Iva Lou

July 6, 2009

Souders Historical Farm-MuseumIva Lou would be the first to admit that words like “public relations,” “strategic planning,” “messaging,” and “goal-setting” are not part of her every-day vocabulary. Yet, she’s a master at them, in her own unique way.

I’ve learned much from Iva Lou these past few months. She asked for my help to develop a brochure for Souders Historical Farm-Museum, a 10-acre tract near Cheney, Kan., that recreates rural and small-town life in the late 1800s to mid-1950s. The museum was created by her brother, Floyd, and his wife, Norma — an amazing couple who dedicated their lives to preserving history.

When Floyd and Norma died, Iva Lou was left in charge of the estate and the museum. This is quite an undertaking for an 83-year-old woman, who would much rather spend her time playing the piano, gardening or doing crafts.

I was thrilled to help, as our family has toured the museum over the years and even has family photos and artifacts on display. I went into our first meeting full of ideas re: a web site, volunteer outreach efforts, special visitor days, etc. Iva Lou politely, but decisively, told me her goal was simple — develop a brochure so visitors could tour on their own, saving her the ongoing hassle of finding volunteer tour guides. She wasn’t interested in “raising awareness” — as we PR-types say. She was just fine with the family reunions they have scheduled year after year, as well as the handful of regular visits from school and church groups. Anything more would require staff and budget she just didn’t have. I admit that it was hard to hold back. The museum has so much potential. That potential may have to wait for another time.

We will have the brochure wrapped up in time for the many visitors during Cheney’s 125th anniversary celebration this August. I am proud to have helped Iva Lou make museum visits more meaningful for her guests.

Along the way, I have enjoyed our many chats on history, women’s rights,  mothering, yoga, Oprah, religion, country life and so much more.  I hope I find another reason to visit Iva Lou at her Ivy Laurel acres farm.

Followers and leaders

June 5, 2009

“You have to be a good follower to be a good leader.”
“Rarely do we have total situational awareness.”
“The uniform represents organizational trust that those who wear it have been thoroughly trained and have integrity.”

Those were some of the insights shared by 2nd Lt. Nick Mercurio and Sharon Hamric, McConnell Air Force Base communicators, at our recent PRSA Kansas lunch. Mercurio is chief of public affairs and Hamric is chief of community relations.

I was impressed — inspired, even — by their commitment to honestly and ethically communicate the McConnell story and raise awareness of the base and its service members. Mercurio’s comments regarding decision-makers, and the lack thereof in the corporate world, was particularly striking.

His personal example: He graduated last year with a bachelor’s in English from the Air Force Academy. He was immediately assigned to be chief of public affairs for the base, with not one day’s worth of real-world experience. Not a problem, he says, thanks to four years worth of leadership training and character development at the academy. The training prepared him to gather the necessary intelligence and then make the best decision based on that intelligence. Does he always make the right decision? No. But, he does always strive to make the best decision, based on the information available. He gives no apologies for making a decision.

A simple, but not an easy, methodology that I hope to emulate.

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