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FROM THE FORTE

Perspective from Double Forte Public Relations and Marketing

Month

November 2013

Fridays With: Lee Caraher, Double Forte Founder

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What is your elevator pitch when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” I run Double Forte, a fiercely independent public relations and digital marketing firm based in San Francisco serving national clients in consumer products, consumer and interactive technology and B2B services. We provide excellent service and are really, really good at connecting companies with the people who matter to them. And if I have some more time I tell them: Unlike other firms, Double Forte is set up to mimic the real world of the internal Communications person – all of our accounts are run by people who have been in house, and we offer all the support a VP or Director of Communications of PR will need to handle the things that cross their desk.

Describe the path that led you to this career. Well my bachelor’s degree in history from Carleton College is super helpful. After graduating I worked at Carleton for a year, and didn’t know what to do next, having decided not to pursue further degrees in History or a singing career. My friend Ramona from college told me I should try PR since I am good at doing lots of things at once and telling stories; I said “What is PR?” After I did some research (the book “What is PR?” at the career center helped a lot), I decided this would be a good start to my career. I asked people to help me get informational interviews in Boston – and in one week I had four offers. I took the one that paid the most (by accident) at Cone Communications in the Technology Practice.

What are the elements of a successful workplace? A definite, palpable culture, inclusion and participation from everyone regardless of title, celebration of achievements and of life milestones, constant communication.

What is the one piece of technology you cannot live without? My iPhone (although I took the games off of it.)

What are you reading?

I LOVE Pulse so I can slide through bunches of headlines and dive in when something looks interesting. Always HBR, always NPR/KQED, always New York Times, The Atlantic, a whole bunch of blogs….too much! For recreational reading I lean towards Jane Austen.

If you could, what advice would you give your 20-something self? Don’t worry so much about what other people think.

If you could do anything and know you couldn’t fail, what would you do? Host a fabulously popular radio show on NPR.

At Double Forte’s San Francisco office, the conference rooms are named Rock and Roll, Motown, Hip Hop, Mambo, Jazz and Disco. Which name best describes you and why? Motown – because it’s what I gravitate to when it’s too quiet and I need a little energy.

What’s in your Netflix queue? Midsommer’s Murders, Foyle’s War.

 

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Read Your Boss’s Email First; And 7 Other Secrets No One Tells You

  1. Always read your BOSS’s email first. Always.
  2. Invest in one good handbag (here’s a good one) instead of 5 knock-offs. (Mean girls will take you down and you won’t know why.)
  3. The biggest flowers in the office go the receptionist. If you get a big bouquet, next time make sure that the receptionist gets an EVEN bigger one than you did.
  4. Keep your medication IN your desk NOT on your desk at work.
  5. Never fling your card across the table.
  6. Do not underestimate the power of saying “Thank You.”
  7. When everything matters, nothing matters.
  8. The fat lady actually doesn’t show up to tell you it’s over. The End.

A version of this post originally appeared on Rocks Are Hard.

The 7 Things We Must Have at Our Desks

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  1. PRIORITIZED To-Do List: I use an adaptation of the Covey method to capture and then prioritize all the to-dos for my various responsibilities (Boss, Client Advisor, Mom, Wife, Board Member, Friend, Daughter, Sister, etc.) so I can see it all in one place. Other people I know have lists of lists. Whatever works for you, find it, use it, don’t ever let it go.
  2. A Water Bottle: Hydration is so very important to a good day, an active mind, a nourished body, productivity, focus and concentration. (Learn more at CamelBak – full disclosure CamelBak is a client.) Drink so that you’re going to the bathroom every 90 – 120 minutes – it will change your life!
  3. A VISIBLE calendar for the day. Have it up on your screen or print it out. But make sure you can see it easily. (Mine is always up on my 2nd screen.)
  4. Hand sanitizer for the flu season. Really.
  5. A Dopp Kit – in it – at the very least: a toothbrush & toothpaste, mints, a brush, nail polish remover (if you, unlike me don’t bite your fingernails and use polish) & deodorant.
  6. Paper or post-its + writing implement readily available. (I like to throw a couple of magic wands in with the pens and pencils, just for luck.)
  7. Something fun. Right now I’m favoring Yes and No buttons, that I push liberally throughout the day – to my own — and the people-around-me’s – amusement (well at least they laugh out loud – they may be indulging me, I’ll take it!) you can buy them on Amazon here. 

–       Lee

On Gratitude

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Leading people, I think, is an act of ego and humility. You need a strong enough ego to know that you can lead. And you need to be humble enough to know that you can only lead those who want to be led. Much like service: you can only serve those who want to be served.

People ask me all the time, aren’t you nervous about your business – what if your clients leave you?

It’s clear to me that the people at Double Forte could leave at any time, and without the people, we ain’t got nobody to serve the clients. And obviously without the clients, we aint’ got no money to pay the people.

But the people come first.

People who are dedicated and enthusiastic, who want to do good, cool work. People who thrive in a team and who don’t get wigged out under pressure. People who can laugh through the day, even when their parents and friends still don’t understand what they do all day.

My job is to make Double Forte the best place it can be so that these people want to be there. And if we do that, then we can keep delivering great service and great results to our clients.

I am humbled every time I walk into the office and see the people gathered there who are proud to be at Double Forte. That they choose to be there, and that they trust me to have their back and help them achieve their goals is incredibly rewarding for me.

And for that I am forever grateful.

 – Lee

3 Phrases You Should Never Hear or Say

Making other people happy through service is the key to success in any business.

Three phrases you should bend over backwards to NEVER hear or say:

  1. “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” You’re talking to a conformist who you haven’t brought along in exploring new. Avoid this phrase by teeing up the change you want to see with informed discussions among the people you’re serving. MOVE these people along at a rate appropriate for those people. Do NOT present a new way to a legacy-prone organization with “We’ve redesigned the process to streamline decision-making….” A) you may not make it out of the room alive and b) you may not know how all of the decision makers are engaged. EASE your way into change with open-ended questions and a helpful, collaborative attitude that enrolls people in the solution.
  2. “How we doin’?” Ugh. These words, in this order, said in a deceptively cheerful tone by the one you serve, are usually the kiss of death. The asker KNOWS things suck, and is trying to give you an out and let you save face. Avoid this by: a) Understanding what is measured before you start; b) Keeping people up-to-date on your progress and any issues you’re encountering, and c) if the project is off-schedule taking a solution TO the person you serve – don’t let them lead you to this uncomfortable spiral of hell.
  3. “How did we get here?” You’ve presented your results and the silence sets in…and then the dreaded “how the hell did this happen” dressed up as “how did we get here. Richard Moran’s equivalent in his “Presentation Poison” is “Can we do a process check?” Which is code for “no one knows what the hell we are talking about any more.” 

Get ahead of these kisses of death by staying ahead of the one you serve. Manage Up at all times. Keep them informed, find solutions, deliver clear, concise messages. Don’t sugarcoat it. The people who don’t blindside their customers or their bosses are the ones who will succeed the most.

The Pie Chart to Beat All Pie Charts

The Barn Group (TBG) clients offer some of the best wines and organic snacks in the business, and as part of our daily routine at TBG, we imagine how to best pair our wine portfolio with the season’s food du jour. Lucky us! With this in mind, we love Modern Farmer’s guide to eating seasonally – through pie. This handy year-round guide outlines the pies to bake (and eat!) each month according to the season’s ingredients, which inspires us to do some wine pairing. Since it’s pumpkin pie season, we’re pairing ours with a robust Zinfandel that has enough spiciness and refreshing acidity to cut the pie’s creaminess.

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At last, our glass of wine, CSA delivery and dessert menu are in-sync with the season.

Six Business Books We Recommend

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Good To Great by Jim Collins

Your Marketing Sucks by Mark Steven

Sway – The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman by Double Forte’s Liz O’Donnell

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/boltron/6175154545/

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