August 2013 marked my ten-year anniversary of living and working in Washington. To celebrate, I thought I'd share ten things I love about being in our nation's capital and the lessons I've learned.
Election night. The sunset that reminds us that despite what they taught the Millennials in preschool there is a winner and a loser and, guess what, life goes on. So don't stay home on election night. Head to the Round Robin, Off the Record, or Hawk n' Dove, but for goodness sake do not stay home on this of all nights. The air is electric and the town holds its breath. Believe me; the Wolf can wait until morning.
The focus group. The "undisclosed facility" of the PR industry. Ok, it’s in Bethesda. The bowl of candy and the Rubik's cube taunt you. Why am I wearing a suit at ten o'clock at night? More importantly, what are these people saying about your client? If you ask the wrong questions, you'll get the right answer, because the people behind the one-way mirror are never wrong, but the wrong solution. Ask the right questions, get the right solution.
The Exorcist stairs. Whether you’re trying to reach Georgetown or some higher calling, take time to enjoy the climb. In the words of a great young philosopher, "there will always be another mountain, I'm always gonna want to make it move...ain't about what's waiting on the other side, it's the climb."
The daily news front-page display outside the Newseum. Where you are reminded of the fact that news media can still freeze time in 200pt font. If you had the chance to write the headline of your life, what would it say?
Constitutional Avenue. Crossing the Roosevelt Bridge into the city and driving from the Lincoln Memorial, past the Washington Monument, the White House, toward the Capitol. It tells a wonderful visual story. That ultimately, we are all here because of not only the values that the stone figures stand for but because of the potential that the end goal holds. We can make a difference, here in this town. Whether you advocate, lobby, legislate, enforce, interpret, or report, it all matters. Where else can you say that?
The in-house creative department. Reality is, not many artists want to grow up to work on K Street. "Make it patriotic but not too patriotic" loses its luster after a while. By the way, purple is not the new red and blue, sorry. However, good design is so important to your communications goals and it’s finally getting its due in DC. If you haven't given designers a try, do it. Slowly move your cursor away from the "insert picture" icon. I've had the good fortune of working with some of the best creative directors, art directors and graphic designers in town. I want to share the wealth. And for all those times I locked the front door until the ad was trafficked sorry and thank you.
The lunch. I can go a few days without checking Facebook, I can go (insert number of days it’s been live) without joining a Google+ Hangout. I cannot go a single day without OpenTable. Ultimately, communications still is about one-on-one interactions. If the message doesn't work one-on-one, it won't work in mass media either. Sit down. Talk about it. By the way, do you want to grab lunch?
The metro. Truthfully, I despise the metro, but it does remind me that the only thing in PR you can predict is unpredictability. Unpredictability is not an excuse for failure in commuting or in communications.
The point. I've learned if you can get there faster, do it. Communications is not an endurance challenge. Once a magazine publisher started a meeting with me with the words, "In 1857...." I almost punched him in the face.
My peeps. Classmates, friends, colleagues, clients, Chris Battle, Harry and Louise. Thank you for making the last ten years everything it has been.