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3 Lessons We Can Learn from Dogs

February 25, 2010

Humans can be so arrogant.  Don’t you think it’s worthwhile to stop and think about what we can learn from “man’s best friend?” Here’s what I’m talking about.

Meeting people – humans look each other up and down, judging the hair, clothes, accessories, and general grooming.   Real jerks get a first pass as long as they have every hair in place, straight white teeth, nice figure, and their clothes in top condition and style.  For dogs, appearance means nothing -it’s all in the smell.  I’m not suggesting that humans substitute the handshake with a butt sniff, but what if we based our first impression less on visual appearance and more on what is not visible to the eye?

Secondly, dogs are really good at letting you know how they feel.  When you do something that makes them happy, their tail can wag nearly 10 times per second (okay, I made this number up, but it sounds about right).  How many times do we let each other know when they’ve made us happy?  Would it make it so much easier for us if they knew?  Next time someone does something right, tell them about it and I can assure you they will want to do it again.

Finally, dogs are loyal.  No matter how badly they may be treated or ignored, they still want your love and give you theirs.  They give you their love whether you filled their dish with fresh water, whether you had a bad day at work, and even when you don’t feel like loving them back.  It’s love 24/7.

Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world would love like dogs?


Ten Ways to Know You’re in PR

February 23, 2010

My friends in public relations and I had fun compiling this list.  Which ones did we miss?

You Know You’re in PR When:

  • You can’t read a headline in the Wall Street Journal without wondering which PR firm was behind the story and how they pitched it.
  • There aren’t answers, just key messages.
  • You find yourself applying media relations training during an argument with your spouse.
  • No matter what their profession, everyone thinks they’re a writer when you ask them to fact check your press release.
  • You watch interviews over again with the sound off.
  • A client demands an announcement the day before they approve it.
  • Invitations for family parties read like press releases.
  • You armchair quarterback the communications plan for every public scandal.
  • No matter how much lead time you provide, nothing comes back until just before deadline.
  • You have 1001 ways to say “no comment.”

Please add yours to the comments!

Is There a Place in PR for Six Sigma?

February 22, 2010

Public relations is in a twitter these days over the topic of measurement with an intense air of seriousness and purpose. A Google search of “PR measurement” brings up over 4.8 million results (with Katie Paine’s blog at the top).  The prevailing wisdom is that if it matters it should be measured. This is sensible and a no brainer, although the debate rages on over exactly what and how PR is measured to understand how it connects and contributes to overarching organizational goals.

However, when I hear the word, “measurement,” my knee jerk reaction* is to think of it systemically – as a constant discipline, integrated into every decision and action.  By being integral within the overall processes of public relations, measurement is poised to support controlled and predictable outcomes.

Isn’t this the promise of Six Sigma?  Its process of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control consumes measurement as if it were a fish with gills wide open.   Measurement becomes not only the lifeblood of performance, but it is the language of performance, too.

Perhaps this is why public relations is slow to become a data-driven, measurement-based function. Our language is about words and images, not numbers.  The same trepidation people have in learning a foreign language (speaking first-hand) cripples public relations professionals in embracing numbers.

So, is there a place in PR for Six Sigma?  If interpreted as, “is there a place in PR for a culture of systemic and disciplined measurement?” – the answer is emphatically, “yes.”   Measurement gives us the only language to express where we are and where we need to go.  The hard part is getting it immersed throughout the organization with commitment and dedication for it to reach the point of fluency.

*spoken as a former analytical chemist and trained Six Sigma champion

On Grammy Track

February 22, 2010

For the two people that follow my blog regularly, you may be wondering where I’ve been since my last posting in September.  How did I get off-track?

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me.  Back in 1988, I left my full time job as an analytical chemist to stay home with my daughter and newborn son.  As described in song by John Lennon, it was a time for me to step off of the merry-go-round and enjoy watching the wheels go around.  Others called it “mommy track.”

Over the years, curbstones of that track became worn and I got “in the game” again. Even after formal employment ended for me last year, pursuit of new learning within public relations – social media, blogging, accreditation – were keeping me busy, that is until autumn arrived.

Then, on a Saturday in mid-September, I became a grandmother and discovered that all the mushy and overbearing proclamations about the Wonders of Grandchildren are actually true.  There is no more wonderful person in the world than my Baby Tom.  My world changed on that day as a dream I never thought I had became real.

So, that’s where I’ve been – on Grammy Track – playing, feeding, changing, walking, burping, rocking, and loving Baby Tom.  I hope I’m on this track for a long time, but I’m ready to get back into the game, too.

Stay tuned for musings!

Bank of America and the Fraud of Patriotism

September 29, 2009

After two years of marginal success at college, my son joined the Navy.   As a military brat, I’m proud that my son is following the path of my father and hope that this experience will foster independence and initiative that have eluded him thus far.

As he was preparing for basic training, my son came home one day with a packet from the Bank of America.  He had opened up a checking and savings account.  “Why did you do that when you already have a checking and savings account with our credit union?” I asked him.  He replied that he needed it to direct deposit his Navy paychecks and there would be no fee.  I told him he already had that service with the credit union.  “But they have a special Navy account, Mom,” he said.

Sure enough, on his Bank of America statements there it is, “Navy Theme.” There is also a $5.95 service charge that lasted a few months before it got jacked up to $8.95. Now that he is away at basic training, still away from his first paycheck, and essentially out of contact with the Real World (aka bank letters), my son missed out on the notice that the service fees have depleted his account to the point that it is in arrears.  Bank of America and its Navy Theme is threatening to send his account to a credit bureau and warned him that he will have trouble trying to establish another banking relationship elsewhere.

And there you have it: Patriotism in action at Bank of America.  Wave the flag, recruit the soldiers in waiting with your Navy theme accounts, and nail them when they are too far away and too isolated to do anything about it.  And, when their mothers complain, point out how they broke the law in opening their son’s mail, but they are welcome to come in and cover the amount.

With this type of patriotism, who needs terrorism?

UPDATE: A very helpful BOA employee at a local branch cancelled the last 90 days of fees, leaving the account $5 in the red.  He said they will cancel the account once my son notifies them, which will not be until he’s out of basic training on October 30th.  I’m still pursuing legislation that limits marketing to military recruits, prohibits service fees from creating overdrawn accounts in the absence of withdrawals by the account owner, and the closure of accounts/submission to collection agencies while servicemen and recruits are away without liberty.

Game On, Life On

September 3, 2009

Because my mouth tends to say “yes” before my mind thinks “no,” I agreed to be part of a group diet called, “The Game On Diet.”  It was an easier “yes” than most since Wendy Thomas was organizing it (a phenomenal woman) and I had several pounds to lose.  Plus, it only lasts for four weeks so the light at the end of the tunnel was visible…dim, but visible.

The diet is based on the book, The Game On Diet, by Krista Vernoff and Az Ferguson, but it’s not really a diet.  It’s a game where teams compete with other teams to get the most points.  Points are earned daily by team members and based on eating the right stuff five times a day, exercising 20 minutes, sleeping 7 hours, drinking 3 liters of water, giving up a bad habit and adopting a good one.  There are rules like no soda, no diet soda, and no alcohol (except for a weekly meal off and weekly day off).  If I had known about the alcohol thing before I said “yes,” my mind would have stapled and duct taped my mouth shut, but I’ve adjusted without my evening wine.

Well, we are now in the middle of week three and some amazing things are happening.  I’m losing weight – over 6 pounds so far – I had no desire to grab the mini Hershey bars sitting right in front of me during an hour meeting yesterday, I am actually exercising six days a week, I’ve met some cool women (and a MAN who’s on it), and the most absolutely, positively amazing thing – I’M ENJOYING IT.  I feel great, my skin is better, and I’m actually SAD that it will be over in a week and a half.  I’m already planning on organizing another one in a month or so.

I’m doubtful that my team will win as we had a rough start and there are these sassy sisters who are blowing the competition out of the water, but that’s okay. My team is on track for winning this week and I know that I will stay on track for a long, long time.

Why?  I’m not thinking about food, I’m not deprived, I’m HAVING FUN.  As far as reading trends, I’m convinced the Game On Diet will be the biggest thing to influence healthy habits and dieting.  If it was stock, I’ll sell the house and buy as many shares as I could!

Planet Ignoramus

August 21, 2009

In case you missed it, there was a news story a couple of days ago that has become one of my favorites (and others’, too, as it has over a million hits on YouTube).  During a town hall meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was asked why he was supporting a “Nazi policy” – you know, that evil health care bill that must be just as bad as the Holocaust. The woman asking the question, as well as many others in the audience, were holding pictures of President Obama embellished with a Hitler-type mustache.

What happened next was pure delight.  Frank asked the woman, “And what planet do you spend most of your time?”  He continued to observe that it was a tribute to the First Amendment that she could even as such a thing and having a conversation with her would be like conversing with his dining room table.

HOORAY!  Frank said what everyone else is thinking.  When did all these aliens from Planet Ignoramus invade Earth to infiltrate our political debate?  Kowtowing to their escalating outrageousness is turning into complicity.  Frank rejected it and his response should serve as a model for how everyone else with half a brain should react.  Anything else is giving them credibility which they have squandered through their lies, innuendo, disrespect, and plain old ignorance.