A few years ago, I attempted to get my then 9-year-old son into Scouting. After all, he had shown great interest in the outdoors, camping and other areas Scouts routinely participate.
But, after a few meetings, I found out the Scouts were about so much more–and all of it very good. You see, I didn’t grow up a Scout. In fact, I knew very little about the Scouts before taking my son. What I discovered is that their entire organization is based on the notion of service. And they hold values like honesty, trustworthiness and kindness closely.
So, I was excited to get my son involved with an organization that had these kinds of beliefs at its core. And, I saw them being carried out first-hand in the meeting I attended. It seemed like a great place for my son to continue to develop these core beliefs.
Since then, my son has fallen out of scouting (to my chagrin)–he’s more involved in basketball, soccer and YouTube these days. I’m hopeful he might rejoin, and as a result, I kept a close eye on the Scouts Jamboree last week, especially since President Trump was speaking.
To recap, in case you haven’t been following along, POTUS spoke at the annual Scout Jamboree last week. The speech was well covered and laced with political references. Not surprisingly, it elicited a lot of media attention and retorts from current and former Scouts.
And while, to be fair, the speech did include many references and messages that aligned with Scouting values, it also included many references and messages like the following:
“You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp. And it’s not a good place. In fact today I said we ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool or, perhaps, to the word sewer. But it’s not good. Not good. (Applause.) And I see what’s going on, and believe me I’d much rather be with you. That I can tell you.”
“By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd, record-setting is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero? The fake media will say: President Trump — and you know what this is — President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.” (NOTE: CNN covered the Jamboree live and featured it in many shows and telecasts).”
“By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?”
After POTUS’ speech, amidst the to-be-expected negative feedback, the Scouts released an official statement from Michael Surbaugh, the chief scout executive. Here’s a key excerpt:
“I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
It goes on to say:
“While we live in a challenging time in a country divided along political lines, the focus of Scouting remains the same today as every day.
Trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and bravery are just a few of the admirable traits Scouts aspire to develop – in fact, they make up the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”
You can read the entire statement here.
Here’s the problem with the Scouts response: If you do indeed focus on the traits above as the foundation of Scouting, why not call out POTUS when he directly contradicted many of those values right in his speech?
You might say, sure, Surbaugh apologized for the fact that “politics were inserted into the Scouting program” (side note: What did you THINK was going to happen when you invited this POTUS to speak?!?!?). And sure, he states the Scouting values and how they make up the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
But, I believe the Scouts didn’t go nearly far enough to highlight that the man standing on the stage in no way reflects the larger Scouting values.
Again, while POTUS’ speech actually had a number of messages most people would get behind, and he did thank the usual list of people most president’s would thank in a speech like this (Scout executives, former Scouts, moms and dads who support scouting, etc.), there were many other parts of the speech that were all about HIM (as they often are).
He put down former presidents and his challenger in the 2016 election.
He put down the media.
He alluded to mistrust in media.
Put simply, many parts of the speech did not reflect the trustworthiness, loyalty, and kindness values the Scouts hold dear.
As a result, you now have op-ed columns of former scouts talking about turning in their Eagle Scout badges. That’s not great PR for an organization that has historically struggled with its public image.
And it’s not great PR for an organization, like many others, struggling to attract young people in an environment littered with activities for young people.
What’s most troubling: I have yet to see a strong message from a current Scout leader defending these Scout values and how the current POTUS went against many of them in his speech (and goes against many of them in his day-to-day activities).
In his response, Surbaugh said: “It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
If that’s true, when the current POTUS (the head of the political world) takes dead aim at your CORE VALUES, why not defend them?
That’s the part about this whole thing I just can’t figure out.
Today, I just have to rant.
And I know it’s a rant we’ve heard before.
But, it’s a rant worth repeating.
Earlier this week, I was out visiting a friend at one of the bigger Fortune 100 companies here in Minneapolis. In the lobby, I usually come across a potpourri (I just wanted to say “potpourri” in a blog post) of agency vendors. Most, given the organization, will be dressed in suits, dresses, pant suits or a jacket and jeans (this is the dress code I take on a pretty regular basis).
But, every once in a while I’ll run into a few agency “creatives”, pitching a few ideas to a client at this company.
And earlier this week, I ran into two such creatives.
And guess what they were wearing? Hoodies, untucked shirts, jeans and Nikes.
I hope they weren’t meeting with the CMO.
Is this where we’re at with today’s business dress code for agency partners?
Jeans, hoodies and tennis shoes on a client visit?
I get that young people operate a little differently. I know the Millennials play by a different set of rules. I get that Zuck and Google have changed everything when it comes to corporate culture.
But, as a consultant (and an employee on the corporate side in the past), I have to take issue.
I’m calling for the abolishment of hoodies at client meetings.
As a consultant, your appearance says a lot about who you are, and who you represent. Whether you like it or not.
Let me give you one scenario: You’re meeting with a younger client. He/she has commented on the fact that he/she is jealous of your agency dress code. So, you wear your hoodie. In fact, you wear it proudly.
But, what if during your meeting with that younger client, you get pulled into a last-minute meeting with his/her boss which is the SVP of marketing? Still think the hoodie is going to play in *that* meeting?
Also: What about the fact that you’re walking around a Fortune 100 company where most everyone else is wearing what I would consider “business dress” and you’re wearing a hoodie, jeans and tennis shoes?
Again: People are judging you on what you wear, whether you like it or not. Back at the agency ranch–hoodie plays fine. When meeting with one of your larger clients? Not so much.
Like I said, as a consultant, I have strong feelings on this issue. Here’s my thinking:
- Always overdress. I know Millennials will roll their eyes at this, but it’s been an old adage since there were old adages for a reason. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “I feel very over-dressed” in a client meeting.
- Senior cxecs still respect the dress code. When was the last time you saw a senior exec of a Fortune 500 company that WASN’T named Facebook or Google wearing a hoodie? Most execs I’ve been around and worked with over the years still dress up. Every. Single. Day. So, I get that you want to wear jeans and tennies to the client meeting, but just know that if you do, that senior exec is shaping all sorts of perceptions about you–solely based on what you’re wearing. And, they may not be positive.
- Do we even know how execs feel about the new age dress code? I would say “no.” Every time this topic comes up, we hear en force from Millennials. I think everyone gets it by now–young people want to dress comfortably at work. But, you know what, Millennials don’t make up the lion’s share of executives at Fortune 500 companies just yet. So, for the next 15-20 years, the boomers and Gen Xers are still, effectively, in charge. And, they (largely) grew up with a very formal dress code. And (I’m taking a wild guess here), they probably don’t love the fact that their younger counterparts want/get to wear jeans and hoodies to work every day. So, while personally, I’m on board with the more casual work attire (believe me, as a solo, I’m in), when meeting with execs and clients, I ALWAYS err on the side of dressing up. It just makes good business sense (for the reasons I’ve mentioned above).
Again: I’m not debating the desire to be comfortable at work. What do you think I wear when I’m working from home each day? But, meetings with clients? That’s when the game face (and dress) comes out. Different days require different dress.
Thoughts? I know you have them.
Note: photo courtesy of LoboStudio Hamburg.
Roughly three years ago, I made the leap. I cut the cord.
No more cable.
My intentions were simple. I wanted our family to watch less TV. I wanted to spend less money on “TV.” And I wanted to watch shows and movies when I wanted (not on someone else’s schedule).
A year in, I was feeling really good about the decision.
We were definitely watching less TV as a family. My wife and I had a select number of shows we would watch on Netflix and buy on iTunes. And, the kids were not glued to a TV most of the day. And, I had removed a $100+ bill each month.
Three years in, things have changed again, so I thought I’d provide another update on our cord-cutting journey.
Here’s what’s changed and what it’s meant for us:
Adding HBO Now
We added this little bad boy about two months ago. HUGE win. For just $16.99 a month, I can now get access to HBO’s arsenal of programming including Game of Thrones, Veep (our new fave), True Detective (new season just started last night!), and Curb your Enthusiasm (maybe my all-time favorite show). Oh, and they also have movies–good ones, too. Another point worth mentioning–you can watch the shows pretty much the second they’re aired in real-time. That means we’re watching Veep at 10:30 on Sun. nights instead of waiting a day, like we would if we bought it in iTunes. Not a huge deal, but nice. This is $17 WELL SPENT each month.
I no longer miss live sports
Thanks to my friend, Sling TV. I experimented with Sling, the new app that allows you to watch various channels on your iPhone or iPad (not on the Apple TV though–at least not through the apps ON the Apple TV), starting in March. I bought this early on purely for the ability to watch March Madness and live sports through ESPN. I needed access to TNT and TBS, which carry the bulk of those basketball games (and ESPN for everything else). I then promptly canceled our service after the Final Four. I mean, I like watching reruns of Titanic on TNT and all, but that’s not worth the $20/month price tag. Sling TV does offer you a host of stations though including the aforementioned ESPN (huge for sports–I’m going to be joining again in the winter), ESPN2, AMC, IFC and Disney (huge for us, as my kids watch all kinds of shows on this network). And, I do still miss Gopher games since I can’t get any kind of access to Fox Sports One. But, overall, we have more than we need with HBO, so I’m only going to pick this up in spots when I want access to ESPN’s sports (college b-ball and March Madness most likely and maybe in the fall for college football–maybe).
Adding Hulu Plus
We experimented with this early on, and went back to it recently. Mainly because it offered us access to network shows we can’t get without purchase through iTunes. So, this is where we watch Dancing with the Stars (kids love), Shark Tank and Scandal (don’t judge). Only $10/month and totally worth it. With my HBO package, this means I pay roughly $35/month for access to a ton of network shows through Hulu, a ton of “other” stuff through Netflix, and almost every show HBO has ever offered through HBO Now. For $324/year, I’ll take that kindly.
So, that’s my update. I’ve noticed a whole lot of friends cutting the cord recently as well. If that’s you, what’s working for you? What apps, tools and services are you paying for and why?
As many of you know by now, I’m an independent consultant.
And, I don’t have an office. I work from my home, by and large. I just have never seen the need for an office. Seems like an additional expense for no real solid reason.
But, I know many independent consultants who have offices. They love them. So, to each his/her own. No judgment here. It’s just not for me.
But, that also means I tend to work from a lot of different places.
From client sites.
From restaurants (Bryant Lake Bowl is my fave here in town).
And, from coffee shops.
The coffee shop thing is pretty interesting. You see a lot of solopreneurs working during the day. They set up shop, as if the coffee shop was their office. Not my style, but you do see this.
And, similarly, you see a lot of people taking client calls right in coffee shops.
That’s always been one that bugs me.
Why does it bug me so much? A variety of reasons.
#1–It’s just rude. It’s similar to my rule of not taking phone calls in a restaurant (or really, not even looking at your phone, if you’re with people). It’s just rude. Even if you are by yourself. Step outside and take the call. Even if it is 20 below (in that case, hop in your car).
#2–You never know who’s listening. I posted this same topic on our Solo PR Facebook page last week, and this was one of the over-riding themes I heard back from the crew. One person talked about how she had a friend who over-heard someone saying “no one gives a sh*t about those Twitter idiots.” And, she tweeted it. Would you want someone tweeting your coffeehouse conversation?
#3–If you work for a publicly-traded company, this is a big no-no. Now, I know you’re probably not discussing proprietary information every time you’re on a call in a coffee shop, but you may at some point. And, if that’s overheard, you could face serious consequences if you work for a publicly-traded company. If you’re out of the office, you need to watch your conversations. Just think about it like you’re on an airplane. You wouldn’t discuss company information loudly while sitting next to someone on a plane, right?
So, my approach has always been to avoid taking client calls in open spots like coffee shops. I will avoid scheduling calls during ‘work time’ where I know I’ll be in an open environment.
If I do happen to get a client call in a coffee shop, I’ll hop outside, or better yet, jump in my car. No chance of anyone overhearing me there.
What do you think? Am I over-reacting here? Maybe it really is OK to take con calls in a coffee shop.
You tell me.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m a big devotee of reading the hard copy print edition of my local newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
And, like many, I particularly enjoy the Sunday edition. Mostly because it just includes so much more editorial than the daily paper.
One of my favorite sections of the Sunday paper is the Business section–much more robust than the daily paper. And, it also includes some syndicated content from the Wall Street Journal, which I really enjoy.
Of note, I often find myself reading the “10 things XX won’t tell you about XXX” columns. You see everything from retirement planning to college savings to end-of-life planning covered here.
I like that “10 things” idea so much, I’m stealing it today. OK, to be clear (and to avoid legal action from the WSJ), I am not stealing content–just the format.
So, today, I’d like to talk about 10 things PR consultants won’t tell you about PR consultants.
We say “yes” now–and figure the details out later.
One thing I learned pretty quickly when I worked on the agency side is that when the client asks if you can do something, you say “yes” and figure it out later. We didn’t always know what we were getting ourselves into, but we sure did our best to figure it out along the way. For example, I remember agreeing to a sizable web project, when at the time, I had little in the way of web development experience. But, after our team huddled, we figured out the right resources to pull in and made it work.
We over-deliver. A LOT.
If I had to make a generalization, I’d say PR people are typically “people pleasers.” That means we want to make our clients happy–no matter the cost. That means a LOT of over-delivering–sometimes to the chagrin of our agency owner partners (and ourselves, as solo consultants!). But, it happens. We try to push back. We try to manage expectations. But at the end of the day we write off a fair amount of work.
We always project confidence–even when we don’t know the answer.
Picked up this tip from my agency partners years ago when I was working at McGladrey. I could “see” them practicing this on calls I had with partners. We’d ask them a question that they most likely didn’t know the full answer to, and they always came back with a strong answer. Even if they didn’t know the answer, they acted like they knew the answer. Sometimes, that’s all the client needs to see/hear.
We really do have more fun than you corporate folks.
Now, I’m not a career agency guy. I’ve only spent time at two agencies. But, I have a lot of friends at agencies. I’ve worked with a lot of agencies as partners over the years. So, even though I haven’t spent a TON of time on the agency side, I feel like I can say that consultants do, in fact, have more fun than their corporate peers. I’m not saying corporate folks don’t have ANY fun–just that agency folks have relatively more fun along the way.
We’re masters of Powerpoint.
Now, I’m on the light side of this one, but I know many consultant folks who know Powerpoint inside and out. Why? Because that is the de facto tool of choice when it comes to presenting to clients and potential clients. I wouldn’t consider myself a PPT expert, but I know PLENTY of people on the agency side who are. Heck, I’ve learned some of my best PPT tips and tricks from my agency friends over the last few years (thanks Danny Olson, Greg Swan and Tony Saucier).
We really do work in our slippers.
As consultants, our schedules tend to be more flexible. In fact, I know one local MSP agency that nurtures a complete “work wherever you need to, but just get your sh*t done” culture. So yeah, we work from home and on our couches a fair amount. But here’s the thing: That freedom typically benefits clients as consultants also tend to have a “do whatever it takes to get sh*t done” attitude, too.
Work travel sucks. I mean, really sucks.
Consultants tend to travel a lot for work. To agency sites. To media tours. To trade shows. You name it. We’re on the road a fair amount. And, after you’ve done that for about a year or so, it wears thing pretty darn quickly. All those hours in airports, crappy restaurants and hotel bars starts to add up after a while. And, you tend to work an average of 18-hour days when you’re on the road. I mean, what’s not to like, right? 🙂
We get paid to look good, too.
During one of my agency stints, a couple weeks in, I started noticing a trend: The women really amped up their fashion game on client meeting days. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying the women looked less-than-stellar on non-client meeting days–just that they really took things up a notch on those days when we saw clients. And, when I say “amped up” I don’t mean they got more formal–I actually mean the opposite. They got more fashionable. As I learned, sometimes the client wants their consultants to LOOK good, too. Not just polished–but on trend.
We’re more connected than you.
I don’t say this in a mean, biting kinda way. More just matter-of-fact. As consultants, part of our JOB is to be connected. To the media. To colleagues. To vendors. You name it. Plus, typically, we’re not quite as locked up in meetings as our corporate friends. So, it’s easier for us to attend those networking events, coffees and vendor introductions. And, when you hire a consultant, a big part of what you’re paying for is that person’s/agency’s aggregate network. You’re paying for all those loose connections, because in many ways, they will benefit you down the road.
We’re always managing client expectations.
At least the good ones are. This is always in the back of our minds because happy client=more business. So, we’re always careful to set realistic goals. We’re constantly looking at how we’re doing and adjusting along the way. And, we’re always looking for opportunities to under-promise and over-deliver (see point above).