The Way We Once Communicated About Our Lives

While rummaging through some boxes in the basement, I came across copies of a holiday newsletter we created in 1998.  It was a collaborative effort: My better half is the art director, and she completed the design and layout, including our images manipulated through PhotoShop.  I wrote the copy.

We touched upon interesting activities, trips, events and recollections from each month.   It announced the new public relations job I started, the one I lost this September  Not sure if we published future “year-in-review” communications to stuff into Christmas cards.  Possibly an abbreviated version for a year or two.  More than likely, it took up too much time at a busy time of the year.

Of course, in 1998 interactive online communication was in its relative infancy. The blogosphere might have been in existence, but I trust only true technology students — okay, the geeks — published blogs.  The term “blog” was not a common part of our daily lives.  A “blogger?”  What’s that?  After all, who would read these online chronicles and random thoughts.

The little newsletter we produced was something tangible, printed on laser paper.  But we trust most recipients discarded the piece, along with holiday cards and wrapping paper, shortly after receiving it.  It went to a few dozen family members and friends.   Some recipients commented on the content and applauded us for our creativity, for remembering what brought meaning and enjoyment to our lives.  The trips and visits, the baseball games and concerts — these events that shaped our lives are surely forgotten by those on our holiday card list.

As I write this, there are thousands of other bloggers (a term I still can’t come to terms with; subject for a future post) posting communications on important stuff happening in the world, or what took place in their immediate world.  Yet, unlike our holiday newsletter, those messages will live on for a long, long time and can be absorbed by anyone with a computer, access to the Internet and willingness to search and read comments from a stranger.

The final paragraph of that 1998 newsletter from a Chicago couple had these thoughts.  They are appropriate today, Thanksgiving Day:

“Just one more thought.  A special thanks to those who gave.  To those who offered a helping hand when there was work to do. To those who listened when we had to talk about what caused trouble that day. To those who shared when were we lacking.  To those who made us laugh when we were about to cry. Especially to those who reached within to offer something of themselves.”

Silver Lining in Decline in Housing Starts

For years I’ve been a follower of real estate.  And, in fact, up until 11 weeks ago, I earned a fine living helping build the brand for an association comprised of real estate professionals.

This week, the U.S. Commerce Commission released some statistics that revealed housing starts in October 2009 were down 10.6 percent — a significant drop.

But according to the professionals at Network Mortgage, LLC, of Chicago, there’s a “silver lining” in this news: Reduced existing inventory, which should help keep for sale prices down and possibly move homes that have been on the market for months.

I’m not a mortgage or housing expert, but Juan F. Lopez of Network Mortgage is.  Read what he has to say:

Or contact Juan at: 773-404-7800 or


We Need Another Lady Bird

One way I get energized for a day of searching for that next great opportunity in the public relations arena is through a brisk morning walk in my North Side Chicago neighborhood. We reside in Avondale,and the neighborhood to our north (by a block) is the better-known Logan Square.

Along with keeping up a fast pace for 30-plus minutes each morning, I get a bit of exercise another way: Stooping to pick up litter, which I deposit in the nearest trash can. I find the expected — fast food wrappers, beer bottles, plastic bags — and the unexpected, like a nice 3/4 inch metal pipe, suitable for conduit or water. It’s rare when I don’t find two handfuls of trash while strolling a two to three block span. And mind you, we’re in a relatively “good” part of Chicago, one that has seen a great deal of investment the past decade. Logan Square contains the best preserved section of the city’s “emerald necklace” of landscaped boulevards and its only true square.

Enough history and promotion. This blog is about a job search and public relations. Here’s the purpose of this post. In the mid 1960s, a very powerful American used her position to do something truly remarkable: Create awareness for the need to beautify America and the harm litter caused to our highways, cities and towns. It was a precursor to the conservation movement that remains strong today.

Born Claudia Alta Taylor, the lady in question is best known as Lady Bird Johnson, wife of the 36th President of the United States. It was through Lady Bird’s quiet determination that campaigns like “Don’t Be a Litter Bub” took flight, (pun intended) and groups like Keep America Beautiful gained national recognition. Not sure if she had any experience in PR, but Lady Bird certainly mastered how to effectively build relationships, persuade and communicate.

In this era of disposable everything, it’s no surprise that my morning constitutional includes trash pick up. Just wonder when the next Lady Bird will
arrive. Until then, I’ll keep walking, stooping and depositing trash where it belongs.

I’m keeping Avondale and Logan Square beautiful.

Tax Credit Extension Maintains Chicago Housing Market Momentum

Get some insight into how Chicago’s improving housing market will continue moving forward through the item posted below.  It’s a link to a social media news release quoting experts at Network Mortgage, LLC of Chicago:

This news, released Friday after President Obama signed homebuyer tax credit extension into law, was among many big stories to surface that day.  It competed with better-then-expected news on Wall Street and the day-after reports from the horrific fatal shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.

It illustrates that sometimes even good news — good for the economy, people seeking their first home, for the real estate industry — sometimes gets overshadowed.

A Salute to a True Professional During a True Crisis

For those in the public relations profession, managing communications during a crisis is the true test of one’s skill.

Like many Americans, I watched television accounts and online reports of the Thursday shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. Facts are scarce during any breaking news story of this type. Reporters want to know. Everything.

The first official report I witnessed was made by Lt. Gen. Robert Cone. This officer, to my knowledge and I might be mistaken, was the first military official to report on the shootings. He was calm and deliberate. He appeared credible. He was concise and respectful to those who had fallen.

I was in awe of this guy.

This type of crisis — immediate and unsuspected — is the most dreaded kind. You can’t prepare for it, like you could before a work stoppage.

But on this day of national tragedy, Lt. Gen. Cone made very proud to be in the public relations profession and to be an American.

Two Months Later and The Sun is Shining

Two months ago, on a glorious, sunny late summer morning, I was unceremoniously relieved of my position as public relations director. Here are some random thoughts on what has happened since, what I’ve learned and where I see myself headed.

1. The sun still comes up. Every day. Yes, despite my little setback, life did go on, and quite well. I’ve made time between my search to reach out to old friends and make some new ones. I’ve made time to learn more about trends and developments in public relations, especially those related to online communications and measurement. I’ve reaffirmed that public relations is a passion and my profession.

2. Don’t believe everything you read, hear or download. Yes, the economy continues to sputter and there remains a lot of uncertainty as to when it will get better. But I’ve found opportunities are out there in the market for skilled communicators willing to apply for posted jobs or pound the proverbial pavement to put themselves in a position for a job. Nothing concrete yet, but progress is better than stagnation.

3. Time really does make things better. The days after I was shown the door, I was angry. I felt betrayed. “How could they have made this mistake?” I kept asking myself and anyone who would listen. Today, I still wonder what I could have done differently to retain my position. The answer: Nothing. “You were a valuable addition, you contributed, you were innovative and adaptable. Now it’s time to start another chapter,” I reasoned. I had the time to resolve some feelings.

4. Howdy neighbor! I’m around the house a lot more, even though I have a fairly active schedule of meetings away from home. I’ve become closer with the nice lady with the little dog, the neighbor who opened a nearby grocery store, the couple canvassing to get new candidates on the February ballot. These folks are now my friends because I interact with them more often than when I was at work five days a week.

5. Change is something to embrace, not avoid. I was a true creature of habit, and I loved it. Now, my days are less structured, which will make me stronger and more adaptable to wherever my career takes me. Not a bad thing for someone who never plans to really “retire.”

6. “Hello PR Department. We need you more than ever.” Plain and simple, companies, associations and governments need sound, strategic public relations now more than ever. A recent poll showed that nearly 80% of respondents search for information using new media sources, up by some 20% from a year ago. Any organization that ignores the fact that online resource have changed the communications landscape is in for a rude awakening.

Do I wish I was back in my old position? Without question. But life throws curve balls, meaning I have to learn how to lay off or go to the opposite field.

I remain steadfast: I will be back in the game, and soon.