When I was asked to do a keynote for the Canadian Marketing Association Convention, I said no. Why? Because Arianna Huffington was the other keynote speaker. If you don't know who she is, let me just say, by creating, building and finally selling the Huffington Post, she is responsible for changing the ways news and blogs are being aggregated and curated. She is a titan in the world of online publishing. She's incredibly intelligent, opinionated and she is a visionary.
So, instead of agreeing to do a keynote PowerPoint, I negotiated my involvement to being interviewed by marketing guru Mitch Joel about the genesis and growth of YummyMummyClub. Why did I agree? So I could have front row seats to listen to Arianna Huffington that morning.
I sat for an hour, mesmerized by this powerful woman who I felt a surprisingly strong kinship to. Who knew Arianna and I had so much in common? Here are a few things she said which really connected with me:
Self Expression Has Become the New Entertainment
I love this thought. It's so wonderfully true. Our blogs, our points of view, our homemade YouTube videos, our tweets, FB posts and photo galleries have made all of us independent broadcasters - sharing our passions and points of view. There is so much talk about authenticity - and this is where it resides - in our need to express ourselves and create conversation with like minded people.
Everyone is Entitled to Their Opinions but Not Their Facts
This is a huge problem as the world of journalism and blogging converge. As a consumer of a ton of online information, I get that I can't believe everything I read. The bias, the facts and the hidden agendas even the authors are unclear about in today's online news and magazines. But am I in the minority about this. Do most online surfers believe most of what they read to be accurate and true?
I remember going to speak at a school event where the principal read my Wikipedia biography as an introduction. Of course, it was and still is completely incorrect and out of date - which allowed for a great opportunity to show the students you can't believe what you read online.
Arianna is fighting the good fight in trying to maintain attention to detail and fact in this new age of blogesphere media she's creating. It's not going to be easy to do.
Everyone is Longing for Community
I felt myself nodding while Arianna shared her anecdotes of how many of her readers are emotionally connected to the Huffington Post - wanting to be a part of the offline experience through events and face to face experiences.
This is something I brought to YMC a few years ago out of a personal desire to hang out with YMC members myself and get to know the people who write and read our site. The experience of putting on events and being able to put faces to names made me love what I do even more and solidified the concept of YMC being more than a website. It's a supportive community of exhausted moms looking for like minded women to play and chat with.
I'm Hoping Someone Will Invent a GPS for the Soul
If you look at what's hot in the media these days - the over emphasis of celebrity, our obsession of unreal body image and aging, the breakdown of marriage, horrible murders, despicable leaders - it sometimes feels like a society on the verge of moral collapse. Why? I'm not sure. Bad parenting, bad politics, bad business leaders?
I love that Arianna wants to be on the side of good. Who knows? Maybe with her newfound power as a media giant, she can help infuse meaning to those who feel lost. The greatest compliments we get at YMC are from burnt out moms who let us know our site makes them feel less alone. Hopefully our positive and realistic take on surviving ‘mummydom’ will continue to affect women's lives and souls and make life a little more meaningful.
Leadership is Recognizing the Problem Before It's Impossible to Solve
I loved this comment. I can be the queen of procrastination, especially when it comes to tasks I'm not good at or dislike. But what I've come to understand is that the problem doesn't go away - it just gets messier and more difficult to deal with. So, partly due to hearing Arianna state it so well, I'm trying to address issues ASAP. I take a deep breath, suck it up and make the phone call, pay the bill, deal with contract, write the post, fix the car. You name it. I've tried to postpone it. But when put into the perspective of leadership, I am now more motivated to take action and fix a small problem before it grows big.
Get Some Sleep
I found it fascinating that Arianna Huffington, media mogul, spent approximately twenty minutes talking about napping and how we have become a sleep deprived generation. At her head office, she has built nap rooms for her editors, so they can get some shut eye when they need to regenerate.
This resonated for me for a couple of reasons. First, it's clear she understands the importance of nurturing your staff and making sure they're functioning at their best. Most companies still work on the old punch clock philosophy where employees must put in the required hours no matter how they're feeling.
I think Arianna's holistic approach is where the future of companies should go philosophically. Treat your staff with respect. Help them stay healthy and inspired. Appreciate how mind and body is part of the creative process and treat the people who work for you accordingly.
I also found it fascinating that a woman who conceived a new model of news curation and amalgamation and is such a forward thinker, is also rather old fashioned or traditional in many ways. The idea of getting a good night sleep seems out of place in our fast paced wired world, but Arianna believes in the importance of shutting down at night without a Blackberry next to you on your nightstand. Sage advice, but difficult for me to follow.
Someone Needs to Invent a Truth Bubble
What Ms. Huffington was referring to was how too few people are accountable for their half truths or full lies. Politicians, businessmen, lawyers, writers - too many are guilty of saying what others need to hear in order to benefit in some way. In her talk, she described an (imaginary) visual bubble like in Pop Up Video which would literally appear every time someone said something that wasn't actually true. The bubble would clarify the liar's statement with the facts. I would patent it and call it a Bullshit Detector.
Or maybe I should just take a nap.