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posted by Michael Powelson Jun 25,2013 @ 06:22AM

The Introduction of an Optimist

I’ve known this day was coming.

The moment I signed the papers and officially rejoined RIGGS Partners, a trio of realizations set in, each one spiking my anxiety level slightly more than the last.

“That’s right, they blog,” I thought, passing the contract back across the table.

“I mean…we blog.”

“Oh lord, I’m going to have to blog.”

One wouldn’t expect this to be such a daunting prospect for someone who trades in words and ideas for a living. But I began to sweat it on the spot. Yes, I enjoy writing. I’ve even blogged once or thrice for my own self. But this blog, this first post, wouldn’t be just writing. As the new Creative Director, I would have to introduce myself, make a statement. I would need to communicate something important about me to an audience of clients. I’d be talking directly to you.

What could I say to make you as excited about the future as I am? How could I reassure you that I would be a good steward of your brand and work tirelessly on its behalf? Where might I find the words to articulate what I was all about and why that was going to be a good thing for you?

Walking out of the office that Saturday afternoon, I registered the challenge that would soon lay before me and decided there was only one suitable course of action: Total avoidance.

That’s right. My first day was a week away. I had already settled things up with the friends at my previous shop. That left seven days to spend ordering household affairs, centering myself and, most certainly, running from the shadow of this damned blog post.

I’d made it to day five when that shadow caught up with me in the place most everything of consequence does — standing waist deep in a river, failing to outsmart creatures with brains the size of my thumbnail. I am, you see, a recent convert to the art of fly-fishing.

My father did his best to interest me in this when I was a teenager. So, naturally, it was ignored alongside every other piece of truth or beauty he worked to instill at the time. As such, I have only been properly engaged in the sport for the last two years, which is to say that I’m not very good at it.

Proficiency has little to do with enthusiasm, however, and I decided to spend the last two days of my hiatus on the Davidson River in Western North Carolina. It’s a beautiful spot that has routinely humbled me, its trout being easily spooked and always skeptical of my offerings. I’ve stared at the river’s mottled bed long enough to overlook fish which should have been caught and swear to see others that never existed.

True to form, this trip had delivered me into a seventh troutless hour when the shadow began to creep overhead. By that point, I had tied on nearly every fly at my disposal. I had led them downstream over and over again at every conceivable depth. I had cast, and cast, and cast.

Thus, with no fish to distract me, my thoughts soon emptied into the pools of uncertainty and expectation regarding the new chapter I would begin back in Columbia. I caught myself auditioning angles for this post and sarcastically remarked that I might as well be back in the office, feet up on the desk staring into the blinding white of a blank page. And that’s when it became clear how closely my profession mirrors the pastime that periodically interrupts it.

Be it on streams or in sketchbooks, we cast doggedly toward the barely visible — something we trust is out there. The right words. The perfect images. The strategies and narratives that steal beneath the surface of conventional thinking. The concepts that can bring a brand to life. It’s why I count creatives and anglers among the quintessential optimists. They never forget what the next cast, the next idea, could mean.

It wasn’t until the sun ducked below the timberline and the water around me had given up its reflections that I reached for a small, neglected box of dry flies. Though there is undeniable excitement in using these feather-light imitations to mimic insects floating on the water’s surface, they are far more difficult to present than their swift sinking counterparts. Despite two years of trying, I had yet to catch a single trout on a dry.

But with only minutes separating me from total darkness, prior experience and conventional wisdom yielded to a “you never know” approach. Tying on a #16 Parachute Adams, I squinted towards what might have been a rise near the bank. On my third cast, I managed to shoot the weightless fly out further than the heavier line and, with a quick mend, kept the current from dragging the whole parade of tackle unnaturally downstream. Just as the fly reached the end of its drift a small ring appeared in front and gently sipped it underneath. A second later, my line surged tight. A steep, diagonal tether formed from my raised arms to where the fly had just disappeared, and the trembling rod doubled over, its reel whining against my right ear. A few glimpses during the fight hinted at a brown trout, which my net ultimately confirmed. The fish was not as big as its strength had suggested, but big enough to change how the entire day would be recalled.

The next cast. It can mean everything.

That evening as I sat on a tailgate, staring into the fire and enjoying that pleasant ache of physical expense, I circled back to the clients and questions that awaited me in the coming week. I thought about that blank page and all that might be done with it.

Eventually an idea surfaced and hinted at how I might introduce myself. I began to see a way of telling you something important about me. That I will treat your brand as if it were my own. That beneath all the wise cracks and devil’s advocating, I am truly an optimist. That I plan to tie on everything at my disposal to get the right ideas for you. And that I will cast and cast and cast.

Pleasure to meet you. Let’s get to work.



posted by Cathy Monetti Jun 21,2013 @ 07:41AM

Celebrating Sisters of Charity, St. Lawrence Place and Mad Monkey on Main

It was a day overflowing with good.

First, a luncheon to honor a long list of people doing great work throughout South Carolina, people doing the kind of work that changes lives, stabilizes families, improves communities. (Thank you, Sisters of Charity Foundation.)

I clapped loudly when they got to my dear friend Lila Anna Sauls, director of St. Lawrence Place, a woman who goes to work each day to help 28 families make the permanent transition from homeless to stable.

(Then Lila Anna goes home to her husband and their five sons, two of whom are 10-month-old twins. And she makes it all look effortless.)

In the afternoon, we Riggers joined our friends at Mad Monkey to celebrate their move Main Street. Can't you just tell from this photo—which may I just point out is of the back side of the building—that the space is magical?

How perfect it is for Mad Monkey, a wildly talented group of people who continue to push, who continue to raise the bar for all of us in the business of building powerful brands.

How happy we are to raise our glass to them.

posted by Julie Turner Jun 14,2013 @ 05:40AM

10 CreateAthon Secrets Every Volunteer Should Know

  1. Bring PJ’s. When you work all night, changing clothes a few times helps.
  2. Washing your hair at 5am helps you power through the last few hours. Also, your hair may look like you’ve combed it with a porkchop. I know this to be true.
  3. Bring tissues to every presentation. Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, you will.
  4. When you can’t make a decision, get another opinion. If it’s 2 a.m., get an intervention. Remember: “Think about it. Decide. Move on.”
  5. Try to eat healthy. Staying up all night is tough. It’s harder when you’re full of chocolate, cheezy poofs, cookies, Red Bull, popcorn, coffee, doughnuts, peanuts, tiny candy bars and Little Debbie Fudge Rounds.
  6. Deliver the extra idea. There are always extra little awesome details or ideas, make them happen. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many nonprofits. Go the extra mile.
  7. Be flexible. You never know what will happen. Go with the flow.
  8. Have fun. The 24 hours of CreateAthon is pressure packed. Take time to have fun. Stop what you’re doing, have a normal conversation. Hop on Twitter to see what other partner agencies are doing. Hold a 2am all 80’s dance party.
  9. Don’t be afraid. When you leave your last CreateAthon presentation, you will be so energized it’s almost hard to believe. You’ll feel empowered at what you did and gave. It’s a feeling that never goes away and only gets stronger when you volunteer again next year.
  10. Spread the word. There are many areas in this nation where CreateAthon could do 24 hours of good. We’d like to be there. You can help.

Watch the video below to get a sneak peek at the magic of CreateAthon.

posted by Apprentices Jun 12,2013 @ 06:12AM

Generation Y and Millenials: Work With A Purpose

I’ve read a lot of posts out there discussing the implications of Generation Y and their younger counterparts, the Millennials, entering the workforce. The majority of these types of posts fall into two equally cringe-worthy categories.

There are articles written by older bloggers bemoaning Gen Y as the entitled, narcissistic, offspring of dreadful helicopter parents. They generally come off like this:

Then there are the posts written by members of Gen Y and Millenials themselves. They just want to be seen as more than the entitled, narcissistic offspring of dreadful helicopter parents. But they come off sounding like this:

So many of these posts fail to recognize one of this younger generation's best qualities. Despite entering the workforce during one of the worst economic climates in history, Generation Y is unflinchingly optimistic about its ability to affect positive change.

I think back to my college days in the early 2000s just before we, those of us born smack on the cusp of Generations X and Y, began to graduate. Returning to school after a year of Americorps service, I took a public relations class. One morning we divided into teams tasked to create mission statements for imaginary employers. While individual statements were unique, they also shared some common threads. Social responsibility. Environmental stewardship. Community giving.

My peers and I expressed expectations our professor challenged as “potentially unrealistic,” but they seemed perfectly reasonable to us. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were leading the way for a new workplace experience.

It's been called Career 4.0, and it seems like the obvious follow-up to high school and college years that strongly emphasize teamwork, collaboration, and service. This generation believes great ideas can come from anywhere and are eager to bring the best heads together to address the most daunting challenges - in the workplace and in society at large.

While work/life balance is still critical, Gen Y and the Millenials have a strong desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. By 2025 they are expected to comprise 75% of the workforce. If you want to attract the best talent, show new grads your commitment to corporate social responsibility goes beyond a well-crafted statement on the company web site. Let it be a reflection of the kind of work they’ll be doing every day. Employers who get this, will get them.




posted by Kevin Smith Jun 10,2013 @ 12:40PM

We recommend being disliked.

About a year ago, several of us here at RP took an extensive personality test. One of the key metrics was “need for approval.” I pretty much maxed out the scale on this one. Since then, I’ve come to see how dangerous this trait can be. Like people, businesses want to be liked. As a result, they don’t want to alienate anyone. Focus, and you might close the door on a potential revenue stream. Announce something new, risk implying that things weren’t so great before. Not everyone likes your organization.The world is polarized. I don’t see this changing. It’s a lousy environment for political compromise, but it can be heaven for business. Controversy can lead to affinity, loyalty and passion.

Patagonia has taken a stand on an issue. They risk offending a great many people. They risk losing customers whose livelihoods come from the oil business. No one at Trans Canada will be buying Patagonia. Yet again, Patagonia stands for something in keeping with their values. They’ll increase the loyalty among their core customers. Those customers will pay a premium for their products. They’ll be more authentic than their competition. It’s not fearless, it’s focused, and worth a try.

posted by Cathy Monetti Jun 05,2013 @ 11:39AM

How It Feels To See Your Photo In A "Top Ten" Lineup With Alex Bogusky and Dan Wieden

It was very cool, I must say, to be interviewed for the Fast Company 10 Most Generous Marketing Geniuses list. How pleased I am Riggs Partners is recognized alongside MTV and Bono's (RED) as a championing voice for corporate social responsibility.

(How crazy it is to see my photo next to Alex Bogusky's.)

I fretted over it all, I must tell you. I wanted to represent our company well, to properly tell the story of CreateAthon and the thousand ways it has impacted our company and the volunteers who are the true heroes of the effort. I wanted to properly express:

        • What a difference the 24-hour creative marathon has made for so many nonprofits in our community (#famouslyhot) Columbia, South Carolina.
        • How CreateAthon has expanded to become this now international network of agencies working for good all across the globe.
        • How grateful we are to each and every one of those 80 agencies and their thousands of employees and volunteers for believing, for championing, for doing.
        • How CreateAthon on Campus — a model launched at Virginia Commonwealth University now making its way to campuses across the US — is not only helping nonprofits but also providing an invaluable learning opportunity for thousands of advertising, design, PR and social cause students.
        • How CreateAthon brought RP to sit among the giants as a charter pledge company in A Billion + Change.
        • How we are now connected in meaningful ways to powerful corporate do-gooders like Aaron Hurst and Taproot Foundation; Jennifer Lawson and A Billion + Change; Jackie Norris and Points of Light Foundation; Rachel Chong and Catchafire; and more.

How a tiny little idea, born right there on Lady Street 16 years ago, is now recognized as a national model for skills-based volunteerism. And do you know what skills-based volunteerism is going to do?

It's going to change the world.

(So you can see, my friends, why I felt a little pressure to get the interview right.)

It has been a remarkable experience, this spotlight, this 15 minutes of fame. But even more remarkable is the realization that world-changing isn't limited to rock stars, global corporations, and legendary leaders. World-changing can happen in the tiniest of companies in quiet little markets anywhere in the world. You just need a good idea and the willingness to press on even when it seems too hard. (Thank you, CreateAthon banner-carrier Teresa Coles.)

It is hard. That's the truth of it, this business of changing the world.

But boy, is it ever worth it.


If your agency, company or school is interested in learning more about changing the world as part of the CreateAthon network, please get in touch. We're adding partners every day and we'd be thrilled to include you.




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