100 Websites I Learned About on Social Media Day

On June 28th I joined hundreds of communicators in the Social Media Day South Florida, an annual get together for anyone interested in learning about the latest trends in social media. The Social Media Day was launched by the Mashable website in 2010 and has been celebrated through national and international meetups.

The event held in Fort Lauderdale included marketers, public information officers, techies, journalists and many other communicators who wanted to hear first hand about what can they do to improve their brands or promote their causes. The enthusiasm of the attendeees vcan be measured by the fact that the hashtag #smdaysfl was the top twee in Miami for a couple of hours on Sunday.

I met great people whom I will be interviewi in the next few weeks for this blog including the event’s founder Alex de Carvalho. In the meantime and in the true spirit of social media sharing, here is a list of 100 Free Marketing Tools to Build your Social and Business Brand, provided by 5Four Digital Marketing founder John Saunders during the segment of the same name. This sheet includes design resources, social media sechedulers, ideas for blogs, SEO tools and my favorite, the list of prodcutivity tools.

Pass it on and check back next week for more interviews!

Networking Tips for Building Relationships: Interview with Katrina Louis

Networking has shaped Katrina Louis’ professional path. When I met her during a recent mixer, she seemed confident, easy to talk to and made us feel as she truly listened. Even as she carried herself with the confidence of someone who has been working many years in public relations, I discovered later she had recently graduated from the University of Florida (Go Gators!).

Katrina graduated just as recession started in 2008. With no job in line she delved into what she knows best: not for profit organizations. She had volunteered with Keep America Beautiful, the Amateur Athletic Union, the YMCA and at her school, she got involved with the National Association of Black Journalists and the Association of Black Alumni at UF.

It is through volunteering where she was able to find a job opportunity and since then, Katrina has mixed her love for community work with career. Up until earlier this year she was the Multimedia Specialist at the Children’s Services Council in Broward County (Florida), an organization established by voters that funds over 100 family programs. When she decided it was time to move up, she quickly found an opportunity as Communications Manager in Charlotte Works in North Carolina, an agency dedicated to give resources to job seekers.

As a young professional who has moved in diverse circles, I figured she could have some useful advice for navigating the networking scene. In our conversation I learned not only how networks can help build a career but also help make a difference.

 Why did you pick public relations?

I have always loved to write and read. In high school I wanted to be journalist print major. I did an internship at the (Miami) Herald and I realized it was not for me. I did like the writing aspect, talking to people, and I was like, what is something similar…I found public relations. I did not know that it was a major. I did not know it was an area to get into.

What did you not like about journalism?

(…) I did not interact with people as much as I like to…. (In PR) its not always about I am trying to get the story, its more about building the relationship.

What do you think not for profit organizations need in terms of communications?

From within the organizations…making sure everybody in the organization is speaking the same language, that you have the same message. Everybody works in different department but to the community you all represent one organization….After that I think is definitely awareness, you got to be visible. People got to know who you are and recognize what you (do)… Most of the time you are working with a small amount of resources…A lot of people don’t put communications as top priority when you have to prioritize resources so sometimes you just have to get creative with the way that you do it.

Do you have any example of something were you had to be creative in order to make it successful?

One of the most recent (examples) was at the Children Services Council especially because we were not a not profit; we were more government than not for profit. For us, a really big undertake right before I left is (when we were voted as) a ballot initiative. We had to be voted by local voters during some election to continue to exist…CSC has been created in 2000 and at that point it was 2014 and there were people who had still had no idea who the organization was.…Because we could not say vote for us, we had to educate the public about our services…We had to come up with ways for everybody, for the entire community to see that if we went away, how would they be impacted because we operate with a 6 million dollar budget and that it s a lot of money to go away. It was not like somebody else was going to get it, it was just gone.

(…) I maintained our website, I maintained our social media, I did newsletters. A lot of the communications came from me. I was making sure that when our partners in the community did an event or had a program or something like that, (they’d let) people know ‘you are funded by Children’s Services Council.’ On social media ‘make sure you tag us’ or ‘share what we are doing.’ It was not us being selfish, it was more like ‘hey you already know about these great things that are happening, but make the connection (that) this is the organization providing it to these agencies.’

In terms of building relationships, what are some of the tips or advice you have for others?

I would not call myself an expert but I would say some things that have worked.

 1) Find venues and events to connect with people

I think it’s really a great way to just network in general whether it be in professional organization like PRSA or whether it be like a civic engagement or community one… You meet interesting people where you may completely know them from one thing like we went to college (together) but I did not know that you own your own business. I can be a customer. You never know. For me it’s about talking to everybody pretty much.

2) Make yourself memorable (be yourself)

I’ve been told that I am charismatic and I would take that as a compliment (laughs)….I try to be genuine in my conversations. I don’t talk to people to see what they can do for me. That’s helped me a lot. People remember if maybe we just started talking something that sparked out of a compliment. I really like shoes and purses and things like that, so I may say ‘I really like your shoes. Where do you get them from?.’ You start a conversation and then it turns into something else…When you don’t go in automatically saying what can I get out of this person I think it gives the opportunity to make that relationship building process a lot easier because it comes from a sincere place.

3) Find benefits for both sides

I would definitely say that the relationship should be mutually beneficial … If you are looking for a job, the whole conversation should not be about how can you get me a job. What can you offered that person when after that conversation ends, I want to talk to you again.

4) Talk slow

I think when we talk to people we talk so fast and we give so much information that is really overwhelming. Everybody is busy so if you are talking trying to tell me every single thing that you do, talking at a mile a minute, is just a lot to digest. Start with something specific, have your conversation and kind of let it flow.

5) Find ways to connect after conversation

When ending the conversation, if you have not already established a way of connecting with each other…(just) find that way to connect with each other moving forward whether ‘let’s exchange phone numbers’ or ‘lets connect in LinkedIn.’ Just offer having that way of how can we continue this conversation.

Those are things that at least worked for me and I’ve done pretty well about building my network. You may go in with one intention like I really want to collaborate on a project together or work on something together and you may end up like BFFs, you don’t know (laughs). You start talking to people, spending time with people, you start seeing things you have in common, you start to genuinely like people. I think that is the goal. To genuinely like the people because when opportunities or things come across you want to be that perfect person I’m thinking of, like, ‘ok, this opportunity does not fit me but I know the person who you may like.’

In terms of what you learned in school and what you have learned in the workplace. How different is it, or is different at all?

(…) I do believe I got a really good education, it gave me a really good foundation but I think experiences like the work experiences that I’ve had has been what benefitted me the most. Just being around the peers who are on the industry whether it’s at the conferences or workshops and things like that because that is where you get to share what’s working and what’s not working. It may be something you were thinking about doing and then you hear somebody else’s experience, then you may go back and change your mind about something. You save yourself time because you talk to someone who has already been through the experience.

Do you have a particular example of how the work you have done has impacted a person?

(…) Once upon a time there was a group called the Association of Black Alumni which is an affiliate group of UF alumni. They had a chapter (locally) and I’m like ‘what happened, this would be so great.’ You have a commonality with a bunch of alumni who might have shared a lot of the same experiences you did during college.

They did not have (the chapter) and I’m the type of person where if I don’t see the opportunity there I’ll make it. Basically I helped restart the chapter in South Florida. Since my thing is community outreach I (also) really wanted to do something for high school students who are transitioning to UF because I know for me that was a big thing. (Before school)I’ve never been to Gainesville, I’ve never lived away from home and I’m going to this college. That college experience I’ve never really had that in my family…I helped restart the chapter but I also helped restart the scholarship that was given on behalf of the chapter

That was in 2011…(Earlier this year) the (South Florida chapter of the UF Association of Black Alumni) board did a networking event and they were recognizing black alumni in South Florida. I actually received the Young Alumni Gator Great award because it was recognized how big deal it was that I restarted the chapter, what I have been able to accomplish. We’ve been able to give a scholarship to a student graduated from a South Florida high school going to UF, making sure there is that pipeline of support for these students so they have somebody who has been there done that, who they reach out to. It’s just very humbling to see because I did not go into it saying ‘I want to be a big deal.’ I really did go into it because I was like ‘I know my experience going to college’…You want to fall in a network, you want to be part of a network.

Follow the author on Twitter at @yadicarocaro

Telling Uplifting Stories, Including Her Own: Interview with Aurora Rodriguez

In a Miami Dade Community College classroom, Aurora Rodriguez can be mistaken for one of the students she teaches in the undergraduate journalism courses. It is not simply a matter of looks; it is also the way she connects with younger audiences in person and through her work, her knowledge of the latest cultural trends, and her nonstop energy. Aside from teaching aspiring journalists at the college and before that at Florida International University, she is the editor of Where magazine for South Florida, as well as a blogger for various websites including J-14 Magazine and Dirty and Thirty.

She started in journalism almost 15 years ago in her native Puerto Rico and since then has written for various news sites and publications including The San Juan Star, The Ledger and The Miami Herald. Throughout her career, her focus has been on stories about culture, travel and entertainment. If you want to be in the know of the coolest places in Miami, ask Aurora. But aside from all the fun stories, her writing also addresses very personal struggles.

About eight years ago, Aurora was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Instead of hiding it she found a way to deal with her illness: by writing about it. I wanted to know her motivations for opening up to her readers and what she is teaching to others who want to follow her same teenage dreams.

What draw you to journalism?

When I was in the third grade and I started writing, one of my teachers told me ‘your writing is really good, you should be in the school paper.’ We did have school papers in elementary school. I remember writing stuff about the cafeteria food, my fellow peers, and then I never stopped. In high school, I became the editor for the school paper and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed hearing other people’s ideas and I enjoyed hearing stories about people’s lives. I guess that’s what really drew me into journalism.

You started at a really early age too? Did you do something before you were a reporter in The San Juan Star?

Yes I did! When I was in Sagrado (Sagrado Corazon University in Puerto Rico) my first real reporting job out of high school was being a youth reporter for Casiano Communications and the website PuertoRicowow.com. I had a weekly column online and I started writing about events and what was going on the city and Puerto Rico, where to go, and what you can do when you were young and you wanted to have a good time in the area.

Were you inspired by any author? Is there anybody you have looked up to throughout your career?

I was really in love with literature and I was really in love with poetry. I won a few poetry awards when I was in Sagrado which I was really excited about. Some of my favorite poets are (among others) Edgar Allan Poe; I know it’s a classic but I really love his writing (…) When it comes to really reading journalism and news writing, I pretty much follow the local news and those reporters. I also loved the magazines so I would subscribe to (these) which was one of the reasons I think I became a feature writer, just because I follow pop culture so much.

(…) Being at the school paper I started (writing) poems for it, but then when I started news writing I had a professor, his name is Rafael Matos, (who) gave me my first journalism class and he told me ‘don’t let anybody take your voice away from you because you can really be a good features writer.’ And I pretty much just kept doing that. I blame him and that is a good thing (laughs).

What has drawn you to continue writing in this type of beat: culture, traveling, entertainment?

I feel like there are stories that just have to be told because not everything has to be negative and depressing (…) I feel happy when I write a story and it’s something that people can relate to. For example, in my travel writing if I write a story on say going to Jamaica where I went a year ago, and somebody writes ‘oh my God, those were such great recommendations, I am happy you wrote that story because I follow your advice,’ it makes me feel good.

(…)I really like writing stories about real people, writing stories about people that are doing amazing things in their neighborhoods. I just like writing stories where people read them and they can relate or they read them and they are happy when they read them.

You are also very personal in your writing. In your blogs you have covered your frustrations.

Yeah, like my bipolar disorder and my mental illness… I knew that there was something wrong but I had no idea what was going on and when I found out, it was like sense of relief. I have been on medication since 2008. After I got married that is when I found out.

(…) It is very personal (writing) but I am not afraid to share my personal stories because I want people to relate. One of my personal goals is for people to read my writing and say ‘ok, I am not alone, look at her, she is able to have a job’ because there is stigma that people that have bipolar disorder can’t work because that is such an up and down disease. I’ve proven that you can live a normal life with my disability

It is very personal, I am sharing it, but it is also a release. It makes me feel better when I write about a tough time.

You even surpassed many expectations for “normal” people because I see you and you are always doing something.

Yeah (laughs). I have so many people coming up to me and saying ‘you are always out girl, you are partying’ and I am like ‘hold on a second, I am networking.’ I know it sounds strange but it has to do with my career. A lot of times to be able to come up with a story idea I need to be out there… One of the goals that I gave myself for this year, and I have been pretty good about it, is to go to less events because it really does take up a lot of your time. I feel when you starting out you should do that but once you reach a point you can back away; I am going to pick and choose what I am going to go to. With my disability and everything else, well I don’t consider it a disability, but I do get more tired because of my medication, etc. so I try not overextend myself too much when it comes to going out.

(…) I think that is my biggest advice to young journalists, (do) not get yourself get too burnt out because I’ve been there when I was 23, 24 years old. I was trying to cover everything at the same time and I would get so exhausted that I would barely sleep and that is dangerous. You need to have a balance.

Can you describe a great challenge that you had in your career and how did you tackle it?

I went through a big challenge when I was at The Ledger when I covered arts and culture. I remember there was source, and I bring this up at my class all the time, there was a source that said that they never gave me the quotes that I put in the story. You know for a journalist that is a big no no. When somebody says that, it is really scary. My editor was not the most supportive editor at the time but I was lucky enough that I had notes, that I had all the information in my reporter’s notebooks. I was able to back up my quotes, I was able to prove, yes I was there, yes, I had interviewed you.

(…) My biggest advice is always keep your notes, always keep everything in file and when you are interviewing somebody, always ask for permission, always save those files because you never know when somebody might read something and say, ‘hey why did I say that.’ You just don’t know what type of person it is you are going to be dealing with out there, so just keep yourself protected.

Talking about your students, what is the biggest advice you give them when you teach them?

I start my class really funny because I make them take their phones out and look up a story. I know that sounds hilarious, eleven years ago no professor would have allowed you to take out your phone and look up stories on your phone. But here is the thing: that is the world we live in today, news are that handy. News are in social media, news are on your phone, they are just right there for you in the palm of your hand.

(…) My advice to them is to keep up with the news very day … No matter what (themes) they really like, just try to step away from what they feel comfortable with and read all sorts of news… I always tell them be prepared, make sure they know multimedia, make sure they really learn their social media.

I tell them one person is expected to do the job of five. So don’t think you are going to go into a newsroom and just write: you are going to write, you are going to shoot video, you are going to take pictures, you are going to update those websites, so you need to be a ‘package’… That is what I try to teach them in the classroom.

Follow Aurora Rodriguez on Twitter @AuroraMiami

Follow the author @yadicarocaro