Archive for August, 2011

People Skills: You Brown-noser!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Having good people skills does not mean ingratiating yourself to others. people skillsWell, we’ve given this one a nice word in the title. You know it as something else. And by any other word or set

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of words, it’s something that becomes a significant barrier to solid and positive relationships. Not sure what I mean? Brown-nosing. Suck up. Teacher’s pet. These are just some of the words and phrases that are used for the same thing. And there are others inappropriate for this blog. None of them suggest a positive relationship. Instead, one party has the power over the other. And those who recognize that relationship will denigrate you for it. You gain nothing. The person you have ingratiated yourself to thinks less of you. Others recognize it as an attempt to gain undue influence and discount you for it. Ingratiating yourself with the boss or with others is simply not a positive step to any relationship. This is NOT good people skills. What You Should Do: Watch others who behave this way. What do you think of them? What is your attitude towards them? It ain’t positive is it? Do you want to be perceived that way? If not, stay away from this behavior. The ability to ingratiate yourself with others might be a skill – but it’s a negative and counter productive one. By Stephanie McFarland, APR,, and

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Robert Dittmer, APR, 151 Quick Ideas to Improve Your People Skills  

Decision Making: Research via Questions

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

A key element of good decision making is the research phase. And key to research is asking good questions.

Decision MakingBeyond listening, asking good questions that elicit quality answers is also part of the research phase of making a decision. When interviewing key players in your information gathering phase prior to making a decision, think about asking good questions.

Prepare in advance of any discussion by thinking through what information you want to gather and developing potential questions that will elicit that information. Think about questions it two ways:

First, create questions in both a closed ended response (yes/no) followed by questions that are open ended (allow the interviewee to respond with details). Start with the yes/no question. Once you get that response, you can ask the obvious, why or why not? Allow the respondent plenty of time to respond. Often, the longer the answer the more details you’ll get.

Example: Are our customers returning Product X more often that others? Get yes or no. Then…

Why do you think they are doing that? What are they telling you when they do return the product? Then let them talk and listen closely.

Ask questions that follow the tried and true journalist’s key elements of information: who, what, where, when, why and how – known as the five W’s and an H. Who is doing this? What is the reason? Where are then returning them? When do they seem to return them? How are they coming back? Why do they say they are returning them?

Assignment: Set up some scenarios and practice these techniques so you become comfortable with this information gathering tool. Remember, the quality of your decision making is greatly dependent on the information

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that decision is based upon.

By Stephanie McFarland, APR, and Robert Dittmer, APR,

151 Quick Ideas for Delegating and Decision Making


Good Public Relations Doesn’t Hide

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Here’s a lesson in Public Relations side-stepping:

public relationsI bet you thought most major companies had the big, major Public Relations firms under contract so that communicating the company’s intent and positive message would be clear, distinct and especially, straightforward.

Well, in the case of a pending merger in Louisville among several major healthcare providers and hospital groups, there’s a major controversy swirling about because of the participation of two of the merger principals, Catholic Healthcare Initiatives of Denver, CO and Louisville’s St. Joseph Health System.

Seems the presence of these two companies within merger discussions with what is currently a so-called “public hospital,” that being University Hospital, is driving the editorial page editors of the Louisville Courier-Journal nuts. Many column inches of space within the paper have also been spent on this controversy, along with many stories on local TV newscasts.

You figured out the problem yet? The perception of the masses, especially those who have had the experience of getting services from University Hospital, a “public hospital.” You see, they believe a merger with a religious healthcare organization will lead to declining services—especially to women, for services like abortions, tubal ligation’s, even consulting services in the area of women’s health needs. That Catholic doctrine or principles will draw the line for the providing of all health services at the new, merged hospital. Obviously, the public that disagrees with this will have something to say about that.

So, back to the first paragraph of this treatise. The “big, major Public Relations firm” contracted by Catholic Health Initiatives is spending big bucks by their client in the paper on big, full-color, full-page ads that address only subjects like, how Catholic Health Services provide a wide range of community benefits to assist families and individuals. And the ad extols their commitment to increasing access to care. They also tout the “legacy of Catholic health care in Kentucky” dating back to 1812. More copy is spent on stats regarding the “medically underserved” in the state, and such.

Not one sentence. Not one word addressing the real controversy and what can the general public expect of services that need to be responsive to the core hubbub and tumult about the real topic of discussion and disparity.

Sidestepping and flummoxing. Pretty verbiage in the ad, but no answers to the core subject of the dispute.  Come on, Public Relations firm. Get back on the main road and deliver a responsible, intelligent, frank and honest response by your client to the hullabaloo. All of the bandages in the ER won’t be able to hide them from answers for long.

by Neil Kuvin,


Time Management: Agendas in Advance

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Continuing our discussion of the 3rd greatest time waster — meetings. We’ve talked about the importance of using agendas to maximize time management. But agendas distributed in advance can save significant time and make meetings much less painful.

Time ManagementYou may have prepared an agenda for the meeting, but if you don’t get it to participants in advance, it’s essentially wasted effort. It will NOT help your time management of the meeting as effectively as it could if delivered in advance.

This may sound like preaching to a choir that has the agenda message, but an agenda not delivered to participants in advance is like giving students a test before the teacher covers the material. If participants have the agenda at least a couple of days in advance, they can prepare for issues or information items on the agenda. This allows for the maximization of time usage and efficiency.

In addition, it also allows for much more productive and useful meetings. If you’ve been to meetings where the agenda was distributed for the first time at the beginning of the meeting, then you know how unproductive and long those meetings can go.

What You Can Do: Make sure all your meetings have an agenda that is distributed at least two days prior to the meeting. Whey you don’t control the meeting, ask for an agenda in advance. Prompt the meeting owner to get something out early.

Agendas are great time management tools for meetings. Some research into the use of agendas at meetings has indicated that just the simple task of distributing an agenda two days in advance can cut meeting times by as much as 25 percent. Now that’s good time management!

By Robert E. Dittmer, APR

Author of 151 Quick Ideas to Manage

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Public Relations for Schools: A Primer

Monday, August 29th, 2011

school public relationsThere are somewhere in the vicinity of 3,000 to 4,000 public school

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district public relations officers throughout the country. These “communications and PR folks” have been hired with local and state tax dollars for the specific purpose of presenting a positive image of their schools, the staff and administrators who toil mostly in daily anonymity. To them, the media represents a very public dissemination of a negative image, including but not limited to poor test grades, overall poor performance and certainly teacher’s unions. After all, teachers are the focal point of public education. As they should be. To these public schools’ PR people, their biggest problem and challenge is informing their public (by the name of “taxpayer”) of the positives behind the austere concrete and brick exteriors of the dozens or hundreds of school buildings spread throughout the district. Many of the larger public school districts have substantial communications’ budgets but are not educators. Their backgrounds may be in journalism or public relations, but in the private sector, where media is ever on the guard against “spinning’ and protective cover for mistakes or bad performance. So, wariness and shelter can be taken out of context and the district winds up on the defensive most of the time. There is significant opportunity for a contracted PR firm to work hand-in-glove with a public school district communications’ executive. Because there is substantial money budgeted for communications, the opportunity to represent a school district is there. You need to find it. It becomes a matter of the PR firm or practitioner learning what makes the district special, unique, distinguished or maybe, troubled. Dealing with those elements head on and waving the positive banner for the district in as many ways, events, banners, Facebook postings or tweets as can be written. When working with a communications or PR executive, you’ll find the day-to-day world of public school public relations brings with it education jargon. Depending on the audience for a message, the jargon needs to be doled out in proper English to targeted audiences. But public relations jargon might be even more responsible for what becomes a communications gap between the public and their schools. If you’re talking about something good in your district, you have to preface your description with “We are excited about…” whatever it is. Then you must add a moving story of some individual, preferably a crying mama, who was helped by your [fill in the blank] program. If a problem arises for which you don’t have a program in place, say “That’s still a challenge for us.” If you have a program in place, and it’s not working, say “We’re not where we want to be on that.” Nobody “spins” stories anymore. “Truthin’” is what it’s all about. No different than a private corporation, a non-profit CEO or the President of any union. Put your faith and confidence in what you know, what you can provide in the way of experience, knowledge, capabilities and performance. Success is paramount to the continuation of a public school’s existence as much as it is to your firm’s. Be on the lookout for RFP’s issued by your local school district. Respond with vigor, excitement and a sense of order, coordination, team effort and most of all, success stories. Shore up the response with a laundry list of satisfied clients and go for it! Neil Kuvin / Business Communication Group, LLC

Shades of Green: Recycle – Part 2

Friday, August 26th, 2011

recyclingRecycling—it’s a noble thing to do. And it’s getting harder and harder to tell people—maybe even your kids—that you don’t recycle. However, the national recycling rate is only about 30 percent, according to the EPA.

Learn what to do and get your business or house recycling program going. The time has come for many people to do some things rather than for one person to do many things. Whatever you do will make a difference.

Some more ideas:

  • Plastic—Since it doesn’t break down in a landfill and it’s a great recyclable item from which many products can be made, try to recycle all plastic waste. But not all plastics are created equal. Plastics #1 and #2 are used for things like milk jugs, liquid detergent and plastic soft drink bottles. Most recyclers want you to rinse these containers out and remove the lids. Lids are not recyclable and should be put in your garbage. Plastic #5 is the least recyclable and is used for packaging items such as cottage cheese,, margarine and vitamins. These containers may have more value for you to reuse than recycle. So how do I know the number of my plastic item? The number should be stamped on the container.
  • Glass is recycled according to color—clear, green and brown. Most recycling centers prefer donated glass separated by color. It’s okay to leave the paper labels on the glass, but you should rinse the bottles and put the lids in the trash. But not all glass is created equal. Light bulbs, Pyrex and mirrors, for example, have a different composition from glass bottles and will be accepted for recycling. These items just shouldn’t be mixed in with regular glass items.
  • Last, but not least, are the metals—aluminum, steel and copper. Everything from aluminum cans to car engines can be recycled. Aluminum cans, foil and foil packaging are all recyclable items. Paint cans and aerosol cans are recyclable, but the former contents are considered hazardous. So be sure to leave the labels on paint and aerosol cans so recyclers know what used to be in there. Copper is one of the most recyclable of all the metals. In fact, it’s 100 percent recyclable. Since bronze and brass are alloys, they’re totally recyclable, too.
  • Send e-cards instead of paper ones. This saves you paper and money.
  • Buy products like condiments, liquids and cleaning products in large quantities instead of in smaller sizes to reduce packaging that you just have to throw away anyway. And most times, purchasing in bulk is less expensive.
  • Have reusable food storage containers on hand for leftovers and wean off the plastic storage bags.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR

From: Shades of Green, available at


Non Profit Board: “This I Believe”

Friday, August 26th, 2011

This I Believe: A Non Profit Board Member’s Belief Statement

This I BelieveSome of you may be aware of This I Believe, which was a five-minute CBS Radio Network program hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow from 1951 to 1955. In 2005, it was revived and ran on NPR until 2009. Literally millions of people have had the opportunity to submit their “belief statements” on NPR and if lucky, to read it on the air.

Well, a board member for a non-profit organization also needs to create a belief statement and voice it publicly. You need to ask yourself, just WHY did you accept becoming a board member for this particular organization? It’s a fair question and must be answered. What are the altruistic reasons you accepted this position? How do your core beliefs and values mesh with the organization’s vision and mission statements?

Before a board member can represent the organization publicly, he/she must ask: “Can I honestly look the public squarely in the eye and articulate my belief in this organization and the reasons why I decided to not only join, but also participate as a board member?” That’s a huge responsibility.

There’s no better place than the organization’s website or Facebook page to post the individual belief

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statements. Think about it: take a look at most “about us” sites on a website and what do you see? A board member’s picture, some personal or business background information, but rarely a belief statement.

Challenge yourself and your organization to verbalize and write a belief statement. A belief statement puts the public on notice that you’re committed to the organization and you believe in the vision, mission, and the direction it must take to succeed. Yes, your one or two paragraph statement will set the stage for you and your organization’s credibility when you approach people in a public forum. If you wish to share and sell the value of membership or participation in your organization, then the public must see why you believe.

Start your statement with: This I believe:…”

Joseph R. John,