Ever feel like you’re on a treadmill that’s going faster and faster? That seems to be the new norm, with less downtime to just sit and relax for a moment.
As people feel the constant tug for their time and attention, the importance of clear, concise communications becomes more important.
So how do you reach someone who is reading your message while making dinner, helping the kids with homework, and answering an after-hours text message from her boss?
- Begin with your most important message.
- Use bullets. They help break up copy and make reading easier.
- Opt for simple words and avoid jargon, acronyms, and words that readers may not understand.
- Use examples to illustrate complicated points.
- Offer a contrast or comparison to create an image in your readers’ mind (“The ship is the length of two football fields.”)
- Stay away from too many fine details.
As I write this, we’re enjoying a beautiful late-winter day — and waiting for the arrival of a sizable winter storm.
Snow brings a unique and unmistakable beauty to a scene, particularly when it reflects the morning light. There is, however, the issue of clean-up.
As a kid, I didn’t mind snow because it often gave us a day off from school, as well as a few dollars for shoveling driveways. Year later, I clear the driveway that leads to my home, although my bright red snow blower stands ready when the snowfall exceeds a few inches.
In the early days, however, there was no snowblower, just me and my handy shovel. Sometimes the snow was heavy and the work exhausting. During those days, I learned to look down and focus on the work in front of me, not the long section that lay ahead. When I needed a quick break, I’d take deep breaths while purposefully looking back at the section that I had already shoveled. In an odd way, that motivated me.
The same can be done in life or work. When faced with a daunting task or project, keeping my head down and plugging away helps move things forward. And reviewing progress still prods me to continue the work still to be done.
Early in my career, I worked as a weekend sportscaster at the local CBS television affiliate. Some days, the clock would tell me we had 45 minutes until air time, and I’d wonder how the work would get done. I’d take a deep breath, and tell myself, “You did it last week, you can do it today.” Then, just like after a snowstorm, I’d put my head down and get to work.
One of the great honors of my career was receiving the Edward L. Bernays Award from the Maine Public Relations Council. It’s the organization’s highest honor, and I’m humbled to have my name listed alongside some of the great PR people in our state. My acceptance speech shared a handful of tips gleaned over the years, and I though you might find it of some value:
Thanks, Linda for that warm introduction.
And thank you to Kelly, the MPRC board, and to the Bernays Committee for this award.
I’m touched, honored, and humbled to know that my name will be listed alongside some of the best public relations people from our great state.
I wrote three different drafts of today’s remarks, but none felt right. I don’t particularly like talking about myself, and because this is a conference, every speaker should give the audience a takeaway or two, so how about if I to share a few tidbits of the best advice I’ve received through the year, with the hope that one or two might resonate with you.
- Doing the right things is the always the right thing to do — particularly in PR. We need to be the conscience of an organization. A corollary to that is something Mark Twain said: the best thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember anything.
- The next one came from the big store at the top of the hill, L.L. Bean: Put your customers first and remember that they’re the reason you’re in business.
- At the end of the day, the person you have to answer to is the one in the mirror. If you do that, everything else seems to fall into place.
- Perhaps my favorite quote is from Thomas Jefferson who said he was a big believer in luck and the harder he worked, the more if it he had.
- Finally, trust your gut and trust your instinct. Or in the words of the great American philosopher Cosmo Kramer, “what does the little man inside you say? You’ve gotta listen to the little man…the little man knows all.”
In closing, I’d like to thank the many people who have provided guidance, encouragement, and unwavering support to me for so many year. I accept this award on behalf of all of you, and in my mind, your names are etched on this with mine. But, I’ll keep it at my house.
Thank you again for a few minutes of your time…..I hope you enjoy the rest of the afternoon….
It’s been awhile since my last post. While I’d like to say that it’s because I won the lottery and took an extended trip around the world, the truth is that I had tendinitis in both wrists, which led me to reduce the time I spent typing.
Recovery was slow, and while I’m not quite 100 percent all the time, I’m back at the keyboard and ready to start blogging again.
There’s also a lesson here that I want to share with you — it’s important that we manage our screen time. Watch your posture at the keyboard, take regular stretch breaks, and if you experience pain or discomfort, speak with your physician or the appropriate safety or wellness person at your office.
It’s nice to be back, and I hope you’ll enjoy the return of my regular blog posts.
After 5 months of action, we’ve finally reached Super Bowl week. While the Broncos and Panthers go through final preparations, let’s take a short quiz to test your knowledge of the big game.
Questions (answers below)
- Which city is hosting this year’s Super Bowl?
- Who won the first two Super Bowls?
- Player on the winning teams of the first 11 Super Bowls earned $15,000. What did the Patriots players earn after winning Super Bowl 49 last year? a) $97,000 b) $150,000 c) $237,000
- This brash, young quarterback promised a Super Bowl III victory, and then delivered the upset.
- Name one of the three teams that have appeared in the most Super Bowls (8).
- Phil Simms was the first Super Bowl MVP to tell the world, “I’m going to ____.”
- This former contestant on Dancing with the Stars holds the record for most Super Bowl touchdowns. Name him. Hint: all touchdowns came on pass receptions.
- Pittsburgh holds the record for most Super Bowl victories. How many times have the Steelers won the big game?
- Of 49 games, how many Super Bowls have been decided by 3 points or less?
- Which of this year’s two teams, Carolina and Denver, has a better record in the Super Bowl?
Bonus question – 3 points
Walter Iooss will be at his 50th Super Bowl this year. Who is he?
Hint: he does what I would want to be doing.
- This year’s Super Bowl is in Santa Clara , California. Give yourself a point if you responded San Francisco or the Bay Area.
- The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.
- The Patriots players earned $97,000 for winning the Super Bowl 49.
- Joe Namath promised and delivered a victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl II.
- The Patriots, Steelers, and Cowboys have appeared in eight Super Bowls.
- Phil Simms was the first MVP to say “I’m going to Disney World.”
- Jerry Rice scored 8 Super Bowl touchdowns.
- The Steelers have won the Super Bowl six times, followed by San Francisco and Dallas with five victories
- Eight Super Bowls have been decided by 3 points or less.
- Denver. The Broncos have won twice in seven games, Carolina is winless in one game.
Walter Iooss is a Sports Illustrated photographer.
1-4 You watch for the commercials
5-7 All Pro
8 – 10 MVP
- Hang out with people who make you laugh.
- Try to do something active every day.
- Experience other cultures through travel, books/magazines, events, etc.
- Spend less than you earn.
- Go to bed earlier.
- Get outdoors more.
- Talk with a senior citizen.
- Eat a cleaner diet.
- Find stress management activities.
- Say hello to strangers.
- Unplug frequently.
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Do something outside your comfort zone.
- Leave the car and walk or bike to the store.
- Listen to music from your youth.
- Let people off the hook when they make a mistake.
- Take photos of things in nature.
- Say “yes” more than “no.”
- But learn how to say “no” when you feel overwhelmed.
- Clean out the clutter.
- Make new friends.
- Connect with old friends.
- Watch an old movie.
- Honor your commitments.
- Do your taxes earlier.
- Ramp up your retirement savings.
- Take all of the vacation time you’ve earned.
- Pat yourself on the back once in a while.
- Replace television time with a hobby.
- Take a class.
- Tackle that home project that’s been hanging over your head.
- Live knowing that every day could be your last.
- Tell your loved ones how you feel.
Your turn. What ideas do you have to make 2016 a great year?
Could you manage without electricity for a couple of days? What if a major storm left you stranded at home? Or worse, if a hurricane drove you from your home?
While Emergency management experts stress the importance of personal readiness, Americans are, in general, woefully unprepared for the next disaster that might lurk around the corner.
I recently appeared on Maine Watch, a news program on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network with Joshua Frances, MPH, an emergency management expert, to discuss personal preparedness, and what Americans can — and should — do to be ready when an emergency arises.
“Preparing for an emergency helps you better manage it,” says Josh, who shares the belief that personal preparedness is a civic responsibility we all share. “By preparing for a disaster, you also reduce the odds that emergency responders will be called to assist you,” he says. “This frees them up to aid those who may unable to fend for themselves and really need help — such as the elderly or those with health issues.”
So, what should you do to prepare?
Consider the possibilities
First, identify what emergencies you’re most likely to encounter in your area. For example, New Englanders should look at the possibility of an ice storm knocking power, while those in the Midwest might want to think about preparing for a tornado.
From there, consider what the impact would be, and how you could prepare for the worst. Some things to consider:
- Have a family disaster plan and have practice it. Include all family members in planning and practice.
- Have at least one member of your household is trained in first aid and CPR/AED.
A “Shelter in Place Kit” helps you ride out an event, such as a blizzard, if you decide to hunker down at home. Items to include:
- First Aid kit
- Flashlights and batteries
- Water – plan for one gallon per person per day
- Non-perishable food
Be Ready to ‘Go’
Some circumstances might drive you from your home. To prepare for these, such as home fires, make a “Go Bag,” with essential items:
- List of medications and health care providers
- Emergency contact information
- Emergency clothing
- Games for the kids
- Pet food, toys, extra leash
Note: Keep your important papers protected from the elements in a plastic bag
Pack the car
It’s also wise to keep some basic emergency supplies in your car, should you be stranded:
- Warm clothing – hats, wool socks, gloves
- First Aid Kit
- Sand (for traction if you’re stuck)
Home fires are the most common , and deadliest type of disaster, so make sure your house has working smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside sleeping areas, and on every level. While you’re at it, add a carbon monoxide detector on each level, too.
And, don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. You’ll find long lines and short supplies at the store.
Learn more about preparedness at Ready.gov
Sandy’s devastation reminds us to be prepared
Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season. To begin the celebration, let’s see how well you know the holiday with a short quiz (answers below):
- While Christmas is always December 25, where can Thanksgiving be found on the calendar?
- True or false. The origins of Thanksgiving can be traced back to the 1600s?
- Who sings the Thanksgiving Song?
- Which President declared Thanksgiving a national holiday?
- The National Foot League features three games on Thanksgiving day. The Detroit Lions are one of two teams on the schedule each year. Name the other team.
- How much turkey do Americans eat on Thanksgiving?
A) 50 million pounds
B) 250 million pounds
C) More than 750 million pounds
- What is the name of the parade that takes place that day? Bonus points if you know its original name.
- Each year, the President of the United States pardons a turkey. Who started that tradition?
- When the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line opened in 1981, six people responded to 11,000 calls. How many will the call center answer this year?
- Which state produces the most cranberries? Hint: it also leads the nation in production of cheese.
- Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November.
- True. The Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in 1621. According to sources, it included 50 people who traveled on the Mayflower and 90 Native Americans.
- Adam Sandler sings the Thanksgiving Song.
- President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving in 1863.
- The Dallas Cowboys join the Detroit Lions as NFL regulars on Thanksgiving Day.
- According to the National Turkey Federation, approximately 736 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States during Thanksgiving in 2012.
- The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was originally the Macy’s Christmas Parade.
- The origins of the Presidential Turkey Pardon are somewhat fuzzy, but Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy are both believed to have spared a turkey. The first official “pardon” was issued by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. Give yourself a point if you named any of these leaders.
- More than 50 experts on the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line will respond to 100,000 calls this year.
- Wisconsin holds the title of largest producer of cranberries, followed by Massachusetts.
1- 4 You’re at the kids table
5 – 8 You’ve earned an extra serving
9 – 10 The drumstick is yours!
Like many around our nation, I’ve admired the contributions of the group called the Greatest Generation — those who grew up in the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and returned to raise the Baby Boomers. I touched on this in an earlier blog, and last week’s Veterans Day made me think more about what this amazing group of people did, and the lessons they left us.
So, Installment Two of Lessons from the Greatest Generation:
Don’t sweat the small stuff
One woman — married more than 50 years — said the low divorce rate among her generation was due to the hardship they endured, from the depression to the war. By comparison, she noted, many common marital spats seemed inconsequential.
Happiness is more than money
Ever wonder why people from that generation like to tell stories about their youth? Because they were happy times. They had little material wealth, and yet, were still happy. Life was an adventure, not a purchase-driven journey.
As much as the generation is asked about its sacrifice – whether supporting the war effort or working extra hours to provide for the family – you rarely hear boastful responses. My uncle, a tank driver in WW II, would shrug when I’d talk about his sacrifice. Despite the contributions, there was never a sense of entitlement.
Family comes first
This generation set the standard for family. They worked hard to provide a better life for their children, and were more involved in the family than prior generations.
Has any generation experienced more change? Growing up, they watched horse-drawn carriages deliver blocks of ice to keep food cold. Clothes were washed by hand and hung on a line in the back yard. Decades later, every home has a car, refrigerator, and washer/dryer. And let’s not forget the shift from pencils and ledgers to computers.
Save money, manage debt
Despite modest wages, the Greatest Generation managed to avoid debt and build a nice nest egg. If something was beyond their financial reach, they didn’t buy it, and cash was king.
Please, thank you, and you’re welcome. This generation knew the importance — and power — of these words.
Your turn. What did you learn from the Greatest Generation?
I was recently interviewed by a budding PR practitioner for a college class. The conversation made me think about the pros and cons of the business, and what I wish someone had told me in the early years.
- A great variety of tasks ensures you’ll never be bored — from writing to photography to media relations.
- You get to do a lot of fun things. Top of my list? Taking courtside photos at a Boston Celtics game. I’ve also done aerial photography and handled media relations for an event that featured former Secretary of State George Mitchell as the keynote speaker.
- You learn a lot. About a lot of things.
- And get to hang with interesting people — celebrities, authors, elected officials, company leaders, and national media. One of my favorites was working at a Leon Redbone concert, and being in the Green Room after the show.
- The CEO knows your name and returns your emails.
- PR people have a seat at the table, whether in a leadership meeting or a crisis response.
- Along with the variety comes a high degree of unpredictability. Issues and projects have an interesting way of popping up at the wrong time.
- You’ll run across people who think they know your job and — often well-intentioned — tell you how to do it.
- Pressure. PR has been listed among the most stressful jobs.
- Lack of control – you can do everything correct and still not have the outcome you desire: rain washes out your outdoor event; a significant event bounces your story off the news, etc.
- 24/7 – Lots of things happen off work hours, from customer events to a middle-of-the-night crisis.
Your mistakes are often public.
Doing the Job
- Ask questions – If something confuses you, it likely has the same effect on your audience.
- Show common sense – Be the person who says, “This doesn’t pass the straight-face test.”
- Know numbers – A good business sense helps you understand your organization and boosts your credibility.
- Be quick – The clock is often ticking, so learn to write and think quickly.
- Act with integrity – It’s the right thing to do and you’re asking for trouble if you veer off course.
Your turn, PR people. What advice would you share with a hopeful practitioner?