New school year, new dreams

College building with fountain in front of it.

A new school year always makes me reflect on my hopes and dreams. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Students are back on campus. I love their energy and expectation.

And because I work on campus, that energy and expectation spills over. I think about this time of year as a new beginning.

If I was just entering college, what would I want to be when I grow up? What experiences would I want to have?

It’s a great exercise and provides me an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve done and what I still aspire to achieve.

When is the last time you reflected on your dreams?

The other weekend I saw the movie “Ricki and the Flash.” The main character was talking with her ex-husband who said he thought family was her dream. Ricki, of course, also wanted a music career. Her response? “Why can’t I have both?”

I love that line.

If you have not been fortunate to reach your dreams or have the experiences you thought you would have, now is as good a time as any to recalibrate.

Maybe you need to set some funds aside for that dream trip.

Maybe it’s time to sign up for a class to learn how to start your own business.

Maybe it’s time to drop an activity that is not bringing you any pleasure.

The start of the school year is filled with the promise of expectation. We are never too old to start learning or dreaming.

Tips to shoot great video

Video inspires and engages the viewer. Video also distills a large amount of data/information into digestible information.

So how do you go about creating a great video?

Jarrad Henderson and J. Scott Parker prepare to shoot a video on how to eat a cupcake. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Jarrad Henderson and J. Scott Parker prepare to shoot a video on how to eat a cupcake. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Great videos don’t just happen. They require advance work, known as preproduction. During preproduction you write a script and prepare storyboards. It’s important to know the audience and the purpose of the video. Finally, it’s important to check your equipment in advance of shooting.

Once you are ready to shoot, you are in the production phase. Jarrad Henderson and J. Scott Parker of Virginia Tech shared several tips at a recent workshop I attended.

  1. Most of us are a bit shaky so their advice is to use a tripod or other means of stabilization such as leaning against a wall.
  2. If sound is critical to the video, then use a lavaliere microphone for interviews. This will ensure higher quality sound.
  3. When shooting it’s important to record each shot long enough to assist with ease of editing. Jarrad recommends staying in one spot for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Shoot in sequences. This means shooting a wide shot, then medium and then a close-up. Doing this enables you to provide context followed by more detail. Finally, you are able to go close-up and provide a poignant moment.
  5. Think about the beginning. Jarrad said, “You want to make the first 10 seconds count.” He noted that across the internet, video finish rates are poor. With that in mind, he also recommended skipping the title card, which takes up valuable seconds. Instead, to get your name included have individuals wear branded shirts or have appropriate signage in the background.
  6. As with any project, once you have finished shooting, be sure to transfer your footage to a backup drive. In fact, J. Scott urged using multiple digital storage solutions.

5 things to do if you are job hunting

If you are entering the job market or are between jobs, it’s easy to get discouraged. A former intern of mine is currently job hunting after wrapping a long-term gig. He’s not having much luck, and he asked for guidance. Here is what I shared with him:

Volunteer. Not only does this give you experience, it shows that you are willing to work. You also will meet other individuals who can serve as references and introduce you to other people.

Find a career group. These groups meet weekly or monthly and are designed to help you land a job. A key benefit is the support and encouragement you receive. You also will hear from speakers, who will provide advice on improving your resume and networking among other topics.

Connect with your university’s career center. Even though you have graduated, most universities will provide you with support and often can link you with alumni who work in your field.

Check the unemployment office listing. A lot of state jobs appear there and nowhere else (except on the individual agency’s website, and it can be a challenge to keep track of all of them).

Schedule learning interviews. Think of all the people you know and then identify individuals with whom you can learn something. You aren’t asking for a job. You are asking the person for career advice. Also, ask each person you meet with if they would make an introduction for you to another person. Meet over coffee because that is inexpensive and the expectation is that the meeting will be 30 minutes or less.

Six tips for making the most of a conference

We all know the benefits of attending a conference. They include learning about innovative approaches and ideas, expanding your contacts and gaining insight from looking at your work outside of your daily environment.

So how can you make the most of a conference?

Highlighters are handy to have with you to mark what sessions you want to attend at a conference.

Highlighters are handy to have with you to mark what sessions you want to attend at a conference.

Tools Most of us rely on electronic devices so be sure you have your chargers and backup batteries. I often travel with a small multi-pronged extension cord because if I am charging multiple devices, there are never enough outlets. I also travel with my own mobile hotspot.  According to Benchmark Resorts and Hotels 2014 list of trends, most conference attendees bring three mobile devices to conferences. While technology is powerful, you also will want to go old-school. A highlighter is great for marking the conference program with sessions you want to attend. A notebook and pen come in handy when you discover you forgot to charge your laptop or tablet.

Introductions You will be introducing yourself countless times throughout the conference. Instead of only stating your name and job title, tell the person something interesting about yourself. Think of this as a twist on the elevator speech.

Business cards Once you have made the introduction, you most likely will exchange business cards. In no time at all, you have them scattered everywhere – in your program book, your pocket and your computer bag. I like to immediately connect with the person on LinkedIn so I have their contacts readily available. I still hold onto the business card, making a note on the back where I met them and what we discussed. After a conference, I clip together all the business cards from that conference. That way if I forget a person’s name, I can sort through the business cards to help me remember. (For another tip on remembering names, read my post on “The Modern Rolodex.”)

Mingle At break time, don’t check your emails. Instead, introduce yourself to your colleagues. I did this at a recent conference. I turned around and said, “I’m going to interrupt you on your device so we can network.” He laughed and we had a good conversation. And, it turns out he used to work with my new top boss so I also got some great tips. If you aren’t sure how to start the conversation, ask the person what they thought about the last speaker and the topic.

Leverage social media If there is a conference hashtag follow the tweets to learn what others think about the speakers and topics. Share your take-aways on Twitter, too. At the end of the day, share some highlights by posting to LinkedIn. If there are sponsors, and it’s appropriate, acknowledge them through social media. Social media is also a great way to acknowledge conference organizers and hotel staff.

Debrief During conferences I make lists of people with whom I want to follow-up. I make lists of books I should read and websites I should visit. I make lists of things I need to do when I return to the office. And I learn a lot. Once back at the office, I use the first morning to pull everything together. I make one master list that for the next few weeks I use to ensure I’m completing my action items from the conference. I also review my notes and create a way to share my take-aways with my colleagues. This can take the form of an electronic newsletter, a PowerPoint or a detailed email.

Brand journalism is about sharing, not selling

Brand journalism is content written by a company but is not necessarily about the company or its products.

Think about all the how-to articles and recipes you find on the web. In almost all of them the focus is on the project or the recipe, and it’s only toward the end that you may discover the content was produced by a company that sells the products needed to create the project or recipe.

DixieAn example is Dixie, which launched a Dark for Dinner campaign. The social movement started June 14 and lasts for six weeks. Each Sunday families are encouraged to focus on the present and to “Be More Here.” Dixie products are shown but not discussed in the commercials.

Brand journalism is stories and custom content such as videos, blogs and infographics. It is timely, relevant and authentic. It is not a press release or a commercial.

Karen Corrigan, CEO of Corrigan Partners, a healthcare consultancy, says that brand journalism is the new marketing imperative. Most consumers today search websites, blogs and ratings before making a purchase. “Brands need to share, not sell,” she told communicators at a meeting of Virginia Professional Communicators.

Today’s consumers trust bloggers, reviews and social communities over what a brand might say about itself. “In the old days it was about controlling the message,” Corrigan said. “Today it is about influencing the message.”

To succeed at brand journalism, one must think like a publisher, Corrigan said. It’s important to recognize that every brand has a digital audience and to understand that audience. Content should be shared across multiple platforms, and the brand must engage with multiple audiences.

Are you using brand journalism or are you still selling?

Modern Rolodex

As a reporter, sources were key to my success. In public relations, it’s all about networking. Either way, business cards are the lifeblood of communicators.

20141029_112515I miss the days of my big round Rolodex. I could spin it and find anyone at my fingertips.

Yes, I know I can store and search for contacts using electronic contacts or LinkedIn. For me, though, there is a difference – I can no longer see the business card. Sometimes I forget the person’s name, but I can clearly recall the logo or image on the business card.

One of my contacts has his image artfully drawn on it. I can forget his name, but I don’t forget the card. Or I’ll recall that you work at Ohio State University, but, again, I can’t remember your name. I spin the Rolodex and suddenly I see the Ohio State logo. I’ve found you.

So without the Rolodex, I’ve struggled. Until recently. That’s when I heard Jill Chappell say, “I get paid for my Rolodex, so it is really important that I know who these people are.”

She calls herself a professional stalker, but in actuality she books interviews for Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

When she files a person’s name and details, she puts a key word under the company name. That key word helps her remember what she needs to know about a person. If she has met a doctor who treated Ebola, she puts the word Ebola in the company name. When she searches for Ebola, the doctor’s name appears. She includes other critical details, including company name, in the notes section.

I’ve totally embraced this idea. Everyone I met at a recent conference is now listed in my contacts under the same company name – that of the conference.

Thanks for a genius idea Jill!

What I wish I knew when I was new

Listening and researching can place you on the road to success. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Listening and researching can place you on the road to success. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

You are starting a new job. Congratulations!

Are you ready for the first few months on the job? Here are a few things to consider:

Meet your colleagues within your division. You should know what each person’s role is. In addition, they can provide you with important information about how to do your job, what paperwork you need to complete and who really knows the 4-1-1. They also can provide you with practical tips, such as the best places to eat.

Secure early wins. You are new and want to prove yourself. That’s great, but you don’t want to over promise and under deliver. Instead, identify opportunities to build personal credibility. At one company, my boss told me that he would consider my hire a success, if we had a newsletter within the year. I delivered a newsletter within the first quarter, and continued to publish it regularly during my tenure.

Listen. In the first few weeks, meet with key stakeholders. Hear what they have to say. Learn about what opportunities exist for success. More importantly, learn where the land mines exist. Don’t come in thinking you have all of the answers. Instead listen to people who can help you understand the environment.

Research. Ideally, you reviewed the annual report, website and social media sites, as well as any news clips about the organization before you interviewed. Now that you are on staff, find out if there are other documents with which you should be familiar. You most likely won’t have time to read them during the day, so make them your homework.

If you follow these suggestions, you should be on the road to success.