Monday, January 25, 2010

“60 Minutes”: An Hour of Edutainment

Last night I caught a CBS “60 Minutes” special on the late Don Hewitt, creator and executive producer of the show who died last summer. He served in that role until he was forced to retire in 2004 at the age of 81.

While Hewitt bridged generations from the days TV news was invented to the hyper local 24/7 news cycle, he never lost passion for his job. He called himself the ring master for “The Greatest Show on Earth” and he said the secret of the show’s success could be summed up in four simple words: “tell me a story.” That’s what audiences craved, and he was right as the show continued to rank among the most profitable business units of the network for decades. The show began in 1968 and it’s still running—longer than any other show on TV, which is truly amazing.

Armed with a feisty demeanor, correspondents and fellow news persons said his tirades were legendary. But that’s what allowed him to attract the best talent. Hewitt admitted he flunked out of college and was afflicted with ADD (attention deficit disorder); but said he managed to use his short attention span to his advantage.

“60 Minutes,” an hour-long, news and info program, pioneered “edutainment” and was condensed into three or four 15 minute segments. Why? Because Hewitt determined that was the attention span of Middle America. He honed into that simple fact and made boatloads of money for the network (and colleagues) in the process.

Always play to your strengths and then surround yourself with others who have talent in areas that compliment your unique skills. And, like Hewitt, always be open and receptive to a good debate. In his case, as the boss, he usually won. But, colleagues admitted—he was often right!

It’s a different era, but the show was reflective for me because I grew up as a staunch “60 Minutes” viewer. It was a mainstay for my parent’s generation, and as I got older, it was a mature and serious way to end the weekend and begin the week, providing nourishment in the news arena. Undoubtedly, this contributed to my role as a political junkie to this day.

Hewitt’s vision is what writers and editors must strive to achieve as they capture the limited attention spans of today’s splintered audiences. Audiences who have countless options: mobile media, Internet, radio, TV. Today, producers and channel managers have about a 15-second window to capture viewers’ attention, before viewers’ attention literally clicks to another subject.

When you write or produce: be pithy, be precise; cut out the clutter and get to the point.

Like Don Hewitt, do what you love and have the discipline to keep improving it over time. Have a simple clear message (“Tell me a story”) and follow-through on a simple theme or topic.

You never know what you might create as your legacy, leaving an impact for future generations. It doesn’t have to be on the magnitude of “60 Minutes,” but make sure your message can be delivered in bite-sized chunks. Make every minute count!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Power of the Presidency

Kudos to former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton for joining forces with Commander in Chief Barack Obama for the long-term Haiti rebuilding effort. Undoubtedly, this organization will be the “go to” place for corporate donors interested in being involved for the long haul.

Talk about heavy lifting. Haiti will need decades of economic development and humanitarian support. We may not live to see it, but we can start seeds of progress. Hats off to these leaders of the free world who have come together to rebuild a country. Truth be told, it will also go a long way toward rebuilding their legacies on a global scale and regain the trust of Americans and citizens of the world.

Watch out for Vacations

Before the holidays, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley reportedly enjoyed a commanding 30 point lead in the polls in the special election for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Then, she mistakenly took time off.

Polls now show Republican Scott Brown could squeak out a win. President Obama will visit the state this weekend in an attempt to encourage strong Democratic turnout in Tuesday’s election. A Brown win could derail the healthcare bill which Democrats have fought so hard to pass. Now, they have a 60-vote Senate majority. Without a Coakley win, Republicans could stage a filibuster, blocking the bill.

The moral of this story as mentioned in Millynneum Insight a few weeks ago is to always watch your back and don’t clock extraordinary amounts of vacation time. Never get too comfortable, because competitors smell relaxation. Before you know it, they're gaining on you!

I know from my time as a reporter at the St. Petersburg Times in Pinellas County, Florida that Republicans are shrewd political operatives. On my beat as a general assignment reporter for the cities of Dunedin and Largo, many city council members I covered were conservatives. As one of a few African American reporters for that newspaper in the 1980s, I found the Republican politicos to be extremely open and fair.

In fact, a Dunedin city councilman even tried to recruit me to the GOP! I was somewhat enamored by his bold nature and serious conversation about what I wanted to do with my life in the long term. He questioned if I had considered a life in politics. While I didn't have political aspirations at the time, he explained there were numerous training centers in place throughout the US to train young political talent.

Further, Pinellas County Republicans knew how to mobilize on a grassroots level. As we know, Florida represents a gigantic retiree voting block. The leaders of senior communities were literally courted like royalty, because Republican operatives knew their power and influence in getting out the vote for local, state and government elections. Over the years, they have amassed tremendous power. To this day, you still have to swing through certain retirement communities, particularly if you want to raise money or run for President.

Thirty years ago, the Florida county I lived in had perhaps a 5% ethnic population, on a good day, and I'm being generous with my statistics. Yet a Republican elected official was bold enough to have visionary thinking and reach out to a then 22 year old woman fresh out of college and encourage her to one day perhaps run for office.
To this day, I appreciate Dave Ramsey seeing something in me as a young African American woman.

Use each experience as a chance to grow and get to know how other people think, operate and succeed. You'll find it often helps you believe in your inherent talents and what you can ultimately achieve.

And usually, you can achieve even more if you squeeze in a little work during those hard earned vacations!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help Haiti: Fast and Easy

As noted on the White House blog, Americans can:

> Donate $10 to the Red Cross that will be easily charged to your mobile phone bill by simply texting “HAITI” TO “90999.” Painlessly efficient; just sent my text. Like you, I’ve been glued to CNN and will do more as the US and 30 other countries get a handle on this seemingly insurmountable humanitarian rescue effort.

> In the area of corporate social responsibility, remember which companies have helped out once the news crews have departed and you’re making a decision how to spend your hard-earned dollars. Take note of those companies who make an impact locally or globally via effective long-term corporate social responsibility programs. Many make it easy for customers/clients to do good by waving fees for those who make contributions to the Haiti earthquake victims.

Social Media Steps Up

Facebook, Twitter, Skype and other social media sites are proving to be “miracle” communications mechanism for distributing basic information and helping people to connect regarding news about their loved ones. And, old school communications tools like radio are providing vital links in the homeland and in US Haitian communities and beyond.

Haiti: The Face of a “Raceless” Tragedy

When an earthquake or tsunami hits, isn’t it interesting how discussions about race are quickly replaced by compassion and human need.

Color doesn’t matter; it’s all about the caring. Countries come together. Everyone counts. Whatever your ethnicity or politics, everyone “gets” the fact that a nation is in ruins.

While Hurricane Katrina comes to mind, this is different. One Haitian community executive based in Miami described the natural disaster as “apocalyptic.”
Aptly put.

As my husband Roland recalled last evening, “Say what you want about America, but within a week or so, Louisiana residents were airlifted to other parts of the country. They had shelter, food, at least a start at a new life. In this case, that won’t happen.”
Sadly, this is true.

Haitians will rebuild, because they’re a proud people. In a square in Port-au-Prince, there were numerous news reports about last night’s prayer vigil. In the midst of destruction, Haitians paused to hold each out, chant, pray and give thanks—for merely having survived. Hopefully this can give a second of peace and solace to the echoes of wailing citizens who question why a higher power would or could cause this type of unfathomable death and destruction.

Somehow, people dig deep and survive. They manage to find a way to lift themselves out of the ashes. The least Americans can do is give thanks for our way of life and learn to stop complaining about trivial things

Perhaps, with a renewed interest in global affairs, world leaders can use their influence and power to rebuild Haiti as the global economy rebuilds from the ground up. The country’s proximity to the United States could be a benefit as the mid-Americas region finds its place in the international landscape.

Kudos: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton

Let’s commend Sec. Clinton for immediately jetting back to DC to oversee State Department and USAID rescue effort. Way to go Hillary! One thing’s for sure, the
Obama administration has leapt into action this time around.

Even former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are using their persuasive powers for the public good, helping to mobilize international relief efforts. We need these power couples and many more because the task at hand is seemingly insurmountable.

Somehow, some way, the job will get done. In your own circles, try to do the same thing and effect change where you can, even if it’s here in your own back yard. While Haiti holds our attention for the moment, don’t forget their needs once the cameras are focused on something else.

For that matter, don’t forget your neighbors or those in need right here at home.

Celebrity Shout Out

Kudos to Bragelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) for donating $1 million to the Haiti Rescue effort via Doctors Without Borders. Years ago, I had the pleasure of attending one of their seminars at the Fashion Institute of Technology; the organization does fantastic work all over the world.

Other power couples … making your matching donation now! Disasters like this make me want to be uber rich so I’ll have more to give.

Race Relations: Reality Check

Last weekend, news channels were abuzz regarding Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) comments that President Barack Obama was an acceptable black person to run for leader of the free world because he was light-skinned and didn’t speak with a Negro dialect.

Thankfully, that topic has been displaced by real news: the tragedy in Haiti, something really worth discussing.

Here are a few ways you can change the game in your own community or be effective among audiences you influence:

> Speak up in class or in the workplace;
> Start frank discussions;
> Be confident enough to be yourself;
> Display excellence;
> Demonstrate your top-flight work ethic each day of the week;
> Practice ethical integrity;
> Forge new connections by joining a networking group or professional association where your ethnic group is the minority;
> Continue to learn and expand your worldview by having a real conversation eye-to-eye, in addition to online conversations (when you’re dealing with race, face-to-face is important)
> To understand how backroom politics really works, purchase Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, HarperCollins Publishers. For a taste of the book, check out:

An Excerpt From John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's 'Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime' -- New York Magazine

Diligent implementation of the above will show friends, colleagues and peers that you can relate. That’s race relations in its finest hour. Don’t merely sprint, be a race relations realist for the long haul. Government or human resources won’t solve the problem; you have to do the heavy lifting by starting a dialogue with people who sit right next to you, in the office, at school or on the subway. Take a risk and have a substantive dialogue, rather than a “lamestream” packaged approach.

Think about race. Bring up the subject in small forums. Be honest about your feelings. Understand your comments may receive raised eyebrows, but you’ll aid in a frank discussion about something we all need to talk about in order to move forward.

And, understand race relations is a subject for the ages. It will take time, but you’ve got to remember to make time and a safe place to talk about it in the first place.

Shout Out to Sarah!

Think what you want about Alaska’s favorite hockey mom (like me) and politician, but Gov. Sarah Palin has parlayed her time on the national scene into a multi-million deal with Fox News. Girlfriend has achieved the American dream—good for her!

While I don’t agree with most of her politics, she’s an excellent case study of personal branding at its finest.

Sarah’s lesson: Go for your dream. Really, what do you have to loose? You might even succeed!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Terrorism and Tactical Errors

The past few weeks have been rife with the spectacle of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s foiled attempt to snuff out the lives of innocent Americans and citizens of the world.

Luckily his attempt was thwarted by Jasper Schuringa, otherwise known as the “flying Dutchman,” a young man who jumped over rows of seats to wrestle the wanna be bomber and save the lives of fellow passengers.

What a “Holiday Hero.”

While we’re thankful Umar literally didn’t have “the b_ _ _s” to go through with his diabolical plot, what’s puzzling is how our ace team of high-powered political advisors couldn’t adequately counsel the leader of the free world.

No one can do it alone. We all need a team of advisors/supporters to be in peak operating mode. If you can’t trust your instincts or “team of advisors” to know when it’s time get back to work (officially/as in back to Washington), then it kind of makes you wanna say “Huh?”

Some say the president had a rough year and he needed a little down time. I say ask the 7 million Americans who are unemployed how bumpy the past year has been for them and their families.

Guess what? The year would have been a lot more volatile if a man hadn’t literally hurled himself through the air to thwart a mid-air explosion.

What oh what will we do if a terrorist plot goes through?

Many pundits say the terrorists may have done us a favor, and I tend to agree. Perhaps now we’ll go into 9/12 mode – the day after 9/11 and ramp up our allegiance to country and conscience, taking the time to all do our part to keep America safe.

Mission Possible: Global Benefits of Being Media Savvy

Yes, President Obama is media savvy. But this was a big “misstep” and everyone on the home team knows it for sure. While the President serves as mission control, we all know there’s a collection of smart men and women who share the helm as it pertains to the distribution of news and information to key audiences.

Via colleagues in a vast network of communications/associate positions, they develop and massage important relationships with and monitor news distributed to:

> Government (Pentagon, State Department, Homeland Security, etc.)
> Multi-Channel Media representatives (traditional news organizations like CNN, social networks like “Twitter,” linked in, etc., laptop/desktop communicators, TV, radio, citizen journalists, blogs)
> Organizations
> Leadership Groups

Many, Robert Gibbs (Press Secretary) and David Axelrod (Communications Director) to name a few, are specifically charged to lead divisions of information disciples, otherwise known as mass (news/info networks), niche marketing (social networks) and a wealth of grassroots to global public relations organizations that disseminate messages on a moment-by-moment basis.

These “ace communicators” advise the President on how and when the media can and should be used to get the word out to key publics/audiences. And, they can effectively persuasive messages (and visuals) to keep the mindset of Americans calm.

Palm trees and beach backdrops – in the midst of airport security breaches –
just doesn’t pass muster.

These media monitoring soldiers are an important part of today’s information militia.
Everyone must have a strategically solid game plan. No one, especially the communicators, must waver from the mission at hand.

It’s tricky, because other branches of government have delineated tasks. Media gurus must focus on multiple missions. In fact, that’s why the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that PR careers will increase 24% through 2018.

Vacation Vacuum

Lesson: Keep vacation time to a minimum when the sanctity of the free world is at stake. If I had the good fortune to be on the President’s “A Team,” I would have counseled him to:

> After the Christmas Day bomb attempt, immediately take Air Force One back to the mainland and set strategy from the confines of the nation’s capital. Be near the Pentagon.

> Communications specialists and senior execs can then strategize eye to eye, not via BlackBerry or Skype.

As you know, I’m not big on vacations. I’d much rather work and take “snippets” of time on any given day to regroup.

Often, vacations result in lost time and reduced momentum. In sum, you loose your mojo. When others are on vacation, I’d just rather work. For me, it helps me keep my edge and usually I come out ahead of the pack.

Media Management Mistep: If you’re the President and someone has just tried to blow up an American airplane, it’s not acceptable for the global public to see palm trees in the background or news coverage of your SUV caravan on patrol from the golf course.

It doesn’t matter how many press conferences you’ve held or what a somber tone you’ve struck. Remember, pictures speak louder than words, and I can still see those palm trees swaying. [Disclaimer: I have a conference later this year in Hawaii, more on that later.]

These recommendations are for our Commander-in-Chief or rank in file CEO’s. Use the precious “intellectual capital” you’ve earned to:

> Set the right tone;

> Highlight substantive and meaningful messages;

> Consider all audiences.

The President certainly can’t help that he’s from a beautiful locale – good for him. But also, think about grieving families of armed service members who lost loved ones in battle in Iraq or Afghanistan. How do they feel when they see these palm trees swaying in the background during the holiday season? How do these visuals play out in middle America? Could a “middle American” vacation perhaps have been better for 2009? Could a visit to the South Side of Chicago been planned with a midnight candlelight vigil encouraging local youth to start 2010 off right without violence that has senselessly snuffed out the lives of scores of teenagers.

Visuals add vitality to any story. Visuals count big.

Maureen Dowd - New York Times

Kudos to Dowd for today’s spot on analysis of the President and his politics; well put!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Power of Morning

After shaking off my "nothing pressing" holiday schedule, I had to kick my brain back into high gear for a full day of meetings. While my active mind needed the holiday rest, I'm now raring to go as I plan for a new semester at CCNY, strategize for my work on Colgate and stretch to complete many overdue personal ventures.

To gather my thoughts, I got up at 4 am. The house is quiet and it's the perfect time to plan, write and create. If I discipline myself to rise at least two hours before the sun, I'm amazed at what I can accomplish by 8 or 9 am -- the time most people sit down at their desks to start the day.

Understand zones when you do your best work and play to that energy. Carve out the time to maximize your output. With discipline, you'll soon find that items on your to do list are quickly evaporating.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Become a “Shark”

One of my long-time pals and I often speak in code, referring to ourselves as “sharks.” Not the dishonest underworld types, but the type comfortable in any environment; people with unusually great skill in one area or another.

Sharks navigate rough seas, but manage to stay on course. Be a shark. If you’re excellent at something, you’ll never be a fish out of water.

Take a Stand, Get Involved and Magnify Your Voice!

In the tradition of President Barack Obama, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has created an Office of Community Organizing to encourage citizens to start petition drives and initiate civic actions against city hall.

If you believe in something, learn how to maximize your influence by joining forces with others who are like minded. There is strength in numbers. As Americans return to a “power of the people” approach

And, here’s a shout out to John Liu, our newly inaugurated Comptroller, the chief fiscal officer of New York City.

Learn how your government works by attending city council meetings in the year ahead.

The Next Wave: Freescale’s Tablet Reader

According to Media Bistro, Freescale will introduce a new $200 7” tablet reader at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The device will have a touch screen and combine features of a smart phone and notebook computer.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Win in 2010!

A new year brings a fresh start. This year, I’m vowing to complete outstanding projects and recommit to advance action and forward thinking.

As I surveyed accomplishments at year-end, it provided me momentum and a new mantra: “Win, Lynne, Win— in 2010!” As the holidays wind down, I’m wound up about the New Year ahead and can’t wait to get started.

I’ve already lined up a few guest speakers for my CCNY classes and scheduled pre-semester face time with key individuals, plan two business conferences and develop my for impact service venture. And, I’m going to embrace what I do best: utilize my people skills to bring people together and make things bigger and better than what organizers originally envisioned.

That’s the secret: do what you do best and let others handle the rest. Translation: subcontract and delegate when possible and see your ideas blossom brighter than you ever imagined.

Stay in the moment, maximize your momentum and win in 2010!

Saturday, January 02, 2010


A grassroots to global forecast for 2010 and the decade ahead

> Americans embrace the “era of inclusion”

> "Generation G" ... grassroots to global enthusiasts ... grows exponentially

> Substantive relationships replace “followers”

> Audiences “search” for meaningful dialogue rather than retrieve mountains of misleading, meaningless information

> People opt-in for “face time,” along with Facebook

> Social networks help solve world and workplace issues in real-time

> Service to others overtakes list serves and eblasts

> Consumers make news by contributing time, talent and dollars to organizations they believe in

> Men and women “reset” values and boost respect for family, friends and work

Friday, January 01, 2010


Although you may not hear from me
I often wonder “How you be?”

Responsibilities and passions take our time,
Drain our energies … and thankfully stretch our minds

In order to move forward—we must not only pray
But cut back on “play” to find our way

We no longer want (or need) to do it all
By taking time to regroup, it allows us to stand tall

Part of life’s joy is learning to maintain composure
While eliminating “undue exposure”

Less emails, texts, notes, visits and calls
Results in a year-round “gift” of “the present”

Cherish this gift throughout the year
Hold loved ones near
And schedule time to savor life’s fleeting moments

Wishing you Simplicity & Success
in 2010 and Beyond,

Lynne Scott Jackson