Time for another PR Mama guest post, and what the hey, let’s hear it for the boy…again. I had such a good time hosting PR Cog last time, I decided to invite another one of my favorite social media dads over to discuss balancing family and work life in this crazy business of ours. And by the way, as I’m about to dive into a roiling sea of estrogen at the Type A Mom Conference over the next three days, this may be the last you hear about men and dads for a while.
Scott Henderson is currently the cause marketing director for MediaSauce, an Indiana-based agency that helps corporations and non-profits create and implement online strategies to achieve transformational growth. I first encountered Scott when he left an epic comment here at PR Mama that really should’ve been a full post – it was full of such great stuff, I printed it out and carried it around with me to meetings for weeks. I liked quoting Scott in discussions about cause marketing; it always made me sound smart. The post I had written that inspired Scott’s three-screen comment was in praise of his terrific work with Tyson Foods and the Pledge to End Hunger campaign (if you remember the Social Media Smackdown at South by Southwest last year, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.)
Filling My Dad’s Shoes
What makes us so special? Moms and dads have had to balance parenting responsibilities with social and work duties ever since we created this thing called “civilization.” Like most men, I judge myself as a father using my own dad as the gold standard. I’ve been blessed with two loving, encouraging parents. My mom and dad have given me a lot of love and attention in my life. They’re not perfect, but they have done a great job.
My dad, “Dr. Bill” as everyone in the neighborhood called him, has always been in my life and there for some of my highest and lowest moments. He was the all-time quarterback for the neighborhood football games we played in our front yard. No matter what the sport, he made a point of showing up for my games and even coached when he could.
He and I tackled a number of projects for cub scouts and school. While we didn’t win any blue ribbons, we did rack up a shoebox full of participation ribbons (this was before kids received a trophy for everything). The single proudest moment of my teenage years came when my dad was there to see my only first place finish at a swim meet in high school one early Saturday morning. It meant so much to me that he was there to cheer me on and treat me to a post-meet celebratory breakfast.
Unlike Dr. Bill, I travel a lot for my work and that’s something I have had to figure out on my own. Don’t let me fool you – I’m still trying to find the right balance. Every job’ve had since college has involved a good deal of roadwork. It’s not that I loathe it. On the contrary, I enjoy traveling and couldn’t imagine having a job that kept me in one place all the time.
In fact, I am writing this post while on a work trip to Champaign, Illinois. Giving my calendar a quick glance, I see this is my fifth work trip in six weeks. That’s a lot of disruption for our three-person family.
For the past eight years, I have said goodbye and given that “one last hug and kiss” a lot to my son, Ethan. He’s never known me not to travel in his eight years of life, but it’s not something he wants.
Before I left last night, I decided to interview him as part of this guest post. Here’s what I learned:
- He likes when I bring him home souvenirs like the small White House I picked up from a gift kiosk in Washington DC.
- He also likes it when I bring home sweet treats like the delicious goodness from www.thecrispery.com.
- If it were up to him, he would make it a law that dads would never have to travel without their families.
When I take the time to think about it, I realize that my son is forming his gold standard for fatherhood by how I’m doing as his dad. That’s an amazingly heavy responsibility, especially with all the traveling I do. I hope he will feel one day about me as I do about my dad.
I’ve always liked Uma Thurman, but when she emerged as the central muse in the twisted world of Quentin Tarantino she stole my heart once and for all. Mrs. Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction? Swoon.
When I heard Uma was starring as a mom blogger in her next film, it was hard to shake the image of her as The Bride in the Kill Bill flicks — kick ass yellow jumpsuit, bloody sword, fiercely beautiful and totally lethal. Then I remembered that it was the ferocious drive to reclaim her lost daughter that drove her through the second film — so in addition to being a real-life mother, Uma knows how to play motherhood and then some.
Motherhood was written and directed by Katherine Dieckmann, who I got to spend some time with this afternoon on a conference call with a handful of other NYC-area bloggers. Couple of things you might want to know about Katherine and Motherhood:
The movie was made almost entirely by women. That rocks.
Katherine drew from her own life in creating it; in fact, the film was shot in the building where she lives. She said she awoke each morning to the sound of the crew setting up, got her kids fed and off to school, and went to work. Downstairs. Which also rocks.
Katherine’s kids loved the craft services. Anyone who’s been on a TV or film set knows what this is. It’s food, and lots of it. The kids called it “crafty” and apparently got obsessed with it because Katherine is not a “big snack giver.”
One of the reasons Katherine was inspired to make the movie is that she couldn’t find any authentic representations of motherhood on the big screen. She cites Baby Boom (Diane Keaton as J.C. Wiatt, amazing) as one of the last movies to treat motherhood as the complex juggling act it really is. (That was 22 years ago, by the way.)
I can’t wait to see this movie. I love Uma playing disheveled. She’s incredibly endearing, and with Minnie Driver as her BFF and Anthony Edwards as her hub, what’s not to love. I also love movies shot on location in this city. I can’t help but wonder if Motherhood won’t be just a little bit of a love letter to the West Village, since it’s where Katherine makes her home.
Finally, I love that blogging — mom blogging, specifically — is in the spotlight with nary a mention of FTC guidlines or brand shilling controversies. Maybe this film will put the focus back on what’s been true about mom bloggers from the beginning: they tell it like it is about motherhood. Authentically, unfiltered, with some of the most beautiful writing on the internet. They are raw, passionate, angry, joyful, supportive, frantic, serene, hilarious, loving. Some times all at once. I am not surprised — and eternally grateful — that it’s a woman bringing this glorious cacaphony to the silver screen.
Motherhood opens in select markets October 23rd. Get more info here.
[Disclosure: There are no material connections between the makers of Motherhood and me. All they did was invite me to participate in a conference call. I realize I’ve just set a dangerous precedent as a cheap date. What I really want but am too shy to request is to go on a playdate with Uma, Katherine and their kids. I might even remember to bring my kid. Katherine says it’s okay to drink wine during playdates, provided the children are not put in harm’s way. So clearly we were meant to be best friends.]
I feel kind of inept at blogging sometimes. I’m playing in the pee-wee league for one thing, by which I mean I’m not self-hosted. If I were self-hosted, I’d have lots more neat widgets on the blog and zippy graphics and my very own domain name. I don’t even know what all else it means to be self-hosted. But I figure I’d finally have a blog that’s a bit more polished and functional and also by the way wouldn’t look like every other wordpress blog with the “Cutline” theme. And best of all, I’d be able to invite people to e-mail me at email@example.com. How cool is that.
I work with a very patient guy named Jon who is our Director of Digital Strategy. He looks just like a Director of Digital Strategy should. He has a beard, lives in Brooklyn, drives a Mini and is married to a talented artist who’s also French (which makes her an artiste). In other words, he’s cool, as digital people often are. Unfortunately for him, his office is within hollering distance of mine and also, he reports to me. So although he has actual work to do — with clients, for example — he does double-duty as my go-to guy for Stupid Blog Questions. Like when I was setting up PR Mama last year, stuff like:
Hey Jon, so what’s the difference between a category and a tag?
Do I need both?
How come my tag cloud doesn’t look as cool as the one on your (self-hosted) blog?
What do you mean 2000 words is too long for a post?
Where do I get nice pictures for my blog posts?
Is it stealing if I find it on Google images?
What should I call my blogroll?
Do I have to call it a blogroll, is it breaking the rules not to?
How do I get the Twitter widget on my sidebar?
What if I want the little bird icon, how do I do that?
Am I allowed to hyperlink more than one word, or will I get in trouble?
Can you get kicked out off WordPress if no one reads your blog?
And so on.
I’ve wised up a bit over the past year. I hardly ever bother Jon anymore. But today I decided it would be a good idea once and for all to just pack up the whole PR Mama show and schlep it over to WordPress.org. Because really, enough with the pee-wee leagues. I’m ready for some midget football (do they still call it that, by the way? Why am I guessing not?)
I find myself in need of Jon’s help again. I call him into my office and this is what goes down:
Me: I need a domain name, right?
Me: I wanted “PR Mama” but someone took it. It’s something having to do with Puerto Rico.
Jon: You really should consider registering your own name.
Me: Is that important?
Jon: Well, it’s really all about building your personal brand these days so…yeah, you probably should.
Me: But how do I do that?
Jon: [directs me to Yahoo Small Business] Let’s see if stephaniesmirnov.com is available.
[We’re told that it’s not.]
Me: How weird is that? Some d-bag took my name. Now what?
Jon: Go ahead and click on it and let’s find out what bozo is sitting on your name.
[A few clicks reveal that in fact, I am the bozo sitting on my name.]
Me: Oh, right. I forgot I did that. So I own the domain name, even though the Puerto Ricans own PR Mama. That’s okay, right?
Jon (inching towards door): Right. That’s good.
Me: Does this mean I can get better widgets and a cool Twitter bird and an awesome e-mail address?
Jon: Yeah, sure, you’ll be able to do a lot more with the blog now. Did you say you’ve got some WordPress designers teed up? I’m sure they can help you take it from here now that you’ve got the domain registered [translation: my work is done here, can I go back to my office now?]
So stephaniesmirnov.com is primed and ready for action. I am ready to assume my rightful role as a Big Digital Kid, at long last. The moving van hasn’t backed up just yet but stay tuned for news as I make the leap over to WordPress.org. (Question is, will my go-to guy come along for the ride?)
I like this guest posting thing and am officially on the hunt for other mothers working in PR, especially those who work in offices. Is it me, or are we underrepresented in the blogosphere? We don’t even have a proper acronym. There are SAHMs, WAHMs…what’s the label for broads who squeeze into Spanx and schlep to offices every day? WOOHMs (moms who work out-of-home)? Maybe WIOMs (for moms who work in-offices)?
I prefer WOOHM (rhymes with womb).
So while I’m off scouring the internets for PR-focused WOOHMs to guest post here (’cause they’re my tribe and I learned at BlogHer that I gotta find my tribe) I thought you might enjoy a little gender-bending diversion. That’s right: a guest post from a PR Papa.
As PR guys go, it doesn’t get much better than PR Cog. As many of my social media pals know, “PR Cog” is the pseudonym for a PR practioner here in NYC who chooses to blog anonymously about our industry because, as he’s said, “someone’s got to.” Cog is smart, funny, accomplished (I think…if only I knew where he actually works) and always there to lend a digital helping hand to a colleague in need. And he’s a dad, father to two young “coglings.” So without further ado, I give you this view from the other side, that of a working PR dad:
Same Conversations, Different Audiences
I’m relatively new to the world of PR. Most anyone who follows me knows I basically came into it because I previously worked in my area of PR specialty — the clients feel comfortable talking to me and I did a significant amount of writing in college for an extra-curricular project, so I’ve got most of the necessary tools in my toolbox.
Needless to say, it was trial by fire — learning as I went along. I still do, in fact. Some from my colleagues and more recently, the wonderful group of people on Twitter and (specifically) my cohorts at [shameless plug] PRBreakfastClub.com .
As my responsibilities grew over time at my agency, I found it increasingly difficult to balance the time at home with the Coglings (an hour or so in the morning and another in the evening before bedtime) and work.Inevitably as soon as I’d arrive home, there was some sort of crisis — a lost briefing book for a client on the west coast, the limo service for the desksides has to cancel because of Fashion Week and I need to track down a Town Car to play driver, or (one of my favorites) Client A sues Client B and both call us for the work.
Recently, based on a tweet from the exceptional Heather Silverberg I’ve realized the balance problem isn’t caused by the schedule, but because I’m having the same conversations at work as I am at home. You doubt it? Try this conversation on for size:
Cog [to child]: Cogling, do you want to wear your red shirt or green shirt today?
And now this:
Cog [to client]: Did you want to start the meetings at 10 or 11 during your visit?
Same conversation, different audiences. Same result, too. Unanswered calls (one across the room, one across the country) seeking an actual answer and a look (or sound in the case of the client) of confusion that the question was an ‘or’ proposition and that both can’t be done simultaneously (ok, I guess Cogling could’ve worn two shirts, but we’re not letting him know that’s an option).
Think this is only a one time problem? How’s this?
Cogling [playing next to Cog while he reviews some emails]: Daddy, can I have your little thing? [He was referring to the iPhone, people….the perverted jokes are my territory.]
Cog: Sure [handing over phone after loading one of the games].
Cogling [after Cog moves to the laptop to continue reading emails]: Daddy, can you show me Moon pictures on that?
Cog: Sure [loading up some moon videos on YouTube]. Can I have the phone back?
Cogling: I want them both.
Cog: Client, great news, the Wall Street Journal loves your story. They want it as an exclusive.
Client: Great. What about the Times?
Cog: Well, if we give it to the Journal [with emphasis] as an exclusive, we can’t leak it to the Times.
Client: Why not? I want them both.
So, for all the other PR Daddies out there, consider all the frustrating calls you’ve had with clients lately. If they feel oddly familiar, it might just be because you’ve had the conversation with your own very special (and short) live-in client.
PR Cog is a PR Pro at a mid-size Manhattan PR agency, and father of two Coglings. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and at two blogs: PR Cog’s Gear Grindings and PRBreakfastclub (of which he is editor).
It’s been a long-time goal of mine to include guest posts here on the outside chance that not everyone subscribes 100% to my particular worldview and wants to hear from other “PR mamas.” There are certainly lots of them out there, women like me hustling to keep all the balls in the air while doing right by clients, colleagues, friends and family (and not losing their minds in the process.)
I can’t think of a better inaugural PR Mama Guest Star than Valerie Merahn Simon, Senior Vice President at BurrellesLuce and mother of two little ones (a seven-month old and three-year old). I first encountered Valerie on Twitter about four months ago while shamelessly offering free beer to whomever signed on as my 400th follower (and don’t ask why 400 was an important milestone because I just don’t remember. I blame the beer.) Valerie was the lucky winner and although she politely declined her prize (something ridiculous about not drinking while breastfeeding), she became a fast Twitter friend. By her own description, Valerie is “a proud PR Mama who strives to learn something new (about both PR and motherhood) each day.” She writes a national public relations column for examiner.com and is a co-founder and host of #PRStudChat, a monthly twitter chat between PR professionals and students moderated by fellow PR mom Deirdre Breakenridge.
THE CAR RIDE
Lunches? Check. Extra clothes? Check. Computer? Check. Purse, Cell Phone, Keys? Check, Check, check. I put the key in the ignition, only to realize that I forgot diapers. Again. “Wait just one second,” I say to the sleepy faces in the back seat and run back inside.
“Mommy forgot,” the 3 year old tells his 7 month old sister. “What’d you forget ‘dis time mommy?”
Back in the car, pull out of the garage. 6:45 am. Whew. Still should be on schedule. “Mommy?” says the 3 yr old. “Where’s Daddy?”
“Daddy is in Miami” I explain for what seems like the millionth time. It has not been easy to explain to a 3 year old that Daddy got a new job and had to go to the company headquarters for 3 weeks of training.
“Your Ami?” asks the 3 year old. “Why’s Daddy in Your Ami?”
“Not Your Ami. Miami…” I start to explain. Then I stop. New approach. “Daddy got on a plane, just like in the story we read.”
“Daddy can’t go in ‘da plane mommy.”
“Yes, he can”
“No he can’t!” (repeats for 5 minutes before child starts to cry) “There are pirates on da plane. They’re bad guys! Daddy can’t go on da plane! ”
“Pirates?” Huh? “No… the Pilots go on the plane. Not pirates. The pilots are good guys.”
Silence. Acceptance. Just in time to realize the light is turning red. And there’s a police car on the corner.
“Red means stop mommy!”
Step on brakes. Hard. Antilock brakes kick in.
“What’s ‘dat noise mommy?”
“Don’t worry, mommy’s just having a little trouble with the brakes in the car.”
“Uh oh!” (turns to baby sister) “Oh no, mommy’s in trouble. She’s breaking the car!”
“Mommy’s not breaking the car. “
As for whether or not mommy’s in trouble… I glance at the clock. 7:05 am. We have arrived at “school” with plenty of time. The blackberry is quiet. All is well at the office. I look at the sweet faces in the rear view mirror. Happy faces quietly smiling back at me. No, I’m not in trouble. Not today.
As many of you know, I am obsessed with Sharpies. They are much more than pens to me. They are self-expression accessories, if you will. They bring color, boldness and clarity to my life — both my lives, actually. Professional Life and Private (Mom) Life. I think with Sharpie, I create with Sharpie, I edit with Sharpie, I doodle with Sharpie, I label with Sharpie, I define with Sharpie.
Yes, I think Sharpie is fine. Ultra-fine! (Heh.) I also think Sharpie is smart, smart, smart. I’ve gushed about the brand blog before, I still hold it up as a model for powerful branded presence in the social media space. The presentation below (from SlideShare) provides a fabulous glimpse at how the Sharpie team does what they do. Kudos to Susan Wassel — or SharpieSusan, as she is known to her Twitter followers — who’s been the tireless force behind this work.
I feel a moral obligation to post a BlogHer recap that does not mention any of the following: Swag, swag whore, swag bag, swag hag, Croc-bribing, over-imbibing, baby elbowing, baby hating, sponsor hating, Nikon-Gating, vibrator sampling, crowds trampling…I discussed some of that stuff already but I wonder if perhaps we should turn the page now.
Next topic. I’m not positive but I heard a rumor there were some sessions at BlogHer where people got together to discuss things like….dammit, if only I could think of the word.
Writing, that’s it.
Far away from the sponsored Expo Hall, bloggers got together to talk about writing – about race, serious illnesses, topics other than parenting, political commentary, food, pop culture and, in my favorite session of the weekend, humor.
Here’s who sat on the panel, emcee’d by Deb Rox (@debontherocks)
Wendi Aarons (@waarons)
Jessica Bern (@bernthis)
Kelcey Kinter (@Mamabirddiaries)
Jenny Lawson (@TheBloggess)
Anna Lefler (@annalefler)
Not that I’m complaining, but the room was like seven sizes too small. With the previous panel having been standing room only, we walked into a soggy chamber of sogginess where every seat was already taken because none of the previous session’s attendees were budging. It’s not their fault, you’d be a chair hog too if you had a chance to get within petting distance of The Bloggess.
So I shoehorned myself into a cozy spot on the floor in the middle of the center aisle to commence sweating and live tweeting. Unfortunately, Tweet Deck kept punting me off thanks to the Sheraton’s state-of-the-art wi-fi (which tauntingly worked on the side of the room where I was not, the side where people had chairs and iced coffees and smug expressions.)
So I closed up the laptop and admired my neighbors’ cute shoes and pedicures from my unique floor-level vantage point. Then I listened to six brilliant women talking about the art of Blogging While Funny. Here is what I learned:
1. BlogHer attendees are awfully bi-curious. I can’t tell you how many tweets I saw before my wi-fi died about people hoping to get a peek up The Bloggess’ dress.
2. From a distance, if you blur your eyes, Anna Lefler looks a little like Ann Coulter, by which I mean tall, blonde and lanky. The resemblance would be even closer if Ann Coulter were a) attractive or b) a member of the human race.
3. I’m not sure Jessica Bern knows what a twitter hashtag is. This strikes me as funny.
4. Putting words together that don’t belong is funny. Like Rita Arens’ suggestion from the audience that a baby is like a flesh purse, at which point a fellow floor-squatter murmured, “My flesh purse doesn’t hold nearly as much as my Coach purse.”
5. Horrible things like death can be funny (cf: The Bloggess here) and yes, catharctic (not just for the writer.)
6. Rhythm is important. Read your posts out loud to see if the words flow optimally for bringing the funny (no one on the panel actually said “bringing the funny,” I did. Funny people don’t say “bringing the funny.”)
7. Humor pisses people off. The panelists agreed they often leave angry comments up on their blogs because they themselves are quite funny (especially spelling-challenged commenters saying “your retarded.”)
I really wanted to share ten lessons, not seven, but here’s what happened. About thirty minutes into the session my legs fell asleep and I started to black out ever so slightly from the heat. I’m afraid this is the best I can do. In the meantime, if you’d like to see more love for bringing the funny on BlogHer, lobby the good ladies in San Francisco for a dedicated BlogHer Humor channel. If you’re on Twitter, check out the conversation at #blogherhumor (a hashtag I’m pretty sure Jessica Bern did not invent.)