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Hola

Okay. So my goal is, as I learn more Spanish these posts titles will reflect my progress in mastering the language, but until then, this is where  Im at. Also, the keyboard here is a bit hard to get the hang of, so excuse my lack of punctuation, etc.

Its day 2 and here I am at the Hotel Descando, which is owned by my host family. The place is very cute, quaint, and I am guessing a little nicer than a typical Tico home, though by no means fancy. The kids are all grown so its just me, the parents, and the kids and grandkids who all live about an hour away in the city, which is an overstatment, of San Isisdro. As for us here in San Gerardo, well, were out there. I mean REALLY out there. Its like stepping into a time warp back to 1971, combined with the jungle only accessible via 45 minutes down a narrow and windy dirt road through a tiny valley. I suppose I have seen villages like this in my many hikes around the globe, which would make sense since this too is a jumping off point to summit the highest point in Costa Rica, Mount Chirripo. But the difference is I have only visited those places, for a few days at most. I live here now. For 3 months. And boy do I have a feeling Ill see things a bit differently when I leave. For all of you whose grand visions included beaches, martinis and coastal sunsets, its really quite different.

Thats not to say that this place is not absurdly beautiful. Because it is. We are about a half hour walk on the only dirt road to a protected cloud reserve, which is supposed to have spectacular hiking. This morning, after waking at 6:30 am – late – Maria, who is the other English teacher with a matching brown haircut and blue eyes, and I walked a few miles in the already hot sun up and up and up to the next village. We followed the strong pounding of the river along the road along the beautiful tiny but pristine houses nestled into the hillsides surrounded by exotic flowers galore. San Francisco, your flora pales in comparison to this place…

So now I will continue preparing for teaching, which doesnt start for another week. We will meet some of the students today to do level setting, which will then be followed by another exciting night of bed at 9 pm so we can be up even earlier tomorrow. To hike some more. And soak up some more Spanish, because being able to communicate is nice. And so are hot showers, which Ill be dreaming about for the next 3 months.

Sitting in a park in Paris, France…

I’ve promised myself and quite a few people that I’d be diligent about updatingmy blog, especially given all the travelling I have coming up! Immeadiately after the New Year I’ll be on a plane to San Jose, the capital on Costa Rica. I’ll make a four hour trek way up into the mountains to the tiny (350 people tiny) town of San Gerardo de Rivas, where I’ll spend the next three months teaching English.  I’ll also be staying with a host family, which I’m super excited about to really immerse myself  in the culture and the language.

In the meantime, I’ve had lots of memorable days in SF the Bay Area, in between packing things up and planning for the next few months. My dad, Shiraz and I will be driving across the country in less than 2 weeks 😦

I’ve been going through lots of pictures and trinkets lately, which have resurrected a host of memories, so here’s a little tribute to you, my California nostalgia:

Bday in Santa Cruz 08 209

My b'day in Santa Cruz 2 years ago. Notice Jonas and Julie trying to distract from Maggie's lovliness.

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The 'rents on 17 Mile Drive.

Lake Tahoe July 2007 015

The top of Mount Rose (American Teen Princess!!)

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Seanny and Jonas, spreading Firefox at Emerald Bay.

2009 160

NLx2 in Big Sur, Easter 2009

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Meagan and I hiked Mount Diablo last weekend.

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The chickas at Outside Lands 2008.

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Lassen National Park

SF! 001

Derelique and me heading to our first Bootie

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The kids from NJ, all the way in Napa.

An afternoon at Bookshare.org

Last Friday I volunteered as part of Mozilla Service Week at Bookshare.org, a non-profit who’s goal is to make the world of print accessible to people with disabilities. We went to their headquarters in downtown Palo Alto and spent the afternoon watching “books die” (aka their spines getting eaten by the machine), learning about the different parts of the org., and transcribing children’s books online.

Booksharep pic

My book was Tamar and the Tiger, which is the story of a little girl and her dad in search of the questionably extinct Tasmanian Tiger. I spent some time in Tasmania when I studied in Australia, so the book tugged on a few heart strings. It was a not-so-secret hope of mine to run into my own Tasmanian Tiger, which has become a somewhat mythical figure on the island. A marsupial tiger?!? Yes, please.

I couldn’t help but notice how genuinely happy everyone at Bookshare.org seemed to be. I’ll likely continue to volunteer beyond Moz Service Week, which can even be done from home. Visit their site to learn more.

In my personal opinion…

I’ve been watching an interesting example of crisis communication unfold in regard to the comments made by Whole Foods chairman and chief executive officer John Mackey. Mr Mackey voiced his criticisms of President Obama’s health care proposals in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece earlier in August. As a response to the negative criticism’s that have followed, Whole Foods has issued a statement to, as The New York Times notes, “distance itself somewhat from its chief’s statements.” The statement, in part, reads:

While Whole Foods Market has no official company-wide position on the health care reform issue, we would not want our very successful and sustainable health care coverage to be jeopardized. Our C.E.O. submitted an opinion piece last week with the intention of expressing his own viewpoints and providing constructive ideas to support reform, as President Obama invited America to do. We have heard from individuals who both agree and disagree with John’s ideas as there are many opinions and emotions surrounding the ongoing health care reform issue, including lots of differing views here inside of Whole Foods Market. We appreciate those diverse perspectives but it is unfortunate there is misinformation and confusion out there to cloud John’s good intentions.

As a PR person, whenever I see crisis communications like this in action I think it’s interesting to carefully look at  the content and tone of the reactive comments. I thought the Whole Foods response seemed to be flawed in that it presents a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of the power of a spokesperson.

The statement begins with a desperate attempt to show that the CEO’s opinions are unique from the organization’s itself. This distinction, while may have been  convenience in  this case, is wishful thinking. Not only is Mackey an  employee, and therefore a representative of Whole Foods, but his role is to guide the company. No matter what he does, his statements are going to have an effect on the company and its resulting image. The opinions of any and all employees constantly shape both the internal and external perception of any organization whether they like it or not. It is both the responsibility of the spokesperson and communications department to be cognizant of this, and the potential consequences.

Also,  as social media is increasingly being used as a hybrid tool for both personal and professional communication, it’s important to keep in mind everything you say is a reflection of your employer and any affinity groups you belong to, like it or not. It’s an important consideration that should not ever be overlooked, both in it’s potential as a positive and detrimental force.

I bring up these points because I find it fascinating to see how companies handle their PR in times of crisis. These situations require people to react with both speed and insight, and the psychology behind these decisions is something that makes me constantly evaluate my own decisions as a communicator. These are also great examples for us to think of what, and what not to do, in our own times of crisis.

Firefox 3.5 Launch: Community PR Workshop on May 15th

Friday, May 15,  the Mozilla PR team will be hosting a workshop for anyone who would like to get involved in community PR for the upcoming Firefox 3.5 launch. The workshop will be one in a series that will cover different ways to join the community marketing and PR efforts for the launch. We’re excited to help provide our community with the resources and tools to make Mozilla PR an even greater success. Please join us tomorrow to find out how you can help!

We’ll cover topics including:

  • Open source PR
  • How to participate
  • Spokesperson roles
  • Media relations roles
  • How to craft a pitch
  • Media lists basics
  • Resources available to you

Here are the details on joining:

  • Friday, May 15, 9:00 a.m. PDT
  • The workshop will be held on air mozilla
  • Dial-in Info: +1.650.903.0800, followed by 92# and then 7391#
  • Or you can use our toll-free number: +1.800.707.2533, followed by 369# and then 7391#. If you’re outside the US, use Skype to call in with our toll-free number.
  • If you can’t join the call — but want to ask questions — you can join us in #marketing on IRC (irc.mozilla.org).

Please sign up on Spread Firefox.  We’ll be archiving the Air Mozilla episode and sharing the presentation if you can’t make it.  We’re looking forward to tomorrow!

Engaged: PR Tips and Tricks, SxSW Style

This past weekend I was lucky enough to travel to the SxSW Interactive festival on behalf of Mozilla.  Among many other things, I got to attend a number of panels and keynotes that were both interesting from a purely personal standpoint, as well as to further my PR career.

One panel, Are PR Agencies a Dying Breed?, was particularly interesting to me. Since making the jump from the agency side to in-house this past year, I’ve noticed a ton of differences in the work flow of my day, types of interactions I have with people, and most noticeably, the visible impact I now have on the organization. This panel made me wonder, will PR agencies be obsolete in the next few years, and if they’re not, then how should the PR professional’s role evolve?

My biggest take away from this was that it’s no longer about “owning” a message and disseminating it to your audience.  There seems to be a significant shift from being the gatekeepers of information to being a catalyst for engagement. As panelist Peter Shankman so aptly stated, “Your job is to get other people to do your PR for you.”

While this may be a seemingly simple concept, the real question is: How do you engage?  How do you use today’s new media tools to reach and converse with your audiences? What are the rules for engagement and how should we expect agencies to adapt to leverage these tools?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Twitter is the new crack.

(As a side note, I could not go for more than five minutes during my entire time at the conference without hearing the words ‘Twitter’ or ‘tweet’. I get it – it’s a wonderful tool and you absolutely must tell the person sitting three feet away,  plus the entire world, how your head is pounding from the XX party last night – but it was a tad much.) Sticking to this as a tool for PR professionals, the takeaway here is now more than ever proficient and succinct writers are essential. We must cater to extremely short attention spans (that in many cases becomes nonexistent beyond the 14oth character) with concise, clear and effective messages to feed and engage our audiences.

2. Maximize SEO in your press release.

While press releases are seemingly heading toward a shiny glass case in the PR History Museum, they’re not quite there yet. It remains all about your audience. The media still need information, and some, believe it or not, may turn the the occasional press release. Forget the $10K to send it across the wire, and instead choose the most inexpensive option and maximize its effectiveness through search. Adjust the content based on keyword density to ensure the release gets picked up by the right audiences.

3. Go to your community.

The digital tools online allow us to easily customize our message. And customize it again. And again. Our job now is to determine the audiences we want to reach, where they are, and as a result, the best way to engage with them.

4. You still need to measure success.

You can’t use old metrics for new tools. The days of flipping through bulky newspapers and counting “clips” are over, so now what? How do you measure your success on Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet in general? One way is to start with your objective, and measure against it. How many users did you reach? How big is the community you built?  Define what you consider success and see how you measure up. Also think about creating a destination, which can then be  measured. Where do the tweets tell you to go? How many people have downloaded your software?

5. The rules of engagement are dictated by the communities themselves.

We have the ability to shape and steer perception, but it’s ultimately the communities we’re talking to that should determine how we approach and engage them. The new PR superstar must be be not only familiar with the all the relevant tools and groups on the Web, but also be a savvy participant before engaging on behalf of any organization. Be authentic, be smart, and perhaps most importantly, know your audience.

Introducing… Me and My 7 Things

I’d like to not completely blame the beginnings of my blog on getting tagged as part of 7 Things, but sadly, it’s a large part of what finally got me to set this up. The other part has to do with the fact that for the past 9 or so months I have worked at the Mozilla Corporation as a member of its public relations team. Given that, and the word ‘public’ in my title, I figure its about time to start communicating with everyone about my contributions to Mozilla and the exciting world of PR.

Those things considered, this post is way overdue. Other members of the marketing team were nice enough to spare a few minutes out of their day to help me get this started, and for that I’d like to say thanks.

Okay, now on to the juicy stuff. My 7 things:

Ground rules:
1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

7 things you may (or may not) know about me:

1. I have a strange and (so-far) life-long obsession with carnivores – particularly big cats and sharks. Ever since I was little I’ve been a sponge for everything having to do with these amazing creatures.  My pink canopy bed was covered in stuffed animal cheetahs, lions, panthers, hammerheads and great whites. Jaws was my favorite movie at the age of five. It hasn’t stopped. Well, okay, the stuffed animals for the MOST part have stopped, but they’ve been replaced by my real, live, terrorizing beast of a black house cat – Shiraz. I scour the Internet for documented shark attacks every day (2008 was a good year for those Pacific Coast sharks BTW).  I hope to go shark diving soon.

SharkSwarm_0001G_JS-DH.jpg

2. In keeping with the animal theme – I used to show sheep. In fact, I won quite a few trophies. Growing up in rural Northern New Jersey, there were a lot of farms. And not much else to do other than play around on those farms. So, I joined the local 4-H, threw on white collared shirt, cowgirl jeans, and showed off those sheep.

sheep1

3. I played the alto sax for 12 years. I was a band geek from 4th grade until college, and was also breaking out into Lisa Simpson-style solos in jazz band. I played the piano for many years as well, and recently have been learning the mandolin. If anyone knows any good teachers in the Bay Area please let me know.

4. Salt. Is my other obsession. I put it on everything. If you put my favorite meal in front on me and it’s not salty enough, I’d rather just go hungry. It annoys me to go to fancy restaurants that think their food “doesn’t need” salt, and therefore don’t keep in on the table. You ALWAYS need salt! I carry around sea salt in the glove compartment of my car in case of emergencies – thank you Will 😉

salt

5. I hate tall buildings and flying. It’s odd, as I’ve been skiing since I was 2 and it’s rare a chairlift freaks me out. I climb all kinds of mountains in my spare time, and that doesn’t bother me. It’s something about the ground under my feet that comforts me. Man-made buildings? No way. I considered it a big accomplishment for me to sleep overnight in the 47th floor of a high-rise in New York for the recent Fashion Your Firefox launch – with only minor anxiety. It’s something I’m working on.

6. My favorite color is green. It makes me happy.

7. I was a busy little kid. Again, there is not much to do in farm country when you’re growing up (see above). I used to show horses – dressage and hunter style. I danced ballet for 10 years. I was a cheerleader – for one day when i was five for the pee-wee football team. As soon as I saw the outfit, I ran home and told my Mom my  cheerleading career was over.

7 People: David Rolnitzky, Sean Alamares, Mary Colvig, Laura Mesa, Jared Finck, Amie Tyrrel and Alix Franquet