My Travel Checklist

I travel a lot, often for work and at one point internationally a few times a year. I’ve developed some tricks and tips to make it easier, and to not forget anything.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out what you need to pack in terms of clothes; just remember, less is more. I prefer to use a carry-on only, even for long trips and trips that involve multiple functions.

So as I wander the globe, here are some tips I’ve picked up or developed –

On your phone, enter the name, phone number and address of your hotel under “Hotel.” Each time you travel, update it with the next hotel. I find this particularly helpful in foreign countries where I’m likely to mispronounce it when telling a driver where I need to go.

Get a passport wallet or something similar and keep your important details in it. I keep a bit of cash, my passport and the credit card (usually associated with the airline I am traveling) in the wallet. Make copies of everything, and keep the copies in a different place. If you are traveling with someone, give it to that person. He should do the same.

Buy a small satchel for your chargers. I keep them all in one place. I stow them in my carry-on bag, but sometimes I am forced to gate check the bag. With the satchel I simply grab it and go. No fumbling for chargers that I’ve tucked throughout the suitcase.

Find a small bag (even a sealed sandwich bag works) – I prefer one of the free bags from a makeup counter – and put your pens, highlighters, stamps, envelopes and business cards in it. This way you already have everything you need. I find highlighters useful for marking up programs so I know what I want to attend. When you collect business cards, put them in this bag and then follow up in the evening or when you return to the office. The stamps are in case you want to send a letter or a thank you note. I find if I write my thank yous while at the conference, they get done and mailed. Since everyone complains about too much email, I find an old-fashioned note is often appreciated. The envelope is to store your receipts if you aren’t doing so electronically.

What are your travel hacks?

Do ‘The Hustle’ to Succeed at Pitching

Ever since I was in D.C. the other week, I can’t stop humming The Hustle, and it has nothing to do with the upcoming election, and everything to do with Michael Smart’s presentation on pitching the media.

Michael is an independent communications trainer who helps PR pros improve their pitching success rate and enhance their PR writing. He is regularly among the highest-rated speakers at the industry’s largest conferences. Last month he gave an outstanding presentation and then later, I spoke with him in further detail about some of his points, including how important it is for media and PR practitioners to hustle. “You have to know your boundaries and constraints within which you are going to go all out,” he said.Michael Smart

It’s important to not settle. That means don’t just send an email to the faculty expert you are trying to connect with a reporter. If you don’t hear back, call the person, go by their office, check with the department chair. If the story is that important, you want to connect your expert with the reporter and that means going the extra mile “for a journalist who is of a certain caliber.”

Part of being successful at The Hustle is setting boundaries. Those boundaries enable you to have room for the high-caliber journalists. Michael recommended PR pros spend 80 percent of their time pitching the top 20 percent of their media list.

He said it also is important to develop a service mindset that is useful to reporters. “Don’t send reporters things that won’t help them,” Michael said.

No matter how good you are at The Hustle, it may not be good enough for your boss. Michael stressed that a boss has their institution’s best interest in mind. “Respect their judgment and authority,” he said. “Don’t let it affect your professionalism.”

Sometimes you have to switch up your moves. Today, Michael says, PR practitioners can use online metrics as assets when they pitch. If an online story already has 50,000 views overnight or has been shared thousands of times on Facebook, a digital journalist may be interested in the story. It’s also a great way to convince administrators that digital placement is as valuable as print.

He also noted that traditional news hooks no longer work. “It’s important to brainstorm compelling angles beyond what you are given to work with,” Michael said. In other words, “creativity always trumps budget.”

However, some steps never go out of style. Many PR people thought that when Twitter became so popular it would be the way to pitch a story. Many of the reporters speaking at the College Media Conference where Michael spoke said they still prefer good pitches by email.

“Don’t just chase the new, shiny technological tool,” Michael said. “Don’t wholesale abandon something that is working.”

If you want to learn more tips from Michael you can sign up for his weekly email tips. Visit and you can see the recent tips and opt-in to receive them by email.

Learning To Be Creative

As a former newspaper reporter, I was good at gathering the facts. I could write a decent lead and story, but I would not say that my strength was creativity.

When I took Shonali Burke’s Social PR quiz, the results said much the same. During a webinar she challenged participants to find ways to play to their strengths and also, when possible, to build the areas where they weren’t as strong.

I took that advice to heart during a recent conference. I always take notes at conferences and in meetings. Notetaking keeps me focused and helps me remember the key points from a workshop or meeting. My notes are very linear and rarely have doodles. I like watching artistic people take notes because theirs are so creative — tiny graphics to sum a key point; clever bullets to highlight a list.

During the webinar with Shonali, I challenged myself to creatively take notes, but quickly discovered I was missing key points because I was so focused on figuring how to visually depict what she was sharing. I knew I couldn’t do that at my conference because there was a ton of valuable information I wanted to learn and share with my colleagues.

Before I headed to it, though, I learned about canva, which allows you to more visually display your information. Since I am not a graphic artist, I thought this might just work. Of course, at the conference, I forgot the name of the program, but I was committed to the idea of presenting my conference learnings more creatively.

Capture_CMCI created a one-page document using Excel that was a series of boxes of differing sizes. Within those boxes, I placed my take-aways as well as some unique stats. I included tips about media pitching and using Twitter. I noted that I walked 20,000 steps on the day I arrived in Washington, D.C., as I explored many of the monuments. I captured that I moderated a panel. I filled the boxes with color to make it more pleasing to look at.

And while my designer friends might shake their heads at it, I am pleased with my creative thinking. More importantly, I pinned the document to my bulletin board to remind me of the things I learned and need to be doing in my job.

That, I think, was what I was supposed to learn from the results of my Social PR quiz.

Summer Success Check-in

Summer is in full swing, and while for the most part, I strive for unstructured weekends, I did set summer goals. It’s time to check in.

I had three areas of focus – walking, reading and writing.

I’m on target with the walking, but it has required some creative stepping (pun intended). The actual goal is to walk one million steps. It is an ambitious goal because while I know I should be walking 10,000 steps most days I was only reaching 5,000 to 7,000. I decided I needed to ratchet my efforts, and I set the one million steps goal.

As crazy as it is, it’s working. I’m currently 100 percent on target and 53 percent to goal. Yes, you read that correctly – I have walked more than 500,000 (give or take a thousand) steps so far this summer.

20000 StepsIt has required some herculean efforts on my part. One lazy Saturday, I walked less than 5,000 steps. That Monday I walked 15,000 steps, and was back on track. At a recent conference, I arrived the day before and explored Washington, D.C., on foot visiting many of the monuments. By day’s end I had accumulated 20,000 steps. That helped out when I only had 5,000 steps on the day I returned home.

I get up in the morning and walk 3,000 to 6,000 steps before work. At first, I struggled, but now I really enjoy my mornings. It’s cooler and peaceful. It’s my own world. During the day, if my schedule permits, I walk for 15 to 20 minutes with a colleague. We save all of our discussions for the walk time, and we’ve solved several problems on our walks and taken some great photos to share on social media. If she is not available, I will still try for a short walk. I find the walk allows me to think and processs, and I return to my desk reinvigorated.

My summer reading, which actually started back in May is a bit sporadic because I am tending to read novels. I did, however, finish Greg McKeown’s, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” I’m more focused on celebrating the essential, and not busyness. I say no to focus on what does matter to me and set boundaries. That means that while I would like to resume golfing, for now, I must say no because what is important to me is my writing. Golf requires too much time – time that could spent writing and rewriting.

I also am about halfway through “Mastermind” by Maria Konnikova. Already, I am finding I am more observant. Still on my list are “Reinventing You” by Dorie Clark and “How Philosophy Can Save Your Life” by Marietta McCarty.

As for writing, I’m making great progress on one of my books. My accountability partner is helping me to stay on track. I also signed up to attend a mystery writer and fan conference in the fall. Not only will I meet some of the authors whom I read and are inspired by, but I also will learn about writing techniques, agents and marketing.

Still, I’m glad there are a few more weeks left to summer. I still need to eat an ice cream cone and catch fireflies!

3 Steps to Transition from Vacation to Work

DCI just returned from a week away from the office. Part of the time I was at a conference, the rest of the time I was on vacation and, for the most part, I was not checking emails. I had asked my colleagues to phone me if anything was critical. This allowed me to more fully disconnect and have the necessary restorative break that I needed.

Returning to the office, though, is never easy. Through the years, I’ve developed a few habits to make the transition easier.

Return home a day early or schedule an extra day of vacation. If you can, return home on Saturday. If not, plan to take Monday off. I find that having a full day at home is helpful for catching up on laundry, putting away suitcases, catching up on mail (both slow and email) and paying bills. I go to the grocery store and run errands. This way I start my work week with the basics covered.

Block your morning. This will give you time to make a to-do list for the week, listen to voice mails, check email and connect with colleagues. Focus on any high-priority assignments. If you don’t do this, you are likely to jump write into the fray and won’t know what has happened while you were out.

Leave on time. It’s tempting the first day or two back to put in extra hours to catch up. However, that defeats the purpose of a vacation. You want to stay rested, which makes it easier to focus on priorities and bring your A-game to the table.

Developing these habits will enable you to identify your priorities for the week and quickly get back up to speed. And hopefully, the vacation glow won’t disappear too quickly.

My Weekend of Nothing

“You do too much. Go and do nothing for a while. Nothing.”

— Lillian Hellman

Between summer goals and an accountability partner, I had been making great progress. This past weekend, though, I did Nothing.

I’ve capitalized it because I rather like thinking of nothing as something tangible, as something I should aspire to. Those who know me, know I’m really not all that good at doing nothing. It’s one of the reasons I love the Lillian Hellman quote. I carry it with me. I aspire to it, and rarely succeed.

I had a to-do list for the weekend. I’m not sure where it ended up. I was supposed to walk 10,500 steps each day. I didn’t even break 5,000 steps on Saturday. To be honest, I didn’t break 4,000 steps.

I was supposed to write two chapters of my book and write my blog post for today (yes, this one; the one I wrote during my lunch hour).

I had planned to work in the yard. The sky was blue, the humidity was low. I did buy some plants for the gardens, but alas they remain on the porch.

DSCN1076Here’s what I did do, though. I listened to my heart and soul. I woke up with the urge to open all the windows in the sunroom, brew a big pot of coffee, and get lost in a good book. Not a management book. Not the selection for book club. A beach book, or in this case, a sunroom book. Bliss.

Then I decided I wanted to scrapbook because the light was so perfect in the dining room. I opened the blinds all the way. I pulled out all of the supplies. Through the pages I created, I relived a fabulous trip with my goddaughter.

I awoke Sunday feeling guilty for barely moving the day before so I left the house and walked. Maybe strolled would be a better word. I explored the neighborhoods near me. Seven thousand five hundred steps later, I returned home.

My beach read was calling me, so I headed to the pool and read until I finished the book. I paused in my reading to dangle my feet along the pool’s edge — the water was still too cold for full immersion.

I returned home and finished the scrapbook. I finished the book.

I did Nothing.

And I am better for it.


Cycling Race Organizers Share Lessons

For a few months last year, everyone in Richmond, Va., could not get enough of bicycles. The UCI World Road Race was in town for 10 days, and this was the first time the race was going to be in the United States in decades.

Now, many months later all that is left to do is to assess how successful the race was. It’s a good practice to do no matter the magnitude of a campaign or project. Reviewing the lessons learned allows you to implement those learnings in future endeavors so it’s important to be honest.


Source: Richmond 2015 PowerPoint slide.

Among the lessons race organizers Lee Kallman and Paul Shanks shared were –

  1. People like comfort and certainty. Europeans use a paper size known as A4. US paper is 8-1/2 x 11 – not quite the same thing. This caused some early consternation.
  2. Plan, listen and then plan again.
  3. Embrace help. Kallman noted that the Richmond2015 team that worked on the race was small. “Sometimes we weren’t good at accepting help, but we got better over time.”
  4. Just own it. Parking was going to be an issue no matter what race organizers did. One of their team members spoke at a meeting and directly stated that no parking would be available on a particular street. There was no sugar coating. Residents weren’t happy with the news, but they could accept it.
  5. Relationships matter. Race organizers leveraged their relationships with partners and reporters.

The race organizers recognized that message management would be critical in the months leading up to the race and throughout the race. “The event was more than a bike race,” Kallman said. “We knew cycling wouldn’t get [people] excited.”

Richmond2015 launched a website to help with navigating the race. Once it launched, it gave people confidence, said Kallman. “People were interested in how to get to work.

The UCI Road Race in the United States had zero brand recognition and, yet, is a storied event in Europe. While organizers struggled to get early coverage, the turning point came when the Washington Post ran a story about the race. “It became a proof point,” Shanks said.

During the final four weeks of the project, the team earned 54 million media impressions.

Kallman and Shanks also focused on social media and crisis planning. They developed a Joint Information Center and their efforts became a case study for how to handle crisis planning. They acknowledged, though, that despite all the planning there were a few small incidents, including a stolen bicycle of one of the riders. It was resolved quickly with the bike recovered and “reflected the hospitality and vibe,” said Kallman.

They may not be planning another cycling event in Richmond, but they have learned from this event and are ready for whatever comes next.