Tips from the Trenches: One-on-One with Kelsey Recht, CEO, VenueBook

“Get people talking.  People have a lot of interesting things to share.  You might discover an unexpected connection.” – Kelsey Recht, CEO, VenueBook

 

Ever try to book an event and end up calling around to dozens of places, trying to get someone on the phone to check dates of availability, budget, menu, capacity, etc.?  It can be extremely time-consuming and often fruitless. Well, Kelsey Recht, founder & CEO of VenueBook, has a simple solution: create an online platform that enables corporate event planners — or regular people — just looking for a party space to search all of those things and more in one place.

When we saw Recht pitch her idea at a NY Tech Meetup Women’s Demo Night a few months ago, we knew she’d be a rising star in both the technology and hospitality worlds. While VenueBook just launched in New York City, the company plans to roll out its platform to other markets around the country over the next year. We interviewed the founder of what she calls “an OpenTable-like platform for finding and booking event spaces” about launching a brand, standing out in your career and creating buzz.

 

Why is it so important these days to stand out in the workplace?

The harsh reality right now is that the economy is not strong. Jobs are hard to come by. If you have one, you need to do your best to excel and make a name for yourself.

What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?

Do your homework on reporters and what they cover first. Half of the battle is knowing the right person and what angle to take with them.

What are your top networking tips?

Get people talking. People have a lot of interesting things to share. You might discover an unexpected connection.

[Read more...]

Bragging on Social Media: Useful or Annoying?

Can bragging on Facebook and other social platforms backfire? In an extreme example this week, a gang of thugs in Brooklyn boasted about committing murder on their Facebook pages and got arrested as a result. Verdict? Not smart! While most of us are bragging about much less criminal things (we hope!), touting your accomplishments through social media may still have a negative result.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story last month ago called “Are We All Braggarts Now?”, which examines whether social media has given people a platform — and permission — to constantly boast about their accomplishments, children, jobs and lives in general. In the piece, Elizabeth Bernstein writes that “we’ve become so accustomed to boasting that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off.” We believe this is a generalization and that, while select folks spend all their Tweets and Facebook posts talking about how their child is the world’s most talented and beautiful, there are ways to leverage social media to promote yourself and what you’re proud of in a smart and more subtle way.

In our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work, we dedicate an entire chapter, called “Toot Your Own Horn (but Not Too Loudly),” to teaching people how to be their own publicists without irritating those on the receiving end. There’s an art to self-promotion and part of it is building your reputation slowly and strategically so you don’t come across as too in-your-face. (Though we don’t see what’s so bad about posting “Got my first royalty check for my book,” as referenced in the article. As authors ourselves, we know what a huge deal it is to finally see some rewards from all the hard work you put in!). Nonetheless, here are a few tips on how to avoid being pegged as a braggart:

Pat yourself on the back but pat others harder. It’s okay to post something about an award you won, but make sure you’re also congratulating others when they’ve received accolades. Hit the “like” button on Facebook or re-tweet it when you see that people you know have posted about their personal milestones and they’ll likely do the same for you. A third-party endorsement often has more impact than if you tout your own accomplishments.

Offer a take-away. If you wrote a great blog post about how to avoid being a braggart, for example, linking to it might actually offer useful advice to the folks who click on it. Or if you say, “Our nanny is a rock star,” maybe you can tell people where you found her so they can find their own personal Mary Poppins or link to the great sample sale where you scored amazing Hermes piece, so others can benefit too.

Don’t make others feel bad. We haven’t had a real vacation in a while (that’s a whole other blog post!), so it’s natural to feel a wee bit jealous when we see our friends post amazing beach shots of their tropical trips (though we’re mostly happy for them). That happiness would be dampened, though, if they posted or tweeted things like, “Ha, ha! I bet you wish you were here!” or “I feel like I died and went to paradise.” instead of “Great view from my hotel room in Costa Rica.” The upshot: Be cognizant that not everyone is as lucky as you are, watch your tone and try not to over-post. (You are on vacation, after all!)

You can always dial down who sees what posts on social media, if you fear that you are over-sharing to your extended crowd. And, on the flip side, if you feel that some of your Facebook friends or those you follow on Twitter are getting out of hand with their self-promotion, simply filter out their posts or stop following them. That way, when you see them face-to-face next time, stories about their child landing first seat in the school orchestra or their latest major deal at work won’t irk you quite as much.

What kind of posts annoy you?  Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Tips From The Trenches: One-on-One with Valerie Insignares of Darden

“I believe every day your actions speak louder than any words you say.  In fact, what others say about you is often times more important than what you say about yourself.” – Valerie Insignares

We meet a lot of powerhouse women in our day-to-day lives — women who are making a name for themselves in their industries and beyond. So, when we recently connected with Valerie Insignares, SVP/Chief Restaurant Operations Officer at restaurant company Darden, we jumped at the chance to get her perspective on standing out in the workplace.

Insignares is impressive  – recognized within her company (which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and The Capital Grille, among other multi-location establishments) for her record-breaking guest count growth as well as for her role in establishing the supplier diversity initiative – she’s made the “most influential” lists for key industry publications as well as Hispanic Business. Add to that her other role as one of this nation’s 30 million working moms, and her list of accomplishments becomes even more inspiring.

With all on her plate (restaurant pun intended), we were honored that she found a few minutes to share her perspectives about serving up authenticity and quality no matter the role and why we should look to Missy Franklin for inspiration:

Why is it so important these days to stand out in the workplace?

I’ve been with Darden for 15 years now, and we’ve grown into the world’s largest full-service restaurant company with more than 180,000 employees and 2,000 restaurants. As the company has grown, the organization has become much more complex and the environment is much more global. In order to stand out, you need to be more than a functional expert. You need to be viewed as a business leader. The way to do that is to view your career as a learning journey: (to) take risks and roles that will broaden your perspective,  be committed to evolving your leadership, and be open to relocation. Many more opportunities will be open to you if you are!

As a leader, it’s equally important to be known for how you do things as it is for what you do.  It’s important to demonstrate personal balance and commitment to your family and community.  Luckily Darden is a place that places equal weight on both its business and its values.

 

What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?

Play to your strengths.  We all come from different places and have seen or worked through all kinds of personal and professional experiences.  Remember that you bring a unique perspective to the table as well as a unique set of skills. It’s up to you, however, to deliver tangible value to your employer by using these strengths. At the end of the day, doing good work using your unique strengths is your best PR plan.

 

What’s an example of when you’ve been your own best publicist?

As a leader, I believe every day your actions speak louder than any words you say. In fact, what others say about you is often times more important than what you say about yourself. Do you behave in way that is positive and energetic? Are you consistent?

 

What are your top networking tips?

Networking doesn’t have to be something you do in addition to your day job. As a working mother, I have little time outside of my day-to-day schedule of work, family and exercise. My advice is to work connections into your schedule. Make genuine connections with people in your company, industry and community, and keep those relationships going. Simply checking in with these connections a few times a year can help maintain a strong network. Also, keep your commitments. A quick cup of coffee is easy to reschedule when your calendar is full or you have a full inbox. But it’s important to realize we’re all busy, and you’ll be happy you honored their time and your commitment.

 

How important is it to break through the clutter when you’re trying to stand out—and what’s the best way to do so?

Sometimes you don’t need to break out in a big way; rather, you need to demonstrate leadership qualities and let the result speak for itself. A good leader coaches his or her team and smartly allocates his or her resources in the best interest of the business. Making a true difference is the best way to differentiate yourself.

 

What’s your best tip for how to get what you want at work?

A great start is to really know what you want!  So many people ask me for career advice and say they want to advance, but when I ask them where they are trying to go they aren’t clear. When you’re clear about the types of opportunities you would be open to — lateral, cross functional, relocations, etc.– you are more likely to be top-of-mind when the opportunities are created. You also need to be very willing to do or change what it takes to get there and be ready to say ‘yes’ when asked!

 

 What do you think is the best/worst recent example of managing your reputation?

I think a strong example of reputation management was seen with the United States Olympians in London. Athletes like Missy Franklin, the 17-year old swimmer who at such a young age is expected to carry herself with the composure of someone twice her age. I think we can all learn something about staying calm under pressure and performing to the best of our ability.

 

 What do you think is the biggest challenge facing recent graduates now – and how would you combat it?

There is a lot of pressure on youth to figure out what they want to be when they grow up before they’ve had enough experiences to really know the answer.  My message to youth is that you don’t have to have it all figured out… but do follow your passion!  If you set yourself up for success by taking advantage of educational or mentorship programs and always keep learning and working hard, you’ll carve out a path to success – and that success may look a lot different in the future than it looks now.

I love the restaurant industry! I grew up in Chicago, wanting to be a chef. I’ve lived in Kentucky, Texas, and now, Orlando.  I’ve progressed from the purchasing side of our business to leading restaurant operations. I couldn’t be happier, and to realize this happiness, I had to be open to course changes during my career journey. The restaurant industry is truly an industry of opportunity.

 

What skill or technique have you, yourself, used to get ahead or get a job? 

For me, it’s strategic thinking: working with teams to identify and prioritize the work that will matter most to our business and our people. In fact, I use the same skill as a working mom to understand the events I really can’t miss at my girls’ school — like Mother’s Day celebrations, for example!

 

Have other tips from the trenches?  Share with us here, on Facebook and Twitter.

News We Can Use: Have We Become a No-Vacation Nation?

Happy almost Labor Day!

Are you heading off  – or have you already clocked out — for some much needed R&R?  If your answer is “no,” you’re not alone.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans left an estimated 226 million vacation days on the table last year. To put it into perspective — that’s almost $35 billion dollars worth of vacation days that went to waste.

The question is “Why?”.  Were those findings an outgrowth of what has been a challenging economy and very tight workforce? Are people just too overworked to take time off?  Do they not feel supported in using those days? If they do hit the road, did they feel the need to remain connected?

Some of those answers are featured in this great infographic created by Column Five Media for Rasmussen College.

But it made us curious: Will we see the same kind of numbers this year?

Help us out and take our quick survey and tell us how you spent YOUR summer vacation: 

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MFL95VS.

We’ll post the results next week.

In the meantime, in honor of this holiday season, we pulled together some top tips to help you stay in vacation mode — at least through the weekend:

  • Don’t check your email. The good news is that most people are off, so people should not be expecting a quick turnaround for messages.  Set an out of office message and plan to get back to people on Tuesday.
  • Step away from the phone. Are you guilty of spending more time with your mobile device (or computer) than you do with your actual friends and family?  This holiday, put down the phone and focus on play time. (To lessen the temptation: Change that setting on the phone so it doesn’t ping every time a message is delivered.)
  • Find a place with little to no connectivity.  Nothing like going off the grid for some peace and quiet.
 How are you spending this holiday weekend?  Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Tips from the Trenches: One-on-One with Andrew Hapke, Co-Founder, Zokos.com

“Be 100 percent genuine. If you have to fake it, then maybe you are at the wrong event or in the wrong business.” — Andrew Hapke, co-founder of Zokos.com

Andrew Hapke, co-founder, Zokos

We meet a lot of entrepreneurs, but when we were connected with Andrew Hapke, the young, dynamic co-founder of Zokos.com — a dinner party crowd-funding site or “kickstarter for parties” — we were impressed. We recently spoke to Hapke about his exciting idea as well as the challenges and opportunities involved in getting a start-up off the ground.
What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?
Make friends with people in the press long before you need anything from them.  Learn about what they find interesting just by being friends with them.
What are your top networking tips?
Be 100 percent genuine. If you have to fake it, then maybe you are at the wrong event or in the wrong business.

 

What’s your advice for developing a relationship with someone you don’t know?

Find common ground to start the conversation even if its something as small as the weather.

 

What is the one piece of advice that you wish you knew when you were graduating?

Have coffee with everyone you know and let them bring up your career.

How did Zokos get from idea to reality and what prompted you to launch a business?

The idea first originated when the founders took part in a vegetarian dinner club as graduate students at Yale.  We were so excited about the amazing food and all the great people we were meeting that we thought, “Why aren’t people doing this more often?”  From that spark, we went on to found the company as a way to bring down the barriers to entertaining, so that we could host better parties and host them more often.

 

What’s your ”elevator pitch” for Zokos and how did you come up with it?

“Zokos is a kickstarter for parties. We believe people are hungry for real life interaction and that food is the world’s favorite reason to come together. Zokos.com helps you enjoy better parties more often by sharing the cost with your friends.”

We spent a lot of time crafting our pitch over the last year, working with mentors and going to pitch competitions.   It’s amazing how many different opinions smart people can have.  We settled on something that resonated with us, but also referenced the crowd-funding industry more generally.

 

What’s the hardest thing about getting attention for a new brand, particularly without dedicated PR support?

Its hard to get rejected so much!  Generally when you first try and get press, it’s when you launch something big for your company, and so you are in a very exciting time in your company’s history. Yet, apparently 95 percent of the press you contacted didn’t think it was that exciting, which can be very discouraging.  For us, we just had to make sure our list was long enough that the 5 percent that came through for us was meaningful.

 

What’s your advice for helping your brand stand out against the competition?

Have a really clear idea of why you are different, and which group of people would care about that difference.  Start with that small group, and let them help you build your story so that as you grow, you have a genuine identity that fills a real need.

Finding A Cure for O.S.D. – Obsessive Sharing Disorder

(via msnbc.com // Illustration: Kim Carney)O.S.D., or obsessive sharing disorder - that’s what author and coach Peggy Klaus calls people’s growing tendency to offer up too much personal information at work. In this past Sunday’s issue of The New York Times, she extrapolated that this over-sharing is likely an extension of online behavior or, alternatively, the need to connect in a disconnected world. Klaus points out: Since we spend so much time at work these days (likely as much if not  more time than at home), it’s no wonder we look to  forge close connections with co-workers — and that ultimately blurs the line between professional and personal boundaries.

So, is there a cure for this common ailment (particularly among the Gen Y set)?  Yes!

In “Be Your Own Best Publicist,” we address the challenges of managing your personal brand both on- and off-line.  So, here are some things to remember when considering whether to share or remain silent about your personal life:

  • Who do you think you’re talking to? Just like our recent post about griping about past employers online — think about what the right forum is to share personal information, whatever it entails. Probably not a good move to share your personal issues with a boss or client,  lest they think those distractions will hinder your ability to do the job. Even offering up those private thoughts or questionable choices to co-workers could significantly affect your trajectory at work, so consider your audience before plowing ahead. We recommend holding your tongue –and comments– until you’re outside the workplace (and with trusted friends or family), just to be safe.
  • Will it help or hinder?  Remember that nowadays, in particular, everything you say or post can and will be used “against” you. Whenever we are communicating with a client or a media person, we consider the impact of our words because once a statement or sentiment is out there, it’s impossible to take back (ahem, Congressman Akin!).  Ever try to hit the recall button on a email?  Exactly.  Consider your words carefully in advance. Ask yourself: Will what I say move the situation forward?  How will it color the way my conversation partner perceives me?
  • When in doubt, leave it out. Wondering whether you should share the story about your crazy weekend in the Hamptons or perhaps some details about a love affair gone wrong? Less is more — particularly in the workplace.  Editing yourself can be the hardest, yet most valuable skill you can learn whatever your career. We all need to hit the pause button once and a while. Consider your goals and key messages before blurting any old thing out. General rule of thumb: When in doubt — you got it — LEAVE IT OUT.

How do you deal those “suffering” from O.S.D. in your life?  Tell us here, on Facebook or on Twitter.


 

 

 

Using Social Media to Burn Bridges: A Good or Bad Idea?

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story about the trend of kissing off your former employer (or soon to be!) in a very public way online, whether on Twitter, Tumblr or YouTube. While this may be a “cathartic” experience, as one person interviewed in the piece said, this kind of behavior can have negative repercussions that will affect your future career. Here’s some advice from Be Your Own Best Publicist for what to think about before you post a big f-u to the job you just left on your social media channels:

Your digital legacy outlasts you. Your online profile lives on even after you don’t. Every tweet you make ends up in the Library of Congress. Your Facebook page stays up unless someone physically removes it. And Google is your first resume these days. If you blog/tweet/post nasty things about a past employer, it won’t take long for potential employers to find it. Most HR professionals are checking out candidates’ social media profiles these days and wouldn’t look too kindly on someone who publicly bad-mouthed their last company or boss.

Patience is a virtue. In a world of instant gratification, where it takes a second to tweet, post or email something, we tend to act immediately instead of taking a breath and thinking about it before doing the damage. In the old days, you’d write an angry letter, put it in a drawer somewhere and re-read it a day later. (In many instances, it went back in the drawer or in the trash, never to be seen by its intended recipient). Now, when we’re upset, we vent in real time without always considering the consequences.

The high road is usually the best route to success. You may have had an abusive boss, a terrible job or were fired without good reason. But any time we interview someone and they trash-talk their former workplaces, it’s a huge turnoff. In PR, we teach our clients to deflect tough questions such as why they’re better than their competitors so they’re not spending an interview saying negative things about someone else, but rather positive things about themselves. If asked why you left your last job, simply say, “It wasn’t the right fit for me” or “I learned a lot but was ready to move on to a new opportunity.” Enough said.

Gripe all you want — in private. Listen, we all have bad experiences at work and feel like yelling “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” but try to limit your complaining to a small circle of friends and family, who will let you vent your frustration before you post it on Facebook. Or, instead of blogging about it, write it in a good old fashioned journal that the world won’t see. Remember “Dear Diary”? Not everyone needs to read about your deepest darkest emotions on WordPress.

Have you ever publicly griped about work?  What were the consequences? Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

NEWS WE CAN USE: Why Working from Home is Just Like Being in the Office

Working from home is not as fun as it sounds.

Working from home is getting more popular and also harder, writes the Wall Street Journal‘s work/life columnist Sue Shellenbarger, in this interesting recent article. With the ability to be connected 24/7 and more ways for your boss to be monitoring your progress and productivity from afar, doing your job remotely may be just as demanding and busy as if you went into the office every day.

According to IDC, a Framingham, Mass., market-research company, the number of corporate employees who work from home at least one day a month has been rising 23% a year since 2007, on average, to 22.8 million last year. Jessica works from home one day a week and she can attest to the fact that some of those days are so packed with conference calls and deadline-driven tasks that she doesn’t even have time to shower or say hello to her toddler between play dates. In fact, because she has a laptop that hooks into her company’s network and a wirelessly-connected duplicate of her work phone at home, most people don’t even realize she’s not physically in the office.

As technology has allowed us to be reachable at all hours no matter where we are (even, in some cases, on vacation), companies are increasingly offering employees more flexibility and telecommuting options, which is a good thing. At the same time, even when you work remotely, taking a break from the hustle and bustle of a busy office environment has gotten more challenging.

Share your thoughts on working from home with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Nice Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere – and Other Lasting Lessons Learned from the Legendary Helen Gurley Brown

Helen Gurley Brown believed that self-confidence and smarts would take a woman far.

Monday marked the passing of a publishing legend: Cosmopolitan magazine editor-in-chief Helen Gurley Brown who, at 90 years old, still came into her leopard-print and pink corner office at Hearst Tower nearly every day. While Meryl only admired her spunk and sayings from afar, Jessica, who has run PR for Hearst Magazines for over a decade, knew Ms. Brown personally and was able to admire her up close.

Ironically, a story Jessica had been working on for months about the power of Cosmo as a global brand, ran in the New York Times Magazine just last Sunday and paid homage to Brown and the influence she had on the 100 million readers of Cosmo around the world. The “Cosmo Effect,” as it has been called, all started with the publication of Brown’s bestselling book, Sex and the Single Girl, much of which is still relevant today. If you haven’t read it, you should.

In light of this significant loss for the magazine world and for women in general, we wanted to take a moment to share some of our favorite lessons gleaned from the author/businesswoman/editor’s life well lived and well spoken (if not controversial at times):

-”Nice girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”  Brown wasn’t technically a “bad girl” but she was a risk-taker and she had the confidence to be her own best advocate to get ahead instead of fading into the background.  Yes, she started as a secretary but quickly rose the ranks of the advertising world, then conquered the magazine landscape with her bold, frisky version of Cosmo.

-A handwritten note goes a long way. Famous for her handwritten and typewritten notes, Brown sent them to everyone she met. In fact, a book of select notes she had written, Dear Pussycat (her preferred term of endearment), was published in 2004 and is filled with quippy, thoughtful, interesting messages from her to people such as Joan Rivers, Barbra Streisand, Barry Diller and Steven Spielberg, among many unknowns. We simply don’t hang on to people’s emails like we do a handwritten note and it really makes an impact when you send one. In fact, Jessica still has the note that Brown wrote to her in 2003 saying, “You were such a busy person and you took such good care of me…I was wildly impressed!” — and she cherishes it to this day.

 -”Beauty can’t amuse you, but brainwork—reading, writing, thinking—can.” Brown did not consider herself beautiful; in fact, she referred to herself as a “mouseburger” (the feminine version of “milquetoast”). But, boy, was she whip-smart and that –even more than looks–was (read: “is”) sexy. The brainier you are, the more beautiful you get!

-“My success was not based so much on any great intelligence but on great common sense.” Being book-smart is one thing, but being street-smart is often more important in getting ahead. Common sense is an innate skill and if you listen to it. It will help guide you in the right direction. Trust your gut. Helen Gurley Brown did and look where it got her.

-“Never fail to know that if you are doing all the talking, you are boring somebody.” In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we talk about how listening can often be even more important than speaking. It will give you insight on people that you wouldn’t get if you just blathered on about yourself. Brown understood this and was gifted at reading people –both women and men– and identifying what they wanted.

-“Nearly every glamorous, wealthy, successful career woman you might envy now started out as some kind of schlepp.” We interpret this phrase to mean that everyone has to start somewhere. A lot of young people these days don’t want to take an unglamorous entry-level or administrative job; they want to get to the top quickly. But Brown started in the secretarial pool, worked hard, networked and moved up. But she never turned her nose up at getting into the trenches in order to get things done. Even when she had reached the top, she often stayed at Cosmo’s offices until midnight to make sure everything was just so.

-“What you have to do is work with the raw material you have, namely you, and never let up.” She believes that every woman can be successful and sexy, even if they don’t have traditional good looks or natural style. Like we address in our book, finding your personal style is about playing up your best features, creating a signature that people will remember you for and presenting yourself with confidence.

Helen Gurley Brown was truly ahead of her time. She believed in the power of women and encouraged them to shoot for the moon in all aspects of their life, from relationships to career. The world is a little less interesting without her in it.

How do you think Helen Gurley Brown changed the world? Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Creating Buzz on a Budget: Our #SXSW Bid to Help Start-Ups Stand Out In A Good Way

You have a great idea, a website, a business plan and maybe even some funding. Now what? It doesn’t mean anything unless people are talking, sharing and buzzing about your brand.

For most start-ups, publicity typically falls to the bottom of the expenditure list. Yet, in this day and age, with so much competition for coverage and attention, it can be the thing that connects the dots, raises your profile and attracts consumers, advertisers, partners and investors.

That’s exactly why we’ve proposed a session at SXSW (a nice follow-up to our involvement last year) to help start-ups learn how to kick off the drumbeat about their brands through press coverage and social media buzz, even if they are in bootstrapping mode.

Help us help them by voting for our session: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/1680.  Vote and then send us the screen shot of your vote online —  you will be entered to win a signed copy of our book. (Winner chosen at random.)

**Added incentive: The person who gets the most of his/her friends to vote for us will get an hour-long coaching phone session with us.  (How to show that your friends voted: They email you the screen shot; you then forward to us at Bestpublicist (at) gmail (dot) com.) **

Thanks – and here’s to being your own best publicist!