If cancer doesn't get you, treatment side effects might!

About Side Effects

Today I completed my fourth week of recovery since undergoing prostate cancer surgery. The healing process has gone quite well. The only noticeable condition that I'm experiencing is that of periodic daily fatigue and tiredness. My doctors assure me that that's an expected outcome of the effort my body is expending to heal itself. The good news is that I've been told that I might be a little ahead of schedule.

The tough news is that when I'm more fully healed additional treatments will be required to battle the remaining cancer. 

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An open letter for family and friends

Dear God. Re Grinch
Just a few days ago I wrote the following letter to my children and family. I like to keep them informed about how I'm doing, just as I like to know when there is something in one of their lives that may be of some concern. There's a lot of us and we live in several states and countries. It's not easy to connect with everyone at the same time so I write and follow-up with a call. 

I've learned that I have been blessed with many friends who are also spread by distance. I decided to share this letter publicly because so many of you have offered prayers, support, and expressed interest in knowing how things progress. I appreciate you all. But I won't be following up with a call.

Dear family,
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Recovery - Five Days After Surgery

At home recoveryIt's been five days since I was wheeled into surgery to have prostate cancer removed from my body. The SCCA medical team - working at the University of Washington Medical Center - did an excellent job while being compassionate and aware of my feelings. When it was over Dr. Ellis came to visit Cindy and me and said that the five hour surgery went well and that he's hopeful that he was able to "get it all." Of course, when cancer cells are microscopic, we won't know that until the pathology report comes back next later this week.
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But the greatest of these is LOVE

Faith Hope loveIn just twenty minutes Cindy and I will leave home and head for the UW Medical Center. We are scheduled to check in at 10:00 with a prostectomy beginning at 11:30. I'm all set and decided to take these last few minutes to reflect on what has shown up all around me. Time is short, so this will just be free form - quick and easy.

There have been so many people extending their prayers, well-wishes, and encouragement to me. I feel blessed to have so many people who care in my life.

The power of prayer is evident and real. I know I wouldn't feel this confident and unafraid without it.

Love is such a special emotion in our lives. It can be felt from hundreds and thousands of miles away. I'm feeling it big time.

Family is the greatest source of energy and love that a man can have. At the end of the day family is what we came into the world with and what we will leave behind.

Faith is a requirement that is sometimes taken for granted. Not just our faith in God, but a more earthly faith in the surgeon, anethesiologist, and all the hands that will get a patient through their day of surgery. I sure hope my medical team is having a very good day!

"And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, Love. But the greatest of these is LOVE" - 1 Corinthians 13:13

Forget Cancer

Christmas 15There are times when a person forgets that he has prostate cancer. It happens when he's out shopping for his wife's Christmas present; when he's picking his son and granddaughter up at the airport; when he's trimming a fresh tree with family ornaments; when he's cheering on a Seahawk win; and when the house is filled with laughter while gathering for dinners of pizza or Chinese food.
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Movember Monday - Talking Radiation

Mo Mo
When Movember officially ends (Monday, Movember 30th) my search for the most appropriate treatment for prostate cancer really ramps up. I'll be meeting with five specialists during the coming week and plan to make a treatment decision shortly thereafter.

Monday is all about radiation therapy. 
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Movember Apple Cup Challenge

Apple Cup Movember
Happy Thanksgiving Coug and Dawg Fans. I'm thankful for all of you (even the ones that wear purple and gold). I have a few days left in Movember and I'm less than $400 away from the $5000 fundraising goal I set. So let's have a little friendly competition.

For every dollar donated to my Movember campaign between now and tomorrow a point will be generated. The donor simply indicates which team to credit their points to by putting "Go Cougs" or "Go Dawgs" into their comment line. Double points will be awarded on gifts of $50 or more.

I'll even wear the school colors of the winning team to work for a day next week. How's that for incentive Husky fans? (I'm not worried. Cougs are a lot more generous!)

So let's get the Movember Apple Cup started right away. Click here to contribute and score some Movember Apple Cup points! 

So Many Choices - Prostate Cancer

Book ProstateI'm finding that there are a lot of opinions and a lot of treatment options when it comes to prostate cancer. Talk to the men who have been through it and you frequently hear the enthusiasm that each of them has for the doctor they used and the procedure that they chose. Talk to the specialists and you'll hear about the course of care that they are focused on and the challenges that alternatives provide. The choices all come with serious side effects and a level of uncertainty. There's not an absolute direction that the medical profession has settled
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The First 10 Days

Awareness ProstateIt's been ten days since my new urologist, Dr. Marquez, confirmed what we both suspected. That was the day he told Cindy and I that the biopsy he'd performed confirmed that I have prostate cancer. It was the day that I found myself in a place that was both familiar and unknown. While the setting and doctor were different, the conversation was eerily similar to the one I'd listened intently to when we were told about Cindy's breast cancer and later about her lymphoma. Unknown, because this time the words were about my body and the cancer that was attacking it. This time I would be the fighter and, just a few days after learning that her cancer was finally in remission, Cindy would be in my corner. Our roles were now reversed.

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A Movember To Remember


The mustache growing month for raising awareness and money to "change the face of men's health" is underway and the hard to see fuzz growing on my upper lip is gaining length. This year - while unplanned and unexpected - is going to be different from the others. Nine days into the month, I found out that I have prostate cancer.

This is my story.

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Experiencing a transformtaion.

It was about this time last year that I recommitted to what would become the third year of a journey toward a healthier life. For the majority of that time I was focused on moving more and eating less... or at least eating better. I developed better habits including daily walks and frequent lunches at the salad bar instead of the grill. Through it all, I was encouraged by a community of friends and family that applauded my successes and empathized with my setbacks. My blog pretty much documents it all. 

Then, shortly after Labor Day in 2014, my wife and I committed to trying a nutrition system created world class formulator, John Anderson. His lineup of products was recommended by a friend with a promise of weight loss, stress reduction, renewed energy, and the prospect of feeling ten to twenty years younger. 

Left: I wasn't feeling happy with myself at 325 pounds in September, 2011.

Right: In Decenber of 2014 I was down to 239 pounds and feeling re-energized and younger.

To good to be true? We thought so! So we did our research seeking answers about ingredients, outcomes, and potential unintended consequences. Everything we found checked out to our satisfaction. All we needed to do next was enroll as associates within the company, order the products, and put the new source of nourishment into our bodies. In just five days we knew our decision was a great one. Our only regret was that we hadn't started sooner. 

Now we're sharing our story and encouraging friends and family to give it a try. All of the promises are coming true for us. We're feeling the best that we have in years and we'd like the same for you in the coming year.

If you're making a resolution to lose weight, build strength, or improve your financial freedom in 2015, get in touch with me. It's very possible that I've got the answer to all three.

For more about my year in review click here or browse the entries in the Healthy Edge section of my blog. I hope to hear from you.

Diet starts with D-I-E. Not a good way to live!

Any Man...There are times in life when who you're with and where you are are far more important than what you are doing. Those can be the times of special memories. Those are the days and the moments that we'll carry with us for years to come. And those are the days that I wouldn't allow what I'm eating to get in the way of making those special memories. Dad's Weekend at WSU is definitely one of those times. A time to enjoy the ones your with. 

That's why I'm so happy that my nutritional routine fits into my life. I've seen and experienced so many systems that require my life to fit into their program. And it just doesn't work. They're not fun. They're not enjoyable. As a result they aren't sustainable. I'm not on a diet, I'm on a live it. And boy did we live during Dad's Weekend!

Did you ever notice that the first three letters of the word diet are D-I-E? Think about it!

To read about one such special weekend and an alternative approach, please click here on my Healthy Edge. Thanks!

Why wait? Yesterday you said tomorrow!

YesterdayThree months have passed since Cindy and I started our Isagenix journey. I remember considering the invitation that Brenda had extended to us for several months before we finally said "YES!" The truth is, when we were ready we decided to wait until Labor Day was behind us and summer was over before getting started. We didn't want to detract from our last month of fun in the sun. Now we wish we had started months, or even years, sooner. 
Together we have released a combined total of more than 75 unwanted pounds. There's a new feeling of energy that has come into our bodies, and we're able to do things together - like walking, hiking, and biking - that only months ago were simply not possible. Those chronic aches and pains, as well as the tension that comes from stress, are gone. Really gone!

Sound too good to be true? That's what I thought too. But it's very real. Read this week's entry in @Healthy Edge for details.

Realizations and understandings

DaisiesWhen I finished my first month of using a newly discovered nutrition program, I realized how much better I was feeling. Not just the weight loss, but the energy and absence of those stubborn aches and pains. Looking back, I now wish I'd started much sooner and began sharing with others much more quickly. 

Here's a few of my journal entries from that time period. 

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving eve thoughts and reflections. I've got so much to be grateful for!

A friend who, after 40 years, had the courage to call me.
A family that unconditionally loves and forgives me.
A home that is more than a shelter for me.
A career that has challenged and rewarded me.
A colleague that inspires and supports me.
A memory of parents who encouraged me.
A mentor who respected and inspired me.
A community that enabled and recognized me.
A teacher that pushed and motivated me.
A wife that accepts, loves, and completes me. 
A Heavenly Father who does it all... for me.

Hoping each of you will take a moment to consider what you have to be grateful for too.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Courage and Confidence Emerges

As I moved into week three of my new nutrition program I was feeling more and more confident with the routine and had less of a need to check the recommended schedule to remember what to use at specific times of the day. I was feeling more and more energized and was developing a real belief that the products were doing exactly what Brenda - my sponsor - suggested they would. I'll pick up the story with excerpts from my journal, beginning on day sixteen after returning from "Dad's Weekend" at WSU.

Continue by clicking here.

Own Your Own Life


For nearly twenty-five years – the majority of my career - I envisioned myself in a role atop a growing and successful company. I knew what to do and how to do it, but the pace and momentum of my career along with the responsibilities of a growing family kept me in corporate leadership roles that were a step away from the top. Despite that success, the itch to build a successful business of my own still needed to be scratched. Yet it never seemed to be the right time.

Then two things happened that added new dimension to my perspective. My wife was diagnosed with cancer and I turned sixty.

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New Beginning with Healthy Edge

The beginningDear friends, family, and readers of my blog who occasionally stop by to see how my journey to a healthier life has progressed,

You may remember how the journey began a little more than three years ago.

It's been quite some time since I've shared with you here. Not because I've given up or quit and not because I haven't had anything to say. Instead, I've been quiet because I wanted to be sure of what I've been experiencing before sharing an exciting new element of my story. I think I've found it... "the healthy edge."

For the details please click here...

It's Not About The Popcorn


Some memories are just tiny pieces of inconsequential experiences. One that comes to mind for me is about my dad and popcorn nights. No kidding!

When I was a kid popcorn didn't come out of a bag, there were no air-poppers, and Jiffy Pop was a luxury invented in 1959 that wouldn't be affordable at our house for at least 5-10 more years. No, popcorn at the Brooks house was made on the stovetop in one of the pots that mom kept for daily use in her kitchen cupboards. Into the pot went some Crisco, a cup of popcorn, and we waited. When the kernels were heard beginning to pop on the inside, the maker began to aggressively shake the pot while it rested on the red hot burner. The anticipation grew. The routine was the same, each and every time.

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Aprons, flowers and pearls. A story for another day.

Mom with ThreeHe looked me in the eyes with a disappointment that I hadn’t seen before and said, “You’re breaking your mother’s heart.” 

There was strength in his voice and a glistening dampness in his eyes when he spoke. He didn’t need to say more. Those five words, spoken by my dad in the living room of the home where I was raised, landed on my ears with a force that he couldn’t have imagined. A message that took only seconds deliver has stuck with me, unforgotten, for nearly forty years. His message was clear. He was reminding me that my mom – the love of his life – was the person on this earth that he cherished the most. The woman he had spent a lifetime with. The person that he protected from all forms of pain… even if it required the toughest of conversations with his only son. And he was right. My mom was an angel. His angel.

I was 25 and after three years of marriage had just celebrated becoming a father for the first time. I was so proud. I’d watched my parents raise their five children (especially my little sisters) and love their grandchildren for years. My mom’s home was always open and the love for her family was genuine and immense. There was never a hesitation about being involved and helping as each grandchild was welcomed into the growing family. It was the way it had always been. Until then.

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Job: Operations Director

A job exists that requires more than most of us can imagine. It fact, it could be considered the most important job of all. It's part finance and part operations. It requires experience in medicine, education, and the culinary arts. Those who hold this role must be capable of working long hours for consecutive days and weeks without interruption. They must be highly mobile, willing to put the needs of the people they serve above their own, and do so without expectation of financial compensation. 

To most of us, the discription of a role like this one turns our minds to days of indentured servants. The requirements are so heavily out of balance with the benefits and rewards. Or are they? Those that have held the role seldom complain. Instead, they truly love the people they serve and expect very little in return for their years and years of emotional and physical support. 

We know these people. They took care of us when we needed them most. These people are our mothers and the role is that of our mom.

With Mother's Day just ahead, this video caught my attention. Take a look. Then make your mom a card.


A Mom's Weekend Tribute For A Mother With An An Edge

I was on my way to bed thinking that I might catch the end of the Mariner's game before falling to sleep. Instead, I stopped at my desk and searched the web for my daughter's weekly column in the WSU Daily Evergreen. It's Mom's Weekend at WSU and Cindy is there with the twins to enjoy some time together. I had a hunch that Abby may have written a special column for her mom this week. I wasn't disappointed. This is what I found.

Daily Evergreen Logo

Abby Student | Daily Evergreen relationship and sex columnist 

Writing For Mom: The Only Opinion That Matters.

I have been in a serious relationship for more than 20 years. She's an older woman, but age is just a number, isn't it?

As a sex and relationship columnist, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the many different relationships in my life and evaluate their importance to me. This week, I had the privilege of reflecting on the most important relationship in my life: the one between me and my mother.

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Quick. Nimble. And Responsive.

Where Technology and Marketing Meet. 

Ins & Mktg

If you're an IT professional, you've likely heard this a thousand times from marketing colleagues in your company: "I don't care about the code or how it happens, I just want it to work!" That's usually followed by an enthusiastic shout, "And I want it NOW!" Am I right?

We marketing types are about quick, nimble, and responsive. We care more about why, what, and when than we do about how or how much. Process isn't part of our wiring. But you knew that.

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When it comes to nutrition, Tell it like it is!


Information clarity is about to get real!

I heard about this news from the FDA last week. I like it. Being more real about "serving size" would be the biggest benefit for me. Who eats half a bag of M&M's anyway. Eliminate the math and tell it like it is. The big food brands worry that the truth will slow down consumption, purchase, and profit. But we get healthier! Seems fair to me! What do you think?

Here's a link to a post by MyFitnessPal that shares six reasons for the recommended changes.

Dear Abby - From A Proud Dad

Beware friends and family...  If you think you are going to blush or be shocked, just don't read any farther.

abby & me

You can't hide pride forever!

It’s been too long. It’s time to let you in on a family secret.

When a man has seven children (four by conception and three by selection) there will be a large variety of reasons to be proud. It could be excellence in sports or academics; it could be generosity or patriotism. A dad with seven children doesn’t have to look very hard to experience opportunities to be proud. Sometimes proud moments appear in places and for reasons that I didn’t see coming. Maybe even a little embarassing. That’s one way a family secret can get started. 

I want to share one of those moments with you tonight.

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Social to the 12th Power

12 bannerThe Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII. In fact, their defense dominated Denver's number one ranked offense so soundly that most of the country called the game a yawner. Not so where I live. In the Northwest, the 12th Man knows how to yell, how to win, and how to celebrate. So how would a hyper-local insurance company find marketing opportunity in an event that is played on a global stage? With focus, passion, technology and social engagement.

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It's Not Okay!

A year or so ago I had the opportunity to to write the forward for a book a cross-country friend of mine was about to publish. His name is Ted Rubin and the book is Return on Relationship. Ted is insightful, experienced, generous, and just plain smart. His view of being socially engaged is refreshing. In this short blog post, he looks at a contrarian view of how social media is used. Enjoy. #RonR (You can follow Ted at @TedRubin on Twitter) 

It’s Not OK… (via http://www.tedrubin.com/)

  It is not ok to just use social channels to just broadcast. It is not ok to simply advertise and call it Social Media. It is not ok to block employees from accessing social media sites while at work. It is not ok to discourage employees from building…


CMO's and COO's - Friends In The C-Suite

Ins & MktgIn a space where customer interaction is increasingly digital and where customers increasingly use key technologies, CMOs and CIOs are working outside their existing comfort zones. It only makes sense for them to do it together.

In my monthly column for Insurance and Marketing, I shared my thoughts about the growing importance for these two members of the C-Suite team to "buddy up!"

You can read the by clicking here!

Identifying Your Passion

PassionThere have been four occasions during the holiday break when college students have reached out to me for advice with their career search and for potential internships. In each of the conversations, the question about personal passion surfaced quickly. How does one identify their passion? How can I make a living doing what I love? Where does passion fit in life's professional equation?

The conversations reminded me of how important is to go to fun instead of going to work. It's been my personal mantra for years and years. I was also reminded that this is a good time of year to repost an exercise that I use to help people of all ages identify their passion.

Here's a post from 2011 that I called "Going To Fun."  Happy New Year!

Thoughts of the ideal agency

advert love

There are five definitions of the word “ideal” in the online dictionary accessed by my browser. Near the top of the list was the definition that I expected: “A standard of perfection or excellence.”

This, I thought, was how agency principals most likely view their firms. But what comes to mind when clients think of the ideal agency? Definition number five was one that we’d probably be drawn to:: “Something that exists only in the imagination: To achieve the ideal is almost hopeless.” It took a few minutes for the grin to leave my face.

I’ve been a brand-based marketer for the last 33 years of my career. There’s seldom been a time, since 1980, when an agency partner wasn’t part of the equation—some more capable and better than others. Here are the standards I seek in the “ideal agency”—the one that may only exist in my imagination!

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It all starts with a story!

Have you ever thought about which conversations get shared? How about the things you talk about and share with your friends and family? Chances are good that the conversations that you remember and share most often are those that involve a story. Why is that the case? With thanks to the good folks at Story Worldwide, let’s look at six reasons for stories that many marketers frequently overlook or seem to take for granted.

Stories 1Experiences leave lasting impressions. They go far deeper than facts, figures or features. And by creating a story-based experience, we cause our audiences to walk away with an impression of our brand that sits deep in their hearts. 

stories 2

Stories reveal what makes your message unique and different. In today’s business environment success generates copycats and innovation is short lived. What can’t be copied is who you are – your unique identity and your story. Where did your brand come from? Why does your business exist? The way you share these stories is what helps to set you apart from the competition.

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The Power of Love

P o L TitleFor some, it takes every day that we have together to create that special indefinable bond. Some unfortunately live a lifetime without making the connection that creates it. Songs, poems, stories, and plays have been written about it. Artists have tried to paint it and photographers have tried to capture it in images. The power of love has been at the core of our healing and sense of peace for centuries. A search for the phrase on the Internet returned more than 3.5 million responses. Clearly, it’s something that matters to many of us.

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Interns - The King of Bling


Paying It Forward And Watching Them Run With What You Give Them!

I have the privilege of working in a company that believes in giving back. One way that we do that is with our college intern program. This summer twelve students who are about to enter their senior year, were selected from a pool of over 250 applicants. These students have had the opportunity to experience a slice of the real world in their chosen areas of study and interest, earn some money to help with their education expenses, while gaining valuable insights that will help to set themselves apart as they begin their future career journeys. It's been my pleasure to have had the opportunity to serve as a summer mentor to four of them. 

One of things I especially enjoy is seeing an intern take what is being given to them in the form of advice and counsel, and watching them make it their own. It's rewarding on many levels to watch them take new risks, gain new experiences, and see things through a new set of lenses. I like to think that they are discovering how to think differently and see the edge.

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The Kindness Boomerang Returns

Kindness Boomerang

There are times when special things happen in our lives without expectation or prior consideration. They aren't tied to our calendar and they aren't part of a prior arrangement. They are special surprises in our lives. Occasions that give me cause to pause and to really consider why they happened. Could they simply be just chance happenings? Some might refer to them as the result of "good karma." I prefer to think of them as the result  of life's kindness boomerang. How and what we put out there determines what and how things come back to us.

When I was a boy, I had my first boomerang experience. Its round-trip flight looked so simple but was incredibly hard to make happen on my own. That slimly cut elbow-shaped piece of wood, with its smooth sides and perfectly rounded edges, seemed to have a mind of its own. Each time I threw it out I would have to run across our expansive front yard to retrieve it. The more I expected it to come back to me and the harder I tried to make it happen, the farther I would have to run. It was only when I wasn't trying so hard to make the boomerang circle back to me that I started to get a feel for the right motion and rhythm. There was a correct speed, a correct angle, and a correct height of release. The more I tossed the boomerang out there, the closer it came to returning to me. Until, on that special but unexpected occasion, it started coming back to me in a way that I could catch it. I don't think I'll ever forget how wonderful that felt.

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Pink Laces

Easton's LacesEvery piece of a football players uniform and equipment has a job to do. For the most part - from mouth guards and face masks to helmets and shoulder pads - the job is one of protection. The uniform is also designed to communicate. For instance, a player's number not only helps identify who he is, but also signifies the position that he plays.

Last week, when Cindy began her latest battle with cancer, a football players uniform took on added importance for us. Mixed in with the many prayers and well wishes received from friends and family, was a simple heartfelt photograph sent by a very special first-time player. Our oldest grandson Easton (almost ten) laced up his new cleats for the very first time. No big deal, you might think. Except the laces he chose were brilliant pink! He'd seen the pros do it and he knew it was how he wanted to dress for tryouts. His uniform, that day, was designed to communicate a special love between him and his Grandma Cindy and to protect her from the cancer that would be her opponent.

We love you Easton. Thanks for saying so much without saying or writing a single word.

Chemo Rookies

Chemo 1

Day one...

Well today was the day. A one and only first day of chemotherapy for Cindy. Now don't get me wrong, there will be more days of chemo than either of us will want to see. But there will never be another first day. After today, we won't be rookies again. 

We entered Overlake Hospital's Oncology department and were welcomed by two cheerful RN's who showed us around and invited us to choose from any of the 12 to 15 leather recliners that border the circumference of the brightly lit room. Each of the cushy oversized chairs was paired with a much less comfortable staight-back folding chair. Clearly, the "chemo-buddy" isn't the person that anyone cares about making comfortable. 

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Thank You All

Cindy preop

Last year we found out that my wife Cindy had breast cancer. She faced it head on and made the decision to have the extreme surgery. You were there for us. You prayed for us. The surgery was successful and we began the process of moving on.  Almost...

During the surgery, Cindy's lymph nodes were examined and were found to contain cancerous tumors in the form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). We were told that she was fortunate to have caught it early and that it was not in any of her organs or bone - just stage three. No treatment was necessary. Cindy would just have more frequent exams during a period of waiting and watching the (hopefully) slow development and growth of the tumors. Again, you were there for us. You prayed for us. And a year went by without too much concern. Until...

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Cougar Sunsets

There are days when I least expect it that I am blessed by the well-chosen words of a text message from someone special. Yesterday was one of those days. Thanks Abby!

Coug Sunset B
"I'm looking up at a pink and blue sunset after a workout on Mooberry track and I realize that you and I share this sunset. I realize that you've looked up at the very same one along with all other Cougs. Its the sunset that cuts through our campus and sits on rolling wheat fields. It tells you that you can rest because the day is over." - Abby Student

Interns - Setting Yourself Apart

Laura PflugPaying it forward and watching them run with what you give them!

I have the privilege of working in a company that believes in giving back. One way that we do that is with our college intern program. As many as twelve students who are about to enter their senior year will experience a slice of the real world in their chosen areas of study and interest. So far, I've had the chance to spend time mentoring four of them.

One of things I especially enjoy is seeing an intern take what is being given to them in the form of advice and counsel, and watching them make it their own. It's rewarding on many levels to watch them take new risks, gain new experiences, and see things through a new set of lenses. I like to think that they are discovering how to think differently and see the edge.

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The Price of Power - A False Edge

An Opinion

Some of you are aware that I write a bimonthly column for MARKETING - the Northwest publication for marketing and communication professionals. My most recent submission takes a look at the practice that a handful of powerful brands have adopted - leaning on their marketing partners for extended payment terms to gain a competitive edge and increase corporate profits. 

Now that I think about it again, I'll add that the practice being discussed is actually a false edge. The short term advantages it creates comes at an extreme price. These brands, regardless of their size and stature, appear to be blind to the cost of their powerful demands. Instead of gaining a sustainable advantage, overbearing brands often lose the trust and respect of their partners and, most importantly, their customers.

I'd like to invite you to read two perspectives on this behavior - mine, and my partner's in the publication - Digital Kitchen CEO, Bill Fritsch. Please click here to be taken to the full story.

As always, I welcome your insights and feedback very much

Cap Gun Memories

cap gunChildhood Fourth of July's We're Some Of The Best!

Memories come from unexpected places. Something causes us to reflect on times of our past. Something that we experience feels similar to times gone by. This picture, and the memories triggered by the items that are in it, transported me back to my youth like a shot through a time capsule. This grouping of memorabilia was in a display case at Blueberry Hill's Farm and Restaurant in Manson, Washington. I spotted it for the first time when my family and I visited there last year. It was one of many such visits that we make several times each summer for their world-class breakfast. Why I hadn't noticed it previously I don't know, but I recorded it in a picture and saved it for nearly a year. Today is the right time to share the picture and the memories it triggered.

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Kindness via Mill Bay #5


Our Old Fart Boat Ride

When Cindy and I backed off the boat lift early this morning, we were on our way to enjoy what we jokingly call our "old fart boat ride." A ride like this barely creates a wake behind the boat as we glide across a flat and peaceful Lake Chelan, sipping our morning coffee and soaking in the sun's rays and lake shore views.

In those ways, this morning was everything we expected. The difference was that we happened to come across a small kayak that was floating aimlessly down-lake without a passenger in sight. Clearly, the yellow kayak had come loose from it's buoy or dock - perhaps during yesterday's wind and rain storms.

As we pulled alongside the kayak, we could see markings on it's stern. They read "Mill Bay #5." I'm familiar with Mill Bay as the place where my boat gets launched each summer; a location where friends park their mobile home for summer vacations; and as the name of the local casino where the Deepwater Amphitheater's summer concert series kicks off with a performance by Huey Lewis and the News on July 5th.

With no one else in sight, Cindy and I instinctively knew that the right thing to do was to change our course and tie the wayward kayak onto the back of our boat. We would continue our quiet boat ride and at the same time look for the family or rental company where the kayak belonged. We turned our boat around and headed for Mill Bay.
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The Proudest Moment

BP Easton

Late last winter, while visiting with my son Ryan, I learned that my grandson Easton had been invited to be a member of a "select" little league baseball team. He could become a member of Utah's Herriman Mustangs - a hand picked team of nine-year-olds who showed enough potential to move to the next level of competition. Mustang coaches had noticed Easton on his prior season's team and felt that he would be a good addition to the team.

The first conversation was between the coach and Ryan. The next between Ryan and my daughter-in-law Rachel. It would be a bigger sports commitment than Easton or the family had been involved in before. A longer season, more practices, more tournaments, and more games. It would also be more of an investment with more travel, more equipment, and nicer uniforms. It was an opportunity that needed consideration on several levels. Ultimately the decision was to give Easton the option to decide. He considered the opportunity and chose to join the new team of boys - most of which he didn't know. From that day forward, Easton was all in. He listened intently to his coaches, asked for extra batting practice with his dad, and his appetite for a playing catch was never satisfied. It was obvious that Easton was going to do what it took to be a ballplayer. I didn't think that I could be any prouder of him, but I was wrong.

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BridgeNo matter what the obstacle is that you are facing, someone has been there before you. Find the bridge they've built that will help you on your way.

What bridges have you found and crossed? What bridges have you built and left behind for others? Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.


Dad said I could

Father's Day  Pledge
Something I remember about my dad was the way he encouraged me. Not with long lessons or expressive stories. No, my dad said more with just the right few words. Here's a few that made a huge difference. Give them a try. You can do it!

"I love you.
Don't be afraid.
Give it a try.
You can do it.
Don't give up.
I'm here for you.
Nice job.
I love you." - My dad

Please leave a comment below to share what your dad gave you.  Thanks!

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Can I hang a spatula on my toe?


Imagine the gears turning...

When the wheels in a toddlers active mind start to turn and when the inner curiosity starts to take the shape of spontaneous questions, it can be a very magical time. These trusting little ones don't have preconceived opinions or points of view. They aren't trying to stump us or make a compelling point. They just wonder out loud and are open to learning from anyone who will share an answer to their many - some might say constant - inquiries. 

Mom's and dad's who recognize these magical moments and patiently respond are some pretty special people too. Today, my daughter-in-law Maegan posted this short status update on her Facebook page. I doubt that she knew how much I would smile and think about what it must have been like at her house today. 

"Do you like spiders or webs better?" "What is carpet made of?" "Where did the word mask come from?" "Can I hang a spatula on my toe?" Just some of today's gems from my inquisitive little toddler's mind...never a dull moment!

Sawyer is one of my six amazing grandchildren. There's a lot of stuff he would like to know... and his mom and dad are there to give him the answers. So... how, exactly, do you hang a spatula on a two year olds toe? Huh?

Make it a great day!

Imelda DayWhat type of day will you make?

Every workday morning I do the same thing. I record a new voice mail greeting that announces the new day of the week, the date, and informs the caller of how and when they are likely to hear back from me. To close, I end each message with one of two phrases. The first is one that I've used for nearly 40 years - "Make it a great day." More recently, I've started sprinkling in a newer version - "Make it a kind day!"

Earlier this week, I was thinking about potential topics that I'd like to add to my blog. I realized that recognizing and understanding that my day will be what I make of it has given me an edge in my career and life. I'd decided to tell share the story about the origin of my greeting and was looking through the news feed of my Facebook account when I spotted a post that validated my thought. A good friend, Imelda Dulcich, had posted an upbeat and encouraging welcome to the new day. I responded, and the rest of this blog post seemed to write itself.

This is how our short exchange looked on Facebook.

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When not doing it yourself is a win!

Lake House No Water - MedWe have a small vacation home on Lake Chelan. If you have been Facebook friends of mine or readers of this blog for long, you have had plenty of opportunities to see and hear about "our little piece of heaven." 

This spring I took the easy way out of a couple big projects. 

We hired local construction and maintenance providers to build reinforcements for our rock bulkhead and to paint the full interior of the house. When we arrived for Memorial Day weekend, all the heavy work was completed. All we had to do was straighten up the interior of the house, rehang some pictures, and enjoy our improved surroundings. 

Some people would say that I could have saved 60% by doing the work myself. Probably true. But I'm happy, the work got done correctly, and there are a few families in Chelan that appreciated the work and income. I love it when a plan has a win-win outcome! 

Sometimes the edge is in enlisting the help of others.

For Memorial Day, Just Add Heat

Memorial Day Cougs
Not all edges have to be complicated, mysterious, or hard to find. Sometimes an edge in life can come from simple and even obvious places. 

During the last 48 hours, while relaxing (not really celebrating) the 2013 version of Memorial Day Weekend, Cindy and I had the opportunity to host five 19 to 21 year old college students at our home on Lake Chelan. Now I know what those who are my age might be thinking... "You call that an opportunity? That's no opportunity! That's a punishment that should be avoided like the electric chair." 

Well that's not the way we saw it and it's not the way it worked out. 

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Kindness doesn't always happen where you first intended.


Sometimes a purposeful act of kindness isn’t meant to be. Or at least not in the time and place it was planned for. Sometimes making the effort in one place prepares you for another – one where the kindness is both welcomed and appreciated.

This morning, while on our way to a family birthday celebration, my wife and I stopped at a local supermarket to pick up the last of the gift cards that we wanted to share. On my way into the store I couldn’t help but see an older woman hunched into a ball behind an outdoor display with the few bags that appeared to hold her only possessions. In the blink of an eye, without additional information, I judged her to be homeless, hungry, and in need of kind act.

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Free Hugs

Free Hugs

The best thank you

My wife and I celebrated Easter weekend by making a trip to our home on Lake Chelan. While there we enjoyed the spring sunshine and the time together. This morning we dined at one of the state's oldest and most popular resort hotels - Campbell's. The variety and presentation of their holiday brunch was awesome and, despite our focus on healthy choices, we both made three trips to the buffet line. (Which is why I made sure to insert a four mile walk into my afternoon activities).

During our drive home, Cindy and I stopped for coffee at our favorite coffee house in the small town of Cle Elum. As we pulled into the parking stall in front of Pioneer Coffee we saw an elderly woman at a table outside the shop. She was bundled in a heavy coat and wore a purple knit hat to break the chill. Her table displayed several loaves of home made banana bread and a hand made sign describing the variety of fruits that she added to the smallish five dollar loaves.

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A Special Night for An Old AGR

Barn Dance AGRSometimes opportunity and action line up to create a special situation. That was the case for me on my recent trip to Pullman, Washington - home of the Washington State University Cougars. I was in town for the annual Murrow College of Communication Symposium and Advisory Board Meeting. As luck would have it, those two events were taking place during the same week that my old fraternity - Alpha Gamma Rho - was holding the annual Barn Daze celebration. 

But that's not all. You may recall that I also have two daughters, Abby and Amelia, who are sophomores at WSU. Amelia is studying to teach foreign language and Abby is a Communications major. 
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Here's to health and kindness

Girl Scout Cookies
Visitors to my blog are aware that I've been focused on at least a couple themes recently. Health and kindness have been on my mind. Both are habits I'm trying to build and reinforce in my daily life. For the most part it's been going pretty well too!

The recent Girl Scout cookie selling season gave me a great opportunity to practice both. As much as I love the sweet taste of Samoas and Thin Mints, I'm still not at the point in my journey where I can allow myself to indulge in the calories that come with them. So what's the kind and healthy thing to do and how could I best support my assistant's Girl Scout daughter when the order sheet came around?
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Ask for compliments and see what happens

Several years ago my wife and I were driving home late in the evening and decided to stop by one of the local fast food chains to get a quick bite to eat. The experience was nothing more nor nothing less than was expected. Very routine and unremarkable. We shouted our order into a speaker box and strained to understand the broken replies from a teenager inside the building one hundred feet ahead. When we arrived along side the first window we offered our payment to the cashier and expected to receive our bag of quickly wrapped food items at the second window. Of course, we would examine the contents to make sure we actually received what we had requested. 

But then the unexpected, and unfortunately unintended, happened. The restaurant made us smile!
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Movers and Shakers

It was the evening of our company's annual sales recognition dinner and the theme of the event was "Movers and Shakers." The top sales producers for the year, their spouses, company executives and special guests filled Seattle's Palace Ballroom to socialize, receive achievement awards, and hear from a handful of the leaders that were present. I was asked to share some thoughts about how the game is changing. This is an excerpt from my remarks. If you'd like to read the full text, please click here.

"Built To Change"

Change Ahead
"Few want to be sold to but everyone loves a great story. Movers and shakers know that we must converse before we convince. Consumers want inspiration and inclusion. We can no longer interrupt, but must instead interact. Brand advocates are listened to more than brand advertising. Asking exclusively about return on investment is the wrong question today. We need be asking about return on involvement, and return on relationship.

Successful brands will be defined and shaped by consumers more than companies. Winning businesses will be built to change in order to be built to last.

In this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, winners will need to do more than spin the wheel or roll the dice. Winners will be those who disrupt the foundations of conventional thinking by the strength of their imagination and vision. Winners will be people with positive, energetic demeanors who initiate change and influence events.
The winners will be the movers and shakers."

Influencers & Advocates, Grow & Defend

There’s a three-phased, seven-step model that I refer to as The Advocacy Engine. When I first considered it, I thought of it as a linear process that enabled brands to move consumers from awareness to advocacy. Today, I think of it more as a cycle of increasing momentum for brands that approach each phase and step with purpose and clarity.

A to A WOMMA Version    a to a phases

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Lessons From A Commitment to Kindness

Kindness Button

21 Days Of Kindness

When I began the commitment, on December first, to demonstrate and record three weeks of conscious and purposeful acts of kindness, I was trying to build a habit. I wanted to see if I could apply thoughtful consideration to deliver at least one planned (not random) act of kindness toward someone who wouldn’t be expecting it each and every day. I wasn’t looking for anything in return – certainly not any form of recognition for what I would be doing. Instead, I had a second goal in mind. I wanted to see if my actions and words could potentially inspire others to make the same commitment themselves. Imagine what our community, workplace and society would be like if we all just planned out one conscious act of unexpected kindness each day.

Day one involved the simple acknowledgement of a co-worker. Day three was a back rub for my wife. On day six I left a few dollars with the cashier in our cafeteria and asked her to surprise someone with a free lunch. What I was discovering, however, was that I was waking up each morning with the thought of planning a kind act at the front of my mind. It wasn’t that nervous, anxious feeling that we sometimes wake up with. Instead it was like a daily challenge that I knew would be rewarded with a smile.

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Remembering Alfonso Pompili

Alfonso Pompili was my father-in-law for eleven years. We had some good talks on his front porch and I am better off for having had the chance to know him. When he passed away last summer I wrote a tribute to honor him. There wasn't time to create the video before his memorial service, but I was able to get one done before his wife and children gathered together at Christmas. I'm sharing it here for those who weren't able to go to Morgantown.

Alfonso Pompili, Sr.    July 31, 1926 - August 25, 2012

He was a husband, father, grandpa and friend. The number of lives he touched and the love that he shared was huge yet unassuming. He will be missed by those that had the good fortune to know and love him. 

This is a tribute to the man we knew as Alfonso, Fonsie, and Pap. 



Remarkable Service Leads To Loyalty & Recommendation


There's a business in Bellevue where I've shopped for many years – probably close to twenty by now. A specialty store, Crystallia features fine china, crystal and collectables as headliners in its inventory. Most of my purchases have been made during Christmas seasons and are primarily ornaments and figurines that I enjoy adding to the collections of my children. I'm not one of Crystallia's biggest customers as my purchases seldom total more than a few hundred dollars in any year. Frankly, I wouldn't expect the people at Crystallia  to remember me from year to year - and yet they almost always do. I’m loyal to them as a result.

Wee Forrest Folk

Over the years, Crystallia has relocated from one of the regions most long-standing upscale shopping environments to the intimate second floor of a Main Street office building. Nearly all of their business has converted to online shopping. Each year, shortly after Thanksgiving, I go online and look for the ornaments I’d like to purchase and generate the transaction. To that point the process really couldn’t be less personal. It’s the way they designed it and it works. No problem.

Until something doesn't go as planned. This year the unexpected happened when my order, which I would be shipping with other packages to my daughter’s family in New Mexico, was late to arrive. I called Crystallia and was greeted by a man on the phone whose first words were, “Hello Rod. This is Robert. I’ll bet you're looking for your ornament.”

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Compassion: A Key Ingredient To Marketing's Secret Sauce

Not long ago I was invited to consider the use of compassion in the marketing world. My first thought was that compassion and marketing are words that are aren't often used in the same sentence, let alone as a dimension of strategy. The more I think about it, the more I consider that to be an unfortunate shame.

Compassion model

The way I see it, compassion has become a key ingredient in the secret sauce that enriches the flavor of truly great marketing. Compassion is certainly a key component of great content, and great content has become the currency of valued and lasting relationships. As social engagement has flourished and virtual communities have formed in newly familiar places like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,and Pinterest, compassion and empathy have become important communication planks in the implementation of social marketing strategy. Marketers are remembering the required fundamentals for making sustainable human connections - selfless, inspiring and compassionate acts that connect brands with consumers. It's an early step in the development of sustainable relationships that begins with brand awareness and matures over time through stages of consideration, selection, renewal, referral, and advocacy.

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Advice: Find your passion. Experience Joy


Follow Your Heart

This morning, while vacationing with my wife and sister, my sister Judy - who is ten years my senior - asked me a very thought provoking question. It's a question that I've considered all day long. She asked, "Now that you are the age you are and have experienced the things you've experienced what advice would you give to someone younger - someone who is less experienced and starting out?"

I paused for a moment and thought about the importance of her question. What would a nearly sixty-year-old man who has been married twice for a combined 34 years, had 11 employers, purchased 10 homes, lived in 3 states, all while helping to raise seven children answer such an important question? As I considered her question she waited quietly for an answer. My big sister is a very patient woman.

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Crowdsourcing The Next NW Profile

PEMCO Profiles

In 2007, my team at PEMCO Insurance and I changed the face of marketing in the Pacific Northwest. Not just for an insurance carrier mind you, but for an entire region of brands regardless of category. The “We’re A Lot Like You. A Little Different.” advertising campaign, conceptualize by DNA, Seattle, was based on the insight that our northwest neighbors, very passionate about the corner of the world where we live, weren't nearly as excited about insurance. The idea was to shine a light on the unique, quirky, offbeat characters that make the Northwest special, and clearly establish PEMCO as the local company that is just as unique as the people living here. A company that truly "gets it" because we live, work, learn and play in the same neighborhoods and communities as they do.

In order to show them that we know them in ways that others don't, the PEMCO Northwest Profiles were born. Over 100 types of local characters found in this special region - highly recognizable to those who know the area and culture intimately. The campaign, which was launched in television, radio, print, out-of-home, online and through strategic partnerships, gained popularity and talk about PEMCO and the Northwest Profiles increased and consumer suggestions for new profiles were offered frequently.

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Grateful - Thankful - Blessed

Earlier today I saw a friends post on Facebook that caused me to pause and think a little bit. It was a challenge that urged readers to think about what they're grateful for... right now... in the moment.

Here's what the post said... "A friend, R. M., posted the following on her blog this morning: "My challenge to you, right now, is to write out ten things you are grateful for. Type them in the comments, scribble them on paper, tweet some, write them on Facebook, say them out loud. Make the choice." 

The timing was perfect. I'd been resting on the couch for nearly three days fighting a head cold that had gotten the best of me. I was beginning to feel sorry for myself and needed a little reminder that I really had nothing to complain about. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here's my list. 
  1. For a father who modeled a committed work ethic and belief in family values.
  2. For a mother who was always there for her children and never resented a moment of the time it took to raise us.
  3. For children who have made me incredibly proud of them for their accomplishments and for their differences. And for a wife who loves me for who I am and reminds me of it daily.
  4. For the unconditional love and trust that comes from grandchildren in ways that you can only understand by experiencing it.
  5. For second chances and the ability to both accept them and give them.
  6. For all the positive people in my life who see the glass as half full - looking forward with hope and anticipation.
  7. For mentors who've believed in me - encouraging me to stretch myself, think differently, and look beyond the obvious to see what others don't.
  8. For the opportunity and resources to help make a difference in the lives of others.
  9. For the realization that no matter how difficult the challenges in my life may seem there are people who would exchange them for their own in a heartbeat.
  10. For a country that enables me to live, learn and love where, what and who I choose - and all the men and women who protect and defend our freedom.
And there's one more. It's one that those who live with me or work with me closely have come to know and understand.  I'm grateful for "Second Thought Rod" - the voice of reason and my inner compass. Without him, a lot of poor decisions would have been made.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What are you grateful for?

People are talking. Is anyone listening?


There's a powerful message for marketers embedded in the elections taking place this week. The voice of the customer is alive and well.

It's the time in our country when we are reminded that the voice of the public really matters. Our insights, opinions, the things we like, and the things that wear us out come to the surface of conversations and debates. Loyalists and advocates for candidates, causes, initiatives, and groups have raised their voices in family rooms, coffee shops, town hall meetings, and many other face-to-face venues. Social networks are abuzz with status updates, blog entries, and highly efficient tweets that are expressly intended to let our friends, family, and members of the voting public - that we've never even met - know what matters to us and who we're convinced are the best candidates to solve the issues that we consider important. The volume of our communication is at a level like never before. And what we say matters.

Of course, listening matters too.

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Mix Thinking with Feeling For Understanding

"More important than being right, or being important, is being truly aware." - Jessica Hagy

It was one of hundreds - maybe thousands - of tweets that fly through my twitter stream on a daily basis. The odds of me seeing, opening, and exploring the link attached to this one were low. But because it was posted by a friend that I haven't connected with recently, I made the time. I'm glad I did.

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The Ace of Human


October is breast cancer awareness month. Today, my PEMCO colleages gathered for an hour long program that we call @PEMCO Live. As part of the program, I was asked to talk about the reason we chose to support the Lee Denin Day fight against breast cancer. I was asked to share the story from a man's perspective. It was tougher than I thought it would be, but I was proud to stand up and speak out against a disease that hits to many of our family members... a dissease that has come inside our home. These were my remarks:

One in eight women will have breast cancer within their lifetime. There are 100 new cases diagnosed each week in Washington State alone! Some, those that are the most fortunate of that group, will go into remission. Some are described as having no further evidence of disease. And some will die with it… but not of it. They are the breast cancer survivor’s – the lucky ones.

It's hard to talk about being a breast cancer survivor, because there is still no definitive cure. But one day there will be. Until there is, it’s important that we each find a way to – in my words – “play the ace of human.” It’s the play that trumps depression, sadness, worry, and fatigue. You see, the ace of human is love.

Clearly, I’m not a breast cancer survivor. At least not the way most of us would think of one.

I don’t have firsthand experience about the recommended monthly self-examinations, the annual mammograms, the nervous waiting, the call-backs, the needle-biopsies, the MRI’s, or the ultra-sounds. I haven’t considered the choices between a lumpectomy and the accompanying need for radiation or chemotherapy treatments, versus a single or double mastectomy where I choose to give up a part of my body.

I haven’t made decisions about whether to take a post-recovery drug that lowers my odds of breast cancer recurring but increases the likelihood of contracting uterine cancer or dying without warning due to a 1 in 1000 chance of experiencing a fatal stroke. I haven’t wondered if people would look at me differently and I haven’t had to consider a reconstructive surgeon’s opinion that there is a 50-60% chance that my reconstruction could go horribly wrong.

I haven’t done any of those things. But my wife has done them all.

Cancer Ribbon on BlkIt was on Tuesday, February 7th. I was here at work and Cindy was at her doctor’s appointment after her second mammogram in as many months. The first wasn’t clear enough and something suspicious had been detected.

It was mid-afternoon before I noticed that I’d received a text message earlier in the day. It was short and to the point. The core of the message said…

Not quite the results I was hoping for. Don't call me yet, I'm still processing the information. Biopsy on Thursday."

It’s been eight months since that day in February and a lot has happened.

For Cindy all the aforementioned tests and decisions culminated in a bilateral mastectomy. During the surgery a small number of enlarged lymph nodes were removed and tested for indications of breast cancer. The good news is that that the nodes were free of breast cancer.

The bad news is that yet another form of cancer – non-Hodgkin lymphoma – was found. No one ever said that the fight with cancer would be fair.

For me, the day that I received that text message was the day that my priorities in life became instantly clear. I learned that it’s much harder to decide what to make important when things are going good than it is when life throws someone you care about an unexpected curve.

And for us – well we became even more of a team. We attended every appointment, consultation, and procedure together. We discussed every decision… and we considered all the options together.

We were surprised by the outpouring of support from our friends and acknowledged that the thoughtfulness and genuine concern that was shown to us by others truly made a difference.

Today, I’m here to invite you to stand up to breast cancer.

   If you or your wife have been personally touched by breast cancer please stand up.

   If your mother, daughter, or grandmother has had breast cancer please stand up.

   If your sister or aunt has had breast cancer please stand up.

   If you have a niece or a cousin who has battled breast cancer please stand up.

   If you’ve had a close friend or neighbor who fought breast cancer please stand up.

   If there’s someone you know that has encountered breast cancer, please stand up.

According to the National Cancer Institute – and I quote here - "An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included.”

You don’t fight breast cancer with a pink ribbon alone; you fight it with a team. You are all included in the survivorship experience. Thanks for standing up for the fight against breast cancer.

Thanks for being part of the team and for “Playing the Ace of Human” by sharing what’s in your heart.

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

Rather illuminating

WOMM Advice From A Broadcast Legend

What advice would a 60-year broadcast-news icon offer that pertains to word of mouth marketing? 

A Small Rather

I recently had the privilege to meet Dan Rather – the 2012 recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement presented annually by the Washington State University Murrow College of Communications. It was a rare privilege to see the genuine interest that the longtime CBS news reporter, London correspondent, and network news anchor had in the students that he addressed -both in the classroom and during his keynote address.

As I reflect on his remarks, I can’t help but consider the stark contrast that exists between the education that Rather received and the tools that were available to him with those of aspiring young professionals in the digital age. Rather spoke of the transformation that occurred between the day in 1963 when he broke the news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Texas and the four days in September of 2011 when he anchored the CBS News coverage of attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

“The digital age has ushered in a new era of speed and accessibility in today’s transfer of information. But meanwhile, a trend of rising confusion in America and a lack of faith in the press has emerged,” Rather said.

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No Place I'd Rather Be

Rather working

There are times when we know we're in the right place at the right time. For the most part those are uniquely personal occasions that can be tied to someone or something we care deeply about. There are also situations when the right time and place has little to do with us. Instead, in those cases, it's often an occasion that shines a bright light on the life and accomplishments of someone else. Those are the times when we can learn from the experiences of a person who has lived their life in an extraordinary way.

I was in the right place at the right time on Thursday. It was the day when a legendary broadcaster, Dan Rather, was honored with a tribute that - borrowing now from the theme of his evening address - "truly mattered."

Rather with us

At noon I had the opportunity to shake his hand and meet him with my stepdaughter Abby, who just as I was forty years ago, is an aspiring communications student at Washington State University. Later that evening, when Rather was presented with the 2012 Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement, I listened intently as he showed genuine sincerity along with moments of rare emotion while sharing his keynote address: The Power of the Murrow Legacy. During his 60-year career Rather followed frequently in the footsteps of the awards namesake, Edward R. Murrow. Whether in the field in London or at the CBS anchor desk, Rather acknowledged that he regularly asked himself, "What would Murrow do?

Earlier in the day, Rather visited classrooms where, as Murrow had done decades ago, students study to become the next generation of journalists and broadcasters in the digital age. Among the advice Rather shared were three noteworthy tips that, he said, would ensure the students would never have to worry about finding or retaining a job: 1) Learn to write, 2) Learn to write, and 3) Learn to write.

Simple and straight forward advice from a legend. I'd say that those students were definitely in the right place at the right time. And so was I.

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A Rookie With An Edge

Russell WilsonYes it's early. The NFL season is only two weeks old and already there have been surprising upsets and unexpected performances. There are ten starting quarterbacks who have one year or less of NFL experience - the most since 1950. It's much too early to predict how each will turn out or how their respective teams will fare. But we can enjoy the moment.

In Seattle, there's a new starting quarterback too - just as everyone expected. Last years starter, Tavaris Jackson, is now in Buffalo and Matt Flynn, who the Seahawks signed in the off-season, is reportedly one of the league's most highly paid backups. 

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Parenting & Grief: Like the ocean tide

A tide
The conference room at the REI Flagship store in Seattle was filled with leaders and senior staff that guide our company's strategic direction and operational implementation plans. The meeting was part of PEMCO Insurance's Interactive Leadership Series and the guest speaker for the day was Dr. John Medina - the best selling author of "Brain Rules" and one of the country's leading authorities on how the mind reacts to and organizes information.  This was the groups second engagement with Dr. Medina and the expectation was that we would be getting deeper into the information around how the human brain can best influence accountability and trust as components of leadership.  And we did.

Dr. Medina used humor, empathy, tone and volume to keep his audience engaged. 

When he talked about the functions of the "lizard brain" he referred to the four F's - Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, and Mating. (Yes, he said he wanted to keep his talk rated PG-13). 

He mixed in examples of "games you can't lose" like bobbing for water, and connect the dot. And along the way, sprinkled in through the course of our time together, there were some valuable non-business anecdotes and stories.  Those who listened carefully and paid attention to what was said between Medina's major points, may have come away with even greater value. I know I did.
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Tips For Agencies From The Client Side

Marketing NW 3

It’s been 18 months since I was invited to write the inaugural Client Commentary column for Marketing Newspaper - the long-standing publication that has served the Puget Sound regions communications industry since 1986. I was asked to provide a few "tips for agencies" from a clients perspective. My first offering came from a list of 25 top of mind topics. Publisher Larry Coffman diplomatically suggested that I might be wise to temper my unbridled enthusiasm and begin with my top five suggestions. In March, two more were published and the September edition will complete what has been pared down to a Letterman-like “Top 10 List.”

As a  reminder, the first seven suggestions for agencies to consider, from a client perspective, included:

1. Loyalty matters.
2. Commit to the journey.
3. The brand is everything.
4. It’s not your money!
5. There’s no such thing as full service.
6. When you sell yourself, deliver yourself.
7. Excuse me, but isn’t that “our” award?

Now let’s finish the list with tips 8, 9, and 10.
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Don't forget the bells and whistles!

Ring out passion, enthusiasm, Eagerness, and Commitment

Bells and WhistlesA weathered bell and tarnished whistle are tied together on a faded and discolored ribbon, and sit on the credenza behind my desk as valuable reminders of what not to forget or take for granted. A client of an agency deserves their best – including the bells and whistles – not just when presentations are made to win the initial business, but throughout the relationship as well. The same is true for consumers who purchase the products and services that are sold in retail businesses and online websites as well. They deserve – and increasingly expect – more than a product in exchange for a price. They’re seeking added value – the surprise and delight – that comes with bells and whistles.

Please read the rest of the story by clicking on this link to my guest column published in the September 11th edition of All Things WOMM.

Steel Toed Boots

Steel Toed Boots

A date to remember

It’s an understatement to say that September 11th means a lot to our country. The horrific terrorizing events of that day in 2001 have captured a place in the hearts and minds of all who experience them, regardless of how or where we heard the news. It’s a day that must never be forgotten. Of that I’m certain most everyone will agree.

Yet as important as it is, this isn’t a post about the day that you are remembering. It’s a post about that day but not that date.

Click here to read more.

Routine or Remarkable?

Are your products and services remarkable? Does your messaging tell people why?

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, has been quoted as saying that “Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service.”

For decades, brands and their agencies have looked for magic messages to compensate for the unremarkable; persuasive messages that could be shouted into the unsuspecting ears of the public; messages that differentiate based on what, where and for how much, but seldom by sharing a story of why the brand exists.

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Call For Complaints

The next time you're in a cab take a look around. What do you see that surprises you?

Rod In CabI'm not a frequent cab user but over the years I've been in my share. For my most resent business trip - instead of paying the ridiculous parking rates at Sea-Tac International - I decided to leave my car at the office and take a cab. 

After sliding into the car and exchanging the necessary information with the driver, I fastened my seat belt and looked around the cab. 

There were the expected postings of rates for time and distance, a holder displaying the drivers city issued permit and mugshot, a few novelties on the dashboard, and the always present meter that clicked up the fare in what appeared to be ten cent increments.

Nowhere in the cab had my driver, or the company he worked for, done anything out of the ordinary to make the time I spent in his cab a little more pleasant. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

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10 Tips For Developing A Successful Career

Fork in Trail

"When you get to a fork in the road, take it" - Yogi Berra

When I meet with young people who are contemplating a business or marketing career, one of the questions I'm most frequently asked is "how do you get to be you?"  Said differently they're really asking, "what do we need to do in order to have the type of career opportunity and success that you seem to have had."

Early on I answered by sharing my resume and telling them the story of my career progression. Later, I realized that I was leaving out the secret sauce - the understanding that that a career path is not a straight line. It's a winding path that becomes a journey. One that is traveled in small steps that may not always appear to be headed in the right direction... until the path clears and the progress you've made becomes more evident. 

I've looked back on my career and listed the steps that the journey has taken me. It started by developing a work ethic when I was a young boy. Over time education and experience was added. With each small success came confidence and then courage. Courage to take bigger steps, to go down less familiar paths, and - perhaps most importantly - a realization of who to follow and when to lead.
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Alumni Edge: Easy come - easy go.

Please Don't Treat Me Like A Dawg... Even For 15%

13 CoinsIn Washington, there are two kinds of people that come to mind when college loyalty and affinity are discussed. You have your Cougs (Go Cougs... 1975) and you have your Dawgs.

It's not hard to tell which is which. One group wears crimson and the other purple. Neither group would ever change places with the other. That's just the way it is.

And that brings me to the point of this post. In order for a business to get an edge with either of these card carrying alumni groups, the business won't need to pick one over the other (although that might be optimal), but the business will have to know who belongs to which group.

Last week, after years of hosting breakfast meetings at Seattle's 13 Coins Restaurant, I was delighted to be able to flash my newly issued WSU Cougar Card in exchange for a 15% discount. I was impressed.Coug and Dawg

Unfortunately, I wasn't impressed for long. When the final bill was presented for my signature, the discount was listed as a "15% Dawg Deal." Something that for any self-respecting Coug is totally unacceptable. One step forward and two steps back.

A lesson learned long ago applies here. "A brilliant strategy that is poorly executed is far worse than a mediocre strategy executed brilliantly."

By the way, the Joe's Special at 13 Coins is outstanding.

Go Cougs!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

And the winner is...

The first annual Marketing awards program has been completed and the winners were announced last week. The list included campaigns, ads, spots, releases, programs and  events that were created and presented by a veritable who's who of northwest agencies and brands. Hosted by the regions most popular marketing publication, Marketing NW, publisher Larry Coffman has found yet another way to enable high-fiving, toast making , and mantle decorating moments. We all do it... it's part of what defines our success.

And yes... I'm feeling a little proud myself.  "Seeing The Edge - the blog I created in January last year - was voted to be the best submission in the category. (I guess it eventually pays off to be part of a really large family).

I'd like to give a special shout out to Brian Forth and the SiteCrafting team for enabling the vision I defined for my blog and for designing it in such a way that enables me to put my energy into the writing and sharing. Super job!

Winning Personal Blog

Ten Marketing Lessons We Learned From Mom

Love Mom blocks

Yesterday, while thinking about the edge that my mom provided our family, I paused to consider how much she influenced the marketer in me. “Don’t forget to say please and thank you,” she told us, and “always tell the truth” was a value she consistently modeled and expected. Like most mom's, she was a brilliant communications strategist capable of pulling out gems like, "If you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all."

Yes, we marketers can learn a lot if we think back to the lessons our mother’s taught us. I invited the marketing professionals among my Facebook friends to consider and share the marketing lessons that their mother may have taught them.

1. Be polite, friendly, and honest.

There was no shortage of reminders about saying please and thank-you when mom was around. She knew the importance and value of well-mannered requests and in showing respectful appreciation. Misleading, omitting, or altering the truth was simply not tolerated. Like consumers today, mom could always tell if we were anything less than forthright.

2. Keep your room clean.

There were a number of wise submissions from marketers whose mothers kept the environment and safety at the top of their list. “Wipe your feet… Clean your room… Wash your hands… Be home before dark…” As in marketing, it was all about respecting the community, being aware of our surroundings, and doing the right thing.

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Livin' The Dream

Getting paid for your passion

To know what you love is the first step toward loving what you do. I saw this post in my Facebook news feed this morning that reinforced the benefit of identifying our passion.

FB Quote - Passion











For decades I've been talking about the importance of "going to fun" instead of "going to work." In my opinion, it's the only thing that makes sense. Congratulations to all who have found the to identify your passion and then fournd someone who will pay you to do it. Congratulations to you Trishann. And thanks for inspiring this short post.

The Memory Box

Memory BoxThis afternoon I opened a box full of memories.

The plan was to completely clean and organize the piles and boxes of clutter that have accumulated around the edges of my home office.. It's the kind of mess that sort of grows on you. An unfinished book here, a few magazines there, a few pieces of to be recycled electrical equipment in the corner. You know the look. Some call it "organized chaos." Today was my day to get it all back into shape. 

But I made that one big mistake. Even though I knew what was in the oversized plastic storage container - the one that is big enough to double as a Costco shopping cart - I unsnapped the lid and began sifting through a lifetime of this and that. One memory after another.

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Faith, hope, and love

Cindy Rod Cruise
Looking back through my blog this morning I saw a post that I wrote last year on the day before Easter. It was focused on our twins, Abby and Amelia, and the commitment that they were about to make as an expression of their belief and faith in Jesus Christ.

The focus of my post was that five letter word - "faith" - and how much we rely on it to get through so much of our lives. Faith and trust are key components of what give us hope.

Now, a full year later, I'm once again thinking about faith, trust and hope. This year it's very personal. 

The love of my life, my wife Cindy, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We're fortunate in some ways, because despite not being identified in her annual mammogram, enough suspicion existed that a series of five or six additional tests and examinations were conducted that made the diagnosis clear and certain. I'm very thankful for that, even though I was praying for it to be a big mistake. I must admit that there was a brief time when I was about to give up on the praying. Having someone tell you that your wife has breast cancer after weeks of praying for a different outcome can cause that to happen. Until I was reminded that finding such a small tumor was in and of itself a bit of a miracle. Of course, that's the right way to think of it. 
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Where's The Social Sales Professional?

Have you heard what they’re saying?

social funnelAnalysts watching emerging engagement trends have identified sales professionals as the least likely group to commit to the adoption and use of social media. Really? Marketing departments and communication teams get it. Public relations and brand managers are on board. And now we’re seeing a shift toward the use of social media by customer service teams and contact centers as well. What about social media for sales people? Why has it taken that group longer to catch on and catch up to their peers throughout the organizations that they work for?

Some argue that the lack of explicit buy-in is due in large part to the time-honored truism often expressed as WIIFM, or “what’s in it for me?” In short, the sales professional hasn’t been able to see the sale as an outcome of their engagement. Are you still wondering how time spent utilizing popular social media tools will favorably impact your revenue and income? Let’s look for some answers.

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Who wants a CMO for a BFF?

Insurance & TechnologyAre you and PEMCO's CIO BFF's at work?

That, or a very similar question, was what "Insurance and Technology" reporter Nathan Golia wanted to know when we concluded an unrelated conversation yesterday afternoon. Nathan caught me by a little by surprise, but I understood right away what he was getting at. He was interested in organizational silos and wanted to know whether or not I believed that CIO's and CMO's needed to collaborate more closely in order to win in the marketplace.

As I shared with Nathan, close knit collaboration and cross-functional leadership is more critical today than ever before. Previous eras were primarily fueled by a corporate focus on operational efficiency, financial performance, or product innovation. Today, in the conversation economy, the voice of the customer and the impact of social engagement has made the CMO an important best friend for members of the C-suite to embrace.  Here's the full story.

That's my opinion. What's yours?

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

Memories of Melba Marie

Last Rod & MelbaToday I participated in my Aunt Melba's memorial service. There was a big crowd of family, neighbors, and friends who arrived to celebrate her life and pay tribute to her memory. I was asked to participate by making a memorial video and sharing a few words that express my feelings about the aunt that was also my next door neighbor for the first twenty years of my life. She was my mother's baby sister and could have easily been considered a second mother to my sisters and me. 

So what do you suppose I decide to talk about?  I doubt you'll ever guess. 
If you'd like to know, you can read the story in the "Personal Edge" section or you can simply click here.

Tip 9 - Advice For Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Client's Perspective


bait and switch: When a fairly attractive woman or man introduces themselves to a group of the opposite sex in order to get their ugly friend in the door." - Urban Dictionary

If you are going to make the pitch, stick around to field the ball.

We all know the drill. The client tells a group of agencies it intends to review capabilities for potential engagement. If chosen, you’ll add that brand to your client list, unleash creativity for the market to admire and enjoy a valued relationship for years to come.

Weeks later, after copious information exchange, your agency is up to speed on the mission, vision, values, business model and unique selling proposition of the brand. It’s time for your pitch. You walk into the client’s conference room with your agency’s founder, owner, partners, president, creative chief and head strategist.

Whether you flew across the country or walked across town, at that very moment the client’s brand is Priority No. 1 in your minds. You say all the right things. Collectively, you’re the best and brightest your office has to offer. You’re experienced, smart and really seem to understand the client’s needs. You know them as a brand, a business and as people. It feels just right.

So, your agency gets the order, the account and the business. The client gets your promise and thinks, “This might be the start of a professional partnership.”

And then it happens. 

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Market Mix 2012

womma - logo - med
Word of mouth is, without question, the most powerful form of marketing. Over 90% of consumers have at least one brand-related face-to-face conversation each and every day. Nearly 80% of us say we trust recommendations from other consumers while more than 75% believe that companies are untruthful in their advertising. Clearly, today’s smart marketers are seeking out ways to stimulate consumer conversations and generate sustainable buzz

On Tuesday, March 20th, I'll have the opportunity to introduce MarketMix attendees to WOMMA – the organization that I discovered in 2007 that  has made a remarkable difference in the success of PEMCO’s rejuvenated brand and campaign.

I'll share the five key principles of effective word of mouth marketing along with the four decisions that every marketer and brand manager can make to fuel the conversation and create engagement for their brands. Are you looking for an edge? Then this is a session you won’t want to miss!  Reserve your seat today.
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Are you asking the right questions?

Geno Church

Do you have a word of mouth notebook for the answers?

A friend and amazingly successful practitioner of word of mouth marketing, Geno Church, is a regular contributor to the Brains On Fire blog. Geno has a wealth of great information to share that frequently causes me to consider ways to improve and inspires me to ask better questions when seeking answers.

For instance, consider this final paragraph from one of Geno's most recent posts. 

The question we’re asked most often after a presentation (and on our blog) is “Where do I start?” The answer to that question can be found in an even bigger question eloquently expressed in a recent blog post by Ed Keller: “Marketers can’t choose a “social strategy” without first understanding the motivations of consumers to share. There’s your answer: “What motivates your customers to share?” I would also add your employees into that equation, too. So let’s do a little WOM project together. Let’s take a week to start digging into what motivates your employees and your customers to share. Dust off that Moleskine, Field Notes or notepad and let’s have some conversation.

I encourage you to read the entire post. The story's a great one and the nuggets of knowledge are plentiful.

Tip 8 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective


"The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." - Phil Jackson

Collaboration Looks Good On You

Once you've come to understand and accept tip number five, that there's no such thing as full service, it follows that successful agencies will need to learn to embrace collaboration with the variety of service partners that have been selected by your clients. You won't get a vote on who the partners are, the skills that the client has asked them to bring, or the degree to which each of the partners are engaged. 

To use a familiar metaphor, your client is the chef and your agency is but one of the important ingredients in the stew. In order for the dish to be as savory and satisfying as the chef intends, it will require an number of equally important ingredients and none of them can be allowed to overpower the flavor of the dish. Instead, each ingredient as it is added to the stew must enhance the flavor and bring out the best of the other ingredients that are added to the mix. 

Being willing to collaborate instead of competing is the secret to long term success in the new millennium. Collaboration is a behavior trait that reflects well on those who are willing and able to put their own wants and needs off to the side of their clients. Those who arrogantly or selfishly presume that they are the strongest partner or that they have more of the best ideas will not only be the biggest loser, but will ultimately kill the partnership between the remaining agencies. Consider the following suggestions for successful collaboration:

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Tireless and Talkable Campaigns:

Decisions slide

Four decisions every brand can make to fuel the conversation

In the Northwest, everyone knows the guy who sports a pair of sandals with a pair of wool socks. Around here, there are certain quirks that set the people of this corner of the country apart from other regions.

That’s the sentiment at the center of PEMCO Insurance’s award-winning “We’re A Lot Like You. A Little Different.” advertising campaign, which features more than 70 tongue-in-cheek descriptions of people frequently spotted around the Northwest, including the ever-popular Sandals and Socks Guy.

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Valentine Passion

There's not a lot of Valentine Card sharing that goes between coworkers... Especially out in the open. Today I received one from two of the women that I rely on. Here's the card and the note that I sent back to them.

Valentine Analytic v Passion

Hi ladies,

I can’t get the card out of my mind. The two of you touched me this morning. Thanks.

Sometime in the last month, while in a meeting that I don’t remember now, the thought about analytics and passion appeared. I can’t even remember if I heard it or thought it. Either way, what I do remember is that it resonated with me and I shared it via Twitter and Facebook. I had several people respond to me that it resonated with as well.

To see that thought used in your card today made it all that much more powerful. I just want to tell you that. Thanks again.

Happy Valentine’s Day,


Tip 7 - Advice for Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Clients Perspective


bells and whistles - "things that something has or does that are not necessary but that make it more exciting or interesting" - Cambridge Idioms Dictiionary 

7. Don't forget the bells and whistles! A weathered bell and tarnished whistle tied together on what is now a faded and discolored ribbon sit on the credenza behind my desk. They aren’t expensive but they are a tremendously valuable reminder of what not to forget or take for granted. A client deserves your very best – and that includes the bells and whistles – not just on the presentation that you make to win the initial business, but throughout the relationship as well.
Early in my career as the advertising director at Schuck’s Auto Supply, I worked with a Portland based agency that had won our account long before the company hired me. They continued to produce campaign components that were consistent, affordable and in line with expectations that had been established when they were hired. Looking back, I remember that they didn’t seem to invest much in the relationship. They had the account and were in service and delivery mode. Some might say that they delivered the steak, but seldom exposed the sizzle.

A time came when we looked to refresh and relaunch our brand position and marketing campaign. The incumbent agency, along with two or three hand picked challengers, was invited to make presentations. As expected, all were very good. Two were exceptional and separated themselves from the pack. One was the incumbent and the other a smaller firm with everything to gain and nothing to lose. One of the two, while not significantly better than the other, brought an almost magical presence into the room. Their presentation was inspiring, entertaining and just plain fun to witness. There was a feeling of enthusiasm and energy. They delivered the sizzle. They brought the bells and whistles.

In the days that followed, the final decision was in my hands. I wrestled with my feelings about loyalty and commitment, but couldn’t separate the energizing appeal of the challenger. Ultimately, it was the challenger that was selected. It was a great call to make and I never regretted the decision.

Bells and Whistles

The call to the incumbent was more difficult. They were shocked by my decision and the reality that it would not help them to appeal to my boss. When they were ready to listen and asked me why I’d made the choice that I did, I told them that while their concepts were solid and strategy was sound, their energy and passion during our meeting was clearly lacking. I told them that of all the businesses that I worked with I expected a marketing firm to be the best at selling themselves – complete with bells and whistles.

In the next day or two, a package arrived on my desk. It was wrapped in a multi-colored foil that was brightly decorated. Inside, the box was packed with confetti and streamers. And in the center of the box was a ribbon tied to a hand written note. As I pulled the ribbon from the confetti I revealed a collection of bells and whistles. On the note were just a few sentences. “Thank you for the lesson about the importance of bells and whistles. Here’s what we forgot yesterday. We won’t make another presentation without them.”

Tip 6 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective.


""The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the credit" - George Carlin

Which are you, the caterpillar or the butterfly?

6. Excuse me, but isn’t that “our” award? There’s a time of year when agency principals and senior staff don their tuxes, slip on their gowns, or at least dry clean their blue blazers to go with their newest designer-label jeans. When more than a few of them do it at the same time and place, you know it must be an awards banquet. It’s a night long anticipated, one that determines bragging rights when agencies pitch prospective clients or update collateral and websites.

The next time you attend one of those events, pause and look around the room. Note who’s there. Count how many people work for agencies, public relations firms, or the service providers that so effectively support our craft. Then count again. How many of the brands who paid for the work and bore the risk do you see? I’m betting that client employees will be hugely under-represented. You probably know where I’m going with this. Maybe a little of my disappointment is showing through … and maybe you feel a bit embarrassed.

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Yum Yonanas

The beginning

Where the beginning Should have began...

If you've been following along for the past five months you know that I've been providing weekly updates about my effort and progress toward a healthier life - a life that weighs at least 100 pounds less than I did last summer. So far, after twenty-two weeks I've released 45.5 pounds and at least six inches in my waist. Averaging approximately ten pounds each month keeps a smile on my face. The interest and support of so many friends and family helps me to hold myself accountable.  If you'ld like to look at the journey so far just click on the "Healthy Edge" tab and scan through the weeks that are posted in that section of this blog.

Yonannas on display
Whether you are on a similar journey or not, I want to introduce you to one of the most amazing kitchen appliances that we own. It was a gift from two very close and caring long-term friends last Christmas and it's really getting a workout. It's called "Yonanas."

Our Yonana is like a kitchen wizard that turns the goodness of fruit into the greatness of a soft-serve ice cream like desert or a refreshing sorbet. In less than five minutes it blends frozen fruit, without adding anything else (no sweeteners, no liquids, nothing) into the most satisfying and amazingly delicious treats. We enjoy what our Yonanas makes at least a few times every week.  

Looks good enough to eat... So I did! Yum!
Yonanas Large

Tip 5 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective


While it might be tempting to take on a client's entire business, there's no way one agency can do everything well. 

Brands marketers have a way of sorting things out. It doesn't take long to see through the full service makeup that agencies put on these days. Many excellent botique firms tend to lose sight of what they are best at in a quest to be bigger... but not better. Too many agencies, in trying to be all things to all marketers, are getting bogged down and doing a disservice to themselves and their clients. 

5. There’s no such thing as full service. Just like major department stores have felt pressure from specialty retailers who line mall corridors between the giant anchor tenants, so have full-service agencies. They feel the pressure from boutique service providers in the marketing world.

Fragmentation and specialization is a reality and it’s a strategic advantage to the client who masters the skill required to hire and manage the boutiques. I’m wary of large firms who hang a “we do it all” banner above their door. I simply don’t believe that a single firm can be the best at everything. For that matter, who can?

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Customer Voice - Our Greatest Marketing Asset

CMR Logo Small

Last week I attended the second annual Content Marketing Retreat in Langley, Washington. During the course of the two day event I interacted with thought leaders, service providers, sole proprietors, non-profits, and representatives of regional business both large and small. Without exception I was impressed by the passion, interest and understanding about the importance that should be placed on the voice of the customer.

I had the opportunity to open the event with keynote remarks that focused on marketing fitness, content excellence, and making meaningful connections. 

Content Marketing - A CMO's View (w/o speakers notes due to PDF upload)

Please read on for a summary of thoughts that I shared during the retreat.

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From The Guest Book - Olivia McIvor

Olivia McIvor

Bringing Her Whole Self 

I'd like to introduce you to another of the new friends that I've had the good fortune to meet during the past year. Her name is Olivia McIvor and she is a remarkable individual that was invited to provide the thought leadership for one of PEMCO Insurance's Interactive Leadership Sessions last year. 
Olivia and I have enjoyed exchanging ideas and experiences that help to identify the edges in how people live their lives. Olivia is an accomplished author, speaker, and leadership facilitator...  she's even a board member of The Kindness Foundation of Canada. How cool is that! 

I invited Olivia to contribute to my guest book and somehow she found the time. I hope you enjoy her life changing story. It's about how she discovered her edge.

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Tip 4 - Advice For Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Client's Perspective


"We don't nickel and dime customers with extra fees; other airlines do." - Southwest Airlines

4. It's not your money. If you’re wondering why that tension exists between you and your client, it’s probably got something to do with the money that isn’t yours. You know, the money you’re seeking in proposal after proposal that appears as if you think your client has direct access to the U.S. Mint.

Would you really spend that kind of money to market your agency? I didn’t think so. In fact, I’ve not seen you spend much of your own money promoting your agency at all. So surprise us with a proposal that looks like you thought about our money once in awhile. Be a little different and show us what hungry, scrappy, and efficient looks like.

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The New Currency Of Successful Brands

CMR 2012

Analytics and measurement won’t get the job done. Passion makes a huge difference. Content excellence is the critical secret sauce for winning businesses!

Thursday, January 26th, I will have the privilege of providing the opening address to attendees of the second annual Content Marketing Retreat at the Center for New Media in Langley, Washington.

That’s more than a little ironic because I consider myself to be more of a student than a teacher on the topic. In fact, as critical as I know content excellence to be, I continue to assess and shift the thinking that will ultimately be embodied in the content direction and strategy that our company, PEMCO Insurance, embraces. 

Of the things that I am most certain there is one that stands out – one that I’m most passionate about. The voice of the customer will be at the heart of our success and content excellence, regardless of the source, must be embraced, encouraged, and enabled in order to consistently win in the marketplace.

Russell Sparkman, founder of Fusionspark Media and organizer of next weeks retreat, visited my office where we talked about a variety of topics expected to be addressed during the two day event. One that he asked me to give some thought to centers on executive leadership and support for newly emerging strategies. Here are some of the thoughts that I shared.

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Focus on fitness, communication, and connections.

focusFocus is a very good thing!

Earlier this month, as the new year began, I boldly posted an entry to this blog declaring that I would have "No New Resolutions" in 2012.  The reason, simply stated, is that my resolve to accomplish a few specific goals in 2011 needs my continued focus and commitment. To spread myself too thin only deverts my attention from the most important things.

As a PEMCO colleague likes to say "Keep the main thing the main thing."

Within days of my post, Russell Sparkman, the founder of FusionSpark and organizer of the second annual Content Marketing Retreat in Langley, Washington, contacted me with the following question.

"With focus being core to your success, what would you say is the most important area of focus for marketers in the coming year?"

This was my response...

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Tip 3 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective.







"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a  person.  You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well."  Jeff Bezos

It can be an awkward dance - the one between an agency and a client. Who leads? At what tempo? Is it a waltz, rumba or salza? Through all the mystery and suspense one thing is certain. There is only one prize... and the client decides who they will add to their brand dance card.

3. The brand is everything.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been contacted by an agency that wanted a chance to win a piece of our business but hadn’t taken the time to understand our brand. Agencies often have a tendency to make it all about them—their competencies, their awards and their ideas—even their other clients.

So here’s a tip from someone who’s been on the other side. We don’t care as much as you’d like us to. We’d prefer to hear that you’ve done your homework and have taken time to get familiar with our brand; that you’ve shopped our stores, tried our products, called our service centers and visited with our employees. Stand in the customers’ shoes. Learn something about our history, our values and our promise. If you haven‘t done your homework, you’ll find that we won’t be very good listeners.

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Tip 2 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective.








"Never stop educating your client" - David Dallaire, Principal, Fennec Consulting

The type of relationship a client has with an agency can take several forms - strategic or tactical, partnership or vendor, long term or temporary. Regardless of the relationships design there are ways that agencies can increase their value to the client. In response to last weeks tip regarding loyalty, David Dallaire wrote, "... an agency should always be bringing new ideas - not just about the client's current business and industry, but some "blue ocean" strategies as well as even more mundane things like the process you use to work together." I couldn't agree more.

After more than thirty years on the client side of the equation I've come up with some tips to offer agency colleagues an edge... as seen from my side of the coin. This is the second installment in the series.

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The Coachable Have An Edge

"Almost all of the top producers that I know are always seeking an edge. They’re always looking for a new idea, a new approach, or a new way to create value for their clients. They want some edge that will allow them to produce even greater results, and they are open to trying new things to get those results." 
                   - S. Anthony Iannarino

Are those with an Edge Coachable?

What kind of people would you expect to be continually looking beyond the obvious to see what others don't? Competitive people? Driven people? Self starters and people with ambition? I suspect many of those who strive to see the edge would be described like that. In addition, I think words like curious, inquisitive, bright, and accomplished are words that could be used.

And what do edge seekers do? Are they executives, sales people, athletes, artists, scientists? Might they be public servants, philanthropists, and volunteers. Or are they simply the cream of the crop. The people who make it to the top in every walk of life?

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Tip 1 - Advice for Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Client's Perspective


"Clients get the advertising that they deserve" - Dan Gross, Principal & Executive Creative Director of DNA, Seattle

I think I've heard Dan say that at least a half-dozen times in the 15-20 years that he and I have been doing business together. And I think he's right. In many ways, the quality of the work produced by an agency is in direct relationship to the quality of the client the work is being done for. Some clients never seem to understand that. Of course, some agencies never seem to get it either.

Earlier this year my friend Larry Coffman, publisher of Marketing NW, suggested that I tap into my 30 years of working with local, regional and national brands (while never working in an agency) to provide some insights from the client side of the relationship.

I stopped creating the my list of suggested insights when I got to 25. It turns out, or so it seems, that I think there’s a lot of advice to share with agencies. Here's the first of several tips that I plan to highlight over the coming days.

1. Loyalty matters. What I’m about to say may not be what you expected. But like the company I work for, PEMCO Insurance, I know I’m a little different in this. I’ve never been a client who milks every good idea from an agency partner and then walks them to the door prior to the next agency review.

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No New Resolutions For 2012

No resolutions

I resolve to make no new resolutions for 2012

When it comes to resolutions for 2012, I've decided to stick with the few I've made recently and to make them an important part of my focus. It seems to me that if they were important enough to resolve about in the first place - just a year or less ago - they must still be important today. An edge that I've benefitted from during in my life is that "focus is a good thing!" There's no reason to set out toaccomplish something new just because we turning the page on the calendar.
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Make your personality the focus of your personal brand.

Sally Square

Fascinating is her middle name!

I recently had the opportunity to meet a truly "fascinating" woman. Her name is Sally Hogshead (she jokes about her last name but I won't do that here), and she is the Creative Director and Chief Fascination Officer of the company she founded, Fascinate, Inc.

Sally is an nationally recognized and accomplished marketer, author, and speaker whose most recent work focuses on the power of persuasion, and why we become captivated by certain messages or people. Her book is titled "FASCINATE: - Your 7 Triggers of Persuasion and Captivation," and outlines the 7 triggers of fascination: Power, Passion, Mystique, Prestige, Alarm, Vice, and Trust.

Sally has created the "{F}-Score Brand Personality Test" which helps people like you and me better understand the triggers that dominate our brands as individuals. For me, the two dominate triggers are Power and Passion - two that probably come as no surprise to those that know me best. 
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Still Running Strong In The NW

One of the Things that help CMO's have really good days!

Seattle Magazine
For the rest of the story, simply click right here.

Going To Fun

Discover Passion

If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times. I'm a very fortunate guy. My post college career has covered a span of more than thirty-five years so far. During that time I have probably "gone to work" for five or six years - and seldom for more than six to twelve months in a row. Instead, I've been "going to fun". 

Think about it. What would you rather do? Go to work, or go to fun? 

Whenever I started to get the feeling that I was going to work instead of fun, I forced myself to pay closer attention. What was causing those feelings? Was it a change in responsibilities? In management? In my office environment? Or was it something else? And how much influence did I have over the source of those feelings?

On more than one occasion, the answer to those questions helped me decide that it was time to make a change. Time to reestablish my priorities, focus on my passion, and move my career back to fun.

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Giving Thanks


What's Your Story?

Thanksgiving traditions can be special for sure. The memories from big family gatherings; the aromas of favorite foods being cooked; and the sounds of football being played in back yards and on living room televisions all come racing back to my mind.

And, as special as those thoughts are, I'm sure that there are even deeper and richer stories that deserve to be shared.

This Thanksgiving I'd like to invite you to share your stories in my guest book.  I'd especially like to hear from you about the appreciative edge you may have received or one that you've provided. Let's celebrate our stories of Thanksgiving.

Wishing you all the very best and continued happiness throughout the holidays.

Please add your story or personal edge of Thanksging to my guest book. Thanks!

Integration is key!

Word of Mouth Marketing: The Buzz about Online and Offline Buzz

talkers c

As social media becomes the focus of attention for marketers, it is essential that we not forget the power and influence of good old fashioned face to face conversations. 

Early in my term as Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Board President, I expressly commissioned an Offline Word of Mouth Task Force, headed by former board member Stuart Sheldon, to advance the awareness and importance of offline conversations in order to bring emphasis to this critical area for our membership. 

At last week’s WOMMA Summit, the task force convened a conversation to discuss the importance and relevance of offline word of mouth marketing. In addition to Sheldon, who is the Co-President of Escalate, members of the task force and panel included Brad Fay, COO of Keller Fay Group, Chris Laird, CEO of Tremor, and Idil Cakim, VP of NM Incite.

Among the topics discussed was: "What is offline WOM? How is it similar to or different from online WOM?" 

As a preamble to the conversation, Laird, in a November 15th Forbes article titled, “Why Digital Still Can’t Beat Word of Mouth In Sharing Brand Messages,” shared his perspective on that question. He cited survey results from Keller Fay’s recent work and spoke to the dramatic difference in online and offline influence. One excerpt from the story is as follows…

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Change Your Words

Change Your Words. Change Your World. 

A few weeks ago I was at a benefit luncheon for one of many worthy causes that come into our view. During the program, the master of ceremonies mentioned a powerful video that he had seen recently. It was a video, he said, that had an edge to it. One that showed how powerful the words that we choose to use can really be. 

I've long believed in the power of words. Putting the right words, phrases, and sentences together can be challenging - and oh so very rewording. When words transform the way we feel, when they create emotion and change the behavior of those around us, words seem almost magical.
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Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night...


Butch brings crimson to Seattle and the place looks better already!

Seattle, The Emerald City Turns Crimson This Weekend

This spirited WSU Cougar video was prepared by alums, faculty and students on the WSU Vancouver campus. It was shown at the WSU Foundation Trustee luncheon yesterday and was played again (by popular demand) at the Foundation Gala last night.  I was lucky to be in the front of the room and with my iPhone available to capture the second viewing.  

The Cougs play the OSU Beavers in "The Seattle Game" at CenturyLink Field tonight. So... tonight's gonna be a good good night... Go Cougs!


Someone was listening!

Rod Card - Prolango

Relationships matter!

Last night I had the opportunity to speak to a large group of people attending the ProLango Career Mixer in Seattle.  It was a great networking style event with people from a variety of careers engaged in conversations on topics that were as varied as the people in the room. One thing that most everyone had in common was an understanding that relationships matter and that it is important to build your personal and professional networks before you need them. The power of our network is directly related to the energy we put into it.  Last night there was a lot of energy being shared.

Someone was listening!
As I closed my remarks I shared my thoughts about the power of a handwritten card. I believe that this simple and "old school" tool, used appropriately, can help differentiate the writer from the pack of similarly skilled individuals. It's memorable.

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An edgy lesson, retold

An active network And A story can come together in ways that help others.

ProLango Paul Medium
I can't begin to count the number of times that I've talked with people about the power of the network and the importance of building and nurturing relationships. The reality of that belief and the way networks return what is put into them never ceases to surprise and delight me.

About a year ago I made a new acquaintance named Paul Anderson. I don't recall whether our paths first crossed on Twitter, Facebook or Linked In and it's actually not all that important. What I do remember, and what is important, is that our first connection was one that we made online. We connected because Paul had something of mutual interest that he said he would like to talk to me about.

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Time for a new scale?

ScalesIf You Don’t Like Your Weight, Go And Get A New Scale!

No kidding. I’m not the only one making this journey at our house and the other person, (I won’t name names), was having some issues with our scale. It just didn’t seem to show the right numbers! When stepped on, the old scale would display the letters ERR. I have a hunch that just meant error, but it was interpreted as “Hey you heavyweight… Get off my back!”

So the quest for a scale that wasn’t so offensive was on. A new scale was purchased but it would seldom create the same reading two times in a row. It was returned. And this is the best part, my loving wife asked the sales person at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to come over to the scale display and step on each scale two times each. She was looking for one that would get the same weight twice. He accommodated and now we have a fancy new scale.

By the way, the old white one, consistently says I weigh two pounds lighter. But I love my wife, and we’re using the new one!

Here's where you can read more about my journey to a Healthy Edge

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

Goat Renter Guy Visits Sammamish

GRG - MedBarking dog leads to meeting "Goat Renter Guy"
I was able to leave the office a little earlier than usual last Friday and as a result, I was the first one to arrive at home. Our dog, Chloe, appeared much more anxious to get outside than normal, but when a dog needs to go out, you don’t second-guess her. I opened the door and out onto the deck and into the lawn she bolted. “Wow,” I thought, “she really needed to go!”

I went upstairs to change clothes and that’s when I heard Chloe barking. So much so that it struck me as very unusual. Looking out the window, I saw what all the commotion was about - something that explained why Chloe was excited and barking.
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Can you hear me now?

Listening quote

Last week two experiences came together from opposite ends of the spectrum. 

The first, as a customer, was frustrating and disappointing. I found myself struggling to communicate with a popular national brand who simply wasn't listening or responding.  

The second, as an executive, was positive, enjoyable, and engaging. 

In that situation I was engaging with 75 marketing professionals...Ppeople who wanted to become more effective at creating conversation worthy buzz for their brands or for those of their clients.

I'll share the story of the brand when the "case study" is ultimately closed. In the meantime, I'd like to share the presentation with you.

As marketers, just like as people, we can look beyond our minimum responsibilities and make decisions that will make a difference. That is an opportunity to create a positive edge.  

There are things we can decide to do... To listen. To be affected. To respond. To Engage.

What will you decide? Will you see the edge?

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

Why September 11th Is A Special Day

Dad ProfileWhile the whole world is remembering the tragic attack on our country of a decade ago today, I'll be spending time at a family reunion. One who will be missing, of course, is my dad - George Wayne Brooks.

Today is his birthday and I'll be thinking of him with each conversation that I have. He was born on September 11th, 1914 and would have been 97 today. That would be pushing the "age edge" in my family for sure. But losing him at just 65 years old was much, much too soon.

A tribute revisited.

Happy Birthday 

to you dad!

And she told two friends...

Heather (med)And so on. And so on...
In the early eighties a challenger brand of organic shampoo products hired a little known actress, Heather Locklear, to demonstrate the power of word of mouth in the success of an emerging talkable brand. In the memorable commercial, Heather demonstrated how remarkably effective and important the voice of the customer can be. It was as simple as two friends telling two friends... over and over and over again.

Thirty years later the tools are more sophisticated, the techniques have evolved, and the customer has more influence than ever before. Word of mouth marketing is no longer optional. It is essential and smart companies are baking it into the daily operations of their organizations.

WOMMA, the pioneering association for brands and agencies, is bringing the story to Seattle. It's a chance for marketers to participate in a face to face knowledge forum where brands and practioners openly share and discuss their social marketing successes, learnings, and best practices.

For more information and links to the agenda and registration, just click here.  (And you'll be able to see what Heather Locklear looked like in that old commercial too)

Get Inspired

Inspire Med

Have you ever heard of a BHAG

It's an acronym for an organizations Big Hairy Audacious Goal - A concept first introduced by authors Jim Collins and Terry Porras in their 1996 article entitled Building Your Company's Vision

Today I had the opportunity to visit with "Get Inspired" podcast hosts, Terry Barber and Carol Chapman about the BHAG that PEMCO Insurance has set out to accomplish - "To never have to advertise for a lead again".

Our discussion touched on several topics including the importance of inspired story telling, standing in the customers shoes and and combining those factors in a way that compels consumers to become brand advocates. 

We discussed the importance that guidance, collaboration, and learning from experience of others can play in the life of a brand and in the lives of individuals.  Examples included the important role that WOMMA plays in guiding and enabling talkable brands; multiple perspectives on fatherhood; and the amazing influence of a mentor and a specific moment in time.  

I hope you enjoy the conversation.  To hear it, simply go here.

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

Fascinate-ing Cards

Fascinating Edge - It's in the cards!Fascinate Cards - Med

Every now and then an edge comes along and hits you right in the face. You recognize it the moment you are exposed to it. An edge like that is so easy to see and share that you can't imagine why it hasn't been presented before. That's the power of 20-20 hindsight. Once the edge has been exposed, it's easy for others to see. 
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WOMMA: President's Mid-Year Update

WOMMA LogoHalftime Report
It doesn't seem possible that my term as Board President of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association is already half over. Wasn't it just last month that we were establishing our strategic direction and work plan for the year? 

No... that took place in January. Now I find myself heading into the second half and feeling very proud of the progress our organization has made.  And the best is yet to come!

If you are a WOMMA member, I hope that the variety of products, services, and events being provided have met and exceeded your value expectations.  If you aren't yet a member of WOMMA, I encourage you to visit our website and discover the many resources that are available to you.

The following is an open letter to the membership and friends of WOMMA that recaps some of the key accomplishments of the second quarter.

Customer Service... The New Marketing

Woman listening - med

Are you listening?

Awareness of word of mouth marketing and the importance that consumer driven communication is playing in the business community continues to increase at an astonishing rate.

Increasingly, conversations are taking place about identifying talkers, loyalists, and advocates. The momentum and movement has found its way out of the experimental idea centers of marketing departments and is showing up in corporate board rooms, vision statements, and strategic planning discussions. 

Listening to the customer is in style again. And this time, the consumer has the power and the tools to make a very real difference.

For more on this topic please advance to The WOMMA Edge, right here.

A career in the making

Career path sign (med)

Twenty Five Incomes

Not long ago I recieved the annual statement from the Social Security Adminsistration that recaps all the years that we have paid into the struggling federal retirement system. You know the one – we all get them. They list the years we worked and the amount we paid into the system. It even gives us an estimate of benefit that we will someday hope to collect. Frankly, it’s pretty depressing.

As I looked over the statemeent, I thought about all the different types of work that I’ve done and all the jobs that I’ve held. There were jobs that kids have to make a few bucks in the summer, and jobs that develop into a career. I decided to make a list and see how much I could remember. The first social security payment was in 1968 and the time frame spans over fourty years. No wonder I feel so tired!

I suspect that each of these endeavors could be a story in their own right. Maybe I’ll tackle that someday. For now, this short summary is at least a record for my grandchildren to think about someday. A work ethic is something that is built and developed from a young age. I don’t think we see enough of that anymore. Here’s my list… not necessarily in chronological order.

Check out this list! 

Business Intelligence TV - June '11

Only win by losing!

BITVHow do you sell a product that people don't understand, don't want to buy and when they do buy, they don't want to use it? And how do would you engage your customers in a way that creates loyalty and advocacy? While this sounds like a very tough sell, the company where I am the C.M.O., PEMCO Insurance, has been recognized as one that does it very well.

I was recently invited to discusses the journey with Bruno Aziza on Microsoft's Business Intelligence TV. We talked about a few of the ways that companies like PEMCO employ social media tools for relationship management and customer engagement. 

To see the video and learn more, just follow the "read more" link below.

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My Dad: Had one. Was one. Raised one!

DadA fathers edge lasts a lifetime.

When I went to bed last night I planned to wake up, alone at our house on peaceful Lake Chelan, where I would sit down and write a fathers day tribute to my dad, George Wayne Brooks.

I had a vision and a plan for the tribute I would write. I had a few ideas about what I would say and the stories I could tell. But somehow when I woke up this morning I was inspired differently. Brief thoughts -single words and short phrases – of memories and characteristics of the all to short time I had with my father – were flowing into my mind. It seemed more like a poem than an essay. Each thought could easily be the theme of its own story at another time. So I went with the inspiration that was present and shaped the words and phrases into the following poem.

For those who knew him I think it will remind you of who he was. For most of you, who never would have met my dad, please allow me to introduce you to the greatest man I ever knew.

Tale of the Tweets

Rod Speaking Engagement

What will they say about what you said?

Last week I had the opportunity to make a short presentation at the Social Media 301 Conference, presented by Fresh Consulting on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.  The speakers chosen for this event were outstanding and the buzz from attendees seemed to appreciate the higher level of content that was emphasized. I continue to position myself as a student among thought leaders in this rapidly evolving space, and once again I had several moments of inspiration that I expect will give our company an edge as we continue to mature our efforts in social media and engagement.

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Likeable takes more than the push of a button

Like Tee Shirt med

If you had a like button, how often would it get pushed?

Have you considered what it really means to be truly likeable? What draws you to those that you like? Is it the way they look, what they say, how they interact with you? Is a persons likeability earned or is it simply a matter of convenience? Are you quick to like the people who are there to help you... or does developing a like for someone require longer term and more meaningful relationships than that?

These are questions that on the surface appear to be all about interrelationships between people - but look again. Have you noticed the growing number of brands that are inviting, encouraging, even propositioning you to "like" them?  You can't go far without a "like" button being nearby in our digital world.
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Crimson and Gray

Being a Cougar provides an edge of lifetime value!

Yes my friends, being a Washington State University Cougar is something that lasts a lifetime. It's an edge that every Cougar alum knows about - benefits from - and loves.  I can't begin to count the times that a warm and uplifting "Go Cougs!" has been shared between men and women of different generations, different nationalities, different political affiliations, and different religions simply because one person sees the other wearing "the logo" on a hat, jacket or shirt. It happens when you least expect it. For me, most recently, it happened in a 747 at 30,000 feet during a quick hello with the couple who shared my row.

It's something that belongs to us and that no one else can have.  It's Crimson Pride. And it's baked into our very core. 

Twin Cougs - Med
I've been very fortunate that I have found ways to get back on campus with more frequency during the past few years.  A role on the College of Educations Advocacy Board allows me to interact with the Dean, faculty, staff, and students.  I've had the opportunity to serve as a guest lecturer in the College of Business, and most importantly, I took two future Cougs on a campus visit that helped our twin girls make their decision to become Cougs next fall.

Not long ago I was thinking about my life as a Coug and I wrote down a random list of memories - the things that Coug's know and enable us to see and apply our edge. I thought I'd share my list for those who are interested.  

If you would like to add to the list, you are welcome to leave a note in the guestbook

Where's the Joy?

shore view - med

Do lakes have low tides?

We've all heard them.  Phrases like, "The cup is half full" or "When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade?" In a way, that is what "seeing the edge" is all about - looking hard to find an advantage in whenever possible. I found myself in a situation like that this past weekend. 

Cindy and I were making our annual pre-season trip to Lake Chelan to get things set up for Memorial Day weekend - the traditional kick off to a spring and summer season of good times on, in and around the water. We had heard that the water level was low, but we weren't really expecting to see what we saw.

So what's the edge to take away from that? When you've been cheated by Mother Nature how do you find an advantage? We'll we only had to look beyond the dock and the rocks and the empty lake bed to see it. It was the perfect time to do maintenance on the buoy chains used to anchor our paddle boat and floats. It's something we wouldn't have been able to do if the lake had be at a more desirable height.

Better late than never


Online Marketing Summit - February 7-11, 2011

In the world of social media and word of mouth marketing a lot can happen in a short amont of time. Companies come and go. Products succeed and fail. The numbers that measure the growth and adoption of social networks can skyrocket in that amount of time. And they have.

Last February I attended the Online Marketing Summit as part of a group of panelists representing the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. While there, I had the privilege of sitting down to talk with the OMC CEO, Aaron Kahlow, whose organization owns and operates the summit event.  Three months later a digital copy of the conversation arrived in my email. I'd almost forgotten the discussion. The good news is that the themes of our conversation are still relevant - even after three months.  For more on the OMS event, please follow this link to the post that I made in February. 

The Women Who Have "It"

mom head smallYou can sense it from across the room.

You know who they are by the look they give, the smile they share, or the words they use. They are the women who have "it" - they are the mothers. 

Today I'd like to reflect on some special memories and pay a small tribute to my mom for all she did to encourage and enable her five children to live the best life that we could.

Take a long look at your mom or into the memories of her and you will see the edge. "It" was right there with you - in your mother - all along.   Please click here to read more.

Happy Mother's Day!

Birthday Barbeque Memories

Grill - medA Stroll Thru the grocery Store...

As I headed off to the local grocery store, I was focused on getting the few things that would make a simple and enjoyable afternoon birthday barbeque. I thought about traditional burgers, considered chicken, and settled on teriyaki pork tenderloin along with a rack of ribs. Sides will include potato salad, a medley of grilled veggies, and strawberry shortcake for desert. Sounds good, is easy to prepare, and will be just fine.

As I walked the aisles of the grocery store I thought about the many backyard barbecues that took place around birthdays while I was growing up. There was something special about them. Something different.

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Take Me To The Fair

Worlds Fair medWhat leaves enough of an impression in a nine-year-old boys life that he would remember it nearly 50 years later? 

Memories of tension, heros, accomplishment, wonder – and the fair.

When I was nine, John F Kennedy was President of the United States. There were a lot of things about him that made him special. But what I remember most, other than his assassination, is that when I saw him on television I worried about something going on in Cuba – something that my dad said could cause “the end of the world."

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Trip of a lifetime!

Rod and Butch -med

From student to teacher

The April visit took place just four months short of forty years since making my first cross state trip to the small town of Pullman. When the journey began, I was leaving from my even smaller hometown of Lake Stevens. I didn't know it at the time, but I was beginning one of the best trips of my life. A trip from student to teacher - a trip that doesn't end.
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"Dad... It's going to be a boy"

It's A Boy SM

And there she was.

I was in the cab with a coworker when I noticed a familiar face had suddenly appeared on my muted iPhone. We were on our way to dinner at a favorite Chicago restaurant after an afternoon of listening to insurance seminar speakers. It would be easy not to take the call. And if it had been anyone else, I might have let it go to voice mail.

But not this call. This call was different.


Hour Glass / Stop Watch MedHow we use our time

There are a few things that are the same for all of us. We must breath to live. Because we live, we will all die. And in between there are the same number of hours, minutes, and seconds in a day for everyone. What is different is how we choose to use that time.

A few years ago I chose to dedicate some of the hours in my day to become a student of word of mouth marketing. One thing led to another, and I offered more of my time to serve as a WOMMA board member - the trade association that is leading the way in the word of mouth space.

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Happy Birthday Son

Baby RyanWith your first breath, I became a father.  But sometimes it takes a while to figure out how to really own that label. What happens so quickly in a delivery room can take time to mature into very special relationships. 

You were there when I became a dad for the very first time. And you've been an incredible son and friend every step of the way since. Some birthdays are for remembering. 

Lets Get Ethical


The rules of the game have changed.

No longer is consumer behavior driven exclusively by traditional marketing and advertising, or by the influences of mass-media opinion-leaders.

Today those consumers are making decisions after hearing the opinions of peers, friends and even strangers. Most often, those new, powerful lay-influencers make their opinions known online, completely outside the influence of traditional public relations.

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Lowering the bar

Insurance Man - Med

Selling protection... And I don't mean condoms!

Just about the time you come to grips with the fact that there is a great chance that you're responsible for marketing one of the most unremarkable and uninteresting product categories on the face of the planet, something comes along to make you think twice.

Now don't get me wrong, insurance isn't the only product that people wish they didn't have to buy that I've promoted in my career. There were the do-it-yourself auto parts like carburetors, starters, and alternators. I still smile when I think about the fact that sales of those replacement parts went up when the price went down by putting them on sale. Who stocks up on starters and alternators anyway?

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What gets said matters

Culture, advocates, & word of mouth  

SCS Swag - Med
During the past week I had the opportunity to attend the fourth annual BazaarVoice Social Commerce Summit in Austin, Texas. It was a great even that was exceptionally well hosted and was attended by over 600 practitioners and thought leaders. 

I couldn't help notice the frequency with which featured speakers and attendees spoke with authority about the importance of word of mouth marketing and advocacy as critical success factors in the social commerce space. The message was loud and clear. The consumer is quickly becoming the "brand manager" for your company. What she experiences, shares, and talks about is far more influential than what a brand can say and share about itself.
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Fan Auction Rocks!

AEV Logo MedWhat's a fan or follower worth?

Just when you thought that Facebook fans and Twitter followers had to be earned by building relationships, offering relevant content, and generally being helpful and interesting, the world is being introduced to FanAuction. And it's a CMO's dream.

Ant's Eye View, an industry leading customer engagement consulting firm, after years of development effort announced the launch of a groundbreaking fan arbitrage service this morning. This is one that most people didn't see coming and it's definately going to be a edge to those who use it.

As an Ant's Eye View client, I've had the chance to be part of the "stealth" test period. As amazing as it sounds, FanAuction really works. No longer is listening, responding, or adding value a requirement. Now it's as easy as placing an order and writing a check.  How many fans do you need? Just start bidding.

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Spring Break At The Beach!

Winter Beach Storm - MedGoosebumps? I can show you goosebumps!

My wife Cindy and I are members of a timeshare community in which "points" that we purchace are good for use at various condominium units around the US, Mexico and Canada. We love the flexability and the venues. We've been to Palm Springs, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Santa Fe. 

All wonderful warm weather locations. 

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Thirty Feet Up

Random Tree House - Med

The making of a sanctuary

There are times when a memory comes rushing forward from a special time and place deep within us. When that happens it can be both startling and exhilarating. That happened to me today and I'd like to share it with you. The memory is over forty-five years old and, at least for the moment, it's as clear to me as it was while I was living it as a small-town teenage boy.
This is where that memory begins.

Leadership is a team sport

The best... or Your best?Leadership Team

How many times have you heard a company, an athlete, or a coworker claim to be the best? Or maybe you've been part of a business or team who has a goal of becoming the best. Sounds good right? How can you go wrong attempting to be the best?

Read more about a personal discovery of mine here.

The Art Of Storytelling

Imelda - smallListen with Empathy

Over the weekend, a friend that I've never met face-to-face visited this blog and posted an entry in my guest book - "Your Edge" - (I hope you will do the same). Her name is Imelda and I know her as @imeldadulcichPR. She is one of the growing number of amazing people I've met as a result of being a member of a very special Twitter community. Imelda wrote about her edge that comes from empathetic listening and story telling. She brings the art to a new level of appreciation and respect. One that often brings tears to the eyes of the person she is listening to. And then the magic happens. That's when Imelda turns the listening edge into a successful art of memorable storytelling. Stories are so very powerful.

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From out of right field!

Kicking dandelions and more. . .

Batting Practice - Med
I'm nearly 58 years old and still find myself occasionally standing in the loneliest corner of the ballpark - right field. 

The casual observer might think that nothing has changed. It's still the case that fewer balls are hit to right field.  If you're the kid in right, you spend more time counting the dandilions than chasing down fly balls.

But this weekend, a little time in right field was a time for me to reflect.
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School Of WOM

WOMMA LogoLove the Keynotes

The School of WOM is a “must attend” event for anyone who is interested in advancing the effectiveness of their social engagement with customers and clients. My favorite parts are the amazing keynote speakers. At last year’s event, I was struck by the brash declarations from keynote speakers like Jeffery Hayzlett when he drilled into Kodak’s four “E’s” of social media:

1) Engage 2) Educate 3) Excite 4) Evangelize…

and the simple brilliance of Jeanne Bliss sharing the five decisions that drive customer loyalty and build businesses. “Customers build businesses, not marketing budgets.”

I’ll be there again this May. Here's my top ten reasons why you should be too.

Hope to meet you there!

Years of Experience

Sometimes The Edge Is Learned.

1-5 numbers - medAfter a person has done something they love for more than 30 years it can be hard for them to see how what they have learned might be considered special. They think of what they have done, and are doing, to be pretty normal. After all, they've been doing it for a long time. It can be hard for them to differentiate the special from the routine.

I found myself to be in a situation like that when I was recently invited to write a guest column for Northwest Marketing - a locally produced and published Seattle area newspaper primarily distributed to agency and brand marketers in the Seattle area.

Media & Engagement - Nouns & Verbs

SM Logos with Twitter Bird -Med

Where You Focus Makes A Difference

There's a lot of talk, interest and even fear associated with "social media" these days. 

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are the big four that most of the conversation gets focused on. And certainly they deserve our attention and consideration. But at the end of they day they are just tools. 

That's right. At it's most base level, social media is a noun, and these popular social networks are tools that we can choose to use to build our businesses, our brands, and our personal and professional networks. Nothing more. Nothing less.
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Edge to the little guy? Or will billions win?

Fighting Carriers - Med

What will $4 BILLION buy?

The big guys in the personal lines insurance industry must be charging way too much for their product.  Why else would they be able to spend BILLIONS, yes I said BILLIONS, of dollars kicking each other around the broadcast airwaves. Flo versus Mayhem vs Geckos, Cavemen and whatever else Warren Buffet's money can buy.  Where is it going to stop? And when? 

According to Advertising Age, it doesn't look like the budgets on crazy spending are going to be cut anytime soon.  And all for a product you don't understand, don't want to buy, and don't want to use once you've bought it.  How does that make any sense? 
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MarketMix 2011

social logosOpen to new introductions

I am feeling flattered and humble for the number of kind words and notes I've received since part one of a three part conversation was published earlier this month.  The conversation was between Håkan Söderbom, Konsult Partners, and I - primarily as an introductory promotion for MarketMix 2011 in Seattle on March 9th.

Håkan asks great questions and then allowed me to tell a few stories that I tried to connect to his questions.  Sometimes they fit. Sometimes not so much. But either way, Håkan was gracious and patient.

As I now reflect back on our conversation, I am seeing the edge a little more clearly.  The edge was partially in the stories being told, but the less visible edge was in the process by which the conversation came to be.

I had never met Håkan prior to the day he walked into my office to conduct the interview. Our connection was entirely based on the use of social media. That, along with an openess to meet new people and help them accomplish their objectives, may be the edge worth noting. Håkan introduced himself and asked if we could meet in a single tweet.

Are you open to meet new people? Would you have responded to a tweet? Are you missing out on an edge?

Here's the full story.

When Marketing Is Good. . . or Bad

Question Mark

Are your products remarkable?

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, has been quoted for saying that “Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service.”  

My friend Andy Sernovitz, the man referred to as the early leader in the current wave of word of mouth marketing, often presents that message at conferences and seminars. I think his exact words are "Advertising is the price of being boring." These are tough concepts for brand marketers to hear and agree with. But it's true. 

For decades, brands and their agencies have been looking for the magic message that we could shout through a megaphone into the unsuspecting ears of the public - a message so compelling that they would rush to the stores (retail or online) and buy our product.  

Things are different today. The public is onto us. They trust their friends, neighbors, even perfect strangers, more than the voice of the brand - far more than advertising and marketing.  Unless, of course, the marketing is really good. 
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Values, Passion & Experience

Man presenting med

The presentation edge.

Standing at the front of the auditorium with a remote microphone attached to your shirt collar is frequently described as a frightening experience - one that causes palms to sweat and voices to crack. But for me, it's a rush. I get fueled by the energy of the people in the audience and the opportunity to share. 

Sure, there's a nervous excitement that comes with each new opportunity. Thoughts go flashing through my mind about whether the video will work and hoping that the joke will get a laugh. But when that nervousness is converted to enthusiasm, the adrenaline takes over in a way that feels pretty special. Like an actor on a stage, or a trial lawyer in a courtroom, the passionate presenter knows that feeling.

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Excitement Creates An Edge

Bells and Whistles 2_Med

Don't forget the bells and whistles

It's not always enough to be right. It's not always enough to be affordable. And it's not always enough to be timely. Sometimes, you need a little extra. Something that will set you apart from the competition. Something that will give you an edge, make you memorable, and help you to win. 

Whether you are pitching new creative, selling merchandise to a major account, or presenting a plan to more senior executives in your organization, you won't want to forget the bells and whistles.
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A Traveler's Edge

Plug - Traveler's Friend
Powerful Airport Friend Maker
Ever find yourself needing an airport power outlet to charge your laptop, phone, or iPad?

Did you discover that everyone else had the same need, and all the outlets were being used?

Gain an edge by carrying one of the "orange outlet thingies" that turn one outlet into three.

It's a really great way to power up and make new friends at the same time.

Note: I was given an "orange thingie" by my friend Andy Sernovitz at a conference his company hosted last year.  I've been carrying it ever since.  I seem to make a new friend and start a conversation every time I pull it out of my bag!  Thanks Andy.

What's Your Taproot?

taproot small

Regardless of the season, your career needs Nourishment

Have you ever thought about where your career nourishment comes from? That part of what you do that gives you an amazing feeling of success and accomplishment? The part of your responsibilities that make work feel like you are going to fun and leaves you feeling proud of what you are contributing?

I hope you have. Because by thinking about these questions, and answering them, you will enable yourself to better see and experience your edge.

I've come to describe it as something like the root system of a young tree that is maturing and growing over time. I'd like to tell you a story of a career, as if it were a tree.
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Cougs See Edge / Grab It During Super Bowl XLV

Flag Waving Cougar Pride

This is the WSU commercial that ran regionally during the Super Bowl XLV. For more on this commercial and related Cougar Pride


Stories Provide An Edge

Brains on Fire Book - sm


Friends of mine - people I met through the Word of Mouth Marketing Association - wrote a book last year. They named it after their company "Brains On Fire," and now they are igniting movements and inspiring story tellers far and wide. Co-founder and "Courageous President" Robbin Phillips sent me a special autographed copy during the holidays that I finally had time to begin reading. Wow! I'm really enjoying it!

It's a rapid fire page turner for sure.
Filled with ideas, insights, and inspiring cases of effective word of mouth movements, it inspired me to use some of their key thoughts when I spoke to PEMCO's top sales people at our annual awards dinner.
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Seven Tips For Mentors

They don't care how much you know . . .                                                                   until they know how much you care.

I've found mentoring high school and college students to be a special way to spend a little of my extra time. At first, I thought I was doing a good deed by volunteering to spend time answering questions and coaching the students on the basics of marketing and business. I felt that giving something back was the right thing to do. And of course, it is. But that's not the whole story. 

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Life is meant to be lived. . .

Kathy Goertzen  

"I'm Tough. I'm A Cougar."

"I refuse to let this brain tumor define who I am. I'm still me, I'm not a brain tumor. I'm still me, I'm not . . .  sick." 
- Kathi Goertzen

Sometimes when looking for the edge you find the person who has it, but you still can't identify it. When that happens, look harder and listen closer. It might be more apparent than you think.

Tonight, while skimming my Facebook news feed, I saw a familiar face - but it wasn't the same face. The person in the picture was both different and familiar at the same time. It was Kathi. The same Kathi who we've welcomed into our northwest homes for 30 years as a respected and admired local news anchor. And she looked like she was hurt. 

Her picture caused me to pause and read her story. She was, once again, preparing to do battle with a brain tumor that had been her enemy for so many years. As I read the
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Talk - Talk - Talk

Sharing stories

PEMCO Insurance is the company where I am the Chief Marketing Officer.  I share that not just as a matter of pride, but to fully disclose the relationship I have with the company. Over the years, PEMCO has put together a story that is truly remarkable. A story of a challenger brand that has found ways to compete with companies many times their size.

The story can't be told without talking about the importance of relationships.  It's truly a special edge that has been carved out over 60-plus years. And what are relationships about? Simply put, it's the people. And recently, it's become a story of northwest people that gets told with a bit of a twist.

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Winning ethically


Using Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Win, Ethically

It's one thing to see the edge, but it's another to take advantage of an edge unethically. In this post, on behalf of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, I share my thoughts on ethical "WOM" with PRSA members.

"Social Media is Like Teen Sex *

Everyone wants to do it. Nobody knows how.

Teen Sex

There are at least two versions of this presentation on SlideShare these days.  The two most recent are identical to one another except one gets your attention a little faster by using the "F" word in the title.  It's just there for the edginess and doesn't add value to the message. So I'm using the PG-13 version here.

I've returned to this presentation several times and find it to be informative and somewhat inspiring. 
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Thank yous with an edge

Thank You Card

Never Underestimate The Power Of A Handwritten Thank You Note!

This small gesture, done well, will almost certainly provide the sender with a competitive edge. Why? I think it is because these simple moments of communication are viewed as personal, genuine, and handcrafted. They can be saved, reread, and shared. Top it off with the fact that it still feels good to get an envelope in the mail that isn’t a bill and doesn’t require a response.  

For my five tips and a "bonus edge" read on. . .

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Activating Advocates - Example

The fundamentals of elements of WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing) are pretty straight forward and easy to understand: 
  1. Step one: Figure out who the people are that care enough about what you are selling to talk about it. (Know your talkers).
  2. Step two: Create easy to remember talking points about what you are selling so that you can share them with the people who care enough to talk about you from step one. (Give them something to talk about).
  3. Step three: Provide easy ways for the people in step one, to communicate the messages from step two, easily, quickly and broadly to other people who might be persuaded to join the ranks of the people in step one. (Make it easy to share).
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Know Your Why

If you don't know your why, your what and your how don't matter.

Start with Why - small

Do you remember being a child? How about raising a child? I do. And I remember that in both situations a frequently asked question was "why"? Why this, why that, why now, why not? I also remember the lack of patience that my parents had with me when I asked "why" and that the most frequent answer to my questions was a simple “because… that’s why.” I’m sorry to say that I’m guilty of repeating the same behavior and lack of patience with my own children when “why” was on their minds. I'm convinced now that "why" is one of the essential, central questions in our lives. For each of us to know our own answer is very important.

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2010 Golden Apple Award Winners

 G.A. Trophy - Small

Excellence In Education

It's not hard to guess that an elementary school principal in Sultan, a librarian in Seattle, and a teacher in Tacoma would have children and education as common interests. 

It makes sense that a principal in Spokane, a teacher in Chehalis, and the leaders of a systems biology program in the heart of our bio-med region would make learning a top priority. But these, and four more Washington educators and program leaders, have something else in common. They are all 2010 Golden Apple Award Winners.

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Welcome to My World. . . At Least the Edge Of IT

January 20, 2011 - First post!

Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you are here on purpose, but even if you arrived due to some less intentional click of fate, I'm happy you are here just the same. For the moment, we are here together. On the edge of my commitment to a year of documenting thoughts and observations about the "edges" that I see and experience.

It's not the first time that I've considered making this type of writing commitment, but it is the first time I've had such clarity for the purpose. I'm not quite sure what caused it or where it came from, but I'm confident that I'm on the right path.

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Comcast Customer Sees Timeliness As An Edge

Jack be nimble, @ComcastWA be QUICK!

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of public relations professionals at a meeting of PRSA, Puget Sound. I asked them to consider examples that they recall observing as a competitive edge. Walter, who is a self defined member of the "Comcast Washingon Twitter Response Team", sent this me this reply. From it, I was reminded that sometimes it can be the smallest act of communication and kindness that give us our edge. In this case the customer recognized it as timeliness. Great job demonstrating your edge @ComcastWA Twitter Team. And thanks for sharing your story.
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See The Edge

G. Book 3 Plus

Sign In Please

This is your page. Please consider it my guestbook for all of you. It's a place that I've provided where you can share your voices. A place for you to talk about you. A place to bring your perspective about the edge you have developed or have found within yourself. Thanks for sharing! Congratulations on "seeing your edge."

Please Create Your Entries                           As Comments On This Page.

The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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