Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving thanks for the network of ESDs

When I gathered my family for Thanksgiving, I gave a quiet prayer for that network of evil step fathers.
This year, I am celebrating nearly 13 years as an "ESD." When I remarried, I knew my step daughter would be a challenge. And, I was right.
In retrospect, I learned that when a child becomes a teen, they don't care for their natural parents. Somehow, having a new parent in the mix only intensifies the experience.
I am not going to embarrass my daughter with some of her escapades. Just know that there were times that I questioned my decision to marry her mother. And, the network of evil step fathers stepped in to help.
Through the years, my friends at church and in the Catholic ACTS community shared their stories as ESDs. Their simple message was to wait and pray. Step children will grow out of their rebellious teen years and become adults.
My oldest graduates from law school in six months. The guys in the San Antonio chapter of ESDs were right. After she turned 21, she became a normal human being again.
So, to all evil step dads out there, I would say it's hard to parent a step daughter or son. Only time, love, patience and prayer will help.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jobcannon offering holiday gift alternative for those who are underemployed....

 For those with family or friends who are facing difficulties in their career endeavors, an Austin company is offering an alternative holiday gift idea., an Austin-based firm, is offering a "Black Friday" special for those who retweet their special holiday offer before Monday. By retransmitting their holiday special via Twitter, the firm is offering a 50-percent discount to everyone who helps promote their services.
Here's what I like about's product. To me, it's the first online job search tool to help their clients understand that internal change is needed as part of their career retransformation. For most of the unemployed or underemployed, they take the role of a job seeker, taking anything that puts money into their pockets. However, helps people realize they should focus their employment efforts as a "skill holder."
A retiring military noncommissioned officer, who spent his career as an Air Force munitions loader, knows there isn't a lot of opportunities to continue loading munitions. However, a program like can help that sergeant realize he has considerable skills as a inventory management professional. Once he or she realizes that she has those skills, it's easier to focus a career search on companies that value those talents. also helps those facing career changes to find their job champions. For someone like the munitions loader, a job champion can advise them on how to tailor their resume or who to contact within the organization. Job champions help those seeking a job get the inside track within those companies by helping them uncover those unlisted positions before they are formally posted.
A year's subscription to is a perfect gift as well for those who have a job. In these turbulent times, a skill holder can begin the process to transition from a current position into something that has more openings.
For example, a copy repairman knows that more job cuts are possible in his industry. He or she knows they have the skills to move into biomedical equipment repair, an industry that has considerable job prospects. With the help of, he or she could find someone to mentor them and start the transition to one within that new industry sector.
So, this Black Friday, avoid the long lines at Best Buy or the San Marcos Outlet Mall. Instead, take a visit to the jobcannon web site to purchase a gift that will truly help those in need of career change.
(Important disclosure: While I work as a publicist for, I believe its Black Friday offer is something every person who knows of someone in need of career transition should consider as a gift.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wanting to give thanks for the growth of technology within San Antonio

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I wanted to take this time to reflect on the changes within the San Antonio tech community. Thanks to the unheralded work of a lot of people, our city is quickly attracting more and more technology firms and talent.
I think it's best to thank Mayor Julian Castro for his support of technology. Just over a month ago, he was featured in an article on information security in the New York Times. Thanks to that article, the rest of the United States and the world now knows how our city is one of the leaders in this area.
Yet, I am also thankful to those in the emerging medical technology as well. With Brooke Army Medical Center and the University of Texas Health Science Center, we have two groups who discover and develop wonderful life-saving processes. At the upcoming San Antonio Innotech trade show, some of the leaders within both the military and civilian sector will gather for a special half-day conference prior to the main event March 4.
Lastly, I want to thank the growing social media community within our city. Thanks to organizations like #bmpr and others, we now bring some of the best and brightest together to share best practices. I have learned more about social media tactics in San Antonio than I have in a more advanced community like Austin. And, as I spend enough time in Austin, I know that there are some more advanced technical firms up there.
So, San Antonio technical types, as you sit down to a dinner with friends, please know that folks like me appreciate what you are doing to improve the growth of the tech sector within our community.

(Important disclosure: I am the contract publicist for the San Antonio Innotech trade show. I also serve on the board of advisors for the Innotech and the Emerging Medical Technology programs.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

With a correct employee handbook, teachers should be able to text studetns and parents

Hidden in today's Express-News "Texting incident leads to teacher resignation" was the fact that several major school districts have not addressed this form of communication in their employee handbook.
If you are a school board member or a district administrator, I would like to give some insight into texting.
First, it's hard to text with my big fingers, but it's an effective way to reach people. There are several clients who I can only communicate by text or a Twitter direct message. Somehow, a text message via cell phone or Twitter reaches a growing number of my clients and friends.
Second, as the article does note, it leaves a message trail. That way, when school teachers need to reach out to a parent on a matter it documents the call. And, if you are trying to reach someone and leave a message, they either don't get the voice mail right away or their receptionist often doesn't bother to give the message to them.
Thirdly, students could also text their teachers before school to confirm an appointment for a makeup exam or tutoring.
So, I believe the best policy is to clearly document that if a district can prove that a teacher sent risque photos of themselves to students or allegedly said "You suck" in a text missive that those are grounds for immediate firing.
For many who don't use texting as a communication tool, the early assumption is to eliminate it entirely. Yet, for many, it's the best way to reach people. The 99.99999999999 of teachers who use texting responsibly will help open communication channels to parents and students.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Here's hoping that my military public affairs colleagues learn how to use social media tools to help them respond quicker

One of the things which military public affairs people do very well is adapt and learn from disasters. After reading a Defense Systems article online, I had to chuckle that the Army media relations folks were using Facebook to tell the media that they were inundated with calls from them.
In 1994, I worked as a media relations supervisor in Allied Forces Southern Europe during the Bosnian crisis. After Air Force jets shot down three Serbian planes, our telephones were swamped so badly that one of the telephone operators had a runner come to our office to tell us that the New York Times reporter was frustrated that they couldn't reach us.
With my boss' help, I was able to get extra lines installed within four hours.
Now, Twitter and other social media tools allow crisis public affairs professionals to quickly open up new communication channels. I don't want to become a "Monday Morning Quarterback" with my public affairs colleagues, but I am hoping that when they hold their next conferences that they look at the lessons learned from the Fort Hood tragedy to better the process.
I believe that public affairs professionals can easily master social media channels and learn how to quickly respond to crisis issues like the one at Fort Hood. Here's hoping that the military public affairs senior leadership understand that social media tools allow them to manage the communication process when the next crisis arises.

Why cyber attacks could become the ultimate disaster

If you love disaster films, John Cusack's latest offering, 2012, is a film that should create a lot of nightmares. However, Hollywood still hasn't addressed a bigger disaster -- the loss of cyber communications.
A Washington Post article, published on the front page of the Express News, documented the potential by Chinese hackers to attack our system.
"I believe that the security industry overall needs to evolve. For years we've had a system based on they knock our wall down, we build a bigger (or more complicated) wall to replace it. Advances in preemptive technologies, and real-time analytics are prerequisites for solving some of the issues we face in cyber-security," said William Hurley, a security and tech analyst .
The move of the Air Force's 24th Air Force demonstrates our government's commitment to protect our information resources and consolidate most of the executive resources to protect our computer systems. And, if you hear a Rotary Club or chamber of commerce speech from the senior leadership at 24th Air Force, I would bet they would mention the threat of cyber attacks from China as a strong possibility.
Yet, cyber attacks will continue to evolve and improve, according to Hurley, a technology leader, who has hacked into a lot of businesses to test their security capabilities.
To test a leading casino in Las Vegas, Hurley, who is known as "whurley" in Austin and online, bought a polo shirt and pants that matched the uniform of the information security department. Noting that the computer protection staff had badges, whurley told one of his client's employees that he lost his badge to get access to the computer hub. With the borrowed ID, whurley was able to gain full access to all the data and the systems.
Bryan Guinn, the president of Prism Technology as well as a client of mine, said he has been able to get into areas storing computer data just by giving the appearance that he was fixing a computer. Guinn said it's rare when someone challenges him when he or one of his repair professionals report to a customer's location to fix a technical issue.
To offset a cyber attack, Guinn said he recommends backing up data every day. He also suggests that businesses adopt policies. For example, a business should tell employees to order products online from a trusted site that uses a Secure Sockets Layer. In many cases,hackers will create a web site that looks like a legitimate site and steal computer card data. As well, hackers will host viruses that will infect their computers as well as spreading them to other systems.
Successful businesses will follow good security practices to mitigate the potential of disaster from a cyber attack. Having excellent training and processes in place can help a firm lower their losses in the event of an attack on their computers.

Selecting the right room can help a person sleep better

For those of us who are considering a new home or apartment, it's time to consider the location of their next bedroom.
I am working as the public relations manager for the first Brain Wave Expo. My client, Bruce Meleski, the owner of IntellliBED Texas, brought in several experts on how to improve a person's sleep performance.
In the course of meeting some of the Austin sleep experts, we discussed the prospect of moving to a new home. Several days before the event, Meleski recalled how one of his customers had moved from a large home to a condo in downtown Austin. The couple's children had all left the nest, and there was no need to have a large domicile. So, they picked a smaller condo in Austin's downtown area.
With their bedroom facing east, they were awaken with the sun, and it took a considerable amount of adjustment to their new location.
So, here are some things to consider when looking at a prospective home.
First, if you an early riser, having a room that faces towards sunrise is an ideal place to put a bedroom. However, for those who are night owls, it's best to have a room that faces north. If that's not possible, there are other ways to address the issue. The first is to have the rooms tinted with a dark screen. Secondly, dark curtains might help.
Secondly, I would suggest the best thing is to contact someone like Meleski to do a sleep audit of a new domicile, especially before signing a contract to move into a new home. Meleski or one of his associates can make recommendations on interior design and location of bedrooms. In some cases, the buyer could stipulate some specific changes as the condition of a home. In short, a realtor can make specific requests as part of the contract or even the loan. In some cases, the seller can provide specific changes to a bedroom environment as part of the sale. In other cases, a realtor can work with a loan officer to have the sleep improvements amortized within the course of a 30-year loan.
Having a sleep audit will cost a few dollars, but elderly people should especially consider this as a restful night's sleep can help them stay healthy. Until now, most of us overlooked the sleep quality of a new home. Professional sleep transition can help ease the transition for people purchasing a new home.

Why managing your Twitter hash feed helps you listen to your customers

       When I picked up the Twitter hash feed for the San Antonio Rock and Roll marathon Sunday morning from the front page of the online Express-News, I was amazed at how many runners were tweeting their expectations before the race.
For those still new to social media, a "#" on Twitter is what is referred as a hash tag. More and more, main stream communicators are starting to embrace the use of them in event management. The organizers at the San Antonio event used #RnRsa as their official hash tag. Prior to go to church, I was able to read the comments of all the racers by searching for that term on Twitter. I found the one by a runner from a small town that there were more people in the race than his home funny especially when he said the race should have its own zip code.
I recently used hashtags for two events myself. At the Oklahoma City and Austin Innotech, the #innotech hash tag allowed me to monitor the conversations of hundreds of attendees. For the Oklahoma City event, I was able to monitor the conversations from San Antonio. When one attendee questioned the scope of programs, I quickly sent him a response with the @OKC_Innotech twitter account to ask him what he would do to improve the show for next year.
For those new to social media, a hash tag is easy to set up. However, most people overlook the integration of it with other traditional communication tools. For example, an event organizer can put the hash tag on advertisements in trade show brochures. They can also put it on their ads in magazines, newspaper and other publications. Most importantly, they should prominently display them on signs such as the starting point of a race or at a trade show.
What I like about hash tags is that they allow companies and organizers to listen to their customers. Hash tags give people an unfiltered view on what they think about an event. A savvy business manager can use them to learn what his customers are saying in real time about their event or product. Yet, the best ones will quickly respond to both negative and positve comments as well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

San Antonio vets want to help others deal with PTSD with "Walter's House"

Ask Tres Maddox, a San Antonio businessman, what veterans need today and he'll tell you it's a group of fellow peers who have experienced the horrors of war.
After World War II, Maddox said former soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors came home and build neighborhoods with their VA housing benefits. "These guys came home and lived next to each other," he said. "If someone had post traumatic stress disorder issues, they had someone in their neighborhood they could talk to about it."
Several years ago, Maddox rode his motorcycle to Washington, D.C., to pay tribute to his friend, Walter, a fellow Vietnam veteran.
It was during this ride that Maddox said he had a vision to create a house in San Antonio where veterans could meet with peers and get professional help. Today, "Walter's House" is a prototype that needs financial assistance and professional advise.
John Hartman, one of Maddox' friends, served in the military and has a successful business, thanks to his disabled veterans status. He's one of the volunteers willing to help Maddox build his first house.
For Hartman, it's important that former military professionals have a peer group who can help them overcome the issues associated with PTSD. A recovering alcoholic, Hartman said a fellow vet helped him deal with the issues related to his combat service in the Gulf Region.
As a fellow veteran, I agree with Hartman and Maddox that former military professionals need to build a network of friends who have served in uniform. I am hoping that San Antonio's growing base of active duty military, former military and supporters will help Maddox and Hartman reach their goal of building their first home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What do veterans want on Wednesday and every other day.....

Veterans like me will be able to choose six entrees at Applebees Nov. 11 as a tribute to our service. While I want to commend the restaurant along with the hundreds of others who provide discounts to active duty and retired military folks, the care and respect that our veterans deserve is not a one-day publicity event or even a discount on food or services.
In an interview published Friday in the Wall Street Journal, actor and peace activist Woody Harrelson said while he is against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, he totally supports the military who serve there. "It was a good experience for me because it's one thing to consider yourself pro-peace, like I consider myself, and quite another to understand what the soldiers are going through," Harrelson said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal's Michelle Kung.
I was glad to see someone like Harrelson that he supports our troops. In the Vietnam War, many of us remember those hippies who spat on troops as they arrived in San Francisco. Even years later, I ran into some of them while serving at Lowry AFB, Colo., as the chief of community affairs. During one educational summit, one teacher, who told me proudly that she protested against the war, asked me if I was a baby killer like the others.
"No, I am not," I replied. "I am just one of the many who protects your right to free speech."
On Wednesday, veterans are asking for the respect of those who didn't serve. One of the things that we would ask is to have a disability claims process that is fair and easy to understand. Another thing we would ask is that like other federal retirees that if we qualify for disability payments that we get them paid as additional income instead of having the portion of our disability provided to us as a tax free option.
Lastly, we ask that if you learn of our service that you continue to say thank you for our service in the military. And, we would ask that you take a moment of silent on Wednesday out of respect for those who were killed and disabled in the service of our country.

Training is an ongoing process

San Antonio Express-News columnist David Hendricks' column in today's paper details the life of Javier Palomarez's duties from south Texas to his new duties as the president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
If there was a message that resonated with me in this column, it was Palomarez' focus on education. As Hendricks chronicles in his column, Palomarez was the youngest of 10 children. When his mother emigrated from Mexico as an accountant, she was unable to find work in her field. In time, she became a bookkeeper, but she made sure that her son completed his education.
Yet, a formal degree acts as just the first step in any successful business executive's education. The best constantly look at opportunities to make them better. If you are a small business executive, you should consider participating in programs sponsored by the Southwest Minority Suppliers Development Council. This organization work with small business executives to help them get their certification and to find opportunities. While having a degree will help you in business, successful business leaders know that their training is an ongoing process.
This Tuesday, Bill Leake, the chief executive officer of Apogee Search, and I will present a four-hour program in Austin Tuesday on social media on behalf of SMSDC. If you have heard that email is dead and want to know how to embrace social media tools like Twitter, blogging and LinkedIn, this program will help you understand the basics.

Technology works best when it factor in the change it brings

Have you ever called a business or a school, bypass their electronic receptionist by dialing "zero," and get someone who wants to put you back into the voice mail system?
And, have your irritated that person by asking them to take a message?
About a week ago, while in the car, I called Madison, my wife's school, got the famed voice prompts and finally got a student. I asked her to see if she could get someone to take a message to my wife to call me. Her response was "I can only put you into voicemail."
When I first married my wife 12 years ago, her school had a receptionist named Edna. I knew that if I reached Edna by phone that she would get a student to take a message so my wife would get it.
However, someone in NEISD took a look at human resources and eliminated Edna's position by embracing voice mail technology. Yet, Madison High School is not the only organization or business I know that has eliminated the business receptionist or operator.
Thanks to our economy, a lot of businesses have cut back on having an administrative assistant answer the phones for them.
Scott Kaeppel, the president of Kaeppel Consulting, said companies are often faced with making strategic cuts in their organization to make them leaner. To some managers, cutting the salary for the receptionist makes economic sense, but it may impact the business more with lost business or bad impressions.
Businesses spend millions on advertising and marketing, but when they drop their receptionists, they create a negative impression with their customers. Instead of dropping the position, Kaeppel would argue that a manager could look at alternatives such as dropping something like ads in the Yellow Page as an alternative to cutting a receptionist.
In time, receptionists like Edna will become as extinct as the dinosaur. As someone who usually embraces the Internet and texting, I understand the change in thinking. However, technology has to work and align itself with those who use it.
In my wife's case, her access to voice mail moved about three school wings over at Madison when the school added its new science facilities. Before the addition, the science faculty lounge was a short walk away. Now, she has to go to either the main faculty lounge or to the science building to check a phone message.
The problem with technology is that people think it's a solution and a way to save money. Yet, a complete technology integration needs to factor in the changes involved. Technology changes work when the executives in charge of it completely think through the processes involved.
(Note: I work as the publicist for Kaeppel Consulting.)