Spring is almost here but winter is not yet ready to go

As I sit here watching snowflakes swirl around outside, gently landing on the 3-4″ of snow already on the ground, it’s hard to imagine that just a few days ago, it was 65 degrees and sunny and that the first day of Spring (March 20, 12:57 p.m. — also our 5th wedding anniversary) is only a few days from now.

I wrote an article, published on the blog for Transformational Acupuncture, and wanted to share here.

Seven Opportunities to Get Outside, Explore DC, and Move Your Body

I love being outside and will ride my bike in nearly all types of weather, rain, cold, sleet, but my favorite type of weather is sunny and warm. I lived for a time in the Los Angeles area and 90% of the time the weather was conducive to being outside, hiking, biking, rollerblading, beach going or just sitting.

I moved to the DC area in 1997 and had a bit of a difficult time transitioning out of my car but now avoid driving at all costs. My husband and I together own more bicycles than necessary but they are tools to explore the city and a testament to a lifestyle we’ve chosen. [Read More]

I’ve been wanting to write more frequently on a variety of topics but haven’t made it enough of a priority on a regular basis.

An early morning commuter walks through snow covered Franklin Park in Washington, Monday, March 17, 2014. (AP Photo/J. David Ake). WASHINGTON

I’ve been writing letters to property tax assessors, to potential volunteers for multisport events, to regional club leaders to inform them of discounts and opportunities for their memberships, to vendors to explain why the design they’ve sent me isn’t meeting my needs, and to energetic and enthusiastic people to engage and empower them to take leadership roles in the administering of work (long story). All of the above is worthwhile and necessary writing but it isn’t terribly creative or soul satisfying.

After the demise of what seemed like a dream job, I’ve been having a difficult time regrouping and putting out feelers and applications for other sorts of work. My acupuncturist tells me that I’m still grieving and maybe that’s true. I am vowing to move on to create my new existence and apply my communication and writing expertise to a variety of potential clients. My part-time work at Ris at Union Market gives me an opportunity to work with the owner and develop a plan to expand the community of Ris-lovers and engage them via social media without too much effort or expense.

As I’m sorting all of this out, I’m also exploring the possibility of becoming a license real estate sales person since I’m constantly eyeballing potential houses for sale and seem to be pretty good at networking and connecting people to services, other people, and things they need. I feel it’s time to spend some of the energy I’ve been extending to others on myself and focusing on reaching my full potential. Stay tuned for more exciting news!

Trends of the Trade: Traditional Versus New Media

This article originally appears on the WWPR blog, posted on August 16, 2013

I just received my latest Fast Company (September 2013) and the cover story is all about Jeff Bezos, or as the text reads “King Bezos”. The issue went to press before the announcement that Bezos had agreed to buy the Washington Post for $250 million, cash. This announcement was on the heels of the sale of the Boston Globe for $70 million to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Socks.

When the Boston Globe sale was announced, the scuttlebutt had more to do with the difference between the purchase price of $1.1 billion in 1993 to the sale price 20 years later of $70 million. Makes one wonder, not for the first time, about the future and value in the market place of traditional print media. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that this trend is a new one. Print journalism and traditional media outlets have been struggling to find a balance between business as usual and new ways in which consumers receive and interact with news stories.

(Read More)

Trends of the Trade: Achieving Audience Engagement

This article originally appears on the WWPR blog, posted on July 26, 2013

If you attend any of the networking events hosted by the myriad of PR and Communications groups, including WWPR and PRSA, you’ll likely hear discussions about audience engagement. It’s the ultimate goal for any public relations campaign and the ever-elusive goal for many organizations.

The sweet spot to achieving successful audience and client engagement lies in the intersection between content marketing, targeted communication, and technology.

While creating quality content that customers and audiences want is always the challenge, sometimes the larger challenge is ensuring that they are receiving said content.

More than a few tools exist that can help you organize, track, distribute and proliferate your messages. Here are some that can get you started.

Gaggle Amp is “the social marketing platform that lets companies amplify their social media reach by leveraging individual employees, customers and partners.” The application allows companies, non-profits, political campaigns, and major brands share information and engage more of their audience by managing their social media channels and measuring the impact of campaigns.

Zamba.me SoapboxTM is a service that helps expand your Twitter network by introducing you and your tweets to a new community of like-minded individuals. By refining your profile to identify the types of individuals and organizations with whom you’d like to converse, Zamba.me Soapbox finds quality new followers who are tuned into your message, resulting in more robust sharing and conversations. Greg Chase, an advisor to vTricity, the company that created Zamba.me, says that Zamba.me Soapbox lends a hand in building quality and credible audiences by engaging users and promoting Twitter handles to an as yet unknown network of influencers. The result is the same if you had the time and energy to do it yourself, Zamba.me just makes it easier in a shorter amount of time.

Kapost is a content marketing platform that allows users to plan, organize, manage workflow, distribute, and analyze content across a variety of platforms. Managing where content exists, who’s seeing it, and how successful campaigns are in achieving their goals is invaluable to an organization. Kapost also has a wealth of resources for companies in any stage of the content marketing process. From strategy and ideation to distribution and analytics, Kapost has eBooks, videos, presentations and blog entries to help users refine and plan their best approach to their audiences and messages.

Creating, delivering, and measuring messages can take teams of staff to ensure an organization is spending valuable resources in the right place and on the right messages. The tools above can help an individual or a team maintain and manage messages to maximize return on investment.

Vinyasa in Virginia October 18-20

Need to relax and recharge? Look no further!

Come enjoy great yoga and excellent gourmet food with Kelly Melsted, yoga guru, and Cory Churches, gourmand, in the glorious venue of the Shenandoah Valley October 18-20 for 2 nights and 3 days of yoga and freshly prepared meals sourced from local farmers.

Experience the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley while also refining your yoga practice surrounded by Mother Nature. Meals will be both vegetarian and omnivore friendly and local sources are used whenever possible.

Retreat can accommodate between 6 and 8 people. Save $50 if you sign up before Sept 30.

Kelly in a variety of yoga poses.

Kelly in a variety of yoga poses.

What: Vino & Vinyasa
When: October 18-20, 2013
Where: Shenandoah Valley
Who: Kelly Melsted and Cory Churches
Contact: Cory.Churches@gmail.com or KellyMelsted@gmail.com to register

Pricing:

For 2 nights

$400 per person (before Sept 30)
$450 per person (after Sept 30)

Price includes meals, vineyard tours and transportation and accommodations for 2 nights, 3 days.

For Saturday night to Sunday only:

$300 per person (before Sept 30)
$350 per person (after Sept 30)

Price includes meals and accommodations for 1 night, 2 days.

Sign up here

A sample schedule for the weekend events:

Friday Oct 18:

1 p.m. Arrive at valley cabin and relax with a late lunch of gazpacho and locally made bread.

5 p.m. Greet fellow retreat guests over wine and cheese and relax with a gorgeous view of the valley.

7 p.m. Dinner with fellow guests and time on your own.

View of the Shenandoah Valley

View of the Shenandoah Valley

Saturday Oct 19:

8:30 a.m. Morning yoga to start your day of with focus and purpose

10 a.m. Breakfast

11:30 a.m. Partake in a variety of activities including hiking, visiting local attractions or meditating.

5 p.m.  Optional restorative yoga.

7 p.m. Dinner with fellow guests.

Sunday Oct 20:

8:30 a.m. Morning yoga

10 a.m. Breakfast

3:00 p.m. Depart for home.

Possible Wine Tour:

Wine country in the heart of Virginia

Wine country in the heart of Virginia

We have the option to follow a portion of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail and visit between 3-5 wineries depending on time constraints. The tour will be chauffeured to allow guests to enjoy the full experience of the winery and the tour. Wineries along the trail include Wisteria Farm and Vineyard, Wolf Gap Vineyard and Winery, and Bluestone Vineyard.

About the organizers:

About Kelly:

Kelly is a full time yoga instructor and trained life coach. She teaches yoga at George Washington University and various studios around the Washington, DC area.  In addition teaching yoga, she coaches clients and students in designing beautifully aligned lives.  Kelly’s uplifting presence and vigor for life compels her students and clients to embrace living life at their highest potential.  Kelly believes we are blessed to create movement and expression of our truest selves. She feels that the dedication and time we spend on the mat will undoubtedly find its way into our lives creating deeper happiness, beauty, and compassion for ourselves and others.

After practicing yoga for years, she received her first yoga teacher training (200 hours) from Yoga District. During this time she instantly fell in love with teaching and sharing yoga. She continued her training in the yoga tradition she first fell in love with, Anusara, an alignment-based yoga tradition. She is completing her 500 hour teacher training in a movement based style of Prana Flow. You can find out more about Kelly and her practice at her website kellymelsted.com

About Cory:

A long-time foodie, Cory has recently completed an intense 20-week culinary training course at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg and is eager to bring her new found skills to you. Cory’s enthusiasm for fresh ingredients, supporting sustainable farming and family farmers, and creating delicious and nutritious meals is evident in her menus. Often Cory is found pouring over cookbooks and seasonal ingredients and devising menus such as summer gazpacho, panko-crusted halibut over wilted spinach with shitake mushrooms and stone fruit compote. Cory is also a key member of the production team for the Luray Triathlon. She is an ardent advocate for the multisport lifestyle and encourages anyone who is even remotely interested in training for and racing in a triathlon to drop her a line.

 

Trends of the Trade: Influencers and Game Changers

This article originally appears on the WWPR blog, posted on June 10, 2013

In this season of graduation speeches and life advice for emerging youth leaders, there is an overflow of “words to live by”. From  Steve Case at UNC to  Joss Whedon at Wesleyan University, inspirational words are conveyed to graduates and non-graduates alike.  Case lists his three Ps: people, passion and perseverance, while Whedon tells his audience to pay attention to contradiction and see things from a different perspective. What you absorb and implement can have a great impact on not just your personal life but also your career path, your interactions with colleagues, and your choice of future employers.

Even the most erudite professionals know that you never stop learning.  Tapping new sources for new ways of thinking, approaching business, and interacting with colleagues and clients is a great way to stay on top of trends and continually refresh your approach to your chosen profession.

Written in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has been on the shelf of aspiring business leaders since its publication.  Many of those lessons are still applicable today. Books, podcasts, networking events, and paid workshops are ever present and teach you the latest skills to stay attuned to the most effective ways to reach clients and influence people.

But which ones are really worth your time? As  Washington Women in PR prepares to evaluate the latest crew of nominees for the Emerging Leaders Awards, it’s worth taking some time to review some influencers and resources that can help propel aspiring communicators to become tomorrow’s leaders and game changers.

Obviously we each have different interests and drivers but one thing we do have in common is our interest in communicating and reaching an audience.  Evaluating what inspires you to do your best work is a great place to start this exercise.  Determining your “personal brand“ is akin to evaluating your value proposition and again, what inspires you.

Tapping into  mentors in your organization or during events such as WWPR’s Minute Mentoring event in April helps you learn from the experience of others and put these life lessons to work.

I subscribe to Fast Company as a way to keep tabs on trends in business, design, technology and communications. Articles are timely, topical and offer insight into business trends and creative innovation.

I find authors such as Chip and Dan HeathDan Pink and Malcom Gladwell universally appealing regardless of your industry. The information they impart make you think, stretch your imagination, and maybe help you conceive of a new way to approach a problem or make a decision.  Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, touts design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning as the six essential aptitudes on which professional success and personal fulfillment now depend.  Business Insider has an interesting list of their  top 15 thought leaders in marketing.  I encourage you to take a look and see who strikes your fancy.

TED speakers and seminars are also great sources of inspiration and innovative ideas. Some of my favorites are Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight and Oliver Sacks’ talk about hallucinations, Hans Rosling: Stats that reshape your worldview and Susan Cain:  The power of introverts but there are many others.

So in the end, take to heart the information and advice you glean from influencers and game changers, and figure out what inspires you.  As you incorporate more information and tap into your inspiration, you will end up doing more of what you love to do and we will all be better for your efforts!

What are You Measuring and Why?

 

How often does management ask how your marketing and social media outreach efforts are paying off? Everyone wants to know what the return on investment or ROI is on PR and communication efforts. It’s the holy grail of metrics. Earned media requires flexibility, building relationships, input, action, and reaction. It takes time and energy and the effect isn’t always immediately evident. Providing a rock solid number of hits, views, tweets and re-tweets to justify investment in time and money is an enormous challenge in any organization.

If your company has developed a well articulated communications plan, drawing a line from corporate goals to messages and outcomes will be easier. Ideally, measurement is part of the planning process. Successful outcomes are defined while goals and messages are being shaped and solidified. In order to properly measure your success, you need to define success up front. (Read more)

This article originally appeared on the WWPR blog on May 9, 2013.

 

One Step at a Time: A Challenge to Stay in the Moment

Some of you may know that I took a leap of faith in the Fall and quit my job of 15 years. I’m sure I’ve shared my frustration, consternation and disillusionment with that period of my life here with you. I’ve also shared my excitement of discovering my path, my calling, what I want to be when I grow up. Change is good. I’ve often vacillated between excitement of making my own way and fear of failure and not making a financial contribution to the family. When asked what I want to do, I’ve perfected my “pitch.” I want to work somewhere where my work is valued, people enjoy what they do and feel that they’re making a contribution.

I’ve submitted countless applications, networked with existing connections and made new ones through Washington Network Group and Washington Women in PR, trolled LinkedIn, and stretched my imagination to conceive of new and interesting ways to be active and involved in projects, learn new skills and hone existing ones. Through it all, I’m doing my utmost to stick to a mental plan. Do your best, deliver more than expected, dazzle your audience but not too much, and stay calm. Through this, I hope to convey the best me possible, demonstrate my poise and skill without feeling the need to stretch the truth and find the right fit for me in the work world.

Lake Awosting in Upstate New York

Preserving land and water resources. A lofty but important endeavor.

In keeping with that theme of staying present, I have had a series of conversations and interviews with communication folks at The Nature Conservancy and am excited at the prospect of joining their team. The first phone interview took place in early March (on International Women’s Day, March 8 to be exact) and having done my homework I knew the hiring manager had done extensive work on women and children’s issues globally. Wanting to stand out from the crowd, I wished her a happy International Women’s Day. We had a very nice conversation and moved on to a panel interview in late March. Again I did my homework and found the bio of one of the presumed panelists. She had most recently worked for BSR or Business for Social Responsibility. During the interview, I mentioned how I’d volunteered at their Washington, DC conference in 2005. She was also at that conference. Well, instead of commenting on how I learned a great deal about how companies were applying the model of sustainability to their business processes and how I was excited to learn about the FTSE4Good Index, I mentioned that I was part of an ecofashion show. We all have those “d’uh” moments, right? (please say yes).

Along the way, I’ve done my research and with the help of a triathlon friend, who happens to be a highly regarded member of their executive team (and here I just thought he was a wicked triathlete….which he is), I tapped into some key documents, read about progress and engagement on the conservation front that The Nature Conservancy is pushing. This research and discovery rekindled my excitement to be involved, inspires me to carry the water, herald the arrival, and sound the alarm that conservation and capitalism can coexist. The TNC’s CEO, Mark Tereck is an impressive leader. A former managing partner at Goldman Sachs, he is now a “champion of the idea of natural capital”. His activities are well documented so if you’re curious to know more, it’s there for the discovering. He also has a new book called “Nature’s Fortune.

Weeks passed. I preserved a ray of hope that the position was still open and the hiring staff was still considering qualified candidates and I was one of them. Here’s where optimism can pay off. Last week while having lunch with another friend who’s in the job market, I received an email from the hiring manager informing me that I had made it to the list of finalists and could I provide answers to some follow-up questions. Stay in the moment. The universe will provide what you need when asked but don’t move five steps down the road until you have thoroughly covered each step. I learn this lesson over and over. Although, sometimes I’ve also found that imagining yourself in the position, relationship, situation that you’ve craved also helps instil confidence and calms the nervous energy surrounding the uncertainty of the situation. I submitted my answers on Monday and have my fingers crossed for the next step. I feel like I’m crossing a river using well-placed rocks and am focused on just the rock ahead and not the shore on the opposite side. One step at a time. Take a deep breath.

Week 15 of CT101 — Pasta (oh, and 10 lbs of veal bones)

Monday night was our pasta class and I’ve tried to make ravioli before without a machine…and failed miserably. Pasta is not difficult but it is labor intensive. Last night I made my first set of filled ravioli AND some angel hair pasta and it was super easy. However, I did have the benefit of having the proper tools and lots of coaching from Chef Brian and his merry band of assistants. Pasta, as with many other foods, is made easy if you have the proper ingredients (appropriate flour) and tools (available counter space, hand crank machine).

Hand crank pasta maker

I’ve been coveting this and shopping online for several hours now.

I’ve been making a list of tools, accoutrements, and items that would be good for gifts (to me, from others) and have now added a pasta maker to that list, although I don’t know if I’ll last the day without buying one for myself. I’ve found several on Ebay that are new in box (NIB) for under $40 with free shipping so it seems like a no-brainier purchase.

We don’t currently eat a lot of pasta but maybe we would if I made it at home rather than purchasing it in a box. It’s “cheap” in terms of ingredients but oh so labor intensive.

Last night Chef Brian demonstrated his Lemon Pasta (mix of semolina flour and all purpose flour), Gnocchi (potato pasta), Cheese filled ravioli, Vongole (linguine with clams), and squid ink pasta. I doubt I’ll ever be adventurous enough to do colored pasta. I get frustrated with colored pasta thinking it will taste differently from regular pasta. It doesn’t. It seems like a lot of work to extract the chlorophyll from parsley to just make pasta green without any flavor…what a pain. If you ever find yourself at my house enjoying homemade pasta, you can rest assure that it will be fabulous but won’t be any color besides that beautiful golden it was meant to be. I cook well but I usually dispense with the flourish of fancy presentation.

I wanted to take a photo of my ravioli in progress but my phone was out of battery as I was also following the Caps vs Rangers game 3 of the Stanley Cup. Waste of time and battery but that’s a separate story all together. As I was sheeting my pasta, I was so excited that it was going so well and my cooking-mates and I had managed to avoid the usual pitfalls that plague many beginners. The trick is no fear. Have no fear of what you’re attempting to do. It’s just food and you can always start over.

Pasta emerging from cutter.

How pretty is that? Like edible fringe!

Once I’d made my ravioli, I took the remnants and ran it through the sheeter again and made angel hair pasta…so pretty when it’s emerging from the cutter. Again, an exciting moment for me. I love doing new things and having them turn out well. I just love doing new things, period. Again the process gets to me. I was so eager to cook my new pasta that I’d forgotten the golden rule. The sauce waits for the pasta, not the other way around. Before I could cook my new creation, I needed to be sure I had a sauce to accompany it. The ravioli was delicately coated in a home made tomato sauce with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. The angel hair, I decided, should be simple. Olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice with some parsley and Parmesan cheese to top it off. Delicious. I think, as usual, I over indulged in pasta but am inspired to create more at home.

Just before leaving class, I remembered I’d ordered 10 lbs of veal bones to make veal stock. I never would have sought out 10 lbs of veal bones but the opportunity just presented itself. A supplier known to Chef Brian had them available and the class ordered about 100 lbs of bones. So at the moment, they’re sitting in the freezer waiting for me to muster the time and inclination to make them into stock. Stay tuned.

A conundrum — a regular work gig or a more fluid self motivated future?

In my ever-evolving quest for a career, I waffle between forging my own path with a combination of prepared food for busy people, more engagement in a multisport world and writing/communication/public relations. While neither is easy to land, the self-guided and self-motivated route allows me the freedom to do what I want, for whom I want, and when I want. The drawback is having to constantly hustle to string together enough of those opportunities to make a living.

A new day dawns. Every day is a new opportunity to make a difference.

A new day dawns. Every day is a new opportunity to make a difference.

I have no problem approaching a task, breaking it down into smaller chores, and getting things done. I’m a doer, for sure. My challenge lies in what to do. Determining what and how to do what inspires me is a bigger challenge. Fear dominates my mind and mostly fear of failure or fear of not fulfilling the promise of doing what I’ve said I’ll do. I tend to over promise and under deliver (in my mind). I want to be just the opposite…under promise and over deliver.

Most of my professional life has been guided by exceeding the expectations of managers and supervisors but I never often set my own goals professionally. I do that personally with all of my volunteer efforts such as participating in triathlons, pushing the limits of serving as a volunteer council and board member for a variety of organizations and pushing to improve the mulisport events for which I am passionate. I think the difficulty lies in monetizing or putting a price on the contribution I make to these volunteer efforts (which, obviously, I do for free). What is my time worth? It isn’t just my time, it’s my background, expertise, experience, and passion. With more than 20 years of working with clients, communicating with a lot of different types of people, and navigating a way to realize common goals.

Did I ever set my mind to be in communications and customer service? Heck no. I wanted to influence world trade and motivate people to avoid conflict and war. I don’t know that I ever really achieved that goal but I did learn a lot about the trade world, the efforts that go into creating trade policy and the global trade doesn’t happen as I imaged. I used to get so excited talking about the world of trade and globalization and now I’m jaded and grumpy. That sucks. I hate when the object of my enthusiasm dulls and becomes drudgery rather than inspiration.

What makes me ramble on and on excitedly now? Sustainability and bringing “evil” corporations to the table with conservation entities to find ways they can work together. Still a global industry but with a “win-win” in the end … it is true that companies CAN and DO make money by doing the right thing. One step at a time.

My writing has a purpose

During my job hunt, I’ve joined the requisite networking groups including the Washington Women in PR and the Washington Networking Group (what could be more direct?)

To get more familiar with the organization, I volunteered to help with WWPR’s Marking and Communication Committee where I’ve been recruited to write a monthly column for the newsletter. I have NO trouble writing about the things that interest me, amuse me, confound me but writing a monthly column about something relevant in the PR world and sounding very “expert” can be a bit daunting.

I’ve done my best to keep the topics broad, light hearted and short (under 500 words) to allow them to be easily consumed on any device, anywhere, anytime. I like to think of my column as the fajita-sized burrito of PR info.

Below are the two installments of the column. Let me know what you think!

Trends of the Trade: Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say
BY | MARCH 7TH, 2013 | NO COMMENTS
Trends of the Trade is a monthly column written by WWPR member Cory Churches exploring, well, trends in PR.

Let’s talk about trends. I don’t mean Faith Popcorn or Bill Gross type of predicted trends, although they’re probably two people to tap into for good overall trends.

I’m talking more about trends, both good and bad, in the communication and public relations area. I don’t purport to be a predictor of trends nor do I have any special insight in what will be hot and hip six months from now. What I do know is how we as communicators relate to our audiences, how we can be more effective in reaching out to them, and how we can incorporate new technologies and channels to be better at what we do. (continue)

Trends of the Trade: Telling a Good Story
BY | APRIL 9TH, 2013 | NO COMMENTS
Trends of the Trade is a monthly column written by WWPR member Cory Churches exploring, well, trends in PR. She can be reached at Cory.Churches@gmail.com.

Everyone likes a good story but like telling a joke it requires great skill. Having a good topic, a target audience, plot, point of view and setting all require creativity and focus.

I think all companies, regardless of their industry, have a great story to tell, whether it’s about clients, products or services, employees or about solutions and challenges. Success stories about clients are some of the best subjects as they highlight your ability to connect with an audience and tell a story to which most readers can relate. (continue)

 

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