Over the last week, I’ve had three separate, but distinct, experiences:
- I listened to #HeForShe founder, Elizabeth Nyamayaro (who was outstanding, by the way), talk about the constant struggle women experience as they seek out leadership positions at corporations, agencies and other organizations across the world at MIMA Summit.
- I watched as virtually all of the women in my life posted some sort of message on Facebook using the #MeToo hash tag–a incredibly sad commentary on our society.
- And finally, I had lunch with a woman last week who told me she, along with many other women leaders at her employer, were recently passed up for leadership positions while her male counterparts got every one of those promotions.
Three completely disconnected experiences. But, also three experiences completely connected in that they all involve one key element: Power.
Because that’s what gender equality is really all about, right? Power–plain and simple.
This is an issue that’s baffled me for years. Because, in my experience, I’ve always thought women are in many ways better positioned for leadership roles than men.
Over the course of my now 20-plus-year career, some of my best managers, leaders and clients have been women: Deborah Ely-Lawrence, Nicki Gibbs, Ayme Zemke, Candee Wolf, Anna Lovely, Kellie Due Weiland, Susan Eich, Sarah Reckard, Jen Joly, and Susan Roeder, just to name a few.
Generally speaking, women exhibit many of the commonly-agreed-upon leadership traits such as honesty, ability to communicate clearly and integrity.
And, in our business, there are many more women to choose from when it comes to potential leaders.
Why wouldn’t we WANT these women as our key leaders?
Now, when it comes to sexual assault, we also know that’s an issue that’s all about power. And clearly, judging from the #MeToo posts over the last week, it’s a pervasive issue.
But sexual assault has always been an issue and topic that has not only baffled me (why would anyone assault a women? Just seems like common sense to me that you would never do that under any circumstances), but also angered and frustrated me. Think about this stat regarding young women: college women are THREE TIMES more likely to be raped than women of all ages.
See, now this gets personal for me, as I have a young daughter who will be attending college someday soon. Those numbers are damn terrifying. And, do we really want our daughters growing up in a society where #MeToo basically applies to every freaking woman on the planet? Guys, this is beyond embarrassing at this point.
But again, it’s all about power. And the men who are abusing it.
I spoke at the Minnesota Blogger Conference last week about using your blog for good. So today, I’m following my own advice.
Maybe I can’t affect wholesale change with just my actions here on this blog. But, I also am a big believer in this saying from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”
So, today I’m taking a stand on this garbage. And, I’m going to do my part to support my female colleagues. My female clients. My wife. My daughter. Here’s what I’m committing to:
- Writing a post on #HeForShe issues once a month (which female leader do you consider a role model? do you prefer to work for a man or a woman?)
- Work to get an op-ed published in the Star Tribune (my local newspaper that I read every day) on issues relating to gender equality, when the opportunity presents itself.
- Committing to the #HeForShe “Open the Door” component. This is a tricky one for me as I don’t hire anyone, and I don’t work for an agency or corporation. However, I know a lot of MEN who do own agencies or are in hiring positions for big companies around town. I’ll be bringing this topic up with these friends and talking about if/how they see diverse candidates for open roles. This is really the area where we can see the most change. So, male friends, expect me to bring this up the next time I see you!
Male friends: Who’s with me? What can you do to support the #HeForShe movement? Learn more here, if you’re interested.
Last Saturday, I had the great honor to keynote the eighth Minnesota Blogger Conference. I say “great honor” because this is an event I co-founded with Missy Voronyak years ago. From our first, small event in CoCo St. Paul, I don’t think either one of us could have imagined it would be around today years later–let alone be bigger and so much better than when we first started.
The theme of this year’s #mnblogcon was “growth”. But, for my keynote, I attempted to take things a little different direction and talk about what growing my blog has been all about–because really, it hasn’t been about the numbers, followers or like and comment totals. For me, growing my blog has been all about the 3 P’s:
Over the last eight years, I’ve written more than 1,100 blog posts. During that same time, I’m guessing I have probably met with almost 1,100 people for coffee. During those coffee meet-ups, I’ve: learned best practices, shared job search strategies, talked about kids, discussed job changes, talked about social media trends, and much, much more. In fact, just recently, I was introduced to a woman who runs social media at the University of St. Thomas. We talked about the recent Tommie/Johnnie football game (I’ll be blogging about that soon) and her role in covering the game for her employer/school. It was just one of many, many wonderful coffee meet-ups I’ve had just this year due to my blog. Another example: My PR Rock Star series. It has given me the opportunity to interview 100+ PR and social media marketing professionals across the U.S. over the last eight years. Some of these rock stars have gone on to be good friends of mine. Others have gone on to be clients. Yet others have become partners or professors in our new sparked social media training. Point is: My blog has given me the platform to meet HUNDREDS of new people over the last eight years. And many of those people have enriched my life beyond what they will ever know.
Here’s a story I never tire of telling. Eight years ago, when the job market was much tighter, I met one guy from Charlotte (Scott Hepburn) and another from Columbus (Sonny Gill). They were both looking for jobs. And, I was tired of telling people I would help–and then never doing anything about it. So, I made a pledge: I would do SOMETHING to help these two guys. So, I organized a tweet-a-thon designed to help connect these guys to hiring managers, potential positions and other resources across the country. The tweet-a-thon was a big success. And even though it didn’t lead directly to a job for either guy, it buoyed their spirits and both claimed it helped spur them to that next, eventual, job. Mission accomplished! I had used my blog to help two guys find a job. I felt great. End of story, right? Wrong. One week later, I get a call from Scott asking if I still wanted to attend BlogPotomac (a popular social media event in DC at the time). Scott and Sonny had talked to the folks at Southwest Airlines and gotten me a ticket. And, they had ponied up the money for my hotel room. All I had to do was buy the ticket to BlogPotomac. It was, and remains to this day, one of the most thoughtful things anyone (professionally) has done for me. I tell this story because it illustrates perfectly what blogging, for me, has been all about. Passion–and people.
People start blogs for one reason: creative expression. Sure, some may tell you they’re starting a blog to make money, but the reality is most folks do it because they want/need an outlet. There’s no doubt that’s why I started this blog eight years ago in 2009. And since then I’ve realized so much personal fulfillment my cup runneth over. One example: Writing this post four-plus years ago about how the Sons of Anarchy lived by the PRSA code of ethics. Fun post to write. And that, in and of itself, was personally fulfilling. But, the big payoff was when SOA creator, writer and director, Kurt Sutter, tweeted my post a few days later! Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. And, truth be told, no one really cared, except for me. But, I DID care. I cared a lot. It was one of those small, geeky moments you really only understand if you’re a blogger. That’s personal fulfillment. And it’s a big part of why I still blog.
Want to see my full deck from #mnblogcon last Saturday? Find it below:
If you’ve worked in the PR field in Minneapolis/St. Paul over the last 25 years, it’s virtually impossible that you haven’t heard the name “Paul Maccabee.” For many, that’s been via MN PRSA, where he’s been a strong advocate and sponsor over the years. For others, it has been as an employer (friends Kendra Klemme and Heather Cmiel come to mind, among others). For yet others, it’s as an agency owner and leader in the Twin Cities. Point being, many of us know Paul Maccabee. And, many of those same people seem to have a pretty high opinion of Paul Maccabee. Personally, I’ve “known” Paul for years–we’ve sat on panels together, we’ve gone back-and-forth on Twitter, and we’ve met and talked at events around town. I haven’t worked for him. Haven’t even worked with him. But, from most accounts I’ve heard, Paul is one of a dwindling cadre of veteran agency leaders that is universally respected (people like Lynn Casey and Jorg Pierach also come to mind). Paul’s not so much “PR Rock Star”–more like “PR Legend.” Let’s hear what he has to say.
You’ve worked in the PR industry for 35 years now– that’s quite a run. That also means you’ve had hundreds of client campaigns over those 35 years, too. Any favorites that stand out over the years?
Not surprisingly, our agency’s launch of the 4,590-pound, Guinness World Record-breaking “World’s Largest Rubberband Ball” in downtown Chicago for OfficeMax stores – which generated 422 TV segments in 127 markets –was a wild ride and a landmark experiential campaign for our agency. So was a publicity stunt for Kemps, when we carved then-Gov. Jesse Ventura’s face out of 5,000 pounds of ice cream, which was covered by Time magazine and CNN-TV (and led to a total sell-out of Kemps’ ice cream). But, to be honest, the most meaningful work Maccabee’s done has been the national campaigns for two of America’s biggest drug addiction treatment centers: 1) Atlanta-based RiverMend Health (for whom we worked with People magazine on this deeply-moving video about recovery through equine therapy, and 2) Minnesota’s own Hazelden, with whom we produced the “Four Generations Overcoming Addiction” content campaign that kicked-off with on ABC-TV “Good Morning America.” As someone who has dealt with addiction close to home, the opportunity to use PR as a tool to get addicts into treatment was deeply touching for me.
You started Maccabee PR back in 1996– more than 20 years ago. Congratulations! What advice would you give to the 25-year-old who’s considering starting his or her own shop in 2017? Any pearls of wisdom on how to build and maintain a PR agency in today’s ever-changing business environment?
As my agency-creating comrades such as Jorg Pierach at Fast Horse and Kathy Tunheim of Tunheim know, starting your own PR agency is an enormously fulfilling adventure with its share of nail-biting, stomach-curdling moments. The greatest joy: being able to chart your own course and nurture young talent, watching newbies grow into commanding PR professionals. Pearls of wisdom? Never lie – to anyone, for any reason. It sets you apart from 80 percent of the businesspeople you’ll meet. And as the doomed Polonius advised in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “to thine ownself be true.” In other words, decide what values you stand for and stay relentlessly true to them; in our case, Maccabee has turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of client revenue from liquor companies, because we felt it would conflict with our PR work for alcoholism treatment. And, perhaps most importantly, have the humility to learn from your most ferocious competitors – my biggest teachers have been respected rivals such as Doug Spong, Dave Mona, Teresa McFarland, Lynn Casey and Kathy Tunheim. I’d have to be an utter fool not to learn from giants like them. (For more, check out our agency’s 17 Tips for Building a Kick-Butt, Wildly Successful PR Career, here.
You mentioned in a recent post that one of your mentors when you were coming up was Minnesota PR legend, Dave Mona. Any particular lessons you learned from Dave that you continue to use in your day-to-day work?
Dave Mona’s deep integrity and personal character still takes my breath away. When I was young and ruthless, I asked Dave if I could help his agency – then called Mona Meyer McGrath & Gavin – pitch the Bachman’s garden center chain as a retail client. To my surprise Dave declined to pursue them, explaining that Bachman’s was the signature client for a solo PR guy and if we took a vital client away from that publicist, it would be devastating to his business. Blew my mind. Dave’s compassion for a competitor hit me like a lightning bolt. That instant, when he decided to forego PR agency revenue for ethical reasons, was a defining moment for me.
For years, Maccabee PR has been heavily involved in professional orgs like PRSA. In fact, you have donated a ton of time and money to PRSA over the years (I think we sat on a panel together a number of years ago). Why do you continue to invest your and your agency’s time and money in these organizations?
You’d have to be mad not to take every opportunity to cross-pollinate your brain, not only with what other PR firms are doing, but with what SEO agencies, graphic designers, interactive/digital and lead gen geeks and inbound marketing devotees are producing. Isolation is death, and being active in Minnesota PRSA is one way to help nurture a warm community of PR pros. I may disagree with some of the PRSA’s policies (notably restricting board involvement to APRs, which I think is silly; Editor’s note: I’ve written about this in the past as well), but I cherish the PRSA’s role as a village square for meeting and supporting PR comrades.
Let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about recruiting. As a business owner, I’m sure this is an ongoing challenge. How has your approach to recruiting changed over the years? What strategies have worked particularly well in the last few years?
Salaries matter, as do employee benefits – but with PR agency recruiting, it’s all about the slippery thing called culture. We’re now in our fifth year being honored by Minnesota Business mag as a “Best Company To Work For.” Our #1 recruiting secret is to foster a culture that banishes fear (and I’ve worked at and with agencies riven at times by sheer, stark terror), rewards collaboration, and facilitates personal growth. Even at Maccabee’s small size, we’ve had in-house workshops with multi-cultural marketing experts from The BrandLab, mindfulness teachers and sleight-of- hand magicians, SEO mavens and painting instructors, and even had a cooking class with TV chef Andrew Zimmern. Oh, and our Halloween parties are legendary.
You’re one of the few agency owners/presidents in town that I see showing up in social media circles consistently (namely, Twitter and LinkedIn). Why do you continue to invest your time in social media? Especially when clearly, few of your colleagues believe it’s worth the effort?
I spend about two hours a day on LinkedIn and Twitter, along with contributing to the MaccaPR blog, while our agency’s social media director, Christina Milanowski’s (Editor’s note: Former PR Rock Star!) crew, hits Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, SlideShare and other channels. Face it, how could our agency credibly advise clients on social media strategy, online advertising and content creation if we didn’t utilize social for ourselves? Also after waiting for 12 years to publish my first book, I find it intoxicating to be able to publish anything I want, instantly. On a practical level, our MaccaPR blog and the original content we share on social have become our #1 source of new client business.
Little known fact: You’re a huge crime history buff. Two questions: 1) How did you get into crime history, and 2) What does being a buff entail, exactly?
Guilty as charged, I’m obsessed with Saint Paul’s 1930s gangland history. Back when I was an investigative journalist for the now-defunct Twin Cities Reader weekly, someone raced into our newsroom and yelled: “The Godfather is Dead. Kid Cann is dead!” Wait, you mean the Twin Cities actually had a Godfather? So out of curiosity, I filed one of the largest Freedom of Information requests for Justice Department crime files in U.S. history. One hundred thousand pages of FBI files later, I’d published my book, “John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul” and that led to my testifying before Congress and guest appearances on national TV shows about kidnappers, hit men and bankrobbers. And what does a buff entail? 12 years of tracking down Prohibition speakeasies, brothels and hideouts in the Twin Cities that had harbored Babyface Nelson, Ma Barker, Machine Gun Kelly, Al Capone, Bugsy Seigel and, of course, bankrobber Dillinger.
Finally, I want to look ahead to the next 10 years. What do you see for the future of PR agencies in the Twin Cities? Any big shifts that you see happening in the near future?
Everyone can see that the boundaries between media relations/publicity, social media marketing, event/experiential, inbound/lead generation and corporate communications have blurred beyond recognition. Our agency’s now just as likely to help design a landing page for an infographic/e-book driven content marketing campaign using the HubSpot platform, as we are to secure a product placement in the pages of BusinessWeek or in the Star Tribune. Our clients used to ask us to make them famous (remember the cry, “Get Me On Oprah!?”); but now they want to triple their qualified leads, optimize their videos for search, and have us convert more click-thrus into sales revenue. Yes, I sometimes miss the era of giant Rubberband Balls!
List posts are a dime a dozen in our industry. I’ve written about this “phenomenon” before. Most are geared strictly to procure clicks. Very few, on the other hand, are designed to be resources for the reader.
But, that’s exactly what I wanted to do today.
And my angle–corporate blogs. You see, whenever I see any kind of list post involving corporate blogs, the same corporate blogs keep popping up: Coke, Whole Foods and GE come to mind.
But, you RARELY see a Minnesota-based corporate blog on these lists. Which is strange, because Minnesota is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies. And, we’re home to many other companies right on the cusp of making that list.
So, I started thinking about the corporate blogs I knew about in Minnesota that should be on such a list. Taste of General Mills, for sure. And I know Sleep Number (client) and Cargill (client) both have blogs that should be on a list. There must be more.
Turns out, there are a LOT more. Which will probably surprise no one living in Minnesota.
Today, I thought I’d merely list out all 57 corporate blogs I could find that are based in Minnesota. I’m sure there are a slew I’ve missed–please share a comment below and I’ll add them to the list.
This is designed to be a resource for us all. Use it as a barometer. Use it as a muse. Use it as fodder with your boss to build the case to build your own corporate blog. Whatever the case, I just hope you can use it. Again, not looking for clicks–merely looking to be helpful and provide a community resource.
Science & Technology/Manufacturing
Bio-Techne R&D Systems blog: https://www.rndsystems.com/blog
Novus Biologicals: https://www.novusbio.com/antibody-news
Proto Labs: https://www.protolabs.com/resources/blog/
SPS Commerce: http://www.spscommerce.com/blogs/
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota: https://blog.bluecrossmn.com/
St Jude Medical: http://media.sjm.com/newsroom/Blog/United-States/default.aspx
UnitedHealth Group (careers/employer brand blog) + its Optum’s Health Care Conversation: https://healthcare-conversation.com/
Allina Health: https://www.allinahealth.org/HealthySetGo/Index.aspx
Essentia Health: http://www.essentiahealth.org/main/blogs.aspx?srcaud=Main
North Memorial Health Care: https://northmemorial.com/better-health-news/
Hennepin Healthcare Here for Life: http://hereforlife.blog/
Hennepin County Medical Center News blog: https://hcmcnews.org/
Children’s Minnesota Mighty Kids blog: https://www.childrensmn.org/blog/childrens-stories/mighty-blog/
Children’s Minnesota News blog: https://www.childrensmn.org/blog/news/
University of Minnesota Physicians: https://www.mhealth.org/blog
National Marrow Donor Program (Be the Match): https://bethematchblog.org/
Presbyterian Homes: http://www.preshomes.org/resources/blogs
Gillette Children’s: https://www.gillettechildrens.org/khm
Anytime Fitness: http://blog.anytimefitness.com/
Sleep Number: https://blog.sleepnumber.com/
Best Buy (Geek Squad): http://www.forums.bestbuy.com/t5/Geek-Squad-Intelligence/bg-p/geeksquadintelligence
Best Buy: https://corporate.bestbuy.com/
YMCA MN: https://www.ymcamn.org/blog
Second Harvest Heartland: http://www.2harvest.org/news_and_events/blog/
Augustana Care: http://augustanacare.org/get-know-us/blog/
Greater Twin Cities United Way: https://www.gtcuw.org/news-and-articles/
General Mills: http://www.blog.generalmills.com/
Dairy Queen: http://dqfanfood.tumblr.com/
Hormel Foods: https://www.hormelfoods.com/inspired/
Cargill Risk Management: https://commoditypricerisk.com/
Ameriprise Financial: http://ameriprise.tekgroupweb.com/commentary/
Xcel Energy: http://connect.xcelenergy.com/
OneBeacon Insurance Group: https://onebeaconblog.wordpress.com/
University of St. Thomas blogs: https://blogs.stthomas.edu
St. Catherine University social hub: https://www.ymcamn.org/blog
Thomson Reuters: https://blogs.thomsonreuters.com/answerson/
Patterson Dental – http://www.offthecusp.com/
The number-one challenge facing social media advocacy programs (and why it really isn’t a challenge at all)
A few weeks ago, notable consultant, Jen McClure and JEM Consulting announced findings from its 2017 State of Employee Advocacy Survey.
Some of the results were surprising , including these two:
- There has been more than 25% growth in employee advocacy program adoption and more than 30% growth in social selling in the past year
- Facebook, Instagram and YouTube grow, while the use of LinkedIn for employee advocacy decline.
But, overall, my sense was these types of programs are growing, the people who manage them are fairly happy with how they’re going, and those people are still facing the same primary challenge they faced in 2016.
Sustaining active employee advocate participation in these programs.
This has been the number-one challenge facing employee advocacy programs the last two years.
But, is that really a realistic challenge?
What do I mean by that? Think about it. The “challenge” these people are stating is to get more employees posting more often about company activities, results and initiatives. But, put yourself in the employee’s shoes for a moment. Would you want to post non-stop about your company on LinkedIn? Would you post even 1-2 posts a week about your organization’s recent participation at a trade show?
Personally, I don’t think that’s anywhere near a “realistic” expectation for employees. And, I’m not even sure it’s the right expectation.
My expectation, regarding employee participation, would probably be more along the lines of one post per month–at most. Maybe even one post per quarter.
After all, how much do companies really have to say on a regular basis?
I know we’re in the “content age” and companies are pumping out content at record levels. But, how much of that content is suitable for employees to share?
Really think about that for a moment.
Again, my thinking would be something like this: Instead of inundating your employees with constant content to share on social media platforms, why not save those “asks” for the big “brand moments” where you really want EVERYONE to share.
Here’s an example. Your company is planning to make its first ad buy during the Super Bow It’s a big moment for your company. Your coming out party, you could say. In that moment, you want ALL your employees talking about this via social media. It’s a company pride moment.
But, if you’ve been asking them to share things non-stop for the previous three months, your employees may be a bit apathetic. And, you may miss out on a big opportunity to rally your troops for a monster brand moment.
That’s the danger with this line of thinking. Employees most likely don’t WANT to share a lot of the posts you’re throwing out there in your social media advocacy program. They may be proud of working for your company, but that doesn’t mean they want to talk about it on social 2-3 times per week.
To me, this all seems to be about expectations. And judging from this survey, it sounds like it’s time for a little adjustment among those who run employee social advocacy programs.