It’s virtually inevitable – work long enough with certain people and you’re bound to run into them at a restaurant. Or at the gym. Or at a company outing in the Hamptons laying out at the pool (more on this in a moment). These are the moments when your co-workers become “people” or even potentially “friends.” They are also instrumental to building the type of the congenial, collaborative, transparent work experience so many companies strive to attain.
In a recent article in Fast Company on the cultures at Facebook, Ideo and Virgin Airlines, a theme of blending the personal with professional at the companies featured runs throughout the story. “Bring your authentic self to work,” says Facebook. Virgin Atlantic looks to hire people with a “comfort in sharing their personalities.” Clark Scheffy, Managing Director at IDEO, implores employees to “bring their whole selves to the workplace.” The days of putting on a corporate guise every time you walk through the office doors apparently is a relic. More than ever before, authenticity is the cornerstone of a transparent company culture.
DiGennaro Communications took that to heart during our recent summer outing in the Hamptons – where many of us saw each other in a new light – sunlight! There’s a moment of authenticity that comes when you’re standing next to a coworker in a bathing suit in a pool rather than sitting next to that same person in a business suit at your desk.
The most effective company cultures are the ones that stress that we present our true selves to our co-workers and feel comfortable with one another. That’s as true in the conference room as it is in the pool. I speak from experience when I say there’s nothing quite like watching your co-worker float by in a massive inflatable pink flamingo while shooting everyone with a water gun.
By: Scott Berwitz
There’s much the corporate world could learn from Bruce Jenner about public relations and how to take control of a difficult and potentially embarrassing situation.
For months, media speculation on what was really going on with him since his break up with Kris Jenner, the grand doyenne of the Kardashian media/business/gossip dynasty, was on overload – most of it trivial. “Bruce Jenner Gets French Manicure, Wears Diamond Earrings on Outing,” said one headline. Another publication photo-shopped lipstick, curled hair and a silk scarf on a picture of him. Bruce’s story was something deep-rooted and real – not just for him but for many others who identified with his struggles. Yet, the media portrayed his changing appearance as little more than a simple gossip item…no different than any number of small, unimportant nuggets emanating from the family’s reality empire.
Rather than remain silent, Jenner took control of his narrative and granted a two-hour interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired on national television and was seen by more than 20 million viewers. He talked of his personal struggles with gender identity in genuine and raw terms and in so doing he shifted the dialogue away from the sophomoric gossip that filled the tabloids for months into an adult conversation. The national discussion was now about transgender issues that the mainstream media covered with thoughtful pieces on Jenner’s personal journey and its broader implication for others facing similar challenges. His family came out in support of him. He quashed speculation of this being a publicity stunt. Even the rest of the Kardashian clan – typically known for empty, brain-candy nonsense – came out looking sympathetic, progressive and supportive. That’s no mean feat.
Through honest, direct dialogue, Jenner changed his media narrative in a single interview. He did it by being honest and transparent and answering tough questions truthfully and sincerely. The business world would do well to take heed and act accordingly.
NY1 was in DGC’s Manhattan office doing a story about our client, Rue La La. The online fashion retailer was all over Fashion Week, looking for trends. The company’s Fashion Director, Jackie Nasser, said that what’s on the runway can be simplified into four personal every day and inspirational styles for women.
- Lipstick red
- Fabulous outerwear
To get a fuller description of each, go to the Rue La La site. A subscription is free.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” Shakespeare wrote.
As CEO of the 35-person NY based agency, with outposts/partnerships in Los Angeles, London, Mumbai and Sydney — DiGennaro still manages a healthy balance between her work and her personal life. Sam founded her namesake PR firm, DiGennaro Communications (DGC), in 2006.
“I just haven’t given up the things I love,” DiGennaro said of about her personal life in a seaside interview at the 2014 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this past June. She told Katie Kempner, EVP/Chief Communications Officer at Cripsin Porter + Bogusky, and host of Perspectives with Katie Kempner. “I have sacred rituals and I don’t let anything get in the way of them. It keeps me centered and calm as the work week unfolds.”
DiGennaro talked about how she encourages a supportive, collegial atmosphere at her agency in which employees can spread their wings and embrace an entrepreneurial spirit.
Perspectives with Katie Kempner in an inspirational online series featuring conversations with women in business and how they balance business with their personal lives given today’s “always-on” mentality.
You can check out the full interview here.
With the new year comes health resolutions and, here at DGC, we embarked on an agency-wide juice cleanse last week.
While we all had different motivations – to kick start healthy eating habits, rid our bodies of toxins (yes, maybe one too many eggnogs), or even just to try something new – we were in it together. The cleanse consisted of six juices ranging from green juice filled with kale, apple, ginger, spinach and cucumber, to a lemon drink with cayenne, and then everyone’s favorite, cashew milk with vanilla, cinnamon and agave. For those who needed a bite to eat, avocado, celery and cucumber topped the “safe cheat food” list.
I can’t say we were all in good spirits for the three days, but we’re all certainly feeling refreshed now and ready to take on 2014.
And aren’t we glowing?
Check out some of our reactions to the juice cleanse here with pictures to follow.
Megan McIlroy, VP, Group Account Director
I experienced a wide range of emotions during the cleanse, including alternating bouts of clarity, hunger, euphoria and what I think were mild hallucinations at one point. While I won’t be juicing again anytime in the foreseeable future, this was definitely a good exercise in clean eating – or clean drinking I guess – and a great start to the new year.
Patrick Wentling, Account Executive
After eating terribly over the break, I needed a good reason to start fresh in the new year, and this was the perfect opportunity. This was my first cleanse ever, and I was a little nervous about surviving for three days on just juice but endured the experience just fine. I don’t think I could have done it without our “juice support thread” which had us sending positive emails to each other each day and well into the night to not give in to eating solids. I’m not sure I’ll do it again, but I’ll never forget it.
Erin Donahue, VP, Group Account Director
This was my third juice cleanse, but by far my most fun. I have never cleansed with a group before so coming into work each day to commiserate with seven co-workers experiencing the same headaches, dizziness and straight-up hunger was a lot easier than going it alone. While my goal of the cleanse wasn’t to lose weight, it was more about clearing out the bad stuff to make room for the good stuff in 2014, losing four pounds was a nice side effect. I am most impressed by my colleague Pat and his dedication to the mission. The sole male in the group, Pat not only kicked our arses in weight loss (boys have it so easy), he barely complained and cheered the rest of us on as we suffered through the highs and lows. If I’m going to cleanse again in the future, I hope it’s with my co-workers at DGC!
It’s hard to believe another year has come and nearly gone. Earlier this week the annual DiGennaro Communications holiday festivities commenced and, once again, it was a huge success.
Before the festivities, however, we still had some business to take care of as DGC executives presented the State of the Agency, recapping highlights of 2013 and vision for 2014, reminiscing about all the fun we have had and giving some special shout-outs and honors to our awesome team.
The first-ever “DGC MVP” honors went to Account Director Claire Eisenberg and Senior Account Executive Chrissy Perez-O’Rourke for their hard work, dedication and true embodiment of the DGC spirit in all they do. We also inducted our inaugural members into the “DGC Hall of Fame”— General Manager/Director of Development Kendra Peavy and VP/Group Account Director Erin Donahue. The Hall of Fame is reserved for our top talents who consistently work to make DGC a better place for three or more years.
Additionally, we announced the winner of the second annual Rising Star program with our sister agency Eulogy! in London. Amidst some tough competition, Account Director Soraya Eltomey was selected to represent DGC for a week next year at Eulogy!, where she’ll get to know our partners and learn about how PR is practiced in the U.K. And a special shout-out to Senior Account Director Marielena Santana and Account Director Lee Lubarsky for their fantastic contribution to the program’s entry process.
After many rounds of applause, Secret Santa presents for all (complete with an appearance from “Mr. and Mrs. Claus”), and a champagne toast with some snacks – it was time to get the party started.
At The Library inside the Public Theater, we proceeded to stuff ourselves with delicious food, enjoy signature cocktails and dance the night away in the gorgeous space. Nothing gets this team up and moving like a little Beyoncé or Britney.
A great time was had by all, as you can see from the photos. Already excited for next year!
Coming off of a successful day of philanthropy just a few weeks ago at Educational Alliance’s Head Start Program, DGC took to Casino Day at Jewish Home Lifecare, a nursing and rehabilitation facility for elders in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In fact, the afternoon marked our fourth holiday philanthropy effort, having cleaned up the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and participated in a weekly food delivery campaign through God’s Love We Deliver in 2011. We also participated this year in New York Cares’ Coat Drive where we were able to not only donate our own coats but in fact a number of others from various businesses in our office building.
Before volunteering, I sought out the advice of an expert – both in card playing and in interacting with the elderly. My 92-year old grandmother. “Smile. Engage them in conversation. And when you’re playing cards, show a little ruchmunis – a little mercy.”
Needless to say, we didn’t need to show any mercy as these residents truly had a knack for these games! When we arrived, we were eagerly greeted by the residents – many of whom were anticipating Casino Day all week. And the volunteers from DGC were joined by those from UJA-Federation New York, the organization that provides volunteer services and nearly $200 million in annual funding to organizations like the Jewish Home Lifecare.
We arrived for orientation and were assigned to different tasks and groups. Those that manned casino games like poker dealer extraordinaire Howie “Aces High” Schacter and blackjack dealers Michael Isaacson and Jackie Berté found themselves on the front lines, while other DGC’ers like Soraya Eltomey and Melanie Mackey helped to escort the residents from their rooms and between games. Not to be forgotten were those of us that manned the prize room where the big winners of the day traded their vouchers for gifts such as stunning holiday scarves. Click here for photos of the day’s activities.
The takeaway from the day was clear, and my grandmother’s advice served as more of a theme. The residents were eager to have conversations with us – one gentleman even sought out Jackie to help him set up his Twitter account! And the smiles were in abundance – from the participants, the facility workers, and the volunteers. In fact, some of us have committed to coming back as volunteers on a regular basis.
We’d like to again thank our friends at UJA for what was yet another positive experience – a feeling I’m sure we will take with us into the New Year. Giving back to the community is incredibly important to us at DGC, and we look forward to continuing our volunteer efforts throughout the entire year of 2014.
DGC kicked off the holiday season with a morning of philanthropy at the Educational Alliance Head Start program, a pre-school program for children ages 3-5 located on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. This morning marked our third annual holiday philanthropy effort, having cleaned up the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and participated in a weekly food delivery campaign through God’s Love We Deliver in 2011.
Upon arrival this morning, we attended a brief mini-orientation where we learned all about the Educational Alliance, it’s programming and the wonderful work it does in the New York community. The Educational Alliance is a non-profit organization that helps break the cycle of poverty for low-income children and families through preschool, after school programs and college prep programs. Children in the Head Start and Day Care programs learn, explore, socialize and grow, and families receive help with employment and social services.
After orientation, we broke into groups and headed off to individual classrooms for a morning of play and activities ranging from arts & crafts and cooking class to reading and yes, even recess! We had a blast hanging out with the kids, and more importantly, it was an amazing opportunity for us to give back to our local community, a major tenet of DGC’s company culture. Click here for pics of the day’s activities.
A big thank you to our friends at UJA-Federation New York for not only making a wonderful experience possible, but also for helping Educational Alliance run its wonderful programming as one of the organization’s biggest annual donors.
Next up on the DGC Philanthropy docket – Casino Day on December 11 at Jewish Home Lifecare, a nursing and rehabilitation facility for elders in northern Manhattan!
Four Alumni Honored with Distinguished Achievement Awards
Last Saturday, DGC founder/CEO Sam DiGennaro had an appointment to have her hair cut before attending her 25th class reunion. Alas, her plans changed abruptly when, the night before, a classmate informed her that she needed to arrive at Poly Prep, her alma mater, in the morning – considerably earlier than anticipated–to be recognized at an Annual Awards convocation.
DiGennaro would receive the School Service Award, given annually on “Reunion Day” to a member of the faculty, alumni, a parent or other member of the school community for distinguished service to the prep school over a period of years. We’ve been told she is the first female recipient in the history of the award.
Headmaster David B. Harman delivered opening remarks at the April 27 event and shared an impressive list of universities to which this year’s graduating students were accepted – from the Ivies to Duke to The University of Chicago, among others.
A member of the class of 1988 at the Brooklyn-based independent high school, DiGennaro has spent the past 20 years on the Board of Governors and is now a Board Member Emerita. Through her work with the Board, DiGennaro was involved in mentoring, networking, fundraising and fostering deeper and lasting ties between Poly Prep and its alums. She is currently “class agent” and was reunion co-chair for the Class of ’88.
Several years ago, DiGennaro was part of a group that led the charge to establish the school’s Spirit Award and Rising Star Award. She won the latter in 1998.
“I’ve always believed in the importance of giving back,” DiGennaro said in her acceptance remarks. “To the school, to the neighborhood, to the larger community. We all have a stake in the world around us.” She encouraged all attendees—faculty, alumni and current students—to give back.
DiGennaro, who founded PR firm DiGennaro Communications in 2006, last fall, rented a yellow school bus for a full work day to take volunteers from her company’s staff to help with the clean-up after Hurricane Sandy in Rockaway Beach—where she grew up and travelled by yellow school bus to Poly Prep every day.
Lisa Della Pietra, class of ’86 and now Director of Alumni Relations at Poly Prep described DiGennaro as “tireless in giving her time, expertise and love to this school.”
Poly Prep alumni who received the school’s Distinguished Achievement Award at the April 27 program are as follows:
Located in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, Poly Prep was founded in 1854.
DGC is coming to you live from Happy Valley, the home of The Pennsylvania State University.
We’re here covering Start-up Week, a week-long event put on by the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) highlighting the success of its alumni—visionary entrepreneurs and innovators in technology.
Today, we had the opportunity to sit down with IST’s Dean David Hall to get his take on the event, and what lies ahead.
DGC: Dean Hall, can you tell us why IST celebrates Start-up Week?
Dean Hall (DH): Start-up Week allows us to showcase 20-30 examples of successful entrepreneurs, both alumni and friends of Penn State, to our future graduates in a one-week timeframe. Through panels, networking sessions and town halls, we can show our students that you, too, can be successful after graduation. More than that, Start-up Week gives our students the opportunity to network with successful entrepreneurs to make future connections and even potential job opportunities.
DGC: What is the history behind Start-up Week?
DH: Start-up Week began as the brain child of David Rusenko, an IST alum, who is currently the CEO and co-founder of Weebly. Together, we collaborated to create an event that provides an opportunity for rising stars in the technology field to discuss a wide array of career options that students may be interested in pursuing.
DGC: How can alumni who are not here get involved with future Start-up Weeks?
DH: As Start-up Week continues to become an annual event for IST, we invite alumni to come attend and be a part of the excitement. Our alumni are our biggest asset; we continually look for ways to inspire our current students by our successful alumni. By attending Start-up Week, our students get a firsthand view of life after school.
DGC: What are you most excited about at Start-up Week?
DH: During each of the presentations, IST is videotaping the sessions for future use in the classroom. And that’s something that we base our entire curriculum on, real life problems and real life solutions. We are constantly asking our students to come up with creative solutions for real organizations. IST believes that established companies benefit from the fresh set of eyes of our students. And in fact, it’s that entrepreneurial spirit that Start-up Week is based upon.
We’ll be attending more sessions, networking events and the annual Hackathon today, so stay tuned. For more information on Start-up Week and a full schedule of events, visit http://startupweek.weebly.com/