Street Talk

Sometimes PR people are in the news. This time it was just a former employer having a little fun.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the Steve Heacock for Congress campaign to lead communications efforts.  After meeting the candidate and the team, I accepted the role.  The same day I joined the campaign team, Rick Treur was brought in as Campaign Manager, a role he filled for Vern Ehlers previously.

In addition to developing a communications plan for the campaign, one of the first tasks was a news release announcing Rick as the new campaign manager. A couple outlets picked it up, including the Grand Rapids Business Journal, which mentioned the release in its “Street Talk” column.  It wasn’t quite the “pick up” I was expecting however.  Typically the PR person remains behind the news, not in it.

The problem is that I used to work at the GRBJ.  Back in 1990-91, I was a reporter covering manufacturing, banking and the economy.  Shortly before I left I was approached by Seyferth & Associates which, at that time, was Grand Rapids’ leading PR firm. After a couple of meetings, I accepted their offer of a job. At the time, I was a young guy with a young wife and a little baby girl trying to pay off college debt and live on the meager earnings of a reporter. I worked nights at a video store to earn extra cash.

Along comes a PR firm offering me a significant upgrade. Of course I took the job, even though in my heart I still was a journalist at that time. My Editor, Carole, took me to Teazers, a bar down the street, and bought me a couple beers while she tried to talk me out of taking the job.  That’s what led to the following portion of the column:

“…the news came in a release distributed by Robin Luymes. The Business Journal clan knows Luymes well from his start as a fresh-faced reporter with the BJ.  No amount of adult beverage at the time could keep the pride of Canada from traveling down the path that now has him stumping for political types and other interests as an independent PR pro. We tried.”

I was flattered (although embarrassed) to be the focus of Carole’s comments, because the real news was Heacock and the Treur announcement. But I’m thankful for my start with the GRBJ because it was my work there that earned the notice of Seyferth which led to my PR career. Ironically, I never did go to work at Seyferth.  Before I could finish my “two weeks notice” I was approached by Amway.  I interviewed and they offered me a job too (one representing a significant upgrade from Seyferth’s offer). 

The rest is, as they say, history.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

What I learned from my parents led to what I love to do today. Thanks mom and dad!

My mom and dad taught me well.  Not intentionally, really, because in many ways they were hands off when it came to me and school work.  My older brothers and I all excelled in school, so they never really felt the need to hover over our homework. I’m not sure it would have done much good anyway since both were immigrants and had limited grasp of English.  Growing up in the depression and WWII Europe, my dad only finished the equivalent of 9th grade.

My mom was an avid reader and encouraged us by taking us to the library each week.  By the time I was in 6th grade I was reading at college level.  I read everything she had on her own bookshelves too, including authors like James Michener and Leon Uris.  Given my appetite for historical fiction, it’s no wonder I became an English major and History minor in college.

My dad, meanwhile, loved to tell stories.  About everything.  About growing up in the Netherlands during the war, about the construction projects he led, about his early years in Canada. He was the kind of story teller who also told the sidebar stories. In some ways I am shy; I’m not the best at walking up to a person I don’t know and starting a conversation. However, I am very receptive to being approached by others and, once engaged, I launch into stories depending on the other person’s interests. And finding out their stories, of course. It’s no fair to dominate the conversation that way.

When you combine the reading/writing trait with story telling, it naturally led to journalism and public relations and, in more recent years, blogging.  Thanks mom and dad. This is a lot more fun than math.