A meeting of the minds in Midtown

Sometimes I forget how much I love conferences. Maybe because I’m usually flying solo working out of my home office. But when like-minded communicators come together to share knowledge and best practices, you can’t beat it.

Toby Ward and the folks at Prescient Digital always put on a good event and this year’s Intranet Global Forum was no different. “Global” it was – speakers came to present from Australia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada and of course, the U.S.

Dennis Agusi from Philips (pictured below) explained the lighting/consumer healthcare/electronics company’s journey into into internal social media including the launch of its very own video channel. Image

Organizational communications consultant Shel Holtz presented on employee ambassadors and social media, the use of the tool to communicate during a crisis, and the types of questions employees tend to have that need answering.

Jonathan Anthony – Director of Corporate Communications at Teekay – discussed the launch of the company’s enterprise social network, while Victor Aviles from AIG gave useful tips on how to make the business case for a new intranet. AIG’s intranet strategy: Show and prove. Then repeat. And: take it one prioritized feature at a time.

Of course, what would a conference be without networking? The cocktail reception provided ample opportunities for attendees to mingle and share pain points as communicators. The biggest issue people tend to experience: working as a one-man band on a limited budget, and helping executives become comfortable with internal social media adoption.

Ah, some things never change…

Don’t let the grapes go sour

wine-grapesI felt inspired to post this after a recent Facebook experience with one of my old broadcasting contacts. I had lost touch with him after a few years so I decided to reconnect with him on Facebook to say hi and schmooze a bit.

He accepted my friend request immediately and a few minutes later, began instant messaging me. I’m not a huge fan of IM (especially when I’m trying to meet a writing deadline), but what the heck. I decided to engage in a chat with him, and to my surprise, the happy-go-lucky, easygoing guy had turned quite negative.

As it turned out, he was let go from his on-air radio gig a year earlier and has been trying to find work every since. So I tried giving him a pep talk, stressing his strongest skills while – from a social standpoint – advising him on various spots in the city that he could still frequent without breaking the bank. My encouraging words were met with a smiley emoticon and that was that.

In the days and weeks following our exchange, I couldn’t help but notice a plethora of status updates on his timeline – each one darker than the last one – especially cutting remarks about hiring managers who had turned him down for jobs. He even went as far as saying he was going to de-friend anyone who viewed his posts as negative. And he did!

While social media can be a good source of online therapy (which I’ve mentioned before), there is a danger of crossing the line. You cannot be too negative or else you’ll come across as bitter. And if you vent too much – like criticizing recruiters or other potential job sources – who the heck is going to want to hire you?

Sure, you can change your settings to private, but we all know that a good deal of our Facebook friends are present and former colleagues in the biz. Word gets around. It isn’t long before others get wind of your rants.

Instead of venting on social media, keep your rants offline. That way, you don’t risk tarnishing your image. Remember: there’s no crying in freelance life! You chose this lifestyle so it’s important to keep a stiff upper lift and roll with the punches. You’ll be stronger for it in the end.

An important event for New York area communicators

ImageAs Editor of simply-communicate.com, I had the chance to attend the Intranet Global Forum on several occasions.

This year’s event (October 24-25) will continue to offer valuable case studies to any communicator facing the challenging task of re-launching the corporate intranet.

Just as we all want an engaging user experience with our external tools, employees expect the same offerings internally: seamless navigation, interactivity and a strong search function to name a few.

Prescient Digital Media and IABC will be presenting an impressive lineup including case studies from AIG, Pitney Bowes and Philips. I had the chance to interview Philips’ Dennis Agusi earlier this year and I can guarantee you’ll be inspired by the company’s innovative digital communications endeavors.

My old friend, Shel Holtz, is one of the keynote speakers and he’ll also be presenting a workshop on Day One about employee ambassador programs and the intranet. 

If you’re an intranet manager and you’re baffled by SharePoint or you’re looking to create the perfect social intranet on another platform, you can be sure to get some interesting insight from the Prescient Digital team.

And of course, there will be plenty of networking opportunities at the conference! Get ready to connect and share ideas with your fellow communications professionals.

Look out for my live tweets during next week’s conference and a re-cap of the event on a follow-up blog post.

To register for the IGF, visit http://www.cvent.com/events/the-2013-intranet-global-forum/event-summary-d824dcc13b64450cbde86b41387336d1.aspx.

The 3 C’s Every Freelancer Needs to Follow

Freelance life can be isolating at times, especially if you tend to work from home like I do. The solution: to stay as connected as possible.

Connectivity is critical when you’re trying to maintain steady work. No longer can you only rely on word-of-mouth and your tried-and-true clients or production companies who have always called you for work. Budgets are shrinking. No one is spending money like they used to. So it’s up to us as freelancers to build new relationships.

That’s where social media comes into play, helping us foster a sense of community where we can network, share knowledge and create conversations.

Sure, everyone and his brother are on Facebook but let’s face it, the majority of reasons why people are on there are to coo over their kids or brag about the wonderful meals they’re eating or the new cars they’re driving. In other words, Facebook is more for personal use.

If you want to create a sense of community with people in your field, Twitter and LinkedIn are the way to go, hands down. On LinkedIn, you can even join groups specific to your line of work. But I’m sure many of you know that already.

As for Twitter, I am amazed how many freelancers I encounter who are still unsure about how to take advantage of the popular social media tool. I suppose the problem might be that many feel it’s a tool for celebrities to boast about their latest projects or to incite feuds (such as the recent one between Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel; the two have kissed and made up since then). Or perhaps people feel stifled since there’s a 140 character limit. Whatever the reason, people need to start using Twitter more.

I use it to link to articles I’ve written or to promote an event I’m covering. I also live tweet during conferences or television programs – any instance where my commentary might grab the attention of someone influential. In some cases, you may even get a re-tweet! Just don’t forget those hash tags so you can be a part of trending conversations.

While on the subject of Twitter, I have to give a shout out to The IC Crowd in London: Rachel Miller, Jenni Wheller and Dana Leeson are three lovely ladies who work in internal communication. They started The IC Crowd as a way to connect others who work in the field; much of the conversations they create occur on Twitter (and will soon continue on Google+). Since launching The IC Crowd a little over a year ago, Miller, Wheller and Leeson have worked to move the online conversations offline, hosting a Xmas drinks networking function as well as an unconference.

On this side of the pond, the Freelancers Union (headquartered in Brooklyn), often helps freelancers connect via networking events and other helpful resources.

So if you have connectivity and a sense of community with your peers, there’s a good chance collaboration will follow – the final C that you need to be aware of. With increased online exposure and regular networking, you’ll be able to stay up-to-date on who’s working on what and whether or not there might be an opportunity for you to contribute to a new project.

And of course, dropping some emails to your existing network of contacts never hurts either!

Words no job seeker wants to hear…and how to cope

Whether we’re seeking staff or freelance work, we all have to hunt. This means perusing sites like craigslist, mandy.com, monster, indeed, SimplyHired, LinkedIn and others. If you’re lucky, your cover letter and resume will stand out just enough to get that coveted phone call for a face-to-face interview (and trust me, that’s no easy feat these days).

So you meet with the hiring manager, have a great 25-minute chat and then you’re on your way. A few hours later, you send the courtesy email thanking him/her for their time so you remain fresh in their mind. And then you wait.

Being a native New Yorker, patience is not my best trait. I want something and I want it now! Unfortunately, that can’t always be the case (though you can get a mean grilled cheese at 3am at the local diner).

When it comes to seeking work (no matter what your profession is), you are at the mercy of employers. That’s just the way it is. The bright side is that as a freelancer, you automatically grow the ability to develop a thick skin. With that, comes the ability to identify all the typical catch phrases you hear when you don’t land a job:

“Thanks for your interest in the position, but we’ve decided to move in a new direction with it.” (North? South? East? West?)

“We’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.” (That is, if we don’t wind up going with someone we already know!)

“We’ll be sure to keep your resume on file.” (Along with the 350 other CVs in our filing cabinet).

Bottom line: being turned down for a gig sucks. Especially after you’ve made the effort to dry clean your suit, prepare a portfolio and endure an hour-and-ten minute commute on two crowded subway trains.

When that happens, it’s important to keep your chin up. Allow yourself one hour of moping time, one or two phone calls to vent to friends, even a half-hour of mindless television to get your mind off the disappointment. Then, it’s time to get back on that horse and start all over again the next day.

Allow me to introduce myself…

If you’re going to make it as a freelancer, you have to have a pair of balls (even if you’re a woman). You can’t be afraid to take risks. Well that’s exactly what I did in April, 2006: I left a cozy, staff position at a major NYC live events/production company to make it on my own.

Without bombarding you with all the details (you can read more about the experience here), I will say that it was one of the best moves I’ve ever made. Sure, there have been some ups and downs, but that hasn’t stopped me from feeling liberated ever since.

I was reminded of this two nights ago when I attended a former colleague’s film screening in Manhattan. She told me how she admired me to have the guts to up and leave the company when I saw that I had reached my ceiling.

Okay, enough back-patting. Here’s my background in a nutshell. I’m a writer (obviously!) with a BA in Communications from Hofstra University. I started out as a local journalist in Brooklyn, then took on some cool TV gigs (CBS Sports and Lifetime Television), followed by a 6-year stint at the aforementioned production company (MJM Creative Services). And then: hello, freelance.

As a freelancer these past 7.5 years, I’ve had the chance to shoot and produce promotional and training videos for multiple clients in New York, London and Chicago. I’ve covered communications conferences across the globe at the corporate headquarters of some of the biggest brands in the world. I’ve filmed some of the most engaging people to work the speaker circuit in a long time including a top forensic psychologist who’s analyzed the likes of Joel Rifkin and James Holmes.

And of course, my longest stint: as a writer-turned-global editor at simply-communicate.com – the London-based knowledge and advice site for corporate communication professionals. I had the chance to delve inside big-name companies on both sides of the pond, exposing the inner workings of Verizon, IBM, Philips, Heineken and LEGO to name a few. I was even invited to cover a town hall at Best Buy in Minnesota amid troubling times for the electronics retail giant. Kelly_BestBuyHQ

I helped simply become more US-centric and we even opened a New York office which I oversaw while dabbling in project management and communications consulting projects. I even took the plunge and went staff again (at least for a little while). Then it was back to freelance after the company experienced financial challenges and restructuring.

So here I am: writing, hustling, networking, schmoozing in between Starbucks’ runs and happy hour rants with friends in the same boat.

I hope my blog will inspire others who are trying to make a dent in the concrete pavements of New York or at least help people to commiserate through it all. This isn’t an easy city to live – or work – in. But I’ve been doing it all my life, and with any luck, I’ll continue to do so for years to come.

You can follow me on Twitter at @KelKass and sample some of my writing clips at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=9432813&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile