PR Niblets

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"My Wallet, or my Cellphone?"

On Friday, in my rush to make a 7 a.m. train from Chappaqua to Manhattan for a partner breakfast meeting, I left my wallet in my car.

I didn't know I was "naked" until we neared Hawthorne and I heard the conductor coming down the aisle asking for tickets. As I reached for my monthly pass (housed in a special pocket in my wallet), I instantly realized what I had done. Terror set in. No train pass. No cash to buy a ticket on board. No credit card. No business card or any form of ID to offer the conductor as "collateral" of my good faith.

The conductor came to my seating group. When he looked at me, I said "I don't know what we're going to do with me... but my wallet is in my car...together with my credit cards, cash and ID."

I held my breath. My heartbeat sped up.

He looked at me and simply said, "okay," before moving on.

Crisis averted. And then I thought ahead to what the absence of my wallet meant. How to pay for breakfast. How to enter my office building. Who's paying for today's staff lunch. How to get home tonight. I thought about exiting at White Plains, grabbing a northbound local and starting all over again. After all, that's what I did a couple of years ago when I left my BlackBerry in my car.

On that occasion, I had similary weighed my options. Client calls? They'd go unanswered. Family calls and emergencies... no answer. Text messages...forgetaboutit! Facebook..LinkedIn...Twitter...other apps... no... too scary... I couldn't make it through the day. Back to the parking lot to get my phone. Not even a second thought.

Yet here, in 2011, I knew I could get by without my wallet. An email to Christa and Savannah, my work colleagues, produced two offers of we'll meet you at the restaurant to bail you out. And with that, I knew I could make it through the day.

Breakfast with Lito Bunag, of the Phillipines, went off as scheduled. When Christa walked to our booth, and discretely slid $80 and her gold AMEX to me, I noted the puzzled look on Lito's face. I explained my morning's angst and he smiled and said, "I was paying for breakfast anyway."

The security guards at 245 Park Ave. were sympathic but officially needed someone to vouch for me. But then, they noted that my staff had guest-signed me into the building. They produced a temporary paper badget. I was in!
I made it through the day without any other surprises. Lunch -- no sweat. New client meeting -- positive. Christa's micro-cash loan worked fine to buy my one-way ticket back to Westchester. My son picked me up with my car and I was finally reunited with my wallet.

So, in my own modern version of Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady, or the Tiger," my cellphone wins. I can make it through the day -- with a little bit of help from my friends -- without a wallet. But touch my cellphone? We need to have a serious conversation about that!

Monday, October 3, 2011

My lunch with Warren Buffett (and several hundred other clients/partners of Business Wire)

Warren Buffett and I had lunch together on Friday!

We were joined by several hundred other clients, partners and guests of Business Wire -- all invited to lunch at the New York Stock Exchange and the chance to see and hear the "Oracle of Omaha" in person. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, the global leader in press release distribution and regulatory disclosure. The day was marked with a proclamation by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg making September 30, 2011 "Business Wire Day" and a smart news release chronicling highlights of the company's history and numerous industry firsts.

The company's senior management team talked about the evolution of the company and its services both on stage and in a fast-paced and engaging video, "50 Years of Innovation," that provided a great historical perspective.

Leading up to its 50th anniversary (officially Oct. 7), Business Wire held a "Future of Public Relations and Communications" college video contest challenging full-time college students to submit short videos answering the question "What is the future of public relations and communications?" 21-year-old Jenna Marie James (photo/left at podium), a senior majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University in Indiana, was the winner of the contest. Her prize package included a trip to New York (her first) to meet and have lunch with "Warren" -- as well as to speak at the luncheon (preceding Warren). Her video is refreshing, creative and engaging -- I strongly recommend you view it!

And then, it was Warren's turn. He was "interviewed" on stage by Business Wire President & CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz followed by questions from the audience. What's amazing is his mental acuity at age 81 and ability to go from questions on the stock market to investor relations to communications to business in China and politics without missing a beat.

His answers were peppered with facts, figures, dates and plain spoken clarity not typical of most captains of business. He ... and Cathy... spoke about the period Berkshire Hathaway purchased Business Wire (following a "sales" letter he received from Cathy).

One questioner wanted to know how long the recession would last. Warren talked about the housing market and housing starts as the key indicator given their direct importance and ripple effect on the economy. Another questioner asked about governance in Washington. Warren indicated the problem was neither party was governing and instead all were obsessed about their re-election prospects rather than doing the right thing for the people. He brought a chuckle to the room when responding to a question about President Obama's proposed millionare's tax. "I"m not so sure it's good to have a tax named after you," he mused.

No matter how long and nuanced the answers to the questions, he always circled back and answered each question fully. It was an awe-inspiring performance of a genuine business leader, straight talker and straight shooter.

My thanks to Sarah Shepard, a former colleague and director of sales, NY Region at Business Wire for inviting me to this sophisticated celebration.

P.S. The menu was an appetizer of candied walnut, gorgonzola and mesculun salad with sherry walnut dressing; choice of pan seared French cut chicken breast with rosemary jus or pan seared sea bass with gingered pineapple and papaya (my selection) and New York style cheesecake.