Watering the Cactus

While I admit to having a few guilty pleasures (this? I could read it all day), I’m not a big mommy-blog reader. Nothing against them; they’re just not my cup of tea.

But this morning, one of my professors tweeted a link to an old post from The Pioneer Woman – who, for lack of a better term, is the pioneer of mommy blogs – in which she shares ten important lessons she learned from blogging.

Lesson two stood out to me:

Whether you write a sixteen-paragraph essay about the cosmic implications of a free market system, a one-paragraph description of what happens to your soul when you walk into your godforsaken laundry room, or a simple photo and caption, consider your blog a precious bloom that requires daily nurturing.

And watering.

If you water a plant once every two weeks, it will shrivel.

Unless that plant is a cactus, and then it would thrive.

And to tell you the truth, I really can’t figure out how a cactus fits into this analogy, so forget I brought it up.

I realized that my blog is a figurative cactus, because I only get around to blogging every couple weeks. If I actually typed up every idea I had for a post, I’d blog eighteen times a day, but no one’s giving me a grade or paying me to blog, so those thoughts get pushed to the back burner.

Sometimes I’ll abandon post ideas because they’re not sports-related, and I typically think and blog about sports-related stuff. So this post serves a dual purpose: remind myself that it’s important to blog consistently, and remind myself that it’s alright to veer from the usual topics.

Here comes the veering:

Last weekend, I saw Midnight in Paris for the first time and absolutely loved it. Between smart dialogue, a solid performance from Owen Wilson and daydreams about dancing at a party with the Fitzgeralds, I was captivated.

I loved that the movie focused on how Gil, Owen Wilson’s character, fell in love with the city. Nothing takes my breath away faster than a spectacular, electric skyline, so I identified with Gil’s passion for Paris. I thought this quote was beautiful and worth sharing, so I’ll leave you with its eloquence:

You know, I sometimes think, how’s anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a a great city? You cant, ’cause like, you look around and every, every street, every boulevard is its own special art form. And when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe, Paris exists – these lights – c’mon, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune. But from way out in space, you can see these lights. The cafés, people drinking and singing…I mean, for all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.

Thanks for reading my blog on Freshly Pressed!

Wow! What an exciting day for my blog. After noticing that I was getting some comments from people I didn’t recognize (usually the comments only come from friends and family), I wondered if my blog had been picked up by someone/something that was directing extra traffic.

Miraculously, it had! My post was (and still is for at least for a few more hours, I’m guessing) featured on WordPress.com’s “Freshly Pressed” homepage, a daily roundup of notable posts from WordPress blogs. While I haven’t had a chance to check out all of the other featured posts, I definitely will!

For selfish reasons, it’s awesome to have a busier-than-normal blog traffic day, but what the best part of today was the outpouring of support from commenters. Nearly everyone who commented included a message of congratulations, thanks or support for my sister, who is now an official West Point cadet. Thank you to all who left notes of encouragement. Since Hope and I can only communicate via snail mail while she’s in basic training, I’m going to copy some of the comments and send them to her – I think she’d find it cool to know that people all across the interwebs (no, not a real word) are thinking of her and are grateful for the sacrifice she’s making.

And another selfish note: if you subscribed to my blog because you saw it on Freshly Pressed, thank you! It means a lot to me that you want to keep reading, and I have a renewed commitment to writing (hopefully) entertaining, insightful posts. Also, thanks to WordPress for deeming my blog cool enough to be featured!

Thanks again for reading my blog and supporting my sister through your “likes” and comments!

Where Are All the Grammar Nerds?

Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter of an English teacher, but I’ve always been a bit of a grammar snob. I’m not above correcting people (“No, Dad. Your meeting went ‘well,’ not ‘good.’”) and I’m ashamed to admit that I sometimes judge people if they don’t use the correct form of your/you’re.

I’m certainly not above typos (at my internship this summer, I sent a thank-you email to someone pretty high up in the company who had taken me out for “coffe”), but like most people, I try to write well.

This year, I get to put my grammar obsession to good use as the Editorial Services Director at Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR), my school’s student-run public relations firm.

Basically, this means I’ll be editing and reviewing most of the agency’s work for grammar and style.

Since this is a relatively new position at our agency, I want to have a little fun with it and position my role to be a writing and grammar resource, not simply “that person who edits all our stuff.”

Right now, I’m thinking about starting a blog – maybe something more informal, like a Posterous blog or a Tumblr – that could be updated periodically with interesting articles about grammar and style, particularly how they relate to PR. Or, the site might be less of a blog and more of a resource library, as I kind of doubt people will be super eager to subscribe to/comment on a grammar blog (“Great post! I love apostrophes, too!”).

Do you read any great, grammar- or style-focused blogs? Let me know! I’m looking to expand my reading list so a) I can learn more and b) I can share some great resources with my fellow AHPRers.

Also, if you know of any single blog posts that offer some grammar insight or talk about PR writing (like this post from Peppercom’s RepMan blog), I’d really appreciate the link. This goes for grammar-related Twitter accounts, too.

Once the blog/site gets off the ground, I’ll share the link – thanks for your help!

Making Everything New

Right around a year ago, I started this blog. Since it’s read by an average of eleven people each day, I will not go on about what a fun “journey” it’s been, because it’s not like my blog is really a huge deal. Honestly, having a blog has been a struggle – it has forced me to define what I want my blog to be about and what I want to accomplish through it.

I can’t say that I have figured that out, but I’m working on it. This summer, I realized that I don’t want my blog to be a typical “PR student blogging because that’s what PR students do” blog. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of inspiring, astute thoughts about how to use social media or how public relations works. There are a lot of fantastic bloggers out there who do write about that stuff, and they write about it well. I legitimately love hearing what they have to say – my Google Reader is filled with blogs that talk social media strategy or PR news.

I’ve tried to make my blog part of that conversation, but when I did, my writing sounded forced and uncomfortable and didn’t really give me a chance to really “express” myself in the way I think a blog is meant to.

This is not to say that my blog will now be a place for me to simply draw rainbows and sing songs all day. I still want readers to get something out of every post and I want to take it seriously. My goal is for it to be a place where people can see the world – a football game, a TV show, a magazine article – through a PR student’s lens. Hopefully that will spark discussion, make people think or laugh and inspire us all to make our worlds a little better in some small (or big) way.

Since “PR student” isn’t my only definition, it means I want to look at everything through the lens of a student who has dozens of other interests (some may call them obsessions): late-night television, New York, food carts, Motown music, 30 Rock, etc.

Blogging gets me excited – I love writing (nowadays, who doesn’t?) and I’m lucky to have such an easy, accessible way to share that writing with the masses. With a new school year (and thus new schedule, new room, new clothes, new focus), I’m hoping to infuse some “newness” into The Opinion Paige.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll stay along for the ride!

PS – I also changed my blog’s theme, as you may have noticed if you’re one of my average eleven readers. I like it right now, but there’ll undoubtedly be some changes in the coming months.

Wrapping It Up

It seems like every post I’ve made in the past few months has begun with some sort of reflection on how quickly time is moving and how I can’t believe my internship is half over or what have you.

Even though it’s unoriginal, I’m starting this post the same way. I cannot believe I’m no longer writing from New York City. Instead, I’m sitting in my bedroom in Portland, amidst half-unpacked suitcases, magazines, shoes or boxes that my family left in here while I was away.

It’s good to be home, but it’s been an interesting transition. At times, it seems like my ten weeks in the Big Apple were just a dream.

Obviously, though, they weren’t a dream. And while I am way behind on blogging about my trip, I’m using this post as a way to “wrap up.” Below are a few photos, with some description, that summarize my final few weeks in New York.

Before I get to the photos, though, I just have to give an ENORMOUS “thank you” to everyone I met and worked with in New York City, especially those at Rodale, Inc., the publishing firm where I interned. The people I worked with (the PR teams at Rodale’s corporate level, Bicycling magazine and Organic Gardening magazines) were nothing short of amazing: they were willing to give me real responsibility, constructive criticism, support and encouragement.

It sounds cheesy, but my ten weeks at Rodale (and in New York in general) taught me so much about the working world, the public relations and publishing industries and myself that I can honestly say I’m a much different person today than I was at the beginning of June. This experience forced me to seriously consider what I want out of my life and career, and where I plan on going (literally and figuratively) in the next two years and when I graduate. I don’t want to get too deep here, but you get the idea.

Anyway, sappiness aside, I have one more thing on my mind: It’s my goal to write a series of posts about what I learned at my internship (basically from a public relations perspective), and I’d also like to start taking my blog more seriously during the school year.

To do so, I’d like to move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org and my own domain name, along with a theme that’s a cut above the basic, generic themes.

If you have any knowledge in that area, I’d appreciate your advice, especially when it comes to purchasing a domain name, transferring a WP.com blog to WP.org and finding a good theme.

Thanks for sticking with me. Here are a few final photos from my New York adventure:

come fly away

I saw "Come Fly Away" on Broadway during my last weekend in NYC. It was a fantastic combination of Twyla Tharp choreography and Frank Sinatra music.

st patricks cathedral

The majestic inside of St. Patrick's Cathedral

liz lemon tshirts

Ridiculously awesome Liz Lemon quote t-shirts from the NBC Experience Store. "What the what?!"

wall street george washington statue

Not the best photo, but I love this statue of George Washington on Wall Street. This is where Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States. It's a gorgeous building and statue with historical significance.

morningside park

The beautiful view from a lookout at Morningside Park, on the Upper West Side near Columbia University. In addition to my Park Slope, Brooklyn obsession, I also love the UWS.

Five photos don’t even come close to summarizing everything I did in my final weeks, but hopefully it gives you a little taste. Since time was dwindling, I was fearless about exploring anything and everything in the city – from downtown to the Upper West Side, I tried to see it all.

Thank you for reading the posts about my trip; an especially big thanks to those who commented. I really appreciate the time you took to check in with my Big Apple adventures. I can’t promise that Portland and Eugene will be as exciting, but I’ll see what I can do. Thanks again!

Finding Value in New Communities

Over the past few weeks at my internship, I’ve spent a good deal of time putting together lists of bloggers who blog about bicycling (both racing, like Tour de France-type coverage, and bike culture, like those people with bumper stickers on their cars that read “my other car is a bike.”)

lance armstrong

One type of cycling blog: the hardcore bike racing enthusiasts.

While this may not seem like a very glamorous task, it’s totally necessary in public relations because it allows us to understand what’s important to cyclists and teaches us more about bloggers we may pitch stories to. But, it can also expose you to some pretty cool niche communities you may not have known about previously.

The bicycling world is filled with passionate cyclists who love to write and I’m learning to really enjoy their work. While I’m not a hardcore cyclist myself, I’m now immersed in this cycling community and am finding some really compelling blogs and writers.

At this point, I’m only listening and learning more about the topics they cover, but eventually I’ll start interacting with them. From a PR perspective, the bloggers might appreciate that I not only understand the issues that concern them, but that I also genuinely enjoy reading their blogs.

Have you had to spend a lot of time focusing on one particular niche community like bike riders? Maybe it was a group of people devoted to a similar cause or who lived in a particular city. Whatever the case, I’d love to know how it played out: did you just read their blogs? Did you develop a personal interest in the topic? From a PR

my other car is a bike bumper sticker

Another type of cycling blog: the bike culture/advocacy writers.

perspective, were you able to build a relationship with them?

And while I love discovering this niche, not all blogs are created equal. In my research, I’ve found a few that I really love, mostly because they’re hilarious or look at cycling from a unique perspective:

  • Bike Snob NYC: Yes, Bike Snob writes a column in Bicycling, but that’s not why I love his blog – it’s because he is irreverent and funny but doesn’t waver from his position that cycling is a serious transportation method. Everything I’ve read has been great, especially his spot-on, amusing analysis of Portland and its biking community.
  • Bike Portland: Here’s a hometown shout-out. Bike Portland consistently ranks really high on every list of biking blogs I’ve seen; it covers local cycling events and issues and has made itself the authority on the topic in Portland (and, it seems, elsewhere).
  • Riding Pretty and Chic Cyclists: I will never be as cool as the ladies who write these blogs, but they do a great job of giving ideas on how to be trendy while being serious about cycling.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. In PR, or in your everyday social media participation, have you ever come across a passionate blogging or online community? Was there value in listening to and eventually engaging with them? If so, what was it?

Building a Better Blog

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the 3% curve in my Human Physiology class that bumped my grade up from a B+ to an A-. Yes!

Finals are over and it’s nice to be relaxing at home. With a relatively commitment-free week ahead, I decided I’d take the time to spruce up my blog.

I know nothing has changed yet, but that’s what this post is about. Right now, I’m using plain old WordPress.com, but I’d like to move beyond that. Seems like a lot of talk has surfaced lately regarding personal branding and SEO, and while I want to be ahead of the game on those fronts, I also want to create a blog that is consistently updated with valuable content and discussion.

Rather than dive in without a plan, I set forth three goals for my blog:

1)    That it’s a place where people can get smarter through conversation with others. I’m a student of public relations, journalism and new/social media. I have thoughts, ideas and questions and I definitely don’t know it all. My blog won’t become the center of the PR world but it can be a place where creative new ideas can be introduced and discussed.

2)    That I create an online “home” for myself. While I want to spark thought, discussion and action, I also want my blog to be a place where people can learn about me, what I do and what’s important to me.

3)    That it motivates people to act. A lot of times I’ll read a post, say “Oh, that was insightful,” and then move on. I know there’s a lot of content out there, but I want to motivate people to act on this content: to do something, be it in public relations, social media, their community, etc. I want to be walking what my blog is talking.

That said, I need to create a blog that will allow me to do all of those things. Have you made the switch from a WordPress.com blog to another host, like WordPress.org? Have you bought your own domain name? Played with HTML? If you have, I’d truly appreciate your advice regarding how to go about that process, as inexpensively, reliably and easily as possible. Feel free to leave a comment with any tips or resources, or send me a tweet or an e-mail: paige (dot) landsem (at) gmail (dot) com.