I’ve Moved!


After weeks of brainstorming, scribbling on post-its, and bouncing ideas off my colleague, I’ve officially moved and “re-branded” to www.pr-notes.com.  Join me there!


I recently attended an incredibly eye-opening program on internal social media policy, and I have to tell you, it wasn’t for the nervous nillies (dare I say weak-hearted?) managers out there who wish they could outright ban employee social media use.  Get this: a lawyer—from a reputable law firm, with an “Esq.” after his name, and no, he hasn’t appeared in any “Heavy Hitters” commercials that I know of—advised NOT to outright ban social media.  Can I get an #OMG?!

Social media in the workplace is a messy issue, but fear of the unknown should never dictate office policy.  An organization that does not educate its employees on the risks and rewards of social media and encourage responsible usage is doing itself a huge disservice.  This is particularly true when the organization itself has a Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook account of its own.  Why should outsiders follow, watch or comment when internal employees aren’t allowed to?

An employee misusing social media to the detriment of an organization is a staff issue, not an IT issue.  The funny thing is, you probably already have a policy in place in the form of a code of ethics, standards of conduct, or some other HR document (which may be available on that thing nobody visits…the intranet, they call it?).  If employees aren’t allowed to yell trade secrets or client information on the street corner, they aren’t allowed to tweet that information, either.  When an issue does arise (because it will), what needs to be emphasized is the message, not the medium.

Examples I’ve seen of social media use gone awry are often the result of a misinformed or uneducated employee.  An employer would do well to make it clear to employees that any public information on their social media profiles is public to everyone, not just their intended audience.  This includes supervisors, board members, clients, donors, and future employers (and these days, who knows how soon the “future” may be).  Just as an employee is expected to take responsibility for their actions IRL, they should be expected to take responsibility for online actions as well.

Or you could just tell employees that if they wouldn’t want their grandma seeing it (WARNING: may be offensive to some readers…and hilarious to others), maybe it’s best to keep quiet.

It’s been a while, but I have an excuse.  Around Thanksgiving I decided to embark on the increasingly popular holiday tradition of getting a second job to survive the season (financially-speaking…emotionally, I was an overworked, overtired, stressed-out mess).  Admittedly, choosing retail may not have been the smartest idea.  But pulling 70+ hours a week made me realize a few things.  Among them:

  1. I could never be a lawyer, a doctor, or hold any other occupation that required working extensive hours.
  2. Otherwise normal, rational people will turn hostile and belligerent in an effort to save a few bucks. And guess what? There’s a whole line of them trying to use 4 coupons at a time.
  3. Corporations do not always make it easy for their employees to provide consumers with the best service possible.  Why?  Because profit is still #1, and customer service will never take its place.
  4. Those people who stay home and shop online? One word. Smart.
  5. Minimum wage and a sick discount hardly make up for working the day after Christmas.

My last part-time job was for an energy drink company.  I was paid $10 an hour to essentially drive around with my best friends in a cool car to hand out free product.  There was minimal supervision and ample chances to screw around, but despite that, we always did a bang-up job.  We loved and believed in the product, we felt lucky to have such a great job, and we clamored at the opportunity to perform outside our normal responsibilities.  This is in stark contrast to my current part-time position, where minimal work is both tolerated and facilitated.

Why do these disparities exist?  A couple of thoughts:

…is way, way, way more important than anyone gives it credit for.  Orientation is NOT the same thing as training.  It’s NOT showing some one where the bathroom is, giving them a mug full of candy and saying, “Have a nice first day!”  Effective orientation, as my friend puts it, gets new employees to “drink the Kool-Aid.”  First impressions go a long way, and its your best shot to build a passionate, knowledgeable employee.

…is the crucial step after orientation where you tell your employee exactly what he or she will be doing.  For example, how to fold a sweater.  I’ve seen managers skip or rush through training, and then wonder why their employees are useless.

Attitude of Upper Management
Complacent managers = complacent workers.  It’s a simple equation.  If a manager cares about the good of the organization, their employees are more likely to care, too.

Opportunities to Grow
It’s not all raises and promotions.  It’s training opportunities, special privileges, invitations to otherwise closed-door meetings or an opportunity to develop a new idea.  Managers know this, but they rarely actually do it.

Clearly, there’s much more to effective employee management than these four factors, but at the very least, it’s a good place to start.

Twitter cracks me up because I’ve found a lot of the conversation is centered around…Twitter.  As if tweeting weren’t enough, we also have to talk about the fact that we’re doing it, how we’re doing it, how we can do it better, and how it’s going to change everything we’ll ever do for the rest of our collective lives.  It’s gotten to the point where I consciously avoid tweeting about Twitter, just for a change of pace.

Having said that, I’m going to break my own rule and blog about it.  Here’s the thing about social media: it is only a communication tool.  Social media is not the message itself, but rather the mechanism for delivering a message.  Not only that, social media is a tool for TWO-WAY communication.  Which means, perhaps, that we should listen to our stakeholders and consumers as much as we talk (better yet: listen MORE than we talk).

The question that’s often skipped over when an organization makes the decision to jump on the social media bandwagon is WHY that organization should jump on in the first place.  If it’s because everyone else is doing it, or because some Board member’s grandson is on Twitter and heard it was the next cool thing, then it’s not going to be successful.  There has to be a reason for reaching out: to tell a story, spread a message, reach out to new audiences, connect with like-minded people or communicate with consumers.

After all, if you have nothing worthwhile to say, why would you say it to the whole world?  No one sends out bulk mailings just to say “hi!” or writes press releases when there’s nothing to report on.  The most intelligent communicators I know are the ones who keep their mouth shut when they have nothing to contribute.

For example: if you tweet for a nonprofit, don’t tweet about how nonprofits can tweet effectively.  Instead, use that information and…tweet effectively.  Be the example.  Nobody likes “that guy” who talks just to hear the sound of his own voice…so don’t let your organization’s Twitter feed be “that guy.”

I celebrated my birthday last week and decided it would be a good time to reflect on the past year—my achievements, obstacles overcome (or not) and lessons learned.  For my sake (and probably yours), we’re going to skip the personal stuff and move right onto my professional life.

This past year, I’ve celebrated my one-year anniversary at a new job, survived (and hopefully will continue to survive) tough economic times, and learned more about the business world than four years of college could ever teach me.

In my reflection, I acknowledged missed opportunities, including the vast amount of information that passes right through me on a daily basis.  I’m constantly reading articles online, but I almost always find myself saying, “I feel like I read something about that somewhere…” when the topic comes up in conversation.

I’ve made mistakes that I still sometimes make, like e-mailing when I should have called or failing to follow-up with some one who deserved my time.  It doesn’t occur often, but it shouldn’t occur at all.  My biggest resolution for my next birthday is to correct both of these missteps.  One that will NEVER happen again: running through an icy parking lot in heels at 8:31am.  And for good measure, one that probably will: forgetting to water my boss’ plants while he’s on vacation.

I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished, both big (acing my annual performance review, managing my organization’s social media presence) and small (knowing how to fill out a Purchase Order).  I may not feel older or wiser, but I do feel like an adult, or a “real person” as my friends say.  I’m contributing a small, albeit important, portion of my salary to a 401K.  My boss knows he can count on me to get things done.  And at the end of the day, I’m confident in my ability to manage my life—with the necessary support from family and friends, of course (thanks!).

Looking back was also a good reminder to keep pushing forward.  There are still things I want to learn—web design and HTML, for example.  Or even how to properly operate my telephone.  Speaking of which—all you Norstar users out there, does anyone know how to make an outgoing call while having some one else on hold?  Given all that I’ve gained, grown from, and learned in the past year, I can only have high hopes for the next.

I’ve been asked to participate in a panel discussion about attracting and engaging the “40 below” board member and volunteer, and I thought this would be the best place to gather my thoughts.  I have a lot of them on this subject.

First, let’s try to avoid generational stereotypes as much as possible in this conversation.  I’m not entirely innocent from this, but it is something I am conscious of.  Second, recruiting anyone for anything solely because of their age is wrong.  Having a token board member for any reason—their age, race, gender, profession—is also wrong.

If its decided that having some “young blood” on your Board would bring in fresh ideas, rejuvenate current leadership, and challenge the status quo, great.  But keep in mind that not all young minds can do that, and there are probably a number of 60-year-olds out there that can.

That being said, I wholeheartedly support the idea of having passionate, driven, connected people on Boards—no matter their age.  So here’s the breakdown of getting some one like that who just happens to be below 40:

Recruit a 40-below board member the same way you would recruit a 40-above board member:  use your existing connections to find and meet some one who would be a good fit for the organization.  To build a relationship with that person, start small.  Get them acquainted with the organization, its mission and its people by inviting them to help out at an event or join a committee.  Actually listen to what they have to say about their experience.  Explore their passions.  Consider their skills and connections.

When making the ask, clearly outline the organization’s expectations.  Is there a required financial contribution?  Is there an attendance policy?  Will they be asked to call donors or speak publicly on behalf of the organization?  Then find out their expectations of the organization and board membership, what they’d like to see happen, and how they envision their involvement.  (See my last post on creating mutually beneficial relationships.)

Do not, do not, do not treat a below 40 board member as the token “young” person.  Don’t use the word “young.”  Don’t ask them to be a spokesperson for their entire generation.  Don’t just act like you value their contribution—actually value it.  Treat their thoughts, questions, concerns, time and money as equal to anyone else’s.

The best way to recognize anyone effectively is to ask them how they like to be recognized.  Age isn’t the only factor in considering how some one should be thanked.  It’s obvious and a little weird, but asking some one “How do you like to be recognized?” is important, particularly if they don’t like public thank-you’s or accepting gifts.  Some board members would get a kick out of being photographed for marketing materials.  Others just want a hand-written thank you letter from the ED every year.  Better an appreciative volunteer than an embarrassed one.

I love that organizations are starting to recognize the value in having volunteers of all ages involved on a board level, including those 40 and below.  Young people have the passion and ability to make meaningful contributions to their communities, and the organization that taps into that resource will be better off for it.

I recently had a discussion with my boss about a friendship I felt I had grown out of—we had grown in different directions and I was often left on the short end of our one-sided relationship.  My boss said something that struck me—that if you’re not uplifted or better off because of that person, then it’s ok to move on.

Work and personal relationships operate on different levels, but the end goal should always be the same:  both parties should benefit.  One-sided relationships are ticking time bombs: unstable, unpredictable, and usually leave some one feeling slighted.

I’m adverse to the term “mutually beneficial” –it’s a bit too corporate-speak for my tastes–but that’s exactly what a relationship should be.  When I get frustrated with a co-worker, colleague, or friend, it’s often because I feel they’re not bringing anything to the table.  (The line, “Help me help you” comes to mind.)  However, I should also be asking myself the same question—am I helping them achieve their goals?  When I sense tension, it’s usually because one of us isn’t feeling the love, and that person isn’t always me.

As a PR practitioner, do you help a reporter out as often as you ask something of them?  As a manager, do you assist your employees in advancing their career with professional development opportunities?  As a volunteer manager, are you properly thanking your volunteers?

Taking the time to listen to and understand some one else’s needs before launching into a diatribe about your own seems counterintuitive to getting what you want—but more often then not, fulfilling their needs will also help you in the end.  Helping out a reporter could get you great coverage.  Sending your employee to a statewide conference could bring in new business.  Showing your volunteers what a difference they made could have them clamoring to come back.

Whether personal or work-related, asking yourself what you’re bringing to the table in a relationship can often be the difference between breaking it off completely or growing together in new and exciting ways.