5 Must-Have Work from Home Tools Like an Artistic Room Divider

If you are a work from home professional consider these five helpful tools. I am particularly pleased with my new laptop clip-on ring light and stylish room divider.

Kimberly Stoddard, a PR practitioner in San Francisco, demonstrates her new stylish room divider that makes an ideal online meeting background. Photo credit: Kimberly Stoddard.

Clubhouse – Clubhouse is a social media app that allows you to create a profile, build a following, follow people, and listen to, participate in or run “speaker panels” via audio chat. I call it the “old school radio app” because it involves hearing people speak. You can raise your hand and be called on to speak. I care because it’s hot in the public relations and startup arenas. The negative is that it’s only available via iOS which is iPhone.  My experience on Clubhouse has been fun; it’s a nice change from writing comments, like on Twitter.

Room Divider – Fellow PR practitioner Kimberly Stoddard told me that her new room dividers ordered online helped beautify her Zoom background and block out the moving boxes. She had just gotten to her new place when I first saw them. She said this because I commented that her background Monet art looked gorgeous and natural: I asked her about it. The negative is that they are pretty large, typically six feet tall, so they take up space. I just received an elegant Asian style room divider that created a new office space in the corner of the living room. Another benefit is if you are participating in online meetings from a bedroom, the room divider can block out the view of the bed in the background.

Grammarly is a program that auto-magically adjusts grammar. Fellow consultant, C.J. Lipe said, “When I work with a client in drafting content, such as a blog, article, or newsletter it helps me catch punctuation and grammatical errors. It often gives suggestions or triggers ideas for making changes that may not be so obvious in the moment due to ‘tunnel vision’.” The negative, according to another friend, is that it adjusts the passive voice when he doesn’t want that to happen. He can’t figure out how to turn that off. So maybe it’s a bit too auto-magic sometimes.

Ring Light – My home office has big windows and despite heavy curtains it is hard to adjust the light. What makes matters worse is that I have a sun tunnel. This does not help boost my image during Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WebEx meetings. When I asked for suggestions for laptop meeting lights, I was given two tips, Lume which was $75, and ring. Ring is a style of light not a brand. The one I found online was only $25. It works well. The possible negative is that the large laptop clip is a bit tight. Is this bad for my laptop? Time will tell. Some friends swear by Lume Cube brand.

Canva – Canva is a freemium program that helps a non-technical person to create quality social media graphics. I like it because it is easy to use and I get compliments on the images I’ve created with it. Guy Kawasaki strongly recommended it to me years ago when I started consulting and I’m glad I took his advice. Granted, I think he was Canva’s paid influencer at the time, but that’s okay. He is unlikely to work for a company he doesn’t truly believe in. The negative is that Canva has added a lot of features over the years and is now a bit complicated to use. I do pay $1 for their photos from time to time. I also buy Shutterstock photos. Photos are needed for blog stories.

Stock up on a few new tools like a laptop light and a stylish room divider and give your online and personal brand image a boost.

As an aside, thanks Kimberly Stoddard for sending a photo of you and your new room divider.

###

Michelle McIntyre is an award winning tech PR consultant in the Silicon Valley. An IBM vet, she specializes in helping artificial intelligence, collaboration, data analytics and storage companies garner valuable attention. @FromMichelle on Twitter @Michelle408 on Clubhouse * Thanks to Meetup Bootstrappers’ Breakfast participants for generating some of these tips.

3 PR Tips for Pitching Trendy Newsletters like Newcomer

Newcomer Founder Eric Newcomer was in Clubhouse today giving tips on pitching stories to journalists. Newcomer is a subscription based newsletter that covers startups and venture capital.

Newcomer wrote about tech for Bloomberg for six years breaking news on IPOs, fundraising rounds, and mergers and acquisitions. Being the Uber beat reporter got him a lot of attention. His image is boosted by his philosophy degree from Harvard College. (I view philosophy and mathematics as typical “genius majors.” Yeah, my son is a math major and tutor at UC Berkeley so I’m biased: I keep telling him to take a philosophy class because I think he’ll love it.)

Mr. Newcomer gave some tips for public relations professionals on how to work with him. This can apply to working with most journalists.

1)      When asked about how best to set up get-to-know interviews, which means there is no hard news to convey, he said that journalists do like to meet important people. He recommended that first it’s wise for the PR person to brief the writer about the person they want him to meet.

My advice is that sometimes a background chat does result in a story because something interesting is said. And if it doesn’t, be patient. A big news announcement will get more thoughtful attention after the get-to-know.

2)      On sending an email pitch, Newcomer said that it’s not practical to be able to answer everybody. My feedback on this and for new PR people is that if the pitch content is valuable a journalist will answer. What Eric Newcomer means is don’t get offended if he doesn’t have the time to send a reply email.

3)      Consider participating in stories outside the strategic plan. What he means is pitch a media outlet that is not on the typical “founder request list.” For example, it seems most founders want to get into the likes of TechCrunch, Forbes, and VentureBeat. But what if Newcomer.co site is a better target? Would it make sense for you as the PR professional to subscribe or even your founder? Mr. Newcomer did say he was up to 1,000 paid subscribers. Due to his background, the list is probably an influential and savvy bunch.

In summary, consider subscribing to one or more of these trendy newsletters. Many rock star tech journalists are starting them and reporting decent subscription results. Why not be innovative and shake up the standard tech startup target media list strategy? ###

Michelle McIntyre is a Silicon Valley PR consultant, IBM vet and a ranked future of work social media influencer. She has a ½ million Quora impressions and was the 2017 VLAB Volunteer of the Year. Thank you PRSA-SV for scheduling Eric Newcomer as a speaker. @fromMichelle on Twitter & @Michelle408 in Clubhouse

The US Demographic is Fast Changing; 3 Tips on Reaching Ethnic Communities

The demographics of my town of Saratoga, a quaint village nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains – and by the way close to Apple, Cisco, Intel and Netflix headquarters — switched from mostly white to Asian probably around 2018. According to 2019 Census data, Saratoga is 49 percent Asian and 43 percent white.

This data is important and educational. Marketers need to realize how big the ethnic communities are in the U.S. and utilize smart tactics for reaching them.

If someone wants to reach the diverse audience here in my Silicon Valley village, made up of affluent technology executives, engineers, software developers, doctors and lawyers, teachers, plumbers, retirees, stay-at-home dads and moms, singles with no kids, and families, it’s wise to also talk to ethnic media when they are pitching stories.

Here are three tips on smart media relations or “PR” outreach to these groups:

  1. Tailor messages to community values. Vietnamese values are not necessarily the same as Indian ones. By the same token, some are.
  2. Use a trusted spokesperson. A colleague was the one that reached out to Sing Tao Daily for a PR campaign recently. I handled the main Silicon Valley newspaper as well as the broadcast networks like ABC, Fox and CBS. When it comes to Sing Tao Daily, my associate speaks their language and two of the people she highlighted in the story pitch were Chinese. Her help was greatly valued.
  3. Offer a stipend to trusted journalists at multi-cultural outlets. Julian Do who drives ethnic media services for clients like Blue Cross gave a unique tip during a gathering of PR professionals in Clubhouse recently. He said these media outlets are hurting for money and giving financial help by way of stipends helps immensely. He said it works adding that it does not influence the story. He compared it to buying advertising.

A good rule of thumb no matter what community you are trying to reach is to give something to the group that its constituents want or need.

Journalists like stories about the people they serve: Their readers or viewers, e.g. if it’s broadcast, like to hear “like” examples. Instead of pitching your standard U.S. company press release on a new product to an ethnic media outlet like Telemundo TV, form a story pitch around an interesting Latinx person at your organization who has impacted the community in a positive way.

###

Michelle McIntyre is an award-winning public relations consultant and IBM vet in the Silicon Valley. She’s @michelle408 in Clubhouse and @FromMichelle in Twitter. Some of these tips came from a PRSA-SV Clubhouse panel event.

37 Percent of People Polled Stopped Buying from a Brand They Consider Unethical

Company marketers are constantly wondering about consumer sentiment. Without this knowledge it’s hard to determine if business decisions make sense. Attitudes massively affect how freelance workers, startups and large businesses market themselves.

Kyle Drop, president and cofounder of Morning Consult says his company frequently reviews citizen sentiment, often daily. The good news he says is, “The future is going to be positive.” (And I don’t think he was referring to positive COVID tests.) He meant we’re moving to a happier more hopeful era. “How does the saying go? The night is always darkest before the dawn,” he added.

“Trust in institutions was in the dumps before the inauguration…but now Spring is coming,” added Dropp. Morning Consult gained some notoriety as being a more accurate election pollster.

It was refreshing to hear the upbeat attitude in his tone.

He elaborated. The details about what people are thinking will help CEOs, human resources and communications folks better figure out what to say or do during times of Civil unrest. Keep quiet, or say or do something?

The answer is do or say the right thing. And don’t do the wrong thing. One example of acting ethically is when corporate political action committees or PACs stopped donating to politicians that voted to overturn the recent valid election.

Institutional trust affects the bottom line: He said that 37 percent of people polled recently have stopped buying from a brand they consider to be unethical.

Lastly Dropp added that young adults do expect and like when CEOs take an ethical stand on societal issues. Therefore, if you are trying to hire, retain or sell to Generation Z and the like, do and say ethical things.

My key takeaway from his comments given during a Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America event is that a quality public relations professional  or team and data are both important to a company’s bottom line.

###

Michelle McIntyre is an award winning Silicon Valley PR consultant and IBM vet. @FromMichelle on Twitter

Make Boosting Your Self Confidence A New Year’s Resolution

Confidence can be the difference between a startup’s or let’s face it any company’s success. Coming off a year of pandemic-related marketing woes like on my end, the cancellation of key conferences and the inability to schmooze over fancy dinners or coffee, how does a founder keep a winning attitude?

And is confidence the key to making it in 2021?

Experts say, yes, confidence is a key factor.

Confidence means security which leads to positive emotion: This results in better performance, says Tony Schwartz, the CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live. 

Schwartz, as quoted in a Harvard Business Review story, concludes that “insecurity plagues consciously or subconsciously every human being I’ve met.”

When I Googled the topic, “How to boost self-confidence” I uncovered a multitude of examples of admired well-known people who overcame their self-doubt.

Notable ones are John Steinbeck who sometimes thought his writing stank, Michelangelo who at first refused the Pope’s job offer to paint the Sistine Chapel due to not believing in himself and Abraham Lincoln who suffered bouts of depression. (Who knew?)

Michelangelo originally turned down the Pope’s job offer to paint the Sistine Chapel due to not believing in his own painting skills. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

They each ended up throwing themselves into their work to counteract these negative thoughts. And look where that landed them in history. On several “top of their game” lists, like favorite U.S. president.

We as entrepreneurs and business people can learn from these examples.

I’ve been taking note of solid advice from others involved in entrepreneurship to accommodate my entry into 2021 as a strong self-employed public relations consultant.

The first tip I latched onto as a new year mantra was from Thomas Ahn, founder and CEO of MAD Ventures of Victoria, British Columbia. MAD backs startups like artificial intelligence darling Layer 6.

At a founder round table discussion, when asked about his vision for the new year Mr. Ahn said his firm excelled at remote work before the pandemic. He said they’ll keep doing what they already do well, which I see as attracting and backing hot startups remotely, and do it with confidence.

For some reason the confidence part of his comment stuck with me in a big way.

I’ll add the tip to do more of something that you do well in 2021. Like if you are great at garnering attention via content marketing – like blogging to get your name out there – publish more blogs. That’s not to say spend more time on the task. Instead work smarter and not harder, like switch from 1,000 to 300-word stories.

C.J. Lipe, founder of Adminologist of Fremont, Calif., adds jump into 2021 with a positive attitude and set smart, measurable time-bound goals. Ms. Lipe says she finds her inspiration in affirmations and lectures found on YouTube.

Lastly, many news articles, for example, in Inc. said improving your style through a hair cut or a new outfit is a confidence booster, as is helping others.

In summary utilize a new confidence boosting tactic in 2021 and enjoy the business rewards that will result. Don’t fall into the sadness trap that has plagued many during these trying times.

##

Michelle McIntyre is an award-winning freelance PR consultant, social media influencer and IBM vet based in the Silicon Valley. She enjoys sharing advice, from how to get your small business media coverage to gaining admission to elite colleges via social media. She boasts 485,000 views on Quora as of early January 2021. She’s @FromMichelle on Twitter.

85% of Jobs are Secured Via Networking: Here’s How to Do it Right

As a public relations professional I am often asked about how to best network. Building relationships is part of my job so this is a sensible inquiry.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics concludes that 85 percent of jobs are filled by networking. This can apply to landing a consulting gig as well. If you are looking for work or have a spot on the client roster, remember the tip that many jobs are filled before or right when they are posted. That’s because of networking.

Today I attended a talk hosted by a group of PR professionals: Smart networking tips were discussed. The speaker was Robin Beaman, a PR agency owner who worked for the likes of Oprah Winfrey.

Here are a few networking tips from the talk:

Networking is true relationship-building. It’s making and maintaining a friendship. Think about how to treat a friend. Buddies are nice and supportive to one another through good times and bad.

Giving the other person what they want is part of networking. Yes, this says help someone else. Not all networking is about what the other person can do for you. It’s a two-way street.

Call and follow up. This is definitely true when setting up a job interview or PR agency introduction meeting. However, it can also be applied to networking. Ms. Beaman said that it was not a smooth one step process securing her PR advisor opportunity with Oprah Winfrey. She followed up several times.

Perseverance works. Have a can-do attitude when pursuing opportunities. Robin Beaman said she didn’t just get in touch and immediately get hired to work her PR magic at B.E.T and Oprah Winfrey’s company. It took the right mindset, accompanying hard work and a massive amount of follow up.

In summary, my advice is that attitude plays the biggest role in landing a work opportunity. When you set your mind to doing something and hyper focus on that goal you have a higher likelihood of achieving it.

###

Michelle McIntyre is a self-proclaimed Silicon Valley PR Diva, IBM PR vet, and syndicated blogger. She’s achieved 11 awards for outstanding media relations results. Follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle. @PRSASV hosted the event featuring Robin Beaman.

5 Tips for Startup Founders Like Be Nice and Work with Friendly People

Here are five premium pieces of advice offered by the speaker at my tech startup founders Meetup this morning. Alastair Hood, Ph.D., CEO, the founder of utilities analytics startup Verdafero had a unique angle to share. Founded in 2009, the company is web-based software that helps businesses more smartly manage their utility usage. 

What was unique was that Mr. Hood often peppered in comments about being nice and working with friendly people. I liked the tone of that and believe that I was hired several times as a PR consultant because I simply got along well with the marketing or PR leads or founders. 

Here were five key takeaways:

  1. Don’t take money from investors if you can help it. Their vision might not be yours. I’ve heard this time and time again. But my two cents is to scale big time after you gain a bunch of customers, you may need to take money from a trusted source.
  2. Always be nice to people, especially when bootstrapping. You may need a favor from them later. He shared that he ran into Mark Zuckerberg once.
  3. Don’t fall for the Silicon Valley bullsh– story. I believe what he meant was don’t think that starting a company is all glamour and big payouts. You have to work hard, meet with many customers and prospects and take risks.
  4. Look for other avenues to generate revenue while you are developing your solution. Perhaps a customer prospect would be interested in your consulting services while your software as a service or saas software product is being finalized.
  5. Work with people you like. You will spend a lot of time with them. Along the same theme, he added, hire a friendly attorney. I asked if all lawyers who work with startups require a major retainer and the response was, no.

It was seriously refreshing to hear about the importance of collaborating with nice and friendly folks. 

###

Michelle McIntyre is the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, an IBM vet and Silicon Valley PR diva. She loves to garner big attention for large and small companies including VC firms and has achieved 11 awards for outstanding results. @FromMichelle on Twitter

Worried About Ageism? Here are 2 Job Hunting Tips from PR Experts

Fifty year public relations industry Vet Gerry Corbett hosted a PRSA-SV talk today called “Ageism in the Workplace is Getting Old” with guest speakers and PR Practitioners Patti Temple Rocks and Scott Monty. 

Patti Temple Rocks is the author of “I’m Not Done. It’s Time to Talk about Ageism in the Workplace.”

Here are stats and advice that was shared: It mostly revolved around applying for jobs.

Ageism is Worse During the Pandemic

Ms. Rocks says that ageism is worse now because companies are cutting budgets during the pandemic; one way to do that is to get rid of the highest paid most experienced people. She added that ageism is rampant in tech and at PR agencies.

The following statistics which come from the website Builtin.com were shared by the moderator. Only 10 percent of people ages 65-69 work. Half of people 55-64 are employed, and half notice ageism when they enter their fifties. 

How can seasoned professionals rise above being viewed as too old?

First, when you look for a job utilize your network. Cold calling a company probably won’t work. In fact one speaker believed that sometimes artificial intelligence algorithms weed out older workers’ applications automatically. If you contact people who know and like you, you’ll have a way better chance. Another speaker commented that even young people get ignored because they didn’t use a friend at the company to get an interview.

Secondly, tailor your resume for each opportunity. This makes sense because if you have been working 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years you have done a whole heck of a lot. Instead of listing everything, choose things that showcase activity and results that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. It’s hard work figuring out what to say and not say but it pays off. And you don’t have to list things chronologically. 

The speakers agreed that ageism at the workplace is common but there are ways around it. Be smart when you reach out to companies for work.

###

Michelle McIntyre, the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications, is a seasoned PR industry pro who helps tech companies and their VCs get attention. She has worked at IBM and three PR agencies including WE for Microsoft. @FromMichelle @PRSASV on Twitter

What’s Important To People During This Time of Uncertainty? Community, Gaming, and More

Many people who took a recent survey say a sense of tribe or community is important right now.

Andrea “Andy” Coville, CEO of public relations firm Brodeur Partners, author, and the guest speaker on today’s PRSA-SV Friday Forum, conveyed findings from a survey of around 2,500 U.S. citizens from Gen Z to Boomers about what’s important to them. 

She offered a few summaries like be authentic and a trusted source of information.

Furthermore when you are posting to social media, Coville added, convey information that people tend to agree upon. For example, no one will complain about a picture of your dog. She also said that sustainability is a smart topic to discuss.

I’ll add that there’s no doubt that a quality PR professional can advise in this regard. By the way I worked with Brodeur when I was in a corporate PR department.

Here are 13 points I found most interesting:

  1. A sense of community is very important. Feeling part of a tribe or community is key.
  2. It’s harder to change people’s perceptions right now.
  3. Society overall cares a lot about kindness, honesty and optimism.
  4. Many are discussing new career directions. It looks like Boomers are the least likely to have done this in 2020 though. People are questioning their values right now.
  5. If you are at a nonprofit and asking people for money, keep in mind that people are preoccupied with saving right now. They are giving, e.g. to colleges, which was the fourth top area of giving.
  6. Mentoring is a good gift to give. People will give you a lot of time right now, e.g. as opposed to 2014.
  7. Reliable information is hard to obtain.
  8. Gen Z folks, e.g. a 20 year old, share opinions and news partially to show that they align with a certain group.
  9. Millennials and Gen Xers share information more as a way to call someone out on a bad opinion.
  10. “Food and drink” is the top consumer category that people are loyal to right now.
  11. People tend to hang out with those who share their views. Why join a tribe or group? Friendship was cited as the top reason by 51%.
  12. Attitudes towards and at businesses have changed. This is happening in a bigger way in government, healthcare, branding and diversity and inclusion.
  13. There’s a rise in gaming among millennials, especially females. This was mentioned several times.

Andy Coville summarized her presentation by saying she looks forward to seeing a return to fun in branding. So do I, Andy. So do I.

Andrea Coville photo: WE Magazine

Community photo credit: Canva

####

Michelle McIntyre who authored this story is a global technology PR consultant, IBM vet and the volunteer media relations lead for the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America which now includes females: They recently celebrated their first female Eagle Scouts. @FromMichelle on Twitter Also follow @prsasv 

7 Online Event Tips for Marketing and PR Professionals

Here are seven easy to follow video meeting best practices designed to massively improve your next online event. This will also boost the quality of your everyday remote work. The first one will take you “back to the future.”

Ethernet Wire Internet Connection — I first heard of using an Ethernet wire instead of wireless during my son’s freshman year at University of California Berkeley in the dorms. Amazingly, this was just last year. Ethernet is from the 1990s! This Back to the Future-type trick leads to faster and more reliable internet. Then I heard it again from a VLAB volunteer. VLAB has brought their emerging tech panels from in-person to online.

Back to the Future film photo credit: Alamy via BBC

Headset for Audio — Headsets or earbuds bring a microphone closer to the participants mouth. Make sure a headset is charged before an event. 

If Video Quality Fades Switch to All Audio or Phone — Immediately switch to all audio or turn off the online chat and dial in by phone if there is video disruption. Thanks Cisco Webex for this tip.

Shift Your Schedule — Join a video meeting five minutes early. This may mean setting your last meeting to end 15 minutes before the hour.

In Your Face Light Source — Webcams work best with a lot of light. It’s important that it not come from behind the participant like via a window. If there is a window there, close the curtain or shade. A lamp behind a laptop will help brighten a face evenly.

Focus on Eyeline — Placing your webcam at eye level looks best to viewers. Stack books underneath your laptop. This brings the camera more directly in front of the eyes as opposed to below. 

Work Outside the VPN — Turn your virtual private network or VPN off for higher quality online meeting or event service. I found this tip on the Webex website. They are known for security among other things so I’ll take their word for it.

Good luck with your next online meeting. I encourage you to share your tips with others. Thanks go to VLAB Volunteer Ms. Avery Hudson and Cisco’s Webex Collaboration website for these tips. 

###

Michelle McIntyre is a Silicon Valley tech PR diva, IBM vet, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, and a long time community volunteer. She’s the media relations lead for the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America and has served on several executive boards including district PTA.