Friday, October 21, 2011

Rave: My first Mac

I was working in the secretarial pool at Cadillac Fairview in the 80s working supporting a few executives. I used to smoke at my desk, drink black tea and type endless boring letters on my IBM Selectric typewriter. I became used to liquid paper, correction tape and re-dos all day long. I once typed a long formal letter, sent it to my boss for his signature. He hated how he signed the letter and had me re-do the entire bloody thing because of his sloppy penmanship! No computers, no files, not even a floppy... all hard copies. Ugh.

One day all of us girls each got a new typewriter. Ah yes, the Olivetti part typewriter, part computer wonder! It looked like a typewriter but had a small green bar/screen at the top where you could edit one sentence at a time before you committed it to paper. Character by character, line by line, you could see what you wrote, before it printed. What a technological marvel. Imagine, being able to correct an entire line before sending it to print. I was in heaven.

Still within CF, I applied for a marketing position at the Toronto Eaton Centre (a client of mine today!) and I got the use of another trusty Olivetti machine. One day, the boss said I was going to be a guinea pig for a new kind of computer they were introducing to the marketing department, an Apple Macintosh. A what? Whatever. In comes a tech guy carrying the cutest little beige computer with a periscope like screen. It was my first Apple Macintosh.

He plunked it down, plugged it in, handed me a funny looking instrument with a button on it (a mouse) and told me to watch the screen. There it was, the computer screen lit up … and ta dah! … a smiley face! On my computer, something smiled at me. How adorable. This is a sophisticated computer?

Well, you can imagine how overjoyed I was to see this little b/w screen, with folders, files and a trash can all at the touch of a mouse. So intuitive, so easy. Where has this been all my life. I had software programs like MacWrite, MacPaint, FileMaker, and a cool desktop publishing program called Ready Set Go! OMG. That coupled with my LaserWriter (a printer), I was the desktop publishing princess of the Eaton Centre. I couldn’t write for shit, but boy, did my stuff look professional.

A year later, I found myself at a PR agency in Canada, NATIONAL, working alongside my first boss and wonderful mentor, Ed Gould. He gave me a Mac SE as my desktop computer and again, found myself blissfully happy. While I had no idea what the heck PR was, I got to type, create and express myself on the best platform the world had ever seen.

A few months later, the agency landed the coveted Apple account, and because I was so passionate about the technology (and begged for several days), I got to work on the business. Not only that, but I had the privilege to travel several times to the Mecca of all trade shows, MacWorld at the Moscone Center in San Fran. It was as if the universe and stars were aligned just for me. For the five years I worked on the business I met both Sculley and Spindler, who were incredible leaders. It would have been something to have met Jobs himself.

When I left National in 1993, I asked my boss if I could keep the Macintosh Classic II he loaned me to work from home with. He said sure, it was a relic anyways and it was ready for landfill.

Last week I went hunting for that relic in the bowels of my basement. I found it. In a box, taped up, neglected, dusty complete with a dead spider on the mouse. I plunked it down, plugged it in and waited for the magic to happen. It did, my Mac lit up and smiled at me as if I never left it alone. No landfill for you…..

Thank you Steve. For that Mac, for your genius, for that smile.

The world smiles at you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rave: Partners

Today I pitched a piece of business in the tourism area with two other marketing partners on the team. All I can say is "you can't boil the ocean” ... which is why you work with great partners in other marketing disciplines.

What I love about PR is the lens in which we see the world of a brand. It may be limited, but it’s precise and exacting. I don’t buy media. I don’t create logos. I don’t write tag lines. And.... you know what? I don’t want to. There are agencies of all shapes and sizes that can do this. They know what GRPs are, how to achieve eyeball numbers and how to reach buying audiences. There are brand and creative agencies who weave creative narratives in one line or two. Or even without words. I’m always in awe of these guys.

However. What PR agencies do ... now get ready ad and brand agencies ... you cannot even attempt.

Our discipline is a mystery to most. Difficult at most times..We combine a blend of science, skill and luck. Oh, and throw in a little witchcraft and a strong tailwind.

Today was all about collaboration. Each marketing partner bringing a best practice expertise to the client with a sense of a team approach. I absolutely love being part of a pitch where I’m the third wheel.

We had fun, we were smart and provided a solid team approach. We may have had three logos up on the board, but we acted like one voice.

Hope the prospect thought so too!

Friday, August 05, 2011

RAVE: Stress: It doesn't exist

Now who on earth would ever rave about stress? Me, that’s who.

Like any other entrepreneur you can never leave the office behind -- you can’t go on vacation and not think of a client, an employee or the future of the firm. Your head can bust wide open if you try and solve the little gnarly problems of the day at 3 a.m. I’ve tried it, nothing gets resolved and you’re meaner than a snake the next day. Thank goodness for Advil NightTime.

The albatross of work will always be there, and stress is the grip. It’s how we handle the day to day roadblocks, curves and twists of daily work or home life, that will either create an atmosphere of anxiety or bliss.

An acquaintance of mine, Gina Mollicone Long, who has written a great self help book and is a wonderful motivational speaker, asked me once to pick up stress and hand it to her. I told her I couldn’t do that, it was impossible to hold. And she replied “you can’t hold stress, because it doesn’t exist.” Stress only occurs when reacting to a situation.

Best thing I ever heard. (that and “your table is ready ..”)

But we are faced with stressful situations each and every day. Ruthless demanding clients, cranky journalists on deadlines, traffic jams, leaving the red sock in your load of whites ... you get the picture.

Gina tells me that the easiest and most beneficial way to react to stress is to breathe. Deep gut breathing for at least a few minutes. Six counts breathing in – six counts out. We are by nature shallow breathers (people who do yoga, know this better than anyone) and by simply getting oxygen to our brain creates a better balance in our system, release tension and ability to think more clearly. There are countless articles on breathing techniques on the internet, but I found the 6 count in and out method works perfectly. Try it next time you are in a stressful situation. Don’t react. Close your eyes breathe deep in and out. You’ll be surprised at the emotional stability that sets in and the clarity of thought by which to handle the situation.

By the way, closing your eyes and breathing doesn’t work when you get cut off on the 401!

Stress. Bring it on.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Coming Soon ... Rant or Rave

Bless me blogosphere, for I have sinned, it’s been nearly seven months since my last post. What is my penance?

Ok gang, I confess – I have been remarkably absent from blogging. And it’s weird; I keep running into people who ask me, when are you going to blog again? Stop already. I’m on it ...
Sorry folks, I can’t use the excuse, “I’m busy” cuz, we all are, and some of the busiest people get a lot done in a day, including writing a blog post. And I’m not without opinions and ideas either. I could have had a field day writing about a terrible RFP experience earlier this year, the ego-maniac prospect I met a month ago who wants to take on Google and Apple with a $5K retainer, or the employee who quit on me just days before she was launching a major client initiative. Nice eh?

But no, I will save those dark tales and more in a new feature on my blog called Rant or Rave Friday. Each Friday I will either Rant or Rave about a topic near and dear to me. I will try and post every Friday. Promise.

Check out this Friday’s post ... it will be a RAVE on stress.

Now, where’s that rosary?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Boot Camp for PR agency pros

Now here's a nifty little PR program being driven by the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms called the PR Agency Bootcamp being held on one day Friday January 28th, 2011. It's an all day program designed for PR professionals to hone their skills and understanding of the new world and role of PR.

I do like some of the sessions, I think the first one at 8:30 a.m. sounds like the best with a client panel discussion. Right now, no clients are listed, but I'm sure the organizers will pull out some heavy hitters. There is a session on Presenting with Impact run by Edelman, which I'm sure will be great, but I would have brought in RogenSi to deliver that. We have taken all our presenation training from RogenSi and I think they are the absolute best in the business. They've helped us close business time and time again.

I think there are some valuable sessions and insights that young PR practitioners will take away from this day so I would sign up now as I hear space is running out.

I hope the CCPRF run another one of these events, but perhaps with more clients and outside experts giving us old PR dogs some new tricks!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Legends are Announced

The Marketing Hall of Legends just announced the 2011 inductees. The gala event takes place next year, April 14th at Roy Thomson Hall. The MHOL was conceived in 2004 by Mandrake and the Toronto Chapter of the AMA.

My firm has been involved with the MHOL for a number of years and this year we will once again be conducting media relations around the announcement and the gala event. This year I personally lent my support to the MHOL judging panel.... I can tell you first hand, not an easy task with so many qualified and outstanding marketing professionals in Canada. But the list of inductees is impressive and sooooooo truly Canadian. I am so proud to have been part of making this selection. See all the inductees here.

The gala format will have a new twist: a two-tiered format. So if you want the full enchilada .... sit down VIP dinner (no enchiladas will be served!), networking event, gala and after party you need to fork out $495 a ticket. (total deal and you get up close and personal with the legends). Second tier is at $225. For that you still get fed (buffet), networking, gala and after party. A great price point if you don’t want the swish sit down dinner part. And oh ya .... alcohol is included. For tickets please call 416 922-5600 ext. 255.

I am urging the PR community to get behind this event and come out and support the MHOL and the honourees. I’d like to see way more PR folks support these kinds of events and be part of the larger marketing community. Last year, there were only a handful of PR agency professionals in attendance. Too bad, because the event was outstanding. If you didn’t make it out last year, you missed inductee, the legendary Geoffrey Roche, pay tribute to his wife with a full –on gospel choir! The highlight of the evening for sure!

Congrats to all the inductees and see you on the 14th.

Monday, November 29, 2010

An Afternoon of Inspiration

I take my daughter Rachel to piano lessons every Saturday. For more than a year she has never complained and looks forward to each session. When I picked her up after her lesson this past Saturday, she had the saddest look on her face. Pouting and close to tears she told me she wanted to quit. That it was “too hard” and “I just can’t read the notes.” I felt terrible for her. I pulled out the best Mommy Pep-Talk 101 speech and tried to encourage her to stick with it. That the further she goes, the more challenges she will face. That nothing comes easy and with time and practice she will master the piano. She wasn’t convinced and was “going to think about it.”

The next day I attended a very special Holiday High Tea fundraiser for amateur Canadian athletes put on by my friend and client Jane Roos, who has raised more money for Canadian athletes outside of the COC. She is a powerhouse of a woman and runs the Canadian Athletes Now Fund. I took Rachel with me. She really didn’t want to go to a “grown up” event but the mention of Canadian athletes showing their medals was enough to entice my nine year old .. and the idea of eating “itsy bitsy sandwiches” sounded interesting too!

The room at the Park Hyatt was full and more than 20 athletes were in the room. Four female Canadian athletes took the stage to share their amazing stories of challenges and triumphs. They were Jayna Hefford, four time Olympic Gold Medalist in women’s hockey; Annamay Pierse, swimmer, who made her Olympic debut in Beijing this year and who currently holds the world record in the 200 meter breast stroke; Karen Cockburn, three time Olympic medalist in Trampoline and my favourite speaker of the day and finally, Tracy Cameron, the bubbly rower from Nova Scotia who won bronze at Beijing in lightweight doubles rowing.

One overriding message was clear .... The road to your end goal is not an easy one. Fraught with injuries, personal challenges, mental commitment and endurance limitations, these young women overcame huge obstacles to get to the Olympics. The athletes sheer determination to “go for gold” is unlike anything I could ever imagine. I don’t think I’ve approached an RFP with that much guts! I was truly inspired by their stories.

By the end of the afternoon, my daughter was enthralled with each speaker. She listened attentively and without missing a word. She took it all in and absorbed the messages. She found four real role-models.

We got to the car, and she didn’t say a thing. She just stared out the front windshield. After a few minutes she turned to me and said “Mom, I’ll be going to my piano lesson next Saturday.”

Mission accomplished. Thanks Jane ... for everything!

Annamay Pierse (swimmer) and Rachel

Karen Cockburn (tramploine) with Silver medal and Rachel

Founder of CanFund Jane Roos, Rachel and Moi!

All the amazing athletes in attendance yesterday!