VPW’s Newsmaker: Lucinda Roy

Virginia Press Women honored Lucinda Roy as its Newsmaker of the Year during its fall conference. Roy, author of No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech and herself an alumni distinguished professor at Virginia Tech, said she liked to think of herself as “a cross between Mary Poppins and Tina Turner.”

She moved into creative non-fiction because of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, which she said was not an anomaly. “There are many other disturbed people like him,” Roy said.

Writing the book was difficult. She spoke out before the tragedy and in the aftermath. The result is that some people are angry at her and won’t talk to her. “We have to speak out,” Roy said matter of factly when she accepted the award. “We can’t let it happen again.”

She shared how she contacted everyone from police to counselors to the office of student affairs. “I was worried that the information would remain in a pocket so I contacted everyone,” she said. She believes they tried their best but that they were constrained by policy – that of student privacy.

Roy wrote the book because she believes the tragedy at Virginia Tech could happen again.

Next time: Roy believes education is heading to a perfect storm. Why?

NFPW — A Reason to Be Thankful

I’ve been a member of NFPW now for a bit more than 20 years, which is hard to believe. I’m thankful for that relationship.

As you consider whether to renew your membership, recruit new members or join us, here are some reasons why NFPW is worth it and why I am so thankful for it —

1) Professional development: The national and state conferences and workshops expose me to the latest in communications and put me in touch with some of the best in the business.

2) Networking: As noted above, I’m meeting people from all aspects of the communications field. When I reach out later to them for advice, they’re always happy to help.

3) Friendships: I don’t know of any other professional group where I have developed such close friendships. I look forward to catching up each year at conferences. And now through Facebook, we’re communicating more regularly. How fun!

4) Pre- and post-tours: Each year the NFPW conference is hosted by a different state affiliate. It’s a great way to see the country because the affiliate always offers tours. I enjoy learning about a state as told by someone who knows where to visit.

I could keep going, but I won’t because I’ve got to start cooking for the big day. Just know that I will be saying thanks for NFPW!

Do You Have a Minute?

clockIf only people would ask me that question. Instead, they pop into my office to share ideas, ask for feedback and, sometimes, because they simply want to chat. It’s partly my fault as I have an open door policy, and I have many people reporting to me directly and indirectly.

I have so many interruptions, though, that I am not able to efficiently complete my work, and it’s frustrating me.

I realize I need to manage my time better so I shared with my boss. She provided me with some research she had found on the topic.

The irony? She interrupted me to deliver it! (We did both chuckle about it, but still….)

To manage interruptions, try the following:

1)      Assign specific times for an open-door policy

2)      Require staff that if they have problems, they should also bring proposed solutions

3)      Track interruptions to see if there are patterns

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work.

Clear Writing Highlights Strong Writing

You know what your messages are, but what can you do to be sure you are writing clearly?

Here are four quick tips:highlighter%20pen%20bmp

1)      Use short sentences and short paragraphs.

2)      Avoid jargon.

3)      Avoid having more than three prepositional phrases in a sentence.

4)      Use active voice.

When I work with writers they often think they are already doing this. Then I make them take out highlighters or colored pens. First, I ask them to highlight any sentence that is longer than one and a half lines. Next, I ask them to count how many sentences are in each paragraph and write that beside the paragraph.

With another highlighter they have to mark the prepositions. Any sentence that has three or more requires a rewrite. Another color is used to highlight every verb and then circle those which are passive. Again, those that are passive require a rewrite.

This exercise is frustrating for many, but once you begin doing it, you’ll find that your writing quickly improves and your editors will love your work.

Making Messages Memorable

My organization recently changed its name from Christian Children’s Fund to ChildFund International. Messaging was critical and continues to be so as we work to raise our visibility.

I was fortunate last week to attend a session on messaging presented by Paula Otto, a former broadcast journalist and now Executive Director of the Virginia Lottery.

In this day of Twitter (140 characters or less) how do you get your message out? Paula suggested breaking the message into 3 parts –

1)      What’s the one thing I want people to remember? (47 characters or less)

2)      If I were calling someone to tell them about this, what would I say? (66 characters or less)

3)      What’s my headline? (19 characters or less)

Even after completing 1, 2 and 3, you still come in at less than 140 characters.

Numbers 1 and 2 resonated with me because I’d always been told, “Pretend you have to tell your story to your mother (or best friend). What would you tell them?” The point is that what you begin with is most likely your key message.

Paula’s take on that idea was to review your notes or research and then cover the notes. Now begin writing and put in everything you remember. Again, those are your key messages.

In short, be short.

Snail Mail Delivers

I don’t like federal holidays. Don’t get me wrong — I want the day off. But I also want my mail.

Yes, I know what I just wrote. And I know that in the day of instantaneous mail via e-mail, that sounds strange. But ever since I was a little girl, the mail carrier delivered. It began with my copies of “Highlights” magazine and then “Ranger Rick.” I graduated to the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mystery book club.

And, of course, there were the pen pals I had around the world. I wrote to a few in Africa for a summer or two. But Andrew, who lived in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia, and I corresponded for more than 10 years. Ironically, we lost touch soon after we both got email. His letters opened a whole new world to me. And I had fun sharing my life and culture through newspaper I created for him and through letters.

In college, my mother and I began a correspondence that continues to this day. There is nothing I enjoy more than coming home to find a letter waiting from her. She shares the daily stories of what she and dad had for dinner, when they walked the dog and what score she got in Pinchocle. Mundane, perhaps, but it’s the stuff of life.

Many of my friends send short little notes. I guess we’re still a bit old-fashioned that way.

And now I write to my sponsored child in Brazil. It’s part of sponsorship through ChildFund International. I enjoy hearing how Fabia is growing and what she is doing. Our correspondence reminds me of my childhood pen pals.

So while I love the ease and speed of email, I truly enjoy the deliveries to my mailbox. For me, snail mail delivers.

To Join Or Not To Join

In the past year I’ve become quite active on Facebook and LinkedIn. I have a blog, but I still don’t tweet. I’ve been part of conversations with NPFW members — young and old — about whether they should join and whether it’s a time waster.

At the least, any one in the communiations field needs to be familiar with the platforms. The only way to truly understand them is to participate, even if it’s only for a short time.

At the NFPW conference in San Antonio, Texas, blogger Nettie Hartsock described LinkedIn “as your corporate boardroom” and Facebook “as your playground.” It’s the distinction I’ve chosen to make, too. So if we networked professionally, please join me on LinkedIn. If you and I meet for dinner or talk on the phone in the evenings, please friend me.

The problem, though, is when co-workers ask you to be their friend on Facebook. It seems almost rude or antisocial to say no. Instead, I send a message and ask them to connect with me on LinkedIn.

When that didn’t work so well, I simply created a second Facebook account — this one for co-workers. I don’t post often to that one, but it does come in handy because I and my co-workers are able to share photos and videos. I work for ChildFund International, and employees travel frequently worldwide and capture video and photos of the children we serve. Facebook provides us with an easy-to-use platform to share what we’ve captured.

And ultimately, that’s the reason to join. If the platform offers you a benefit then join. If it doesn’t and is only hindering or aggravating you, then it’s okay not to join. There is another platform just waiting around the corner, and it may be exactly what you were looking for.