Archive for the ‘interpersonal communication’ Category

All I Want For Christmas Is More Clients (Friends) Like This

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

10bbafbf53a71d06491c64c34de0caf5-1There may be times throughout the year that Matt and I spend a little too much time pontificating on what should be happening in the world of business and communications as opposed to donating more space and thoughts to people and best practices we should be celebrating.  I know we strive to provide a healthy balance. Consider this is one of those times.

Without getting too sentimental, year-end is for many a time of reflection with a scrutinizing look back and a hopeful look ahead.  It is also a time to appreciate stations in life and work and people who have been instrumental in getting you there. Today restored my faith in the latter. A client with whom our firm has enjoyed a mutually beneficial 20-years of collaborations today informed me that they were amenable to flexibility on a project budget gone astray; in other words, they expressed a willingness to pay for costs incurred over and above a previously agreed upon budget.  There were a range of factors at work here. They could have said no but after thoughtful discussion, they didn’t.

A year ago, that same client, after a once again transparent and honest dialogue, allowed our firm to begin working simultaneously with one of their competitors. It is unheard of in our industry.  It was as selfless an act on their part that I have ever experienced in my 30+ years in business (with today coming a close second).  It also came at a dark time in my personal life that this client talked me through over dinner.   I am not too “manly” to admit that I was literally moved to tears. This is not just a valued client.  This is a friend.

They say relationships are all-important and they are.  But, as Matt and I discussed today’s events, he suggested it was also something more – a client who operates in-step with our values; one who lives and breathes integrity and mutual respect with its clients, its business partners and its employees.  Such a tone is set at the top and that dynamic is definitely in play here.  It is a modus operandi all too rare but one to be emulated, celebrated and inspired by.  Perhaps a New Year’s resolution for those not already there.

 

 

Social Silence Says It All

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 6.30.56 PMMannequins – growing up these were a staple of department stores, standing forever motionless while sporting the latest fashions. In 1987, Andrew McCarthy fell for mannequin-come-to-life Kim Cattrall in the movie, “Mannequin”. Years later, Will Smith would stave off emotional distress by talking to mannequins in the post apocalyptic film, “I Am Legend”.  Traditionally odd if not downright scary, mannequins, in recent days, have instread become all the rage on social media – at least humans posing as these plastic people wanna-bes.

Purportedly started by high schoolers from Colony High School in Ontario, CA, the craze has come to be known as the “Mannequin Challenge” with its own hashtag: #mannequinchallenge.  What is it, exactly? Put simply, groups of individuals filming themselves in a range of “frozen” poses who then post their mini-videos online. High schoolers, college students and, more and more, collegiate and professional sports teams have all been partaking in the fun. Not to be outdone, numerous sports announcers and sideline reporters have also been following suit. Even the crew of Fox’s “NFL Sunday” got into the act this morning complete with Terry Bradshaw in a faux-choke hold courtesy of a stationary Howie Long.

Unlike the “Ice Bucket Challenge” which raised awareness of and funds for ALS research, the mannequin movement at large has not (yet?) been affiliated with a  charity nor a particular cause. Rather, this latest activity appears to have more in common with the former fad of planking, albeit without the dangers settings and environments. So, what, then is the point?

The point here may be that there is no point. To date, in fact, it has all been nothing but good old fashioned fun. Stop the press - a social media endeavor without pressure or shaming or competition? Actions that promote cooperation, team-building, creativity and good old fashioned fun? The mannequin craze has resonated with millions because it is non-promotional, authentic, real. It works because it is genuine and the exact reason why marketers cannot merely create such an initiative on a drawing board and expect it to take flight.

They also say timing is everything. Leave it to our next generation to delivery to our society exactly what it could use right now: a sense of community and humor. And maybe even a message to stop for a moment and smell the roses. It all is very ironic, isn’t it? Promoting humanity by imitating display things who purportedly have none. Who are the real dummies here?

That’s What Friends Are For

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

IMG_1992Knowing you can always count on me…for sure…that’s what friends are for.  In the winter of 1986 that song was a huge hit for Dionne Warwick along with Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder.  If I never hear that song again, it will be too soon but its message resonated like never before this past week in my (little) hometown.

30 years ago, I found myself nearly a year out of the University of Illinois joining forces with a band of other radio neophytes from Bloomington and Peoria, Illinois, respectively.  Some could say we were exiled to Joliet, Illinois – a depressed (formerly booming) river town best known for a penitentiary and the Blues Brothers.  For us, it was an opportunity for true, full-time on-air work at a little station that could: WJTW (formerly polka station, WAJP).  We were in a strange town, a new station and away from home for the holidays.  ‘Friends’ was one of the first songs we played on the station (and we played it incessantly). It still brings back memories good and bad.

John Weis joined the WJTW air staff from WBNQ in Bloomington, Illinois and instantly became a friend for life as we bonded amid separation from family and friends and worked side-by-side each day.  That friendship was reinforced this week as I found myself unexpectedly back in my hometown of Champaign, Illinois to tend to my ailing mother in the hospital.  Able to work largely from a room in the hospital where I was born (thanks to the hard work and support of my Tanner Friedman colleagues and friends), I found myself nearly 400 miles from the CBS Radio recording studio where, each month, I voice radio commercials for client The Suburban Collection.

A call to John, whom I would see in town on occasion during visits, soon led to lunch at famed Monical’s Pizza for radio reminiscing and an invitation to use one of the production studios at a former radio station (WLRW) where I had worked just prior to moving on to Joliet.  John programs and oversees the now seven-station cluster as well as mans Afternoons as “Jonathan Drake”.  It seemed like old times as that mutual respect, kinship and crazy irreverence was once again experienced with me voicing and him producing. The photo in this blog is me and John in the now (albeit different) WLRW (now Mix 94.5) on-air studio.  With voice tracks laid down and appropriately edited, John was able to then email them to CBS’s Doak Breen in Detroit for final production. After John posted the photo to his Facebook page, other former Joliet colleagues and friends chimed in.  A radio reunion indeed.

As of this writing, my mom is out of the hospital and recuperating in a rehab facility. For nearly eight days I was able to complete work right next to her while also serving as an in-person advocate for her care – work/life balance realized (and not necessarily in that order). And all of this thanks to the generosity of others (like John),  family members, relatives (and, again, my TF colleagues) to give of and be flexible with their time, step up in a time of need and reaffirm friendship and the collaborative spirit. And, I found, I needed the camaraderie and support as much as anyone. Just like Dionne and her friends sang nearly three decades ago. Maybe the song is not so bad after all.

Texting and Driving: A Trend That Must Become Extinct – Before we Do

Monday, July 25th, 2016

imgresThis past weekend I was stopped at a light with a line of cars in front of me for at least 20 seconds when I heard screeching tires behind me.  Looking into my rear view mirror I saw a newer, midsized car barreling down on me. At the last minute, they swerved into a shallow ditch just behind and to the right of my vehicle. Inside, a younger girl glared at me.  I suspect she was embarrassed and frightened. At the same time, I am sure she had been texting.

Consider these alarming 2016 statistics from distracteddriveraccidents.com:

  • 1 out of every 4 car accidents are caused by texting while driving
  • Every year, 421,000 people are severely injured in accidents involving texting and driving
  • Every day, 11 teenagers die because they were texting and driving. That’s approximately 330 per month and nearly 4,000 per year. (To put that into context, 37,000 individuals of all ages perish in auto accidents annually).

Pedestrian deaths by car are also on the rise.  Clearly, we have an epidemic.  Cleary, we need solutions.

Face-to-face communication is obviously not always feasible. Not in our hectic, time-sensitive and geographically far-ranging world.  Email has largely replaced snail mail and, especially for millennials, texting has replaced talking on the phone as the preferred mode of one-on-one and/or group interaction.  It has gotten to the point, in fact, that many in the younger generational demographic never use the phone; they have become so text dependent. What to do about this?

I have suggestions. With two twenty-something children in my family, I am constantly striving to get their attention on this issue.  If you can’t avoid communicating from the car, I tell them, then use Bluetooth and talk. Pure and simple. Today’s generation must recapture the ability to talk by phone and enhance their interpersonal skills – whether for school, business or their personal lives.

Now a suggestion for the Department of Transportation, NHTSA, automotive safety suppliers and the cellular phone companies: Get together and put legal mandates and high technology to work to save lives.  How about tech in every car that renders the cell phone of the individual in the driver’s seat unable to text? The phone still works for Bluetooth calls. Others in the car can still text, just not the driver until the car is turned off.  Impossible? There is technology out there such as sensors in a driver’s front window that can detect when a driver’s eyelids are fluctuating such to indicate they are falling asleep and then set off an alarm. This can and should be done.

Otherwise, it is only going to get worse. In the span of three weeks, Matt Friedman, one of my daughters and I were all rear-ended in three separate accidents, two causing injury.  Look at anyone driving oddly (slowly, swerving) and you will see them texting.  Communicating is important – only in the right way, at the right time. Anything else is dangerous, even deadly.

Here’s How Not To Fire Your PR Firm

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

unnamedThere are two kinds of owners of PR firms. One will admit that the firm has been fired by a client. The other is lying.

When you spend all day trying to build and strengthen relationships, you don’t want to think about when and how they will someday, somehow, inevitably end. But when they do, it’s hard not to let the postmortem occupy your thoughts, especially when a longtime client does exactly what you shouldn’t do if you ever have to fire your firm.

Recently, a 12-year client ended a relationship with us in a way we did not expect or deserve. This was a client that, once legally able, joined us after a multi-year track record with us at our previous firm. Much of our work with this client focused on serving as direct communications counsel to the CEO. This client, because of the strength of our relationship and a mutual feeling of trust, donated a portion of our professional time to the community where it is headquartered to help raise awareness for the business and living opportunities there. This is a client that also entrusted us to work closely with its Board of Directors on some of its most sensitive matters.

At no point in the 12 years of working together did anyone working for this client provide any constructive feedback about our performance. We never heard “We’d like you to do this differently” or “We’d like more of that instead.” At no point was any dissatisfaction about work product communicated whatsoever. When we would suggest new ideas, we were often met by budget concerns, but that didn’t deter us from trying to add as much value as the client would allow us to provide.

In fact, after our contract was terminated and we were informed there would be a search process, we were told that it was because “we’re examining all of our outside contracts.” It was reassuring when we were hired soon after that for project work, which yielded results. Then, when an RFP was issued and I called the CEO asking if there is a change mandate and, if so, should we even take the time to complete the process, I was strongly encouraged to submit a proposal. So, after 12 years of working together, I gathered our team, critically evaluated our performance and re-pitched the business in a written proposal.

We didn’t even get an interview.

A few weeks later, I received a voicemail from the in-house marketing person. It said that they had hired another firm, one from a city even farther away from the client than where we are located. It said that they were particularly impressed by that firm’s research capabilities. “Research?” I thought. “Research?” There was nothing in the RFP about research. 12 years of working together and the need for research never even came up in conversation. We have a terrific relationship with an outstanding market research company with particular experience in this client’s sector. If only they had asked we could have told them, but, for some reason, they didn’t even want to know.

12 years was reduced to a voicemail. Well, that and an email “making sure” I got the voicemail.

I don’t know what happened on the client’s end of this story. I likely never will. Probably, they grew dissatisfied with our work, but didn’t have the guts to tell us. Why? Was I going to yell at them? Argue? Swear? Cry? Sue? How bad would it have been?

Or maybe they just thought the grass would be greener someplace else. So why couldn’t we talk about it? What’s so scary about a tough conversation?

As the old song says, breaking up is hard to do. But after a long, successful relationship, do it from the top and don’t do it with a voicemail. Show some class and some stones. Have a real conversation, answer questions, clear the air and then, both sides can move on.

A True Friend is a Friend Indeed

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 3.51.39 PMI’m a big fan of old adages. When it comes to friendship, there are a couple that spring immediately to mind.  One is, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”  I totally disagree.  I prefer to keep a few close friends and avoid anyone even close to being potentially deemed an enemy.  More interesting is the phrase: “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” That is what I would like to examine more closely.

Over the course of my career in media and public relations I have continually sought out mentors while also seeking to serve as one.  Even more regularly and on perhaps not as ambitious a scale I am continually looking for ways to help individuals – close and casual/professional friends alike – especially in cases of career transition and business connections.  I’ve been around for awhile now and have built up a network I am happy to share with the right individuals. It’s giving back.

And while I never assist someone seeking to get something in return, it is always interesting and eye opening to see who is actually there for you when times are tough, in life or career.  Just as the cream rises to the top so too do your true friends and associates. Despite their trials and tribulations. Despite their work pressures and family responsibilities. To be sure, it sure is nice to get back sometimes.

In the end, it should not be about you; a dynamic all too often lacking if not absent entirely in these all too often self-absorbed times. It is about looking beyond yourself. Being selfless. Being thoughtful beyond your world.  Perhaps author Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right when he wrote: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” That should hold for business and life outside of it.

 

Lost and Found

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.42.51 PMThis week was one of the toughest of my life from both a personal and business perspective. The timing was almost uncannily ironic as I was recently asked to speak to a young professionals group in the Spring on handling life and professional challenges.

First of all, if problems related to work (or time outside of work) don’t bother you, you might be a sociopath.  If they do, you’re human.  A wise mentor once told me, upon my sharing with him a disappointed client situation, if a particular state of business affairs concerns you, it’s not because you can’t handle it; its because you care.  Move beyond the emotion and you can work toward a resolution.

Away from the office, affairs of the heart can be even tougher, indeed, they are more important in life’s scheme of things.  There, emotion can often not be set aside, a resolving solution harder to come by.  As in work, all you can do is try and give it your all.

Work and home – the two are intrinsically and forever linked.  And what has comforted me most has been the (almost) surprising support of others willing to lend an ear and a pat on the back.  Those who appreciated I had been there for them in the past and now were here for me.

They say you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I’d counter its more about appreciating what you have, when it’s found.

 

The 12 Days of Business: Holiday Hopes for 2016

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

partridge_in_a_pear_tree_s1With apologies to those who observe Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or variations, a few hopes for the holiday season and beyond – for business and life – to the tune of a Christmas classic:

 

On the first day of Business

I’d really like to see

a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the second day of Business

I’d really like to see

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the third day of Business

I’d really like to see

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the fourth day of Business

I’d really like to see

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the fifth day of Business

I’d really like to see

5 year plans considered

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the sixth day of Business

I’d really like to see

6 pence and more to charity

5 year plans considered

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the seventh day of Business

I’d really like to see

7 year itches examined

6 pence and more to charity

5 year plans considered

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the eight day of Business

I’d really like to see

Figure 8s around competitors

7 year itches examined

6 pence and more to charity

5 year plans considered

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the ninth day of Business

I’d really like to see

Nein (No) not in our lexicon

Figure 8s around competitors

7 year itches examined

6 pence and more for charity

5 year plans considered

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the tenth day of Business

I’d really like to see

Ten commandment tenets respected

Nein (No) not in our lexicon

Figure 8s around competitors

7 year itches examined

6 pence and more for charity

5 year plans considered

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the eleventh day of Business

I’d really like to see

11 and louder mindshare

10 commandment tenets respected

Nein (No) not in our lexicon

Figure 8s around competitors

7 year itches examined

6 pence and more for charity

5 year plans considered

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued

and a fulfilling year for you and me

 

On the twelfth day of Business

I’d really like to see

12 months of health and prosperity

11 and louder mindshare

10 commandment tenets respected

Nein (No) not in our lexicon

Figure 8s around competitors

7 year itches examined

6 pence and more for charity

5 year plans considered

4 sight and vision prevailing

3 weeks vacation aimed for

2 way communication valued…

…and a fulfilling year for you and me.

 

The CW Continues to Spread its Wings

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.20.54 PMWhile ABC, CBS and NBC are, of course, the best known and longest-standing American broadcast television networks, another, the CW Television Network (or ”The CW”), continues to make its mark with a growing cadre of original programming dramas and comedies – the former most notably in the superhero genre.  And its successful arsenal continues to grow.

Not yet familiar with “The CW?” Wikipedia describes the network as “a limited liability joint venture between CBS Corporation, the former owners of the United Paramount Network (UPN) and the Warner Brothers Entertainment division of Time Warner, former majority owner of the WB Television Network.” As such, the “CW” is derived from CBS and Warner Brothers. Yet, it just as easily could be referred to as the “DC” – as in, DC Comics since the launch, three and a half years ago, of a little program that could called, “Arrow.” Thanks to clever writing and a healthy adherence to comic book and fandom lore and continuity, “Arrow,” named after the Green Arrow superhero archer, has become a runaway hit.  Many, in fact, credit the show with putting the network on the map and keeping it there.  And, the CW’s super geography is expanding.

Justice League partner “The Flash” spun off a year ago, while the stage is currently being set for yet another in “Legends of Tomorrow,” which will begin airing late next month and feature villains and heroes alike (including Firestorm and The Atom) spun off from both Flash and Arrow.  In fact, in a two night, 2-part crossover this season, yet another iconic character that will star in ‘Legends’ was introduced in Hawkgirl.  And, in what the producers of both programs excel at, yet another surprise character appeared out of the ether this week in Hawkman- for the first time ever (non-animated) in TV or movies.

Where Marvel has succeeded on the silver screen, DC continues to dominate on the boob tube (and we haven’t event mentioned CBS’s “Supergirl”).  And, thus far, fans and funny paper novices alike are giving these heroes a collective thumbs up.  Hopefully it is a lesson to those who have failed so miserably in recent years with corny send-ups of Green Hornet and Lone Ranger.  In fact, Arrow and Flash have proven that super heroes can be handled with fun as well as reverence by properly understanding, respecting and marketing to the targeted viewing audience; giving them what they want and then some – up, up and away.

 

 

“Passion” No Excuse For Bad Business Behavior

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

burning-passionThe highlight of this past week was a long breakfast catch-up with one of my favorite colleagues from a job I had nearly 20 years ago. It had been two years since we had the chance to catch up in person and this time, with no agenda, the conversation was wide-ranging. Along the way, stories about two of the most despicable individuals I’ve encountered in business were told to illustrate points about values and perseverance, two themes that came up a few times during the extended dialogue.

In the car, leaving the restaurant where we had met, I hated that I had to think of this pair. More moments with the two dastardly characters who came up over breakfast flashed into my head. I realized those two antagonists led to significant professional changes. And remarkably, both of them used the same line in an effort to cover up reprehensible behavior.

The first example was a TV news director who didn’t like that I disagreed with her in a meeting. Instead of inviting me into her office for a “teaching moment” or otherwise providing guidance (I was only about 25 years old, after all), she verbally tore into me in the middle of the newsroom. While berating me publicly, she yelled “You need to go back to Producing 101.” It was a moment of humiliation like I had never felt before, or since.

At the end of that day, instead of apologizing privately or publicly, she walked by my desk and said, “What happened this afternoon was just two passionate people expressing their feelings.” That was it.

Fast-forward nearly 18 years to the second example – the new Vice President of a client organization who verbally abused one of my colleagues via phone the week before. I reported that unacceptable behavior to the CEO, who arranged a meeting between the VP and me. In that meeting, when I described behavior that led to my serious concern, the VP tore into me, in front of his boss, in a bombastic and acidic tone, even including an ethnic slur (Pro tip: saying “I’m not The Gestapo” to a guy named Friedman isn’t the best metaphor move).

When I responded by saying, “If you’re going to talk to me like that, we’re not going to be able to work together,” his response was, “Well, I’m just a passionate person.”

Professional passion isn’t about screaming or insulting. In fact, it’s the anthesis. Passion is about caring so much, that you go out of your way for other people to get the job done. It’s about giving maximum effort in every respect. Passion is about anticipation for the day to come when you get out of bed in the morning. It’s about putting the mission or the purpose of the work as the priority, even ahead of your own ego. Passion is admitting you are wrong, for the good of the organization. It’s about deriving true satisfaction out of the work.

“Passion” does not rationalize bad business behavior. Passion should actually prevent it from happening.

So what became of the relationships with these individuals? The first was no longer my boss just a few months later, because I resigned to make big changes in my career motivated, in part, by encounters like that. The second is no longer our client because the CEO refused to make any changes even after witnessing that exchange. Condoning bad behavior is bad as exhibiting it, if not worse. So we decided to end an 8-year relationship which, while financially painful, was the right decision because we have passion – actual passion – for our values as a firm.