Speaking and Listening: The Year of Multi-dimensionality

My roles as a freelance writer, marketer and strategist often overlap with my civic responsibilities, my community connections and my ever-growing list of friends. So people don’t know what I do, or necessarily why I do it.

I’m a multidimensional person and my goal this year is to try to embrace that. My personal interests and my work and my commitment to my community all overlap, which means that I learn useful things for my career even when I’m not paying or being paid, and I learn relevant information for my personal life from things that are meant to be professionally focused. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to integrate all of these components.

In the past year, I’ve spoken at these events professionally, as a publicity professional, journalist and career mentor:

July 2018 and 2019 The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership High School Leaders Program: I presented about Building Your Professional Presence, including resume writing, job interviews, career planning and networking.

March 2018 and 2019 The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership Candidate Training Program: I presented about Media Landscape as it related to political campaigns, including media relations and planning, pitching, being interviewed and how to handle different types of media outlets. In addition, I presented on Crisis Communications management.

January 2018 Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance: I shared Getting Positive Press for small business owners, from the my professional experience but also as the editor of The Local Scoop magazine.

These are personal commitments for me, making the world better by talking about things that matter to us:

January-February 2019 Our Whole Lives Co-facilitator for a 7 week discussion group and class for adults 25-55 about adult sexuality.

May 2019 short talk “From the Heart: The Risks of Motherhood”

July 2019 sermon The Courage to Show Up

These are events I’ve attended, with the majority being in my sweet spot of health and civic life:

  • Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Conference: the national health care leader in incorporating empathy and high touch patient experience into high tech health care

  • Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association Summit: discussions about health care trends specific to Virginia and its health care providers

  • Our Whole Lives training: intensive three day training on facilitation and content best practices

  • Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute: annual conference for this funder of innovative, responsive health care research

  • Virginia Library Association Conference: librarians from all over the state share best practices, listen to experts and authors and share tips on advocacy. I’m the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the exceptional Williamsburg Regional Library.

  • Virginia Chamber Economic Summit: business leaders come together to listen to government officials, economists and innovators on what’s next for Virginia

  • Virginia Chamber Healthcare Conference: discussions about health care trends specific to Virginia, mainly from economic and employer perspectives

  • World Health Congress: international conference covering myriad health care topics (my cousin JoEllen was speaking!)

  • MASHSMD Annual Conference: the Mid-Atlantic arm of the American Hospital Association’s Society for Healthcare Strategy, Marketing and Development (I’m on the board.)

  • Network NoVA Women’s Summit: Progressive Virginia Women talking about upcoming 2019 elections, issues such as child care, gerrymandering, voting access and community advocacy…and much more

  • American Evolution: Forum on Representative Democracy: In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first representative government assembly in the New World at Jamestown, this event covered the challenges to representative democracy including technology, nationalism, media, partisanship, apathy and more.

I’m very passionate about health communications, leadership and civic engagement. We should all have a voice in things that matter to us, and accurate information to make decisions about our lives.

If you’d like me to speak at your event or training or attend a conference and report back on it, please let me know.

The Speed of Media in 2019

Well, it’s Friday afternoon in Virginia, and at this time last week, things were a little bumpy but no one saw the cascade of news events ahead. Without discussing the details of the events, let’s look at the interplay between the news media and the subjects of the news, and then the ecosystem around them. Why?

Because news has fundamentally accelerated. If there was a scandal with the governor of any kind 10 years ago, it might have “broken” online but most people would not be aware of it until it was in the morning paper, and that might have a pretty big reach but very few official comments would be filed. If it had been 20 years ago, it would have definitely waiting for the Saturday morning paper and maybe the nightly news, stretching into Monday as reporters and editors waited for confirmation during business hours. 50 years ago, who knows?

The fact is, by Monday of this week, we’d had reactions to reactions, and a deluge of responses that called for action. The news went from breaking Friday late in the day, to calls for resignation by 9 p.m. Saturday morning there was additional news that was confusing. A minority of people suggested waiting to see, but rather than thorough research and confirmed facts, rumors flew through cyberspace. The press conference was live streamed, and scheduled on a Saturday because responding was urgent. Reports from the press conference begat tweets immediately.

With news alerts to our phones, we glean just the barest information — what the headline said, and no more (and maybe not even that if we didn’t read it right.) Many more people get their news not from a primary source, but from a secondary or tertiary source. Part of this is that all the pinging of our phones happens while we are doing other things. Few people tune in for the live stream unless they are very interested, and fewer stay for the whole thing. Conversations online show these gaps in information as people check their news or absorb information at different rates — some people know that other news has hit, while a few are just learning about the first piece.

I am definitively not commenting on the content of Virginia’s week in the spotlight, but I need to say that observing it as a journalist has fascinating. Rather than beat reporters following up with their sources, like they do every day or week, I saw the descent of TV news crews to the Capitol or the front door of the Attorney General’s office. Totally reasonable, but a different style of news gathering all together — the press gaggle pounces on whoever emerges. The response of the subjects is also disheartening, in which they don’t seem to understand the context of the media, who represents the public’s interests. The intensity of the pressure seems to lead to some strange off-the-cuff choices which is not great communication because we don’t know what it really means when it’s done thoughtlessly.

So one week later, we’ve had two press conferences, multiple press release statements, a few press gaggle interviews and a ton of bizarre revelations, conjecture, reactions, positioning and tweets. Is this the new media age, where a week feels like a year? Are we better off for it?