Friday, January 16, 2009

Pre-Inaugural Excitement

It’s fun to be a part of history! Today, I networked with two friends, Harlem’s Florine Wiley and Arlington’s Donna Patterson, a long-time friend who is Deputy Registrar for the City of Arlington, Virginia. We may try to hook up for a split second at Tuesday’s Inauguration Festivities, but online our excitement is already building; we’re just proud to be part of the moment!

I was touched by a BBC segment ( that provided a history of slaves who built the White House and included an interview with descendant of “Jennings” a slave owned by President James Madison who later served as his valet and was among his most trusted advisors.

Yet, Jennings was still James Madison’s “property.”

The BBC journalist stood near the bleachers and reviewing stand in front of the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and relayed it was once site of a slave auction block in the nation’s capital. I fondly recall my days at Meridian Hill Hall, my Howard University dorm, located in DC on 16th Street. A short bus trip or leisurely walk downtown would deposit me directly in front of the White House—a state symbol of power.

BBC reporters explained how African Americans have come a long way, from slaves and servants to patriots dedicated to public service, serving in the Civil War and every war since. Further, the piece interviewed the first African American secret service agent. He explained that he first served under President John Kennedy, whom he met him in another city and gave him the ultimate “hook up” via a transfer to his White House detail.

Progress and change have come over the decades, in visible strokes and behind the scenes. Every step helps us achieve the American dream.

On Tuesday, I'll be in the ultimate “sea of humanity" on the National Mall, vying to get as close as I can to the inaugural “action.” I’ll depart at DAWN on the @ 6 AM Amtrak, BASK in the sunlight, revel in the the GLORY OF BEING AN AMERICAN and return that evening, just after nightfall, EAGER to embark on a NEW ERA.

Something inside me said YOU MUST BE PRESENT, in DC at that moment in history. So I bought my ticket for a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m excited about simply taking it all in, examining the faces, and feeling the ELECTRIC SPIRIT of the crowd. I'll ATTEND for every family member and acquaintance who toiled (and died) for us literally experience this moment. Plus, as a Howard alum, former intern at the Departments of of Labor, Veterans Affairs and Smithsonian Institution’s Folk Life Festival, DC will always hold a special place in my heart.

I caught a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth at the Smithsonian nearly 30 years ago.
Next Tuesday, I’m there to bear witness. If I don’t get my glimpse of the Obama family Jan. 20, I’ll have 8 years (yes friends, reelection is eminent) to position myself to make my own history. I’ve shook the hands of former President Bill Clinton and Al Gore when they were in office, and I’ve been honored to personally hear eloquent speeches delivered by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Like soon to be President Barack Obama says, “Anything is possible if you have the right work ethic.” I have a gut feeling that it’s not only probable, it’s possible—because I’m going to work and position myself for my meeting with destiny, whatever that might be. But first, I vow to make myself worthy of that chance meeting with a world leader of Obama’s character—or chance stranger— because anyone and everyone can enhance or invigorate your life.

When Miracles Meet Mission

Prayers were certainly answered with yesterday’s “Miracle on the Hudson,” whereby 155 passengers and crew survived virtually unscathed, averting what could have been a massive aviation disaster.

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, deftly and safely glided his Airbus A320 onto New York’s Hudson River. A cool, calm, professional, well-trained, multi-talented over-achiever, the ultimate leader who is willing and able to get the job done.

Do Sully and Barack have the same mentor? Undoubtedly, divine intervention often intersects with destiny.

Work, train and allow your God-given talents to act as your buoy on the seas of life. Sometimes, you’re fortunate to have a life preserver. Often, all you have is unwavering inner convictions to serve as your guide.

Back to work as I prepare syllabi for spring classes!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Greater Chinatown Community Association
Annual Fundraiser Builds Unity

It’s Chinese New Year and 2009 is the Year of the Ox. This evening I had the pleasure of learning more about the Greater Chinatown Community Association’s ( work impacting citizens and youth who live in lower Manhattan.

Representing a diverse array of civic and leadership groups, GCCA was established in 1972 and works to support the nation’s largest Chinese American population, which reside within New York City’s five boroughs. Executive Director Kendra Lee did a fabulous job of managing the annual fundraiser, which benefits a wide range of
unique individualized program services.

The festive evening included a Lion Dance, whereby dinner guests presented envelopes of money, a symbol of good luck. Perhaps the highlight was performer Jian Rong Zhao, who deftly performed a ninja “face-changing” performance, literally changing masks in mid-air from ebony black … to red … to white … to red/white/blue and a few colors in between.

What a strong message; Jian was a true chameleon celebrating how our society is constantly blending, changing, evolving … as he worked the room from the main stage to the perimeter.

In addition to BPRSNY ( colleagues Mike Millis and Gordon Balkcom, my dinner companions included and a warm introduction from Japanese-American Suki Terada Ports who despite her career in the health arena, has the natural charm of a PR pro.

A community health organizer with expertise in AIDS outreach to multicultural patients and their families, Suki has founded several organizations, including the Family Health Project, that give people hope and help them beat the odds. Petite and driven, she introduces me to June Jee, a Verizon executive who turns out is a graduate of City College where I teach. Needless to say, June is a role model and supporter and embraced by many in the room.

The crowd brimmed with optimism, which ultimately breeds opportunity. You just can’t stop the natural momentum of honest exchanges between races.

As we all remarked on the beauty of our broad cultures, Suki explained how one of her children was born at now-defunct Convent Avenue Hospital, where her Japanese American physician was granted privileges; other hospitals decades ago would not allow him to practice or patients to be treated. She also revealed how when she lived in Georgia, how she had to always ask herself which fountain she could or should drink from, the one marked “colored” or the one marked “whites only.”

Suki, a 74 year old Japanese American woman, offered to share the story of the internment camps with youth who participate in Howard Chin’s Chinese American Student Exposure after school program. He explains young people often don’t truly understand the civil rights movement and other important milestones which have provided benefits for all Americans. He tries to informally teach these lessons as he befriends them, encouraging them to get involved in student government and participate in community affairs. He advises youth to look out for others instead of only being out for self.

Many dinner partners shared that it is our job as elders, teachers and community leaders to keep EVERYONE’S story alive.

Me, I remember learning about internment camps about 15 years ago, during a PBS television special. Wondering if I had somehow been absent that day from school when it was discussed, I surmised it probably wasn’t taught in the South where I grew up. At best, it was a paragraph and if there wasn’t an Asian American student in class to relay the full story, it probably got short shrift.

Back in my day, I grew up learning about the civil rights movement from my parents in grandparents; my grandmother was an attorney. She and others made sure others’ rights were protected.

Yes, there were a few Asians at my high school but not many. Perhaps that’s why I was ultimately drawn to New York. Deep inside I’ve always had a fascination for all things cultural, which led to a career as a multicultural marketing specialist.

Suki is the same age as my mother Juanita and it seems their stories are so similar.

As the evening continued, other wonderful souls joined the conversation, including a lovely woman who patiently gave me tutoring in proper chopstick use. Yes, I manage to fumble in restaurants or at home, but the time she took to prep me was simply priceless.

From my long and frequent walks throughout Chinatown and the Lower East Side, I feel a wonderful connection to Asian cultures and other people from faraway lands.

It was a wonderful Chinese New Year and an eye-opening way to spend Martin Luther King’s birthday; a night I will long remember. It’s incumbent on my generation to pass on these messages and strengthen the ties that bind. Too many people have died for the right and honor we all have to sit and reflect on how far we have come.

A CNN newscast today featured friends of Medgar Evers who was assassinated in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. The reporter asked the friends what Medgar might have said on the eve of an African American president?

“You’ve done well, brother” said a comrade. Then, in lock step they agreed the fight of past generations was not in vein. It’s incumbent upon us all to broaden our circle of friendships and connections to get accomplish even more.

Onward, in lock step as we continue to achieve, together!

[ FYI, my favorite Chinatown shops are Lin Sisters Herbal at 4 Bowery Street and T’s Herbal on 197 Hester Street. A kind Asian doctor helped me about 4 years ago with a wonderful brew that eased clogged circulation. He advised me to be patient and said it would take time. I took his advice, drank the bitter potion and was cured in about three months. I also took his advice to reduce stress, take better care of myself and that’s when I got even more serious about my walking regimen. Those were the days; days I have to get back to, because long walks offer the ultimate relaxation. GCCA plans a few walking tours in the spring; stay tuned! ]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Raising the Bar

I just returned from an ENERGIZING meeting with my BPRSNY board of directors (; what a wonderful group! We savored our collective plans for Inauguration Day and devised a game plan to raise the bar for young professionals who want to enter the PR / communications field.

We all agree there’s tons of talent out there, but also pounds of knowledge each generation can share. Representing a cross-generational cadre of professionals from 20–50 somethings, we represent the new era of multicultural professionals, dynamic leaders who are celebrating this new era of politics and civic responsibility.

Don’t let our name fool you. BPRSNY stands for the Black Public Relations Society—New York. Our membership is open to all and we represent diverse cultures and boast partnerships with many leading organizations, including the Greater Chinatown Community Association ( Their annual fundraising dinner is tomorrow evening; several BPRSNY members will attend. Watch this blog for updates regarding their event in celebration of the Chinese New Year; 2009 is the Year of the Ox.

It’s all about cross-cultural connections and standing face-to-face with each other as we learn how to broaden our scope and areas of influence. This allows us to raise the bar and heighten our individual and collective expectations. Heightened expectations allow for growth.

Raise the bar. Be in the room. Put yourself in different situations that extend outside your usual crowd. Stretch. Grow. Learn. You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve by expecting more of yourself and others. Participate in vigorous debate in order to get to the next level. Push yourself--harder!

Before you know it, you’ve not only cleared your original hurdle but but are ahead of the game in more ways than one. What keeps you motivated? The fact that there are a pack of fast-trackers chomping at your heels, trying to out pace your position. However, you have a secret: You’ve raised the bar and are already off to your next achievement!

Truth be told, you may be apprehensive, but others are around to help you as you grow (or catch you if you falter). If there is honesty and a firm commitment to do better, you needn’t worry, because your network includes the right individuals who have a mutual passion for “next level” thinking.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Obama Nation: Create a New Holiday

A big part of creativity is just doing things differently.

During holiday time, I’m swamped with preparation for final exams and am so over the commercialism. Too waste on wanton pleasures, too draining; no longer representative of what I’m about. It was nice to gather with family in Virginia and appreciate the small things, minus the hoopla.

Why not create your own holiday remembrance, which allows people to pause and hopefully take a moment to let important milestones sink in. Here’s my holiday card copy in celebration of next week’s inauguration.

Obama Nation

Join Voices & Resources
Formulate Wise Choices

post :: progress :: persevere

I’ll send it to cherished friends and business associates via snail mail, (the kind with a stamp), because I realize most unsolicited email is not read and usually deleted. Plus, are thousands of people interested in what you have to say. Unless you’re President Obama, probably not!

It’s all about building lasting community with valuable relationships that can reap untold rewards with intermittent, careful communications.

The rest is well, junk mail.

Before you hit the send button or reach out, think about your communication techniques and be sure your messages are on the mark and not just shots in the dark. Keep it short and to the point.
Your audience and associates will truly appreciate your willingness to fine tune the message and the medium.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Don’t Overextend in the New Year

While it’s only January 12, my Google Calendar is fast booking dates through the fall. I’ll honor priority commitments, vow to get back in shape and pass on events that no longer fit.

Each season (month, week, day, hour) calls us to review, reassess and rework our to do list so we can focus on priority projects. There’s no silver bullet; life is target practice and we’re all trying to hit a bull’s eye. Often, we’re taking aim at a blurry, moving target in an oversaturated, info-laden world. It takes persistence to squeeze out time for ourselves as constantly try to reduce excess and waste that’s cluttering our lives.

Today was well spent on my ’09 financial forecast as a recommitment to “fiscal fitness” and stretching dollars to meet new responsibilities.
Whatever your age or financial situation, don’t let January pass without purposeful review of finances and legal affairs. You’ll probably realize there’s a lot you don’t need in your life and many ways you can cut back.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What I’m Reading: The Appeal by John Grisham

Colleague Mike McBunch recently gave me a signed copy of “The Appeal” by John Grisham. Mike and I are board members of Barbers International (BI), an organization that provides networking and education for barber professionals. We just celebrated our organization’s third annual conference in Tunica, Mississippi.

This wonderful gift was unique in Mike met John at a booksigning; Grisham has homes in Mississippi and Virginia (my home state); the backdrop for the book is Bowmore, Mississippi and a toxic chemical dump run by Krane Chemical, led by Carl Trudeau, a Wall Street exec on his third trophy wife. Since I can relate to the New York storylines and southern themes, Mike thought I’d enjoy the book. Boy was he right!

A fast read, I zoomed through a few chapters whereby Krane’s stock price went from about $50 a share to the mid-teens. Grisham eloquently describes the angst of high-flyers, including a gut-wrenching sequence when the in house counsel excuses himself to the men’s room and breaks down following a loss of more than $2 million.

The character says he “understands why people jumped off buildings in 1929.”

Now, I’m on the part where the Trudeau, on a tip from a powerful senator, strikes a deal with a Boca Raton consultant to “purchase” a Mississippi state supreme court seat so the $41 million toxic waste dump appeal will be in Krane Chemical’s favor.

Sound familiar? Grisham has written nearly 20 books and is at the top of his game. Published in 2008, “The Appeal” adequately captures many present day issues. King of the modern day legal thriller, check out Grisham’s bio on An attorney by trade, he turned his passion for writing into a lucrative full-time career.

By reading bestsellers, other books and surveying author’s writing styles, you not only massage your brain, but gain a window into current affairs or other important topics.

Whether hardcover, paperback, PDF, e-book or Kindle 2.0 (Amazon’s $359 e-book reader), learn to devour books and treat yourself to knowledge as an appetizer, entrĂ©e or dessert!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

National Day of Service - Jan. 19, 2009

It’s a week before Martin Luther King Day and our National Day of Service. What’s your personal commitment to yourself, your country and the new Obama-Biden Administration?

We’ll need everyone’s expertise to get our economy out of the deep black hole of our Wall Street wasteland and corporate greed coupled with misplaced personal fiscal priorities. Every little bit helps and you can make a big difference.

Last night I got my weekly fix of Consuelo Mack Wealthtrack on PBS and I just finished watching Christine Romans and Ali Velshi’s I.O.U.S.A., a CNN special that takes a revealing look at the American debt—now standing at more than $9 trillion; check out the bulletpoints at

In both segments, pundits made dire predictions for the next 6-12 months, including retail bankruptcies (Circuit City and Goody’s are slated to go under this week). One commentary hit home: the best thing you can do in “austere” times is get your own financial house in order. Good advice!

If you don’t have money to pay your bills, then what does it matter anyway? Start with small steps, reap rewards and keep going. The segments mentioned Chinese families, who on the average, save more than 30% of their annual earnings.
Americans save about 1% and we know the rule of thumb is we have in the past spent more than we earn. But, times are tight and times are changing.

For my part, I’ll use MLK day to refine a scholarship concept and use use some of my hard-earned savings to fund it.

I was partially inspired to get my project moving by Leon McLaughlin, a Seattle shoe shine entrepreneur, theatre usher and real estate mogul. Featured on the NBC Nightly News Jan. 9, his “Making a Difference” segment shared news of his efforts with World Vision to bring fresh water to destitute Bolivians.

One man can make a difference in the lives of villagers. We take fresh water, electricity and education for granted.

I was fortunate to have parents who paid cold, hard-earned cash for my college education. In turn, my husband and I paid to educate our son, without loans. We basically debt free and have for years; we can each thank our parents—children of the Depression—for our thrifty, conservative spending habits.

While I’m not a global philanthropist like McLaughlin or Bill and Melinda Gates (yet), I can do my part to help someone in need. My modest disposable income could be help a young person get through the semester or complete their degree.

Why not? The investment in a live human being is more these days than the rate of return I’ll get at the bank.

My “Millynneum Take” on the old adage is “each one, reach one.”

Do your part. Do something to celebrate this historic time in history. Soon, you’ll realize you’re more wealthy than you know. Money is a wonderful thing, but don’t forget you can also contribute by offering talent and time as a volunteer.

Fix what you see needs fixing. Get the job done.

Contribute via solutions and make it a reflective and action-oriented MLK National Service Day.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Go Online with Your Ideas

Today, I had a wonderful planning meeting with web developer Ana Julia Ghirello of GhireLLo Design, Currently in Brazil, I look forward to launching and the Grassroots to Global Public Relations ( franchise under her watchful eye.

For now, you can learn about what I do via this blog and my business to business corporate site, which showcases what I’ve done for the past 11 years under my marketing communications consulting firm Millynneum Inc;

As we evolve throughout our careers, it’s important to develop and maintain clean and consistent images and messages for the world to see. And, you have to make it easy for people to do business with you by showcasing your talent and giving them the tools to reach you. The web is a beautiful thing, because it gives business colleagues an opportunity to check you out (online) before having an email exchange or phone/face-to-face conversation.

Let the web work for you and consider hiring people who make your job easier and let you focus on what you do best. Yes, you build a website yourself, but is that what you do best? The media landscape is splintered and online specialists are the gurus of the interactive galaxy. You get what you pay for; specialists are worth their weight in gold.

I value my role as a marketing strategist and pay homage to the following specialists, who make my job easier and are worth the money regarding what they bring to the table by way of their network and expertise: graphic designers, web design specialists, photographers, event planners, online advertising and social networking strategists and people with specialized crisis, governmental or financial relations expertise.

Inexperienced communicators simply call it publicity or marketing communications which can be a disservice to the PR profession. There are many nuances to the profession. It’s big business and is becoming increasingly important, as the US presidential campaign showed the world. Everything can’t be done from a template or your kitchen table. You need specialists who know the ins and outs and can work the system (in this case the search engine optimization system) to help you succeed.

It also pays to have colleagues who think big. During our morning telecon, Ana and I spoke about her forthcoming trip to South Africa next year for the World Cup. An accomplished soccer athlete, she first first came to the US on a soccer scholarship. A few years back she landed in the Big Apple, completing her degree at The City College of New York (CCNY), where we met.

Just a few years ago, I was her professor. Now, I’m proud to call her my colleague and business associate! That’s how the world works. Always maintain contacts and connections, and learn to spot specialized expertise and mutual areas of interest.
Soon, your network will expand dramatically and you’re in a position to help more people. In turn, more people will be in a position to help you!

Go Verbal

The beauty of email is that it’s often referred to as “a quiet phone call.” Email is tremendously efficient and usually quite effective.

But sometimes, you just have to pick up the phone! There’s nothing like “deep background” to obtain industry background and keep our creative juices flowing.

Today, I had the pleasure to connect with a colleague from a past work experience. In two words: what fun! As we rehashed the old days, I came to value our relationship and the opportunity to bounce things off a trusted colleague and friend. We're now determining new ways to work together to achieve our mutual career and business goals.

Text messages, twitter and emoticons -- : ) -- : ( -- can’t capture unique phrasings or your particular take on current affairs, etc. And, sometimes you need to give your fingers a break from the keypad, reduce eye strain, kick back and participate in a phone conversation for business or pleasure. As people who know me understand … I don’t do it often, but when I do, I share about 50 computer screens of “verbal knowledge” that would certainly take a very long time to type!


I thank client Dawna Michelle Fields for this valuable business tip. As Colgate’s National Program Manager for Bright Smiles, Bright Futures™, she manages scores of consultants in markets throughout the US.

In order to manage reams of digital reporting, she encourages market managers to set aside “administrative days” to get expense and status reports in order for submission to the national headquarters.

Bulk tasks and save time by establishing “A-Days” (or “A-Hours”) to tackle vital administrative tasks.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Downtime Discipline: A Working Winter Break

Today was a fantastic “advance planning” day at City College of The New York (CCNY). After the flurry of the end of the semester and exams, students and professors have a bit of a reprieve before the semester starts in a little over two weeks.

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have a few moments to plan and think outside the box.

First, I had the opportunity to network with CCNY’s Wendy Thornton and Daniel Tome in the Office of Student Life and Leadership Development. Last semester, I had the pleasure of working with their colleague O’Lanso Gabbindon, who monitored approval of the first campus chapter of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Harlem’s leading environmental organization (visit to learn about first annual WE ACT Climate Conference, Jan. 29-30).

We spoke about ways we all could be of more service to MCA students and those throughout the college. Exciting plans are in the works; more on that later. Because we used a portion of our downtime discipline to think outside the box, we even came up with a creative interdisciplinary idea that just might work to bring folks together and build visibility. We’ll see. All of us just appreciated the opportunity to get to know each other as colleagues and see how best we might be able to work together in the months ahead.

Midday I met student leaders as they strategized for the upcoming Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Bateman competition. They are using their winter break wisely, coordinating programs and approvals as they roll out an innovative program for 8th Graders at the Frederick Douglass Academy.

In the afternoon, I got a jump on computer, telephone and other operational issues before the spring semester begins. Ann Rossetti, our dedicated college laboratory technician who manages Media & Communication Arts computer networks, is using the quiet, uninterrupted downtime to upgrade the departments smart classrooms, synching applications and installing new hardware—no small feat. Each semester, when students return to campus they are treated to system upgrades, thanks to Ann, who has the patience of Job.

Later, I learned Blackbox, college subcontractors for the huge job of replacing phones throughout CCNY, currently has 50 people on campus to deal with what must be a monumental task. My spanking new phone looks great, but alas, has no dial tone. Wayne Grofik, our MCA Technical Director, suggests that I walk through the service order rather than calling to what must be a black hole of requests. Good idea.

By just walking through my request, the gentlemen in the CCNY telecommunications office seemed relieved someone was not bombarding them with tirades of “my phone doesn’t work—come fix it now!” I was then directed to the hotline to log in my request.

“Thanks for understanding,” they replied.

Treat folks with respect and kindness and you’ll get it back 10-fold.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Career Survival Skills for ’09: Have Patience, Persist & Reinvent

In response to a young professional seeking career advice from the National Black Public Relations Society (, I’m encouraged to condense thoughts as the subject for today’s blog.

With the economy at a standstill, a new member wonders what she can do to further her career. The talented young woman, armed with military service, broadcast and agency experience and currently employed at a Florida agency, asks how best to move ahead in the public relations profession—in spite of the economic standstill.

It’s a good question. For those at similar career crossroads, consider the following:

> Conduct a serious SWOT analysis on yourself. Think about your Strengths, Weaknesses, Career Opportunities and Threats, which includes colleagues with similar skills sets. The trick is to set yourself apart from the pack and build on your unique talents.

> What can you do to make your current gig more rewarding and/or make yourself more valuable to your current organization? It pays to be grateful for your current job. Over the past few months, several acquaintances have relayed this in passing conversations. Listen when you’re in line at the ATM, grocery store, barbershop, at the drug store or in retail outlets … most are singing the same tune: “I’m just happy to be working.” You certainly don’t want to be “right sized” before you’re ready to go. The one good thing about this economic downturn is that it’s teaching us all to be a little more appreciative of what we have and understand that nothing is for certain.

> Create/secure additional revenue streams. Plan ahead; start that consultancy, if that’s something you’d like to pursue. Even if you’re not generating $5 million a month (who is these days), you’re making “missteps” without your business being your sole source of money. Word to the wise, don’t go into entrepreneurship half-heartedly; but think about how proud you’ll be if you look back on ’09 and say, that’s the year I started my business and I’m now celebrating Year 5. For me, Millynneum just passed the 11 year mark; I’m quite proud of that achievement along with my “encore” career as a teacher!

> Consider a career/life coach: This individual could help you see what your talents are and help set your career compass. Don’t think of this as “not worth it,” or “I don’t need to create another bill.” In today’s COMPETITIVE marketplace, you have to understand that times are tight and you have to be tough in your approach. Often, you have to spend money to make money. While I may not like to cut checks to my accountant, it’s the best money every spent to obtain PROFESSIONAL business advice that keeps me on sound financial footing with my business and the IRS. Similarly, isn’t your career worth the investment of specialized expertise? You decide.

> Think about your SPECIFIC dream job and what it will take for you to earn that position. Everyone needs a roadmap. If you understand where you’d like to go, then it becomes easier to perhaps take other jobs that could lead you to that ultimate position. Back in my day, folks stayed with employers for ages. Now, people make bold career moves every few years. Both ways are cool. If a job is working in your behalf, stick with it; if you need to spread your wings, then devise a flight plan and prepare for take off! However, understand there may be rough winds and bumpy turbulence along the way. It’s all part of the wonderful ride of life and there’s nothing like that fast ascent (or quick drop) to keep you motivated. Enjoy those moments when the ride is smooth—because that certainly doesn’t happen every day.

> Find a mentor. There’s no clear path in this profession, but it always helps to bounce ideas off another media professional. While the route may be circuitous, there are many ways to end up where you want to be. Mentors help you navigate and serve as valuable personal consultants.

> Take classes. In media and communications or something whereby you may eventually be able to turn a hobby into a paid profession.

> Attend professional events. The young woman who initiated this blog post is a NBPRS member, which is fantastic. Also consider memberships in Women in Communications (, Public Relations Society of America (, local publicity, journalism/content development, digital/new media associations as well as the chamber of commerce.

> Continue to network. In addition to industry groups, network with family, friends, alumni, armed services, civic and community and faith-based organizations. You simply just never know when or how a contact may reach you.

> Volunteer. Advocacy and awareness for social causes is the name of the game, even in these austere times. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) now includes corporate watchdogs, citizen journalists and bloggers who staunchly recommend or decry corporations whose hearts are in the right place. Also understand many corporate and business execs volunteer and serve on the boards of many leading nonprofits. You never know who you might meet as you give back to society. And, remember your volunteer expertise could lead to a full-time gig.

> Join a professional chapter of BPRSNY or another communications org. If a chapter doesn’t exist, lobby to start one. Nothing shows your leadership, seriousness, dedication and commitment more than taking the reigns and working toward success while helping others in the field. This expands your long-term visibility in the marketing communications marketplace.

> Follow through on the “digiwork” (aka digital documentation; old school - paperwork). A colleague recently landed a G-gig (government job) after patiently staying in touch with contacts online and via phone calls for about a year. Most folks aren’t that tenacious. It’s all about follow up and follow through!

> What sets you apart in today’s tight hiring environment? You have to understand there will be dozens of people in line for the same opportunity. And, realize with the soaring unemployment rate, there will be people with 5, 10, 20 more years experience who bring skills and experience to the table. That doesn’t mean the golden opportunity won’t be yours, but it does mean that you have to head others off at the pass by being at the TOP of several “employment lists” simultaneously.

> Remain vital and visible. There are many success stories out there regarding professionals who start blogs or ezines to showcase their talent and build a following. In today’s multifaceted media environment, individuals can play in the big leagues. A few years ago, Google and didn’t exist. People took a chance, worked long hours (and still do), received funding and succeeded. Everyone may not end up as big as these news dynamic news and info orgs, but there is room in the new media market space for EVERYONE to make their unique mark. The trick is to start, follow through and be in it for the long haul.

> Stay current and keep your skills fresh. Learn Flash or InDesign if you don’t have these skills under your belt already. Understand Google Analytics and the latest media tracking and metrics. Always work to sharpen your skills. There’s no point where you stop learning; the media landscape is too exciting and is experiencing too many changes. That said, there’s always room for fresh talent—only you can bring your unique skills to the table.

> Keep a positive attitude. Always focus on “what can be” (the mantra of NYC’s crt/tanaka agency) and continue to improve upon your strengths.

> Stay focused and keep working.

Alas, I’ve been working for nearly 30 years and it really doesn’t get any easier. However, you can definitely work smarter—and it gets BETTER each day, each year. The trick is to be in it for the long haul.

This profession calls for perseverance, stamina, sound judgment, and often long days. There are many times when family members and colleagues are off in the world of leisure and I’m glued to my computer screen. I have made a conscious choice not to be laissez faire with my career--and it’s paid off.

Yeah, worklife balance is cool, but my advice is don’t believe the hype. You can keep jumping from ship to ship or think you'e the answer to every manager's dreams. But, understand the market is now glutted with fresh talent, there are sharks in the water and less lifeboats (jobs) circling.

In sum, there are no shortcuts. However, there’s a sea of opportunity if you swim shrewdly and stay ahead of the current.

In this economy, I appreciate the fact I have a gig that I love and am exploring MULTIPLE revenue streams as I continue to plan for the next 20 years and my ultimate retirement, possibly in South Africa. You must always have a plan, dream big, think, work and network for the long term.

Be proactive, see what needs doing and then be the one to get the job done! Good luck to all, and keep me posted as you proceed to achieve your dreams.

For our New York based tri-state readers, BPRSNY ( will host a Career Transitions event Thursday, Jan. 27, 6-8 PM, Burson-Marsteller, 230 Park Avenue South @ 19th Street, Manhattan. Industry pros will share thoughts to help you develop your personal survival package.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Connections and Memories of a Past Life

Today’s post office chatter included banter with a woman who just returned from holiday travel in my old stomping ground—Pinellas County, Florida, home of the St. Petersburg Times.

Turns out she was originally from Tarpon Springs and just returned to Brooklyn from visiting relatives and friends in Dunedin. What a small world, Dunedin was my FIRST beat as a newspaper reporter! The people were wonderful, the civics lessons were huge. I still recall the City Commissioner, Richard Gehring, great guy. And, Parwez Alam, the City Engineer, who won over the city management and attained the "top spot" once Gehring moved on. Back then, it was interesting to see democracy at work as a primarly Anglo community accepted the talent and tenacity of a brilliant gentleman with the quiet reserve and perserverence of Ghandi.

Then there were City Commissioners like Manny Koutsourais and Dave Ramsey. Friendly, astute, welcoming souls, who always kept me "in the know," regarding affairs I should cover for the paper. Although a registered Democrat, I was honored when Ramsey said I should consider running for public office one day and explained that the Republican National Committee (RNC) had "training camps" to teach you how to succeed in politics. I later learned from a colleague at these were officially called "campaign camps" because he participated in one several years ago. A fellow reporter, Amelia Davis, even invited me to join the local Junior League chapter in Clearwater, the neighboring city.

Yes, times were a-changing in the early 80's and a primarily Anglo community was most welcoming to a woman like me. A young, relatively inexperienced Black woman right out of college. What did they see in me? Unbridled commitment to excellence and a willigness to do whatever it took to get the job done. Funny how those skills manage to cross all party lines.

The post office woman also reminded me this week marks Epiphany, celebrated by the Greek Orthodox Church. According to Wikipedia: Epiphany (Greek for "to manifest" or "to show"), is a Christian feast day which celebrates the revelation of God in human form in the person of Jesus Christ; Epiphany falls on January 6. I remembered covering Epiphany a few times for the paper!

Back in the day (1981) there were tons of newspapers; now known as the “dinosaurs” of the media age. Yesterday’s reporters are today’s content developers. If you can learn to write in a tight news style, you can certainly be valuable on the job and build a multifaceted career.

While I didn’t get her name, we had a real human exchange that brought back warm memories of my Florida days. I remembered the stately homes along Edgewater Drive and the marina, which was poised for an uplift 25 years ago. She explained how her mother once was employed as a chef for the Greeks and told me how the most famous restaurant in Tarpon Springs had closed, yet spawned other locations, undoubtedly in more populated, central locales throughout the county.

I’m a big fan of Greek food and Greek culture, thanks to my college professor, Dr. Frank Snowden. The chance meeting with this woman reminds me to take that trip to Greece (which I’ve been talking about forever) within the next year.

The chance meeting also reminded me of my older African American sorors of Alpha Kappa Alpha (Nu Beta Omega Chapter), who lived in northern Pinellas County.

I was fresh out of Howard University, and my Anglo colleagues and I often partied and had dinner together, often on Clearwater or Indian Shores Beaches. The older Black women I knew were reserved and hesitant about dining on those enclaves--once off limits. Why? Because they remember the day when they were not welcome across the causeway; better to play it safe.

But, I’ve never been one for caution and love adventure (or, call it youthful stupidity). During my time in Florida I experienced tremendous growth. That experience gave me the guts and fortitude to move to New York City, where I always wanted to be. I came to town only knowing a few souls, but I knew I could make it. I did temp work for months, then networked with my college professor from Howard, Dr. Larry Kaggwa. He previously taught at Norfolk State University and had a student Lydia Gardner, who happened to work at Hill and Knowlton. After I met Lydia, the rest is history. She was the “connection” I needed to interview with the global PR firm, where I worked for about 4 years.

It’s all about:

> Connections;
> Who you know;
> Who knows you and ..
> Being ready to put what you know to good use.

Yes, sometimes it’s nice to make a personal connection, speak to people in passing, walk or drive to a post office and use snail mail (that’s the kind with a stamp) every now and then.

Yes, snail mail is good for parcels, holiday cards for select special friends and handwritten notes. Try it sometime; your recipient will thank you. My current “favorite” stamps feature Bette Davis, reminiscent of her younger days. Along with being one of my mother’s favorite actresses and mine, I always remember Bette’s seriousness and commitment to the craft in interviews, and how she was a stickler about arriving on time at the studio, set and ready to work.

Good lessons for Hollywood or business types.

Now, it’s my job as a college professor to pass along sound journalism tenents from my newspaper days to my students, who now serve as copywriters, content developers and marketing professionals at leading media organizations and institutions throughout the tri-state area and beyond.

And, to complete the career circle, a few weeks ago, I joined the St. Petersburg Times Alumni LinkedIn group, a perfect transition which celebrates meaningful careers as a reporter, marketing exec, multicultural public relations specialist, business consultant, reporter and professor. BTW, there’s a LinkedIn group for everything; consider starting your own and creating lasting connections that could reap huge emotional and monetary rewards one days.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Let Go of Your Crutch

One of my favorite televangelists is Joel Osteen. ALWAYS upbeat, you can count on Joel and wife Victoria for tips on “victorious living.”

Last night’s talk encouraged people to let go of their crutch, explaining that a higher power often puts relationships, jobs and opportunities in our midst for a season, but you shouldn’t hold on to any situation or any one person for too long.

In order to take flight, you have to let go. The cosmos thus provides room for new people and opportunities to enter your life.

Also, the Osteens encourage everyone to go for their dreams, and know that the power already exists inside each of us to seize the moment. People are key to this equation, hence the need to let the right people into your circles and social networks—including social, civic, social and spiritual networks.

Good advice I’ve taken to heart as you could tell from last week’s post. I have a philosophy to pay attention to the signs. The spirit world has a way of tipping you off, if you take the time to stay focused and pay attention.

Travolta Tragedy News Coverage

John Travolta and Kelly Preston’s son Jett died in the Bahamas Jan. 2 at age 16 while on family holiday.

Coverage of this personal tragedy has (so far) been tasteful and respectful, which pays tribute to the 16-year old’s life and his family. It also says a lot about Travolta/Preston’s relationship with the press and paparazzi over the years. Media types shared their grief during initial coverage and said the couple always took time to speak with the press. All agreed Friday was a sad day in Hollywood.

I remember Travolta from his days as Vinnie Barbarino on the popular ABC sitcom, Welcome Back Kotter, which I enjoyed watching in high school. My heart goes out to the Travolta family. Stars may dim, but they continue to shine, as will the warm memories of their son as noted on the home page of

Even editors said they “hoped it wasn’t true,” when they first broke the story as an exclusive Friday—after checking the facts with numerous sources in the Bahamas, including hospital officials, who confirmed the untimely death. did super reporting and fact-checking and presented a balanced news story. That’s more than I can say for some news organizations; scroll down for post about recent New York Times snafu whereby reporters and editor’s didn’t take the time to check the facts.

Always take the time and make an effort to collect the facts before you publish a story. Your audience and readers are counting on you.

Work Hard and Remember to Take Care of Yourself

Fran Ham, a young writer at WWOR-TV (NY-NJ market) died this weekend at home, reportedly from an asthma attack. According to colleague Ti-Hua Chang, she reportedly kept working last week, although she was ill.

Maintain a strong work ethic (it will take you a long way), but remember to take time out for yourself. Our condolences to Fran’s family.

Action Aid’s “Put Your Foot Down” HIV Awareness Campaign

While surfing the web this morning, I came across a wonderful advocacy promotion from the United Kingdom whereby 2,876 shoes will be delivered to the UK government on International Women’s Day (March 8) to call attention to the number of women who contract HIV every day.

Global citizens are encouraged to send shoes or put your foot down for a good cause by signing a petition by contacting ActionAid, Hamlyn House, LONDON, N19 5PG. Include your name, country and a few words about the crisis, if you’d like.

This promotion creatively calls to mind the recent "shoe toss" incident whereby President George Bush was almost hit by airborne footwear tossed during a recent Iraqi press conference.

According to the Action Aid website:

“A girl born in South Africa has a higher chance of being raped than of learning to read. With 5 million South Africans living with HIV the risk of HIV infection for women is extremely high.

More than 15 million women are living with HIV globally. Every half minute another becomes infected. Widespread violence against women and girls increases their risk of HIV infection.

Violence also increases women’s risk indirectly. The threat of violence deters many women from refusing sex or insisting on condoms, even when they suspect their partner is HIV positive.”

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Bodacious Blago in C-Town

I can now “officially” face 2009 and catch up on blogging after turning in grades for nearly 100 undergrads students at the City College of New York (CCNY-CUNY). And, I can take a moment to share thoughts on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (Blah-goya-vich), affectionately dubbed “Blago” by the press.

Blago’s appointment of Roland Burris to fill President Elect Barack Obama’s senate seat was a bold stroke of Chicago-brand strategic maneuvering, a.k.a. gutter politics!
Truth be told—I love it!

The great thing about today’s innovative media environment is the license to create words that literally “pop” with explanation as they accurately define and describe celebrities, politics and pop culture. Words like: “Blago,” “Obamanation,” “Brajelina,” and “TomKat.”

While I’m a staunch journalist/educator at heart and appreciate the power of refined English language, I appreciate “contemporary” vehicles such as blogs (weblogs), vlogs (videologs) and mobile communications that organically allows juicy ideas to flow.

I often encourage students to write in a conversational style that works across many media platforms and applications. Once you have your ideas ideas down, they can be shortened for mobile applications or lengthened for a feature piece or specialty online medium. Once you fully understand your hard facts and determine the vehicles for delivery, you can “tweak” the style to meet your needs.

The trick is to have strong a strong message.

That’s why I love the Blago story, which has it all! Indicted politician ... Al Capone-style mob intrigue … US Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald (modeled in the tradition of “rid the Midwest of gangsters” lawman Elliot Ness) ... alleged monetary gain via the “sale” of a US Senate seat … Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. mentioned as “Candidate #5” in conversation transcripts.

You don’t have to be President-Elect to connect the dots and realize Blago could make some extra cash with a six figure book deal. Movie rights, anyone? Here in New York, near Brooklyn’s Silvercup Studios, I can hear Blago’s cell phone ringing as he ponders which agent can bring the best price for a reality show or TV movie.

His move was bold, brash, brazen and bodacious. While it remains to be seen if the Illinois Governor was working the phones in an attempt to hustle funds for a senate seat, one thing’s for sure. Blago knows how to work the press and press folks’ buttons.

That friends, is strong messaging.

It’s up to the government and the press to file facts for public consideration.
You and I can sort through the info and draw our own conclusions.

Hmm … Blago may want to consider a career in PR or marketing communications, because this is one gentleman who knows how to manipulate messages in a commanding way.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Tip to the Times: Fact-Check Your Messages
Another Embarrassing Mistake at the Nation’s Paper of Record

While it bad things happen on the best of days, it can be disastrous when sound news judgment and senior editors BOTH take a holiday at a leading news organization.

Check out what appeared in the Monday, Dec. 22 (Christmas/Hanukkah week) edition of The New York Times. Today’s knowledge workers must come to grips with the need for fact checking and approvals. The public wants to know … fast … but they want facts, not fiction. This means if you’re an intern on your first day on the job or a senior manager with decades of decision-making under your belt

The New York Times got caught (again) abandoning this key tenet of journalism (fact-checking), when they printed an op-ed piece from Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe berating Caroline Kennedy’s quest for a US senate seat.

Problem was, the mayor didn’t write it the letter. Reporters and editors took the fake bait because they were hooked on being “first” rather than “factual.” Ouch!

There was a time when the Times was proudly known as the nation’s paper of record. They’re slipping. As an “edujournalist,” it’s sad when a news organization’s reputation starts rolling down a hill of half-baked facts. It quickly takes on a snowball effect.

That’s why I take my job as a college professor very seriously. It’s imperative educators, journalists, content developers and marketing communications professionals – and students learning the craft – take time to tackle the facts and carefully check sources.

Here’s a summary of what went down:

The New York Times admitted last week it was duped into publishing a fake letter claiming to come from Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe that criticized Caroline Kennedy's senate bid as "appalling" and "not very democratic."

"What title has Ms. Kennedy to pretend to Hillary Clinton's seat?" read the letter, printed in Monday's editions of the leading US metropolitan daily.

"We French can only see a dynastic move of the vanishing Kennedy clan in the very country of the Bill of Rights. It is both surprising and appalling ... Can we speak of American decline?" read the letter.

Later Monday, the newspaper published an editor's note on its website stating "this letter was a fake. It should not have been published."

Delanoe's press office in Paris confirmed that the text was a hoax.

The letter was received via email, and the Times said it had "violated both our standards and our procedures in publishing signed letters from our readers" because it had not verified its authenticity. The paper said it had already sent an apology to Delanoe's office.

Command Attention with Outstanding Performance

Overall, all of my CCNY students did well this semester. A few weeks back all received outstanding marks during group project presentations, which showcased what students learned throughout the semester. Suitable for viewing on YouTube, students were polished and on point. But of course we wouldn’t show mock presentations online because we didn’t have legal approval from our clients or featured advocacy groups. It’s always important to respect intellectual property and communications law at each phase of the marketing process.

That takes on the job training. Along with my colleagues at CCNY, we try to fast-forward the process as students prepare to enter the world of work.

Organizational Tip of the Day

Use Microsoft Office Notes to organize your desktop. Like First Lady Michelle Obama says, “I like order.”


When you have a one or two word response or approval sent via e-mail or BlackBerry, end with < EOM > -- end of message. That way, the recipient doesn’t have to open or read a full message, saving time.

Example: C U@ 8 < EOM >

[ Translation for mature readers: See you at 8 PM. ]

It's 8 PM; time to sign off and watch “The Obamas,” Suzanne Malveaux’s CNN special celebrating America's new "first family". Later!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Expand Your Network with BPRSNY, PRSA, NAMIC
and Professional Development Organizations


While these are “austere” times, it pays to shore up your professional network and lean on like-minded colleagues who can offer professional support on the path to an encore career or life-changing, wealth-generating revenue stream.

What networks offer

> Insider value
> Innovative career-building techniques
> Industry insight

What you gain

> Access to those in the know
> Admission to circles of power
> Authority to soar with eagles

Understand you get what you pay for. While splurges may be out of the question, make sure your 2009 annual budget includes memberships in professional associations—important building blocks as you solidify the foundation of your personal brand.

For a bargain price of $50 (that’s $4 a month or less than $1 a week), you can join the Black Public Relations Society—New York (, one of many professional media societies offering prime access to professionals with decades of experience in the communications business. Or, you can spend (or fritter away) more on any given night on cocktails at any Manhattan nightspot—you decide.

For those considering bold moves between the fast-blurring lines of journalism / broadcasting, content development, social marketing, entrepreneurship and brand development, BPRSNY offers a FREE SEMINAR to recharge your career batteries for the new year:

BPRSNY :: Career Transitions
Tuesday, January 27, 2009 :: 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Burson-Marsteller, Inc.
230 Park Avenue South @ 19th Street :: NYC

Moderated by Marsha Haygood, President of StepWise Associates LLC and BPRSNY Board of Advisors member, the free symposium will include panelists who have transitioned between journalism and broadcasting to careers in content development, marketing communications, entrepreneurship and other digital disciplines.

According to, “StepWise is a premiere career and personal development consultancy with a clear mission: to offer professional and personal guidance to individuals and corporations through coaching, facilitating self exploration, and motivational speaking.”

Versatile and well-versed in many fields, Marsha and her team of expert communicators will share techniques to keep you motivated and mobile as you manifest your personal destiny in the PR field and beyond.

Think you have job security? Think again. You may have (thankfully) made it through 4th quarter budget cuts; but the 1st quarter ends March 31—and thousands could get their “marching orders.”

Be prepared and stay one step ahead of the game. Attend BPRSNY’s free career transitions seminar Jan. 27 ( and join BPRSNY now! While you’re at it, join a few other professional groups. In the PR profession there’s the Public Relations Society of America (, National Association of Multiethnicity in Communications ( and the National Alliance of Market Developers ( to name a few.

All are excellent values, help provide career clarity and offer valuable continuing education, training and insight to keep you at the top of your game. While I’m a fulltime professor at The City College of New York (CCNY-CUNY), I serve as BPRSNY VP Programs & Membership and serve on PRSA’s Diversity Committee.

Why? Because despite nearly a 30 year career as a journalist, communications strategist and global marketing executive and college educator, networks still help in my professional growth and development. BPRSNY and PRSA colleagues are among the first I turn with questions or counsel on important projects. And, there’s still a lot of important work to be done as assist colleagues in my Grassroots to Global PR network.

Take your professional development seriously each and every month of this new year!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

9 Tips for ’09

It’s a new year full of options and opportunities. Consider these tips as you chart your path:

1. Build your personal brand.
No one will do it for you and this takes time. “Group think” is cool, but often, going for your dreams is a solitary excursion. Blog, reflect, work, travel … explore! Take note of how media experts are developing their own online properties and reaping huge rewards. If you have a PC or Mac, then you can too!

Ad Agencies Fashion Their Own Horn and Toot It

2. Network with yourself.
That’s right; instead of meeting everyone else’s needs, put yourself first for a change. Consider alternative career options. Take class; learn something new. Think about what you’d like to do with the rest of your life. Turn a hobby into a side business. Remember, if you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t be downsized!

3. Take risks.
Within reason, go for it. Don’t wish you had, know you can! In order to get to the next phase, you’ve got to take the first step.

4. Grow and let go.
In order to grow, you must learn to let go. Know when what you’ve done is good enough and all you can do. Often, we hold onto things for too long. This includes toxic relationships, jobs, clutter or even points of view. Boldly press forward; it’s never too late to make changes.

5. Take advantage of what comes your way.
Tackle new challenges, shake off inhibitions and stretch your ambitions. Understand you won’t be able to do all the great things that come your way—but you WILL be able to achieve about 99.9% of what’s out there. Handle opportunities in priority order and be reasonable about your time limits and other commitments. Understand it’s okay to say no. Appreciate “free fun”: precious moments to connect with loved ones, laughter with friends, a quiet walk to reflect on fond memories and understand how far you’ve come. Thus, you can begin to prioritize all you’d like to achieve.

7. Get off the couch.
Life is serious and life isn’t free—you have to participate. Stop being lazy. Give it all you’ve got! Turn your ideas and insight into cash and societal contributions.

8. Lead by example.
Those in your circle of contacts will follow your lead. Talk is cheap. Invest your expertise and reap the rewards. While life has a lot to offer, it’s also important to consider what you can give back.

9. Do more.
Now that you’re motivated, make it a point to do more each day, week, month and throughout the year. Don’t let anything keep you on the sidelines; always make forward progress. Play the game your way; break traditional rules (within reason) and savor each victory even when you’re the only one shouting!