Volunteering — Rewards & New Opportunities

April 28th, 2015

Volunteering for a nonprofit organization offers many benefits: supporting a nonprofit’s mission, discovering a personal passion, meeting new people who share your interests, increasing your professional skills, or finding a new job.

One of the ways we choose our volunteer experiences is by first using a nonprofit’s services for specific needs, which reflects Jill Minetz’s experience with Tuesday’s Child Chicago, a nonprofit that helps families address children’s behavioral challenges and concerns through individualized training for both parents and children. tuesdayschildchicago.org

“I was referred to Tuesday’s Child more than 30 years ago, when my first child was just three years old, “Jill explains. “Our daughter and I had a terrific relationship until we had a second child. Given the fact that my eldest daughter no longer received my full attention, critical behavioral issues developed. I needed professional help to learn how to address my behavior…as well as my daughter’s…and chose Tuesday’s Child because it works with parents and children simultaneously.”

When their family’s issues settled down – offering new insights and approaches – Jill saw that other parents, who had also benefited from the nonprofit’s services, decided to volunteer in its Parents Training Parents program. After going through the training, she has been volunteering for 32 years.

Jill offers advice about volunteering. “Know yourself. Why do you want to volunteer for a particular nonprofit? What type of commitment can you handle…one or more times per week, just for special fundraisers, or something else? What are your goals and interests, and do they complement the nonprofit’s?

The following resources can help you find mutually rewarding volunteer experiences and new opportunities.

Why Volunteer? 


How to Choose a Volunteer Experience

 Does Volunteering Lead to a Job?




Customer Service and Public Relations — They Go Together

March 23rd, 2015

It really doesn’t make any difference whether your job title relates to customer service or public relations. If you communicate with a customer, or a customer is trying to communicate with you, then this is the bottom line.

Whatever our formal titles, whether we’re new to a job or very experienced pros, whether we’re selling, serving or buying, the need for responsive, positive customer service is always there and part of your personal and organization’s public relations and marketing goals.

The following 1st Person PR blog posts present different perspectives and insights into customer service and offer direction for mutually rewarding experiences.

What are your customer service stories?

Getting Ready to Negotiate with Others? Start by Negotiating with Yourself!

February 16th, 2015

Whether we’re negotiating with managers, parents, colleagues or friends to find a mutually rewarding agreement or relationship “…the biggest obstacle is actually ourselves – our natural tendency to react in ways that do not serve our true interests….But this obstacle can also become our biggest opportunity.”

In his latest book, Getting to Yes with Yourself and Other Worthy Opponents, author William Ury explains “that if we learn to understand ourselves first, we lay the groundwork for understanding and influencing others.”  http://www.williamury.com/

Ury introduces “Six Challenging Steps” that may at times seem like common sense…common sense that is uncommonly applied.” Ury’s experience includes 3 ½ decades of working as a mediator with people and organizations from all walks of life. The Six Challenging Steps offer specific, in-depth information on how to negotiate with yourself (“Inner Yes Method”) and how this approach will lead to rewarding outcomes for yourself and the “other side.” Here’s an introduction, and there’s a detailed chapter on each in his book.

 “1. Put Yourself in Your Shoes. Understand your worthiest opponent, yourself.”  Don’t prematurely judge yourself. Listen to and explore your underlying needs, which will influence your negotiation strategy.

“2. Develop Your Inner BATNA. Almost all of us find it difficult not to blame others with whom we come into conflict. The challenge is to do the opposite and to take responsibility for your life and relationships. More specifically, it is to develop your inner BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement), to make a commitment to yourself to take care of your needs independently of what the other does or does not do.”

“3. Reframe Your Picture. …The challenge is to change how you see your life, creating your own independent and sufficient source of contentment. It is to see life as being on your side even when it seems unfriendly.”

“4. Stay in the Zone. … The challenge is to stay in the present moment, the only place where you have the power to experience true satisfaction as well as to change the situation for the better.”

“5. Respect Them Even If. … It is tempting to meet rejection with rejection, personal attack with personal attack, exclusion with exclusion. The challenge is to surprise others with respect and inclusion even if they are difficult.”

“6. Give and Receive. It is all too easy, especially when resources seem scarce, to fall into the win-lose trap and to focus on meeting only your needs. The final challenge is to change the game to a win-win approach by giving first instead of taking.”

 Ury also discusses The Three Wins: A Win Within, A Win With Others, and A Win for the Whole. “As I have personally experienced,” Ury says, “getting to yes with yourself is not just the most challenging, but the most rewarding negotiation of all.”

3D Printing and First Person Public Relations

January 6th, 2015

If you’re interested in exploring the potential of 3D printing for PR purposes or new creative opportunities, check out your public library and its hands-on resources.

For example, the Skokie Public Library’s BOOMBox venue offers tools and inspiration reflecting the overall STEAM theme: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. BOOMBox changes its sub-theme (Fabrication) every few months, and the current one covers 3D Printing, Computer Aided Design, Robotics and Computer Programming.

Library staff helps you produce, via on-site mini 3D printers, the creative or PR expression you want. Tools include 3D Printers, 3D Doodlers, Arduinos, EggBots, Makey Makeys, Vinyl Cutter, WaterColorBot. Mikael Jacobsen, the library’s Learning Experiences Manager, also illustrated how an EggBot can draw your name on a little ball that could be used for professional purposes. You can decide what other small or bigger things you and the robots can create in colorful designs…including a 3D print of your face. Library classes for adults and kids help us learn more to discover and achieve our goals, inclinations and potential.

The current Fabrication also features several activities:
• 2D Design. Word Wall Art Decal with Inkscape and the Cameo Vinyl Cutter (design a personalized vinyl wall quote). Or, cut out business logos to put on cars, laptops or other things.
• 3D Design. 3D Headphone Wrap with Tinkercad.
• Code to Make. LED Paper Circuits. Use a basic circuit to light up drawings and paper designs.

For more information and resources, check out:

► Skokie Public Library’s STEAM Kit resources. http://encore.skokielibrary.info/iii/encore/search?lang=eng&target=STEAM+KIT

► Skokie Public Library’s BOOMBox: http://skokielibrary.info/services/computers-technology/boombox/

►Association of 3D Printing: http://associationof3dprinting.com/

►3DPrint.com, News Organization: http://3dprint.com/

►3ders.org, 3D Printing and Printing News: http://www.3ders.org/

Isn’t it time to visit your public library and explore the possibilities to 3D your First Person Public Relations?

P.S. For more background information and resources on 3D Printing:
• Arduinos: http://www.arduino.cc/
• 3D Printers: http://www.up3dusa.com/#!mini/c14nt
• Eggbot: http://egg-bot.com/
• Watercolorbot: http://watercolorbot.com/
• 3Doodler: http://the3doodler.com/

Holidays, New Year, New Job, Your Personality?!

December 1st, 2014

After getting together with family and friends during the holidays, many people start looking for new jobs in the new year. As you chat with others, including professional colleagues, encourage their feedback on your personality type. It could make a big difference as you explore rewarding job possibilities.

Two books offer incredible information and insights into personalities and complementary jobs that would make a great fit and careers you might not have known about or considered.

►50 Best Jobs for Your Personality, 3rd edition, by Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D. As the book explains, you will find “nearly 270 Job Descriptions for 6 Personality Types, 130+ Best Jobs Lists, Including Jobs with the Best Pay, Fastest Growth, and Most Openings. Personality types include Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, or Conventional. Best jobs are organized by earnings, growth, education level, and more.”

►Do What You Are, 5th edition, by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron and Kelly Tieger. This book helps you “Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type.” You will learn more about “how you process information, make decisions, and interact with the world around you – and discover the career that is right for you.”

If you’re not sure about your personality type and potential, these books offer incredible information and focus. If you know your type but don’t fully appreciate the opportunities waiting for you, they will help you discover a new you in a new year.

If you want to share your personality/job search experience, we would be delighted to feature you in First Person Public Relations!

Letter from a Veteran – November 12, 1944

November 11th, 2014

Seventy years ago, one of the first women to serve in the military observed Veteran’s Day. She reflects on this and other experiences in her letters home. Mollie’s War is a memoir that features letters Mollie wrote to her sister, Beck, while stationed in Europe. “It describes the life of a WAC enlistee who would serve in England when it came under attack, France weeks aftger the invasion, and Germany after VE Day.”

“Here is my mother’s letter on the first Veteran’s Day in newly liberated Paris,” says Cyndee Schaffer, author of Mollie’s War, The Letters of a World War II WAC in Europe. www.mollieswar.wordparess; www.mollieswar.com

Mollie Weinstein Schaffer, Cyndee’s mother, was one of the 150,000 women who served in the Women’s Army Corps (IWAC) during the Second World War. Of those, about 8,000 served in the European Theater of Operations.


Letter from Mollie from newly liberated Paris

Here are a few paragraphs from Mollie’s letter home.

Paris, France, 12 Nov.1944.

“Dear Beck,

…Must tell you about the Armistice Day Parade here in Paris. I still recall the ones we used to go to—you, Jackie & myself—but this was really the “cat’s meow.” It started about 6 AM—maybe not actually but there were gendarmes (or draculas as we call them with their all-enveloping capes) & G.I.’s, too, directing crowds that early, lining up the streets near the Arc de Triomphe, along with the great numbers of people who probably ran back to get sandwiches & hustled back to regain choice spots from where they would have an advantageous view of the celebration. And, Beck, I think the parading or celebrating was still going on this morning.

Florence (another WAC) & myself left the office at 10:30 AM & we made a “bee line” for Champs Elysees (one of the main streets in Paris that runs into the Arc de Triomphe). Honestly the people were packed like sardines (trite but true). Florence & I were standing on tip toes but couldn’t see very much. All of a sudden I felt my feet leave the ground & I had a most wonderful view of marching soldiers. I turned around as I felt myself being put gently back to earth—it was the captain! I thanked him & both Florence & I laughed. We walked farther on & we decided to stand back near the buildings away from the crowds along the streets. We did have a better view. We saw Churchill go by in a car but weren’t quite sure. However, when we heard the people shouting “Vive Churchill,” that confined it. Besides I had said to Florence “I know we have a long range view of the parade, but no one but Churchill’s cheeks are puffed out like that!”

The one minute’s silence at 11 AM brought to mind the folks back home—wonder when we’ll be coming home. I know, Beck, it won’t be too soon. …” You can read the full letter from Paris here: Mollie_Letter_Home_Veterans_Day.


Letter to Mollie from Joe

“ ‘My mama wore combat boots’. When you are the daughter of a WWII WAC, that statement resonates with you,” Cyndee says. “Yes, my mother wore combat boots and that brought a legacy with it. The one outstanding quality throughout my mother’s letters and the letters that were sent to her was the fact that everyone wrote such beautiful ones. Here is probably the most touching letter. the one from Joe. I tried to find him when I was writing the book but I could not.” Here’s just a few of his thoughts.

“Salmunster, Germany

Sept 5th 1945

“My darling sweetheart – no that’s too informal, Dear Sergeant Molly – no that’s too G.I., Dear Friend – nope too cold, I know… Hi Callahan!

“You see, I told you I’d drop you a line (or should I say a note because good l’il WACs stay away from those bad boys with “lines”?) I finally caught a ride home but it was the next morning after the dance about 10:00. I spent the night in the transit barracks in Frankfurt. It was much too cold and dark to try those 60 kilometers home. I got home in time for dinner so I didn’t miss much time hitch-hiking on the road.

“I wanted to tell you though—thanks, honey I had a swell time. I only hope I didn’t scare you too much with all that chatter. Actually, I’m not such a talkative fellow as I may have seemed. But you can’t really understand what being at that dance meant to me. Honestly it was the first American dance I’ve been to since I came overseas twenty months ago. I was as happy as a lark and I guess I showed it a little more than somewhat?” …

“…Be a good girl. Work hard but most of all, stay as sweet and as kind as you are.

“Yours always.


You can read the full letter from Joe here: Joe_Letter_to_Mollie_World_War_II.

Seventy years may have passed, but let’s always remember our veterans.

Rookie or Seasoned Pro – Time to Change

October 7th, 2014

I’m not a “rookie” (not young enough), but despite my professional experience, I regularly feel like a “newbie” in today’s ever-changing techie world. So, when I read Rex W. Huppke’s  I Just Work Here column on how to “Keep your edge with ‘rookie smarts’,” I identified.  Maybe you do, too?!

Read it for yourself — http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/careers/ct-biz-1006-work-advice-huppke-20141007-column.html — and here are some highlights.

“Your cluelessness may be giving you a competitive advantage. …That sounds silly, but consider the benefits of confusion. It prompts you to work harder to make sense of things. It forces you to ask questions, to always seek a foothold of understanding.”

“Consider,” Huppke suggests, “ this excerpt from Liz Wiseman’s upcoming book, Rookie Smarts.  … While experience provides a distinct advantage in a stable field – like the realms of bridge building, ballet, or concert piano performance – it can actually impede progress in an unstable or rapidly evolving arena. When the world is changing quickly, experience can actually become a curse, trapping us in old ways of doing and knowing, while inexperience can be a blessing, freeing us to improvise and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.”

If you’re looking for a competitive edge (college grad or seasoned pro), your ability to quickly adapt and a “rookie mindset” are definitely advantages and keys to ongoing success. (Notice that this blog post is shorter than I usually write?!)

If you would like to share your 1st Person PR rookie experience, I’m listening?

What Do High Achievers Have in Common?

September 3rd, 2014

“High achievers – by definition, individuals fueled by passion and purpose – distinguish themselves through exceptional contributions,” explains Betsy Storm, author of Bright Lights of the Second City — 50 Prominent Chicagoans on Living with Passion and Purpose.*

Bright Lights features prominent leaders in activism, the arts, business, philanthropy, politics, science, spirituality, sports, and more. Their life journeys, discussed in their own words, reflect high achiever experiences …wherever in the world they live.

► Be Bold. Do the hard thing or what you might be afraid of. High achievers trust their instincts and don’t listen to naysayers.

  • “Tim King, Founder, Urban Prep Academies, a network of three all-male, tuition-free college prep schools, focusing on African-American boys. In 2013, for the third consecutive year, 100 percent of the 150 graduates were accepted  to college. Self-described as a “hard-headed optimist,” he was part of an economically successful family. King graduated from law school but “chose the classroom over the courtroom.”

Believe That It’s OK Not to Have a Plan.

  • “Paul Sereno, Paleontologist and “Dinosaur Hunter.  Sereno is a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and professor of paleontology, evolution and anatomy at the University of Chicago. “Remember, your life plan is not set out before you, and that’s part of the fun of it. A good life is one that is unpredictable.”

Don’t Just Overcome Your Fears. Use Them as a Springboard to Flourish and Advocate.

● “Marca Bristo, Co-founder, president and CEO of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and president of the United States Council on Disabilities.   When Bristo was 23 years old, a spinal cord accident left her paralyzed. As she began to lead an independent life, this trauma inspired her and prompted her activism.  Access Living, created in 1980, was one of the first 10 centers in the country that offered  independent living for people with disabilities. Bristo also helped establish the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S.”

Believe in Something Bigger than Yourself or Your Belief System.

  • “Eboo Patel, Founder and President, Interfaith Youth Core, a nonprofit building the global interfaith youth movement. IFYC addresses one of the most significant issues of our time: How will people of different religious backgrounds get along with each other? Patel’s two books are, first, his memoir, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, and second, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America. He served on President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. IFYC’s creed is: “Better Together.”

►  Follow Your Dream But Be Pragmatic to Make It Happen.

● “Stephen Ross, Director, Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study of Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo. When he was about seven years old, he saw a TV program featuring primatologist Jane Goodhall and was fascinated at the similarity between apes and humans. While Ross learned more about animal welfare, his natural abilities were in math and science. “It suddenly occurred to me that I could combine two separate interests into one career – as an animal welfare scientist.” His approach included taking a series of jobs not directly related to chimps but that led to “the best job in the world.”

Believe in Yourself Even If You Have to Buck the System…or Your Parents.

● Alpana Singh, Master Sommelier, former director of Wine and Spirits for Lettuce Entertain You, former host of TV program, “Check, Please,” and currently a partner in The Boarding House, a fine dining venue in Chicago. Singh was born in Monterey, California, and her traditional Indian parents expected her to go to college. To pay for her education, she applied to a fine dining restaurant, and the owners expected her to know more about wine. One thing led to another, and Singh became, at the age of 26, the youngest woman to be accepted into the Court of Master Sommeliers. She told her parents no more college because it was boring.  

*Note: Meet Betsy Storm and learn more about “Bright Lights of the Second City” at www.betsystorm.com. 

What Do You Expect from Your PR?

August 7th, 2014

Before you launch a public relations campaign, consider your expectations of its role in increasing awareness – and possibly sales – for your business. “What are your goals for a PR program, and what do you regard as success?  PR offers potential in several areas, but you have to manage your expectations,” says David Brimm, president BrimmComm, Inc., a full- service public relations and marketing communications firm.  www.brimmcomm.com

So, before jumping into SEO and keywords, which are important, consider your business goals and the ever-evolving PR world.

Your Brand and Your Message

Start by establishing your brand and message. “What does your business or nonprofit stand for, or what do your consumers, clients and other “publics” trust you for?”  Create messages that reflect your brand concept and what you want them to remember. “This is what public relations is basically about – increasing awareness, clarifying perceptions and tracking messages and their impact,” David adds. “Everything you do is branding, so what will you do to support your brand?”

PR can be very effective in raising your awareness by developing newsworthy stories and identifying appropriate media to convey your message.  “But PR is not advertising, and you cannot control the content and result in the same way that you can with advertising.  PR does, however, complement advertising and is very effective in an integrated marketing communications plan. The advantage of PR is that since it appears on the editorial side, it carries an implied endorsement and added credibility.”

Brand Your Website

“Your website introduces your brand, and it’s a first impression visitors get. Never create a website until you think about the messages you are trying to convey, and then design a site that complements these messages,” suggests David.  This is where you want to introduce your services and staff, sell products or services on the site, present news, share videos, feature case studies.  “Your public relations image will start on your site, reinforcing your brand and creating outreach opportunities.”

Social and Traditional Media

Some people are confused about the term “social media,” but what it does is extend your messaging in a more personal way, with a greater reach than newspapers and magazines.

“Because social media is so interactive, leading to dialog with your customers or clients, it’s really about building relationships. But the flip side is that it provides a forum for customers unhappy about your organization to complain, so monitor the Internet so you can get an early warning and immediately head off  potential problems,” David  adds.

Features in traditional media – newspapers, radio or TV – offer unique credibility and longevity when presenting new news. Articles, videos or radio interviews, linked to social media, increase awareness. But then, David reminds us, “What are the results of those ‘likes’ and Google searches?  Do you have a social media and PR strategy or just hoping to flood the Internet?”

“Your bottom line and public relations goal is to establish relationships with customers.

Ready for a Website? Start with the Basics

July 7th, 2014

“If you want a website, start with the behind-the-scenes basics before you begin the actual design process,” advises Christopher Merrill, Christopher Merrill Web Design, www.christophermerrill.com.

Host, Domain Name and Registration

  • “Avoid choosing a cheap service. The best approach is to use the same service for both hosting and registration. And, check their support services.
  • Two services will be necessary for your website (and all websites for that matter):
  1. Domain Name Registration. This gives you ownership of your domain name (e.g., sallychapralis.com, christophermerrill.com).
  2. A Hosting Account. This is where your website files reside. All websites exist on a server somewhere (an actual machine that holds your files, photos, etc.). Your domain name is set to point to your server so that your site comes up when someone types in your name.
  • Make sure expiration dates for both of these are the same so that you will only have to keep track of one date when you need to renew these services.
  • If you have multiple websites, use the same service. Christopher recommends GoDaddy.
  • Check your credit card’s expiration date. Or, if you have changed your credit card, be sure to update your hosting and registration information.
  • Have you changed your email but did not change it with your hosting/registration services. If so, you will not receive notice when it’s time to renew.
  • Choose an auto-renew option to avoid lapses.
  • If your contact information is not current with your domain name and hosting accounts, you also might lose the right to your domain name. Or, it could be bought out from under you. Then it will cost you a considerable amount to buy it back. If nothing else, always make sure your domain name is up to date, since this will be the most difficult (if not impossible) thing to replace if you let it lapse.”

Website Before Design

Before the website process begins, remember that “you want to reach your intended audience when they search (using Google, Bing, etc.) for services and products you provide. This means implementing keyword-rich word combinations throughout the site, in tags and in text. Look for two and three-word combinations that your intended audience would be likely to type into search engines when they are looking for what you do.”

After this, the design process begins.

►  A Logo. It’s your visual identity, but it’s not your “brand” (what we trust you for). It’s usually a graphic symbol that reminds us of your purpose. “Keep it simple,” Christopher says. “Ideally, the design process starts with your logo.”

►  Contact Information, on every page

  • “While one website page will be dedicated to Contact Information, contact information should be easy to find on all pages, usually in the upper right hand corner and at the bottom of each page. Redundancy is a good thing.
  • If possible and appropriate, include your business address and even a Google Place, Facebook Place or a relevant ‘app’.
  • Focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).”

►  Create unique title tags and Meta descriptions on each page that will attract people who are looking for your services or products.

  • “A title tag is an HTML code that causes that title to appear in the title bar at the very top of each page you view in your web browser. If you have several tabs open, the title will appear in that tab. These words will not actually appear on your web page unless you have also included them in your text.
  • The Meta description is what shows up below your page title (or on each page of your site) when your site comes up after searches in search engines. See Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide for SEO parameters.”

 Website Design – Do’s and Don’ts

Christopher advises that you “avoid thinking too far outside the box. ‘I want my website to look like nothing anyone has ever seen,’ is something clients often say they want, but this is a dangerous trap. If users are not able to navigate your site easily on the first try, they will leave your site and go to another site where navigation is user-friendly.”  Your design should be simple and engaging with links to our social media. But, Christopher says, “Keep it simple.” For more information, see Christopher’s resources below for “What Makes Good Web Design,” as well as “Top Ten Web Design Mistakes.”

Try to find pictures and images that can help you define who you are and that can be used in your site’s design.

Do update your site regularly for higher rankings. Updates can include news releases about your business or about your field. Regular blog posts also bring followers to your site. Make sure your blog resides on your server.

If you have a business, you must have a website.

Your website should look professional…whether you’re a sole entrepreneur or an organization employing dozens of employees. Remember, your website is an important part of your marketing strategy.

Above all, Christopher adds, “be patient. Invest time and energy into establishing your web presence. It will take many steps and a good deal of consideration to launch a website that will accurately reflect your products and services and bring in your audience. Do not rush the process.”

Note: For more information, see Christopher’s resources: “What Makes Good Web Design” as well as “Top Ten Web Design Mistakes.”

What Makes Good Web Design video:

Top Ten Web Design Mistakes: