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Where Courage Still Exists

In his 1956 “Profiles in Courage” John F. Kennedy, then himself a United States Senator, introduced readers to eight former members of that very exclusive club that put service over self-preservation, and sound public policy over political expediency. For many, the book and the similar recognition that others have received since, serves as a battle cry for the need to find candidates and elected officials that transcend the role of politician, and through their unyielding commitment to doing what is right, earn the title of statesman.

 

Despite his admonishment that “it is when the politician loves neither the public good nor himself, or when his love for himself is limited and is satisfied by the trappings of office, that the public interest is badly served,” voters, often times shockingly unaware that they can and should demand more of those in office, continue to pull the lever for candidates whose actions once elected aren’t always driven by their convictions.

Thankfully, for those us that believe that politics can still be an honorable career, and that a well run government is the best way to lift our communities, there are plenty of candidates, and those serving, who will consistently put the needs of their constituents, above their desire to hold a title. In short, they embody the courage President Kennedy admired so much. It’s with this sort of candidate in mind that I was particularly proud to get the charge from a client to help organize an endorsement event for Joe Cryan in his race for State Senate in New Jersey’s 20th Legislative District.

Cryan, currently serving as Union County Sheriff, formerly served as a Member, and the Majority Leader of, the New Jersey General Assembly. His resume also includes an impressive stint as Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee from 2006-2010. It was in both of these positions that Cryan showed his willingness to stand strong in the face of powerful opposition, without regard to the potential damage to his standing under Trenton’s Golden Dome.

Most notably, when, at the height of his popularity, Governor Chris Christie launched a multi-pronged attack on public workers, those that make New Jersey’s communities work, then Assemblyman Joe Cryan stood his ground. While an inexplicable number of his colleagues charged head on alongside Governor Christie, and cast local heroes as enemies to efforts to reform pensions and healthcare, Joe Cryan used his voice to protect the retirement security of teachers, police officers, and firefighters. Knowing his solidarity would likely cost him his Leadership position, and make his role as Chairman untenable, Joe Cryan never wavered.

History, as we now know it, shows that those reforms did nothing to right our State’s financial standing, and that Christie’s agenda had nothing to do with making New Jersey stronger, but rather served only his own ambition to ascend to the Presidency. As Cryan’s campaign to serve in the State Senate in his old district progresses, those same firefighters, as witnessed at the endorsement event, as well as teachers and police, are visibly standing by his side, just as he stood by theirs.

While his actions may have cost him at the time, his relentless desire to do what was right, simply for the sake of doing the right thing, is a badge of courage he will carry with him when he enters the New Jersey Statehouse again in January, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#NiceToMeetYou… Now What?

treeA fellow customer’s lament about a lost friendship that “she doesn’t have Facebook so we’re not in touch” during a recent visit to Starbucks brought some clarity to thoughts that have been rattling around in my head about the value we put, or don’t, on personal relationships in this age of social media. An absence from social media has become the modern equivalent of a tree falling in the woods with no one around. If a relationship doesn’t exist online, does it exist at all?

 

As I approach the seven year anniversary of launching Lenox Consulting, I realize more than ever that it’s the investment I have made in developing and maintaining meaningful relationships with a wide range of individuals, which has helped me achieve the success I have. More importantly, it’s this focus on continuing to build on already successful relationships, while developing new ones, that will drive the future growth of my startup as I seek to build not just my roster of clients, but the team around me, and, most importantly, a list of references for whom I’ve successfully delivered a range of services related to public affairs and public relations.

 

I’ll say from the outset, there are few greater proponents of the power of social media than I am. While some have lamented that social media has ruined individual’s ability to build relationships, others have surmised that the ability to network through social media has reached its peak, falling victim to a corporate desire to generate revenues rather than simply be a conduit for connections, whether they be socially or professionally driven. I believe, like any tool or skill we use in business, the power of social media is, and will remain to be, in how it’s wielded.

 

Strategic use of social media, namely Twitter and LinkedIn, has indeed opened doors for me. These platforms have allowed me to “connect” to people I never would have before, business, political and “thought” leaders from a wide variety of sectors. They’ve helped me meet individuals with similar business interests from around the globe, opening up opportunities that wouldn’t have previously existed to share ideas and best practices. Most importantly, by making the world smaller and putting infinite amounts of information at my fingertips, social media has given me the opportunity to stay up to date on important life events, professional accomplishments, and sometimes recent dining activity, of those I have met over the years, but couldn’t possibly stay in touch with as regularly as these new tools allow.

 

For me, the question has never been how can I use social media to replace the need to develop personal relationships, but rather, how can I use it to supplement what has worked in the past. What social media has brought any of us that work in relationship driven careers is an ability to develop connections from the comfort of our smart device. In all but the rarest circumstances what it hasn’t allowed for is those connections to turn into business producing relationships. That transition, with a set of rules and tips that I may explore in another post, remains the holy grail of online networking.

 

Who knows, maybe in this age of AI, IoT, and whatever other acronyms we use to mark our continued transition to an automated society, perhaps opportunities will eventually exist to eliminate the need for face to face interaction. Until then, I encourage that Starbucks customer to pick up the phone, or maybe even (gasp), send a letter!

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Developing a Public Relations Campaign in The Era of Fake News

img_7165I recently had the opportunity to stand before nearly 200 professional firefighters, members of the NJFMBA, to talk to them about “fake news” and how to combat it. The opportunity came about in the midst of the union’s ongoing efforts to bring about much needed change to a broken, and nearly broke, pension system, that causes these local heroes to worry about whether the retirement savings they have worked hard for will be available to them when they retire after decades of running towards emergencies others run from.

Fake news, in its simplest form, is anything that’s put out to a wide audience, whether verbally, in print, or online, that isn’t true. While these stories can add levity to an otherwise bleak online session scanning the headlines, they can also stir unneeded controversy, push people away from reasonable debate, and force important issues, like the one we were discussing that day, into the background and away from meaningful solutions.

This trend is not a new one. We have long been subjected to checkout counter headlines of alien births, new theories related to celebrity death mysteries, and a host of other salacious tails. Weird Al even sang about fake news in 1984’s “Midnight Star.” The difference today is the opportunity for anyone to create and distribute their own made up stories with just the click of a few buttons, and the impact that expansive access can have.

Through much of 2016 Presidential Election, and in the weeks that have passed since, considerable time has been spent by political “insiders” decrying the prevalence of “fake news” and the outcome some of the sensational, yet totally not based in fact, stories may have had on the eventual outcome of the race for the White House.

A chart by Statista, shared by friend and colleague Matthew Krayton, showed that more Facebook users engaged with “fake” news in their feeds than “mainstream” news. There is no disputing that the more outlandish the story, the more eyes that were driven to it. Let’s be real about it though, who among us hasn’t been drawn to “clickbait” every once and a while? For many of us who keep a smart device within reaching distance at all times, clicking away, regardless of the veracity of the content, is similar to getting absorbed into another mindless episode of “Friends.” A brief escape from reality.

Infographic: Fake News Is A Real Problem | Statista

The concern, I would suggest, is not so much in the content itself, but in the ability of readers to quickly analyze and digest what’s real and what’s not, and for the campaigns the fake news effects to respond quickly and effectively.

In a recent contribution to the Jersey Journal, former New Jersey Assemblywoman, and still highly respected community leader, Joan Quigley, offered her voice on fake news, and the difficulties with ensuring “truth in news reporting.” Her offering that dealing with fake news, and embracing the idea “if it sounds too bad to be true, it probably is,” is simple and straightforward, and not too far off the mark.

One must also question the source. Say what you will about the “mainstream media”, but it seems pretty reasonable to believe that if Hillary Clinton was in fact running a child pornography ring, if the Pope had truly offered an endorsement of the Republican nominee, or if Donald Trump had in fact succumbed to a fatal heart attack just weeks before the election, one of the major outlets would have known about it first. The reality is the guy in his basement whose online contributions link back to advertisements offering opportunities to get rich quick or  lose stubborn belly fat probably doesn’t have the research team to crack the big story!

Readers can also be pretty sure that a reputable news source isn’t going to ask for your personal information: credit card, home phone, social security number, to access their story. Of course, in this time of heightened cybersecurity vigilance, if you’re still falling prey to this there’s a prince with a large inheritance that needs your help.

critical-thinkingUtilizing basic critical thinking techniques also becomes important when deciphering what’s real and what isn’t. Critical thinking, or “the ability to apply reasoning and logic to new or unfamiliar ideas, opinions, and situations,” has been studied and written about exhaustively over the years, and while most experts will agree that it is a skill that can be taught, the debate ensues about when, where and how to do it. Our current environment almost requires us to consume news minute by minute, and with the rapid fire of new headlines makes it difficult to spend appropriate time developing an appropriate, if only internal, analyses.

With the acknowledgement that “fake” news is here to stay, the question, in the context of executing a successful public relations strategy, is how to combat it before it has a chance to stifle the chances of your project, policy or product from reaching its potential. The answer, in theory, is simple: put out the truth. In practice, this becomes more complicated and requires the sort of expertise that Lenox Consulting has worked hard to develop and delivered in a variety of areas over many years.

First and foremost, an expert can ably prepare a message that matches the client’s individual voice, and is understandable to the intended audience. Possessing the know how to distribute the story through traditional means, as well as through new media channels is also critical. Simply put, you can’t counteract fake news if no one is reading your truth.

The fake news you may encounter, as well as the resources and strategy you’ll have to expend to counteract it, will be commensurate with the size of the audience your case touches, and should be considered carefully before embarking on any campaign.

Finally, a reliable and honest communications expert, working within a code of integrity, will prove to be an integral, and long-term part of your team and efforts to make sure your story is articulated outside the spotlight of fake news and disingenuous communications.

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Stopping the “Hurting” in Dallas

13567277_10209476136403300_2659260772066041303_nI have no law enforcement experience, therefore it is impossible for me to determine the appropriateness of the actions of law enforcement professionals in Baton Rouge and St. Paul that led to the loss of lives of two armed individuals.

It is however, very clear, that there is no justification for the murder of the five police officers killed as they protected other’s rights to assemble, protest and speak out against what they see as injustices occurring around them.

Today, as I discussed this tragedy with the leadership of the JCPOBA it occurred to me that the words I help craft in response to the murder of police officers are starting to come too easily, eerily routine.

In the wake of these killings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown made an impassioned plea for support from a public that is too often in a rush to pre-judge police related incidents. He asked for an end to the “divisiveness between our police and our citizens.”

Almost as if on cue, politicians are, through pursed lips, quoting the Bible, praising the heroism of those that responded, and marking it as a new opportunity to bring community and law enforcement together. But once the cameras stop rolling, and our collective attention turns to something shinier, what meaningful change will they help bring forward? Their actions to stop the “hurting” Chief Brown described will speak louder than their words ever can.

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Staying for the Mission

When the Vice President of the United States, the Taoiseach, and a former President of Ireland are among your guests at the gala dinner, and it’s not the biggest highlight of the conference, you can be confident that you succeeded in putting together a truly memorable agenda.

IrlConfSet against the backdrop of the centenary of the 1916 Rising, the event that ultimately led to Ireland’s independence, and on the occasion of their 40th anniversary Worldwide Conference in Dublin, The Ireland Funds did just that!

 

While there was no shortage of business networking opportunities, and socializing well into the night, and in some cases early morning, those that gathered from every corner of the globe did so with the intention of forwarding the mission of the Ireland Fund at the forefront of their minds.

At its core, the mission of The Ireland Funds is simple: to support programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, and education and community development throughout the island of Ireland. With over $500 million raised, and more than 3,000 organizations supported, the success is unquestionable.

With such tremendous accomplishments under their belts, the Ireland Fund would be perfectly entitled to simply celebrate their success. But for the leaders gathered in Dublin, it simply isn’t enough.

The foundation that “Global Irish” icons Dan Rooney and Tony O’Reilly laid forty years ago has grown into an iconic monument to philanthropy, poised to continue its outstanding work into the next forty years, and beyond. After playing her own legendary role as Chair, Loretta Brennan Glucksman, a role model to so many, handed the reins over to John Fitzpatrick, a true gentleman who continues to inspire many of us to do even more to help others.

A rolodex made of up exclusively of the contact information for The Ireland Funds’ Boards of Directors would be the envy of anyone who considers networking a sport. Combined with the day to day stewardship of a staff whose commitment, integrity, and ability is unmatched, the Ireland Fund is surely on a course to do even more good.

However, as we were reminded regularly over the course of the weekend, it’s the donors that really steer the ship. While there are many benefits to getting involved, and giving, to the Ireland Fund, the real return on the investment we make is the ability to reach out and support a wide range of organizations that are creating meaningful change all throughout Ireland. Whether it’s giving unrestricted funds, or through a donor-advised grant, donors that support the Ireland Fund can rest easy with the knowledge that their own hard earned dollars are being put to work appropriately and efficiently. Transparency is at the very core of The Ireland Funds’ efforts to lead philanthropic efforts in Ireland and among the “Global Irish” into the future.

In addition to their fundraising efforts and subsequent giving, The Ireland Funds has also taken on the tremendous task of creating a greater awareness of what philanthropy is, and creating a culture where philanthropic efforts are the norm. Giving back, whether it’s to community, fraternal or other organizations, is an important part of attaining financial freedom as we progress in our lives and careers, but doing so with a plan in mind makes an even greater impact. When one can match that giving plan to a passion, such as The Ireland Fund has for decades for the “Global Irish” around the world, donors transform into philanthropists.

I have been proud to play a small role in The Ireland Funds as a Young Leader, and look forward to helping to advance the Global Leadership Network which will ultimately develop the next generation of the organization’s leadership and help direct its course through the next phase of success.

Having had the chance to meet, and develop meaningful relationships with outstanding organizations such as the Abbey Theatre, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, and the Little Museum of Dublin, and learning so much about so many more, my only regret is that that I don’t have even more to give. I know, however, that as my ability to give becomes greater, and I continue to develop and execute my own philanthropic plan to help build stronger communities, The Ireland Fund will be an important part of that.

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