Sunday, October 3, 2010

Autumn in New York

Those of a certain age (and you know who you are!) will remember the haunting melody of the song "Autumn in New York".
The crisp air and turning leaves are back in Upstate New York and it reminds us of how much we enjoy living here.
There are hills to show off the fall colors and yard chores to gather up those fall colors and compost them or set them by the curb.
Our dogs love to run in the piles of leaves.
Reminds us of when we were kids and used to create enormous piles of leaves for jumping.
That unmistakable fragrance of autumn leaves is in the air, too.
Let's savor it.
It won't be long before we're living up to our Golden Snowball reputation again!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Team Insidedge

Employee Engagement is the mission of the practice at Insidedge here in Chicago.
The team includes full-time staffers, as well as interns.
I met Stephanie Gurtman, an intern from Boston University who knows my friend and fellow SU alum, Dr. Edward Downes.
Dharma Subramanian, a recent graduate of Purdue University, is an Account Executive at Insidedge. I learned she can sing "Happy Birthday" to her colleagues in FOUR DIFFERENT LANGUAGES!
And Jessica Brubaker, an Account Supervisor who holds communication and graphic design degrees from St. Norbert College, was very helpful in making sure I knew how to locate the office and helped with many other final trip details and questions a day or so before I left Syracuse.
I'll be watching the careers of these wonderful new colleagues and friends with great interest!

Farewell, Chicago

I leave my two-week adventure at Insidedge with mixed feelings.
On one hand, it will be good to be home to my partner and "kids" (translation: pets) after being away for two weeks.
On the other hand, I wish I had more time to spend with these smart, dedicated people here at the firm.
I envy them being in the practice and it makes me think where I might be now if my career had taken some slightly different twists and turns.
But, all in all, I know I'm doing what I love best, teaching, mentoring and learning for a living. It's a good gig, as my colleague Dr. Dennis Kinsey, would say.
So, as another colleague, Dr. Carla Lloyd, always says at the start of a new semester, "It's time to go teach college!"
A special shout-out to Keith Burton, President of Insidedge, whose care in planning and preparing for my visit made it a big success, and to Helen Loosevelt, his right hand and all-around organizer and miracle worker.
I'll post more pictures of all the team members you've yet to meet in my last post.
Thanks, gang. I'll never forget you and hope this is just the beginning of a friendship and partnership that will go on for years to come!

Millenium Park

I haven't had a chance to mention a treasure tucked into the city of Chicago, Millenium Park.
The Park boasts wonderful artwork, like "The Bean" which I discovered my first full day here when Keith Burton and Dave Duschene took me to the new restaurant in the modern wing of the Art Institute. It's a luxurious stop for a meal!
The Bean reflects the city and adds some whimsical fun to the Park. I ate lunch one day in the park, relaxing on a bench and people-watching.
Flower beds are beautiful and the energy of the city balances nicely with a spot to rest and refresh.


Last night was very special.
The Insidedge Team, of which I am now a proud honorary member, celebrated my visit with a special dinner at Red Light here in Chicago.
I've visited several restaurants since arriving here and this one, undoubtedly, was the best of all. The company of new friends made it even more special.
We sampled many exotic Asian dishes and appetizers.
The most spectacular (and delicious) of them all was the catfish.
The desserts included a "Chocolate Bag". Very clever and tasty!
My final posts from this trip will include a picture of the team with me at dinner, as well as some farewell thoughts.
Thanks, team. I'm proud to know you all!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meet Linda Kingman

Linda Kingman, Executive Vice President at Insidedge, Chicago, took me out for lunch today and we had a wide-ranging discussion about corporate and agency PR, what students find interesting these days, and how her background has prepared her for her role at Insidedge.
Linda has an extensive background, including work for Kemper Insurance and Hill & Knowlton. Of particular interest was her experience working at Kemper during the 9/11 tragedy. Fortunately, no Kemper employees were lost in the terrorist attacks, but the challenges of helping employees work through the aftermath and recovery from this tragedy were significant.
Linda loves her work with clients, especially the opportunity to train both communicators and front-line managers as the clients she counsels work to establish better employee engagement.
Linda also has responsibility for the firm's blog. Check it out at

Using Research to Solve Client Problems

Earlier this week, I met Hertha Meyer, Senior Vice President, Research, at GolinHarris. We had a fascinating conversation about how she uses research to solve client problems and also look for opportunities for clients.
Much of her work involves analysis of secondary data. So often, we think we must rush out and do more primary research, but secondary data can be rich in information that clients and their strategists at GolinHarris find helpful.
Hertha has had a very interesting career and lived around the world while working for several different companies.
Her work here allows her to also track issues for clients. Issues management is becoming increasingly important in public relations.
Societal trends and issues are of great interest to clients, too.
The secondary data available through a number of different vendors can be analyzed to create client reports and track media coverage, too.

An Attorney Working in PR? Yup!

There are so many colleges and universities today offering majors or minors in public relations that you'd assume everybody working in PR has a degree in PR. Not always so.
Just as some of us originally came from journalism and eventually went into PR/got PR degrees, others come from fields such as the law.
One such person is Caroline Hoenk, Esq., who is a Vice President at Insidedge here in Chicago.
Caroline and I met and talked about her work with the Society of Actuaries (SOA). She had previously worked in investor relations at Financial Dynamics and had supervised Carly Jarosz there (see earlier post). Another validation of that "small world" thing!
One thing the SOA is working on is recruitment on college campuses. Many students in business school are unaware of the actuarial field and the career opportunities there. Caroline sometimes travels along with SOA to visit campuses and spread the word.
Having Caroline's legal training and expertise on staff at Insidedge is smart, as is Caroline!

Managing Communications At McDonalds

Last night I reunited with a graduate of MSU's masters in public relations program.
Vanessa Payoux is now Manager of U.S. Communications for McDonalds. The headquarters is located in suburban Chicago.
Vanessa has always been a very energetic and curious person and it's no surprise that she's done so well since graduating.
We talked about how small and connected the PR community can be. Networking and contacts have helped her be successful, along with extensive experience in the food industry.
As I told Vanessa last night, one of my greatest joys is to keep in touch with former students and hear about their successes.
Chicago has lots of successful alums, from both MSU and SU.
It was so nice to reconnect with another one who makes me very proud!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Future of Public Relations

Today I met with the GolinHarris interns over lunch.
This cream-of-the-crop group consists of approximately 16 interns selected from a pool of nearly 800 applicants! You can see this is one sharp group of Public Relations professionals!
We talked about the importance of continuous learning, about networking and interpersonal relationships and how to make things happen for yourself in a competitive job market.
This was one of the best experiences I had while here. Every time I meet the future of the profession, I'm reassured that we're turning the field over to very capable, bright and talented people.
Because they were such a great audience and because I had so much fun with them, I'm including not one, but two, pictures of these terrific interns.
I hope ALL of them will keep in touch with me...and I mean that sincerely!

A Conversation with Ellen

This morning I met with Ellen Ryan Mardiks, Vice-Chairman of GolinHarris.
Ellen's been with GolinHarris for 26 years--quite a tenure!
In her role, she has many responsibilities including overseeing the Consumer Marketing Practice Globally. Several areas report to Ellen, including new business development, the marketing of GolinHarris as a company, and the Research function.
I had a chance to learn about The Gold Standard in Client Service, which Ellen spearheaded. This is the template for how the firm works with clients and the commitments it makes. Of particular interest is the Storyboard strategic planning process which uses Storytelling as its model. I mentioned that every incoming Freshman this fall at Newhouse will be required, under our new curriculum, to take a storytelling course. Glad to see we're on the right track.
Ellen and I talked about the unique culture at GolinHarris, something I've been observing while here.
She started at the firm as an Account Executive in 1984. She ran the Consumer Group and Health Care business for the agency and was Chief Marketing Officer prior to becoming Vice Chairman.
Ellen and I had a lively discussion about gender and public relations. She gave me a great idea for a future research project!

Faculty Friends

During my five years teaching at Michigan State University, I worked for part of that time with Dr. Theresa Mastin, who earned her Ph.D. at MSU and then left to teach elsewhere for a few years before coming back.
She and I both taught PR in what was then the Department of Advertising. (Now, Public Relations has been added to the department name.)
Theresa is a terrific teacher, and is actively involved in research in public health and AIDS.
She is leaving soon for two weeks in Kenya to conduct some of this important work.
Dr. Mastin is also one of the five professors (including yours truly) selected for the Plank Center for Leadership Educators Program. She is interning at Ketchum here in Chicago.
It's always fun to catch up with friends. Theresa is one of our favorites from our days in Michigan.

From PR to Veterinary Medicine

Last evening I met Sarah Lusn, a MSU alum who took one of my PR writing courses one summer. We've stayed in touch ever since as Sarah has moved from PR to a decision to pursue a degree in Veterinary Medicine.
Sarah is half-way through her four-year program at Illinois to become a vet. Her love of animals and mine are a shared interest and I updated her on our pet family.
Sarah looks as young as she did as an undergrad and says vet school is challenging, but very rewarding. I am so proud of her decision to follow her passion and can't wait to hear what she'll be doing once she finishes vet school.
Go, Sarah!
BTW, since we're talking pets, I decided to add a picture of our girl, Holly, shaking hands with my great-nephew, Matty.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Steadman Sighting!

This just in...
I noticed a sign in the hallway this morning outside the offices of Octagon, the Sports Public Relations firm down the hall.
As you can see, the sign is there to welcome Steadman Graham.
As I was leaving the building for lunch, I noticed Steadman himself checking his Blackberry (or was it an IPhone?) in the lobby.
He followed me out and down the street, walking briskly over the bridge and down Michigan Avenue.
Maybe HE can arrange for Oprah to buy us all brunch?

The Value of Mentoring

Today's lunchtime visit was with Erika Crowell, a 2002 alum of MSU's Communication Arts & Sciences College. Erika started her career at GolinHarris as an intern right out of college and also worked at DD&B before landing at Deloitte two or so years ago.
She's now Manager of Deloitte's Internal Communications for hte Midwest Region.
Erika was one of the first students I met at Michigan State University when I started teaching there in 1999 right out of grad school.
She was very active in the PRSSA chapter there, eventually becoming president of the chapter.
Erika credits her PRSSA experience and connections and the mentoring she received during her college career as being the difference in her Public Relations success.
Erika continues to give back as a mentor to interns and others and believes that's one of the most important things she can do to "pay it forward".
Erika and I met at the South Water Kitchen on N. Wabash in downtown Chicago for lunch.
I couldn't be more proud of one of my students than I am of Erika. That great smile is as bright as her career and I know she will be one of Public Relations' brightest stars!

Get Real!

This morning I had the pleasure of spending some time with Fred Cook, President & Chief Executive Officer of GolinHarris.
Fred and I had a great discussion about the agency business, in particular, and about Public Relations, in general.
"Get Real" is the GolinHarris approach for organizations to explore and identify what makes them authentic. Judging by the news headlines these days, a lot of companies could benefit from such sound advice.
Fred told me that his firm is continuing to explore ways to make bold, but solid decisions that benefit clients.
Of course we talked about gender and diversity in Public Relations, as that's important to his firm and also my research focus. All GolinHarris offices except Chicago are managed by women. Interesting stat.
Fred has offered to visit Syracuse University "virtually" by videoconference and we're going to see if we can make that happen in the coming academic year.

The First Lady of Public Relations

Last evening friends and colleagues gathered here in Chicago for a tribute to Betsy Plank. It was a true celebration of her life and while she would have modestly requested the accolades be kept to a minimum, she would have loved the stories, smiles and remembered tales of her adventures through Public Relations.
Betsy was a true pioneer, a word that's frequently over-used and tossed about casually.
One of the first big female names in Public Relations, she was fearless in her quest to make the field more professional, championing most especially the students who wish to make Public Relations their chosen profession.
I first met Betsy at a PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) Conference, where she literally button-holed me and took me to a Champions of PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) event. The students buzzed about her like bees in a hive. Clearly, they adored her. Why? Because they knew she genuinely cared about them. She mentored them, individually and collectively. She doted on them like a proud parent. She beamed at their success and soothed them in times of challenge.
Betsy, as one speaker noted last night, was small in stature, but had a lot of moxie. Fearless, formidable and strong, she could work a room or make things happen better than anybody I've met at PRSA functions. Ethics was her hallmark. She wasn't afraid to stand up to those with whom she disagreed and she didn't suffer fools easily.
If she was your friend (and countless people last night were lucky enough to wear that name proudly) she would defend you to the end.
I felt honored to attend last night's remembrance of one of the most kind and successful among us in Public Relations.
Betsy's Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations has helped make my two-week internship in Chicago possible. For the Center and for Betsy, I will always be grateful.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Juiced about seeing an old friend

Seeing old friends is part of the fun of this two weeks in Chicago.
And many of those connections come from my time at Michigan State.
One such friend (although he probably doesn't want to be called OLD) is Pete Brace, who works for PepsiCo here in Chicago.
Pete has a distinguished agency and corporate career, and his primary focus at PepsiCo is the beverage brands, including Tropicana, Gatorade and some other products.
We chatted over Aquafina and caught up after nearly seven years without a face-to-face visit.
Cool lobby, PepsiCo!

More tanks for a fun visit

These photos include jellyfish...loads of them! You'll find creatures from oceans, lakes, streams and rivers all over the world at Shedd. I bought a new book at the gift shop that tells the history of the aquarium and has some amazing photos.
They wouldn't let me inside the tank (!) so this is the best I can do!

Tanks for Visiting!

These photos are just a small sampling of what's on display at Shedd Aquarium.
The big Caribbean Reef tank has sharks, rays, and lots of other creatures who swim right by your nose and keep the crowd spellbound.
The beluga whale and her calf were in the pool. The mother is white and the baby starts out a gray color, later turning white. As we watched them swim, the calf was swimming alongside the mother, nursing.

32,000 Fishy Friends

When I was growing up, we always took a two-week summer vacation.
My dad worked in a factory and the factory closed for the same two weeks every summer, so we would rent a cottage on Cape Cod.
My love of the water began there and I've had an itch to return to the ocean ever since.
I've lost count of how many times I've visited Chicago's Shedd Aquarium over the years, but I just had to get back to see it again.
It gets better every time, as you'll see in this post and the next.
The aquarium is located right on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and you can look out over the lake from the windows in the large auditorium where the dolphins, whales and porpoises make their appearances.
Summer, of course, is peak season for visitors.

Does this woman do anything besides eating?

OK. So by 2 p.m. Sunday that breakfast just wasn't staying with me.
Lucky for me there was a Trolley stop in Greektown.
Two restaurants were recommended:
Pegasus and Greek Island.
The Trolley driver's top pick was Pegasus, so I headed there first.
"No, no," the owner said as I entered.
I thought I was underdressed.
But, no, the power was out on that block and so the restaurant was closed.
Off I went to Greek Island, where I had the traditional Gyros.
As you can see, it was another one of those mega-meals!
That was it for me yesterday!

Travels through the Ethnic Neighborhoods

Our West Trolley tour included stops in Little Italy, Chinatown and Greektown.
These photos are from Little Italy (The Joltin' Joe statue) and Chinatown.
I didn't hop off the trolley here, but the open window afforded a chance for some good shots!

Tourin' by Trolley

Sunday's adventure was a trolley ride all over town. The Signature Tour covers all the high spots downtown, including a cruise by Oprah's townhouse. Try as we might to coax her out, she wouldn't budge, and therefore we couldn't con her out of a free brunch, as much as our trolley driver had hoped we could.
I also took the West tour, which included Little Italy, with the Joe DiMaggio statue (there's that baseball connection again), Chinatown, and Greektown.
We passed Soldier Field on our way to the Shedd Aquarium. More on that shortly.
Here are some city scenes we encountered out the trolley window!