I’ve had a pretty good run these last 50 years. I had a great childhood enabled by loving, hard working parents. I created a lifetime of memories with my brother, cousins and friends. I immortalized myself Al Bundy style in high school soccer. I got into college. And graduated. I built a successful career doing something I’m really good at. I traveled the world. I spent a few hours with Chris Farley on the set of SNL. I met a girl. I got married. I became a father. Twice. I rode a seesaw in a Mexican bullring. I saw my oldest child go off to college. I created my own business. I helped other people less fortunate. I lived. A lot.

On March 4, 2019, I begin my next 50 year run. For some, it’s a time of crisis. A wake up call to things not experienced. Me? 50 is a time to re-rev the engine. An opportunity to reflect on all I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to see, hear and do. A chance to take some time before those candles light in March to recalibrate where I want to go and what I want to do based on what I’ve learned to make these next 50 trips around the sun even more exciting and fulfilling than the first 50.

Understand the privilege of being in a position to choose what and who I work with. Be discerning in choosing clients who see the world through a wide angle lens and work on projects that advance society for the many instead of the few.

No red convertible sports car, but an opportunity to shift gears and watch the tachometer flirt with the dial’s red zone. A shift informed by studying my past and observing the present. Because one of the things I’ve come to realize is that, as a society, we have a bad habit of locking people into impenetrable career membranes that too often squelch what makes a person whole. So over the past year, I’ve taken time to explore the intersection of what I’m good at, what people need and what stokes my creative flame. I studied the state of the PR industry, spoke with startup founders and VCs about what they really need from their PR partners, and refined my photographic eye. What I found was:

  • Companies value my ability to help them build their stories. Talking about what they do comes naturally. Telling people why they do what they do is surprisingly difficult. I help them find that why (which frequently helps them find their product market fit).
  • Founders rely on me to guide them on communicating better. Having an experienced, objective communicator to bounce investor, customer, press and employee communications off of is invaluable. 
  • VCs like that I don’t needlessly suck up valuable budget/capital. PR agencies are expensive. And the disintegration of trade media means a startup’s PR requirements aren’t what they once were. I wrote more about this important shift here.
  • People like my photographic style and ability to tell a story through my images. Humans are visual creatures. Storytelling has been the core of humanity’s progress since the dawn of the caveman. Organizations are beginning to recognize the powerful combination of editorial and photography to tell the stories of the humans who make what they do possible.

I’ve been a valuable communication coach to nearly 20 startup founders and their exec teams. I’ve served as the acting director of PR for startups who otherwise couldn’t afford someone with my experience. I’ve discovered I have an eye for capturing people’s personality and using those images to help organizations tell their stories. I’ve found I really like to give back to the communities I’m part of. What stops people from building services around the spectrum of things they do best, the things they love to do, especially when they can combine them to bring value to others? Why do we let a self imposed career force field trap us us from living our complete lives? Why be one thing?

A coach who is always pumping you up is not a coach – improvement takes work and honest feedback. Hold us to high standards! You’ve made RackN (and me, personally) better.
Rob Hirschfeld, CEO, RackN

So that’s what I did. I took my reflections, industry knowledge and passions and built services and projects around them. Some of them are straightforward. A few are ambitious with the potential to have a significantly positive impact on the technology industry and those around it.

Services

  • Communication Coach: On-call senior-level communications counsel, influencer research, monitoring/connections, marketing copy editor, weekly strategy session. Read more here.
  • Messaging/Story Development: Wrapping what you do into the larger narrative of why you do it and making your story compelling to the media and customers.
  • Conference Portraits: Give attendees at your next conference something of value instead of a t-shirt. Perfect for large organizations and foundations and a way for conference organizers to allow smaller, less-well-funded startups to participate in sponsorship. Here’s a peek from Cloud Foundry Summit in Basel and a few of the faces from Gluecon.
  • Corporate Editorial Photography: Where the combination of words and images truly shines. I embed with your executives/teams to help your corp comm department tell your stories as they are happening, to help your developer advocates highlight the humans behind the code, and support your CEOs and top executives to strengthen and personalize the impact of their leadership.

Projects (in development; seeking underwriters)

  • Humans:Code: An editorial photo project documenting a cross-section of people across the technology industry doing what they love to do when they aren’t tethered to a keyboard and screen.
  • Going Home: An episodic photo essay that follows underrepresented Silicon Valley founders back to their hometowns to capture and tell stories about what their life was like in the town they grew up in and the influence it had on them before they moved to the Valley.
  • See Me: Environmental portraits and profiles of tech’s diverse workforce, allowing underrepresented communities to see a reflection of themselves (a major obstacle to tech entry).
  • My Town: Ongoing local portrait series in conjunction with CB Cares to highlight the educators and support staff of the Central Bucks School District.

The start of a new year is an opportunity to refocus on what matters. A chance to reset. To create a clean slate. To create a springboard for the next year…or 50.

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