The pastor at our main church campus asked members for letters about what the church meant to them. The following is what I sent back. I've been asked to share in person on Sunday and I'm not sure I'll get through it without a tear or two, but we shall see. Again, another post that has nothing to do with PR or Paddling. I'll get back to those at some point.

"First, Brian, even though I attend the services at the West Homewood campus I enjoy getting and reading your emails. Says something about my vintage I guess. I wanted to write you about the church and what it means to me from a couple of different vantage points. One, as a kid that grew up at Trinity, long ago. And then second, as an adult, going through a divorce, who needed to find their own church home and begin healing. Both perspectives are important to me because I believe the church means different things at different times in our life.

First as a teenager.

My parents couldn’t wait until I could drive so they would not have to drive me to Trinity twice on Sunday. First, for Sunday school and Church and then later in the day for snack supper, choir practice (Emanuel Singers) and then Youth Group and church again! These teen years were important to me, I made friends from other schools, the choir went on tours and the youth pastor shaped me in ways it would take me years to realize (and not in a good way). I remember those days as fun and carefree and still maintain a few friends from that time period. But, as I graduated the relationship with my youth minister took a dark turn. We ended up going on a scuba diving trip. I was a freshman in college and came back home to go, my parents let me go because Peter (the youth minister) was going. I respected Peter, but would soon learn his philosophy and faith was skewed. When we drove to the Atlanta airport he asked if he could smoke. I thought he meant cigarettes, and I said sure just roll down the window. He didn’t mean cigarettes, he started smoking pot. And, he informed that he was going on vacation and what I saw him do that week should not be repeated and didn’t matter because he was on vacation. I was like whoa okay. On the trip he continued to do other drugs and tried to get me to do them. I didn’t but it was weird none the less. When we returned from the trip I never said anything to my parents. I just went back to school. Fast forward about 6 months later and Peter ended up being arrested in a hotel room with another woman and some drugs. I figured God sent him a pretty powerful message. My parents called with the news and asked me if I had any idea – I told them my story. Mom was shocked. Peter had officiated at my sister’s wedding a year or so before. But, we all moved on.

Fast forward a few years from that and one of my high school friends that also a part of the youth group and sang in the choir was involved in a news story. It seemed that Robert Corley, who was a counselor to our youth group and to the scouts, had been sexually abusing young boys for years. My friend, many years later, after some other youth had come forward went to testify in court. I was shocked. How could all of this been going on around me and I never knew it.  I returned home from college and got a job in the news business and I did not return to the church, in fact I left it for a long while. Until one day when I made a promise to my mother. I told her if I got a job out of TV news I would return to the church. Not long after that statement I did get a PR job and made good on the promise, but I didn’t return to Trinity.

Second as an adult.

Fast forward to my return as an adult. My marriage failing. I needed and wanted a church home. I had wanted to attend church for years but my husband did not want to go. He was a Christian, but did not believe in churches or ministers. I needed that. I needed people to help guide me through my study, challenge my beliefs. I did not want to return to the church where my parents were. I didn’t want to attend Trinity because I’m Robert and Brittany’s Aunt. I needed a place where I could be me. Start new. Brittany had mentioned West Homewood, so I decided I would visit. When I drove up to the church there was large banner stand out front that said “Divorce Care”. I was like okay, maybe this church has something for me. I enjoyed the casual nature of the church. It was hard for me to get through my first service and fight back tears. Tears of guilt over a failing marriage, but also tears of happiness because I was finally back in God’s house. It felt good.

I inquired about the Divorce Care group and it was meeting at Trinity. It had already been meeting for about 4 weeks, but I jumped in and joined on Wednesday nights. The group was welcoming and I was amazed at the honesty and pain everyone shared. I was not able to share that first night, but I did on subsequent nights. Little did I know then, that I would sign up for a second round of Divorce Care and that the people in that room would become a part of my support system that I could not do without today.

I called Jack and met with him about joining the church. I shared my story and why I was there. He listened! That is all, not offering any judgement but seemingly understood my pain. I attended another service and did a food packing mission afterwards. I didn’t know anyone but worked along-side another couple. They were very welcoming. It was later I told Jack I was ready to join, and the rest is unfolding as we speak.

I love that our church is open to anyone – even non-believers.

I love that we want people to have a place where they can feel a part first, before committing.

I love that Trinity West Homewood is service oriented. [Personally, I believe the church should serve the community around it before trying to solve the rest of the worlds ills.]

I love that it is my home, and not just on Sundays but during the week for study.

Thank you for leading an amazing team, bringing diversity into our church and helping make the church a loving place for all those that want to learn more about God and Christianity."

 


read more

The past few weeks have been challenging. However, I’ve been given the gift of perspective and its come in the form of old friends, new friends and quite frankly people I don’t even know. What happened? Here it goes.

First off, I had a packed schedule for the past few weeks. Busy with communications clients and weekends packed with private kayak instruction. My trailer that I pull kayaks with broke its welds and it needed to be fixed for the trip the next weekend. I was also providing all of the food for the kayaking group. There was no wiggle room in my week.

Don’t get me wrong. I like being busy, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for managing surprises. I received a call late on Tuesday from my parents that my 99-year-old aunt Elizabeth has gone into the hospital and was in ICU.  We had plans to visit her in September because she was turning 100 soon. At 99 years, Elizabeth was amazing. She attended church on Sundays, played with her great grandchildren, and was on Facebook! I remembered one of her more recent comments to a picture on my profile – I wish I could see you. My parents were going down the next day – Wednesday and my sister was driving them. Dad said, there is no reason for me to go, he knew I had a busy schedule and couldn’t make it. I was so stressed out that tears were streaming down my face. I have a group from church, and we have a “group me” text chat app. I posted in there my anguish and one of the members posted this back.

“Sit down, take a deep breath, pray about it, ask for help and do what your heart tells you.”

Wow. It took a moment for that to sink in. I immediately texted clients that I would not be making meetings the next day, I got an absence for my business group meeting, and I got up at 5:30 a.m. with my sister to drive my parents to Mobile to see Elizabeth. Hopefully, not for the last time. I asked my friend Bubba for help with the trailer and he even came and picked it up. I asked another friend for help in picking up the boats for the coming weekend (that was another thing that had to be done) and they said sure.  I am so incredibly blessed with the most amazing friends and family.

You know what, it all worked out. Yes, I had some late nights that week, but thanks to my friends and family it all got done. My Mom helped me cook food. The trailer is now even better than before thanks to Bubba, Vander and their welding magic! And, most important we got to see to Elizabeth. Only two of us could go in at a time, but I could swear when my sister and I went in, she smiled. They think she had a mini stroke. She had been combative the night before and needed oxygen. She was in and out, but I got to touch her hand and tell her how much I loved her.

Fast forward to the next week. The news was not so great. Elizabeth didn’t make it. Her funeral was scheduled for Thursday and I was leaving town that evening for another private group over Labor Day weekend. My sister, God bless her, took my father. My Mom and I were really not able to go back, but it was okay.  And, here are the next set of challenges that were presented to me.

I had rushed around to get items ready to go for the second trip and made it to the house to pick up the trailer and boats. I thought I hooked up the trailer securely – but I was wrong. As I pulled out of my sister’s steep driveway the trailer rocked strangely. I was almost to the top of the drive and I had the instinct to stop and look to see what was wrong. The trailer had popped off the hitch and was dangling by the safety chains. I tried to manually lift the trailer up the hill the rest of the way, but could not do it. I made the decision to drag it with the car to the top of the drive and try and reconnect it there. I was lucky – it worked. But there was a moment there looking at this impossible situation that I wanted to cry. Instead, I talked myself into taking a deep breath, keeping a calm head and praying that God did not want my trailer full of boats to end up crashed into the neighbor's trucks, or in the creek at the bottom of my sister’s driveway. He didn’t. I got it reconnected and headed down the road. It was 5 o’clock traffic but I was finally on my way to Tennessee – or so I thought.

As I traveled down the interstate, I noticed my battery light came on. I don’t even know what that means. I called a friend that I was meeting in Gadsden who was going to help me teach that weekend. Their advice was to not shut off the truck (still had to drop off some club boats at a storage location). So, I didn’t. After I dropped off the boats, they checked back in with me, “are your lights on?”  “Yes,” I said. “Cut them off, cut the air conditioning off and the radio,” said my friend. I was like this truly sucks. But, I did it. I made it to the gravel parking area by the Petro and after investigation we decided it was my alternator. I called AAA but all they would do is tow me someplace. And, there was not a repair place open. It was at this moment I believe God sent a man named James. James asked if I needed help. His car looked like it was on the verge of breaking down itself and he looked scruffy and was smoking cigarettes. I said yes. He had tools in his truck and he said for $40 he could fix my alternator. No brainer, I was like okay. With his tools, James and my friend literally disassembled my 4-runner in a gravel parking lot. They got radiator fluid all over them, grease and dirt.  It was dark by the time it was done – like 8:30 p.m. or so. When we finished I gave James more than $40. I still don’t know his full story or name, but he said he moved down here from up North to be with his son and first grandson. He seemed grateful for the extra cash.  And, I was happy to get my car fixed and back on the road. I wouldn’t reach my destination until about 1:30 a.m. in the morning, but that gave me plenty of time to get at least 6 hours of sleep and meet my group at the river in Tennessee.

I’m a little ashamed to admit that at times I wondered if James had an ulterior motive. Was he going to rob me? Abduct me? I think it’s easy these days to think the worst of people. But, in the past couple of weeks I’ve seen the best. I have family in Houston, Texas that are safe, and my brother is in San Antonio with a house in Corpus Christi. The only thing he lost was his dock in Harvey. All in all, we are so very blessed and I am grateful beyond measure.

My purpose in sharing this is to remember the advice of my friend from church. “Stop, take a deep breath, ask for help, pray about it and do what your heart tells you.” You may not get the answer you want – but you will get what you need.


read more

With the election just days away, I’ve been answering this question a little more frequently than I would like to. Of course, I always counsel clients to stay away from politics (unless it’s part of their business) but this year it seems like people just can’t help themselves. At the same time, I’ve noticed the most innocent of actions – not related to politics go bad as well. In fact, on Halloween night my phone rang at 8:30 p.m. with a friend wanting some social media guidance. Based on the situation, my guidance might vary. But the following is what I suggested.

  1. Was she there, did she witness what people were posting about? Answer: no. So first, she has to collect information before she knows how to respond.
  2. Did she know the person who was upset? Answer: no, and she was not ‘friends’ with the person making the posts, so she couldn’t see them first hand.
  3. Where was the angry post made? Personal feed, public group or private group? Answer: private group, and she was not a member, but someone in her organization was.
  4. I suggested she try to join the group to view the posts. That request was not granted.
  5. Then I suggested she Private Message the person and ask them to contact her providing a number. And, that didn’t work.
  6. Since those methods didn’t work, we asked the person who was a member of the group, to suggest they contact the organization and talk through the issue.
  7. In the meantime, there were additional posts in support of the organization. (If you build a great community, they will come to your defense.)

The resolution: After threats of coming by the organization, and threats of filing a police report, the offended party did the right thing and picked up the phone. An apology was made, and a resolution reached. Granted it doesn’t always work out this way, but my moral to the story is – it’s always good to try and talk through an issue on the phone instead of continuing posting about it. And, sometimes, I repeat, sometimes, your followers will come to your defense and plead your case for you.

If you have questions about social media or a crisis situation in general, feel free to give me a call. I work with organizations on having a crisis communications plan in place. And, if you’ve looked at my LinkedIn profile you will know that I’ve worked through some fairly difficult crisis situations in my career.


read more

Tomorrow I turn 50. I have to admit, it’s something that leaves me kind of dazed. First, there were many times I doubted I would ever see 50. As I told someone earlier this week – I was not a wall-flower in college. I enjoyed my time in school immensely. Then there is the part of me that feels and acts like I’m still 25. I can’t see myself ever not kayaking. I’m not throwing cartwheels or anything down the river, but I’m holding my own.

Someone asked me this week what I had learned by this age. I really had to think about the question and the answer. Certainly I have learned a lot in recent years about owning your own business. In 2013, I finished my Master’s in Information Engineering Management at UAB. I learned a lot in the program about technology, how it works, big data, starting a business, etc. I’ve also learned a lot from all of the jobs I’ve had over the years. TV taught me that I had a soft heart. Economic Development taught me about big business, politics and introduced me to people around the globe. UAB taught me about how to work with the media and that there was more to Public Relations than just working with the media. HealthSouth taught me that some people are not what they seem -- in both a good and bad way. Regions renewed my faith that not all people at the top were bad. Southern Living taught me beauty and the politics of the North and South. However, none of those jobs will be how I am remembered. And, to be honest, I don’t know how I will be remembered. I do know the one thing that matters to me in all of the last 50 years are the friendships and relationships I’ve built along the way.

To be honest, I don’t consider myself to have a lot of friends. I do know a lot of people, but I really think I’m a sucky friend and to have a lot of friends, you have to be a good friend. I am not the type that remembers birthdays or always has a gift to send. I do however give gifts when I believe I have found the perfect one – and I do not wait for an occasion to give it. For my family, I was not the aunt who baby sat a lot. I was the crazy Aunt out having fun (still am). Now, when the nieces and nephews got to a certain age…I could, and did, show them how to have fun. To my Mom and Dad – I am horrible about calling and checking in. It’s not intentional, I’m just moving from one thing to the next. And, to my friends, I hope they know, really know, how much I do care about them. Back in my single days I remember being out one night and a girlfriend called from Tuscaloosa, to say she had broken-up with a guy. I drove there immediately to spend the night and lighten her mood. A year or so ago a dear friend lost her father. I came crying with a casserole (engrained Methodist behavior from childhood). Another friend I had worked with at HealthSouth had her baby prematurely – again I took a casserole. And, even though I hadn’t seen this friend in like 15 years, when she got sick and came home from the hospital I again took food. Not tooting my horn here, but my point is I may not talk to you or see you, but in the end you are important to me and food is my love language.

So what I have I learned by this milestone trip around the sun – It’s what you do for people that matters. At least that is what I hope matters. Your actions, your deeds and your word. It is something I’m going to work harder at in the coming years -- being a better wife, friend, sister, daughter and aunt. To me that is what is important.


read more

screen shot of FB advertisingThere are many, many more people knowledgeable about social media and advertising on all social platforms than me. However, I’ve run into some business people who have had their Facebook advertising cut-off or just simply don’t understand the difference between a promoted post and actually doing a targeted ad with a call to action. If you didn’t know you could do that… read on.

In working with some clients I’ve been impressed with the level of targeting you can do in Facebook with ads. While folks in my industry are going ‘doh’ – I thought I would share some practical information to help those of you treading your own way with marketing.

If you have a Facebook Business page, go to your ads manager. It will either appear in the left hand column (mine is there on my favorites list) or it’s at the top of the right hand column. If you’ve never created an ad go to the green “create ad” button and you will see a screen that looks like this. Look at all of these options! My favorite, depending on the client, is ‘reach people near your business’. You can geo-target people within a 5, 10 or 15 mile radius (even larger) You can also pick men or women or both and age demographics. From there you can select what their interests are – all sorts of things like sports, health, recently engaged and even those interested in entrepreneurism. You can then select a call to action to click through to your website, ‘call now’ or ‘like’ your Facebook page. There are a lot of options.

Then you set your price. This is where I think a number of people get confused because you are setting a per-day price. So if you choose $5.00 and want your add to run for a week, then you are spending $25. And, be sure to set a beginning and end date, otherwise it will just keep going, which can get costly and surprising to say the least.

My other suggestion is to not just try an ad, but to think about what you want to achieve and develop a strategy. For example, if your page is new and doesn’t have a lot of likes, you might do a like campaign first, then do an ad for your webpage or blog and track the links. If you have an event you can advertise that. Again, tons of options but you really need to have a strategy.

The other thing I discovered is Facebook will now give you a tracking pixel to put on your website. This is invisible code that no one can see. This means if you do an ad and someone goes to your website then that person will pick up the tracking pixel and your ad will continue to deliver to them. Sounds creepy – like digital stalking. But, hey if you are offering something of value like a discount or buy-one get-one free offer, the person may appreciate it.

There is another thing you need to know about Facebook advertising. They like images, but not images with text. So if you think you are going to advertise a flyer -- you can't. They will reject images with more than 20 percent text.

If this article baked your noodle and you are not sure if you need a social media strategy -- give me call.


read more