What does electricity have to do with health?

Interview with Mr. Russell Robinson

I had the tremendous fortune to be a part of the interview process with The Duke Endowment, capturing the story from one of their Trustees. Mr. Russell Robinson is one of those Trustees and he has many stories to tell.

I walked away  with a new perspective surrounding the legacy of the Duke Endowment and Mr. James Buchanan Duke. Mr. Duke was in the tobacco business establishing the American Tobacco Company in 1890, which becomes the largest tobacco company in the world.

“James B. Duke and his brother, Ben, work together in business and in philanthropy. Their sister, Mary Duke Lyon, is an early partner in the family endeavors. With the family’s influence and support, Trinity College opens a Durham campus in 1892. In 1896, the Dukes establish a $100,000 endowment for the school with the requirement that women be admitted ‘on equal footing with men.’ Later, Trinity College became Duke University.”

Mr. Duke was later forced to close the business in the early 1900’s. But, he had a vision of how he wanted to create a legacy for years to come.

His vision was to harness the power from the Catawba River and turn it into electrical power, using the proceeds from this business to fund initiatives that support the spirit, the education, and the health of North and South Carolina.

“Duke Energy began in 1900 as the Catawba Power Company when Dr. Walker Gill Wylie and his brother financed the building of a hydroelectric power station at India Hook Shoals along the Catawba River. In need of additional funding to further his ambitious plan for construction of a series of hydroelectric power plants, Wylie convinced James Buchanan Duke to invest in the Southern Power Company, founded in 1905.”

“They felt the South’s heavy dependence on agriculture was prohibiting growth of other industries. By developing an integrated electric system of hydro-powered generating stations, they envisioned linking customers by transmission lines – and creating new opportunities for economic growth.”

Mr. Robinson shared the history of The Duke Endowment and how it’s legacy was created through the income from Duke Energy. For many years, The Duke Endowment owned majority of the shares in now Duke Energy. They have slowly divested their interest over time, re-investing in other area of the market.

The goal was to provide the financial support to create a healthy, educated, spiritually connected community. You see this in the numerous benefitiaries that are supported by The Duke Endowment. From Duke University, Duke Medical, United Methodist Church to the three other institutions Johnson C. Smith, Davidson, and Furman along with numerous hospitals and other grantees carry out the vision Mr. Duke wrote in the initial Indenture of Trust.

Mr. Robinson spent hours sharing the vision and responsibility of the Board of Trustees, the burden to carry out Mr. Duke’s Legacy. Each year, the Board of Trustees reads Mr. Duke’s Indenture of Trust (his will) as a reminder of the vision they have been empowered to carry out.

Electricity has a lot to do with health. If you live in North or South Carolina, I would be willing to bet that your community hospital has been awarded or impacted by the financial support of Mr. Duke and The Duke Endowment. All this made possible by the first hydro-electric plant on the Catawba River. This flow of power has created a long term source of support that is invested in the future health of North and South Carolina.

Thanks to Mr. Robinson for sharing this story of legacy.

Here is a great video created a few years ago, the history of James B. Duke and The Duke Endowment.

*Sources: WikiPedia, Duke Energy, & The Duke Endowment

Ethos of Blogging – Building Credibility for Revenue

Why do we blog?
So what do I mean when I say the “ethos” of blogging? So ask yourself, why do you blog? Is it a platform to tell your story? Is it a place to journal? Is it a place to build awareness for your organization? Do you make money from your blog?

Ok…so let’s tackle the last question. More and more people I talk to…more and more people want to know how to make money from your blog. Many people place ads on their blog. Many people track clicks as they help direct traffic to products and services. I like to talk about how to build credibility.

Why is credibility important?
Credibility is one the biggest issues I think we should always bear in mind when it comes to representing our interests not only in the off-line business space but the online in the digital space.

A few years ago, I was working with an investment firm that had just created a new company with a new board a directors. Once of the biggest issues they faced…credibility. Great leadership running this group but lots of bad press online after the economic collapse, especially given the fact some of the individuals came from banking.

We needed to build some online credibility. Specifically, when people performed Google searches of these individuals, we needed to have links to articles that provided content beyond the bad press. We needed to take ownership of their online identity.

A simple plan to build credibility
The new website for this company was the typical postcard web presence. We added two things: a blog and a news section. We started writing blog posts from the leadership, content they created in their voice, and posted on a regular basis. We also started posting news releases consistently on the site detailing monthly items we wanted the public to know, positive content about the company that included the board’s names inside the copy.

The next thing we did was create a Twitter account for the company and a monthly email newsletter. With Twitter, we followed all the news outlets in the region along with local businesses, agencies, and organizations where the board had relationships. We were hoping they would follow us back. Then we started sharing our news and blogs, along with items from the life of the organization.

The email newsletter was a monthly email blast to investors and influential people in region where the board had relationships. This was just a simple newsletter repurposing content from the blog and news sections of the website. We only included the first part of the news item or blog with links back to the website to read more.

Over time with consistent writing, sharing, and directing people back to the website…we began building traction. We watched the hits increase each month and we also began to notice the blogs and news items rose in the Google Rankings, especially when people performed searches of the board of directors names.

Sharing our story
*We* were sharing *our* story, sharing the story from *our* perspective, and building online credibility. So, what does this have to do with making money? *We* did not have ads on the blog or news sections. *We* did not have a product or service we were directing our clicks for revenue. *We* were building credibility for the *sales* cycle. *We* were not talking about sales or investments in the blogs or newsletters…*we* were talking about leadership, entrepreneurship, and what it was like to build this type of company model during this financial climate. We were telling our story.

The Pay-Off
This past year, a potential investor met with one of the individuals on the executive team. He had attended few group meetings and wanted to have a one-on-one meeting with a person on the executive team. When the meeting began, this potential investor shared that he had learned a lot about this executive team member. He had been reading the blog, reading the newsletter, and had enjoyed getting to know him virtually. At the end of the meeting, the individual wrote a check for a large six figure amount. Let’s just say that this investment paid for blog and the digital media consulting services was paid back more than 20 times over.

In this model…building digital credibility was a huge part of their success. Ethos is everything in the world of blogging and it is more than just thinking about direct revenue from each blog post, click, or hit. Sometimes we have to think bigger for the big return.

The Story Behing Rescued By Love – A Portrait Fundraising Effort

A few months ago, Tiffiney Addis reached out to me to see I could help here with a little project. Tiffiney is a photojournalist and has been capturing Rose’s pictures before the day she was born. And now she has become the family photographer, capturing all the important moments in Rose’s life.

This week, she hosting a photo contest that is benefitting the Bryan NICU of GHS Children’s Hospital. Her daughter was born at 21 weeks and experienced first hand the depth of experience and care in the Bryan NICU. After that day…she decided to give back.

The video above is just a small portion of her larger story and drive to make a difference. If you go to www.RescuedByLovePortraits.com, you can vote for our daughter Rose (contestant #22). Each vote is one dollar and her goal this year is $20,000, so she needs 20,000 votes.

All the money from the contest goes directly to Bryan NICU of GHS Children’s Hospital. I hope you take a few minutes and vote.

Vote for Rose


Rose needs your help. You are a part of the honorary Rose fan club and so it is the purpose of this blog post to solicit your help.

Rose is part of a portrait contest and she needs your vote. If you go to www.RescuedByLovePortaits.com and follow the directions to vote for Rose (Contestant #22), she could possibly win but your vote could help save lives. Each vote costs one dollar and all the proceeds from the voting contest go the Bryan NICU at the GHS Children’s Hospital. The goal this year is to raise $20,000…so we need 20,000 votes.

Imagine…if each one of you voted one time! Imagine if 500 of you that read this blog post would cast one vaote…that would total $500 dollars donated. Imagine if those 500 voted twice, that would be 1000 votes for Rose amounting to $1000. Imagine if those 500 voted twice and then shared this twice blog post twice…imagine.

Imagine…Rose winning this photo contest and all the money you donate through your votes goes directly to the Bryan NICU at GHS Children’s Hospital. And even if she does not win, you have helped save lives, children’s lives.

Each of you has told me how much you have enjoyed all of Rose pictures and portraits. Tiffiney Addis has been capturing Rose from the moment she was born, literally.

Tiffiney Addis of Tiffiney Photography is hosting this photo contest in an effort to give back. If it was not for the Bryan NICU of GHS Children’s Hospital, her daughter Sadie Mae would not be here today. Last year she raised $15000 with this photo contest, and we hope that with your help we can exceed this year’s goal of $20000.

We need you to vote for Rose, contestant #22. Very simple, CLICK HERE or go to www.RescuedByLovePortraits.com and vote. Remember, Rose is contestant #22. The deadline is Friday, March 15th at 5pm. Happy Voting!

Thanks for your help!


Amazon Kindle Paperwhite & Melissa Mayer in Socially Responsible Messaging

So when I first watched this commercial…I was first taken in by the little chit chat conversation between a guy and girl. Here the girl has the new Kindle Paperwhite and the guy right beside her had an iPad trying to read in the sun. Any of you iPad owners know…that is nearly impossible with the glare. I have one and I know. But…I am not going to take a device to the beach.

But as the commercial moves along, the little surprise in this commercial is the fact that a new Kindle was just released. The commercial claims the Kindle Paperwhite is smaller and easier to use outside than the iPad, especially in the sun. Yep…we have seen many of these Amazon commercials comparing the Kindle to the iPad, so nothing real new.

But underneath it all, we thought there might be some little conversation that might spark where a guy was using technology to “hit on the girl” beside him. But, our conscience would not allow us to consider the reality of that thought… especially since Amazon is about pushing products.

Guess again. They not only addressed the issue of this seemingly weird conversation where a guy hits on a girl…it turns to an acceptance of the other’s relationship getting them a drink. Both with husbands.

I think this is the first time I have seen a large company like Amazon address an openly controversial topic with such ease and matter of fact. This ad leaves us knowing that both gay and straight individuals are the center point of this new product launch.

From the Inquisitr.com:
“It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos and his wife are strong allies in the fight for marriage equality. Last year, according to Reuters, they donated $2.5 million to the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state. Referendum 74 was approved by voters in Washington last November.”

“It’s a bold move for Amazon to take such a big risk when pitching its Kindle PaperWhite to potential buyers, but clearly Amazon thinks the cause of Marriage Equality is worthy of that risk.”

This ad is about business and the commitment to their social responsibility. Amazon is a worldwide brand that serves numerous different communities including those who are gay and support marriage equality. This ad just makes sense especially given the fact that companies like Amazon have an opportunity to become leaders in this multilayered conversation.

From Amazon to Yahoo…these brands are tackling issues right in front of us everyday. From marriage equality to gender equity in the workplace…the conversation is in the forefront and it is time get with the program.

From Harvard Business Review Blog:
“Marissa Mayer is no fool. She didn’t take over as Yahoo’s CEO because the company was doing well; she came on board because the stumbling Internet enterprise was an underperforming underachiever that had lost its way.

“So when Mayer decrees seven months into the job that she wants people to, you know, physically show up at work instead of telecommuting — or else — I’m pretty confident this reflects a data-driven decision more than a cavalier command. In all likelihood, Mayer has taken good, hard looks at Yahoo’s top 250 performers and top 20 projects and come to her own conclusions about who’s creating real value — and how — in her company. She knows who her best people are.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Amazon and Yahoo…the fact of the matter  is they are making a statement. And they are leveraging the digital times….because now people are not only talking about these decisions over coffee, they are sharing their thoughts online, in social outlets, and blogs like this.

By the way, the Kindle Paperwhite video was published on YouTube on February 20, 2013 and on March 4, 2012 (12 days later) the video has over 583,000 views. They are not only making a product statement, they are making a social statement and people are consuming.