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Archive for February, 2007

I am serious about professional development (PD). I love the topic, the practice, and the results. I believe strongly in becoming a “life long learner”. For individuals and organizations alike, professional development is a path to excellence.

I am entering a period of specialization in my doctoral studies, 18 credits in areas that I choose and that may well serve as the underpinning of my dissertation.

I am taking a course in Transformational Leadership and Professional Development right now, aimed at PD for education. Among the many things I have learned are:

  • PD has to be based on research or some form of needs assessment among the intended audience.
  • PD should be collaborative and participatory. It should be constructivist in execution.
  • PD must be viewed as a priority by organizational leaders and decision makers and supported in terms of resources (time and money).
  • PD should be viewed as an investment, not an expense.
  • PD should be linked to positive outcomes and effectively evaluated.

Whether the organization is a school or a publicly-traded, for-profit corporation or a nonprofit or a government agency, PD for staff is the road to continued improvement of systems, processes, and productivity.

If organizations help their individual members learn and improve skills, the organization enjoys a competitive advantage.

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I had a most instructive conversation this past Saturday night over dinner. I want to share what I learned with current and former students as good career information.

One of my dearest friends, Phillip Raskin, was here briefly from Seoul, Korea. Phillip is Director of the Burson-Marsteller office in Seoul. He mentioned that he had an opening for a junior account service person. I asked what credentials and experience he was looking for. He said he was seeking someone with at least five years of experience. As for skills, the first thing he mentioned was the ability to write.

“I need a person who can make a news release capture the attention of the media,” Phillip said. “I am looking for a skilled writer who can take any work and improve it, and who can start from scratch and write copy that sings.”

On par with writing skill, Phillip said he needed problem-solving ability. He related a situation with one of his clients, a top international firm, in which the ability of the account staff to anticipate PR issues that would affect the client, then to act quickly and proactively in the client’s best interest, was of paramount importance.

Writing and problem-solving ability. Enough said.

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One Month Later

Today I begin the second month of More With Les. It is hard to believe that only 30 days have passed since I sat in a Richmond, Virginia, hotel room and started this blog. It was the night before a speaking engagement, but I was so excited to be jumping into the social media revolution that I stayed up late to get this going.

Here’s a partial report card, my blog stats to date:

  • Total views – 2,008
  • Best day ever views – 249
  • Posts – 16
  • Comments – 68
  • Tags – 12

That tells part of the story. I really do not know whether these numbers are good or bad. They are what they are.

But the numbers cannot tell you how much I have learned from doing this.  And now I see how much I have yet to learn.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Thank you for your support and for your comments. If you have any suggestions, no matter how large or how small, please tell me.

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NASCAR recently issued some of the strongest penalties in its history for rules infractions found in pre-qualifying inspections for the Daytona 500, which ran today. It appears that among sports that have been marred by cheating scandals of all types, NASCAR takes cheating seriously.

Michael Waltrip’s #55 Toyota, in its premier NASCAR appearance, was found in violation of three distinct rules.  One related to gasoline and was determined to be an effort to obtain more horsepower. That was the heart of the infractions that resulted in the harsh penalties NASCAR handed down. Waltrip and his team were assessed the following penalties:

  1. The Team’s crew chief was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR.
  2. The Team’s vice president for competition was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR.
  3. Another crew chief was fined $100,000.
  4. Driver Waltrip was docked 100 driver points.
  5. Car owner Buffy Waltrip, Michael’s wife, was docked 100 car owner points.
  6. NASCAR confiscated the #55 Toyota.

For non-NASCAR fans, that all might sound like gibberish. But believe me (for I am a NASCAR fan) it is huge for any sport.

What can we learn from this? To me, from a public relations standpoint, NASCAR did the right thing and maintains — maybe even enhances — its reputation among fans, participants, and observers. In terms of ethics, NASCAR “walked the talk” in this incident.

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It was 10 degrees F. at 5:00 a.m. this morning when I dragged myself out of bed. I have a Saturday doctoral class from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at Towson University. It snowed and ice-stormed and stayed in the teens all week. There was a four-inch thick accumulation of hard-packed ice on my car hood and half way up my windshield.

My wife of 35 years, Marilyn, worried that I might not be able to see well enough to safely drive the 65 miles from home to Towson. Still in her robe and gown, covered with her wool overcoat and winter hat, she went out into the biting cold to remove the ice. Trip after trip, from the kitchen sink for warm water to soften the ice, to the car and back. Marilyn, a breast cancer survivor (since 2003) and with three steel pins painfully holding her left hip together, did this to make sure I might travel safely.

I sat in the kitchen doorway in my dirty yellow wheelchair helplessly watching. I offered gratitude, support, and a warm drink waiting. It rips out my heart to see this sweet and gracious Southern Lady doing so masculine a thing in the cold morning air. She sensed this and said selflessly with a smile, “Think of all that you do for me.”

Life is not a pretty picture at times. But look again. What you see is two people helping each other make it as best they can. It is a beautiful picture, beautiful beyond belief.

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I was up early today for a Saturday. I helped judge a category of IABC’s Gold Quill Awards competition, led by Katherine George, ABC, CAE. A team of us met at KG’s home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to judge the entries. As usual, KG had it all arranged for maximum effectiveness. She is a master organizer.

As my 2003 certified pre-owned Buick Park Avenue sliced through the cold morning air in route, I thought about how well designed and orchestrated IABC’s Gold Quill competition is. I am a huge fan of the work plan being 50 percent of the score. The other 50 percent is the entry itself.  But the work plan comes first.

The work plan requires an entrant to demonstrate strategic thinking and succinctly summarize a strategic plan for whatever is being entered. You can’t just do pretty stuff and win a Gold Quill. You must have: a clear and relevant statement of need; clearly identified and described appropriate audiences; well-defined goals and measurable objectives; logical, creative, and salient messages, media, and tactics; effective budget detail, time frames, and resources; and measurement and evaluation that prove results empirically.

I work hard to teach my students the need to think like the Gold Quill work plan instructs us to think. Students learn strategic communication/PR planning and management in my classes. But I want them to know that this is not just some academic exercise. This is the way true professionals think, work, and manage successful communication/PR programs. This is the real deal. The best among us do this with professionalism, creativity, and solid management skills.

We’ll see those people accepting their Gold Quills in New Orleans this June at IABC’s International Conference. And we’ll see my students who learn to think and manage communication/PR programs strategically get great jobs and have bright careers when they graduate.

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Richmond-based Consultant Extraordinaire Robert J. Holland has written an insightful and educational piece on the recent Boston guerrilla marketing campaign gone bad.  The link is:

http://www.richmond.com/business/output.aspx?Article_ID=4570724&Vertical_ID=127&tier=1&position=6

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