Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jumping off bridges, playing with lions and eating catipillars: Zambia

I'm back...and with lots of stories to tell.

Just over a month ago, I traveled to Lusaka, Zambia for three and a half weeks to study media, intern at Young & Rubicam/Ogilvy Zambia and, of course, do a little touring. Although the internet connection was almost never in my favor, I was able to pump out four posts during my trip. Click below to read about:

-How PR lessons came full circle in Zambia
-Striking similarities between Zambia and Vietnam
-Music: a connection point between cultures
-My thoughts about "going with the flow" while abroad

We even produced an e-magazine dedicated to our trip (and designed by yours truly). If those don't convince you to grab your bags and head to Africa, check out some of my photos.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"They're not the best at what they do, they're the only ones who do what they do"

(Recycled blogpost from the ImPRessions blog, visit the blog for similar inspiration)

No band in the history of rock music can touch the Grateful Dead. The individuals referred to as “Deadheads” were not just fans, they were a community; the performances were not just concerts, they were happenings and a way of life for millions of people; and the band was not just a young bunch of 1960s-era musicians, they were public relations and marketing pioneers.

The San Francisco jamband broke all of the music industry rules by encouraging their live shows to be taped and traded, dictating a personal, active two-way community that spread the word without dropping a dime on advertising and essentially utilized “social” media, inbound marketing and PR years before their time. The key to their success? They weren’t afraid to do things that no one else had yet dared to do.

Let’s bring this down to scale and flashback to my freshman year, shall we? It was fall of 2008, and as a scared, information-hungry young soul, I looked to my older peers for answers and clung to them like they were my mom on the first day of kindergarten. They were untouchable, shining PR superheroes in my eyes and no less impressive than any celebrity one might pine over. I used every opportunity I could to ask them questions, grab coffee with them, breathe the same air as them, etc. They gave me some of the best advice and, although I was able to utilize the majority of it appropriately, I took it entirely the wrong way. I thought that in order to be as great as these seemingly immortal PR gods, I had to model my entire plan to look exactly like theirs.

No one, not even us PR majors who seem to have identical plates full of jobs, activities, classes and impressive internships, has the exact same interests, aspirations, personality traits or qualities to offer a company. What’s right for one person could possibly be the outline of what’s right for another person, but definitely not the blueprint. Additionally, when you do draw up your plan, make sure to do it with a pencil and eraser. Planning is great, but the most important thing to keep in mind is to be flexible. Unexpected opportunities are going to come your way, knock you on your butt and send all of your plans flying out of the window…and it is going to be fabulous!

Take those opportunities, even if they complicate things a little. Heck, make your own opportunities: join a club no one’s in, take a job or internship that no one before you has held, move somewhere where no one you know is living (I realize I’m being biased at this point, but just trust me on this). Ask tons and tons of questions—but don’t be afraid not to take someone’s advice. You know yourself, you know what you enjoy and only you can feel that in your gut.

Why follow in someone’s footsteps if you can make you own? I don’t want to be the “next” anyone, I want to be the first and only me. The road less traveled might seem scary, but in my opinion, that makes it seem a lot more intriguing—and getting to the other side will seem a lot more rewarding if you found the way yourself.

“Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right” -“Scarlet Begonias,” The Grateful Dead

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Bathroom Chronicles: Volume 2

April: the weather's getting warmer, our attention spans are getting shorter, I'm sharing my student office at work with at least three bumble bees...

...and people still feel as if they will greatly influence another individual's life by writing something that they feel is particularly witty and/or inspirational on the walls of a bathroom stall (which, by the way, I would not touch with a ten foot pole much less a pencil). Today's inSTALLment comes from the Ellis Hall, 1st floor bathrooms. Amidst the ongoing grammar smack down is, in fact, a wee bit of wisdom:

It's true, folks. Although it's nice to believe that we're just here boppin' around until one day we wake-up and *BOOM*, our destiny is standing at our door with a packed suitcase and some snacks for the road, the fact is that you're here now. You don't wait for the wind to blow you in some pre-destined direction, you change your sails and go the way you choose.

Let's look at the glass half full, shall we? YOU have the ability, right now, to make the moves, right now, to be what you want to be, right now. Everything you're doing and everything you've done up to this point is just adding pieces to the puzzle that is you. You are the books you've read, the places you've went, the people you know, the new things you try out.

It's kind of liberating in my opinion. Want to be that girl? That guy? Be it. Don't wish you were funnier, more outgoing, less of a procrastinator, too much of a busy-body...change it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the flow of things that we forget that we can stop and turn around, stop and breath, stop and start over any time we want.

It's never too late. Think of this as your reminder that there is an "edit" button, if you will.

And of course, never underestimate the writing on the stall.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Old dogs?

Well, it took me about eight months but I've finally come down from my high of witnessing one of the greatest performances of my young adult life. I've been to shows that have prompted me to scream lyrics (and not always the correct ones, I'll admit) until my voice is gone, dance until my legs ache and my feet are black, and shove my short, but mighty, build through a crowd of relentless fans, but never have I ever been so awe-struck by a performance that I literally could not move my body.

Eric Clapton, the god himself, if you will, took center stage with former Blind Faith band mate Steve Winwood to deliver a sold-out crowd a set list that easily could have been the soundtrack to a classic-rock history documentary. Trading the spotlight to perform their signature songs and channel former groups such as Traffic, Cream, and Derek and the Domino's, the two always seemed to come back and hit their highest points when coming back to the music that initially brought them together in the late '60s.

The opening number, Had to Cry Today, gave fans a taste of what they were in for: a soulful, blues-rooted Winwood and...do I even need to explain what Eric Clapton can (still) do with his guitar? Another notable Blind Faith cover was Presence of the Lord, which has, since the concert in June, been on repeat in my father's car ever since. The moment when I stopped breathing temporarily, however, came when Clapton revisited the Derek and the Domino's hit, Layla...acoustic. By this point, I was ready to call it a night until I heard this:

And as if THAT were not enough, he went from Jimi to Cocaine. I am not joking, folks. I have the (slightly shaky, but hey) video to prove it. Just because I'm not one to brag, I'll stop here. Below is the set list...oh, oops. That's kind of like bragging, isn't it?

Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood, Columbus, Ohio - June 15, 2009
Had To Cry Today
Low Down
After Midnight
Presence of The Lord
Sleeping in the Ground
Well Alright
Tough Luck Blues
Pearly Queen
No Face, No Name, No Number
Little Wing
Forever Man
Georgia On My Mind
Driftin’ (acoustic)
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
Layla (acoustic)
Can’t Find My Way Home
Split Decision
Voodoo Chile
Encore:Dear Mr. Fantasy

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good Morning, Vietnam

"All the wrong people remember Vietnam. I think all the people who remember it should forget it, and all the people who forgot it should remember it".

-Micheal Herr, 1989

When Vietnam is mentioned, many almost automatically think of the famous images that illustrated the war that took place nearly four decades ago. That being said, you can imagine the reaction I receive when I mention to others that I will be visiting Vietnam this winter with a program called the Global Leadership Center.

The reality is that today, Vietnam is very much a country at peace. Full of progressive, modern businesses and beautiful beaches, more and more people are choosing Vietnam as a destination spot not only for it’s rich history, but also for the life and culture the area has to offer. As I will be researching Vietnam for the next eight weeks prior to our visit, and the title of my blog is “Heather Lately”, several posts on interesting Vietnam facts can be expected!

As I mentioned, Vietnam today should not be shadowed by the country’s history. However, one should never forget the struggles many individuals effected by the conflicts still go through. Please check out this video about the May 4, 1970 massacre and take a minute to think about those today who still mourn, both in American and in Vietnam.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Re-Usable Advice...

    I'm back! And after much deliberation, I have decided what type of post I feel is appropriate for this time of year. The end of the school year is often a time to reflect so, naturally, I looked back to the Senior Edition of my school newspaper, printed just about this time last year (hey, I'm a Journalism major...what did you expect?). Inside, I found my senior letter, in which I bestowed on the student body of my high school the wisdom that I felt I had gained over the four years prior to my graduation. Now, although I am no Aristotle, I do believe that it is interesting to see what I was thinking during the "monumental" point in my life when I was being thrown out into the hard, cruel world (or so I thought at the time).

    So, here it is. Maybe inside you will find something relevant to you, whatever point in your life you are at.

    "Roughly 28 classes, 22 teachers, and, what seems like, thousands of AP Literature papers gone by and still, here I sit, listening to the Rolling Stones, biting my nails, and attempting to write this paper, that you are currently reading, the night before it’s due. Although some things will never change, I feel that many things, such as my wisdom, have. That being said, here is some advice I feel is notable.
    Don’t over think the small stuff. It sounds so simple , but many people don’t take this advice. So much time is wasted on petty fights or problems that will mean nothing in the long run, so don’t waste perfectly good moments being mad.
    Put yourself in awkward situations: join a club that none of your friends are in, do something that makes you uncomfortable, go out of your way to talk to someone you don’t know. You can’t truly experience new things unless you step out of your safety zone.
    Enjoy the moment while you’re in it. It’s easy to get caught up in things and stress out while they’re happening, especially senior year. Even when things are crazy, take time to sit back and enjoy the beauty of what’s going on. Breathing doesn’t hurt either.
    Only worry about those who worry about you. Don’t waste your time trying to impress everybody. Your friends and family are the only ones who matter and, chances are, they will love you no matter what you wear, say, or looked like in the fifth grade.
    Leave the past in the past…or it will be impossible to live for today. People will come in and out of your life, but in the end, the ones who make it to your future are the ones who are suppose to be there. Forget the past, but remember what it taught you.
    See one of your favorite bands play live. I know this doesn’t really tie into the other ones but just trust me on this one. Also, camp with your friends.
    Tell your family you love them. Frequently. Appreciate what they do for you and let them know that; you won’t always have that luxury.
    Take Journalism. Biased? Maybe…but for me, it’s been more than a class. It’s been an experience; one that has taught me a lot about myself. It’s something I‘ve become passionate about through being on staff and with a little help from Mr. Covey. So I guess maybe this last bit of advice should be "find something you’re passionate" about and do whatever it takes to pursue your dreams with it. That’s what I plan to do at least."

In need of more inspiration? Check this out.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Big Question: "To blog or not to blog"

(As usual, the un-edited version):

    Essays, speeches, exams, club meetings, a part-time job, a social life; with so much to worry about already as a college student, who in the world has time to blog?
    With blogging becoming a growing phenomenon, “to blog or not to blog” has been the question on many public relations and journalism students' minds.
    Bryan Blaise, Senior Account Executive at Fleishman Hillard International Communications advocates student blogging because it gives individuals “a chance to practice one of the most essential skills you will use day in and day out, while becoming an expert on a specific topic”.
    “Fantastic writers, like prima ballerinas or star quarterbacks, are made, not born,” Blaise said, “A natural talent for writing is only improved through continual practice, and with today’s ease and accessibility to blogs, there’s no reason for a young PR or journalism student not to blog.”
    Aside from improving upon one’s written communication skills, blogging proves to be an indicator to potential employers that a person is participating in new media. Dr. Robert Stewart, the associate director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, believes that the only reason a student should not blog is if they want to risk not having a job.
    “I’ve heard more that one person in the industry say that they’ll ask about blogs when hiring because they automatically assume you blog,” Stewart said, “Employers in the industry want to hire people who are participating and can function in the Web 2.0 world.”
    Although Stewart advocated the obvious benefits of this new art to the incoming journalism school freshmen, less than 30% actually took the advice.
    “Blogging isn’t for everyone. There’s an art, science and dedication required, and many people won’t commit to that,” Blaise said, “The opportunity is there for everyone to blog, but doing so half-heartedly or without purpose or strategy will do more harm than good.”
    M.J. Clark, Communications and Leadership Consultant at M.J. Clark Communications, agrees that “it does you more harm to start a blog if you don’t keep up with it”.
    “Blogging is great if you consistently update it; if you don’t, you’re creating your own negative PR for your own personal brand,” Clark said, “It’s something that really needs to be thought out. If you’re not a blogger and think it’s not something you can keep up with or something you’re passionate about, it does you more harm.”
    Stewart, on the other hand, believes that although there is some risk involved, “there is way more risk in not doing it”.
    “If you have a talent, you do things with it,” Stewart said, “Employers don’t want to hire people who bury their talents.”
    A common fear students have about blogging is that a mistake or a sentence that is not in a potential employer’s style of choice will cause that potential employer to look the other way.
    “College is about getting mistakes out of your system. It’s better to learn lessons as a college student than to have to start trying to learn at a job and making mistakes there,” Stewart said, “Also, no one is expecting blogs to be in AP style. Newspaper bloggers don’t follow AP style and sometimes even write in first person.”
    Blog writing is actually more conversational and more personal, according to Andrew Revkin, a reporter for the New York Times.
    “[Blogging is] a journey towards understanding,” Revkin said, “I don’t know what’s going on; I know some people who have a decent idea, but they could be wrong, too. So why not come along on the ride?”
    Many students argue that they simply have nothing to write about, but the reality is that there are an endless amount of “blog-able” topics.
    “Blogs are a chance to communicate your perspective on just about anything you want,” Blaise said, “I would encourage young professionals to blog about topics or situations relevant to [their] desired career goals.”
    Although Blaise suggests that students steer clear of topics such as “the latest Gossip Girl episode or your newest pair of Manalos”, he does agree that a blog does not have to read like a textbook.
    “Communications can be found in almost anything, so if you’re set on having a fashion or sports blog, consider blogging about the communications activities of companies within that industry*,” Blaise said.
    Another common misconception students have is that they do not know enough about the industry to blog.
    “I have actually learned a lot from students. If you have confidence then you should know that your opinion matters and people in the industry may know a whole lot less than what you know right now about new media,” Clark said, “Students have an insight and need to know that they have a worthy contribution.”
    If not done passionately or with good intent, blogging may prove to be destructive; however, if done with thought, maintaining a blog can offer benefits to students that students of “older media” could have never enjoyed in the past.
    “Every post, Tweet, or wall comment is a testament of your personal brand, and you can not be flippant about what, where, and how you communicate online,” Blaise said, “However, experience in the strategic application of new media is a major asset that new professionals can bring to the table and set themselves up for quick and great success.”

*Bryan Blaise is the author of www.fhoutfront.com, where they cover a wide array of people, companies, and issues all through the lens of communications about and to the LGBT community.