Archive for August, 2012

Good PR, Bad PR

August 30th, 2012
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Lately, it seems like local public relations people need, well... better PR to undo the damage caused by bad PR efforts. Of course, I'm referring to the UH "Wonder Blunder" and subsequent mishandling of the sports AD situation, and the ongoing rail PR fiasco. Since I have had personal dealings with people involved with both, it's been difficult for me to refrain from going off on rants about either of those issues or how the consequences will have a negative impact on jobs and our economy. Perception is everything in today's short attention span society, and right or wrong, knee-jerk reactions are dictating the direction Hawaii is going in -- backwards, unfortunately.

Yesterday, I had to deliver my new Career Changers TV episode for September to the OC16 offices in Mililani. As I left my home in Kailua, I saw a huge anti-rail banner alongside a bunch of other political campaign signs. It said, "RAIL WON'T STOP HERE!" So the rationale is if we don't directly benefit from something, why should we support it with our tax dollars? I guess the people who hung the banner didn't get the unintended irony of where they put their message: it was right next to Kalaheo High School. You know, my wife and I don't have kids, but we've never grumbled about our taxes paying for public education of YOUR children -- who are growing up in an increasingly selfish, me-first society.

Anyhow, the banner ticked me off, and as I was driving on H-3 to my destination, I thought about all the people who tried to stop that from being built -- largely on the same grounds rail is being opposed: too expensive, it won't benefit "me" directly, it will destroy the pristine views and disturb Native Hawaiian burial grounds, which are sacred (unless it's land that is being developed for retail shopping centers or hotel resort properties). Many of the same people who fought H-3 are probably now using it on a regular basis. The only thing opponents accomplished was they drove the costs up, making attorneys richer in the process. Now the same thing is happening with rail.

For the past 27 years I've lived here, I've been saying it's crazy there is no rail system in Honolulu. Even people who say they oppose it today, tell me they agree it should have been built 20-30 years ago when it would have been far cheaper to acquire the land and build the basic infrastructure. Yet they don't see by their own logic that if we don't do it now, they'll be saying the SAME THING 20-30 years later because our population isn't going to magically stop growing.

But I digress. What I really wanted to write about is how bad PR doomed the project from the start because the people in charge don't seem to understand the "public" and "relations" part of public relations. I've worked with consummate PR professionals who know there's a difference between making the community part of the process, and simply sending out carefully-worded press releases that were vetted by higher ups. I think one of the reasons rail -- and the UH -- has so badly botched their attempts at PR is because they think it's as easy as hiring a former TV news person or newspaper reporter to handle the media. No, it's not. Good PR firms go out into the community first and listen to their customers' needs and wants. It takes real planning and strategy to find common ground BEFORE things go wrong. Bad PR is based on crisis management and blame-shifting after the fact. Good PR requires creative, long-term thinking. Bad PR is reactionary and slapping band-aids on problems. Good PR presents choices. Bad PR says "take it or leave it."

Thanks to the H-3, it "only" took me about an hour to get to Mililani. That's during non-peak times. If I drove 75 mph like nearly everyone else, I could have made it to OC16 faster, but I have been chastised in this blog for complaining about being ticketed for speeding so I've slowed down a bit. Commuters from West Oahu don't have the luxury of choosing their drive times like I do though. My wife has worked with people who live on that side, and it's "normal" to hear how it takes them 2-3 hours to get to work or return home whenever there's an accident. You can't tell me this kind of continual daily stress doesn't take a physical and mental toll on those people or their families. It is literally taking years off their lives. Moreover, car culture itself is killing us -- obesity, lack of exercise, reliance on cars transporting us everywhere, is destroying our quality of life.

Coming back on H-1 and H-2 is always a white-knuckle driving experience for me... especially when I reach the major merge sections where there are 12 lanes (more possibly -- who can count them all?) of cars and trucks barreling along these massive stretches of asphalt and concrete... and as I furtively glance from side to side at this expanse of wall-to-wall vehicles, spewing tons of exhaust into the air we all breathe, I can't help but laugh at the people who say an elevated rail system will be a visual blight on our island paradise. Really?

In case they haven't noticed, that version of Hawaii no longer exists. I saw a funny illustration of how the elevated rail system would "obstruct" views of the ocean in Downtown Honolulu. Ha! You wouldn't even see it if you stood on any side street in that area because buildings already block that view. Same for Waikiki and most of the island. And this brings me to my next point related to Good PR versus Bad PR: Perception is based on the vision that is presented -- and sold. Yes, it's about selling. Advertising. Marketing. More importantly, it's story telling. There's an art to it, and the folks who work in government and at the UH have not been very good at it. Which is sad because they both have some great stories to tell that could benefit the people of Hawaii, if only we got to hear more about the positive upside they have to offer. Instead, all we get are negative headlines and apologies. Sigh.

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The new Career Changers TV episode features positive, uplifting stories about the Startup Hawaii conference, a Burmese pop-up dinner that ties into a program to help human trafficking victims in Hawaii, and career opportunities in the Criminal Justice field (talk about putting a positive spin on bad news!). For daily viewing times, visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

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Apps and Books Updates

August 21st, 2012
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On the current Career Changers TV episode, we have a segment about a Sea Life Park app for smart phones and tablets developed by a new local venture called Pass the Projects... which was started by David DeLuca, who is also the Director of Bess Press. If you have any books about Hawaii or local culture, chances are at least one of them was published by that company. I was given a copy of Pidgen To Da Max long before I moved here -- which brings up an interesting point that is often overlooked: books add to the allure of the islands and help market Hawaii to the world.

Sure, we often hear how TV shows like Lost or Hawaii Five-0 and movies shot in Hawaii can bump up tourism numbers. But what about all the non-fiction and children's books that are bought by visitors in local shops -- or online? Everything from Bruddah Iz to ukes and cute sea creatures have been exported to faraway places through print media. And now those traditional publishers are getting into digital adaptations, which could expand their markets even further.

booksBesides Bess Press's entry into digital (click here for our segment on that), there are some other CCTV "alumni" we've featured who are making the transition. Haleiwa publisher Kerry Germain recently announced that Island Paradise Publishing is making their award-winning children's picture books available on Kindle, iPad and other tablets. Those titles include her popular Kimo surfing series and Plenty Saimin, which was written by my friend Feng Feng Hutchins (met her in a playwriting workshop).  Got relatives on the Mainland with keiki? Send them an app as a gift! Here's the link to Kerry's website.

p-7 Amazing Mazes Under the Sea COVER.inddAnother friend of mine, Ellie Crowe, is having her children's book -- Hoku the Stargazer -- made into an app with music by local publisher Island Heritage. I'm also collaborating with Ellie on adapting the Hoku book into an animated TV series for pre-schoolers. It's essentially a Polynesian "Dora the Explorer" with the same kind of franchise/merchandising potential. But to make it happen, we need local animators who are willing to work on spec. Email me if you know someone!

Ellie also has a new children's activity book coming out called Amazing Mazes Under the Sea in Hawaii. Her publisher sent this press release:

Did you know mazes help children gain pre-writing skills? They develop fine motor control, pencil grip, hand-eye coordination, and visual planning. With that in mind comes our newest children’s activity book of imaginative mazes aimed for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and early elementary grade kids.

Kids will love going on this underwater adventure in Hawaiian waters where they can wind their way around reefs and coral to learn more about its sea creatures—from ink-squirting octopus to soaring flying fish. Author Ellie Crow and illustrator Tammy Yee present twenty-one amazing mazes that introduce fascinating facts about various animals with detailed, textured illustrations that make you feel as if you’re diving deep under Hawai‘i’s sea.

Last but not least, friend of the show Charley Memminger, sent me word that his novel Aloha, Lady Blue will be published by St. Martins Press in January with a cover blurb by Pat Sajak, the Wheel of Fortune host and KHON anchor Joe Moore's pal. Here's part of Sajak's glowing recommendation:

“Hawaii just might be my favorite place on Earth. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, I find something else new and exotic. In his extraordinary first novel, Aloha, Lady Blue, longtime Island crime reporter and humorist, Charles Memminger, shows an odd and quirky side to his state that even frequent tourists such as me rarely get to see. The novel’s hero, Stryker McBride, provides a funny and engaging narration to a dark and compelling mystery. Aloha, Lady Blue is a great read for anyone who lives in Hawaii, visits Hawaii, or even dreams of going to Hawaii. Oh, what the heck, it’s for anyone who loves a crackling good story. Mahalo, Charles!"

Who knows? Maybe Charley's book will take on a different media makeover as well... Hollywood movie, perhaps?

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For daily viewing times and other useful links, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also check out video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo for watching!

OC16 Changing Channels

August 13th, 2012
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In case you haven't heard, on August 16, the channel formerly known as OC16 because it aired on 16 (1016 on high def) will move to Channel 12/1012... but will still be called OC16. Got that?

OCSports will move to Channel 16/1016. The explanation given to producers of OC16 shows by the Senior Programming Manager was that "it has to do with tiers, traps and other internal issues that would be difficult to explain... The good news is that OC16 will now be on Basic Service, meaning that more people have access to the channel."

It won't have any affect on my show, Career Changers TV, which will continue to air at the regularly scheduled times (except when preempted for high school sports). You can find daily viewing times on www.CareerChangers.TV and links to the CCTV YouTube Channel, where you can watch segments from past and current episodes.

So remember: beginning Thursday, OC16 will be on Channel 12/1012, but will still be called OC16!

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Going for the Gold

August 7th, 2012
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Track medal

For one brief track and field season, I held the pole vault record at St. John Vianney High School in Holmdel, New Jersey: 8 feet, 6 inches. Before you laugh though, I should tell you what the circumstances were and note that this was around 1972 when clearing 10 feet was considered pretty good at that level. (And no, high jumpers have not broken 8 feet yet, in case you were wondering.)

To begin with, SJV was a new school and I was in the second graduating class, so we were literally building our sports programs from the ground up. During football practice, players had to form a line across the field and pick up rocks from one end to the other, which we deposited in our helmets. Yet in our first year of varsity football -- no senior class -- we had a winning record. Perhaps, we took extra pride in our team because we got our hands dirty and felt personally connected to that uneven rock-strewn field. It was our home turf.

I ran track in spring mainly to stay in shape for football, but quickly found that at 5'5", my little legs couldn't keep up with bigger, faster competitors in the 100 and 220 yard sprints. However, I wanted to compete in something I might have a chance at winning. No one else was willing to try the pole vault -- and for good reasons: We didn't have a landing pit; none of the coaches knew anything about pole vaulting; and you have to be slightly crazy to run full speed, plant a long pole in a metal box, then fling yourself into the air with the hope that you will not stall midway and fall backwards onto the runway, which was often concrete or part of an adjoining parking lot. None of that deterred me. I saw opportunity where others saw potential disaster or humiliation.

Being the studious sort, I went to the library and found books that laid out basic techniques. Since we didn't have a landing pit with foam strips or air mattresses, outside I just practiced my approach. To simulate the vault part, I worked out on the gym ropes, hoisting my legs up. The first time I actually attempted a vault was at a meet. Three times I sprinted down the runway, planted the pole... and ran right under the bar. I didn't have the confidence to launch myself into the air. After the meet was over, vaulters on other teams offered tips and showed me how to do it.

A rival high school allowed me and one other aspiring pole vaulter from SJV to practice at their facilities. They had state of the art air mats and much different poles. That's when I realized part of the problem was whoever ordered our equipment was going for durability -- not flexibility. If you have ever watched modern pole vaulting, you've seen how much bend there is in the poles. Not the ones we had. Even the shot putters couldn't bend the pole I was stuck with. In effect, I had to sling myself over the bar. It was more like the original version of the sport when Europeans in olden days used sturdy sticks to jump over muddy streams and canals.

As it turned out, a lot of schools didn't have pole vaulters, which meant that if I cleared the minimum height of 7 feet, I had a chance to medal. In life, they say half of winning is just showing up. I say the other half is picking the right thing to show up for. But I learned an even more valuable lesson at the meet where I set my school record. There was just one other vaulter besides me and my teammate, Guy Gaudenzi, so the odds were in our favor of getting a medal. Guy was also a football player, small but much more muscular than me, and tough as nails.

We all cleared 7 feet, then 7'6" and Guy goes for 8 feet. He runs hard, plants the pole... and halfway up, falls sideways... smashing his wrist into the base of the solid metal stanchion that supports the bar! He immediately screams out expletives and holds up his wrist, which is totally bent at a freakish angle from a compound fracture. Keep in mind, I have never seen Guy show any sign of weakness or pain in football before, so to see him in such agony just before I'm supposed to jump, is kind of upsetting. I almost throw up, and have to look away while trainers come to his aid, then take him to an ambulance.

The meet must go on. I think of one thing as I prepare for my approach: DO NOT FALL SIDEWAYS! I decide if I am going to fail, I am going to fail FORWARD, and I run harder than ever, fling myself up and clear 8 feet. The bar gets raised another half foot, and I barely make it over that. At the end of the meet, I received a "silver" medal in a cheap plastic case -- the one pictured at top, which I kept all these years as a reminder that if you're going to go for the gold in anything you choose to do, be sure to fail FORWARD. Keep your momentum going in the right direction.

And that is what I think is the biggest problem with the mindset of many people in Hawaii. We have become so averse to risk, instead of looking ahead to what is possible and taking a leap of faith, we falter and keep falling sideways... or backwards, as is the case with efforts to kill rail, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to plan and build a better future for Hawaii from the ground up.

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One of the recurring themes in just about every Career Changers TV episode is that people we profile all took calculated risks to launch their own businesses, or alter their career paths. Check out daily viewing times on our website, or watch segments from the show on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

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Media Disconnect on Economy

August 3rd, 2012
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PROGRAM ALERT: The new August episode of Career Changers TV begins running Saturday night at 8:30 pm on OC16. Please visit www.CareerChangers.TV for other daily viewing times. You can also watch segments from the show on the CCTV YouTube Channel (low res versions).

For the past few months, I've been telling people that what I'm hearing on the streets in Honolulu is things are looking good for businesses despite all the negative national headlines repeating messages of doom and gloom. Granted, the job outlook hasn't improved much for certain segments of the population -- but if those who are unemployed haven't upgraded their skills or changed their job hunting strategy, their prospects aren't going to change either. And yes, the uncertainty of what's going to happen with Europe's economic house of cards is a legitimate reason to worry about the future of big global corporations with stakes in those markets.

Yet I keep seeing evidence that good old-fashioned American entrepreneurship is not only alive -- it's thriving. It's like staring at the ocean in vain for glimpses of whales breaching, when right in front of you there are tidal pools teeming with tiny sea life that go unnoticed. Okay, that might be a slightly tortured metaphor to tie in my current show's Sea Life Park theme with the Startup Hawaii conference I attended yesterday, but I think it actually makes sense.

The "whale" everyone came to see was Steve Case, AOL co-founder and chairman of the Startup America Partnership, which is a bipartisan offshoot of President Obama's Jobs Council initiative. As Case noted, they were able to get Republicans and Democrats to come together on creating programs that would encourage innovation, while providing incentives for startups that can help boost the economy. So, you see, it's not impossible to find some common ground to build on.

Case, DicusWhat I found most interesting about Case's on stage discussion with Howard Dicus was that his key points mirrored what earlier speakers told the 300 plus attendees -- and those speakers ranged the gamut from local entrepreneurs who laughed about launching their ventures with less than $300, to executives at major investors in startup companies. In fact, George Kellerman, a venture partner out of California (went to UH) joked that Case's five positive reasons Hawaii can be a major player in startup innovation, sounded like Case cribbed notes from Kellerman's morning presentation.

Both guys, along with other panel speakers, noted Hawaii is a gateway to Asia; can attract talent because of our lifestyle ("brain gain" instead of brain drain); we have local wealth that can be tapped into, from successful folks who live here part-time or have moved to Hawaii; and it's much cheaper now to start a new biz, especially in the high tech or social media arena.

Which is what I am seeing and hearing on a daily basis. You no longer need to invest tens of thousands in computer hardware and hire high-priced programmers and engineers to launch a new internet-based company. What's more, there's been a proliferation of startup "accelarators," which are sort of a combination of venture capital investors and incubators. It works like this: someone like Kellerman's company, 500 Startups (name inspired by Dr. Seuss 500 hats book) will provide $50K to $100K in financial backing for a startup they like. They also provide physical space and mentors to offer guidance. If it goes well, they may "double down" on their investment for another year or two -- he says about 20 percent of their 350 investments so far fall into that category. In return, the accelerator gets a small percentage of the startup company's stock or equity -- around 5 percent but it varies depending on the potential. For instance, one of their early investments was Wildfire, which provides advertising services for Facebook... Google just announced they are acquiring Wildfire for $50 million. Kellerman wouldn't say how much 500 Startups will get for "exiting" that investment, but I think it's safe to say the return will be quite handsome.

That kind of payoff is making the accelerator biz very competitive. But the ones I met yesterday say their philosophy is based on the "pay it forward" model because in their own cases, many of them benefited from the help and guidance of successful mentors. There's much more I'll share when we air these segments next month on Career Changers TV. My question though is where was the local news media yesterday? I found a number of interesting stories -- local successes, national successes with Hawaii connections -- and the only news story I saw come out of that was on KGMB since Howard Dicus was able to get Steve Case to do an interview on camera.

I guess if the organizers wanted to get more local news coverage, they should have set the Sheraton Waikiki on fire or crash a car into the hotel lobby. Anyway, speaking of positive stories about startups in Hawaii, in our new episode we have a segment about an offshoot of Bess Press publishing called Pass the Projects. They're creating interactive apps for smart devices that combine traditional print media with digital media, including a very cool app for Sea Life Park. Here's a sneak peek.

Have a great weekend!