Archive for February, 2012

February 29, 2012

New Wedding Blog: The Un-Jersey Bride

I don’t usually publish post’s on a Wednesday, but I come to you today to announce the start of something I think will be big. It’s called the Un-Jersey Bride, a fabulous new wedding blog about New Jersey created by photographer and  fellow Jersey Girl, Feuza. No, the term “Un-Jersey” doesn’t not mean “Anti-Jersey”. It’s simply a blog showing you the side of Jersey you’ve never seen before. The side you’ve never known about but will love to apply to your wedding once you learn what it is.

This blog is breaking stereotypes about Jersey Brides and showing the world there is more to the Garden State than fist pumping during the reception. So leave the obnoxiously big hair, fake tans, and “stuck in the 90’s wedding themes” behind and head over Un-Jersey Bride. There’ll be wedding inspirations, location suggestions, attire advice, eclectic services, unique vendors and more. Plus, you’ll even see a couple guest posts from me. Spread the word; it’s about time folks near and far got to see what a real Jersey wedding is all about.

Don’t forget to visit the Facebook page and leave some feedback!

February 28, 2012

What Journalists Actually Do (In case you didn’t know)

Keeping up with the trend of the recent “What I do/What they think I do” memes, I figured it was about time I post one for the writers and journalists out there. Here are a few posted on sites such as StuffJournalistslike.com and futurejournalismproject.com.

(Via Stuff Journalists Like)

(Via Future Journalism Project )

(Via Word Thief)

(Via Jelena)

So do you finally understand what writers do? I hope so, because it’s very frustrating when I have to constantly explain it. 

February 22, 2012

Diamonds are Nice But I Prefer Referrals: Referrals are a Freelancer’s Best Friend

I know it’s shocking considering I just got a diamond of my own, but it’s true! When you are a full-time freelance professional, nothing is better than a referral. Mostly because it makes a freelancers jobs so much easier. I speak from experience. Depending on your tactics, marketing can cost a lot of money. So when you give a referral not only does it save us money, it frees up some more time for freelancers to dedicate on making sure your project is done absolutely perfectly. Meaning you actually get more for your money. It’s a win-win situation.

So under what circumstances, should you give a referral for your freelancer of choice? Anytime you are satisfied with their work or simply had a pleasurable experience. The only time I may suggest you refrain from that is if the person you hired clearly states that his or her schedule is way too full to take on more clients. And even then, you may not need to because you never know when schedules clear up down the line. So please, spread the love for the freelancer in your life (hopefully me).

And we don’t care how you do it. You can tweet, email, make a Linkedin update, put it in a Facebook status, write a blog post, or call someone. Whatever your outlet of choice, use it to shout your freelance love from the mountain tops. Trust me; it benefits everyone.

February 21, 2012

How Joining a Forum Can Help Your Writing

So you want to be a better writer and reach out to a particular audience? The solution is simple. Join an online forum. Believe it or not, joining a forum can be very helpful for getting to know more about your target audience.  It offers assistance by doing three things:

1. Allows you to see what members of a particular demographic care about and have an interest in

2. Enables interaction and conversation on in-depth subjects

3. Helps to keep on top of news-worthy topics in the community

There seems to be a trend in which people in forums tend to feel a sense of camaraderie with other forum members. Therefore, it should be no surprise when members are experiencing personal issues and can’t discuss with “real life” friends or family, they go ahead and vent in their online forum of choice. This helps you in three ways. You get to see what makes people of a certain demographic tick, recognize what resources are not available to help them with the problem, and you can write or pitch a story about it. This way, you know exactly how to cater to their needs. Because I’d like to write for publications the reach out to middle-class Arican American women, I belong to a forum called Long Hair Care Forum.  If you want to reach gay right advocates, join an equality rights forum. If you want to reach hairstylists, join a beauty forum, etc.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many pitches and stories have been inspired by forum topic discussions that help me get inside my potential audience’s mind.

What I love about forums is the ability to connect with the potential “client” or demographic in a personal but  intellectual level. (Kind of like Facebook but 100x better!) Unlike Facebook, it seems chances of actually having a conversation of substance is much greater and there are much less passive-aggressive comments (depending on the forum you join). On my forum of choice, I’ve had discussions about education, entertainment, careers, financial planning, parenting etc – things you might see on a host of other forums. The only difference is it was written to and from the perspective of the African American woman. Once you see how audience writes and how they like things written, you have a better idea of what tone and point of view to use in your own writing.

Other than great communication and meaningful interaction, online forums keep you in the know. I was surprised how much I knew about trends and breaking news thanks to the forum I belong to. Sometimes these forums give the ability to learn the news as it’s unfolding. This is good for journalists since its always in your favor to be on top of timely topics.

And of course, I can’t forget that forums allow you to read. You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Sure, it’s probably better to read a book, but a forum is better than nothing.

In what ways has belonging to an online forum helped you?

February 18, 2012

Texas Roadhouse Supports Christ Church

On Tuesday, February 21st (also known as Mardi Gras) Texas Roadhouse of Parlin, NJ will be supporting my church, Christ Episcopal Church, by hosting a fundraiser. When presenting the below flyer to the server, 10 percent of each patron’s check will be donated to the church.  Proceeds will be used to support programs such as Zumba, blessing of the pets, and feed the homeless.

Like most businesses, my church took a big hit when the economy crashed and is in need of all the help they can get to keep growing and supporting the community. If in the Central Jersey area, please head over to the Texas Roadhouse of Parlin, New Jersey between the hours of 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm. And don’t forget to present the flyer to the server! Any help is truly appreciated.  Email Christchurch8@verizon.net for any questions.

February 15, 2012

Getting Revenge on Citibank Student Loan Department

Like most young adults in America, I had to take out student loan debt from several private student loans from many lenders. Unfortunately, it has proven to be a hellish experience for me every step of the way. And it doesn’t seem to count for anything that I make ridiculously high payments on time every month with no assistance or cooperation from people at the company. Yet, I still get multiple phone calls a day demanding payment even when it’s a holiday, payments are processing, or a Sunday. However, tables are about to turn because it’s finally time that Citibank Student Loan professionals got a taste of their own medicine.

The Backstory

It’s tax time and despite several requests, I have yet to receive tax information from Citibank Student Loans. I’ve already received tax information from other student loan providers. So what’s taking Citibank so long? They told me that I was supposed to fill out a W-9F form and I didn’t. As a result, I was told I was being sent an official Citibank document stating the amount of interest paid in 2011. On February 2nd, I called to find out where it was because I hadn’t received anything. They told me that it was sent in January and I should be receiving it soon. On February 7th when I hadn’t received it, I called again only to be told I was misinformed and the document was only requested on February 2nd as opposed to actually sent. The representative also told me the document was mailed earlier in the  day and I would receive the document in a few days. Again, a few days went by and I still hadn’t received it so I called them back this morning (February 15th). I was told the document was just sent this morning and I won’t receive it for another 7 to 14 days. Obviously, it frustrates me since I’ve been told that it’s been sent for the past two weeks now. I’ve constantly been misinformed by several different people.

The Plan

It was time to take drastic measures so I simply explained to the person I understand I wouldn’t be receiving my tax information until the next 7 to 14 days. But they had to understand that I would be calling them twice everyday for the next 7 to 14 days since that’s the same way I get treated by Citibank Student Loan representatives. Of course, the representative said there is no need to do that as the document is already on the way to which I said the following: “I understand that, but Citibank doesn’t seem to care when I tell them that check is being processed and they have proof of it. They tell me that they need to keep calling until the payment is processed and cleared even thought it’s out of my hands at that point. So why should I care when you tell me that it’s on the way? I’ll have to keep calling until it has “cleared and in my possession” For your sake, you better hope this letter gets her in seven days as opposed to fourteen because I don’t have a problem calling twice everyday since it’s a toll-free number.”  I apologized for having to take it there but explained that Citibank doesn’t seem to understand the concept of reasoning.

Will it work?

Now some of  you may be wondering if my actions will actually prove the point I’m trying to make since several people in the department handle the calls so I won’t always be getting the same person. I thought about it, and hope the multiple records of my phone calls in addition to all the recorded conversations will make some impact on the way Citibank handles outgoing collection calls once they review these cases. I’m also debating making these phone calls to the Vice President of the Student Loan Department. Even though the student loan department of Citibank will be shutting down by the end of the year, I truly hope my small effort makes a difference and helps them realize what its like to be on the other end. Others may call my actions petty but I’ve tried to work with the company several times, cooperated with them and explained what they are doing to no avail.  So a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. Three calls down and  24 to go. Wish me luck.

How do you deal with multiple calls from loan providers? Have you ever tried to give them a taste of their own medicine?

February 7, 2012

Former Harper’s Bazaar Intern Sues Hearst

Last week news broke that a former intern for the magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, is suing Hearst in the hopes to create a class action. According to the former intern, the parent company of Harper’s Bazaar, Hearst broke federal wage laws by refusing to pay her even though she often worked full-time during her internship from August 2011 to December 2011. She graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in strategic communications in 2010.

The lawsuit states, “Employers’ failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.”

I have to say I agree with the charges. Is it really a coincidence that there are thousands of internship opportunities, but only a handful of entry-level jobs? It seems as though many organizations are taking advantage of the unpaid internship concept to get free labor that benefits the company. According to federal and state laws, an internship must only benefit the intern. Unfortunately, it seems as though the unpaid internship is now equivalent to the modern day internship minus the pay; especially in the above case where the former intern sometimes worked as much as 55 hours per week.

But does she have a case she can win?  Some say it may be difficult because she stayed for the full term of the internship. Also, from my own experience Hearst clearly spells out the terms of the internships, including no pay. On the other hand, just because she may have allowed the “treatment of an employee” to happen, doesn’t give Hearst the right to act on it. The law is the law.

However, this case now has industry professionals wondering about the future of internships. Even if she loses, some businesses may become fearful of offering unpaid internships, making it more difficult for young professionals to get hands on experience before entering the workforce. This lawsuit may result in a domino effect ultimately changing internship laws and guidelines. Only time will tell.

How do you feel about the case? Do you think the former intern is justified and has a shot at winning?

February 3, 2012

NYC Fashion Week Event: Texture on the Runway

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware curls have made a big comeback. Not only is wearing curly hair popular amongst students and business professionals, but it’s even making a big fashion statement. So it only makes sense that curls make its debut on the runway during Fashion Week! And that’s where Texture on the Runway comes in.

Exactly one week from today February 11th in NYC, a fashion show of curls hits the catwalk. Naturally Curly has teamed up with brands such as Hair Rules, Curls Unleashed, Matrix, Arrojo, Minardi Color and more to unleash the new era of styling wavy, curly and kinky hair. They’ll be showcasing textured hair styles with highlights, twists, braids and more.  Haircare guru, Taren Guy, of Youtube channel Taren916 will be co-hosting and making her debut on the catwalk as a model.

The best part is this event isn’t even exclusive to media professionals and Fashion week attendees. You’ll be able to follow along in real time via an online platform. Social media gurus and influencers will be tweeting pics, videos, and interviews throughout the event using the hashtag #texturerunway. Your’s truly will be one of them! Start following me on Twitter  from today as I’ll be tweeting news and updates leading up to the event. But the #texturerunway hashtag isn’t limited to social media gurus and influencers. Online viewers can be part of the fun too. Tweet questions and comments using the hashtag and your tweets may be seen on the big screen parallel to the runway. You don’t have to wait till February 11th to get in on the excitement. The hype starts now! Head on over to www.Textureontherunway.com for blogs, news, videos, and tweets discussing the event. If already got two blog posts on the site too.

And don’t forget to follow these brands and social media influencers:

  • @NaturallyCurly
  • @MatrixFamily
  • @HairRules
  • @Curls_Unleashed
  • @Arrojo
  • @MinardiColor
  • @frizzfreeCURLS
  • @Taren916
  • @lovebrownsugar
  • @uneautrenaturelle
  • @blakizbeautyful
  • @naturalsblog
  • @curlymichelle
February 1, 2012

Why I Love HARO

As a journalist, there are a few tools I depend on to survive in this crazy world of media. One is the Associated Press Stylebook. The other is my subscription to Media Bistro. I also can’t go on without my MacBook Pro. And I can’t forget about Google Alerts.  Then there’s my digital recorder…  Ok, so there are a lot of things I can’t survive without in the journalism world (learn about them here), but I’m here to tell you about one of my favorite survival tools, Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

HARO is an email list in which media professionals can submit queries regarding sources they are in need off and have it sent to thousands of subscribers who can then contact them directly. It has come in handy in several occasions when I needed to find sources in short time periods. I highly suggest any business professional looking for exposure to sign up. However, that’s not the only reason I love HARO. Unbeknownst to many, HARO is great for many other reasons and uses.

One thing I like to do is  look at each media outlet and see if there is a publication I never heard of that I would like to target for freelance opportunities. I then begin researching that company and see what kind of topics they look for. This method isn’t just for freelance writers, though. Any business professional can go through HARO queries and find businesses they may like to work with in some way. Think of it like an innovative “phone book.” (Whatever, you do refrain from using the email listed in the query for other business opportunities. That’s a big no-no.)

I’m a big fan of random fun facts. Every once in a while, queries list an interesting statistic that you otherwise never would have given a second thought about. And those interesting statistics, I found thanks to HARO then become great conversation starters. – Not to mention they end up serving as inspiration for future pitches I may want to craft.

But  when I’m sick of writing pitches or queries, and choose to be on the other side of the computer I turn to HARO to become the source of a journalist’s dreams. I’ve been quoted in many articles and I’ve gotten lot’s of opportunities from using HARO to be the source. Hey, writers like some exposure too…

And I thoroughly like the exposure to like-minded professionals. Freelancing can get kind of lonely sometimes, so I find it find to interview or be interviewed and continue to stay in touch with the person. For some reason, I tend to feel a sense of camaraderie with my sources and interviewers. Sometimes, building a relationship with them has led to some great business opportunities. Just goes to show you that networking can happen anywhere.

On those days, I like to be anywhere but here, I turn to HARO and hope to find some tidbit about a different location. HARO founder, Peter Shankman, is an avid traveler and tends to include very short blurbs about his destinations at the top of some of the emails. Just the other day, he mentioned something interesting about Europe and Los Angeles. On the days, that he doesn’t mention anything about his travels, I simply use the top portion of those emails as a shopping guide. Every email has a short paragraph about advertising a service or product you should think about purchasing.

And of course, when you read as much as I do, sometimes you run out of things in your stash. Reading HARO queries allows me to pick out stories I may find interesting and make a mental note to look it up once it’s published. After all, I can’t write them all so I might as well read it all when I get the chance!