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Leadership columns

Previously published by The News-Press

"To achieve our dreams requires a strategy."

"All of this reinvention, painful as it can be, will result in all of us being stronger."

Hope is not a strategy

Published in The News-Press on 4/24/11


When I became vice president of advertising for The Seattle Times, without any advertising background, I did what a good journalist would do: intense research.


I scoured sources and experts for advertising fundamentals and best practices, and found one particular book that was a game-changer: “Hope is not a strategy.” While the author provided six key steps to success, what captivated me was the title.

Hope is not a strategy.


Now, we all know the incredible power and importance of hope. It sustains us in dark times, it inspires us to reach, stretch, or just get out of bed. It fuels us.


But we also know that wishing for something is not enough. To achieve our dreams requires a strategy. It requires thoughtful deliberation and active planning about the course to take. It requires strenuous, devoted work. It requires us to set bold goals and milestones to measure our progress. And it requires us to join hands with comrades who share the dream, to pull, push or carry each other, to applaud victories along the way.


In the newspaper business, we have many hopes: that the economy will strengthen, that consumers will find our content to be compelling on any platform they want; and that advertisers will continue to recognize the tremendous reach we offer so they can talk to their audiences and get results.


That hope is grounded in facts, nurtured by our vision that we make a difference, and bolstered by our strategy.


We take a leadership role in helping strengthen our business environment; we continually refine our local content, across multimedia platforms; and we keep expanding our portfolio of solutions to connect buyers and sellers. Examples include collaborating with the Horizon Council and helping put people back to work with the Great Jobs Project; creating new products like our weekly Coastal Life magazine in South Lee/North Collier, and our free Hurricane Hub mobile app to track Atlantic storms; and expanding our digital reach to 82% of Southwest Florida with our Yahoo! partnership.


On occasion, someone will recall the good old days when newspapers dominated the media landscape and we lived in the land of milk and honey. That kind of mind-boggling ancient history can be discouraging.


Instead, I like to preserve my energy for the transformational road ahead. We may not look the same but we will persevere. Because what we do matters to the communities we serve.


Likewise, throughout Southwest Florida, we know there is no going back to the heyday, the unreasonable, unsustainable boom that peaked in 2005. Businesses, governments, community groups and colleagues are forging new paths, while remaining true to their visions. They’re adapting to different cost structures, making hard decisions, revising business models and building partnerships. All of this reinvention, painful as it can be, will result in all of us being stronger, individually and collectively.


One shining example of this personal accountability is the 21st Century Collaboration, which is creating its own future. This grassroots effort is committed to improving the quality of life in three ZIP codes in the heart of Fort Myers: 33916, 33905 and 33901.


Central, Dunbar and East Fort Myers house some wonderful families and communities, but also have some of the worse poverty, crime and unemployment statistics in the county, as highlighted in our multimedia report, 33916: Life on the edge, which ran last June.


The Collaboration was formed nearly three years ago by pastors, business owners and social service providers, led by Abdul Muhammed. This gentle giant of a man, originally from Harlem, NY, exemplifies the integration of hope, vision and strategy. Twenty years ago, months after arriving in Fort Myers, he converted a bar and drug haven into a community center. Today, the Quality Life Center just off Martin Luther King Blvd. serves over 600 youngsters each year.


After we ran our 33916 project, The News-Press and the Collaboration reached out to the broader community to invite support. From elected officials to volunteers, many heeded that call, giving generously of their time and joining committees to focus on such areas as health, education and economic development.


Last Thursday at The News-Press, the Collaboration updated partners on its progress and strategic roadmap, built around this revised vision: To build safe and thriving communities where people want to live, learn, work and play.


To achieve that simple, fundamental vision, the Collaboration challenged the community with a set of “Bodacious” goals: In five years, we will have improved these key statistics by half: unemployment, high school graduation and teen pregnancy. And, we will reach 50% of households with health literacy education.


Talk about a bold visionary roadmap! When Pastor William Glover roused the attendees with those goals, they responded heartily to his call with enthusiastic “Amens”!


This collaborative journey, fueled by hope, will be driven by strategic plans devised by creative, courageous stakeholders who share the vision: We can make a difference, individually and collectively.


I’m very hopeful.

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