Shake Things Up: Takeaways from Angela LaRocca’s ON TAP Talk

If I had to sum up my first impressions of Angela LaRocca in one word, it would be “enthusiastic.” She’s the kind of person who begins a professional talk with, “Holy cow!” and in a culture saturated in apathy, irony, and bravado, enthusiasm is breath of fresh air. However, I realized over the course of her Social Media ON TAP talk that her enthusiasm is really fueled by her drive to create.

Most creatives have felt stifled from time to time by the analytical world that technology now dominates. At the Social Media Club St. Louis’s event last night, LaRocca gave tips for shaking things up in technology and online marketing so creatives like jWeb can get excited about their jobs again.

“A Right Brained Girl Living in a Left Brained World”

LaRocca’s self-assessment here is the closest anyone has come to describing how I feel in the modern age. It evokes something inherent about the way we’re wired that causes a constant struggle in the world we live in. The sad thing is we know that in a right brained world, we’d thrive.

Luckily, there are ways around that struggle if you’re willing to put the work in. LaRocca’s solution for herself was a combination of four things:

  1. Find out what you want to do.
  2. Mold your job around what you want to do.
  3. Learn from people who are doing what you want to do.
  4. Shake things up.

What Do You Want to Do?

LaRocca spent a lot of time applauding her company, Unidev, for letting her take risks and try new things. However, staring at keywords and Google Analytics was not a good use of her talents. She began looking for opportunities where she could use her talents, but her resignation at Unidev did not go as planned.

Her boss asked her to “go home, write down what you want to do and what you don’t want to do and we can talk about this tomorrow.” LaRocca made her list and the next day her boss announced, “We’re going to make this a job and you’re going to do this.”

Companies Need to Let Their Employees Try New Things

I think this story was a message to companies that their first priority should be how their employees feel about the work they’re doing. In short, companies need to “set people up to succeed. You can tell which people are burnt out and you can tell when people are digging what they do.” If your employees don’t feel good about their work, then it’s time to re-evaluate what they should be doing.

Employees Need to Hold Themselves Accountable

On the other side of things, employees need to be as self-driven as LaRocca for her formula to work. You can’t answer, “What do you want to do?” with, “Work for two hours and then marathon a Netflix Original Series for the rest of the day.”

Employees also need to be humble enough to admit defeat if their risks don’t pay off. Several times in her talk, LaRocca mentioned that she promised her company the same thing time after time: “If it doesn’t work, we never have to do it again.” The worst thing you can do is take advantage of the trust your employers have shown you when they let you take risks by repeating the same mistakes over and over.

Hang Out with People Who Are Better Than You

Once you know what you want to do, you have to learn how to do it. Before you get up in arms about how high your self-esteem is, realize that “hanging out with people that are better than you” is not a put down. Rather, if you want to exceed at something, find others who are already succeeding at it and learn from them.

“Be a sponge,” she says. Spend your time asking successful people questions and listening to their answers. Most likely, they’ll love feeling like they have the answer for everything.

LaRocca even demonstrated this practice in her own speech by opening it up for discussion several times. Unlike other speakers who only allow the audience to ask questions at the end, she announced at the beginning of her speech, “I see this like one giant Q&A.” Sometimes she asked questions of us, other times she would answer an audience member and then encourage other members to give their advice as well.

Show Your Appreciation

During this back and forth, I picked up on another important piece of the learning puzzle: it helps to be gracious to the people you learn from. Throughout the talk, LaRocca consistently complimented and thanked the Social Media Club St. Louis for everything—from hosting valuable, useful events to providing additional insight on her speaking points. Appreciation ensures that industry expertise is a fluid exchange. The student today will be the teacher tomorrow, so it’s important for everyone to be open with what they’ve learned.

“Disruption Is a Power Word”

I believe LaRocca was paraphrasing someone else when she made this powerful statement, but the rule is perhaps most applicable to the world of marketing. Once you understand what other people are doing and why, it’s time to break away from the mold and try something different, even radical. This strategy is an effective way to stand out from your competition and redefine what your industry means.

Quality Over Quantity is the Most Efficient Business Practice

Regardless of what you do, make sure it’s worth doing. “Don’t be the man behind the curtain,” LaRocca explains. You want to be proud of what people will encounter regardless of what they find, whether that be a video, a social media page, your website, or anything else. Even if it appears to take more time to create something of real value, quality work is a long-term investment that will pay off in the end.

You’re Never Finished

“There are things going on today that will not only affect you tomorrow, but two years from now.” LaRocca stated. If you keep yourself in a constant state of reevaluation, learning, and shaking things up, you can continue to be a driving influence in your industry.

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