Power Lunching

Earlier this week I met a colleague, Katherine O’Donnell, director of marketing for Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau for lunch. The last time we saw each other was at the fall meeting of Virginia Press Women. And before that it had been at least a year.

Much had happened in that time. She had a baby – who is now one! I changed jobs. We both took on new roles with VPW and NFPW.

As part of my professional health dashboard, I made a commitment to network once a month over lunch with a colleague. Besides the obvious of getting to catch up with someone I genuinely like, the time was well spent.

Getting outside of the office and talking with someone in the communications field but who does something a bit different from your job description allows ideas to spring forth. I finally had to pull out a notebook to keep up with everything.

By the time the lunch was finished, I had a blog entry (you’re reading it), Richmond items for international colleagues visiting in March, lots of ideas for moving NFPW forward and input on some professional decisions. I offered to share some social media policies with Katherine and provided her with some feedback, too.

Lunch went quickly and as I returned to the office, I was more energized than ever. All it took was a quick power lunch of networking. Beats pasta any day!

Jenkins Says Richmond Setting for Next Mystery

Sterling Glass  is appearing in her third novel by mystery writer Emyl Jenkins. But where the book will end up is anyone’s guess, especially Emyl’s.

“The fun thing about the writing is meeting the people that Sterling introduces me to,” Emyl says. “I don’t know where the book is going.”

Emyl shared plans for her next book, which will be set in Richmond while enjoying a leisurely lunch at a well-known Richmond restaurant. “I love Richmond,” she says. “I look forward to sharing the beauty, the uniqueness, the quirkiness of the city.”

She says that people are all the same – whether they live in San Francisco, Boston, Miami or Richmond. “Often it’s the environment, the geography, the heritage of a place that makes a person have individual traits,” Emyl says.

Some of her friends worry that they will end up in her books, but no need to fear. “I’m not writing about friends,” Emyl says. I’m writing about people from all over the country.”

No publication date has been set.

Writer’s Dinner Table Crowded with Characters

Mystery writer Emyl Jenkins won’t have much time in February for writing as she’ll be busy giving talks on the topic throughout Virginia, Alabama and Georgia.

“I need to clear the decks and just write,” she said.

Emyl, who has written Stealing with Style and The Big Steal, says her characters are so much fun, “It’s like having dinner with so many people.”

If she’s not writing or giving talks, then she’s busy managing her Facebook and Twitter accounts. Both allow her to secure speaking engagements and interact directly with her fans, but at a price. “When are we supposed to write?” she muses. “There’s just so much to keep up with.”

She’s also begun a blog for her publisher.

And what about reading and reflecting, which Emyl says also are important for the writer. She says that she can tell some writers don’t have time to do that. “I’m finding in some books that characters are wooden or shallow and that plots are thin or pushed,” she says. 

Publishers are pushing writers to churn out a book every 12 to 18 months. Writers also don’t have time to sit back and reflect, “to think about what their characters want to say,” Emyl says.

Despite the challenges, Emyl is hard at work on her next Sterling Glass novel. No publication date has been set but her dinner table has been crowded with all her characters.

 “I’m fortunate,” she says. “My publisher [Algonquin Books] gives me the time I need.”

Tweeting Your Way to Media Placements

Twitter is all about following, and when it comes right down to it, that’s what media relations is about – getting someone to follow you, your company, your product so that, ultimately, they will write about it.

Twitter offers some great media relations tactics.

1) Follow journalists, bloggers and influencers. You’ll learn what they are writing about and what is of interest to them.

2) Showcase your expertise. Once you learn in what the journalists, bloggers and influencers are interested, you can showcase your expertise. We did that at my organization and landed one of our vice presidents on a blog radio segment. It gave the person exposure in a fairly benign setting, provided the blogger with an expert and gave us a great Google search hit.

3) Respond to requests. If you’re on Twitter and someone asks for information, and you can provide it, do so. It’s the same as when a reporter calls you on the phone. Same idea, different technology.

4) Write good headlines. When you’re on Twitter you’re limited to 140 characters. Before long you’ll find that the headlines you are writing are shorter, crisper, edgier.

What Is Your Value?

A new year brings a flurry of introspection and portfolio shifting. The business magazines write about where to place your money in the new year and what the trends are. They write about last minute tax savings.
One thing each of us can do as a member of National Federation of Press Women is invest in ourselves. We do that by renewing our membership. It’s an investment in yourself for today and for tomorrow.
For some the amount is a hardship, but if you think of the dues in terms of a monthly payment it’s about $10 per month or about $2 per week. Each of us is worth that much.
What will you do in 2010 to increase your professional value? Renewing your membership in 2010 is a valuable investment in yourself. Don’t delay. (And if you’ve entered the communications contest — another valuable investment — your 2010 dues must be paid to be eligible.)
As a good financial planner will tell you, invest in yourself first.

NFPW Community on LinkedIn

Are you searching for a job? Do you have a question you need answered but don’t have a contact in that field?

Then try LinkedIn, a business networking site that enables you to network, hire, post jobs, get business advice and share your expertise.

You can also join various groups and share information. NFPW has a group on the site. It’s a great way to get others interested in NFPW. If they see you are a member of the group and are in the communications field, they’ll ask you about it and then you can have a conversation about the benefits of joining NFPW.

So if you aren’t already, join the NFPW LinkedIn group. And if you aren’t on LinkedIn, why not take the plunge into this business networking site? It’s a great way to polish your resume, learn about social media and define your brand.

Once you are on the site you will create a free account and then you will create a profile. Use a professional photograph and share highlights of your professional experience. Then begin adding contacts. Expand your network over time.

If you are feeling ambitious ask for recommendations. If you disagree with what the person wrote, you can reject that recommendation. You also can recommend people. Add your Web site or your Twitter account. Again, it’s all about connecting.

I’ve used LinkedIn to post jobs, to find out more about candidates, to ask professional questions and get answers from those with more expertise.

Are we LinkedIn? If not, let’s connect!

Mortenson Promotes Peace, Not Fear

Last evening I heard Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time speak at a sold out Richmond (VA) Forum.

I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s moved to the top of my list. His words resonated with me because I work for ChildFund International, an international child development organization dedicated to helping children in 31 countries be empowered to grow and change their lives.

He’s a sought-after speaker and his book made it the bestseller list for many weeks. But his fame didn’t come overnight. Like many authors, it was a difficult road.

The subtitle of the book was originally about fighting terrorism because the publisher believed it would sell more books since it was being published in the aftermath of 9/11. But the author knew that wouldn’t work because “fighting terrorism is about promoting fear.”

He made a deal with the publisher that if the book didn’t sell well in hardback, the publisher would change the subtitle to the subtitle about peace. When the book did not do well in hardback, Mortenson reminded his published of the deal. When the book was published in paperback the subtitle was changed and sales took off.

Mortenson spoke about how peace is based in hope and the need to empower people “so they can lead their destinies.”

His first school took a while to build, Mortenson admitted, because he was micromanaging the work. But then he turned it over to the community and six weeks later it was built. “You have to let go and empower the community,” he said.

The growth of schools in Afghanistan and the educating of young girls has grown exponentially. In 2000 only 800,000 children, mostly boys, attended schools. By 2009, 8.4 million students attend schools and 2.5 million are girls.

When girls attend school until at least the fifth-grade, a country will see reduced infant mortality, reduced population explosion and an improvement in basic qualities of health and life, Mortenson said.

He noted that there is an African proverb he learned as a child in Tanzania, “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual. But if you educate a girl, you educate a community.”

His new book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, came out in December.