July 22, 2014

Quarter Life Sabbatical, Part III: Austria & Italy 1.0

After our time in England and Wales (which you can read about here), my mom and I flew to Austria. And thus began the start of our trip when we really felt like foreigners, in a country neither of us had been before and unable to speak the language. Try as I might over the course of our three-day stay, I just couldn’t get the hang of German.

At the top of "The Homecoming" above Waldhausen, Austria.

At the top of “The Homecoming” above Waldhausen, Austria.

I learned a few important words, though. Ready? Hallo, bier, ice, salat, kaffe, super and danke schoen (thank you very much). Luckily, “WC” (water closet) or toilet/toilette seems to be the universal phrase for bathroom, so all the bases are covered.

The only semi-sentence I’m able to string together is “an der schönen blauen Donau,” which means “on the beautiful blue Danube.” It is the actual name for the “Danube Waltz” by Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, which happened to be the song I played on the piano at Basildon Park in England a few days earlier. The Danube winds beautifully through Austria, and seeing it in person now brings new meaning to the song.

Burg Clam, a castle where we listened to Bob Dylan perform.

Burg Clam, a castle near Waldhausen, and where we attended a Bob Dylan concert.

We stayed in a village called Waldhausen, located about 1 hour from Vienna and the home to my mom’s cousin’s wife’s family (follow that?). Our arrival day was also a 70th birthday celebration, so we met many family and friends right away. Unfortunately, the language barrier kept us from talking as much as we’d like to, but it was interesting to be a part of Austrian culture.

After a barbecue of meats, cheeses and vegetables, accompanied with salads and sauerkrats, we sampled many kinds of homemade cakes and schnapps — traditional liqueurs made from fruits or nuts. Later in the evening, the older generations circled around a table and sang Austrian folk songs. Again, it would have been nice to understand all the words, but I appreciated observing the tradition. Afterward, the tables in the garage were cleared to make room for a dance floor and the younger crowd (myself included) boogied to some multicultural beats — from Journey and Jason Derulo to the latest French pop.

To add to the mix of culture, the next day we attended a Bob Dylan concert at Burg Clam, a castle near Waldenhausen. A bit ironic, yes. The venue was spectacular — even, unfortunately, in the rain. And as for Mr. Dylan, if my mom and I, as native English speakers, had difficulty understanding him at times, the Austrians must have really had it tough. Aside from sounding a bit croaky, I think the music legend gets kudos for being up on stage still doing what he loves.

Fields of sunflowers flanking the highway on our drive through Italy.

Fields of sunflowers flanking the highway on our drive through Italy.

Prior to the concert, we drove to Dürnstein, a wine region with terraced vineyards on the hillside that slope down into the Danube. Austria’s green scenery reminds me of Oregon. Both places share similar economic drivers in timber export and wine production, too. Austria might take the lead for the most well-manicured place I’ve ever been, though — even the hay fields look like they’ve been combed with precision. It’s not as much of a holiday destination for Europeans as it used to be, but the homes, yards and guesthouses are kept like they could take in visitors at any moment. And it’s affordable, too. I’ll be back to this gem, as long as I travel with someone who can speak German.

Road trip to  Italy
After our short stay in Waldhausen, we began our road trip to Italy with my mom’s cousin Daniel and his wife, Ida. To further confirm my thoughts about Austria’s pristine existence, we pulled into a beautiful rest stop — yes, a beautiful rest stop — just before the Austrian/Italian border. We enjoyed a restaurant meal with fresh salad bar offerings and orchids in the bathroom. This was a far cry from the rest stop in the desert between Arizona and California, which my family avoids unless absolutely necessary, as we’ve deemed it the “fly stop” (use your imagination) and we know we don’t need anything from the vending machine.

A beautiful and delicious caprese salad in Modena. A.k.a., what I'd like to call the leaning tower of cheese-a.

A beautiful and delicious caprese salad in Modena. A.k.a., what I’d like to call the leaning tower of cheese-a.

We crossed into Italy via a highway that twisted alongside the Dolomites — rugged mountains where battles waged between Austrians and Italians during World War I. As we traveled closer to the Mediterranean, the terraced vineyards continued, but the architecture of homes embedded in the hills changed into colorful stucco and terracotta roofs. And then the signs of a less prosperous country began to show, as the road maintenance slacked and rest stops weren’t as glamorous.

We spent our first Italian night in Modena, home of balsamic vinegar, parmigianno romano and proscuttio. Navigating the roads to find a hotel required a bit of effort as now all of us were in new territory and none of us speak the native tongue. After checking in, we went on a stroll in search of dinner and stumbled upon a top-notch restaurant in an old town square. And thus begins the indulgence of delicious Italian food.

Our three-course meal started with Modena’s customary piece of fried parmesan topped with a droplet of balsamico. Our caprese salad looked like the leaning tower of cheese-a, designed with layers of sun-dried tomato and basil blanketed between slices of mozzerella. My main course was traditional ravioli with a parmesan cream sauce, ricotta and ham. Our dessert choice of tiramisu was disappointing actually; I’ve had better in the states. It was presented beautifully, though, another layered tower.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Human statues posing near the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Human statues posing near the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The next day, we continued south toward Naples, with a stop in Pisa to see the leaning tower. What I liked most was all the people posing for the must-have photo of propping up the tower. Take away the tower and you’d have a field of human statues, smiling in a frozen martial arts pose. I had to do it too, of course. For lunch, we had pizza on a patio with the tower behind us. Pizza at Pisa.

Rome  to Naples
Arriving in Rome, you’re greeted with the contrast of apartment complexes smashed against asphalt streets and cars parked alongside ancient stone walls that once circled the city. We arrived in time for dinner and took the hotel concierge’s recommendation to taxi to a plaza with numerous restaurant options and street entertainment.

The taxi ride is more important to discuss than food in this chapter. Our driver, who we nicknamed Mario Andretti by the end of our 12.1 minutes with him, raced us back to the hotel like we were in a high-speed chase. There seem to be few rules to the road here, and even fewer if you’re on a scooter. While dodging scooters and buses, car drivers must also look out for pedestrians, who seem to take the right of way, whether they’ve looked both ways before crossing or not. A few days after Rome, we discovered this dodge-the-bullet road game was also the case even on narrow mountain roads along the Amalfi Coast.

The next morning in Rome, we took ourselves on a quick tour of the Colessuem, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Trevi Fountain (which unfortunately is under construction and drained of all water). It’s incredible to walk on pavement that criss-crosses through, around and over what used to be the center of the world.

Continuing to Naples the following day, we continued our history lesson by visiting Pompei. It’s another incredible experience to walk through what used to be a bustling city center, now uncovered from Mt. Vesuvius’ volcanic ash. Grooves from carts are still visible in the streets and detailed mosaics, paintings and sculptures adorn interior walls. To withstand such a test of time, the precision and durability of construction is impressive. Much of today’s modern construction probably isn’t built to such standards!

The bit of Naples that we saw leaves a bit to be desired, but we did enjoy a nice dinner by the harbor. We were the first at dinner around 6 p.m., but by 9 p.m. (because dinner can take up to 3 hours, easily), the atmosphere was bustling. On the restaurant patio, we had front row seats to watch the locals saunter by in their trendy Italian fashion. It’s a different style and pace of life here — a bit romantic and carefree.image

Next to come in Italy 2.0 is sailing the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Cinque Terre and Venice.






June 30, 2014

Quarter-Life Sabbatical, part II

Retirement in Wales … and Tales of British Food

After leaving London (you can read about our stay there in blog post #1), we visited family in Reading and then headed to Wales — new territory for me. The border between Wales and England isn’t very distinct. After an hour-long train ride from Reading (the train was probably moving at upwards of 100 mph — hello, efficient public transport), my mom’s Uncle David collected us from the Bristol Parkway station. A short car ride over the River Severn and we had entered Wales. It’s like entering into a different county in the U.S. The biggest tip off that you’re in a new region is the signage, which displays both English and Welsh. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the latter (the Welsh might say that of the former). “Croeso” is “Welcome,” and “Ceir Parc” is the most similar I’ve seen yet — “Car Park” (that’s British for parking lot).

Uncle David and Mom sitting on the border  between Wales and England (Mom's in England).

Uncle David and Mom sitting on the border between Wales and England (Mom’s in England).


And then there are the sheep. Uncle David says there are 20 million sheep in Wales — that’s five times the human population. They graze along the hills, as white speckles against vivid green, everywhere you look. The only time you may not see them is while driving along the toothpick-thin roads that are lined with 8-foot hedging (which is almost every road I’ve seen), but I promise you, they’re behind the green wall. Aside from acting as lawn mowers, sheep’s primary contribution to society is the meat market. Welsh lamb is sought-after all over the “continent,” as my Great Uncle refers to  Europe.

By the way, I think I’m now used to seeing drivers on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road, but my heart did sink several times the first few days when I saw oncoming traffic in what I thought at first was our lane. Also, fun fact (thanks to the guide of our London tour bus) — Romans first built the roads in London and designed them to fit a certain rank and file of soldiers. With most soldiers being right-handed, they thought it important that the “passing lane” should be on the right, so that if battle engaged during the transition, swords were at the ready. I’m waiting to see a sword-holster on the driver’s door; that would give new meaning to aggressive driving.

View from Uncle David and Aunt Terry's backyard. The 20 million sheep are there somewhere, I promise.

View from Uncle David and Aunt Terry’s backyard. The 20 million sheep are there somewhere, I promise.

Anyway, Uncle David and Aunt Terry retired to Wales about 20 years ago. They live near a small village called Hay-on-Wye, which is also known as the “Town of Books.” There are 23 shops for used books in the village of probably no more than 36 storefronts. Thursday is market day, so we joined the weekly excursion to town to purchase fresh produce, meat, dairy and bread. Mom and I put our postcards in the mail, then stopped for tea and wi-fi at a small cafe. Terry and David bumped into a few friends of theirs — it’s a village of 1,700 so market day is somewhat of a social outing.

"The hills are alive with the sound of..." Oh wait, not in that country yet.  David & Terry's bungalow is the little white one almost directly where my right arm is pointing. Their village is just outside of Hay-on-Wye.

“The hills are alive with the sound of…” Oh wait, not in that country yet.
David & Terry’s bungalow is the little white one almost directly where my right arm is pointing. Their village is just outside of Hay-on-Wye.


The reward of these locally-sourced meals we’re having is perhaps beyond written description. Uncle David is a phenomenal cook, although he’ll tell you this is just everyday homestyle cooking that’s “a bit rustic and nothing fancy.” We had Hereford beef slow-braised in red wine the first night (see photo below); the second night was sea bass, which is a local favorite that looks and tastes like light salmon and has a short season of only three months; and the last was venison, especially for another family member who joined us from Liverpool, three hours away.

All of these meals are paired with a fine wine from France’s Cote de Rhone Valley, where David and Terry, who are both fluent in French and have enjoyed many trips there, deem as the best wine source of the country. If that’s not enough, just when you think you’ve saved room for dessert, out comes the salad and Welsh cheeses (customary European style for salad after a main course.

At least dessert has been the simple elegance of organic vanilla ice cream drizzled with raspberry couli and topped with locally grown berries. However, after several spoonfuls, looking into my bowl at the remains, never have five raspberries looked so intimidating. I think if my sides had seams, they would have been bursting, but no way could I let those jewels go to waste. Down the hatch they went and straight to bed I went soon after.


The leftovers of a traditional British/French dish of beef bourguignon. (Sorry it's not a more artistic picture; Uncle David is strictly against digital cameras, so I had to sneak this one after dinner.)

I’m not sure how to translate this label except for: GOOD.

The leftovers of a traditional British/French dish of beef bourguignon. (Sorry it's not a more artistic picture; Uncle David is strictly against the use of iAnythings as cameras, so I had to sneak this one after dinner.)

The leftovers of a traditional British/French dish of beef bourguignon. (Sorry it’s not a more artistic picture; Uncle David is strictly against the use of iAnythings as cameras, so I had to sneak this one after dinner.)

Chicken & mushroom pie: five-star rating; the first and best savory pie of my stay in England. Above is "bangers & mash," sausages and mashed potatoes -- a traditional dish of my mom's choice.

Chicken & mushroom pie: five-star rating; the first and best savory pie of my stay in England. Above is “bangers & mash,” sausages and mashed potatoes — a traditional dish of my mom’s choice.

If you’ve read Eat, Pray, Love, remember when she’s in Italy eating so much that she has to buy all new clothes? Well, my clothes still fit, but they might not by the time I get to Italy. I’m obeying doctor’s orders. Before I left the states, she said I better gain some weight and that pasta in Italy would do the trick. I took a shortcut, two countries early.

Aside from Uncle David’s food, take a look at what else I’ve been eating. Here are the savory pies that put Marie Callendar’s to shame. (Vegetarians, be warned.)

1. Chicken & Mushroom

2. Steak, Bacon & Ale

3. Cottage Pie (minced beef topped with mashed potatoes & cheddar. Similarly, Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with minced lamb; I just learned that after years of my mom making Shepherd’s pie with beef.)

4. Mutton Pie (sheep)

I’ve also had a ploughman’s lunch (see picture below), fish & chips, a brie & vegetable tart, grilled chicken salad with mango chutney and butternut squash soup.

A ploughman's lunch, the field workers' traditional selection: cheese, bread, butter, chutney, pickled onions, apples and some veggies. Sometimes ham, too. The beer was a lager of some sort, not what the coaster boasts.

A ploughman’s lunch, the field workers’ traditional selection: cheese, bread, butter, chutney, pickled onions, apples and some veggies. Sometimes ham, too. The beer was a lager of some sort, not what the coaster boasts.

If you think British food is bad, then I think you’ve either gone to the wrong establishments or ordered wrong. Or you have the wrong relatives.

I’d like to learn a thing or two from Uncle David’s cooking, but he won’t take any help in the kitchen. Instead, before dinner, he props us up with a glass of Champagne on the back patio. We also take afternoon tea there, admiring picturesque hills in the distance and a slight breeze carrying the tune of chirping birds. The only disturbance of peace of mind is the occasional jet that flies low overhead from the British Air Force base, which is located somewhere nearby.

We’ve been wickedly lucky with the weather. Sunshine provides panoramic visibility that Uncle David says is perfect, and we only realized it for ourselves on our last day when the clouds rolled in. The weather and terrain reminds me of the Willamette Valley, for all you Oregonians out there.

They say you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. I suppose I’m that girl. Exploring London was great fun, but I do prefer the scenery outside the city. After this sabbatical and getting back to work, I think it would be a good idea to retire here, too.

Next up: Austria.

January 4, 2014

What is PR? It’s like a broccoli tree forest

Image: I hate broccoli (Getty/Rosemarie Gearhart)

Photo: Rosemarie Gearhart/Getty Images

Remember all those nights as a kid when you pushed broccoli around your dinner plate because you didn’t want to eat it? Maybe PR could have helped you swallow it down.

What is PR?

PR – Public Relations. That’s the name of the game I’ve been in, professionally, for almost three years now. Time flies when you’re … making broccoli tree forests. More to come on that topic in a moment.

Here’s the definition from Public Relations Society of America: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

(Fun fact: I once had this definition memorized for a final exam in a college PR class.)

That definition is broad and vague, right? Right. OK. Let’s break it down.

No blame to PRSA; they have a tough task at hand to pinpoint our industry’s work. This is because the foundation of PR is communication. And what, in life, doesn’t require communication? Nothing. It’s e-v-e-r-y-where.

That shareholder letter you read from a CEO last quarter – a PR pro wrote it. The website about a new gadget you want to buy – PR pro. Story on the cereal box – PR. Article in the local newspaper – may have started on a PR pro’s desk. Reason you’re voting for that ballot measure – yep, PR. This blog post – you get the point.

Photo from dreamstime

Photo: dreamstime

PR is a broccoli tree forest
Some say PR is “spin,” and then it gets a bad rap. Well, I’m here to tell you that spinning can actually bring out some good. Like on the dancefloor. And in blenders. Or when your mom encouraged you to eat broccoli by making it look like a tree forest.

That last example most closely exemplifies PR “spin.” Forgive me for simplifying, but play with this imaginary case study:

  • The PR pro: Mom
  • The organization she represents: HealthyFamiliesRUs
  • One of the organization’s publics: Child
  • Goal of HealthyFamilesRUs: Increase children’s daily intake of vegetables
  • PR pro’s tactic: Make broccoli fun

Mom, being the PR pro shes is, knows the target audience (her child) well. So she creates a message, probably both spoken and visually, that is tailored to her audience’s interest and knowledge. The child, in turn, has fun while consuming more nutrients.

Mom developed something that was mutually beneficial to both her organization and its public.

Of course, for this logic to be logical, we have to all agree that eating miniature green trees is beneficial. There will be some who dislike broccoli no matter what, so there’s a lesson there, too: no campaign will successfully win the favor of the entire universe, regardless of how clever the PR pro is.

So how does public relations work:

  1. Understand your client’s goal. Maybe it’s to increase sales, boost attendance at an event, raise awareness about a cause, or pass a ballot measure.
  2. Learn what makes the target audience tick and in what scenario they’ll be most likely to listen to your client’s message. Use this knowledge to craft the campaign.
  3. Get third-party endorsement. A key factor in successful PR campaigns, third-party endorsement is basically peer or public influence. For a fundraising event, let’s say, the media and local businesses support it, so your audience decides it’s a good idea to attend. With the broccoli example, the third-party nudge may come from Junior’s older sister. If she likes the forest, maybe he will, too.

At the end of the day, the hope is to have created win-wins for everyone involved – clients and the publics that are integral to their success. Smiles all around. That, for me, is what makes the work rewarding. Plus, I like broccoli.

July 29, 2012

One year, countless lessons, and more to come

Learning to appreciate transitions, like a tree grows and evolves with time and the changing winds. Oregon Country Fair 2012

For if we begin trying to read the ending, then we never know how to start. And, if I know one thing, you must start before you finish. And, while something is ending, something else is always beginning.

I’m getting all Dr. Seuss on you. Wrap your mind around it. The past couple weeks, I’ve been thinking these thoughts lots.

On August 1, I celebrate my first birthday — of my “big girl job.”

I’ll also rejoice for life in a new abode with three friends, after a year of studio apartment living on my own.

For the past 12 months, these two things have stretched me, taught me, tested me and shown me more about who I am, how I live and what I want.

Not that I’ve come to any formal conclusions about any of that. Nor that I won’t expand upon, re-define or refine any of that in the chapter that awaits.

And, isn’t that so fun?

Change. Sometimes, it’s hard to accept. The last year has included a few challenging transitions — mostly, saying goodbye to best friends who’ve moved away and adjusting to life in the “corporate office.”

None of these transitions have been altogether negative. In fact, on-the-whole, they’ve been positive. I’m just a nostalgic person and have a hard time letting go of good things. But guess what? More good things come around, if you believe they will and stay open to them.

Find the goodness in each day and more good will come to you. Can you tell I’ve become a yogi?

Let’s be honest: There have been some rough patches in the transition — some tear-filled conversations with mom, best friends and my boss. Feelings of anxiety, doubt or longing for something else. But this confirms I’m human, that I’m not perfect — and I’m OK with that. A big thanks to those who’ve supported me and for giving me a listening ear or the words I’ve needed to hear.

One of my soon-to-be roommates and I witnessed several “lifetime bests” at the Olympic track and field trials 2012 at Historic Hayward Field.

At the Olympic track trials a month ago, I witnessed several “lifetime bests” (which is, in essence, a personal best, but sounds more hardcore). Now, I have a new personal motto:

Strive to make every day your lifetime best. You can always improve, great or small, from the person you were the day before.

This sounds HUGE. Like an overwhelming goal that we should crawl under a rock and hide from. A lifetime best? Every day?

Yes, I say. Yes. Because each day has the potential to be better than the last. A Post-It note on my bathroom mirror displays a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

Which brings me back to change — ha! Each day, we have the opportunity to branch out, to grow, to evolve, to blossom.

And if we don’t tomorrow, let’s hope for the day after that.

On to the next chapter I turn. To living with roommates who are also young explorers of their dreams, and to our adventures together. To another year in the working world, in which I’ll continue to develop both professionally and personally.

To one day at a time, and enjoying the beginning before worrying about how it ends.

Up next: What the $#%! is PR, anyway? Stay tuned, and maybe you’ll find out. Or maybe not. It’s kind of vague.

July 21, 2011

Life lessons: Becoming an official adult — no degree for that.

Titling this post was difficult because I don’t know where to start. I’m about two months overdue for publishing a personal blog post, and the time that has gone by has been a whirlwind of life changes and learning. My brain is swirling with new ideas and thoughts — mostly from my new experiences in the short while that I’ve been a college graduate and full-time employee at a marketing firm called CAWOOD. The title you see isn’t perfect because it’s contradictory; my college degree was a major step in my journey of becoming an official adult. So, in essence, there is a degree accounted for. Oh well — moving forward.

I’m not sure where my evenings go when I get off work each day, but they go fast. So, here I am again, out of time to write, about to watch the 11 p.m. news before snoozing until my 7 a.m. alarm sounds (which still isn’t easy to be happy about after four years of typical days starting with 10 a.m. classes that I could attend in my yoga pants), and I’m off to another fast-paced day in the marketing world.

And, I love it.

So stay tuned for a more extensive post about what I’ve learned in the past two months — about public relations, marketing (yes, there’s a differentiation), full-time employment, cancer survivors, health and myself.

Thank you, CAWOOD, for throwing me a graduation celebration! They invited me to wear my regalia to the festivity, so, of course I did. Check out the company blog where this picture was posted.

A few teasers for topics in the next post:

  • Call me, “Lindsey Kate, the little dynamo”
  • Post-graduation fast track: Am I ready?
  • Communication: the rules and its powers
  • Based on all the coffee cups, this must be an official office
  • News matters, really
  • Working for a client, not a grade
  • Daily inspiration from strangers (and quotes on tea bag labels)
  • Lifestyle improvements – biking and whole food cooking

Details to come soon. Toodle-loo!

May 16, 2011

Relay For Life: PR and teamwork at its finest

For the past two years, I volunteered as the Team Development Co-Chair for the University of Oregon’s Relay For Life Committee. Relay For Life is a fundraising event that raises money for the American Cancer Society. This past weekend, nearly 800 students celebrated raising more than $40,000 during UO Relay For Life 2011 ‘s 15-hour event. Teams form months before the event and fundraise by sending letters and emails to family and friends and hosting events like bake sales and sports tournaments. The day of Relay For Life is a celebration of all the money that participants have fundraised for cancer research and care, plus a day of recognition and remembrance of all who have been touched by cancer. See the Oregon Daily Emerald’s article to know more details about this year’s event.

UO Relay balloon sign and sponsor banners

My role as Team Development Co-Chair involved recruiting and retaining participants, and I was also responsible for training and motivating team captains. From “pitching” the opportunity to campus groups about getting involved, to helping teams brainstorm fundraising ideas, my job involved establishing and maintaining relationships — can you say PR? 

My work as Team Development Co-Chair wasn’t in a vacuum. It involved TEAMWORK to the max. I had a co-chair, as well as three sub-committee members working with me. Additionally, we were part of a 30-person committee that included other chair members who were each responsible for specific components of the event planning and execution. For a successful year, it required in-person meetings with our team development crew, and with the full committee, plus continuous communication via email and phone with committee members and participants.

The most important take-aways I’ve gained from my experience on the Relay For Life committee and in my role as Team Development Co-Chair are the following:

Timely communication is paramount to happy participants and fellow committee members.

When the work seems overbearing, remember WHY you are doing it — whatever that reason may be.

Additionally, take time away from the work every now and then, or at least do something social with your co-workers instead of work-related. Good relations with your co-workers leads to more fun doing work together!

Positivity is productive. Nay-sayers, complainers and grumpy-gills don’t get anything of value done. Attitude is everything.

Conflicts and challenges will arise. These are best dealt with immediately and maturely. Vent up, and work together, not against, to find solutions.

We’re human, we’re busy, we make mistakes. Forgive and move on. Be understanding and supportive. But also, keep your co-workers accountable for their responsibilities.

Be reliable and authentic. Do what you say you’ll do. Lead by example. No one will follow if you’re not exemplifying what you expect others to do.

Recognize your time to follow and your time to lead. This may depend on the mixture of personalities and talents of your team members and what responsibility you’ve taken, and it will vary based on the time and availability of others to take charge or not.

Be open to new ideas. Your brain only knows so much. That’s why you work with other people on a team.

Be thankful and show appreciation. When a co-worker or participant does something well or lends a hand, thank him or her! Those two little words go a LONG way.

A lot of us cringe at the thought of another group project. But the reality is that we need to work in teams to accomplish big goals. It may be time consuming and frustrating at times, but it can be oh-so-rewarding in the end. Yes, each individual is powerful with one heart, one mind and two hands, but we can do so much more when we combine our energies and assets. And, who knows, maybe you’ll make new friends along the way.

UO Relay For Life Committee 2011 at the end of our successful event. (I’m in bright pink on the right!)
May 3, 2011

Say “I Do” to Public Speaking

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

In spirit of the Royal Wedding, let’s talk about delivering meaningful words in front of large audiences. Let us vow, “I take you, Public Speaking, from this day forward, to love and to honor, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” These words may scare people because apparently Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking,  is greater than fear of death. I recently presented to Kelli Matthew’s Intro to PR class of 150 students, and afterward, I was asked for advice on how to calm nerves when speaking to a large audience. Here are a few techniques “I Do” to help stay poised and deliver the message effectively:

1.  You have to be familiar with the content you are going to deliver, which means take the time beforehand to prepare and practice what you’ll be saying. Also, arrive early (but not too early!) so you aren’t frantic before it’s your time to go on.

2.  Practice, Practice, Practice. Take every opportunity you can to speak in front of groups. Even if that’s just your family or friends.  Monitor how you speak one-on-one with people. Practice making eye contact and speaking clearly. This will help you when speaking to a large crowd.

3.  Even if you aren’t confident, “Fake it ’til you make it.” I can’t remember who told me this, but someone else deserves the credit. If you appear confident, the audience will respond positively which should make you calm down and actually feel more confident.

4.  Remember that you’re human and everyone you’re speaking to are humans as well (unless you’re flying to the moon to speak to aliens, in which case, I can’t help you!). We all make mistakes and forgive, so relax. You want to be there to share information and the audience wants to hear it – they’re on your side!

5.  S-L-O-W down — and accept the fact that pausing is OK. Instead of using filler words like “um,” “like,” and “uh” (yuck!), pause, collect your thoughts or that word you’re looking for and then move on.

Side note on reducing filler words: I’ve learned there are three phases to ridding your speech of filler words.* 1) Filler word oblivion: you have no idea that you use them. 2) Filler word recognition: you realize (usually after you say them) that you use them. 3) Filler word replacement: you stop yourself before you say them and pause instead. What phase are you at? Have a friend remind you every time you say one and soon you’ll be at phase three!

*Dr. Tiffany Gallicano taught me the phases of filler word reduction. If you choose the PR sequence, I highly recommend taking her J452 class because she instructs a public speaking activity in class each week.

6.  Breathe. Deliver oxygen to your brain.

7.  When you aren’t the one presenting, be a good audience member – engage and observe. A good audience helps the speaker relax, and think how you would feel if you were up front! Pay attention when you’re in the audience to observe what the speaker does well and model your own speaking after that.

8.  Smile and have fun! It’s not everyday that you have a captive audience for what you have to say. Live it up!

I hope these suggestions help you say “I Do” to public speaking. Remember, it’s a life-long commitment and you’ll get better with time. For additional advice, here are 10 tips from Toastmasters, an international organization that offers public speaking guidance. University of Oregon has a Toastmasters club that meets weekly. I’ve never been, but I encourage you to check it out.

The crowd of 1 million stands in front of Buckingham Palace to watch a kiss between Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, during the Royal Wedding. (AP Photo/APTN)

Prince William speaks to his bride Kate as she holds her father's hand at the altar. (Getty Images)

Wedding day jitters heightened by billions of gawking viewers — can you imagine? Prince William and Kate stay cool and collected even on their big day — what PR pros!

March 1, 2011

Girls Rule, Boys Drool: What Makes Women More Prone to PR Than Men?

Sitting in a classroom of Allen Hall – the beloved building that houses journalists and PR professionals in training on the University of Oregon campus – I realized that all but one of my public relations professors are women and four of my sixteen classmates are men. Why so imbalanced? Are men unwelcome in the PR world?

Apparently, the 75-percent-female majority in UO public relations classrooms is an example of women dominating the industry. According to Dr. Brenda J. Wrigley, associate professor and public relations department chair at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, 85 percent of public relations practitioners are women. Similarly, out of the 21,000 public relations and communications professionals in Public Relations Society of America and its affiliated student branch (PRSSA), 73 percent are women.

Women in professional industries fight head-to-head with men for management positions and equal pay. Photo from awesomedc.com

Despite this predominantly female influence, 80 percent of top management in the industry are men, and women still tend to earn less than men. Wrigley notes that when a profession becomes feminized, salaries tend to decrease along with a diminished status of the profession; she includes nursing as another example of this phenomenon. Due to recent changes in the economy, however, the wage gap is the smallest it’s ever been. The gap is closing because men are losing jobs in industries like manufacturing and construction and taking relatively low-paying jobs, while women maintain their positions in government and health care and also move into high-paying professional jobs  such as accountants, lawyers and physicians.

For me and my twentysomethings female friends, recent news shows that the wage gap is even smaller. In 2009,  for full-time wage and salary workers, the weekly earnings of women ages 20-24 were 92.9 percent that of men’s in the same age group, and the earnings of the 25-34 age group differed by 88.7 percent. The report attributes the shrinking gap to increasing numbers of women with college diplomas and less tolerance of pay discrimination than previous generations.

“Why do you think 70 percent of the profession is women?” Mark Ragan, CEO of Lawrence Ragan Communications, asks three leading ladies of the industry. I’ve summarized the characteristics that they believe draw women naturally to PR, and you can also watch their interview below.

  1. Multitasking: Gemme Craven, senior vice president of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, responds that the female species is particularly good at multitasking, and PR requires this skill to switch from task to task.
  2. Educational background: Alayna Francis, vice president of communications at Swiss Re (Americas Division) agrees that multitasking is an important element, but educational background also plays a role in shaping PR as a female-dominated industry. She explains that generally women are still encouraged to be in the softer sciences like English, social studies and history, as opposed to math and science, and this reverberates to career choices that require similar mindsets.
  3. Detail-oriented and organized: Silvia Davi, vice president of corporate communications for NASDAQ, adds that studies suggest women tend to be more detail-oriented or organized by nature. Given the fast pace of a PR professional’s time, the ability to plan ahead strategically, multitask and not forget details are important factors for success in the PR field.

I want to ensure my male readers that these statistics and opinions do not imply that men cannot be successful in the PR industry. Note the title of the post is “What makes women more prone to PR than men” not better at it. Plus, the “natural” traits that supposedly make women adept PR practitioners can neither be generalized for all womankind nor can they be amiss in all men. The young gentlemen in my public relations courses at UO are intelligent, well-spoken and organized. Take James Watkins, for example, whose blog is actually titled “Prone to PR.” (To give credit where it is well-deserved, thank you, James, for inspiring the title of this post!)

I welcome any additional opinions and reactions – from both women and men – about gender in the PR industry.

February 19, 2011

Cultivating Love for Nonprofit Fundraising

On February 14, 2011,  the average American adult spent $116.21 on Valentine’s Day merchandise, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. The total estimation predicted for holiday spending was $15.7 billion. I’m not trying to anger Cupid, but imagine if that money was donated to charity instead of spent on the indulgences of lovers around the country.

Fundraising is the core of nonprofit work. It could be argued that programming is the priority, but without funding, programs are dead in the water. So which comes first: visions that require funding or a donation to fund a visionary program? Sounds like the age-old contemplation about the chicken or the egg.  Both situations occur in the nonprofit world, so what really matters is that money comes into the organization at some point, any point, continuously at all points.

This chart from Giving USA displays a breakdown of where funding for nonprofits comes from. As you can see, most donations are from individuals. In an analysis of this breakdown by Cramer & Associates, bequests are defined as gifts from “nonliving individuals” and half of all foundations are individual or family-based. Therefore, combining these categories shows that 89.5% of contributions are from individuals. WOW. It’s true: Lots of little donations add up, and individual contribution slices make almost a whole $303.75 billion pie.

I interpret this data to mean that nonprofits should focus fundraising campaigns on the individual – with a personal, human approach. This means making emotional connections, pulling heartstrings, telling stories, relating potential donors to the situation, and helping them identify with the cause.

Many nonprofits capitalized on Valentine’s Day by asking donors to give love (in monetary form). Reframing the day as “Generosity Day,” inspired by Sasha Dichter’s Generosity Experiment, nonprofit organizations like Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy asked people to spend their money on “gifts that keep giving” instead of a bouquet of roses that die in one week.

Beth Kanter’s blog highlights individuals’ and organizations’ use of social media and creative twists on Valentine’s Day to romance their publics, raise awareness and appreciation, or encourage charitable giving. This technique was used in a nonprofit dear to  my heart, the American Cancer Society. I am involved in my university’s Relay For Life, and a fellow committee member posted this as her Facebook status yesterday with a link to ACS’s charitable contribution page:

“An estimated $18.6 Billion will be spent on this Valentine’s Day. Single? Donate what you would’ve spent on a date to The American Cancer Society.
A $5 Valentine card could provide an hour of toll-free access to the National Cancer Information Center. 1.800.227.2345
A $15 box of chocolates is equal to 50 test tubes needed by scientists….
A $100 bouquet of roses could provide a wig for a patient to boost morale.”

Not only are the statistics eye-opening, but the wording also caught my attention and made me feel connected to the cause. A comment also said, “Save the life of someone’s significant other!” I thought, “Yes, I’m single, so I should contribute to this cause and help save someone from cancer, instead of indulging in chocolate.”

Messages such as these inform the public, create awareness of an organization and its cause, establish a personal connection, and deliver both the call to action as well as how to act. A+ for message effectiveness (unlike the bra color or symbolic drink statuses plaguing Facebook with empty messages that I blogged about in my previous post).

Next time I think about buying myself a bouquet of flowers, maybe I’ll consider what societal good I could contribute my $10 to instead. What cause would you donate $10 to instead of buying yourself a few lattes?

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons by Shimelle Laine