Monday, January 21, 2013

What’s the Best Way to Make A First Impression? Learn How at PRONet’s event this month!

You always hear the classic line that “You have one shot to make a lasting impression.” It’s so true! There are many instances when you meet with a potential client, a future employer, or meet someone at a networking event, and their first impression is what sticks! When I started out in PR, many of my clients told me, “You are so good at what you do, but you come off as a very young person.” It hit me hard, but I took it to heart.

As we enter a new year, it’s important for all of us to be reminded about the importance of making that first impression. Next Tuesday, the PRONet committee is hosting an event called, “How to Make a Lasting Impression,” and it will feature three speakers who are experts in their field. Robin Fisher, CEO of Polished, the Image and Style Consultants (@PlishedImage); Denise Graveline (@dontgetcaught), communications consultant and speaker trainer; and Kate Perrin (@PRof_Solutions), CEO of PRofessional Solutions LLC; will discuss the etiquette in job searching, what you should and shouldn’t say during an interview, tips on enhancing your speaking skills, and perfect apparel for interviews and more.

Although this event is geared toward young professionals, anyone is invited to attend! Being in PR for more than 12 years, I’ve seen people who are seasoned professionals who need advice on how to polish their image and tips on face-to-face networking. Even if you aren’t in PR, you can still attend this event. It’s open to PRSA/WWPR members and non-members.

One of the things that many people forget about is their online personality. I’ve seen friends and acquaintances who have posted photos and tweets online that shouldn’t be posted, especially if you are looking for a job. Employers are researching your online personality before bringing someone in for an interview. So, be careful what you post because it is public information.

So, if you are looking for a new perspective on how to present yourself, sign-up for this event! Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When will athletes learn to just tell the truth??

This week has been filled with lots of twists and turns, and as a sports fan, I’m trying to process everything. I’m still in shock! From Lance Armstrong finally admitting to doping in cycling to Manti Te'o making up the story about his dead girlfriend, the last three days has been filled with stories of how we can’t trust athletes. Not only have we seen cheating in sports, but the ethical behavior by these two athletes is extremely disconcerting.

As many of you have read and heard, Armstrong for 13 years has been denying that he ever doped. His teammates would come forward and Armstrong fought back saying they were vindictive, lying and he spread rumors about them. Armstrong knowingly spread lies, which is slander, and I hope he gets sued and loses all of his money. It’s one thing to cheat, but to ruin peoples’ lives because they were trying to be ethical and tell the truth is just plain wrong. I could have forgiven him at some point for doping, but I won’t forgive him for this.

There are some who say that he raised more than $400 million for cancer and because of this they will forgive him. Is this the right message we should send to our children and future athletes. Is it okay for you to cheat, lie and defame others if you raise millions for cancer or another cause, so you can be forgiven. I’m all about cancer research and finding a cure. I lost my mom almost 23 years ago to cancer, had family members with breast cancer, friends with lung cancer, and relatives fighting other forms of cancer.

I’m truly sad for those that work for Live Strong because they are fighting for something that sucks and doing some incredible work. But, it’s brand is damaged because of Armstrong’s selfish acts. Will the brand recover? I hope so because the organization is raising awareness about this horrible disease. Armstrong should walk away because that will be the only way it will recover.

Then, we have a great story with Manti Te'o losing his girlfriend and grandmother within the same year. But, today, we learned that the girlfriend was completely made up. Seriously? As a college football fan, I’m truly saddened that he had to make up this story. Losing your grandmother is a sad story and people would sympathize with you, but you had to add a made-up girlfriend?

Where are your ethics? You seriously should have thought about the consequences of lying to the public and to the children who looked up to you. You had a great season at Norte Dame, and now your season is forever tarnished. Now, parents, aunts and uncles have to explain that another sports figure didn’t tell the truth. You really need to think about the unintended consequences before committing any of these actions.

When will this unethical behavior end? We’ve seen it with Tiger, Kobe, A-Rod, Clemons, and Barry Bonds to name a few. We all know that cheating in some form happens all the time, but when you are confronted about it, you lie and try to cover it up. If you come out and tell the truth, people will forgive you after awhile.
But, how are we, as sports fans, supposed to explain to youth that you screwed up. These kids admire your ability as an athlete and aspire to become you. Then, you decide to throw it all away by cheating, lying and defaming others.

I’m baffled by athletes, politicians, and others who think that you will never get caught. But, we have seen this so many times when one’s past catches up with you. When will you learn? You may think that you are above the law, but you are not only hurting yourself, your career, and your fans, but you are making other athletes look bad and causing the entire sporting industry to lose its credibility.

It’s truly a sad week in sports. You should be spending time focusing on being the best athlete without cheating and protecting your sport and other athletes around you. Let’s hope one day athletes will learn that telling the truth, even if it hurts or damages your reputation, will help not only help your brand and sports career long term, but the sport itself.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Answering the good ole question--What are your weaknesses?

Chatting with one of my co-workers last week, we started talking about interview questions and our favorite ones. We both love asking the question “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” When I was at my last job, we interviewed a number of people, and I used to ask this question. I always wanted to hear what folks said.  A few tried to spin a weakness to a positive, which is something they always say to do, and some mentioned they were a perfectionist or their personality. I always believe that admitting your weaknesses is a sign of strength and reflection.

For me, I have a couple of them and they have changed over the years. I continually try to work on them all the time. One is taking on too much. At my last job as well as in my personal life, I used to do too much. I would over schedule myself and do more than others because I knew I could get it done and do it well. However, I wanted to push back, but it was so hard for me. Then, I started to push back; my old boss was okay with it and found someone else to do it. It felt great.  

In my current job, I’ve really tried hard not to take on too much, and it’s been great. In my personal life, I’ve stated to take more time for myself and it’s been lovely. Reading more, listening to music and just saying no to things has been rewarding.

Another weakness of mine is asking for help. I’ve been living on my own for six years now, and I’ve become independent in so many ways. My stubbornness has gotten the best of me sometimes, too. The last six months have been trying and given me time to be reflective. I’m the first person to say that things in life happen for a reason, but when it hits me personally, then I start to question why? There were times that I didn’t want to ask for help, but I had to and it made me realize that my family and friends are there for me no matter what. Subconsciously I knew it, but asking for help is a different story. I’m also that person who asks my friends if they need help or advice. The last six months have taught me that I need to follow my own advice.

As we enter 2013, we are all either making resolutions and breaking them or just not creating them at all. Two years ago, I made a commitment to read one book a month, and I did it. I loved reading and making time was hard, but it was truly rewarding. One of the books I read was “The Five Love Languages.” I learned that my top love language is quality time. I can definitely see that, so I try to spend time with my friends and family.

I read “The Happiness Project,” which was fantastic because Gretchen made 11 different resolutions. She concentrated on one each month, and at the end of the year, she combined all of them in the 12th month. Not sure if I can do 11 this year, but I’m going to make four. The key is to make them specific, manageable and realistic.

Privately, I’m going to set specific goals for each one, but I wanted to share with you the overall goals.

 a.) I’m going to make an effort to blog four to six times a month. Yes, I’ve been busy, but I need to create more time writing.

b.) Getting in Shape—Although this is a common one for folks, I’m truly committed to getting in shape and working out again. I haven’t been able to get to the gym lately, but I’m going to get back in that saddle again.

c.) Becoming more knowledgeable and religious—I’m not the most religious person in terms of praying, and I’m making that change this year. I have religious people all around me (dad, brothers, family members, and friends), and it’s time to take that jump. No one is pressuring me to do this, but the last few months have taught me the power of prayer and belief.

d.) Going Technology-free for 24 hours. I’m going to pick one day a month to go a full day without using any technology (TV, Computer, Cell phone, playing games on my iPad, etc.). Realistically, it’s going to be over the weekend. This will probably be the hardest one for me because I only have a cell phone to call people. I’m thinking more in terms of not playing Words with Friends or other apps on the phone or other forms of technology. This also means no Twitter or Facebook. Football seas will be the hardest because of football. Let’s see how this goes from now until September.

I’ve thought about adding more, but I know that I don’t want to push myself too much. Let me know if you want to join me with any of these four resolutions. Last year, I wanted to explore a new place each month, and that didn’t happen. Hoping that #4 will help me to do this!

So, what are your weaknesses, and how will you work on improving them this year?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Could Politicians Create Positive, Truthful Ads?

Although it's been a crazy, busy month getting ready for 2012 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, I've seen my share of negative TV ads for the upcoming election. I'm tired of hearing ads from both sides saying what they believe is "truthful" and trying to sway people to vote for either party. We have less than 70 days until Americans decide their fate, and there's a higher number of negative ads this year than in years past.

On November 6, I know who I'm going to vote for because I've keep abreast of what's happening in politics and how it will impact my future. However, there are millions of Americans who are still undecided. Politicians are trying to "educate" people on how they stand on issues, but even as a smart, educated voter, I see these ads with skewed truths. As a PR professional, I cringed when I see how politicians and groups spend millions of dollars on ads that outline a person's position on issues like economy, women's rights, health care, jobs, etc. They are taking quotes and stances out of context in order to make their point.

One thing I know about majority of Americans is that we are inherently lazy, and for those who haven't decided on who to vote for in November, will see these "ads" and make a decision without researching to see if these ads tell the truth. During a VIP reception with Karl Rove and James Carville at ASAE's meeting, they discussed how the current political system makes it impossible for most Americans to run for office, which I totally agree. If you think about the amount of money you need to run a campaign, it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for staff, ads, events, etc.

I've always wanted to run for President in 2028, but I know that I could never raise enough money to start or even keep up a campaign for national office. These negative ads got me thinking about a radical idea. What if we made politicians create positive ads that outlines their positions without mud slinging their opponent and contained only true facts without twisting anything? Would that encourage more people to vote in November or in any election?

Instead of spending millions of dollars on negative campaigns, what if TV stations gave free space to politicians that run only positive, truthful ads? Would politicians and their staff be able to create these ads or have we gone too far? That is the question. It would be a radical change in how we campaign for national or state office, but I think many people who would welcome it with open arms.

If television stations gave this free space, would Americans be willing to pay TV stations to cover the cost? I would rather pay TV stations money directly for truthful ads, then give money to politicians who aren't being fully truthful. Politicians aren't the only ones to blame, and Americans are partially at fault. If we didn't respond to the negative ads, then politicians would run fewer of them and perhaps focus more on the issues.

Am I dreaming that this could ever happen? I definitely think so, and I just hope that these negative ads stop soon. Because I could be turned off to politics all together, and that would be a very sad day for me.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

If they only came out sooner...

This morning, I'm watching my favorite sports program "ESPN Sports Reporters," and the top story this morning was about the Penn State scandal. It's very sad that Joe Pa and others kept their mouths closed in 1998 about allegations of child abuse because they wanted to keep the reputation of the football program and the university. Well, how's that working out for you now?

If they would have said something, it could have saved 8 kids that we know about. Eight kids. Penn State football brings in more than $65 million a year, so that's $8 million per kid. Was it worth it Penn State? Your brand and reputation has been forever tarnished.

What if you said something in 1998? You would have had some people shocked, upset, and hurt the image of your program, but you could have been in front of the story. You could have said that you found out there were these incidents, and we are taking corrective action to ensure that this doesn't happen again. Done. As a football fan and citizen, I would have been sad that it had happened, but as a university, you looked past the money and power of one of the prestigious football programs, to save young kids. Sure, your brand would have been tarnished a bit, but not this bad.

The question now is how to punish the program. That's open to debate because the people who were responsible for keeping this under wraps are gone. However, we shouldn't punish the football players who didn't know what is happening. Should they take the statue down--yes. Move it to another place in town. It will be a constant reminder for students, the community, and the press that this man kept his mouth quiet when he first found out.

One of the things I mentioned during an event a few months ago about crisis communication is this: Just because you don't put out a press release, bad or damaging news will still come out. So, be prepared for it. It's always better to be proactive than reactive. You can add Penn State to the list with Susan G. Komen and others.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Open letter to family, friends, and Gamecock fans

Dear SC Gamecock fans, family and friends:

Congratulations to the baseball team for making it to the College World Series again this year. I’m sorry that you lost to Arizona, but it was a well fought battle! I’m so proud of you, to be a Gamecock fan, and your ability to showcase the pride, humility and sportsmanship a team should have in college sports.

Starting July 1, I’m going to change sides. I’m so sorry, but I have to cheer against you for at least one game or several games a year. As a sports fan, it’s going to be the hardest day and years of my life. I’ve been raised as a Gamecock fan my whole life. My father has two master’s degrees from SC, my oldest brother is an undergraduate of SC and graduate from MUSC, and my middle brother received his medical degree from SC. I got my master’s degree from SC. However, as any true sports fan knows, you have to pull for your undergrad.

My undergraduate degree is from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Yes, the other Tigers! I thought by heading to the Big 12, I would be spared the hardship of pulling against SC! For the four years at Mizzou, we played against other SEC teams and I cheered for MIZ-ZOU! I went to Clemson and pulled for the Mizzou Tigers. That was a horrible game because we lost 62-9 in 2000. The sportscasters called us the high school football team from Missouri. It was bad. But, I stayed and cheered for my Tigers.

The first time I had to choose between SC and Missouri was the 2005 Independence Bowl. When the bowl selection committee announced that they were playing each other, I received five emails from my Missouri friends in the first 24 hours. They all asked me “Who are you pulling for?” At first, I was going to pull for SC, but I had to pull for my undergrad. I had nine people at my house pulling for SC, and I was the lone Missouri fan. Missouri came back to beat SC, and I was excited for my Tigers, but I was hurting that SC lost.

A couple of years ago, the rumors started that Missouri would be going to be Big 10, which I was really happy with! We would leave Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and the rest of the Big 12 behind. I would have had another reason to pull against Michigan and Ohio State. However, those plans fell through. So, I believed that the drama was over. Missouri would stay in the Big 12 and work at beating the teams in the Big 12. We could beat Oklahoma for our first Big 12 championship in football.

Then, my world started to crumble. Talk started that Missouri would move to the SEC. I really, really didn’t want them to come to the SEC because of my allegiance to you, SC Gamecocks. I didn’t want to have to pull against you.  All of my friends in the DC-area were happy and thrilled, but I couldn’t share in their excitement. They all looked at me and asked, “Who are you going to pull for?” I said Missouri with a long face.

I prayed that Missouri would be placed in the West, so SC would only have to play them every three years. That would really help with my childhood team. I wanted Texas A&M in the East. Missouri could play Alabama, Auburn and the rest of the West teams, and I would be okay with that. I was praying for that to happen. However, that day didn’t come. They were placed in the East. They would have to play SC every year. I’ve been dreading July 1 for awhile.

However, I started to change my way of thinking. With Missouri in the East, I will only have another reason to cheer against Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. When Missouri plays Clemson, then I can pull for Mizzou!
I’m trying to look at the bright side. In September, I’ll be in Columbia pulling for Mizzou! But, I want you to know that I’ll be pulling for you, too! (Inside of course) I’m working on an outfit that shows how much I love both teams. It’s going to be fun, bold, and shows my sports fanaticism.

When I was a child, I always loved watching the Gamecocks play! In 1984, my cousin, her friends, and her future husband, all came to SC for the UGA game. They had an extra ticket. They picked my brother, who wasn’t a huge fan to go. I was so disappointed. Perhaps, it was because I was five and he was ten. The only thing that made it better was that SC won and my brother smiled all the way home. My Georgia cousins came home unhappy!

Back in the mid-80’s, I used to go to all the games with my oldest brother as his “date,” and I watched Sterling Sharpe and Todd Ellis play. What a great team! I loved Sterling and I followed him to the Green Bay Packers. I watched him play every game, including the hit that ended his career. When I meet people from Wisconsin, they always ask me why I’m a Packers fan. It’s because of SC and Sterling. I’m now a proud owner (one share).

As Missouri enters the SEC, please know that I will always be a SC Gamecock fan! I just won’t be a fan when you play them. Thank you for all the great years so far and the ones to come! I’m going to be a proud and happy Missouri and SC fan in the next few days! Both of my schools will be in the best conference in the world! Couldn’t ask for anything more! Go Gamecocks and Go Tigers!  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Everyday I’m truly thankful for my father, my family, and the 11 years my mom raised me. They both instilled in me to be truthful, loving person. They stressed education and following our passion in life. I remember in ninth grade, I was in Geometry. I remember sitting with my dad for up to two hours a night working on my math homework. I just didn’t get proofs. I dislike them and still do. My dad saw my frustration, and said that no matter what grade I brought home that he would be okay with it because I tried. He knew I wasn’t getting it. At that moment, I knew I needed to focus on my passion for English and history.

Before going to college, my dad gave me some great advice about working. He always stressed that I should show up to work early and never complain about staying late, which I applied in all my jobs. He told me stories about his job, and how it paid off in the long run. I’ve passed this advice to young professionals and college students. In each of my jobs, that advice has paid off. My co-workers noticed my work ethic and know that if I’m late, it’s for a good reason. In my first job after college, I used to show up to work 30 minutes early. I used to talk about football with the CFO. One day, I was running late because of an accident on the highway. I called and told them and they didn’t blink an eye. At the same job, I worked late for a project and they let me off the next day.

Everyday my dad’s advice or mannerisms show up in little ways. When my friends visit and they head home, I always ask them to text me when they get home. I want to know that they made it home safely. Last weekend when I was in SC, I asked my cousins to text me when they got home to Atlanta. I admit—I may have been a little annoyed when I had to do this in college and high school, but I understand my dad’s thought process. It’s all about knowing we were home safe. It gave him a peace of mind. My dad told me stories that his father told him the same thing (minus the texting). My grandfather told my dad that he wouldn’t understand until he had kids, and he admits that he was right.

Looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t complain too much because I’m doing the same thing with my friends and family. Friends, it’s all my dad’s fault. Blame him. :-) Just saying.

I know some of my best friends and family members have lost their dads, so today is a tough day. I feel your pain on Mother’s Day. But, what we all should be thinking about today and every day is how they live inside of us every day. Think about the advice, fun times, and moments you had and how will you share this with the special people in your life. Although Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays have become so commercial, it’s important to spend time with family and friends and celebrate life! Life is too short to focus on the negative things. Stop looking at things half-empty.  

I’ve heard friends say they had a specific life planned and it hasn’t happened the way they planned it, including me. But, I’m a true believer that God has a plan for all of us. Dad, thank you for everything you have done for me, my brothers, and our family. Your friends admire your courage, strength, and love you have bestowed on us and the people around you. You are an inspiration! Hopefully, I can follow in your footsteps.