The value of face-to-face meetings: They never grow old

Don’t forget the PR basics.

The fixation with social media in all business sectors is understandably relevant. However, in our quest to be ahead of the curve it’s important to remember to always look for ways to engage the publics (audiences) that matter to our organizations. I work for a local government association. While I think we have done a pretty good job with engaging our members who have adopted certain social media platforms, it is critical to remember that some members are just not there yet. And we still have engagement problems that need to be addressed.

As Ronald Smith taught in Strategic Planning for Public Relations, interpersonal communication tactics such as face-to-face communications are among the most useful tactics for influencing change; that could be a change in a belief system, moving someone to action, etc.

A personal success story

In my work as a public relations director for my association I have seen how face-to-face communications have increased member engagement.

Courtesy of Google Images
Courtesy of Google Images

One challenge we faced in 2013 was increasing participation in a very important annual data survey from one segment of our membership. I studied participation data from previous years and found that there were a handful of members who, year after year, had not participated in this survey.

Courtesy of Google Images

The strategy we implemented involved planning face-to-face meetings with these members during our spring district meeting travel season which occurred during this survey period. During one such meeting, I had – in my mind – written this person off because he did not appear to be engaged in our face-to-face conversation. To my surprise the very next Monday, the survey from this person arrived in my inbox!

Never underestimate the power of public relations strategies, especially those involving a hand shake and a kind word.

The year of the chicken

2013 will be known at the Avery house as the year we got chickens. Mind you, we do not live on a farm. But after nearly 22 years of being married to Bob, a true renaissance man, I have learned to never be surprised about what comes next.

The next big thing that came on Bob’s radar early in 2013 was the desire to raise chickens – for eggs. I should say for the record that I do not like eggs. “I do not like them here, or there, or anywhere. I do not like them in a house or with a mouse,” said Dr. Seuss, a wise old soul he was.

Bob the Builder
Bob the Builder

Regardless of my distaste for eggs of any kind, my dear husband proceeded with the plans, and started building what was supposed to be a mobile coop. But the problem was it began to get bigger and heavier, all while he was building it in the driveway, in front of the garage.

But finally, after two months of hammering away, and buying more and more supplies (Bob still won’t tell me the final cost of the coop), it was ready to roll up the driveway to its place of glory – my front yard. I sometimes feel a little like Mother Parker, the mom in The Christmas Story, when Old Man Parker proudly puts on display his leg lamp prize.Image Anyway, there it sits, a massive budget-sucking chicken coop full of (insert rhyming word here) for seven very lucky little chickens who took a very long time to earn their keep.


The first birth!

The renaissance man really does know stuff

The chickens were born in May 2013 and came to live with us a month or so later. Every day Bob would check the roost only to find a lone golf ball in the roost. A golf ball? Yes, Bob thought it would show the chickens that they should be making a daily deposit and not the kind that rhymes with coop. But finally on a brisk day in November one of the chickens gave birth to our very first egg! Bob thought it would be fun to keep the first egg – kind of like a business owner who displays the first dollar he ever made in a glass enclosed shrine. We don’t have an egg shrine yet, just lots of eggs – a few dozen every week…..for two people, one of whom does not like eggs.

The kids

Now Bob has gone from Bob the Builder to Bob the Barterer. Yes, he trades eggs. He’s traded eggs for snow plowing, for homemade granola, for firewood, and for fresh bread. I always loved Little House on the Prairie, but never thought we would end up being the ma and pa of chickens.

Raising your parents

If you are anywhere near my age bracket (we’ll just call it middle age) you likely have experienced or will soon begin to experience a reversal in the relationship with your parents. I often said during the 8.5 years that my husband’s mother lived with us that we were “raising a mother-in-law.” We never had children of our own so this was really a first for us in the parenting department. Sure, we have raised dogs, but providing a proper upbringing for your parents is an entirely different thing altogether.

When my husband’s mother moved out a couple of years ago I was ecstatic. I imagined myself to be like many moms who have fresh cans of paint ready and waiting to makeover their kids’ rooms when they finally go off to college.

My husband and I have been empty nesters for two years now and I had almost forgotten what it was like to rear your parents in the way that they should go, that is until a wedding this past weekend that brought many family members together. Everything was going reasonably well until most of us parted ways. My husband was really worried about his dad and step-mom, both of whom are well into their 80s, when they set out for the four hour drive home. The conversation went something like this:

My husband: It is 4 p.m., dad. Do you really think you should be setting out this late in the day?

Dad: We’ll be fine.

Me: Perhaps you two should change out of your tux and evening gown before you leave.

Dad: We’ll be fine.

My husband: Do you have our cell number?

Dad: We’ll be fine.

Later that evening…

My husband: I’m really worried about them; I better call.

Dad: I’m not sure how it happened but we ran out of gas on the way home.

What my husband wanted to say: But didn’t I tell you to always have at least a half tank of gas in the car? YOU ARE GROUNDED!

Photo by Neil. Moralee, 2012, Flickr Creative Commons

I have many stories I can share about those “teen” and “prepubescent” years with the parents we have been raising, but it may be some time before I can share those…you know with the whole protecting the names of the innocent thing.

I hope this post does not seem disrespectful in any way. But what I learned most from raising a mother-in-law those 8.5 years is that without a sense of humor you cannot survive parenthood, especially when you are parenting your parents!

Until next time, live like you mean it!


A PR makeover for sticks and stones

I like words.

Words are amazing because, by themselves, they can take on a whole different meaning depending on how they are used. I’ve seen words crafted to make the impossible happen. Some people don’t think about words before they use them. I feel sorry for those people because they are missing out on all the wonderful things that can happen when words are used wisely. Things like friendship and trust. Seeing people begin to care about issues that previously had no relevance to their lives. Yes, words are wonderful, but some words I’d like to strike altogether.


I think we’ve all felt this way from the earliest of ages when our preschool peers used words like sticks and stones. Mind you, I am never one to spend much time seething over a poor use of words when used to describe me in ways I don’t prefer. But it would be fun to do a makeover of certain words. Please feel free to play along with me. Let me start with the words used to describe me…

A makeover of words

Obsessive now equals focused

Driven is really the pursuit of excellence

Procrastinator shall now be called thinker

Crazy daredevil is now adventurous

Impulsive is really seizing the moment

And finally, my favorite: introvert…. This word really needs a whole set of phrases: detail oriented, thorough planner, strategic, problem solver, sees past the surface of things, can use wits to make anything happen. People confuse introvert with being shy, but as any real introvert would know, you can be extremely introverted and friendly at the same time. Can I hear an Amen to that?

Your turn now!

Witnessing the 100 percent

I like to consider myself among the 100 percent. No, I don’t mean among those who sit in parks without showering for days, demanding their fair share. I am talking about people who give their all to whatever they are doing and don’t whine or complain when not everything goes as planned.

I am also encouraged when I witness “100 percenters,” as we’ll call them, doing what they do best in their natural element. In this blog, I hope to share stories about people I observe who are living life like they mean it. Doing so gives me hope for the future!

I witnessed a fun example yesterday in my husband. He may not find this as comical as I do. I’ll just say it like I said in a Facebook post yesterday:

You know the dad in the movie Christmas Story? How he is when he’s working on the furnace? It’s kind of like that every day when my husband gets home and finds more plants devoured out of his gardens, except instead of hearing a foul mouth in my basement I hear the sounds of all kinds of power tools buzzing away with intensity. Then within a few minutes I see new contraptions forming around the gardens. In a way, our yard is becoming like a continually changing display of abstract artwork. It’s kind of cool!

The original garden fortress that I never wanted in my yard…
Once you give an inch, the sky’s the limit, apparently…*sigh*
The only botanical sanctuary left on my property!

Until next time, live like you mean it!


Trophies in the life of an adventurer

Living life to the fullest, I’m learning, is not all fun and games. But it is the fun that keeps me coming back. I admit that I’m not as young as I used to be. My husband reminded me of that yesterday after I started the day by getting my car stuck in a ditch at the beginning of the day and coming home with a severe sunburn at the end of the day. He said, “You just can’t keep doing this to yourself.”

“Doing what,” I exclaimed as if I had no idea what he was talking about.

Granted, I am still in great pain and can’t laugh or cough without causing severe pain to my abdominal muscles following a slip-n-slide party with many of my 40 and 50 something friends this week. There were a few juniors at the party but I think we showed them how it was done! The slip-n-slide was great fun and I enjoyed comparing grass burns with another slip-n-slide competitor who had fewer wounds to show than myself, and she is 20 years my junior! That was a proud moment for me, I must admit. : )

To my friends and family who wonder what has happened to me: I am starting to wonder about you… Perhaps you are suffering a little dementia. I am the same girl who broke her collar bone at age 2 while trying to climb a chest of drawers to get her shoes so she could go to school with her sister. I am the same girl who re-broke that collar bone a few years later pretending to ice skate in the living room (sure that was Lana’s fault for swinging me into the couch but I don’t blame her; it’s just another trophy for the life of an adventurer). And don’t forget I am the same girl who spent 47 days in the hospital after taking a thrill ride on a neighbor’s mini-bike at age 14. My competitive spirit has also landed me some other trophies over the years. I will always remember the time I broke my middle finger playing softball and still continued playing with the plastic guard on my finger. I took great pleasure in going up to bat with that middle right finger standing straight up, taunting the pitcher each time I stepped up to the plate the rest of that season. And you may not remember this one: the time at Ball State when I broke my toe playing badminton.

Maybe living life to the fullest isn’t exactly a safe bet, but living the life of someone who lives in fear is not me and never will be. Sure, I try to learn from my mistakes. The biggest lesson this month: it’s okay to scream with your mouth wide open while falling out of a plane but not while sliding down a slope on a sudsy slip-n-slide!

Until next time, live like you mean it!


Turning gray skies into blue skies

The summer of 2012 has been an exciting adventure so far. Skydiving will, of course, overshadow anything else I do this year. A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks – namely the opportunity to work on a publishing project with my new friend and jumpmaster Dave Marsh.

I was thinking about the events that led up to this opportunity, events that, from my perspective, were not random in nature. The decision to go skydiving was out of the blue, but firm from the beginning. It was Thursday, March 29 around 8:15 a.m. when I was driving to work, feeling a little sorry for myself (And let me insert here that I despise throwing pity parties for myself or anyone else because I believe they are signs of self-absorbed people who lack faith in their creator who has nothing but good plans for them). Anyway, I realized I was hosting a pity party and decided I must do something fun and outrageous to get over the thing that was bothering my soul. Immediately after having that thought I said to myself, “I must go skydiving!” It was like a two-way conversation in my mind, “Yes, this is what I’m going to do, no question about it.” The rational side of me said, “I really think you’ve lost it this time.” The wild side of me said, “I don’t care; I’m going for it!” Up until that moment I had never had any desire to jump out of a plane. : )

I would have gone that day but decided it would be better to involve my husband since he’s always wanted to go skydiving and would soon be turning 50. I was crazy with excitement leading up to the jump but I’ve grown a little crazier with excitement about the sport since my jump. I am ecstatic about going again soon but what I’m writing about here is how skydiving changed my life, or rather how people are being used to change my life as the result of going skydiving.

I knew the first time I met our jumpmaster that he was a special person. I can always see it in the eyes and demeanor of people. People who are others-focused have a depth to their eyes that a lot of people do not have. I saw that in Dave, our jumpmaster, the first time I met him. I would soon find out the depth of his character.

Dave was a very gracious host at the drop zone on the day of our jump and a very calming instructor. We exchanged a couple of emails following the jump and I quickly began to see the richness of his character after learning about some of his life experiences that he was documenting for a book about his crazy life adventures and the journey he took as a single dad with his son, a very energetic but sick little boy. That little boy, David Marsh, was not supposed to live very long after he was born because of a very serious heart condition. However, after many open heart surgeries David, 26, is a very healthy young man now who continues to inspire his dad.

I will not go into any detail about the book but I can tell you it will take you on a very exciting journey that will make you laugh out loud, gasp at times and even shed a few tears. What I can tell you is that on that fateful day on March 29, the decision to go skydiving would cause me to intersect with Dave Marsh II, someone who has had a difficult but fun journey. He has the brightest outlook of anyone I’ve ever met to date and that is saying a lot because most of my friends are very positive people. I look forward to working on the book with Dave and his longtime friend, Claire, who is already working hard on editing the manuscript. I’m sure when you get your copy of the book you will be as inspired as I have been to never allow yourself to fall into self-pity when things aren’t going your way. Even on those seemingly gray days there are opportunities for “blue skies and soft landings” as my friend Dave likes to say!

Until next time, live like you mean it!


P.S. Here’s a link to the video of our jump on June 16!

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