The deadline to enter the WMPRSA Chapter’s annual award competition is in less than three weeks. Today I’m leading a little seminar on “how to” create award entries for the PRoof Awards. Below is what I am sharing with attendees; really it’s appropriate for most PR award competitions, including those hosted by national PRSA.
Good PR entries start with good PR practices throughout the year. Those practices need to be documented, so that you have material for the entry. The assembled entry is a PR communication vehicle itself and needs every bit of attention that you would put into campaigns for your clients. It needs to tell a story and explain succinctly, to complete strangers, the problem to be resolved, the research conducted to fully understand and analyze the situation, your strategic approach, your tactical execution, and your results. Pretty simple huh?
FIVE REASONS TO ENTER (AND WIN) PROOF AWARDS
- Validation (affirmation that you did it right)
- Justification (supporting the case for approval of future work)
- Recognition (for you and your client)
- Promotion (of you, your agency, your department)
- And, the #1 reason to pursue PRoof Awards not just in February but all year long: Professional Excellence. Executing PR projects and campaigns with an eye toward entering and winning PRoof Awards will make your work continuously improve, because you’re taking the right steps to Research, Plan, Execute (sometimes referred to as Implement) and Evaluate – the proven formula for successful practice of Public Relations.
AWARD ENTRIES IS A YEAR-ROUND PROCESS
While it is important to create a good entry to win an award, it is more important to do work that is award-worthy and well-documented. If you plan to enter the PRoof Awards – or any awards competition – you should make it a practice to keep complete records that document the life of your project or campaign. Because you know in advance that you will be required to provide a write-up that describes the Research, Planning, Execution, and Evaluation, you can create file folders (online or those actual cardboard thingees) that organize what you will need MONTHS before you actually need to construct your entry. In the middle of your campaign, if you notice that certain folders remain empty, it should serve as a prompt to either A) do more work in that area or, if the work has been done, B) save your work in the folders for award entry use.
IT’S ABOUT GOOD STORYTELLING
Most of us can feel in our gut when we’ve done something really special. Not all of us can tell that story to strangers a thousand miles away in a manner that will earn Silver, Gold or Best of Show. As professional storytellers we need to know how to educate and influence our “publics” to help our clients and employers achieve their objectives. We need to approach our award entries in the same manner: we are telling the story about our project or campaign in a way that will earn the support (and positive reception) of PRoof Judges. And PRoof provides the titles for the four chapters of your story: Research, Planning, Execution and Evaluation.
There usually is a back story to a project or campaign, which typically includes an organization’s “problem” requiring a “PR solution.” For instance, a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company might be launching a new product for which it needs to build a market. Or, a non-profit is launching an event as its new primary fund-raiser and needs to get the word out and deliver an experience that generates the expected results. The “problem” stories help lay out your organization’s situation so that the judges can review the quality of the next four “chapters” of your award entry story in context.
Chapter 1 – Research
This section demonstrates to the judges that you obtained all the data and info you possibly could to provide an accurate analysis of the “problem” situation. PR professionals won’t know where to begin if they don’t have a clear understanding of the problem they are attempting to resolve.
In the best of all worlds, you will conduct formal primary research to help you better understand your target public’s awareness and understanding, giving you a very precise baseline to work with. (Formal is research that results in scientifically representative samples; primary indicates research conducted by/for your organization). Informal and secondary research are completely satisfactory and will help demonstrate that you understand all angles of the problem you are attempting to resolve.
Include as backup documentation: audience survey results ? anecdotal evidence ? internal data ? third-party surveys ? industry best practices ? interview results ?brochures or information related to products/programs
Chapter 2 – Planning
In the intro you shared the “problem” and in Chapter 1 you elaborated on the situation based on research conducted. In this chapter you *finally* share the “PR Solution” that was proposed. A motto used by the Better Business Bureau is “Say what you do, and do what you say.” In the Planning section, the PR professional “Says what they will do.” See Chapter 3 for the second part.
To the judges, this section demonstrates the good thinking that goes into a proposed solution. For the purposes of the award entry, you need to share the strategy, key tactical components, targeted audience(s), and budget. Above all, you need to share your clearly stated, measurable objective. The name of these awards, after all, is PRoof. It’s hard to prove PR’s effectiveness without determining your starting point and providing a “desired future state.”
Include as backup documentation: plans with proposed budget and objectives
Chapter 3 – Execution
In this chapter you share what actually happened. This is pure journalism in short form. You said what you would do in Chapter 2. Now tell us what you actually did. You need to share how much time, money and effort was invested in the campaign (important to ascertain ROI). This chapter also is the place to describe unforeseen challenges that were faced and how they were dealt with.
Include as backup documentation: work product ? news releases ? articles ? photos of event(s) ? print pieces ? videos ? supporting advertisements
Chapter 4 – Evaluation
This is where you PRove your work was successful. This is not a beauty contest; PR is about saying what you will do and then doing what you said. So, how much did you move the needle; did you achieve/exceed the stated objective? Were there additional benefits to the organization that weren’t even planned? Were there failures that were helpful as “lessons learned” for the organization going forward?
This is the final chapter of your story, and we know there’s a happy ending or else you would not be creating an award entry. Tell us why this is a winning entry, based on your PRoof.
Include as backup documentation: describe method(s) of evaluation ? share results of follow-up research ? number of placements ? impact on organization ? plans to continue ? the degree to which you met and/or exceeded stated objectives
I’ve written before about the necessity for organizations to practice Honest, Open and Transparent Communications (HOT Comms). It comes to mind again as we witness another allegation of leaders concealing the truth related to the child-abuse charges against former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
In this case, former Penn State president Graham Spanier has been charged with concealing child abuse. I’m sure Spanier was thinking that keeping the public and his own board of trustees in the dark about allegations against Sandusky a decade ago would preserve his university’s reputation (and ability to capture donor dollars, ticket sales and student enrollment). In fact, it did the opposite. By hiding facts from the light of day, Spanier threw his university’s reputation onto the craps table alongside Sandusky’s.
The public would have understood and forgiven PSU had the truth come out because of the university’s actions, not despite them. There are legions of PSU faithful who continue to support the university even now; many more would be on the administration’s side had it acted with integrity and practiced HOT Comms.
With HOT Comms, it is important to remember that people see through b.s., so obfuscating with unclear language and “spin” is never a good option when communicating about an issue. Attempting to conceal it altogether isn’t a good idea, either, because eventually all “secrets” become known in this age of hyper-connectivity. Sharing information — good or bad — in a consistent, straightforward manner builds trust on the part of an organization’s key audiences.
Deliberately delaying the sharing of a “truth” or even an “allegation” basically tells people, when they find out (and they will) that you are dishonest and will place others at potential risk for monetary gain. Spanier’s concern for PSU’s reputation was about donor dollars, football ticket sales and enrollment numbers, plain and simple. Negative news might impact any of those categories by as little as 5%, costing PSU millions of dollars. But only for the short-term.
Penn State failed on many levels. It concealed damaging information and practiced numerous delaying strategies. The world would have forgiven the university quickly had it acted promptly and honestly when issues first came to light. By doubling down and throwing their hat in with Sandusky, Spanier and other PSU administrators took a big gamble and lost.
Last night I watched two Keystone Kops (aka NFL Replacement Refs) signal two separate interpretations of the final play of a game, with the final outcome being the wrong call winning out and the wrong team winning the game.
Not wrong because I’m a fan of one team or the other (I root for the Miami Dolphins, which is a whole different kind of wrong right now) but because it had chipped another chunk of credibility away from the one professional sports league that still had some.
Professional sports is in a reputation crisis. Team owners, represented by league officers, quibble with players and officials over pocket change. For instance, the NFL is arguing with its refs over salaries that lag behind other league officials as well as retirement benefits. The owners may be right in contending that NFL officials shouldn’t earn as much as an NHL ref or MLB ump because they officiate just 16-20 contests a year.
Bringing in DIII refs to coach in the NFL, however, is ludicrous. By the way, who would blame DI or DII football refs for sticking with their current gigs rather than jeopardize their current income for possibly just one or two games at the highest level.
As my friend Elizabeth used to say, the NFL is tripping over dollars as they stoop to pick up the pennies. Their reputation, after all, has a dollar figure attached to it, and it’s quickly becoming tarnished.
The NFL’s brand is about a quality experience for the fans, including the best coaches, the best players, the best stadiums, and all the team paraphernalia a heart could desire. It is not about two zebras disagreeing on a call, a replay ref unable to overturn a wrong call and every person watching the game knowing that the wrong team won but unable to reverse the results.
The NHL, meanwhile, is in its fourth player lockout in 20 years, demonstrating that some people never learn. Each of the previous lockouts resulted in reduced fan interest (which equals lost revenues for team owners and players). Perhaps the NHL and NHLPA will pull this one out of the fire before too much damage is done, but it sounds like many are ready to dig in for the long haul (with many players already signed to play for European teams this year).
Major League Baseball has been rocked by doping, bad umpire calls and inflated egos for years. The sport lost me years ago when it failed to deliver a consistent level of parity across the league (something the NHL and NFL actually did achieve), allowing small-market teams to continue struggling for the Yankees’ leftovers.
The NBA, meanwhile, is a collection of over-inflated egos and salary cap rules that allow certain big-city markets to form and re-form all-star teams in big city markets while the hinterlands can only hope they can naturally grow their talent into a contender once every generation.
Individual athletes — think Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong or Lebron James — have had their own reputation crises the past few years. We expect individuals to be flawed and make the kinds of mistakes these guys did (hurting their own careers, legacies and marketability). One would hope that the collective wisdom of many smart people, including many high-priced consultants of every ilk, would come up with better solutions than the ones we have seen so far from professional sports leagues in North America.
1. Write. Your PR career is going to involve lots of writing, so you had better get used to it. Yes, you will need to know how to write a good press release, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to PR writing. You’ll need to write up reports, white papers and memos. You will need to communicate frequently with many different people via email (see below). You will need to prepare backgrounders, talking points and scripts for executives. You will need to write good web copy. You likely will be involved in social media writing, which often can be the toughest assignment of all – getting a succinct, relevant message out in just 140 characters isn’t easy!
2. Work (often for free). If you expect to get a job right out of college so you can pay your loans, you will need to do a couple of internships before graduation. The job market has never been more competitive, so getting a head start has never been more necessary. Getting a paid internship (yes, they do exist) that will actually some income while you’re a senior probably will require you to have completed one or two lesser internships first. That means you need to get started on internships the summer following your sophomore year. It doesn’t have to be much. It might be as simple as providing some volunteer PR services for a non-profit in your hometown. Maybe it’s writing up and executing a PR plan for a small business (you must know somebody who owns their own business … if not, your parents will).
3. Socialize. You are about to enter a profession where you are expected to “relate” to key “publics” and where you will be expected to advocate for a client or employer. Get a head start by relating to some key publics on behalf of your most important client – you! If you want a job after college, you should start reaching out and creating relationships with potential employers. Start following professionals on Twitter. Read blogs written by professionals and offer comments. Attend meetings held by your local PRSA or IABC chapter and make it a goal to meet and talk to two professionals. After you have been at it awhile, you might set a new goal to talk to four professionals you’ve met at previous meetings.
4. Grow up (aka “Be professional”). How you dress, how you communicate, how you present yourself to the world are all important as you embark on your career path. Your social media accounts reflect who you are, so be sure that prospective employers will like what they see!
5. Be ethical. First of all, you should be a member of PRSSA as a student and PRSA as a PR professional. It provides ongoing networking and development opportunities. It also provides you the resources to better understand what is and what is not ethical in the professional practice of public relations. You WILL be placed in situations during your career where clients or employers ask you to do something unethical. Don’t do it. You can always get a new job, but it’s very difficult to repair a bad reputation.
6. Be authentic. Be the real you and don’t fake it. Over time, if you’re just faking it, you won’t be happy and it will show in your work. Also, if the “real you” is mean and conniving, I’d rather you get that out there right away so you get fired before you work your way into positions of authority. But for most of you, the real you isn’t bad, it’s just different … and it’s our differences that make us more marketable and help us land in the place we were meant to be.
7. Put in the extra effort. People that count the minutes before they will bolt for the door because of a 9-to-5 attitude will be treated as a commodity resource rather than a strategic resource. Always demonstrate to your bosses that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done right … even if that means you miss happy hour. In the long run, it will pay off.
8. Achieve balance. Putting in the extra effort at your job can be good, but making your whole life about work is not so great. Without life balance, you will eventually burn out. Work may provide some happy moments and boost your self-esteem, but it also will let you down and make you feel hollow. Make sure there’s something more important in your life than your job (faith, family, friends, a cause) and devote as much attention to that as you do for clients who won’t be around forever.
9. Be positive. Approach every day with a positive, can-do attitude and don’t get sucked into the office politics and griping with co-workers by the coffee machine. You don’t have to be where you are … you can always find another place to work. So devote your efforts to understanding others and doing all you can to make where you’re at the best place it can be.
10. Love. Do what you love, and love what you do. If you find yourself detesting the kinds of things you’re required to do day after day, you’re in the wrong career (or with the wrong employer). Better to change tracks early while you still can!
A couple times each semester I have the opportunity to talk to students. At Davenport, GVSU, Ferris, Calvin … typically in PR or marketing classes or to PRSSA groups. When I speak with PR students I am usually asked the all-important question: “What is the most important skill for the PR professional?”
Early on in my career I would not have hesitated and simply blurted out “writing.” I still believe solid writing is a non-negotiable skill all PR pros must have. This especially holds true for those who focus on media relations, trying to share their organization’s important messages through the filter of the news media. Writers at traditional newspapers and magazines can be quite scornful of “flacks” who can’t write up to their level. Even for new media proponents, good writing is necessary to build and hold an audience. Plus, good bloggers have to overcome writer’s block and post often or risk losing their following.
Today, however, I believe there’s a skill that’s even more important than writing to the successful PR pro — the ability to empathize. Let’s face it, in PR we have many “publics” we need to understand and address. It’s easy when you’re talking to audiences who think and act just like you do. Unfortunately, 99.9 percent of all PR pros must at times talk to people who aren’t exactly like them. Which means you need to be able to empathize.
It requires you to understand your audience and know their wants and needs. It requires you to do the research and maybe conduct some interviews. The better you understand your audience, the better you will be able to communicate with them. Makes sense, right?
So, if there’s an important initiative at Davenport University that we need to share with others, I have to understand the needs of our key audiences, including our students, our faculty and staff, our alumni, our donors, community leaders and legislators, prospective students and their influencers (i.e., parents and counselors), our board of trustees and … well, I’m sure there are others! Each have a different perspective on whatever our news item might be, which means we have to tweak our message by audience. One message does not work for all audiences.
So, it starts with empathy. But it still ends up with writing. And along the way, you had better be good at research and planning. Oh, and if you have solid design sensibilities and are handy with a camera, you’re golden!
Although I haven’t been at Davenport University for a full year yet, we just closed the books on our fiscal year last week. And what a year it was!
I started the day after Labor Day, and it wasn’t long before some serious labor was going on within Davenport’s University Relations & Communications group! First, the new Exec. Director of Marketing, Steve Landrum, and I collaborated on new branding for the University, resulting in a new look, feel and key messaging, summed up with the new tagline “Get where the world is going.”
Simultaneously, we co-led the creation of Davenport’s new website with the head of IT, Brian Miller. This project, already in the works when we started, involved creation of an outcome-focused design to lead prospective students to the information they need to make the decision to join Davenport. Launched last week, the site is totally on-brand and really does a great job of positioning the University as the place to go for business, technology and health.
After creation of the brand, Steve’s efforts were devoted to launching it via DU’s advertising, while I set about the task of rebranding all University communication vehicles. We began with internal electronic newsletters for students and staff, with outstanding results. With new branding and new functionality, the blog-style newsletters achieved 350% and 250% traffic increases, respectively. We then rebranded the President’s newsletter to key stakeholder audiences, created a new brochure sharing the University’s Vision 2015, and rebranded the alumni magazine, DU Review.
Of course, along the way we needed to support various University initiatives, including the opening of its new Sneden Center, the new Downtown Center for graduate studies, announcements about campus changes in markets across the state of Michigan, events like Hot New Year’s Eve in downtown GR, Commencement and the Excellence in Business Award Gala. PR and Social Media efforts were ongoing, of course, and there is always the need to create new plan and report on everything we’re working on.
That pretty much sums up how I “got where the world is going” this past year. I’m looking forward to what the New (Fiscal) Year has to bring!
A couple years ago, I was upset that some families we were close to had left our church. A wise elder said it was OK, sometimes people just need to switch seats. They continue to be part of the larger “church.” That same wisdom applies to relationships established in the work world, I guess. In the past 18 months I’ve shifted seats a couple of times — once when I didn’t really want to — and now my circle has expanded. I get to know and appreciate a new crowd even as I strive to maintain ties with those I called “friend” at my workplace.
Yesterday I was asked to write up some memories of one person I worked with, Cindy, who is celebrating five years at Amway Corp. Here’s what I sent to her current manager:
I met Cindy when we both served on the WMPRSA board in the early 2000s. She impressed me as smart, competent and accountable. She got things done. Plus she was nice. A few years later, when we had an opening for a new editor at Quixtar, Cindy applied and I was thrilled to be able to bring her on staff. Very quickly she became one of the superstars in Communications…she made every team she joined better, not just because of what she contributed, but because of the impact she had on others. Her team members became better because she helped them focus and because she was such a great example.
Later, organizational shifts changed reporting relationships and the editorial team reported to a creative director while I managed external communications, including PR, advertising, digital marketing, and sponsorships. Again Cindy applied for an opening on my staff, this time managing all things digital, and again I didn’t have to think twice about welcoming her aboard. She moved into the new role and immediately whipped Amway U.S. social media and digital outreach programs into shape, working with outside agencies and internal partners.
I am glad Cindy and so many others I managed continue to contribute their strong talents to the ongoing global success of Amway. I often feel like my biggest achievement during an 18-year Amway career was the great people I brought into the company. And among the greatest of those is Cindy. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s been only five years for her given all that she’s already accomplished within Amway (not to mention having two kids in that same period of time!).
…I can’t begin to single out a “favorite memory” with Cindy or with any of the great people I worked with at Amway. I enjoyed my staff and many of my peers throughout my years at Amway and loved nearly every minute of being with the company. At least, I think I did. I guess it must have been pretty good if my “afterglow” memories are so favorable!
At Davenport, I have the pleasure of managing Rick (who has considered Cindy a mentor in the past) and Sasha. We had a late afternoon meeting yesterday to talk about what we’ve already accomplished since I joined the university in September as well as the opportunities that still lie ahead for us. Thinking about the staffs I’ve worked with in the past and the one I work with today made me realize that all of us are always shifting seats somewhat, but that doesn’t mean we have to change who we are and what we bring to the table. And it doesn’t mean we have to lose our old connections, either. Social media helps us stay in touch. So do industry gatherings, community events, and good old-fashioned “let’s do lunches.”
Although my new life is very full, schedule-wise, I need to make time to stay in touch with those I used to (and still) call “friend” at Amway Corp. I saw some of them at a WMPRSA meeting this past week and at holiday gatherings last month. I do have the occasional lunch with these friends. I hope to see more of them all in the weeks and months ahead!
Early this week I found myself researching and writing about Peter Cook, a successful West Michigan business owner, Davenport alumnus, former DU board member and generous supporter. Peter was among a group of men and women who helped create the Grand Rapids we know and enjoy today. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working for or with great members of that group, including Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, Fred Meijer, Peter Secchia, and others.
Last year around this time, I met one of the lesser known members of that great group of philanthropists — Bill Martindill. I wrote an article about him for Grand Rapids Magazine. Bill was a driving force behind a project called “The S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy,” a documentary about giving in West Michigan, which included interviews of men like Meijer, DeVos, Cook, Ralph Hauenstein, Harvey Lemmen, and others. Several of these men, including Cook and Martindill, were members of a group called “The Improvement Association,” which has always consisted of 12 men since it was formed within the Peninsular Club in the 1940s. When a member passes away, a new member is invited to join. Sadly, two seats opened this week.
I was reading an article about the passing of Peter Cook on one page and, turning to the next, I was struck by a smaller article about the passing of Bill Martindill. I literally gasped.
Bill turned 100 in April, when he also celebrated 77 years of marriage to his 99-year-old bride, Inetta. When I met Bill in October 2009, he was thrilled to have someone sit and listen to his stories. An interview that normally would last an hour took four hours with Bill. A return visit to drop off a booklet he had shared with me took another two hours. He then invited me to meet with someone who had project managed the S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy project. He hoped the connection between us two “youngsters” would be mutually beneficial, in terms of our separate consultancies. He then asked me to meet with the head of a security company that might need PR help.
Bill wandered the halls of Porter Hills, which he helped found back in the ’60s, as if he were the mayor. In fact, he sort of was the mayor of Porter Hills. He headed up the finance committee that raised the money to build it. When he sold Michigan Litho in the 1970s to retire, he served as volunteer CEO for Porter Hills, helping establish the first center to provide care to those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. He then led the fundraising and provided the lead gift to name Porter Hills’ health center.
I want to re-watch the “S.O.U.L. of Philanthopy” video Bill gave me so that I can see him again and remember the way he told stories. I’m sad because I wanted to see him again soon to talk about how my life has changed a year later. I know he was genuinely concerned for me last year around this time because I had only gotten started with my PR business and didn’t have a lot of clients yet.
My thoughts and prayers are with Inetta, who will be on her own for the first time in more than 77 years. I’m thinking about the Improvement Association, dealing with the loss of two members in one week. And my thoughts are with the Porter Hills community, which lost its mayor. God rest your S.O.U.L., Bill.
The day after Labor Day I begin the next chapter in my professional career when I report to Davenport University as the newly appointed Executive Director of Communications. I’m excited to be joining a university that is “on the grow.” With a brand new campus near the junction of M-6 and M-37 just south of Gerald R. Ford International Airport, there’s a new excitement surrounding Davenport and the programs it operates statewide.
The position will provide a wonderful opportunity to contribute strategically to the university, and I look forward to sharing more about what I’ll be working on after I start! Meanwhile, I’m working on finishing up assignments for some of my Luymes PR LLC clients, including LEAD Marketing Agency, Brann’s Steakhouse & Sports Grille, the Alliance For Health, IMN Inc., RapidGrowthMedia.com, and more. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with so many great companies this past year. From Adoption Associates to Zondervan, West Michigan is blessed with quality organizations.
My Davenport start date is just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of my last day at Amway Corp. It’s been a great year learning what it means to be an independent consultant, to be an entrepreneur, to service clients even as you seek new ones. This past year was marked by the generosity of so many others who gave of their time and counsel to me, referring business, and offering unlimited encouragement. While starting a new business is always difficult and typically not so profitable in the beginning, I am happy that I was able to come out on the plus side and have such a rich experience as well!
This story, I am certain, is to be continued!
I’ve seen so many Top Ten lists lately that I needed to do one of my own. I was sitting at The Office (aka Sparrows), thinking, when one table of loud talkers got me thinking. Here are the things that make my “Ten Things I Hate” list:
- Coconut: I’ve never liked it. It’s not as much the flavor as the chewy consistency. So, no Mounds bar for me, thanks. No chocolate cake with white icing sprinkled with coconut (it’ll just get scraped off). The funny thing is that my mom was born and raised in Indonesia (she’s dutch) and coconut was a big ingredient in Indonesian food, some of which she made for us. I wasn’t buying into it.
- Inappropriate Loud Talkers: This is especially true at a quiet coffee shop where 98% of the patrons are quietly surfing on their laptops or engaged in pleasant, quiet conversation. Enter the loud ones. Especially when one person is talking excitedly and the other two are screeching in appreciative laughter. I have nothing against loud talking or loud screeching laughter. It’s just that there’s a time and place for everything.
- Unnecessary/Gratuitous Cursing: It’s my upbringing, I know, but loosely dropping the F-bomb into conversation just grates against my sensibilities and makes my shoulders slightly rise and my neck to get tense. Frankly, that reaction makes use of the F-bomb very effective when trying to get someone’s (my) attention, but that reaction lessens if you use it all the time, right? I don’t want to become immune to the F-bomb. I want it to remain a very effective tool in the hands of those who might like to pull it out once in awhile to get my full attention. Also, I think it makes the F-bomb user seem unsophisticated, at times uneducated, and typically lacking in self-control. That’s especially a problem when they’re hanging out with my kids.
- Bureaucracy: I’ve had so many experiences with bureaucracy that it almost makes me want to escape to some cabin in Montana and live off the land and off the grid. I’m a Canadian, which means I’ve dealt with the Immigration & Naturalization Service to live here in the states. It needs to be done, I know, but man is it a drag. My favorite (not) experience was driving to Detroit super early in the morning (I checked online first to make sure it was the place I needed to go) and, upon arrival, they said the place I needed to go was two blocks away. So, I entered another long line there (my earliness wasted) and, after finally getting to speak with someone inside, they asked why I didn’t just go to the INS office in Grand Rapids. “WHAT! I checked online!” I exclaimed. “Oh, they’re about a half year behind on updating the web site,” said the INS official.
- Naysayers: It’s always a drag when that one person (you know which one) responds that whatever plan you’ve come up with cannot be done. Either there’s not enough money or not enough time or not enough expertise or not enough support or … well, something. It’s especially annoying when the “can’t be done” comes out quickly and without even exploration of ways it *could* be done. Pretty soon, that spirit of negativity permeates everyone and the creative fires have been extinguished.
- Pollyannas: This one pairs up well with the previous dislike. Being a Pollyanna (ala the lead character of a 1913 book and 1960 Disney movie of that name) is to be overly optimistic. I’m not against optimism by any means. I truly appreciate positivity and a great attitude. I really, really do, and I try to practice it in my life. But you still have to deal with very real issues and, sometimes, that means getting your hands dirty. Pollyannas are too often blind-sided because they refuse to acknowledge and deal with issues. Optimism doesn’t mean abandonment of pragmatism or understanding the hurdles that exist.
- Corporate Gamesmanship: This one, based on experience, is based on manipulating people and systems to “get ahead,” perhaps at a pace not in keeping with actual talent. Many might disagree and say the work world is just a big game and those who play it the best win. I agree with that statement, actually. Talented and hard-working individuals should win! Not because they worked the system better, but because they did their jobs better and were recognized by those in charge. Given human nature, I don’t think this will ever go away. There is a huge waste of productivity that comes with all the gamesmanship going on in corporate America, however.
- Political Extremists: I believe in ideals. But ideals don’t help you get things done because there often are others with opposing ideals fighting for their own agendas. Along with your beliefs about what would be ideal, you need to be able to sacrifice some of your vision to achieve solutions that work for people on opposite sides of an issue. Otherwise there’s a societal standoff, like the way the U.S. is currently divided as Red Nation/Blue Nation. I come to dread the election period because of all the vitriol. There is no civil dialog about opposing ideas anymore. Both sides insist they’re 100% right and neither will give an inch. At least, both “extreme” sides (the ones that get all the press) are that way.
- “Top Ten” Lists: Does everything come in tens? What’s the fascination with coming up with 10 things to include in a list. Why not Top Nine lists? I guess using the 10 as the basis for our lists is very metric.
- Hate: And, my biggest dislike is “hate.” Hate is so extreme. It is so squinty-eyed and snarling. It is hard to come back from hate. It is hard to be about love and peace and unity and collaboration and togetherness and community and all the things we call “good” when hate is given free reign.
So, there you have the Ten Things I Hate. Lots of inconsistencies, I know. Like, why 10 things when that annoys me? Why hate, when I’m opposed. I probably have some extreme views and know for a fact that I’ve been referred to as a naysayer (was secretly nicknamed Eeyore by a few marketers because I opposed the blackhat SEO practices they wanted) and a Pollyanna for being so optimistic. I know my wife has shushed me many times for talking too loud. I’ve even cursed inappropriately before. Yes, me.
I will stand firm on coconut, though. I really, really don’t like it.