There are days when we can all use a ray of sunshine. And yesterday, that ray was Vonda Chatman, a team member at PDQ in Fort Myers, Fla. She was working inside the restaurant when suddenly a violent thunderstorm began, causing a power outage inside and flashes of lightning outside.
Vonda said, “It lit the whole building up and then everything just went off. I saw the lightning hit the pole. I looked over and saw the lady shaking a little and the daughter looked like she was dazed.”
A pregnant woman and her family had just left the restaurant when a bolt of lightning, strong enough to knock out power, shocked her as she was leaning against the bus stop shelter.
Without thinking of her personal safety, Vonda raced outside to offer assistance. She helped the woman and her small child back into the restaurant. The mother and child were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital.
Vonda explained, “I just kicked into mother instinct and just ran out there. I don’t care if I would’ve got shocked as long as I know they were okay. She got some medical treatment. I feel better now.”
PDQ patron Lynndy West wrote on Facebook: “Another example of PDQ team’s commitment to the community! Way to go Vonda! Amazing community partners and exceptional team members! Awesome food too!”
Operating Director Scot Chausse was happy that everyone was okay. “Lost a little bit of power. Lost some electronics,” he said. “But we just basically saved a life. PDQ did.”
Thanks, Vonda, for bringing a little sunshine in after the storm – we are lucky to have someone like you in our community.
Yes, there is an official annual National Sunglasses Day and PDQ will celebrate in style on June 29 with “Wacky Sunglasses Day.” Wacky sunglass wearers will be rewarded all day at both Fort Myers locations with a 50 percent discount off any one purchase.
PDQ #SWFL Restaurants are located at 12499 Cleveland Ave. and 17470 Ben Hill Griffin Pkwy. in Fort Myers. Restaurants are open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
PDQ, which stands for People Dedicated to Quality, is a fast casual restaurant specializing in fresh hand-battered chicken tenders, made-to-order sandwiches, daily cut fries, hand-spun milkshakes and fresh salads with dine-in, drive thru or catering options. www.eatPDQ.com.
Welcome 2015 – a New Year invites us to set new intentions, navigate a new course and improve the way we manage our personal and professional lives. I recently saw a segment on 60 Minutes where Anderson Cooper attends a workshop on how to practice mindfulness (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mindfulness-anderson-cooper-60-minutes), a concept less about spirituality and more about concentration: the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss any distractions that come your way.
I have enjoyed learning more about this practice, but how does one actually put it to work? For my professional life in a boutique PR firm, I would embrace the ability to occasionally quiet my mind and focus my attention on the present – and it would be amazing to improve my cognitive function – all of this would certainly benefit my clients and my business.
So after a great deal of thought on the subject, here are a few ways I am going to practice mindfulness in 2015.
1. Forget about multi-tasking.
After years of feeling fully confident that I can do 10 things at once — talk on the phone, email, and write my to-do list, I am saying goodbye to multi-tasking. Let’s see what happens when I focus on one project until it comes to a natural stopping point before starting the next one. Granted there may be situations that arise somewhat suddenly, but I am going to do my best to complete one thing at a time. I will get back to you to let you know how this worked out.
2. Remember to breathe.
Even the most basic yoga classes remind you that “it’s all in the breath,” and I am going to try to take that to heart – or lungs in this case. Would it be so crazy to stop in the middle of a late breaking news release to reflect and take a breath? I think not – on the contrary, a moment’s pause might even improve the writing. It might offer a chance to think of a few more points to add to that media response, or to provide a client with calm advice in a crisis. Yes, you have permission to breathe.
3. Do something you love…every day.
You know the old adage about putting the oxygen mask on before you try and help someone else? I am going to try and listen to it and to do the things that give me oxygen. Reading, yoga and running are three activities that pump me up for the day, wake up my mind and body and improve my mood and alertness. And talking to my long distance children by phone or Facetime simply gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling. So instead of putting those things off due to meetings, deadlines and lack of time – I am going to try and do MORE of those things.
I can already hear my inner Puritan sternly commanding that I steer away from this nonsense and get back to work. But if all the experts are right, shouldn’t these steps lead to a more fulfilling, productive professional (and personal) life? And won’t all this help me to become an even more focused and effective PR professional? There’s only one way to find out!
What are you going to do to improve your work life in 2015?
“It’s all in the details.” A common refrain, but one that we don’t always focus on in our fast-paced, get-it-done-now PR life. A few days ago, I started off on my favorite mountain running route on Beech Mountain, NC, the cool breeze blowing past, lush greenery whizzing by my peripheral vision.
As I reached the summit of the first hill (a huge accomplishment for the FL flatlander I am), I suddenly came face to face with a large female deer (a doe, right?). Her huge brown eyes did not even blink – she just stood still, staring at me as I slowed to a walk and got my bearings. She didn’t follow me which was a relief, since I did not have a Plan B in mind should she be in an aggressive mood.
That’s when I decided to remain at this pace, to take in my surroundings and focus on all the little things I had never seen before on this very familiar route. Yes, it IS all in the details. Here are three things I realized during my solitary country walk:
1. Pay attention to details now and save time later. Yes, it’s true – no matter how much we think we can multi-task, reflecting on the here and now and mentally recording information for later use is proven to be more productive in the long run. Rushing inevitably leads to mistakes, omissions and unsatisfying results.
2. Reflect upon how smaller elements add up to the big picture. If you are always looking 10 steps ahead and only achieving a “macro” view, you are less likely to plan a logical course from point A to point B. Allow yourself to understand the steps you need to take to reach your goal and the more equipped you will be to replicate the experience later, and to explain to your client or boss how you achieved the desired result.
3. Enjoy the experience and become more creative. I know, you’ve heard it a million times in many different ways – “be present,” ” be in the moment,” “be mindful” – but did you ever really try to do it? It’s not easy, but let’s face it – for most of us in PR, life/work is pretty fun (except when you’re dealing with a crisis). We have the opportunity to build relationships, to participate in community, and to be creative – whether it’s for traditional marketing materials or online content. You will be surprised how just a few minutes out of your usual routine can result in some of your most extraordinary “wow” moments.
Try it today -whether you are on a mountain, near a beach or in proximity to busy city streets, get out, take a walk and notice what is around you. You may be surprised, you may be delighted, and best of all, you may be inspired.
This is part I of a story about one woman’s kindness and one young girl’s dream. With all that is going on in the world, it is uplifting and inspiring to know that Anne Frank was right when she wrote, “despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” I hope that I can share with you the same feel good moment I experienced today.
AMIkids Southwest Florida
A little background first: Like many of us in the public relations profession, at PKE we are concerned about our community and love getting immersed in the causes we care about. At our firm, we work with several Southwest Florida non-profit organizations, but our heart is with children and education, specifically AMIkids Southwest Florida, an alternative school for at-risk kids between 14 and 18 years old.
One visit to this day school and you cannot help but be impressed by the staff’s commitment to getting these kids back on the right track and back into their regular high schools. Through rigorous academics, mental health therapy and behavioral treatment, this program addresses the problems of kids who often have unbearable home lives filled with violence, drugs and abuse. They start out with such a disadvantage that there is little surprise when they get into trouble and make the wrong decisions.
A rough start
A few months ago, we planned a Ladies Tea to create more awareness about AMIkids Southwest Florida. One of the students, 15-year old Naomi, was brave enough to share her story with the guests. She not only told of her hardships, first the incarceration of her parents and then their deaths, being split up from her sibling and sent to live with an elderly aunt who became a substitute “grandma,” she also shared one of her dreams – to become a chef and to own her own restaurant.
Her talk was so direct and heartfelt that everyone was silent for a moment after she was finished – we were amazed at all this child had been through and yet here she was, tasting her first scones, trying a variety of teas and sharing her future plans. What could be more wonderful and serendipitous than one of the guests being a local chef/restaurant owner? Even better, the guest was Gloria Cabral, owner of La Trattoria Café Napoli, a warm-hearted, friendly, community-minded person who was as taken with Naomi’s story as the rest of us. So much so that without hesitation, she offered her time and attention to mentor Naomi – to have her come to the restaurant to see what the life of a chef is all about. In essence, the offer to ignite Naomi’s dream and help her take the first step to making it become real.
A new beginning
Today was Naomi’s first visit to Gloria’s Trattoria Café Napoli. Accompanied by AMIkids executive director Windye McNeal, restaurant manager Tino gave Naomi a front and back of the house tour, briefed her on the menu and wine list, and gave her tips from “Safe Staff,” a publication on safety in the workplace from the Florida Restaurant Association. Her next lesson will be with Gloria in the kitchen to learn more about the role of a sous chef and the importance of quality cuisine. The best part? Gloria has designated May 14 as “Tapas Night with Naomi,” an AMIkids SWFL fundraiser where Naomi will participate as sous chef for the evening and help prepare dinner for 55 guests.
Naomi is slightly nervous about being in the spotlight, but when I asked her how she felt about all this, she said, “I am really excited about this adventure. This is a dream I will always remember.”
One woman, one girl and one extraordinary act of kindness – the perfect ingredients for a second chance.
Part II coming soon: In the Kitchen with Gloria & Naomi
There has been a lot of talk lately on public relations forums about the etiquette of social media. Most recently, I read an article by Kevin Allen on PR Daily News. Although I agree with his main points about maintaining professionalism on LinkedIn, there were a few interesting comments he made that garnered my interest. Most notably, when he stated, “It sounds ridiculous, but people can really lose respect for you if you post things that are generally reserved for more informal social media outlets. Although we’re all saddened by the tragic events that took place in (insert location here), LinkedIn just isn’t the forum for sending your thoughts and prayers their way. Those expressions, however benevolent, should stay on Facebook or Twitter.”
I admit, that my opinion on this issue may have something to do with the fact that I was one of the early adopters of Facebook back in 2004 and remember how the social media site used to function. Yes, I remember the days when you had to have a college email address to sign up. Back when your aunt, your Mom, your neighbors and every business owner in the world weren’t able to look at your posts and tagged photos from last night’s Frat party. Social media was safe. You existed in a cocoon of your peers. You were surrounded by like-minded individuals who weren’t judging you on your level of professionalism or whether they might potentially hire you. Things have changed.
To get back to Mr. Allen’s comment, it’s interesting how he differentiates LinkedIn as being strictly professional and says that on Facebook and Twitter you are allowed to be more open, more empathetic and more ‘you’. I agree that LinkedIn is considered more of a professional social media site and there are different rules. However, I would argue that even Facebook and Twitter have become forums where self-expression is stifled, as one must consciously be aware of who is viewing your content. Yes, some of this depends on who you’re ‘friends’ with or who ‘follows’ you. Some of this depends on the nature of your job. Another part of this comes down to your settings and what you allow others to see on your social media page and what content you choose to share. But in truth, despite Facebook and Twitter being more accepting of creative posts, personal opinion and benevolent expressions, these social media sites aren’t the same entities they were when they first launched.
Also, when you consider that most individuals connect with the same people across all three of these social media platforms, this differentiation between the social media sites becomes even more blurred. Despite LinkedIn having the pretense of being more professional, if you have access to the content of a persons’ Twitter, Facebook as well, you’re still going to see the professional and ‘unprofessional’ content. And, therefore, your overall view and opinion of this person will still be affected.
It’s a definite conundrum and one that continues to grow as social media continues to grow and change. In addition to Mr. Allen’s tips about using proper etiquette on LinkedIn, I suppose my two cents of advice would be to use the same etiquette on Facebook and Twitter. Or learn how to change your privacy settings.
Under the category “better late than never,” I decided to spend one whole work day following the rules I have been reading about for years. And you know what? This stuff really works – I had a delightfully fulfilling and creative day. And all it took was listening to expert advice and acting accordingly! Here’s what I did: Continue reading The PR Life: One Perfect Work Day→
We have all become used to news updates, warnings and helpful tips on physical fitness, but how often do we think about our mental fitness? Probably not too often. But with National Depression Education and Awareness Week taking place now, this might be a good time to evaluate how you cope with stress, and to consider whether or not you are exhibiting signs of depression.
Although my earliest career goals included teacher, veterinarian and newspaper reporter (like Lois Lane), looking back on it now, I was surely in training to be a Public Relations professional. Some of that training included learning how to speak like an adult from the time I was very small, introducing people to each other when I thought it would be mutually beneficial, and finding the positive side of almost every situation. With Father’s Day approaching, I have to thank my Dad for teaching me four very important things that have remained essential to my professional life – I hope these nuggets will help you in yours!
1. Read, read, read! I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of the bedtime story from day one. That led to early reading and a never-ending reading list provided by both my parents . They had an excellent repertoire that included the classics, great literature, history, current events and popular culture. I followed their lead, and still do, reading anything I can get my eyes on. Of course, this has helped in my career- not only reading public relations-related books and journals, but extending to novels and poetry that inspire creativity. You never know what you will pick up while you are reading.
2. Write it down! My Dad is one of the greatest unknown writers of all time. No, he hasn’t published the Great American Novel or even the Great American short story, but he has written consistently and well his entire life. Letters to the editor, letters to his children and grandchildren, articles in his community newspaper — all evoking deep emotions, strong opinions or family stories he prefers to write about rather than share out loud. Yes, he’s a quiet person – but you can learn a lot from his writings. So whether it’s a hereditary trait or something learned, writing well has always been a priority in my world. Even though texting and tweeting are part of our everyday lives, remember to keep writing in full sentences as well.
3. Listen! Most of us in the field of public relations love to talk…a lot. There’s always so much going on, so much to share, it’s hard to contain ourselves. My Dad has always been very quiet, but a really good listener – I know that because he can repeat conversations we had 30 years ago. I have learned from him that it’s good to let the other person talk sometimes and to really hear what they are saying. This is especially important with our clients because we must listen intently to grasp the true meaning of their vision – and we have to understand that vision in order to communicate it to others. So this one is really important.
4. Embrace a strong work ethic! In my Dad’s day he came out of the army and worked for the same company for 45 years, retiring with the gold watch and everything that goes with it. I have had three positions over the span of my career and I have read that many people can expect to change jobs an estimated seven times. No matter what your tenure is, I have learned from my Dad to perform beyond expectations, to respect deadlines and to follow up and follow through.
As you reflect on Father’s Day, I hope you have learned as much from your Dad as I have from mine. Please write in and let us know what you’ve learned. Happy Father’s Day!
Abigail Adams said, “Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”
Even more than 200 years later, her words resonate – especially in today’s world where messages and impressions continuously surge around us but may never be absorbed nor applied. From a public relations point of view, real learning takes place when we internalize and process information and then use it to enhance organizations’ relationships and reputations among their publics. There are five specific actions we can easily incorporate into our daily PR lives to ensure that we “learn with ardor”:
That means as much as you can of every genre. For me, the single most important way to learn is to read: newspapers, blogs, lifestyle magazines, industry journals and novels. Yes, novels! (See Anne Kreamer’s Jan. 2012 blog post). You never know where the next creative idea will come from – often a single word or powerful image can open the door to a new way of thinking (if you let it!)
Did you ever watch the TV show, “House”? Just when it seems that all is lost and there will be no diagnosis for the mystery illness, Dr. House grasps on to a nugget of conversation that lights up his synapses and solves the problem — lives are saved! While your results might not be as extraordinary, you can still learn a tremendous amount by truly listening to others around you. This is your opportunity to garner knowledge from other people’s experiences and expertise, and use it to help yourself and others.
Step away from your desk and look at the world around you. I just read a NYT article about the lost art of conversation — sad but true. So often our heads are down, our eyes focused on our little screens, that we can miss both the simplicity of a friendly conversation and the huge, amazing things happening right in front of us. Look around and take it all in – you’ll get more out of life and have more to talk about!
Even if you’ve taken the time to listen, and lifted your head to observe, there may be still more to learn. Develop your sense of curiosity, that urge to know more, and take it to a higher level. Ask the questions that come to mind, or look for further details online, or even walk through the doors of a library. Take ancestry.com, for example – you can learn a great deal about your family history by visiting the website. Even better is when the featured celebrity on “Who Do You Think You Are” actually visit a library. That’s when they dig deeper into real documentation, perusing the archived records that bring their pasts alive and make them meaningful.
Back to Abigail Adams quote, connecting is the key to attending to your learning with diligence. All those precious morsels you’ve gathered by reading, listening and observing will just float freely through your imagination if you don’t find a way to corral them and use them purposefully. The best way we can use our information in the field of public relations is to apply our new knowledge to help someone else. Have you read about a technology advancement that you can pass on to one of your clients to make their business run more smoothly? Or did you hear someone discussing an upcoming seminar that would help a business associate further his/her career? Perhaps you’ve just met the perfect collaborator for your next venture — and your next learning opportunity.
What have you learned lately that you would like to share? We would love to hear about it here!