Stuff I Wrote: Content, Business, Fitness/MMA & Tech

Depositphotos 2902188 xs 300x300 Stuff I Wrote: Content, Business, Fitness/MMA & TechHere’s some stuff I wrote online last month!

Content

  • Lost In Translation: What To Do When You’re Heavily Edited. (SPJ Nwtwork) Originally on the blog and picked up by SPJ, this post was actually in response to a client of mine that took a post and rewrote it to be as linkbaity as possible, in a way that I felt hurt my credibility and undermined my relationship with a source. What I learned in the process.
Business

  • 7 Steps To Improve Collaboration At Work (VerticalResponse) Nathan Kontny, the founder of Draft (a fantastic collaboration tool for writers) talks about collaboration in general, and has some great advice.

Tech

  • Is Tech Culture Really Hostile To Women? (Dice.com) Eventually I’d love to get back to covering tech instead of gender politics, but this seems to be the story everyone wants, so I tried to add as much nuance as I could.

Fitness

MMA

Bjorn Rebney Explains Matching Clause, Happenings of Bellator 104

 

Rick Hawn Reacts To Bellator 104 Win

 

Ron Keslar Talks War Machine Upset

 

Also check out my TUF recaps on MMA Torch!

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How to have a blast meeting up with near-strangers

Depositphotos 8500510 s 300x300 How to have a blast meeting up with near strangersAs much as you love traveling, there’s probably times when you’ve felt pretty lonely on the road or wished you could surround yourself with some of the amazing people instead of sitting at a diner by yourself or hanging out in your hotel. When I knew I’d be trekking out to San Francisco for CreativeLIVE, I decided to avoid this scenario by some pretty extreme measures. A friend of mine recently asked me how I ended up hanging out with so many near-strangers in a city where everyone’s really really busy all the time, so I thought I’d write up my strategy. Despite outward appearances, it really is more about putting in time to reach out to people than being naturally charming and charismatic.

Social media contacts

It’s really easy to go on Twitter and Facebook and say, “Hey San Francisco! I will be in you on October 16 through 18!” It’s much harder to ask people you don’t even know to try to hang out, but that’s exactly what I did.

Obviously I first contacted people I know well in town, but I decided to take it a step further. I happen to have a fairly robust LinkedIn and Facebook network of contacts, and I searched by location and emailed every single one of them to let them know I’d be in town and invite them to one of two meetups. These were personalized messages (though they did have an element of cut-and-paste) and I sent to literally everyone I knew, even peripherally.

This is obviously time-consuming (it took me about two or three hours), but I think I myself would love a warm, personalized invitation to hang out and be more inclined to show up than if I got a random Facebook event notification or Eventbrite notice in my inbox.

I didn’t discriminate. I emailed developers and writers, marketers and athletes, people I’ve worked for and who have worked for me, all ages, people who are well-connected and those who are not. Everyone.

Meetups

Instead of asking 200 people to meet with me one-on-one, which would be a logistical nightmare for a three-day trip in which one day was completely booked, I also set up two events where people could come hang out at two different times (one was evening and one mid-day) and in two different locations. I put this on Eventbrite so people could actually register, which gave me a good idea of who was coming (and was easy to keep track of).

I did a meetup on a smaller scale, too, when I was in Seattle. I got together some online friends from various communities as well as old college classmates, and of course my brother and his friends. But since I had drawn from a wider net this time, one concern I had is that people from very different communities would show up, which could leave some people feeling left out. I worked hard in the wording of the invites and the Eventbrite page to emphasize that we’d be accessible and friendly, and it’s easy to help influence the tone of events when it’s a very small group.

Visit people

Another way to meet people is to just show up. I decided I was dropping by the office of one of my favorite new startups, even though we didn’t exactly figure out the specific timing via email. I just stopped by anyway bearing gifts. The timing was bad, but it was still fun to visit… and I bet the next time I’m in town I’ll get that tour I wanted. icon smile How to have a blast meeting up with near strangers Obviously dropping by somewhere big probably wouldn’t work out as well (some places even have warnings on their site asking people not to show up without an appointment), but I think if it feels right, it’s always worth a shot. It’s not like I was selling anything or trying to get a job.

Housing

I was lucky enough to find a place to crash the first night with a friend of a friend, which is always a good way to meet people as you’ll likely go out for dinner and spend time together. The next night I had to try out AirBNB, and really wanted to meet the other person staying at the same house but didn’t want to knock on his door and be creepy. However, I think housing is still a nice way I felt to meet people, and maybe get some insider tips on what’s cool to do in town without having to go to Yelp or FourSquare. I’d rather rent a room or crash on the floor of the house people are clustered around for an event, unless I’m feeling overwhelmed in which case I’ll hide out elsewhere. But where you stay is definitely a place to talk to strangers.

Bring people with you everywhere

I typically try deliberately to get people to meet others, and it works well when you’re traveling because things are sort of randomly thrown together anyway. And who knows when you’re connecting someone to a new friend in their city or wind up at a cafe or event in their area that they’d be interested in returning to.

Local friends are awesome

Also, that friend who lives in town who will show you which bus you need to go on or which street you want to take or walk you to the hipster donut shop and the BART station is the coolest person ever. I try to be that person for my friends who visit. As much as hanging out with strangers and organizing meetups is fun and interesting, nothing beats your really badass local friend.

The responses

But what happened when you sent out dozens of emails, you’re wondering. Emailing everybody you know in an area is not for the faint of heart. I got a lot of rejections. SO many rejections. The worst one was an editor for my dream magazine, who wrote, “Maybe. At the risk of sounding like a jerk, what would we be discussing?” My clever follow-up email about post-apocalyptic fiction was met with silence. I got rejections in various forms on every social media platform, as well as a lot of people who didn’t respond at all…because everyone has a different comfort level with random messages from near-strangers, right? In addition to the rejections and no-responses, I got a lot of cancellations. All at the last minute. Things come up; I don’t take these personally.

The trick for me with the rejections was to differentiate between people who really couldn’t make it, often for logistical reasons, but wanted to hang out… When they start talking about trying to take a taxi to skip out of work, that’s a sign, but in general it’s usually fairly obvious when someone really really wants to meet up and just can’t and when they just aren’t all that into the idea. When possible, I tried to make arrangements with people who really wanted to hang but couldn’t.

The outcome

I also got a lot of positive responses, and the most interesting thing for me about this experiment is that they weren’t from the people I’d expected.

I had a really wonderful lunch with a writer who’d given me some much-needed tough love back in July 2008. If I had just picked out two or three people I’d want to hang out with, she wouldn’t have been on my list, but it really was lovely, lively conversation. She brought her coworker and I brought my badass local friend and we had some of the best conversation I’ve had in a while.

I had a small meetup with just 2 other people (my aforementioned friend and someone I know from How to Make Your First Dollar), and a larger meetup with a total of 7 people, including someone who’d done some web design work for me in the past (and who I knew through my friend), two fellow MMA writers, as well as this great personal trainer and his awesome wife (the strangers who put me up for a night). Again, these are mostly people I probably wouldn’t have expected to actually spend time with me but I am so glad they did…and I think we had enough ‘waves’ of conversation to keep everyone engaged at least part of the time.

Make your own luck

My event was amazing and I learned more than I ever thought possible about travel hacking, as well as meeting some great new people, but we’ve probably all traveled with excitement to something that ended up sucking. Then we wonder whether it was worth the time away from home, money on airfare, etc. I think arranging our own events while traveling helps with this. Even if the reason I was in town for didn’t work out well, I would’ve still hung out with so many great people who were only words on a screen, so it would’ve all been worth it. There is always the possibility nobody will show up, so pick a place you’d totally hang out at all by yourself if necessary. (I love cafes, for example, but could just as easily picked somewhere outdoors.)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

I get that not all of you are crazy like me, and emailing every single contact in an area might be a bit out of your comfort zone…but the next time you’re visiting a new town, try contacting say 15 or 20 people to meet up and see what happens. The results may surprise you!

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Free Travel Hacking Class This Tuesday!

World traveler Chris Guillebeau will be teaching a day-long class on travel hacking this Tuesday, and you can watch it online at CreativeLIVE for free!

I’m lucky enough to be in the studio audience in San Francisco, which I’m so excited about. Although I’ve been lucky enough to traverse the continent, I feel like most of my trips have been very regimented. I was born in Israel, but have never explored on my own. I’ve visited family in Costa Rica, studied abroad in Oxford, and gone on media trips to places like Huatulco, Mexico. I went on a social justice tour of El Salvador right after high school. I’ve visited Scotland, Ireland and Wales. These were all great experiences and I had amazing people showing me around, but part of me yearns to go somewhere and explore on my own. The press trips and scheduled tours in particular involved a lot of shuttling around, and I’d love to go off the beaten path a bit. I’m hoping to spend time in India or Thailand, and away from my Lonely Planet guide. And then there’s that dream trip to Brazil I’ve always wanted.

Chris is not only an incredible person and a great writer, but a travel ninja of sorts as well. He earns over a million Frequent Flyer miles and points each year, and has visited every single country in the world. He’s an incredible person to learn from, both because of his experience and because his actions are always incredibly deliberate and well thought out. I’ve learned a lot from Chris’ writing on running a business, among other things.

I’m particularly grateful to him because he went so far as to donate a free ticket to the World Domination Summit as a gift for a donor to a fundraiser I hosted a year ago in memory of a dear friend. With the help of some incredible people including Chris, we raised a total of $1600 for Children of the Night, a non-profit organization that helps child victims of human trafficking right here in the U.S.

But this isn’t about my desire to travel or even about why Chris is an amazing human being. It’s about you and how you can learn some tools to go far away from home (or to spend less money doing it). Check out the video below, and make sure to enroll on CreativeLIVE’s site if you’re interested.

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Stop Breaking Things

Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895 232x300 Stop Breaking ThingsI’m all for pushing forward. Racing around the clock. Doing as many as six impossible things before breakfast. It takes constant ongoing effort to reach our true potential, and those who complain about finite opportunities may very well just need to try harder.

But you can’t just have hustle; you also have to be able to take a step back. Because if you’re going to put the pedal to the metal, you should be damn sure you’re not going so fast that you can’t recover if you veer off course. Why break the speed limit only to get somewhere you never wanted to be?

A few days after a recent project with a disappointing outcome (to put it mildly), I decided to stop blaming others and to instead take a closer look at all of the decisions I’d made in the process. In hindsight, I saw that there were many warning sings I missed while boldly charging forward. With all of my focus on racing around the clock, I forgot that the pressure on me was largely self-imposed. The cycle was one I could have broken any time I wanted to.

It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s not inevitable. Just remember: you don’t have to stay in the abusive relationship, at the boring party or with the exploitative employer. You can walk away from any aspect of your life that isn’t working for you.

You don’t have to do what a client asks when something about it seems wrong.

You don’t have to harass people to get them on board with a project when there are other options.

You don’t have to find a way to meet a deadline when extenuating circumstances make it unreasonable.

You don’t have to drop everything to make something work when it clearly isn’t going to.

You don’t have to cut corners on a race to the bottom, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

You can just get off the train.

You can take a step back and ask yourself if you’re finishing something just for the sake of finishing it. You can look for the red flags suggesting that it might be better to simply cut your losses.

You can take a moment to ask ourself if you’re doing soulful work that will change your little corner of the world. You can ask ourself if other people’s expectations are worth taking shortcuts or risks for.

You can say no. Turn down the partnership or the client or the opportunity, even if you’re not sure about your alternatives. Maybe you have to pick up a part-time gig washing dishes to make ends meet, but at least it’ll let you stop your great self-destruction.

There are times to keep going. There are times to miraculously pull things off, to keep your promises, to drive full speed ahead. But there are also times when “finishing” is just something you do because we’re afraid of consequences.

You might need to use your hustle to deal with those consequences, but that means that having hustle gives you the power to say no. So say it. Deal with the consequences. And then keep pushing forward, but in the right direction this time.

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Lost In Translation: What To Do When You’re Heavily Edited

Depositphotos 8188007 xs 300x233 Lost In Translation: What To Do When Youre Heavily EditedYesterday, the published version of a post I wrote which went live looked very different from a draft I’d sent in, to the point where I felt like I inadvertently misled the person I interviewed by promising something very different from the final product. The post came across in a way I work hard not to present myself, and I was extremely disappointed with the outcome.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 24 hours trying to figure out where things went south. As such, I’d like to share some strategies I came up with that I’m going to pay close attention to from now on. I hope you can use some of these to learn from my mistakes, whether you’re a writer or an editor or just someone wearing a content marketing hat along with the other responsibilities you’re juggling.

Most editing is good at best and harmless at worst

Before I delve into some strategies I’ve concocted with my 20/20 hindsight, I just want to point out that although editing is common, editing that makes you cringe is not. I’ve sent out over 400 invoices (many with multiple assignments, since I typically invoice monthly) and can count on both hands the amount of times I’ve been really upset with edits (other than minor typos).

Once I used every bit of hustle I had to track down a source and my otherwise exemplary editor insulted the magazine this guy (one of my heroes) wrote for.

Another editor (also a very good one) rewrote my lede to quote a book I’d never read, making for some awkward conversation with people who’d read the piece.

Once I was asked to delete information that would impact sales (a men’s fitness site did to my Q+A when the best-selling author I interviewed pointed out that post-workout shakes aren’t good for weight loss…a fact which would’ve cut into the site’s sales for shakes that people didn’t need).

Once a sentence was thrown in that I felt contradicted a previous assertion in the piece and undermined a point my source (who is also one of my heroes) had recommended based on her experience as an industry expert running a 6-figure business.

And, as mentioned, recently a post of mine was rejiggered so it read more like link bait than the nuanced piece I’d submitted.

(Yes, I know that’s only five, but I also do some ghostwriting. I can’t share those examples but feel that some of the headlines and information in health pieces I penned were misleading, but at least they didn’t have my  name on them. Also, once a magazine allowed an advertiser representing a source I wrote to reprint my article as an ad, making me look like a corporate shill, but that’s not exactly an editing error. Beware all rights contracts.)

But I digress. My point is that it’s important to recognize that most editors will make your piece a lot better or at the very least not do that much damage to it. I love good editors, and there are a lot of them. And the ones that make mistakes aren’t always wholly bad editors.

Before you accept an assignment…

Step #1: Follow your intuition

If you even have an inkling that something you’ve been asked to write might be dodgy, pay attention to that feeling. Even if you’re writing for a site or publication you’ve previously had a great experience with, if one particular assignment makes your spidey sense go off, listen to that. Of course, you may think you already do this, and some things are really obvious, but I’ve found that if I get really excited about a story and start to think how I’d write it I forget to do a gut check.

There are a million reasons you might ignore your intuition. Sometimes it’s money (either because the piece pays well, because it’s quick and easy or because you don’t have a lot lined up). Sometimes it’s prestige (wanting to do anything to get a certain byline or write about a certain topic or interview a certain person). Whatever the reason, moving fast and breaking things is fun, but after my most recent botched post, in retrospect I really wish I had sat and thought about the implications of an assignment instead of instantly accepting it.

Step #2: Ask around

If in doubt, you can always check in with other writers to see what their experience has been working for a specific publication. Sometimes writers will complain about a bad experience on a writer’s forum (like UPOD or Freelance Success or in a professional group (like ASJA) or on review sites like Freelancer’s Union. Many of these places have areas to post about experiences anonymously. I admit I don’t often listen to just one warning, but when I read that two or three people have had a bad experience with the same editor, magazine or site, In the past, I’ve assumed that another writer’s poor experience didn’t mean mine would be that way, and I’ve gotten burned.

If you can’t find a single person who’s written for the place you’re interested in, take a look at the quality of the content on their site. Does it seem like legitimate journalism, or is it sensationalistic? This won’t always be a telling factor (the sites where I felt edits damaged my articles were loaded with high-quality work, in my opinion) but may weed a few out.

After accepting an assignment…

Step #3: Don’t work too hard to get a source.

It’s almost addictive to try to track down someone you really want to talk to. I love the thrill of the chase (the more high-profile and the more I love someone’s work, the better). I actually use a wide variety of tools to aid me in my quest–LinkedIn Premium, Twitter, Rapportive, Reachable, ‘chance meetings,’ etc.

I think being ridiculously persistent and having a lot of hustle is great, but I’ve also found that if someone really doesn’t want to do an interview and I manage to somehow talk them into one anyway, the results are usually not that great. Luckily, companies like SourceSleuth can help track specific sources down. I also ask for referrals, contact organizations (for example, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has spokespeople at the ready for health-related articles), look for Meetup hosts in specific topics I’m writing about, and so forth. Lastly, sometimes PR firms can help you find a match as long as you’re very clear with them about what you’re looking for.

Step #4: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

This is where I really failed. I thought I could balance a story with nuance, but my editor had a different post or article in mind. Sometimes when a writer tries to get rid of something taken out of context, the editor sees it as burying the lede. Solution: unless your editor specifically stipulates in writing (ideally in your contract) that you have final approval over edits, don’t bet on it.

You may write a great article that’s fair and well-researched, but when it gets rejiggered to fit someone else’s agenda (or for page views), it’s a really powerless feeling when you can’t do much about it. If this is a source you care a lot about, recognize that they’ll likely think the final product is exactly what you wrote and won’t care about your good intentions. You are the one who will take the heat when the information is inaccurate (or whatever), either because you don’t want to run your editor under the bus or because nobody believes you. So before you’re promising someone the sun, moon and stars because you really really want to interview them, make sure you can deliver.

After submission

Step #5: Consider taking the piece back.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a post or article before it goes live. If you have strong (factual or ethical) disagreements with the changes, and your editor isn’t in agreement, remember that you can always take your piece back. Yes, you’ll lose a check, but believe me that it’s never worth it to sell out your sources or write inaccurate or misleading articles. It’s your byline. I recognize that saying this is somewhat privileged, in that I have enough clients that I have the luxury of turning down work or taking back submissions. This is why it’s really important to have a savings account and 2-3 anchor clients, or a part-time job. You don’t want to have to decide between paying your rent and making sure every piece with your byline is something you’re really proud of. And spending days doing damage control isn’t cost-effective either.

Step #6: Compare edits to improve your writing

Assuming there are no factual errors or other issues with your piece, you can really improve your writing by working with your editor. One of my favorite things to do is compare drafts to published pieces to see what was reworked. It’s helped me in the past with my transitions, conclusions and context, and it’s what’s made me realize more recently that I really need to work specifically on strengthening my ledes.  If your work has been edited, especially if it’s  to the point where it doesn’t even feel like something you wrote, comparing drafts to final pieces can help you realize why they made those changes and what you need to do to continue writing for the site (if that’s what you want to do). If you’re lucky, your editor will use a site like Draft so it’s easy to see changes, but in any case, you can always print out the two versions and use a highlighter.

Make sure to look at specifics when comparing pre- and post-edited drafts. Freelancing means changing your tone for different sites and publications, and it’s hard to remember everything. I keep notes for each publication, noting when anecdotes are removed, internal links are added, and so forth. I try really hard not to take edits personally and to learn from them. We can always get better at our craft, so make sure you take the time to see how edits might strengthen your piece and what an editor thought was missing.

After it’s posted

Step #7: Discuss edits with your editor.

As I mentioned, getting to compare my draft to an edited piece before an article gets posted or published and hashing out the differences with my editor(s) has really helped me improve my writing.  I’ve even hired a freelance editor to work with me on this before submitting a piece to a new-to-me client, when working with absentee editors on sites I care about, or when working on something very emotional or that I feel strongly about. You can do this after the assignment’s been posted, too.  Barring any issues (like the ones I mentioned), ask your editor what they felt was lacking in your piece. This step isn’t about asking for changes or getting super defensive, but just about understanding where your editor is coming from. Assuming they have time, their suggestions could be very helpful.

The reason I mentioned discussing edits in this step and the last one, aside from its obvious benefits, is because having a good working relationship with your editor makes it a lot easier to address concerns. Bringing up a problem with an editor who knows you as a reasonable person who cares about their work means they’re less likely to think you’re crazy when you react strongly to edits you are embarrassed by or find unacceptable.

Step #8: Ask the editor to make revisions or remove a post.

Obviously this doesn’t work for print media, but just for websites and blogs, though print media will sometimes print a retraction. I always asks for corrections if there are factual inaccuracies (whether they’re editor-introduced or my own), minor typos or outright distortion.

Sometimes sites won’t change a post, and I’ve never had anyone agree to take a piece down (I’ve only asked once), but if it’s something you feel strongly about, it’s always worth a shot.

What am I missing?

Send me a message or leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Stuff I Wrote: Food, Tech, Marketing & MMA

Depositphotos 2902188 xs 300x300 Stuff I Wrote: Food, Tech, Marketing & MMAFirst, I want to thank everyone who made a donation to BRIDGEdotMN since my last post. It really means a lot. Since I took myself out of the fundraising process this year, I don’t know exactly who donated and can’t thank you personally like I wish I could, but I do appreciate it very much.

Before delving into my own posts for September, I did want to share one I really liked called Grunt Work over at Ninjas and Robots. Nate Kontny makes a very good case for working crappy jobs for crappy pay. icon smile Stuff I Wrote: Food, Tech, Marketing & MMA Check it out; I think he makes a good point.

Oh, also, I’m going to be in San Francisco in mid-October (which is so exciting! and I’ll tell you all about it soon!), so if you’d like to get in touch for weekday brunch, let me know! Thinking of getting a group together.

Without further ado, here’s the list of posts I wrote this past month.

Food

  • Ice Cream Bars As Health Food (MensJournal.com) These actually taste amazingly good in addition to being pretty health (for ice cream). I was so excited.

Tech

Fitness

Social Media Marketing

  • How To Conduct Great Interviews For Even Greater Content (VerticalResponse) Any time I get to speak with Andrew Warner is a win in my book. (I’m trying to get him to hang out with me when I’m in San Francisco next month). In this post, he shares some tips on getting the most out of interviews and really providing value for your clients. (He’s a whiz at both.)
  • Turn Customers Into Advocates (VerticalResponse) I was so psyched to interview Laura Roeder, one of my heroes, on building a raving fan base online–something she’s particularly good at.
  • Find Your Company’s Hidden Marketer (VerticalResponse) Stella at Matchist.com is so smart, and she shares some great tips here for startups looking to collaborate on their marketing efforts.
  • What Google’s Latest Panda Update Means For Your SEO (VerticalResponse) Google has a new Hummingbird update, so Panda almost seems like old news, but the concepts of good content and good marketing always apply. Here’s some tips from Dan Reno (Be Found Online) and Ryan Evans (BiteSize PR) on one of the new updates from Google.

MMA

Please put on your ad blocker and then catch up on my recaps for each episode of this season’s TUF to date.

And speaking of women’s MMA, I wanted to share one more post that’s not mine: WMMA Roundup’s Much Ado About Women in MMA. It’s good stuff.

Thanks for reading! Come say hi on Twitter!

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Remembering Chris McBride

 Remembering Chris McBrideEach September 20th, I like to take a moment to remember my dear friend Chris McBride, who passed away on this day in 2005. The circumstances of his death are tragic; he died as a result of an unprovoked attack while he sat quietly reading a newspaper. I do the best I can, however, to remember the amazing person Chris was when he was living, and to find some small way to honor his life by making a donation to a non-profit organization in his memory.

(TL;DR: Chris was amazing. We were lucky to know him and miss him dearly. To honor his memory, please consider joining us by making a donation to BRIDGEdotMN to help teens in need access technology and gain digital literacy skills, giving them a solid foundation for lifelong success.)

I met Chris while studying in Oxford in 2001/2002, shortly after I’d decided it was impossible to make friends as an American in England. I was homesick and lonely and felt extremely out of place. I had my classmates and roommates, of course, but as an extreme extrovert, I wanted to branch out a little from the insular community of fellow Shimerians. I’d met some people while doing some volunteer work and attending events, but they were more like acquaintances and I felt very isolated.

Chris was my first true friend in Oxford. I’d met him when he was working as a bartender. I was that weird chick who came in asking for one of the highest-proof beers in the UK (which I got to try in Scotland), and when they didn’t have it, settled for a cup of tea instead.  Despite my eccentricity, Chris never treated me like I was crazy. He had a warmth about him that instantly made me feel comfortable in a strange new town with grey clouds and roundabouts and mushy peas and overly manicured gardens surrounded by fences.

I was super stoked when I’d run into Chris at various events around town. It makes sense that he’d be at every protest. He was a relentless advocate for change, always working to help others. Although he was introverted, he was always quick to strike up a conversation. Chris was so easy to engage with in deep discussion about the best ways to create social change and make an impact. He was extremely open-minded and always willing to entertain an alternative perspective, even if he didn’t agree. (I was a bit of an extremist at the time, and he was far more moderate.)

I’ll have to admit that I had a lack of focus while I was in college. Typically I’d lose interest in whichever guy I was dating that month fairly quickly, but Chris was an exception. I was really lucky to know him and realized it instantly. He was a joy to spend time with and cherished by those around him for his kindness and thoughtfulness. As I’ve touched upon, of course his compassion extended to strangers in need. He lived his entire life in the spirit of selfless service. Whether he was working on the Make Poverty History campaign, fighting tuition hikes or writing letters in support of human rights, Chris was constantly putting himself aside to help others.

Aside from his desire to change the world and strike up conversations with anyone who would listen, he was also incredibly thoughtful and really went out of his way to help me feel more at home in Oxford. For example, he’d patiently explain subtle nuances in British expressions I’d tried to incorporate, letting me know the way I came across in certain instances (which was different than how I’d intended to). I always appreciated his candor as he explained to me the way that both Americans and Jewish people were perceived (I had a double whammy), giving me just a little more knowledge of what may have been going through people’s minds in social situations I’d find myself in. Non-verbal communication has never been my strong suit, and being in a different country, I needed all the help I could get.

The last time I saw Chris was in the summer of 2002, right after the May Day protests in London. We’d email from time to time after that. One day his sweet face crossed my mind and I did a quick Google search to find out what he was up to. I was pretty crushed when I found out that he’d been killed. A pacifist, Chris did not retaliate when he was attacked without provocation, as he sat quietly reading a newspaper and drinking a pint in a Liverpool pub. I read that Chris died in hospital of head injuries nine days after the incident.

Even after his death, Chris was still selflessly serving others. He was an organ donor, and his liver saved a 21-year-old man and a 10-month-old girl. His kidneys were also donated to two people.

Chris was only 25 years old when he died. He was so smart and so full of hope and dreams, which were tragically cut short. To honor his memory, Chris’ friends would run the Liverpool 10K for charity in the fall of each year, raising donations for some great non-profit organizations: Amnesty International, ActionAid, Support After Murder and Manslaugher (Merseyside), and The British Red Cross Society.

Last year, I ran an online fundraiser for Children of the Night, a charity supporting child victims of human trafficking. With your help, we raised $1600 in Chris’ memory. I also made a lot of mistakes, and the fundraiser was also mentally and emotionally taxing, for reasons I delve into in a post on online fundraising tips. I am very grateful to the dozens of people who either donated monetarily or contributed gifts for donors.

I always joke that I wouldn’t have graduated college if it wasn’t for Chris, but it really is true. My schedule included classes with tutors all around town, and I’d take the buses or walk or try to ride my creaky bicycle. I was never at Plater College’s tiny computer lab, which we were permitted to use. It closed even earlier than the cafes with internet access around town. And the cafes with internet access had high fees. I’d lost my job at a cafe as quickly as I got it; I’d arrived 15 minutes late one day while miscalculating the length of my bicycle commute, and after struggling counting change since I was working with a currency I was unfamiliar with. There was no work study in Oxford, and paying by the hour to use a computer was out of the question. Luckily, Chris would let me use his computer to finish my thesis in the evenings while he’d be out meeting friends for drinks. I’d type away into the wee morning hours and managed to finish multiple rewrites and graduate as scheduled.

I’m well aware that it is a position of privilege to be able to study abroad in Oxford and complain about not wanting to pay to use a computer lab, or have to share computers in a lab but deciding not to because the hours were unsuitable. I’m also aware of my extreme privilege in that I can pick up a new laptop or phone whenever I decide I’d like an upgrade. As a former middle school teacher in a low-income community (Tucson’s South Side), I know that many children don’t even have internet access at home, and that  technology can be a game changer.

Instead of running a fundraiser this year, I just wanted to bring some awareness to BRIDGEdotMN, which is where I’ll be making my donation this year. BRIDGEdotMN equips young people with the resources to increase their digital literacy skills. For more information, or to donate, check out the link below.

Whether you knew Chris or just know of him, I hope you’ll consider investing in a local student’s future by helping BRIDGEdotMN provide them with a computer, mobile broadband and technical training at the link below.

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Is Your Media Policy Repelling Journalists?

500px Hazard T.svg  300x300 Is Your Media Policy Repelling Journalists?We’ve delved into writing better press releases, discussed PR strategy and talked about what to do when journalists seem to have an agenda. But what we haven’t yet dissected is what to do if you actually land interview requests or even interviews themselves, and your quotes don’t actually make it into a written piece. Sometimes these circumstances are out of the writer’s control, and sometimes they simply select a source that’s more suitable for their piece. While there are never any guarantees, there are some key mistakes you can avoid to increase the odds that you’ll get the media play you’re looking for.

Before the interview

Don’t treat media like the enemy.

Would you be dying to get ahold of someone who thinks you’re out to get them? Unless you’re the subject of a recent media scandal and are understandably on edge, treating a journalist like they’re secretly plotting to steal your material or waste your time is pretty insulting. Playing hard to get is best reserved for athletes and celebrities and if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re not as highly in demand as them. Even if a journalist has quoted a competitor and you’re feeling bitter, you may want to take some deep breathes. As Derek Sivers wisely said, resist the urge to punish everyone for one person’s mistake.

Make sure your website is professional–or at least target appropriately.

If your website looks like it was built in the 1990s and you still use Wordle, you may wish to invest in an upgrade. And if you can help but put content on it some people might find inappropriate, consider targeting sites with similar content.

Be available.

It’s shifting with the world of blogging, but many journalists will only conduct interviews by phone and some are on tight deadlines. (One day I had to track down nine sources.) Taking days to respond and prolonging the process often makes it too difficult for buys writers to follow up. For extra credit, using services such as HARO (or my personal favorites, Source Sleuth and BiteSize PR) can help writers who are trying to find you.

During the interview

Say interesting things.

If a journalist is quoting a competitor instead of you, take a look at the content of what they said compared to what you had to offer. It’s very possible that the person they ended up using was more compelling, offered snappier soundbites, or simply came across more professionally. Media is a meritocracy, and journalists have an obligation to their editors and readers, not to their sources. Luckily, interview skills are all areas you can develop, just like you can improve your interview skills to land a job or a client.

After the interview

Be aware that some circumstances are out of writers’ control.

Sometimes posts get held, due to breaking news or changes in staff or a variety of other reasons that are too complicated to explain. Writers don’t always even know when a post is scheduled or what is happening with it. I always try to be diligent with follow-ups, but don’t have much recourse if somebody does not get back to me. Many journalists are the same way. For my part, I try to always send thank-you notes to sources, follow up to let them know the status of an article, and promote the piece on Twitter and Facebook (using their social media handles, if possible), but sometimes posts get held for longer than I would like. I definitely remember sources who are understanding and the ones who throw tantrums (and yes, we do discuss you with other journalists, for better or worse.) A little patience can go a long way.

Questions?

If you’ve got questions about how media works or how to hone your own strategy, ask away.

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What To Do When the Media Sucks

Burne Jones le Vampire 212x300 What To Do When the Media SucksIt’s always frustrating when you think the perfect opportunity has fallen in your lap, and then it turns out to be something that’s not even close to what you expected.

For example, say you are referred to a journalist or blogger working on a story and you think they want to tap into your industry expertise, but they are instead trying to pigeonhole you into discussing something you don’t want to talk about or comment on a topic you don’t even want to be associated with. Or what if someone doesn’t even understand the basics of your industry, or is hell-bent on misquoting and misrepresenting you?

Since I’m coming at this from the journalist perspective, I think I offer a unique perspective and wanted to shed some lights on some solutions that are more likely to help both sides get what they want…so let’s get to it.

1st Deadly Sin: The Startlingly Unprepared Journalist

I hear about this a lot from female fighters who are really excited about being interviewed, only to learn that some scrub is asking them questions about things he could’ve known had he spent 30 seconds or less on their website or the Googles. It’s embarrassing.

Here’s what you need to ask yourself (and do).

  • Are you as public as you think you are? In the case of female fighters, they usually are–for example, women asked about their records by people who could spend 30 seconds looking it up on the Underground or Sherdog really are that lazy. However, they’re often underpaid or unpaid volunteers, so consider cutting them a little slack…or even making things easier for everyone by pointing them to a site where all pertinent/relevant information is listed.
  • If you’re not incredibly public, but expect people to know information…and don’t want to point them to it each time…consider beefing up your website bio or even Twitter/LinkedIn bio…wherever people are likely to go first.
  • Don’t take it personally. Even Jerry King got it wrong about Seinfeld. And let’s not even talk about Reza Aslan.

2nd Deadly Sin: This Isn’t Even About Me!

This past week, I was asked to find female developers to comment about a specific news story and gender dynamics in their workplace. Several of the women I reached out to were understandingly perturbed that I wasn’t reaching out for their industry expertise, but rather for what they consider a fluffy side issue or a topic unworthy of their time. It happens. If you’re not completely anathema to the idea but want to do more research, here’s some steps to take–or ways to say no without burning a bridge.

  • Research the writer and the publication. You can usually tell pretty quickly whether a site is legit or amateur, and writers will often have clips up which will help you determine whether or not they’re worth their salt. If you’re slammed, feel free to ask them a bit about themselves and the story before agreeing to be interviews. (Sending accusatory emails about agendas or skill levels is unlikely to earn you any favors).
  • Recommend someone else! If you decide it’s not the story for you, passing on a name of someone you know (and ideally checked with) would be interested can be win/win.
  • Whether you decide the piece isn’t for you, or are willing to be interviewed but are secretly dying to be asked for your opinion for something more relevant…you can always let the writer quickly know your areas of expertise, or even ask them if they’d like to be contacted about a future event (or whatnot) when information is available. Being polite goes a long way, here–the writer you sent an epithet-laced email to is not likely to keep you on the tip of their Rolodex when a relevant issue comes up, so it can be helpful to strategically reply only to writers whose work you think is otherwise decent.

3rd Deadly Sin: The Entire Premise Is Completely False

Your media connection is some twit who wants to cover increased funding in medical devices, but as an expert in your industry you know that healthcare IT is where it’s at and that the entire idea behind the article is, frankly, bullshit. Then what?

  • It’s okay to tell a writer their premise is flawed and direct them to sources with relevant information. Start by asking them where they got their information, because you might be wrong (we’ll talk about that next.) Of course, human beings are wrong all the time. I can’t speak for all writers, but sometimes I work 15 hour days, am juggling five or six stories at a time, have an editor who has some false premises (who I’m debating with behind the scenes, but would never admit to a source), or am asked to cover a topic I don’t know all that much about. This could be your contact–an otherwise intelligent human being who just doesn’t know your industry. That’s why they’re contacting you–for your knowledge. Feel free to share it with them.
  • Consider that you might be wrong, too. I interviewed an industry executive about Generation Y, and he had no idea that his company was known as being one of the best hires for millenials. The entire time we were talking (yes, I have audio), he told me that I must have read the information wrong. (I later sent him the actual research). He ended up speculating as to why an opinion columnist might see his company that way, and I got some useful quotes that way, but it wasn’t until later that he realized multiple industry leaders had viewed his company that way. Sometimes having a bird’s eye view makes you lose perspective.
  • This goes back to vetting the writer and the publication. If you think they have an agenda or don’t respect their reporting chops after doing some research, walking away is completely acceptable. Not everyone can be ‘set straight.’

4th Deadly Sin: You Think There Is A Conflict Of Interest

I’ve come across this when writing for media or marketing blogs that later decide the site I’m working for is a competitor.

  • Don’t just fall off the face of the planet. Canceling conference calls without notice or failing to show up for meetings is not only rude and unprofessional, it’s also  likely to come back to you. Not all writers know other writers…but we definitely do talk to each other, and since newspapers and websites are constantly shifting ownership and most freelancers work for whomever they choose, the chance of them working for a non-competitor is pretty high.
  • Discuss the situation with the writer who’s reaching out to you. This can actually be quite telling, and help you determine whether you want to skip talking to them at all, simply want to avoid certain topics, or were mistaken about the nature of the conflict.
  • This is another situation where being polite and professional can work out to your advantage in the future, and perhaps making a referral (if appropriate) can be a win/win.

5th Deadly Sin: You Totally Say The Wrong Things

It’s not even really your fault. You were totally put on the spot and wanted to sound knowledgeable, so you quoted some statistics which ended up being inaccurate. Since you’re working with a blogger on a team that probably doesn’t have the budget for fact-checkers, you need to immediately start back-pedaling. But how do you explain that you messed up without looking like a complete idiot and blowing the opportunity you worked hard for?

  • Most media will understand if you do some research and realize you were mistaken, so just ‘fess up and send them any information you have. It’s not like writers have never made a mistake before. Besides, it’s better to admit a mistake before it’s widely publicized than after.
  • If you’re just worried about a quote you made being slightly misleading, sending an email to clarify can be a good idea. Some writers will even let you review your own quotes for errors (either over the phone or via email). But please do me a favor and don’t change the quotes that are accurate. Many good articles have been destroyed by overly zealous sources who want to sound perfect, but take some of the vitality and energy out of their quotes.
  • Sometimes you just have to deal. Depending on deadlines and other circumstances outside of your control, you may need to do damage control after the fact. See #6.

 

6th Deadly Sin: You Were Misrepresented

It’s never fun to see your name in print when you really disagree the way you were portrayed. This situation is highly nuanced, but let’s look at some possibilities.

  • You don’t like the angle in which you were covered because you think it makes you look bad. In this case, writing a response on your own blog and leaving it in the site comments is the most appropriate reaction.
  • There are factual errors. Contacting the writer or even the editor is called for here, to make sure that the writing is truthful and accurate. Make sure to add links to any relevant information that’ll quickly show that there are mistakes. Any journalist or publication worth their salt will admit their mistakes and correct them promptly. If they don’t, feel free to follow the step above.
  • You weren’t even contacted at all, and yet people wrote about you. This is another situation where an explanatory post is appropriate, as well as making a phone call or sending an email to let people know you are available for comment.

7th Deadly Sin: You Probably Think This Song Is About You (Don’t You? Don’t  You?)

This isn’t really a deadly sin, in my eyes, but rather a misunderstanding of how the media works. Media isn’t a PR firm; they’re not there solely to publicize you or your event or your brand. They may not even link back to your site, for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. And they may not use that great headshot you sent, or even  use any of the quotes you gave them at all.

  • Capitalize on ANY coverage. Even if it was just a one-sentence soundbite, consider sending it to your email list with a link. A simple mention can help you establish (or showcase) expertise, and  media mentions are becoming more valuable–the backlink isn’t everything.
  • If you weren’t even quoted at all, you can still mention the piece and share what you think was missing with your list or in your social media marketing efforts. Obviously, you’re under no obligation to promote the work of others, but if you feel like you still have a lot to say, you can certainly use this as a time to say it.
  • Remember that there will be other opportunities. Whether you choose to make yourself available to the original writer who contacted you, or to use this as a catalyst to contact others, it’s worth keeping a sense of perspective. One article isn’t the be all and end all–there will be others.

What do journalists do that sends you into convulsions? Feel free to share and I’ll help brainstorm solutions!

 

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Stuff I Wrote: Social Media Marketing, Small Biz Tactics, Food and Sport

Depositphotos 2902188 xs 300x300 Stuff I Wrote: Social Media Marketing, Small Biz Tactics, Food and Sport

If you’re like me, you can barely keep up with your overflowing email inbox, let alone the various social media platforms competing for your attention. As such, I regularly compile all of the articles and posts I’ve written and put them in one place, by category. I usually do this monthly, but this edition is a double-whammy. Check it out.

Social Media Marketing

Small Biz

Food

  • Ch-ch-ch-chia! (Costco Connection). And another cheat meal for the cavemen amongst us.

Sport

  • Matchmaking Matters (Sherdog). Invicta Fighting Championships building their brand by giving fighters the matches they want when they want them.

Video Interviews From Invicta Fighting Championships

I was lucky enough to get to speak with fighters Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino, Leslie “the Peacemaker” Smith, Jessica Pene and Tecia ‘Little Tornado’ Torres at Invicta Fighting Championships 6 in Kansas City. Here are the interviews.

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