Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflections On an Old Clipping And A Little Help From My Friends…

I’ve been organizing and cleaning out the artifacts of my life in case one or both of my grandsons turn out to share my interest in family history.  Several things about an old clipping taken from the Durham N.C Herald-Sun Sunday issue in late August 1998 gave me pause to reflect.

People were always nice to send me copies of clippings whenever the community marketing organizations I led during my career received newspaper coverage, even though these organizations are meant in part to be a resource for the news media, not subject matter.

Typically I had skimmed them but now in retirement, several things caught my attention about this one:

  • The date of this article first caught my attention because at the time I was just three months into my 10th year at the helm of Durham’s official marketing agency and nearing the midway point of my more than two decade tenure culminating in my retirement at the end of 2009.


  • Something else that caught my eye was that the front page photo of me was below a headline for an adjacent article about President Clinton placing al-Qaeda on a terrorist list and featuring a photo of Osama bin Laden, just a year and three weeks before the suicide attacks of September 11 on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.


  • I wish at the time I had read the article but even if I had I probably would have been reticent to tell the young reporter, Claire Cuisck that it was one of the most accurate, detailed and balanced I have ever read about the the roles of a community/destination marketing organization, especially the role as the defender of a community’s image.


  • I smiled at the quote she obtained from the person who had succeeded me in Anchorage.  He was older, a former fighter pilot in Vietnam who had subsequently flown with the elite Thunderbirds, an acrobatic USAF demonstration unit now in its 58th year.  Now in retirement I am able to let his generous words wash over me but being a perfectionist at the time, I’m sure I found a way to twist them into something I needed to improve:

“his fingerprints are indelible in what we do today, even 11 years after he departed…I don’t know how to build an airplane but I sure can fly one.  I don’t know if Reyn can fly an organization, but he sure can build one.”


  • Two local sources while still positive were more guarded, reflecting what it must have been like to hear sources in nearby Raleigh incessantly complain about me but not having witnessed the severity or intensity of the issues I was confronting on a daily basis, one noting “I’d almost say he has a passion for his job” and another questioning if that passion overrided my message, one that maybe the Mayor should carry.


  • No one was ever more at my back on a daily basis than the Mayor at the time who, eloquent as always, put it this way:

“the big difference is he’s (me) dealing with a very specific task.  And that task is place identification.  It is Reyn’s duty to make sure that people identify Durham as a place, and not as just some sort of fuzzy, mushy, general area.”

Always pithy, the Mayor continued “he does that with greater or lesser levels of success – sometimes more aggressively than I would hope, sometimes less aggressively than he should.”

Reading or rereading the clipping was made all the more relevant when I learned that during my time of reflection, the representative of an airline publication was planning a feature restricted to Raleigh, possibly assuming as commonly mistaken that co-owned RDU International Airport is located there and that the area feeding the airport is centered around that one community.

Airlines, “bless their hearts,” struggle with the mistaken notion that every airport is synonymous with just one city, dismissing those like RDU that aren’t along with the numerous feeder cities and towns and counties needed to make any airport sustainable.

The folks in Raleigh provided the information the airline publication needed but they also kept talking about all of the great stuff over in Durham, much of what was where his interest truly lied.

Making his way then to Durham and knowing, as often quipped by the same Mayor quoted above, that “there is simply, no such place as Raleigh-Durham,” the publication decided that any story about various destinations related to RDU needed to be about BOTH Durham and Raleigh as distinct and separate communities and destinations each anchoring separate-but-related metro areas.

I guess my passion didn’t override the defense of Durham’s identity after all.  Instead, as intended, it resulted in more accurate and mutually respectful portrayals of each community and the regions surrounding them.

And that, as they say in the new series Fairly Legal, is a “win-win!”


B. said...

> "I don’t know how to build an airplane but I sure can fly one. I don’t know if Reyn can fly an organization, but he sure can build one.”

What a terrific compliment, Reyn! And well-deserved.

uniqu12b said...

You must think about Raleigh in your dreams! Let it go

Reyn said...

Just test chapters for a book to help others with the same predicament.