I am a seed sower

bigstock_One_plant_in_female_hands_on_w_18867938This is not my blog confession that I’m leaving the word world to go elbow deep in dirt (although I must admit, that does sometimes sound tempting.)

This is about a recent revelation I made about a principle and purpose in life, and the path of how I got there.

Over the past several months, I’ve been privileged to be part of the CEO peer advisory group Vistage. In a fortuitous twist of fate, my membership in an Idaho Chief Executive Group began the month that my agency co-founder decided to leave the business.

If there ever was a time for peers to provide counsel and insights – this was it.

Boiling the experience down to its essence – it was raw, emotional, scary, infuriating, eye-opening, empowering and…ultimately uplifting.

I have found that often when we are the most vulnerable, we gain the most insights into our strengths. A tip of the hat to the amazing Brene Brown for sharing that truth and that, “Vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence.” (If you haven’t experienced her Power of Vulnerability TED Talk, go there now.)

During our Vistage Group sessions there was frequent talk about identifying and staying true to your North Star – that point beyond your horizon that guides your day-to-day actions and aspirations. Admittedly, I struggled with this concept. It was difficult to raise my head up and think beyond the immediate business opportunities and obstacles in front of me.

And I truly felt that my personal North Star needed to be something more. More than just a reflection of my company’s business goals and brand promise.

Then in a bit of serendipity, I found it.

I am forever in debt to the leader of one of our community’s non-profits, who when we met for a casual conversation stated, “We invited you here because you’re a seed sower in this community.”

A seed sower.

Like pulling on my 16-year old pair of Frye boots, trying on ‘seed sower’ just felt right. And as Prasaid Kaipa wrote about North Stars for wise leaders, it felt like it embodied a noble purpose,

Smart leaders make New Year resolutions and set quarterly milestones, charting progress against ambitious plans and goals. Wise leaders, however, take a different approach: they root themselves in a noble purpose, align it with a compelling vision, and then take action — not just for that year, but for the rest of their lives. That noble purpose becomes a North Star, giving direction when the path ahead is hazy, humility when arrogance announces false victory, and inspiration when the outlook seems bleak.

I am a seed sower…

….of stories that highlight community and potential

….of ideas that spark and inspire

…of connections and relationships that lead to something more

…of opportunity for those around me

Seems like a damn good purpose for 2014 and beyond.

Happy New Year.



Embracing the Crocodile Cranium

Can a crocodile provide perspective on community?

Courtesy: BBC

Thanks to the mind of Nancy Napier, head of the Centre for Creativity and Innovation at Boise State University, I’ve come to believe so.

In this case, how a crocodile’s head can give us insight and appreciation for the fracturing we often see in our communities – whether those communities be bound by geography, shared interest or industry.

To make this synapse jump with me, consider what  scientists at the University of Geneva just discovered and shared in The Journal Science.  The scales on a crocodile’s head aren’t really scales at all. The lines on their heads are merely physical cracks rather than developmentally programmed scales that cover the rest of a crocodile’s body(source: SciTechDaily)


These cracks are formed kind of like the cracks that form in mud as it dries in the sun. The stress of the physical environment, the rapid growth of the croc’s skeleton, create these chaotic patterns of cracks. But these seemingly random cracks and fracturing across the reptile’s head and jaw eventually coalesce. As SciTechDaily noted,  “The tiny rifts soon grew longer and deeper, branched and interconnected. The patterns of lines were shaped by randomness and placement of the thicker domes.It’s been hypothesized that this mechanism allows for thick skin to form quickly at the same time as the head is still growing.”

So here’s my takeway -

As an advocate for entrepreneurship, economic development and diversity in leadership, I’ve frequently been frustrated by the islands of organizations that proliferate. Every few weeks it seems like we hear of another group starting to help startups, or enable entrepreneurs to network, or focus on job attraction.

But this dive into the world of reptilian craniums has given me a different perspective.

Is it possible that the stress and obstacles that inspire people to form their own individual organizations – which are similar to, but not aligned with  other groups – can be a good thing? That our community fracturing is merely part of our  lifecycle? Rather than being frustrated – I’m going to choose to say yes.

That like the crocodile’s crania development, our entrepreneurial ecosystem can and should develop in these often chaotic and seemingly siloed ways. Just as long as the eventual growth of the whole means they mesh together down the road for the benefit of all.

Did I make the jump for you? Would love to hear your feedback!



Falling in Love with your Hometown

What is it about a community that makes you swell with pride, tweet incessantly, brag obnoxiously and share effusively?

Courtesy: Morgan Wolf

It is harder to capture in words than it is in a moment. It’s that mojo that we all search for. By we, I mean economic development specialists, entrepreneurial community advocates, travel and tourism pros and communicators enamored with promotion of place – our place.

Call it the it factor. That special something that makes a city pop. Makes it memorable.

Richard Florida touts who inspires the it factor while describing the rise of the Creative Class:

self-motivated, creative people are challenging the traditional structures of society … the emergence of this new social class is profoundly transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. Success in the future, says Florida, is not just about technology, government, management or even power, but about people and their dynamic and emergent patterns of relationships.

Roger Brooks of DDI tackles what they’re searching for:

People are looking for that “Third Place” – a place to gather with friends and neighbors during their leisure time; to socialize, relax, shop, dine, and play together. According to Ray Oldenburg (The Great Good Place), the “First Place” is where you live, your home. The “Second” is where you work. The “Third Place” is where you go to hang out, spend your leisure time.

This past weekend Boise encapsulated all those elements and more. Our Third Place came alive.

Give credit to the creative chaos and beauty that was Treefort Music Fest - 4 days, 12 venues,  260 bands. But, it wasn’t just about the music or the hundreds of emerging artists who descended on Boise.

It was about convergence…. of musical, culinary and creative expression. Visual artists, dancers, crafters, brewers, mobile chefs and dance troupes blended together with a city commemorating its sesquicentennial, to create our own distinct celebration.

It was about co-mingling… the casual melding of all walks of life that tends to happen in Boise so easily that we often forget how unique it can be. Six degrees of separation does not exist in our city or state. The streets and sidewalks surrounding Treefort vividly brought this to life in real-time, in moments that will be indelible to those who experienced them.

It was about honoring our city’s past…. (tip of the fez to the El Korah Shriners) through brick and mortar icons and local music legends, while pushing the envelope on how a city’s personality can be showcased through the intangible nature of an event. Life and vibrancy after hours. Sidewalks as gathering places. Crosswalks as conversation hubs. Strangers connecting digitally, then sharing an analog moment.

But most of all, amidst the ongoing discussion in our city about creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem (ala Brad Feld’s Startup Communities), we saw what it looks like when the masses get behind and support a startup. Treefort was a celebration of success, where passion overcame any bumps and growing pains (or delightful spring weather.) It was a collaboration of efforts to create something cohesive. An experience that transcended the official event itinerary.

Boise’s been put on the map by many a Top Ten list and national publication. Who we truly are, how we define ourselves, what we choose to tout and share and celebrate is our own.

Let’s keep this conversation going and continue to celebrate the vibrant third place we call home.


(First published 3.26.13 on Red Sky’s Blog)



In Support of Public Disclosure

Confession time.

In my previous life as a journalist I was not always considerate or respectful of public  relations professionals. In fact, I believe I yelled at or hung up on a few (sorry!). The disrespect stemmed from a lack of understanding of the synergy that exists among communicators.

I took my job as a journalist seriously. It was the Fourth Estate, a profession protected by the US Constitution. In my work as a broadcast journalist I tried to uphold the values of the Society of Professional Journalist Code of Ethics:

  • Seek Truth and Report It
  • Minimize Harm
  • Act Independently
  • Be Accountable

As the world and how we communicate evolves by the second, it’s that mindset I try to reflect back on in my current role as a communications counselor and business owner.

I was flattered to be asked to join the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board as a Community Representative beginning this July. The editorial pages across the country are the target of slings and arrows, and do throw quite a few themselves. I am the first to admit I often raise my voice in the early morning quiet of my home when reading editorials. But I strongly believe that we can only try to understand issues if we embrace multiple sides of the story.

I do not always agree with the position on the page. But I embrace the discourse it inspires. They always make me think. They always sharpen my responses – whether in support of, or opposition to, the points being made.

In announcing my appointment, an online commenter raised a concern on Editorial Page Editor Kevin Richert’s blog

Reader: Conflict of Interest? You have a PR professional who will no doubt be seeking some earned media from the Statesman. Yeah, no conflict there.

Kevin Richert/Editorial Page Editor: You raise a fair question, and it’s one we’ve discussed. When editorials deal with current or former Red Sky clients, we will state that conflict upfront. And there may be times when Jessica will have to recuse herself from an editorial.

I would add that this is not unprecedented. I have had to personally declare conflicts on a few occasions. On another occasion, when I had a deep personal conflict on a topic, I recused myself entirely from the discussion and drafting of an editorial — and didn’t see it at all until the paper showed up on my doorstep.

At the end of the day, it is about what the Association of Opinion Journalists stated,  ’promoting a healthier civic culture by helping raise the quality of public discourse.’

I am honored to be a part of that.

Will I agree with the stance of all the editorials? No.

Will I speak up and share my opinion and insights from my experiences and my connections in the community? You bet.

While the journalist code of ethics doesn’t transition directly to my current role, I still respect and seek to embody its ideals as a PR practitioner.  And when it comes to my role on the editorial board, it will again be the driving force.