Mike Connell

The Big Question: What’s Your Motivation?

By: Mike Connell | December 8, 2017 | 
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MotivationWhat’s your motivation? 

It’s a pretty common job interview question.

If you conduct a Google search, the first couple of results focus on how to answer that very question during your interviews.

BTW, most results say “money” is the wrong answer, even if it is what gets some people out of bed in the morning.

Although, that’s certainly not the case for PR pros. Or marketing and communications professionals, or content strategists.

In fact, I don’t know a single person who entered this field for the money.

Yes, we all need to get paid, but the almighty dollar isn’t what motivates us.

There’s a reason overservicing is a topic of discussion during budget calls.

People who love what they do often go above and beyond.

So what gets PR and marketing professionals out of bed in the morning?

What keeps us blogging, building domain authority, servicing clients, and generally staying the course?

Perhaps more importantly, what motivates you to learn more, to get better, to challenge yourself to new heights?

Sometimes competition is key. Or peer support.

Maybe it’s a coach or a lesson plan. Perhaps there are apps and tools that keep you going.

Whatever and however you do it, it’s important to stay on track.

Which is why this week’s Big Question asks:

How do you stay motivated?

I want to thank all of the people who responded to this week’s Big Question.

Some of our queries generate a lot of engagement.

This week’s question didn’t get the volume, but what blew me away was the sincerity and the quality.

I had a very hard time deciding which responses to include, so I apologize if I didn’t post yours.

They were all great, which, of course, made this week’s Big Question very difficult to edit down!

(We’re at more than 2,000 words as it is!)

What’s Your Motivation? The Wins

PR and marketing is very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately industry and one that tends to focus on negative outcomes more than the positive ones.

As a result, I feel like we don’t follow Amanda Ponzar’s advice as much as we should:

My tips to stay motivated are: Keep track of the wins and celebrate them. Sometimes it’s scoring a media story. I post the wins on social media and tag friends/coworkers/board members.

Do something every day to make progress. Almost every day, I write something—a blog post, media pitch, newsletter article, or journal entry.

Do something you love or that supports a good cause. I’m fortunate to work for a nonprofit and spend my time raising awareness and resources for health and wellbeing—autism, childhood cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental health, bullying. Health issues affect my family, so it’s incredibly motivating to know that what I’m writing about or raising awareness for using my communications skills is improving life and empowering people to be healthier.

Surround yourself with positive people who share your goals (or find one or two if you don’t have them at work).

I’m fortunate to have made some great hires who bring positivity to my team, plus I have strong Board members and others who support me.

Tools for Motivation

While many of our respondents were adamant that motivation starts with you, I’m a firm believer that anything that can help me stay the course.

Spend that extra 10 minutes on a blog post, or go that extra mile (kilometre in my case) on the bike.

For Cale Loken, motivation comes in the wake of distraction-free periods:

As a marketer, it is hard to stay motivated with social media, articles and many other things that come across our desk. I use a few tools to stay motivated.

One is RescueTime which doesn’t allow me to go to any time wasting websites such as Twitter, Facebook, or even news sites.

I also use Brain.FM, as it has focus sounds to help the brain stay focused on the task at hand.

These two tools allow me to get much more work done than I would without them.

From Andrew Wheller:

A couple of productivity/motivational tips that I use include: planning out your day with feasible goals or objectives and even set ‘timers or deadlines’ for yourself, these aren’t set in stone but work well as guidelines.

For example, I try to spend no more than an hour each morning working through emails, if I still have unread emails I will usually stop after an hour and return for the final 30 minutes at the end of the day or after lunch.

Doing this allows me to continuously make progress through my lists of tasks and keeps me motivated as I always feel like I’m making good headway with my objectives.

Breaking large daunting tasks down into smaller more manageable and achievable ones.

The reason for this is so that it feels like you’re continuously making progress.

Checking off tasks on Trello or even striking through a handwriting task in your notebook, they both give that rewarding feeling and help individuals remain motivated on their projects.

We also have a shared office Spotify playlist that each of the four members of our team has contributed too.

We don’t listen to this everyday maybe once or twice a week, on a Friday afternoon or when feeling particularly unmotivated or unfocused during the week (but quite often on Fridays!).

This is a slightly unique tip but one that definitely helps our team stay motivated. One of the best things is that it’s a shared playlist that we’ve all contributed too, and each of us still frequently add songs into.

Research from The Globe and Mail [indicates] that ‘focusing on a favorite song combats de-motivating brain signals which are commonly associated with fatigue and boredom’.

Do Deadlines Improve Your Motivation?

As a former journalist and would-be writer, deadlines are one of my biggest motivators.

Bryan Scanlon, a member of our Spin Sucks Slack community, agrees:

Nothing like a good deadline to get you motivated. And I find the ones I set with clients (for our deliverables, and theirs) to be especially motivating.

A deadline provides focus and drive—and if I miss it, I feel like I broke a promise.

PR Dream Team Member, Gayle Joseph, is on the same page, although she qualifies her answer a bit (and we agree: #familyfirst).

Yikes. You have to ask that on a sunny Friday? Lol! Deadlines are a solid motivation for me. 

Without deadlines, though, I am motivated by my desire to live a full, balanced life doing killer work with ideal client partners, and still being able to spend lots of memorable time with my family. #familyfirst

What You Are Doing Matters

Another Spin Sucks Slack community member, Rosemary O’Neill, weighed in.

Despite her comments, we don’t think her motivational tip is corny at all:

This sounds corny, but I keep a little file of thank you’s and kind comments that I go back to whenever I’m feeling demotivated or deflated. Just a quick reminder that what I’m doing matters to someone!

Does Spontaneity Work for Motivation?

According to Meagan Phillips:

When I feel my motivation waning I like to do or say something unexpected.

Simple but spontaneous actions like making a joke with someone you don’t know very well, brainstorming with someone significantly more junior than you or playing hype music before a meeting all help create new chemistries, and usually encourage me to see a situation differently.

Another piece of advice I learned early on in my work life was to focus on making a contribution, not a career. That helps remind me what’s really important and cuts out the periphery stressors.

Motivation Includes Inspiring Others and Being Inspired

For Alyson Campbell, it’s all about getting back to why she decided to do what she does:

One thing I have found is having passion and reminding myself why I decided to do what I do—which is to inspire others.

Coming back to that central mission allows me to stay motivated, even on challenging days; reminding myself of that mission and purpose keeps me motivated.

You have to be passionate about what you do—that will keep you motivated, even on the challenging days. That’s in broad strokes terms.

Practically, I write in my journal on how I’m feeling, keep to-do lists, meditate, go to yoga, work out and talking with my loved ones and friends really helps too.

I’m someone who has to talk through things and often get others’ perspective, even if it’s no different than mine, and they are simply just there to listen and support me.

Having someone (or a group of those whom you are close to) to share the challenging times (as well as the happy times of course!) is really soul-filling and rejuvenating.

I encourage everyone to identify a few key people in your circle whom you can talk to and bounce things off of—good or challenging—it’s incredibly helpful.

A Solid Foundation

Furthermore, it is important to realize that whatever you do, whenever and however you do it, will suffer if your body and mind aren’t, for lack of a better word, happy.

What’s your motivation?

The answer should include your own health and wellness.

Robin Salter:

Motivation requires and is fueled by, energy.

So, develop habits that generate energy and feeling motivated will be the inevitable result.

Get enough sleep at night. Exercise and stretch every morning to get the blood flowing and the mind clear.

Eat high energy foods including spinach, brown rice, honey, bananas, beans, almonds, and plain yogurt.

Adopt some powerful mental mantras or affirmations, like: “I am healthy and strong”, “I am incapable of suffering”, “I am filled with high powered energy”.

And lastly, I find that smiling increases my energy and drives higher levels of creativity and self-motivation.

Seven Motivational Tips

From Marla Stone:

The magic word is motivation.

How do we muster up this motivation and stay motivated?

Well, some words describing the opposite of motivation are accidental, unintentional, involuntary, aimless, meaningless, unplanned, vague, dissuade, suppress, stop, prevent, depress, deject, dispirit, dishearten, cast down, lazy, dull, and sluggish.

So in order to not end up, at the very least, lazy, dull and sluggish, let’s think of some ways to stay MOTIVATED.

  1. Increase exercise.
  2. Cut back on fatty foods i.e dairy, meat, oil.
  3. Sleep well, and if you don’t sleep well, find out why and fix it.
  4. Talk to yourself in the mirror (seriously it works… if you say positive things).
  5. Socialize and find a group you love to hang out with.
  6. Work on your self-esteem, any shortcomings you recognize in self and read books on how to stay motivated.
  7. Discuss issues that have been bothering you forever. Work through them with a life coach and or counselor.

You Can Find Motivation in a Slack Group!

Finally, despite the fact that many of our respondents stipulate motivation starts with you, we steadfastly feel that it’s also very important to have a strong support network.

A cheerleading squad. Someone to help you celebrate your wins, or scream them out if you’re too embarrassed to.

That’s where the PR Dream Team comes in for many of us.

A group of like-minded people providing support, inspiration, and mentorship.

Up Next: Reading or Listening to Books?

We’ve discussed favorite podcasts in the past

Favorite books as well (nonfiction or otherwise).

Personally, I always have a podcast on deck, an ebook queued up, a physical book by my bedside, and an audiobook at-the-ready.

Audiobooks can be difficult and take getting used to.

The cadence and the tone could be really distracting until I discovered some of my favorite narrators.

Now, I’ll often pick books based on those audiobook narrators alone.

As a result, listening to audiobooks has become one of my favorite, almost preferred, forms of “reading”.

Which, of course, got us talking and, in turn, engendered the next Big Question:

Given the choice, what’s your go-to format? Reading or listening to books?

You can answer here, in our free Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

The 30-Day Communications Challenge begins on January 3. Are you subscribed?

About Mike Connell


Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative . Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Very good tips in here. Thanks, Mike.

    Yay! We talk about books! I love both reading and listening. I found I read many more books when I listen to them while exercising, walking, or cleaning the house. But from time to time I do like to feel a book in my hands.

    • Totally agree! I def love having something to listen to on the go, but it is nice to have a book in hand.

  • jim hampton

    What motivates me, ultimately? Deadlines.

    • I’m with you Jim. In fact, I have one I’m trying to meet right now, so I’m going to get off of the internet!

      • Dawn Buford

        You are funny! ; )

  • Bill Dorman

    Is it fun, will it challenge me and will I like and be energized by the people I am working with (or funning with)?

    A secondary motivator…will there be food involved.

    Sounds silly, but for better or worse that’s me in a nutshell.

    • Dawn Buford

      Pretty sure free food is standard motivation in every office in the world!

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