Archive for the ‘Insights’ Category

“I’m on a mountain, on my phone!”

August 3, 2010

This weekend I stayed in and rented a silly movie that unexpectedly reminded me of the PR world.

The movie? Hot Tub Time Machine, a DVD I would have rented,watched and returned without comment if I hadn’t read Robyn’s “Caught in the Middle Continues” blog post just a few days earlier.

"You're never gonna believe where I'm callin' you from, man. I'm on a mountain, on my phone!"

While the premise is outlandish – four men on a ski weekend find themselves back in 1986 after taking a dip in what must be “some kind of hot tub time machine” – the idea of going back to a time before the Internet and cell phones  reminded me of how difficult and different media relations must have been in the past.

Jacob: I’m kinda right in the middle of a thing right now, but can I text you later?
Girl: Can you what?
Jacob: Are you online at all?
Girl: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Jacob: How do I get a hold of you?
Girl: You come find me.
Jacob: That sounds… exhausting.

It does sound exhausting. In fact, as a 22-year-old who grew up with the Internet, I can’t imagine what it would be like to try tracking down reporters without email or cell phones. For people who don’t like to be tethered to their office lines all day and night, these new(-ish) technological tools allow us to communicate wirelessly, effortlessly and immediately. Being in the HKA office, and especially reading Robyn’s “Caught in the Middle” entries, has given me a great deal of perspective on how reliant we are now on the digital world as a means of communication and how lucky I feel to be able to use Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging and text messages to reach someone instantaneously. From now on, when I want to pull my hair out after not being able to find someone’s contact info online, I’ll count my blessings and be happy that the Internet and Google (or “Lougle” as it’s known after the Hot Tub guys change history) even exist.


Now THAT Was a Great Idea! x2

July 12, 2010

I like a lot of things about being in the PR biz.

But when I stop and think about what I like BEST – I’d have to say I love seeing our good ideas take shape.

Whether the idea is something that I, personally, cooked up, or an idea hatched by one of our intrepid HKA team members, I love the satisfaction of seeing it come to life.

The week before the 4th of July was a perfect example of crazy deadlines, sky-high expectations, and what seemed like insurmountable challenges that popped up along the way – yet ultimately an incredibly satisfying week of work.

Twice in one week our ideas came to fruition:

The first idea sprung to life in a plaza courtyard in San Juan Capistrano, where O’Connor Mortuary presented its Heart & Soul Awards to three very worthy recipients in an intimate, joyous ceremony.

Heart & Soul Award Recipients - L-R, Steve Concialdi, James Pribram, Sharon Davis, Neil O'Connor

Heart & Soul Awards Ceremony

At first blush, it’s true, the idea of getting an award from a mortuary is a bit unsettling. But those who know O’Connor recognize that, perhaps paradoxically, it focuses on celebrating the living. The Heart & Soul Awards are the perfect manifestation of the O’Connor philosophy, now led by 4th generation CEO Neil O’Connor. The recipients — a firefighter, a nurse and an eco-warrior – were commended for the self-less roles they play in life. As Neil says, NOW is the time to recognize these people. And so he did.

Each month will see a new winner – if you have suggestions, send ‘em in!

The second idea was a bit more complicated, involving three clients: Haskell & White LLP, F&M Bank and OC Affiliate of Komen for the Cure. Whew! This one was too complicated to explain in detail in a blog post (and the previous post by Allison did such a good job!) so I’ll just point out the 40-foot-long PINK RV (owned by H&W managing partner Wayne Pinnell, who is a Komen Pink Tie Guy) decorated with larger-than-life faces of smiling breast cancer survivors; the famous Huntington Beach 4th of July Parade featuring breast cancer survivors walking and waving to the cheering crowd; a new pink checking account from F&M Bank with a $125 donation to Komen for each account opened for mammograms for under-served women in OC.

Busy July 3 at HB F&M Bank parking lot (that's Big Pink in the background!)

Breast cancer survivors from Komen for the Cure, OC Affiliate, at July 4th parade with F&M Bank

Wayne and Karen with "Big Pink" on Parade Day!

Along the way, we learned how to wrap a huge RV, secure a parade route spot at the 11th hour and organize an entry in the parade. I repeat, whew!

This past week was tame by comparison. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

Browsing the Dungeon

June 15, 2010

Have you ever gone to a library or a bookstore just to browse? This is one of my absolute favorite things to do, next to “browsing” Costco during sampling hours.

To be honest, I could probably spend as much time in a good library looking at the aged and disfigured classics and freshly unwrapped reference encyclopedias as I do watching People’s Court and updating my profile on Facebook.

I used to work at the library at my University. For the most part it was…quiet…but the very best part was re-shelving books. In our library we had three floors; there was the Library of Congress upstairs, where the newest and most cared for books were stored in an easy to navigate system. The middle floor housed reference, newspapers, journals, and a stunning display of computers.

And finally, my favorite floor, the bottom floor.

The bottom floor we liked to call the “Dungeon.” It was darker than the rest of the library since it was lit almost entirely by unnatural light that had a tendency to flicker. The bookshelves were over packed and stretched almost to the ceiling. And the smell. The smell was what I imagine a monastery in Scotland would have smelled like in the 14th century.

The books in the bottom floor held so much mystery, it would take me almost twice as long to put each of them in their place as I would get distracted by a book title or wonder why such-and-such book was so worn. They were cataloged using the Dewey Decimal system and unless you were a librarian or you had studied “Library Sciences” (yes, you can actually earn a degree Library Sciences), then it could become frustrating to navigate the seemingly illogical numbering system.

Many students would pass up great classic novels that were printed a century ago because they did not want to explore the Dungeon. Most students never even ventured to the bottom floor unless they were forced to use one of the study rooms because of overcapacity.

I loved these times where I could slow down and all I had to think about was what letter came next in the alphabet. It was incredibly rewarding also when I would come across a gnarled classic that would go perfectly with a picnic under a tree at the park.

The Dungeon is the foundational reason I read classic novels and poetry and I am forever grateful for the time I was forced to take to slow down, quiet my life and discover something new.

Has there been a time when you have been forced to slow down and notice significant things?

The Antidote

May 19, 2010

Every now and again I find myself overwhelmed by people’s good hearts . . . people doing something for the sheer joy of giving. This past Sunday was such a day. And so, I feel compelled to counteract all the bad news we are bombarded with. When we ingest too much of this bad stuff, we can start believing that’s all there is out there.

Sunday was an invigorating antidote to all the bad stuff.

I spent Sunday at Working Wardrobes Women’s Day of Self-Esteem. Founder/CEO Jerri Rosen & team have done this for 20 years – besides what goes on day in and day out at Working Wardrobes. The stats tell the story – 135 women-in-need were served on Sunday, 323 volunteers made it happen. Over 20 years, 50,000 women and men (men have their own Days of Self Esteem) have been served.

But taking a closer look at the day reveals even more. The women showed up early Sunday morning, told they’d be getting a fresh start – professional clothing to help land a job, career guidance, etc. Each came from a shelter or halfway house; each had gone through a counseling program to earn their spot on this day. Some had done prison time, mostly resulting from drug and/or alcohol abuse. Others had clean records, but were caught up in an economic nightmare – suddenly homeless and destitute despite a solid work history. Some looked excited, some looked uneasy. All seemed somewhat weary. Life had not been good to them, at least not lately, but all were ready to get back into daily life.

They gathered first to hear a talk from Eve Michaels. It was a motivational talk and boy did it motivate! Eve talked about how a person’s image can dictate their path in life. Clothing, grooming, posture, attitude – these things can make or break you, she told the women. She told them that even wealthy women come to her boot camps for wardrobe and grooming advice. “You can be rich and still dress and groom yourself terribly.” After her pep talk, the women were ready to tackle the day. Their excitement was electric – the weariness I had detected had melted away.

HKA at Working Wardrobes - Women's Day of Self-Esteem

Each woman went through wardrobing, finding two outfits suitable for work interviews, with shoes and jewelry. Each went to the makeshift salon for a makeup session, haircut and/or styling, and a soothing massage. They ate lunch and then were free to visit the job fair, where recruiters from Kimco Staffing, Marriott Vacation Villas, Hilton Hotels and Public Law Center were eager to help them get into the workforce.

I found myself drawn to both the clients and the volunteers.

For the clients, one word sums it up: grateful. Everyone was grateful – no one took this special day for granted. For some, pampering was a new experience. For others, it was a buried memory. For most, their self-esteem was rock bottom. One woman, Sherry, had spent time in prison and no longer had custody of her daughter. But her ear-to-ear smile Sunday showed she was back on the path to a good life. Sherry’s personal shoppers helped her pick out a sharp blazer and slacks that, along with her newfound attitude, were just what she needed. We chatted, she hugged me, and she kept grinning. She told her story to a TV cameraman and didn’t mince words. She thanked God and she thanked Working Wardrobes. In the fashion show at day-end, she came down the runway strutting her stuff, looking every bit like a model (although a tiny one) with plenty of attitude. The exuberant fashion show had not only a sound track of rollicking music, but roars of approval accompanying each model’s appearance. These women had pride in the shelters they came from and loudly supported their representatives in the show — like sorority sisters in friendly competition.

And I was touched by the volunteers. The genuine, heartfelt goodness I felt rushed over me like a wave. Everywhere I looked I saw it, I felt it, it was real. The personal shoppers greeted each client with respect and joy. The easily recognizable hair stylists, with their own creatively colored hair, chatted as they worked , and the Working Wardrobes interns were learning at a young age what giving is all about. Everyone was there because they wanted to be there. In fact, Jerri had to turn away volunteers who signed up too late.

My takeaways?

First, I have not doubt that many of these women are back on the right track. Sure, some will stumble. And hopefully they will get up and try again. But for many, Sunday began their personal turnarounds. I applaud them for not giving up.

Second, the antidote of seeing so many volunteers giving their time and love to help others truly in need will counteract the stacks of negative news stories coming my way. Their joy in helping was infectious. The clients felt it. The other volunteers felt it. I felt it. I think you’d feel it too. Why not volunteer at the next Working Wardrobes event – it’s Oct. 10, Men’s Day of Self-Esteem. See you there!

Turning Fear into Action

May 3, 2010

I’m lucky; I like and respect pretty much everyone that I get to work with.  But sometimes, a client will say or do something that really makes me think about things in a new way.  Recently this happened when I was talking with my client, John Brown of Primary Freight Services.

John mentioned to me that he tries really hard to not allow fear to effect his judgment in business.  In fact he said, “I often have to ask myself: what would I do if I wasn’t afraid.”

Powerful words.

Hearing this got me thinking about a variety of things that I might do differently in my work, if I wasn’t afraid.

Years ago, I battled and overcame the demons of fear regarding media relations.  I was chronically afraid to pick up the phone and boldly pitch story ideas to reporters I’d never talked to, and had at least in my mind, put on a pedestal.

I walked through that fear, day in and day out, challenging myself to write and deliver strong, meaningful story ideas and pitches to media, building relationships along the way.  The result:  I am no longer afraid of media relations.  In fact, I love it.

I acted as if I wasn’t afraid, even though I was, and overcame it.

Powerful actions.

As a result of facing those fears and becoming strong and confident in media relations, I’ve won almost a dozen awards, am viewed my by peers and coworkers as an expert and a resource, and most importantly, I’m able to pass those skills along to others in my field.

If I’d been paralyzed by fear, I may have changed careers before I’d ever had a chance to see where this journey would take me.  What a shame that would have been!

Powerful results.

So, what would you do in your business if you weren’t afraid?  Would you fight to save jobs instead of handing out pink slips?  Would you stretch your personal abilities to grow expertise in areas that you know you need, but feel afraid to reach for?

Whatever the answer, I think it is the question that is important to ask ourselves over and over:  What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?