Friday, March 27, 2009

March 23 — Manners guru Anna Post on "The Etiquette Advantage in Business"

Etiquette expert Anna Post (great great granddaughter of the queen of good manners, Emily Post) charmed a room filled with dozens of businesswomen at a networking event on March 23 honoring past winners of the Washington Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business awards.

Anna’s top tips included 7 Best Business Social Practices:

1. Arrive on time.
2. Avoid the temptation to socialize only with colleagues.
3. Commit to introducing yourself to at least three people at an event.
4. Don’t stuff your plate or over-imbibe (know your limit: follow the one drink rule, or don’t drink at all).
5. Include others who join your conversation. This is a Golden Rule.
6. Avoid dirty laundry and controversial topics.
7. Send a thank you note to the host within 24 hours of the event, if possible. Be gracious and be brief (3 to 5 sentences is appropriate).

Other useful tidbits came from Anna’s Tips on Proper Table Manners:

1. What do you do with your napkin when you are finished? Leave them on the left of your plate, not your chair. Why? “If the napkin is stained with lipstick or gravy and you are wearing light-colored pants the possibility of having a stain increases).
2. When do you start eating? “When the host begins, or when the host nods to you to begin.”
3. When do you start talking business? If it’s a social event, wait until after you order. If it’s a business dinner meeting, wait until the entrees have been cleared. “The goal of a business meeting is usually to get to know each other,” Anna explained. “But let the host be your guide. If he or she launches into a business discussion over the salad, go with it.”
4. Chew with your mouth closed. Period.
5. Who pays? The host, or the one who did the inviting. “But if you insist on treating the host to the meal, make it clear that this is your intention — before the check arrives.”

Anna also advised the audience to spend one night each year in their own guest room. “This allows you to test the box springs, see if there is a draft in the room, and basically get a real feel for what your guests are experiencing.”

And when you bump into a work colleague on personal time, be a 24/7 professional. “You always need to be prepared to switch gears, so don’t ignore your family to attend to your colleague — simply make warm, polite introductions. Your public life and work life are bound to collide, so handle the situation with grace.”

Indeed, being graceful, authentic, and polite is the key to having the etiquette advantage in business, Anna insists. “As today’s workplace becomes increasingly competitive, knowing how to behave can make the difference between getting ahead and getting left behind.”

For more information Anna Post, visit The Emily Post Institute:

By Hope Katz Gibbs, founder Inkandescent Public Relations

By Hope Katz Gibbs

Monday, March 16, 2009

March 13 — Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was raised to believe you can have it all. At 42, the attractive, active U.S. Congresswoman from the 20th Congressional District who represents Miami-Dade / Broward County Florida certainly seems to have hit the mark. With two kids, a husband who is incredibly supportive — he buys her clothes and is willing to put her career before his — and a plum seat on the House Committee on Appropriations and Committee on the Judiciary, she is determined to expand on her reputation as a fighter for families.

“It is said that I arrived in Washington with the reputation as a force to be reckoned with, someone who works hard on behalf of children, education, health care, Social Security, Medicare and the security of every American,” said Debbie, who was sworn in as a member of the House on January 4, 2005. “I hope to continue to be known as a person whose word is her bond and who knows that she was sworn in to work hard in Washington for her constituents.”

That said the Congresswoman opened up about the challenges of having it all when she spoke in February to a large crowd that gathered for the CEO Chick Chat, hosted by the DC women's networking group Success in the City. “Yes, I do believe you can have it all — but you can’t be afraid to ask for help,” she explained. “And you have to pick and choose your priorities. During the week, Congress is my priority. When I fly back home to Florida on the weekend, my family comes first. My staff knows they have to respect that, and they have to schedule in family time. It’s sacred, and it’s incredibly important to me to be as good a mother and wife as I am a legislator.”

And being a good legislator is very important to Debbie —the youngest elected to the Florida legislature in 1992 at age 26 (she won her seat with 53% of the vote in a six-way race), and the first Jewish Congresswoman ever elected from Florida. “I never expected to get into politics so young,” admits Debbie, who served in the Florida House of Representatives until 2000 and in the Florida State Senate from 2000-2004. “I had a mentor who encouraged me, and I gave it everything I could. When I was first running, I made up in shoe leather what I lacked in resources. I knocked on about 25,000 doors in my district and met as many voters as possible. And I learned early that to be an effective legislator you have to do more than just show up to vote. That is especially true in the U.S. Congress. My motto is: No task is too big. Most of the time it works out.”

Perhaps the hardest pill for her to swallow is learning the hard way that not everyone is happy for her success. “After 16 years in politics, I have developed a tough skin,” she insists. “But some of those nasty partisan blogs have weakened my defense for they don’t just focus on the issues like seasoned journalists do — they get personal. It’s distasteful, but I try to put it into perspective because it is very important to embrace new media. It’s the best way to engage young activists and voters, so I am simply learning to be more savvy about how to communicate effectively.”

For more information about Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, visit her website:

March 6 — Philanthropist and diversity advocate Edie Fraser

“A magical bumble bee” is what Success in the City’s founder Cynthia de Lorenzi called Edie Frasier, a philanthropist, businesswoman, and diversity advocate, who spoke to a room filled with professional women business owners at a recent CEO Chick Chat.

As the president, founder and CEO of Diversity Best Practices, Business Women’s Network and Best Practices in Corporate Communications — all part of the Public Affairs Group, an iVillage Company — Edie supports more than 170 organizations, corporate and government members. Most recently, she co-authored Do You Giving While You Are Living, with well-known TV and radio reporter Robyn Spizman. “This is not only a book, it's a mission,” Edie told the SITC crowd. “My forecast is that with the support of corporate and non-profit leaders, outstanding philanthropists, dedicated volunteers, celebrities, ambassadors for change, and innovative activists working to better humanity, Do You Giving While You Are Living will become a movement.”

The goal of the book, which hit the Business Week bestseller list weeks after it was published in November 2008, is to encourage people to seek out a personal approach to their own giving — and truly understand why it is important to give now. That process is one Edie began decades ago after watching her entrepreneurial parents who helped build the retail franchise Casual Corner in Atlanta, GA. “I knew it was important to be a leader, and took that commitment seriously when I became the president of my high school class, the president of my youth organization, and the president of my school,” Edie said. “In fact, I took it so seriously my parents took me to see a psychiatrist. He talked to me about moderation, but I knew I was here to accomplish something.”

Edie studied political science at Duke University where, for the first time, she encountered prejudice. “I am Jewish and when I got to college I wanted to be in a ‘popular’ sorority and not a Jewish one,” she admitted. “The one I liked had a charter saying it could not admit Jews. It hit me hard, but taught me an important lesson that I’d use in the years to come.”

She went on to volunteer for the Peace Corps, befriended Walter Cronkite (who told her to only do things she can give 100%, and ultimately launched several companies and organizations including a successful PR agency that she sold in 2007. That year, Edie was named as one of the Top 50 Pioneers in Diversity by Profiles in Diversity Journal and — along with Oprah Winfrey, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — was named one of America's Top Diversity Advocates by She is a founding member of the Committee of 200 and is in The Enterprising Women Hall of Fame.

“The one thing I have learned in my life is that you have to keep changing,” she concluded. “Get into things where you can be unique and then go for it. Walk the walk, and as Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’”

By Hope Katz Gibbs, founder, Inkandescent Public Relations and Success in the City's Director of Public Relations

Monday, March 2, 2009

March 2, 2009 — NPR President Vivian Schiller speaks at National Press Club

With only eight weeks under her belt as the head of one of the 39-year-old media organization, Vivian Schiller, the new president and CEO of National Public Radio, is to many an ideal choice to take NPR into the digital age. Since May 2006, she served as senior vice president and general manager of Prior to that, she was the senior vice president and general manager of the Discovery Times Channel, and before that senior vice president of CNN Productions.

As the head of NPR, Schiller - who took the helm on January 5 - will oversee all network operations, including partnerships with 800-plus member stations reaching more than 26 million listeners every week. It's a job the woman that Schiller, whose documentary and series productions have won multiple honors, including two Peabody Awards, two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards and five Emmys, says she relishes.

"I have always worked for companies with a strong public mission, but NPR is the first company I've worked for that is not beholden to financial stakeholders," Schiller told the audience at the National Press Club on March 2. "It's not lost on me that both groups can learn from each other."

She went on to outline five lessons she believes NPR can learn from its commercial cousins:

1. More bottom-line thinking about return on investment
2. A sense of urgency — which will help it stay nimble in times of economic flux
3. A focus on what the audience truly wants and needs from NPR programs
4. Greater diversity of listeners and expand range of programming content so that it appeals to Generation Y and African-American customers
5. Shout from the hilltops about accomplishments and offerings. "It's not ego, it is good business," believes Schiller, who has come to embrace the title that MarketWatch Media Columnist Jon Friedman recently gave her: "Carnival-like barker."

Schiller then identified five other lessons she believes newspapers and other for-profit media outlets can learn from NPR:

1. Connection of head and heart. "After word got out that I had accepted this job, I received about 1000 emails from just about everyone I ever knew or worked with and it struck me how similar all the notes were," Schiller shared. "The first sentence offered congratulations, which I truly appreciated; and in the second sentence everyone consistently told me what NPR meant to them. That is powerful, because it shows me that this organization has the power to reach millions and touch them in a profound way."
2. Develop a strong brand loyalty.
3. Leverage the power of numbers. "All totaled, there are about 8,000 people working in public radio and another 15,000 in public TV," Schiller noted. "That's a large army of 23,000 people who are all motivated, not by money, but by a mission."
4. Study the non-profit financial model (although Schiller admitted adopting this model wouldn't likely save newspapers like the New York Times).
5. Build a national / local distribution network. "This is the secret sauce," she said.

As for the future of NPR, and for public broadcasting in general, Schiller said she believes the industry needs to rethink the business model. She noted that although in the next 18 months more jobs will likely be trimmed at NPR, but long-term and short-term goal is to increase NPR's collaboration with other public outlets, step up NPR's news-gathering efforts - especially in terms of investigative journalism, and become a network that reaches more people on every media platform that they enjoy, from listening on the car radio, to receiving broadcasts on cell phones and iPods.

"I want NPR to become a constellation of news programs that can be accessed in many ways," Schiller concluded. "The people own us anyway, so now is the perfect time to rally the American public and bring them into the conversation about what we report on and how they want to receive it. We need to embrace change."

Hope Katz Gibbs is a freelance writer in Northern Virginia who has been a member of the National Press Club since 2007. For more information visit and also visit the National Press Club's blog, The Wire.
Truly Amazing Women blog,
March 2, 2009