Friday, October 30, 2009

Words Can Be "Da Balm"


As a mother, I love all my children. But as a writer, I have my favorites -- those words I love to use and those I’d gladly see stricken from the popular parlance.

I am not alone in this. Surveys show most people have positive or negative reactions to some words. As Kristi Gustafson wrote in a recent column, those reactions may be driven by how a word sounds or what it means. For instance, mellifluous made the popular list, and for good reason. The word is a delight to the tongue. It sounds like the harp scale ringtone on my cell phone. It has a natural calming effect like a warm cup of lemon balm. There’s another word that sounds like what it is: balm. Maybe it’s the way your mouth has to slow down to enunciate the “l” and the “m” right next to each other. You can just hear the word stretching over something painful, like a wound, and soothing it.

Another well-liked word that sounds like what it means is discombobulate. I think we like it for the very reason that it packs so much meaning into a single word - it saves us the labor of a longer description. My family uses a related word that I believe may be, to quote my mother, a “homemader.” It’s cattywompus and it sort of means “askew” yet it captures the meaning so much more effectively. Use it this way: The drawer doesn’t close all the way because it’s all cattywompus. It may also be used to describe the typical child’s bedroom.

Then there are the words that sound like what they are in a negative way. Words like mucus and phlegm come to mind – and throat. Just hearing these words can make me gag. I think it should be considered a violation of basic social etiquette to use them at all.

Many of the words that are the most fun to say come from Yiddish. One of my favorites is “noodge,” an essential word for anyone with more than one child. This versatile word functions well as either a noun or a verb, meaning about the same, ie. “Stop being a noodge! Leave your sister alone.”

Finally, there are words I love, not for how they sound, but for the potency of their meaning. The best of this class is hubris, which means arrogance so extreme it draws the attention and wrath of the gods. Wow! That’s a whole Greek tragedy contained in a single word. You’ve got to love it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Let’s channel our college selves


This week, I participated in the FAMU Career Fair representing the FPRA Capital Chapter. It was such a refreshing event that I felt the need to write about it. During the hour I spent at FAMU’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, I interviewed three young men who are in the PR program. Talking to them about the industry and hearing about their hopes and dreams was so energizing.

These students who have yet to enter the working world are full of life and ideas and excitement. It was wonderful hearing about what they’re involved in right now from launching a female rapper to volunteering at a local middle school to writing poetry. They were fascinated by stories about some of my clients and work experiences and eager to get their feet wet in PR. They want to be role models and change agents and influencers – they want someone to take a chance on them when they graduate this December. And I hope someone does as Ron Sachs took a chance on me, giving a TV reporter the opportunity to work in PR.

I know sometimes we have long, hard days and we feel down, but during those times we should channel our college selves. Go back to those days when everything was fresh and unknown and full of possibilities. I think that’s how we should approach every day of our lives. In reality, we don’t know what’s going to happen on any given day and if we start each day with that sense of wonder and excitement things can only look up!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ron Sachs Rhinos in the Community


On Saturday, October 17, 2009, the Ron Sachs Communications staff participated in the Start! Heart Walk to support the Big Bend Chapter of the American Heart Association. The overall turnout was great and Ron Sachs Communications raised $1,000 towards the Heart Association’s $350k goal.

Joining me at the walk were Michelle, Carmella, Ivette, Marlene and Erica. Our family members and four legged friends accompanied us at the walk, too. It was great weather for walking and entire team enjoyed it immensely.

Ron Sachs Communications has a long tradition of community involvement. We love supporting events and causes that work to improve the lives of our friends and neighbors. In fact, we are currently gearing up for this year’s United Way fund raising campaign!

In recognition of our deep community involvement, Florida Trend recently recognized Ron Sachs Communications as one of the Best Companies to Work for in Florida.

A big "Thank You!" goes out to all those who had a part in our efforts!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Survey Shows Social Media Use Gaining Ground


A new national survey of corporations about their use of social media tools and strategies, published in the October issue of PRWeek, confirms that social media is changing corporate communications, probably permanently. But the shape of that change is very much in flux. The survey responses confirm that we are in a period of intense experimentation, with varying levels of acceptance, styles of application and evidence of ROI.

One fact is clear: Although social media is essentially “free,” lots of dollars are flowing in an effort to harness its power, most of them diverted from advertising budgets.

The primary application of social media by corporate America is to shape conversations about the brand, but fully 45% use it to simply listen. Does all that listening have an impact? Apparently so: More than a third of those surveyed say they have changed their products or marketing efforts based on social media feedback.

The introduction of the two-way conversation is surely the most radical change ushered in by the social media phenomenon. While much of the focus of traditional communication – PR and advertising – involves shaping perceptions by controlling the message, social media is only effective if it is treated as a true conversation. Nobody likes someone who does all the talking. That means customers get to say what they think of corporate brands, products and services, unfiltered and unvarnished. And that’s scary.

In fact, fear does play a role in companies’ failure to implement social media strategies – engaging in a public conversation seems risky to a brand. And yet, fear is not even close to being the biggest barrier to implementation: 53% cite lack of internal resources or time and 43% cite lack of knowledge or expertise.

Primary uses of social media? Sixty-five percent say they connect with customers, 63% build brand awareness and 49% manage brand reputation, yet only 29% found it important for crisis communication.

Where will all this tweeting lead? Look for growing acceptance among the 37% who say they don’t currently use social media tools and increasing experimentation among those who do. And, of course, expect everyone to attempt to find ways to use social media to boost sales without turning conversations into a sales pitch. THAT would surely be bad form.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Social Media: Join the Conversation

The PowerPoint presentation from the Social Media workshop at the Tallahassee Chamber Annual Meeting.

Social Media: Join the Conversation


Erica Villanueva and I just got into the office, although it’s only 10:30 a.m. – it feels like a full day of work. We started our morning at the Tallahassee Chamber’s Annual Meeting where Matt Brown, President & CEO of Premier Bank was installed as the new chairman.

Following the breakfast meeting, there were three breakout sessions. Erica and I presented one of the workshops: “Social Media: Join the Conversation.” It was really exciting to have a room full of small business owners and community leaders eager to learn about social media or expand their use.

Our presentation was simple and focused on the “rules of engagement” – featuring real examples of how businesses are using social media and showcasing what works and what doesn’t. Our goal was to show Tallahassee businesses how other local businesses are using social media and what they can do to get involved.

Thanks to everyone who attended our workshop and all the wonderful feedback. We hope to see you on Twitter soon, follow us at @IvetteMarques and @EricaVillanueva and follow Ron Sachs Communications @RonSachsCom.

We’ve posted the PowerPoint presentation in our blog above and provided a link (below) to the Red Cross Social Media Policy we mentioned during the presentation.

If you have any questions or need more information please email us at or

Red Cross Social Media Policy

Monday, October 5, 2009

Want a seat at the table? Be a problem solver.


A line from a recent Bad Pitch Blog post got me thinking: “Be a shining star—not a whiny burn-out bulb.” As a young professional I have aspirations to one day be a part of my firm’s management team, ideally as the Director of Digital Services, but how do you get a seat on the table? Well, it starts with a little confidence, a great plan, and a tool belt equipped with solutions.

Often times people just complain about a situation, get angry and nothing gets accomplished. Managers have a lot on their plates and are constantly juggling current clients, bringing in new clients, participating in management meetings, and meeting the bottom line. If you are faced with a situation that is challenging, before running into your boss’s office to whine and complain about “the problem,” take a moment to think about a potential plan to solve it. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it. Nothing makes you shine brighter than presenting a problem or challenge directly followed by an amazing plan of action.

If you constantly bring up problems and offer no solutions, how can you expect to ever be a part of the management team? As YPs we have a lot of energy, endless ideas, and a different perspective. We can’t be shy. We need to speak up and be counted. Even if your ideas and solutions aren’t always implemented, the fact that you were able to add to the conversation will make upper management take notice.

If you don’t let people know what you want and show them what you’re capable of, you’re selling yourself short. So my advice is simple: Go get it, whatever “it” is and make it happen. With a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, you’ll be moving up the company ladder in no time!

Friday, October 2, 2009

David Letterman Scandal Demonstrates Smart Crisis Management & Public Relations


In what is surely his most important monologue of the year, David Letterman used his glowing star power – and a national network broadcast platform -- for the biggest, best new textbook example about getting out in front of a 'bad' story, even when it involves a subject as salacious as workplace sexual encounters. Instead of waiting for the scandalous facts about his dalliances with female members of his own "Late Night" show staff to break on the national publicity landscape, Letterman 'outed' himself to his in-studio and viewing audience. It is the story of the day and week in show biz. As a result, rather than the focus being on Letterman's behavior, the 'bad guy' is an alleged extortionist who tried to intimidate the comedic star into coughing up $2 million in hush money to keep the scandal quiet.

Letterman wisely went to authorities, rather than buckle to such pressure. Now, the would-be shakedown artist is charged with major crimes. And, Letterman's voluntary disclosure on "Late Night" was brilliant in its unexpected candor, earnestness and stated concern about the well-being of his own family (he married his long-time companion and mother of his child earlier this year) and the privacy of the women he was involved with on his own staff.

Regardless of morality questions that may dog Letterman for a while, he came off as a sympathetic figure because of his bold decision to break his own bad news -- on a grand scale. While network execs at CBS may be properly focused on HR issues of propriety regarding Letterman's affairs, the shine on his star may grow even brighter for the lessons he has learned -- and for the strategic, surgical strike he delivered on behalf of others and himself. Few public figures ever have done a better job early enough to really matter in making a difference in public perception of their own misdeeds or shortcomings than Letterman's example this week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

APR: PR Boot Camp


After much consideration, I have taken the plunge -- starting classes to prepare for the APR (Accredited in Public Relations) with my colleague and PR partner in crime, Erica Villanueva. This is something I’ve put a lot of thought into and have been eager to accomplish, particularly because I don’t have a PR degree and I entered the field after working in television.

Two classes in and I’m feeling pretty good. But don’t get me wrong; it’s not easy. We have classes every Monday after work and I usually don’t get home until 8:30 p.m. There’s a lot of reading, terminology and theories to master, but I know that in the end the APR designation will be worth the time and effort and hours of reading, classes and preparing for the readiness review and exam.

The pluses: We have a teacher (Rachel Smith) whose passion is accreditation and who wants us to succeed. Our class is diverse, but small, so we can learn from each other, play off our strengths and shore up our weaknesses. I think in the end we will all be better professionals for it. The APR designation is universal, and like a diamond “it’s forever.”

A poll on TWT Poll ( asks “Is earning the APR designation worth the time and effort?” The poll will close on September 30th, but so far 64% of the votes indicate that most APRs and non-APRs think it’s worth it. I have to agree with the majority.

As a young professional, I’m a firm believer that the more distinctions and designations you can acquire, the more you will stand out in the marketplace. And in this economy, with so many people competing for scarce jobs, you need to do everything in your power to shine brighter than your competition.

I have a feeling there will be days when I’m exhausted and freaking out, but when I think about the APR, those three little letters always make me smile.

I plan on tracking my APR experience on this blog, so until next time…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

So, you want to be an intern... Now what? Part 1: The application process


Why should you listen to me? I have been the internship coordinator at Ron Sachs Communications for nearly two years and during that time I’ve hired and managed more than 20 interns. To be honest, I didn’t always know what qualities to look for, but along the way I’ve come to learn exactly what makes the perfect intern applicant.

Many employers rate internship experience as one of the most important criteria in selecting a new hire. You can even pay some companies to find you an internship. For only $750, Intern Abroad will place you in a position. But why dole out all that cash, when you can score a spot on your own?

Timing is everything

Don’t just apply when you feel like applying. Find out when the company you’re applying to is actually looking to hire. This will help keep your e-mail out of the “abyss of forgotten intern applications.” The internships we offer at Ron Sachs Communications coincide with school semesters and we begin interviewing a month before the beginning of the new semester. This is the perfect time to apply!

Its important to follow up, but don’t be a stalker about it. A polite follow-up e-mail to check on the status of your application is plenty. Several calls and voicemails are too much, so don’t over do it.

Creating a complete application

In an application e-mail, I always like to see a cover letter, resume and writing samples. Including your availability is also helpful; that way I know if I can work you into our office schedule. Sometimes I’m looking for a specific time to fill, like Tuesday or Thursday, for example. Of course, your experience and writing samples matter, it’s just helpful to know how much time you can dedicate to your internship.

Make your resume relevant
Try to keep your resume to one page. I think it’s best to pick and choose the most relevant experience you’ve had.

You shouldn’t include summer or high school jobs like your position as a grocery bagger or a babysitter for your neighbor, since those jobs probably didn’t give you much PR experience. If they did, explain how.

Remember to highlight scholarships or awards you’ve received. It’s important to document all of these honors because it tells me you are dedicated to school and would therefore be dedicated to your job.

Extracurricular activities matter
Look for opportunities to get the experience you need to stand out. Set yourself apart from the other applicants by being involved in clubs or associations that provide opportunities for professional development.

Your church or temple may need help writing their newsletter, your sorority may need to ramp up new member recruitment or you can volunteer to work on a political campaign if that interests you. You can pretty much turn any of your hobbies or clubs into opportunities. Everyone needs PR, even if they don’t know it.

, PRSA and AAFT are all professional organizations with student chapters you can get involved in. Student newspapers like the FSView and the FAMUAN are other great ways to build your portfolio.

If you’d like to apply for an internship at Ron Sachs Communications you can e-mail your application to So, go ahead and start working on building your resume because I’m always on the look out for those few stand out applicants to join the Ron Sachs team.

Coming up in my next blog, I’ll talk you through the interview process and give you tips and tricks on how to knock the socks off your interviewer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Levels of Incivility Undermine U.S. Democracy, Culture


Our nation’s hallmark virtues of vigorous public debate, unfettered freedom of speech and of the press, and unfiltered self-expression make us strong, free and uniquely American. But the recent plunge to new depths of incivility by high-profile music, sports and political figures has quite the opposite effect.

USA Today’s front page story today highlights recent outbursts by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, who interrupted President Obama’s address to Congress to shout, “You lie;” tennis great Serena William’s expletive-laden verbal assault on a line judge; and hip hop star Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Music Video Awards to argue that Beyonce should have won.

As Jeffrey Slee wrote recently in Newsroom Magazine, “It’s such a simple concept; don’t interrupt when someone else has the floor, play nicely with others, share and wait your turn. It’s what we all should have learned in kindergarten.”

We can disagree without demonizing the person with whom we disagree, be it a line judge or the President of the United States. The tenor of the ongoing national health care debate, with critics of the President’s plan calling him alternately a socialist and a fascist, is as frightening as it is uninformed. Opposing the plan is one thing; whipping up personalized attack-based hysteria is another.

Closer to home, Florida’s ongoing dialogue about whether to lift the decades-old ban on energy exploration off our coast has prompted opponents of the idea to resort to ugly personal attacks. It should still be possible to discuss an issue on the merits, even ones as important as oil drilling or health care reform, without maligning the character of those who engage the conversation.

A return to civility strengthens the democracy we all support, regardless of our political affiliation or stand on any one issue. As Abraham Lincoln said, “In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.”