from pickett&associates … exploring PR, social media and entrepreneurship

April 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — pickettwrites @ 12:16 pm

Both tear provoking and thought provoking. As a “card carrying member” of that sandwich generation, I find myself staring at an eclectic mess of my mother’s things and at my two daughters who’ll eventually have to deal with all of it if I don’t first. Great inspiration to “live lighter.”

the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers® blog

Your Daughter’s Grief: An Open Letter to Moms

Fortunately, we have Senior Move Managers…

View original post


Plan Now for Tomorrow’s Crisis January 5, 2012

Last year may well go down as “the year of the crisis.” The  killing of six individuals and wounding of Senator Gabby Giffords in February; the devastating earthquake in Japan and the subsequent precarious state of its nuclear power plants; the devastating spring tornadoes that ripped apart communities like Joplin and Tuscaloosa and then the debilitating Penn State debacle.

This list makes the potential problems your company might face seem miniscule, but don’t be fooled; it doesn’t take a crisis of epic proportions to cripple a business. As you plan for the upcoming year, I encourage you to set aside some time to think about your crisis communication plan.

A crisis is traditionally defined by business leaders as “any situation that threatens the integrity or reputation of your company, usually brought on by adverse or negative media attention.” These situations can be any kind of legal dispute, theft, accident, fire, flood or manmade disaster that could be attributed to your company or impact your ability to operate. It can also be a situation in which the public perceives your company did not react in the appropriate manner.

In an increasing litigious society in which information is shared with the masses as fast as a “140-character Tweet,” a proactive crisis communication plan has become an essential document for every business. And while some public relations firms may see it as a beneficial “add on” to their services, I firmly believe a proactive crisis communication plan – performed long before a TV news crew is standing on your doorstep – is an essential piece of an overall communications strategy for organizations.

The first step in this plan is performing an audit of the business to determine potential scenarios. This includes consideration of its number of employees, its vulnerability in terms of potential exposure and risk and its standing as a private entity, public company or government agency. Some things to consider:

  • Do your employees interact with the public, particularly minors?
  • Does your company provide a service on which the population depends?
  • Does your workplace have potentially dangerous equipment or products?
  • Do your employees operate a vehicle as part of their jobs?

These questions are fairly obvious and can prompt a long list of “worst case scenarios.”  And rest assured, just when you close your eyes for sleep, you’ll probably think of one more.  That’s okay – that’s why you’re going through this exercise: so you can rest easy.

The next step is to take this long list and cull them down to about one dozen – you’ll find some of them have common themes like “traumatic incidents of a personal nature that profoundly impact workforce” (which would include an employee’s death, suicide or being the victim of a violent crime, non-work related) to “incidents of disaster that impact both the facility and business” (tornado, fire, etc.). Once identified, decide your core message points for each of these scenarios (and put them in writing!) as well as to whom and how you will be responding. Do you issue a news release? Do you wait for the media to contact you? Is the message the same for stakeholders as it is for customers and clients? These variables make the difference between a well-executed response and a botched attempt from which a company might never recover.

Likewise, identify who should be notified of the crisis and when as well as who will be doing the talking to the previously identified audiences. These respondents should not only include the company president and management, but appropriate advisors like legal counsel and a public relations professional. This “phone tree” should include cell numbers, home numbers, email addresses, etc. Here’s the most important part of the phone tree and the rest of your communications plan: It doesn’t do you any good if it’s in your desk drawer at 3 a.m. In today’s “mobile” society, save a copy on your smart phone, on an external server, on thumb drives for the entire team and a few hardcopy notebooks distributed around “just in case.”

A crisis never happens at a convenient time, exactly as you have planned and most often, not even between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. … that’s why it’s a crisis. But you can take some control of the situation by proactive preparation. If you remember nothing else, remember this: The most important thing to remember in a crisis is tell it all, tell it fast and tell the truth. If you do this you have done all you can to minimize the situation.

With that, I wish you a happy (and hopefully crisis-free) 2012!


What I Did On My Summer Vacation August 16, 2011

Filed under: Random Thoughts — pickettwrites @ 9:16 am

It was recently brought to my attention that I had not posted a new blog in quite a while. Upon further investigation, I was surprised to see that I had not managed to write one blog during the last few months. So, to borrow from one of my favorite school assignments, we’ll call this “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”

We started out the summer making some new friends, including the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.

Intern Samantha Foley and JR Hildebrand

And then we had about 150 friends over for an open house at the new office in Carmel.

A very "grand" opening!

I enjoyed some sunny, funny days with my grandsons.

Charlie at the park

At the beach with Vance

We played lots of golf.

Hit 'em long and straight ...

I discovered Florida in July can be exceedingly pleasant with inexpensive golf, plentiful grouper and quiet beaches. (And this summer, it was cooler and less humid than central Indiana.)

Fort DeSoto Beach in July

We made several trips to local farmer’s markets and had some great harvest dinners.

Bounty from the Farmer's Market

I spent a girl’s weekend with my college friends.

Good times, good friends

And I enjoyed the simple joys of summer, like the sweet yellow finches  … and hanging out on the porch at “the lake house.”

Yellow Finch among the BlackEyed Susans

I worked a lot. I laughed a lot. And now, rested and revived a bit, I’m ready for fall, a possible trip east in October, college football and digging into some fairly large projects at work.

So, that’s the update. Stay tuned, I promise it won’t be so long between posts again.


Timing is Everything May 1, 2011

Filed under: Random Thoughts — pickettwrites @ 12:49 pm

There are two questions I receive multiple times each week:

Question 1: How is business?

Chenrezig, bodhisattva of compassion by Kathleen Wedmore

A: Great! Happy clients, new clients, clients in the pipeline; we’re looking at office space and will soon retain an administrator, an assistant and an intern.

Question 2: Don’t you wonder why you didn’t do this sooner?

And that answer is the topic of today’s blog … because “timing is everything.”

I believe my successes to date are certainly not “overnight” in origin. I can track the origins of my clients back 10, 15 even 20 years. Whether it is a referral from someone I worked with in a previous position or a relationship I developed through the local chamber of commerce, these are people with whom I have a shared a common interest or a mutual friend.

When I found myself abruptly downsized from a local PR agency, I began letting my contacts know that I was available for hire through LinkedIn, emails and telephone calls. A referral from a former co-worker (from 1998) got the ball rolling within the first week, and the rest followed.

But none of these projects would have been as successful without the experience of moving from my secure position I had enjoyed for nearly five years at an established public relations firm to a younger, more Internet and social media-focused firm. And even though things didn’t work out there as I had planned, I would not have garnered the awareness or knowledge that has resulted in happy clients and ultimately more referrals. 

Life’s path should not be spent ruminating about the past or anxiously anticipating what the future may bring. Likewise, we can get so caught up in trying to fit into our plans and attain our dreams that we may miss those golden opportunities stretched out before us, ready for the taking.

In yoga class, we learn about being mindful of each moment and rejoicing in the clarity of the stillness that comes in those blissful moments of meditation. It’s a reminder that if we’re just “still,” and approach life with an open heart, good things will come.

So, do I ever wonder “why I didn’t do this sooner?” Not so much … for now is the perfect time.

Happy May 1 to all …


Flipped Out April 1, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — pickettwrites @ 10:42 am

Okay, I admit it.

I am a Flip-o-phile.

Before you call the authorities or report me to some list, allow me to explain. Over the course of the last year, I have become a huge fan of the Flip video camera. This little gadget goes with me wherever I go … just hangs out in my purse until I’m ready to pull it out and shoot something. It’s called “The Flip” because a little “USB” plug pops right out of the camera for seamless, easy uploading to your computer via FlipShare. From there, you can email it, upload it to Facebook or distribute through YouTube.

The addiction started slowly … Much like Facebook, it was initially a means to capture and distribute updates on my grandchildren. Then I began sharing its wonders with friends and clients. Of late, I have created YouTube channels for clients and begun posting videos that we integrate into their Websites.

For instance, Randy Sorrell, owner of Surroundings by Natureworks+ is a perfect fit for this medium. His YouTube channel (that’s integrated into his website) allows him to not only show his expertise, but his natural ability to communicate with others. And let’s face it … talking into the camera is sometimes a lot easier than sitting down and writing a blog … and it serves the same purpose. Most importantly, he “gets” that it’s NOT all about him, but about the quality of content of information he shares. So he reaches out to industry peers (and, yes, competitors) to provide viewers with a wide range of subject matter.

Likewise, WealthPoint Advisors has gotten on the Flip-wagon and are in the process of  integrating their “WealthPoint TV” YouTube channel into their website. They, too, understand the value of informational content and provide  knowledgable yet personable insight into financial planning and wealth management. 

I’ll give credit where credit is due. Lee Lonzo first got me hooked on the Flip as a business tool. He began using the Flip two years ago with his KickOff Program that empowers high school upperclassmen to be mentors to incoming freshmen. He’s able to capture the enthusiasm and excitement he incites as the KO Program trains about 50,000 students during the spring and summer. If a picture paints a thousand words, a video paints a million.

If you’ve not ventured into the world of Flip, give it a shot. Whether you’re a grandma or a PR pro, you’ll find it a tech tool you won’t want to live without!

A sunny Friday here in Indianapolis … needless to say, Go You Mighty Butler Bulldogs! Here’s hoping for “the glow of the vict’ry firelight!”


The Fleeting News Cycle March 11, 2011

Filed under: Random Thoughts — pickettwrites @ 4:48 pm

In this nice, comfortable room at the Magnificent Mile DoubleTree, we’ve had MSNBC on since the middle of the night, watching the devastating news from Tokyo. And we know the news is just going to get more tragic and devastating.

It put the fact that my cell phone woke up “DOA” this morning in perspective, I suppose.

And yesterday, as a Muslim member of the House of Representatives openly wept in his opening statements, I asked, “When did THIS start? And why were we 24/7 Charlie Sheen when this was going on?”

In trying to avoid the Charlie Sheen cesspool, I missed the news as well as Eugene Robinson’s editorial about these hearings. But the sad fact is that these days the hard-hitting news isn’t so easy to come by while the sludge sorta’ rises to the top … much like gaseous waste.  

And here’s a question … how is Congresswoman Gabby Giffords? You know, the victim of the tragic shooting in Tucson? Ironically, a story just posted today by our friends over at Politico. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51123.html

Obviously, THAT news is buried by the earthquake today, but the question occurs to me, “How many of us have thought of her since her last condition update in late January?” And what does that say about our willingness to just follow the news cycle and flush everything else?

We are a fickle bunch, the consumer public; we are drawn to “the next big headline” like moths to a flame … and we waste no time in weighing in with our opinions. Angry. Abrasive. Off with their heads … And all that. We don’t need to look far to see it … the war of words and emotions between state legislators provides an angry, too-close-for-comfort illustration.

It makes me tired. More disturbingly, I know I’m not alone when I say, it just makes me turn on something else or turn off the news altogether. And if I, a self-professed nerdy news addict feels this way, what ‘s happening to the majority of the population? As one of my best friends from college – a high-powered, well-paid senior level executive for a major retailer says, “All I read in the Sunday paper is the ads.” And I know SHE is not alone.

Look, like we need to take responsibility for our own health needs and our own retirement plans, we need to take control of our own knowledge. We cannot sit idly by and allow the news networks (helloooo, the major corporations in America  own the networks … have you READ Ayn Rand?) to chart our course of knowledge.

Let us not be observers of our destiny. We must be active participants.


Spreading the Love February 22, 2011

Filed under: Charitable Endeavors — pickettwrites @ 1:57 pm

“Random Acts of Kindness” became a popular concept a few years back, and it is a concept with which I was not unfamiliar. My parents instructed me from a young age to “treat others as you wish to be treated,” “don’t judge a book by its cover” and “it’s better to give than receive.” The latter not an easy sale to a 5-year-old, by the way.

As a result, I really try EVERY DAY to make a difference in someone’s life. Whether it’s sending an email that I think might bring a smile or helping a stranger in some little way, I like to reach out and lend a hand.

Last week, in the midst of generating content for the upcoming Health Care Heroes special supplement for the Indianapolis Business Journal, I interviewed a family whose story truly moved me … I must admit, first it moved me to tears, but then it moved me to action. Below is the result. I hope you’ll pass this along and consider coming out on March 5 to participate.

In the meantime, huge Kudos to client Randy Sorrell at Surroundings by Natureworks+ who did not HESITATE when I asked him what he thought of hosting a yoga class … and additional kudos to Heather Thomas, co-owner and teacher at The Yoga Center who, likewise, was quick with a “yes! Of course!”

Sunrise Salutations for Aidan Benefits the Aidan Brown Foundation

Aidan Brown

In May 2010, Carmel residents Michele and Chris Brown learned that their five-year-old son, Aidan, had Neuroblastoma. What would follow would be a parent’s nightmare of doctor’s appointments, hospital stays and treatments … but the one thing that made it better for Aidan was an iPad that a family friend had given him for his birthday.

And the one thing that made the experience tolerable for his parents was the outpouring of love and support of neighbors, friends, friends of friends and people they didn’t even know who offered to help. Such an outpouring prompted them to want to do something for those families not as fortunate.

In July, the Aidan Brown Foundation was established to raise funds to purchase iPads for children diagnosed with cancer in Central Indiana. In slightly more than six months, through bake sales and dance-a-thons and singing Valentines, more than $60,000 has allowed 70 Riley patients to receive iPads.

On Saturday March 5, Surroundings by Natureworks+ will host a Gentle Yoga Class between 9 – 10 a.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium during the Indianapolis Home and Flower Show. The class will be led by Heather Thomas, co-owner and teacher of The Yoga Center.   We ask participants to donate $10 that will to directly to the Aidan Brown Foundation. In addition, Randy Sorrell, owner of Surroundings by Natureworks+ will provide every attendee with a ticket to the Indianapolis Home & Flower Show.

Please, bring your own yoga mat and join us for a peaceful way to start a Saturday morning and continue the love and blessings of the Aidan Brown Foundation.


Remember Your Mentor January 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — pickettwrites @ 3:47 pm

Mary Benedict listening intently during the 1975 summer HSJI institute.

While January is National Mentoring Month, tomorrow is “national mentor day.”

Our friends at the Kick-Off Program freshman transition program recently launched a Facebook campaign to replace your profile photo with that of your mentor and write a little tribute on your wall. So, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, a tribute to my mentor, Mary Benedict.

I met Mary in the summer of 1975 … my first summer attending the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University where she served as the director for a number of years. It was the summer that I decided I would be a journalist, and she was instrumental in lighting the fire that got me there. And I know positively, that there are thousands of folks out there who can say the same thing about her.

I feel fortunate that I paid her a bit of a tribute in a column around 1992. I mentioned her influence on my life … and a few days later, she called to say thanks for the kind words. Like most folks who find themselves recognized as a mentor, she told me I was kind to remember her and asked what I’d been up to. When I read of her passing a few years ago, I was so glad I’d had the chance to say, “Thank you.”

Upon her passing, Jack Dvorak wrote a fitting tribute that I’d like to share. After you read it, you will totally understand my admiration.



(May 24, 1922 – April 17, 2004)

Those who knew the late Associate Professor Emeritus Mary Benedict will not be surprised to learn about her wishes for the disposition of her ashes: She wanted them scattered on a private all-male golf club.

This story and many others were recounted during the celebration of life party held in Mary’s memory at The Garden (Beef & Boards Dinner Theater) on the northwest side of Indianapolis April 22, 2004. She died unexpectedly at her home April 17. She was 81.

Among the themes that surfaced during testimonials were Mary’s vivaciousness, her ability to lead, her competence as a journalism educator, her deep love of family and friends, her power to influence people positively, and her love of golf and scotch – not necessarily in that order.

She served on the School of Journalism faculty from 1972-1986, and during her 13 years as director of the High School Journalism Institute (HSJI), more than 6,000 high school students attended. She also taught courses and conducted workshops for future and current teachers of journalism. For several years she coordinated and taught the J200, Writing for Mass Media, course. She was also the primary public relations instructor. She gained respect of her students as a taskmaster, but always got high student evaluations.

As a specialist in the service area, she inaugurated Media Merit-thon, a statewide on-the-spot contest for high school journalism students. She also directed “On-Assignment” days on the IUB campus. These were one-day events that brought high school students and their teachers to campus in order to experience individually tailored educational opportunities in journalism. Hundreds of high school personnel came for these special meetings with Professor Benedict and the colleagues she recruited to meet with them.

Between 1950 and 1972, she was a teacher at both Washington and Arlington high schools in Indianapolis, where in 1967 she won National Journalism Teacher of the Year honors bestowed by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. She also won Indiana’s top teaching award for a journalism educator – the Ella Sengenberger Award presented by the Indiana High School Press Association of Franklin College in 1964.

After being graduated with a bachelor’s of science in journalism from Butler University in 1945, she worked for the Red Cross in the Pacific for three years. During college, Mary worked for radio station WIBC, and from 1965 to 1970, she did public relations part-time for the Indiana State Teachers Association. In 1953, she earned her M.S. degree from Butler.

Mary enjoyed a national reputation as a giant in journalism education. Aside from many teaching honors, she also took on leadership roles at the national level. In the early 1980s, she was head of the Secondary Education Division of the Association for Education in Journalism, an organization of university educators. She was also a board member for Quill and Scroll, international honorary society for high school journalists, and was president of both Indianapolis and Bloomington chapters of Women in Communications. The Journalism Education Association, primarily comprised of high school teachers, presented her a Pioneer Award for her long service to that organization.

The late Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon named her a Sagamore of the Wabash, and she was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, headquartered at DePauw University in Greencastle.

After her retirement from full-time teaching at IU-Bloomington, Mary taught part-time on the IUPUI campus and at Ivy Tech. Also, she volunteered as editor of The Garden publications for her church and was active with the Southeast Community Center, Habitat for Humanity, Fresh Start, the Indianapolis Press Club, the Society of Retired Executives and Money Makers Investment Club.

She loved to travel, and she wrote articles about her bike trips across France and other countries for The Indianapolis Star and other publications.

Survivors include her sister, Geraldine Hines; brother, Frank Benedict; seven nieces and nephews; and a host of great-nieces and nephews. Mary was preceded in death by a brother, Clement “Joe” Benedict, and a sister, Florence Benedict Cohen.

After the party and luncheon that followed her celebration of life in April 2004, at Mary’s request relatives and friends toasted her with some of her favorite scotch.

Mary Benedict was one of a kind. Like a good mentor, she provided guiding words that inspired me to do things that I had never before considered. She was a seeker of excellence and truth. So, raising that glass of scotch, here’s to Mary B. Thank you, again.


Lest You Wondered … January 6, 2011

Filed under: Random Thoughts — pickettwrites @ 11:11 am

A little review of 2010 from our friends at WordPress.com The stats helper monkeys over there mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 59 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 61 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 7mb. That’s about a picture per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 7th with 89 views. The most popular post that day was An Unexpected Independence Day.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were linkedin.com, facebook.com, twitter.com, touch.facebook.com, and alphainventions.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for yms minesweeper, suzy wilhelm kunesh, lasagna, and macy’s.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


An Unexpected Independence Day July 2010


Machiavelli Lives … in Customer Service and Social Media September 2010


About July 2010
1 comment


The Press Release: Not Dead Yet September 2010


Which Comes First: The Content or the Social Media? September 2010


Recipe for Success? Just Add Water … January 4, 2011

Filed under: Entrepreneurial Tales — pickettwrites @ 3:38 pm

Last night my significant other made one of those statements that made me sort of stare in open-mouthed disbelief. We were having a dinner with a friend, and I was relating my recent success in picking up a couple of additional clients in the last week. The “S.O.” then made the statement, “It’s really pretty amazing considering you’re not really trying to attract new business.”

What? “Well, how many sales calls have you made in a month?” he queried.

Well, I suppose it’s a good point. If I were him watching me go about my business, I’d be a little incredulous at the pipeline of clients as well.  The key to my “success” (which is defined by paying the mortgage and keeping all the financial plates up on sticks) is a fairly outgoing personality, connecting with people, and never, ever thinking that any one person is more “important” to me than another. I’m just as likely to chat up the receptionist, coat clerk and the waiter as I am a company president. In previous positions, whether working with PR clients or interviewing sources for an article as a reporter, I always tried to make a personal connection. Everyone, whether an internationally acclaimed designer or the guy who runs the hotdog cart, appreciates feeling as if you genuinely care about them and their business.

I have been shocked by people who will walk away from a conversation and smirk something along the lines of, “Loser, they don’t have any money to spend with me. I’m not going to waste my time on that.” I can safely say if I’d had that attitude, I might just be working as a greeter at the local Wal-Mart … if I was lucky. Mutual respect, karma, call it whatever you want. It makes a difference. But it doesn’t work alone. In other words, I can’t just sit in my home office thinking good thoughts and being nice to people.

So, I employ a number of networking vehicles to let folks know that I’m out there and available for work. I joined the Carmel Chamber of Commerce which I have always found to be a great source of professional relationships.  Shortly after launching “Pickett&Associates,” I ramped up my social media efforts, letting all those LinkedIn contacts and Facebook friends know my situation. I went through the old “Rolodex” of business cards and sent emails to people I thought might either need my services or know someone who did. I established professional alliances (like WhiteHot Marketing!) with those folks on whom I knew I could depend for expertise and a helping hand. I had several meetings over a cup of coffee just exchanging ideas and gathering information.

I began the effort to establish myself as an expert. I launched this blog, and push it out to my social network contacts; I tweet daily (sometimes more) about some industry trend or report. I comment on other expert’s posts, creating conversations with some of the profession’s most innovative thought leaders.

And I believe, “Success breeds success.” So, when I gain a new client or a client has a success — a media “hit,” a stellar sale, an event — I “talk about it” via Facebook and LinkedIn. That lets folks know that I’m working with other entrepreneurs and doing some good work.

So, I spend about an hour a day making “sales calls” … Through social media, through professional networking, through just the people I meet in my community. Like the really sweet business owner I met while purchasing the significant other’s Christmas present. I have a meeting with her later this week to see if I can help “get her business out there.” Stay tuned!