Trish Skram’s Blog

All things PR, new media and communications! Oh, and a little of my own random thoughts!


Email is becoming the standard communication channel these days. That’s nothing new. Whether you’re a law enforcement officer/worker, marketer, student or online worker, you’re probably already spending a good percentage of your day in front of a computer and using email as your main means of communication, right? But just because you use email, doesn’t mean you’re doing it right, and most importantly, most effectively. If you rely on email to communicate as much as I do, you should ask yourself these 7 questions:

1. Do you limit to one screen or less?
If you answered yes to this question, you’re probably already writing short and succinct emails. That’s good. Whenever you are about to send an email, pause for a second and analyze if you could eliminate unnecessary words, phrases or even complete paragraphs. Most people will begin to scan rather than reading the email if the reader sees words running off the bottom of the screen, potentially missing the key elements of the message. Don’t worry about going straight to the point. In fact, that’s what you should do. Most people won’t be offended because you removed the “small talk.”

2. Do you write in bullets or sentences when there’s a lot to cover?
If you must write a long email (for whatever reason) you should use bullets. Online usability tests show that when people read messages off the computer screen, they find it easier to read and RETAIN the information if it’s broken down into bullet points, rather then long paragraphs.

3. Do you give the “meat and potatoes” in the subject line?
This one is so important because if you don’t craft the message of your subject line carefully, you won’t need too much in the body of the email. Here’s a good formula I follow for the subject line: subject + active verb + object. And try to be as specific as you can. For example, “Cancelled” is a bad subject line; “April mkg. meeting cancelled to May 9” is better.

4. When you send from your iPhone, do you tell people?
Some people think this is self-gloating but I disagree. If you’re a smart phone user, make sure you include a tagline by your signature telling recipients you’re using an electronic device. It will help explain why the message is short, possibly unclear (I cringe—you really should never misspell, but it happens.) If you don’t, your message may come off as rude.

5. Do you re-read and run your spell check?
I hope you said yes. Seems like common sense but most people are in a hurry and forget. It’s very unprofessional. Make it a habit to re-read and spell check every email before you send it. You should always be looking for errors, spelling mistakes, missing information, missing attachments and so on. I’m guilty of this too, folks! I’m no saint. But these mistakes will hurt your credibility. And, well, once you hit “send,” it’s hard to recall the message.

6. Do you ask questions?
I hope you do. Don’t use email as a one-way medium. Just like social media, the true power of email is its interactive capabilities. Managers, directors and supervisors: Do remember, this is a two-way street. If you’re going to encourage interaction with your employees, be sure you take time to answer them. If you don’t, it will set you up for possible reliability failure.

7. Do you organize, archive and store messages?
I made this mistake when I first started as a copywriter. Big mistake. Huge. I didn’t have evidence of a project/deadline and it really cost me my credibility in the long run. Make sure to organize, archive and save important messages. Outlook, Entourage, Gmail, Yahoo, they all have great saving and filing capabilities. If you’re like me, you don’t always have time to read all messages but you know you need to refer back. For example, if you just created an account for an online service like WordPress, you know they will send you a confirmation (of course), containing your user name and password. Archive these messages right way. An alternative to archiving is simply marking the messages as read, so they stay visible in your inbox.

What do you do to effectively communicate using email? Please share below.

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Tired, zonked, drained. All great words to describe how we feel from time-to-time while at work, home or just doing every day things. Lately, I’ve been feeling really drained. Not sure if it is my schedule, stress or my workouts (training for a marathon.) Feeling tired, especially at work, can be a heavy on your life—it drags your workload down, lowers productivity and strengthens stress levels. If you’re a highly active person like me, it’s the worse feeling. However, over the years of living and breathing my profession, I’ve discovered a few great things you can do to get the energy back, quickly. Do remember though, folks, sometimes you just need some rest. Be sure to be mindful of when your body needs sleep and relaxation.

5 quick things you can do to re-energize:

Knock out distractions: Again, this is always good advice—but when you’re tired, it has triple affects. Stay out of your email, don’t log into Facebook and don’t keep taking breaks from the task at hand. It’s so easy to get distracted when you’re not focusing well and it only makes it harder to concentrate. Social media can be a BIG distraction. So is television. Try to stay away from “just checking Facebook” and spending the next hour looking at your cousin’s holiday pics. We’re all guilty of this while at work. So every time your attention wanders, direct it straight back to what you’re supposed to be working on.

Workout: If you’re feeling sleepy, the worst thing to do is to sit down somewhere warm and comfy—you’ll almost certainly nod off. Instead, make sure you move around frequently. Get up and stretch, go for a brisk walk and get your body moving. This is a good idea if you get that mid-afternoon slump: walking around will shake it off.

Take a Shower (or freshen up): Getting into a shower will really wake you up when you’re feeling sluggish. If you’re struggling to even get out of bed, head straight for the shower: as soon as you’re under that running water, you’ll feel considerably awake. If you work from home, a mid-afternoon shower can be a great pick-me-up when you’re tired. If you’re in an office, splashing your face with cold water, or freshening up your makeup can be a good refreshing alternative.

Do the easier stuff: If you’re feeling really tired but you still need to get a project done, try doing more routine tasks: things like replying to emails, filing documents, organizing your desk, market research and so on. Often, your energy will naturally pick back up while you work.

Chat with others. Pick up your cell phone and call a friend or go next door and make small talk with a co-worker. Some of you may consider this tip a distraction, I tend to think it’s a great way to boost creative thinking. If you’re like me, you like to collaborate on a daily basis. We’re communicators, right?

So, what works for you? We all have our remedies. Please share below.

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Multiple studies still show that consumers and journalists are searching for and reading press releases. Thank god! So, optimizing press releases for a specific audience makes it easier to find online and therefore, more of an asset for communicating news and getting traffic to your company or client’s Web site. As we all know, the value of a press release has undergone a few changes over the years. However, press releases provide a lot of content to news search engines and can rank well in Google, Yahoo or Bing. I’ve been doing massive amounts of research for my company. I’m trying to find the best media platform(s) for online newsrooms, PR distribution, list building and monitorization. I’ve also been researching other competitor sites, and local and regional PR/marketing sites to find out how others communicate their news. I’m kinda overloaded with information – so while it’s fresh in my mind, I must reiterate how important online optimization of our news … really is. It only makes sense for marketing and PR people to understand and learn how to make press release writing easier to find through keyword optimization.

Frequently forgotten press release optimization tips:
• Clearly define the goal and target audience of the release. Public relations 101: it’s essential for every press announcement

• Use Google Analytics to find popular keywords. Find target phrases that work with your press release and tag them

• Add new media to the release. Like a photo, video or podcast in addition to the copy

• Use URL tracking tools like tinyURL, or

• Post to your online newsroom

• Write a blog version then include a link to the press release in your online newsroom. Same for Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed or YouTube

• Distribute the release via a wire service

• Create a social media version of the press release. Personally, I like PitchEngine. But that’s up to you. (FYI – they offer a 30 day free trial membership if you want a taste)

• Monitor how the press release ranks online (e.g. social media mentions, clicks and other outcomes via Google Reader or Google Alerts)

It’s important to know that press releases are often picked up that have links embedded into other Web sites and blogs as content. It can result in direct traffic to your site. Remember, compelling content usually attracts more links so make sure headlines and your first sentences are creative and eye-catching.

Other great resources for online newsrooms and keyword optimization:

HOW TO: Set up a free online monitorization system –

Pull PR and newsroom optimization tactics –

How to build a better online newsroom –

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Many times, we get stuck in the same routine. The same song and dance. Same thing, different day. We’re all busy, overworked and probably over-tired so it becomes easier to stick to what’s worked in the past. It gets tough to look outside the box … between clients, meetings, events, research, pitching, email, etc—it’s even hard to find time for anything not work related these days. It’s easy to become so inundated in your routine that you never try to add to it. In fact, if I could give you a dollar for  every time I hear “That’s the way it’s always been done,” or “It’s just easier this way,” I’d be rich!

We all recognize it, right? With all that set aside, why are we so resistant to change? Why do we like routine so much? Why do we make excuses? I’m not saying routine is bad. In fact, routine should be your solid foundation. But you should also be willing to try new things. When it comes to creative thinking (especially if you’re in the advertising, marketing or PR industry) you should live a lifestyle or do a job that inspires you, motivates you or impacts others in a positive way. In my opinion, positive change comes easier that way.

Here’s how I challenge the norm:

If you’re stuck in an idea, open a dictionary, a magazine, newspaper or read a blog. Even if it doesn’t relate to the project.

Take a shower. Don’t think about it. Sometimes the best ideas come when you’re not thinking about them at all.

Don’t watch TV. It’s a destraction. Many of you will disagree. I think it just confuses us.

Bust out some tunes. Not death metal, but something smooth and upbeat.

Do something that you fear or doubt. The overwhelming sense of triump will leave you feeling like you can conquer anything. For me, it keeps the momentum going.

If you can’t focus, do some squats (or a walk would work). Find something that will get your muscles moving and your heart rate up.

Call up an old colleague or mentor. Or get out of your chair and chat with another colleague down the hall and shoot the breeze.

So, I pose to you, are you a change-agent or a routine- performer? Why? What helps you look outside the box at work, in life? All thoughts welcome below.

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February marks such an important month me. As many of you know, February is American Heart Month. Statistics show that cardiovascular disease continues to be the number one killer of both men and women in America. For me, personally, it really hits home. Heart disease is also the number one, most prevalent disease in my family, on both sides. To recognize heart month and my dedication to keeping myself and my loved ones educated about heart disease, I’m going to wear red for the remainder of February and post photos to my Facebook, and Flickr accounts. Wearing red signifies the power we have as women to come together and stop heart disease and stroke.
I’m a BIG supporter of AHA, especially AHA of Rock County, where I serve on its executive leadership planning team. This organization is near and dear to my heart and I hope its mission and vision will generate a healthy change in your life as much as it has mine. My favorite AHA initiative (and also becoming its most recognized accomplishments), is the “Go Red for Women” movement. “Go Red” works to raise awareness about women’s number one killer, heart disease. Real women from all over the country speak up about their heart experiences to help save lives. Their stories always inspire me and I hope you take this opportunity to get informed with the facts and make a positive commitment to your heart health. Join the cause by visiting its Facebook page.


I wear red in honor of my grandfather Alvin Skram, who passed away from sudden cardiac arrest in 1981. I wear red in honor of my uncles, Chuck, Jerry, Roger and Ronny, who are all strong heart survivors. I’m proud of all of you for being proactive about your heart health and maintaining healthy lifestyles. And I will always support the American Heart Association (AHA) for its dedication in keeping our communities educated about heart disease and speaking up about what we can do, today, to help prevent heart disease and stroke.

If heart disease and stroke affects your life, how do you educate the ones you love? OR better yet, how do you maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle? Please share your thoughts below.

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The launch of Apple’s long-awaited tablet computer or iPad created a massive pull of ‘talk’ to the Web yesterday. Within minutes, the top trending topics on Twitter included “iTampon” and iMaxiPad.” Many people are criticizing Apple for its name choice. I, on the other hand, don’t think it’s that big of a deal

The New York Times, citing several women in the PR industry, said the name is making women cringe. STORY HERE

If you look at the banter on Twitter – it’s no wonder people are making this such a big deal.

My thoughts: I think Apple’s marketers have created a few challenges for themselves, yes. But, the fact of the matter is, Apple has been brilliant about focusing on the only brand that matters—its technology and its great products.

The point I want to make here is Apple’s big release yesterday has turned into a joke. I don’t think this ‘buzz’ was exactly what they were looking for. However, it’s what everyone is talking about. Do you think Apple’s communications people are REALLY that upset? After all, it’s creating ‘buzz’ … right? Do you agree? If you’re a woman, are you repulsed? Weigh in below.

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If you’re in public relations and/or media relations, you may have already or will at some point in your career organize a press conference when big news strikes. Hopefully it’s good news but sometimes we’re not so fortunate. When you have something to say that is new or needs to be communicated to your community FAST, it can be enhanced visually and through charismatic and knowledgeable spokespersons-that’s why a press conference is a great public relations tool. Let’s face it, there is no real formula to a successful press conference, but there are a few key points to consider that will help.

Last week, myself along with a few key individuals from within my department hosted, a press conference for my company. Learning of the news just 3 days prior to the event, it was a challenge but we managed to pull it off with ample press coverage and little snags along the way. I’m lucky to work with such amazing professionals. If you’re curious on our outcomes for this particular event, click here.

The most important factor to remember for a press conference or event is for the message(s) of your news to coincide with an issue(s) that may be on the media’s radar (timing). So, I’ve provided a list of questions to ask yourself when deeming if your news is worthy enough of a press conference and why?

Q1: Is this ‘really’ news?
Seems like a silly question, I know. But you’d be surprised how many PR people or management teams think certain things are really news, when in fact it is not. Do your research before you do anything! Talk with key individuals within your company and or client contacts. Find out what makes the news unique and how it compares to its direct competition. Does it enhance the industry, community or direct consumers? Think like a reporter, folks! Don’t just appease your clients. Would you tell a friend? If you’re still having a hard time deeming it as newsworthy – talk with someone who’s not in your direct circle of colleagues or friends. Talk to your spouse, far away relative or chat with your friends in the industry. Would they deem it as news?

Q2: Do I have statistical evidence to present to our audience?
Reporters LOVE statistics. And if you don’t provide numbers, they will ask. If your spokespersons aren’t prepared, you have a big issue on your hands because the messages could be skewed. Be sure to use good audiovisual materials to enhance your information. Charts, graphs, pictures, and other visuals should be large enough to be seen from a distance or provided in the press packets or media kits. They should deliver the point you want to make in effective and attractive ways.

Also, don’t hold a press event without materials. Be sure to put together media kits or public relations writing that includes an agenda, background information on the issue being addressed, brief bios of your panelists or speakers and other materials that support your issue.

Q3: Do I have the right venue?
Make sure the venue is appropriate. Is there parking nearby, many entrances, etc? If inside, a small room is better than a large room. Know how the room is set-up (a podium, sound system, good place to hang a banner). If the event is outside, be sure there is space for people to gather, what is the best angle for visuals? Is there room for cameras? How is the lighting? Audio? Don’t make it hard for reporters and journalists.

Q4: What’s the appropriate time to host an event with this kind of news?
Make sure the location you choose will accommodate the media. Research reporter deadlines and circulation. In my experience, a news conference should be held in the morning or early afternoon so the media have time to develop and edit their stories. Monday through Thursday are considered the best but I’ve found that Friday works too. Always allow extra time with your spokespersons for interviews before and after the conference.

Q5: Do I have enough time to pitch? Will it be picked up?
The way you get the word out to your media lists is very important – we all know that. Announce the conference with a news release, but hold the important information for the event. The invite or press release should be released 3 to 5 days before the event to give the media enough time to schedule a reporter to cover it. However, news isn’t always so convenient. You may only have a day or a few hours so be prepared to work fast. If you do have time, follow up with a phone call the day before.

Q6: If I hold a news conference and no one comes, will I lose face with the spokespersons as well as with my media contacts?
It’s simple. Yes, you can! No one like to be embarrassed or lose credibility, which can be lost fast with both your spokesperson and media contacts if you lack attendance. I’ve held a press event with little attendance, yes … and it was because the news was over communicated prior to the event, making it less newsworthy. Be sure to weigh other news as well. What’s happening in your community? The field? Will it outweigh your news? Ask yourself these questions before hosting and organizing. The last thing you want to do is lose your credibility in the midst of poor planning.

Q7: Are my spokespeople interesting to watch on TV or listen to on the radio?
Feature good speakers who are experts or community leaders. Always ask yourself, “Is this person interesting enough to watch on TV or listen to on the radio?” Before the news event, discuss the agenda with your speakers, explain the questions they might anticipate, and practice the answers they should provide. Develop talking points that communicate your key messages. Make sure that each speaker is addressing a different topic and not repeating information given by another speaker. These points may seem basic, as we’ve learned them and lived them day-to-day, but you’d be surprised what we can lose sight of when things get busy.

Q8: Are my spokespeople prepared? For anything and ANY question?
This is challenging and the most difficult part of a news conference. If you don’t prepare your spokespersons with a list of tough or controversial questions, you could be setting your, your client organization up for failure. Go through a mock Q and A. You may have to switch up your spokespersons in the last minute and that’s OK. The last thing you want to do is turn your positive coverage into a negative.

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Remember, these are a list of the questions that I used in my experiences. So, what would you add? If you have tips to add that have helped you in your job, please share.

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Did you know that one-third of Americans online use social media for health information? And the number is growing. In fact, a recent study shows that there were 90 million health care consumers in 2004, and now there’s 160 million.

This blog idea sprung from a post I read from, “One-Third of Online Americans Use Social Media for Health.” According to new data from Manhattan Research, patients and caregivers are empowering themselves in record numbers when it comes to managing their own health and the health of their families. Great data, right? The Internet is surpassing physicians as the most popular health resource. Wow. If you’re a health care marketer or public relations person, why wouldn’t you get involved?

If used correctly, the right social media tools can ensure your patients, customers, employees and stakeholders extract more brand value. There are three main reasons why my social media team at Mercy Health System decided to get involved in 2008.
•    Brand recognition
•    Stakeholder engagement
•    And well, it’s FREE.

With that said, over the course of 15 months of research, testing and engaging in online conversations for Mercy, I’ve concluded that there are five great tools that every health care PR person should know and use.

Simply stated, blogs are a great way to get timely, relevant and unique information about your organization to a mass audience. Mercy Health System launched its blogs in May 2009. So far, our three blogs are averaging over 500 clicks a month. Our Rock County blog alone has over 900 RSS subscribers. That’s almost as powerful as a costly ad in a local paper! But be careful; don’t talk at your audience on your posts. Remember, a blog is a place to encourage thoughts, ideas and most importantly, share and encourage information. Ask questions, make it personal and post frequently. Don’t use it as a news feed, that’s not what it’s for. Be engaging. Check out if you’re interested in setting up a blog. Note: These hosting sites are free.

There are so many great uses for Twitter. For a health care PR person, it’s been an amazing opportunity to get real-time news, make connections and engage in conversation. For example, journalists, reporters and editors are increasingly getting involved in Twitter. It’s been a great resource for me to build relationships with the media and use as a pitching platform. In June, I used my Twitter account to connect with reporters when we were gearing up for our first live tweeted surgery. Our Twitter page had 1,100 followers before the surgery, and ended up with over 1,400 after the surgery. Media outlets from our area also tuned in to our live “Tweets,” blog posts and Facebook updates and we ended up with over 600,000 media impressions in two days. Many of those connections I wouldn’t have made if it weren’t for Twitter.

Facebook is another wonderful platform to engage in conversation and share timely and relevant information with those who are interested in your organization. Build a fan page, share news articles, post photos from your last community event. Your patients and stakeholders are online. You can provide a comfortable setting for your fans and friends on Facebook to engage in conversation. You can find out a lot about your audience by listening, commenting and monitoring your fans and followers on social media networks.

People love video. Video is powerful because it can capture true emotion. Many people prefer to watch a video than read an article. As health care pros, we have the opportunity to share patient stories and experiences. You can do that with video in such a beautiful way. Most importantly, they are extremely viral. For example, Mayo Clinic had an amazing run on YouTube when Fran and Marlo Cowan (married 62 years) played impromptu piano together in the atrium of the Mayo Clinic. Today, the video has over 5 million hits. Talk about viral marketing, folks!

As mentioned above, your patients and customers are using social media. Hospitals can utilize social channels to answer health care- or illness-related questions or simply provide medical information. We’ve recently dived in to webinar conferencing for various health care topics. So far, a majority of our participants are 65 and older. Again, your patients and customers are online and they are becoming savvier every day.

If you’re in health care marketing and public relations you understand that the word, free, goes a long way. Not one of these tools (excluding our webinar hosting site) mentioned above involves a dollar amount. If you’re like most organizations, you probably pay a company to distribute your news releases. If you’re paying for those services, why wouldn’t you take advantage of a free tool like Twitter and Facebook? Think about it.

If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you set up personal accounts with a majority of these tools. Just dive in and start making connections. You will begin to find out the benefits as you move along.

What online tools have you found worthwhile?

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Posted January 8, 2010

January marks the anniversary (or shall I say, blogiversary) of One year ago, this month, I took the plunge and dove in to the blogesphere, knowing nothing about it and/or where I should go with it. My fellow social media and marketing companion, Ron (who is also my boyfriend), helped me spearhead the process, bringing it to life. It’s somewhat a slow-going process and I’m still looking for better measurement and feedback but it has come a LONG way since January 2009. I thank you, Ron, for your unwavering support and encouragement in the process—if it weren’t for you, I would’ve never taken the leap. Thanks, love!

I also thank my loyal twitter followers, Facebook fans and subscribers for continuing to read my posts. I’m honored to be a part of a community where my ideas are respected, encouraged and most importantly, a place where I can learn and grow from those who know the profession better than I do.

To celebrate, I’ve revamped this site. I’m always up for change and growth―especially when it comes to sharpening my brand. I think the new look provides a better space for you, my readers, because it has a cleaner image, easier navigation and a few new things in store.

As I embark into 2010, I vow to devote my time to 3 new goalswrite more frequently, look for and encourage guest blogging and continue to engage in online conversations and learning from each one of you.

If you’re interested in being a guest blogger, please email me at I’d love to hear from you and share ideas on how to make this site GREAT!

Cheers to 2010!

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Posted December 31, 2009

It’s New Year’s Eve! I love this time of year. It’s a great opportunity to sit back and reflect on the past year or years’ happenings and look at what you did and maybe even what you would do differently in the year ahead. And may I just add … 2009 was a GREAT year! Each year, my boyfriend, Ron, and I take time to gather up our previous year goals and create new ones for the coming year. Then, we sit down, over a glass of wine and talk about where we were and where we want to be, what worked, what didn’t, why a particular goal wasn’t met, where we succeeded. It’s a great exercise to get your mind crunching and move faster and more effectively in all areas of life. It’s been great for us as a couple, too! So, with that said, here are a few highlights for 2009:

• Became part of a rock star dynamic Web 2.0 team at my company to mold and shape our online presence into the comprehensive network it is today. My role as media/PR specialist has essentially become, “PR 2.0.” I’m so very fortunate to work for a company that allows me to explore my passions, develop new challenges and advance in my career.
• Part of an expert panel at a national PR/communications event in Phoenix on social media and health care. My first EVER national appearance– thanks @texasgirl11 and @markraganCEO for providing me with the opportunity.
• Finalist at the 2009 Ragan Recognition Awards in Chicago for “best specialty publication/magazine in May 2009. Shout out to co-worker, Robin, for her mad graphics skills.
• Awarded with three merits from the Wisconsin HealthCare Public Relations and Marketing Society for public relations and social media relations. One being Judges’ Choice for excellent social media measurement and effectiveness. Not a sole effort, folks- I work with an amazing, very intelligent group of people. They all deserve the shout out too!
• Guest speaker at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater public relations/communications department. What an honor to be invited to speak for a professor I had only 3 years ago!


• Ran my first 5K in March, then 8K in May! I’m proud to say I’ve completed over 6 races in 2009. WOOT! Thanks, Amy and Amy (trainer) for pushing me and helping me get to where I am. Now training for a half-marathon in August 2010 – one of my big goals for 2010.
• Made fitness a regular, attainable habit in my daily regimen.

• Went SKYDIVING for the first time ever! Read about my experience HERE.
• Took a fabulous trip to Niagara Falls, Canada with my man, Ron and two if our close friends.
• Traveled to Las Vegas, Chicago, Phoenix and Canada (some work, some personal). Either way, traveling is always a highlight in my book!
• Vamped up my social networks online, including my biggest accomplishment, my personal blog, It’s almost been a year – and I’m proud of what it’s become so far. Special shout out to Ron, for his unfathomable faith in me to be something better. You’re my rock!
• Last but not least, I’ve connected with some of the most creative, knowledgeable communications/PR folks via online– you’re all shining stars.

Besides all that mushy stuff … some of you may be trying to stick to your past New Year’s resolutions still. If they were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? Willpower, stress and time seem to be a big part of why we don’t reach our goals. If you are reading this and thinking, “Wow, that’s SO me…” then the following are a few tips I use to help me make better resolutions to set realistic goals:

• Set up an appropriate environment to support you.
• Don’t expect perfection. Set realistic goals. Choose lifestyle changes you are willing to work on. Don’t just change behaviors to make your family, spouse or children happy.
• Studies show it takes 6 months to change a habit permanently so have patience. It takes time to change old habits.
• Get an accountability partner. Choose friends that will help you get where you want to be. A partner that is positive and supportive of you. Oprah says it best, “Surround yourself with people that will lift you higher.” So true.

So, what are your 2010 resolutions and how do you plan to stick to them?

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