Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Violin Virtuoso

After tracking his career for over 40 years, we finally saw Jean-Luc Ponty, a classically trained violinist who turned to jazz in the 1960s, at The Shedd in Eugene. My first exposure to the talented Frenchman came when he recorded and performed with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.

Ponty, a pioneer and undisputed master of the violin in both jazz and rock, is widely regarded as an innovator who has applied his unique vision, expanding the vocabulary of modern music. In 1975, he founded his own band, selling millions of albums that all reached the top of the charts in the U.S.

With front row seats, we were up close and personal with his band, a quintet consisting of keyboards, guitar, bass and drums. The show featured a straight set -- including a memorable drum solo -- followed by an encore, and Ponty and his band delivered the goods over the course of the two-hour show. C’est magnifique!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Walking The Talk

When it comes to communications, if you’re not leading with your values, you’re on the wrong trail, warned keynote speaker Alex Thompson, Vice-President for Brand Stewardship and Impact for Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), at the PRSA Communicator’s Conference in Portland on Monday, May 8.

“Seeking a higher purpose with a solid bottom line does not have to be an oxymoron,” said Thompson. “If you lead with your values, that’s the same thing as developing your brand. As they say, culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, companies must connect communications strategies with their social mission and impact.

Thompson related introducing the strategy of encouraging REI customers and to “opt outside” instead of shopping on Black Friday to the company’s board of directors. The notion of closing stores on one of the biggest shopping days of the year was certainly bold if not risky, but ultimately resonated with both customers and employees.

In another keynote address, Juan-Carlos Molleda, Edwin L. Artzt Dean and Professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications (UO SOJC), noted that despite increasing use of digital media, we “can’t forget face-to-face communications. Storytelling is important, but so is engagement.”

Breakout sessions focused on strategic planning, storytelling, video production, brand strategies and crisis communications. Now in its 21st year, the one-day conference continues to provide excellent value as a professional development opportunity for busy public relations practitioners on a hectic schedule.

For me, it also another opportunity to connect with colleagues from the newly reconstituted PRSA Oregon Chapter and PRSA North Pacific District, as well many former students from my classes in the UO SOJC, all of whom appear to be gainfully employed. Good news for my current students, to be sure!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Webfoot Wonders

A longtime follower of University of Oregon athletics, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Duck basketball. So when evaluating this past season for the UO men’s and women’s teams, it’s clear that 2016-17 ranks as the best ever, with the men reaching the Final Four and the women attaining the Elite Eight of March Madness.

Having tracked the “Webfoots” since my youth (both parents attended the UO), I didn’t experience my first actual Duck basketball game until that serendipitous day -- February 14, 1974 -- when the Kamikaze Kids, led by former Penn State coach Dick Harter, shocked top-ranked UCLA, 56-51, at MacArthur Court in Eugene.

The only reason I witnessed this epic event? An ex-girlfriend offered me her ticket because she went home to Portland for the weekend. In those days, Duck basketball was a tough ticket. Students literally camped out the night before a game to watch Ronnie Lee and the Kamikaze Kids take on Bill Walton and the Mighty Bruins.

UCLA, coming off seven consecutive NCAA championships and two consecutive 30-0 seasons, was formidable. The Ducks, however, were a tenacious lot coached by Harter, an ex-Marine who vowed to “introduce defense to the Pac-8 and beat UCLA.” Under his direction, the Ducks would come to lead the league in floor burns.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they had to play in a building packed with rabid fans who embraced the tenacious, gutsy play of the Ducks, which stoked the Mac Court faithful to greater, more intense levels of noise and taunting of opposing teams. One UCLA coach would dub the Pit Crew and other denizens of Mac Court as “deranged idiots.”

For me, that first game was an awakening; I became a true believer. Having since attended hundreds of games over the years, I've seen the men's and women's programs experience highs and lows, but both squads now appear to be on the verge of even more success on the national stage. Looks like the "quack attack" is back.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Fondue Boogaloo

Having explored northeastern Switzerland and the Jungfrau Region from our base in Zurich in 2012, we figured it was high time (pun intended) to visit the western end of the Confederation Helvetica on its borders with France and Italy. Since the Alps can be tricky weather-wise, we booked our sojourn to Geneva for August.

With headquarters in Zurich, we toured Rheinfall and Schaffhausen, the small country of Lichtenstein, the towns encircling Lake Zurich, and Lucerne and Interlaken en route to Jungfraujoch, the top of Europe. This summer, we’ll tour towns on Lake Geneva, such as Montreux and Lausanne, as well as Chamonix and Zermatt.

Much like Zurich afforded a handy base to explore the mountain villages of Lauterbrunnen, Gridelwald and Kleine Scheidegg (above), Geneva will provide our headquarters for exploring the Alps of western Switzerland and France, including Mt. Blanc (or Mt. Blanco on the Italian side) and The Matterhorn (below).

Our base: The Edelweiss Hotel, a three-star hotel is known for its exquisite cheese fondue. Conveniently located near transportation hubs and the shores of Lake Geneva, a boat tour will likely be in order. The highlight: an excursion to The Matterhorn, a massif that has captivated me since my first trip to Disneyland.