Explore, Learn Through Travel – the Boomer Way

The winter winds and snow have forced me to pause from writing about communications and instead focus on travel.

Stephen Reily of VibrantNation recently posted about Boomer women as the ultimate travel consumers. The post resonated with me since I was about to travel to Thailand.

The post was about leisure travel and noted that 79% of Boomer women already have travel plans for 2010. I do – I’m headed to Charleston and Savannah. I also have two business trips planned in which I plan to tack on a few days for personal travel.

Other survey results noted that Boomer women are adventurous, active and curious travelers. Many of the women I know in NFPW fit that description. It’s hard to keep up with their travel plans and many of the vacations are anything but relaxing.

Before an NFPW conference ends, many of us already are planning for next year’s tours. I know my calendar was marked for Chicago and the post trip along Route 66 before we had finished exploring San Antonio, Texas.

Reily noted that for Boomer women, travel is learning. He could be describing any of NFPW conference tours. I’ve learned about windmills and nuclear energy in Idaho. I’ve learned about whales while whale watching off the cost in Seattle. I’ve traveled the same trail that Lewis and Clark explored in North Dakota and enjoyed a pitchfork barbecue.

The beauty of NFPW tours is that we travel with friends, explore new places, learn and, yes, have fun.

It’s not too early to start making your travel plans for the 2010 NFPW Conference. Come join the fun and learning!

Making a Name for Yourself — Email Signatures

You’re a one-person shop and you want to get your name out to the public. What do you do?

Before you buy ads, print business cards and start networking, take a look at your email signature. Do you have one?

If not, that’s the first step. Think about how many emails you send in a day. Each one you send is a personal calling card.

When the organization I worked for changed its name, we made sure that the signature included not only our logo, but also ways to reach us, including through the Web, on Facebook and on Twitter.

The signature also includes the person’s name, title and phone number. It does not include the email address, mailing address or fax number because those can all be obtained by calling or checking the Web site.

As we were creating our email signature, I realized my personal signature wasn’t working for me. To be honest, I didn’t even have one.

I needed to be able to promote my blog so I added the URL for it. I also included my LinkedIn profile URL so that people could contact me. And finally, I added that I’m president of NFPW so that I can share information about the organization with people who may not be familiar with it.

To create a signature, open your InBox and click on Tools. Click on Options, then Signatures.

Remember, the signature is an introduction, so don’t tell your entire story. Give the person enough information that they will want to contact you.

Energy of Words

We all know that words have meaning, both connotative and detonative. But how often do we stop and think about the energy of our words?

One suggestion is to start at a place of good intention. If you have to discuss a difficult topic – notice I did not say “issue” – how are you framing the conversation? Are you starting the conversation with the understanding that they tried their best? That they did not understand the assignment? That there was malice in their actions?

Once you start at a place of good intention are you keeping the big picture view at all times? Yes, we know that the proof is in the details, but keeping the big picture in mind allows you to get past items that eventually will not have any relevancy.

Your attitude is everything. At a recent global workshop, several people said, “Your attitude is your altitude.” I thought it interesting that the concept crossed oceans.

 A former colleague who was going through a difficult time would come to work without makeup, dressed in drab clothes. Everyone around her knew she wasn’t at her best. I suggested that when she wasn’t feeling well, she should wear her favorite outfit and put on her brightest lipstick. She did, and she stopped dragging herself to work. She was more productive and her attitude soared.

Instead of arguing or confronting, why not address an issue? And no matter the difficulty of the discussion always speak with respect.

Instead of assuming something, challenge the assumption. Nothing is “always” or “never.”

What are your words saying?

‘Made to Stick’ Will Stick with You

When I wrote that one of my goals was to read a professional book every other month, a fellow presswoman recommended Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

The messages within its “pages” definitely stuck with me. I say this because I slightly cheated when I read it – I didn’t actually read it; I listened to it as an audio CD in my car. The problem was there were so many useful ideas and I couldn’t (or at least I shouldn’t!) write while them down while I was driving.

So when I would arrive at a destination I would hurriedly scribble the sticky points that I wanted to remember. And it was easy to because the ideas stuck with me.

What are the principles to make a sticky idea successful? First, simplicity – it has to be simple but profound. There should be unexpectedness. It has to be concrete. Don’t forget credibility, emotions and stories.

The authors wrote about the military commander’s intent at the start of an engagement. I’m taking that to the office and turning it into a communication’s intent. Why are we writing the piece? If we don’t know, the ideas will never stick.

Another thought was to not bury the lead. I’ve had that drilled into my head since I first entered the world of journalism but we all need to be reminded of it. They refer to it as forced prioritization.

The book will change the way you communicate. It’s worth your time – whether you’re reading it or listening to it.

The authors now have a second book out, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.

Text Me, Tweet Me, Love Me

Even the famous Conversation Hearts produced by NECCO have joined the social media world. You’ll still find CALL ME, but this year you also will find TEXT ME and TWEET ME. Taken out of rotation last year was FAX ME. Seriously, when was the last time you faxed someone?

The candy treats are the perfect way to share your sentiment on Valentine’s Day. And NECCO demonstrates that you don’t even need 140 characters to make your point. Most of the candy hearts are 10 letters or less.

The Conversation Hearts are produced from late February through mid-January of the following year to keep up with demand, according to the Web site. The entire production – about 100,000 pounds a day – sells out in just six weeks!

Who knew?

Now who should I share my candy hearts with?

How to Land the Job of the Future

If you hope to land a job in the communications field then you will have to master social media and the analytics that come with it, according to career experts.

The information was shared by Diana Middleton who wrote about “Landing a Job of the Future…” in the Dec. 29 issue of The Wall Street Journal.  

If you’re in the Web field then you will have to keep up with the latest in Web marketing, user-experience design and other Web-related skills.

As we continue to hear, social media has opened the door to the growth of new kinds of jobs. I recently hired a Community Manager. Her role is to engage in conversation and monitor the analytics of the social media platforms we use. I could have named the position, social media manager, but I deliberately wanted to convey that we are creating a world-wide community of supporters so I used a title specific to the job function.

My organization is not alone in creating social media teams. Coca-Cola Co., for example has done so. Ford Motor Company has, too, and its blogger, Scott Monty, is revered for his authenticity.

Middleton writes that “employment for public relations positions should increase 24 percent by 2018.  Job titles, like interactive creative director – will reflect the duality of the required skills sets.”

Other key skills will be search engine optimization to maximize Web traffic and marketing analytics to decipher the company’s target demographics. I admit, I knew nothing about SEO when I took this job, but I have read books, listened to Webinars and have asked hundreds of questions of my consultants so I’m up to speed.

When it comes to landing that next job be sure you have the skills in the emerging trends. Take an on-line course, read the books and attend the NFPW conference Aug. 26-28 in Chicago.

Scoring a Touchdown with Sports Writing

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday it seems appropriate to talk about sports. When I was cutting my teeth as a young reporter I read Sports Illustrated voraciously because the writing was so good.               

Think about it. Each time it’s the same game. Two opponents meet. One wins. One loses. End of story.

But it’s the details that make the game so vivid. I asked veteran sports writer Mike Ashley a few questions. Here’s what he had to say.

What makes good sports writing? “I think good sports writing is like any other good writing; it engages you and tells a story. There is a freedom in telling these stories that one doesn’t often find in the news section but the best reporters – those able to find facts, dig for the truth, ask the right questions, elicit honest answers – are often the best writers.”

“I have always enjoyed the big Sports Illustrated feature or major newspaper pull-out pieces but the longer I’ve been in the business, the more I have come to appreciate the well-crafted, concise game or sports news story hammered out on a deadline (the pray-to-God-let-me-finish kind many other writers never face). To me, the true artists just may be the writers that can file an 18-inch game story on a deadline that requires it be in just at the final horn, and then can five minutes later place in the perfect quotes for the next edition.”

So who are some of your favorite sports writers? “Dan Jenkins was an early hero who could weave a tapestry of southern living and way of life into any football story and all the while make me laugh with outrageous comparisons and quotes you couldn’t believe people actually said.

“I later came to revel in the onslaught of facts and information David Halberstamm could pack into his books. The amount of real reporting overwhelmed me as someone who understood the mechanics of the process.

Other favorite writers include John Feinstein and Brian Hoffman and Mike Ives, both of Roanoke, Va.

Mike Ashley is a Fairfax, Va.-based free-lance writer who covers the University of Maryland for Terrapin Times magazine, and the ACC for several other national publications. He also writes features and a sports-humor column for Play by Play magazine, based in his hometown of Roanoke, Va. His work can also be found in NCAA postseason publications, the Blue Ribbon Yearbooks, and Lindy’s Sports Annuals.