Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!
In the last week, I have received a calling to a new responsibility that honors and humbles me greatly.
Our local Catholic parishes have been fostering a retreat-based community of faith called Koinonia for nearly 10 years. I’ve been a part of it since the very first “Trinity Koinonia” retreat weekend in September of 2005, Suzanne and her mom joined me a few retreats later in the series, and my parents and siblings joined a bit later.
The Koinonia retreats and the community that has formed around them have been very important in the faith life of my extended family, but more importantly in the broader community. Hundreds of my fellow parishioners and parishioners of our sister parishes have now taken part in Koinonia and become a part of the community, and I have formed new, deep, friendships as a result of the community.
In recent months, Clarence DeGonia, the fine Catholic man (and friend) who initiated the community nearly 10 years ago, began to discern that it was time for him to step down from the chairmanship of the community and its core committee. After prayerful discernment on my part and the part of the core committee (effectively the executive board), the committee asked me to become the next chairman of the Koinonia community.
I am floored by the responsibility that the core committee and the broader community have entrusted to me, and I take it very, very seriously. There is an organizational weight and responsibility for sure, but more so, there is a deep spiritual weight and responsibility.
I pray that I’m able to execute well on this challenge and help to lead the community forward with wisdom and grace, and the phrase that has been in my mind since I was first approached with the request that I take this role has been “Ad Jesum per Mariam.” “To Christ through Mary.” The Koinoinia community holds as its by-line the fact that it is a “Community in Christ.” If I am to have any semblance of grace to try to help lead a “Community in Christ” as part and “sub-community” within our broader Catholic community in our cities, it can only be “Ad Jesum per Mariam.”
[NOTE: Koinonia is a Greek word taken from Scripture which means community. Koinonia was founded decades ago in Springfield, IL, and continues there - we are an offshoot of that community. Koinonia is a community of caring people providing loving support and prayerful fellowship for all. Each weekend has a set program it follows focusing on the Paschal Mystery: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Koinonia is for young adults and older.]
There has been a whole series of events in recent days that have struck me as a series of “Signs” (or “God Winks” as some in the Koinonia community affectionately likes to refer to them) of God’s Providence in this moment:
First, within a few days of accepting this responsibility, I was “off work” for the weekend from my usual role as music director & organist at our parish. The guitar group that leads the music for our weekends off had selected Jesse Manibusan’s “Open My Eyes” as one of the hymns for the weekend. It was the first time in a few years that the song had been used in our parish.
Many in the community who have been on weekends where I’ve given talks in the past know that I’ve spoken a lot about the place this song held in my own faith journey. It was central to my life, and the lyrics held great meaning, at the point when I was discerning the call to Marriage with Suzanne, and I played and sang it as part of the prelude before our wedding.
Second, the Mass readings this past weekend really hit home as it relates to the challenge of the calling to this new role. In particular, though, the Second Reading (Ephesians 5:8-14) has long been one of my favorites of the Lenten season, and one on which I was inspired to write a hymn setting a few years ago. It struck home as a new, personal calling this weekend:
Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”
Just like everyone, I have my own challenges in my faith life and my walk with Christ. But this reading summed up for me the challenge and the call to lead by example with all the grace God gives me, but also the call that we in the community, in turn, are asked to give others as ambassadors for Christ.
Finally, a series of notes that I’ve received from Clarence himself, encouraging me and explaining that there were some signs for him in this transition as well, comforts me and gives me encouragement and hope in what lies before me and the community.
As an added bonus, I find myself writing this today, April 1 (yes, a bit before publishing this), which happens to be the anniversary date of my own Baptism, 36 years ago…
I’m about to enter into a series of meetings to help facilitate a clean leadership transition from Clarence to me, then I look forward to my first meetings with the core committee and introduction of the new, go-forward leadership to the broader community – at a key moment as we’re preparing for our 13th retreat weekend this September.
I’m struck recalling the fact that the Man Born Blind in last Sunday’s Gospel was washed “‘in the Pool of Siloam’ – which means Sent,” and he went, washed, and came back able to see.
I pray to be freed from any blindness of ego or opinion in leading this community forward to a deepening relationship with Christ and each other; and I pray that I can help God reach each person in our community to free them in moments of blindness and to send us, together.
Sent, to help lead others ‘To Christ, through Mary.‘
I’ve worked in the Internet and digital marketing world since 1997, and my clients and my team’s clients have been almost exclusively retailers for the last 6+ years, but sometimes I don’t get to see it from the “other side.” I just saw it from that side – as a consumer – and I’m pretty impressed!
Yesterday, a friend at work pointed out that a group of people in our Lehi, Utah office are all getting Fitbit activity and sleep trackers and are forming a “league” of sorts to compete a bit on physical and wellness activity.
Last night before bed, I discussed it with Suzanne and explored my possible options of buying one for myself. After some shopping around, we settled upon Brookstone, because I’ve been sitting on two gift cards to there for over 2 years.
I found the one I wanted on their website, went to check out, and was frustrated and disappointed that I couldn’t complete my transaction because they only allow one gift card to be used per transaction on their website. (Okay, that’s silly, can they fix that yet? It’s late 2013, after all.)
However, this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up and see this in my inbox:
Nice work, Brookstone! I shouldn’t have been surprised – I’ve spent a lot of time helping clients develop programs like this exact one, but I was still surprised to receive this email. In fact, I’ll be calling them when their call center opens at 8 AM to see whether they can complete the order with both gift cards.
That’s not all, though. I’m obviously now a customer who they believe is currently ripe for conversion on the Fitbit Force Wireless Activity & Sleep Wristband, so they’ve pushed that to a profile on my somewhere in the edge in a DMP and are now targeting me elsewhere.
What do I see on my Facebook Feed just now? Aha!
Further impressed. All within hours of my initial conversion attempt.
No need for fancy promotions or discounting – just keep your merchandise top-of-mind. Try to close the gap to conversion, in which I’ve already expressed great interest. Optimize each step of that process constantly. You will win.
Can’t wait to see where 2014 takes us, my friends. (Maybe these’ll be delivered by drone by this time next year…)
There’s the old quote and book, “All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” and it’s a bit tempting to say “All I needed to know about marketing, I learned at a radio station.” But that’d be a bit of a stretch. I learned the heart and soul, but there were still some muscles to work out (and keep working out over time as the industry grows, new techniques and technologies are adopted, etc.)
But at the core, yes, just about everything I needed to know about marketing, I learned at a radio station. In the mid-to-late 90′s, I was lucky to score a role at Sinclair Radio St. Louis. At the time, the stations owned 105.7 The Point (St. Louis’ Alternative radio station), 101.1 The River (at the time, a modern adult alternative station), and later, during my time there, 97.1 The Rock (a classic rock station.) I worked in the marketing department during the week, including leading the early years of the stations’ websites and eventually turning into a full-time role focused just on the websites, and on-air on The Point on the weekends.
My day-to-day in the marketing department, though, was filled with street events (day and night), concert appearance coordination, press releases, giveaways – everything you associate with radio stations being out and about on the streets and in the venues where their listeners are.
Be Where Your Customers Are
Every moment of every day, we were doing all we could (given limited resources, of course) to determine where to go. Sometimes, on a slow day, it meant someone taking a station vehicle out with some interns to a busy gas station to give away water bottles and station bumper stickers. Other days, it meant a sunrise-to-sundown marathon of event to event to concert to after party.
But the core idea was: know your customers and be in the midst of them.
One way we knew where our customers were was by studying the ratings feedback. “P1″ listeners were those who marked, adamantly, that our station was their favorite. We knew which zip codes in the region had the most P1 listeners, and we started there when we had to prioritize.
Another way we found our listeners was by going to the events tied to the artists that they were passionate about hearing on the station. Sure, it meant having somewhere to be almost every night, but that was part of the passion of the gig, and the drive to win.
Immersing in our customers kept us real, kept us relate-able, and kept us in the leadership slot in our format, in our demo, in our city. In short, it helped us win.
Today, for digital marketers, being where your customers are means carefully studying how they’re reaching your sites and experiences in the digital space and finding the right blend of creative ways of meeting them there.
Respect, but Don’t Talk About the Competition
We knew who the competition was. We respected them (although it seemed they didn’t often show respect for us on the streets). But we fought hard to win. We showed up as early as we could to a concert venue to get the prime spot right in front of the doors with our station vehicle. We took more t-shirts and stickers. We created better draws, better events, more memorable moments.
Above all, though, while competitors would occasionally mention us on the air, (as in, “have you heard what those guys on [station] are doing?…), we would never mention them. Why would you? For the slice of the audience that still hasn’t discovered them, you’re only opening the door for them to explore.
Know your competition, but when you’re talking with your customers and prospects, focus only on your own strengths and on the value that they get out of you and your products and solutions.
(This is part of, and tied to, Ries & Trout’s old “Be First in the Mind.” You don’t stay first in the mind by talking about the competitor.)
Win in the Details
I remember weeks when we had interns sitting in a room, monitoring every station that we considered even remotely a competitor, and marking exactly what times they stopped playing musics and started playing commercials (“stopsets”). From time to time, we would carefully re-engineer our broadcast schedule, mapping our own stopsets on the stations to begin just before the competitors’. That way, when our commercials would start, listeners might bail (hang on, don’t tell advertisers that listeners leave during the ads), but they’d soon run into commercials on the competing station, and we would keep the listener trained to know that we would be back into playing music earlier than the competitor as a result.
It was “101″ – the basics – in the industry. But it was those types of details that helped the winners win.
One of my favorite quotes is the one that reads something like (paraphrasing), “Countless unseen details make the difference between excellence and mediocrity.”
Marketers who focus on the details – whether in the polish of the art of an ad, or in the care of attention to time of day that something reaches their audience, or in their partnership with their product teams on ensuring that they have the best possible product to market – win. Hands-down. I’ve seen it time and time again in my nearly 20 year career across media, marketing, analytics, and software.
Work Harder Than Anyone Else
A lot of people think marketing is a “fluff” field. It’s not. It’s hard work. It takes thought, care, passion, the attention to detail mentioned above, science, art. It’s hard work.
Yes, there are sunrise to sunset days.
Yes, at the stations, our operations manager pushed us each – every one of us in the marketing department – to author a press release every single day. At the time, it was a killer assignment. But the discipline for the passion to win it instilled in me is still with me today.
Don’t stop, don’t give up, and tackle the big mountains of marketing, and you’ll win.
What would you add? What do you think I learned about marketing in radio that I forgot to include here? Or, what would you add?
Growing up, I was extremely involved in boy scouting. I worked on our council camp staff for 9 summers, helped lead or at least worked at many district and council camping events, and had leadership roles in the Order of the Arrow and in Exploring. In all, I had spent nearly a year of my life camping or living at a scout camp in one way, shape, or form.
Those years were full of great learnings that impacted who I am, how I respond to situations, and how I succeed now in life and in work.
But some of them were forgotten, or got rusty or dusty, and some of them just needed to be dusted off a little bit. This weekend, while taking my oldest son on a “Dad ‘n Lad” campout – our first campout together – I ran back into some of those key life learnings. So here, in no particular order, are 10 things that I either learned or re-learned this weekend on my first weekend campout with my son:
God’s creation is awesome
I had forgotten what a night in the woods sounds like before you feel asleep – the sounds of cicadas, crickets, owls and toads, of the creatures that come out after the sun goes down. It is a veritable choir of creation with so much to do and so much life. I had also forgotten how it sounds as night gives way to dawn and the choir of daytime animals comes to life. I had forgotten how many different types of birds, how many songs of animals, fill the day. I was amazed by the realization of what is around us in the world that I had gradually, over time, started to tune out.
A little dirt is good for the soul
One thing I learned about my oldest son was that he is not a fan of dirt, mud, or anything that might disturb his preferred super-clean status quo. I used to be like that too – trying to avoid the dirt and keeping myself as clean as possible in the out-of-doors. But in trying to help him see that it’s okay to get a little dirty, I found myself enjoying dipping my own fingers and toes into the mud a bit as well. We’re resilient creatures that wash up quite well, and it didn’t kill me to get some dirt under my fingernails again. In fact, it actually felt good.
Friendships are forged through fun and adventure
It was fun to watch my son and his fellow scouts have such a good time together as they explored the different activities the weekend offered – archery, bb guns, fishing, slingshots, orienteering, and more. They joked and bonded and forged deeper friendships. Through shared challenges and excitement, I could see friendships coming to life. As we were leaving camp this morning, my son said to me, “Dad, guess what: Joseph said I’m his very best friend in the world now. Isn’t that awesome?” It might be short-lived at their age, and they might not even remember the details of this weekend in twenty or thirty years, but I bet they’ll remember each other and the time they shared. It’s our challenges and adversities, but also our good times, which give us the opportunity to grow together and forge our human relationships.
Stop talking and Listen
In a card that my wife tucked away into the gear in my backpack, she had written something to the effect of, “Just listen to him and help him try it his way and have a good time.” I had thought a lot about how nice it would be to spend a couple of days with just my oldest son, sharing the experiences of camping and the activities, but I had also been nervous about whether he would frustrate me while we were trying to set up the tent, or if I’d grow impatient while walking at his pace to an activity area. In the end, though, it was easy – and refreshing – to slow down to his pace and to just listen and let the weekend go his way. In fact, it was really rejuvenating. I felt like I was his friend and guide through a type of rite of passage, and it brought us closer together as father and son. I’ll long treasure the experience of this weekend, and hope to have similar experiences through the years with my other sons. At the end of the day, though, I need to remember tomorrow and for days to come the value of closing my own mouth, listening, and looking at the world through the eyes of the person I’m speaking with at any given moment.
Trying new things can be scary
At times, my son would ask if we could go back and hang out together in our tent instead of going to our next activity. He was really nervous about trying the bb guns, and wasn’t really interested in going to learn first aid. He openly admitted that he was scared of the bb guns, but I gently encouraged him to go there with me and at least give it one try. I remember times when my own parents encouraged me the same way through my fears, and I remembered how many times – even in my adult life – I’ve been less than comfortable walking into new situations. Life is lived in those moments of overcoming our own walls of fear, though, and some of the activities that he was most reluctant to try became his favorites of the weekend. Trying new things can be intimidating, but often have the biggest payoff.
Trying new things can be fun
At the same time trying new things can be scary, they can also be tons of fun! My son was nervous about attempting archery, but after he had tried his hand at it, he was asking me if we could build an archery range in our yard. It’s only through tackling our fears and trying new things that we can discover new joys and interests, and find new outlets for fun and enjoyment.
A good night of sleep matters a lot
The weather forecast for the weekend changed drastically (deteriorated might be a better word) through the week approaching our campout. On Monday, it was going to be an 80 degree weekend with a few clouds; by Friday morning it was going to be in the low 60’s with spot showers through the weekend. Friday night, it got down to 45 degrees and “felt like” 42 (according to The Weather Channel app.) I was woefully under-prepared with my 2-season sleeping bag and slept miserably as a result. Worried about my own sleep as well as my son’s, I made a quick trip into town to pick up two additional blankets for the second night. Thankfully, I was warm and slept like a baby last night. My son summed it up best, saying, “I was as snug as a bug in a rug.” By this morning, I re-remembered how important a good night of sleep can be. Seeing the vivid difference between my energy and feelings on a day following poor sleep versus a day following good sleep, I’m recommitted to trying as hard as I can get a good night of sleep every night.
Disconnecting works wonders
When I was setting my out of office message on my work email on Friday, I told some of my peers and key team members that I would be available as long as I still had battery on my work mobile phone on Friday night. They quickly (thankfully) encouraged me to leave the phone behind, disconnect, and enjoy the time with my son. I did just that, and am thankful for their encouragement and my decision. In today’s super-connected age, none of us disconnect enough, and we should treasure the opportunities to do so. In fact, we should proactively carve out time to be disconnected, to re-center ourselves, and to enjoy human moments without the distractions of email or Facebook. After a few days without those add-ons, I felt more connected with my son and some of the other dads there than I have in years. I discovered that disconnecting can lead to closer connections.
“There’s a time and a place for everything”
That was one of my dad’s favorite mantras as I was growing up, and I find it to be true quite often (I’m even fond of quoting it now), but I saw it even more so again this weekend. For years working on camp staff, I was often a “center of attention” at camp, helping to anchor a skit or a song or an entire campfire, or responsible for one of the biggest program areas – anything to ensure we, as a staff, were delivering the most exciting, engaging, educational, memorable experience for the scouts. I kind of felt a pull to go back into that mode when I pulled into camp, but had to remember that I was there to sit back and participate in a different way this time, as a coach and dad and support for my son and his friends in our den. For each of us, it’s important to discern what it’s the time and place for – and what it’s not – and act accordingly.
Legacies live on
It was a real treat to be able to point out to my son my own name on a few of the plaques in the dining hall – the old lodge chiefs of our old OA lodge; the Founders Award recipients; those of us who have kept the Vigil; the framed plaque and ribbon from when our lodge was awarded the “Lodge Spirit Award” at the 2002 NOAC. It was just as fun to be able to point out his papa’s (my dad’s) name on his Wood Badge patrol flag. He seemed amazed and inspired by that connection to the place and our legacy. But it was also a treat when a couple of people I didn’t remember, who were also there with their own sons now, who had been impacted by my work in the organization in those years, saw me and came up to thank me and to say how great those years were for them too.
It’s through little moments that life puts before us, the choices we make, and the proactive investment we make in having an impact, that leave our little marks on the corners of the world where we live and work and raise our children. This weekend, I got to explore a whole new corner of raising my own sons, and connect it back to life lessons that I had collected along the way. I can only hope that I’m blessed with many years to keep sharing those lessons with my own boys, and many more years to see them pass them along in turn.
Upon embarking into 2013, I resolved to write at least one Blog post each week. So far, I’ve been fulfilling this in my own mind with my weekly Retail & Travel link love post over on the Adobe blogs. But I want to up the game, so here goes. At long last, a new post here at MichaelRHalbrook.com!
I’m a Marriott fanboy. I’m in my third year of Gold status with them, and consistently fall just short of Platinum status. I’ve been loyal to them as long as I can remember, even well before realizing that most of my Adobe coworkers based in Utah are also intensely loyal to them.
But, like anyone else, I’ve had my fair share of minor gripes and complaints about various and properties and experiences over the years. Nothing to raise my voice about too loudly or really alter my relationship with Marriott as a whole, but enough to remember.
This isn’t one of those times. This is just an observation and an idea for a minor improvement that would go miles toward building deeper relationships with those of us constantly on the road and relying on Marriott hotels (or others) to provide us a comfortable night of rest between days of hard work.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the ability to store universal reservation preferences -
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the ability to store universal reservation preferences – do I prefer a King bed? A low floor or a high floor? Extra towels? Feather or foam? USA Today or WSJ?
All great things. I love checking into the room and seeing the two extra bath towels on the dresser.
Here’s the idea, though:
How hard would it be to make these preferences granular, per hotel property? Let’s do it!
For years, I had a “Low floor” preference. I have an Irrational Fear Of Heights (IFOH), and when I would check into the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis and end up with a room on the 20th floor or higher, I’d have to enforce a mandatory “no go zone” 10 feet from the windows to maintain my own sanity. The low floor preference made a ton of sense.
Until I started a year-long project just outside of Boston and was staying each month at the Courtyard in Westborough, MA. “Low floor” there meant 1st floor with a sliding patio walkout door, a.k.a. the “please break into my hotel room at night and steal my valuables” room feature. I became accustomed to asking for the 2nd of 3rd floor there until I went to marriott.com and changed my preference to “High floor.”
…Which worked until the next time I was back at City Center. You get the picture.
This came to mind again last week on my 2nd or 3rd visit to the SpringHill Suites in Lehi, Utah. My “High floor” preference translated to this property means I’m hooked up with a 4th floor (top floor!) room. Not bad, and not high enough to trigger my IFOH (Irrational Fear Of Heights)
But at this hotel, the elevator is slower than molasses in January, which leads me to take the stairs at either end of the hallway – a choice I make at many of these “stubbier” hotels anyhow, for the purposes of working a bit more physical activity into my routine. The only thing is, at this hotel, it’d be better to be on the 2nd or 3rd floor.
So, why not?
Why can’t I set a per-property, or per-brand preference? (Many of the formats of building style, number of floors, etc., are pretty consistent across each Marriott brand.)
Better yet, why can’t I set messages for each property?…
…”Gosh, I really liked room 419 last time better than 417 this time. Seemed much bigger. Why did you stick me in a smaller room? Could I have the bigger one again next time?”
…”Room 203 by the elevator shaft was brutal. I couldn’t sleep all night. I’m fairly loyal. Could I please avoid that room in the future?”
…”You can save the breakfast flyer on my pillow. When I’m here, it’s one night, in and out of meetings. I’d always like the seasonal fruit platter at 6 AM, please.”
In this day and age, with such a fantastic digital and overall brand experience across the board, I’m pretty sure Marriott could execute on this like no one else, and I’d love to see it and take advantage of it as I continue to patronize and interact with their brand and their properties.
Who’s with me? What do you think? Would you add elements to the idea, or do you think I’m crazy and asking too much?
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a coincidence the other day, but was instead a Sign, when two things happened at the same time: A recording of the Oak Ridge Boys singing ‘Amazing Grace’ to President Bush Senior came on the radio… and just as it started, an electronic display board I was driving past flashed the words ‘Amazing Grace.’
Grace truly is an amazing thing, and it has worked amazing things in my own life in 2012. It helped me practice well on my three words of “Pray, Produce, & Conserve” that I had started the year wanting to try.
That said, I’m setting out into 2013 with a very high bar for myself. Here are my resolutions for 2013… My “BIG 10“…
- Pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day.
- Exercise every day. Run another 5k. Try to run a 10k.
- Finish work earlier and spend more evening time with Suzanne & the boys.
- Have more patience with the boys. Discipline them more effectively; raise my voice less.
- Learn Japanese.
- Help the team I manage have better lives and love their jobs even more.
- Write a Blog post at least once a week.
- Converse with people more; show more genuine affection & appreciation.
- Work with our parish school to start a childrens’ Schola Cantorum.
- Tell Suzanne that I love her every day.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive new year to you and yours… Here goes!
I love this choir. This Cathedral and the music in it are one of my very favorite things about visiting Salt Lake City so frequently.
Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- Col 3:12-17