Sunday, September 30, 2012

Build Portfolios and Personal Networks, Communication Advisors Tell Students

     "Any advantage you can have over other people is a great benefit," veteran corporate communicator Keith Lindenburg, chair of the College of Charleston's Department of Communication Advisory Council, told students Friday during a visit to my 9 a.m. multimedia reporting class.
     "Find something you're passionate about and turn it into a career," said fellow council member Mike Touhill, director of public relations for Kiawah Partners, a Lowcountry real estate company that is also developing properties in Ireland and St. Kitts, when speaking to my 10 a.m. multimedia reporting students.
     Both men have plenty of experience to back up their advice. Lindenburg has held high-level corporate communications positions at IBM and Deloitte, as well as executive jobs at major international public relations agencies Weber Shandwick and Brodeur Worldwide. He started out in journalism after earning a bachelor's degree in English from Fairfield University in Connecticut.
     Touhill's career also began in journalism when he was editor of the college newspaper at Virginia Wesleyan College where he would earn a degree in mass communications. Touhill says an internship at a boutique PR agency swayed him to pursue that field. He has since worked at the prestigious Martin Agency in Richmond, Va. (think Geico's caveman and gecko campaigns) then Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in Washington, D.C.
     The PR veterans were on campus for the communication department advisory council's fall meetings, which included roundtable discussions with communication majors, mentor-protege program meetings, and classroom visits.

Keith Lindenburg
Mike Touhill
The advisory council is made up of 45 
professionals from public relations, corporate communications, news and digital media, and other media-related fields.

Lindenburg and Touhill both encouraged students to take advantage of the advisory council's expertise by networking and meeting with them, participating in council events and trips, and being proactive in seeking out their advice and help.

     "Use the advisory council," Touhill said, "It can help you get gainfully employed."
     Both speakers preached the importance of portfolios, saying students have to be able to show potential employers published writing. This can be student newspaper articles, organizational news releases and blog postings. Creative design and promotional materials can be part of the portfolio too, they said.
     Show that you can "flex a lot of different writing muscles," Lindenburg said. He said how social media such as Twitter and personal blogs can highlight "humorous, pithy, to-the-point" writing that can showcase the writer's style, skills and attention to detail. "You can't put things out with errors, you can't constantly make mistakes," he said.
     Touhill also stressed storytelling and content. "Come to me with stuff," he said of the importance of communication job candidates having writing samples.
     My multimedia reporting students are doing news blogs this semester. "Keep up your blogs after graduation," Touhill said. "Write about what interests you."
     Many companies now scour the social media history of job applicants. There are even agencies that specialize in doing this for employers. So it's essential to be smart about social media practices, both men said. Incriminating photographs showing questionable behavior, offhand remarks that may seem innocent can come across as racist, sexist or immature and unprofessional- all negatives that can lead to job candidates being dismissed.
     "There's so much good talent out there, it's so competitive," Lindenburg said. "Social media, that's one thing you can control."
     Touhill added: "The only thing you have in the world is your brand. Don't do anything that will make you look like a knucklehead so we can't hire you. Do it smartly."
     In today's professional world, Linkedin is the No. 1 social media site. Lindenburg advised students to make their Linked in sites as complete as possible because some companies look first at candidates who have 100 percent "profile completeness."  Linkedin shows a bar at the top of each person's home page showing that percentage.
     Both speakers encouraged the communication students to stay in touch with them. CofC communication department leaders have worked hard developing such a prominent advisory council.
     About the advisory council, my final two word suggestion to our students:  USE IT!

I was impressed with Alanna Hamilton who came up to Keith Lindenburg after his talk, shook his hand, introduced herself, thanked him for coming, and chatted for a few minutes with the prominent PR pro.
Ryan Colby also took the initiative for some one-on-one face time with advisory council member Mike Touhill.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Charleston Restaurant Week

Alesia and I are taking advantage of the great prices and dining opportunities offered during Charleston Restaurant Week.  First stop on a rainy (on and off) Friday night was Halls Chop House.
We'd been to Halls once before when it opened a few years ago at 434 King St. The ambiance, decor, food and service are excellent.  Prices are high though with steak and prime ribs dishes ranging from $36 (8 oz. petite cut) up to $85 (34 oz. Long Bone Tomahawk Rib Eye- Got to try that some day-- OK, probably not!)
But that's what makes Restaurant Week so great. At Halls, we enjoyed a three-course meal for $40 each. The appetizer, She-crab Soup, was amazing- the best I've ever had! This photo, along with my other food photos, do not do the meal justice. Pictures were taken with my flashless iPhone camera.
We had a really nice table upstairs in the corner. During Restaurant Week, the entree options are limited for the special price: 8 oz. Petite Filet With Yukon Gold Potatoes and Local Vegetable Medley or Blackened Scottish Salmon With Yukon Gold Potatoes, Local Vegetable Medley and Cucumber Yogurt and Dill Sauce.
We both had the steak and it was fabulous! Quite filling too, after the bread and soup. Dessert is part of the deal too!  I had the Southern Biscuit Strawberry Shortcake.
The shortcake was not short on flavor- delicious!  And Alesia enjoyed her Chocolate Pate.
We also had a very nice wait staff. The main one was a CofC graduate from 2008. She took this picture of us. And was thoughtful enough to turn up the lights so we could actually be seen.
Charleston Restaurant Week runs Sept. 5-16.  Check this website for participating restaurant.  There are something like 140 that are involved with prices ranging from $20 to $40. Click here to see the list.
Next weekend we're hitting High Cotton and maybe Gennaro's during the week!
Make your reservations ASAP because many restaurants are filling up fast.
Bon appetit!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Favorite Places: Folly Beach's Lighthouse Inlet

We're fortunate to have several public access beaches to enjoy in the Charleston area. One of my favorites is a part of Folly Beach many people may not know about. It's in an area long known as The Old Coast Guard Station, but today is offically called Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve.
On Folly Inlet with the Morris Island Lighthouse behind me
You'll find this treasure of a place by going all of the way north on Folly Beach's main road, past the surfers' Wash Out, until the road comes to an end. After parking, to reach the beach, you'll have about a 10 minute walk on the grounds of what used to be a U.S. Coast Guard station. The inlet can also be reach by walking along Folly Beach. The effort is worth it because from this remote vantage point, you have an excellent view of the Morris Island Lighthouse and Morris Island.  Morris Island, which has a very interesting history, remains undeveloped and can only be reached by boat (or air).
These folks also like this spot for a lighthouse photograph 
Built in 1876 to replace a lighthouse that was destroyed during the Civil War, the 161-foot Morris Island Lighthouse used to be on Morris Island but over the decades erosion has put it out to sea. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1962. Click here for more on the lighthouse's history.
The inlet is accessible by foot and bike- cars get no closer than half a mile or so
Folks willing to do a little walking or biking can enjoy a fabulous view of the lighthouse. There are lots of creative photo opportunities too.  A few years ago I ventured to this spot before sunrise to take pictures and video. Check my YouTube posting here to see those images.
Coastal birds like to hang out here too!
Along Folly inlet there's a nice stretch of beach for sunning, running, and biking. But swimming and wading are phohibited due to deadly currents.
Fishing is popular in these waters which are calmer than the nearby ocean.
Charleston County Parks and Recreation and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources now manage this property. Vandalism, graffiti, litter and unauthorized late night parties had been problems here, but much of those issues have been eliminated.
I, for one, appreciate recently added signs like this one that educate visitors about shorebirds they may see here, while also telling people to keep their distance from the birds and their nests.
In the photo above you see the Sullivans Island lighthouse in the background. The Morris Island light is on much more solid ground today due to the efforts of the Save the Light organization, which bought the beacon in 1999. At that point the structure was very unstable, listing and decaying inside and out.
Through Save the Light's impassioned leaders, members and other supporters, the lighthouse has been stablized and is on its way to further rehabilitation and restoration, perhaps even getting a fresh coat of paint one day.
I have long been an admirer of lighthouses and am a proud member of Save the Light. In 2008 I produced this short video about the restoration project, which happily has met all objectives to date, with more improvements coming in the years ahead. But much more fundraising is needed. Contact Save the Light if you'd like to learn more and possibly get involved too!
Another great thing about Folly Beach and "The Edge of America"- Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. It's open daily and worth the extra effort to see if you haven't been yet!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Welcome Back Cougar Nation!

It's so nice to see our campus buzzing and bustling with activity again. But we could have done without all the torrential rains and street flooding on Tuesday of this week! Was that you I saw kayaking in The Market or water skiing up Calhoun Street??? 

Anyway, it was as quiet as a skeleton this summer so it's great to have everyone back!