Early reporting days as UPI bureau chief in Louisville.

By Michael Willard

I doubt you have heard the story of the four-year-old tyke who looked up at his father and said with sincerity, “I want to be a PR guy when I grow up.” It would fail the suspension of disbelief test.

However, with shrinking newspapers these days, the statistics suggest that there are five Public Relations specialists for every journalist. As a former reporter, I don’t bemoan this factoid, merely wonder if the PR field is awash in amateurism.

A lot of us can hum at least some of the lyrics to Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria, but few…


By Michael Willard

It came to my attention decades ago that a metaphor for life was a silver cylinder in a pinball machine. While on occasion, I lit up the board, most events — success or failure — came about by happenstance.

Because of this, I can’t claim second sight. For sure I always felt the 16th Century soothsayer Michel de Nostradamus was a fraud with a second-rate P.T. Barnum reputation and a shaggy beard.

Most of my life encounters were and still are random. There are no insignificant lives, though there are some mostly meaningless moments. …


By Michael Willard

It came to my attention decades ago that a metaphor for life was a silver cylinder in a pinball machine. While on occasion, I lit up the board, most events — success or failure — came about by happenstance.

Because of this, I can’t claim second sight. For sure I always felt the 16th Century soothsayer Michel de Nostradamus was a fraud with a second-rate P.T. Barnum reputation and a shaggy beard.

Most of my life encounters were and still are random. There are no insignificant lives, though there are some mostly meaningless moments. …


By Michael Willard

I once suggested to my wife that given the certainty I will slip earth’s bonds someday, she should, at the proper time, hold auditions for her next husband.

She’s younger than my favorite guitar, and I am old enough to remember 29-cent gasoline.

She didn’t object, which a less secure fellow might find disconcerting, and check out the Google listing for private detectives. Not me. I made only one suggestion:

“Honey, scratch writers off any potential list. Most are worse than useless at real life.”

Acknowledging the obvious, she nodded. That’s what I am, a writer, a…


By J. Michael Willard

Dr. Samuel Johnson — yes, that 18th Century literary chap — taught me my greatest lesson in leadership: “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”

The inscription was noted on a laminated card that was proof I had, indeed, graduated from a university and was setting out on a career, the direction of which I had only the foggiest idea.

However, I was armed with Dr. Johnson’s wisdom stuck securely in a pocket of my billfold. …


Living a Nuclear Childhood

By Michael Willard

When I was seven, I vividly remember the evacuation of the entire Whitehaven Elementary School in Memphis because Soviet nuclear missiles were headed our way.

Of course, it was a test, but the school principal announced over a tinny intercom later that day that nearly all of us would have been incinerated in the blast and firestorm. It was pretty heavy stuff for a kid.

After all, it was an age when we neighborhood kids drew down on one another with harmless cap pistols and pretended we were Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or…


Why I might be a person of interest to the FBI

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

If the FBI, Europe’s Interpol, Scotland Yard, or the Russian FSB tracked the footprints of my Google searches, I would imagine they would classify me as “a person of interest,” and my dossier would be two-inches thick.

Though I have never fired a pistol, I can describe a 9 mm Glock’s feel and the gray whiff of smoke from the barrel. I am fairly knowledgeable about poisons, particularly potassium cyanide, my favorite. But, heaven forbid, I’ve never seen the stuff.

I can imagine the weight and handling of a jungle bolo sword, but other than a photo in National Geographic…


What every brand produced aspires to achieve

Photo by Victor Hernandez on Unsplash

In marketing, brand loyalty is nirvana.

It is what every brand produced aspires to achieve. Once on that plateau, it takes more than a nudge — more like a colossal shove — to dislodge customer preference for a particular product or service.

Coca-Cola had it, but almost lost it in the mid-1980s with the fan rebellion against the sweeter tasting New Coke, but then found it again shortly after that with the brilliant introduction of Classic Coke, the old stuff repackaged.

My view is brand loyalty is most steadfast when it comes to the old verities of smell, taste, sound…


Social entrepreneurship is a difficult concept for some

Photo by Roman Synkevych on Unsplash

By Michael Willard

Gideon Nyamessen’s parents had visions of their oldest son being a white-collar worker who would earn a decent salary, supporting the Kumasi, Ghana family of eight. His father drove a taxi.

A bright fellow, they felt Gideon would thrive as a young executive or perhaps even a civil service worker. However, early on, he planted a single seed in the yard of his family’s urban home.

A fruit tree emerged, and Gideon looked on it in wonderment.

From there on out, against his parents’ wishes, he dedicated himself to making a positive contribution to the country’s agriculture…


By Michael Willard

Nothing would suggest Gideon Nyamessen would become an agricultural entrepreneur. But when just a child, he planted a seed in his yard in urban Kumasi, Ghana, and saw fruit emerge. He was hooked.

After that, there was no turning back. Creating healthy crops and training Ghanians in environmentally sound farming became his obsession.

Gideon set out on this path despite his parents’ strong objections. They were sure an agriculture career would lead to continued poverty for the family of eight and eventual heartbreak for their oldest son. They were city dwellers. His father drove a taxi.

They…

J. Michael Willard

I am a novelist, painter, songwriter and essayist but my day job is elevating the profile of authors, entertainers and business executives.

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