Creating a Personal Mission Statement

A mission statement is a clear and concise statement of what your organization does. Have you considered creating one for yourself?

When I taught media ethics at a university, the final project I required of my students was for each one to create a mission statement. They could write it. They could make a video. They could draw it. All that mattered was that they gave some thought to understanding what made them tick.

They really struggled with it, but the final projects were always phenomenal. I didn’t require them to share them with the class – only with me, the instructor, who almost always gave them an “A” as long as they put thought into the project.

When you have a mission statement, you know what you want and whether what you are currently doing is helping you to get there. I was reviewing mine the other day, and I realized, I needed to let some projects go because – although I enjoyed them – they were a distraction and were not part of my personal mission.

Another way to approach your mission statement is to think about what you would do if you had your life to live over. And then do it! Near the end of her life, columnist Erma Bombeck wrote, “If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace….

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.”

If you don’t have a mission statement, why not create one. It’s not too late!

5 Steps to Start a Blog

Have you been thinking about starting a blog, but you’re not sure how to get started? Well, stop thinking about it and do it. If you’re like me, though, you need a few steps to get started so here are five to move you forward.

Computer keyboard

The key to writing a blog is to stop thinking about it and write it. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Choose your topic. You can write about anything you want to write about but if you want a following try to narrow your focus. I started my blog as a way to communicate with members of National Federation of Press Women. I’m exposed to lots of information through conferences, training, list serves and business books, and I realized I could distill the nuggets from these sources so that others wouldn’t have to do the research. That’s my blog – Cynthia’s Communique.

Choose a platform.  I set up mine on WordPress because at the time that is what I was most familiar. I also like how easy it is for readers to post comments. Another platform is Tumblr, which is especially nice for short posts and photos. A colleague once described it as long-form Twitter. Whatever, you choose, take the time to read or watch the tutorials.

Create a content calendar. How often will you publish? Where will you find inspiration? I post every Wednesday and Sunday – it’s what works for me. During NFPW conferences, I post daily for the members who can’t attend. You may decide to post simply when you feel like it. A downside to that is that it’s challenging to grow your readership when readers don’t know when to expect a post.

I also keep a running list of ideas. I note key holidays and events that might be relevant for a blog topic. Sometimes I’m able to create evergreen posts that don’t have a time limit but I can use when I might be too busy. These are especially helpful for when I’m traveling and may not have the extra time needed to write a post. My content calendar is always with me so I can tweak it, rearrange it, add to it.

Write your blog. And then proof it and edit it. Even after you do that, you may post a mistake. Own up to it and correct it. My blog is usually a few hundred words. To get to those words, I often spend an hour or two researching my topic, interviewing people, distilling information and then putting the salient points on paper (well, on the screen). It’s a lot of work, and I must carve out time to do it. Be prepared to put in the prep work.

Market your blog. You can write a blog and post it, but that doesn’t mean anyone will see it to read it. It’s not like a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield. You need to employ SEO (search engine optimization or key words). You need to print it on your business card. You need to tweet it. You need to share it on Facebook. You need to talk about it. You should also read other blogs and write a comment if you have something relevant to share. You should link to other blogs and materials in your blog so that your readers know they’re getting something more than simply your thoughts.

These steps will move you forward. You’ll keep learning along the way, just as we all do. When you launch your blog, I hope you will send me a link so I can check it out.

(Thanks to CPW member Ann Lockhart for inspiring this blog.)

Reasons to Attend NFPW Conference

As the director of the Education Fund for the National Federation of Press Women, I’ve been receiving applications from members who have never attended an NFPW national conference.

We’ve got one planned Sept. 20-22 in Scottsdale, AZ, and it’s the perfect opportunity to attend. NFPW will be celebrating its 75th anniversary.

These first-timers recognize a good thing. NFPW conferences have lots to offer:

Networking: When NFPW members meet, you’re meeting individuals who work for newspapers and magazines. Many work in public relations. Some are authors. Many are free-lance writers. Members are willing to share advice and their experience. They’ll help connect you.

I once needed to secure space at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. No one at my office was having any luck. I called on Mary Jane Skala, who is now working in Nebraska. She went to school with the person with whom I needed to connect. The next thing I knew I had a program scheduled and media coming to the event.

Only a few months later, I needed the same thing, only this time in Denver. Again, an NFPW member came to my rescue. Ann Lockhart connected me with the right people, and I scheduled an event at the Denver Press Club.

Professional Development: The conference schedule is jam-packed with speakers covering public relations and marketing; writing books; journalism, digital media and social media, as well as how to balance life, work and play and boosting creativity. The speakers almost always are willing to stick around after their session and answer additional questions. The toughest part for me is choosing which session to go to. They are all so good. As soon as I receive my conference program, I highlight my top choices so I don’t get sidetracked by the silent auction, networking (see above) or exploring the city.

Personal enrichment: Another benefit of the conference is how good you will feel once you leave. You’re surrounded by smart, creative, energetic and driven individuals, who also like to have fun. You’ll come away with new friends, new colleagues and new experiences.

The early-bird deadline for this year’s conference is Aug. 27. For more details, visit the NFPW website.

Ethical News Values Need to Remain Constant created this infographic about how social media is replacing traditional journalism as a news source.

I still subscribe to the daily newspaper. I enjoy reading local news and getting an in-depth look at trending topics.

When it comes to getting breaking news, though, I often learn the latest on a social media site. Stories such as the Hudson River plane landing and Whitney Houston’s death broke on Twitter before they did in traditional media.

However, even when I learn of a breaking story on social media, I still need to have it confirmed by a traditional source before I believe it. That’s mainly because I’m not convinced that those who are reporting on social media sites understand news values and, more importantly, ethical news values.

For several years I taught media ethics and among the ethical news values I taught were accuracy, confirmation and sufficiency to name a few. Specifically,

Accuracy:  Journalists need to put what they report in context. They also need to use the correct facts.

Confirmation: A news article needs to withstand scrutiny inside and outside the newsroom, write Philip Patterson and Lee Wilkins in Media Ethics: Issues & Cases. The Washington Post coverage of Watergate is a classic example of stories withstanding scrutiny.

Sufficiency: Adequate resources need to be allocated to important issues. Unfortunately, with staff cutbacks, many news organizations aren’t able to do this. Reporters also should thoroughly review materials before publishing.

Our news sources may be changing, but the ethical news values should remain the same.

How Do You Spend Your Time?

One of the best pieces of time management I’ve ever heard is to do the most important thing first. I’ve also heard that you should complete the task that you dread the most. Often, they are one and the same.

For example, I thoroughly enjoy writing this blog. However, to succeed at it, I need to carve time to develop topics and research them. When I don’t do that, I’m left at day’s end realizing the clock is ticking, and I still haven’t written my blog.

Today is one such day. I spent a few hours developing ideas, and I’m really excited to work on those topics, which will come later this summer as they’re tied around specific dates or the upcoming NFPW conference. However, what I really needed to do today is write today’s blog. It’s now after 6 p.m., and it hit me that I should have written today’s blog first and then done research for additional topics.

The same holds true at work. Fortunately, I’m more successful in the office. I write down three things each morning that I must complete that day. I spend as much time as possible working on the first one. Then I invariably have a series of meetings. When I next have a chunk of time, I finish the first item before moving to the next one. I don’t always succeed in finishing all three, but then I simply put the one or two that do not get finished at the start of the next day’s list.

The items often involve planning and strategizing for some event, meeting or report that won’t even happen for a few weeks. Yet, I know that is where I need to spend my time.

The key is to remain focused on the most critical assignments. How do you spend your time?