Experience the Thrill of Creative Effort

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” I definitely share a similar perspective, and I love the “thrill of creative effort”! That’s why I’m always trying to inject creativity into all parts of my life: at home and in my work, including the classes I teach each semester at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ.

We start a new semester at Rider today — an opportunity to inject some creativity into the learning process for 14 weeks of fun and learning! I’m teaching COM107 Persuasive Writing for the Media and COM105 Mass Media Communication this semester. I’ve taught COM107 many times before, but each semester I “change it up” to reflect what’s happening in the real world and to help prepare my students for potential careers as writers in the business world.

I’m teaching Mass Media for the first time — and I’ve designed the semester as a TV-inspired,  Survivor-like game. Hopefully, this will keep the creative juices flowing for everyone!

Wish us luck as we embark on 14 weeks of creativity, fun and learning in both of my classes… and I hope you, too, have the opportunity to experience “the thrill of creative effort” in your efforts in the coming weeks, too! Go for it! 😉

Kathy Magrino

Kick-start your writing by considering the P-A-S-T

Purpose. Audience. Style. Tone. (Easy to remember as “P-A-S-T,” an acronym I share with my students…) Whatever you’re writing, by considering these elements, you’ll be able to organize your thoughts and kick-start your writing efforts.

Purpose — Ask yourself, “What are my objectives for writing this piece?” Your answer will help you outline a path to reach your goals and determine your purpose.

Audience — If I could have figured out an acronym that started with an “A,” I definitely would put “A” for “audience” first. In my opinion, knowing your audience — the people you want to reach or connect with through your writing — makes the whole writing process much easier. Pretend you’re talking to this person or these people. In your writing, “talk” directly to your audience, using words like “you” and “your” and other conversational words and phrases, which brings us to the “S” in “PAST”..

Style — To be effective, the style and structure of your writing piece needs to meet your audience’s expectations — or it needs to cleverly attract their attention. At times, a conversational style is appropriate, but sometimes it’s not.

  • If you’re writing a news release to send to journalists and editors, they’ll expect you to structure your news in an “inverted pyramid style,” where the most important news and information appears in your lead paragraphs, followed by the less important information. Also, news releases should be written in the objective third-person (without “you” or “your”…).
  • If you’re writing a page for your website, it’s good to be conversational, but you’ll also want to use a “chunk” style with quick headings and sub-heads and bullet-point information.
  • Sometimes an “unexpected” and creative style or structure will get more attention for your writing. On BusinessWeek.com, the authors of Social Media Will Change Your Business structured the article as a series of blog entries, which the authors were writing about in addition to other social media.

Tone — Determine how formal or informal your writing needs to be, depending on the audience and purpose. This is the “tone” you should use in your writing. If appropriate, don’t be afraid to use a casual, conversational tone, one that “talks” directly to your audience. Also, it’s okay to use technical words and acronyms if you’re sure your audience will understand — but only if your audience will understand what you’re saying!

Consider the “P-A-S-T” and move forward with your ideas and writing efforts. If you have any other considerations that help you kick-start your writing, please share them with us by responding below. Thanks for reading this post. Until next time, take care!

Kathy Magrino

Working Alone or Working in Teams?

We need to be good at doing BOTH: working alone and working in teams. Successful teamwork is based on good communication skills — the ability to effectively express our thoughts, and the ability to interact with others.

Lately, I’ve noticed that some of my students are uncomfortable with teamwork and they resist team-building activities. In one of my classes, several students have either talked to me after class or emailed me about the “issues” they’re having with their teams. In each of these instances, I’ve noticed (and pointed out to them) that the issues are being caused by a lack of communication with their teammates. The solution is simple: better communication, especially via face-to-face interaction.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: Maybe “face-to-face” communication is now becoming a neglected form of communication? Many younger students (approximately 20 years old) don’t want to, or prefer not to, work in teams. Is this a new trend?…

Are we becoming too reliant on texting, postings and emails? Are we creating a society of people who have become too comfortable “hiding behind” their computers and devices? Yes, we need to work independently, but we also need to know how to work with others…What’s happening to us?… And do you agree that face-to-face communication (or at least a phone call where we hear each other’s voice) is becoming a lost art or neglected activity?

I’m curious to hear your ideas about this… Maybe we can team up to brainstorm some solutions? … Or maybe we should Skype — taking advantage of the newest form of face-to-face communication? 😉 Please let me know what you think by posting your comments here. Thanks!

Until next time,


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F is for FAST…

That’s how viewers read the content on your website — and their eyes move in an “F-pattern” across the page. In a research study that I always quote to my students each semester, website-usability guru Jakob Nielsen found, “Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.” The study also revealed, “F is for fast. That’s how users read your precious content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s words in a pattern that’s very different from what you learned in school.”

To see “heatmaps” from the eye-tracking study, go here. This information can help all of us as we write, design and prepare content to be read on computer screens. In this instance, getting the “F” concept is a good thing! 😉

Until next time,

Kathy Magrino

A Presentation is a ‘Precious Opportunity’

Last week, students in one of my classes at Rider University (COM105 Mass Media Communication) completed their first team challenge presentations. Evaluated by their peers, each team entertained and educated their audience (me and their classmates) for up to 10 minutes. Some presentations were entertaining. Some were not. Some were rehearsed, but others were not. The whole experience reminded me of a blog post from Seth Godin last April called “The Hierarchy of Presentations.”

The key takeaways from Seth Godin’s post are:

1. A presentation is a precious opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted.

2. The purpose of a presentation is to change minds — or, in our case, to inform and educate (and to persuade our audience to give us good evaluations and grades).

It’s obvious that some of my students already know what makes a presentation work, and they recognize the value of a presentation opportunity. But, I think it’s a good idea to remind all of us to consider our goals when we’re making presentations — and to make sure we’re communicating and really connecting with our audience in a professional manner. Otherwise, don’t waste your audience’s time.

Until next time, polish up your presentation skills and take care! 😉

Kathy Magrino

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Never Forget Where You Are From…

I am from New Jersey, USA, and in looking at the “big picture” over the past few weeks and planning for the new year, I realized that I often relay information that has a global reach here and on Twitter. Unintentionally, I’ve been overlooking “the locals” — my friends and followers from New Jersey. Well, maybe “overlooking” is too strong of a word to use… what I realized is that I haven’t been offering “targeted” information for many of the people who I’ve connected with from my home state.

So, when an email from Darryl Walker of NJ-based Street Fairs LLC arrived in my inbox this morning, I recognized that it had some helpful information for retailers and small businesses in and around NJ.

Here’s the schedule for 2010 copied directly from the email:


April 18, 2010: Millburn/Short Hills, NJ
April 24, 2010: Tenafly, NJ
April 25, 2010: Tenafly, NJ
April 25, 2010: Summit, NJ
May 2, 2010: Cranford, NJ
May 15, 2010: Woodbridge, NJ
May 16, 2010: Bernardsville, NJ
May 23, 2010: Highland Park, NJ
May 30, 2010: West Orange, NJ
June 6, 2010: Metuchen, NJ
June 12, 2010: Westfield, NJ
June 13, 2010: Fair Lawn, NJ
June 13, 2010: Fanwood, NJ
June 19, 2010: Rahway, NJ
August 28, 2010: Westfield, NJ
September 5, 2010: Nutley, NJ
September 11, 2010: Rahway, NJ
September 12, 2010: Red Bank, NJ
September 19, 2010: Hackettstown, NJ
September 26, 2010: Fanwood, NJ
October 3, 2010: Millburn/Short Hills, NJ
October 10, 2010: Summit, NJ
October 16, 2010: Westfield, NJ
October 17, 2010: Cranford, NJ
October 23, 2010: Tenafly, NJ
October 24, 2010: Tenafly, NJ
October 24, 2010: Fair Lawn, NJ
November 7, 2010: Livingston, NJ

If you’re selling products or services or delivering information to people in NJ, this might be a good way to reach more customers in 2010. Darryl says, “We are expecting record spectator crowds this year… admission is free.” There is a fee to participate in these street fairs, but the fee varies for crafters, artists, retailers, food vendors and non-profit organizations. For more information, call Darryl at 908-654-1400 or visit www.streetfairs.org.

Next time, I’ll probably go back to offering some “global” information. But, for the future, I’ll try to remember to “keep it local” every once in a while. “Never forget where you are from” is good advice. 😉


Kathy Magrino

Reflecting… and looking forward!

I could write a lot of words reflecting on the past year, but I won’t. I want to briefly look back at 2009. I prefer to look ahead and to focus on the future!

What’s the one thing that impacted my year the most in 2009? Professionally and personally, it’s been Twitter. One year ago, I wasn’t acquainted with Twitter. Prior to March 2009, I was hardly involved with any social media. Today, you’ll find me “tweeting” on Twitter several times each week — and I’d like to do it more, but other business, teaching and projects sometimes get in the way.

Twitter has helped me network and connect with some great people over the past nine months. My success and satisfaction with Twitter in 2009 has been amazing — here are some highlights:

  • Twitter helped me find non-profit “clients” for my students and fostered one of the most successful teaching semesters I’ve experienced at Rider University so far.
  • Through Twitter, I’ve connected with one of my favorite writers and mentors, Barbara Winter – @joblessmuse, the author of Making A Living Without A Job. I read the first edition of Barbara’s book in 1994 and decided to start working for myself in 1995.
  • I’m also planning a new venture (a real adventure!) with Alex Blom — @AlexBlom — someone I never would have met if it weren’t for Twitter! Alex is an Australian who is currently studying in Canada. I admire both his energy and his tech know-how. Stay tuned for more info about our plans…

I’m excited about the new year — and the new decade — ahead with Twitter and so much more in my plans! I hope you are looking forward to the new year, too, and I wish you a very happy and successful 2010!


Kathy Magrino

P.S. Follow me on Twitter @kathymagrino.

Is your blog F.I.T.?

I originally posted this fitness checkup for your blog posts in November 2008 and recently “dug up” and shared this information with my students. I think it’s a good time to repeat this information here. (It’s always a good time for a “fitness checkup”!) How “FIT” are your blog posts?

If you’re blogging, here’s a quick “FIT”-ness checkup for your blog posts.

Ask these questions: Is your blog…

F – FOCUSED on your audience?
Write your blog posts in a natural way, with a conversational tone that “talks” directly to your readers.

I – INFORMATIVE and Interesting?
Provide your readers with helpful information and links related to their interests and needs.

Is the information you’re blogging about timely or newsworthy? And, are you writing blog posts on a regular basis so that readers know to expect more helpful information from you each week… or month… or day?

For more detailed information about “Blog Basics,” see Jarad Krywicki’s helpful article in ThomasNet’s online newsletter, The Industrial Marketer.

I guarantee that if you keep your blog “F.I.T.,” you’ll gain more readers and success!

Until next week, happy blogging!

Kathy Magrino

We Love Skype

This past week, my students and I communicated with a few of our clients using Skype. It’s easy to see why Time.com named Skype.com one of the “50 Best Websites 2009.” (By the way, if you haven’t used Skype before, it’s really very easy to use — and video calls are free!)

I think we love Skype because we get to SEE the people we’re communicating with — we get a “visual” to go along with a voice or an email. One of my students said, “It’s great to see a face to put with a name!” She’s right.

With email and the telephone, a device seems to get in the way a bit — the computer, mobile device or phone delivers a message, but we don’t see the person behind the message. Through email, phones and devices, our one-to-one communication is facilitated by the media and its technology, but the “people connection” is impeded.

Skype facilitates our communication AND it lets us see and connect with a real person — a smiling face. We like that — and we love Skype.

Until next time,

Kathy Magrino

Brainstorm and Be Creative!

I shared these six brainstorming tips with my students last week. (They’re creating advertising campaigns for the Jersey Shore, but these tips can be helpful for anyone in business…)

“Brainstorming” encourages us to think creatively or “outside the box” — and in life, in general, it can help us tackle daily challenges. Whether you’re brainstorming alone or in a group, the same basic steps (outlined below) apply. And, remember: There are no restrictions! Brainstorming can be — and should be — FUN!

  1. Review the facts, then consider the facts in new and varied combinations.
  2. Make a list of random words, ideas, phrases — anything that comes to mind — as you’re reviewing the facts and considering the ideas. (Don’t rule anything out! List everything you think of, no matter how “crazy” it may seem.)
  3. Think about your “audience” or the people involved in whatever you’re brainstorming about (for my students, the audience would be the people who are going to read the ad, or hear the radio advertisement or see the tv commercial, etc.). Think about how these people’s lifestyles can/do relate to your ideas — and don’t forget to write down everything that enters your mind… Keep telling yourself that anything is possible!
  4. Find analogies and relationships — you can consider what you’re brainstorming about and think about how it might be used differently, or what it would be like if it were alive, or relate it to a completely different type of item/person/movie/song… whatever.
  5. Continue to develop your ideas by asking key questions: Who?… What?… When?… How?… Where?… Why?…
  6. Don’t be afraid to link together and connect ideas by following your intuition, gut feelings and hunches… and simply continue to be “free” as you brainstorm all the possibilities.

Brainstorming can be a good exercise to develop your problem-solving skills… and you might be surprised by the successful outcome of your brainstorming efforts! Have fun… and good luck!

Until next time,

Kathy Magrino