Time is Precious

ILM Gastown IMG_5007 A new sign now lights up the home of Industrial Light and Magic (Formerly Pixar) animation studios in Gastown. In clear white neon it announces day and night that “Time is Precious”. It stirs many thoughts and feelings for all that see it.

We all use time in various ways as it has become a keystone for clergy, authors, poets, philosophers as well as the rest of us. Ken Nordine did some word jazz about time. He’s an American voice-over artist from the “beat” generation. His deep voice was featured for many years in commercials and movie trailers. I always liked “what time is it” and “infinity o’clock”. Both are classics and still on YouTube.


The end of a year often asks us to consider how we used our time as the world slows down just a little for reflection and contemplation. I need more for both these days as I enter what many refer to as my last couple of chapters (ugh). This years headlines were about relationships, kids, retirement, birth and death, establishing our new company, working with the Pattison Broadcasting Group, CRTC applications & hearings, developing Roundhouse Radio, new beginnings, new friends, meeting my shadow and yes, more introspection. I could go on…

I was recently introduced to David Whyte who asks, “are you up to the conversation you are being invited to participate in”. This could be with your partner, family, friends, personal coach, career, community or where ever you are in life. For me, all of the above resonate more clearly than ever. Making sure that I am present and available so that none of the above “are just another thing to do” is my focus of how to best use my time.

I am grateful for the gift in the suggestion or loan of a book as it is usually a window for growth from a friend who see the things I miss. Dr. Anne Newlands loaned me one recently with a piece from R. D. Laing that I’m quite struck by:

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds

When carefully considered, I missed some things this year because I failed to notice, hear and feel many of the conversations that I was invited to join. I have extended myself some grace for being mortal and will give my heart – to do better and be more present in the days and years ahead on this road to enlightenment with more humility and grace.

Our time together is precious.

mo·jo /ˈmōˌjō/ Noun 1.A magic charm, talisman, or spell. 2.Magic power.

medicine bagThis marks my 50th year in broadcasting where I began running for burgers and teletype copy while in high school. I have since occupied almost every chair in radio and television stations in two countries as well as a few at the Toronto Star Newspaper.

Funny, as I am still running, maybe not as quickly and looking forward to renewal and “reinvention”. While God only knows what that looks like, I do love media whether it’s on air, on line or on the street and particularly people like you that bring so much passion and intelligence to it. I remain committed to find a place that will allow me to continue contributing to its growth and making a difference in the communities we serve.

With this said, I will be leaving Bell Media at the end of this month.
I wanted to write a short note to thank everyone who has been instrumental in my career since leaving Pittsburgh and moving to Canada from Los Angeles in the late 60’s. Admittedly it’s a growing list!

I realized that as I moved from station to station over the years that each of you played an important part in my development and growth in an industry that I remain very passionate about. It has been and continues to be a great honour to learn from each of you and to share your lessons and mentoring with others.

I am off to Italy in a few weeks to attend my daughter’s wedding, maybe a little fly fishing and camping to contemplate life and “reinvention” – and then I’d like to publish my monograph, “Media & Not For Profit Organizations” , take a few guitar lessons and launch MojoMediaInc.com or the Hamilton Media Group.com (waiting for approvals) to help advance the good work of the not for profit community across the country. I know a little bit about fund raising, media and teamwork so if you know of any organizations looking for their “mojo” please send them my way.

I appreciate all the recent help from my friends in radio & television stations across the country with PFLAG Canada and the LGBTQ Community as well as the many other organizations that I have the privilege to work with.

All the best and my heartfelt thanks…

A gentle nudge!

gallery01I dreamt last night that a friend who had recently died picked me up in a truck with bald tires and we went off for a ride. It was pleasant enough although there was that part where we were going down a hill and were about to hit some other cars and then of course I woke up. I have no idea if it was just my subconscious at play or if I was really on the “other side” hanging out with Don.

Don McConachie was bigger than life and an interesting and engaging man. He was always “fantastic” and willing to assist anyone needing help whether they knew it or not. He was also known for taking in strays like me and I heard many stories at his celebration of life where he did the same for many others.

I remember first learning about Don while on a fly fishing trip in the Nicola Valley with Terry Mulligan. We spent the night at the Quilchena Inn many years ago when we met up with the owners. When they learned that I would be moving to Kelowna they were kind and offered to have a friend call to help us get settled.

It seemed like a well intentioned offer and sure enough weeks later Don McConachie called me during my last days at the Toronto Star and introduced himself. Don took over most of the arrangements getting us settled into a new city. Within hours of his call he had arranged a lawyer and now another good friend, a real estate agent and he made dozens of suggestions that proved invaluable. Perhaps most of all, he became more like an uncle over the years checking in frequently and inviting us over to have dinner with him and Penny and trying to get me more involved with the Conservative Party, golf and the Okanagan Foundation.

I was reminiscing this morning and wondering if I had become like my grandparents and obsessed to see if I knew anyone in the obituaries. Fortunately, I have not taken to that past time just yet however when I think about it, I have been saying goodbye to friends throughout the years and like Don, remembering how important they were to me and the lessons they taught. I miss them.

I know that you know this but every moment is precious and we shouldn’t count on them to keep reoccurring. When they do it’s another very special day to do what Don did and so many of the friends we have had over the years do – make a difference.

Have a “fantastic” day!

Advocate or Activist

good2greatI seem to find myself involved in more discussions lately regarding advocacy and activism. Admittedly both are terms that are often used interchangeably, and while they often overlap, they also have different meanings. It’s important to remember the distinctions especially if you or your organization plan to participate in either activity.

An activist is a person who makes an intentional action to bring about social or political change.
An advocate is one who speaks on behalf of another person or group.

Activism can be described as intentional action to bring about social and political change, economic justice, or environmental well being. This action is in support of, or opposition to, one side of a controversial argument.

An advocate can also be involved in controversial activities or issues, but because they are speaking on behalf of a group, they tend to be more likely to follow the paths of lobbying and legislation. They are also often part of a bigger group, such as celebrity speaking on behalf of the UN, Green Peace or other global organizations.

I recently wrote about the need for more activism in media to be more aggressive and vocal about crimes against humanity and discrimination of all types. Media readily promote or give time to the top diseases in the world but not as much time about sex trafficking, rape, domestic abuse, female circumcision in third world countries, civil rights for the LGBT community, poverty, homelessness, a more sustainable planet and a growing list of issues, attractive and not so attractive with the exception perhaps being the headline of the day.

Knowing that ratings drive programming perhaps that says as much about us and our desire to escape what’s really going on in the world and what we choose to watch or listen to?

The more publicity given the atrocities occurring globally and in our communities the more anger I feel and the more compelled I am to take action professionally and personally.

The more people I speak with the more I find others wanting to get engaged in some form of “legacy work” and to give back. Thus, a lot of introspection and more questions regarding what our individual roles should be and the degree of advocacy required to make a meaningful difference. I am not for a moment diminishing the importance of curing the diseases looking for a cure or any particular activity as all causes that make this a better world are worthy of support!

I know that I can become emotional charged quickly, and my partner has been careful to point out that activism that comes from anger or aggression simply attracts more of the same. I will admittedly have to work on this – however it does speak to how we move from anger and emotionally charged events to a higher place that can actually facilitate change. So, I have been introduced to Andrew Harvey recently and the principals of “Sacred Activism”.

I like the balance this provides me and thought it worth sharing as I work at being kinder and gentler, and as we move forward with a list of activities that are “heartfelt” and that we want to engage in. Consider this…

“A spirituality that is only private and self-absorbed, one devoid of an authentic political and social consciousness, does little to halt the suicidal juggernaut of history. On the other hand, an activism that is not purified by profound spiritual and psychological self-awareness and rooted in divine truth, wisdom, and compassion will only perpetuate the problem it is trying to solve, however righteous its intentions. When, however, the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic, and social institutions, a holy force – the power of wisdom and love in action – is born. This force I define as Sacred Activism.” ~ Andrew Harvey


There is a common theme among NGO’s and Not for Profits as they are often organized by individuals propelled by a wound around a particular issue and who understand the principals of “sacred activism”. It gives them a sense of purpose and meaning to create a structure to hopefully instigate change.

This said, there are often many gaps in their business acumen and knowledge of leadership and infrastructure that many of them do not succeed. I don’t believe that this means that they should operate more like business as there are many poorly run businesses however it does suggest that all organizations require a common purpose, heartfelt connection to their work and most importantly greater disciplines in all aspects of their enterprise. Jim Collins points out in his Monograph that accompanies “Good to Great” in the social sectors that ‘a culture of discipline is not a principal of business: it is a principle of greatness.”

Hopefully you are involved or perhaps considering getting involved with something that stirs you to action and a desire to “give”. Activism of all types truly makes a difference and we all have a piece of the solution to make this a better world!

Radio & Not For Profit Organizations

I am particularly fond of radio. I have been passionate about it as long as I can remember and remarkably, it is doing better than Marconi & Rogers thought possible. Entertaining, informative programming and an interactive component has allowed radio to become even bigger than life giving it many ways to reach audiences, on air – on line and on the street.

According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, the radio industry had another year over year increase in revenue with more people listening to radio than ever before.
The continued stellar increases in revenues and users of radios digital sector underscores the fact that the Radio industry is finding additional ways to monetize these streams and that advertisers as well as not for profit organizations, perhaps your charity, are taking advantage of these new platforms to reach our listeners.

The various “parts” of radio provide more opportunities for you and your organization. Coverage could include your event being part of a news item, a passing comment in-between songs, an interview, a formal on air “schedule” with recorded public service announcements and/or perhaps be part of the outlets internet and social media presence in a number of different ways. This begs the question of who is looking after your media strategy?

A great idea is contagious and it can be shared with people in hundreds of different ways. We like it when don’t have to do all of the work. Even better when it’s a unique idea that really targets our audience and perhaps allows us to “own it”, especially if it is an annual event. You are only limited by your imagination so please give some thought to your “big idea” and where it fits best, what kind of attention it could attract and perhaps sponsors that would like to be a part of your organization and/or event.

I heard a clever promotion with our local symphony promoting attendance and fundraising by having their member musicians play “hit” songs on our radio station that listeners had to identify to win tickets to their next performance. We loved it as it was a fun way to bridge different genres of music and perceptions as well as allow the orchestra to reach a new audience. I hear attendance is up. Coincidence?

This is pretty simple stuff. The local church bake sale is not likely going to get the same mass media attention that Ride for Dad, Relay for Life, the Symphony or other significant events will. It doesn’t mean the bake sale isn’t important, it just won’t put you at the front of the line with media and you will have to rely on a more street level approach with posters, tent tops, community bulletin boards, event calendars, your internet site, and social media.

To be heard or seen on line, your organization may want to consider the need to purchase advertising. Most electronic media offer excellent not for profit rates that make promoting your event affordable and guarantee that you will be on the air! Otherwise, while we do our best and help as much as we can, you could be standing in a very long line with other organizations.

Orson Welles was a big fan of radio and used to refer to the “magic” inside that little box!

So, sit down with your team, your media partners and lets make magic!

Start-ups & Turnarounds

deerheadsI’ve had a number of questions recently from some newer not for profit organizations as well as a few mature ones who are at a crossroads. While both are looking at different ends of the elephant the questions are similar when doing a start-up or reinventing an organization.

I usually start by asking “What do you stand for”? Then I ask if you have a lawyer and accountant on your board but that’s another story for another time.

When I ask that question of audiences and organizations I usually get that deer in the headlight “look.” Another question to consider and equally important is, “what do you want to be known for”?

Some organizations have done the serious work required to answer these fundamental questions to ensure that their companies or organizations are built on strong purposeful and caring foundations. Others spend a lot of time coming up with clever mission statements that fall short of the vision. More often than not organizations requiring retooling started out missing some of the key fundamentals.

There a hundreds of books that deal with start-ups and turnarounds however most have an old world view of organizations where only a few speak to a new business or organizational paradigm so be careful what you wish for. Too often mission or vision statements are just “happy talk” and in conflict with the day to day actions and culture of an organization.

Fortune 500 companies do something different than all others. The best not for profits get the best marks from Charity Navigator and as importantly the IRS & CRA for their ability to run their organizations efficiently and effectively. It’s not just about the bottom line or raising more money. I am more convinced than ever that communication, good and bad, brings out the best or worst in any organization and it’s pretty easy to see who walks their talk.

Alignment is difficult and requires hard work from everyone. When an organization is built with integrity and where careful consideration has been given to every aspect and detail of the organization for the well being of their constituents and staff alike – they are congruent and magic happens.

A back to basics approach might start with a quick check list to see how you are doing. So take as much time as required to figure out “What you really stand for” and “what you want to be known for”? Does everyone in the organization believe it? Does everyone understand what to do and what they are responsible for? Is there mutual respect and trust? How do you measure your desired outcomes? Is there alignment throughout the organization and so on…

While business plans can be valuable they can also be shallow make work projects that exhaust human resources when they are not embraced and championed. Engagement and passion not realized can easily turn into disillusionment and turnover leaving an organization in constant chaos. That is not to say that a road map or plan is not important. For any organizations there are a number of places to go that will help get you get started and hopefully avoid some potholes along the way.

The Mutart Foundation along with the Alberta Government, Culture and Spirit created a number of workbooks to help design the best not for profit boards and job descriptions for its members. There are many other templates and suggestions available however this is a good one and may prove helpful during a start-up or reorganization. After all if your board isn’t sure what the organization is all about or what is expected of them how can you expect it to be successful?

If your board of directors, staff and volunteers look like they could be in the picture above, you clearly have some work to do. If you are certain that everyone knows what you stand for, their place in the organization and what is expected of them and as importantly – is passionately engaged in this work – you really can change the world!

Fund Raising for Non Profit Organizations

centennial_building_outsidewater_51I’m amazed at how many not for profit organizations knock on our door as well as all other media outlets like clockwork with clever awareness and fund raising campaigns. Some are packaged and ready to go where others are great ideas requiring the personal touch that only our team can add to make it “ours”.
Then there are those organizations that have lots of vision and poor execution as they don’t know where to start, who to ask and what kind of campaign to do? We see so many organizations that think the only way to be successful is to find a grant and spend a disproportionate amount of their time and of professional grant writers chasing and ever challenged pool of money. I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t chase grants that are available especially should you have a great story however, it is not the only path to for funding.

I’m reminded of being approached years ago by the Variety Club of Vancouver recognizing that our radio station didn’t do much for their organization and that they needed us and our audience to be more involved with Variety. Granted we did the occasional small fund raising campaign for Variety and sent our announcers to host their annual telethon but admittedly there wasn’t much of a connection with them.

Variety wanted to expand their fundraising programs and wisely realized that they could not do it all themselves without exhausting their internal resources or increasing their operating costs. Therefore they were looking for more long term partners to share the load and enlist the help of more third party fund raising. They had identified a number of key projects on their wish list and their pitch to us was simple and straight forward.

Variety had a number of projects in mind but one in particular that dealt with kids of all abilities complete with artist renderings and approximate costs. Thus the CFOX-Variety Kids Water Park was born and to this day remains a permanent landmark in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

CFOX was all about kids of all ages and their families and taking on such a high visibility community project gave us credibility and endeared the station to our audience, even if they disliked our programming. We became known as the station that played great rock and cared about our listener’s kids. Not a bad combination.

All media outlets have their own partnerships and unique fund raising efforts. The ones that take years to fulfill like our kids park and are the best ones in my opinion as they build momentum year after year and your community can see the park being build, use the new neo natal intensive care unit or new wing of your local hospital like we did with the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation or pick an example of something similar where you live. The best news is that the local charity has the full on commitment of a dedicated, engaged and passionate media partner.

So what ideas are percolating at your organization that would excite a media partner to take it on and keep your organization and a great endeavor top of mind in your community?

Media for Non Profit Organizations

cropped-313081_298251256856345_100000144203099_1451534_1319322565_n.jpgLately there has been a continuous theme developing for me with Not for Profit organizations needing help or advice which may turn into a book one day. After 40 + years in media and having participated on numerous non profit boards and committees it seems time to share some of my learning’s with the hope that non profit agencies and organizations around the world may benefit.

Every one of them is challenged with good communication, internally as well as externally. Working with Not for Profit’s over the years has given me an excellent opportunity to observe how the best ones are run as well as how they communicate and promote their work in their various communities. Unfortunately, some organizations struggle searching for leadership, a marketing strategy and the people or volunteers to breathe life into their organization.

There are also a few who unfortunately hide from the media and only use it for crisis management when there is a problem and some through no fault of their own, just don’t know how to find their “voice” or what to do.

Ever wonder why you often hear about one organization more than another? More about “CIBC’s Run for the Cure” or other signature fundraising events than others? We know that the top diseases in the world get a lot of continuous support but even small groups with big ideas can compete for our ears, eyes and hearts.

In the foreseeable future, the following pages on my “blog” will be devoted to help those looking for a simple way to understand how media works and how to promote and market the good work their/your organization is doing.

It may take time for us to hear and see more campaigns that deal with sex trafficking, domestic abuse, female circumcision in third world countries, civil rights for the LGBT community, poverty, homelessness and many other not so “attractive” issues but I will go looking for them or with your help, perhaps help create some memorable campaigns! I am encouraged to see President Obama include LGBT in his inaugural address as well as award the founder of PFLAG a humanitarian award. It’s a start!

Clearly the more mainstream or “vanilla” the easier it is to get media exposure. The more uncomfortable, controversial or “charged” no matter how important it may be, the more difficult.

Where traditional media may be full, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites offer everything imaginable. Some causes seem nonexistent and obscure where others readily go viral around the world due to the message and how it resonates with us. I’d frankly suggest spending more time in this area than applying for grants!

An extremely “creative” campaign can make a world of difference in touching our hearts and getting your message across. Cutting through the “clutter” is a universal challenge which is why creative and the amount of times or “frequency” we see or hear your message are so important.

Simple and heartfelt is an excellent place to start in a world full of clever sell lines and slick marketing.

A better place to start is at the beginning with some simple questions – What do you really stand for? And, what do you want to be remembered for? Have you asked anybody lately if they share your views about your organization? After all, perception is reality!

If you want to remain top of mind and in the hearts of your community, be clear about those core messages and don’t let them forget about you.

Assuming you have a well thought out campaign and a compelling message tell them what you are going to do, do it and tell them what you did. In other words while promoting your campaign or event, do it as best you can and then make sure you make everyone feel good about the work they did to help make it successful.

I hope you will pass this on to your friends devoting their time and effort to their favorite causes. We need their hearts and passion to help make a difference!

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!

The Toronto Star

My daughter has a sticker on her 4×4 that speaks to this old nautical slogan. I’ve always liked it as it also speaks to leadership and management styles and the differences between various companies and the way they think as well as how they operate.

Every once in a while I dust off a favorite book or training manual to see what I may have forgotten that could help me and perhaps help inspire our team in our current economic and competitive environment.

Jack Trout, Jack Welsh and others come to mind as they have studied the habits of great companies however last weekend was one of those occasions where I stumbled onto a leadership program that I attended with the Torstar Media Group in 2001 . I was struck by some of the similarities in the world economy and how this particular company chose to deal with a recession and an ever changing media landscape.

Not only did Torstar reinvent their newspaper business but they also jumped into the internet with over 30 “start-ups” including a new television station with a view to create a third “leg” and find new opportunities for their predominately print organization.

They also invested significantly in training for the their managment team throughout the organization as part of a two year commitment to an intensive training program. This began with the vision of their VP of Human Resources, Karen Hanna who organized a cadre of amazing trainers from around the world.

It began with an Australian, Yvonne Evans who had a new integrated performance model called “Position 3” to help develop personal greatness along with teams from the Centre for Creative Leadership in the US, the Rotman School of Business and others. The materials and circulim were traditional as well as unique and customized to the challenges facing each of us personaly as well as the company.

David Galloway and John Honderich’s leadership led the way with a clear commitment to an unknown future. In a corporate address they recognized that with an increasingly competitive global economy and more demanding customers, that more was expected from their senior managers and they made it a priority to enhance their strategic and leadership abilities throughout the company.

In their words, “The success of our Company in the next five to ten years will depend on the leaders who are developed today”.

Unlike many companies that retreat, pull back or “turtle” in tough times, Torstar invested in creativity and personal development with the belief that they would strengthen their ability to compete in the years ahead. I suppose that could be why Torstar is still one of the top picks along with Canadian Satellite Radio by TD Securities in 2012.

Like Torstar, Astral, The Kauffmann Foundation and many other “great” organizations that support and encourage creativity and entrepreneurism, there is hope that businesses, individuals and our world will evolve, grow and prosper. I remain optimistic in the human spirit!

Radio in Prince Rupert

Coyote Mac Cloud intro to China Grove

The light house outside Prince Rupert

I can remember attending an Abrams/Burkhart radio conference years ago where some of the worlds best programmers, consultants and marketers attended along with a stellar cast of celebrities and speakers.

David Lee Roth opened the conference followed by Randy Michaels, now the CEO of US Based, Oak Hill Capital, who made a memorable start to his keynote speech walking up the ramp or the beginning of the Doobie Brothers, China Grove to hit the post (Vocals) as the band played on.

It was an electric moment as he amused himself and wowed the audience and admitted how much he enjoyed doing that when he was a Top 40 disc jockey. He also shared with us that the longer he was in this business the further he got away from the things that got him into it. I believe at the time he was CEO of Citdal or Clear Channel.

I suppose this is true as each of us masters various skills and experiences and move up the corporate ladder or to more senior positions and mastery in all the things we do. It seems like a life time ago I was editing demo tapes, picking songs for a new format or sitting on the air at all times of the day and night learning my craft.

I recently returned from north western British Columbia where we held annual planning meetings with this five station group and the launch of a new format and a new FM station in Prince Rupert. It was great to spend time with our team there, hang with the other “suits” on our road tour that had started their careers much like me as we reflected on the flight home how enjoyable our work is.

How fortunate that after 40 some odd years I still love what I do for a living and enjoy working with terrific colleagues across Canada. It’s good to know that radio is far from dead as our talented group reinvent what we do on air, on line and on the street every day.

Unfortunatley I never recorded Randy’s intro to the Doobie Brothers but I do have one from Coyote Mac Cloud (link above), a memorable and wildly entertaing Top 40 jock from Atlanta doing an another excellent intro to China Grove.