In anticipation of tonight’s Oscars, I’ve been catching up on my best picture nominees. This means, in a 24-hour period, I recently saw both The King’s Speech and True Grit. Both movies feature incredible performances, gorgeous cinematography and riveting stories.

But this isn’t a blog about movies. If you want Oscar picks, you’d be better served by Perez Hilton, Roger Ebert, or somebody a whole lot more qualified than I.

There was something about both of these movies, though, that is directly applicable to me, to this blog, and to an announcement I’ve been working towards for a long time. More on that in a minute.

What spoke to me about both of these films was that both movies—one about a stammering prince who became a reluctant king at the onset of World War II and the other about a 14-year-old orphan seeking justice for her father’s murder—was really about the same thing.

Over the course of 120 minutes of celluloid, both characters find their own voice and learn how to use it.

Of course, this is most explicit in The King’s Speech. Colin Firth, as King George VI shouts angrily at his speech therapist on the eve of his coronation that he has a right to be heard “because I have a voice!”

That’s the moment he emerges from his brother’s shadow. That’s the moment he stops hiding behind his stammer. That’s the moment—despite having ascended the throne upon his brother Edward VIII’s abdication months before—that George becomes the King.

In True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, the 14-year-old girl sent to the frontier to collect her father’s body and put his final affairs in order. From her first lines, we can tell that Mattie is no ordinary teenage girl, and we quickly learn that she is more interested in bringing her father’s killer to justice than doing as her mother instructed. At first, she’s ignored, dismissed and brushed aside. But over the course of the film, Mattie finds her voice—and learns how to use it.

You will likely never assume St. Edward’s chair, and I hope you’ll never have to organize a posse to avenge a loved one’s murder, but I guarantee you’ll find yourself in a place at a time where you need to be heard.

You will need your voice.

Now, back to that announcement. As I’ve hinted at before in this space, I have begun a new venture of my own, and today, I’m really excited to let you all know that Ampersand Strategies is open for business.

Our new web site will be along shortly, but I want to talk for a second about Ampersand.

First of all, I can already hear you saying: “You’ve been talking about this for months. What took so long?”

Let me explain.

When I first set out to create the company, I took stock of what I can do for my clients. I can run winning campaigns. I can write speeches and op-eds for politicians, executives and university presidents. I can train an army of grassroots activists to become effective advocates in order to pass legislation. I’ve worked with candidates and organizations to develop meaningful messaging, and I’ve done my share of public relations.

That’s a mouthful! It’s also confusing to a potential client.

I was struggling to succinctly describe what it is that I do, and for a communications strategist, that’s a significant problem. I could feel the thread that would bind them together, but I didn’t know how to explain it in a pitch.

Around the same time, I discovered the work of Simon Sinek and it all made sense: the goal is not to be able to describe what I do…it’s to be able to explain why I do it.

Simon’s 18-minute TED Talk is at the bottom of this post, but his premise is that people don’t buy what you do…they buy why you do it. It’s a theory as applicable to policy debates and campaigns as it is to business. When you let people know what you believe, you’ll attract others to your cause who share those core beliefs. The title of Sinek’s book is Start with Why, and that’s how Ampersand will approach the work we do with all of our clients.

So here is my “why.”

Like Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech or Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, Ampersand believes that every client has a distinctive voice, but that any number of obstacles can keep that voice from being heard. What gets us out of bed every morning is the opportunity to work with great people and organizations that want to change the world, but need some help breaking through the static.

We work with each client to help find their unique voice. And once it’s found, we amplify that voice through all those things I talked about above.

It’s as much a mission as it is a business. In the coming days and weeks, I hope to share not only a new website, but also insights and personal success stories about people and organizations who learn to amplify their own voices.

I want to give a shout out as well to Daren Berringer, who, years ago on a campaign in Bucks County, PA, taught me how to harness the passion of activists by letting them know their voices could move mountains. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Daren helped me define a passion that was already inside me by giving it a name.

And if I have a chance to do that for somebody else every day, I’ll be living my dreams.

Gathering Moss No More

On July 29, 2010, in Uncategorized, by Josh

Hey…where’ve you been?? What happened to the blog?

Well, shortly after my last post, I went to a job interview where it was more than strongly suggested that I abandon the blog as part of my job search. “It’s just a bad idea,” the interviewer said.

So I stopped. I left this poor infant blog floating in some sort of cyber-purgatory, neither living nor dead. I stopped putting my thoughts out to the world, not because I thought nobody cared, but because I was worried that they would.

Well, screw that. I’m back.

As far as the job hunt goes, it certainly continues. The focus may have changed, but in the end, I want people to hire me not just for my skills, but for my advice and opinions, for my ability to convey an argument, and for my ability to express a position–whether mine or not–cogently.

This blog is an outlet for exactly that kind of expression. You may read something here with which you disagree. I think that’s great. Tell me you disagree. I’ll argue my side, you argue yours, and we’ll see what happens. I may address controversial topics. I may say something that costs me a potential job or client–but frankly, if somebody is so offended by something I say here that they don’t want me to be part of their team, I’m probably not a good fit for that team, anyway.

So I’m back. In the coming days, I will probably give the blog a new name and a new look. I’m going to have to commit myself to re-engaging here, and I hope you’ll stop by to see what’s on my mind.

Tagged with:

Self Referential…

On November 17, 2009, in Housekeeping, by Josh

Over at TuesdayNight, where I first blogged before it was blogging, Ian has put up a plug for this here little experiment.

This means I have to put up more content, which is a good thing.

That said, it’s late and I was out watching figure skating, complete with American Idols, Olivia Newton John, and Scott Hamilton and Dorothy Hamill. The event was called Kaleidoscope, and will air on Fox on Thanksgiving at 4:00. The goal of the program will be to raise awareness, and by association money, for cancer research. So watch.

And I’ll get back to writing soon.

[UPDATE] Fixed the link to Ian’s blog!