What can we learn from this?

For most Americans, 2009 will be a year to forget. The Great Recession took its toll. Millions lost jobs and millions more lost their health insurance. Businesses closed, families were torn apart and communities suffered.

If you were fortunate enough to survive you feel relief, but as you count your blessings you also feel sadness for those that did not fare as well. One thing for certain is that no matter how you did, there are some valuable lessons to gain from the experience. So what can we learn from this?

For one thing, we learned a lot about our survival skills. Do we have the ability to get creative in times of distress? Can we adapt to changing circumstances or have we become too rigid to change? Can we respond positively to a daunting challenge and even thrive when tested?

We also learned something about our capacity for compassion. Did our primal instinct to protect our turf take over, or did we extend a helping hand to someone in need? Even during hard times there are lots of ways to help, from volunteering at a food bank to being flexible with employees who can no longer afford childcare or health insurance. It can even be as simple as scheduling an information interview with a job seeker.

Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from the past year is to never take anything for granted. Always deliver above and beyond what is expected. Make sure you consistently communicate with staff, clients, customers, contractors, patients, students, co-workers, vendors, partners, family and friends. Let them know how much you value and appreciate them.

As you look toward 2010, take some time off from worrying about what you've lost and remember to appreciate everything you have. Resolve to buy lunch for a client, drop a friend a thank-you note, forward a lead to a vendor or send a colleague a referral. Give a loved one a call and lend a hand to a stranger. Understand that in all the uncertainty the one thing you can count on is you.

Here's to a bright, happy, healthy and prosperous 2010.

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Chasing Tiger's Tale

Like Tiger himself, I am somewhat conflicted about how to respond to the episode of the mysterious car crash. The general consensus from PR pros is that Tiger could have avoided a drawn out media frenzy by quickly and truthfully addressing all the speculation, rumors and innuendo. In his words, the advice from the PR community was to come forward with a "public confession."

There is no doubt that using vague wording like "sins and transgressions" just fuels the speculation. The media and the public love to see revered figures brought low and when they smell blood they really get nasty. Knowing that an icon is "not perfect"
or "only human" just means they are weak enough to take them down. So in that regard, it might have been better for Tiger to accept the advice of his PR counsel and come clean. Explain what happened, answer any questions, beg forgiveness and move on with his life. Smart steps for any brand concerned about its reputation.

But the truth is that Tiger is more than a brand. He actually is human. So is his wife. And they have the right to work out their issues privately, without the assistance of the public, the media, the PR community or the floozy from Vegas. His brand has been damaged but not nearly as badly as his marriage. His sponsorships might suffer but not nearly as badly as his family. Corporate Tiger has taken a minor hit, but Personal Tiger's life is a mess.

So while I am certain that this episode will become a classic case study in crisis communications, my advice to the media, bloggers and PR pros is to back off. Let him be. Let his wife be. Let them work it out. Stop being so consumed with the personal problems of celebrities and celebrity wannabees and pay attention to the serious problems facing our planet, our country, our communities, our business and our own families. Let's stop chasing Tiger's tale. There's plenty to do right here at home.

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