Blown Away


The new iOS10 has some great new features. But the best one is a secret, personalized for every user, and yours can only be found by you. Here’s how I found mine.

I’m a geek. If you read this blog, you know I love tech, gadgets and toys. I get my greasy, adolescent-fantasy hands on anything I can play with. If it’s new or different, I am magnetically attracted to it. An eternal kid.

After updating to iOS10, I saw the iPhoto app enhancements almost immediately, as everyone did. A few hours after updating, my phone had magically arranged some of my pictures of my children into an album, with a title based on the geo-tagged information, and set to music. The new gallery called to me to tap and open.

Over the next several days, the number of  those albums grew. Titled “York 2016,” and “Best of August,” they popped up like diamond-encrusted nuggets for my viewing pleasure, presenting familiar and forgotten images, stitched together with slick transitions and set to music. “A fun new way to see old things,” I thought, “How clever.”

But just today, a set of images popped up titled “Portraits 2006-2016.” They were pictures featuring images of my wife, Katie, over the 15 years we have (so far) spent together. Photos of us in the first years we met dissolved into our wedding day; then the arrival of our two children; then rewinding backwards to vacations and holidays with our extended family; and sprinkled over with memories of back to school and birthdays, new homes and old neighborhoods, soccer matches and baseball games.

As the photos danced across my screen, chronologically out of order but still thematically linked, I watched Katie’s face closely. First she was younger, then older; first a girlfriend, then a bride, then a mother; first on a beach then on a delivery room operating table; first hugging me, then clinging tight to our children, who gripped her in loving return.

In every image, her smile never waned, but over time, an evolving feminine wisdom spread across her face, the kind that only comes attached to those life-altering experiences one never expects or plans. In those images, a family began to gather around her and the dynamic shifted. Her presence became larger and grounded each passing photo, altering the hierarchy of those memories in an instant. She became the foundation of everything I saw. What had once been defined by an occasion or location dissolved entirely; replaced by the presence and power of this wonderful woman who was now the center of my narrative.

That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks.

In our frenetic day-to-day existence, I might not have been confronted with such visceral evidence of how strong and beautiful and essential a gift my wife is to me and my children, and what a dramatically irreplaceable role she has played in defining our very existence. We all play a unique role in each other’s lives, but none so much as the partners who choose to love us. As my photos morphed, one into the next, it became wonderfully clear that none of us – me, our children, or our extended family – would exist as we do without her.

Don’t mistake me – I love and value Katie every day. I miss no opportunity to say “I love you,” and to teach our children then same. Honor, respect and gratitude are themes which hang (literally) on the wall of our home. We know how important- and how important letting her know how important – she is.

But those images, stitched together by a phone, an inert object, in a completely random way and over the most generic of music beds, was an electro-magnetic pulse that cascaded over my brain. Stopped in my tracks, I could only stare and smile, as a tear formed in the corner of my eye. This was my whole universe, in a 60-second movie, auto-generated by an app, and more mind-blowing and joyful than any physical photo album I had ever held in my hands.

That is the power of the best of technology, which goes beyond digital code to reach out and touch us;  technology that speaks to our hearts and to our souls; technology that brings us together in unanticipated and surprising ways that have lasting impact.

Thanks, iOS10 and its creators, for uniquely remindimg me what an amazing person I found, married, and with whom I created a family, a life and an identity. I’m looking forward to what “Memories 2016-2026” will be. Now I’m headed to buy some flowers.

New Beginnings


sprouting_tree_960_480-960x480

The start of a new school year has had our house buzzing, stocking up on classroom supplies and snacks. As I desperately cling to summer, the rhythm of our weekly routine has changed. Time is moving us – like it or not – into the next season. I choose to embrace it.

With that progression comes a new perspective on everything around us. And so I thought it was as good an excuse as as any for restarting this blog. I’ve missed writing for myself the way I used to here. Spilling my daily thoughts onto the page is cathartic and therapeutic – and can deliver some unexpected goodness along the way.

I’ve logged a lot of miles (literally and figuratively) since my last blog post, which, even though a click away is some two years (or more?) in the rear view mirror. In that time, I’ve made new friends and had new experiences. I’m sure you have too. So why not tell some of those stories and embrace the new ones on the horizon?

Sine nothing good in life happens by itself, I’ll need your help. As I begin to share the fun and important things in my life again – family, friends, work experiences and extra curricular activities – I want to also hear from you about what’s happening in your world. A shared experience is always the best experience, I say.

So let’s start this new journey together.

Here we go.

The Price of Social Media Incivility


Internet Incivility
The cruelty of the Internet can be shocking.

We are reminded of this every time we read about a teenager who slips through the cracks of society, bullied into a psychological corner by anonymous and hurtful comments on social media. In the worst cases, we discover their torment too late to help.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see Jimmy Kimmel’s skit from the Oscar Red Carpet on Sunday – well before the celebrity selfie and the John Travolta mouth mush meltdown during the broadcast – where he climbed through the TV screen and into a fictitious couple’s living room, comically scolding them for their nasty celebrity-targeted tweets and warning them to be on their best behavior during the telecast. What a great moment, I thought, for someone like Jimmy to champion social media civility in front of a TV audience of millions, worldwide.

The feeling didn’t last long.

The very next day, a post popped up in one of my social media feeds about “The Most Beautiful People at the Oscars with the Ugliest Spouses.” The barbaric writeup (no, I’m not going to link to it; I’m not giving them any more clicks) scolded the chosen celebs on the list for marrying spouses deemed far beneath their own physical beauty, and chided them for not doing better, questioning both their judgement and their eyesight. It was a cheap stunt meant to generate web traffic from gawkers who like to spend their days scrolling through celebrity pictures and from internet trolls who are all too eager to lend to the acerbic stream of comments from the anonymous safety of their computer screens.

Worse, it occurred to me, is that some of the victims targeted for these caustic comments in the article aren’t celebrities themselves: they are regular people with regular jobs, regular co-workers and bosses, who buy their own regular groceries and drive themselves to work in regular cars through regular traffic. And while they probably are used to the nastier side of their better half’s business, I am also betting they didn’t sign up to be targeted in such a personal and mean-spirited way. It must have hurt them greatly, even if just for a moment. And it must have made their Monday unnecessarily sad.

Back in December, I wrote about my “Three Words for 2014” and chose “Community & Kindness” as my first and most important for the next 12 months (alright, they’re two words, but I copped to that in the post).

As PR people, we coach people on how to make positive statements and to approach things from a “half full” perspective. We urge clients to seek deserved publicity for when they do good, and apologize for failure when they do bad. We guide them on decisions, and try to help them forecast the consequences of bad ideas before they become bad actions. As private people, shouldn’t we all walk that same walk? Shouldn’t we all be the Jimmy Kimmels of our social (and social media) circles, and refuse to fan the flames of self-righteous and nasty words and actions? Shouldn’t we even chime in to take people down a peg when they are unfair? Wouldn’t that create a better and more productive community for all of us? Most importantly, wouldn’t that set a great example for our kids, and for young people who see and read what we post? If they are to imitate our behavior, isn’t that what we want them to learn and repeat?

For my part, I’m going to spend some time scrolling through my feeds and delete any comments that fit this definition. I will suspend that rule about “owning everything you put on the internet” in favor of the “Community & Kindness” that I think 2014 needs so desperately.

Momentum


momentum

Momentum can be a powerful ally.

It’s that natural rhythm you build up once you’ve stepped out and started along your path to your goal. Some days, that momentum can be so strong that it seems all you have to do is ride the wave.

I’m reminded of this every time I step onto the treadmill at the gym. Those first few steps can seem so hard (especially at 5 a.m.!), but once I get going, I sometimes feel like I can run forever.

Worse than not getting started is stopping before your reach your destination. Whatever my project is – whether working for a client, saving money for my kids’ college funds, or just getting from one place to another on the subway – I find that the worst thing I can do is stop before I am truly done.

Getting started again can be harder than when I started in the first place. It was just going to be a temporary pause, I told myself at the time. Excuses are rampant and easily justified.

Reminds me of “Standing Still,” which I wrote a couple years back.

Once you get started, don’t stop. You’ll never cross the finish line if you do.

The Difference Between Hearing & Listening


listening

When you ask a question, are you searching for a person’s knowledge or waiting to hear the answer you want?

There’s a saying about business that goes something like this: “If you look around and find you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Meaning, you’d be wise to surround yourself with people from whom you can learn, as well as teach.

Collaboration is one of the many keys to success. And while we can go into a project or situation with an idea of what we want to accomplish, we should never let that shut down the creativity and ideas we get from the people with whom we interact.

Some of the best ideas can come from the most unanticipated of sources.

I try to be focused on the goal, not the path. Because I’m really not interested in how I get to the end, as long as I make it there.

What are you listening for?

Passion is what we’re looking for


Passion

Ever notice how when you become passionate about something that you tear right into it?

In our search for happiness, Passion may well be the Holy Grail. It is the great motivator, and will help you do things you didn’t think you could do – and do it better than you thought you were capable. It will raise your bar and make you crave excellence.

When you are passionate about something, you can’t wait to do more of it. You’ll gladly run on nothing but coffee and adrenaline; minutes will pass like milliseconds, and help you produce some of the greatest and most satisfying work of your life.

Finding passion in your work – and in your life – is the ultimate rush. When you find passion in what you’re doing, you just can’t quit. And you’d never consider it.

Look for the things you are passionate about and you’ll leap out of bed in the morning, make millions, and discover pure joy. Try doing something without passion and you will slog through your day. And your life.

We Need to be EVERYWHERE!!


We Need to be Everywhere

I really don’t like this phrase.

In my experience, it’s usually uttered by people who – despite sometimes being very smart – have a confused impression of how to effectively get their message out to the world.

Savvy PR strategists know that, rather than be “everywhere,” organizations seeking attention need to be where their market is, connecting with the people who will actually act on the information they deliver.

It’s great to grow your following. But reaching new audiences doesn’t reap the same reward as preaching to your choir: those people who come out to support you time and again and want to see you succeed, or have an interest in what you are doing and want to take part. Because when you don’t deliver to that audience, or show up somewhere those people expect you to be, the fallout is far worse, and those fans and supporters can (and likely will) drift away from you.

To steal a phrase, you need to fish where the fish are – where your fish are – not just cast your net wide and hope something shiny and new swims into it.

For me, a couple of core rules always apply:

1. Do your research: Know your audience and prep your message. Make sure there’s a clear actionable and a reward for doing so. Make it easy.

2. Don’t move so fast: Yes, we need to keep pace with the way the world turns, but don’t artificially accelerate your timeline because you’re imagining some deadline. The water’s going to boil when it’s hot, and that’s when you know it’s ready. And since speed exacerbates mistakes, slow down and get it right when you do go public.

3. Make short term sacrifices for long term gains: Do what you have to do now, to make your thing a success later. Everyone soft launches something sometimes, even offering deals for early adopters in order to gain acceptance and a following. Build your audience slowly and with care. The people who recognize your value will be more loyal in the long run and help spread your message. They will also defend you if that day ever comes. And it will.

4. Shut out the noise: Eliminate all distractions. Ban the bugaboos; those things that keep you awake at night because they “might happen.” It’s either gonna happen or it’s not, so visualize your goal, stop worrying and get to it.

Are you everywhere?

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year 2014

It’s that time of year again.

Time when every media outlet known to man puts together their year-end lists:

“Best of…” and “Worst of…”

“Top 10…” and “Top 100..”

“Things we want to remember…” and “Things we’d rather forget…”

They all make the rounds, competing for your attention, your likes and shares, your retweets and plus-ones.

And while my favorite kind of list – “Words for the New Year” – is nothing new, I’ve never made one of my own.

So to get my desire to do new things in 2014 kicked off right, I’m going to start today. Here’s my first ever “Three Words for the New Year:”

Community & Kindness – OK, so my first word is actually two, but that’s only because I think they’re inseparable. 2013 was a divisive year, with sides taken on almost everything. Anger, hostility, and a general incivility seemed to be everywhere we looked. In 2014, we need to be better at working together to achieve common goals and not just give lip service to “getting along” when all that is doing is providing yet another way to point a finger at someone. If you can’t start a conversation with a compliment of some kind, then you probably shouldn’t talk.

Economy – With so many resources, so much technology and so many things to do in a day, we could each make a full time job out of just managing what’s coming over our transom. In 2014, we need to slim our intake in order to make our output more productive. That doesn’t mean do less – it means eliminate the noise. Stay on course. Keep checking items off your to-do lists and adding new ones. Get to the finish line as fast as you can, and then go find a new one.

Creativity – Perhaps a perennial word, but one that should be repeated anyway. New years mean new starts, new things to discover and new records to smash. It means bending your brain in ways you haven’t yet – or haven’t in a while – to achieve that thing that’s been on your to-do list for so long it’s starting to collect dust. Creativity is the leaf-blower of your life, so plug that sucker in and go all Carl Spangler on it.

There are other words that came close to making the cut, but for now I’ll stick to these. A year from now, we’ll look back and see how these words – and the ideas behind them – held up.

What are your words for 2014?

Happy New Year!

Pitching on Friday ShareDay


Mariano Rivera

As PR people, we’re all just a bunch of pitchers.

Not like the great Mariano Rivera, or (watch me date myself here) Goose Gossage or Ron Guidry. (Anyone remember Luis Tiant for the win?)

We are storytellers, not only for our clients, but for ourselves. To be successful, we need to relay information in a condensed and entertaining way, so as to provoke the “tell me more!” reaction in the reporters, editors and producers we are pitching, giving them the tools to do the same for their readers, listeners and viewers.

We also all know that there are some basic rules about PR pitching: Never lie, or even stretch the truth; lead with the most interesting facts; have a story with a beginning, middle and end. And make every pitch actionable.

There’s also the rule about not pitching on a Friday, for various reasons. I’ve been guilty of practicing this myself, but this article – presented for this installment of Friday ShareDay – from PR News Online relays some valid reasons to jettison the “don’t pitch on Friday” rule.

Happy Weekend!

I Have a Dream…


Martin Luther King Jr

It could be the greatest speech of all time.

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech – truly a perfect oration if there ever was one – delivered on the National Mall as part of the “March for Jobs and Freedom” Rally in 1963.

This was a turbulent time in America. And this was a dangerous speech to have delivered. King does it not only with style, but with a linguistic grace that few have ever been able to replicate.

When I listen to King’s words, I am in awe – not just for what he says – but in the knowledge that he sat down and wrote this out, crafting messages and phrases that would resonate long after his untimely assassination and continue to inspire people whose parents had yet to be born.

I talk a lot about great writing on this blog, and how important it is to be able to coalesce ideas into language that moves people to action and fundamentally changes the way people see an issue.

It’s too easy to just watch the 15 second clip of the end of this speech that every news program is going to play tonight. Watch the whole thing through.

Wow.