At a luncheon today, I received a wonderful honor from a group of PR professionals that I love and admire. The experience was humbling, and the award was greatly appreciated.
For the past few weeks, I was overwhelmed by the daunting task of writing and giving a speech for a group of people who write and give speeches for a living.
After trying the serious approach and the oh-so-humble quick thank you approach, I settled on just being me and sharing some of the great failures of my success. They are the ups and down that come with being in a career for nearly 20 years.
There were a few people and family who weren’t at the event and wanted to read the speech. So, I am sharing it here.
Let me say a HUGE thank you to my nominator, the Dayton Area PRSA chapter and the indulgent crowd who laughed at all the right times! Today was a very special day I won’t forget any time soon.
(On a side note, my little date Dylan had a great time filling in for dad who got called away to work. He also wants to say thanks for all the goodies!)
Communicator of the Year Speech
May 7, 2015
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of listening and learning from past winners of this award. They are some of the brightest minds in PR and brilliant in their ability to further not only their clients’ reputations, but also the profession at the same time. Their experience, intelligence and candor were appreciated and certainly inspiring to me. And I think of many of them as colleagues, mentors and friends.
So you can imagine my surprise when I got the call that I was going to receive this honor. I really couldn’t believe it. I turned to my husband and said, “This can’t be right. I mean, I’m not old enough. I haven’t experienced enough. I don’t have anything to teach this crowd. I think it’s the gray hair. They must just think it’s time.”
He, in his infinite wisdom, looked at me and said, “Honey, sometimes it’s not the years; it’s the mileage.”
And after I got over my initial shock, I realized he’s probably right. Because let’s be real, I have had some wild rides in this industry over nearly 20 years.
I have worked with astronauts and the national press corp and a few celebrities. I have had some Fortune 500 clients and can keep a lagging dinner conversation going with talk of everything from funeral coaches and nuclear waste to podiatry and, of course, Wright Brothers trivia.
So maybe, over the years, I have collected a few bits of knowledge and helpful information that could be useful to some of you. And if you’ll let me, I would like to share my top three lessons learned in this crazy career.
Let me start with this – Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong – will!” There is no one who knows the full truth of this statement better than me.
Whether it’s having a pop-up thunderstorm from Hell blow down over 350 hot air balloons, hail on the Air Force Band of Flight and send 25,000 people running for their cars at an opening night event.
Or getting a call that your one-named, uber celebrity guest of honor will not arrive in time to take photos with your patrons who have paid $1000 per ticket to do so. In her defense, it was three days after Katrina and she was there filming her show live. So, we cut her some slack.
Or nearly catching the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center on fire five minutes before your guests are to take their seats for dinner thanks to an intern who put the votives just a little too close to the center pieces.
I’ve been through it all.
The lesson ti learned from these experiences and many like them is that flexibility, being the calm in the storm, and wine, lots and lots of wine, are the best ways to deal with crisis. Learn from my chaos and mistakes.
Second, Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Coraline and many others, said, “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”
Are there any truer words out there for a PR professional? I mean it’s what we do. Find and share the stories of our clients, our organizations and ourselves.
Telling stories is why I made the transition from PR to the dark side serving as editor for the Dayton Magazine. I love sharing the new and old and hidden gems of this Gem City.
Telling stories has become one of the best parts of moving my family from the suburbs to life on the farm. With nearly 100 head of livestock, several miles of fences that always need repaired and a whole lot of…well, let’s call it ‘mud’, I have all the material I need for one hell of a memoir. I just need the time.
But the point of all this is that I did it. I jumped in with both feet and spent nearly everyday since then learning something new. I tell my students that learning should never stop and the same applies to you. Don’t be afraid of change. Do the things that make your story more interesting.
Third, I want to talk for a minute about the people in this room. Take a look around your table and the tables next to you. You are looking at some of the best resources available in this industry and they are only a phone call or a PRSA luncheon away.
Whenever I have called, whatever the issue, no matter what they are dealing with, the PR pros in this room have always been there for me. They have supported me through crisis, provided feedback on plans, even jumped in and carried boxes, manned tables and made name tags. And they will do the same for you.
This organization brings together the best in this field and they are all willing to share and support you. So get to know them.
Last I just want to say thank you. Thanks to the Dayton Area PRSA for not only this award, but for the years of support and encouragement. I couldn’t imagine a better group of people to call colleagues and friends.
Also to some of the most caring, supportive and best mentors a girl could ask for – Jamie Kenny, Beth Whelley, Brenda Gibson, Patty Sorrell, and so many others. By both word and deed you have been pillars of ethical, intelligent, thoughtful public relations professionalism. I thank you for every time you picked up the phone, scheduled a lunch, listened to a crazy idea and laughed with me through all those ups and downs. You have made me a better PR professional.
Finally, I want to say thank you to my family, some of whom are here today. When I decided to change majors from music education to communication, my uncle said, “Well that took long enough! You’ve been talking 90 miles a minute since the day you were born!” You have always been there for me, supporting every career change, and providing last minute babysitting services, even after the twins came. For all of this and so much more, I thank you.
And to my husband, who has always had my back and been my cheerleader for the past 25 years, I love you.
Thank you, all, so much for this wonderful honor.