Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Tips for Working Mamas on the Road

I’m sitting on a plane. This is my 23rd flight of the year and I’ve logged in 22,700+ sky miles. While I love my job and traveling for it, I’m a mom too and there is always some level of guilt associated with being away from my son and husband. I especially feel bad because my husband doesn’t ever travel for work, so he’s always playing single dad, while I’m jet setting.

I know I’m not alone in the juggle and hustle of being a working mom, so I wanted to share some tips on how I parent from afar and stay connected with my family.

  1. FaceTime, Not Just Phone Time

Thank you, sweet baby technology. What would working parents who travel do without you? But seriously. We are so incredibly lucky to live in a time where a video phone call is possible. I can’t imagine traveling as much as I do and not being able to FaceTime with Westley. A FaceTime call is so much more special and it makes me feel like I’m part of his evening routine. I can hear about his day, make silly faces and see him in his PJs before he goes to sleep. He gets to see my face and I get to see his and give the screen kisses. It’s my No. 1 way to stay connected and close to Westley. I also get to see Sam, which is a bonus J

  1. Pics on Pics

This may just be me, but I LOVE a photo. A photo of Westley is worth its weight in gold. I already have thousands of photos of him in my phone (current photo roll count 6,762 and at least 5,000 feature W), which I scroll through on the regular while traveling. During my travels, Sam keeps me pretty up to date with all of Westley’s adventures with action shots, videos, etc. One of my favorite pictures I’ve ever received (a series really) was W eating my baked ziti, stuffing his face with a big ole smile and literally licking the plate. It brought me so much joy to witness him enjoying a meal I made especially for them to have while I was away. So a steady stream of photos and visual updates is a must to keep this working mama happy.

  1. Wake Up Call

No matter the time zone, I always start every day with a morning call with Sam to hear all about how Westley did the night before, his morning, etc. We time it so I call Sam right as he is leaving daycare and on his way to work for a full report. Some times it’s a very early morning, but to me it is the very best way to kick off my day.

  1. Digital Daycare

Westley has a phenomenal group of teachers at his daycare and my little charmer has definitely stolen their hearts. I’ve always made it a point to get to know all of his teachers because let’s be honest, he spends more time with them during the week than he spends at home. I feel very confident leaving him at daycare because the team there truly cares about the kids. So much so, that when they know I travel, they are more cognizant of Westley’s behavior, if he is spending longer hours there or coming in earlier because of my husband’s work schedule, their main priority is keeping W happy…and they succeed. I also keep in touch with his teachers via Facebook Messenger – they send me updates and photos. It’s awesome and makes me feel more connected.

  1. Just Say No

Once becoming a mom, I have set certain rules up for myself to keep my travel in check. Sometimes I fail miserably and have back-to-back travel, but for the most part I try and stay away no more than three nights in a row and try and avoid trips that stack up. I’ve also learned to say no more than I did before having a child. Sometimes a trip is not feasible and will be an issue for my family, so in that case I have to say no. Luckily, I have a great work family with a lot of moms who get it and clients who also are mindful of my work life balance attempt.

  1. Digital Detox

I rarely travel on weekends, so weekends for me are all about family. There is honestly nothing else and no one else I’d rather be with than Sam and Westley. So part of my being present is disconnecting from emails on weekends (I check once a day for a quick skim to ensure no client crisis have occurred). I also try and put my phone away as much as possible, although I still use it for photos and to check social media because it’s something I enjoy. Being present and not spending time checking email makes my weekends feel more free and 100 percent focused on my little family.

As my good friend Heidi Floyd put it, it’s all about the work life integration. And at the end of the day, it’s about making it work for you and your family – whatever that may look like. Would love to hear from you with any other tips!

XO,

Ivette

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The art of customer service: dead or in hiding?

First, my apologies for being MIA for so many months. Between work, wedding planning, the Junior League and being President of the FPRA Capital Chapter, I rarely have time to even think about blogging, let alone actually type a post! Hopefully in mid-August, I will be back on track – posting weekly. I should be refreshed from our Alaskan honeymoon and ready to attack the fall.

However, given all my craziness, I still wanted to take the time to write about the importance and art of customer service. This stems from an awful brunch experience Sunday at a Tallahassee restaurant. It was my second time there. I gave the place the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately I once again left underwhelmed and disappointed.

I’ve never worked in hospitality, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to deal with customers all day, with their diet requests and personalities. However, the concept of being nice and welcoming is not alien to me as I work in PR and deal with clients, media and people all day! I know we all have bad days, people who drive us nuts and times where we are just over it, but unfortunately if you work with people, you must suck it up and be kind. After all, they’re probably not the problem…you’re just projecting.

Case in point, yesterday at brunch I arrived with two other girlfriends and our three little dogs. We sat outside at the restaurant and I went inside to alert someone that we were seated outside – I even offered to bring the menus out myself. After a few minutes, we were “greeted” by an unpleasant server. No hello, how are you or even a smile. She was annoyed that we were there and more so when we asked if we could get some fresh water for the pups. We brushed it off and tried to stay positive…it was our Sunday Funday after all.

We order our brunch items: waffles, huevos rancheros and a Cuban sandwich. Then we wait…and wait…and wait. We have to suggest to our server, who continues ignoring us, that perhaps it would be a good idea to leave a pitcher of water for us since she’s busy inside with her other tables — namely an “8 top.” Meanwhile other tables that had arrived after us were receiving their food and their servers were checking in on them. Hmmm…finally after what felt like hours our food arrives and it’s kinda cold and okay. Nothing to write home about. Our server comes by to check on us and asks how it is…we all say the same thing: “It’s okay. Thank you.” That was not the adjective she was looking for. We told her it was good, not great and that we were a bit disappointed to have waited an hour for the food. She got super upset with us and stormed off. She comes back and declares: “I have clarified with the kitchen and you did not wait an hour, it was 42 minutes.”

Well then, alright. Excuse us, it was nearly 45 minutes then. At this point, our brunch is officially ruined. We speak to a manager who makes excuses about being busy, etc. He offers nothing in return, not even a sincere apology. So, as we paid for our checks and left, we decided they would be less busy now since they’ve lost three customers and their potential business.

The sad part is customer service seems to be a dying art. More and more, I’m experiencing these less than pleasant encounters at restaurants, in stores, and over the phone. I’m not sure why, but it seems everyone is upset, tired, overworked, uninterested or simply rude. I’m not asking for a cheerleader every time or for my food to come out in five minutes. I’m pretty patient, but I do think that if you work with people (and most of us do to some degree), it helps if you start with a smile and try your best to be nice and pleasant.

Email Etiquette: From Hey! to Best

I receive hundreds of emails a week and I’m always surprised at the approach some people take with email communication. From big wigs to students, there is never a shortage of interesting phrases, content and tones.

Perhaps I over think content and messaging because of what I do for a living, but I value people who take the time to read their emails one or twice before hitting send. Email is a powerful communication tool that is taken lightly by many. Since actually writing a letter or card is a dying art (one that I think needs to make a comeback), I approach writing emails the way I would write a letter. I always include a greeting and am formal and polite in my writing. Although email is lightning fast, that doesn’t mean your message should be reflective of the speed in which it was sent.

Here are my email faux pas with some suggested etiquette:

  • The casual greeting – Unless you’re emailing your BFF or mom, consider a greeting that fits the situation. Hey, what’s up, how’s it going and yo are INNAPPRORIATE at best. Even if you and your client are close, keep in mind your role. If you work for someone, keep it professional folks. Get back to basics and say good morning, good afternoon or something to that effect. No need to get creative with weird or too friendly greetings. The only thing worse than a weird greeting, is no greeting at all. I find it very rude when I receive an email with one sentence – no hello, how are you – I feel like someone’s barking at me. Make the effort and say hello!
  • The body – An email is not a novel, so I like to get all my facts in and get to the point. With a proper greeting in place and “hope you’re doing well,” I get straight to the meat of the email. This especially rings true in PR when you’re pitching a reporter. No one has time to scroll down and read your life story. If you can’t say it in a paragraph or two, pick up the phone.  Also, check your grammar and spelling before hitting send. Read your email out loud and make sure it makes sense. This is not a text message. No need to include acronyms no one but you and your friends understand. Comprende? FTBOMH, LOL! 

  • The awkward goodbye – This is usually my favorite part of an email in that people really go over the top with their particular ending of choice. I’m not a fan of a fancy ending that always seems disingenuous. My approach is to keep it simple. I say thank you when it’s appropriate or looking forward to hearing from you and then sign my name. That’s it. Here is a list of my personal pet peeve endings (sorry in advance if you’re a fan of any of these!): Best (always reminds me of Richard from Sex and the City), Warm regards (awkward and creepy) , Respectfully yours (too much, every time), With anticipation (too eager and too awkward), Cheers (I like this one for a friendly email, but if you don’t know the person it makes you sound like a wanabe Brit), Adios/Au revoir/Ciao/Namaste (Unless you speak the language and the recipient does too, the foreign goodbye is cheesy)

  • Ignoration nation – The only thing I dislike more than a poorly written email is no email at all. I make it a point to answer email ASAP! I check my inbox as much as I can and try to respond immediately. No one likes to be ignored. It’s also obnoxious to receive an email response after a deadline or an issue is resolved. Thanks for nothing! Timing is everything and it’s best to be early.

  • Phone call, please! – It has happened to the best of us. You write an email, saying something one way and someone else takes it in a completely unintended way. When it comes to sensitive subjects, don’t be lazy and pick up the phone. With an email, you can’t guarantee something will not be taken out of context, forwarded to the wrong person or the tone misinterpreted. If it’s important and deserves some attention and dialog, call the person and talk it out. Things can quickly get out of hand on an email chain and people can be offended. Use your words – spoken not written to ensure your point is taken and fully understood.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on email pet peeves and faux pas. I know we all approach it differently, but think about what you’re saying before you hit the send button. After it’s gone, you can’t take it back!

Communicating at Conference: An opportunity to reach your desired audiences

I love public speaking. There’s something exciting about sharing your knowledge and stories with a room full of people, connecting with them, making them laugh, answering questions.

For communication professionals, especially for us agency folks, speaking engagements are an amazing opportunity to reach a large audience and showcase our work and capabilities. I find annual conferences to be a time where everyone in an organization is eager to learn the latest and greatest in industry trends and return to work invigorated with new ideas to implement immediately. Well that’s how I feel every August when I return from the annual Florida Public Relations Association conference.

Because I’m such a fan of FPRA’s annual conference, I’ve looked for opportunities to attend other conferences as a speaker and share PR and communication best practices, case studies, etc. to members of other industries.

This summer, Kidd Group will be presenting at the FMEA-FMPA Annual Conference in Palm Beach. With more than a decade of experience working with utilities across Florida, we will be sharing some of our most successful case studies as well as affordable resources available to utilities to help meet their communication needs. Additionally, we will have the opportunity to hold a smaller breakout session covering media training and social media best practices.

As I start thinking about some of the conference presentations on the horizon for 2011, I’d like to share some tips for presenting:

  • Research and plan ahead – Not all audiences are created equal. Learn about the conference where you’ll be presenting, its audience and what that particular industry has been faced with from challenges to successes. Knowing your audience and the industry will ensure you create a presentation that is relevant and engaging.
  • Create an interactive presentation – There’s nothing worse than a text heavy PowerPoint that mirrors what you’re saying at all times. I don’t like reading presentations word for word. Instead, I like to make my presentations more interactive adding pictures and videos that will spark questions and conversations from the audience and will keep the presentation moving forward. Less is more – consider bullet points instead of full sentences and get the audience participating with stories, videos and other visual examples.
  • Have fun and be yourself! – After all, no one likes a presenter who’s not enjoying his/her own presentation. Keep in mind, conference attendees are spending time away from work to learn new things that will be useful to them and their staff. Make sure you’re providing real life examples and ideas that can be implemented immediately. Be yourself – being comfortable in your shoes goes a long way in connecting with the audience. Keep the audience engaged, ask questions and above all have fun. If you’re having a great time, chances are so is the audience.

Do you have any presentation tips to add? I’d love to know!

Work Family: Building Relationships That Last

In honor of October being National Work and Family month, I thought it would be appropriate to address the idea of a work family. Most of us spend more time at work every week than we do with our loved ones. For better or worse your co-workers are your work family and like every relationship, you have to work at it.

When I joined Kidd Group five months ago, I was hopeful I would have a warm and welcoming work family and that I would one day consider them friends. I must say they did not disappoint. I received flowers from Trish on my first day and was invited to countless lunches by different co-workers my first few weeks on the job. I never felt like the newbie or like I didn’t fit in. It was such a relief.

I’m happy to say my co-workers and I continue to spend quality time every week, from exploring the newest eateries in town to having ice cream sundaes on Friday – there’s never a dull moment. I also love being able to introduce some of them to new events – just this Friday we attended the Greek Food Festival as our lunch adventure of the week! We also make a point to celebrate each person’s birthday with something sweet, whatever their vice, whether cake, cupcakes or ice cream – or a combo.

Part of the company culture is to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. When the 3W studios web team received a Silver W3 award, we celebrated with ice cream floats. When I participated in the 2010 American Lung Association Oxygen Ball earlier this month, I received votes from my co-workers and kudos when I brought home the Judge’s Award.

As if spending time in the office weren’t enough, we’ve been known to spend a few weeknights and weekends together. This is especially fun because we get to bond outside of the workplace and get to know each other’s families, loved ones and pets. We’re working on “bring your dog to work day”…we’ll see if that happens!

Taking the time to get to know each other and spending quality time building our relationships makes us a better, stronger team and it shows in our work product. From spa parties to spending the day on the range, shooting guns and eating BBQ – we make the best of our time together on and off the clock!

What do you think about a work family? What is your experience like?

 

 

Pay It Forward

As I’m gearing up for a business trip out of town, I just said goodbye to the last of my summer interns. As she thanked me for the opportunity to work with me and build her portfolio, I started thinking about the important role we play as mentors to our interns.

I honestly can say that I wouldn’t be at this point in my career today without the support and knowledge I gained from my mentors. From my parents to high school teachers to college internship supervisors to supervisors, friends and colleagues – there are so many people who have shaped me and cheered for me, I couldn’t name them all for fear of leaving someone out.

The lessons you learn from your mentors and from internship experiences and entry level jobs are priceless and they truly make a difference in the professional you become. I have been incredibly lucky and am grateful for the vast network of friends, colleagues and professional peers who challenge me everyday. Now I’m in a position to shape the lives of others and I really believe in the importance of paying it forward.

I’ve had many interns in the last few years and each one has taught me something. I hope I have left them with some valuable lessons. My goal is always to share my knowledge about the industry, helping gain the real-world skills and the confidence that will help them land a job post-graduation. Aside from interns, I also have a mentee who is a PR student at FSU and that has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I was able to help her with her application to the College of Communication and was able to celebrate with her when she was accepted. These experiences make me a better professional and make me appreciate all of the successes I’ve enjoyed and the people who have helped me along the way.

As humans, we should never stop growing and learning and finding people to inspire us. There will always be those who are more successful or have more experience, but wherever you are in your career, think about serving as a mentor or friend to a younger person who may be in school or just starting their career. We’ve all been there and we should never forget it!

Where does your heritage fit in?

I just recently took a survey about Latina Bloggers by @JulieDiazAsper (http://bit.ly/9i9hcR) and the questions got me thinking. It asked if I blogged about being Latina, if it has affected my blogging or the opportunities I have been afforded, etc.

Although this isn’t exactly “My Big Fat Cuban Blog” (maybe I’ll make a change), being Cuban certainly has shaped who I am and my views on life. I’ve learned a lot about communication from my family – from their accent, to learning Spanish (my first language) at home to being in ESOL in kindergarten to officially learn English, to speaking Spanglish and using Spanish at work — my heritage is always present.

Growing up with a family who was a little “Que Pasa USA” has been a blessing. I’ve always been open to other cultures, food, experiences, etc. because of where I come from. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in their early 20s and raised me to understand and appreciate all of the opportunities we have as Americans. This definitely has played a key part in my life and I try to remember their words when I’m whining and complaining about non-issues.

I’m proud to be Cuban-American and I try to fly the flag as much as possible in North Florida. My background has shaped me into the person and communicator I am today and for that I’m eternally grateful. I still get excited when I meet a fellow Hispanic and it’s great to know there are so many of us out there in the blogosphere. Adelante!

Has your heritage, ethnicity, race, or background made a difference in your life?