by Pari

A few weeks ago, I started a blog about public relations and marketing. Originally I thought the endeavor would be a good way for me to share what I’ve learned during decades of work in a field that I respect and enjoy. The other impetus was that I’ve written a fair number of short articles  about PR and they’re just lying around. So why not pull them out, organize and update them and eventually turn them into an e-book? It seemed like a nifty and easy project. A no-brainer.

But something changed between the first post and the fourth. I realized that during the last few years my whole attitude about public relations has gone through a subtle but seismic shift. I’ve always cared about what I do, but now I’m only taking on clients whose missions I adore. And that, my friends, has affected how I think about PR in general. All those already-written articles need a rewrite because I no longer want to merely present the tricks of the trade; I want to frame them within a different context.

You see, I don’t think you can be good at PR without heart.

So what is heart?

There’s the rub. I’m not sure I can define it well and I don’t want to cop out and say something like, “I know it when I see it.”

But the horrible thing is . . . it’s true.

Here’s how this new framework is affecting me:
The Election
I’ve been particularly disgusted this year with the hoopla leading up to tomorrow’s election. You know why? I realized that it’s because in spite of all the finger-pointing and righteous indignation, the glossy brochures, robocalls and slick television advertisements  — there’s no heart. Sure there’s anger and passion. But how much of that incredibly loud, rude and mean-spirited noise is coming from that place where a person goes deep within to find his or her personal truths?

I just finished The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and remain totally floored by it. The book is a masterpiece of storytelling. I don’t remember the last time I read something that affected me so that I can’t stop thinking about it. Why this book? I think it’s the incredible concern and caring for each other the characters manifest during extraordinarily tough times. Willis is such a fine storyteller that she doesn’t need to bang us over the heads with the heart of her characters, she just shows us their actions and we’re forever changed.

The wonderful school my children attend is in the process of selecting a new leader. Because I’m a concerned parent, I went to every meet-and-greet with the candidates for the job. The two that impressed me most had an incredibly powerful spirit, and fabulous enthusiasm for education and their role in it. I came away from both of their interviews thinking the world is lucky to have these people who know themselves so well that they can be this passionate about what they do.

I’m helping with the school’s annual fund this year. The process has made me think a lot about the fundraisers I know and those who are most successful. They’re the ones that believe totally in the work of the organizations they represent. Because of this conviction, they’re able to inspire other people to feel and understand the organization’s mission . . . and to want to participate in that story by opening their wallets and checkbooks. 

What’s it all mean?
I know this post is jumbled. That’s because I’m in the middle of looking at the world through this particular pair of glasses. It feels important to me. Critical, in fact. I want to be a person who operates from that center of heart in everything I do – personally, creatively and professionally.

Otherwise . . . why bother?

Today’s questions:

1.  First of all, did I make any sense?

2.  Do you have examples of where heart exists or is lacking in the world – or your own life — right now?

3.  What book has touched so deeply you felt permanently changed by it?

I look forward to a good conversation.


32 thoughts on “Heart

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    No, perhaps everyone is in a sugar coma?
    Heart — people have it or they don't and you can usually sense it in people. It cannot be faked.

    I think this election is one of the meanest (aren't they all?) but I would say it does have heart because we're seeing more and more of "real" people getting involved. I'd even venture to say that 2008 was the left side getting involved and showing heart and 2010 is the right side getting involved and showing heart. No matter what side you're on, having more people involved in the issue and heck, even paying attention is fantastic.

    I've worked both nonprofit and private sector jobs. Sadly, the nonprofit ones were the worst I've worked at but individually there were people with heart, sometimes. The job I'm in now, unemployment insurance, it is easy to burn out. You can tell even over the phone the claimants with heart — stunned by their situation and really doing what they have to to get back working — and those that are content to call in to request "their" benefits each week until it runs out and then calls to see if there's anything else. But my coworkers call it "PK's therapy session" because I ask how they're doing and what they did before, etc., because I've been on the other side and know what it's like. 🙂

  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    Well here's a question about books with heart. There are universal books that are acknowledged to touch a lot of people. But does "heart" become an individual thing? Can a book be said to have heart if it's an individual thing? Something I find to have heart may leave someone else completely cold.

  3. Darlene

    When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, by Lawrence Block. I can't completely put my finger on why that book touches me, but it does. I think it's the element of hope that gives the book heart for me.

  4. pari noskin taichert

    Thanks for the perspective on the election. I find your take gives me hope. And I know what you mean about nonprofits not necessarily being the orgs with the most heart. I've dealt with some like that. Right now, I'm fortunate.

    I think I might read that one again. Thank you for the suggestion.

    I think it IS individual to some extent . . . contingent on the life-experience one brings to the read. That said I do think most people can sense when a writer is dialing in the emotion.

  5. JT Ellison

    Don't laugh, okay? The entire Harry Potter series, especially book seven. I love the story, the world, the lessons, the drama. The classic hero's journey, good versus evil. I care so deeply for the characters – any time a book can make me cry, it's going to stick with me. I don't think it has to be major literature to blow your mind, truly.

    And yeah, Pari, you're making plenty of sense. I left DC because the world there was imploding, and it's gotten so much worse. Now the media thinks it's their responsibility to alter the perceptions of their readers, listeners and viewers, which is cataclysmically bad news. I hope that some sanity can be restored starting Wednesday, but I doubt it. Sad, really, that our glorious system of government has been reduced to ashes like this.

  6. Dudley Forster

    Yes, No you didn’t stun me into silence, yes it made sense.

    I’m jaded and a cynic so I see a lack of heart everywhere. Up close and personal was the lack of heart in the practice of law. There were true believers in the practice but most were just playing the game. The only heat left was the desire to win. That included me.

    At one time I really had a heart for working with computers, with helping people solve their problems. They are almost always very grateful (unlike legal clients), but the last couple of years it has been just going through the motions. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s my bipolar cycle the last two years. But there has been very little heart in it.

    Seeing heart is easy. I just look at my wife and see her heart poured into her teaching.. I see heart in the way my middle daughter works with foster parents. How strongly she believes and wants to help. I see heart here everyday. I see it in the Ratis who cope with and overcome a disability and find joy in living.. I see it in the words of the Rati authors when they talk about writing. No one here is calling it in, but is it the passion that comes from the heart? I would like to think so. Pari I see heart in you all the time.

    Books – That’s hard. So many of the them to choose from. A few off the top of my head include Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; The Chosen by Chaim Potok; A Separate Peace by John Knowles,; A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and most recently , The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

    FYI I'm in full WriMo mode so while I'll try to pop in here, if you don't see me I'm sweating word count 🙂

  7. Tammy Cravit

    The last book I remember reading which had "heart", in the sense that you're describing it, was "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult. Without spoiling the book for those who haven't read it, I got to the final plot twist at the end, and though I'm not afraid to admit I did cry for the characters, I also knew, in my heart, that what happened was absolutely the right thing, the only thing, that could happen. To have had the book end any other way would have left me feeling like Ms. Picoult pulled her punch at the critical moment, and that would have ruined the book for me. In writing, I think, heart is about having the courage to tell the story honestly and unflinchingly, to not back away from the important truths just because they're painful.

    Come to think of it, that's what heart means in other contexts, and it's why this election season has, mostly, disgusted me. I feel as though we have candidates on both sides of the aisle (politically and ideologically) taking cheap shot after cheap shot at one another for the purpose of inflaming voter passions, but I don't hear anyone (at least in California) who's saying "look, partisan bickering plays good on TV but let's talk about what's REALLY important." This nation's ills will never be solved by making the political debate even more polarized, even more acrimonious. The Republicans and Democrats, for the most part, seem to be playing to the pet prejudices of their "party bases", the Tea Party folks around here are billing themselves as "where the Republicans should be", and nobody's saying "you might not believe the same things I do, but how can we come together to make progress?"

    As for the impact the media is having on this fracas….yeah, what JT said.

  8. Karen in Ohio

    Avoiding NaNo hell here, too. 😉

    You make such solid points here, Pari. And as today is November 1st, and the first day of NaNoWriMo, it occurred to me this morning that a LOT of books are getting written at the moment, probably most of them sheer dreck. I choose to see the exercise as a way of creating a daily writing habit, out of which may or may not eventually come something worthwhile, but you know that's not how everyone sees it. I guess it's possible to write something pithy, cogent, and with heart in 30 days, but not by the majority of us.

    My book club just read The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, and I was incredibly moved by it, and even brought to tears, a rarity for me. Despite being a 550-page novel, it's meant for teen readers, and is narrated by Death during the reign of Hitler in Nazi Germany. The protagonist is a 9-year old girl at the beginning of the book whose parents were both dealt with in some fashion because they were Communists. She is sent to live with foster parents, and the story begins there.

    The reason this story resonated with me, besides being such a good read, and having such wonderful characters, is that a lot of the story mirrors much of what is happening in our own society right now. It's a bit horrifying to correlate some of the events with real current events, and the premise has stayed with me ever since I read it.

  9. pari noskin taichert

    I'm not laughing. I agree with the last Harry Potter . . . will have to think about the others. Cool concept though; it just deserves some thought.

    As to DC, what a crazy place it is. The town takes on personalities so often I think it might not have an identity of its own. For me, I just wish people would cut out all the rhetoric and actually talk with each other. Argh.

  10. Karen in Ohio

    Tammy, My Sister's Keeper is a tremendously good book, but I can't read Jodi Piccoult any more. Her books are just too wrenching for me.

    I agree with all your political comments, except that "I don't hear anyone (at least in California) who's saying "look, partisan bickering plays good on TV but let's talk about what's REALLY important."" Maybe you missed Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's rally the other day; that's what it was really about. Just read his closing speech, here:


    Talk about heart, baby.

  11. pari noskin taichert

    First of all, congrats on the commitment to NaNo. I did it last year and loved it. This year, since I'm writing fiction daily, I didn't think I needed the push for more.

    I really appreciated your examples of heart. There ARE so many places to find it. I see it in my family as well. And you're right about the 'Rati; that's why it's such a privilege to be part of this group. Extraordinary human beings all.

    Thank you for that list of books. I loved every one you mentioned . . . except The Lovely Bones. I'll have to think about it from a heart perspective. The ending turned me off so much I kind of wrote off the entire book. I know that's not fair, but I'm human . ..

  12. pari noskin taichert

    "In writing, I think, heart is about having the courage to tell the story honestly and unflinchingly, to not back away from the important truths just because they're painful."

    Beautiful, Tammy, just beautiful. And I do buy the idea that that fundamental carries across other parts of life and work. Perhaps that's the baseline?

    I've heard a lot about The Book Thief. Man . . . it looks like I've got a reading list ten miles long now.
    Something that stays with you, something that resonates . . . I wonder if that's part of heart or evidence of it. I know that when I think of books like To Kill A Mockingbird, the telling of the story, the tragedy and innocence of it in so many ways, is part of its power. It's the spark that keeps it heart-real no matter what decade.

    Just thinking . . .

  13. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, man, if we start looking at how the media is feeding into the sniping I fear we'll get waay off track of this particular discussion.

    But what I like about the comments so far is that people are bringing more examples and clarity to what I consider to be quite a complicated topic.

    Thank you . . .

  14. Alafair Burke

    yes, it made sense. I always love the Reacher series but would say 61 Hours had..heart. Most of the books I love do: Lisa Unger's Fragile and Dennis Lehane's new one, Moonlight Mile, come to mind as well.

  15. Debbie

    Election thoughts: Wouldn't it be nice if political parties and candidates were about making things better rather than about re/election to power? Wouldn't it be nice if without legislation, campaigns ran with a focus on what has been done or will be done to improve the citizens of a country?

    Books: The Screwtape Letters and , The Pilgrims Regress both by C.S.Lewis and both thought provoking and written without apology. <bg> Any book with layering, and that includes Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling). Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë( which was racy for it's time and IMO still is. The Lord Of The Rings, written until the story was finished and written with the intent of writing a long tale. J.R.R. Tolkien said the one critisism he consistantly got was that it wasn't long enough! I'll second that while adding that the novel was perfect! villette (Jane Austen), my favourite novel, where an authors heart was rent trying to be true to the story and her fathers wishes that the book have an HEA.

    Pari, you described heart best by your example. It's what you are passionate about, willing to invest, not dollars but time into. Time is the one thing we are all given freely and in equal amounts (just 24hours in a day). When you reach out and give that to another, you're saying I value you, your ideas, thoughts, beliefs, enough to invest my time. And I think the people receiving that gift understand it better than any other gift because they too know the value of time.

  16. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari

    Not stunned to silence – just out all day.

    I think you put your finger on it. I've been trying to work out lately what's important to me, and what's just window dressing, and a lot of that boils down to what I can get excited about and put my heart and soul into.

    Big questions.

    No answers yet.

    Books that touched me? Last one has to be ABSENT FRIENDS by SJ Rozan, and IMAJICA by Clive Barker.

  17. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Was thinking a lot about this at Bouchercon – the authors I was rabid to see are all about heart – or passion, you could also say. Denise Mina, Michael Connelly (don't you just want to protect Harry Bosch?), John Connolly, Lee Child (anger is just as much heart as anything, and see Laurie King, while we're at it), a new and wonderful find, RJ Ellory.

    Can't mention heart without evoking Ken Bruen, biggest heart of them all.

  18. Tammy Cravit

    Pari, the more I think about it, the more I think that honesty, in the sense of not backing away from the truth just because it's uncomfortable or painful, is at the core of both writing and life. Bill Stout said, "whether or not you write well, write bravely." That's certainly an ideal I try to hold on to when I'm writing, but it's a good life lesson too. Courage – to make tough decisions, to stay the course in the face of adversity, to tell the truth even when that's hard or painful – is what's at the core of both authentic living and authentic writing.

  19. Sandy

    "Heart," to me, is passion. "Passion," to me, is commitment to belief or act that promotes and increases positive energy in Life. It's like what Mother Teresa said about "anti" and "pro": She would not participate in an anti-war protest, but she would jump right into a pro-peace demonstration. In lit, that translates into writing that lends insight and when the last page is read lends triumph softly to the reader's soul. And that, of course, brings to mind the final words of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: "I was to think of these days many times. Of Jem, and Dill, and Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson, and Atticus. He would be in Jem's room all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."

  20. Reine

    1. I love this. And of course it makes sense to commit to what you believe and to let go of the rest as you are able. I find it very moving, actually.

    2. I am also distressed by the politics of the day in the US. My Swedish cousins are distressed by the politics in Sweden, where they say a racist party entered parliament for the first time with 20 seats. My Danish relatives are upset over the rising fear of multicultural influence, seen lately by attempts to ban the hijab. My French relatives are upset, because there is opposition to banning the hijab– after all, they say, that is in women's best interest to protect them from male domination.

    3. For me– also Harry Potter, the whole series, because each book has touched me deeply regarding relationships. It also brought me closer to the medical students I advised and counseled. I would be sitting in Starbucks reading about life at Hogwarts, and students would walk up to me and say how much they loved that I was reading Harry Potter. Then they would sit down and start talking. Soon after the first Harry Potter book came out, they asked if my welcoming tea for the first-years could be a Harry Potter welcoming dinner. It made our little community much more cohesive and….. communal.

    NaNo – NaNo! Hoping for a few hundred words a day. Please wish me luck. A win for me would be much, much less than the 50,000 words required. I have no idea what I will be able to do, so this is a quest for experience and understanding my ability.

  21. pari noskin taichert

    Thanks, Alafair. I'm wiping the sweat off of my face. And haven't read 61 Hours yet. But I will.

    Debbie . . . yeah, wouldn't it be nice? What a fascinating list of books. Really interesting. I would've never thought of the Screwtape Letters, but I get what you're saying here.
    And living heart by example, wow, imagine if we all did that as a goal. I'm dumbstruck.

    I'm working on that too — guess you probably tell. I'll read those books as well. I think, without realizing it, I've gotten my book-reading list for the next year and a half.

  22. pari noskin taichert

    Alex . . . yes to all of them, especially Ken. I remember his posts here on Murderati and how incredibly moving every single one of them was.

    Tammy, that idea of courage to be authentic is very profound. It's one I'm going to take away from this discussion today and really think about. Yes.

    I agree with you and am glad you defined passion further because I've seen the world used in so many ways that wouldn't truly lend themselves to the concept of heart. And thank you for that quote. Even without the entire book, it gives such a strong sense of peace and rightness.

    I love the depth of answers you bring to the questions — and the windows into your life. It's somehow comforting — in a very strange way — to think this political distress transcends our borders. I don't know why that makes me feel better, but it does.

    And the story about Harry Potter and how it touched you and then enabled you to relate and touch others, I just love that. Very, very cool.

    Best of luck with NaNo. I hope the journey is a satisfying and illuminating one for you.

  23. KDJames

    Pari, it's very late and I'm not feeling capable of addressing all your excellent and thought provoking questions with any degree of intelligence. But I wanted to say that PR and Marketing are not things I'd normally associate with "heart." Not at all. And I think it's so very admirable that it has become necessary for you to see the heart in a thing before you take it on and lend it your experience and passion.

    I see the difference on twitter. I know, that arena seems sort of trite. But I can read five dozen tweets "advertising" or "promoting" a new book release and every single one of them goes straight through the big holes of my strainer of attention. But I have found it true over and over and over again that all it takes to make me sit up and pay attention (and take a chance and buy a book) is for just one person to say, with genuine enthusiasm, "OMG, I loved this book." I'm not sure that's exactly what you're getting at here, but I think it's related. You can tell when an effort to sell something is just going through the motions or coming from a place of passion. It makes all the difference.

    [And I'm sorry your and Alafair's posts always seem to get short shrift from me, but good grief, you two post on Monday and most weeks I'm lucky to get through this particular work day without committing a felony. I don't know what I'd do if CASTLE switched to a different night and I had nothing fun to look forward to at the end of the day. 😉 ]

  24. Julia Green

    I have been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before.

  25. pari noskin taichert

    You had me laughing about Mondays. Don't worry. I feel the same way most weeks. Actually, posting here on the 'Rati is a balm because it sets the week up well for me. But, hey, no apologies. I'm just delighted when you DO stop by.

    As to PR and heart (or marketing w/heart), I think your Twitter examples are good. We can often sense authenticity easily. That's part of what I hope to get at in my PR blog . . . how to do the things that excite you so that you can be real in your PR/Marketing rather than extraordinarily mercenary . .. because people sense falsity too.

    I'm not quite sure if you're for real or not . . . (SEE my comment above to KD), but if you are, welcome. If not, please don't try to sell us anything on this blog. That's not what we're about. I did delete your second message with the link because it had nothing to do with this post.

  26. Reine

    Pari, if you click on "Julia Green's" name at the right bottom of "her" posts – don't – you will see that it is not her homepage, rather it links to an ad for Dell Inspiron laptop adapter, or something disguised as such. I get a lot of these to my email account through Murderati-infiltrated spam. This one is just more devious than most.

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