Innovation, Inspiration and a Life Well Lived

5 Oct
Steve Jobs, Apple, RIP Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

The impact of  a life can be seen in many ways. It will be measured in what you achieved, what you thought, and what you dreamed. Steve Jobs dreamed big and changed the world and how many in the world live their own dreams. Rest in peace sir and see what you’ve begun…

  DaveWaite via HootSuite

Bought my first Mac SE/30 in 1990. Lots of great machines and devices since. Steve has left quite the legacy.

lulugrimm via Twitter for iPhone

Just heard Steve Jobs died. Incredible sadness, but full of gratitude that he actualized all he did. The world is better because of him. #fb

  joshbecerra via Twitter for iPhone

RIP Steve Jobs…you will always be an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs.

  rribbitz via Facebook

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for the technology that ignites and fuels so many dreams, including mine.

  hdueitt via web

amazing how much of my life is revolved around dreams that Steve Jobs created.

  balemar via TweetDeck

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” #RIPSteveJobs

  MikeBloomberg via Web

Steve Jobs was a genius who will be remembered with Edison and Einstein. His ideas will shape the world for generations

Reflecting, Remembering and Learning

11 Sep

American Flag, September 11, 9/11, AmericaThere will be a ton of posts today talking about the impact of September 11 on our world. I’m going to go a bit off script of this blog and the communications focus today as well though I will note only that the lessons learned about belief, honor, and doing what’s right apply to everyone in whatever you do.

In 2001 we collectively saw the most horrendous moment in many of our lifetimes, especially for those of us that hadn’t lived through Vietnam or World War II. An attack on U.S. soil was something that seemed unimaginable. I, like so many others, began my morning at work before any news of the Towers came in. I heard on the radio first that a plane had crashed into the first tower. I assumed it to be a tragic accident. I went online and looked to find more but sites were overloaded and locked up. Our office turned on a television in a conference room and we began to realize the magnitude of what really happened.

In the days and weeks that followed, our world truly changed forever as we heard stories of immeasurable loss that have stayed with me for a decade now. I can’t imagine the fear of not knowing if a loved one made it out or not. The hurt of so many children who lost their parents in an instant. The feelings of those on the planes and realizing what was happening.

However, today as I look at the events of 9/11 I also see many things that we should honor and remember.

  • Sacrifice- I recall the images of amazing people from FDNY, NYPD, emergency responders and citizens moving toward the Towers while others were trying to get out. Hearing their stories and the story of those on Flight 93 including a Minnesota native, Tom Burnett Jr., who gave their lives to try to prevent that day from being even more deadly all deserve our respect.
  • Belief- There was an unwavering belief from all those noted above and involved that they could make a difference and help. Sometimes the worst and hardest moments in our lives bring out the best in us. On that day, there was no question and no hesitation from people all across our country but just a desire to do whatever they could to help others. There was also a belief that America was worth defending and fighting for.
  • Unity- In an era where politicians can’t wait to take credit for the good and blame the bad on others, Americans came together and ignored our differences and a spirit of unity and teamwork developed and we were all united. An attack on one of us was an attack on all of us and it was a great feeling to see people here in the Midwest and all over supporting our citizens on the East Coast.

After ten years and time to reflect it’s still painful to think of that day and what it meant. My daughter will never know a world without the underlying threat of terrorism and I have to explain why anyone would ever do such a thing. I think of all those who lost family and friends that awful day. I think of many friends and people I love in New York and am so thankful they’re here today but know I can never fully understand the meaning of this day in their lives.

However, I am proud that New York and the United States got back up and rebuilt and we go on. We remember, we hurt, but we also hope for a brighter future and that our children will never know another day like that Tuesday morning where our world changed.

The Slime Gets Everyone Dirty

15 Jun

I was excited recently when I happened to see a link to an article from The Economist on PR. I knew it would obviously be a bit on the sensational side given the title of “Slime-Slinging” that screams link bait but I really love the writing in the publication. The article takes a look at the recent mess that is the Google vs. Facebook debacle and was interesting indeed but I was again irritated by the painting of all PR people as the evil slimy underbelly portion of the “new” media environment.

I think at the core my real problem is that despite the vast majority of PR people operating in an ethical manner it’s seemingly always a fun story to write about the bottom of the barrel. However, if we’re going to get at these issues honestly then let’s really do it.

There are bad PR people who operate very questionably and will sell their ethics

Or maybe they never had ethical standards in the first place. Yes, it’s sad but true and I will concede this but I’ve been working in the communications industry 15 years now and would say that there have only been a handful out of a thousand plus I’ve known who truly missed Morality 101. It’s really unfortunate when things like this happen and chasing a story or the almighty dollar becomes a priority and someone is willing to throw their reputation and career out the window. However, most communications pros understand that all you have at the end of the day is your credibility and integrity. If I am going to work in this industry I must always remain honest, upfront, and seek to provide good counsel to clients, employers, as well as bloggers and journalists. Most of us understand this point.

There are journalists that aren’t saints either

Again, the very, very vast majority of journalists I’ve worked with over the years are honest, credible, good professionals. Yet if we really want to open this discussion up and have a conversation on what our new media environment looks like with the rise of blogs, social media, and citizen journalism we need to acknowledge that there are a few journalists that don’t like playing by the rules either. It happens.  In truth this particular sentence in The Economist bothers me a lot on the hypocrisy scale, “The PR flacks who did Facebook’s dirty work were two ex-journalists who had only recently gone over to the dark side.” Really, just recently went to the dark side? Clearly nobody could’ve been an ethical question mark until crossing into the PR world right? The fact that these journalists weren’t trained in PR ethics is part of the problem as they likely believed the myth that any journalist makes a good PR pro. It showed they don’t know where the line is in working credibly with a client or they didn’t care. It’s the people, not the job.

There are bad bloggers, writers, and social media snake oil salespeople

Anytime there’s a new market it takes a few years to settle in and become a functioning (or at least semi-functioning) environment. It has been a pretty long-standing joke with many in the social media community around how thousands instantly became self-appointed “gurus”, “ninjas”, or “rockstars” in the online community. Opening up to new viewpoints and ideas has been one of the truly great benefits of all these new channels. The ability to connect with smart people professionally or personally regardless of location has transformed how we collectively communicate but it also requires that everyone looks with a critical eye on who is worthy of trust. Because someone has a great looking blog or a large follower base on Twitter shouldn’t grant them a free pass to report or publish anything under the sun as gospel truth.

The Burson Marsteller, Facebook, Google mess is an example of what happens when people lose sight of their ethics. Let’s not look at this only as a PR problem though. It’s a credibility problem, one that impacts all of us working in communications regardless of what “side” you’re on.  The day I compromise my morals and can’t look my colleagues in the eye or can’t tell my daughter that I’m proud of what I do is the day I need to leave.

I think a real discussion of the issues facing PR, media, and bloggers would be outstanding and I’d greatly appreciate viewpoints and representation from all of them here.

How can we collectively work to boost credible collaboration so all of us aren’t smeared with the same slime generated by a few?

*initially posted on

The Value of Information

16 May

Social media has certainly changed the role of PR pros in a myriad of ways. Clients or employers no longer expect just a book of media clips to show the value of public relations. More and more, communicators are being asked to extend their roles to encompass what might have been described as marketing, sales, and customer relations.

Aside from the titles and tools though, has the real value proposition changed?

In 1987 one of my favorite film characters ever, Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, hit on a very real business truth. “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

Information sharing is at the core of social media. At a time in the PR industry when access to members of the media is just a mouse click away for almost anyone and a well done blog post can generate as much visibility as a hit on the six o’clock news, PR pros can play a vital role in organizational success based on this concept.

  • Assess the information coming into the organization

Begin by listening to what’s being said. What are the messages resonating about your company? Are they positive, negative, or (perhaps even worse) unclear?

Provide your clients/company with strategic counsel at this stage on what the marketplace is really saying about the brand. The speed with which problems can go from minor to a major issue is significantly faster with social media than in the past. Continually listen honestly to understand where you fit in market in the eyes of the public and communicate that with the leadership team.

  • Understand the benefits and limitations of distribution channels

Next step, take some time to think critically about old habits and if there is a need to change your approach. As an example, if a controversy were to flare up online, PR pros need to make the call on how to respond. A traditional news conference likely isn’t the fit. Get rid of any habits that are wasted effort.

Facebook fan page complaint may well be best addressed in a discussion right on the page. But what if the comment is on a third-party blog? Spend time *now* before there is an issue to get up to speed on social channels and how information moves uniquely in each one. Social media communities are not interchangeable and cannot be treated as such.

  • Create information to fill a need

This is where the preparation comes together. Once you understand the market perception of your organization and the channels available to you, it comes down to providing the audience with the information they need and can’t get anywhere else.

Rather than pushing out material *at* people, this is the point where PR practitioners can demonstrate their own value by creating unique content that addresses gaps for the customer. Consistently hearing that your company isn’t providing clear guidance on a service? Then try a YouTube video shared socially to walk through those challenges in a simple manner with some personality. Or maybe it’s a well-written post on a major industry blog to address the concerns. The key outcome is solving a problem that exists for the market and in doing so; you will enhance the value of a particular brand.

Gordon Gekko had it right 24 years ago; the most valuable commodity is information. Now go out and share some information that will be helpful as well as advance your goals.

Don’t Fear the Financials

31 Mar

finance, financial PR, annual reports, PR mathOne of the great misconceptions about the communications industry is that it is just a creative industry. Only right-brain people need apply and it’s all about being a “people person” and connecting.  Those are fine traits but communications professionals must be balanced and there remains an inherent fear in a lot of PR or communications people to tackle math and financials.

The truth is that it isn’t that hard to pick up a decent level of financial understanding and I have great faith in my communications colleagues. It’s just a matter of practice and taking the time to work through a few examples. Being able to read an annual report effectively is an important start so you can understand the current state of your company, clients, or competitors. By just walking through a few tutorials, you can understand all the basics needed to find important information about a company in those seemingly confusing sections. As a starting point, check out this How to Read an Annual Report post which provides a nice step-by-step process and examples.

From there, communications pros that are a bit shy about annual reports, 10k filings, and regulatory documents might be pleasantly surprised what intelligence and research is already out there about companies that will help improve their own work. After getting a few of those basics down, try checking out a site like Investopedia to work through the next steps like economic indicators, analyzing earnings (earnings calls are another great source of information for communicators by the way), and mergers and acquisitions. Or check out a book like Finance and Accounting for Nonfinancial Managers by William Droms and work through it at your own pace.

This isn’t to say you need to be a CPA to be an outstanding communicator but it also doesn’t hurt, especially when working with business leadership who are responsible for every number reported in that annual report. As with anything else, adding another strength to your creative communications toolbox is a good thing and these tools and resources can be helpful for anyone starting out learning more about finance.

What has your experience been working with finance departments or leadership? Is the relationship challenging or have you found tips to bring together the creative and concrete parts of your organization?