Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Special Event Conference

Last year, I had the great fortune of attending The Special Event 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. This conference for event planners is one of the most well-organized and informative national conferences I've ever been to. At the conference, I learned new skills for planning events for nonprofits, green events, contingency planning, and time-management skills. My two favorite sessions were 'Hot Event and Entertainment Ideas' with legendary planner Michael Cerbelli and 'How to Gain the Competitive Advantage through Business Etiquette' with Anna Post.

This year, the conference is being held at the San Diego Convention Center on January 28 - 30. Education sessions are divided into tracks such as 'Wedding Trends', 'Design', 'Sales & Marketing' and 'Professional Development'. In addition to learning valuable information from leading experts in event planning, The Special Event also features a world-class tradeshow floor, an upscale wedding luncheon and a gala and awards celebration with opportunities for networking.

Click here to download an event brochure for The Special Event 2009. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Travel Blogs

I love travel – the trip, the planning process, travel magazines, shopping for luggage and toiletries – and everything that goes along with it. Most of all, I love the experience of trading in my usual routine for something that promises adventure and excitement. If I could, I would travel back in fictional time and inhabit the world of Indiana Jones.

My love for travel causes me to devour every bit of travel information I can get my hands on. Lately, I have been paying more attention to travel blogs and following a few travelers on Twitter. There are hundreds of travel blogs out there with first-hand accounts of travel to every country and state. This is fantastic for keeping travelers well-informed and providing authentic, transparent information about what's out there.

Listed below are some of my favorites:

Almost Fearless
Europe String
Travel Q & A
The Perrin Post
The Daily Traveler
World Travelista

I'm also excited to discover so many tools on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites that allow you to share your travel photos and experiences with your friends and families. It is so exciting to get a taste for the world, even if it is vicariously through those you love and trust.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Web and Widgets

People may dislike using the term 'widget' to describe tiny Web applications for blogs and social networks, but they certainly love widget applications. According to Garrick Schmitt in The Razorfish Consumer Experience Report, "widgets are remaking the Internet" with hundreds of millions of consumer downloads occurring.

David Lenehan defines widgets on his blog ReadWriteWeb as follows:

"A Web widget can be best described as a mini application that can add functionality to your Web page, blog, social profile, etc. If you find a widget that you like, you simply copy and paste some code and add it to the HTML of your Web page. Photo galleries, news, videos, advertising, mp3 players and pregnancy countdown tickers! You name it, there is probably a widget that does it."

Internet users are interacting with widgets every day -- playing YouTube videos within another site, adding a Project Playlist song to their MySpace page, and posting video feeds on their friends' walls -- and in the process, they are freely distributing decentralized content all over the Web.

With millions of widgets used to share and consume information, advertisers and marketers should not underestimate this viral future of Web content. More than ever, consumers have the opportunity to customize the information and entertainment they take in and to share that information freely through a variety of Web services. The end result is an Internet landscape made up of highly distributed, customized and networked content. If advertisers fail to grasp the entire ripple effect of content distribution, continuing to focus on singular Web sites as a one-stop shopping place for information, they are likely to miss out on the Web as a whole.

Are you considering widgets when you discuss social media strategies with the companies you work with?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three Things I Wish I Had Learned Sooner

I'm always looking for ways to improve in life and in the workplace. I often find that self-reflection leads to new, positive directions. Recent events have made me realize that there are 3 things I wish I had learned sooner which I hope to pass along to anyone who is entering the work force:

1. Be the Master of Your Timetable
As much as possible, don't allow others to control your schedule. Choose when you will read and respond to e-mail rather than feel tied to your computer. Divert your phone calls when you need to concentrate. Also, even if you are an entry-level employee, don't be afraid to ask people to make an appointment with you or respect the boundaries of your cubicle.

2. Build a Strong Network
To most career builders, networking seems fairly obvious, but are you remembering to create strong relationships within your own organization? Remember, you don't have to, nor should you, do everything on your own. Find ways to collaborate with your peers to leverage assets and achieve your goals. If your own supervisor isn't supportive, seek out a mentor within your organization who can provide you with guidance and challenge you to grow.

3. Face Difficult Situations Head-On
When you face a challenge or conflict, it's tempting to avoid it. You need to resist this urge and learn how to find solutions to your problems. If it's the small task that you dread, do it first thing in the day and get it over with. For more complicated issues, especially those that involve conflicts with your co-workers, don't let problems build up. If you focus on making progress and finding resolutions rather than winning an argument, you may be able to find solutions that don't involve uncomfortable confrontations.

What lessons have you learned over the years that would have made you a better entry-level practitioner? I would love to hear your thoughts! For more ideas on being successful in the workplace, I suggest posting the article '25 Tips to Becoming More Productive and Happy at Work' by your monitor.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

PR Events - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As someone who is new to the field of public relations but experienced in events, I find it suprising that so many public relations students are intent on going into the field of PR events after graduation. For the past six years, I have coordinated large special events ranging from auctions that raised more than $100,000 to outdoor festivals for families with as many as 6,000 people in attendance. Although a large amount of my work has been operational, every event I have planned has been a PR vehicle and has involved a great deal of communication and media relation skills.

At the suggestion of Elana Silverman of PR Thoughts, I've decided to share the good, the bad and the ugly experiences I have had as a sample for anyone who may be considering event planning in the future.

The good:

  • Feeling an absolute sense of accomplishment when I receive positive feedback from event-goers and my supervisors at the end of a long, chaotic day. Bonus - when someone tells me that my event was the highlight of their summer.
  • Unique tasks keep every day interesting, such as carving 400 pumpkins, watching 65,000 rubber ducks float down the river, hiring a fire-juggler, stuffing 20,000 Easter eggs, and coordinating staff members I've never met before.
  • Never having to experience 9-5 cubicle fever.
  • Interactions with the media. The best experience yet was for the "Haunted Hayride" - I gave an interview while driving a reporter around on a golf cart through a dark orchard.
  • Helping to excecute events that raised thousands of dollars for local foster kids.

The bad:

  • Irregular hours. (Notice I've listed this as a good thing, too.) I often start my day at 5 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. There are no breaks except for the few moments I take to shove a protein bar in my mouth and down some water. I might make it to the restroom if I don't get called on my radio first.
  • Events are very stressful. For some reason, I always manage to stay calm but often people around me don't. Tempers flare and timelines become tight. I've learned to be prepared for anything and everything.
  • The day-of portion of the event can seem anticlimactic compared to the lead time. After spending six months preparing for every detail, a four-hour event sometimes feels like a weak payoff.

The ugly:

  • Crises. I've experienced my share and they are never easy. Children become separated from their parents, linens catch fire, bounce houses deflate while kids are still bouncing -- and most likely, things will go wrong when the most important person at the event is there to witness it.
  • I've actually been asked to remove goose "droppings" by hand from a park. Not kidding.
  • Mistakes can be very public. When you submit a late report, it's usually just your immediate supervisor that finds out. When you forget to confirm a vendor, thousands of attendees with an event map in-hand are disappointed.

Fortunately, despite all of the challenges I've encountered in my years of event planning, the one issue I have never had to face is an event that did not create positive public relations. Knowing that I've created memorable experiences for people makes me feel very good about the work that I do. Overall, I think that events are exciting, challenging and a great way for someone to strengthen their leadership capabilities and time-management skills. Perhaps I shouldn't be suprised that so many public relations students want to get their feet wet with events.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is Social Media Safe for Government Organizations?

Recently, I've been interviewing government public affairs practioners to discuss the use of social media. There are unique concerns that government agencies face regarding privacy policies, communication laws and relationships with their constituents. One of the main reasons public agencies hesitate to participate in social media is fear of the unknown - there is a lack of research addressing how communication laws apply to social media platforms.

For my presentation in Advanced PR Writing, I've been trying to uncover some of the main risks that government agencies should overcome in order to safely participate in social media. So far, I've found that there are three main communication laws that organizations should be aware of in order to safeguard themselves:

1. Copyright Infringement - Agencies should follow the same copyright laws that they would for other publications and pay special attention to crediting sources and observing copyright laws for posting photos and information from other blogs and Web sites.

2. Privacy Policy - In order to ensure that the private information of an organization's constituents is not illegally disclosed, agencies should monitor the conversation and moderate comments, posts and information when necessary.

3. Defamation of Character - Due to the nature of blogs and social media platforms that allow the posting of photos and comments, government organizations must rely upon moderation and monitoring to avoid incidents of libel and slander.

Check out my slideshare presentation below to see a visual interpretation of this information: