Mower Boston

About Mower Boston

Mower’s Boston office delivers full-service B2B marketing, PR and branding with a focus on businesses in the high-tech, clean-tech and medical technology industries. We bring B2B stories to life, and work with companies in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to those that need global reach.

Blog posts don’t matter… do they?

Blog_Now

In a recent conversation with the HB team, someone asked if the work we do to keep our blog up to date with relevant content, interesting perspectives and topical news was worth it. You see, it requires a great deal of time and investment to do it well and to do it consistently. And sometimes it’s a struggle to keep up with the pace of the rest of the world’s zeal to produce content. But it is so worth it.

As a member of the HB new business team, I talk to a lot of prospects. Among the things that come up in our conversations is how they found HB and what interested them about us. This is also true of prospective employees and new partners. Very often they mention our blog. For example, last week one of the first things a prospect in the energy and sustainability world brought up was Nicolas’ blog about Solar. In another recent meeting, a prospective employee brought up a post I wrote years ago about an unfortunate incident at the OCCC. And there’s the prospect who was about to make a decision on which agency to select, read Chuck’s post about Tom Brady and chose HB.

A blog is an opportunity to express a point of view, take your opinions for a stroll, vent or wax poetic about… anything. And yes, it’s worth it.

Automatic toilet roulette and other event lessons

Beware the toilet stalls

This month’s Blog the 13 post is on the subject of trade shows and event marketing. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve worked on, seen or participated in countless events developing strategies, building audiences, creating experiences, and generally making live and digital events sticky, memorable and profitable for our clients. I could bore you with statistics, strategies and tactics but you can Google that kind of data. As I thought about what to write, one thing kept coming to the surface…the day it happened. 

Orange County Convention Center: I’m helping run a major event for a client and HB is deeply involved in making the experience happen. To give you an idea of what was expected, on day one I was responsible for escorting major sponsors to VIP areas, adjusting and creating signage for way-finding, contributing to critical decisions related to fire marshal issues, tearing down a room and re-setting it with the help of 20+ Freeman employees minutes before a presentation, and assisting in all measures of attendee happiness. In addition, I was recruited as a rope puller for Cirque Du Soleil and yelled at repeatedly by an angry man named Yuri, “Pull! Pull! Pull!,” so that his performer would fly through the air over a bar at an evening party.

It’s day two and there are 10,000+ of the nicest IT, storage and data center professionals you’ll ever meet parading through the halls to attend technical sessions. In between sessions, the halls and particularly the bathrooms are overwhelmed. I don’t want to be crude so let’s just say that the men’s “facilities” are being punished to the breaking point. And I have to go. Badly.

I begin to search out a relatively clean, uninhabited loo. I walk a few hundred yards. No luck. A few hundred more. No luck. The OCCC in Orlando is absolutely enormous so I set my sights on a completely different area maybe a mile away. As I walk, I encounter fewer and fewer people until I find myself alone, standing in front of a bathroom, praying I’ve found glory. I step inside and the minty freshness and twinkling porcelain is like a mirage but welcomingly real. I open a stall to my liking, slip in and… Then it happens.

I’m on the pot for only a moment when something goes wrong. A sound I’m familiar with has suddenly and without notice shocked my senses. Surely it’s only a sensitive automatic flusher. But no, it’s much, much more than that. A high-pressure violent torrent of water has erupted beneath me sending a vortex of fluid upward between my legs, over the rim from every angle, and in a nano-second covers me from waist to toe.

I kick the stall door open, fumbling to my feet I find myself in the center of the bathroom, my pants at the floor. Of the fifteen or so stalls, I’ve chosen the one with a disdain for common decency and an anger rooted in years of punishing conferences. I’m in shock, drenched, and naked with one thing on my mind… What the fuck just happened?

I pull my pants and myself together. I wash my hands because that’s what you do, even when you’ve just waded belt deep into toilet water. As I walk another half mile to my hotel, I try to ignore the stares and odd looks as much as the squishing sound my shoes make as I stride. I enter the lobby, hop in an elevator alone, thankfully, and exit at my floor. How nice, the cleaners are in my room… somehow they know to just leave immediately.

The story pretty much ends there. I throw out my shoes, pants, shirt, etc. I return to work to a slew of questions… “Where’d you go?” and “Were you wearing something different earlier?” I tell the story over lunch and people are laughing to tears. To this day, I’m reminded occasionally by those present to beware of automatic toilets.

Conclusion: If you’re involved in an event of any kind, expect the unexpected. Avoid automatic toilets. Bring a few pairs of comfortable shoes, a sense of humor, willingness to do whatever it takes to make the event a success, and hopefully you don’t fall victim to bad luck.

To be 13 again…

Floating Cars

In honor of 2013, HB is introducing “Blog the 13th.” That’s right! On the 13th of every month, we’ll share a special post with you (we promise it’s not as scary as Friday the 13th).

I recently sat down with my 13 year-old son, Johnathan, to get his perspective on technology. I was looking for some riveting, insightful and potentially surprising answers about what he likes, expects, and desires from technology. I was “shocked” at the complexity and detail of his answers… well, I guess I wasn’t terribly surprised, so I went to my 15 year-old daughter, Jane, for backup.

Q: What do you find the most engaging and contagious technology?

John: Cell phone. Why? Talk to friends and play games. And go on social networks… I guess. What social networks? Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. They’re kind of addicting.

Riveting.

Jane: Twitter. Why? It has so many updates and I can follow people that I want (it’s selective) and they can follow me without me HAVING to follow them. Everyone uses it. What do you use it for? Basic life updates and sometimes texting in real time back and forth. I don’t do it that much because I don’t want to flood the twitter feed.

Q: If you had an app that could do anything, what would it do?

John: I don’t know.

Captivating.

Jane: It would learn everything about me and give me advice about anything I ask it. Totally personal to me.

Q: What do you think technology will do for you in 10 years?

John: I think it will be faster, lighter and more mobile. What do you mean? Smaller. I don’t know… floating cars.

Floating cars?

Jane: I think technology will be used even more in schools and throughout our lives. Touch screens and connected technologies to control everything in the house, my car, my life… from anywhere at any time.

Q: What would you do without technology?

John: Basketball. No, I mean what would you do without “technology”? Basketball.

Oh boy.

Jane: I grew up with technology so I have no idea what it would be like without it… read more. Play more board and card games. Have to find more ancient ways of communication. It would be less social because everyone would be less connected. Technology gives me access to other people’s lives.

“Ancient technologies”? I feel old.

These kids have far less wonderment about technology than people who didn’t have it growing up. It’s simply an ordinary part of their lives. Does that commonplace attitude forecast more innovation or less? As Jane says, we’re moving to a world where everything – and everyone – is connected. What will the world look like then? How will communications look? Will our books and libraries and keys to open doors and more everyday life staples become “ancient”? Is the future really “floating cars”? Maybe. Regardless, technology is an ever-changing, captivating and awesome part of our lives.

Turning 13

Johnathan Hart

My son Johnathan is 13 and I feel like HB, which turns 13 tomorrow, is a lot like him. Here’s how…

  • He’s grown a lot in the last two years and he continues to grow
  • He makes me laugh
  • He’s awfully smart and understands he can achieve anything he wants
  • He could work harder on bettering himself, at times
  • He’s an interesting combination of the greatest thing that ever happened to me and a giant pain in the ass (running a business can feel like that sometimes)
  • He’s got a lot of good friends
  • He has a few special passions
  • His unique skills make a difference in many parts of life
  • He steps up to tough challenges
  • He’s a quiet and unassuming leader
  • He has courage
  • I love him

As we enter our 14th year, Nicolas and I remain enormously confident about the future. With Perrin, Christine, Amanda, Nik, Steve M., Steve B., Molly, Mark, Jennifer, Matt, Andrea, Dawn, Justin, Alicia, Allison, and our Board of Advisors, Mitch, Eileen, Peter and Jim, combined with our roster of amazing clients, there is no stopping HB.
Here’s to the next 13…

Getting inside the problem

Knee MRI

Sometimes you need to go deeper.

This week I had knee surgery. Originally I was diagnosed as needing ACL reconstruction. However, an MRI revealed that the ACL was intact. My surgeon wasn’t sure how things would turn out. He advised that he should wait to make a judgment call once he was inside the knee and could really see what was happening. I agreed.

It’s ironic how closely this matches the work we do on a regular basis. Prospective clients come to us with a problem or a challenge and ask for our help. Too often they ask us to diagnose the problem and prescribe a fix in the form of a proposal… before we truly understand the real problem.

Our point of view is that we must get inside the problem and deeply understand the challenge prior to prescribing a solution. We propose a strategy/planning session, one where we can peel away the layers of business goals, audience, messaging and competition in a well-defined process that reveals the gaps and overlaps and informs recommendations. Getting inside the problem results in better knowledge, deeper understanding and more positive results.

Network me out to the ball game

Number 1 son John with his dad, bribed to smile with a sleeve of cotton candy

I hate large networking events. There are loads of people all moving about to occupy time and share a brief moment with as many people as possible. And while I’ve met many nice people at larger events, I prefer an intimate group.

I have the luxury of currently participating in two such groups of 8 and 12. In these groups I’ve been able to get to know peer business people who struggle with challenges and celebrate successes. I know a great deal of their businesses and they of mine. A trust is built and you can rely on them for advice, superb introductions for partnerships and new biz, and occasionally great seats to a game.

This past weekend I had the joy of attending the Red Sox vs Yankees game – Good guys win 10-4. The four tickets that came so easily, I acquired at face-value from a member of one of my networking groups. He offered first-come first-served to our small group and I won the race to his in-box.
Networking… Ahhh, what a wonderful thing.

Interpreting a "crisis" in higher education

Today my wife heads to Northern Essex Community College for an assessment of her ASL (American Sign Language). An interest of hers for years, she has taken many courses and attended retreats on the art of signing. She has finally decided she’d like to go back to school to become an interpreter.

As we figure out how to pay for her schooling, and how we might monetize her degree, I stumbled across an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the “Crisis of Confidence” in higher education. It seems that more than a third of college presidents think the industry they lead is heading in the wrong direction.

The article states: Without a change in course, presidents fear, American higher education’s standing around the globe could erode. Although seven in 10 college chief executives rated the American system today as the best or one of the best in the world, barely half predicted that a decade from now the United States would be among the top globally.

Recent research noted in another post indicates many believe the value of a degree isn’t there. Yet, despite the “crisis of confidence,” enrollment at colleges is at record levels.

The article concludes with an interesting and compelling comment from John Immerwahr, a professor of philosophy at Villanova University and a senior research fellow at Public Agenda. Mr. Immerwahr points to a cautionary tale from another well-established American industry, one that was the best in the world, until it wasn’t—auto manufacturing. “We don’t want to be Detroit,” he says.

Do the education leaders who lack confidence have the power to make necessary changes? Did Detroit?

As she departed for her ASL assessment, my wife was nervous that she wouldn’t be placed correctly. I assured her that she’d be fine. I hope the leaders in higher education, as well as those who control part of the picture with funding and legislation, believe the same. Indeed, we don’t want higher ed to be another Detroit.

Doubt and Debt for College Education?

Me and Jane four years before she's off to college.

My 14 year-old daughter (the oldest) was working on a school project to identify a college and prepare a financial plan to pay for it. Since she’s not too fond of me these days, all I could do was listen-in to Jane and my wife discuss dollar amounts per year for education and room & board. Gulp.

I have four children and 12 continuous years of college to help fund (including 4 years with two in college). And on a quarterly basis, Merrill Lynch sees fit to remind me how far behind I am. This got me thinking about the weight of debt that college students and families (me) must bare upon graduation, and the value or return on investment they can expect.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one thinking about this challenge. A recent report issued by the Pew Research Center indicates that Americans are increasingly doubtful about the value of a college education (See the Report). US News and World Report quoted Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center and the director of the Pew Social & Demographic Trends project: “There is real concern—growing concern—about affordability and value measured against cost, but a very solid registration of satisfaction [among college graduates] that, ‘This was a good thing I did in my life, and there’s a real payoff to it.'”  However, the Pew report indicated that 57 percent of the 2,142 Americans surveyed claimed that the nation’s higher education system does not offer adequate value in return for increasingly high costs, and 75 percent feel it is unaffordable for the average citizen.

I too am concerned about the cost and the value of education. I read stories about students with amazing credentials that are flipping burgers because they can’t find work and they can’t afford not to work. I am optimistic that something will shift us back on course and College will offer hope and opportunity over doubt and debt. Hopefully this shift happens within the next four years before my decade+ journey into debt begins. Until then I’ll just keep listening in.

Four Sandwiches

khart-gangof4

On school days, I make lunches. It’s what I do. This morning I made four and everything changed. My baby girl is heading onto the bus for full-day kindergarden. And my wife is doing the dance of joy!

Concurrently, I realized this morning, that HB has a birthday today. At 11 years old, it too is growing up. Our capabilities have never been stronger, our experience never more valuable and our people never more talented. In 11 years we’ve met those who impressed and inspired us, taught us new skills and shared life lessons. We’ve  also  been threatened with uncertainty and instability brought on by forces beyond our control. Through it all, we’ve kept our cool, saved our pennies, searched out the best and brightest clients, partners and employees and above all, aspired to provide the greatest strategic council and client service.

As we look forward, I am confident that we will continue to grow and improve  in every way possible. And  that makes me do the dance of joy.

Teamwork trumps individual brilliance

Scoreboards don’t lie. It’s therefore irrefutable that San Antonio beat Dallas 97-87 to close out the series. The older, more experienced and wiser Spurs dominated with brilliant teamwork (great article about the win).

I watched the game while working away on my laptop – setting the HB team up for an intense day of activity. I was reminded how fortunate I am to have an amazing team of talented and winning colleagues. Many  firms have brilliant people leading them or amazingly creative individual talents. However, I believe that a team of smart, thoughtful, creative and carinng people win over individual brilliance nearly every time. And the Spurs victory was further proof of concept. Go San Antonio! I hope the  concept continues when the Celtics play the  Cavs and teamwork from Boston proves to be the winner. Maybe we’ll have a Boston – San Antonio final?

If you are looking at agencies and considering a partner, don’t fall in love with one brilliant player… investigate the team.