Saturday, June 28, 2008

Commenting On June

It was a very active month here at CSI/Season 2. Our conversations included everything from Scott McClellan and Barack Obama to storytelling and making better presentations. Our Stamp Out Bad PowerPoint campaign culminated with the invention of the PowerPoint Patch (which as you recall functions just like the Nicotine Patch) and The Stamp Out Bad PowerPoint Toolkit.

We talked a bit about Jim Mullen's book and Wordles from my fellow guest bloggers at ToddAnd, and sadly, there was the death of the great Timothy J. Russert. We pretty much wrapped up June's conversation with my marathon training announcement and on an up note inspired by Richard Edelman's post The Old Lions Roar. Looking back over the last 30 days or so, I get exhausted just thinking about it.

That said, as many of you know, my first post following a month of conversation is dedicated to thanking all those who in some way contributed to the prior month's positive dialogue. (Here's what it looked like last month.) If you'd like to comment on any of our conversations from June, I'd love your insights, and as always, you'll be thanked for your intellectual generosity with a link to your blog.

I look forward to your comments!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wise Beyond Their Years

I've been reading Richard Edelman's blog for quite some time now, but I have to agree with Todd Defren that this may be Richard's best post ever. In The Old Lions Roar, Richard offers highlights from a luncheon organized by PR Week that brought together the founding fathers of the public relations profession: Harold Burson, Dan Edelman, David Finn, and Al Golin. He notes that all of them are octogenarians, with the exception of Al Golin who's a spry 78. I ask that you read Richard's post regarding the luncheon, but I have two stories I'd like to share.

First, back in the late 1990's I had the pleasure of meeting Al Golin. It was at a private party organized by Paul Holmes at what was then the CIPRA Awards (now SABRES). I owned a small PR agency at the time in Jacksonville, Florida. Among our clients was a McDonald's franchise group. That's all Mr. Golin needed to hear. We must have spent 30 minutes talking about PR, McDonald's and a host of other topics. He could have spent that time with much more important people, but seemed rather content just to chat with me. I was impressed by his intellectual generosity and his kindness of heart.

Second, and although not an octogenarian either, there's my experience with Dick Hyde. Now Dick has been with Hill & Knowlton for 45 years and counting. He's among the world's foremost crisis communications experts and one of the finest people I've ever met. I had the distinct pleasure of working with Dick on a project during my time at H&K. I shared several dinners with Dick on the west coast (though we were both based on the east coast), where it was just the two of us talking about business and about life. I consider it among the highlights of my career.

All these men share at least three common traits; First, they are passionate about their work; they love what they do. Second, they're extraordinary listeners; it's among the reasons they're so brilliant. Finally, you'll find that they are forward thinking; these men aren't stuck in the past, they are our window to the future.

It would appear Richard Edelman also shares these traits. I've never met the man, but his commitment to weekly (substantive) blog postings and responses to comments should offer us evidence enough that the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Summer Fun

Being from Boston, it's hard to ignore baseball season regardless of the standings. Here's a very funny video depicting Red Sox batting stances from players past and present. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'd Like to Have A Wordle With You...



Yesterday was the last day of the guest blogger series at ToddAnd, with which I truly enjoyed participating. To wrap up the series, Darryl Ohrt of Brand Flakes for Breakfast used all of the text from our various posts and created a tag cloud using Wordle. It's a wonderful tool that allows you to create real artwork from words. Wordle offers great flexibility in use of font, color, and layout. The tag cloud you see above was made from my post yesterday.

Using Wordle, a picture can be a thousand words. Give it a try and see what you can create!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Client Service And The Marathon

Yesterday, I began training for what I hope will be the completion of my 14th marathon in late October. The twist here is that this year's Marine Corps Marathon will be my first in five years. I've run Boston (2), New York (2), Chicago (3), Disney (2), Pittsburgh (2), Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, and the Rock 'n Roll Marathon in San Diego. But that's all in the past. I've been through the rigor of the 18 weeks of training enough times to know that at 48, I'll be less worried about speed and more focused on simply staying injury free.

So what does long distance running have to do with client service? Plenty. Over the next 18 weeks, I look forward to providing some updates on my training and pointing out some key parallels with client service excellence.

The first of which is most of us have known how to run for as long as we can remember. We all think we know how to service clients. But through practice and education, we can become more efficient runners and deliver even better client service. Let the training continue!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Well, everything actually. Seems Jim Mullen's book has inspired a theme this week. It's a theme that also stood tall during my strategic communication and leadership graduate studies at Seton Hall. The best leaders, the best followers, best employees and best people for that matter are those who really care about what they do and who they serve.

My graduate program introduced me to dozens of scholars and executives who espoused their theories and practices on leadership. But in the end, the themes of caring, passion, and yes, even love were consistent among them. The more we care about what we do and about the people around us (colleagues, clients, friends, family, etc.), the better we lead and serve.

Years ago, one of my employees at the agency I owned in the mid to late 90's came to me and said that she was having difficulty securing a particular vendor to handle part of an important client event. I suspected it was more about the effort than the difficulty, so I simply suggested she imagine for a moment that she was planning this event for her parents and their friends and to give it one more try. Within the hour, problem solved. If you think about it, I simply asked her to care more. To imagine she was trying to achieve something for people she loved rather than a client with whom she did not have such emotional attachment.

When it comes to serving everyone in our lives, love can have everything to do with it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Love Is In The Air

Since yesterday's post Love Is All You Need, seems everyone's talking about love in business now. I'll let you be the judge as to whether I've sparked a global trend. (Just keep the answer to yourself.)

Today at ToddAnd, it was Gavin Heaton's turn as guest blogger, and he featured two posts (What a showoff!) That said, his first post showcased a video by Microsoft's Digital Advertising Group which essentially served as a sequel to Bring The Love Back!

Seems everyone is looking for a little more love these days. Consumers do not want to be the recipients of cookie cutter, mass marketing. They want their messages customized and personalized. And as you'll see in the video, if you do so they'll tell their friends, and if you don't you may lose them forever.

Keep in mind, your client relationships are no different.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Love Is All You Need

James X. Mullen wrote a book published in 1995 called The Simple Art of Greatness. I read the book on Friday and truly enjoyed the stories and philosophies he shared - stories that reflect his Jesuit education and life experiences beyond the world of advertising, including competitive sailing and race car driving.

Our founder tells the story (an anecdote arguably less exciting than some of the others I could have selected) of when he was in college and how indifferent most of the other students were to the cafeteria staff. He wrote, "I treated them like queens knowing that the size of their serving was usually proportional to the generosity of my smile...The moral of the story is that the world is underloved. Make people feel special and they will do special things for you."

Mullen not only extended that philosophy to his employees in building the agency, but also offered this advice to clients: "I tell every client two secrets to getting the best out of our company: form personal relationships with the people who have hands-on responsibility for your ads; and when these people do something very well, thank them publicly, preferably in a note with copies to all the top agency executives and senior management."

Jim Mullen reminds us that client service excellence and achieving great results is a two-way street. As clients define expectations for their PR agencies, as discussed in the post How's Your Current PR Agency Doing?, it's also important that they formulate expectations for themselves to maximize the relationship. As a client, when was the last time you publicly praised your PR firm's good work or asked, "Is their anything more I could be doing for you?"

You may not need a new PR agency, the relationship could just use a little more love.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Are You A Client Service Super Hero?

Dude...What's with the cape? Have a great weekend!

How's Your Current PR Agency Doing?

Scott Baradell, president of the Dallas PR firm The Idea Grove, asks that very question on the homepage of the agency's web site. I'm not sure why I hadn't noticed this a long time ago, but I spent some time reviewing his PR Agency Questionnaire, and I like the idea of it quite a bit.

What struck me about it was that based on the way the questions were worded, I'm not sure even a top score of 19 or 20 says very much. I told Scott that his questionnaire sends the message that the bar for PR firms isn't set very high. Here's what Scott said when I asked him about it:

"The questionnaire is aimed primarily at clients who are already wondering if they are getting the level of service they should expect. The questions touch on the warning signs I saw over the years when I knew it was time to cut ties with an agency. Just about any agency you start out with will score in the high range on this questionnaire at the outset of the engagement. The time to take this questionnaire is when you are beginning to have doubts. That's why in the setup I say the questionnaire is designed to help you determine if your PR firm is "adequately" meeting your needs. (I have a separate agency review spreadsheet on the site for clients that are in the initial agency selection process.)

"From a marketing perspective, I know that people are coming to my site either when they are looking for a new agency or having doubts about their current agency. The agency review spreadsheet is designed to address the first group of visitors. The questionnaire is designed to address the second group, to help them determine if their doubts are justified. In that sense, it would be fair to say the bar is low."

I actually think clients should use Scott's questionnaire as a foundation for creating their own template based on the specific expectations THEY have for their PR firms. The point is not to employ the questionnaire as a "gotcha" device, but as a tool to communicate and clarify expectations. If the PR firm continues to fall short, then it's time to look elsewhere.

Notes: A big thanks to Scott Baradell for offering his perspective. Also, as ToddAnd's first of five guest bloggers for this week, I posted a video I hope you'll enjoy. Let me mention that the four bloggers to follow in the series will be Kami Huyse, Gavin Heaton, Drew McLellan, and Darryl Ohrt. Don't miss their posts!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Guest Blogger Week at ToddAnd

Well, starting tomorrow it's Guest Blogger Week at ToddAnd - one of my favorite marketing blogs. And...since I've been invited to be among the guests, I'm really looking forward to it. I plan to share a wonderfully entertaining, very creative video. When you see it, you'll probably say to yourself, "I've thought of doing that." The only difference between you and the person who produced this creative spot is that he did it, and you or I didn't.

The video is tailor-made for the ToddAnd audience, but touches on a recurring theme here at CSI/Season 2. Whether it's client service, creativity etc., often times it's not about doing what no one else can do, it's about doing what anyone can do but just doesn't.

So after watching the video, come back here and read about Scott Baradell's Online PR Agency Assessment Tool. (Scott's another one of my favorite bloggers by the way). It should be an action-packed Thursday. Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Public Service & Priorities

Today, two days after father's day, America will lay to rest ones of its favorite sons. The tributes to Timothy J. Russert have shown a heartfelt consistency about how he lived his life. Tim Russert was dedicated to his real and professional families in a manner that should serve as an important reminder about our priorities. He brought passion to his work and his life, and he will be deeply missed.

Russert served as chief encouragement officer to his team and chief explaining officer to the American people. He was dedicated not only to asking the questions average Americans would like to ask their leaders, but more importantly, he cared enough for all of us to listen to their answers. He brought civility and fairness to American political discourse and its voice was heard clearly, even in a world where acrimony and partisanship tried so desperately to drown it out.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said that John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King were men who would have chosen the same lives again despite their shortness of years because of the way they lived and the impact they had. Tim Russert was taken from this earth at only 58, yet his impact on this nation is undeniable. His commitment to those he knew personally and to those he did not was unmistakable.

For me, Meet the Press with Tim Russert has been a Sunday morning routine now for years. I took for granted that he would be there each and every week, where he would ground us, set the tone for the political debate for the following week, only to have to ground us again seven days later.

Lately PR professionals and journalists have been whining about mindless, meaningless issues. We'd all do well to follow the advice found on a sign that was prominently displayed in Russert's office, "Thou shalt not whine." Let us remember the selflessness, passion, and joy with which he lived his life and do our best to live it in our own.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Client Service Heaven?

Timothy Parcell at relentlessPR ran a terrific graphic in his post The Brand Experience from David Armano that could just as easily have been titled The Client Service Experience. Of course in many respects, it's difficult to separate the two. Let me know what you think!


Friday, June 13, 2008

Whose World Could You Change?

I believe it was Todd Defren who "tweeted" about this video earlier in the week. How appropriate ;-) Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Stamp Out Bad PowerPoint Toolkit

Yesterday, CSI unveiled The PowerPoint Patch in an effort to address the most severe cases of PowerPoint addiction. We're talking about people who cling to it for ALL human interaction. For people who if they were quitting their job would systematically make their case using bullet points and charts to explain why the relationship had to end. While such an approach clearly wouldn't be well received by the audience; PowerPoint addicts don't care about their audience. They need help and The PPT Patch can provide it. If you're an addict, please don't open the toolkit until you've gotten some help.

The Toolkit

The Instructional Video
- Because we can learn as much or more from bad examples as good ones, please watch Don McMillan's video presentation titled: Life After Death By PowerPoint. While you'll soon realize that while you may have sat through similar such presentations, and maybe even delivered a few yourself, it offers you the opportunity to laugh, learn some key don'ts, and move forward.

The Hammer - As SHU professor Karl Soehnlein says, make it BIG, BOLD & BRIEF. You're under no obligation to bore your audience. Presumably, you're trying to present information or make a case in a way that's impactful. Most people don't give enough thought to the fact that while you may have been working on your presentation for weeks, you'll likely have about 10-15 minutes to present your idea AND make sure your audience actually receives it. You're there to influence. Make sure you bring your hammer.

Your Mind - Craft your story. Make your case. Ask for what you want. Consider the outcome. Understand what you want your audience to do.

Your Heart - There are many ways to convey your story and the factual nature of it. Use your mind to predict what you want your audience to do. Use your heart to guide you as to how you want them to feel.

Your Audience - Your most powerful tool is actually sitting across from you. Your audience didn't come to look at slides, they came to be persuaded and often entertained. Understand their likes, dislikes, hot buttons, and emotional triggers. If you're speaking to a group you've never met, learn what you can and try to meet people as they're getting settled into the room; ask questions, gain insights, and integrate them into your presentation.

Your Colleagues - Rehearse your presentation in front of your colleagues. Try to gather people who may understand the content well along with those who may know it less well. Ask for feedback, not about your performance, but about whether they got the message you intended. What did they think? How did they feel?

A Big Note Pad & Multi-Colored Markers - Create an experience where you and the audience are sharing in the visual depiction of the content, whether it's words or images. You don't have to have great penmanship or be a great artist. (A little marginal artwork can often humanize what might otherwise be an overly slick presentation).

A Metaphor - It can be in the form of a physical object that is left on the seat of each of the audience members or simply the expression of an idea. Use it to illustrate your point and bring your audience into the frame of mind you believe will be most advantageous to their receiving your message. Presentation training guru Toni Louw once told me, "illustrate, don't explain!"

Web Sites - Whether it's your own web site or those of others, live internet connections create the opportunity to take people to content that is relevant to the audience at any given moment. One of the traps of PowerPoint can be its linear nature and lack of flexibility. The whole "we're going to take you through these 85 slides whether you like it or not" dynamic is not a small problem. Using web content and web video can offer great flexibility and visual interest.

Some Variety - Even if PowerPoint is your tool of choice, that doesn't mean it has to be your only tool. Engage your audience by accompanying your PPT Presentation with handouts or presentation boards (not of the PowerPoint presentation) that give your audience something to hold. Or grab that Note Pad & Marker and offer a splash of "planned spontaneity." Using video and audio, and just mixing mediums in general can be very powerful ways to keep a presentation dynamic, particularly if it runs any longer than 15-20 minutes.

PowerPoint - I list PowerPoint last somewhat symbolically. Not that it should be your last resort, but it shouldn't always be your default choice either. If you use it, think of it more in terms of outdoor advertising than a print ad. Imagine that your audience is driving by your slide at 70 miles an hour. Its purpose is to support your message not to BE the message. Whenever possible, use simple visuals rather than words. To crawl inside the particulars of better PowerPoint, consider reading Cliff Atkinson's, Beyond Bullet Points.

A big thanks to Rich Teplitsky for recommending the book and to everyone at Linkedin who responded to my question this week! While this post only scratches the surface, I hope you found it helpful and that it encourages you to explore more effective ways to inspire your audience in the future.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Introducing The PowerPoint Patch

Before unveiling the Stamp Out Bad PowerPoint Toolkit, I thought it would be timely to introduce CSI's new invention to combat the most severe cases of PowerPoint addiction - The PPT Patch. Employing similar technology as the well known Nicotine Patch, The PPT Patch can be affixed anywhere on the body, but its effectiveness is directly proportional to how publicly it's displayed. Therefore, for maximum impact, which means you can be completely weaned off your PPT addiction in 21 days, we recommend taping the patch to your forehead! Try to hide the patch in any way, and your recovery may take months.

The PPT Patch is reserved for those people who can't help themselves but rely on Powerpoint for every type of communication. You know who you are. For those of you with sensitive skin, PPT Gum will hit the market soon; although I have to tell you, it doesn't taste very good! Still working on that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

PowerPoint - Presentation Tool or Leave Behind?

So do you use PowerPoint as a presentation tool, a leave behind, both, or neither?

Presentation Tool - As a presentation tool, used properly, PowerPoint can lend powerful visual and emotional enhancements to a well told story. That means using impactful visuals and very few words. You want your audience to pay attention to you, not simply read your remarks on a screen (as if you don't even need to be in the room).

Leave Behind - I recall when PowerPoint was first introduced into the workplace, people used it for the live presentation, but always drafted a complete narrative in the form of a Word document as a leave behind. Over time, people quickly surmised that if they're going to bullet point everything they're going to say anyway, then the PowerPoint presentation can double as the leave behind, saving lots of work by not having to create a separate Word document.

Consider of course that the purpose of the leave behind is so that later (whether having previously seen the presentation or not) someone can read the document in an unassisted environment and unequivocally grasp its purpose. Well, if you use PowerPoint as stated above, then it's going to fail miserably as a leave behind. What to do...

Both - The only way to use PowerPoint for both the presentation and the leave behind is to create two documents - the first designed as a presentation document and the second as a self explanatory leave behind. While I wouldn't go so far as to say this never works very well, I'm almost there. I just don't believe it competes with the difference in mindset one has when using Powerpoint versus Word. (BTW, if you do use PPT for both, just don't pass out your leave behind during the presentation. There's a reason it's referred to as the "leave behind.")

Neither - For those of you who are addicted to PowerPoint as if it's nicotine, consider trying other creative ways to make your case or tell your story. After delivering your presentation, try an alternative means of making your presentation stick with your audience. There's more to life than the PowerPoint leave behind.

Tomorrow, I thought I'd end the week with a Stamp Out Bad PowerPoint Toolkit including the all new "PowerPoint Patch" which works just like the nicotine patch. (PPT Gum waiting FDA Approval)

See you then!

The Kitchen Table Approach To Presenting

As part of one man's effort to stamp out bad PowerPoint, I've obtained some terrific input from the community at Linkedin, who have graciously offer their thoughtful suggestions that include alternatives to using PowerPoint and ways of employing it more effectively.

I look forward to sharing many of those insights later in the week. In the meantime, let me offer what I typically call the kitchen table approach to presenting. Consider all the conversations you've ever had with family and friends sitting across the kitchen table. I would guess that 99% of the time you're neither nervous, nor do you have difficulty succinctly making your point. You don't memorize what you're going to say, your just know what you want to say and you say it, free from worry about whether you forgot a small detail that most often matters more to you than to the effective delivery of the content.

Rehearse your next presentation at the kitchen table over coffee or your favorite beverage. Look the person in the eye, make your case, and do it from your heart. No slides, no memorized bullet points, no laptop on the table. This rehearsal technique works even if you plan to use PowerPoint in the actual presentation. The key is to create slides that bring your kitchen table speak to life, not to make your case in a manner that fits the slides.

Give it a try! My guess is that you'll be less nervous, your audience will be more engaged, and in the future, you may still use PowerPoint; you just won't have to rely on it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

CSI Launches Discussion Group At PR Open Mic

PR Open Mic brings together students, faculty, and PR practitioners in what I've found to be a terrific social networking and educational experience. What better place to engage in a dialogue about client service excellence than in a forum that offers such a global confluence of perspectives. So over the weekend, I started the Client Service Insights group. Here's our reason for being:

Client Service is something we all do, and we all know how to do - or do we? To illustrate the point, running is something we're nearly born doing, but if we want to run faster or longer, we need to learn specific techniques to improve our performance.

To complicate matters, great client service is in the eye of the beholder. Every client has his/her own set of expectations. Delivering a consistent, high level of client service in a global marketplace across hundreds of industries to thousands of clients is no small task, but it's a worthy one.

Client service excellence can mean the difference between keeping a client and losing one; growing the business or allowing it to atrophy; and motivating a prospect to work with you or not. Let's talk about it. Share your insights.

PR Open Mic is directed by Auburn faculty member and PR practitioner Robert French. The membership is up to nearly to 1,200 people from more than 45 countries and 130 universities worldwide. And it's growing quickly. As for the CSI group, we're just a day or two old and while few in number, we're mighty in spirit. I invite you to join! So when you get a minute, check out PR Open Mic for yourself, sign up, make some friends, and join a group - or join a group to make some friends. Either way just dive in, the water's fine!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Choose Visuals Over Bullet Points

As I continue to gather insights from a number of different forums about how to stamp out bad Powerpoint, I discovered a terrific video at Presentation Zen that talks about Dan Roam's book, The Back Of The Napkin. Next time you try PowerPoint, consider how you can use simple visuals to enhance your presentation rather than post bullet points that simply serve to repeat what you're saying. It's more fun for the presenter and will be greatly appreciated by your audience.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Stamping Out Bad PowerPoint!

After my post PowerPoint Don'ts, where I showcased Don McMillan's funny, but too close to home video portrayal of what NOT to do when using PowerPoint, I've received a number of e-mails, tweets, phone calls, notes, telegrams, carrier pigeon cannisters, and thoughtful responses on Linkedin, offering some terrific insights for how we, together, can stamp out Bad PowerPoint.

Since the content is already too voluminous to share in a blog, or an embedded PowerPoint slide show, next week I'll offer a synthesized post of the best of the best solutions, cures if you will, for how to stamp out Bad Powerpoint in your work environment once and for all.

Until then remember: Powerpoint, like spontaneity, has its time and its place.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

PowerPoint Don'ts

This week, we've been sharing stories and talking about the power of storytelling. Today's Fun Friday video should be all you need to convince your organization or client that they don't need Powerpoint to make their point. If you can't convince them, then at least pay close attention to these PowerPoint don'ts presented by comedian Don McMillan! Have a great weekend!

My All-Time Favorite Story

On Tuesday, I posted a few stories that offered some simple lessons, and I asked others to share their stories as well - which they generously did. Stories provide a powerful means for us to connect with people and ideas. We remember them because of the emotional and intellectual impact they tend to have on both ourselves and others. There's just nothing quite like a great story. That said, I thought I'd share my all-time favorite story and one that has served as a guiding principle for my point of view on our business.

Over 25 years ago, I read an article as part of Dr. Sharon Scholl's Humanities Class at Jacksonville University. The anecdote contained within this article has stood the test of time as the greatest PR/Client Service lesson I've ever received. The piece has nothing and everything to do with Client Service. Here is the article in its entirety:

It’s not easy to understand how the “Third World” thinks

One of the difficulties in the so called “dialogue” between the industrial nations and the “Third World” is that the two simply do not speak the same language ― in far more than the surface meaning of that phrase.

This holds true at all levels ― whether individual to individual or government to government.

Fortunately, however, the gap is beginning to be breached. In part this is the direct result of increased person-to-person contact, in recent years, through the Peace Corps and similar programs “giving people” instead of merely giving money.

In many parts of this globe today there is poverty; there is widespread hunger which often approaches starvation; there is human suffering and misery.

There is, to begin, a natural humanitarian desire to help suffering fellow human beings.

But, even entirely aside from this, it is simply good international politics to remove the sources of unrest. For unrest can explode into open revolution which can spread.

However, to help someone, the would-be helper must understand the way the proposed recipient thinks, or the effort may flop.

The World Development Letter (Oct. 29 issue) cites an excellent example of such inter-society misunderstanding.

A development consultant (with a scientific background) observed, when touring an African village, that the yolks of eggs from the village chickens were white.

Ah, he reasoned, clearly a vitamin A deficiency.

His solution:

Simply let the villagers grow marigolds; feed the leaves and seeds to the chickens; the chickens will no longer have their vitamin A deficiency; and the eggs will be more nutritious.

Only, it didn’t work.

Why?

The development consultant, unfortunately, knew more about laboratory science than the psychology and mores of the native villagers he tried to serve.

A seasoned observer, who understood the people of that village, gave three reasons why the “bright” idea failed:

1) Eggs are taboo to most Africans. Villagers won’t eat them because they believe that, if you eat an egg, you eat what might have become a meal for an entire family. Therefore, eating eggs is like stealing food from other members of your family.

2) Most Africans never feed chickens, because chickens can forage and survive (albeit poorly) on the termites they find. This saves money (no chicken feed) and helps keep termites down to boot.

3) The women (who do such chores) refused to grow the marigolds. They would have had to carry water, for the plants, from distant wells.

The Old African Hand concluded:

“They won’t carry extra loads of water for flowers they don’t want in order to feed chickens that don’t need feeding so as to produce nutritious eggs which they aren’t going to eat anyway.”

Moral: The bridge to mutual understanding and cooperation needs more spans than merely “speaking their language.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Barack To The Future!

I haven't always been the most reliable prognosticator, but on the day after Barack Obama announced his campaign for the White House, I wrote the post you'll find pasted below. Though there's still a general election to be waged, the country seems poised for change. Now whether the change will be as dramatic as depicted in the video Todd Defren shared, I guess we'll have to wait and see!

Public Service (February 11, 2007)

Yesterday was such an extraordinary day in U.S. history that it warrants a Sunday departure from client service to public service. At the old State Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois, U.S. Senator Barack Obama electrified a crowd of several thousand to declare his candidacy for President of the United States. At the same place where Lincoln spoke of America as a house divided and challenged its citizens to recall the values of the nation's founding fathers, Obama asked America to join a collective campaign to unite us once again. To join a campaign for hope.

Though there are many political lifetimes between now and November of 2008, we may have witnessed the announcement of the next President of the United States. The prospect of winning is daunting to say the least. Obama has only been in the U.S. Senate for two years. If he were to win, he'd be the only Senator other than Warren Harding and John Kennedy to be elected to our nation's highest office.* What's more, he'd be the first African-American president in our country's history.

I'm sure there may be countless other reasons why Obama's prospects for victory are improbable. That's why his courage is so compelling. Yesterday, he invited America to get to know him better. To join his journey of hope. To share his vision for an America that can regain a positive standing in the world. To offer average voters a voice in Washington, and to unite a country that has been carved and divided between red states and blue states for too long.

The reason I think he'll win is because of what has shaped him. I'm not talking about his parents, mixed race background, political experience, or his time at Harvard Law School. Obama's greatest asset is his experience as a community organizer. It should be required duty for anyone who plans to run for public office. Grassroots community service promotes people who listen, people who care about the challenges that face average Americans, and those who truly understand that one person can make a difference.

Obama is a once in a generation candidate whose commitment to public service is actually greater than his personal ambition. He's a powerful combination of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Whether one is a Republican, Democrat or Independent, we owe it to ourselves as a country to listen as Obama makes his case for hope.

I'm ready to listen and maybe even get involved. In another lifetime, I was very engaged in political campaigns at the national level, but the changes that have occurred in how Presidential campaigns have been run since 1988 caused me to walk away from a process I once loved. If nothing else, we should applaud Obama's candidacy because we're likely to see a positive shift in how candidates and the news media conduct themselves in a Presidential campaign. We can only hope.

*For historical clarification, I should have been more specific, as there have been 15 U.S. Senators who have served as President, but only two elected directly from the Senate to the Presidency.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What's Your Story?

Yesterday, I took a few minutes to look for a story I had once read from an article by Peter Senge about building a shared vision. I didn't find the precise reference, but essentially, it's about someone walking up to two stonecutters and asking, "What are you doing?" The first stonecutter replied, "I'm cutting stone." What's it look like I'm doing? The second exclaimed, "I'm building a great cathedral."

Of course during this pursuit, I discovered that in the original version there were three stonecutters. But apparently, given our ever decreasing attention span, one of our other stonecutters either quit or was let go.

While the stonecutter story inspires us to take a broader view of the significance of our respective vocations, I actually found another tale that you're going to love called the hole story:

A man looks out his window and sees two men with shovels, one walking behind the other. The first man digs a hole and moves down the street about 20 yards. Meanwhile, the second man fills up the first man’s hole. Then the whole process is repeated, again and again: the first man digs a hole, the second fills it up. Puzzled the onlooker yells out to the first man, “Why are you doing this?” The man replies, “Oh. We’re part of a three person team. The third guy is sick today. He plants the tree.”

My first thought was that metaphorically speaking I use to work for that company - or at least it seemed like it. Lots of work, no tangible results, and always a man or woman short.

You want to provide great client service? Keep your eye on the big picture and make sure you have everyone on the team you need to be successful!

Now share your favorite story!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Great Scott? Hardly.

So what did happen? Well, it would appear to be a case of Scott McClellan trying to serve two masters and failing to serve either. Though I've never visited the West Wing, I understand that the Press Secretary's Office is located at a (more or less) equal distance between the press room and the Oval Office - symbolic of the Press Secretary's responsibility to serve the President and the citizenry.

What I find interesting of course is that we somehow accept the notion that serving both parties represents competing rather than complementary interests. The President and the Press Secretary should be serving the true client here - the American people. You know, the people who pay the taxes, elect our leaders, and send their sons and daughters to war. Yes, those people.

When I was a little kid, I remember waiting for a haircut when a fight broke out between a mother and a petulant little brat who was screaming about how he wanted his hair cut (like it really mattered). Finally, the barber, who was ready to give both of them a crew cut at this point said, "who's paying for this?" The kid continued to scream, but the barber took his instructions from the mom who was paying the bill. Simple barber shop wisdom.

Future press secretaries would be well advised to consider that while the government may sign the check, the American people are the ones paying the salary. There's only one client here, not two.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Something's Missing From Now Is Gone

About a month or so ago, Geoff Livingston was kind enough to send me a signed copy of his book now is gone, which he describes as "a primer on new media for executives and entrepreneurs." He wrote the book with Brian Solis. I read now is gone over the weekend, and I think it's a must read for those who are considering their first foray into social media. What I like most is that it doesn't attempt to crawl inside the minutiae of social media so much as offer solid advice regarding the mindset one must have to achieve success with it. The book not only makes you want to learn more, but invites you to participate. Nicely done.

What's missing you ask? Well, in the back of the book Geoff includes a number of interviews he conducted between March and June of 2007 in a chapter titled: Best of the Buzz Bin Interviews. Geoff posted my interview with Buzz Bin on April 5, 2007. (Do you see where I'm going with this?) For my own sense of self preservation, I'll simply assume that my temporary exit from the blogosphere, which took place shortly after that time period, was the reason the interview was cut.

My interview may not have made the book, but the words still live on at Buzz Bin. I invite you to read them. Feel free to weigh in as to whether you think they were worth the ink.

Geoff, congratulations on the success of your book. I only wish I had gotten to it sooner - missing interview notwithstanding ; - )

Relentless Thanks!

It's been a busy May, not only here at CSI/Season 2, but I was involved in kicking off a new team blog at Mullen called relentlessPR. If you haven't visited yet, please do and let us know what you think.

As part of my monthly thank you to those who so generously contribute to our conversation, I'm also including the people who supported relentlessPR and kindly helped us kick things off. (You all received some relentless recognition over there as well). Thanks again for all your support, and I look forward to a great June!


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