m taking time for my family, I’m taking time for Netflix, whatever that is, whatever that break looks like for you, take that time and be consistent about it. I know it feels kind of hard to set those boundaries especially when we’re working from home and it feels like well I should just be available all the time. You know what else am I going to do? I’m just going to sit on my couch. That’s okay and that’s good and you should take that time, you should take that mental health break, and if you can be consistent about it it’s actually going to be more reassuring for the people who need you whether that’s on a professional level or a personal level because they know that when 7 a.m. hits not only are you there and you’re present, but you’re a hundred percent engaged and you’re fully there with them and you’re fully there supporting them because you’ve taken the time for yourself and to disconnect. I think having those physical disconnects too you know this room is my office, this room is where I create and I do fun things that are just for me, this space is where I hang out with my family or you know by myself or I take time. Having those places can make it a little bit easier for us mentally to turn off. When I feel like okay you know this is my office here at the end of the day I leave this room, I close the door and we close the door on work, we close the door on the office and then I you know can sit with my husband or my dogs and just kind of relax and I think that can give us that physical distance that we get when we work in an office and we can lose a little bit when we work from home.

Julie: Katie I see you nodding and I know that really resonates with you because you wear a couple hats. You work for the University of Michigan, you are one of our amazing and talented writers with mConnexions, I’m assuming that somewhere in there you have a personal life and you have other things that are your hobbies. What has worked for you? What has helped you create or even a work-in-progress at creating kind of some separation and some distance?

Katie: Yeah it’s fitting because a lot of it does echo what you know Alexis said even when it’s finding balance between full-time contracting as Julie said you know personally when I freelance you know so it’s a lot and in a time that again keeps using the word it’s unprecedented. It’s something that nobody, even our employers, have ever gone through and so my key has been transparency. You know I let both between Julie and my U of M employer say you know trying to stay in touch as much as I can and you know if I have a meeting scheduled and I need to kind of rearrange is I just tried to make sure that I communicate with our leaders as much as possible and I know that the leaders in my life including Julie have been very important and helping me find that balance because they give me like healthy guidance and then also you know let me know what you need for me and then it’s another reminder that our employers are humans too. So that very much plays into the Balance and I want to make sure you know while I’m being transparent and communicating I don’t want to overload or you know confuse or cause chaos so to speak. So it is finding a balance and the time where it’s hard to know what is considered chaos and what’s not considered chaos. So that’s been a big thing for me and I also echo what Alexis says about having a space where you work and where you do other things and I live in an apartment that is very small. So when this happened I’m now in our guest bedroom and this is my U of M workroom and then when it’s time for me to do mConnexions stuff I’ll decide you know how about I go into the living room or you know how about I go to the desk in the master bedroom. I found that by moving environments that it’s easier for me to kind of switch that mindset and get into my projects for whoever it is so.

Julie: I love that Katie. You know one of the things that I think both of you have really touched on is just kind of this kind of mental health aspect of all of this and being true to whatever it is that we are needing in that moment because I know that I find myself like there are some moments when I’m like I’m on it like I’m just like running 24/7, I’m in full crisis comms mode and doing these Facebook lives and it’s like okay awesome like life is normal and then I power down or I get tired and I’m like wait a minute life is not normal and so we also need to be able to recognize like that how we feel and what we need might change from moment to moment and that’s one thing that with our team I know all of us all of you are so good at doing is embracing people wherever they are. If they need space, if they we’ve had team members take a day, take a couple days or dive in and work double time because that’s what they needed in that moment and so I think that’s one thing that no matter what industry we’re talking about right now whether we’re calling on friends to check in on them or family or coworkers just recognizing that space and giving people that space to be wherever they are. Which might sound a little frou-frou but I really think that’s what really helps us is just honoring whatever you’re feeling, however you’re feeling, and like Alexis like you said you know there might be times when you know when we have to tell a client or you know someone we’re working with said hey you know what like I will be back on at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow or it whatever that timeframe is or I can get with you in about two hours and just honoring where you are so that when you show up, you’ve had time to hit reset. You’ve had you know you’ve been able to nurture whatever it is that you need that’s going to help you to perform better in the long run.

Alexis: Yeah I think you know it’s really easy you know both in the real world and in the quarantine world to tell when someone’s not a hundred percent engaged with you or what you’re saying or your issues. It’s kind of easy to tell when they’re distracted or exhausted and if you can take that time to say you know I need the day, I need the evening, this is my you know this is where my boundary is, so that when I show up I can be fully there with you, that’s going to inspire trust and people are going to feel like okay no matter what even if it takes a little longer you know I have to wait an hour to hear back or you know there’s a bit of a delay that when this person is there for me, they are there for me. They are with me, they hear me, I am their full focus, I get their full attention and you’re really serving your clients and your employees and your friends in your family so much better than if you just said okay anytime, anywhere you know whatever you need for me, I’ll do it if I can. You know the more that you can give fully both to yourself and to the people around you, the better off you’re going to be, but it starts with giving to yourself and making sure that you’re taking care of yourself too.

Julie: Absolutely, 100%. Okay I’m going to, this is your quick like warning guys, I’m going to go around and ask you for one final you know if you had one piece of advice to give our audience today, but first audience I’m going to ask you if you have something you want to share with us or with the rest of our audience what is one thing that’s helping you get through this? Maybe it’s related to your messaging, to your writing, maybe it’s related to marketing, maybe it’s related to building relationships and networking virtually, maybe it’s just something you’re using for your own mental health. We would love to hear from you and while we wait for the audience to respond I’m going to quickly kind of go around our circle here. Alexis let’s start with you. If you have just one takeaway, one piece of advice for those who are listening, what stands out to you right now?

Alexis: I would say remember the human. Remember the person at the other end of whatever it is you’re doing or saying. Remember that you on one side are also human and feeling things and experiencing things and the person that you’re talking to or working with or providing information to, they are human and if you can remember that human and focus on the connection then you’re really going to do well. That authenticity is going to shine through.

Julie: I love that Alexis, absolutely. Joel, what’s one thing that you want people to take away?

Joel: Yeah so I would bring it back to the, be adaptable. You know in any situation in your life you know, professional or personal I think you know we all face change especially right now and being adaptable will help us get through this and come out on the other side. Absolutely. Katie what about you? What’s one takeaway that you have for our audience?

Katie: It’s funny because it actually ties Alexis and Joel’s together and it’s I know it sounds like it’s coming out of a children’s storybook, but be kind to yourself, be kind to others, be kind with your patience and the sense of I know it’s so hard for me to start doing work when I’m just worked up, I’m anxious I don’t you know I’m waiting to hear back from this person and I can’t seem to finish that project and I just kind of remind myself that I need to be kind to myself and everyone around me and I think part of adapting is also again being kind and vice versa. So I think that’s been my biggest carry through for me at this point is just learning to be kind.

Julie: I love that especially because at 3 o’clock today not that you planned this self-promotion, but at 3 o’clock today I’m going to talk with Bob Hoffman who is the founder of ePIFany now, which is an organization a nonprofit that is all about passing kindness forward. So that’s coming up at 3, there’s a lot of really great things happening in the community, but yes Katie I completely agree. Kindness is so important. We’ve talked a lot about giving grace to ourselves, to other people, throughout these lives and I think kindness really nails it. Okay so we’ve heard from Nathan. Nathan’s biggest piece of advice, Long walks.

Katie: I agree Nathan; I agree with all of those o’s in there too. Very long walks.

Julie: All of you and Nathan I worked outside yesterday. I know I don’t even I didn’t even look at the temperature, I wrapped up in a blanket, I had on a sweatshirt and a vest, and I just took my office outside on my back deck and nature it’s amazing what fresh air and some sunshine will do for us, so long walks for sure. Stephanie says self-care is always vital, but especially now. Absolutely. I really love that Steph and Jerry has chimed in and Jerry says, see if it all fits up there, he says I am trying to catch as many people as possible being loving and compassionate. We are surrounded by kindness and people act with such compassion. Our community is amazing. Yes, it is and I tell myself thank you for everything I see. This keeps me motivated and sane. I love that Jerry so much. I know we had Joyce Marter on a couple weeks ago talking about how to find gratitude during this season and it might be something as simple as is being grateful for you know the floor underneath our feet and the roof over our heads, the food in our bellies, it you know it’s amazing how when we stop to think about all that we have to be grateful for how much it can really change our mindset and really help us to focus on the bigger picture of things and Jerry you’re doing some really amazing things at the fledge so thank you for all you’re in the community to support kindness as Katie said, the adaptability that you all are showing is incredible as Joel said, and an Alexis as well talking about showing the human aspects. If there’s one thing that I would pass on it is gosh so many because these are so great you guys, but I would say um perhaps it’s just the transparency of it which really touches on what you know Joel and Katie and Alexis all said, but just recognizing that as Alexis said we are human and you know having these open conversations and recognizing, being transparent with yourself, recognizing where you are, what you need, what you’re able to give, what you need from other people, I think is just as important personally as it is professionally because that’s certainly something that resonates in marketing as well. So Katie, Alexis, Joel thank you so much for joining me for this Facebook live today. Thank you to everyone who tuned in, this is just really another incredible conversation and we are just so grateful to be bringing you this series. We have two more live interviews coming up today. At one o’clock we’re going to be talking with an attorney at Foster Swift about the Cares Act Michaels Zahrt is going to be talking through just a number of levels of the programs that are out there. He’s going to talk through the cares Act and how it impacts small businesses, what you need to know. So get your questions ready and then he’s going to join us for that at one o’clock so coming up in just about an hour and then as I mentioned that three o’clock today Bob Hoffman from ePIFany now will join us to talk about some exciting changes actually, some good news in the midst of this season that we’re in and talking about how his organization is going to be honoring youth in our community for passing it forward. So that’s all coming up later today you can catch all of our live interviews right here on our Facebook page. Just click on the videos tab, you can also watch our videos or read the transcripts of these videos on our website at If you have questions feel free to reach out to me directly and I will see you back here today at one o’clock.




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