As it happens, I’m not a grandmother, but I am turning 60 today which like or not, does provide some moments of reflection. Whenever someone asks me if I have kids, I say no, I’ve just had plants and companies instead. Now I might just add “industry standards” to that list.
plants. I'm a gardener, and every year I bring hundreds of plants, annuals as
well as perennials to life. Some come from seeds sewn while in the depth of a
New Hampshire winter, that then explodes into riot of color all summer.
Some are slow learners. I dig them up, cut them apart, give them a bit of vitamins and an encouraging talking to, and leave them alone for a few months while they decide whether to live or die. Eventually they put forth tiny green shoots and I know that there's one more new living thing I can send off into the world. I talk to these new babies constantly, telling them to survive the thunderstorm, or the unusual heat wave or the aphid assault. I order them not to wilt, to survive dammit because the world needs more of you. Eventually I send them off to “college” – planting them in the ground, trusting that their healthy enough and have learned enough survival skills to cope with the New Hampshire climate. I visit them, wait for their offspring, and if they multiply, take their offspring off their hands and give them a home of their own. Sure, they don’t talk back, and don’t cost as much, but they are every bit my legacy.
As to companies, I gave birth to my first one in 1987 and sent it off to its adult married life with Medialink in 1999, which was, as my friend describes her daughter’s unpleasant boyfriend: “an adequate first husband.” Later I saw it remarried to what is now Cision. Today, in that perfect circular irony, just as my mother saw me as competition, I now compete just as fiercely with that first offspring.
I gave birth to my second company a decade ago. Older and wiser at the time, I had much more humble aspirations for it. And, as so many second children do, it surprised me, exceeding all my expectations for innovation and basic survival skills. It survived not one but two recessions, the onslaught of VC-funded automated measurement tools, a bitter ideological divorce from a partner, and a bunch of bad decisions.
Today, that second offspring is a profitable measurement powerhouse, doing things no other company can do, with the capability to do custom quality research anywhere in the world. Most importantly it is actually doing what I’ve been dreaming and talking about doing for two decades: tying PR and Social Media to the goals and missions of the organization.
Finally, as I write this, I can add industry standards to that list of offspring. The newly announced social media standards were birthed, nurtured and raised by a very large village. As with any successfully launched offspring, the seeds for those standards started years ago, when Jack Felton brought a bunch of us together and said “what are we going to do about standards for measuring PR?” From that was born the IPR Measurement Commission. That “family” raised the idea of standards back in 1995, and now they’re coming to life through the broad Coalition and Conclave efforts. But I’d like to think that I was midwife, since it was in my living room that the Conclave first gathered, and where the latest round of standards were decided up on last week.
And of course, there are now three smaller siblings, my books: Measuring the Networked Non-Profit that was published just this week, Measure What Matters, that preceded it by just a year, and Measuring Public Relationships the first-born.
I'm not sure what are harder, raising kids, writing book, raising standards or growing companies but I would argue that the same truths apply to all of them. They all take alot of help and support from family, community and friends. To all of you, thank you for getting me this far.
They also take love, passion, commitment and the willingness to stand up to whatever life throws in your path. So take that "age," I going for a run, and whatever you put in my path, I'll either run around, jump over or take with me.