07
May 14

We Owe It To Our Kids To Give Them Experiences

wanderlust

My wife and I and the kids are getting on a plane in a few days for a quick vacation to Texas. It will be the first time my daughters have flown on an airplane. They’re excited. So are Mom and Dad. But we are also a bit nervous about how they will behave for two-and-a-half hours.

I was 12 when I flew on an airplane for the first time. My parents took my brother and I to Disney World for vacation. [Editor's Note: I flew to Virginia when I was two. That doesn't count because I don't remember it.] The highlight was waking up early to watch the space shuttle take off in the distance. And getting Mickey Mouse’s autograph, of course.

I didn’t fly on an airplane again until I was 19 when my Dad took me to Wrigley Field to see a baseball game. I took another flight to Chicago a year later, then my wife and I flew to Mexico on our honeymoon in 2006.

And, that was it. Four flights in 26 years. Hardly a frequent flier, was I.

So, when I had to take my first business trip to Denver, I was a bit nervous. I was by myself, 30,000 feet in the air, flying to an unfamiliar city for the day.

On the way there, we hit a rough stretch of air over Nebraska that caused the plane to plummet hundreds of feet in a few seconds. That was not supposed to happen. When the pilot told the flight crew to take their seats, this inexperienced traveler broke out into a cold sweat. We made it to Denver, but I had a death grip on the arms of my seat the entire way home.

From that day on, I was terrified of flying. Whenever I was sent out of town for work, I spent the days before the trip in a mild panic, which only got worse as I drove to the airport. I always forced myself to board the plane, but I never much enjoyed it.

As someone who has dealt with anxiety for the better part of his life, I understand what it’s like to not enjoy doing something because I’m afraid of what might happen. It’s the very definition of anxiety.

I’ve grown to enjoy flying (or at least not hating it) because it allows me to see different parts of country and take awesome Instagram pictures. This would not be possible had I chosen a different career that offered less travel, got a doctor’s note prohibiting me from getting on an aircraft, or turned down opportunities with friends to travel to see games in different baseball stadiums.

Overcoming travel anxiety has led to experiences.

As a parent, the last thing I want my kids to encounter is anxiety that cripples their wanderlust. I want to give them experiences. I want them to fly on an airplane early, at an age when they can remember it. I want flying to be no-big-deal to them. I don’t want them to put off adventures because they have to board a plane to get there.

In an age where kids can’t sit still for five minutes because we’ve programmed them that way, giving them an opportunity to do something that goes beyond iPads and iPhones is a good thing.

We can show them there’s more to be seen than just what’s inside their comfort zones.

And, who knows, maybe we’ll help them become better people in the process.


05
May 14

Clemson’s New In-House Media Model Threatens Journalistic Transparency

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[Editor's Note: If you've found this blog from the link on The Clemson Insider, please note that I am not a journalist. These are just my views on the possible ramifications of the university creating this media model.]

I’m a big proponent of journalism and its importance in our world.

Without investigative reporters working tirelessly to uncover the stories that need to be brought into the public record, scumbags like Jerry Sandusky would still be walking among young boys, and slimy coaches like Jim Tressel would still be patrolling the sideline at The Shoe.

That’s why news out of Clemson is a bit unsettling.

According to Dan Wolken, college football reporter for USA Today, Clemson University will build their own in-house media department to replace coverage of the university that has, until now, emanated from traditional media.

Here’s a quote from the memo:

“It will always be of importance to treat the media professionally and provide them with the tools to do their jobs,” read the memo. “However, it is not the singular focus, nor even foremost priority of our department.”

With all of the reporting capabilities the university has at their disposal, Clemson will no longer have to rely on outsiders to report the news. They can just do it themselves.

Toward the end of the post, we get to the real reason for the university bringing everything in-house:

Controlling the message was critical.

In an era when everyone with a blog (ahem) and a follower considers themselves a reporter, Clemson decided they are just going to report on themselves and take the idea of controlling their message to the extreme.

Now, Clemson fans will be served up big helpings of coverage of their teams that should only be viewed through orange and purple colored glasses, because what’s in it for the university to report anything negative?

If media are paying to cover the events (which sounds like a possibility) they certainly won’t risk their access by investing something that sounds fishy. And their bosses will be hard-pressed to let them get their hands dirty if it could compromise the relationship.

Eventually, I can see it get to the point where reporters will just give up and acquiesce to the demands of the university.

If Clemson’s media bet works, and powers-that-be determine more money can be made from this strategy, than they’re going to set a precedent for the rest of college athletics.

For the big-money schools, an impeccable reputation is the one thing that every action they undertake serves to feed. If they’ve found a way to ensure it, other schools will quickly the recipe.

Colleges will become dictatorships, of sorts: only releasing the information that has been neatly polished to shine in the most positive light.

It will be nothing but good tidings and joy, neatly packaged for immediate fan consumption.

The star quarterback who had a run-in with police?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.


02
May 14

That’s What He Read – May 2, 2014

heread

 

Well so much for that blogging commitment, right?

My only excuse is that I was traveling for work, so I didn’t have a lot of time to put my pen to paper and flesh out some of the ideas I’ve got kicking around in my head.

The upside is that I got to spend a few days in Washington D.C., although it was pretty wet. But as a father of two little girls, I got an entire evening to myself. It’s one of the perks of business travel.

I hope your week went well.

_____

It’s been said by those of us in the communications industry that numbers are the enemy. But that couldn’t be further (farther? I never know) from the truth. There is a renewed focus on making data work for us. Now we just need to find the right story to tell to accompany it.

_____

It’s well-documented (at least in my head) how much I despise Facebook. A big part of that is because of the inanity that we see every day as we scroll through our feed. I was never a big user of MySpace, but it’s starting to resemble that failed social site, but now with new and improved quizzes. Thankfully, a researcher at the University of Colorado Denver has figured out the posts that turn us off. Maybe if we can ignore those, we won’t hate Facebook quite so much.

_____

I’ve always wanted to run my own journalistic endeavor. But that’s probably never going to happen. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to this idea of content creation. I mean, in a sense, if you’re running a content enterprise for a company or client, you need to act like a publisher.

_____

The world is warming. And it’s unlikely we’re going to find the silver bullet that turns this trend around. What we have to do is get away from this hero mentality that someone’s going to swoop in and fix the problem, and learn to survive in this new climate. The faster we realize this, the faster we might adapt and learn to live with what we’ve got.

_____

What did you read this week?

 


24
Apr 14

That’s What He Read – Week of April 21, 2014

heread

Blogging.

It’s one of those things that I want to do all of the time, but I end up doing it none of the time. Then, while I’m perusing the Internet when I should be doing more important things, I suddenly get the urge to put words down on my digital domain.

But when I turn off the Web and stare at the box where the words go — whoosh! — the inspiration is gone.

So things need to change for me. I feel better when I write, even if it’s something as unimportant as a post about the Elf on the Shelf.

I figured, since I like to share things, I ought to resurrect the ‘That’s What He Read’ posts to get the writing bug again. So that’s what I’ll do.

Stick around. You might start to see more of me.

____

I have a long-running hatred of Facebook, yet, I continue to use it because it’s so easy to stay in touch with friends and family who live far away. But I also use other social sites; sites that are designed with one purpose in mind, as opposed to Facebook, which is designed to be the dog’s breakfast of social. Maybe I would feel better if I ditched it and used the other sites for what they were designed to do?

_____

I once tried to read Nick Hornby’s autobiographical book about his support of the English soccer club, Arsenal, but I just couldn’t get through. It bored me. But as a struggling writer (by that, I mean, I struggle to write) it’s encouraging to hear how established writers struggle at times. Gives me hope.

_____

I don’t read The Everywhereist religiously. It’s one of those blogs I like to read, but can go weeks and months without visiting. But then something will happen to remind me of it, and I come rushing back. While perusing it earlier this week, I came across a post on donuts that, well, who doesn’t love donuts?

____

All of us could use more time in our day. But do we really waste 70 percent of our time in a given day? That seems a little bit hard to believe. You know what’s even harder to believe? A full hour for lunch.

_____

What did you read this week?


10
Apr 14

PR Needs a Better Way to Measure Success

I was at a conference a few months ago to staff a booth on behalf of a client.

During one of the break-out sessions, a representative from a company who was speaking about their sustainability program ended the talk by telling the audience that they wanted to earn 500 million media impressions when they release their corporate responsibility report.

(For those of you who don’t work in public relations, one impression = one subscriber, or one visitor to a blog. If we land a story in the Detroit Free Press, and the paper has 230,000 subscribers, that’s 230,000 impressions. Get it?)

By their math, every single person in the United States (and then some) was going to be aware of their report. But anyone with a shred of common sense knew this wouldn’t be the case.

500 million is a great number to throw around. And constituents love to see the big numbers. But 500 million, in this case, is severely misleading. It’s nice to state that goal. It’s quite another to prove it. (You can’t.) When we go to the client with this number, we’re really just estimating how successful we’ve been.

Seems arbitrary, doesn’t it?

Since I started working in public relations almost a decade ago, I’ve known nothing but measuring success in media impressions. When I landed a story, I’d look up the circulation and watch the numbers pile up.

But the longer I work in this field, the more these numbers begin to feel empty.

My parents subscribe to the Detroit Free Press. I guarantee that if I brought up an article I had a hand in placing, they would have no idea which article I was referring to. It’s only two out of 200,000+ readers, but their story would not be unique.

Just because you subscribe to a newspaper doesn’t mean you read every story. (Duh.)

I think it would be easier (and more accurate) to just report how many stories we’ve placed, circulation numbers be damned.

Those numbers wouldn’t be as high, but at least they would be accurate. I mean, for all of the flack that digital gets, at least we can say with some certainty how many people clicked on a link to get to a story, which we assume they read. Better than saying someone ready a story because it landed on their front porch.

As a PR professional, we’re only as successful as the last story we placed. But if we are inflating the numbers, how can we deem that a success?

We need a more accurate way to measure success.

At a time when “big data” is running everything, we’re lagging behind in using real numbers to show our worth.