Friday, January 16, 2009

Be Careful Out There...

...when you're playing in social media. You would think it is common sense, that by now everyone knows that (1) whatever you write and publish to the Internet can be seen by anyone, and that (2) it never, ever goes away.

In a stunning example of what NOT to do, a man from a high-end PR company, on his way to making a presentation to FedEx in Memphis, put a comment on Twitter that was insulting to Memphis! That little Tweet got the attention of employees and executives at FedEx, AND the chain of command at his employer. Anyone want to guess how long it will be before this guy is looking for a new job? Yeah, I'd say about as long as his flight back to New York.

You can read all about it on Peter Shankman's site here:

Another tip - if you're in business and haven't yet signed up with Shankman's HARO (Help A Reporter Out), it can be worth the few minutes it takes three times a day to read his emails. HARO aggregates reporter queries seeking experts or people who can comment on topics for books, articles, blogs, and TV. He classifies the queries by subject area - some are from big names (Good Morning America, Huffington Post, etc.), and some are on short deadline. I scan the summary lines to see if there's anything interesting or that could apply to someone I know. A couple of times a week I'll see something that isn't for me but might be a good opportunity for a client or friend, and those I forward.

Is it worth the time? I think so. In December I was interviewed for a podcast series on women entrepreneurs that will run beginning this year. Even if you're not looking for publicity, it's a fascinating peek into the range of subjects that people write about. Sign up here: Yes, it's free, and no, he doesn't spam.

Monday, January 12, 2009

One Man + Innovative Eyeglasses = A World of Difference

One of my reminders to myself for this year is to find a way to make a difference. I just read about a man who has quietly made a difference for tens of thousands of people around the world by giving them clear vision. (Washington Post story here.) Photo: Oxford University Site

Joshua Silver, an atomic physicist in Oxford, England, invented eyeglasses that can be adjusted on the spot to help either nearsighted or farsighted people see better. Admittedly ugly (think Woody Allen's worst), the glasses have round lenses that contain a thin sac. Hidden in the earpieces are plastic syringes filled with silicone oil and a pump to move the oil into the lenses. By turning a little dial on the earpiece, the wearer adds or subtracts the clear liquid until the focus is right. When the adjustment is right, the syringes are removed and the glasses are ready to go. Current cost? Just $19.

Silver's desire is to provide eyeglasses to more than a billion people with poor eyesight throughout the world. In many developing countries, few people have glasses because they don't have access to eye care professionals. And for those who can see an eye doctor, even fewer can afford glasses. Enter Joshua Silver's amazing glasses. So far, he has distributed some 30,000 pairs, and hopes to distribute a million pairs in India in the coming year.

The part I like best about this story is that a vision company offered to buy his technology years ago and dangled a "substantial" amount of money in front of him. But they would not assure him that they would use his patented technology to bring low-cost eyeglasses to the poor. He refused to sell.

There's a tailor in Ghana who couldn't work any more because he could not see to thread the needle on his sewing machine. He could not afford an optometrist or glasses. With Joshua Silver's glasses, he's seeing and sewing again.

Here's to Joshua Silver and his beautiful, ugly eyeglasses.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Resolutions? No! Reminders? Oh, Yeah!

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? If you do, how does it work for you? I'm one of those who gave up after years of fine resolutions and less than fine implementations. Now, when pressed for a resolution, my favorite is, "I resolve to include dark chocolate in my diet regularly." This meets the requirements of being something that is good for me – we all know that dark chocolate is healthy, right? – and being a goal I can easily attain.

For my writing, rather than make resolutions that don't have a chance ("I will write 500 words a day every day"), I prefer to list reminders – those things that I forget when deep in a project or feeling as if I haven't accomplished anything beyond being frustrated. Rather than "I will write every day" it will be "Do something for a writing project every day." That allows me to include writing a blog for Active Rain, finding articles in the newspaper, or clipping something from a Smithsonian magazine. Heck, it even counts if I only Tweet once on Twitter! It can also be networking with other business owners, visiting a museum or craft show with a friend, or drafting an article to contribute to the local business journal. All of it feeds into the writing and publishing.

A reminder can also be, "Stand up and walk away." I don't know about you, but I tend to keep after something that isn't working, whether it's a sentence or a software program, until I'm ready to use my laptop as a Frisbee®. Persistence is good – it's one of the characteristics that makes a successful real estate professional. Dogged head banging against brick walls is not good. So I have to remind myself to put space between me and the nemesis du jour so that some fresh air can blow through. There's always something else that needs attention.

"What can I do that makes a difference?" That's an important one. Is there anyone who doesn't want to make a difference, to feel that the world (or some small corner of it) is better for you having been here? This is one that can easily get lost in busyness, which is why it's on my reminder board. It doesn't have to be a big thing; sometimes all it takes is a phone call or a card that says, "I'm thinking of you."

One of the most important reminders is a question: "Am I still having fun?" Some days the answer is a growl, but I know that's situational and will pass. Other days it's a chair wiggle, a grin, and a flip of the head; that's good. If the answer ever comes back a flat, battleship gray "No," there will be changes ahead. Because it just isn't worth spending what little time we have doing something that saps the spirit.

Am I still having fun? Absolutely! And I hope that you can say the same all through the year ahead.