Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mexican Tales and a Springtime Serenade

I was strumming on my guitar as we sat around the bonfire when my youngest niece requested that I play “Mr. Lincoln.” Having never played the song before, I searched for the chords and began singing once I found them. The musical prose of the song accurately interprets its melancholy message and has significantly impacted my five-year-old niece. She informed me, “Aunt Leah, I might have tears in my eyes if you play that song. But it’s OK.”

Our Hispanic neighbors joined us for the weenie roast. They brought along homemade potato tacos to accompany our all-American hot dogs—a typical blend of cultural trends. Mario Sr. shared a few fables he learned as an impoverished child, growing up in Mexico. He spoke of the good and evil that his grandmother taught him about recounting the sacred lessons of how God works in “different” ways.

After everyone left, I listened to the sounds of spring and watched as the fire died out. Nearby coyotes howled against an orchestra of crickets and frogs that left an impression comparable to “Mr. Lincoln’s.” A wailing train blew its horn in the distance as if to publicize the array of concealed emotions I’ve experienced this week. I stared into the fire pit pondering the excruciating pain inflicted by burns and it reminded me of the old saying, “if you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned.” How quickly we learn that lesson as a child; as it applies to the physical realm. Yet even as adults, we continue to think we are exempt from the dangers of those less tangible.

After enjoying the company of family and friends, I sat alone at the fire. I became aware of my own solitude and the human necessity of its reciprocate: community. There is no greater remedy for one in need of mending. Community—communication—communion—each requires the sharing of something. To share, we rely on one another. We weren’t meant to face this journey alone.

One of Mario’s tales exemplified these lessons through the story of a young man who shared his food and water with others. Though he didn’t have any to spare, they needed it more than he did. Likewise, they saved his life when he was under attack by his own brothers. We are guaranteed trials in this life. We are not guaranteed a support system as we face them. Make yourself available to others by recognizing their needs. The day will come when the tables are turned. I visited a church last week whose pastor mentioned a quote worth passing along: “Adversity doesn’t build character; it only reveals it.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Transparency: the real you

Officers of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter on campus held a PR Unplugged event today. Four prominent PR specialists spoke to an audience of students, professors and professionals about personal branding, social media, crisis communication and media relations.

Though a number of beneficial topics were covered, I took particular interest in their reiteration of establishing trust and transparency through communication with clients and in our brands. These concepts aligned with much of the content I produced for my article, Technology, Identity, Community that appeared in Pork Business Journal last summer. In a world where global communication has become commonplace, it’s tempting to conclude that we, as a society, have lost touch with these values—particularly when headlines daily reveal breeches of trust and lax transparency.

Debra Nalchajian-Cohen, founder of Cohen Communications, encouraged effective communication up front, stating that “facts rise to the top quickly.” Even when you think they can’t, people can see right through you.

Fresno State professor of PR, Betsy Hays, expressed the importance of congruency. When your words don’t match your actions, you lose credibility and destroy your brand with a bad reputation.

These notions pertain directly to PR, but are just as applicable to our daily interactions with each other. Relationships are commonly severed by distrust and a lack of effective communication. Becoming an open book to your counter-part is positively less harmful than putting up a front. You are more likely to incur desired results by making yourself vulnerable.

The times I have decided to step out in faith, into a world of unfamiliarity and discomfort, have been the times that I have taken my largest strides toward personal growth. Transparency may ignite feelings of discomfort at first. But overcoming those fears is liberating. What is there to hide? Let's see the real you.