Engage PR Celebrates the Moms Who Made Us Tech Comms Pros

Stan O'Neill
May 11, 2023

This Mother’s Day, Engage PR celebrates the go-getter, tireless mothers who made us the communicators we are today. Motherhood is a high-pressure, occasionally thankless job where PTO is not an option. Harried moms are plagued by sleep deprivation, new and exciting forms of highly transmissible childhood illnesses, obligations to mediate the complex politics of sibling rivalries and much more.  

The obstacles in child-rearing are innumerable, even before you consider how much time, energy and money are consumed by daycare, college funds, sports meets and that exhausting trip to grandpa and grandma’s house in a station wagon full of distraught kids. Despite these challenges, our parents (and especially our moms) help us form the bedrock of our communication skills because we communicate through them before we communicate through our own words. After all, who can translate the insights behind a toddler’s “goo goo ga ga” better than a mother?  

The marrow of your message

My mom started our communication training early, giving us a stack of stationery, postage stamps and pencils to write thank-you notes with after Christmas every year. While she would provide guidance, it was up to my brother and me to navigate our nascent communication styles and convey our gratitude in our own words. She asserted that thank-you letters are polite because people appreciate the effort it takes to translate your thoughtful sentiments into concise writing – an early lesson in crafting an emotionally resonant message.

She taught me that the marrow of your message is paramount for impactful communication, a lesson that’s served me well as a Content Specialist. As much as she helped, it was up to us to decide what was most important to communicate to loved ones, teaching us to maximize the page to fit our thankful chicken scratch in a 3x5” space. Despite our obstinate protests (preferring to spend our time playing Nintendo 64), I’m thankful for these early epistolary lessons, even if we didn’t understand their formative importance.

One-part social butterfly, one-part pool shark

My mom was always a queen extrovert and charismatic communicator by nature - skills that served her well since her years in the high-paced business landscape of 1980s New York. In my father’s words, “She knew everybody – she always had a job and could always get another one – she's a master connection-maker!” But these communication skills came in handy outside of her professional life.  

I remember one famous story detailing her pool shark days. She stumbled into a Lower Manhattan social club with a girlfriend, decked out in glitter and Studio 54 garb, somehow persuading an imposing bodyguard to let her into the club. After getting down to the eight ball in a dead heat with her fedora-clad opponent, she noticed a crowd forming around the table, with her opponent getting upset. She narrowly missed her victory shot amid an eerily silent crowd, appeasing her fuming adversary with humor before he shrugged and walked away. The kicker? It was actually a notorious mob bar. I guess the Armani suits didn’t clue her in until after the game.  

So, what can Comms Pros learn from this story? It highlights the importance of strategic and persuasive communication in achieving specific outcomes, whether it be escaping unfamiliar territory without a scratch or landing a thought leadership opportunity for your client.

Be genuine – you're not alone

Finally, I remember one anecdote from her tenure as a public school teacher. She had always loved kids and wanted to make a difference, despite the difficulty in doing so with little to no support in a classroom filled with over 25 young students. Furthermore, she quickly learned that word economy becomes essential for survival when your audience comprises over two dozen third graders.

On a particularly stressful day, when not a single kid would pay attention to her lesson on consonants, she sighed to her favorite student and said, “Nia, I’m just not feelin’ it today.” Nia looked upward, shaking her head and wearily affirming, “I’m just not feelin’ it either, Ms. Black.” So it follows - be honest, relatable and humorous in your communication when appropriate, even if it just makes someone else feel understood.

Don’t underestimate the impact of a thoughtful message

Despite feeling like Sisyphus, pushing the scholastic boulder up the mountain every day only to watch it tumble back to base camp, my mom received numerous letters from former students telling her she taught them the importance of reading and writing from an early age and made a real impact. So, although it seems like a lost art, write a letter to your mom if you can and communicate how much she means to you – it's the thought that counts. After all, it may stave off the phrase that grown children know all too well: you never call anymore!


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