I’ve Been A Parent For A Decade

My oldest daughter turned ten yesterday.

I know you’re not supposed to share the age of your kids or your home address in a blog post or a picture of that keg stand you did in college before Facebook was a thing, but having a kid reach double-digits makes me feel old.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was walking her back-and-forth down the hallway at our old house to soothe her, barely a month after she was born. I had to memorize the creaks in the wood floor so I wouldn’t step on one as she fell back asleep.

Now she retreats to her bedroom after school and FaceTimes her friends to see if they want to come over and stare at devices.

Not that I’m complaining about the way kids view technology. (Who do you think I am, Mitch Albom?) I consider myself lucky to have a daughter who still gives me the time of day and laughs at me in the morning when I do my best Miranda Sings impression to wake her up.

There’s no avoiding it, so you might as well embrace it. In fact, I applaud her school district for introducing Chromebooks for the kids to use on a regular basis. Start ’em young, I say.

Wait, did I say she’s young? That’s false. She’s older than I would like her to be, which means I’m older than I would like to be.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My wife and I can run up to the coffee shop to grab some java and we don’t have to load both kids in the car.

My daughter is also perfectly able to FaceTime her friends and rendezvous at the park to hang out. I don’t need to shuttle them anywhere, as long as it’s within bike-riding distance.

Those are the perks of having an older kid.

While I will always miss looking at her tiny face while wrapped her up in a onesie, having an older kid is pretty fun, too.

It’s just a different kind of fun.

Now, talk to me again in five years when the boys start to show up.

Define Failure to Achieve Success

Credit: Ben Harper Digital

Airline pilots are lucky. They know exactly what failure looks like. If the plane crashes, they haven’t done their job properly. You can’t really argue with that logic, but you are more than welcome to try.

It’s very cut and dried.

In our profession, the definition of failure is a bit more murky.

Nobody dies if we don’t do our job properly (usually), but budgets get cut and clients walk away if we don’t deliver on our promises.

The problem is teams are often taken by surprise when the client expresses dissatisfaction with the current direction of the account.

Instead of rallying around a common goal of ensuring the client gets back to a happy place, this can often lead to a grumpy team that becomes resentful and believes, right or wrong, their work is not valued because they’ve been busting their butts for the past six months.

Once this happens, it can be very difficult to bring everyone back together to act as a cohesive team.

In my experience, this happens because neither side has taken the time to define success.

Or, if you look at it from the opposite side, what it will look like if you fail.

It can be as simple as setting clear and measurable goals at the onset of work, but it must be done to ensure everyone remains on the same page.

I’ve managed accounts that fell behind stated goals. In these cases, we had agreed with the client to land a specific number of pieces of coverage in one calendar year.

After six months we were not close to meeting the goals, which led to uncomfortable discussions with clients.

When I went back to the team to push them to increase their output, I could reference the agreement we signed at the beginning of the year, so their was no surprise.

To be successful, it was as simple as meeting (or, in the best case, exceeding) a number we agreed upon six months prior.

I’m a big fan of using simple ways to motivate myself. Even writing that number on a piece of paper and hanging it in my cube is enough motivation to push me to call one more reporter when I didn’t feel like it.

Nobody wants to fail.

If you understand what failure looks like, you’re on the path to success.

You Are Only As Good As Your Results

This is truth.

You can put together the best-looking PowerPoint presentation, the most well thought out communications plan, or the most concise messaging for a marketing campaign.

But all of it amounts to a hill of beans if you don’t get results.

Clients don’t set aside significant portions of their budgets just to hear you tell them how you’re going to generate leads or get their name in the press.

They pay you to put their money where your mouth is and generate results.

This is a mantra I’ve always subscribed to, and it has always been top-of-mind when I deal with clients, both old and new.

Sometimes you do have to temper expectations by counseling them that the Wall Street Journal won’t write about their hiring announcement, for instance. But those moments are few and far between, and most of the clients I’ve worked with have realistic expectations.

It’s up to us to help meet those expectations.

It’s very easy to wrap yourself in the warm cocoon of deck building and editing that we, as communications people, are so fond of. But, eventually, you have to ship and start giving the client hard numbers that map toward agreed-upon metrics.

Otherwise, what separates you from everyone else?

Not a whole lot.

So the next time you start planning for a new campaign, put the emphasis on how you plan to meet the metrics, then work as hard as you can to deliver.

On Getting Coffee with Colleagues

Back in January, before I started my new (old) job at Airfoil Group, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to grab a coffee outside of the office walls with as many colleagues as possible before I got bogged down by client demands.

So, taking a cue from Megan Gebhart (and her quest to get one cup of coffee with a different person every week for a year) I scheduled coffee, with new and old colleagues, alike, within the first week of returning to the agency.

(Pro tip: If you are really serious about grabbing a coffee (or just setting time aside to talk) with someone, block time on their calendar. I joke that you could send me a meeting notice in Outlook to jump off the top of the building at 1 p.m. on Friday and I’d probably do it because it’s in my calendar, but it’s not far from the truth.)

Even if you work in a relatively small agency, you are amazed, as I am, at how easy it can be to stay heads down and not get to know those who you spend so much time with each work week, even if you work in close proximity to each other. I’m not saying you have to be best friends, but it helps to understand their goals and motivations, even if they don’t report directly to you.

Here’s what I learned after drinking a lot of coffee with my colleagues.

  1. I Was More Productive – I’ve never been an early riser. But, like I said above, if I have something on my calendar for work, I am going to treat it seriously. Not only did I get into work earlier to meet for coffee, but I became more productive. A jolt of caffeine does that to you.
  2. I Learned To Listen – The whole idea of meeting for coffee was to get to know my new colleagues. I wanted to learn what motivates and inspires them. You can’t accomplish that goal if you talk the whole time. Every time you think you are going to say something, maybe take a drink of that coffee to let them keep talking. If you are the inviter, let the invitee drive the conversation.
  3. Everyone Has a Different Set of Skills – Not everyone follows the same path in this line of work. The beauty of public relations is that you don’t have to be traditionally trained to be successful. If you can write, tell a good story, and understand how to translate that to the media, that’s a great start. I found that quite a few of my colleagues didn’t graduate with a communications degree and immediately go into PR. Some of us found our way into this industry after meandering around for a bit. That’s okay. We’re just glad you’re here.

You can learn a lot about someone in an hour just by offering to buy them a coffee. Not only does it give you a chance to escape from the office, but it also helps establish aconnection, which is very important when you work at a small agency. There’s a greater sense of accomplishment that can be shared with everyone, and personal relationshipsgo a long way in helping others feel inspired.

And who doesn’t like coffee?

Put Yourself Out There

It seems like everyone is divided these days.

No matter which side of the aisle you sit, I think we can all agree that the outlook is not ideal. And if we don’t learn how to agree, it will only get worse.

This fulcrum of history upon which we sit is eventually going to tip one way or another, and if we’re not careful, I fear it won’t tip in our favor, and we’ll spend years trying to right the ship.

Yes, I am alluding to politics.

And, yes, I realize this is a platform that should remain politics-free, so I appreciate you letting me indulge for one minute.

With everything in disarray and no one really knowing what the future holds, now is the best time to put yourself out there and focus on your best work.

Some of the most creative endeavors have been born out of adversity. It can take a shock to the system for us to realize fully what we believe in. But when we come to that realization? So freeing.

Take my personal blog, for instance.

I had let it languish for the better part of a year, but I kept paying the $45 fee to keep it up and running because I thought (hoped?) I would one day get the motivation to start blogging on a regular basis again.

Surprisingly, that motivation never arrived until I stopped being comfortable with exterior events, and I really started to think about what I wanted to say and I wanted to be perceived.

I’ve started to jot down my thoughts on current events, regardless of whether or not they conform to what others are saying, and I feel better, more at ease, with our current situation.

If anything, the existence of the blog has given me an opportunity to examine my beliefs through writing, and the daily practice of writing has given me comfort.

I’m sure there’s something that give you comfort, as well, but perhaps you are avoiding doing that thing because you are worried it might not pan out, or it’s not a good use of your time right now.

To that I say: hogwash.

There’s never been a better time to put yourself out there.

Start a blog.

Record a podcast.

Start a personal newsletter.

Join a committee.

Do something. Anything.

Put yourself out there.

If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that life is never going to fully cooperate with you, so you have to take life by the horns and take matters into your own hands.

I promise you won’t be disappointed.

You might actually like what happens.