The Journal

JournalI was standing at the front of the theater delivering the opening keynote address to more than one hundred communication professionals. People who made their careers sharing information and telling stories. I was confident and excited for the opportunity to tell the story I'd prepared. I clicked through the slides and roamed across the carpeted stage like a determined trial attorney making an impassioned plea to a jury. I felt like I was on a roll.

And then the moment came. It was time to tell the story that I'd added to the presentation deck late the night before. What was I thinking? I'd made the addition without a lot of careful consideration and it was too late to turn back now. How could I have thought sharing such a personal story would be a good idea?

The Christmas of 2010 was a season when I was feeling the distance between the homes of the people I love and the place that I live. It's the reality of our family. Gifts arrive on our porches with help from "the box man." They get carefully placed beneath our trees and opened without the sender having that special moment of joy when the recipient removes the tag and peels the paper away from what has been carefully concealed inside. Later in the day, phone calls are made and the smiles that we share are left to be experienced in the sound of our voices. It's the way our lives have been shaped - by careers, relocations, and falling in and out of love. It's just the way it worked out. And all of those memories came rushing back as I paused during my address. The crowd appeared to be leaning forward with anticipation. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. And on I went - sharing the story of "the message" that I received in 2010.

As with any gift, I removed the ribbon and bow and began to tear back the colorful holiday paper from around the gift. The first thing that I exposed was a stylish and rich-looking box printed with a design that resembled a navigational guide or map. It made me think of the charts a sailor might use to guide their trip.

Inside the box was a rich and exquisitely leather bound journal. Hundreds of lined blank pages where stories could be written, memories logged, and accounts of a person's life recorded. I was genuinely surprised and could feel the edge of familiar emotions beginning to form inside of me. When I removed the journal from the special box, I found what was, for me, the key to the gifts true meaning - a short personal letter from my son.

In the letter, Ryan told me exactly what he had in mind when he thought about purchasing the journal. He told me what he would like to see written on its many pages. And most importantly, he told me that he would like to get the journal back when it was full. Not selfishly for himself, but as a gift for his brothers and sister, my grandchildren and someday my great grandchildren.

I read the letter to the communication professionals that filled the theater. The room became fully still and silent as the impact of Ryan's message was absorbed.  As the group listened they were also feeling a portion of the very real and authentic connection that I've felt each time that I've read it to myself. 


As marketer's we need can use the story of the journal to help us remember the critical importance that relevant content plays in the relationships between our company and our customers. To get it right, we have to enable and encourage our customers to give us the gift of insight. If we listen carefully, they will tell us, just as Ryan told me, what content would be the most relevant, appreciated, and valued. They will tell us how they would like to receive the messages and they will help us understand how and where to best deliver them. 

The journal's pages have been slowly filling up. Each and every entry is written by hand and the content is beginning to be a reflection of what has been important in my life. And every entry is written with the request within the letter at the forefront of my mind.

More than a year has passed since I first received the journal as a gift from my oldest son Ryan. I cherish it even more now than I did when I first received it.

Thank you Ryan. 

Note: For those that are interested, the full video and presentation deck is available. Just click here.

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