One Idea, One Collaboration: The Voice Heard ‘Round the World

Dr. Deanna Attai, Alicia Staley and Jody Schoger

(L-R): Dr. Deanna Attai, Alicia Staley and Jody Schoger

It’s easy to second guess yourself, to doubt if your idea will work, if anyone will be interested or even care. Sometimes you need a little faith.

I first met Jody in college through a mutual friend. We were all public relations majors at Kent State University. Right away I noticed – and appreciated – her intelligence and refreshing sense of humor. We would see each other on campus, at parties or other events. I never really knew her well, rather, I kept up to date on what was happening in her life through our mutual friend.

After college, Jody and her husband moved a few times, and they finally landed in the Houston area while I remained in Ohio. About a decade ago, we reconnected through LinkedIn. Every once in a while we would share an email or private message to stay in touch. I am so very appreciative of social media, because it allows us to remain current with our network of contacts.

Four years ago, when I knew I was traveling to Houston for business, I contacted Jody to see if we could meet for coffee. We met at the airport a few hours before my plane’s departure. I can honestly say, of all the years I knew Jody, that one conversation was the best we ever shared because we were focused on each other, with no distractions. That’s when she shared with me what she was doing with her life.

As a breast cancer survivor (Jody was in remission when we met for coffee), she began looking at social media as a way to reach other survivors. Through Twitter, Jody connected with Alicia Staley, another breast cancer survivor, who became a collaborator. On July 4, 2011, they hosted their first live tweet chat for breast cancer survivors. That initial tweet chat has grown into a standing weekly chat, helping survivors around the world. Soon, Dr. Deanna Attai, a breast cancer surgeon, would join in on the conversations as co-moderator. The three created a dynamic team, which resulted in The Breast Cancer Social Media (BCSM) community; #BCSM on Twitter. The BCSM community is comprised of patients, caregivers, physicians, researchers, and advocates. While you are celebrating Fourth of July festivities, take a moment to celebrate BCSM’s fifth anniversary on that day!

Here’s the one big idea: To use social media to reach breast cancer survivors with evidence-based education and support. As a public relations professional and gifted writer, Jody began researching and writing articles of interest to women and men who were going through the experiences of surgery, treatment, or remission. Beyond the weekly Tweet chats, BCSM developed into an amazing online community, reminding breast cancer survivors that they were not alone and that their voices were being heard. Jody and her colleagues delivered presentations at medical conferences.

Shortly after we met for that cup of coffee, Jody’s cancer returned. Through it all, she continued to write, post, and share valuable information and anecdotal content about the disease. Her battle with cancer finally ended on May 18. She is now at peace. USA Today contributor Liz Szabo captured Jody’s essence in a beautiful tribute.

What a tremendous gift Jody gave to women and men around the globe. Her legacy of education and support lives on. Because of BCSM, breast cancer survivors receive comprehensive information and the love and support they need to manage the disease. And it all began with one question, one idea, that led to a collaborative, caring online community that is transforming lives.

Jody’s persistent work reminds us of one important message: Don’t ever underestimate the power that you possess…to bring your voice to the world.


Six Ways to Power Up Your LinkedIn Profile

Fourth in a series.

linkedin-Forbes.comYour LinkedIn profile is one of the most powerful ways to present yourself to other professionals using social media. How “powerful” is your profile? Here are six tips to attract people to you.

  1. Complete your profile. A completed profile includes thorough information about your background and career history. In fact, profiles that are 100% completed are 40 times more likely to receive job opportunities through LinkedIn.
  2. Include a current professional photo. A professional photo is not one of you taken at a cocktail event, standing next to a phantom person (whose shoulder and arm remain in the frame). Invest the time to have a studio photo taken with professional lighting. If anything about you has changed, it’s time to have a new photo taken. A current photo gives you a better chance of your profile being viewed (11 times better).
  3. Write a compelling Summary. The Summary provides a quick snapshot of who you are and what you do. Keep your Summary language direct and expressive, not confusing or vague. As the word Summary suggests, don’t write a book. Keep it simple.
  4. Include your skills. Like any good resume, a profile enhances your skills. Once you include your skills, colleagues can endorse you in those areas. Your profile has a better chance of being viewed when skills are included and endorsed.
  5. Update your status regularly. Every time you update your status, your network is informed. This action keeps you top of mind with other professionals.
  6. Update/add information frequently. Over time, your professional life changes and your profile needs to reflect that. Have you changed jobs? Are you serving on a new nonprofit Board? Did you recently receive an achievement award? Have you become certified in a specific skill? When change happens, update your LinkedIn profile.

Here’s a quick task for you: Review your LinkedIn profile with a keen eye. Imagine that you are reading it for the first time. What could you do to “power up” your profile? If you need inspiration, look at the LinkedIn profiles of professionals you admire. You may discover more ways to position yourself as an industry leader.

Seven Ways to Elevate Your Visibility Through LinkedIn

Part Three in a series.

new-linkedinIf you think LinkedIn is a static social media platform, think again. It is your most current resume, business card, and promotional campaign all rolled into one. Its power lies in how frequently you use it. Use LinkedIn to elevate your visibility within your network. Here are seven simple ways to do it:

  1. Publish a post. Each time you open your LinkedIn home page, you are given three options: Update status, Upload a photo, or Publish a post. When you publish a post, you are sharing your knowledge with the world. Make sure the content of your post is relevant, offers helpful information, and includes links to more information on the topic from other sources, if you can.
  2. Add posts often. Rather than publish a post once or twice a year, become known as a thought leader in your area of expertise. The more often you publish valuable content, the more people will read it and follow you. In my case, I post weekly. When you visit my profile page, you will see my three latest posts.
  3. Share industry news and information. The internet is a vast wonderland of information. You just have to know where to look. Professionals turn to proven sources like Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, or The New York Times, to name a few. When you share breaking news, trends and helpful information, you position yourself as an industry leader.
  4. Join LinkedIn groups and participate in discussions. The groups you join are comprised of your industry colleagues. Consider it your brain trust…like-minded professionals who come together to share thoughts, ideas, and opinions.
  5. Recommend others. For people you know and trust, you can provide a written recommendation. When recommending others, your recommendation appears on that person’s LinkedIn page. They may recommend you in return.
  6. Endorse others. Endorsing others is easy to do…it’s a simple click and you’re done. Simply visit your contact’s LinkedIn page, scroll down to Endorsements and click on the skill(s) that you would like to endorse. Also, LinkedIn randomly creates several “auto requests” on your LinkedIn page that allows you to quickly endorse people within your network. Just like recommendations, people whom you endorse may endorse you in return.
  7. Be an active, not passive, LinkedIn user. In conversations with other professionals about LinkedIn, I am surprised by those who don’t use LinkedIn often or don’t know how it works (which is why I am writing this series of brief articles about how to work your LinkedIn network). When you are active within LinkedIn, you can choose to publish, comment, like, update, visit, share, recommend, endorse, or simply drop a line. The more active you are, the more visible you become within your network. People will think of you more often (which is a good thing if you are a perfect candidate for a position, or a good fit for a client who needs your services, or your interests match those of an organization seeking qualified volunteers).

Here’s a quick task for you: Of the seven ideas above, dip your toe in the LinkedIn water. Pick three ideas that you want to complete in the next week. Then do other tasks in the weeks and months ahead. Before you know it, you will become much more visible within your network.

Strategically Connect on LinkedIn

Part Two in a series on LinkedIn.

linkedin_1940x900_34055You are one click away from expanding your network.

There’s an old adage, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” That morphed into “It’s not just who you know. It’s who knows you.” With social media, it’s morphed into “It’s not just who knows you. It’s who you know and who they know and who they know.” And so it goes.

When you meet someone for the first time, you are not just meeting that person; you are potentially gaining access to their entire network. Through social media, like LinkedIn, the possibilities for connection are infinite. Here are four considerations in expanding your base of contacts:

Who are your contacts connected to? Through LinkedIn, you can quickly assess the composition and reach of your contacts’ networks. Invest some time to see how people are connected to each other. It will surprise you to see how many connections you share, and how many you don’t.

Who would you like to meet? Be strategic in identifying who you would like to meet. See if there are people in other people’s networks that you would like to meet.

Ask for introductions. LinkedIn makes it easy to ask your contacts for introductions to specific people in their networks. Let’s say that as an independent contractor, you have decided to look for business prospects in your geographic area. You notice that one of your contacts has several excellent industry contacts within a five-mile radius of your home. Request an introduction from one of your contacts by directly using LinkedIn. You can also introduce connections to each other.

View LinkedIn profiles before meeting people. I know this seems elementary yet so many people still don’t do this. It’s so simple. It takes just a few minutes to search for a person through LinkedIn. Be sure to include the person’s city or company if you know it, especially if the name is a common one. Guaranteed, there are hundreds of people named Bill Smith. Before I meet people for the first time, especially potential clients, I will view their LinkedIn profiles.

Here’s a quick task for you: Ask one contact to introduce you to one person in their network. When you feel more comfortable doing this, ask for more introductions from more of your contacts, and watch your base of contacts grow.

How to Work Your LinkedIn Network

linkedin-logoPart One in a series.

LinkedIn remains the preferred social network of business professionals around the globe, with more than 400 million users worldwide, and more than 110 million users in the U.S. To get the most out of LinkedIn as a professional, you have to work it.

I remember when I received my first LinkedIn invitation from a longtime friend and colleague more than a decade ago. I was skeptical. I asked, “What is this?” “How does it work?” What I didn’t know or understand at the time when I joined LinkedIn was that it would become the power source for networking with other professionals. Once I got started, I set my goal to connect with 500+ professionals. It was easier than I thought. With focus, the goal became a reality.

The first way to work your LinkedIn network is to: Invest time in reviewing “Who’s Who” in your network by asking four important questions:

  1. What skills do your contacts possess? One of the greatest advantages of LinkedIn is that it allows you to examine the people you are connected to and the types of skills they possess. It helps you to understand if your network is well rounded (diverse skills represented) or lopsided (too many connections in one skill area only).
  2. How well do you know your contacts? It helps to know the people you are connected to. This may sound trite. It’s important to know your LinkedIn connections because they occupy a valuable spot within your network. Occasionally invitations will come from people who you don’t know. Qualify the connection if you need to by sending an email. It’s perfectly fine to vet a request from someone you don’t know. Look to see if you have any connections in common. That will help you to decide whether or not to connect with them.
  3. What’s new with your contacts? Because LinkedIn messaging arrives in your email inbox, it’s easy to track when contacts have changed jobs, added new skills or made an announcement. Visit people’s profiles occasionally to see what’s new.
  4. How are you keeping in touch? Every time you open your LinkedIn account, you will see a series of “congratulations” boxes appear, announcing contacts who are celebrating work anniversaries. You have the option to send a message. It’s a great way to keep in touch. When you review your LinkedIn contacts list, ask yourself how you can keep in touch outside of LinkedIn communication. How often do you see that person face-to-face? Are you sending them your articles or blog posts? Is it time to chat by phone or grab a cup of coffee?

What’s the point of being connected with fellow professionals if you are not truly connected?

Announced this week, LinkedIn now offers a LinkedIn Students app that is compatible with iOS and Android. The app helps new graduates find job matches based on their major, locate companies that usually hire from their college, and learn about career choices of recent graduates with similar degrees. If you have college students in your family, suggest the LinkedIn Students app to them. It could help their job search.

Here’s a quick task for you to complete in the next week: Take just 20 minutes this week to visit two LinkedIn profiles within your network. Continue doing this for the next four weeks. At the end of this brief exercise, ask yourself what you have learned about those contacts in your network. It may provide you with some fresh insights on how you are working your LinkedIn network.

Next week: Part Two.

LinkedIn Contacts Require a Closer Look

imagesThere I was, minding my own business on LinkedIn last week, and I got distracted by a pop-up window asking me if I wanted to connect with several people who I knew. One of them, a woman I have known for decades yet haven’t seen for years, was included in the list. I thought how nice it would be to reconnect, so I sent the LinkedIn request. She accepted my invitation within a day. What happened next caught me by surprise.

You see, I sent her a follow-up LinkedIn private message, telling her how glad I was that we were reconnected through LinkedIn and how “easy” it would be for us to get together for coffee or lunch. (I remembered that she and I lived on the same side of town.) Now comes the kicker. Her response was simply how she would love to get together but I may have to wait a while…a few years…because she and her husband were living on their sailboat in Belize. Wow.

I learned a very important lesson: Sometimes we may think we know the people in our LinkedIn network and then we discover we don’t know them at all. It got me thinking. How often do you review your LinkedIn network of contacts? I mean really review who is in your network, where they are, what they are doing, their background, their interests?

When I began my career several decades ago, people often measured your level of influence based on the size of your Rolodex*. Power came with volume. The more contacts, the bigger the Rolodex. The bigger the Rolodex, the greater the influence. Today, that level of influence is measured by the number of LinkedIn contacts, Twitter followers or Facebook friends you have. The landscape has changed.

So when I received this message from my colleague in Belize, I smiled and said to myself, “How cool is this? Here I am, sitting in my home office in Ohio and she’s sitting on her boat halfway around the world and we are connecting through technology.” It just goes to show you, you can connect and reconnect with people in your network at any time, anywhere in the world.

How often do you review your LinkedIn network? Who needs to be included? Who can you reconnect with through a simple email, phone call or text? What’s your plan? Your network awaits you.

*Rolodex (definition): For those of you who are too young to remember, the Rolodex system is a unique way of alphabetically “filing” business contact information (name, title, company, etc.) on individual physical cards placed within a metal holder for easy retrieval. Created in 1956, the word Rolodex comes from combining the words “rolling” and “index.” I’m sure you can still find them in some people’s offices today.

Remembering Mattie Stepanek


Ten years ago this week, America lost a young hero, Mattie Stepanek. His name may not be widely recognized, yet, his poetry and his passion for life touched the hearts of young and old alike. Mattie Stepanek achieved more in his short life – just 13 years – than most do in a lifetime.

I first discovered the poetry of Mattie Stepanek while standing in a bookstore in 2001. A table near the front door was filled with dozens of copies of a featured book entitled Heartsongs. It was the cover’s whimsical design and vibrant colors that captured my attention. I opened to the first page of the book. Greeting me was a photograph of the author, Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, along with his biography. I began reading his heartwarming story. In this book of poetry, I selected and read several poems. As I read his story, I learned that Mattie was born with a rare disease, Dysautonomic Mytichondrial Myopathy, which interrupts the body’s automatic functions, like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and digestion. It also causes muscle weakness.

Mattie began writing poetry at the age of three. From an early age, he accepted his disease, even though he required a ventilator, regular blood transfusions, medicine, therapy, leg braces and eventually a specially designed power wheelchair. As a prolific author of several New York Times best sellers, he appeared on all of the major television networks (yes, he appeared on Oprah), cable and radio stations and was featured in most major print publications.

His message was simple: Love life and love one another. Despite a life-threatening disease, he joyously embraced life and treasured each day. The disease claimed the lives of Mattie’s three older siblings and then in 2004, it claimed his life. He wrote seven books and created several audio recordings. He regarded himself as a peacemaker because he truly cared about the global community.

I keep his poetry books on my bedroom nightstand, ready to be picked up and read any time I need to listen to Mattie’s words of hope, love and joy. To learn more about Mattie’s legacy and the continuing work of his mother, Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D., and the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, visit Be sure to sign the petition by July 17, 2014 to officially create a Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peace Day.

“Peace is possible…it can begin simply over a game of chess and a cup of tea.” Mattie J.T. Stepanek


Make Referrals The Right Way – Part 4

linkedin-icon1Lesson Four: Take advantage of electronic networking groups. The most revolutionary change that came from entering the new Millennium was the introduction of social networking sites. Professional and personal e-networking groups like LinkedIn, Facebook, Meetup and Twitter, to name a few, allow you to “cast your net(work) far and wide.”

This is how social networking sites work: Sign up as a member of the group. Send an email to anyone in your network of contacts who you want to include in your electronic network.  Your invitation is either accepted or rejected. For those individuals who accept, what happens is quite fascinating: Your contacts, who are in different networks, become intricately linked to each other so networks expand and grow. Your professional profile travels far and wide via the Internet. You also have the option to join special interest groups within these e-networking groups based on your background, profession or personal interests, keeping the lines of communication open with your contacts.

For professionals, LinkedIn allows you to introduce and refer people to each other or recommend or endorse individuals within their areas of expertise. When viewing their profile, you can see who they are connected to. If you see someone you want to meet, you can ask your contact to provide an introduction. LinkedIn’s internal messaging system makes it easy to refer people to each other. A Facebook page can either represent a business or a person. Your contacts can choose to “like” your Facebook page, which is a form of endorsement, or “like” a post. For people who prefer to put a face with a name and meet in person, Meetup brings together people online who share specific interests. Events are held offline within geographic areas around the world (either where you live or where you may be traveling). If you live in Cleveland and are visiting London on business, you can check to see if a Meetup event is happening during your stay. Twitter allows you to post short comments (less than 140 words) and also to follow top Thought Leaders and news sources. People can follow you on Twitter and re-tweet your tweets, which is a way of saying “I like the way this person thinks.” To me, that’s a form of endorsement.

As a busy professional, you can use e-networking groups to keep in contact with colleagues and friends, make referrals and expand your network. With a click of the mouse, watch your network grow.