2013 IABC Detroit Communicator of the Year Acceptance Speech
Thank you Ted and thank you to the IABC Detroit nominating committee and board of directors for selecting me as this year’s Communicator of the Year.
This is truly a special moment, especially as I reflect on the many years; I was sitting in the audience like you, celebrating Detroit’s best in communication and leadership.
And this year’s body of work was no exception, truly impressive. Let’s give our Renaissance Award winners another round of applause.
As I contemplated what I wanted to say tonight, I kept coming back to the same important theme – for me the journey has been as much about the communication work and results, as it’s been about the people who joined me along the way.
They mentored, collaborated, enthused, instructed, challenged, and encouraged me. One could argue the six ingredients necessary for any successful career, and indeed the key ingredients of my story.
While I was fortunate enough to stumble into a profession where my innate abilities of critical thinking and creative processing would prove to be strengths, the rest had to be learned and experienced firsthand.
Did I say stumble into this career? Well that’s exactly what happened. I was nine years old, and my mother, Betty McGuire, accepted a bookkeeping job with a start-up PR firm, PR Associates. Besides the very cool opportunity of going to work with my mom to her office in the Penobscot building on the weekends, I was exposed to some great stories of local celebrities and fanfare; not to mention – endless tchotchkes.
This was front-row Hollywood glamour for a little girl raised in southeastern Michigan.
I never looked back. Whatever this business of PR was, it didn’t matter. I was hooked.
That was until I landed at Michigan State University and took my first public relations class. It wasn’t pretty. I wrote my first press release and when I got it back with so much red on it that I couldn’t even read my original copy. I thought – what have I gotten myself 2013 IABC Detroit Communicator of the Year Acceptance Speech into; did communication professionals really need to write? To be clear, this, along with math, was not an innate ability.
Enter important ingredient number one; a great mentor. While I’ve had many, my very first was Gayle Good, a family friend who was also in the communication business. After bellyaching about how hard this was going to be for me; the best advice she gave me was to learn to love to write. She said if I wanted a career in communications I’d better embrace it. While it took me several years to really love writing; she didn’t steer me wrong.
Important ingredient number two, collaboration. It’s critical with every assignment, role, and in every organization. Again, I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with many talented professionals, but one stands out, my dear friend Renee Shimmel. I was blessed to meet Renee in 1996; she recruited me to serve on an IABC Detroit committee. Through example she taught me how to build strong teams where business objectives, combined with the desire to work together was so intoxicating we were convinced we could take on the world.
Ingredient number three, enthusiasm, and it came in the form of John Finney, another IABC colleague and former Communicator of the Year. My first encounter with John was in Ottawa, Canada. He was, at the time, IABC’s International Chairman of the Board and delivered the keynote address to a group of leaders during the annual IABC chapter leadership institute. To this day I remember how John made us all feel. We sat in awe as he delivered the most passionate speech about the value of IABC membership, the need for good strategic communications, and the importance of being a good chapter leader. I couldn’t wait to get back to Detroit and live by John’s example. As luck would have it John lived in Windsor, and became an honorary member of IABC Detroit and a friend and mentor who’s taught me more than he will ever know.
Ingredient number four, instruction. For eleven years I had the good fortune to work for a global automotive supplier where the pace was hard, the stress high, and the change never ending. The opportunities for learning abound. At the center of that learning was my boss, mentor and friend, Lin Cummins – also 2013 IABC Detroit Communicator of the Year Acceptance Speech another Communicator of the Year, and a true legend in our space. Working for Lin allowed me access to what really went on behind the scenes. She taught all of us the secrets of the business through personal instruction, counsel, coaching and encouragement. The company we worked for had its fair share of wins and losses, and Lin used this as the palette for our critical learning. She helped me to evolve into a trusted and effective strategic communications counselor – to the point where I can still hear her talking in my head.
Challenge is my fifth ingredient, and to this day I will always be grateful for Juan De La Riva, former president of one of ArvinMeritor’s global business units. Juan didn’t believe in Communications, and made sure I knew he categorized it as fluff. However, he was a fair man, and open to giving me a shot at changing his mind. He challenged me to demonstrate how communications could help his business to be successful. When I advised to be effective I would need to be at his side, a partner in the business, he relented and involved me in the business strategy, executive analysis, and goal and financial planning. I relished in the opportunity; and worked very hard to prove the business value of communications. Juan was my boss and mentor for several years, and while selective with his praise, did ultimately thank me for helping him to understand how the strategic use of communications could indeed make a difference to the bottom line.
And the last ingredient, encouragement. There is no one else in my life who has given me more encouragement than my mother. In her eyes, there is nothing I can’t do, or anyone that would do it better. Mom, you have given me so much; thank you for being with me every step of the way.
For the generous gifts of learning and support I received from Gayle, Renee, John, Lin, Juan and my mother – I will forever be grateful and would like to accept this award in their honor.
In closing, I’d also like to recognize and thank my employer CareTech Solutions and my boss Jim Giordano for their continued support, and for my amazingly talented team, of which two members are with me tonight, Maria D’Agostini and Renee Ratliff. I’d also like 2013 IABC Detroit Communicator of the Year Acceptance Speech to thank Nancy Skidmore who has been the reliable and devoted glue that has kept me, and many other IABC members connected to the IABC Detroit community. We are a special group, and I treasure every single one of my IABC friends and the many memories we’ve created over the years.
And lastly, I’d like to thank my family. Again, my mother Betty for always believing in me, my beloved sister and best friend, Sheila for her never-ending sideline cheers, my nephew Kyle for always making me feel special and important, and lastly for my two precious sons, Ian and Quinn. They are the center of my universe, and always make me feel like I’m the center of theirs.