(Guest post by our Managing Director 4 a Day winner Grace Campbell)
I plant my 800,000th tree, pack up my tent, move to Victoria, and begin Royal Roads University’s Bachelor of Professional Communication Program. I have no Twitter account, no fixed address and no idea who Doug Brown or Copeland Communications are.
One month ago (to the day)
Doug visits Royal Roads to speak about online self-branding and invites my classmates and I to enter Copeland’s Boss 4 a Day contest. I immediately freak out about my lack of an online presence and my limited knowledge of social media. In a desperate attempt to prove (mostly to myself) that I haven’t “wasted” 5 years of my life planting trees I decide to enter a video in the contest.
Four days later
I create a Twitter account and use my first tweet to submit my video entry. I share it with friends and family on Facebook and YouTube just in case it goes somewhere.
Monday, September 26
I receive an email from Doug telling me that my video has been selected for the finals. I am so shocked that I forget to respond to his email. Doug has to email me back to confirm that I am still interested in the competition.
Tuesday, September 27
Boss 4 a Day contest goes to a live vote. I share it on Facebook and recruit my Royal Roads class of 39 students to my cause. I let the other finalists know that I am in it to win it!
Wednesday the 28th
Begin to use my new Twitter account to share my progress and keep followers (all 14 of them) updated on my progress.
Thursday the 29th
It becomes clear that Brandon Wright from University of Victoria and I are duking it out. So, I appeal to the Royal Roads community for support. I create little flyers with links to Copeland’s Facebook page that read:
Royal Roads University vs. UVIC
VOTE FOR THE UNDERDOG!
I hand 120 of these flyers out at the Royal Roads Fall Fair and make contacts within the three other on-campus cohorts to try and keep the buzz going.
I also create a Facebook group called “Grace Campbell Needs Some LOVE!” Strangely, this is my most successful campaign initiative, teaching me about the power of a simple slogan, no matter how desperate it seems.
The race is so tight that I begin to send personal emails asking for support.
Friday the 30th
I make sure to continue thanking all the friends, contacts, and organizations who have been supporting me. Even if I don’t win, I don’t want to be that annoying girl who asks people to vote for her and then is never heard from again.
3pm– Two hours of voting left and Brandon is 19 votes ahead. As my classmates head to the pub I ask one last time for their help and hunker down with my laptop in the now-empty classroom to virtually battle it out.
4pm– I can’t seem to catch up to Brandon. I send Doug an email saying, “I am chugging water right now to replace the fluids I have lost from sweating and the fluids I might lose from crying.”
4:55pm– My classmates are sitting in a pub with their laptops out, frantically trying to keep me in the lead. I now know exactly what “Too close for comfort” feels like, because I have been uncomfortable for hours.
5pm– I have no idea who has won, but I can’t take the stress any longer. I phone Copeland and beg for the results. 4 votes. I won by 4 votes out of over 1400. I am exhausted.
1. Appreciation for the value of both in-person and online networks.
I had no idea I had such an amazing network that would readily support me and share their influence. At first, my personal sphere of influence seemed small, but through social media and extended networks I had votes from Chicago, Korea, South Africa, Costa Rica, and beyond!
2. Importance of knowing my audience.
I had to learn quickly how to frame this contest in a variety of ways depending on my audience.
For example, with the tree-planting community I framed it as a chance for us planters to prove that we are not wasting our lives doing something we love! But for the Royal Roads community, I positioned it as a David vs. Goliath story, in which we needed to prove to UVIC that we were worth competing against.
3. I don’t regret a single day spent tree-planting.
This competition was both rewarding and exhausting, a combination that all tree-planters are familiar with. The feeling of trailing by 19 votes with only two hours left is not so different from the feeling of facing nine hours of outdoor labour, knowing that the forecast is sleet and a grizzly bear has been sighted in the area. Both situations seem insurmountable. Both situations are entirely worth the effort.
Even if I hadn’t won in the polls, I learned so much more about marketing myself in four crazy days than I thought I could learn in months.
What about you? Have you ever faced a steep learning curve and decided to charge at it full speed? How did it work out?
(NOTE: Grace enjoyed her day of tyrannical rule yesterday, October 17. She was spectacular!)