Archive for the ‘Life in General’ category

The One Question You Should Ask Everyone You Meet

February 10th, 2016

At the risk of dating myself, who else remembers “The Sunscreen Song?” The track was put to wax by Baz Lurhmann during

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the summer of 1999 and features lyrics taken from a hypothetical commencement speech penned by Chicago Tribune Columnist Mary Schmich. The tune features some great pieces of advice. Specifically, though, it features the following advice about advice:

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

I love that line. Dispensing advice is a way of fishing from the past, taking the best parts and reusing it. While this line and the majority of the song was written with the personal aspects of life in mind, I’ve found it applies to the professional aspects of life as well, especially when you work in PR.

I mean, it makes sense, right? PR is a soft science. Sure, the numbers are hard, but the data often leads to different interpretations and you can’t learn much about what we do from a textbook. The best way to learn is to take on advice from those you respect and those in places you aspire to reach. Whenever possible, I ask the business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs I meet to share with me the best advice they have ever received. You’d be surprised how much insight such a simple question can yield.

I recently kicked the question around to my B&O colleagues, as it relates to PR, and got some interesting responses. Hopefully, some of these can help you on your own journey.

  • “Lead by example. Worry about the details. Never rest on your laurels.” – Simon Jones
  • “Never make promises you can’t keep – especially to a reporter!” – Natalie Pridham
  • “Always put yourself in the shoes of the person of who will ultimately receive what you’re working on. It helps distinguish between what’s valuable and what’s unnecessary.”– Vanessa Krooss
  • “Don’t use ‘I’ in email. We’re a team!” – Sophie Sieck
  • “Leave your work at the office and go live your life. The work will always be waiting for you when you return.” – Drew Smith
  • “When messaging: don’t position just on speeds and feeds. Clients – above all else – worry about resolution of their business problem. Start there, and then explain how your offering helps their needs.” – Tris Clark
  • “When pitching by email, get straight to the point and state your news as fast as possible.” – Julia van Broek
  • “Take credit for the work you do! It’s totally fine to give yourself a pat on the back for doing a great job when the opportunity presents itself. Besides … if you or your team doesn’t take credit for doing a good job, your client may swoop in and take it from under you.” – Chris Navalta
  • “Try not to take things too personally. It’s easier said than done when you’re passionate about your job. But know things will ALWAYS GO WRONG in our industry. Rather than let it deflate and derail you, try and focus on what you can learn and take away from the experience so you are better armed to deal with the situation next time.” – Kris Reeves

And the best advice I’ve ever received? Remember cool songs written during the years before you were of legal age to vote. They might help you write a blog post one day!

(This post previously appeared on Above The Fold.)

8 Reasons Why PR Agency Pros Will Miss “Mad Men”

May 19th, 2015

Did you watch the series finale of Mad Men? It was exactly what you’d expect from the modern classic – emotional, compelling and wrought with existential crises. But perhaps most important, it delivered a fitting conclusion to the tale of Don Draper – arguably The Golden Age of Television’s most “difficult man.”

For those who work in agency life, the end of Mad Men allows for a different type of mourning, for we are no longer able to see elements of our profession represented during prime-time. Here are thoughts from me and several of my colleagues — all huge Mad Men aficionados and PR agency veterans — regarding what we appreciated most about the show as well as what we will miss:

  • “I will miss having a reference point for explaining what I do for a living to family members. My explanation usually goes a bit like, ‘Have you ever seen Mad Men? It’s sort of like that, but not at all.’” – Nicholas Porter
  • “I’ll miss seeing Don create campaigns on the fly. At his best, he’s a brilliant strategist who cuts through the clutter, drills into what the client wants and paints a vivid picture that sells the consumer on the client’s product. Heinz ketchup. Jaguar Cars. Coke. The stories he spun were inspirational. Now, on the other hand: Don at his worst? That’s a different story…” Michael O’Connell
  • “I will miss seeing the collaborative process on the small screen! Seeing individuals working together in one room to bring ideas to life was always my favorite part of the show.” – Jen Bonney
  • “I will miss watching Peggy Olsen’s career trajectory and her struggle to be taken seriously. It was inspiring.” – Gaby Berkman
  • “I will miss seeing the reality of agency life on television. Change is the only constant in this world and Mad Men exemplified that as each big idea or opportunity led to a new agency, and a new challenge for the core characters. The show demonstrated how smaller, more nimble agencies like Sterling Cooper Draper Price – and PAN – best serve clients by staying ahead of the curve.” – Shelly Runyon
  • “I will miss how the show used 1960s culture and historic events to tell modern stories that agency professionals and ‘civilians’ alike could relate to. I also loved Megan!” – Alyssa Miron
  • “I really enjoyed how spot on the series was when it came to 1960s pop culture references. It was a fun tour through history that felt more like “real life” than what we were taught in school or learned from our parents.  But the number one reason I will miss the show? Joan! – Nikki Festa
    • The show did a great job of capturing the décor and the attitude of the times.  My first agency job in was in a heavily smoking office working with a guy named “Sterling” who, in some ways, was a lot like Don Draper. I’ll miss the protypical agency characters. My favorite Mad Men scene: the picnic in an early episode where Don, Birdie and the kids have a picnic outside in a park. Instead of cleaning up the trash when they leave, they just pick up the blanket, dumping and leaving all the garbage all over the ground, and drive off. My second favorite scene: the birthday party/cookout with the kids wearing plastic bags on their heads and shooting guns at each other and not a single parent being concerned. I could relate to Mad Men—and that’s what I’ll miss most. It was like watching memories from my childhood – Tim Monroe

What will you miss the most about Mad Men? Feel free to share!

(A version of this post previously appeared on PRSpeak.)

 

My 2011: A Photgraphic Retrospective

December 31st, 2011

I attended several professional development events in 2011 and an underlying theme in each was how the ability to tell stories using images is slowly becoming a crucial skill required of professional communicators.

With that in mind, here we are at the end of another incredible year.  Instead of providing a sentimental retrospective like last year, I instead chose to sum up 2011 with a collection of photos.  As always, this is not all-inclusive, but it is a pretty definitive – a collection of the people, moments and places that made 2011 special for me. Thank you all.

True Till Death: How Metal and Hardcore Punk Shaped my Career in Public Relations

November 7th, 2011

The hardcore/metal scene is one formed upon community, friendship and progressive ideas. Yes, it has evolved over time, but for the most part, its ideals have remained the same: choosing to focus on integrity, morality and finding light within the dark.

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The belief system referenced above also exist in public relations.  Sure, the structure, tools and players have also changed with time, but the message and goals have also remained the same.

Share stories with a positive message.  Value your relationships.  Respect your audience’s trust. Shine a light where needed.

It’s not exactly rocket science. The similarities exist because both communities have important stories to tell. I guess that is why I am a member of both.

Below, is a short documentary on Enjoy The Massacre – a Chicago-based metal/hardcore band whose talent is only surpassed by their passion for life and music. The documentary puts the finishing touches on my above-described ideas rather nicely.

An added bonus – fast-forward to 3:42 to hear about the time my band, The Auburn System, played a crack house in Detroit, Michigan while on tour with ETM in early 2008.