Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reinventing Ourselves

“The Career Re-Invention Workshop: Making the Leap to Your Post-Journalism Career”

University of Washington, Seattle, 9:00am-12:00

The Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) named the program “the Career Re-invention Workshop.”, one of the event’s sponsors, provided door prizes that reminded attendees that our “calling is calling.” Whatever the tag line, the morning was full of sage advice for professionals transitioning from one world to another in a turbulent economy. Especially designed for journalists seeking new career opportunities, the workshop was useful for everyone trying to reimagine themselves.

I was glad to be there.

The nine speakers on two moderated panels told candid stories of their own transitions. They shared vivid accounts of being humbled and let us glimpse the stresses of bleeding their savings while trying to follow their passions. Such directness gave their take-home messages gravitas.

Among others: Be positive. See the challenges of lay-offs and industry implosions as opportunities. Keep learning, always. Volunteer. Own the process. Define who you are by the skills and successes you have, not by the jobs you’ve done or the titles you’ve held. Promote yourself.

Great SABJ care went into organizing the morning sessions. The first panel, moderated by Paul Hollie, Vice-President for Public Relations at Safeco (right), included four speakers:

  • Alex Fryer, Media Relations Manager for the Office of Mayor Greg Nickels;
  • Justin Carder, Vice President for Business Development at Instivate;
  • Hugo Kugiya, former national reporter for Newsday and the Associated Press, and currently a freelance journalist; and
  • Gary Washburn, former sports reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The panelists (left) described in detail their own experiences of moving out of one successful and satisfying career and into—or toward, for those whose transitions are not yet complete—another.

The second session provided us with an inside view from the other side of the hiring desk—straight talk from recruiters and hiring managers about what they are looking for in competitive job candidates.

Moderated by Raina Wagner from the Seattle Times, this panel included:

  • Scott Battishill, Senior Vice President of DDB;
  • Jack Evans, Director of Public Relations for Legal and Policy Issues at Microsoft;
  • Natasha Jones, Deputy Communications Director for the Office of the King County Executive;
  • Susan Long-Walsh, principal of her own recruiting firm; and
  • Rhonda Woods, Human Resources Recruiter for Seattle University.
The speakers shared lots of practical tips on effective resume-writing and self-branding, on traditional interview strategies and on ways to harness new social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to build one’s professional presence.

Following the public panel sessions, three recruiters met with individuals to review and critique their current resumes.

I attended this morning’s workshop because the SABJ had reached out to invite members from the PRSA Puget Sound Chapter. I very much appreciate that courtesy, and am grateful for the chance to participate in such an excellent program. It was balanced, authoritative, encouraging, and practical. More than that, the planning team from SABJ made us all feel welcome and valued, sharing in the duress and promise of the stressed economy. It was a community-building event, and the informal conversations with speakers and audience members during the breaks and following the formal sessions only enriched our shared sense of having been present for something very good.

Only a little sheepishly, I must add too that I came away with one of the cool door prizes.

Rich Murphy, PhD, APR

Member, Board of Directors

PRSA Puget Sound

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Listen: 20 Tips and Tricks

Open Boat Advertising's Bruce Bulloch allows us to revisit the March meeting's 20 Tips & Tricks from top Puget Sound area communicators via podcast.

Thank you, Bruce, for helping us capture the great information provided to our members!

Review other PRSA Puget Sound program podcasts here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

After the event: April kitchen table discussion on sustainability

"As a society, we've always assumed that growth is both in inevitable and positive: 'bigger is better,' 'you grow or you die.' When our economies sour, as they inevitable do, we simply look for new technologies, new resources, and new consumers. In America we have always been able to go west whenever we needed more breathing space or more virgin groves of trees to cut or more prairies to till. Now, we hunt new export markets and new Third World resources for raw materials. Free trade is replacing the microchip as our new savior. But Third World resources are close to exhaustion, and many world economies, burdened by debt, are no longer viable dumping grounds for our manufactured goods."
-Yvon Chouinard in Patagonia: The Next Hundred Years.

So what is sustainability and how are companies communicating sustainable practices?

PRSA members, students and guests gathered this morning at The Seattle Times for a kitchen table discussion about this challenging topic.

Sheryl Wiser of Cascade Harvest moderated a panel including: Marty McDonald, the founder and Creative Director of egg; Hilary Bromberg, egg strategic director; Bryan Cohen, founding partner of Colehour+Cohen; and Elisa Murray, director of communications for Global Partnerships.

Left to right: Elisa Murray, Marty McDonald, Hilary Bromberg, Bryan Cohen

In an effort to define sustainability, panelists explained how communicators need to understand the idea of a product or service's life cycle. They encouraged professionals to consider how business can create prosperity that won't come at an expense to future generations.

"Sustainability is defined," McDonald said, "But unattainable."

McDonald emphasized that companies are 'course correcting' with a willingness to put effort into doing business in a less unsustainable state. He asked audience members to consider Patagonia's 100-year business plan and think about what companies can do to ensure that people seven generations from now can maintain the same quality of life that they have today.

Unfortunately, companies today communicate with undefined terms (e.g. local, green, natural, eco-friendly, etc...) to promote brands that may not deliver.

"[Companies] put out these good words and people, by association, will come to see your company as a good company," McDonald said.

In reality, people are confused by the terms that are out there.

There's a confluence of things in people heads, Murray explained. People combine and confuse the ideals of social responsibility, health, simple living and control, and we find that there is a conscious consumer continuum of what people understand.

"It is our mission as communicators to close that gap," Cohen said.

The best businesses are:

1. Inclusive- Companies that address the social, economic and environmental "triple bottom line".

2. Hold values company-wide- Companies that are committed to their values from the top down and the bottom up.

3. Engage in a dialogue about progress- Companies that let consumers know where they've been, where they are and where they're headed.

4. Walking the walk- Rather than throwing out words, successful businesses integrate sustainable values into the decisions they make.

5. Understand their higher calling- Companies that know what the social and environmental impact of their product or service is and are aware of the true cost of that impact.

The discussion of sustainability (environmental+social+economic) is not a fad. As communicators, the panelists encouraged due diligence and effective research.

How do you figure out what you don't know and what you can't answer and then address those weaknesses? This is our responsibility as professionals.

Elisa Murray & Sheryl Wiser

PRSA Board Member, Bev Holland, speaks to event attendees

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Media Relations in the Shrinking World of Media

We had another packed house at the PRSA Puget Sound South Sound group today. Communicators at varying levels of new media adoption joined a lively group of speakers to hear about the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly changing media landscape.

Our speakers?

- Hunter George, Pierce County Communications Director (formerly with The News Tribune)

- Breanne Coats, Associate Editor, Business Examiner

- Aaron Blank, Vice President of Media Relations, The Fearey Group

Rather than recap the event, I'll share a couple of random links based on today's discussion:

Aaron Blank's blog

Exit 133

A Twitter primer — in way more than 140 characters

Learn how to get video on your boss's radar

Shrinking world update