Archive for June, 2008

Word stir-fry, part one

So, if you suffer from Philodendronomatopoeia, then take Nebulous.

But Nebulous isn’t for everyone. Do not take Nebulous if you are pregnant or are nursing, or may become pregnant, or may have impregnated someone, or have impregnated someone, or if you have bladder problems, dandruff, liver disease, eye, ear, nose or throat disease, glaucoma, open sores, closed sores, cold sores, hot sores, flat feet, athlete’s feet, crow’s feet, heartburn, heart ache, heart break, acky breaky heart, chest pain, back pain, front pain, side pain, leg cramps, stomach cramps, stomach ulcers, trouble swallowing, kidney problems, low blood pressure, high blood pressure, no blood pressure, and work pressure. You should not take Nebulous if you are thin, fat, tall, or short, or if you drink alcohol, milk, or water.

Possible side effects may include upper belly pain, lower belly pain, hot flashes, leg cramps, swelling of the feet, legs, and ankles, shortness of breath, dizziness, irritability, nausea, weight loss, decreased appetite, dry mouth, potty mouth, trouble sleeping, projectile vomiting, loss of bladder control, constipation, diarrhea, pain in extremities, upset stomach, hallucinations, fever, disorientation, unexplained confusion, low blood count, severe bone, joint, and/or muscle pain, ear lobe bleeding, heart attack, stroke, poor blood circulation throughout your body, coughing up blood, bad breath, loss of sexual function, memory loss (a good thing considering the loss of sexual function), severe rashes, uncontrollable desire to eat pistachio ice cream, body odor, fainting, inability to solve polynomials, trouble concentrating, Restless Legs Syndrome, heat prostration, salary compression, blurred vision, increased sweating, inability to turn in class assignments on time, and allergic reactions to air, water, and food.


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Yesterday, I pointed the hood ornament of my certified pre-owned, fully-optioned Buick Park Avenue south to Richmond, Virginia. It was my first road trip in months, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Before I passed historic Occoquan, about 30 minute’s ride from home in Vienna, I had written five different blog posts in my head.

BFF Robert J. Holland, consultant extraordinaire and PR adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, invited me to guest lecture to his PR principles class. VCU is a remarkable institution. It is the largest university in Virginia and ranks among the top 100 universities in the country in sponsored research.

VCU has about 32,000 students in 205 certificate and degree programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-five of the programs are unique in Virginia, with many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 15 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University compose the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers.

The School of Mass Communications offers a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications with specialization in one of three sequences — advertising, journalism, and public relations. The school offers three graduate programs – multimedia journalism, strategic public relations, and advertising through the VCU Brandcenter.

One of the coolest things about VCU is its location. It is situated on two downtown campuses in Richmond. I taught in a building adjacent to the historic Fan district, an 85-block Victorian residential neighborhood immediately west of Richmond’s downtown commercial area. It is a lovely area with a cool modern classroom building effectively and unobtrusively set near colorful Victorian homes. The juxtaposition works well, with architectural styles complimenting, never detracting, from the others.

According to the Fan District Association, most of the homes in the Fan were designed and built by a few local architects and contractors. A wide variety of styles and building treatments contribute both to the Fan District’s distinctive quality and cohesive identity. Among the styles represented are Italianate, Richardson Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival, plus Tudor, Second Empire, Beaux Arts, Art Deco, Spanish, Gothic, Bungalow, and the American Arts and Crafts Movement.

The Fan District was a fashionable address through World War II, but as with other cities, over time many of the homes were subdivided or faded from their once glorious state. Fortunately, the Fan has seen a renovation and revitalization boom in past years due to its attractiveness and close proximity to Richmond’s commercial area.

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I am now out of school for a brief time. Make that, between teaching sessions. Spring semester is over, and the summer classes I’ll teach begin July 8.

I never had this much time off in neither the corporate world nor when I was an independent consultant. I have used the time wisely. I have all of my tools and materials ready for the two summer classes. I also have most of my tools and materials ready for the fall semester for my four classes.

I am nothing if not a dedicated strategic planner.

Two lessons here:

One, for students, when you graduate, you must get used to not having college-like time off. When you go to work, you will be allowed a set number of days away from work for holidays and sick, vacation, or personal leave. You must learn to live within those constraints.

Two, for practitioners, do not enviously believe that college instructors get “all that time off.” Yes, by some standards, we do seem to have more time off than some career roles. I have been in three such roles — as corporate practitioner, as entrepreneur, and now as college instructor. True, I get more time off now between semesters than I may have in my other professional roles. But I work every day, much the  same as always. There is always something to do.

On the bright side, I am working from my Virginia home office, not commuting to Towson. That saves me the high expenditure for gasoline and wear and tear on the body (and on my certified pre-owned, fully-optioned Buick Park Avenue).

This break also allows time for reflection, for service, for household management, and for reading an expanded inventory of topics.

All things considered, that’s not a bad deal. I know it. That is why I have never been happier career-wise. I love what I do, where I do it, for whom I do it, and with whom I do it. I am blessed.

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It’s Father’s Day 2008. Time to reflect on fatherhood. And that ultimately leads to responsibility, and in no small way, pride.

In talking about this, I may be rushing it a bit for my male Millennial students. Hopefully, they will put off fathering children until they are ready to accept the awesome responsibility of raising the child to adulthood.

I am a father and a grandfather, and I know about this firsthand. Being a father is the highest, best, and most rewarding of all the experiences a man can have. But with its unprecedented rewards come formidable challenges and unrelenting responsibility.

Fatherhood tests a man as no other challenge can. It is the most important role a man can play for the good of the child, of the family, and of all of society, too.

No man worthy of being called a man should ever bring a child into the world without making a 100 percent commitment to raising that child to independent, productive adulthood. That means:

  • Protecting and providing for the child 24/7 for 20 years minimum. 
  • Providing for the safety and security of the mother and the child. 
  • Maintaining a stable home environment, with the father a significant, ongoing presence in it. Children need the balance, the yin-yang of mother and father.
  • Teaching the child right from wrong.
  • Helping the child learn to make wise decisions, wise choices.
  • Nurturing the child mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Opening up the world of learning, creativity, self-expression, responsibility, and productivity to the child through a wide variety of well-thought-out educational and learning opportunities.
  • Helping a child learn to read early and to read well.
  • Helping a child with homework, projects, attending field trips, school functions, soccer games, in short, supporting the child in anything the child chooses to do to learn and grow.

Fathers must realize that their stewardship is short-lived. All too soon, the child will leave the parent, hopefully, to do what the child was taught to do — live responsibly, productively, and independently.

Enter Oedipus. In a key scene in the story of Oedipus, the protagonist, who does not realize who the stranger is, meets his true father Laius on the road to Thebes. They fight over whose wagon has right of way, and Oedipus’ pride drives him to kill his true father Laius.

When fathers and sons/daughters each try to pull their own wagons, they often clash over right of way. Hopefully, they’ll find compromise and accommodation without taking Oedipus’ extreme measures. It is to be expected that the child will, in his/her own mind anyway, move beyond the perceived narrow and provincial confines of his/her father’s right of way. Hopefully, the two paths will converge again somewhere down the pike in a harmonious and mutually beneficial way for all concerned.

Choosing to become a father is life’s highest calling, but gentlemen, be aware of the responsibilities. If you are not up to it, then don’t do it.



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CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen blasted the organizational communication/PR profession June 1, 2008 in a scathing piece titled, “The Flak Over Flacks.”  If Cohen proved anything with this cynical and mean-spirited diatribe, he proved that he does not know what real organizational communication/PR is.

If you can stand it, read it at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/06/01/sunday/main4142947.shtml.

Among his ridiculous pronouncements: “Apparently, an industry (PR) the very essence of which is to try to convince people that a turkey is really an eagle has a rule that condemns lying. The Public Relations Society of America states: ‘We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent…’ This clause strikes me as if the Burglars Association of America had as its creed ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal.'”

For the record, Mr. Cohen, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the world’s largest truly international communication/PR professional association, has a viable code of ethics, too. Given his ignorance of communication/PR, I would not expect him to know that.

Cohen continues: “Show me a PR person who is ‘accurate’ and ‘truthful,’ and I’ll show you a PR person who is unemployed.” Oh, really!

But wait, folks, Cohen is not finished trashing the PR profession — and organizational communication and PR education: “The reason companies or governments hire oodles of PR people is because PR people are trained to be slickly untruthful or half-truthful. Misinformation and disinformation are the coin of the realm, and it has nothing to do with being a Democrat or a Republican.”

I have news for Mr. Cohen, if he has the mental capacity to absorb it. I worked as an organizational communicator/PR professional and consultant to organizations for over 30 years. Now I have the honor of being a university instructor in PR. I have never in all my years neither as a practitioner nor as a college professor ever instructed anyone to lie, spin, misrepresent, engage in half-truths, or to disseminate dis- or misinformation. To do so first and foremost would violate my personal and professional ethical code, the underpinning of my successful practice throughout my career. Second, in my role as mentor and/or instructor, it would constitute a severe disservice to those I would so instruct. It would be for them a career-limiting move.

So what set Cohen off? Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s book about the Bush administration. But Earth to Cohen: McClellan was a presidential press secretary.

In my opinion, being a U.S. president’s press secretary has little resemblance to the actual jobs of hundreds of thousands of hard-working, honest and ethical, well-educated and prepared practitioners out there engaged in organizational communication/PR.

I am not saying, as Cohen did, that presidential press secretaries or others who practice political media relations, purposely are not ethical or honest. I believe that political press relations is a distinct area of practice that is quite different from organizational communication/PR that Cohen so ignorantly blasted. 

I have a strong affection and respect for professionals who practice organizational communication/PR. They build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with organizations’ key publics. They manage organizational reputations. They simply cannot do this by lying or misrepresenting organizations to publics. It is counter-intuitive.

I have had the honor of working with a host of highly-honorable and professional organizational communication/PR people for over 35 years. I do not know of a single time when a serious and experienced organizational communication/PR professional, me included, chose lying as a strategy. To do so is certain career suicide.

Enter PRSA. The board of directors of PRSA wrote a letter to Cohen which you can read at http://media.prsa.org/article_display.cfm?article_id=1176. I found this letter to be a tepid and incomplete response to the baseless, hurtful, and insulting accusations of Andrew Cohen. I expect better from PRSA, especially a more impassioned explanation and defense of what organizational communication/PR truly is.

IABC understands organizational communication/PR, but I fear that PRSA does not.

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