Tag Archive: Glossophobia


“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” — Jerry Seinfeld

It was a Funeral for a Friend.

To be more precise, it was a service celebrating the life of my best man and my BFF.

John Newhouse moved into heaven at 62-years-young.The world would be a better place if there were more John Newhouses. Alas he was taken from us way too soon.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was honored to deliver the third of four eulogies June 30.

Having long ago conquered Glossophobia, which hails from the Greek γλῶσσα glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread, delivering a eulogy was still an unprecedented, daunting challenge. The emotion cannot be minimized. The semantic issues are real. Even the best orators are confronted by the strictures of the eulogy.

If the family requests a three-minute eulogy that does not mean you should double or triple that amount of time. As Carly Simon sang: “You probably think this song is about you.” It’s not. Time your presentation. Stick to the written script. Work on your transitions, timing and eye contract. They all need to be just right.

As an assistant professor, a PowerPoint, a laser pointer and a clicker are de-rigueur standard tools of the trade. Using the Steve Jobs technique, each slide is a prompt, making speaking notes superfluous. Alas, there are no PowerPoints or Prezis for presenting the eulogy.

Speaking extemporaneously or winging it is not an option. Don’t go there. The eulogy needs to be just right. Standing behind the podium and mentally searching for the right words at the right time in the presence of the audience can very well lead to an embarrassing rhetorical train wreck.

And yet even with a tight script, the English language simply will not rise to the occasion. Nonetheless, there must be chosen words and they may not be perfect – that’s not possible – but still they must describe my best friend for 41 years.

Borrowing from another tongue, the Latin words of the U.S. Marine Corps motto — Semper Fidelis/ Semper Fi (always faithful) — spoke to the character of John Newhouse.

Regardless of his given cause/affinity, John was always loyal: The Spirit of Troy, The Los Angeles Dodgers, our USC Fraternity Phi Kappa Tau, his fellow Rotarians, his youth baseball teams … and most of all his family.

Looking into the collective eyes of his grieving family and recounting John’s unshakeable commitment to his two sons regardless of the circumstances, and how he treasured his wife and instinctively knew he overachieved in marriage, is a testament to why the phrase Semper Fi is appropriate.

Even though the author of Almost DailyBrett endured 12 years of parochial school with its sentences diagrams and the petty tyranny of the nuns and priests, the question comes whether it is kosher to add a Biblical verse 1 Corinthians near the conclusion of a church eulogy.

“Love is patient. Love is kind … “seemed to work for this setting. John was patient, did not keep score (except at a baseball game), always protected, always trusted. Yes, 1 Corinthians did the job.

As the clock clicked past three minutes, it was time for the close and a promise to share a microbrew together, if your author ever makes it to the pearly gates.

There are a myriad of challenges that each one of us will face in life. We will do better with some than others. Crafting and properly delivering the eulogy is one of them. With proper preparation, an understanding the English language will not cut it, and with a confidence the words will make the mark, then it will be time to go forward to remember, celebrate and pay proper respects to a departed colleague, friend or dear family member.

“Love Never Fails.”

John Robert Newhouse: A Celebration of Life

“John Newhouse was my best man.

“John Newhouse was my best friend … forever.

“He was everyone’s friend.

“He was my fraternity brother … and a fraternity brother to several in this room.

“He was the kindest person I ever knew.

“John Newhouse loved the world, and was a renowned traveler.

“My grandfather told me there were two places he never wanted to go.

“One was hell. The other was Russia.

“John and I went ‘Back to the USSR’ during the height of the Cold War in 1981.

“More than a few thought we were crazy, and they were right.

“When one talked about going to The Evil Empire it was not to-and-from, but in-and-out.

“John saw Moscow, Leningrad and the Baltic States as just another adventure.

“We did come out of Russia. We came back to America.

“John literally visited every continent on the planet, and was always looking forward to his next road trip. Wendy knows this undeniable fact oh-too-well.

“Speaking about the world, we can all say ex cathedra, our planet is a better place because of John Newhouse.

“When celebrating a life of someone so special that ended way too early, the world’s Lingua Franca, the English language, simply fails us.

“The U.S. Marine Corps adopted from the Latin, Semper Fidelis or Semper Fi as its motto. Translated it means: ‘Always faithful.’”

“There are many virtues about John, but his passionate loyalty to the Spirit of Troy, his devotion to his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers, his commitment to his fraternity bros, his service with his fellow Rotarians, but most importantly his faithfulness to his family, stand out when one contemplates what made John Newhouse just so special.

“John Jr. and Scott. Let’s face it: From time-to-time, you drove him insane. Nonetheless he was proud of each of you, and he literally would do anything in his power to make your lives the best they could be.

“Wendy, you were always a miracle in John’s eyes. He was so proud to have you on his arm. He loved you dearly. I can state with impunity he was always Semper Fi when it came to you and your 33-years of marital bliss. He instinctively knew that he overachieved in marriage and he treasured your union every day.

“Considering that we are celebrating the life of John Robert Newhouse in a house of God, there are lines of scripture that seem just right in depicting why John was a gift to all of us. They come from 1 Corinthians:

“Love is patient, love is kind.

“It does not envy. It does not boast.

“It is not proud.

“It is not rude. It is not self-seeking.

“It is not easily angered.

“It keeps no record of wrongs.

“Love does not delight in evil.

“But rejoices with the truth.

“It always protects, always trusts.

“Always hopes. Always perseveres.

“Love never fails.”

“John, I love you. Your family loves you. Your wonderful spouse loves you. Everyone here will always love you.

 

“And on a personal note as your best man, John: If I am good enough to enter those pearly gates to join you in eternity, the first microbrew is on me.”

 

 

 

We gotta flip the script on what a gangsta is – if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.” – South Central Los Angeles community gardener/TED Talk sensation Ron Finleyfinley

Everyone still talks about Steve Jobs.

And why wouldn’t they? He invented the Apple II, Macintosh PC, first modern laptop, iPod, iPhone, iPad and iCloud before the Grim Reaper came-a-calling way too early. Heck, he was born only 18 days before little ole me, but accomplished oh-so-much more in his lifetime … kind of humbling.

From a communications standpoint, Jobs also pioneered (or was generally given credit for) the speaking style consisting of an iconic black turtleneck, ill-fitting jeans, tennis shoes, a lavaliere microphone, clicker/pointer, absolutely no speaker notes and of course, a professorial PowerPoint presentation.

Advanced Apple class was in session and you were lucky to attend.

Will Jobs go down in history as one of the greatest-ever orators? Probably not.

Were his audiences (e.g., Macworld) almost cult-like in their devotion of everything and anything, Apple? Is Pope Francis, Catholic?

And yet his presentations worked, and they worked big time.jobswithipad

The Steve Jobs-presentation method was a welcome departure from the stale, dry, boring, tried-and-true (usually an) hombre in a Brooks Brothers suit with a white shirt and red tie standing behind a podium and worst of all, reading to an audience. The real question each and every time with this tired approach is whether the listeners stop listening before the speaker stops speaking?

Better take the “under” on that bet.

The author of Almost DailyBrett has little, if no patience with telemarketers calling at precisely the wrong time of the day or night (which would be any time), and most of all reading over the phone with my name inserted into a prescribed point of the marketing pitch. Please, don’t read to me.

Okay reading from a text may be a necessary evil for the State of the Union Address, but keep in mind we are talking about reading from a teleprompter and not gazing down at a text. Think of it this way: Reading from a script is just so 20th Century.

Which brings us to Ron Finley and community gardening or as he so eloquently implores: “Plant some shit.”

Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. It they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.” – Ron Finley February 2013 Long Beach, California TED Talk

Can’t help but show Finley’s 10:45-minute presentation to my public relations and advertising students. Maybe without knowing it, Finley tinkered with venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule (e.g., 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font) and made it work for him … and most of all, for his audience. The video of his TED talk went viral with more than 2.35 million page views and counting.

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city … plus you get strawberries.”

The PowerPoint slides are not particularly spiffy, but that really doesn’t matter. The photos of smiling kids beside sun flowers and vegetables tell the story. You are not expecting a polished presentation and in many respects Finley’s talk is better because you instinctively know it is genuine and not designed by a skilled Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) firm.

He weaves humor into his story, but also the chilling reality about how “drive-thrus” are responsible for more deaths in South Central Los Angeles than “drive-bys.” Presumably, he appeals to liberals because he talks about how residents came together to plant community gardens. Conceivably, he draws positive attention from conservatives with his entrepreneurial spirit and his defiance of an unthinking, uncaring overbearing regulatory bureaucracy (e.g., The City of Los Angeles), which issues him a citation and threatens him with an arrest warrant, if he does not pull out his city parkway garden.

“Cool. Bring it. Because this time it (the garden) wasn’t coming up.”

Ron Finley, renegade gardener, on stage at TED2013

Ron Finley, renegade gardener, on stage at TED2013

Finley uses the classic marketing approach to address the issue of dearth of healthy nutrition choices, which is so beautiful in its simplicity: Here is the problem (food deserts) and here is a solution (planting vegetables and fruits along unused median strips in South Central).

“The problem is the solution. Food is the problem. Food is a solution.”

Does Ron Finley have glossophobia or the fear of public speaking? Not a chance. He seemed very comfortable speaking to the TED Talk crowd, which rewarded him with a standing ovation.

Wonder if he would have generated the same response, if he tried to read to the audience? That’s the point: The Jobs presentation method, TED Talks and the Ron Finley approach rely on holding a conversation with the audience with the linear PowerPoint slides mainly serving as prompts.

The net result is a presentation that is natural, conversational, genuine and which invites two-way symmetrical communications.

Sounds so 21st Century to Almost DailyBrett.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la?language=en

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323699704578326840038605324?mg=id-wsj

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/fashion/urban-gardening-an-appleseed-with-attitude.html?_r=0

http://ronfinley.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtBpZltfR7o

https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Steve_Jobs

 

After nearly three decades in the political, association, corporate and agency trenches of professional public relations, and the last four years intensely studying an increasingly complex industry from academic settings, Almost DailyBrett is ready to take a stab at the 17 essential qualities of the consummate PR practitioner.

Please note the list is not meant to be exhaustive and undoubtedly some vital characteristics will be missing. If that is the case, please let this humble blog know your thoughts. For better or for worse, here are the Top 17 attributes of the super-star public relations professionals in alphabetical order:

1. Attuned to the World 

Even though it is impossible to capture everything that is happening on this quickly changing planet, the best PR professionals are well versed even in cases in which their knowledge is one-mile wide and one-inch deep. They don’t know everything; they are not afraid and their ego will allow them to simply state: “I don’t know.” Having said that, they are good at getting to the bottom of an issue quickly, and then presenting the answer in the best interest of their employer/client. 

atlas2.“Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry”

The famous John Wooden quote definitely applies to super PR practitioners. Sometimes it is best to buy time. You may suspect you have the right answer, but your instinct guides you to seek out more. This is especially true in crisis situations. A great PR pro is quick, but never hasty. She or he instinctively knows that a rushed answer or editing of a vital document may result in a wrong response. The best counsel may be to quietly recite: “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,” before offering a response. That little extra time can make all the difference in the world. 

3. Communications Choreography 

Similar to a producer or director of a Broadway play, the 21st Century PR star knows how to ensure that all the dancers, actors, actresses are in the right place, the lines are perfectly delivered and the music is on key. In the case of public relations, the research has been completed; the messages are composed; the communications are ready to be delivered, and the follow-up evaluation is set to be undertaken. It is without a doubt: Message-Candidate-Campaign in that order.

4. Confident Presentation Skills 

Glossophobia (e.g., fear of public speaking) is not in the vocabulary of the effective public relations professional. She or he responds with a smile, while deep down inside sneering at reportedly the number one fear of most people, public speaking. The great pro doesn’t seek out the stage, but doesn’t shy away for it either. Once there, the message is confidently delivered and questions are coolly answered.

janis

5. Constructive Listening 

Two of the most effective public relations professionals the author of Almost DailyBrett ever had the privilege to meet, are two of the best when it comes to constructive listening: Janis MacKenzie of MacKenzie Communications in San Francisco, and Bruce Entin of Silicon Valley Communication Partners. For both of them, the issues and concerns of you the client or you the subordinate are the only topics on their minds, even though in reality there are always many competing demands for their mental bandwidth. The point is they made time for you. They care. They are ready to help.

Entin

6. Cool Under Pressure

Did someone mention the word, “cool?” We are not talking about being smooth. Instead, we are focusing on a skilled communicator that stays composed when others are losing their heads. Is the company stock down five points? Does a product need to be recalled? Is the CEO being terminated? At least the Bay Bridge is not in the water (remember being told, just that). The sun will come up in the morning. The birds will chirp. The bees will buzz. Life will go on. 

7. Doberman, Not A Cocker Spaniel 

A Cocker Spaniel PR practitioner is simply proficient in providing necessary information to the conventional and digital media. A Doberman PR pro is just as knowledgeable, but even more to the point is also an impassioned advocate and will fiercely guard and protect the reputation and brand of the client/employer. If getting into a fight with a reporter/editor/analyst is deemed necessary, then that is what the job requires. The cheap-shot stops here.

8. Expansive Vocabulary 

A winning public relations professional is a well-read/versed professional. This practitioner is skilled in the use of English, the lingua franca of international business. Knowledge of a second or third language is highly desirable in our digitally flattened global village. It is not just a matter of knowing the words and the meanings behind them, but the right words at the right time in the right settings.

9. Fiduciary Responsibility & CSR 

It has become de rigueur for a public relations professional to advocate corporate social responsibility (CSR) or “doing good.” The best PR practitioners balance CSR with fiduciary responsibility or “doing well.” Fiduciary Responsibility and CSR are not mutually exclusive. PR pros, who understand this undeniable truth, have a better chance of being invited to sit at the boardroom table.

10. Great Student/Lifelong Learner 

What is the next killer app? What is the next “destructive technology?” How is social, mobile and cloud driving technology? What is the next driving mantra in global communications (e.g., radical transparency)? How can we best show (e.g., infographics) as well as speak and write? These are all questions that are constantly pondered by the student, lifelong-learner, PR pro.

11. Honest, Ethical, Reliable 

The first two of PRSA’s core values are “responsible advocacy” and “honesty.” Public relations practitioners are not Switzerland. They are not neutral. They are advocates. Some contend that PR pros cannot be persuasive advocates, advancing a well-researched set of arguments, and maintaining the highest standards of integrity at the same time.

Au contraire!

12. Offensive Without Being Offensive 

Being able to passionately debate crucial points and not make it personal with those who differ is a vital skill, not in great supply. Can you be offensive without being offensive? The best PR pros know, the most important public relations are personal public relations, and that includes interactions with work colleagues and teammates.

13. Qualitative and Quantitative

In our increasingly complex digital world, we cannot escape numbers and statistics. As Chris Roush of the University of North Carolina wrote in his Show Me the Money, behind every number is a story. The superb PR pro, particularly those in corporate public relations and investor relations, can build relationships (qualitative skills) with those closely following publicly traded corporations (e.g., investors, analysts, employees, suppliers, distributors). They are just as adept in reading income statements, balance sheets, cash-flow statements and interpreting the psychology of global markets (quantitative skills).

hoar

14. Refined Sense of Humor

One of the legendary public relations professionals in Silicon Valley history (i.e., Apple, Fairchild, Miller/Shandwick Technologies) was also one of the funniest, the late Fred Hoar. As he was fond of telling anybody and everybody, “that’s Fred, spelled F-R-E-D.” Every year, he served as the master of ceremonies for the SIA (Semiconductor Industry Association) Forecast and Award Dinner, and brought down the house each time with his “hick and stick.” Yours truly was charged with determining whether Fred’s humor met the standards for mixed company in a business setting. Guess you win some and lose some. Regardless, Fred was a crack-up and delightful to know.

15. Superior Judgment

The best PR pros instinctively know the difference between being “bright” and being “smart.” They are not the same. The latter is much more valuable than the former. Sometimes rocket scientists are best being left on the launching pad or maybe just at their workstations. Some are good at stakeholder relationships; some are not. That is why smart PR pros, who can provide sage counsel to those of infinite wisdom, are the best and the brightest in our profession.

16. Tech Savvy 

The 21st Century public relations practitioner is digital, not analog. As Thomas Friedman wrote in The World is Flat, the planet has been made measures of magnitude smaller by the ones-and-zeroes of binary code. All brands and reputations are in 24/7/365 play as a result of instantaneous digital publishing. The Genie is not going back into the lantern. Forward-looking PR professionals embrace new technology communications tools, and are always looking to the horizon for the next destructive technology force. During the course of my career, no PR pro was better in studying engineering and technology than Howard High of Intel, now with life sciences company, Fluidigm Corporation.howardhigh

17. Thought Leader 

Not only do the best PR pros advocate thought leadership by clients, who have proved standing on critical issues of public interest, they also use digital (i.e., blogging, social media, infographics) and conventional tools (i.e., presentations, commentaries, contributed articles etc.). They are always learning and as a result, they have wisdom to share and sage counsel to provide … particularly as it applies to instantaneous world of communications.

Editor’s Note: As the former SIA director of Communications, Janis and her firm served as our PR counselor. Fred was everyone’s friend, and the “Valley” is not the same without him. Howard was the chair of the SIA Communications Committee and provided invaluable counsel as the industry was finally able to open the Japan market. Bruce was my first superior during my decade at LSI Logic. He was the best boss in my career, and now is an even better friend. Naturally these are not the only PR super-stars on the planet, but they are fine examples of the species.

http://www.prsa.org/aboutprsa/ethics/codeenglish/#.VI4DuZU5BCo

http://www.mackenziesf.com/about/janis-mackenzie/

http://siliconvalleycom.com/Bruce_Entin.html

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Frederick-Hoar-Silicon-Valley-master-of-PR-2831416.php

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/howard-high/12/aa6/b06

Damn the Teleprompters!

Planes sometimes land at the wrong airport.

When we were kids we practiced huddling under our desks, if heaven forbid something really unpleasant was happening.

There is a reason every team has a backup quarterback.

And every good organization should have a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C.

Anybody at Samsung ever heard of Murphy’s Law?

baystage1

What can go wrong, will go wrong.

Caca happens from time-to-time. Be prepared to deal with it.

Think of it this way: Prevention is as much a component of effective crisis communications as responding to an actual debacle.

Typing in the name, “Michael Bay” and “CES” into the Google search engine and the result is 21.7 million web mentions devoted to the producer’s viral walkout of the biggest gizmo trade show on the planet, The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, attended by 140,000 techies.

This public relations train wreck has become a metaphor for Samsung’s underwhelming recent financial performance. That is the conclusion of the stately Economist.

Comedian Tina Fey even made fun at Michael Bay and by extension, Samsung, at the Golden Globes.

Let’s face it, life is not perfect. Sometimes airplanes filled with passengers land at the wrong airport. Southwest Airlines is practicing crisis response today.

And to many, that is their definition of crisis communications being cool under fire and following the mantra: Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell it Fast. Move On. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was practicing just that last week. Hopefully, the airline can take steps to ensure that its Boeing 737s always land at their intended destinations and move on.

The point here is that crisis communications is not just an after-the-fact exercise. Good crisis management is to take steps to ensure that what should be a victory does not turn out to be a viral defeat in our digital age.

Repeatedly watching the video of Michael Bay, one is immediately struck by his nervousness. The Transformers director/producer is clearly a guy, who likes to call the shots, to be in total control. He wants to be behind the camera, not in front of the lens.

baystage2

At CES, his performance right from the start was akin to someone walking on a tightrope. He clearly did not want to be there. If that was the case, why was he there? Yes, he fit into the marketing theme for Samsung’s new 105-inch curved ultra-high-definition television. (Personally, I am holding out for the 105-foot curved ultra-high-definition TV).  He may have been paid handsomely for his services.

Was it worth it, Samsung?

Bay was exhibiting all the signs of Glossophobia, combining the Greek words for “tongue” and “dread,” or fear of public speaking. Did Samsung put Bay through presentation training? And if not; why not? And if so, did the company practice what happens if the teleprompter goes down?

Let’s ask another question here: Why a teleprompter? It makes sense when POTUS delivers the nearly one-hour (or more) long State of the Union address. Why does one need a teleprompter to read to an audience? Why not engage in a conversation?

Some disdain PowerPoint or Prezi. Nonetheless Steve Jobs was a master of the format. Wearing his signature black turtleneck, jeans and tennis shoes and strapping on the lavaliere microphone, he confidently used each graphic as a prompt. He was obviously comfortable with the Apple message, after all he pretty much invented the technology (e.g., Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad etc.). The Macworld audiences fed off of his energy. All was good at Apple’s marketing department.

jobskeynote

Having checked out more than a few trade shows and investor conferences, the audience is ultimately looking for and expecting information about a company’s products and how they fit into the corporate business strategy.

Does Michael Bay know any of these facts when it comes to Samsung? Or did Samsung just want him to lend his name and cool reputation and mindlessly read his company produced lines and depart stage left? Well, Bay departed stage left but not in the way that Samsung wanted.

Another question that comes to mind revolves around co-presenting Samsung exec John Stinziano, who had the opportunity to reassure Michael Bay and save the day. He made a feeble attempt to make it all better but in the end just punted the presentation.

Couldn’t Stinziano pick up the ball and make the presentation about the 105-inch curved  TV? In football parlance, the term is next guy up. In this case, the star attraction just left the building. This was no time for the deer in the headlights look.

To use even another metaphor, The Show Must Go On.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4rMy1iA268

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-michael-bay-ces-slips-up-slinks-out-of-samsung-event-20140106,0,2153575.story#axzz2qIb9AJLg

http://www.today.com/tech/michael-bay-flames-out-stage-during-samsung-presentation-ces-2D11869413

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/tina-fey-mocks-michael-bays-ces-bomb-at-the-golden-globes/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy%27s_law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Bay

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21593488-south-korean-giant-has-lousy-start-new-year-fluffed-lines

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101331658

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Electronics_Show

He dropped out of school not once, but twice.

He worked in a lumber mill until there was no more lumber mill.

He was employed by an aluminum fabricator until his plant went overseas.

He jumped out of a perfectly good airplane 30 times in one given day, set an Oregon record, and lived to talk about it.

DCIM100GOPRO

He drove 140 miles round-trip virtually every day of the week from Roseburg to Eugene in all kinds of crummy weather to pursue his goal.

He earned his high school degree at 25, and then his associate’s degree and just this past week his Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism with an emphasis on Public Relations.

Meet Ronn Crow, 45, former drop out, then “non-trad” student and now graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC).

“I never thought I would get a bachelor’s degree,” Ronn said. “This is a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Patty Jenness, 48, never did and never will jump out of an airplane, let alone doing it 30 times before the sun goes down.

She did give birth to four daughters; adopted two more, eventually adding three sons-in-law and three grandchildren (and counting) to her household.

For most people, raising six daughters (whatever happened to her husband, Andy’s, Y-chromosome supply?) would be a job well done.

After accomplishing this goal, she sat down with Andy (one of my M.A. student colleagues) and talked about next steps. Patty made the decision to go back to school.

patty

Applying and signing up for classes was a snap. She loves information and follows current events, so SOJC was a natural for her. As it turned out, there was the mental struggle and doubts that would turn out to be the biggest hurdles.

“Did my brain still work right?” Patty recalls asking herself. “And what is this old lady doing in the classroom?”

Patty articulated the doubts of many non-traditional students or “non-trads.” How would they be accepted by the perky millennial crowd in their late-teens and early-20s, the ones who can barely remember the 20th Century?

As it turns out, she didn’t need to worry. Patty graduated this past week from SOJC with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations

Stephanie Martin turned 46 this week. She has been pursuing her bachelor’s degree for six years, first as a community college student and now at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. She can envision, walking up on the platform in her cap and gown to receive her diploma.

“I can see myself balling on stage, just like a three year-old girl who stubbed her toe,” Stephanie said. “It has been a long-slow road to hell. It has been hard, real hard.”

stephaniemartin

Stephanie was divorced with her young son, Zachary, and was stuck in a dead-end position. She was approaching 40 and there just had to be more in life.

She reflected how she hated her Indiana high school, and she recollected her thoughts about her short stints at Ball State and Indiana University as “a waste of time and a waste of money.”

As Zachary turned five, Stephanie started applying for student loans and grants. She took her first steps at Lane Community College and then transferred to the University of Oregon. The latter was the hard part.

She believes that community colleges are naturally more adept at addressing the needs of “non-trad” students than major universities that are more inclined to focus on the needs of Millennials and foreign students.

“I asked myself, ‘What am I doing’?” said Stephanie. “I came back each night in tears. Nobody seemed to care about the older students.”

And now, she can see the finish line. She can envision herself making presentations and demonstrations for corporations. This soon will be possible because of her upcoming degree.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was a non-trad student as well, going back to pursue his M.A. degree at 54 years-young. The average grad student is 29. Think of it this way, it is not uncommon for professionals to take a sabbatical from work – particularly in this economy – to attain an advanced degree.

The same cannot be said for those who have the courage to return or enter college in middle-age to sit in classrooms with late teens and early 20s students for the purpose of attaining an undergraduate degree. Three celebrated examples are Shaquille O’Neal (LSU), Joe Namath (Alabama) and Isiah Thomas (Indiana).

There are a wide variety of reasons that propel these mature students to get back on the academic track.

For Ronn Crow, federal Trade Adjustment Assistance as a result of the Alcan Cable offshoring provided the needed capital and another opportunity.

DSC00356

For Patty Jenness, her husband, Andy, was pursuing his master’s degree and the nest was emptying (her daughters range from 20-27 years of age).

For Stephanie Martin, it was a realization that she was going nowhere fast in her dead-end job. She just has too much talent, not to do better.

It should be noted that I had the honor of teaching upper-division public relations to Ronn (two classes), Patty (two classes) and Stephanie (one class). Each of them was always there, attentive and ready to learn. In fact, Stephanie insisted on going first when it came to making a presentation. She does not suffer from Glossophobia.

The three of them are all different, but in many ways they are all the same.

They are non-trads.

They are courageous.

They are overachievers.

Almost DailyBrett wishes them the absolute best in their exciting careers and lives.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_Adjustment_Assistance

http://www.jcomm.uoregon.edu/

“The cab driver boasted that his daughter had just graduated. But then he admitted that her journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin had cost $140,000. Since journalism is an ill-paid job that requires no formal qualification, this sounds like a waste of money.” – The Economist, Universities challenged, August 31, 2013

cabdriver

Those are fightin’ words.

Doesn’t The Economist benefit from well-trained and clever journalists?

Should we just shut down all journalism and mass communication schools nationwide, if not worldwide?

Would the last J-school student be kind enough to turn out the lights?

This revealing provocative lead in which the Economist writer shared her/his intimate conversation with a Chicago area cabbie (so much wisdom is imparted in cabs) actually concerned the state of affairs of higher education. Namely, the upcoming federal Department of Education (DOE) ratings system in which colleges and universities conceivably will be judged for federal hand-outs based upon cost, graduation rate and how much students earn in their careers.

And you thought the Bowl Championship Series (BSC) metrics were Byzantine? Thank Darwin we only have to endure this system for one more year. The DOE standards/regulations could be with us into the indefinite future…which could be, forever.

Now that we have clarified the basic premise of the article, let’s go back to the notion that journalism is “ill paid,” that it requires “no formal qualification” and the implication that university journalism schools are a “waste of money.”

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Considering that I have two journalism-related degrees (one undergraduate and the other post-graduate) and I spent more than three-decades as a reporter (a few years) and as a public relations practitioner (a lot of years) and lately as a college instructor (a few more), I have a problem or two with the gross oversimplification exhibited by The Economist.

There is no doubt that college is damn expensive and not getting cheaper anytime soon. And yes, traditional Gutenbergesque journalism is in trouble. The business model doesn’t work anymore. Having acknowledged the obvious, these conclusions miss a major point: The global desire and yearning for instantaneous-and-accurate information on a 24/7/365 basis has never been greater.

The ability to tell the story, and to tell it well whether it be a reporter/editor, a public relations practitioner or advertising professional is in constant demand and cannot be effectively outsourced or offshored en masse.

The methods for telling, reporting and disseminating the story are changing. The world has moved from analog to digital. The demand for information outstrips the supply, and this trend is accelerating. This is an upward-to-the-right market.

And how will future journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media professionals learn these information development and dissemination skills? How about these supposedly “waste-of-money” journalism schools?

lecturehall

1.)  Writing effectively will always be in demand, particularly by those who can quickly come to the point, provide insightful analysis, and write professionally and skillfully, employing AP Style.

2.)   Understanding the concept of the inverted pyramid in which the crux of the story is in the lead and all the supporting information flows from there.

3.)   Determining whether a story is newsworthy (or not) for target audiences. Learning how to ask the What? When? Where? Who, Why? And How?, ascertain these answers and transmit a complete-and-clear picture succinctly to news transmitters, whether they are conventional or digital.

4.)   Grasping and using “Big Data” in the form of compelling infographics to quickly and efficiently present useful information to critical audiences.

5.)   Appreciating that social media is not monolithic. There is a distinction between “connections” and “friends” online. Yes, you can digitally self-publish in 140-characters or less. Blogging is alive and well. Social media can be radioactive as digital miscues are eternal.

6.)   Comprehending the societal and technological shift from two-way asymmetrical communication theory (one to the masses) to digitally enabled two-way symmetrical communication theory conversations (message receiver responds publicly to the message sender).

7.)   Gaining the skill sets to generate professional digital photos, audio and video and use state-of-the-art software (e.g., Final Cut Pro) for compelling multimedia pieces.

8.)   Garnering the knowledge of financial communications including relevant SEC disclosure rules and being able to distinguish between fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility.

9.)   Overcoming glossophobia and becoming more confident in delivering presentations, particularly those that are conversational in style and using supporting graphics.

10.)  Securing the confidence to perform instinctively in a crisis communications setting, quickly develop relevant messages and ultimately protect an organization’s reputation and brand.

crisis1

There is little doubt that journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media educators, graduates and students can add to the Almost DailyBrett list of J-School attributes cited above, including cultural distinctions inherent in international communications.

What’s more important is that when one considers and weighs the skill sets that are being taught and learned, particularly in a rapidly changing technology landscape, the value of a solid journalism education is maybe as valuable as it has ever been.

Society’s insatiable demand for news and information has never been greater.

The Genie is simply not going back into the bottle.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21584393-barack-obama-wants-degrees-be-better-value-money-universities-challenged

 

 

“People who are able to do something well can do that thing for a living, while people who are not able to do anything that well make a living by teaching.” —  Literary critic George Bernard Shaw

shaw

Sorry George.

The vast majority of decorated public relations pros are accomplished when it comes to bloviating and pontificating. They thrive on using PowerPoint and their clickers. Most of all, they love the stage and the spot light. These are all talents.

They counsel executives, choreograph communications campaigns, train presenters to face the media and others, and once in awhile they even get into a fight with a reporter…if that is what the job requires. They have oodles of experience spanning a decade or two, maybe even three.

They know the intricacies of public relations and communications. Their instincts are refined and proven. Their careers span the globe and may even include tenures in politics, government, corporate and/or agency work.

More importantly for many PR practitioners, they believe their days of marketing a client’s product that they really don’t care much about to a journalist who cares even less will eventually come to a merciful end. There just has to be something else in life.

Isn’t there the prospect of having the summer off as well as winter and spring breaks? They can just imagine having all that time to walk through the cobble-stone streets of Europe, stopping at sidewalk cafés and solving the problems of the world over glasses of wine with their newly found infinite academic wisdom.

Why not impart your repository of knowledge to the next generation of communicators? Why not fire up the PowerPoint, making sure there are batteries in the pointer/clicker, and start teaching? Sad to say, it is not that easy. There is a reality behind the perception of academic glory. (Those with Glossophobia or believe the words of George Bernard Shaw need not apply).

So what is the reality of college teaching for those who think the grass is greener on the academic side of the fence?

● Your days of six-figure salaries with stock options and participation in an Employee Stock Purchase Program (ESPP) will most likely be in your rear-view mirror. Instead, you are taking a vow of relative poverty (VORP). There are exceptions to every rule, but they are just that, exceptions. If you want to make millions, you should stay away from academia.

● When was the last time you took the Graduate Records Exam (GRE)? My first time was 1980. My second time was 2010. After those twitchin’ experiences, one must contend with the 19-month-plus forced march that will hopefully lead to a Master of Arts, Master of Science, MBA etc.  Are you sure you want to do this?

● If you think SEC regs are restrictive, please allow me to introduce you to academia. There are a few ways, very few, to write academic papers. Instead of The Associated Press Stylebook, there is the APA style, which has as much flexibility as a crocodile after it grabbed hold of your arm. APA stands for the American Psychological Association. How come the irony does not escape me?

“…South America is located directly south of Central and North America (Fouts, 1971; Musgrave, 1990; O’Neill, 1994; Graziani, 1995; Smith, 1998; Harrington, 2001 ). And Europe is situated on the other side of the Atlantic (Clemens, 2004; Dixon, 2007; Masoli, 2009; Thomas, 2011)…” There are literally hundreds of thousands of APA-style pages written this way, waiting for you to read and somehow understand them.

● You don’t just waltz into the classroom and start imparting your wisdom to an appreciative student audience clinging to every word. There is this thing, called a syllabus. Just like Bernard Montgomery planned his military thrusts against the Desert Fox, your syllabus illustrates step-by-step, day-by-day how you will teach your class. Weeks will be spent before the first class devising your syllabus. Say goodbye to spring break and good portions of your summer and winter break (It may actually provide you with a tantalizing excuse to avoid relatives during the holidays…see Almost DailyBrett, “If They Weren’t Your Relatives Would They Be Your Friends?”).

montyrommel

● Each lecture needs to be planned. How much time do I have? What points do I want to make? What questions should I expect? How will I divide up lecture to refresh student’s minds? Think of how you start mentally tuning out after about 20 minutes. Students will do the same, but maybe even in quicker time. After answering these questions and more, it is time to devise your PowerPoint presentation.

● You will have office hours. You will hear about the lives of students, some with serious issues…and others with not so serious issues…but all sound as if personal Armageddon is right around the corner. You want to be fair, but firm as well. This is easier said than done.

● No discussion about teaching can be complete without a discussion about grading, more grading and still even more grading. This reality seems universal among academics. Never underestimate the literally hours and hours of time spent grading. There is a certain amount of bandwidth it will take to devise a grading rubric to hopefully impart some consistency into your grading. Personally I am a serial editor. I mark up all papers, and the more work I have to do, the lower the grade.

Once you have completed your grading, then it is time to return the documents to your students. The results of multiple guess exams should be easier for them to accept as one either answers the question correctly or not. Grading one-page memos, shareholder letters, portfolios, research papers is a subjective exercise. Always take cover and fix bayonets when you assign a B+ or even worse, an A- to a student’s work. She or he is so close, yet so far from the Promised Land. Expect a challenge here and there. Be prepared to defend your decision with a smile on your face, but don’t anticipate a smile in return.

And always be prepared for the “Rule of One.” At least one student will literally hate your guts and will make that point unequivocally clear in your quarter-end course evaluation.

Certainly, I did not exhaust all of the issues (e.g., cheating, plagiarism, dominating students) that will come before you if you decide to traverse the yellow brick road of academia. Should you do it? I humbly opine that teaching is a great way to give back to the public relations profession by preparing the communications choreographers of tomorrow. At the same time, you need to be prepared for the largely inflexible new world of academia in which change comes at glacial pace.

There are many logical reasons to bypass this opportunity. There is an equal amount of illogical reasons why you should take the plunge as well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/if-they-weren%e2%80%99t-your-relatives-would-they-be-your-friends/

“…At a funeral, most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give the eulogy.” – Comedian Jerry Seinfeld

Let’s shelve the cure for Gymnophobia for another day. That subject is simply unbareable.david

nervousspeaker

Besides since Almost DailyBrett is more oriented toward strategic communications, a focus on the fear of public speaking, Glossophobia, is more in keeping with this family oriented blog.

First there is an admission that I need to make. I used to have a pretty serious stutter or stammer, if you wish. Yep, the kind that wins you an Academy Award for Best Picture as in The King’s Speech. While there has been tremendous attention on George VI’s affliction, only those closest to me knew that I was fighting off this personal demon slowly but surely.

My mind always seemed to be running faster than my mouth. For some reason, there were all these words that wanted to get out and my motor functions just were not up to the task. The result was a log jam, and the more it happened the more it caused anxiety.

The remedy was slow and hard to come by (occasionally the stammer makes a brief return visit requiring me to simply calm down). It took maturity, patience and practice. It required slowing down, listening rather than always talking (or trying to talk), picking when I needed to say something as opposed to when it would be nice to say something. As Lou Holtz once said: “If you can’t add value to silence, then shut up.” Amen.

Fast forward to the present day, I have worked in public relations for nearly three decades where verbal skills are critical for success. Just last week, I lectured nearly 160 students for almost an hour about cover letters and resumes. Earlier this week, I presented another lecture on communicating with Wall Street. And I have at least two more scheduled lectures before the spring quarter is over.

Even though I had to confront my stammer and subsequently overcome it, for some reason I was never scared of public speaking…but so many people are petrified about the prospect. What are some techniques that would-be public speakers should consider, even those who would rather be in the coffin than actually delivering the eulogy:

● Practice makes perfect (or at least it makes you better). Seriously, consider joining a group such as Toastmasters International that affords opportunities to improve your public speaking with colleagues who are confronting many of the same issues. You can’t get better unless you try.

speechpractice

● Speak on subjects that you know something about, or actually more than just something. Personally, I have given talks on politics, technology, government, strategic communications, social media, cover letters and resumes. Why? Because I have more than a basic understanding of these subjects. Please don’t ask me to speak on mathematics, science, fashion, art, classical music. I would get blown out on Jeopardy on these topics and many others.

● Research your audience. Who are you speaking to? What is the topic? What are their particular interests? How can you engage them? How can you challenge them? How can you inspire them? What are their potential questions? What do you want them to take away from your talk?

● Formulate a related PowerPoint or PDF presentation and use each graphic as a prompt. Think about two minutes per graphic, which is a good way to keep you on time and most of all, stay on message.

● Forget the podium (if you can). Some people need something to hold onto, and if that is the only technique that works, then go for it. Otherwise, wear a lavaliere microphone and just like Mick Jagger, use all of the stage. If possible utilize a floor monitor so you can see your PowerPoint graphics without having to repeatedly turn your back to the audience. Which brings me to my next point…

jobswithipad

● Avoid reading your presentation. Nothing bores an audience quicker than being read to. Personally, I can’t stand it when a telemarketer calls and starts reading from a script to me. Life is too friggin short. Audiences start squirming when someone reads page after page. The same applies to reading the graphics of your PowerPoint. The audience can read the graphics themselves. Instead, emphasize and amplify on the most important points of your presentation. This approach takes practice, but it is really effective. If you don’t believe me; just ask Steve Jobs.

● Find two friendly faces in two distinct sections of the audience and rotate your attention back and forth between the two. Instead of thinking of 160 people in the room, visualize speaking to two of your closest friends with a few others listening in for their own enjoyment and information. This approach really helps control the butterflies in the stomach.

● Develop an instinctive sense of when your audience has reached its mental potential. A good performer knows when to leave the stage, satisfying them and then departing with them wanting just a little bit more (they can always visit with you after the speech). Put yourself in the seat of each audience participant…if you think your tushy would be getting soar, then you can be assured that is the case for them as well.

Speaking of tushies, let’s address Gymnophobia…ah …another time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossophobia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gymnophobia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_VI_of_the_United_Kingdom

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King’s_Speech

http://www.toastmasters.org/

%d bloggers like this: