Teens Find Their Voice

Like many journalists today my career started in high school writing for the school newspaper. I recalled working on the newspaper when, on a trip to Ecuador, I met with a group of teens, who wrote for the community newspaper about topics that were important to them such as teen pregnancy, bullying, tattoos and finding work.

Turns out teen issues are similar with some variations around the world. On this visit, I was in the city of Ambato, the capital of the province of Tungurahua, which is Ecuador’s third-largest city.

Teens showing their newspapers.

Teens find their voices in writing for their community newspaper.

At first the teens were hesitant to talk with us. We were a large group, and most of us only spoke English. A translator was needed, too.

As we started asking questions about their writing, they became animated and shared how they chose their topics and conducted the research.

They proudly showed us copies of the newspapers where their articles appeared and talked about a 20-minute program at a radio station in town, where they discuss these topics.

As they shared their stories, their confidence became visible. And it was clear that writing for the newspaper and recording for the radio provided an outlet for their teen angst and ensured that their voices would be heard by parents and community members.

Benin, 16, says: “We start getting to know each other. We spend a lot of time rehearsing and then we interview people – that’s how we get to know what people think.”

“Our first challenge was to lose our fears,” said Pachacuti, 15. “We were afraid to even talk to our peers.”

Hernan, 15, said, “This has been a great experience. I am not afraid, and I like to hang out with my friends.”

Benin shared one more benefit: “It feels cools to see your name in the paper.”

Yep, those are some of the reasons I enjoyed working on my school newspaper.

Video Stories Share Powerful Messages

Almost everyone today has the ability to tell a story visually. Smartphones come with built-in video as do most digital cameras. And if you want to get a bit more techie, you can purchase a flip-cam or digital video recorder for not much money but with great features.

Audiences today expect to view their stories. YouTube statistics bear this out.

  • More than 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month.
  • More than 4 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube.
  • 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Cisco predicts that 60 percent of the Web’s data will be video within four years.

Videos can be used to create awareness. They can be used to say thank you. They can be used to ask for money.

Before you create your video there are 3 things to consider

  1. Clear message: What is the main point you want to share with your audience, which leads to point 2.
  2. Audience: Aiming for the general public is not what you want to do. You need to identify a specific audience or demographic.
  3. Call to action: What do you want the person to do? It can be as simple as sharing the video with their friends to raise further awareness of the topic. Or it could be asking for a financial donation.

What story will you tell visually?

My Blog Stats — Thanks Readers

Writing Cynthia’s Communique is a labor of love.

fireworksI’m now in my fourth year and expect to continue the blog through the end of the year. Then I’m going to decide whether to continue it.

In the meantime, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who subscribes, reads it and/or passes it on to others. WordPress recently shared individual reports with bloggers. In 2012, I posted 105 new posts. The busiest day of the year was April 18th with 52 views. The most popular post that day was National Columnists Day.

Most people find my blog via Facebook, LinkedIn or NFPW’s website.

Occasionally someone will tell me face to face that they enjoy reading my blog. It’s something any author loves to hear. I also have several faithful readers, who also regularly comments on my blog, and I’d like to give them a shout out. I’m only going to use their first names, and I hope they know who they are. I greatly appreciate the feedback. It keeps me going. So thank you…

  • Mary Lou
  • Nancy
  • Roger
  • Louise
  • Bonnie

I don’t know where 2013 will take the blog. A friend suggested I publish some of my blogs so I am considering putting together an e-book based on the blog. In the spring I’m taking a class, which may help me decide whether to do so or not. At the least, it will be the basis for another blog.

Thank you for another great year. And if I may be so bold, would you share my blog with a colleague or friend whom you think would benefit from reading it?

Thanks!

Informational Interviews Benefit All

The other week I met with a former colleague and her daughter over dinner. We were discussing her future. She was interested possibly in a marketing career, but definitely doing something to help others.

She was a confident young woman in her final year of college. She didn’t hesitate to ask probing, but respectful, questions about my career. And she asked for advice.

It was a great way to spend a few hours. I enjoy helping others start their careers because, even though it’s been many, many years, I still remember attempting to navigate those early years on my own.

If you ever have the opportunity to participate in an informational interview, I highly recommend it. Usually, the student will come to you through a friend. It might be their son or daughter, or the son or daughter of a friend of a friend. It doesn’t matter how they reach you; it does matter that they reached out.

I offered to review the young woman’s resume, and she promptly sent it that weekend. She also connected with me on LinkedIn. Both smart moves because it demonstrated follow-through. In reviewing her resume, I realized, I had not looked at mine in a few years, so I tweaked it a bit. It’s always good to keep the resume fresh. I also updated my LinkedIn account.

This young woman had reached out to me to network, and I realized I had not been networking as consistently as I should. I immediately scheduled a few coffees and lunches so that I could reconnect with professional peers.

In sharing my career highlights, I recalled what is important to me. When I returned home, I looked at all my activities, and reviewed them. The ones that were moving me in the direction I want to go with my career, I kept. The ones that were an extra, I decided to stop doing so I’d have more times for the critical ones, and also more time for relaxation.

Sometimes the best advice is the advice we give others.

Editorial Calendars Save the Day

For the first time in the four years I’ve been writing my blog, I missed my self-imposed deadline, which is why you’re receiving this on Thursday. I publish Cynthia’s Communique each Wednesday and Sunday. (Did you know that?) No clatter arose when my blog didn’t cross people’s emails or RSS feeds, but I was annoyed with myself.

Editorial calendars allow everyone to know when content is due.

Editorial calendars allow everyone to know when content is due.

I know why it happened. I wasn’t living my editorial calendar. Yes, even for my simple blog, I have an editorial calendar. Blogs don’t magically publish; they require time and effort. My calendar is a simple Word document in which I’ve listed all of the Wednesdays and Sundays for the year. I then note holidays and national days that might merit a blog.

For example, I typically post something for National Author’s Day. A post about what I’m thankful for is always good at Thanksgiving. I also include conferences and webinars as they are great fodder and knowing when one is upcoming allows me to fill in gaps.

Creating an editorial calendar has several benefits, including:

  • Accountability: I may be the only one writing my blog, but I’m still accountable to my readers. In my full-time job, an editorial calendar is a reminder to everyone when content is due.
  • Planning: I noted above how an editorial calendar allows me to plan throughout the year. It helps keep me focused.
  • Accomplishment: I find having a content calendar gives me a sense of accomplishment. It feels good to see the progress I’ve made and also to see that I have topics planned so I don’t need to panic.
  • Measurement: Finally, I can review my metrics after a blog publishes and determine which content is most popular so that I publish more in that subject area. It’s also been rewarding to see the blog grow.

How do you create a content calendar? Everybody has their own style so choose what is best for you.

  • Word document: For my blog, I noted a simple Word document works.
  • Excel spreadsheet: At work, we use a spreadsheet and post it to a shared directory. Not only are we tracking content, but also content platforms. We have to ensure content is published consistently across multiple platforms and the editorial calendar helps us see if we missed anything.
  • WordPress plug-in: In researching this blog I discovered something cool that WordPress offers, namely an editorial calendar plug-in. It allows me to see all my posts and when they will publish. I can also easily change the dates I plan to post by dragging and dropping the posts within a calendar, which is easier than using the posting feature.

This weekend I’ll spend time with my editorial calendar, plotting upcoming posts, researching the topics and writing the first drafts. My commitment remains to post each Wednesday and Sunday. My editorial calendar will help me — if only I would use it.

LinkedIn Celebrates 200 Million Members

LinkedIn InfographicAre you on LinkedIn?

If you’re not, then you may be missing out. LinkedIn announced that it has reached 200 million members and noted that about two members per second join LinkedIn.

It also put together a cool infographic about who has the most LinkedIn members (United States) and the fastest growing countries on LinkedIn (Turkey).

The most followed on LinkedIn are Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins and Jeff Weiner.

I’m not on the site each day the way I am with Facebook. I do get on at least weekly, and more so when I’m recruiting to fill a position. I also appreciate updates from those in my network. I want to know who has a new job or who recommends a book or article to read.

How are you using LinkedIn?

Routines Help Eliminate Stress

Every day I make hundreds of decisions. We all do. What should we eat for lunch? Should I return the call now or later? And then there are the complex ones on the job.

I often tell a friend of mine when we’re deciding where to eat: “You choose, I can’t make another decision.”

Sometimes I don’t have to make any decisions because I do the same thing over and over. Some people would call it a rut. I call it a routine that eliminates decision making. Each morning I eat vanilla Chobani Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of Chobaniwheat germ. I buy individual containers for each day of the month so I don’t have to make the decision to grocery shop more than once a month for them, nor do I have to decide first thing what to eat.

I take the first 30 minutes of my work day to review my calendar and answer any critical emails that came in overnight. Then I tackle the most important item for the day. I don’t have to decide when in the day I’m going to work on that because I’ve already done it.

Many years ago I read a book in which the author (I think it was Alexandra Stoddard) recommended choosing one color – black or blue – as the staple of my wardrobe. I chose black. Now I never have to decide or hunt for the matching socks, belt or handbag because I own no navy and don’t have to worry about choosing incorrectly.

I was reading Vanity Fair recently and chuckled at a comment by President Obama, who, it turns out has simplified his decision-making about suits.

“You need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day… You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Routines cut down on decision-making which allows us to focus on the important things – whatever they may be.