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

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!


Happy New Year! (An Update to Independence Day) January 2, 2011

Filed under: Random Thoughts — pickettwrites @ 9:51 pm

Admittedly, I just passed an audible sigh that prompted my significant other to look at the dog and say, “She just made that noise.” Fortunately, Faith Hill is singing his disgust away with her Sunday Night Football intro. (Hey, Faith, seriously, the skirt is too short.)

After taking a few days away from the “Pickett & Associates” treadmill, I spent January 2 reviewing my 2010, trying to get organized for 2011 and doing the monthly billing.

I can safely say that 2010 didn’t remotely go as I had planned, but that’s not such a bad thing. Big picture, through being downsized from a local PR firm where I wasn’t particularly happy, I was forced to quickly bring to fruition dreams that had been brewing in the back of my mind for several years. After being downsized and dismissed on July 2, by July 5 I had righted the ship and decided to launch Pickett & Associates, specializing in strategic public relations, social media management and editorial services.

So, just shy of six months later, I have been able to provide my services to some of Central Indiana’s most respected business and non-profit organizations including Meyer Najem Construction, DuoChart, Encore Sotheby’s International Realty, Aaron Ruben Nelson Mortuary and the Central Indiana Council on Aging. I’ve had a good deal of fun penning the Necklust blog (it’s my evil Chelsea-Lately-inspired twin who writes these) and helped Catholic Radio kick off its fundraising campaign. In addition to continuing these engagements, I’ll be serving as the feature editor for Patron, an online magazine connecting the people, places and programs that are enriching our communities in Central Indiana. And, as recently as last week, I obtained a Pennsylvania-based client who is an author and expert in dementia and memory loss. That was on the same day I was told that I had come in second to one of the city’s largest, most prominent communication’s firms on a “Request for Proposal” for a large chunk of business in the healthcare sector. I couldn’t be upset. Actually, I was flattered. And, to coin an old commercial, “Second always tries harder.”

This morning I made a list of potential clients “in the pipeline” as well as industries I’d like to pursue. I will continue to closely monitor industry trends, including the seemingly hour-by-hour morphing of social media, and integrate those things that make sense for my clients. In 2011, I’ll continue to leverage my strengths developed during the course of 30 years as a reporter, editor and public relations professional … and perhaps expand the strategic content provider portion of Pickett & Associates.

Most importantly, I’m just gonna’ be me. Old Miss Pat … reliable, loyal, a little edgy, sincere and true-to-her-word. And, to start out the year, let’s do the Miss Pat anthem … a favorite from Bonnie Raitt, “I Will Not Be Broken.”

Sing it, Girl. On to 2011!


Big Company … Big Crisis December 14, 2010

Filed under: Crisis Communication,Strategic PR — pickettwrites @ 2:19 pm

Long time no blog.

Back to that “cobbler’s children have no shoes” theory. I know it is essential that a business maintain the stream of awareness created from relevant-content blogs, Tweets and Facebook posts. However, my workload of late is a good reminder WHY so many businesses have turned to Pickett&Associates to assist with their social media management! When you’re trying to run a business, marketing for YOUR business slips down the priority list.

So, after a brief absence, I’m back on the blog wagon hoping your heart has grown fonder. And the last few weeks have certainly given me lots to blog about: trends in public relations, new developments in social media management, myth-busting search engine optimization and a litany of observations.

So, for today, how about the wonderful world of public relations? Fineman’s annual “Worst PR Blunders of 2010” list is out and, honestly, the fact that they were able to cull it down to 10 is pretty impressive. Mind you, these are the “biggies of national scope.” Topping the list is British Petroleum and their monumental bungle, including the CEO’s ill-conceived quotes “it wasn’t our accident” and “I just want my life back.” I was just waiting for him to say, “You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie.”

Toyota’s web of “pay no attention to that car behind the curtain,” was a close second followed by the NPR/Juan Williams fiasco. You can follow the link above to read the report in its entirety. What it proves beyond a shadow of doubt is that money and company size certainly don’t buy good public relations’ smarts. And of course, I always wonder, “How did their public relations professional allow this to get so out of hand?”

For the record, a trusted communications advisor should be just that: They serve as respected member of your senior management team, whether that is an internal or external position. And in that role, they are not necessarily a cheerleader; they will probably, from time to time, have to clear their throat a little and tell you something you really don’t want to hear. A communications advisor thinks in terms of “what if” scenarios and acts proactively as a result. If you have a business, there will, at some point, be a crisis. And, as we can see from the behemoths mentioned in the Blunders list, the bigger the company, the bigger the potential crisis. The difference between a crisis and a permanently damaging incident is the way in which the company reacts, takes ownership and makes restitution or amends.

So, do you agree with Fineman’s list? Any additions? I’d love to hear!


Are You Cooking Up Some Good Content? November 18, 2010

Filed under: Content Management — pickettwrites @ 2:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

It’s no secret that I love to cook. Well, first, I love to eat. You’ve probably seen my posts of Maine lobster, Michigan blueberries and Louisiana crawfish. Because I have always loved to eat, I learned to cook; I found I really enjoyed the creativity the kitchen affords me.

So, allow me to strike a little culinary metaphor: Creating strategic content for the Internet – whether for a website, a blog or social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter – is a lot like making lasagna.

For some pretty yum recipes, check out http://www.lasagna.tv/how-to-make-lasagna

Pour a glass of Chianti and belly up to the kitchen bar. So, why am I cooking up content? In the book, “Get Content, Get Customers,” Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett provide a succinct answer: Your buyers are now increasingly knowledgeable about what they want to buy. They aren’t surfing aimlessly, hoping to be influenced by marketing messages that arrive out of the blue. They want to make up their own minds based on their own information-gathering. Therefore, buyers need content that makes them smarter and more knowledgeable.

All righty then, back to the cooking. You’ve got the lasagna noodles – that’s the foundation for the lasagna. I liken those to the goals and objectives of my clients. Everything is ladled atop of these.

There’s the sauce. I put a layer on the very bottom of the pan and then the first layer of noodles; as we all know, it’s slathered between each layer of filling. This is like my client’s brand … it gives the over-all flavor of the lasagna, but just goals and a brand … not very pleasant eating. It needs something else …

MMM, that’s when the cheese comes in … and we know it’s not just cheese, right? It’s creamy ricotta and mozzarella and parmesan; it’s parsley and oregano and salt and ground pepper (and a pinch of nutmeg) … and it’s whipped together with eggs to not only give it a rise but to meld all that yumminess together. In content world, the cheeses – in all those varieties – are the tactics, what content you’re going to create.

The eggs – holding it together and giving it some rise – are the keywords that are derived from the question, “How will potential customers search for my product on the Internet? What words will they “Google”?  Note, you never, ever TASTE the eggs in the lasagna; this is not a souffle. Use keywords wisely and strategically and avoid the dreaded keyword soup.  

The seasonings provide the “flavor” of the content. Is it a blog that relates your expertise about your industry (note I didn’t say ‘about your product’) or comments on a current trend? Is it a white paper that reveals your support of a new industry standard? Is it a Facebook post about an outstanding employee? Is it a tweet that tells your customers about a special offer or new product?

And then we bake it … for quite a while, really … about an hour. Lasagna takes a long time to cook all the way through and come together. And then extra patience is required because once it’s baked, it needs to sit for about 10 minutes before cutting. Patience my friends. Success does not come over night. Now, unlike the lasagna, you can gauge how well you’re doing throughout the content process … and if it’s not “tasting good,” you need to correct your seasonings.

Perhaps I buried the lead. The first thing the cook needs to ask: “What would you like for dinner?”  You need to work closely with your client beyond their exclamation, “We need content! We want a blog!” Help them work through what they want to accomplish – exactly. That assessment leads nicely to determining those measurable objectives, aka noodles.

Are you out of wine? Refresh your glass for some further reading. A recent blog post from Pulizzi got me thinking about this whole “lasagna” concept, so check out “Content Strategy and the Dying Art of Execution” on his Junta42 Blog. And never one to disappoint, Valeria Maltoni’s blog, “You Have More Content Than You Know” may quell your content anxieties.

On that note, we’re heading into the weekend and, yes, speaking of food, we’ll start some prepping for visiting children, grandchildren and Thanksgiving. Who ever thought they’d be over the river and through the woods to MY house?  Quick, hide the wine … but first, pour me a glass.


A Day to Remember My Dad and the Mighty Midgets November 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — pickettwrites @ 11:42 am

Dad in his dress blues.

In light of Veteran’s Day, I recently did something I’ve been meaning to do for several months. I began an Internet search using my father’s discharge papers from the Navy to attempt to piece together his time of service during WWII. I had come across these papers earlier in the year as I reorganized family papers that I didn’t even realize I had.

But the discharge papers were of particular interest. I had grown up hearing the story of how my father – who enlisted at 32 years old to offer his mechanical skills to his country – had been on a minesweeper in the South Pacific. There were the funny stories – like when they had their final shore leave before heading into battle, and he was determined to take a five-gallon bottle of rum along for the ride (and walked off the pier holding on to it) – and the somber stories, including the minesweeper having a mine detonate beneath them. The latter sent him back to Indianapolis for “survivor’s leave” at which time he dated my mother for 11 days before they got married.

Trust me, we’ve already covered all those quips. But I digress.

Unfortunately, 65 years ago, no one was blogging about their experiences, and in particular no one serving in Task Unit 78.2.9 on YMS 47. And, while there were always the “stories,” I never asked the specifics … or maybe I did and he just went back to the stories. It’s taken a few hours, but I’ve found that they referred to the minesweepers as the “mighty midgets.” And, now I’ve got a better idea of the missions that (according to those discharge papers) resulted in a WWII Victory Ribbon, American Area Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon/ 2 bronze stars and the Asiatic Pacific Area Ribbon/four bronze stars that were awarded to my father, William N. Snyder. I have never seen these awards; it looks like they were sent to my father about two years after his discharge in 1948. But I did find a copy of a Presidential Unit Citation to Task unit 78.2.9. That unit included the U.S.S. Sentry, U.S.S. Scuffle, U.S.S. Scout and YMS’ (minesweepers) 9, 10, 39, 46, 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 95, 196, 314, 315, 335, 336, 339, 364, 365, 366, 368 and 392. It reads:

My father looks like he's just waiting for the shoe to drop ...

 “For extraordinary heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces at Balikpapan, Borneo, Netherlands East Indies, from June 15, to July 1, 1945. Limited in speed and maneuverability by the drag of their sweeps while being subjected to heavy and determined enemy artillery fire from shore batteries, Task Unit 78.2.9 aggressively conducted sweeping missions in fields sown with Allied magnetic, acoustic and combination mines as well as newly planted Japanese mines. Constantly menaced by mines and concentrated Japanese fire, the officers and men of these vulnerable mine sweepers maintained a high morale; they entered the mine obstructed waters at the objective throughout seventeen days of operation; they manned their stations gallantly during protracted periods of General Quarters: they rendered counter battery fire and aided the support vessels in spotting Japanese positions more clearly visible from their own close range positions; and although suffering serious losses in boats and sweeping gear which necessitated long work hours to prepare the mine sweepers for further operations, they succeeded in meeting the scheduled landing date. By the skill, fortitude and courage of its personnel, Task Unit 78.2.9 was instrumental in preventing damage from mine explosions to the landing ships despite heavy traffic on or following the target date, thereby rendering distinguished service in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Through some intensive “Googling,” I finally found this (http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/chr/chr45-06.html) :

06/28 Thu.  United States naval vessels damaged, 

             Balikpapan area, Borneo:

         Motor minesweeper YMS-47, by mine, 

              01 d. 19’S., 116 d. 55’E.

             Motor minesweeper YMS-49, by coastal defense gun,

              01 d. 00’S., 117 d. 00’E.

            Japanese naval vessel sunk:

             Destroyer ENOKI, by mine, Sea of Japan, 

             35 d. 26’N., 135 d. 44’E.

The "liberation parade"

If you follow that link, you’ll see a harrowing detail of that June 1945 and a mention of “Vice Admiral J.S. McCain,” John McCain’s father. I found a startling line in “The History of the YMS 196 — “One day while sweeping we came upon a minesweeper that had the stern blown completely off. I believe that it was the YMS-47.” Further search allowed me to read a passage from “South Pacific at Seventeen: USS Cofer” by James Richard Snellen. He writes of that Thursday, June 28, 1945: “At 0740 hours, our boat #2 was lowered into the water, 15 miles east of Balikpapan area, Borneo to act as a standby rescue boat. At 1415 hours, the YMS 47 was struck by a mine and sustained severe hull damage with two injured. Boat #4 picked up three casualties and brought them to the Cofer. The YMS-49 took YMS-47 in tow to an anchorage area.” Which must have been a little more dangerous than it sounds when you refer to the above detail of that same YMS-49 being “damaged by costal defense gun.”

I was searching for a picture of the YMS-47 only to find that sometimes words are worth a thousand pictures …

A Plug for a Distinguished Nervuos Cross

Listen, men, I’ve a tale to tell,
of mighty midgets that sail like – well,
with a word to the wise on larger ships,
to forget those small craft transfer slips,

Men don’t live on YMS’s –
they just exist under strains and stresses,
tossed around like a bundle of peas,
inside their ship on the calmest seas,

Did you ever eat on a YMS?
It has been done a times I guess,
but the simplest meals can come to grief,
when we hit the wake of a floating leaf.

An order comes to dog the hatches,
for days on end we all wear patches,
what dire calamity caused all this?
A passing school of playful fish.

Then, at “0 two hundred” all’s secure,
the anchor is deep and sure,
and even when the seas like granite,
she’s taking off for another planet.

The battered life is just one item,
we’ve many more, just let me cite ’em,
We scrub our whites – they come back black,
our clothes line boys is aft of the stack.

The spacious lockers, I might mention,
are always full and gosh, the tension.
I wish the Navy were more lenient,
four rubber sides would have been convenient.

I’m not through with this little tale,
of little ships and how they sail,
half submarine and aeroplane,
they’re a secret weapon gone insane.

Ah yes, my friend, if big ships bore you,
the YMS is waiting for you,
with loving care, from fore to aft,
the Navy designed them and laughed and laughed.

(Courtesy of Robert Noonan – YMS-176, U.S. Navy Minesweeper – World War II – Pacific Area)

On this Veteran’s Day, I feel like I’ve spent some time with my dad. He was definitely part of that greatest generation who entered a war and came back to a booming economy, had a successful run in business and provided a warm and loving home for his family. He was as quiet as my mother was vociferous. My dad passed away in 1984 at only 72, after 11 years of somewhat precarious survival after a massive heart attack in 1973. He was 47 when I was born. The age of many of my friends’ grandfathers, I never doubted that I was totally adored. Yet he wasn’t out in the backyard throwing a ball with me, nor did we hike or go on family vacations. The happiest times were spent on our back patio where he had mastered the rotisserie and a ham of epic perfection.

When I post this blog, these memories and research will be “out there” in cyberspace for anyone else who has found themselves compelled to “Google” the tales of the “mighty midgets.” And they’ll get a little glimpse of my dad, a “Motor Mac” who went on to live a pretty happy, quiet little life. And today I’m especially grateful to have been a part of it.