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!

Life Lessons Learned from the Films Director John Hughes

This past Monday marked the three-year anniversary of the untimely death of 80s film director John Hughes. And, while many of us who grew up with his movies learned a lot about our personal lives, there are lessons that can translate to our professional efforts as well. Some of those include:

  • Don’t put anything in writing you wouldn’t want read. (Sixteen CandlesAs Samantha found out when she filled out the quiz that fell into the wrong (read: Mr. Right’s) hands, everything is on the record — and that is even more clear when you put something in writing (or post something online).  Sure, things turned out great for her (complete with birthday cake and happy ending) but most of us mere mortals need to be cognizant that everything we say, write and post can and will be used against us. In our speaking engagements and workshops for Be Your Own Best Publicist, we remind people not to put anything in writing you wouldn’t want your grandmother, boss or rabbi/priest/shaman/spiritual guide to read.
  • Help can come from the least likely of sources. (The Breakfast Club) A criminal…a princess…a brain…a jock…a basketcase….What started as a group of strangers turned into the ultimate powerful network by the end of the film. And what they learned as their detention day rolled on is that, despite their surface differences, they could rely on one another for advice (Claire giving Allison makeup tips), to help dodge a bullet (Bender distracts while the others get back to the library), for attention (Andy listens to Allison) and to communicate the message (Brian writes the pithy note that summarizes the film). In work, too, support can come from anywhere. Don’t dismiss the people who seem less powerful than you (i.e. security, mailroom workers, secretaries) because sometimes they’re the ones who can help you most. Be nice, lend a helping hand to others and be open to making connections wherever you go.

[Read more…]

Social Media and the Summer Vacation

Social media continues to change the way we live our lives and, according to the Wall Street Journal, how we communicate when we’re on vacation. A recent story by Elizabeth Holmes shared the challenge that people who have a strong social media presence have when taking a summer vacation: Stay connected and tweeting to keep your followers happy but face the pressure to remain “on-message,” even when you are officially off the clock.

If you’re a super user — or just super into the social media scene — here are some tips if you want to unplug on your time off:

[Read more…]

NEWS WE CAN USE: Killer Heels & Killer Instinct are Not Mutually Exclusive

Can’t women in tech have killer heels and a killer instinct?

How much does what you wear in the workplace make a statement about your skills and accomplishments? It depends: While it doesn’t seem to have affected Mark Zuckerberg’s success (we doubt Facebook’s stock price has dropped as a result of his refusal to wear anything but hoodies and sandals), at the same time, when you’re a tech entrepreneur trying to attract funding, partners and press, paying attention to your appearance and wardrobe can contribute to an image of success.

In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we talk about dressing the part  and how what you wear can pose a hindrance -at worst, a barrier to entry. It’s like that old saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

And, for many women in Silicon Valley, cultivating a personal style has at least earned them and their startups some good publicity, as evidenced by this recent New York Times Style section story on a new crop of women in the tech space who unabashedly dress up in designer clothes.

In the article, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, 42, a former Google executive who now runs a video shopping site called Joyus, said: “Earlier in my career, if I had to choose between a skirt and being taken seriously, I would have chosen being taken seriously. But now I’m at a point in my career in the valley where I’m judged by what I’ve done.”

Considering that the tech world is typically on the cutting edge of what’s new and modern, it sounds a bit archaic to us that a woman who walks into a meeting with venture capitalists wearing a designer skirt wouldn’t be taken seriously. If it was a hot pink mini skirt, perhaps, but dressing professionally and having a signature style should make a positive impression on others and show that you’re polished, smart and can run circles around those male tech geeks in t-shirts and jeans — even if you’re wearing five-inch Louboutins.

How do you think clothing impacts perception of your abilities?  Tell us here, on Facebook or on Twitter.