Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reconnect With Professional Contacts - wikiHow

Last week I signed up for a free online writing course at  This article is my first homework assignment.  I was hoping I could think of something much more fun for my 'how to' article, but as it turns out my mind is pretty relationship focused right now.

Reconnect With Professional Contacts - wikiHow

Maybe my next article will be: How to train for a marathon, how to press leaves for decoupage or how to make moist chocolate pumpkin cookies.  The possibilities are endless now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Personality test

I took an online work type test this afternoon to see if I really am 'wired' for what I say I am.  My results told me I'm a transformer/transactor.

"Transformers combine interpersonal sensitivity with powerful social networks and definite leadership impact.  Transactors combine thoughtful analysis with the driven pursuit of goals.  They enjoy challenges and can be relied upon to deliver results."  

I think true personality shines in two types of situations: When people are under the stress of a challenge and when people are given flexibility.

Fortunately, I don't have any stressful situations to report, but I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon walking around the lake and yesterday evening shopping for (we're big fans of Whole Foods) and preparing a traditional Colombian meal with my new roommate.  We substituted guasca for cilantro and with a fresh avocado it made the perfect soup.  Dom loved it for the potatoes and yuka.   

It's amazing how much I take my current flexibility for granted.  At a Bible study last week we were all asked how we would spend two hours to ourselves.  Surrounded by many young mothers and working professionals, I was reminded of what it is like to feel that two personal hours is unimaginable.  

I will try to take advantage of this schedule (even if I hope it's short lived).  After all, it's in the transactor's personality.    

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Welcome Pharmaceuticals

One of the best decisions I made when I first moved to Seattle was to renew my Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) membership and join the local Puget Sound chapter.  

Ever since I made this investment, I've received the daily online news service in my inbox.  Sadly, I always feel guilty about the East Coast/West Coast difference when I find an article I particularly enjoy because I'm convinced everyone out in Ohio has already read and processed the information I find brand new each day.  

Today, however, there was one story I couldn't help but comment on.  It's by Jim Edwards for BrandWeek: "Why Pharma Fears Social Networking: Drug companies are avoiding online bulletin boards, blogs and chat rooms like the plague, but pressure is building to move the industry into the world of Web 2.0."

Mr. Edwards writes: "Drug brand Web sites almost never carry the features that marketers usually are desperate to give their customers: bulletin boards, chat rooms, logs and Web-page hosting...[marketers] fear that user-generated content will include complaints."  

The customer interaction they're avoiding is what adds to the distrust people feel for the industry as a whole.  Apparently these companies feel that if they can avoid open knowledge of 'adverse-events' or if they can speed-read through their medication's side effects more people will buy their drug.

Today, this is no way to build a positive corporate reputation.  It's widely accepted that at least 60 percent of a company's market value is attributable to reputation.  It's good news, therefore, that the Web 1.0 model may be about to change for drug marketers.  

It will be a tough, but necessary change for pharmaceutical brand managers.  I don't envy their struggle to manage attacks from in-house lawyers.  A study is definitely in order; numbers that managers can hand to lawyers to demonstrate that online customer reports are usually less negative than drug companies imagine.  

We should warmly welcome the push of communications professionals advising drug companies to embrace Web 2.0.  If for no other reason than for an open dialogue with consumers.  Edwards quotes Peter Pitts, an svp at Manning, Selvage & Lee, New York: "Drug companies need to begin embracing ways to look for adverse events instead of hoping they don't stumble across them."   

I wonder about this issue, the need for patient involvement in corporate marketing, at a global level as well.  Last year, (and I'm sure long before) American PR agencies were monitoring the trends in public health in China.  Laura Schoen, the president of Global Healthcare at Weber Shandwick Worldwide wrote an article highlighting just how valuable reputation management is for the emerging Chinese market.  The last couple of years, potential roadblocks included availability of care, better access, product pricing and competition.  I think that today open availability of consumer opinion/experience will either empower or hinder the success of pharmaceuticals in China.  After all, how do companies build strong reputations today?  Sorry advertising, it's not though print ads in newspapers and magazines, it's through consumer interest online.  

Brown writes: "Asians are following a growing global trend of patients who do not rely solely on what they are told in the doctor's clinic when considering their health.  They are beginning to look to other sources for information they believe credible and helpful, such as the media and the Internet."

The need for patient involvement and outreach is further supported by a recent health engagement study by Edelman PR.  Seventy five percent of more than 5,000 people surveyed in five countries stated: "It's increasingly important that health products and services engage with me."  

Brown knew that effective communications could help companies reach out to gain admiration for pharmaceutical innovation, create a sense of hope for the patient population, innovation impacts and productive dialogue about it with health professionals back then.  I wonder if she would agree with me that effective communications today will involve not only a one-sided search for health information but a dialogue between patients and consumers.  

Do we see each other as credible?  Do the benefits to reputation outweigh the costs in monitoring adverse events?  For the sake of my career interests, I hope so.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's not that bad

I never listened to the radio much until I met Dominic.  An NPR fanatic, he has recently introduced me to the various shows dissecting today's economy, international news and presidential race.  I like NPR a lot, but I can only take today's headlines in small doses.  All I want to say is: Good news still exists because we care a lot.

The good news for me relates to how much I care about my family:  I'm able to connect with loved ones instantly from anywhere in this country.  I can talk to my mom without wasting minutes any time I want through the Verizon 'in' network.  I email my grandpa from the WIFI at the free library and I can update this blog whenever I have the inspiration to write--24 hours a day.  Just three months ago, the dream of a good Internet connection, or a phone line for that matter, was a stretch.  

There's good news for the world too.  Honda's plan to sell hybrid motorcycles in 2 years, or students in Papua New Guinea contributing to the coffee industry.  What if homeless billionaires  really are contributing to sustainable development and living in hotels?  All I'm trying to say is that there is good news too.  If I could afford it, I'd subscribe to The Good News Network for the sake of balancing out everything I hear in the mainstream media.  Sometimes it's just nice to know that people are working hard for something they care about.

For example, I catered a fundraising event last night for the Washington Toxics Coalition.  Their mission, to protect public health and the environment by eliminating toxic pollution, raised thousands of dollars for lobbying for safer products, healthy homes & gardens and sustainable agriculture.  One of their PowerPoint slides highlighted 'volatile vinyl'.  This organization raised money at a time when people are hesitating to buy cheese bricks at the grocery store.  If society can raise money for toxic-free children's toys then who's to say we can't fight poverty and hunger?  Americans are generous and we do care about a lot.  We're willing to give of our time and money to organizations that promote just about everything.  

I came home and my roommate commented on my extensive travel background.  We both agreed that, for all the problems it has, America is truly a great place to be.  I'll listen, even donate to NPR, remembering that this station is just contributing to one more reason why I love America.  We care about everything.  

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A career in searching

I moved into my new apartment this week and have enjoyed making it 'home'.  When my roommate came in the first night I showed her my possessions: A mattress, a desk and chair and an end table.  She said: "It's ok, little by little".  She's right.  I'm certainly not leaving a big footprint in Queen Anne (although my mom might argue that the boot print is jammed into my childhood bedroom in Columbus where I have overflowing boxes identified by the countries I've visited: Japan box, Costa Rica box, Armenia box, etc...).  

The room is so empty it echoes, which makes me self-conscious when I'm trying to make follow up calls and introduce myself to potential employers.  Follow up calls.  Potential employers.  Oh my, this is the least fun 'job' I've ever had.  When it comes down to it, however, treating it like a job is what I've decided to do.  I sit down at the computer each morning to begin searching/researching, reading and questioning. 

What is the best approach to a successful job search?  By nature, I like to focus on one company that I'm really passionate about:  An agency that has the type of room for growth, professional development and account portfolio that I can invest in.  In reality, today's economy is not conducive to that type of specialization.  All the advice I've received is to cast a wide net to as many organizations as I can. 

I began thinking about this process-the job search process as a job-and it occurred to me that this is a great exercise in agency work.  I am seeking public relations agencies for the opportunity to disseminate information to multiple clients.  I want to be able to shape the public's perceptions, attitudes and behavior by representing everything from big business to small nonprofit.  If I wanted to focus on one business, (the way I'm focusing on one agency to work for) I'd look for positions in corporate public relations.   

The search will continue (in between catering shifts at cool places like the Experience Music Project and Seattle Center).  As much as I enjoy this 'exercise in balancing numerous contacts/organizations', I hope it will end sooner rather than later.  Until then, wait patiently and please don't inquire about the status.  I can assure you that when I'm employed you'll know. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Personal advertising

I stumbled across a blog called Word Wealth this morning and couldn't help but feel like this article was written for me to consider.  

Sadly, I had never used Craigs List before Armenia, and even after coming home in August I didn't realize what an integral role it would play in my daily life until I moved out West.  I have checked this online 'everything you could imagine' classified list hourly since I began my home search.  And why not?  After all, people post new rooms/apartments/homes/rentals/buys constantly.  

So the article by Mr. White caught my attention today as I struggle with how to answer the ads for future roommates.  What do you really want to share about yourself in that initial introduction email? 

"Hello I'm Sarah and I just arrived from Ohio (Go Bucks!) and I need a home asap"... Too desperate.

"Hi!  I won't create a fuss when I move in because all I have with me are two suitcases"... Too minimalistic.

"Good day, I survived two Armenian winters without heat so I promise not to spend too much money on gas this winter"... Oh Peace Corps

So, I understand what this lady is writing about--there's a fine line between honesty and sharing far too much.  

With roommates though, isn't it better to get an honest picture?  I want anyone looking for a roommate to be able to say: "I take 30 minute showers, the fridge is pretty small, I like to watch HGTV while I knit every night".  

It's not really in my nature to be as blunt as the mother who wrote the nanny ad in Craigs List.  I'll just have to continue with what I'm trying my best to convey in my own subtle way... 

Seeking Seattle roommate: 24-year-old PR professional, tidy but not obsessive, friendly but not clingy, outgoing but not a party animal.  

I need a roommate seeking Webinar training.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Seeing and Doing

I got great advice from a mentor and friend in Columbus not to 'settle' in Seattle.  So far, I think I've done a good job of balancing the necessity of finding living arrangements and employment with experiencing the beauty and excitement of coming to a brand new city.

So far, my favorite excursions have been to Ballard Locks and Gasworks Park.  It was at the locks that I learned all about how young salmon (smolts) migrate back and forth from the saltwater of the Pacific ocean to Lake Washington and upstream to lay their eggs.  During this migratory process, the smolts ride the current near the banks of the river.  Their bodies undergo changes that enable them to live in sea water; a process called smoltification.

Gasworks is a beautiful park on Lake Washington overlooking downtown Seattle.  It's a lovely place to fly kites, read a book or witness medieval sword fighting.  Seriously, men were fighting to drumbeats from a casual band in the park.  

I've seen a troll under the bridge in Fremont, had a stuffed fish thrown at my head at Pike Place Market and walked along the Pacific coast.  All in the rain.

Please bear with me as I put this blog together.  Everything is new to me these days and I'm trying my best to find everything from camera cords to matching socks in the 'perfectly convenient' places I packed them.