Polina Opelbaum

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    • Member Type(s): Communications Professional
    • Title:Community Services Specialist
    • Organization:ProfNet
    • Area of Expertise:social media, editing, writing
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    Reinvention: The Art of Coming Out on Top

    Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 10:26 AM [Event Recaps]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    Last Friday, New York Women in Communications hosted a one-on-one interview with Jill Abramson conducted by NBC News’ "Weekend Today" anchor Erica Hill. The interview covered Abramson’s departure from the New York Times, as well as how she reinvented herself after her very-public dismissal. Here are her responses from the interview:

    Why do you think there was such an interest after you were fired from the New York Times?

    The ingredients now for a big new story is that it just has to have a controversy of some kind. When I was editor of the New York Times, controversy was often a feature of so much of what we covered. My getting fired had that ingredient of controversy. It also added a lot of pizzazz that I was a woman and the first woman to have this job.

    You say that you'd rather be known as the fired executive editor of the the New York Times vs. the former executive editor of the New York Times. Why?

    It was important for me to show what I was made of and to be an example. Most people do get fired from a job, and I wanted to not make it something you can’t talk about.

    There does come a stigma with being fired -- that somehow you did something wrong, whether you actually did.

    I felt strongly that I hadn’t done anything wrong. If I have devoted my career to anything, it is to telling the truth. When I was called up to be given this news, I was handed a press release that said I had decided to leave. I said that there is just no effing way. I devoted my life to telling the truth. I am being fired and that’s what I am going to say.

    Do you feel like you’re reinventing yourself or are you finding yourself?

    My instinct is more that I am finding myself, mainly because I have worked in an office since I graduated from Harvard since 1976. I love not going into an office! The one thing I worried about is that I would somehow be lonely and miss being in the middle of things in the newsroom -- and, of course, there are aspects of the work that I miss. One thing I don’t miss is going into an office and ­­being handed a schedule everyday where I have a different meetings in 15-minute segments.

    It has been the best to be in charge of myself. I love that. If I want to sit and read something very closely for more than an hour, then I can do that now. Despite the bloody ending, I love the New York Times. I think it’s an irreplaceable institution in Western civilization. If it somehow went away, it could never be built again. I luxuriate in its coverage every day and read it exclusively digitally.

    Why do you read the New York Times digitally?

    When I was managing editor, I started reading it online. To survive, the New York Times has to have a new audience, and the new audience is reading it exclusively online. I thought that’s how I should absorb the news too. Except for that, I read the New York Times on the app.

    When you look at the way you did things when you were in it for so many years, and if you could change some of those things and have a little more time, what would you do?

    My first observation is that I am a much better manager of myself than I was of lots of other people. I don’t think managing people was my strength. I can be impatient and demanding. Demanding is OK, but combined with being impatient -- not a great combo.

    Is there a way to not only have equal pay but make it be a fair compensation for the work that’s being produced? Are those the same things or different?

    They are similar. Equality and fairness are close cousins no matter what arena we’re talking about. In my own personal case, I was just so happy to get the [New York Times] job that I never negotiated my pay.

    Going back to the year 2000, there were maybe five women who came to talk to me about their salaries or to ask for a raise.

    Looking back at the research you have done and thinking about how you have dealt with it in the past, any advice on how to walk in and ask for what you deserve?

    Don’t wait until you have a grievance to bring up, but it should be done calmly. It is part of the deal. It is best to bring it up as a matter of fact and not just because you think you heard you aren’t being treated fairly or equally. If it does become a grievance and an emotional thing, suffering in silence is not my advice.

    We live in a culture of immediacy where we need a constant update. How much do you think that influences the way stories are covered at this point, and how this information is delivered to people?

    It has a huge influence on the media. Anything that adds gasoline to controversy becomes an update. There is this whole trend of headlines and stories that are designed to just be clickbait. They usually have an element of sex, because that is the easiest clickbait. It infects the rest of the media landscape.

    Do you think we are less well-informed because we have this immediate access to all these different information points, whether they are accurate or not?

    Yes, I do. We are bombarded with so much information, but maybe not so much gaining knowledge. That worries me. My advice to be more knowledgeable is to tear yourself away from the Internet and read some books. I think it helps.

    Any advice on taking back your life and achieving that “new you” that you’re hoping to create?

    So much of it depends on your finances. The luxury of thinking about reinvention is just not there for most women. We know that women are the pillars and breadwinners in our society now. I would encourage anyone with a passion to pursue a dream, but it’s tough out there, especially if you’re looking for investors. I think it’s easier for men doing a startup to raise money, whether it’s in Silicon Valley or elsewhere. You have to make sure you have the resources to tough it out.

    Any story you didn’t get to tell as a journalist that you still want to tell?

    Perhaps I am going to be covering the story of a woman getting elected president finally.

    Any other advice on reinvention?

    The one thing about being fired is that the people who got me through it are my sister, my girlfriends, and my daughter. Don’t ever take your close women friends for granted. Those relationships are the best.

    Audience Q&A:

    Can you walk us though the media aftermath of getting fired and how you dealt with the situation?

    I am going to start by confessing something that’s honest, but not necessarily admirable. I was called up to the publisher’s office, and he told me I was fired. After I left the building, I got onto the street and said to myself, “What are you feeling?” I realized that I felt relieved. I felt this overwhelming sense of relief. No one was home, so I went for a really long walk in Central Park. I think my sister was traveling. My brother-in-law was home, so I spent a nice afternoon with him.

    It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized that I probably need to talk to a lawyer about a separation with a company that I worked with for a long time. I called an old friend of mine that is a very prominent lawyer and senior executive of a big media company. I told her I was fired and that I probably need a lawyer. She dropped everything and made one call and said, 'This is your guy.' A good woman friend came through for me. I didn’t have a personal lawyer. I never had a lawyer negotiate any of my jobs. That reference served me very well. I really tried as the refrigerator magnet says, “Stay calm and carry on.”

    Where do you think the media is moving?

    I am working on a startup with Steven Brill. Trying to build an entire institution and new newsroom is very difficult. What Steven and I are doing is going back to our roots as narrative storytellers -- deep, deep reporting. Our idea is very simple, which is: Publish one amazing story a month in a space that is longer than a New Yorker article but shorter than a book. When it’s appropriate to make these stories multimedia, the multimedia will deepen the storytelling. It will be subscription-based.

    If you were to ask me what the most influential media institution is right now, I would say Facebook. There are a lot of new institutions that are exciting. I think Vice Media is doing a lot of quality, narrative journalism. I have spent a lot of time looking at their longer videos, some of which are amazing, but along with the good you get stupid s**t. The same is true with BuzzFeed. They do some great journalism. Ben Smith breaks a lot of important news, but there are cute, corgi butts along with the news. These are institutions that are achieving success with a new formula.

    I have worked at the most amazing news institutions that I think exist. I worked at Time magazine, NBC News, Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. I have immense respect for the great institutions of the media, but I am not out to rebuild any of them. I want to devote the time I have left to reporting and telling stories -- some of which I write myself, and some of which are created by young journalists and some of the great legendary names.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us atprofnet@profnet.com. 

    10 Career Tips From Marie Claire's Editor-in-Chief

    Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 2:36 PM [Event Recaps]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    On Nov. 22, New York Women in Communications Foundation hosted their annual Student Communications Career Conference. The conference consisted of various panels pertaining to the communications field. I had the pleasure of attending three of those panels as well as a luncheon keynote given by Marie Claire’s editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider.

    If you missed any of the panel recaps, you can read them here:

    PR, Advertising & Marketing

    Breaking Into Fashion & Beauty

    How to Build Your Personal Brand

    During the luncheon keynote, Fulenwider provided a top 10 list of things she has learned during her career. They are:

    1) Put in your time and do the hard work.

    2) You have to show up. It’s about creating your own luck. You need to show up and see what happens.

    3) You need to throw yourself into whatever you're doing and work hard. On the weekends, turn it off and do something you like.

    4) Work doesn’t feel like work when you enjoy what you're doing. You’re going to work for a long time, so don’t be bored.

    5) Seek new experiences. Do things to keep your curiosity going. Curiosity is the opposite of complacency. Complacency is the killer of good ideas.

    6) Remain useful in the most positive way.

    7) Make people notice you. You have to point out what you've accomplished. Your hard work deserves recognition. You need to be right and brave. The times I have been most bold are the times I have been the most successful.

    8) Stick with it. There are many variables in your life, so it’s crucial you hold onto something for yourself. Work can do this. Work is going to forge your life and expose you to new people and different lives.

    9) Work helps you with financial independence, which is empowering. The odds are you will live long and never know what will happen, and financial freedom can really help you.

    10) Do the things you're afraid off. Don’t ever let the reason for you not to do something be fear. You have to intellectually dismiss fear.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    How to Build Your Personal Brand

    Monday, December 8, 2014, 4:16 PM [Event Recaps]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    On Nov. 22, New York Women in Communications Foundation hosted their annual Student Communications Career Conference. The conference consisted of various panels pertaining to the communications field. I had the pleasure of attending three of those panels. If you missed the last two panel recaps, you can read them here:

    PR, Advertisting and Marketing

    Breaking Into Fashion and Beauty

    The third panel was called Building Your Personal Brand. The panelists included:

    • Nicole Ryan (moderator), co-host of VH1's Morning Buzz and host of SiriusXM Morning Mash Up;
    • Amy Cao, curator of FiftyThree Inc. and creator and host of Stupidly Simple Snacks;
    • Kimmie Smith, founder of Accessory Expert;
    • Kris Ruby, president/founder of Ruby Media Group; and
    • Aly Walansky, freelance lifestyle journalist.

    Is attending events an important part of networking?

    Ryan: Networking has been one of my saving graces. It’s one of the main things that has helped me do what I do. My manager dragged me to a red carpet event that I didn’t want to go to and that’s how I landed the job at VH1, from the people I met there. If you have no one to go with you to an event, still go and meet people. It is so important.

    Walansky: There are about half a dozen media events every night and sometimes you don’t feel like going, because you're exhausted. I have definitely gotten a lot of assignments from people I have met at events.

    Smith: One of my favorite photographers that I love working with came from a referral from a really good friend. There is also an organic thing that happens when you aren’t actively networking.

    Cao: You don’t only meet people at parties or events, but you can also meet people on airplanes and trains. You strike up conversations and meet people who may be able to help you. I tell my team that you should always tell people what you want and aspire to. People might remember you for later -- even if they may not know of a current job opening. Don’t be afraid to express your wishes for yourself, because people do want to help you.

    Ruby: I think you have to walk through the fear when networking with people. You should also think about how you can be of service to that person. Ask that person questions about themselves rather than thinking what you can get out of it.

    What is the best professional advice you have ever been given? 

    Ryan: The first rule in radio is to be liked. Just be nice to everyone. Everyone thinks that when you are building something you have to be a jerk. You need to get people to like you, so they want to work with you.

    In radio they would have a girl on the show to just fill in that chair. When I first started doing the show, they were looking for a girl to do that, but I wanted to break and change that. I didn’t just want to be someone to laugh at the jokes, but I wanted to make the jokes. I wanted to be the one to come up with some great topics and stories. 

    Walansky: You don’t necessarily even have to attend an event, but if you see someone’s work that you like, follow them on Twitter. They may follow you back, and now that’s a connection you made.

    Smith: You need to check in with yourself and not inundate yourself with things that aren't about your personal brand. I personally like to do a little short-term and long-term goal to make sure I am where I am supposed to be. 

    Ruby: Turn every "no" into a "yes." When you work in PR, you deal with rejection all the time. You really need to make sure to push things forward. 

    Cao: Surround yourself with people who inspire you and make you want to do your job better. I rather hang out with people who inspire me and build relationships with them then spend a lot of a time with a lot of people who aren’t as inspiring.

    As women, has it been challenging doing what you’re doing?

    Walansky: I started my blog eight years ago when people didn’t even know what a blog was. Most people think that having a different schedule as a freelancer means being unemployed. It is really hard for some people to understand that you may work different hours, and it takes a while for people to respect what you’re doing. It is really a journey.

    Cao: I work in technology and startups, which is a mostly male-dominated world. There are many steps being taken by women within and outside that world to empower women to go into engineering and math. It is important for women to remember they are not alone, because we are all in it.

    Ruby: I work with many male corporate executives, and I feel pretty lucky that I have been treated as an equal. There will be things that are said that will make you feel uncomfortable and you may not like, but you really have to think about the situation. You really need to think about whether that person has an issue with you as a woman or are they just saying things in a weird way -- and can you look past it.

    What piece of advice would you give your younger, first starting out self?

    Walansky: I would have gone to networking events in college. When I started freelancing, I knew nothing and no one. 

    Ruby: I would say to be more understanding when you work with other people. For example, I work at a very fast pace and I expect everyone I work with to work at the same pace. I am realizing that this is not going to happen. You need to magnify someone’s strengths versus focusing on their weaknesses. If I could do anything differently, it would have been to take some more management classes.

    Smith: I definitely would have done internships. I didn’t do any when I was college.

    Cao: Get as much as work experience as you can. When I hire people now, there is a big difference between those that have work experience and those that don't. I would always pick the person that has that work and internship experience and has dealt with different personalities in the office, etc.

    What recommendations do you have for prospective employees?

    Ryan: For us, it is important to have a person come in and be a self-starter. We want you to come in with ideas. It is also important to be creative and think outside-the-box.

    Make yourself invaluable. Don’t ever put yourself in a position where someone can do your job better than you. This is why I never like anyone filling in for me, because you want to be the only one that can do that job and do it the best. You also want your boss to feel the same way. There are no problems, but there are only solutions.

    Walansky: I travel a lot, so if I am going to hire interns to go to events for me when I am not in town, they may not be able to text me and will need to handle things themselves. They have to act in a way that represents me, as well as bring back the content that they need to write about it.

    Ruby: Keeping up with the pace of the industry is very important. Many interns are looking for an internship program to be very structured the way school is, but in the real world it is anything but that. You need to make that up on your own, think about where you can add value and bring that to the company. 

    Smith: Crunch time is the most important thing to me, because when things go crazy I need the person to think of how we can fix things and make everything look seamless. If someone freaks out during crunch time and it's debilitating the process, that to me is so glaring, because you have one shot.

    Cao: It is important to have a can-do attitude and be able to turn those “nos” into “yeses.” Not everything is going to go smoothly, but if you can make it smooth for your boss, you are going to be invaluable. This is when you will be rewarded.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    Tips for Breaking Into the Fashion and Beauty Industry

    Friday, December 5, 2014, 2:26 PM [Event Recaps]
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    On Nov. 22, New York Women in Communications Foundation hosted their annual Student Communications Career Conference. The conference consisted of various panels pertaining to the communications field. I had the pleasure of attending three of those panels, which I will post recaps of this week.

    The second panel was called Breaking Into Fashion & Beauty. The panelists included:

    • Stephanie Scott (moderator), CEO and communicator-in-chief of First and Last PR;
    • Jennifer Walsh, founder of The Beauty Bar and Pride & Glory;
    • Marie Griffin, president and owner of Griffin Marketing & PR;
    • Yvonne Lee, brand analyst for Macy’s Merchandising Group; and
    • Lauren Indvik, editor-in-chief of Fashionista.com.

    What tips do you have when preparing for an interview?

    Griffin: Here are my tips: 1) Before your job interview, it is your responsibility to identify what you are really good at. 2) Have some focus about what you want when you go to a job interview. 3) Do your research and know what’s happening in the company. 4) Be early to an interview. 5) Be prepared for how to dress for the interview. If it is a super trendy company, than dress that way. 6) Ask questions during an interview. Write a thank you letter on the elevator on the way down from the interview. I really like the hand-written thank you note.

    Walsh: I like to wear the nail polish or makeup of the brand where I am interviewing. If the interviewer comments on your nail polish color or eye shadow, you can tell them it’s their brand, and this is a great way of introducing yourself. It is also important to highlight what you love to outside of work. For example, talk about if you volunteer or have a hobby.

    Lee: It's important to convey why you love all the leadership roles you take on outside of work and how you are going to apply them to the role you are interviewing for. Learn as much as you can about the job prior to the interview. If the job description is a little vague, learn about the company.

    Indvik: Most of the work we do is online, so many times people end up sending writing clips over email, which is fine. However, when you bring them with you, have them organized and ready to pull out. Also, come with story ideas to an interview. In addition, I want to know that you read industry news and know about certain writers and their point of view.

    How do you establish a long-term relationship with your clients?

    Griffin: On the PR side, when I hear clients who want to sign for three or six months, they are not for me. When I sign a client, we get married. I know this is something for a long period of time. I am all about the deliverable. When you sign up for PR, you are basically signing up to be a professional cheerleader. You really need to believe in that client.

    Do you think people need to pursue an MBA in this field?

    Griffin: Everyone has their own path. Some people are intended to be in school forever. Some people are intended to be in school for 15 minutes.

    Lee: For my company, while we do look at your college background, I am not sure it is as important for post-college. Perhaps for upper management levels, it is necessary to get an MBA. However, if you thrive in school, then go for it. If not, then find another outlet.

    What publications do you suggest following?

    Griffin: I try to read as much as I possibly can when I wake up in the morning. I skim what’s happening in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times and WWD. Those are three things I know I have to be a part of, especially if I am going to be asked to be on air that day. You need to read and listen all the time.

    Lee: I like Refinery29. They cover a lot of fashion but also tie in current news. I also really like Mashable.

    Indvik: Know what new platforms are coming out that are relevant to what you’re publishing or marketing. I use Feedly to keep track of the news. This way I don’t have to open up the NY Times and other publications I follow every day.

    What suggestions do you have for someone look for entry-level positions?

    Griffin: This generation has a million opportunities. There is always an opportunity to keep moving forward. Stay focused on knowing yourself. You are own your project. Get many stick-it notes and put them on walls. Put your strengths on one wall and on the other wall put the things you need to work on. Open up job descriptions and start crafting where you belong in that world -- and based on what interests you.

    Lee: Our college recruiting process is very good. If you see our recruiters at career fairs, then come over and talk to them. Put your best foot forward and be as enthusiastic as they are.

    Indvik: I think it is very easy now to form relationships on social. There were two students who responded to my stories a lot and we followed each other and built an organic relationship that way. When they emailed about an internship or position, I already knew them and had a relationship with them.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    Advice for Women in PR, Advertising & Marketing

    Monday, December 1, 2014, 4:02 PM [Event Recaps]
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    On Nov. 22, New York Women in Communications Foundation hosted their annual Student Communications Career Conference. The conference consisted of various panels pertaining to the communications field. I had the pleasure of attending three of those panels, which I will post recaps of this week.

    The first panel was called PR, Advertising & Marketing. The panelists included:

    Here are some highlights from the panel:

    What did you learn the most from your first job?

    Woulard: I learned that when you start out, you are going to do a lot of grunt work. I also learned how to multitask and prioritize.

    Gutmann: After my first job, I realized that the people you spend many hours with are the people you’re surrounded with in the office, and it makes a huge difference if you like each other and are inspired by one another. Wherever you are, make sure you are inspired by what you’re doing.

    Shambo: Become friends with the right people in different departments. I would get out of my seat every two hours or so and go to every department. When they would ask what I needed, I would say, “Nothing, just dropping off a smile.”

    Stergiou: For those of you who don’t know what you want to do, that is completely OK. You need to touch everything, because it will feel right when you touch the thing that you are passionate about. It will feel natural.

    What are your top tips for networking?

    Stergio: You can really influence who you know at any age in your life. Put yourself out there and talk to as many people as you can, and sincerely listen to what they have to say. Also touch back in with people all the time, because you never know when the next great idea, connection, etc., will come from.

    Shambo: When you meet people, you really need to be genuine, because someone will sniff out the BS. Look for an opportunity, but don’t be an opportunist.

    Gutmann: I have often found that my relationships come from conversations that have nothing to do with what I do. Don’t be afraid to share a little bit about yourself and really connect with people on a personal level.

    Woulard: Make time to actually form a relationship with that person. Figure out what that person likes, how they got to where they are right now, etc. You can even invite them out to coffee/lunch. Of course, you want something from that person, and they are happy to give you that career advice, but remember it is a two-way street.

    What advice do you have for those applying for internships and entry-level jobs?

    Gutmann: Write thank you notes -- handwrite them, make them different and unique. I can’t tell you how many thank you notes I have received from a Googled template. Make sure it is genuine and explain why you enjoyed meeting that person. Also make it sincere and personal.

    Shambo: Utilize the resources you already have. Maybe there is a connection that you have that can refer you. Think about creative ways where you can search for job opportunities beyond the usual job boards.

    Stergiou: Really do you research. Look up the person you will meet and come in with ideas and ways to help them.

    Weisman: Some potential candidates for Likeable Media have taken out Facebook ads targeting  employees, saying something like, “I am so-and-so and applied for this position.” It is great because the person took the time to write an ad and market and advertise themselves.

    What’s the best advice you have ever received?

    Shambo: I try to think about all the possible questions that someone can come up with and I answer them in my email, so they come back with a “thank you” versus a thread of questions. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

    Woulard: Don’t underestimate coming in with a great attitude. If you have a great attitude about the small things you are given, it will let your boss know that you can handle taking on something bigger.

    Stergiou: Don’t just take the job that gives you a little bit more money. You really have to think about the big picture. Think about the culture of the company, if you want to be there, if it will get you to where you want to be, etc. You want something that will make you happy and you will love.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.


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