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“Youth merit voice in decisions today”

August 25, 2009
The following was originally published Monday, August 24, on Project2059.com, addressing Oregon’s future leaders in government and industry:

ari.strudlerI’d like to give a shout-out to Ari Strudler, our Project 2059 high school intern who you all have been in contact with over the last few months. Last week we got to talking about the “Activate Oregon” summit and her experiences meeting all the students and representatives from cities and industries around the state. I told her she should write an Opinion Editorial (Op-Ed) to The Oregonian.

Ari’s Op-Ed, “Youth merit voice in decisions today” was picked up by The Sunday Oregonian as well as its online affiliate site, Oregonlive.com. Sweet stuff!

Op-Eds are great for getting your community’s voice heard. Sometimes reporters miss newsworthy events, especially given the current economic climate with newspaper layoffs resulting in reporters each having to cover several different beats. They can get worn thin and won’t always cover an event even if they want to.

Ari was familiar with Op-Eds but needed a little more information to write a piece for public submission. The following is a list of resources Ari researched before writing her Op-Ed, as well as some advice of my own:

  • Op-Eds state the article’s thesis within the first paragraph. Never have more than one thesis within an Op-Ed and be concise in your writing. Always include examples and/or facts to support your argument/opinion.
  • When you write something, read it back to yourself. Make any changes that don’t read right. Then, read it to yourself again, out loud. Make any changes that don’t sound right.
  • Most American print publications publish according to the Associated Press’ (AP) style guidelines. If you write and submit something in AP style, it has a better chance of getting published. While Op-Ed style standards are a little less stringent, if you ever plan to write a freelance article, AP style’s the way to go.
  • AP Style Guide online (quick reference; you’ll have to purchase the whole book for a comprehensive guide)

Consider writing your own Op-Ed to express concerns or celebrate achievements within your community. It’s easy to look up online who at your local newspaper is in charge of the Editorial section. Once you e-mail your Op-Ed to them, wait a little while and then follow up with a phone call. A nice, subtle pitch accompanied by a well-written article goes a long way in getting yourself published. And if your piece doesn’t show up in print, always look online, where more content can be published throughout a given day.

Five Things To Consider Before Starting Your Fourth Blog

August 17, 2009

Photo 78

1) Do not let your blog dictate your personal brand. This pigeonholes you into a routine of producing forced content rather than writing what you want, and blogging will begin to lose its appeal. It’s easier and expected to write a company blog that best reflects an organization’s brand, but shouldn’t your personal blog — and therein brand — be allowed to evolve over time?

2) If you purchase a domain for your blog, do not assign it the same name as your blog’s title, unless you’re absolutely certain you will never rename it. I shelled the cash for this GoDaddy domain last year. While it wasn’t expensive ($18.00?), I’ve fallen out of fun with that particular blog.

3) Write a few posts before you go live with your new blog. Give visitors a chance to scan through several of your musings. Having multiple posts at the beginning may prompt them to return to your blog.

4) Don’t go crazy with the tags. That one’s more for me, but I assume there are other people who tag posts with as many keywords that they can. Too many tags waters down Google, making it harder for your blog to turn up in relevant, organic search results. I’ve been told between three and five are ideal, and no more than 10.

5) Make sure you update every social network of which you’re a member with your new blog’s Web address. That’s a given.

Keep Your Day Job, Unless You Can’t

August 17, 2009

“Turns out not where but who you’re with that really matters.”

–Dave Matthews Band, “Best of What’s Around”

I was talking with a friend and former public relations classmate of mine about my current position with a non-profit that’s about to close up shop, and the two job interviews I have coming up. One company works in healthcare advocacy and the other works in online reputation management — two very different positions, each with great potential to carve out a career niche.

My friend works for a high-tech PR firm. She likes her job but is afraid she’ll be stuck in the tech industry as a result of her current position. That’s bogus.

Regardless of the puddle you step in to get your professional feet wet, it’s unlikely you’ll be “stuck” in one field for the rest of your life. Consider this when thinking about tomorrow’s job, today:

  • Skills acquired from your current position are applicable to future careers, regardless of the industry. This is especially true in public relations, given PR professionals need valuable research, pitching and story development skills when working with an organization’s stakeholders.
  • The industries of the future will evolve over time, even in the next five years (health informatics and green technologies being two that I find very interesting), so it’s farfetched to assume you’ll be stuck in the same field for the duration of your career when there are positions — even industries — that have yet to be created.

Given our current economic climate (I’m sick of that phrase, myself), value any job you can get that’s remotely related to your desired profession. Don’t quit your current job just because you don’t like it. If you’re not happy, look into volunteering for an important cause or revert to your 12-year-old-self and rekindle some of your favorite hobbies that have been gathering dust in the attic. Whatever you do, remember that you’re not stuck in your current profession forever, but now is not the best time to quit and see what happens. Give it a year.

A Call To Food Service!

August 17, 2009

Pancakes

There’s a serious problem in this country — one with a solution that parallels Obama’s call to public service. Nagging restaurant patrons have taken “The customer is always right” mentality too far. To decrease customer hostility and improve the quality of people being served, I propose a call to food service.

All Americans will engage in a mandatory, six-month program that qualifies them to dine in restaurants* across the country for the rest of their lives, or at least for the remainder of their time as U.S. citizens. The American Food Service Program (AFSP) will be spearheaded by Whitehouse Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, and requires citizens to undergo one month of intensive schooling that covers appropriate food service behavior for both patrons and employees. Coursework includes, but is not limited to:

  • The 20 percent tipping scale
  • How NOT to get your server’s attention
  • Why it’s inappropriate to tell your server you like the way she “works that pepper mill”
  • Why you can’t bring Buffet or Happy Hour food home with you
  • How testing your server on every menu item may result in them serving you “sneezers”
  • Why you shouldn’t be the third person to yell at the 16-year-old hostess when reservations are backed up

After one month of food service education, people will be randomly placed in restaurant positions across the country, according to how well they complete their first month of coursework. Positions include back-of-house staff (dishwasher, line cook, pantry cook, prep cook), or front -of-house staff (host/hostess, busser, food-runner, expediter, server (a.k.a. waiter/waitress), bartender, assistant manager).

With a family history (myself included) in the food service industry, I don’t just appreciate the food I eat in the restaurants I frequent — I value the hours of preparation endured by the back-of-house staff before the operation opens; I empathize with front-of-house staff bringing patrons’ meals with smiles on their faces, despite aching feet, blistered hands, and perhaps personal tragedy that took place earlier in the day; and I feel for the server being verbally assaulted by the desperate housewife over the gimlet she claims doesn’t have enough gin (by the way, send it back and you’re likely to get the same exact glass without noticing).

The ignorance of diners must come to a halt. There’s no need to go out of your way and put down a hardworking laborer so you can get your sockeye salmon on the house; and don’t even think about leaving less of a tip because you didn’t get your bread right away. Wait staff rely on their tips for about 75 percent of their income, and some restaurants have changed policies on extras like bread because it’s too costly to provide, unless upon request.

If a server provides a sub-par experience to the point where you may not return to that restaurant again — tell management, by all means. I do recommend doing so the following day because chances are you’re dining during peak hours of operation, but do not let bad service go unnoticed.

The time has come to replace out-of-touch diners with those who are informed. Sign up today and join the AFSP to correct poor choices made by ignorant customers.

*”Restaurants” include sit-down/take-out/delivery establishments; movie theater concession stands; food carts; catered events; fast-food joints; and fine dining operations.