A few grammar tips

Just some clarification on a few grammar errors I’ve been seeing lately, including one mistake made by a major U.S. newspaper.

immigrate vs. emigrate

One immigrates TO somewhere; one emigrates FROM somewhere

“My grandfather emigrated from Poland”

“My grandfather immigrated to the United States.”


should have, not should of

“I should have brought my umbrella with me”

or as a contraction: “I should’ve brought my umbrella with me.”


more than, not more then

“George is more than likely to show up early.”


A Tribute to the Heroes of D-Day and Their Profound Effect on My Life

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.  My own photo.

My own photo of the American Cemetery in Normandy, France

I stood behind the entanglement of rusted barbed wire as my hair whipped furiously in the strong wind. It was a chilly but sunny day in March 2000. I was at the top of the Pointe du Hoc, the cliff in Normandy, France that made history on D-Day during World War II.

I had always wanted to visit the Normandy beaches on so many of my past trips to France. As a history lover and a proud patriot, I needed to see for myself this hallowed ground where the Allies helped turn the tide of the war. I looked down on this cheery day, amazed at the sheer steepness of the cliff I was on, 100 feet straight down.

On June 6, 1944, the Pointe du Hoc was a German stronghold that was fortified with blockhouses and gun pits which spewed bullets and hellfire, picking off soldier upon soldier as the American troops tried desperately to make their way onto the beachhead that morning. Taking out this battery would prove to be significant to the outcome of the battle that day, and in turn, the entire war.

This was a cliff I wouldn’t want to be forced to scale even on this peaceful day where calmness prevailed and the only sounds I could hear were those of hungry seagulls and the howling sea winds. So, to imagine what it was like to climb on June 6 was almost incomprehensible to me. But, I closed my eyes and envisioned courageous men using all of the limited tools they had with them to scale the jagged rocks as they were continuously pummeled by machine guns and grenades. Their physical and mental faculties were put even further to the test under the sheer chaos and the cacophony of war: the clattering noise of machineguns, exploding mines and missiles, and the helpless screams of the wounded.

I opened my eyes and focused below on one triangular rock formation. I didn’t have a clear view of it because of the barbed wire between the blockhouse and the edge of the cliff. It was then when I had an epiphany in which I realized what real challenges and sacrifice is about. I thought about how once the US Army 2nd Ranger Battalion did the impossible by bravely and doggedly scaling the cliff and reaching the top, they couldn’t even rest. Now they were faced with yet another formidable task: breaking through the entangled barbed wire, past the gunfire and enemy defense lines, in order to clear the gun pits and blockhouses so that the rest of the allied troops could safely set foot on the beach.

At this moment, I felt rather insignificant. What I thought were challenges in my life were really just personal and work trials and tribulations, stupid things like getting angry over slow morning commute, a difficult co-worker or a friend cancelling weekend plans at the last minute. Compared to what these men – and all of the brave men fighting that day – had faced, I felt ashamed of the things that I typically complained about. How trivial these things seemed to me as I gazed out at the English Channel, picturing the largest armada in history.

I told myself that in the future, whenever anything got tough for me – under any circumstance and however often – that I would draw strength knowing that greater and more significant challenges were met here on June 6, 1944 – 70 years ago. If those WWII veterans faced their fears here on this ground, there wasn’t anything I too couldn’t contend with in my own life.

Unfortunately, I had to put that mantra to the test in 2007 when, at the age of 40, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Though weary from the fear of the unknown and dying as well as the unbelievable pain of bone marrow biopsies, a blood clot and 6 months of chemo and radiation, I was determined to fight my own battle as best I could.

Every cancer patient has something inspiring that helps them focus on getting through it – something that makes them strong. For me, it was remembering and honoring all of the brave men of D-Day: young men in the prime of their youth facing the unimaginable. I thought of the fear and anxiety they must have felt every single minute, never knowing when they awakened if that day would be their last.

For some it was. For others, they trudged on reluctantly and saw the end of the war. They came home and got married, started families and new jobs. They contributed to society and made something of their lives. Moreover, they did it without complaining or carrying a chip on their shoulders for their lost youth, pain and suffering. It was their duty, they believed which further demonstrated their great character and subsequently earned them the fitting moniker of “The Greatest Generation.”

Pointe du Hoc

Another of my photos, this view from the top of the Pointe du Hoc

Each year we lose more and more of our World War II veterans and it makes me very, very sad. In fact, most of you who know me aren’t at all surprised when I run up to any older gentleman I see with a WWII Veteran hat or jacket.

I did this just a few weeks ago when I was having dinner with friends. During our meal, I had caught a glimpse of a man at another table wearing a ‘WWII Veteran’ hat. He was old and frail now, a shadow of himself during his prime, during the war. As we ate, I monitored his activity and watched as he got up to leave, grabbing his cane. I politely excused myself and went to him as he slowly moved passed our table.

“Hello Sir,” I said, touching him on the sleeve. He stopped and stared at me, and he seemed confused. I continued, “I see that you are a WWII veteran and I just want to thank you for your service. Thank you so very much.”

He didn’t smile as he looked me squarely in the eye, but simply responded, “You’re Welcome.”  The greatest generation indeed.

So on this commemorative anniversary of D-Day, please remember those brave men and all of our servicemen and women who have protected and served our country through the years, and especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

God Bless America.

5 Pearls of wisdom from my little Italian-American mother

Mom and me - Florence

Mom and me in Florence

This weekend is Mother’s Day in the U.S., so I thought it would only be appropriate to share some of the wisdom and truths from my mom that have profoundly shaped me both personally and professionally. I owe so much to her (and my dad too, of course).

Mom grew up in Cleveland in an Italian neighborhood on the city’s East side. Like many Italian-American moms I know, she is warm, affectionate and extremely loyal. She’s also equally as tough, having weathered many of life’s storms. As with many folks her age, it’s clear that her heritage as well as living during the tail end of the Great Depression and World War II were instrumental in developing her great character.

My mom is the most cheerful person I know. She has always been that way.   She appreciates life and her loved ones, and rarely belies that persona (only in the direst of circumstances). She’s also the most caring and loving individual I have ever met.   While she might tell you she doesn’t have a sense of humor, I think she’s hilariously funny, more lately in her newfound bluntness, which is one of the privileges that comes with age.

Throughout my life – in good times and in bad ones – I’ve always looked to her for guidance and advice. At this point in my life I am ready to admit that yes, my mother is always right. I had some doubt in my youth, sure – but doggone it, when I really examine things; she’s got a ‘being right’ slugging percentage of 3 point something (for you non baseball fans, that’s pretty dang great as 4.0 is perfect).

Some of the following pearls of wisdom from mom continue to resonate with me in every aspect of my life:

1.  Good manners really do make a difference
Of course I’ve mastered those tried and true manners like putting a napkin in my lap and keeping my elbows off the table. My mother always made sure I wrote my thank you notes – as a kid just a few sentences – and that I understood this gesture to be a truly sincere and appreciative way to demonstrate one’s gratitude.   Saying please, thank you and wishing someone to have a nice day have also always stayed with me. Trust me, it makes a big difference.

2.  I can do it.
I don’t believe I have or have ever had a greater champion than my mother. Whether I was starting out with violin lessons, making the varsity softball team or getting national coverage on the Today show for one of my clients.   She’s never wavered, even if she secretly thought I couldn’t do something. I think part of the feeling for me that I can do something is that I really believe my mom thinks there’s nothing I can’t do. Of course it’s not true, but how great is it to have my own Stuart Smalley?

3.  Brush your hair so it doesn’t look stringy
What can I say, I have fine hair and when I wear it long, I can easily look like one of those poor urchins hiding behind the cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Future at the end of A Christmas Carol. Mom’s got my back!

4.  Be financially independent
There was never any doubt when I was young that I would attend college. My parents went for a little while but never finished.   My mother was a stay at home mom, and like other women in her generation, she depended on my father for money. She didn’t want that for me. She always made sure to instill in me strength in myself to be financially self-reliant and independent.   Thanks, Mom!

5.  If you lose something, just ask St. Anthony to help you find it
Saint Anthony (the patron saint of lost things) must really be sick and tired of me losing my keys in my purse.   I find he’s progressed with the times and can even help find lost files on the computer as well. For the most part, he always comes through. Except in the case of my 14th birthday present, a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt shorts which I never received because my mother forgot where she hid them. I am still waiting.

And so it appears that mom does always know best. I love you Mom! Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all the wonderful moms out there!

On Making Your Dream A Reality – Drawing inspiration from my friend Brandon Chrostowski

We all have dreams, don’t we?  I’m not talking about the one where you are back in college and find yourself taking a final exam only to discover in a panic that you actually never attended any classes the entire semester (hmm, wonder if that actually ever happens?).Edwin's

The dreams I’m referring to are the ones that keep us motivated and give us hope.  Keeping one’s dreams in sight can actually help us get through the drudgery of our current but temporary circumstances.  I believe dreams represent us at our best and can help us define who we want to be and what our legacy to society might be.

My friend Brandon Chrostowski’s dream has been in the making for a while.  He has long wanted to combine his extensive culinary experience and expertise with his vision to positively impact those who essentially have been given a second chance in this world.

Brandon’s dream will come to fruition (officially) on November 1st when Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute opens its doors.   Best described in its mission statement, Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute is:

“A unique approach at giving underprivileged and formerly-incarcerated adults a foundation in the hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary for a successful reentry. Edwins’ goals is to enhance the community of Cleveland’s vulnerable neighborhoods by providing its future leaders.”

I’ve been fortunate to see Edwins “hatch” over the past 18 months (although Brandon’s been working on it much longer than that).  Brandon has put together an amazing team of individuals who have contributed – in so many different ways – to make his dream a reality.

BrandonEdwins is going to be great for the Cleveland community.  I hope you will check out Edwins’ website (http://edwinsrestaurant.org/mission/) or take a look at the great article written recently from Joel Crea of The Plain Dealer (http://www.cleveland.com/dining/index.ssf/2013/10/edwins_restaurant_outreach_to.html#incart_river#incart_m-rpt-1).

Then please make it a point to visit Edwins in in the very near future.  Not only will you be supporting the community, you’ll get to enjoy some amazing haute French cuisine that is unmatched in this area. (Compliments of chef de cuisine, Gilbert Brenot).

Never give up on those dreams, and in the meantime, Bon appétit!!

Networking: Game On! 5 tips for building your professional network


Let’s face it, there are very few professions where knowing the right people doesn’t prove advantageous in some way.  Don’t think that employers don’t consider your professional networks when selecting candidates – after all, they may be able to benefit from your relationships within your professional and community networks.  This is particularly true in professions such as public relations where communication and relationship-building are essential for doing your job.  Think of your network as a life-long project that you keep building upon as you move through your career.   Here are some tips to not only build your network but also maintain it so that it works for you:

1.  Be genuine with whom you network – Of course we all know that networking is the best way to gain business or client leads, but keep in mind that most folks can tell if you are only interested in getting their business, or if you might truly want to develop a rich professional relationship over time.  And if it is the former (which it is for most new business and sales executives), don’t come out of the gate of your new relationship chomping at the bit – at least build up to the appropriate time and place to discuss business opportunities.  I’ve observed many former colleagues in charge of new business that turned off potential clients who perceived them (many times correctly) as being disingenuous or too aggressive.  Be patient.

2.  Keep the relationship balanced – remember that being in a relationship – any relationship – is about balance.  People want to feel as if they are receiving as much as they are giving.  Lopsided business relationships where you’re always ‘taking’ (asking for favors, wanting information, etc.) typically leave the person on the other end feeling a bit used.  Remember to give and take.  If someone provides you with some industry statistics you wouldn’t normally be able to obtain, make sure you do something in return such as notifying them of a civic or professional luncheon they might be interested in attending or by passing along a business lead.

3.  Use social media, but use it wisely to develop relationships – Social media – particularly LinkedIn – is a great way to connect with people.  A certain etiquette has developed for LinkedIn and it’s typically considered ‘bad professional form’ to send a connection invitation without sending a message.  This is especially important if you have never met the person you are trying to connect with.   Also, when you meet someone in person, make sure you connect with them within 48 hours and always send a message (e.g., great meeting you, etc.) so that they will remember you.

4.  Get involved – There’s no better way to meet people in your industry or civic leaders and influencers who can impact your business than by joining your industry’s professional association as well as local causes or movements.  If your industry doesn’t have a trade association, then try and volunteer for a local non-profit organization that will have you working and mingling with other like-minded individuals for a common good.   And, just don’t choose any cause – try to make it something you are passionate about.  This way, it won’t seem as much like work and you’ll be more motivated to do a great job that might even get you noticed from board members and possibly lead to a great job opportunity for you within that organization.

5.  Attend local professional events – It’s one thing to join a local chapter of an industry organization, but it’s even better to actually be engaged in it. Whenever possible, make sure you attend key luncheons, banquets or lectures so that you’re in front of the champions in your industry.  It can be pricey to attend everything though many organizations offer a discounted member rate for events.  Also, check and see if your company buys tickets or tables for fundraisers and events.  Often, a company buys a table for client event or charity but has trouble filling the seats.  Let whoever is in charge of doling out the tickets know to notify you if any become available.

One last tip – when networking in person and wearing a name badge, be sure to put it on your right lapel so that when someone extends his or her right hand to shake your right hand, they can easily glance right across at your name and organization.

Happy networking!

5 Things Every Public Relations Grad Should Have

First of all, congratulations to this year’s graduates who have chosen a rewarding and Imageinteresting career path that’s never dull or repetitive, always challenging and demanding, and very often just plain fun!

I’ve interviewed hundreds of PR candidates over the years and have come to know that being prepared with the right resources and assets can make a difference in beating out the competition for that coveted first job.  Who you know is certainly advantageous in this business, but anyone can level the interview playing field by being equipped with seemingly ordinary and uncomplicated attributes, knowledge and details that can make you the clearer choice as a candidate:

1.  An error-free resume

This isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but you’d be surprised at how many resumes we continue to see riddled with typos, grammatical errors, slang and visual inconsistencies.  Always triple spell-check your work or have another pair of eyes review it.   Be sure to also be consistent in your layout:  make sure indentations, columns, bullets, typefaces and fonts match.  We are PR pros and we notice the little things – if your resume is sloppy and lacking attention to detail, we’ll likely draw the conclusion that your work will be as such too.

2.  A suit 

Sorry folks, but even in this day of business casual which I believe has reached new lows in what’s acceptable for office wear, nothing says polished, professional and “I’m ready to take this job seriously” like a suit.  You’re safe with navy, black or gray – solid or striped – and it needn’t be expensive. You’ll need it for interviewing, and once you get that job, for important client meetings and events.   Remember the adage, “Dress for the position you want.”

3.  The latest edition of the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook

Believe it or not, I refer to this book nearly every day.  Heck, I can’t remember that the word ‘window dressing,’ when used as a noun is not hyphenated, but that when used as a verb (window-dress) it is! And, once word gets out that you’ve got an AP Stylebook, you’ll make new friends with all of your colleagues who show up to borrow it!!  In addition, I also recommend having a copy of Fowler’s Modern English Language Usage which I use often as well.

 4.  A knowledge of basic table etiquette

Let’s face it, in the PR world, we OWN business lunches and dinners.  Unless you’re working for the Ritz or Buckingham Palace, you probably won’t need to bother being able to identify a prawn fork from an oyster fork (incidentally, there are at least 13 different types of forks that are used in high society).  However, you should have some basic table manners such as knowing to always put your napkin in your lap immediately upon sitting, how to pass the salt (always with the pepper) and to never text or answer your phone during a business lunch unless it’s completely necessary.  You can find more tips at http://verilymag.com/dining-etiquette-101/

 5.  A Positive, enthusiastic outlook

Trust me, it’s not always the smartest, best-educated candidate who wins the job – it’s the one who shows dedication, enthusiasm, heart and an eagerness to dive in.  Employers don’t expect 22-year olds to know everything, but they typically do want new employees chomping at the bit to apply what they’ve learned thus far, and to supplement it with new on-the-job knowledge and insights they’ll gain from working daily with public relations pros.  I know you have student loans to pay back, but remember that this is the beginning of a wonderful, fulfilling career for you – make the most of it now.  If you chose the right career path, this should come naturally to you.  And, if you aren’t a positive person, then practice with all of the available and immediate resources at your fingertips.

Good luck and much success to all of you!