Top 10 Reasons for Companies to Connect to Communities

I know you are eager for my next book OPEN MEETINGS. It’s on its way.

In the meantime, I have been busy as head of corporate communications for Harmonia Therapeutics. Community relations are an important part of my responsibilities, so I frequently work with local organizations and non-profits to support their efforts to entice companies to become more involved – both financially and socially.

It is not intuitively obvious why for-profit companies should become involved with non-profit organizations. If you are a non-profit organization looking to involve corporations in your activities, you might suggest the following Top 10 Reasons to companies as to why they should be involved in the community, or non-profit associations.
1. Word-of-mouth publicity – communities are groups of people from a wide range of different types of work, social and activity groups. When they hear about a company, they talk about it to their colleagues and friends—spreading information about a company and its products.
2. Media coverage – local reporters from newspapers and blogs cover local events. Participating in community activities can help generate articles about the business. Regional and national media often pick up stories from local media.
3. Employee engagement—employees like to see their companies involved in the community where they live. Many also like to participate to support local organizations. They are more likely to stay engaged at a company they respect and see involved.
4. Individual investors – local citizens can also be investors. The more they understand about a company and its potential, the more likely to invest.
5. Influence with city and county governments—although not a guaranteed result, a relationship with local city and county governments can offer an opportunity to present viewpoints.
6. Accessible event venues—relationships with community organizations and businesses can often open the door to the use of venues for customer, investor, employee and partner events.
7. Special deals for employees at local stores and restaurants—again, employees enjoy being known as members of a community. Companies can often organize events that will treat employees when they visit.
8. Local government support and attendance at company events—community involvement in company events can support customer, partner or international partnering and also increase relationships with employees.
9. Solicitation of company perspective on local development projects—development projects by city and county governments can have an impact on traffic and parking patterns, at a minimum. Officials are more likely to solicit input from companies with whom they sustain a relationship.
10. Potential candidates for clinical trials or as focus groups for new products.

What I recommend to my non-profit friends is that you print the above list and send it to those companies whose involvement you want. You can strengthen your case by adding specific examples that support any of these tips. Of course, you should also include your pertinent request. Good luck!

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Salute to Fareed Zakaria: Hero of Objective Journalism

In a news media world filled with slanted coverage, I applaud a true hero to the cause of objective, fact-filled journalism – Fareed Zakaria.

Dr. Zakaria (Ph.D. from Harvard) has dedicated his career to share as much factual information as he can uncover – particularly from beyond American boundaries. As host of CNN’s weekly (Sunday) show GPS, he has interviewed numerous heads of state, such as, Barack Obama, the Premier of China, the President of Rwanda, Manmohan Singh, King Abdullah II, Dmitry Medvedev. He is also Editor at Large of TIME, a Washington Post columnist, and a New York Times bestselling author. He does not restrict his investigations to international events and has taken on such issues as the US budget to help comprehend and explain its intricacies.

Although not unfriendly, he directs his interviews to reveal inconsistencies. He allows his subjects to respond and gives them as much time as they need, but he perseveres if they do not answer his direct questions. He carefully reviews and criticizes US foreign policy, and is well respected for his prognostications, particularly on foreign affairs.

From our—the viewers’—perspective, we can expect that his treatment –although journalistic – has an intellectual integrity that is frequently lacking in much of the coverage we view or read today. I was not surprised to learn that he was the managing editor of Foreign Affairs for eight years. As a political science major, I am very familiar with this journal, and respect the journal’s scholastic articles.

That’s not to say that he doesn’t have opinions. He surely does, and he lets us know. But his opinions are supported with facts. For example, he recently did a special on America’s healthcare system and reached the conclusion that:

“America’s health care system is broken. Our healthy life expectancy, the standard measurement, ranks only 29th in the world – behind Slovenia. Our infant mortality rate ranks 30th – more than twice that of Sweden and Japan. And for this sub-par care, we pay more than any other nation in the world. Almost one out of every five dollars spent in America is spent on health care.” For more, go to

He also encourages all of us to read. At the end of every GPS show, he recommends a book.

Today’s journalists vary in their approach to bring us news. We see the courage of the foreign correspondents such as Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin who both died in Syria while covering that conflict. And then we see the TV so-called news dedicated to influence us. I do not deny the right of the influencing-style newscasters. But I do so wish there were more of Fareed Zakaria, Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin.

With apologies to Walter Cronkite: thanks, Zakaria, for “telling it like it is” not “like what you want to make it to be.”

Some facts recently shared by Fareed:

• The United States accounts for nearly half the world’s military spending
• America produces 200 times as much oil as Germany, but our gas prices rise and fall in tandem with them (we pay far lower gas taxes). Despite what the GOP says, Obama is not setting oil and gas prices (global growth and geopolitics are determining price).
• In 2005, oil imports accounted for nearly 60 percent of America’s daily consumption. In 2010, for the first time in recent memory, imports were less than half of consumption, and last year, imports were only 45% — 8.6 million barrels a day of the 19 million consumed.

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I Hear You: Tribute to a Courageous Reporter

Anthony Shadid, an American foreign correspondent of Lebanese descent, died last week in Syria. He was there secretly with his photographer, Tyler Hicks, meeting with government opposition forces, reporting for The New York Times. He was only 43, and is survived by his wife and two children.

Mr. Shadid was a long-time sufferer of asthma. Despite his ailment, he devoted his life to covering events in the Middle East for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Associated Press, and won several Pulitzer Prizes for his work. During his career, he was shot, harassed, arrested and detained by several Middle East governments. However, he remained dedicated to bringing us stories about the suffering of the everyday people in the Middle East during the past 20 years of upheaval. For example, in 2004 he received the Pulitzer Prize for his article covering the U.S. invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, for, “his extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril, the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded, their leader toppled and their way of life upended.”

Mr. Shadid had been in Syria secretly for a week to learn more about the resistance to the current Syrian government who are intent on repressing that opposition. It was a dangerous assignment. He and Hicks entered Syria by walking through a fence at night from a border town in the mountains of Turkey. Guides with horses met them and led them to meet their sources. They traveled primarily at night to avoid being discovered by government forces. In fact, it was Shadid’s allergy to the guides’ horses that triggered a fatal asthma attack.

I mention Tyler Hicks because he, too, deserves our appreciation for his courage. In addition to accompanying Mr. Shadid on this and other assignments to provide photographs, he tried for 30 minutes to resuscitate Mr. Shadid and, when that failed, carried his body across the border to Turkey.

Those of you who follow me know that I have repeatedly praised the courage and hard work of reporters around the world. As a PR professional, I have met many reporters. I respect them, and hope somehow in this age of the demise of newspapers and objective journalism that – their dedication and commitment to bring us the truth survives.

To Mr. Anthony Shadid, I offer my highest praise that I can give to a reporter, “I hear you.” Thank you.

You can read Anthony Shadid’s final article covering what’s happening in Libya since the fall of Khadafy in The New York Times at:

For more on Anthony Shadid, see the story in The New York Times at:

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Jillian’s Valentine Story – Beach Blanket Babylon!!!

Chad just told me we’re going to see Beach Blanket Babylon tomorrow night. Of course, it’s so obvious. I should have known. He even reminded me which hats he planned to wear tonight and tomorrow night. And you all know that there are lots of outlandish hats in Beach Blanket Babylon.

Well, I’m going to just enjoy myself for the next few days. I’ll let you know next week about my fantastic Valentine holiday. Hope you all have a great Valentine’s Day!

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Jillian’s Valentine Story

My ex-husband smiled his lop-sided smile and raised his right eyebrow as he delivered his Valentine invitation to me. Chad excelled at planning and implementing surprises. Fortunately, I savored experiencing them.

“You will be prepared to depart your flat early Tuesday evening and return home on Thursday evening. That means you’ll have to take off work Wednesday and Thursday.”

I looked at my calendar and decided that I could afford three days off in the middle of the week. Nothing wrong with my math. Given that the following Monday was a holiday, it made sense to me to extend the time off. Why go back just for Friday? Chad liked that idea, and I could tell he was re-thinking his plans.

I decided to push my advantage. “O.K. I assume I’ll need special clothes?” I thought I might be able to guess where we were going if he told me what I would need to wear. Just a little trick I had learned.

“Well, I’ll be wearing the grey Fedora on Tuesday and the black Bowler on Wednesday.”

Chad loved to attend events wearing one of his many hats. This was a tradition he initiated at our first Valentine’s event. We had only known each other for a few weeks at Cal where we were both students. I was studying political science and Chad business administration. I had quickly grown to enjoy his sense of humor, but was not prepared for his appearance when he picked me up for our Valentine dinner.

I opened the door in response to his knock, and gasped. Chad stood there in jeans, red flannel shirt and a huge straw hat. Not to be taken aback, I said, “Where is your tooth pick?”

My mistake. He pulled out some kind of weed he must have cut from outside and started to chew on it. Fortunately he disposed of the weed before we went to Zachary’s and had a great pizza accompanied by lots of laughter.

When we got married, we upgraded our Valentine Day restaurants for the next ten years as our income increased, but Chad continued the tradition of wearing a special hat. His wardrobe of hats grew, and he tended to wear one wherever we went. His colleagues at work even joined in the fun, and he received a genuine 10-gallon hat from Texas, several French berets, and a Spanish Cordobes hat for those wild dances he pretended were Flamenco. However, of course, after our divorce, we stopped.

Now that we are seeing each other again, Chad had decided we needed a special Valentine’s celebration to properly re-start our relationship. He seemed very proud of himself, and decided that I needed a clue to guess what the special celebration might be. “Well, on Valentine’s Day itself, we’re going to a special place in Berkeley.” O.K. I got that one right away. We’re going to go to Zachary’s where it all started. So that couldn’t be the big surprise.

He continued, “We’re staying at the Fairmont Tuesday and Wednesday night, and we’re going to play tourist in The City Wednesday and Thursday during the day. However, you’ll have to guess what we’re doing Wednesday night. I think you’ll find it highly entertaining, full of laughs, and for sure it will remind you of me.”

I was definitely excited about the prospects of touring The City. “There’s so much to see. Will we have clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf? And take a cable car ride? And go down Lombard Street? Oh, and can we go back to Fort Point?” We had just visited Fort Point with its incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge where I was directed by an annual Christmas note left by my deceased father.

“You’ll see. But you’ll never guess where we’re going Wednesday night.”

“Mmmm.” I tried to think about the clues he had offered – entertaining, full of laughs, and something reminiscent of Chad.

Any ideas?  If you think you know the answer, LIKE Jillian Hillcrest and watch for instructions of how to participate to win a free paperback copy of ON MESSAGE at:

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Happy New Year

Chad hosted a highly entertaining party at his house in Alameda for New Year’s Eve. Of course, my ex-husband couldn’t just have a normal New Year’s Eve party. He had to have a theme. He chose the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie TOP HAT. And, he wore a tuxedo with a great top hat and danced around the house the entire evening in true Fred Astaire style!

My mother visited from southern California, and found a Ginger Rogers-like gown somewhere in her wardrobe. Several other guests also tracked down similar gowns and some of their partners even rented tuxes.

It took us a while to guess who Cynthia, my next door neighbor, represented. She had a red long, curly-haired wig and claimed to be a young Lucille Ball who played a flower vendor in the movie. We all verified this because Chad played the movie during the evening.

Inspector Sherwood arrived dressed in a 1930s suit worn by inspectors of that era. He didn’t claim to know the movie, but we were all amused at his attempt to get into the spirit.

Chad also hired a local big band, and managed to provide a small dance floor in his living room, cleared of furniture.

And, yes, I also wore a Ginger Rogers gown and high heels (not my usual!) and even curled my hair to resemble Ginger. And as we danced a waltz — at Chad’s insistence — I concurred with those who pointed out that although Fred Astaire was a great dancer, Ginger Rogers followed him backwards and in high heels. Gasp!

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY FANS! May you encounter good health, many friends, happy family, fun, and financial stability (or at least reduced debt!).

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Upcoming Promotion of On Message

Mark your calendars! #WLCBookEvent featuring On Message begins Sunday! #amreading #Kindle

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Jillian’s Holiday Story – Part 2

My mother and I stood arm-in-arm at Fort Point in San Francisco oblivious to the wind. Even though I lived in San Francisco, I was in awe of this perspective of the Golden Gate bridge juxtaposed against nature’s opening to San Francisco Bay. The view dwarfed the impact of the fort itself—a Gold Rush structure built in the 1850s to protect its citizens against attack.

The realization that my father had stood here and marveled at this sight filled me with undeniably fluctuating emotions that I re-experienced every year as we traveled to the location of his annual holiday clue. First, I was happy to stand where he had stood; then very sad that I grew up without him. Then I was buoyed with gratitude that he had the foresight to share himself annually with his Christmas clues so that I could know him even after his death.

I opened his message and my father’s handwriting unsettled me when I comprehended that the man I never knew had been alive when he had written these words. As was our custom, I started to read it aloud so my mother could share it with me.

“I never cease to be amazed at the engineering associated with the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. I hope that you’ve had the opportunity to see it in the fog and on a beautiful clear day. It is unlikely it would be so outstanding without the opening that nature provides to connect the city to the Pacific Ocean. How did they ever figure out how to build it! I guess the harder the problem, the more outstanding the solution.

“Also, isn’t the fort itself a testament to man’s skills. Built just before the Civil War it is touted as one of the most perfect models of masonry in America. It is noteworthy that the engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge altered its design so that they could save this remarkable historical building.

“The ‘point’ is that when we work with nature and respect our history, the result is monumental. I hope that you live your life realizing the value of this convergence.”

When I looked up from reading my father’s message, I was pleased to see that my ex-husband, Chad, had joined us. He had been part of our annual treks since we had become engaged more than 10 years ago. We remained friends despite our divorce. He had been listening closely to my reading. Now he just peered at the view – the fort, the bridge, the opening to the Pacific. “I would have liked your father very much.”

I nodded. I know I would have. Every year I learned more about my father. He seemed to match each experience with my age. The sites for my younger years were about having fun and laughing. As I grew older, the sites became more reflective and he highlighted values like giving to those in need (Shriners East West football game served to remind us).

I wondered what he would think of Chad’s hats. My ex-husband likes to attend events in a variety of hats from bowler, to fedora, to Indiana Jones. He looked at me and winked, somehow sensing my thoughts and the suitable timing to lighten our mood. He pulled out his own version of a Santa hat. I laughed out loud as he put it on, pulling my mother out of her reverie to join in. The Santa hat was indeed red with white trim – but it had a wide brim, a flat top much like a top hat, and a six foot long tail with a white pom-pom at the end. I knew better than to ask where he had found it. Chad had quite a collection, and his sources were vast.

The three of us stood quietly — bound together by a remarkable man who had died more than 35 years ago. I am neither religious nor spiritual, but my father was with me now. “Merry Christmas, Dad.”

To all my fans — Happy Holidays! May you find humor and fun in the New Year as we encourage each other to find solutions to so many difficult problems by applying our incredible human capabilities.

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Jillian’s Holiday Story: Part 1

My mother handed me an envelope with the number “36” (for my age) in my father’s handwriting. I was relieved to see that she looked eager, as often she was sad this time of year.

Every Christmas since I was 16 my mother and I performed this ritual. My father died before I was born—killed in the Vietnam War—at the very end just as the American troops were withdrawing.

On his last visit home, my father was ecstatic about becoming a dad. My mother said they talked incessantly about what they would do together as a family. Sadly, he anticipated his death. Happily for me, he prepared 30 envelopes for his unborn child to acquaint his offspring with him – just in case. Inside each envelope were two letters – one with a clue that I was to open a week before Christmas and a second I was not to open until I actually solved the clue and was physically at the clue’s location.

From the beginning, I marveled how he could have possibly anticipated how much I enjoy solving puzzles.

The first Christmas is still the most memorable—perhaps because it was the first. Given that I was a busy teenager, my mother scheduled an hour of my time one night about a week before Christmas. We spent the hour discussing my father. Not that we hadn’t done so before, but it turns out that my father really liked Christmas.

My mother talked slowly at first, the pain of loss still showing after 16 years. However, as she started to remember, she grew more eager. “Your father grew up in a small rural town in California. His family was very poor, but somehow they turned the holidays into a time of magic. He wanted to assure the same happy time for you as a way to get to know him. Oh, he was so special, Jillian.” My mother bit her lip hard – one of her many tricks to keep from crying.

When she handed me that first envelope, she slowly shook her head, and I could tell the lip-biting had failed to stop the tears. “Your father asked me to give you one of these envelopes every year. He said that there is a clue in each of them for you to explore. When you do, you will learn something new about him, and get to know who he was.”

As befitting a 16-year-old, the first clue directed me to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The clue said, “Go to the place where you can have fun at the beach, go for rides on the boardwalk, and still have the Cocoanut Grove to explore.” When I figured it out, we drove a few hours and devoted a day at the Boardwalk. The other note in that envelope helped to connect me to him in a way I could not have imagined: “Having fun is an important part of life. And this is a unique place to forget your everyday problems and just laugh and have a great time. I wish I could be there with you, but know that I, too, have been at this Boardwalk and laughed and had a great time.”

I smiled as I remembered the clue for my 21st Christmas, “Rosebud.” He had written that if I were a fan of “Citizen Kane,” I would know immediately where to go. We enjoyed exploring the Hearst Castle. My father had gone there as a youth and daydreamed about what it must have been like to attend one of Marion Davies’ famous Hollywood parties.

I eagerly opened this year’s envelope. I wanted to know where to travel this year to explore one of my father’s most cherished places. I read the clue slowly. Even though all clues referred to sites only in California, it wasn’t as obvious as previous ones. “The point of this location is the convergence of a majestic view of nature heightened by the magnificent structures of man.”

I looked at my mother, puzzled. “I think I’m going to need some help with this one. I’ll check with some friends and let you know as soon as I solve it.”

Does anyone have any suggestions?

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Million for a Morgue

Have you heard about the fundraising contest underway at Scotland’s University of Dundee? By donating a pound (about $1.60) you can vote for one of your ten favorite crime writers. They’ll name their state-of-the-art new morgue and research facility after the writer who gets the most votes. The new facility will be the first in the UK to use the Thiel embalming method that provides better embalming to preserve dead bodies enabling more effective research.

The participating scientists are Kathy Reichs, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Jeffrey Deaver, Jeff Lindsay, Stuart MacBride and Peter James. If you’re interested in more information or in voting, aka, donating, go to

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