#ThankAWoman #WomensHistoryMonth Marilynn Mobley

Today I honor the memory of my dear friend, mentor and confidant, Marilynn Mobley who passed away in September.

The first time I met Marilynn Mobley was at the local chapter of the National Speaker’s Association. Back in those days we called it GSA. Then we would pass around a microphone and everyone in attendance would introduce themselves briefly. We somehow managed it.

Myra and Marilynn

Myra and Marilynn

That day Marilynn was seated beside Dan Thurman. Dan is a motivational speaker and a performer. He juggles, rides a unicycle and stuff like that. Dan said a few words about who he is and what he does then stepped into the isle and did a backflip. You know the kind where you just jump and flip heels over head and land back on your feet! The audience irrupted in wild applause as Dan passed the mic to Marilynn.

Like a true professional she waited for the room to get quiet before speaking. Then she introduced herself with her name and company name then said, “It’s my first time at GSA and I’ve already learned something. Don’t sit beside Dan Thurman.” She delivered the line without a smile and with perfect timing of a seasoned comedic straight man. Her slow delivery and quick wit was standard Marilynn. The audience erupted in laughter!

Marilynn went on to tell about her speaking and business. At the time she had her own PR company, Acorn PR Consulting. She mentioned an article she’d just had published in the AJC. Like Marilynn, I read the paper every day. Of course she regularly read numerous newspapers and magazines to stay current on what’s happening in the world and to spot trends.

Turns out I’d read her article and remembered it. I couldn’t wait to run up to her at the end of the meeting and tell her that I’d read the article. I was already a fan!

The article was well-written, well-researched and she didn’t hesitate to take a stand. Marilynn never seemed to be without a well-considered opinion. As I remember it the article was titled, “The Comeback of Iceberg Lettuce.” Yes, iceberg lettuce had been getting a bad rap, being knocked for lack of nutrition and taste while other lettuces such as romaine were becoming increasingly popular.

Marilynn was such a great storyteller that she could make even an article defending iceberg lettuce readable, enjoyable and newsworthy!

After that first meeting, Marilynn and I quickly became friends. I hired her to do some PR for me and was amazed at the press she was able to get for me, given what little I had to work with. What Marilynn would do is meet with me for lunch and just talk about everything. It seemed like two friends meeting for lunch but she was always looking for stories, items of interest and hooks for publicity.

Our client-consultant relationship didn’t last long as my marketing/PR budget quickly ran out and Marilynn eventually took an executive position at Edelman. But our long lunches didn’t stop. Our friendship had been firmly established.

We shared a love for interesting conversation, clever repartee and really got each other’s sense of humor.

Our lunches were always long and always fun. We’d both grown up in rural parts of Georgia so we’d share stories. We’d talk about our families, whatever was in the news, our favorite TV shows and our work. We’d catch each other up on whatever mutual friends we’d see since last time.

Marilynn gave me business advice and taught me a lot about PR. She said I was a great student and had a knack for it. People noticed when I’d get publicity and I’d share her advice. Before she wrote her book, The Scoop on Media Interviews. I used to tease her that I was going to write a book on PR called, “Everything I know About PR I learned from Marilynn.”

Anytime I was mentioned in the AJC I’d get an email from Marilynn saying, “I see that my favorite publicity ho is in the news again!” I’d send the same message when she was quoted.

She was generous with her support and was a respected resource to her friends and her vast network of business contacts. She always had a level head and good insights. She was very encouraging. When I decided to focus on writing rather than speaking, she was my biggest fan and the first and often only person I would go to for feedback. I trusted her judgment and she was one of the best writers I knew.

I remember the best advice Marilynn ever gave me. I don’t remember what micro-crisis I was dealing with at the time but she said, “Sometimes when you don’t have faith in your own ability you have to lean on the faith others have in you until your own kicks in. I have faith in you so just trust that for now.” Her encouragement always felt genuine and deep.

Marilynn was well-loved. She was smart, funny and accomplished. She was the kind of person you were happy to be around and proud to know. She’s gone too soon but the impact she had on each of us lives on. I know that I am a better person because she was my friend.

#ThankAWoman #WomensHistoryMonth June Cline

For International Women’s History Month I’m saying “Thank You!” to women who have inspired, encouraged or helped me in some way.

Today I say, “Thank You” to my long-time friend, June Cline, CSP the Southern, Sassy, Harley-riding Humorist. Starting in the speaking business about the same time, we’ve encouraged and advised each other through lots of ups, downs and crazy adventures. We’ve cried together in valleys and celebrated together on mountaintops and laughed all along the way. What I admire most about June is that she says, “Yes!” and then figures out a way.

June & Good Golly Miss Molly

June & Good Golly Miss Molly

She’d always dreamed of riding her own Harley. When an opportunity appeared she bought “Good Golly Miss Molly” sight unseen. THEN took motorcycle riding lessons! After lots of bruising and bleeding from dropping the bike she was discouraged. She didn’t quit. She took another class! June has been riding Miss Molly for several years now, sometimes with groups and sometimes alone. Difficult as it was to learn, she never gave up.

June approaches her business and her life the same way. Never afraid to put herself out there and go for what she wants. Every time she falls or gets knocked down she gets right back up and tries again. In the past year she’s produced and performed two one-woman shows, co-hosted a People’s Choice nominated podcast on Happiness and co-authored an Amazon bestselling book, The Happiness Recipe.

Thanks to June for friendship and a great example of tenacity and resilience!

Woman #3 Women’s History Month: Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie in That Girl!

In honor of Women’s History Month I’m featuring a woman a day for the month.

When I was just a kid I loved watching That Girl! Starring Marlo Thomas.

In the popular sitcom which ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971 Thomas played Ann Marie, an aspiring actress who had moved from her hometown to New York City. She worked a wide variety of temp jobs to support herself while trying to get her big acting break.

I wanted to be like Ann Marie. She was living in a big city with an exciting job, her own apartment and a handsome boyfriend. I wanted that.

I was too young to understand the real importance of the show. Thomas was one of the first women to play a single, self-supporting woman living on her own. Not a wife. Not a mother. Not a maid. A single woman making her way in the world. This was groundbreaking.

As I grew into adulthood my admiration for Marlo Thomas grew.

Thomas, who’d acted in television and movies, is said to have turned down several starring roles before That Girl! came along because she wanted to play a young independent woman who was focused on her own dreams and ambitions. When Thomas came up with the idea for the show TV executives were concerned that audiences would find a series about a woman on her own uninteresting and unrealistic.

She formed Daisy Productions to produce the show and was one of the executive producers. Only the second woman, after Lucille Ball, to produce her own show. Today, almost 45 years after the series ended the show continues in reruns on ME-TV. Guess those executives were wrong.

After five seasons, although ratings remained strong, Thomas wanted to end the series and move on. In the final series Donald and Ann become engaged. The sponsors wanted a wedding but Thomas rejected the idea because she didn’t want to leave girls with the impression that a husband was the only goal.

She didn’t slow down after the show ended. She continued as a busy actress, writer, philanthropist and activist. In 1973 she, along with three other women founded the Ms. Foundation for Women, the first women’s fund to support women’s voices in communities nationwide.

Still a working actress at age 77; Thomas has an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a Grammy. She’s author of six best-selling books, a philanthropist, and activist. In 2014 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She serves as National Outreach Director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which was started by her father, comedian Danny Thomas. She continues to write and conduct interviews at MarloThomas.com on Huffington Post.

Ann Marie inspired me as a child. Marlo Thomas continued to inspire me as an adult.

Thank you, Marlo Thomas!

Thank a woman. Inspire a woman. Create a movement.

Woman #2 Women’s History Month: Teresa Carey Miller

In honor of ‪#‎WomensHistoryMonth I’m posting a woman a day who inspired me.

Teresa Miller (then Teresa Carey) was a student working part time when a conversation with her changed the trajectory of my life.

Teresa and me. Way back in the day!

Teresa and me. Way back in the day!

I’d graduated high school a couple years earlier and was working at the Chestatee Regional Library; happy to have an ‘office job’ rather than continuing to work at the cotton mill where I’d worked the summer after graduation. Teresa was a couple years younger and a student working part time.

“Why don’t you go to the junior college?” she asked.

Growing up in a blue-collar family, no one had ever encouraged me to go to college. Not even a teacher. My friends were on the graduate; get a job; get married; have babies track. Our families couldn’t afford college and I didn’t think I was smart enough anyway. The friends I have now will need to read that last part again–I didn’t think I was smart enough. (It wasn’t until I was about 40 that I became enamored with my own intelligence!)

Teresa told me that most students she knew didn’t have parents who paid for their college. Most worked their way through and got student loans, grants or scholarships. As for not being smart enough, she explained that anyone could get into the junior college. Plus they had remedial classes for anyone who wasn’t ready for college-level courses.

My boyfriend scoffed at the idea that I was going to start college. “College is for smart kids and people with rich Daddy’s,” he protested. “And you ain’t neither one a them.” I didn’t listen.

“What will I major in?” was my next question. Teresa said that since I loved clothes, accessories, hair and makeup maybe I should study fashion merchandising.

In my cosmetic company days--big hair and red lipstick!

In my cosmetic company days–big hair and red lipstick!

She told me about a friend who was studying that and working part-time at the local Belk store so she would get experience along the way.

Based on that conversation I took the SAT, registered for night classes and got a job in the cosmetics department of the local Belk store. That job eventually led me to moving to Atlanta and working for Liz Claiborne for seven years. My last few years at LC were as a regional trainer. Afterwards I started doing corporate training on my own as a contractor, which led me to speaking and writing.

Thank you, Teresa!

You never know when a word of encouragement or a conversation will change the course of someone’s life. Let’s celebrate Women’s History Month by thanking a woman who helped you in some way and by paying it forward.

Thank a woman. Help a woman. Create a movement.

Serious About Comedy: What We Can Learn About Success from Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers photoI admired Joan Rivers. Yes, she was crude. Yes, she was rude. Yes, she had way too much plastic surgery. She was also a trailblazer and a hard working woman with much to teach us about life and business. I’ve watched her for years and saw the documentary of her life which gave an inside view of the woman behind the character. As the world pays tribute now in the days after her death, here are some things I learned from observing Joan Rivers that many of us can apply to our own businesses.

  1. She was a realist. She started doing stand-up because she wasn’t getting work as a serious actress. Once she tried comedy and realized that she could be successful there she became a famous comedian. Wonder what would have happened had she kept trying to chase her dream of dramatic acting?
  2. She was extremely hard working. Sure, making jokes looks easy but anyone who has ever tried to do standup knows that being judged on laughs-per-minute is not easy at all. Having watched the documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, it’s easy to see that she was a workaholic who strived daily to stay booked and keep coming up with new material. Having new material consistently for 50+ years doesn’t just happen, I don’t care who you are! If you look her up on the Internet Movie Database IMDb you’ll find her resume shows 37 acting credits, 4 producer credits, 307 “self” (credits where she appears in productions as herself), 4 producer credits and 15 writer credits. She had a line of jewelry she sold on QVC and was author of over ten books. “Joan did a Q & A for her latest book and a full-hour comedy set in New York the day before she went into a coma,” according to comedian Kathy Griffin who spoke of her mentor on the Today show the day after her death. “Plus she was booked for 15 shows in the UK in October.” I’m exhausted just thinking about it all!
  3. She didn’t try to please everyone. You loved her or hated her. She didn’t change who she was to fit the mold of what ‘they’ wanted. She knew her strengths, found her audience and kept writing comedy and managing the business of getting booked. She was the butt of jokes, she was criticized and some folks hated her but she made friends with many of the celebrities she joked about because they ‘got it’ that she was doing comedy, not  a commentary on them as a person. Many stories have been told about her kindness to interviewers and people behind the scenes.
  4. She was unique. Not only was she a trailblazer as a woman doing standup; she was herself to the extreme. With a love for fashion and acting she made a character of herself. She added an acerbic wit to high-fashion and hobnobbing with Hollywood elite and royalty. With a nip and tuck to keep her looks, she was honest and open about it and even took it to the extreme. Then she made the jokes about herself that other comedians wish they’d thought of.
  5. She was the queen of reinvention. Not only did she keep tweaking the famous face. Joan Rivers kept working on her act and coming up with new ideas for TV shows. Over the years she had at least five shows of her own including The Late Show, The Joan Rivers Show, Joan’sFashion Police‘, Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, and In Bed With Joan. She also appeared frequently on many others shows like The Tonight Show, Regis & Kelly, Saturday Night Live, TMZ, E! News and Entertainment Tonight. She worked the red carpet and originated the famous line, “Who are you wearing?” She appeared on and won Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” She didn’t come just for show. She was there to win. Looking at film clips from over the years it’s easy to see that she kept changing her look, her style and her work to keep it fresh and new over the years. I know one comedian who was telling jokes about his babies and diapers when his kids were well into their teens. Not Joan Rivers. She kept creating new material year after year.
  6. She overcame hardships. How many of us are devastated by loss of jobs, friends or family members? Despite public losses including her husband’s suicide followed by a difficult period with her daughter and being fired from various TV shows she kept coming back. Quit wasn’t in her vocabulary. “Life is so difficult-everybody’s been through something. But you laugh at it, it becomes smaller.” And that’s a quote she gave us, not just in words but in example.
  7. She understood her business. In the documentary mentioned above you can clearly see how driven she was to stay booked and keep making money. She pushed her agents and did whatever it took to keep working. She was obviously a workaholic but she also had a strong sense of responsibility to keep the people who worked for her employed so they could provide for her families.

Joan Rivers. Love her or hate her she was a unique trailblazing comedian the likes of whom we may never see again. If you want to learn more about her as a person, a business woman and how she kept reinventing her own success I highly recommend watching her documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. It’s a serious film about a unique woman who was in the business of comedy.

Doing good! McElhaney Pub Team Races for Research on Sept 20th

Phil in Italy

Phil McElhaney

“We’ve found a mass on your brain…” I will never forget hearing those words in the emergency room with my husband. From that moment our lives changed. Forever.

As you may know, Phil died of a GBM brain tumor in June of 2009 at the young age of 51. Can you believe that’s been five years now?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if no one ever had to hear those words again? If no one had to face that diagnosis? What if there was a cure? Or at least treatment that would give patients a long quality life and time with those they love? The Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation believes there is hope.

This year The McElhaney Pub Team is again walking and running for SBTF’s Race for Research in Phil’s memory.

McElhaney Pub logo (4)What can you do to help? Here are four options:

  1. Join our team and run or walk with us (Oh come on! It’s only 5 or 2 miles and you can walk it! We always go to breakfast afterward!) Plus you get a McElhaney’s Pub T-shirt! CLICK HERE to join our team!
  2. Join our team and stay home! To join as a virtual team member and fundraiser CLICK HERE.
  3. Make a donation. CLICK HERE to donate now.
  4. Help spread the word! Pass along this email to others you think would be interested. Just forward this email or link!

Your donation is tax-deductible. SBTF is a 501(c)3 that has raised over $1.5 million to support critical, cutting edge brain tumor research at major medical centers in the Southeast, including Emory here in Atlanta and the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University where Phil received treatment.

(The McElhaney Pub Team is named for the in-home pub Phil had completed in our basement just prior to being diagnosed with brain cancer.)

Thank you for your participation and support!

Enjoy life and do good!

Myra McElhaney