Archive | March, 2009

Share Your Voice, Share Your Vision

30 Mar

It’s a soapbox Monday, so get ready 😉

If you’ve read this blog for any period of time you may be aware that I often refer to myself as the shyest PR person you’ll ever meet. It takes a lot for me to stand up and speak in front of groups and to think about being involved in situations where I am interviewed or quoted.

But this past month has been full of me putting myself out there. And while it was uncomfortable at first (and I had to overcome the ego feeling), I’ve come to an acceptance of why it is important.

As professional communicators – writers, journalists, marketers, public relations practitioners – our jobs are often to put our clients and story subjects at the forefront. I’ve always relished in being the ‘woman behind the woman’ or the ‘woman behind the man’ – crafting messaging that would emanate from someone else and refining thoughts that someone else would present to a larger audience. Mind you, I’m not saying ‘be the puppeteer.’ At the core of what we do is help people find their voice, communicate what is in their mind but can have trouble coming out. We all have thoughts, visions, ideas, opinions that need refinement and help reaching the broader world.

Which brings me to my soapbox.

This past month has brought home the belief that we all need to share our voice, and share our vision.

imagesI had the good fortune to be among 15 presenters for the inaugural IgniteBoise event. The gist? 5 minutes, 20 slides that change every 15 seconds – what would you tell the world? The answer to the question was an impressive collection of passions, ideas, visions, soapboxes, humor and inspiration. Mine was my personal rant, titled ‘Leave My Ring Finger & Uterus Alone’

Admittedly, a big title. (Note to self, keep expectations lower by picking a more subtle title!) For years this rant had been percolating in my head, shared with close friends over brunch. But the thought of presenting it to an audience, in this case 600+people, was a foreign idea. One that sparked heart palpitations, sweats and nausea. But I did it. And besides having absolutely no regrets – I’ve been bowled over by the reaction and feedback from the community and individuals I would have never gotten the chance to share my opinions and vision with otherwise. So what would you say in 5 minutes? You know you have something to share. Get your idea ready for IB02!

hoovers_rgb_blueIn another case, I met a fellow Texas Longhorn who is blogging for the business site Hoovers. Yes, we connected through the ubiquitous Twitter, but developed a rapport through our shared alum, love for croquetas, and back-story of journalism. When Tim Walker asked my thoughts on social media and PR – I didn’t defer to a colleague or peer but took the questions myself.

And thanks to PR Pro/Blogger Mike Boss, I also was able to contribute to a round table discussion of the future of PR in our region along with peers Jeanette Duwe, Patti Murphy and Joanne Taylor.

Could people disagree with me, call out my ideas, offer differing thoughts on strategy and tactics? Of course. But they could also agree with my thinking, share their own methods, and contribute to a broader conversation. While I cringe from the term expert, I believe we all bring specialties to the table. We’re all evolving with the new communication environment and have battle scars and strategies to share.

And in many ways, this blog has been my toe in the water foray into giving the swirling words in my head a public forum. It’s changed my thinking on how we should all let those words free.

I truly feel that in order to change this world, evolve our thinking, grow our community and economy we must not be selfish with our ideas. It is on all of us to give a voice to our thoughts, spark debate, encourage dissension, and foster new ideas.

So get out there – share your thoughts, your genius, your wacky opinions, your deep introspection. No matter what the medium – old school, new school, or a school yet to be discovered – share your voice. We’ll all be the better for it.

– Jess

Make the Jump: RFP love, Snuggie, & Facebooking Mayors

11 Mar

If you love RFPs
First up – my favorite find of the past month on Twitter. Can’t even remember where I first saw the link, but the TwitterStream from RFPDatabase intrigued me. Come on, I know everyone out there looooves responding to RFP’s 😉 I personally love any service that aggregates opportunities for me – and RFPDatabase does it well. Check out their Twitter feed then head to their website and sign up for FREE to receive customized emails with RFP’s that fit your practice area or industry. The true social element of the site is that the founders encourage users to upload RFPs that they know of (and are not competing on) for the benefit of the online membership.

Twitter…. the Snuggie of Social Media

OK – had to throw that irreverent thought in there. Came from journalist Helen Popkin at MSNBC who penned an opinion piece ‘OMG! Shut up about Twitter already!’ If you feel that way – Do NOT read on!

Alright, my favorite Twitter articles of recent days

Finding the Right Brand Voice on Twitter by Kal Turner – ‘When businesses open an account on Twitter, they must consider the right “Brand Voice.” One that is appropriate for what they want to say, and who they want to reach. This is a different sort of voice than the one companies have been familiar with in their traditional print and broadcast media channels, as it’s a more open and authentic form of communication. While there is no established roadmap for launching a brand on Twitter, I’ve made some observations about some approaches to follow and pitfalls to avoid.’

How to Tweet Material News by Mike Manuel – So here’s the deal: if you work for a public company and are interested in extending the application and use of Twitter for corporate news — this post is for you.

Twibs Give twitter users a place to find businesses on twitter.

MediaOnTwitter Great wiki with geographic listings of media members and outlets on Twitter. (somebody needs to update Idaho!)

Facebooking with your Mayor
mayor-in-black-creamKudos to Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd for not only getting on Facebook, but for using her profile to interact with her constituents and share her voice, thoughts, and experiences leading the City. It’s refereshing when our elected officials and public figures embrace the new channels of interacting with the public. Mayor de Weerd is always highly engaged and strives to be accessible  – but time constraints will obviously make that difficult. Her Facebook profile is enabling Meridian’s CEO to communicate in real-time with her constituents. If you are in Meridian – be friends with your Mayor!


Brave New World Part I

2 Mar

At heart, I’m a news geek and I doubt that will ever change. Information fuels me. And the debates and vibrant conversations about that information and opinions surrounding it all keeps me engaged every day.

I truly believe in the 4th estate and hold fast to the belief that the tenets of journalism are protected by the Constitution.  I feel for my former colleagues in broadcast who are struggling with shrinking newsrooms and the advent of TiVo and online video content sources which have changed ‘appointment television’ forever. I empathize with those communication peers in the print world – who are under fire for holding fast to an ‘old industry’ and not adapting to a world that changes every moment. The landscape of media, how consumers make decisions, how individuals communicate, has evolved – and continues to do so. It is not going back. You cannot convince the world today to remember and revert back to the world of yesterday.

So how do you adjust your business model to fit something that isn’t concrete yet? It has been fascinating, and often heartbreaking, to watch how the bastions of journalism have had to change… and sometimes fall by the wayside. Case in point, the closure of the Rocky Mountain News; the impending closure of the San Francisco Chronicle; the upcoming closure of who knows how many other newspapers.

Everyone is trying to adjust. Last fall the Christian Science Monitor took the leap and moved nearly completely online – publishing only one print edition a week. We’re seeing the emergence of entirely online media sources ala NewWest with a combination of tried-and-true journalism, re-purposing core media coverage, original opinion columns and citizen journalism contributions – all optimized for the social web.

In this landscape our local paper, The Idaho Statesman, overhauled their look, layout and focus. Full admission, I participated in one of their focus group sessions last year and contributed my thoughts on ideas for the paper’s future. This past week I watched the in-paper teases about Monday’s launch and read the column from Executive Editor Vicki Gowler about the changes.

Picking up the paper today I had a mixed reaction – resigned understanding of why changes were made, acceptance of the new look/format, and a feeling of ‘what’s next’ regarding a new way of delivering the content I want.

Resigned because I’m realistic about the economic forces at play and the struggle for advertising-based mediums to survive right now. I get it with the new printing press and the smaller physical paper in width and height. I’m resigned to a thinner paper because newsrooms are shrinking unfortunately. Every day it seems we lose a good local journalist. While the size shrinkage makes sense (and makes it easier for me to fold and tuck the paper into my bag) the content shrinkage is still tough to accept.

Gowler said, “I hope you find lots to like in the changes we’ve made. I hope you can be understanding of the ones you don’t like. (We don’t like some of them, either.)”I appreciate the honesty with this one because there are several things I don’t like.

In particular, the lowering in importance of the Business Page which has been sliding in this direction for months. I can’t understand how the Valley’s largest media entity can state a commitment to small business and the growing of the Valley’s economy while dismissing business coverage to the back of the Sports section.

In local TV news we often discussed doing away with the local sports segment because the majority of sports interest was satisfied through ESPN. I love sports (Steelers. Longhorns & Mets in particular if you don’t know already) but have a tough time believing that local sports coverage and reprinted national sports are a bigger story than the economic forces that impact our region. (Well, outside of Bronco season at least!)

My other issue is the lack of explanation of how the Statesman’s overhaul is playing out online. There have been changes to the website in recent days – but this wasn’t highlighted in the Sunday column or Monday insert. No mention of the more prominent placement of multi-media elements and blogs.

Kudos to the Statesman for placing greater emphasis on these elements of news gathering and information sharing. And props too for framing content in a ‘news you can use’ consumer-focused slant. But what about taking it a step further? Bring these elements to the top of the landing page. To raise the credibility of the conversations on the Statesman site change the story comment policy to discourage anonymous postings that drag the debates into the mud. Consider the model that the New York Times is adopting by embracing community blogs. Integrate the core and the social to create something new that can take the information sharing in our Valley forward.

The last time I wrote about our local media landscape, I think many people mistakenly believed I was lambasting the Statesman. That is not true. I want our local media to succeed. In a Twitter conversation about the demise of the Rocky Mountain News a communications peer said
‘Not sure any business has a special right to exist. So why are so many lamenting newspapers shutting down?’

My response  ‘Well, it is the 4th estate & the practice of journalism is protected by the Constitution… think that makes it significant’
But the best response came from another peer who said ‘I fear a day when the only info we receive comes from sources we’ve filtered to fit our biases.

There is a place for citizen journalism and social content – but there is also a place for tried and true journalism. What our forefathers thought of when they protected the free press.

But the channels for delivery and the demands of the audience have changed. We are all trying to find our way.