California-born writer, singer, and troubadour Rodney Marvin McKuen, simply known as “Rod” to millions of fans, died of pneumonia January 29 at a rehabilitation center in Beverly Hills, California. He was 81 years old.

McKuen was a popular poet and singer in the 1960s and 1970s selling millions of albums and books. His more than 30 books became instant best sellers. Some of the 1,500 songs he wrote were featured in movies and recorded by a varied collection of famous artists. He won a Grammy Award in 1969 for one of his recordings and was nominated for an Academy Award for a song he wrote that was featured in a hit movie.

Being a best-selling poet, he once said, targeted him for ridicule by many critics. “The most unforgivable sin in the world is to be a best-selling poet,” he explained. Though receiving much acclaim early in his career, as his success grew, so it seems did some critics’ vilification.

But to me, he was a blessing. During high school and college, his work was a source of comfort and inspiration as I tried to find my way in the world. Through his words, simple though they may be, he seemed to understand my hurts and fears and failings and struggles. My introspection mirrored his. My search for meaning in life, for my place, for love and understanding, seemed the same as his. There were many times when I felt alone, and from his words, I drew comfort.

Rest in peace, old friend. Critics come and go and fade into obscurity, but your words live on in the hearts of many. The fact that you were responsible for bringing a new generation to love poetry should be enough to satisfy any critic.


Today’s college students are reputed to be well-versed in the use of social media. Do you think that heavy use of social media helps or hurts your ability to communicate in writing and face to face with important people you will encounter in the work place, such as authority figures like employers and colleagues, who are older than you?

College is supposed to prepare you for your career and to lead a productive work life. In what ways do you feel most prepared for this challenge? In what ways do you feel least prepared?

The recent California court ruling striking down teacher tenure and other state laws offering job security to educators is a good thing for education.

But specifically, it is a terrific thing for public school children.

In Vergara v. California, the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles struck down as unconstitutional five harmful provisions of the California Education Code. The provisions in question govern teacher tenure, dismissal, and layoffs. The court ruled that they impose substantial harm on California’s students by forcing administrators to terminate passionate, inspiring teachers in order to keep longer-tenure but ineffective teachers in the classroom, a process known as LIFO, or, “last in, first out”.

LIFO is a bad deal. Why should longevity in a job be the ultimate consideration for continued employment over more desirable traits like ability and achievement? The hard truth is that some people may have 20 years in a job, but it is really just one year twenty times, meaning that they have not grown or improved.

I came to education after 32 years earning a living doing what I now teach Mass Communication majors. I learned early in my career that, in the business world, getting results is the only thing that matters to continued employment. As one of my best bosses/mentors once told me, “Les, go make something happen!”

I got the message, and I did just that. I got results, and as a result, I was never fired or layed off. I consistently overachieved on my objectives and was rewarded accordingly with more generous bonuses, promotions, and more interesting and challenging assignments.

But wait — do not think that I had a easy little career with loving and fair employers who just let me fly. No way. I earned what I got from extremely hard work, very long hours, and constant professional development to improve my skills and abilities. And I did all this since 1977 as a paraplegic and wheelchair user. With that extra challenge, I often had to work twice as hard as the able-bodied just to prove I was half as good. But as Faulkner said, I did not merely survive, I prevailed.

And I never had protection like guaranteed employment/tenure. Am I brilliant? Not even close. I just worked really hard and never quit trying. With tenure, you can quit trying with no penalty. That is why I find tenure a bit insulting to anyone confident and competent enough to meet workplace challenges head on. And if I can do it, anyone can.

With the Vergara v. California ruling, I believe that there will be a growing movement across the country to end tenure and other seniority rules that make it hard to terminate bad teachers. Good teachers are priceless and should be encouraged, supported, rewarded, and celebrated. If teachers are not willing or capable of meeting  job challenges, then their bosses must do as one of my more colorful bosses used to say of terminating bad employees: “Let’s help them be successful elsewhere.”

Writing skill is the fundamental core competency of the communication/public relations professional. Why? What will you do to improve your PR writing style and ability once you graduate?

Here are two facts from the most recent issue of Barron’s that I find interesting:
1. U.S. Olympic Committee awards American athletes $25,000 for a gold medal. Tiny Azerbaijan gives its athletes a half million for gold. Hmmm..
2. Who knew? More than two-thirds of American men plan on buying one or more luxury items in the next year, but only 44% of women plan to.

Like I said, it is a quiet Saturday afternoon.  Too quiet.

I used to love watching cooking shows on the channels devoted to foodies like me. But not anymore.

Simple, instructive shows on how to prepare foods seem to have been replaced with contests, competitions, and high drama that might mention food from time to time.

Instead of  shows that actually teach the novice like me how to prepare desirable dishes, we get cupcake wars, restaurant rescues, and all sorts of silliness which have to have drama and conflict.

Where is Paula when we need her. Oh, that’s  right  —  too controversial. Yeah, right.

The same thing is happening to car shows. Channels like Velocity, Discovery, et al., have had some great shows, but now more and more of these shows have to have the same level of drama and conflict that infects the cooking channels. Always a tight deadline and not enough money to do the project correctly. Add to that the inevitable shop conflict. Tempers flare, feelings get hurt, people sulk.

Far too many shows on the cooking and car channels have adopted to same tired, formula composed of conflict, too little time and too little money, and way too little actual instruction.

With hundreds of channels from which to pick, you would think I could find the perfect shows. That is not as easy as it used to be.

I normally do not need reminders of why I love what I do — teaching college students public relations management — but there are times when it all comes flooding back to me.

This past December was one of those times. The Public Relations Society of America, Maryland chapter, honored me with its Educator of the Year award. I was deeply touched by this. First, to be honored by PRSA-MD was incredibly special. Second, being honored for doing what I love to do is especially poignant.

Here is the official announcement:

The 2013 Best In Maryland Committee and the 2013 PRSA-MD Board of Directors are proud to announce the 2013 Educator of the Year recipient: Lester R. Potter.

Accredited Business Communicator Lester R. Potter, an MBA, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies at Towson University, Maryland. He is “ABD” (all but dissertation) for a doctorate in Instructional Technology at Towson.  At Towson, Potter teaches Public Relations Writing, Organizational Communication, Strategic Public Relations Planning and Management, and Public Relations for Nonprofit Organizations.  He has served as Faculty Advisor to the PRSSA chapter for ten years.

Prior to beginning his academic career, Potter was President of Les Potter Incorporated, an international consultancy he founded in 1998.  His firm helped organizations worldwide use communication as a strategic management tool to boost organizational effectiveness.  For over 30 years, Les Potter has improved business operation with innovative, results-oriented interventions.  To solve clients’ problems, Potter draws on successful experience in organizational communication, strategic and marketing planning, and human resources and project management gained from work with a wide variety of organizations and industries.

Les Potter’s background includes many different and enriching business situations that prepared him for successful client service.  Potter was Chairman of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) during 1991-92.  He was named an IABC Fellow in 1997, IABC’s highest honor.  He served on IABC’s executive board, accreditation board, and as a trustee of the IABC Research Foundation.  He earned IABC accreditation (the ABC designation) in 1978.

Les is also a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the invitation-only professional association for educators, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

You have heard me talk a great deal about my Communication/PR colleagues and friends who I consider to be true professionals. What does being a Communication/PR professional mean to you? How do you become a true professional in Communication/PR?

To get to the new Wal-Mart in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, about a mile from where I live in Vienna, you go down Route 7 until you see the Aston Martin dealership on the right. Then, you take the next left at the Porsche dealership.

You can’t miss the Aston Martin dealership, for it is across Route 7 from the Mercedes dealership.