Last day of 2013. Kind of bizarre, no? Get your brains geared up to start writing “2014″ (It usually takes me until February to figure it out…just saying.)
Without trying to be corny, boring or pathetic, here are 13 thoughts from the past year:
- April 15th, 2013. How do you not think about the Marathon Bombings when you’re a Boston kid? It transformed the city, forever changing how people think about crowds and sporting events. I remember exactly where I was, sitting in my office at 53 State St. I remember the call from a close friend, saying her husband was working the finish line as a Doc in the tent, and she couldn’t get a hold of him. As an Army officer who was deployed several times, he was not going to use public transportation and had no way to get home — I offered to trek to where he was and drive him home.
- The shift in media hits home. How news was shared, how the hunt for the bombers took place, and how people stayed in touch were transformed. I wrote a blog post about the “changing center of conversational gravity” which was one of the most shared posts of the year.
- Social Impact. Perhaps it’s because of the above event in my city, or perhaps it’s the far-reaching arm of news and information. Regardless, it is clear that the concept of social impact is here to stay, and is a requirement for consumers to see from the brands they support. It has popped up in a KPMG study of consumers under the age of 30 (70% of the Under 30 group expect social impact vs. 50% overall), resonates more strongly than ever in the Edelman Trust Barometer, and even surfaces in bite-sized chunks, like the Starbucks story of over 1300 consumers who “paid it forward” in CT.
- Giving Back. On a personal level, every one of us can give back just a bit more as well. After years of being focused on my family and my job, I had the opportunity to help a local non-profit, Horizons For Homeless Children. It started 6 years ago when I was at Digitas and we did some pro bono work, and quickly grew into a personal passion. I was honored to be asked to join the Board 4 years ago, and last year joined the Executive Committee. Nothing gets your brain and heart going than donating time and money to a worthy non-profit.
- The Kids. I’m lucky. Two happy, healthy children, succeeding in their own ways. One out of college, working hard, living in his own apartment, and applying to graduate school. The other a sophomore at a great college, working hard, and finding her way. Both successful, both happy, both going through the roller coaster of young adulthood. My wife and I try to be there when we are needed, and not be there when we are not needed. Figuring out that balance is tricky — really tricky. But we work it every day.
- Losing a Kid. Our good friends lost a child to depression, mental illness, and ultimately suicide. Spending time with them afterwards was one of the most gut-wrenching, horribly painful moments of my life. Emotions were all over the place, from trying to help, not knowing what to say, and desperately trying to protect your own children. I vividly remember the Temple, filled beyond capacity for the memorial service, with hundreds of friends and classmates in attendance. I wanted to stand up and scream at all the kids to look around, and realize that suicide doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t end anything, and in fact, it leaves a lasting impression on the people you love, and the people who love you most. And with 500 people in the room, it was pretty clear you had lots of friends there for you. But mental illness is still a touchy subject, and teen suicide is almost contagious. Look for signs. Watch out for your friends. Over-communicate. Ask for help. And hug your kids a little bit tighter the next time you see them.
- 9/11 and bombings. The Marathon Bombings brought back memories of September 11th. Where I was, what I was doing, and how I reacted afterwards. I would like to think I learned from 9/11, because I gathered my agency on that April Day, and was clear about personal choices. If people wanted to leave, they should. If people wanted to stay, they should. I walked around and made sure everybody was ok and had connected with friends and family, and that everybody had a way home. A month later I was on a flight to NYC and saw a former colleague of mine from Digitas. She said to me “I will never forget how amazing you were on September 11th and the days afterwards. You were always visible, and made sure everybody was ok. It was an incredible statement of leadership, and I can’t thank you enough.” About the best comment one can wish for on a horrible day.
- DIG. I loved my old agency. Diving in, shaping the agency, building a culture, and growing it. We were far from perfect, and had all sorts of challenges, not unlike other places. We won some new business, lost some we should have won, and lost some clients we should not have lost. But I loved being on the radar screen of the big agencies in Boston. I remember the one senior executive at a big agency saying “you guys continue to play well above your weight class. That’s impressive.” I’m bummed it didn’t work out perfectly and I couldn’t see it through to the next phase, but proud of what we built. And based on the connections I have retained and the comments from my co-workers, I think everybody realizes we had something special.
- Edelman. My wife is a big believer in fate, and I have to admit, I tend to agree. What we were building at DIG was correct, but in the wrong circumstances. After leaving and spending several months searching for what was next, I landed at Edelman. I could not have found that role, nor unlocked this opportunity without my DIG experience. And I realized the brand, scale, talent, and culture at Edelman were needed to continue to innovate in the areas I was passionate about. My most shared blog post of the year captures why I chose Edelman.
- Global and Local. I think back to my consulting days at CDI when we worked with the Tribune Company. I recall talking about the lasting power of local information, even in an increasingly global footprint. That was 1996, and those thoughts resonate even louder today. Local matters — where you live, the community, the schools, the neighborhood, the stores. But global crosses borders, be it information, ecommerce, politics, or partnerships. I am now at a place that has both — with 67 offices worldwide, and almost 5,000 employees, Edelman is a truly global company with solid foundations in place all around the world.
- Mentoring. I felt it as an employee in great companies like DRI, Epsilon, and CDI. I realized its importance as a leader at places like CDI, Digitas, and DIG. And I felt frustrated that my alma mater didn’t have as strong an alum network as it should have, given the depth and breadth of graduates. When I opened my big trap to share those thoughts, I got sucked into the world of helping out Tufts students. And I love it. I try to guest lecture whenever I can, I always make time for students who look to network, and I took personal pride in creating a channel for new interns and graduates to Digitas and to DIG. A recent write-up in the CMS Newsletter (p4) from a current senior captures the feelings.
- Faster and Simpler. Remember when people sat down and read the newspaper for hours? Long time ago. Or patiently sat through TV commercials, or read 500-page books. Now we’re in the time of quick, fast, snackable content. There are times for deep immersive experiences, like great movies or powerful novels. But 6-second Vines, 140-character tweets, 42-minute Netflix shows, commercial-skipping DVRs, and beautifully designed content aggregators and distributors (hello Flipboard) speed us up and simplify. The tiresome Facebook newsfeed has some cracks, as Snapchat allows people (especially teens) to take pictures and 10-second video and share it only with a select, safe few. The smartphones, tablets, laptops, and portable speakers are lighter, always connected wirelessly, and more powerful than mainframe computers of a decade ago.
- 27 years and counting. Based on all of the stories about poor relationships, divorce, and family “unrest”, it’s pretty awesome to hit 27 years of marriage and counting. More than half of my life spent married to my partner and best friend. You’re the best, Kimba.
So, with that — Thanks for a mostly great, sometimes painful, but all-in-all a positive 2013. I’ll pause for a moment and cherish those moments with friends and family a bit longer. And then go back to the fast pace and always-on mindset. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2014.
(photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune)
I'm Glenn Engler, Global Director of Corporate Strategy & Chief of Staff at Edelman. Husband, father, sports junkie.