Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas--and a look back

First I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

It seems every year the time for pause, reflection, rest and re-focusing gets more and more limited. At this time of the year in particular when we try to recall the reason for the season, the injection of divinity in a small, dirty town in a trouble-filled part of the world, in a place of over crowded abandonment smelling of and probably covered in animal feces, I have this vague sense that all those things we consider so urgent and important probably aren't.

This year has been one of great challenge for many of you, and for me as well. As we faced 2009, we were in the midst of great uncertainty in our own business, in our nation's economic future and what our world was coming to. I am grateful that while an uncomfortable degree of uncertainty still exists about our world, we have survived it-- so far at least-- and there is more reason for optimism and hope than there was a year ago.

Personally, we have gone through some very significant changes. A little less than ten years ago, I spun PIER Systems out of the marketing and public relations firm I owned. The dream was big--to help major companies and organizations to be able to more effectively meet the public information demands when facing big events. As big as the dream was, the reality turned out to be much bigger than I was able to dream. Now numerous federal agencies, state and local government agencies, emergency management departments, Fortune 100 and 500 companies, gigantic non-profits, major universities, hospitals and a myriad other organizations are using this system to enhance their communications both daily and during crises. Dealing with investors, the IT world, the complexities of selling to giant agencies and institutions has been challenging and stimulating and at times, frustrating to the extreme. The shock of the financial collapse in late 2008 and the budget difficulties of many of our public agency clients as well as private companies had significant impact on us as it did most others. But, the year ended with bright new promise as PIER Systems was purchased in late November by O'Brien's Response Management, one of the most respected names in crisis and emergency management. They purchased PIER because they understand very clearly what we have been saying for a long time--that in crisis management two things are essential to building trust: taking the right action and communicating well. They were and are experts in taking the right actions and preparing clients to taking the right actions. But they recognized in what we had to offer the ability to also communicate well. Two halves of the same coin, now joined as one solution.

I apologize if this comes across as promotion for my company or the buyer. I see in this a reflection of what I sense is going on with many of you in reflecting on this year. A year of challenge and change, of continuing uncertainty but mixed with greater hope and optimism than perhaps we dared dream of even a year ago. While the way ahead in terms of economic conditions, improvements in funding, recovery of lost value and all that may not look wonderful, still there is reason to believe that by continuing to trudge forward improvements will come. The world will never be quite the same--that is what a major crisis does to any organization and that is what this financial crisis has done to us, our nation and the world. But good lessons have been and are being learned. And the resilient pick themselves up, learn from the hard lessons, and put their shoulder to the wheel to move forward again.

I wish for you and yours a blessed time of reflection, pause, and if so oriented, quiet worship. Because as soon as Christmas Day is past, we turn immediately to the new year and the challenges ahead. I'll share some thoughts with you then about what I think 2010 means for emergency management and particularly crisis communication.

Merry Christmas!

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