‘Fake news’ has gotten a lot of news lately. Wait, don’t click away – this isn’t a political post. Strictly business.

What does fake news look like in your business? How real is your news feed? Are all of your photos meticulously styled? Do you only share good things that happen and never the challenges? Is your social feed like the #HobbyLobbyChallenge, and only looks good closely cropped? Is this real?

More importantly, is this the relationship you want with your friends and clients?

Lately, I feel a current of change, not only in my social media feed, but also in other media I follow. At a recent Rising Tide gathering I heard a significant amount of pushback against superficial feeds and artificial followings. There is a hunger for something meaty and real to sink your mind into. A hunger for SUBSTANCE.

There is a hunger for something meaty and real to sink your mind into. A hunger for SUBSTANCE.

Let’s get real

Throughout my career, business has been conducted in formality. In some industries this formal culture persists. For many, however, the culture of business has evolved to be more congenial and less formal. CEOs wear hoodies to work, jeans are in the board room, and let’s be real – I often work in my yoga pants. Business still gets done, we are just more comfortable doing it.

How does this ‘real’ show up on your social feeds and other communications? How do you straddle the line between projecting competence and being comfortable with your followers? Real does not mean unprofessional. What is appropriate depends upon you and your audience.

For example, everyone probably is not interested in what you had for breakfast. Unless, however, you are a health coach and your followers are looking for guidance on healthy living.

Relevant information that matches your follower’s needs is real.

NOT REAL is liking pages and feeds only to get a reciprocal like to pad your follower count.
NOT REAL is using click groups to artificially create engagement.
NOT REAL is tagging people you don’t know to gain a moment on their feed.
NOT REAL is buying followers.

Putting it into action – create REAL engagement with your followers

REAL let’s customers peek behind the scenes (give clients an understanding of what they hire you for)
REAL shares credit and celebrates collaboration (tag team members, vendors and partners)
REAL shows the WHY and the HOW and gives depth to your story
REAL creates conversation
and yes, sometimes REAL shows me working in my yoga pants ūüôā

You don’t have to search long to hear complaints that social media is shallow. What an opportunity to shine! In a sea of ‘fake’ you can stand out by being your authentic self. Think about your true story and how you can share that with your audience. Who are you behind the logo?

Step away from the over-polished feed into substance. Create the opportunity for your followers to become engaged in your brand and contribute to a richer dialogue that is meaningful for all.

Searching for Substance: One change you can implement today to increase your social engagement

A few months ago I wrote an article about curating your content to gain a competitive advantage in life and in business. (read) Recent events have made me revisit my thoughts.

A person¬†can find the answer to nearly anything on the internet. Google it. YouTube will show you how. But don’t believe everything you read. ¬†Not everything that is published on the internet is true.

A Washington Post article highlighted the very serious stakes of misinformation (read full article). During the recent presidential election, fake news was propagated via several social media channels. Botnets, networks and paid internet ‘trolls’ were used¬†to push both fringe extremist news and completely¬†fake news with specific agendas intended to bias American voters. These highly sophisticated propaganda engines exploited¬†social media algorithms¬†in a type of informational warfare. To make matters worse, the effort was aided by unknowing individuals that blindly liked, shared, and forwarded the misinformation. People tagged with an old cold-war term – ‘useful idiots.’


Through blind acceptance of¬†what is put on the internet, one¬†may have unwittingly contributed to undermining our election process, and some folks may have made their choice for US President based on lies.¬†In fact, a recent Stanford research study, as reported by NPR (read full article) found “Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real.'” ¬†The study¬†assessed students and found they struggled to distinguish ads from articles, neutral sources from biased ones, and fake accounts from real ones.” Judging from my Facebook feed and cocktail party conversations, I’d say it isn’t just students who struggle in this area.

Add to this issue the plethora¬†of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who peddle today’s version of snake oil cures online and at a home party near you. Get rich/beautiful/slim in 30 days and other such¬†schemes can lure in the unsuspecting customer who isn’t scanning for trouble.

So what is a person to do?¬†Don’t believe everything you read.

Don’t put important decisions into others’ hands. You need to be your own censor. It is up to you to be aware and be discerning about the information you consume and the sources you trust. This is especially important if you will be making personal, business, or nationally important decisions with the information. The more important the decision/action/results, the more you have a responsibility to ensure you are acting on correct¬†‚ÄĒ¬†and complete¬†‚ÄĒ¬†information.

The important note is that regardless of platform, you are in control of the content you consume.

– E. Gallegos

In my last post I issued a challenge to “create a new habit of being¬†deliberate about your media choices.¬†Curate your content.” ¬†This week I have a new challenge: create a new habit of fact-checking your information. Verify your content.


  1. Is this the complete story?
    A half truth or missing facts can make something seem different than it really is.
    Action: Check the fine print. Ensure you have all of the information.
  2. Is this information biased? 
    Check the source. Do they have something to gain? Is the information ‘sponsored’¬†‚ÄĒ¬† which means bought by¬†‚ÄĒ¬†someone who is trying to sway your actions?
    Action: Find the opposite, or an unbiased, perspective.
  3. Is this too good to be true?
    If something is too easy, too amazing, too perfectly aligned with¬†your needs, be cautious. Don’t click that link.¬†Don’t download the attachment.¬†Don’t give your time, money, or anything else¬†just yet.
    Action: Check the news/offer/information through a verified information source.
  4. Is this too bad to be true?
    Is it too extreme, too shocking? Some people just want to spread fear, hate, and trouble. Don’t let them use you to do it.
    Action: Check the news through a verification site like Snopes.com. Before you share, tweet, repeat¬†‚ÄĒ¬† ensure it is true.

Don’t be a useful idiot. Be careful what you put into your mind.


The high stakes of fake news and internet lies

Tap into abundance

There is enough for everyone

Many charitable and recognition events include a food element. As an event marketer, I am in a position to observe people and how they interact with their food.

I notice that, in general, there are two mindsets when approaching an included (free) buffet of food. One jostles to be first in line, fills the plate to the brim and piles the food high, sometimes balancing two plates at a time. This person anxiously gobbles as to get back in line quickly and obtain another serving before it is gone.

The other often waits until others have been served, visiting and renewing acquaintances in the meantime. A modest amount graces their plate, and they rarely return for a second serving. This meal is consumed at a leisurely pace while visiting with others at their table.

Scarcity versus Plenty

The difference between these two groups is a scarcity versus plenty mindset. The thought that resources are scarce leads one to fear that there just isn’t enough for everyone. This mentality is jealous, and feels bad when someone has something more. It compares and lives with anxiety and fear.

Unfortunately, this mindset will wreak havoc on your business. The result is the constant worry about the state of your business and comparing your success to the success of others. People with a scarcity mentality often exhibit greedy behaviors. They won’t help others who are new in the business. They jealously guard resources and contacts. Even when they are meeting their business goals, they feel bad if someone else is doing better. Scarcity mindset leads to a constant state of comparison and anxiety.

The alternative, of course, is to realize that there are abundant opportunities. The plentiful mentality believes that there is enough for everyone, we aren’t in competition, and we should celebrate others when they succeed.

When fear and envy are removed from the equation, cooperation and collaboration have room to grow.

The plentiful mindset will reap rewards in your business. When fear and envy are removed from the equation, cooperation and collaboration have room to grow. Pooling resources can lead to reduced costs. Working together can lead to achieving larger contracts. Sending referrals to a colleague, lending a helping hand, and cheering a colleague’s success are all outpourings of an abundant philosophy.

Tap into abundance. There is enough for everyone.

Curate your content

One habit you can start this week to step up your game

Whew. It has been a long day pushing on a big project and now it is time to sit back, grab a beverage and turn on the television. Sound familiar? After making decisions all day and using up mental energy, it is not unusual to seek respite in mindless activity. Many of your co-workers are doing the exact same thing. High producers, however, are not. Highly successful people use their downtime to invest in future activity Рto refuel both body and mind.

Mental agility is a key ingredient in the workplace. It¬†directly impacts both your creativity and your¬†productivity. If your mind isn’t sharp, you won’t be able to navigate decisions, and your¬†tasks will take more time – with less than stellar results. Highly successful people understand this and make the investment in mental agility.

The familiar adage ‘garbage in, garbage out’ helps us understand the impact of food on our physical health. This adage¬†applies to your brain as well as your body. Roaming social media without purpose and mindlessly clicking the remote is the mental equivalent of junk food.¬†Filling your head with these useless ‘snack’ bites will not help move you forward.

Live less by habit and more by intent.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong about watching television or spending time with social media. The issue is mindlessly clicking and roaming without purpose. Instead, turn these same activities into something that is both relaxing and refreshing.¬†Step up your thought game: be¬†deliberate¬†about what you mentally consume.

Curate your content.

Social media algorithms reward interactive behavior. When you like, click, or share your behavior becomes part of the experience. Therefore, you will receive more of the type of content you interact with. Click on silly cat videos? You will see more silly cat videos. Instead, click on a Fast Company article on entrepreneurship. You will receive similar content.

Television offers similar interactivity. Previously, all television content was predetermined for us by the three major networks. Today, the power of television programming is directly in your hands. Between cable, network, internet, YouTube, and original programming you have an abundance of viewing options to select from.

Magazines, newspapers and other publications have also evolved. Applications such as Flipboard and Texture allow you to craft a personalized news experience right on your iPad.

The important note is that regardless of platform, you are in control of the content you consume. This week I challenge you to create a new habit of being deliberate about your media choices. Curate your content. Here are a five content suggestions to get you started.

5 types of content you should be consuming

1. Something that teaches you.

Take time to cross-train your brain. When you learn something completely different it creates new pathways in the brain. These new pathways can be the difference in creative problem-solving in your work environment. In addition, a regular practice of learning helps keeps you relevant in the marketplace.

Try: Lynda.com or SkillShare

2. Something that challenges you.

It is easy to get into routines and comfort zones. Instead of Candy Crush, expand your gaming routine into brain training. Games and activities that involve multiple tasks or require interaction and organization may protect your brain against cognitive decline. Instead of a selfie, see your world through a different lens by participating in a Facebook photo challenge.

Try: Luminosity

Happiness inspires productivity. – Shawn Achor

3. Something that inspires you.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, consuming negative news can make you less effective at work. Conversely, positivity research shows a direct correlation to improvements in productivity, positivity, and . . . income. Include solution-focused news sources in your feed.

Try: GoodThink or Upworthy

4. Something that provides a different perspective.
Groupthink can prevent us from seeing potential solutions at work, at home, and in our communities. We tend toward information sources that align with our own ideas. This can lead to a thinking rut. Expand your perspective and understanding by following a different, even opposite, perspective. For example, follow your presidential pick and also follow the opposing political candidate.

Try: A  TED Talk

5. Something that informs you.

Take a few minutes to skim top headlines and be aware of what is going on in the world. Take a few more minutes to check top news in your field. Now you are ready for pre-meeting small talk or cocktail chatter.

Try: The Skimm or BBC News

That’s it! Five easy¬†switches to make this week to¬†be deliberate about the content you consume.

Don't just fly - Soar! Walt Disney

The Winds of Change

Every spring New Mexico is rocked with gusting winds. They push dunes into new shapes and trampolines into new yards. This spring the winds of change blew into Sparrow Creative Studio. This is our 7th year providing Marketing and Design services in New Mexico and across the country. In that time we’ve worked with countless entrepreneurs, schools, businesses and non-profits. Through our work¬†we’ve noticed that we repeatedly share key pieces of education. We’ve also noticed that even though each business is unique, there are common elements that cross demographic lines.

So, time for some change. We’ve decided to add a few elements to our repertoire to share some things we’ve learned along the way.

In the winds of change we find our true direction

Introducing Altitude!

Altitude is a digital magazine for those go-getters that are committed to succeed in all areas of life; dedicated to professional excellence, personal development, and business success.

At Sparrow our goal is to help you take flight. We have designed a life we love, and here we will share our insights and experiences with others who want the same.

Let’s begin.

3 Elements for your best first impression

Pleased to meet you. 

As a business professional, the impression you make on people you meet – virtually and in real life can have an impact on your future. So, it makes sense to make your best first impression. Time, however, is not on your side.

A person begins forming opinions about you within the first seven seconds of your encounter, and non-verbal elements have over four times the weight over what you actually say. You may not have the opportunity to say anything in person at all. Your first encounter may be through LinkedIn, your web site, a Yelp review, or interview. So how can you set yourself up to succeed?

3 Elements for your best first impression

1. Your personal brand.  Take the extra time to consciously craft your personal image. What you wear and how you present yourself can contribute to achieving your business goals. For example, you might wear something in your brand color to networking events to visually align yourself with your business identity. Choose outfits appropriate to the occasion and ensure your outfit fits properly and is in good repair.

Dressing well is a form of good manners. – Tom Ford

Your digital first impression deserves the same consideration. Ensure your email address matches what you bring to the table. Are you an MBA graduate with a partydog64@ email address? Update that now. Check out your profile photo while you are there. Just as if you were meeting in person, select a profile photo that matches your business goals. Choose an in-focus, good resolution, current likeness of yourself for your web site and social presence. For a professional business impression, use a professional headshot.

2.¬†Your focus.¬†Before you launch into your elevator speech, take a moment and think about the kind of person you’d like to meet. Is it someone who just goes on and on about themselves? Probably not. A great conversation¬†is¬†two-sided. This is true whether you meet in person or digitally. First, focus on getting to know this new person.

Harvard social physchologist Amy Cuddy says warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you. Further, competence is evaluated only after trust is established. So, hold the elevator speech until the connection is established.

Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark. – Jay Danzie

3. Your followup.¬†End the encounter with the same deliberateness as you began.¬†Use your new acquaintance’s name. ¬†Thank them for their time. In the next few days, if appropriate, strengthen the¬†connection via LinkedIn or a personal note.

Finally, remember that best first impressions occur every day. The person next to you at the preschool recital could be across the conference table in your future.

Sparrow 3 tips to ace your professional photo session

Make your head shot work for you

I highly recommend a professional headshot to my customers. The investment pays off tenfold in credibility (and also time saved searching and editing your vacation photos).

Megan and I had our¬†session with¬†Max Woltman photography.¬†Professional head shots are¬†a new step for the Sparrow Gals¬†since¬†we are usually behind the scenes helping our customers shine. As introverts, we were a little nervous about being in front of the camera, but we needn’t have worried. Max and Denise put us right at ease and the session was fun!

A pro photo session typically includes a few wardrobe changes, so you can work with your photographer to match the style of your shoot to your profession and your goals. At Sparrow Creative we support many events, so we had some shots taken in our LBDs. Megan also chose a casual outfit in an artistic setting specifically for TEDxABQ and other volunteer activities. Our business incorporates marketing strategy as well as creative design, so we chose outfits in classic styles with our own artistic touches incorporating our brand colors for our final shots.


Max was running a great special that included makeup Рwhich was a bonus as I am not a makeup girl! Our faces were done by Denise Van Arsdale-West, a professional artist for the NM movie industry. Her expertise with makeup for the camera helped us look our best. To match the creative aspect of our business we had our photos taken in a local art gallery and in a few creative ABQ downtown spaces.

In just a week we had a wonderful collection of professional images for our business! Below, Max Woltman shares his wisdom for others who are ready to invest in their professional image.


1.¬†Choose clothing wisely.¬†Remember that a headshot is a reflection of the impression you want to give to your clients. Do you want to present yourself casually, formally, with an artistic edge? Even the choice of color affects the “psychology” of the images. For example, blue generally conveys calmness, red represents passion, etc.

2.¬†Come to the photography session with an open mind.¬†Every photographer has a different way of working and his/her unique style. If you have familiarized yourself with the photographer’s work and communicated what you are trying to accomplish, let go of the rest, have fun, and let the magic happen.

3. Ask peers for help in choosing the images. We are our own worst critics and often dwell on things like a specific feature of our face (i.e. a big nose, a crooked smile, etc.). Remember that a good headshot has just as much if not more to do with conveying the big picture of who you are as a person than it does with glamour or vanity. The first impression someone gets when he sees your headshot should ideally be the first impression he gets when he meets you in person.

The first impression someone gets when he sees your headshot should ideally be the first impression he gets when he meets you in person. – Max Woltman

Great advice!