Category Archives: COMMUNICATIONS (PR, Social Media, Academia)

Life if full of communications! Sharing stories of pre-concieved notions, bravery, the on-line digital world, marketing, PR, events and more.

Roadside Libraries

Free Books Right on the Side of the Road!

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Several months ago, walking my dogs around the neighborhood in North Portland, I came across this little box on the side of the road. Obviously I was intrigued with my first roadside library encounter.

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I started envisioning walking down here with my daughter and the dogs, sitting on the swing (shown below), enjoying our books. There was something so simple, yet so fun and special. I thought warmly, “Only in Portland…”

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Then a few weeks ago, I came across another one! Still in North Portland, but an entirely different neighborhood. I didn’t realize this was a “thing,” assuming the the first one I saw was a creative whim of the household behind the library box. I love the Green Roof on the one below!

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                                                                                                                Then, even more recently, I saw a local news clip on roadside libraries. There has been one in the Sellwood neighborhood for 15+ years! I guess it really is a thing…I haven’t actually borrowed or donated a book, but I love that this exists.

Have you seen one in your neighborhood? Have you borrowed a book?

Library 1

Library 2

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The Dance of Networking

As I stated in my “The Long Hiatus is Finally Over” post, one of my main goals this year is NETWORKING. So, I have been inviting folks to join my LinkedIn network, following more professionals on Twitter, and commenting on blogs and articles I find interesting. All of this increases my online presence and participation, however, one of the best ways to network is getting out there face to face with professionals.

I have started going to workshops and seminars to make this happen. I recently attended the RUNT. never underestimate event organized by Mathys + Potestio  in downtown Portland. Runt is a quarterly professional development series from The Creative Party in partnership with the University of Oregon. The event discussed best practices to make freelancing work, featuring Jackie Mathys, Principle of Mathys+Potestio, and Portland based Melissa Delzio, a graphic design freelancer.

Typically, all these events begin with a 30-minute meet and greet period before the guest speaker(s) present. This is the grand networking opportunity. As I walked into the room that night, I signed in, grabbed a name tag and browsed the room. Everyone looked like they were there with another person; a friend, spouse, co-worker etc. I immediately felt so alone, and desperately wished I had brought a buddy or didn’t arrive so early. I was grateful that beer was being served, not because I needed a drink, but because it gave me something to do; at this point, I just wanted to kill time so that I didn’t have to be uncomfortable for any longer than necessary. Next, I headed to the bathroom, a natural time waster.

Realizing I needed a serious change in attitude, I gave myself a stern internal talk. “Look Heather, you are here to network, and get your name out there. You never know who you might meet, and what opportunities are waiting for you. So get out there and meet people!”

If only I had read a really awesome blog post on the dance of networking. I felt so awkward. How should I approach someone? What should I say? Should I be forceful in my mission, (I’m looking for work), or more reserved and talk about my interests and how great the beer is. Although I’m confident, and actually have quite a bit of experience talking in front of large groups, I can be shy, especially in a room full of people that I don’t know. Everyone that night seemed so professional, and I felt like an amateur. I was nervous I would interrupt a group of individuals that all knew each other well, and feel like an outsider.

Although I was nervous, I left that bathroom with one mission, find someone to introduce myself to, But sadly, I stalled some more. Still timid, I went straight to a display at the back of the room, pretending to look at the images, but really just scared to chat it up with a complete stranger. Plus, I was nervous about the possibility of interrupting a private conversation. I felt like such a child, but I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t just do it.

So I marched myself up to the first table I was near and simply said, “Do you mind if I join you all?” “Of course not,” the group replied, as they introduced themselves to me. It was really that easy. We all shared our interests, background, why we were at the event etc. They all knew each other, but my addition to the group didn’t seem out of place, and I felt comfortable right away.

I’m happy to report, that this particular networking dance has a great ending. It turns out, (lucky for me, or perfect serendipity), that one of the women in the group happened to be the moderator that evening, and employee of the very organization putting on the event, Mathys + Potestio. It just so happens, that this organization hires creative individuals for other organizations and businesses. Later in the week, I filled out an online application mentioning that I attended the RUNT event. I also sent an email to the woman I spoke with before the event, saying a quick hello, and attached my resume. I figured, maybe she would remember our brief encounter, and it certainly couldn’t hurt. I immediately received an email back asking if I would like to come into the office for a meet and greet!

Maybe my application was so amazing that I would have been called in regardless of my attending the event. However, I have a sneaking suspicion the fact that I took the time to attend RUNT, and the chance encounter with the employee prior to the event, may have been the very thing that pushed my application to the YES pile.

This incredible serendipitous evening may turn into a wonderful opportunity for me, (I shall keep you posted). Regardless of what happens however, I have learned a valuable lesson in actually meeting people during the “meet and greet” networking portion of events! Do you have a similar encouraging networking story? Tips that you would like to share in making networking more comfortable for those of us on the shy or timid side. Share below in the comments section!

Special thanks to the sponsors: PODS (Professional Outreach and Development for Students-Career Services @UO), and 10Barrel Brewing Company from Bend,OR. One can’t go wrong offering free delicious craft beer at an educational event!

University of Oregon…The Natural Side

Last week I was asked to assemble a slideshow presentation for one of my journalism classes representing the University of Oregon.  The assignment asked us to market to incoming potential UO students and highlight what the school means to us.  I’m sure most students will highlight the football team (well, we are number one)!  Or talk about community, clubs, organizations and events, however, I decided to focus on what I truly love about this campus and the surrounding area:  The Natural Beauty- I had to stay true to my Environmental roots!

To view my slide show highlighting The Natural Side of the University of Oregon click the link below:  and enjoy! http://www.kizoa.com/slideshow/d1247742k7537798o1/university-of-oregon-the-natural-side

Observing Event Communications

After nearly a year off from activist work, I was inspired to attend the University of Oregon’s (UO) senate meeting Thursday, November 11, 2010.  Although I care deeply about dozens, if not hundreds of concerns in the world, this particular issue is in my own backyard and would directly and immediately affect me.  To give a brief synopsis: the University of Oregon is planning to build a four-story office building and a vast parking lot next to the Willamette River in an area that is treasured as open space.  This is a location that I have spent many hours enjoying.  It is a perfect place to relax, breathe deeply, clear one’s mind, and generally take a break from the stressful life of being a college student.  Whenever I take a walk or run in the area, I always say afterwards, “I really needed that!”

The proposed building is part of the Riverfront Research Park, a controversial enterprise between the City and the University established in the 1980s. The building would be for private use, not for students. Despite twenty years of overwhelming opposition by students and faculty, the University continues to move forward with its plans for development. The University is vulnerable however, because it has not complied with a contract requiring public involvement and review. Because construction could begin before the end of the year, a resolution was put forth before the senate to hold the University accountable to students and faculty concerns, (buying time in order for due process to take place). 

The evening prior to the event, I received an e-mail from a fellow student in my Green Cities class informing me of all the details of the upcoming senate meeting.  This is the first stop along my communication observation trail.  I receive dozens of e-mails every week to participate in meetings, rallies, events, lectures etc. to show my support for various organizations and causes.  If I had the time, I would love to partake in many of these requests, but I simply do not.  However, something in this e-mail prompted me to attend, plus it fit into my schedule.  The e-mail was passionate yet very clear, concise, and direct; mostly it spoke to the urgency of the matter, and pulled at my responsibility chord to partake in civil discourse.

When I walked into the meeting, the room was full of unspoken communication. I decided to wear blue to show my solidarity in the passing of the resolution, just as I was instructed to in the e-mail. Somehow, this effortless act made me feel truly part of a larger group/cause.  What a simple way to communicate the sheer numbers of support your organization, business, or community group has towards a specific goal. In contrast, several individuals sported a cape looking accessory, obviously with the same goal as the blue attire message; however, I was not sure if it was successful.  I immediately assumed they were a group most likely on “my side,” after all it was a CAPE, but I didn’t really know what the intended message was.   Although the cape itself was highly noticeable, the message printed on the back was extremely difficult to read.  It wasn’t until someone sat directly in front of me that I could see printed on it, “Climate Justice League.”  Indeed, they were on “my team,” but they should have printed their design in a much larger font!

This made me think about the blue shirts even more.  The only reason I felt a part of this unspoken message was because I was privy to the memo prior to the event.  If I hadn’t been told to wear blue, would I have even noticed all the other individuals wearing it?  This act would have been more effective if the presenter of the resolution acknowledged the gesture, which he did not.

Throughout the proceedings, I took note of the effectiveness of varying comments, questions, and presentations. What made me want to listen at the edge of my seat to certain individuals, and completely “zone out” to others?  Here I would like to drive home an important point.  When a group, committee, or organization needs to give a compelling presentation to persuade people to think, feel, or vote a certain way, it is crucial that individual has charisma.  They should have a strong confident voice and feel comfortable in front of people.  The presentation should be heartfelt as well as organized, and it’s okay to “wing” it a little if that adds authenticity, as long as it doesn’t appear unorganized. 

I would argue that having a person grab and keep the audience’s attention through a passionate sound delivery is more valuable than having a person that knows the most about a subject.  This is where knowing your group members strengths really comes in handy. The individual that has both the charisma and the knowledge is truly a gem in the toolbox!

 After the presentation (that was well organized by the way), the floor was opened for questions and comments. I was concerned that a sea of hands did not immediately go up.  I quickly resolved that I would have to speak on behalf of the cause if “my team” needed me, but I was concerned about my ability.  I had not come prepared to speak; I simply wanted to be an extra number for support as well as gain experience from the proceedings.  I thought about the sage advice I had been given the week before from my Green Cities professor Robert Young, about successful organizing, “coming in numbers, being creative and coming prepared.”  How effective could I really be without doing my research, without having my talking points, without having a clear concise message, without practicing my comment?  I quickly decided I had already let my “team” down by not coming prepared.  Yet, instead of thinking of the ways I had “failed,” I decided to focus on what I could do.  Number one, I was there and that spoke volumes of my concern and dedication.  Two, we all have a story to tell explaining why we care deeply about a cause or situation.  I may not have come primed with my facts, but I had a personal story, and I began constructing it in my head “just in case.” To my somewhat relief, hands started shooting up quickly thereafter, so it was not necessary for me to speak.

No one commented in opposition of the resolution and when the time came to vote, it passed unanimously. I felt so proud to be in the room at that moment, watching history unfold before my very eyes.  Although the resolution is a tiny step of victory that buys some time, it was a great feeling to witness a “win” for our team.  I left feeling empowered, and convinced that I should get back on that wagon and show my public support for the things that I truly care deeply about, just like I would encourage everyone to do!

For more information on the resolution and the proposed building, please visit: Connecting Eugene’s website.

International Communication: Understanding Cultural Differences in Order to Negotiate for Environmental Good

Examining environmental issues can start locally, but the astronomical problems our planet faces requires a global effort, a true international collaboration. It’s difficult for individuals in a small community to agree on everything, much less the nations of the entire world. We have different backgrounds, differing opinions, different mindsets, different values and most of all, different passions. The environmental activists of today have a very important message to craft: “All the wold’s nations need to rally together to make positive environmental change.”

No matter how we live, what language we speak, whom we love, or what continent we reside on, human beings all over this planet have the same rights. The rights to breathe clean air, eat healthy food, have access to green natural spaces, clean water, and the ability to leave a healthy planet for the next generation.

It is crucial that nations all over this planet work as a cohesive team to solve some of the worlds pressing environmental matters and the only way to be successful communicators is to understand and appreciate cultural differences. There are many examples of environmental groups heading into other countries with self-righteous elitist attitudes planning to show the local indigenous populations how to live “better.” It is imperative to understand a local community’s history and story before assuming an authoritative stance.

Communication styles vary greatly from culture to culture and understanding these differences are key to a successful campaign. For example, when I was recently in Scotland for a three-month internship, I was asked to share with the marketing director my first impression observations. After I shared my thoughts, I realized all my comments were constructive criticisms, and not a single mention of the many great things the organization was doing. I immediately felt terrible, as if I was being too harsh, and apologized for being so “negative.” The marketing director just laughed and said, “oh, we aren’t *precious like that, we want to know what we can do better, that is the point!”
*precious is a term used in Scotland to describe someone  that was “too nice” or used extra flattery to soften a blow.

Coming from the northwest though, it is an unspoken rule to be “gentle” with people. It is important to include all the great things a person or company is doing alongside the constructive criticisms. Perhaps we are “too nice” here.
This is a simple analogy of the mass communication differences that occur internationally. When we add the differences of language, life-styles, and belief systems to the mix, it is apparent how careful we must all work together towards a common goal. This will take patience, and time to fully understand and embrace all the differing cultures.

Lessons in Preconceived Notions

There are opportunities to learn from every situation and often traveling provides you with the biggest insights. What is communicated without words can often be the most influential.

I traveled with family this past summer to visit extended family in Nebraska whom I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. When one lives in the Pacific Northwest, the culture shock visiting Nebraska is akin to traveling abroad. I noticed there were no Prius’ on the highway, no vegetarian options on the menus and no natural food stores to buy organic groceries. I quickly found myself feeling judgmental and somewhat elitist. Not only was there very little green scenery, but there appeared to be very little “green” activism. I had to snap out of my Eugene “eco-bubble” and realize that not everywhere is like the Pacific NW, but quickly said a prayer of thanks that I live where I do.

One day I went grocery shopping with my mother at the nearest store to our motel room, one of those Supercenter box stores. As I hung my head in shame, mortified that I was about to enter the nemesis of my eco-beliefs, I had two promising thoughts. One, I was far from home and no one would recognize me. Two, I was bringing my re-usable bags; I planned to set a good example for all the fellow shoppers that day.

Once inside, the Universe taught me a lesson or two in riding my “high-horse.” I was surprised and somewhat excited to find several items of organic offerings. Of course, I felt good supporting the organic food movement, even if it was associated with my nemeses. When I get in line to pay, I see the thousands of plastic bags at all the checkout counters and start feeling “weird” about my re-usable bags. I assumed the checker would be annoyed with me because my re-usable bags I was certain would be out of the norm and probably cause her some extra work.

However, to my delight, the woman was thrilled to see that I had brought my bags in and told me all about her own re-usable bags that she takes everywhere and uses. We had a fabulous cross-cultural exchange and I left the store filled with hope, a huge smile across my face and perhaps a little ashamed of myself and all my preconceived notions. Lessons learned; don’t jump to conclusions, don’t be judgmental, get off the “I’m better than all of you bandwagon,” and be patient with those around you.

It’s easy to become an elitist when you are blessed to live in the eco-conscious belt of the northwest, but let’s extend our passion to all surroundings, and not embarrass ourselves when traveling!

Check out this fabulous mockumentary on the “Life of the Plastic Bag,” done by Healthebay.org     

Braving the Social Media World, an Introduction to Microblogging

Ahh, the wonderful world of microblogging.  Until last week, I didn’t even know this term existed, but I now realize it is something I have been practicing for the past two years.  Yes, I finally took the plunge two years ago and created a Facebook page.  I was hesitant at first, I didn’t want to be “one of those people,” I’m far too sophisticated for social networking.  However, once I got my profile all set up, started finding people to “friend,” and actually figured out how to download a picture of myself so I wasn’t shouting “newbie” to the world, I actually started enjoying Facebook.  One particular night, while drinking red wine, I wrote my very first comment on my wall.  I was nervous. I had never sent a message to “the world” in quite the same way.  After all, this would be archived forever!  So, I thought carefully about what I would write. It had to be clever, unique, and maybe a little funny or wise…something that said, “Watch out world, I am here to stay!”  Therefore, the brilliant thing I came up with, the first amazing insightful thing on my wall, “Red wine and Facebook go well together.”  Of course, I blame it on the wine, I know better than to drink and Facebook at the same time now….but I can never take back those seven words…they are out there, for the entire world to see.

That was my first microblogging experience, and I am happy to report that I continue to enjoy the Facebook world, and am now “friends” with my mother- it’s intergenerational! Microblogging is simply a broadcast medium in the “mini” form.  Much like regular blogging, microblogging is a way to send messages, update profiles, share information or contact people but it’s all done in a small form.  This can be a sentence or two, a small video, or photo.  When we update our status on our profile page inside Facebook, we are microblogging!  Another well-known form of microblogging is a “tweet” using the platform of Twitter.  Text messaging, instant messaging and even email can be a form of microblogging.

Since my experience tiptoeing into the social media world, I have gradually branched into nearly all the various mediums.  I have a Twitter account.  Again, it began very reluctantly.  At the time, I thought to myself, “I hardly have time in my life to do the dishes, read to my child at night, and check my regular emails, how can I possibly add another dimension of communication in my life!  And those twitters…they come every second- there’s no way I can keep up!”

However, just like my Facebook experience, I started out slow, found a couple dozen people to follow, uploaded my profile and picture, and just played around with it for a few weeks.  I will be honest, I was only “kinda into” the Twitter world in the beginning.  It just didn’t seem all that special to me.  I even left my account for four months.

However, about a month ago I decided to give it another try.  This time I started finding some of my favorite news outlets to follow, my favorite environmental organizations and nonprofits, and favorite leaders in the community.  I began getting much more excited about Twitter.  Then one night recently, I was looking at my Twitter feed and noticed that the first miner was being rescued out of the mine in Chile (after being trapped for nearly 70 days).  CNN had a tweet directing me to their live webcam on their website to watch the event unfold.  I was so excited to see the joyous moment when the first miner arrived- as if I was part of that historical moment, and I have Twitter to thank!  Since that evening, I have been hooked!

Last week I had a colleague tell me that a potential employer she had just interviewed for started “following” her on Twitter.  This was an “aha” moment for me, as I realized that employer was looking for additional information on their potential employee.  I’m guessing that employer wanted to see: what people, businesses, and organizations she followed, and what kind of content she shared with her twitter feed.  One can tell how engaged you are, what kind of things you find interesting, and what your opinions are about many things by looking at your twitter account.  If you are applying for a public relations position at an Environmental non-profit group but you don’t follow a single environmental issue or organization on your Twitter, this may send a red flag as to your authenticity of interest.  On the other hand, if that non-profit sees you follow a dozen environmental groups, a dozen environmental reporters, and that you tweet about your environmental concerns, you are “proving” that you are truly engaged and interested in the subject. In a sense, Twitter is a really easy way to market yourself.  In my Twitter feed you will find that I am passionate about environmental issues, concerned about human health, interested in children and parenting topics, share innovative ideas about renewable energy and green design, love learning tips about social media and public relations, and stay on top of world news and politics.  And, you will find out that I love some quirky things too- that shows my fun side!

So if you are on the fence about social media, remember you have probably been doing some form of microblogging for years!  All those emails or text messages you send have been your practice.  The nice thing about microblogging, you control how much time you invest, the content you discuss and share, and exactly what you decide to write!  Just remember, when you set up that Facebook page, stay away from the red wine…or maybe have an extra glass.