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What’s the backstory – Muscle Shoals on PBS

Clarence Carter in “Muscle Shoals,” image from PBS.org


When I first started listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd in high school I quickly learned the words to many songs including “Sweet Home Alabama.”  There was a line in the song that I knew by heart but had no idea what it meant, “in Muscle Shoals they love the Swampers.”  I knew the song was about Alabama and at the time ESPN always showed swamp buggy racing, so I assumed that this lyric was about swamp buggies (check them out, trust me).

Four years ago, I stumbled onto a short documentary on Vice.com, “The Muscle Shoals Sound,” (which incidentally I believe was what they call “sponsored content” now from Levi’s) and I was introduced to Fame Studios and the amazing music created by world famous bands that all came to this small town in Alabama.

Tonight, I by chance turned on a new documentary on PBS Independent Lens about Muscle Shoals. Please go watch it, and next time you hear a lyric that catches you, track down what it means. Who knows maybe you’ll stumble onto some of the most amazing music you’ll ever find.


Also, they’ve created an amazing play list of songs from Muscle Shoals on Spotify. Check it out. Trust me.



Agency Lessons from Mad Men Episode 701 – “Time Zones”

Image from AMCTV.com/MadMen

Image from AMCTV.com/MadMen

Mad Men is entering its prolonged last season and continues to include real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. If I wasn’t in this industry, I’m sure I would still be a fan of the show, but for me I get a bonus. I get to watch situations I encounter all the time dealt with by others. Mad Men continues to include real issues faced by advertising (and yes PR firms) in an incredible show. Throughout the course of the series I’ve written 23 posts about real world agency lessons from the show and here’s a few from “Time Zones:”

  • “Advertising might be a more effective if it’s better integrated into our business” – moving things in house. Change for change sake. “I was hired to be bold and I am prepared to make my recommendation.” This is what Joan is told when she meets with a current client who wants to bring all of their advertising in house. Joan ends up turning this around with a Monday morning phone call when she presents the client with reasons why an agency can do things he can’t do in house just yet. This could have been avoided if Joan had been adequately prepped for the meeting (and even if prepped sometimes you still get blindsided).
  • After Joan’s initial meeting with the client, who has an MBA, she goes to a third party expert, in education, for ideas and validation. We do this all the time and if you’re not, you should be.
  • We have apparently identified the exact moment when people moved from the handshake to the “professional hug.” It’s in the office, heck it’s onstage when someone meets the president, but we can point to this beginning when Pete greets Don in the coffee shop and Don sticks out his hand and Pete gives him what Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo would call a “firm embrace.”



Could you write your own obituary? James Rebhorn did and it is beautiful.

You may not recognize the name, but you’ll recognize his face, and after reading this, we should all recognize his life.

His Life, According to Jim


James Robert Rebhorn was born on Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia, PA. His mother, Ardell Frances Rebhorn, nee Hoch, loved him very much and supported all his dreams. She taught him the value of good manners and courtesy, and that hospitality is no small thing. His father, James Harry Rebhorn, was no less devoted to him. From him, Jim learned that there is no excuse for poor craftsmanship. A job well done rarely takes more or less time than a job poorly done. They gave him his faith and wisely encouraged him to stay in touch with God.

He is survived by his sister, Janice Barbara Galbraith, of Myrtle Beach, SC. She was his friend, his confidant, and, more often than either of them would like to admit, his bridge over troubled waters.

He is also survived by his wife, Rebecca Fulton Linn, and his two daughters, Emma Rebecca Rebhorn and Hannah Linn Rebhorn. They anchored his life and gave him the freedom to live it. Without them, always at the center of his being, his life would have been little more than a vapor. Rebecca loved him with all his flaws, and in her the concept of ceaseless love could find no better example.
His children made him immensely proud. Their dedication to improving our species and making the world a better place gave him hope for the future. They deal with grief differently, and they should each manage it as they see fit. He hopes, however, that they will grieve his passing only as long as necessary. They have much good work to do, and they should get busy doing it. Time is flying by. His son-in-law, Ben, also survives him. Jim loved Ben, who was as a son to Jim, especially through these last months.
His aunts Jean, Dorothy and Florence, numerous cousins and their families, and many devoted friends also survive Jim. He loved them all, and he knows they loved him.

Jim received his BA at Wittenberg University and his MFA at Columbia. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Nu Zeta 624, a life-long Lutheran, and a longtime member of both the AMC and ACLU.

Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor. His unions were always there for him, and he will remain forever grateful for the benefits he gained as a result of the union struggle. Without his exceptional teachers and the representation of the best agents in the business, he wouldn’t have had much of a career. He was a lucky man in every way.
–Jim Rebhorn, March 2014

Three Pieces of Advice for Those About to Get Their First Job


Last month I wrote about helping students at Pacific find their story to prep for their first job interviews.  I was back this month as part of a panel of alumni hosted by the Pacific American Marketing Association and the Eberhardt School of Business on tips for helping students find that first job.

At the end of the panel we were asked if we had any last pieces of advice to share.  I had three:

  • Be professionally curious – Always keep learning. Especially at your first job. If someone gives you something to copy, read it. If you are searching articles for mentions of a client or competitor, read the articles, don’t just do keyword searches.
  • Find inspiration outside of work – I work in a semi-creative industry, where I’m writing a lot, and increasingly helping pair images and stories.  To stay inspired, I look outside of marketing and PR.  I love museums, have a pile of art books that I look at, and follow Instagram accounts that are inspiring visually.
  • Give back – I was at my alma mater, and to be honest for the first ten years after I graduated I didn’t contribute very much to the community.  Now, I try and help out students when I can by sharing my experiences, acting as a mentor and when possible pointing students in the direction of jobs.

What are your three pieces of advice for those just getting started?

Good interviews rarely “just happen” take it from Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Neil Degrasse Tyson and Jon Stewart from "The Daily Show"

Neil Degrasse Tyson and Jon Stewart from “The Daily Show”

As a PR guy I watch interviews a little bit differently than most people, I look for themes and for what the subject says that gets picked up by the interviewer.   Sometimes this just happens serendipitously but often there’s a lot of preparation by PR folks in the background on what interests the interviewer, how they’ve interacted with subjects etc, but I was impressed with what Neil DeGrasse Tyson said he did before going on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” which I learned from from a great blog post.

He explained that, before getting on the show, he spent a lot of time studying Jon Stewart’s verbal habits. He paid attention to how many sentences Stewart usually grants a guest on his show before inserting a witty comment. He paid attention to what kinds of words or phrases Stewart particularly likes to pick up on. So, when he went on the show, he made sure to describe astronomy using sexually suggestive language, which prompted Stewart to say “WHY IS IT THAT WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT SCIENCE YOU TURN ME ON?” and then, “I FUCKING LOVE SCIENCE.”

So….next time, before an interview…count the sentences and please watch it.

Being Ready for Anything and Olympic Photographers

Image from Getty Images – Richard Heathcote


In 2012, I wrote about how Greg Bull got the iconic shot of Gabby Douglas that was the defining image of the 2012 Summer Games.  There’s a great article on Gizmodo on how photographers from AP, Reuters and Getty Images cover the Winter Olympics, and how they do it differently. A few of the main points:

  • The combined photographic teams will each capture about one million images over the course of the games:
  • AP is focused on images to tell a story that can be in newspapers and news outlets, while Getty is more focused on shots of value to their corporate clientele for things like advertisements;
  • Getty laid 22 KM of ethernet cable for the fastest possible transmission of digital images;
  • Each photographer has up to four camera bodies, each set up with a different lens and different settings so they can switch out quickly and be ready for anything;
  • Planning started well in advance with AP doing a walk around through Sochi two years ago to start scouting out the best shooting locations; and
  • In Getty’s case according to Gizmodo, when the photographer clicks the shutter, the photo goes almost instantly to a team of three editors where “the first selects the best image and crops it for composition; the second editor color corrects; and the third adds metadata. The whole editing process is done in 30-40 seconds.”

How does this apply to PR? With us, we get paid to plan ahead and think of everything that MIGHT happen and be ready for it.  Are you?

  • When planning an event, think of the flow, what will happen, what might happen and how to make that work.
  • Who’s on your team?  Do they know their roles?
  • Plan, plan, plan.  Go to the venue.  Know it.
  • What’s your objective?  AP has their’s, so does Getty.



Tip for First Time Job Seekers: Find Your Stories – Tell Them


Last week, I was at my alma mater, the University of the Pacific, as a proctor for mock interviews for students to help them prepare for finding that first job.

All of the students I met with where very well spoken and I am confident will be in good shape when they start the actual interview process. There was one common thread with all the students in that they had some amazing experience but either forgot to tell me about it until I helped pull it out of them, or they “buried the lead.”

  • In one case, the student had developed a comprehensive social media promotion program for specific campus radio shows and was using Snapchat to drive program engagement and audience.  In this case, Snapchat worked due to the relatively small addressable audience and the need for immediate action and engagement.
  • Another student had taken over marketing for a band, and learned some extremely valuable lessons about working with all stakeholders to develop a marketing plan; and
  • Another had identified when the posts they may on social networks were most likely to get a response, and tailored their activity accordingly.

Any one of the above should be the first thing they are talking about in interviews.  I advised the students to each have 3-4 “stories,” they were ready to tell in their interviews.  Each of these stories could be used to answer the standard interview questions, i.e. talk about a challenge and how you overcame it, how you worked as part of a team…..

Even if you aren’t looking for a job, what are your stories?  How do you describe what you do to friends and family?  What do you tell a prospective business partner or sales lead?  Find your stories. Be ready to tell them.


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