Archive for March, 2012

March 27, 2012

8 Source Blunders to Avoid When Dealing with a Journalist

You interviewed with a journalist and had your advice mentioned in a national publication. You know the journalist writes about  education all the time and you made sure to let her know you specialize in higher education. So why hasn’t she called you back for future interviews?  Chances are you’ve committed one or more of the following blunders that can make a source’s or interviewee’s reputation self-destruct.

1. Having limited availability.

Journalists often work on a deadline. Don’t expect the writer to be happy to use you if you schedule a time to chat but then suddenly  become unavailable and request to reschedule. We understand that life happens, but we’ve got a job to do. Having to reschedule your interview or search for a completely different source creates more pressure for getting the story in before deadline. Journalists like to have a stable of sources they know are dependable in a moments notice. Continuously rescheduling, proves you are incapable of that status and will warrant limited callbacks.

2. Playing avoidance.

If a journalist asks how you think parents should handle their child’s crushes, don’t go around the question by providing information about every childhood crush you can think of and how  none of them lasted. Of if you asked whether or not Trayvon Martin was killed because he was wearing a hoodie, don’t tell the writer that black people look best in jeans but you love to wear skirts most. Avoiding a journalist’s questions is never a way to their hearts. Address the question at hand and only provide background information if it is pertinent to the topic or question asked.

3. Rewriting the story.

When journalists call you to verify a quote or a fact, please don’t attempt to rewrite the whole story for them. The process is called fact-checking, not have an amateur edit and do your job for you. When placed in this situation, simply answer the writer’s question and move on. Nothing extra is necessary at that point unless asked for it.

4. Being a product pusher.

The story may be about chemicals found in hair products, but you probably shouldn’t continuously push your fabulous new all natural shampoo throughout the entire interview. The story is about the topic not your amazing life and products. All that is needed is your expert opinion, so refrain from the sales pitch.

5. Pimp your marketing.

Even if the interview went well, it is inappropriate to sign journalists up for an influx of your newsletters or campaigns. We already have to deal with an overflowing amount of press releases in our mailbox. The last thing we need is another unrequested item to clutter our lives and emails.

6. Requesting special access.

No matter how many times I decline and explain the reason, sources still feel the need to routinely ask to see the story before it’s published. It’s a surefire way to get you blacklisted as a source. Journalists and publications maintain credibility by not being influenced by third parties. Allowing sources to see stories before it is published appears as though you are making changes to suit that source which will lead to questioning the credibility of the story and publication. So keep asking a journalist to see the story beforehand, but always expect the answer to be no. You can also expect to never be called back to interview for future stories.

7. Record Breaking.

When signing on to an interview you agree to have your comments possibly published in a news story. If you plan on breaking interview records, by reciting “off the the record” continuously throughout the interview, don’t agree to the interview. Make it easy on yourself by either declining the interview or refraining from saying something you don’t wish to be published. Otherwise, you will be labeled a PIA (Pain in Ass) to journalists, and see less press time in the future.

8. Sugarcoated Bribery.

Offering to give a free massage or payment of some kind in exchange for favorable coverage of the issue on your part  is not wise practice. Not only is it unethical practice for a writer to partake in, it will be a waste of time and money for you because good writers won’t buy into it. They’ll also remember that you try to manipulate through bribery and will refrain from interviewing you again.

Do any of the above practices and expect to be placed on a journalist’s personal “Do Not Call List”. Do what you can to make the journalist’s job as easy as possible and you will forever be in our good graces.

What other faux pas should sources avoid?

March 22, 2012

The Right Way to Connect on Linkedin

You’re new to Linkedin and finally completed uploading your resume, choosing a profile picture, and writing a summary. Now you do what any newcomer to Linkedin does. You look for some connections! Naturally, you will want to connect with the biggest influencers in your industry whether you know them or not. Most likely they are the ones with 500+ connections, 13 recommendations, and the manager of several groups. And who wouldn’t want to connect with these people? They are obviously the ones who know the most, like to network and can possibly do something for you in the future. Then there are some of you who are intimated to ask the high-rollers of Linkedin to connect and choose to go for those on your level who are just learning to the play the game. Well I’m willing to bet when asking for connections you are doing it the wrong way whether it be for a Linkedin popular or a newbie.

If you are sending requests to connect using the pre-written generic message, “I’d like to add you to my professional network,” this just might be one of the worst possible things you can do. This message doesn’t say anything about you other than, “I am too lazy or bored to take the time to get to know you, read your profile and personalize my message.” Since you are most likely requesting the person because you think you can benefit from the connection, you need to show them how you this person can benefit from connecting with you. A message like the one above, can very well get you ignored. At the very least, you need to give a reason for actually wanting to connect with the person; especially if you don’t know the person personally. (I know Linkedin “requires” you to know the person before you request to connect, but let’s not pretend like this doesn’t happen on a daily basis.) Besides, Linkedin has the potential to be much more powerful than Facebook. The last thing you want is to have a potentially good connection go to waste like a frivolous Facebook Friend. Make sure this doesn’t happen by saying something to start a conversation and building a what can potentially lead to a great relationship. After all, isn’t that the whole reason why you are requesting to connect? If not, you may just want to stick to Facebook and ignore the hundreds of trivial statuses by “friends” you don’t even like.

So what should you say in place of that generic message when requesting to connect? Luckily the options are endless.

Flattery: “I was looking through your profile and I must admit I’m impressed with your work. I hope one day I will get to your professional level. I’d like to add you to my professional network.”

College Connection: “Hey, I noticed we are both writing professionals and graduated from Rider University! Any plans to attend alumni weekend this June? Let’s chat! I’d love to connect.” 

Benefit Factor: “I saw your update discussing the upcoming contest for your company. Do you need help marketing it or coming up with conditions? I’d be happy to assist! I’d like to add you to my professional network.”

Group Buddy: “I noticed you are member of the Freelance Connection. Have you been following the discussion about marketing your writing services to local businesses? I’d love to know your thoughts. Let’s connect!”

Same Strokes, Different Folks: “Hey, neighbor. I grew up in Sayreville too! Tell me, do you hate Bon Jovi as much as I do or is he the source of inspiration in all of your work? Would you like to connect with me?”

Mutual Friends: “Seems we are both connected to Christine. She told me a lot about your plans to start a non-profit organization. As an entrepreneur, I am certainly interested. Care to discuss?” 

Following Fan: “During my search for all-inclusive resorts in Barbados, I came across your travel articles listed in Travel + Leisure and your blog about Groupon. You’ve earned yourself a new fan! I’d like to add you to my professional network.”

I’m sure there a few more options for connection request messages, but these are a definitely a great start. As you can see, the message need not be long. At most, it requires only a few minutes of studying the person’s profile to come up with a unique message to snag a new connection. But remember, once your connection request is accepted, continue the conversation and begin getting to know your newfound connection.

How do you feel about generic Linkedin messages? Have you tried writing personalized messages when requesting to connect?

March 21, 2012

Does Writer’s Block Exist?

If you’ve been around the block, you’ve probably come across some posts stating that Writer’s Block just doesn’t exist. According to some it just has to be some figment of our imagination. How can someone just run out of words to write? There’s always something to say! Well I’m here to tell you that what you’ve read is false. Depending on how you define writer’s block, it most certainly does exist. But if you allow it to exist, it very well can mean the end of your career. According to Wikipedia, Writer’s Block means, “a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.” 

However, one might argue writer’s block only exists to those who don’t write for a living. I have to admit I agree with this sentiment. If your well-being depended on your writing and it meant you staying out of the poorhouse, I’m pretty sure you will find a way to churn out words with every breathe within you. It doesn’t matter if the words are good or not. You will find them and apply them to your bills. Therefore, those who have worked at a newspaper and were expected to write five reported stories a day cannot relate to the sentiment of writer’s block. They don’t worry about finding words that are good enough, because they know they can. They focus on finding enough words in time to meet their deadline so they can pay the bills. Hence the reason, why some argue that writer’s block simply does not exist.

However, if you associate writer’s block with the sentiment that no words seem good enough I think most can relate. No matter what industry you are in, everyone can relate to feelings of insecurity and second-guessing yourself. It’s natural, but it’s definitely not a feeling we should let linger whether it refers to writer’s block or not. The key is to find confidence and reassure yourself that what you do and say is good enough. You have the words. You are just afraid to say them.

Of course, that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Ease your mind by remembering the big picture, your goals, and your accomplishments. If that doesn’t work try a change of scenery. If you normally work at the desk in your office, move to the kitchen. Bounce some ideas off your friends and family or do a search to see what else has been written on that topic for inspiration. (But don’t plagiarize!) Most importantly, start to think like a veteran New York Times reporter and write like your life depends on it!

Do you believe Writer’s Block exists? What do you do to cope?

March 15, 2012

Be a Savvy Secondhand Bride

Can you think of a better way to spend $30,000 than on a wedding? So can I. That’s why more brides are going the “secondhand route” for wedding shopping. But don’t let sticker shock cloud your judgment. “Brides should be budget savvy, not budget stiffed, ” says editor Fri Forjindam “Second-hand” doesn’t mean you can’t have standards. You can find high quality used items at lots of shops and websites.

I asked experts for their tips on second-hand shopping. Here’s some highlights:

Consider Black: While ex-brides are mourning in dark colors on their “supposed-to-be” wedding day, you can benefit from it. Head over to Ebay and search for “canceled wedding.” You’d be surprised what may come up! But don’t forget to offer sincere concern and some (non-used) tissues.

Think Green: Being eco-savvy can mean more bang for your buck at Recycled Bride. Browse gently used accessories, gowns and decorations for a steal.Sign up for their email alerts so you never miss a deal.

Shop Pink: Be a true blushing bride by visiting a traveling charity gown sale for Brides Against Breast Cancer to purchase discounted new and used dresses.   You help your wallet and a great cause!

Shopping tip: Other than your bling, consignment shops are a bride’s best friend. You can try before you buy. Find one near you at consignmentshops.com

*Even if the store or website looks like an upstanding business, never make cash transactions. Stick to checks, credit cards, and Pay Pal so you can track and reverse sales if necessary. 

Fun Fact: According to theweddingreport.com, 89.4 percent of brides are willing to purchase used items for their wedding. 90 percent of brides are willing to sell items – especially accessories.


Say Yes to the (Used) Dress!

March 13, 2012

How I Stopped Being a Loser

So far this year, I’ve modeled for a show on The Knot, met Kim Coles, chosen a wedding dress, worked with new clients, won $10, and covered a huge fashion event in NYC. And it’s only the first week of March! I can assure you 2011 was nothing like this for me. (That quarter life crisis is no joke!) So how did I make the change from loser to winner? I simply told myself to stop being a loser.

Now I’m sure many of you have fallen on hard times at some point in your life and have said the same thing to yourself. The trick to making that little phrase work is actually believing it. And if you don’t mean it, tell yourself to stop being a loser several times until you start to believe it. That means getting out of self-pitty mode, dedicating yourself to finding happiness, taking risks, and taking advantage of all opportunities. And that’s exactly what I did. I’ve learned that sometimes we are so afraid of losing that we completely ignore the opportunities that are presented to us. And then when nothing good happens to us, we inadvertently become “losers”. Stop living in fear and let life happen.

I’m sure people would like to think that I stopped being a loser and all those wonderful things happened to me because I got lucky. In all honesty, I made them happen and you can to. Once I attributed 2012 as the best year of my life, I was determined to make it happen. So I took that risk of applying to model on The Knot and I took that risk of covering the NYC fashion event. I even took the risk of buying that lottery ticket that got me $10. Sure maybe it was pure luck that all of these situations turned out favorably. But the point is they happened because I put myself out there and took a risk. If you don’t let life happen, nothing will ever happen to you. There were those times when I did take a chance and felt like a loser. However, I learned in every loser-like situation there is a learning opportunity. Being happy and successful is a choice. Nobody ever accomplished anything great by staying in their comfort. There is a winner inside everyone. All you have to do is find it…

March 8, 2012

Texture on the Runway Recap

Texture on the Runway was a hit! I learned about different hairstyles, was introduced to knew products, and even got to meet Kim Coles! I know this is way overdue, but here is my update from the event originally posted on Naturally Curly.

 

After leaving a NYC fashion show, you would never expect to walk away with a life lesson. Yet that’s exactly what happened when I left the “Texture on the Runway” event Saturday, February 11. Yes, I learned about hair care tips. Yes, I saw first hand how versatile a set of curly locks can be. But most importantly, I learned how essential it is to work the hand dealt to you in life — and that includes your hair.

Most of us kinky curly heads have heard throughout life that our hair is so unmanageable, and the complete opposite of what “good hair” is supposed to be. “Texture on the Runway” is proof that those statements couldn’t be further from the truth.

Good hair is healthy hair and healthy hair can be achieved once we find the right products that work for our hair. Many of the stylist teams echoed the importance of keeping curls moisturized and detangled. Luckily, there have been influxes of hair care lines on the market that do exactly that. All that’s left is determining what you want your hair to do, and options are endless. That means accepting and getting to know your curls for what they truly are — a work of art. And of course, those works of art can be made into a masterpiece.

The creative teams at Matrix, Curls Unleashed, Arrojo, Minardi and Hair Rules brought those masterpieces to life as the lovely models with hair ranging from type 2 to type 4C hit the catwalk — all of them looking equally fabulous.  From up-do’s to afros to elongated curls, all types of texture were represented. Of course, that brought home the point that we’re all in this together, fighting the same battle and learning to love our locks one curl at a time.

In the words of the lovely Kim Coles, “I have a curly soul. It’s time everybody knows it.”

March 6, 2012

A Picture’s Worth a Business Deal

Everybody knows a picture’s worth a thousand words. What people don’t realize is it can get you a thousand dollar business deal. Yes, you read that right.  A good picture can get you a business deal. And no, this doesn’t just apply to models.

You see, when expanding a business people always emphasize the importance of having an easy to navigate website, marketing materials, a well written bio, etc. What they forget to mention, is the importance of a good photo of yourself. Chances are you have a Twitter profile, Facebook page, blog, website, and Linkedin profile. I’m willing to bet that you have a photo of yourself on at least one of those websites. How much thought did you put into selecting that picture? For business sake, I’m hoping the photo of you throwing back a couple beers on your Facebook profile is not the same one you use for Linkedin. That is definitely not good for business. But if it is your photo on your professional networks, you may be one to something. Why? Because it’s interesting. A photo of you with a couple of beers may not showcase you in the best light but it will get people talking. And you want people talking to you and about you to other people. Of course, you’d prefer they talk about you in good terms (and that photo may not help) but at least they are talking.

Interesting photos get people to talk and keep you in the buzz. That means it may be a good idea to shy away from the graduation type photo of you with a cheesy grin on your face. It doesn’t say anything about you other than you are happy to graduate. A good business photo shows your personality and/or something of interest. It’s got to be slightly different. You want it to capture attention while not venturing too far away from your true colors. After all, people don’t hire a business. They hire a person – a person with a personality they like. So a profile photo is a great way to showcase that winning personality of yours.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many business owners chatted me up just because my photo intrigued them. 

It’s nothing special. My guess is the sly smile, outdoors background, body positioning and coffee mug comes off as warm and very inviting to most people. I tend to get the most comments about the coffee mug. In fact, I tend to get a lot of LinkedIn messages complimenting me on the choice of photo and ask what inspired me to include a coffee mug. Others say, the soft smile and direct eye contact is very captivating and inviting. The most common comment: “I love that smile and coffee mug. What a great marketing ploy!” Next thing I know, I’m drafting a contract for a new client ready to take advantage of my copywriting services or looking at someone ready and willing to refer me thanks to my fabulous “photo marketing ploy”! So what makes a great business photo? I’m no expert but in my experience a great photo for business purposes does the following things:

1. Shows your personality.

2. Intrigues your target audience.

3. Inspires conversation.

If you are completely lost when it comes to your own photo, take a cue from me.  Experiment with props. Take the photo shoot outdoors or search for interesting backgrounds. Work on a stimulating facial expression. You’d be surprised what you might come up with. But whatever you do, make sure you stick to your true colors!

March 1, 2012

11 Things Nobody Told Me About Working From Home

When I started working from home, I thought I was living the life. I mean, what could be better than making money from your

Photo Courtesy of Mary B. Thorman

domicile? It seemed like an even sweeter deal when the gas prices started going up faster than I could blink. From the outside, it sounds like the perfect job opportunity and working environment. You save on gas, have easy access to the kitchen and there’s no boss looking over your shoulder. But there’s another side. A darker side that no body tells you about. They certainly never warned me about it. Had I known, I may have put a little more time and effort into making the decision to ditch the cubicle. Here’s 11 things no body warned me about working from home. Consider yourself forewarned…

1. You may lose your sanity.

If you thought it couldn’t get any worse than having your boss and co-workers driving you crazy everyday, think again. It’s even worse knowing that you are the cause of your own loss of sanity. And that’s exactly what happens when you work from home. Why? Because while everyone else is outside having a life, you are stuck sitting in front of your computer all damn day with no human interaction. Sure you’ve got phone and internet, but you can only stare at your bedroom door for so long. Soon enough you’ll get so lonely you’ll start talking to yourself.  It’s enough to drive anyone insane.

2. Vacations and sick days are hard to come by.

If you thought taking sick days were hard when you were going out to the office, you’d be surprised how difficult it is to take them when you don’t have to leave the house. You need to have a pretty good reason and have a very very high fever to not be able to get out the bed and walk down the hall to work. Before,  it was acceptable to take the day off for a cold when you drove into the office.  But when you work from home that’s just not good enough. You’ll get blank stares if you tell someone you took the day off because you have a headache or got a cold.

3. Weight gain is highly likely.

Remember up post I mentioned that easy access to the kitchen a benefit of working from home? Well it’s also one of this unfavorable things no body warned me about. Easy access to the kitchen means time for morning snacks, mid-morning snacks, lunch, “I have writer’s block” snacks, “My computer is acting slow” snacks, “I just don’t feel like working” snacks,”My favorite TV show is on” snacks and dinner. I’m sure you can come up with many more snacks, but you get the picture.

Than there’s the fact concerning your lack of movement and physical activity all day. When you worked outside the home, you had to at least walk from the last parking spot in the lot to the front door. Now the further you have to travel is across the hall. The increased access to the refrigerator coupled with limited mobility can’t possibly mean anything good for your waistline. Unfortunately, no body told me that part…

4. Social skills may be lost.

When your kitchen table becomes your “office”, email may be your only chance to be “social” Consider yourself lucky if you get to make phone calls. After conducting so much business by staring at the computer all day, you’ll suddenly find yourself frazzled and nervous when the time comes for you to actually conduct business face- t0 -face. (And no, I don’t mean via Skype sessions.) Simple things such as when to shake hands and passing along your business card may suddenly seem foreign to you. You just might need to brush up your social skills a bit by reading up on it or practicing with friends.

5. You may never look good again.

Hate to break it to you, but that new spring wardrobe you purchased just might be the biggest waste of money ever. Turns out when you work from home, you never leave the house so you don’t have to look good for anybody. Gone are the days when you spent hours applying the perfect makeup or fixing that shape up before that big meeting. Now it’s putting on your best pair of sweatpants IF you bother to get dressed at all. Word of advice: Either cut your clothes shopping budget in half or be prepared with tags to sell when you don’t use. If you don’t, you’ll be wondering what you were thinking investing in clothes you may only wear once.  Which leads me to my next point…

6. Investing in a good set of pajamas is smart.

Chances are you’ll loose all motivation to get dressed in the morning and just want to stay in your pajamas all day. So now might be a good time to get those silk pajamas you’ve been eyeing (or maybe even Pajama Jeans). Just promise me you’ll still find time to get dressed at least every once in a while. There’s something to be said about dressing the part. After all, you are still at work. Besides, I never seem to be as productive when I’m stuck in pajamas all day.

7. Beds have never seemed more comfortable.

Remember those days when you just wanted to recuperate in bed  for a little bit but you could never fall asleep? Don’t count on that ever happening again. Those days will now only be a distant memory. Once you start working from home, you’ll develop a magnetic attraction to your bed that you just can’t resist. Suddenly your pillow will be fluffier and your mattress will be much more comfortable and inviting than usual. When you are covered with your sheets, you’ll instantly feel like you are enveloped in love. Once it’s time to  get out of bed and head to your work area of choice, those plush sheets and pillow will be beckoning you to come back.

I know it’s hard to resist, but you just have to learn to say no. You’ll never get as much work done when you work from the comfort of your bed. In fact, it took everything in me to get out of bed this morning and write this blog post at a table.

8. Homesick doesn’t mean what you think it does.

When you were a little kid being sent off to summer camp for the first time you knew home sick to mean not being able to have fun because you missed your home and family too much. Apparently, that was a lie. The real definition of home sick is as follows:

Homesick (adj.) – That nauseating and frustrating feeling you get when you realize you have to be at your home for another day.  Symptoms are involuntary twitching, muscle spasms, mood swings, potty mouth, irritability, restlessness and lack of motivation

9. You have no reason to watch the morning news.

I don’t know about you, but when I actually left the house to work the only reason why I watched the news in the morning was to find out about traffic reports and the weather. Now that I have no traffic to avoid or weather to accordingly for, the news never gets turned on in the morning. On the off days that I do need to know the weather, I know turn to my trusty widgets provided by Verizon Fios.

10. Daytime television has drastically improved. 

The time when you couldn’t find something to watch on those days off from work will never happen again. You’ll soon find there have been major improvements to daytime television when you work from home and you’ll never want to work again. You’ll discover yourself keeping the TV on while you work or trying to schedule your work day around you favorite TV shows. In most cases it doesn’t really work well in your favor. Who knew soap operas, talk shows, old sitcoms and documentaries about Whitney Houston could be so interesting? Luckily, God invented DVR, rewind buttons, and instantly replay. I suggest you learn how to use them.

11. Friends won’t take you seriously.

From the outside looking in, it seems as though people who work from home are living the life. They can take breaks whenever they want to. Go on vacation on a whim and don’t even have to worry about daycare for the children – which may be true for some work from home people. But friends fail to realize that we can’t just drop things on a minutes notices and sometimes making deadlines means working around the clock. Basically, they don’t always think of what you do at home as work. My suggestion is to find some other friends  in addition to the ones you have who also work from home. Those friends won’t be too upset when you have to cancel a dinner date last minute to complete a client’s project.

Did I miss something? What do you wish you had known before making the decision to work from home?