Archive for March, 2009

It’s Friday

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Well, it’s been an interesting week.

Tuesday night’s networking event (all the women) has really unearthed some surprising developments, like a 3rd-party reconnection with a former client and the possibility of helping out a new client a little bit.

I spent Wednesday drowning in more online resources. I am amazed with what is going on in the Internet PR world. I have been asleep and missing the action for years, it seems. Glad to be stepping out now, but it can get overwhelming.

In the real world, I had a great lunch with my former contact at Waterside in St. Pete. She is the community association manager now at Vinoy Place — another beautiful waterfront property — and we had a lot of catching up to do since she’s been in her position only 3 months. A fun and productive use of time, for sure.

Also reconnected with one of my USF professor friends and we are meeting next week to talk about collaborating on a possible research project. I could not be more excited about this — there is a lot of potential here, and we just have to get serious about doing this thing that we have talked about for years.

Last night I did manage to find my way to the Tampa Bay Business Journal mixer, but it was definitely the type of thing that you go to with a pal or a group from the office. They held it at the new Hula Bay Club, which is right on the water and quite magnificent, but it was loud, cramped and maybe a little disjointed. I clung to who I knew, and we did not even attempt to “mix” it up with anyone else, which is OK because I had a nice time anyhow.

Feeling very disenchanted with Twitter and a little mystified on how to get the most out of it. I see a lot of very appealing home pages for folks, but I find navigation of the program to be confusing and slow — and I’m not sure why. It’s bugging me. I’m reading articles about it and I see the potential for multiple goals I have for Heidelberg PR, my clients, and even for my husband’s business, Heidleberg Capital Corp. So, I must learn how to make this work!

Heading out soon for the Oldsmar spring carnival and looking forward to a house party tomorrow with friends — a bitter sweet event as we bid farewell to former Tampa Tribune reporter Mark Guidera, who is off to greener pastures up north.

Also, on a personal note, quite excited at the possibility of some family members moving to Tampa. We have no one here right now, and I will do everything in my power to help make a satisfying and happy life for Clay and Kristy if they decide to make the move. Good luck with your decision-making, guys, as you face this long weekend together. We love you, no matter what you decide!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Networking Event Reviews
February and March, 2009

OK, let’s face it. Heidelberg PR is not immune to the economic downswing. So, before things get too ugly, I decided to get proactive.

First, I added a new service offering to my business – a seminar series that kicks off in a month with “Mastering Public Relations.” I’ve made a lot of progress tapping my professional network to help promote the event, and actually issued the very first Heidelberg PR company news release to the media today. Even though I have done it countless times for clients, it felt odd doing it for my own firm.

Anyhow, that is moving along nicely, including planning for the next two topics: “Successful PR Writing” and “Strategic PR Campaigns.”

Next up, I went a little wild making sure people can find me online. I added the blog, and my web site, http://www.heidelbergpr.com/ is undergoing some optimization upgrades. I twitter and tweet, I’m “linked in” and you can see my smiling mug on Facebook. I signed up for numerous directories to make sure I’m included with all the other local firms when someone goes searching, and I registered for some industry-specific services to strengthen my consulting services. Can I do more here? Oh yes, and I will.

This has all been pretty fun – pursuing a new venture, playing online – but I expected the real fun to be in the networking events I’ve attended thus far. Of course, I treasure my lunches with my colleagues, clients and friends, but I’m talking about events that I’ve either attended with the goal of staying connected with people, or the ones where I went hoping that I’d plant some seeds for future business. So far, it’s a mixed bag.

Now, networking is one of those words that gets loosely thrown around these days, and it can mean just about anything involving a group of people getting together to talk under nearly any circumstances.

Here’s a sampling from my calendar in the last two months. Things that seem purely social can be deceptively productive, and things that should be productive can be total busts, as I have recently experienced. So, before you decide to go “network,” consider your objectives, weigh the results, and determine if you’re going to spend your precious and limited time productively.

Leigh Steinberg Super Bowl Party

My Objectives – support a client partner, support a friend, socialize with other friends, and meet new people

Results – 3 out of 4 objectives met – did not make any significant new contacts even though I worked the media check-in table and interfaced with the Steinberg PR folks for 3 hours and mingled at the party for another 2 hours.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 3.5 – but only because of my previous relationship with the zoo, who hosted the event
Personally: 5 — Had a great time!


Julie & Jim Heidelberg on the “green” carpet at the Leigh Steinberg party

Susan G. Komen “Pink Tie” Gala

My Objectives – Socialize with PR contacts and friends, meet new people

Results – Once again, quite happy with my ability to socialize with people I know, but the only new person I met was the live auction woman who zipped over at high speed to whisk my credit card out of my hand when I got carried away bidding on a Bahamas trip. Note to all event planners – play emotional video and have personal testimonial immediately prior to live auction. Talk about priming the pump … congrats to those folks on a very nice event, too.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 5 – no, I did not meet any new people, but I did have some great follow up with both of the PR contacts I sat with. They are both friends and we share resources, ideas and referrals.
Personally: 5 Had a great time again!

PR Pals – Margie Martin, Julie Heidelberg, Cindy Sharpe

PRSA Networking Mixer
My Objectives – Reconnect with PR contacts and friends, meet new people

Results – Sensing a theme here – did well reconnecting with the few folks that I knew from past years serving in the chapter but failed again to connect with anyone new. There were lots of new faces, but the group seemed to hang in clusters with little attempt to blend us all together.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 3.5 – Once again, the follow up saved me. Unexpectedly, one of my former contacts whom I chatted with that night reached out to me and invited me into his networking group of seasoned PR folks who meet monthly. I had attended a time or two, years ago, but I look forward to checking in out again in May.
Personally: 2 – I enjoyed catching up with those I did talk with, but I didn’t feel quite up for the event that night (had to drive 45 minutes to get there) and I had a hard time making myself get out of the car.

Network of Executive Women Regional Meeting

My Objectives – Support a client, meet new people

Results – Finally!! A breakthrough! While the first two events I listed had some blend of professional relevance and personal enjoyment, I was feeling bummed after the PRSA event where I had high expectations for mingling and outreach. However, I left the NEW event feeling uplifted on a personal and professional level. This is a group of exceptional women from leading local consumer product companies and I really value the opportunity to interact with them. I submitted my membership application at the event, and I thoroughly enjoyed the program. Plus, I met some new people who I certainly hope to talk to again at future NEW events. These are long term possibilities for business cultivation, but I felt I made some headway in initiating a few relationships.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 4.5 – Made contact with my client, and met new people
Personally: 5 – The speaker, Jan Hill, was fabulous and thought-provoking.

Leadership Hillsborough Alumni Hayride

My Objectives – Reconnect with LH contacts and friends; and, as always, meet new people

Results – Hmmm … there were about 10 or 15 productive minutes where I chatted with some like-minded folks on some relevant public relations topics. There were not very many people there whom I did not already know, so meeting new people was a bit limited. Plus, it’s a very social kind of event, but you never know what might happen.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 3.5 – the current board chair attended and I had previously asked her to help me promote my seminar to the LH alumni and current class members. She sent out my marketing materials after the event, so it was good to see her and catch up in person. I greatly appreciate her help.
Personally: 5 – I don’t know what to say, except that this is my kind of event. Had a really fun time.

Women’s Networking Event (that’s the official name but they are looking for a new one)

My Objectives – Support a client and business contact, meet new people

Results – As I knew it would be, this was an official networking event. There was ample mingling time, and then we all had our three minutes to give our branding speech and distribute marketing materials, business cards, etc.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 5 – got to learn about some really unusual businesses as well as share my own firm’s highlights. Also arranged for some follow up with a few people and left with a contact list. All in attendance were encouraged to openly communicate and market to each other.
Personally: 5 – I left satisfied with what occurred and I plan to attend again in May.

Upcoming events:
Tampa Bay Business Journal Mixer
BNI – 3 meetings as a guest

Mastering Public Relations: New Seminar Series

Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Heidelberg PR is launching a new seminar series called Mastering Public Relations.

Who should attend?

Any one who wants to kiss expensive advertising good-bye.

Why should you attend?

Public relations basics can generate greater exposure for your small business, leading to more customers, greater profits and the furthering of your mission.

What will we discuss?

Our interactive seminar, Mastering Public Relations, will

  • identify real news you can use (work with what you’ve got)
  • explain how to gain the interest of reporters (tools & techniques)
  • explore grassroots marketing strategies customized for your company (who do you know)

Join us on
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
9 a.m. – 12 noon
Tampa Bay Business Park, Lake Pointe II
3111 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd, Suite 100
Tampa, FL 33607

Cost is $149 and includes continental breakfast.
RSVP to 813-784-6288 or julie@heidelbergpr.com

Intelligent Office is Smart Choice for Small Businesses

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Here’s a great piece of information for small business owners who might be trying to reduce expenses. I have a contract with this company, and it is perfect for sole practitioners and others who may not need an office all the time, but who definitely need professional services sometimes.

Intelligent Office Offers Solutions for Shrinking Budgets
Small businesses can save thousands without sacrificing professional environment

TAMPA, Fla. (March 3, 2009) – As small business owners pull back on expenses in an attempt to withstand the recession, many wish they paid less to rent office space and maintain their professional image each month.

Intelligent Office, located at 3111 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. near Raymond James Stadium, offers a variety of options to local companies needing daily or occasional office or meeting space, along with other professional services.

“This is a great economic, yet professional solution for companies looking to reduce their overhead,” said Tampa’s Intelligent Office sales coordinator, Karen Gillman.

“Our services flex to fit our clients’ needs,” she said. “Some clients need receptionist services, some want a regular office that is ‘theirs’ to use everyday, and others just need an office or conference room to periodically conduct business meetings.”

Mike Alaiwat, a forensic psychophysiologist, has been a member of Intelligent Office for eight years and uses four office locations throughout the country. He travels a lot and finds the multiple locations and low-commitment agreement of Intelligent Office work well for his circumstances.

“In the last several years, I have moved out of state and back twice, had two children, taken time off from work, worked part-time and full-time, taken summers off, left the country for several months — all while maintaining my Intelligent Office membership with minimal expense or commitment,” Alaiwat said. “Using Intelligent Office helped me maintain my small business through a variety of circumstances.”

Another member, Suzette Alfonso, runs a private law practice. Originally, she operated out of three offices across Hillsborough and Pasco counties but, when she decided to consolidate her business, she turned to Intelligent Office.

Alfonso now operates her business from the Tampa Intelligent Office location. “Using Intelligent Office has allowed me maximum flexibility and economy while continuing to project a professional image,” she said.

“When I came across Intelligent Office in Tampa, I knew I had found the right solution and signed up immediately,” Alfonso said. “I decided to have my phone lines go through Intelligent Office as a centralized way of dealing with my calls. I am very happy with the way that the staff answers my phones. They project a very polite and professional image, which is something I often had problems with when I employed my own staff.”

The standard monthly membership rate at Intelligent Office ranges between $75 – $500 monthly. Executive offices or conference rooms can then be used any time, for any length of time, for an additional hourly fee. Monthly memberships include many services that most businesses are already paying ala’cart to other vendors. These bills can be analyzed, eliminated, and the costs associated can be applied to one membership that encompasses numerous benefits.

In addition to office and meeting space, Intelligent Office provides copy / fax / scanning machines, on-site notary, wireless internet, address and mail services, translation, toll free, long distance, and other telecommunications services, as well as a variety of other office necessities. Clients can use the professional answering service, secure a business mailing address and mail box, and plug into the national network of Intelligent Office locations in major cities across the country.

Clients can also be listed on the main office suite window if they wish, and have their guests greeted by a receptionist. There is also weekend and after-hours access to the office suite if necessary, as well as access to a fully stocked kitchenette.

For more information on Intelligent Office, visit http://www.intelligentoffice.com/ or call the Tampa office at 813-350-7800.

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“Value” at Outback Steakhouse disappoints

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I’m not a restaurant critic, but I do have my share of lunches and dinners in local restaurants.

I was pretty excited to go to the Outback Steakhouse last night since I just read last week about their attempt to redefine themselves during the tough economy. They were losing traction with their customer base and decided to offer 15 meals for under $15. Sounds interesting.

Plus, a little over a year ago, I was part of a PR team invited to present on an Outback RFP for a new PR firm. Without betraying any confidences and mentioning what any consumer today might note, I know that the Outback has tried to reinvent itself through new slogans and an updated decor in the last 12 months. I think, based on last night’s dinner, that maybe they should have just focused on good food and good service instead.

The menu I received was crisp and new, and I did find some great prices for dinner entrees. But, instead of going with one of the super-new deals, I opted to split a porterhouse steak dinner with my husband. At $24.99 (or something quite close to that), it was only $12 a person, right? Sounds great.

We also padded our bill with a kids’ cheeseburger meal, an extra salad, two huge draft beers and two margaritas. Sounds about right.

First margarita — very good. Decided to order another even though I really went there thinking “water = zero calories.” But, a friend was feeling down and having a beer, so I was joining in. I should have stuck with the first drink, but only because the second became one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant.

So, here they are … down economy, trying to woo and retain customers with value prices — you’d think the people who DO come through the door would get treated well, right? I mean, considering tough times and all, customers are really pretty important.

So, back to the drink. It is full, and I mean FULL, of ice. Like, I cannot even get my straw to the bottom of the glass. So, my husband politely points this out and asks the waitress if she can do something about that. I had taken one drink from the glass, but we sort of expected either a brand new drink, or one with less ice and more liquid — like the first one I had. Sounds reasonable.

Instead — you just won’t believe this!!! She brings back my glass. It definitely has less ice in it now. BUT, it is also showing far less liquid in the glass. WHAT? We all take one look at the glass, look at each other, and start laughing out loud. Like, what exactly just happened here? I mean, if I wanted to just take out some ice, I obviously could have done that myself. The point was not about the overage of ice. HELLO! It was about the lack of the expensive drink that was supposed to be filling the glass.

The perception of this transaction was terrible. I felt like I was on Candid Camera. And, then, what did my drink end up tasting like? Total water. Sounds bad — and looks bad too.

So, then, I was tainted. The salad and bread came. Salad good. Bread good. Then the steak came. Looked good at first, but one cut into it revealed it was undercooked and the filet side was a terrible piece of steak — stringy and sinewy and just raw. It was supposed to be medium rare, which I love, but the outside of the entire steak even looked a little pink.

Along w/ the steak was a baked potato — “fully loaded” with one lick of butter, 1/2 a lick of sour cream, one bite of cheese and a handful of green onions. Love the onions, but where was the rest of my stuff? Dry, dry, dry. I asked for more sour cream and butter. Got nothing. Asked again, and finally received a small dish of sour cream topped with a scoop of butter.

So, again, to sum up … bad customer service, bad food, bad experience. Sorry, Outback, but your attempt to bring better “value” to your customers has backfired into what appears to be a cheap attempt to stuff bellies with cheap food — customer be damned, and satisfaction be gone.