Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yellow Pages Arrived Today: The many marketing lessons I learned from the Yellow Pages.

Not many of you know this but I started my career as the Yellow Page Marketing Analyst for Rochester Telephone way back in 1987.  Now given that at the time I was completely clueless how the Yellow Pages were created it was a bit of a challenge, but it really was a learning experience that taught me a great deal about how to do marketing.

My first year my total responsibility was Marketing the Rochester Telephone Yellow Pages, at the time a 25 million dollar revenue stream for the company.  I worked for a woman named Carol who was Assistant Director and was on a team with Mary (who did white pages) and our admin Gilda who was the only person who could actually type anything in our office since we all shared a single Wang Computer.  Having come from Grad School where we all used Macs I was frankly stymied by the Wang, but I had to learn how to use it when it became clear that I needed to generate many reports.  Imagine in those days it would sometimes take a week to do a single memo. Every word would be sweated over, my boss would have to approve it, and they would also be revised 5, 6, 7 or 8 times.  It was a slower paced world. I even lived close enough to work to walk back and forth every day - arriving sharply at 9 and everyone leaving at 5.

From these women I learned many things:

 - To be careful on the details - a typo changing $.50 to $.40 could mean the loss of 1000's of dollars in revenue and huge costs if contracts had to be reprinted because of it. 
 - That you shouldn't always listen to people when they critique your work - they may have been doing it wrong and you are getting it right - so stand up if you believe in something.  I did a business case for a new product that was not only accepted (after being disparaged by one of my peers) but was held up to him as an example of how to write a business case. 
-  That being innovative and trying new things may not always make you money but it can save your business.  We launched the talking yellow pages - one of the first in the country. It made us no money but it actually delayed another competitor from entering our marketspace.
-  Take risks whenever possible.  In later years I created a completely different kind of phone book cover in our Lancaster market with beautiful Amish quilts on the cover. It actually increased our phone book usage - ours was too pretty to put in a drawer.
-  Never keep a vendor just because they've always been there - you can't let the cost of change factor into a decision - in the short run change can cost you money but in the long term it can completely change the game.  Our VP taught us that when we made a proposal and had included those costs.  It was really eye opening.
-  Listen to the customer - if you don't address why they are unhappy you may lose them- something the vendor we let go of was slow to learn.

-  I learned how to take care of your team by how they all treated me. When I broke my foot the three of them rallied around me. Mary drove me to and from work each day, Gilda helped me get my lunch from the cafeteria every day and Carol made it so I could work from home for the first two weeks when my foot was so swollen it had to be elevated above my head.  On a side note - it even justified us getting the very first laptop ever seen at the company.  I can show you the laptop - I saw it at the Tech Museum on exhibit - weighed about 50 lbs I think.

- I also learned something about assumptions. I learned that when setting up a meeting it would be good to brief the CEO on all the participants if you can so that  the CEO won't assume the tall blond 20 something woman  in the back wasn't the wife of one of the male executives but in fact the person doing the detailed financial analysis of their bid.  The CEO of a multi billion dollar company actually asked me if my boss and I were going to enjoy going shopping while the men worked.  I was a bit nonplussed but our VP said no Jerri and Carol need to stay since they are the ones making the decision.  I'd never seen a man go pale quite so quickly before. I'm sure they all wondered if that played into their losing our account.   I'll never tell.

All these memories came flooding back today as I brought in the new AT&T White and Yellow Pages. I was shocked at how thin the book has become. It has about 1/4 the listings the yellow pages had 11 years ago when I first moved here.  Really sad.  It's less than half the size of the first phone book I ever did.  Yes I still have that phone book with me - it represents a lot of marketing lessons for me and I'll treasure it for ever.

One last great joke.  My mom had called while I was working on the book and told me the phone book had arrived.  I asked her if it was a talking yellow pages(meaning a book that had numbers in it that you could call for horoscopes and soap opera updates). There was a long pause then Mom said, "Well I threw it in the closet and it didn't say anything."  And yes I LOL'd.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Women of Vision - the Aftermath

So one of the major things after any event is the PR cleanup. And boy was there a lot of clean up last week.  Let me start by saying Women of Vision was an enormous success.  We had a record breaking number of attendees, all our speakers did a tremendous job and I had the great pleasure of being Arianna Huffington's handler throughout the event. 

I was very glad that in a previous position I had the opportunity to work with celebrities so I was prepared for all the contingencies.  Arianna was lovely to work with - well prepared, charming and so happy to help us with photographs, etc.  Her speech was a crowd pleaser. 

Our three winners were all amazing.  I was a bit stunned that all three chose to wear red and black but it looks great in all the photos.  Arianna had shared her talk's theme of embracing risk prior to the event and I'd notified the three winners.  Each of them talked from her own perspective about embracing risk, and making a difference in the world. 

Post event the work continued. I actually went home and did a final review of the newsletter we were issuing the next day since it was part of the launch of our Anita Borg Top Company for Technical Women Award.  I also fixed a few glitches along the way.

Then Thursday began the work with the press.  We had 11 press people attend Women of Vision. The next day was spent working on our post event press release then issuing it to the 11 press people along with a picture of Arianna and the winners.  The press release itself went out the following morning. The coverage has been amazing - San Jose Mercury News, Forbes, Silicon Valley Watcher all wrote about the event and more are still pending.  We also posted the winners biographical videos on youtube so they could be linked to as well from the press release.

This week the work continues - I'll be editing the footage from the event and getting it back to our editors so we'll be able to launch the videos on Youtube in our next newsletter.  I'm also waiting for the photos to come in so we can distribute them to the media as well as our sponsors, Arianna, the winners, etc.  And of course we're tracking the coverage as it comes in.

I'd like to thank a few people who make my job possible - Megan McKenna from Total Media Group; Denise Nelson from Ventana Public Relations, Dang Le from Jungle Digital Printing and Alex Atkins from Alexander Atkins Design.  These are the folks who make everything possible in doing the marketing for our events. I couldn't do it without them. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Countdown to Women of Vision - T-24

 Well here we are. It is 24 hours until the Anita Borg Women of Vision Awards.  So what are the last minute things a marketing person does the day before a major event.  Here's my list:

1.  A flurry of emails and a confernce call with my PR person, Denise Nelson ofVentana Public Relations. Denise has done an amazing job - we have a dozen journalists from both print and online media attending the event.   She did the reminders to the media and we finished our checklist.  We also crafted our day after press release.  So while the rest of our team takes a well deserved day off, the next day I'll be working with Denise to finish our press release and get our photos out to the news media.  My day off will be Friday.

2. I finished our press kits yesterday - these are handouts for the media that include info on ABI, the press releases and information for them on how to get photographs of the winners and our keynote speaker after the event.

3.  Loading the cars - we spent some time making sure everything on our checklist was packed up and the cars were loaded and went off to the Convention Center.  I made sure the collateral box for our collateral table was fully stuffed and we also made sure the signs, awards and gifts all made it too.

4.  Checked in with our printer - the delivery of our programs and new signs was confirmed for tomorrow morning at 10.  The courier will be there and set up will commence.

5.  Staff meeting this morning included an extended briefing on the event.  I talked about our media presence and instructed our staff what to do if broadcast media appeared. You always want to be sure the soundbyte is given by someone who will have the most impact with the media whenever possible - the CEO, the Keynote, the award winners.

6.  Made sure we are all systems go for uploading all the WOV videos I created with Total Media Group are ready to go up on Facebook on Thursday morning.  Everything is all set up in my computer.

7.  Made sure we were all set with our big announcement for Thursday morning. You'll have to check out our website then for more info.

8.  Finished working with our AV folks on our slides for the event - only 7 but we had to make sure they looked good on the big screen.

Heading home to get a good night's sleep.  Stay tuned for the followup on Thursday.  I'll publish some links then.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Creating the Women of Vision Videos

We're on Day 6 of our Women of Vision Video creation.  By Day 6 I mean that this is the 6th dayI have spent sitting in a small editing studio in South San Francisco with the video editor.  The editor and our producer have actually spent even more time doing this since in between they implement all the changes, adjust the soundtrack, etc.  And I spent my time interviewing winners, writing scripts, getting approvals and gathering photos from our winners.

So why do I love making videos?  There is something about literally having nothing and creating a fully rendered piece that will be shown to an audience that I find thrilling. It's also a little anxiety inducing since you have so many different people in the audience:  the winner, her family members, members of her organization, my co-workers and the general audience members.  And there are high expectations of the videos - that they will inspire the students to go on to amazing technical careers, that it will refresh and inspire the women in the audience to pursue their technical careers; that the men in the audience will be reminded once again how valuable the women's contributions are to technology and that the family and that they will please the winner.

With the creation of the videos themselves - it's all about the details.  As those who know me are aware - I'm all about the details.  We are constantly making edits to the video script to make the words flow with the photographs we use.  We endlessly debate what photos to incorporate and hunt for disconnects between the text and the image.  And occasionally we put in a photo that doesn't fit but is needed to help tell the story when the words do not.   And we call the winners when we have doubts about how names and places are pronounced.  And we're always looking for ways to enhance the visual image.  I've posted on facebook about our challenges with some of the Universities who have not been responsive to our requests for logos and photographs.  I find myself stymied when that happens since in this case - all the publicity is good.

The videos will be up on Youtube after the event in May.  I'll post links then so you can see them.  Back to editing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sympathy Letter to a Celebrity Flack

Dear Celebrity PR Flack;

I wanted to extend my great sympathies to you in this time of great turmoil. The endless spewing of celebrity scandal has certainly made life difficult for all the PR people in the celebrity world. My sympathy goes out to both the reps of the good and the twisted.

To those who do PR for the good, the celebrities who have stable loving faithful marriages who are perhaps just trying to promote a new movie or tv show, I sympathize with your struggles. Read the cover of any and all celebrity magazines and all you see is Sandra and Jesse or Elin and Tiger. Two People magazines in a row featured such similar photos of Sandra that I thought I'd been sent the same magazine twice. Pity the poor PR person who is out representing someone who is organizing a big fundraiser. You have to compete with the celebrity mistresses of the world - whose PR people are doing an excellent job of parlaying their scandals into fortunes by the way. And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse Larry King and Tiki Barber jumped into the mix. While certainly not worthy of A-list caliber coverage they are sucking up all the B roll time on E and Entertainment Tonight. All I can say is keep on trying, eventually you'll catch a break. Perhaps they'll all end up in rehab together so they can be covered in a single story and you can catch a break with your pitch on whatever sequel your client is starring in this summer.

To the PR flacks of the twisted, my goodness you do have your hands full. It's hard to imagine what life must be like when your client is caught then keeps trying to lie to cover the truth. Hard to believe that one of the worst cheaters, David Letterman, is actually doing quite well. He cheated for years, with his employees no less, yet because he told the truth and took his lumps he's doing just fine. Seems he got good PR advice and actually listened and implemented it. And he didn't even have to go to rehab. Not like Jesse James who seems very upset about his marriage being destroyed but unaware that he is the one who is responsible for the whole mess. Run Sandra Run.

The saddest thing of all is that you know more scandals are coming. The PR folks can't stop it because of course they are being kept in the dark. I can virtually guarantee that none of the celebs are saying to their PR person - you know I think I'm going to cheat on my wife this week. And even if they did, none of them would listen when the PR person tries to point out that nobody gets away with that behavior these days.

Nope, the PR people find out months later - usually about 10 minutes before the story breaks. Then they scramble to help their client weather the storm as best they can, knowing that most of the time the client will ignore their advice anyway. Celebs pay 1000's of dollars to experts that they then ignore. It's sad really.

So good luck all you celebrity PR folks. Maybe George Clooney will change girlfriends again and take the heat off everyone.

Monday, March 29, 2010

No Limits on what women can achieve.

I don't know how many of you know this but I was a Biology major in college and worked as a research biochemist for two years afterward. The significance of this was brought home to me today when a friend (and fellow alum of Mount Holyoke College) forwarded me this link of letters to the editor in the New York Times . President Joanne Creighton of Mount Holyoke talks about why women's colleges turn out so many scientists. She writes that the keys to success are having role models, a lack of gender stereotyping and a hospitable institutional culture that sets no limits on what women can achieve.

I firmly agree with this. I was lucky enough growing up that my sister had gone to Mount Holyoke before me and that I had a women biology teacher in high school who believed in me. When I got to my junior year in high school the long time guidance counselor had retired and they hired a new guy who had zero experience. I went in to talk to him about my college plans - I intended to apply to Mount Holyoke early decision, major in biology and become a doctor. He told me that he thought it was a mistake, even with a 4.0 average, that I really should limit myself to local colleges so I could live at home. ACK. Not even an option. Then he suggested I go to a teachers college in Mississippi because really that's what women should be doing - teaching.

While I think teaching is a wonderful profession, at the time I had zero interest in that and I couldn't figure out why he wasn't listening to what I wanted to do. The fact that he had so stereotyped women into a single role was horrifying to me. Without my sister and teacher as role models I could very easily have listened to that guidance counselor (who yes I think was an incompetent fool) and my life would have been very different. He was creating an institutional culture that very much set limits on what a woman could achieve.

Mount Holyoke was a revelation, women ran everything - including the college itself. Role models were everywhere and there were never any limits set. I knew women who were training for the Olympics while studying economics, a woman who was a german/econ/dance major; and one who's goal was to work in Antarctica (and she did). The professors were fabulous - encouraging, supportive and who created opportunities for me to try new things. Because I saw so many women working in biology, I chose to work after graduation for a few years to decide where I wanted to go next.

My work led me to change directions and get an MBA in Marketing but I never doubted I could do it because that's what Mount Holyoke taught me - No limits.

This is why I am so passionate about the work of the organization I am in today. We all know that there are no limits on what women can achieve and we also know that we need to be telling this to our daughters, granddaughters, nieces and any young women we enounter. So just a reminder - tell a girl, young woman today that there are no limits.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Research - A Visibility Plan

Part of my job at the Anita Borg Institute is to work with Caroline Simard, our VP of Research and Executive Programs to package and release the research that she does. We published our newest research this week: Senior Technical Women: A Profile of Success. So what role does marketing play in this process? It all started last year when we were setting our annual goals. We had identified two potential studies to put out this year. Once we had decided a general timeframe I started contemplating how we could promote this specific research paper.

First among the considerations is what is the content and how do we want to attract the attention of the news media? For this particular research I decided that instead of just the standard single press release we would actually publish two. The first described the research and some of its general findings. The second is a list of the Top Six Attributes of High Ranking Technical Women. Someone asked me why two releases. My answer was simple - the media really do like publishing lists. People in general love lists - hence the success of David Letterman's Top 10 list, The lists of Oscar nominees, and many magazines have a list of some sort featured on the cover. Our attributes list was perfect - the attributes are listed in the reseach and they have statistical data to back them up.

Doing the two press releases give the media options - they can pursue the more indepth findings of the research or if they want something that's very accessible they could publish the list.

Once we had the plan in place we had to finish off the research. From Marketing this means working with our graphic designer to create a cover that fits in with both the theme of the paper and also fits in with our general look and feel. We wanted to convey the concept of women on top. We found a number of silhouettes of people on a mountain top but they were all attired (or not attired) appropriately. So we had Alex use on of the visuals but modify it so it fit in with our overall desired outcome.

Throughout the entire process there is proofreading, at least a dozen rounds. The major challenge is that sometimes you do one fix and create a new problem elsewhere.

Once that was finished we counted down to launch. We did a media embargo with our PR firm, the fabulous Ventana Public Relations, who took our list of target media and for the 10 days before launch actively promoted the research. They did a great job and we did press briefings last week so reporters could write articles and publish them the day the research went public. We also responded to press requests this week from people who wanted to write about research post publication.

We have received a great deal of coverage - people really responded to both the research and the attributes. The media coverage includes Network World, Forbes, Businessweek, and San Jose Mercury News. I'm including a link to the Mercury News Article as an example of our coverage.

So what are our next steps? Well, we're still waiting to see if some of the interviews/briefings we did will become articles. I won't publish those names until we know. Caroline will continue blogging on her Fast Company Blog about the research. And I've signed up to write articles from some websites I know on the research. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A week of great advice

Last week was unique for me- I actually attended 3 different non ABI events during the week. The first was on Wednesday night. I went to the Women of Color Action Network meeting that we co-sponsored in our building here at HP. The women who presented were amazing. The lead presenter from Catalyst presented on their new study Unwritten Rules: What you don't know can hurt your career. Be sure to go to their website and download the study- it's a great read on all the things that you need to be aware of in your company and includes a great list of rules for advancement.

The next night I went with Rachelle to see Arianna Huffington speak at the Churchill Club, hosted by Microsoft. This was a very political talk, she was interviewed by a media person who asked questions about what's going on with the government, etc. Arianna was brilliant. I am so excited to hear her speak in May at the Women of Vision awards where her keynote will be tailored towards women. Her talk last week also addressed how she was able to very quickly build the Huffington post into a recognizable brand that clearly competes with traditional media. Some great quotes (and I may be slightly paraphrasing):
  • Self Expression is the New entertainment (this refers to all the blogging, tweeting, etc that everyone is doing).
  • The president needs to remember to encourage people to be part of the solution to the economic crisis.
  • "People with accents need to stick together"
  • Must remember Opportunity Cost (something I think of constantly from my grad school days) What we do, forgoes something else.

Saturday I spent the day at SWE's regional conference. I got to speak to an audience of about 45 on our research. I attended several sessions including one on finding a job that had a ton of great ideas come out of it. I'll share some of those in future blogs.

All in all a hectic and busy week last week but one that introduced me to a wide array of terrific women.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Movie Review: Valentine's Day

It is not often I completely disregard every movie review and go see a movie anyway. But I was in the need this weekend for a light and fluffy movie so I emailed my friend and off we went to see Valentine's Day. Now I did want to say that we did agree to go to the Camera 7 theatre's because they recently announced that if you show a San Jose Library card you get a $3 discount off your movie tickets. So the three of us went off to the movies feeling good that we'd already gotten a discount.

Valentine's Day the movie is pure fluff. The interconnected stories of a wide array of pretty people are presented. Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts meet on a plane; Jennifer Garner(a teacher) and Aston Kutcher(a florist) are best friends each involved in relationships with other people. A small boy is intent on getting his gift of flowers to a special someone. And dozens of others.

I am not sure if any other movie in years has had this many underutilized Oscar winners. Jamie Foxx as a cranky sportcaster forced to report on V-Day; Shirley Maclaine as an ex movie star grandmother; Julia Roberts, a soldier coming home from Iraq; and Kathy Bates in a blink and you'll miss her minor part as a news show producer.

However, the movie did make me smile throughout - Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift are perfectly adorable as the embodiment of airheaded teens in love; Eric Dane really should spend all movies just wrapped in a towel; pink, red and white flowers really do make pretty arrangements. And the ending did have two really great twists that Marina and I failed to see coming. One twist in fact elicited a shout from the guy behind us that just cracked us up.

So if you want a light fluffy movie that is almost impossible to describe go see Valentine's Day. Going in with low expectations would be a good thing.

2009: My Year in Books

I've been contemplating writing this blog ever since New Year's Day, but perhaps even as far back as Jan 1, 2009. I do love making resolutions every New Year, but I've tried to learn to parse them out as shorter term goals. The only year long resolution I made in 2009 was to write down every book I read. I knew I was reading a lot of books during the year but I had a habit of forgetting what I had read so I wanted to find a way to capture them. I did create just 2 rules for myself:
  1. I could only write down books I read cover to cover - no writing down books that I punted on. Did this change my reading habits? Yes, I found I punted on books I was not enjoying much earlier. I also found that I had a habit of putting books aside and going back to them months later. I stopped doing that - if I got half way I would finish the book so I could add it to the list.
  2. I had to write down all the books - that included the periodic trashy romance novels that I indulge in as mind candy. It also included all the books that I revisit every year. These include some of the novels of Louisa May Alcott - one of my all time favorite authors, Stephen King's The Stand (the original not his revised unabridged version); and some Emma Lathen mystery novels (if Wall Street was still in the hands of her characters my how different things would be) and the Amanda Cross mysteries - her James Joyce Murders is read almost every year at the start of the summer. I recommend all these books to everyone.

I sat down this morning, a somewhat dreary rainy day, and flipped through the small Moleskin calendar book that I had tracked my reading in and pulled out some of my favorites from the 222 books that I read last year. I realized as I read the list that I had a lot of trends in my reading - So hear are some of my top books and reading trends in 2009):

1. All things Vampire. I will be honest - I have always enjoyed a good scary story - I've been reading Stephen King since high school. The first of his books I read was Salem's Lot. It was a lovely scary book, and one I enjoy rereading even today. In 2009 I have discovered I read a lot of vampire novel series. Most are humorous takes on vampires though they all contain some great action. I've been a fan of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books (Dead and Gone)- the source material for the True Blood series on HBO - for a long time. I got to meet Charlaine in person when I lived in Texas and I enjoy her deft mixture of comedy and horror. I read not only her books but the books in the vampire series of Michelle Bardsley(Wait till Your Vampire Gets Home), Mary Janice Davidson(Undead and Unworthy, Dead over Heels) and finally I read the Twilight series. I resisted the Twilight books until this year when my co-worker Kim convinced me that I should take a shot at them. I wasn't impressed but I will admit the books were readable and a bit like chips - you read one and you had to read them all. And yes, I confess - I'm team Jacob.

2. Travel Memoirs - I developed a fondness this year for travel memoirs. The one that started me on these was Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The one that made me laugh the most was Honeymoon with my Brother by Franz Wisner. Both are great reads with terrific characters and wonderful scenery.

3. Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortensen. I read 3 Cups of Tea with my book group, perhaps a bit later than many others. I adored it. Greg Mortensen is an inspiration as he tells his story of building schools in the mountains of Pakistan and how he overcame incredible odds. I was lucky enough to close out 2009 by seeing him speak in December at Foothill College. He retold the story of the book and from the first schools in his book his impact has grown as he has built 70 schools now. I think that everyone who works for a non profit should read his book and recognize the incredible impact an individual with a vision can have on making the world a better place to live.

4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. This novel is a moving story of what takes place during and after the World War II Nazi occupation of the island of Guernsey. I loved this book so much I gave it to several friends and family members as a holiday gift. I recommend it for anyone who loves a great read. My thanks to Deanna for lending it to me.

5. Cozy Mysteries - I am a long time mystery reader - from Nancy Drew on. The cozy mystery genre is engages me because often the characters are working in an interesting field in addition to solving a mystery. They all have the Jessica Fletcher problem - if I wasn't a police officer and that many people were dying around me there should definitely be concerns about whether I was a serial killer or not. Several of the series writers I continue to enjoy were Laura Childs (Eggs in Purgatory, Tragic Magic); Donna Andrews (Swan for the Money); & Maggie Barbieri (Murder 101).

6. Knitting Mysteries and Novels - yes, I love to knit. And I've found a number of authors who blend in their love of knitting into their novels. I find the murder mysteries especially entertaining that have knitting wrapped in - amazing how many people will confess over a skein of fine yarn. Some of the my favorite knitting series in 2009 were - Meggie Sefton (Dyer Consequences, Dropped Dead Stitch) & Monica Ferris (Thai Silk). Great knitting books included Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street Series; Ann Hood (The Knitting Circle) and Gil McNeil (Beach Street Knitting). I've tried a crocheting novel or two but they aren't among my favorites.

7. Michael Connelley - if you like a great serial killer story there is no one better than Michael Connelley. I especially love reading his books on airplanes - don't ask me why but a whole plane ride can pass and I won't even notice when I'm reading his books. I read The Poet, City of Bones, Lost Light, The Narrows in 2009.

8. Robert Parker - I must admit my heart broke when I learned that Robert Parker had passed away this year. I have been a fan of his from the very beginning. I read all three of his series - Sunny Randall, Jessie Stone and the amazing Spencer series. Robert Parker's writing is clear, and direct, his stories compelling and his heros flawed but stalwart. I understand there are three yet to be published Robert Parker books, I cannot wait to read them but will miss him greatly. The books I read in 2009 included Night and Day; Stranger in Paradies

9. Jane Haddam Living Witness - The Gregor Demarkian mysteries deliver an entertaining mix of serial killer, neighborhood folksy charm and Catholic church politics in ways that never fail to entertain.

10. Henning Mankell - I adored all the books in Henning Mankell's terrific series of Swedish Kurt Wallender books. I was lucky to read his book of short stories on Kurt Wallender as well as his non series book Italian Shoes. If you want a great series read start the Kurt Wallender series from the very beginning.

11. Cooking Memoirs - I started by reading Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone Memoir then Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. But my favorite this year was Julia Child's My Life in France. While I loved the movie Julie and Julia, the book is even better. Julia Robert's celebration of food and her incredible life in France makes for great reading. Bon Appetit.

12. For Kids - my friend Caroline recommended to me the Rick Riordan Percy Jackson books. I read the first two books in the series and heartily recommend them all for children and adults alike- The Lightning Thief & The Sea of Monsters. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series sometime this year.

13. Not a Genuine Blackman, Brian Copeland - the Silicon Valley Reads book for 2009 was terrific. I was lucky enough to get to see Brian Copeland speak twice last year. His story of growing up in San Leandro and what happened to him and his family is both laugh out loud funny and heartbreaking. I love being in a place where great books and authors are

14. Under the Dome - Stephen King - the last book of 2009. I think the book was a bit too long but it was an engrossing read. Very much like the Stand - the very best and worst of human nature is brought out by an unimagineable horror.

15. A few extra treats. If you like novels with big scary sharks go for the Steve Alten Meg Series. Meg: Hell's Aquarium is a treat. Seriously after 4 books you think people would learn to stay out of the water. Fire and Ice by JA Jance - a mixture of her two great series - JP Beaumont and Joanne Brady. The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn is an entertaining read about the competitive world of New York Private School Admissions. All things by Bill Bryson (The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid). The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon - a truly great read and a book that was recommended to me by my friend Ellen.

So that's it - some of the most enjoyable books I read in 2009. As I keep flipping through the book I keep finding more and more books to recommend but these give you a good start. And yes, I have another small Calendar book that I'm recording all my books in again this year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Movie Review: The Wolfman

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted, I'm finding what was normally a slow time for ABI has sped up quite a bit. I did get to take time out this weekend to go to the movies and Mike and I chose our Valentine's Day Movie to be the Wolfman. Now you might think this isn't a romantic choice but since I tend to be jumpy in horror movies it did lead to quite a bit of handholding throughout.

If you saw the original Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jr then the story of this movie is all too familiar. Lawrence Talbot returns from America to the foggy moors of England to visit his estranged father. In this case he has returned to determine what happened to his missing brother. Soon he is bitten by a creature and all sorts of mayhem ensues. In this case Lawrence is played by Benecio Del Toro and his father by Anthony Hopkins. His brother's fiancee is played by Emily Blunt.

So did this movie make me jump - yes definitely. But then someone popping into my cube unexpectedly can make me jump. Did they update the movie - definitely yes. There is a whole new psychological element that is explored. And an asylum scene thrown in for good measure.

But there are some questions that haunt me. Who decided that it would be a good idea to have someone who's native language is Spanish play an Englishman who's lived for years in the US. I came to realize that the scenes where Lawrence Talbot speaks he seems depressed and speaks slowly - or is it just Benecio trying to remember how to say his lines with the right accent? And Anthony Hopkins is great but there are a lot of questions about his character's motivations that go unanswered. I can't say more without ruining the suspense but seriously we had questions about his gneral motivations. And Hugo Weaving is great as the Scotland Yard Inspector who comes down to investigate the murders. There is a great throwaway line about his involvement with the Jack the Ripper investigation and Lawrence Talbot but it is never followed up on or developed. A little more info would help.

I loved the original Wolfman - Saturday night creature feature or the Channel 9 4:00 movies back in New Jersey in the 60's made for scary fun. Lon Chaney Jr. had a great tortured face and you truly felt for his pain. Benecio - not so much. I say wait and rent the Wolfman on Halloween night.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ten Tips for Building a Winning Resume

I had dinner with a friend last night who's resume I've done some editing. I was thrilled to hear she has an interview coming up. After we ate we sat down with her resume one more time and also worked on her cover letter. Since it's been a while since we've talked job hunting I thought I'd do ten new tips for resume building based on resumes I've been editing and resumes I've reviewed for positions we've been filling:

1. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Typos in resumes may be overlooked by some managers but if you get someone like me who does a lot of editing for a living your resume may be eliminated for typos.

2. Do not use yellow highlights in your resume. They are visually distracting and frankly somewhat annoying to read. To quote one of my co-workers - "that resume is already making me crazy, I don't even want to meet the person"

3. Stick to two pages but don't use tiny font to make it fit. Stick with at least 11 point font so it's easy to read.

4. Do include a brief summary at the top defining who you are - think of it as your 30 second elevator pitch on paper. Who are you and what is your expertise.

5. Do include both your email address and telephone number on your resume and make sure that whoever is answering that phone is answering it in a courteous and professional manner.
Make it easy for a recruiter to reach you.

6. If you are applying to a company that offers a free email service be sure to have an email address from that service - applying to Google - use a gmail account; applying to Yahoo - use a yahoo account.

7. Don't include every detail of everything you've ever done. Finding the balance between too much and not enough information can be tricky so keep working at it. Don't use 10 words when 2 will suffice.

8. Have at least 3 other people read your resume - make sure they will give you honest feedback on what you are saying. And have them identify typos.

9. When you include the time period you worked somewhere just use the year - months just add unnecessary words and make the page appear more cluttered. 2002- 2007 is just fine.

10. Unless you are still in High School - don't include your High School on your resume.

More tips to come.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The 80's Brunch

Yesterday I got to play hostess to the Mount Holyoke College Club of the Peninsula's 80's brunch. These decade brunches began a few years ago and the 80's had never done one. I worked on the plan with Betty Cheng and in December we put it into motion. We selected a restaurant in Palo Alto - Nola. Then sent an e-vite to everyone who graduated between 1980 and 1889. The event was well received and on Thursday we had 12 yes's and 2 maybes. A very good turn out for 55 invitations (the overall club has around 430 members from Daly City to Fresno). When I called Nola on Thursday night for our reservations the very nice woman took the reservation and we hung up. She called back 10 minutes later to tell me that Nola no longer serves lunch - Not a good moment. Thankfully e-vite let me send notices to everyone invited with our new location at Il Forniao in Palo Alto (excellent excellent waffles - I highly recommend them) and we ended up with 8 attendees.

We all had a blast. The group talked for two hours on a wide range of topics and the info was fascinating. Of the 8, five had children, 3 did not. Only one of us was still doing what she had majored in during college and she had created her own major at Mount Holyoke. One had gone back to school in her 40's and just graduated with a law degree. Several of us, myself included, had ended up in marketing. 3 are in high tech and were interested in learning more about what my institute does. Everyone shared their stories on the challenges of work life balance. Perhaps most fascinating was the social media discussion. 5 of the 8 had facebook accounts and used it actively, 3 did not. Some had twitter accounts but most never posted on them or paid attention to what was going on.

So what did I come away from this event with? I have a feeling of great satisfaction at being able to connect with these women. I reconnected with an old friend who had drifted away because of her long commute and my crazy travel schedule a few years ago. We discovered that I don't travel much and her commute is now 3 minutes so dinner is on the to do list for us. I hope I made some new friends. And we've all agreed to do this again later this year.

That leads me to my marketing learning. Everyone was very interested in doing this again but most felt strongly in doing it locally. And the term local has a different meaning to each person. One person shared she would not have gone if we'd done it in San Jose - yet I had come from San Jose with no problem - it's a quick 20 minute drive on a Sunday. Others suggested doing something jointly with the San Francisco club tu others said they'd no desire to drive to SF. Some thought San Mateo might be a good in between place. All in all it showed me that doing the decades brunch is a great idea but to be inclusive we'll need to think very carefully about location. I also recognized that women in their 40's were very willing to engage in more group activities with their peers than many had been in their 30's. Children consumed their weekends in their 30's but now that the kids are older they felt they could take some time for themselves.

So yes, we'll be doing the 80's brunch again this year and I'll be giving the location a lot of thought.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Recession Must Be Over Because Costco Doesn't Want My Business

Yes, it's true. The Recession must be over. There is no other way to explain the negative customer service experience Marina and I had today. Now, you must understand that Marina and I love to shop at Costco. I go with her every other month or so and buy a few bulk items. I should also admit up front I am not a Costco member.

Today, we found that a new sheriff has come to Costco. We were on line when wonder of wonders, a new line opened. We were first. High fives all around. There was someone besides the clerk at the counter and he started unloading our things and we asked him to hold on because we needed to pay separately and he told us that was against the rules. We were shocked. Why was it against the rules? He told us that we weren't allowed to do two separate purchases . We explained that we'd been doing it this way for years, and he told us that it was a corporate edict - he insisted that I had to buy my own membership.

At that point we began to get a little freaked. So I said no, I wasn't interested in buying a membership that day. Now, Marina and I are not easily intimidated, but this guy was acting very aggressively and was, in fact, a little scary. Very quickly, I was ready to punt - two hours in the store wasted but I wasn't about to let a bully force me to buy a membership. I found myself thinking - heck I'll just get go to Smart and Final. Then he said, if you do it I'll give you a pizza. I told him I didn't want a pizza right then. Then he said he'd give Marina a pizza too. Were we on some surreal version of Let's Make a Deal? No one needs a $60 pizza. He finally left us alone with a warning that this was a strict new policy - no more using Marina's Costco card. I told him I wouldn't return and his basic response was that was fine with him.

So that's how I know the recession is over. Perhaps its not all Costco's fault. Perhaps we just got one manager who decided that forcing people to get memberships is his mission. I understand that all companies have policies - we discovered tonight online the Costco policy is that only cardholders can actually pay, but it hadn't been enforce in the past and customers are allowed to bring in guests. Too bad he didn't try being polite and suggesting that we just let Marina pay, I could simply have repaid her. Instead he tried intimidation, browbeating, and ultimately bribery to force a membership sale.

Now, Marina and I just love our Costco runs too much to give them up. However we have vowed not to return to that Costco, we will just have to satsify ourselves at one of the other Bay Area Costcos. I'm still not buying a membership, we're happy to follow the rules. In the future Marina will now pay and I'll pay her back and his store will lose our business. The moral of this story is you can enforce company policy without being threatening. You always should remember that customers do have other options.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Day in the Marketing Life

I realized today that it had been a while since I'd actually blogged about Marketing. Not cool. So I decided to keep track of what I did today. First of all today was ABI's traditional work at home day. We all try and telecommute on Wednesdays - we don't schedule our company meetings though many of us do outside meetings and phone calls on Wednesdays. Whenever I have a video to edit I schedule it for Wednesdays. So when working at home I will admit - I split my time between my home office and my livingroom or deck.

Today started out with a breakfast with Jo Miller, who is the monthly columnist for the ABI newsletter. Her column is must read for every woman in business who is looking to advance. Jo's going to be moving in a few months and I wanted to be sure we had a strategy so the column was covered during the move and that Jo felt comfortable with the plan. We'll be having some guest columnists cover while she's away which makes us both feel good.

After the meeting I came home and hit the phones. I did calls with several co-workers and finished negotiations on a co-marketing agreement. The co-worker calls moved forward several projects and helped me update my to do list for the coming weeks - I have a naming/branding project; a schedule update for a research project launch; a new speaking engagement to record in my tracking materials and a reporter to followup with.

I also spent the morning doing some pitches to reporters. I subscribe to a service where 3 times a day I see a listing of what reporters are writing about and are looking for contributions. The requests range from ideas for gifts (don't laugh - we got included in an article on conference gift bags) to casting calls for reality shows (they never seem to want 40 something women marketers for reality tv). Today I did a pitch for including our research in an article on work/life balance and an article on what people should do after a job interview. Yesterday, in fact, one of my pitches worked and I completed an interview on tips for launching a newsletter. Pitching takes a little time but the investment is worth it - it can result in an article on the organization or at the very least it creates awareness of the Institute at various organizations.

This afternoon I worked on a variety of projects. We finished the postcard for promoting our upcoming Women of Vision Awards (if you want some to give out at your company drop me a line). Alex, our designer, and I also worked on two projects - the new GHC powerpoint template and a redesign of our newsletter Partners visual. I emailed with the artist who does the GHC covers on a new project to make sure it was moving forward. I worked on research for a new press release; edited documents for co-workers; worked with our webmaster on a problem on the site: worked on editing a piece of collateral for updating; selected quotes from our GHC research to use in the collateral; designed a form and worked on updating my 2010 goals to get ready for a meeting tomorrow.

Looking at this list, I realized the thing they never taught in business school - that marketing is all about being able to multitask and move things ahead. It feels great when a project is completed, but you always know you have to move on to the next project quickly. So a course on juggling would not be a bad thing to include in B-School curriculums.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Movie Review: Did you hear about the Morgans?

I'm a little behind - I've seen 8 movies in the last two weeks and only done 2 reviews. But I'll try and be a bit faster and get though the other 6 in the next few days. The first of these is Did You Hear About the Morgans - a very light comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. The basic premise is separated New York City couple witness a murder and are sent into the witness protection program in Ray, Wyoming. There is nothing in this movie that is at all surprising. Hugh Grant is cute and charming, SJP is a little bit too shrill as the wife who's very angry that her husband cheated on her. He spends the movie wooing her, adopting to country life and being deathly afraid of bears.

Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen play the country Marshall and his wife who are protecting the Morgans. Though for people who are supposed to be protecting they spend an awful lot of time leaving our couple on their own and unprotected.

Is it worth the price? For a matinee probably, especially if you are a fan of Hugh Grant and miss the days when he made films like 4 Weddings and a Funeral. The ending was satisfying if a little predictable. All in all, wait for this to be out on Netflix - which shouldn't be too long. Or wait for Sex and the City 2 when SJP will be in all her Carrie Bradshaw splendor.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Movie Review: It's Complicated

I have seen a lot of movies in the last two weeks and one of my favorites is It's Complicated. The story is very simple - divorced couple are reunited at the graduation of their youngest son, have a fling and hilarity ensues. And the movie is hilarious. Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep are the couple and are beautifully matched. Alec Baldwin has just the right amount of lawyer sleaziness that the audience never truly trusts him, and neither does Meryl. Her character is also being cautiously courted by her architect, Steve Martin.

I highly recommend this movie. It is definitely a chick flick - I saw it twice - first with my friend and her mom and then again on New Year's eve with my friends. We all laughed at the jokes, and sighed enviously at Meryl Streep's gorgeous house, bakery and vegetable garden. The woman seriously has the life we all dream about. As my one friend said, Did you see the size of those cabbages? And we all sighed in agreement. This type of movie is occasionally called food porn and justifiably so, the chocolate croissant baking scene was positively erotic, and all the food gleamed and glistened to the point that after the movie we were all starving.

So go see It's Complicated - take your friends, take your mom and just go. Then plan to eat someplace fabulous afterwards.