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Robot voices made me laugh in emergency landing

“Computer voices that countdown to destruction are curiously calm. Wouldn’t want to panic just before the end of the world.” I was agreeing with that tweet from celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson while recently assuming the crash position during an emergency landing on a Boeing 757. I didn’t experience anything close to Armageddon and the voices counting us down were not computers, although they were barely human. This potentially catastrophic event made me laugh, as I rationalized that my coping mechanism of finding humor was as unnatural as the deliberate, calm performance of the flight crew.

A half-hour prior to our scheduled landing into Minneapolis, MN, a silky smooth voice alerted passengers about a small problem, “From the flight deck, our on-time arrival will be a little delayed so we can take a few minutes to resolve a minor mechanical situation. We should have you on the ground shortly.”

Five minutes later, a new voice was more restrained than the previous smooth jazz host, “Due to a problem with our wing flaps, we will be preparing for an emergency landing.” That’s all we get? I’m hearing Apple’s Siri with a dying battery and Amazon’s Alexa on Quaaludes. I want Samuel L. Jackson in “Snakes On A Plane”  screaming, “Everybody strap in. I’m about to open some (expletive deleted) windows!”  or Lloyd Bridges in “Airplane”, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop using amphetamines.”

Do all pilots and flight attendants go to the same voice school or is there a robot translation machine? Our next announcement was slower and more contrived, “If there are any firefighters or police officers on board, can you please move to the emergency exits in the event of an evacuation?” To me, this sounded somewhat urgent, but the energy of their delivery was falling faster than our altitude.

I found absurdity in the deadpan delivery and imagined Siri and Alexa delivering doomsday messages:

  • From the flight deck, there is no need to use the lavatory. It is satisfactory to remain seated and evacuate your bowels and bladder. Many of you have already completed this task.”
  • “There is positive and not so positive news. You will no longer be required to endure political posts on Facebook, but it is unresolved who will remove your profile from this social media service.”
  • “It has been three hours since you heard the word “robust”. That is no longer the case. Delta Airlines’ robust training procedures will now be utilized.”

When the flight crew took over, it was obvious that they also graduated from The Calm Voice School of Broadcasting, “We will be making an emergency landing in five minutes and we will practice bracing against the seat in front of you.” This was my chance to stand-up for all the victims who have been squished by rude, reclining passengers. I expected some panic, but it was eerily quiet while flight attendants made final preparations, “Two minutes until touchdown, brace for impact.” We assumed our positions and due to the malfunctioning flap, we approached the ground at a rate way above normal landing speed. (I’m no expert but it looked really fast as I peeked out the window to record video) Anticipating a heavy thump, there was only a soft ripple. The rear wheels lightly kissed the runway, the nose lowered gently and we met the ground with fire trucks greeting us. The crew slammed the brakes and we rolled to a smooth stop, a nearly perfect landing. More than 200 passengers agreed, erupting in into applause.

Through the clapping I exchanged texts with my wife and daughters. We said that we loved each other and they jokingly asked if I was disruptive and forced the landing, or if Jack Bauer from the TV Show “24” was on board.

After getting off the plane, my friend and colleague, Alaine Johnson Westra and I took a sigh of relief selfie.  Next, I needed to make one more call.  Siri, “What are the odds of crashing in an airplane?” Before I reviewed her response, I briefly reflected and truly appreciated the professionalism of the Delta crew and admired how they prevented panic with their curiously calm performance, and then when I listened to Siri’s monotone answer, I felt even better, thinking this was probably my first and last emergency landing.





A Vigilant Nurse Helped Find My Genetic Heart Defects

Sharing Mayo ClinicMy head pounded incessantly. With every sip of water, I felt like I was swallowing razor blades. I coughed and wheezed so hard that my stomach muscles ached. But as sick as I was, this would be one of my healthiest days, because a visit with a vigilant nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic may have saved my life.

After feeling really crummy for several days last spring, lying in bed “drinking plenty of fluids,” and hoping whatever was ailing me would pass, I decided that I had waited long enough. I visited Mayo Clinic Express Care at one of the Hy-Vee Grocery stores in Rochester, Minnesota. That’s where Dawn Kaderabek, a Mayo Clinic nurse practitioner, diagnosed me with Influenza B. She also noticed something unusual.

I learned I was dealing with more than the flu and that I have not one, but two genetic heart defects: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy  and bicuspid aortic valve.    Read the Sharing Mayo Clinic Story  here .



Media Can Do Better Than Deflategate

As an Indianapolis COLTS fan, I need to air it out as the investigation of deflated balls continues past the Super Bowl.

football 2015-02-01 at 1.28.09 PMI’m not deflated that it happened because as COLTS tight end Dwayne Allen tweeted, they would have lost to the Patriots no matter what.

I’m deflated because the media names so many scandals !#x-gate. It’s become boring-gate, tired-gate and lazy-gate.  The term gate began with the culturally shifting journalism by reporters Woodward and Bernstein for coverage of the 1972 break-in of the Watergate Hotel. This eventually cost Richard Nixon the presidency, just a little bigger than football.

That hotel in Washington, DC is expected to reopen next summer after a big renovation. Media, let’s take this opportunity to renovate as well and stop living in this “gated community”. Some other football examples of “gated” episodes include “Nipplegate”, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during a Super Bowl half-time performance and the New Orleans Saints’ “Bountygate“. The Washington Post and BBC wrote about this obsession with naming scandals, (not just football) and noted that gate was formally named as a suffix in its own right in 1991.

Mike and Mike, the popular sports talk radio hosts on ESPN, in George CostanzaSeinfeld mode, at least tried to break this pattern.

Even though their effort wasn’t a game changer on social media, they didn’t shoot an #airball, but what about this? Can the media use its replay challenge and rule that #airball replace deflategate.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich


5 Social Media Tips To Improve Health Care

What do you look for when you go online? If you’re like most people you are seeking health information, which is now one of the most popular online activities in the United States only topped by emailing and general internet search.

word montage of social media imagesAppearing on Mayo Clinic Radio, Dr. Farris Timimi, medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, said this demand for medical news creates an unprecedented opportunity to improve the patient experience. He believes that health care professionals have a moral obligation to journey with their patients and that the future of health care can deliver better outcomes with five social media actions:

  • Physicians engage with patients as partners on social media
  • Health care organizations create a clear pathway for credible health information 
  • Read about the other proposed actions in the entire the post from the Mayo Clinic News Network 

Continue reading

Where Do We Go When We Die On Social Media?

RIP GravesiteHappy Birthday to You. Happy Birthday Dear (your name). Happy Birthday to You. Keep singing in your head and now pretend that you are dead for a moment. How old are you? How old are you? Even though you have died, don’t worry, social media will keep celebrating with your friends and family.

If you are on Facebook, it’s likely that you have been notified about an upcoming birthday from a dead friend. Unfortunately, I’ve received too many of these lately.

Baby Footprint It was only about five or six years ago that a newborn’s first footprints were recorded in ink at the hospital; today our first footprints are recorded in digital. As soon as babies take their first breaths and from cradle to grave an entire life of milestones will be shared on social media, which is a ton of fun, but what happens when it ends?

My wife Stacey and I hope we don’t leave too many unanswered questions for our family when we die and recently formalized an Advanced Directive, a legal document that expresses our end of life health care wishes. After we completed the paperwork I thought about a few more loose ends: event notices from Facebook, my legacy on social media sites and the ability for others to say nasty things about me after I’m gone like, “He thought he was so funny. We only laughed at Ron because we felt sorry for him.”

My concerns may be exaggerated but I believe there is a better balance between blowing out virtual candles for dead people and all the good that social media does to promote health and unite us in illness and death.

During hospital stays, the password-protected sites CarePages and CaringBridge  serve as therapeutic conduits to update family and friends on posts that range from a happy birth announcement to a terminal illness. On another social media platform NPR reporter Scott Simon shared his love for his dying mother on Twitter.

Paul Bisceglio featured the well-known Simon in a poignant article in the Atlantic, How Social Media is Changing The Way We Approach Death. He spoke with people who believe that social media may distract the caregiver from the patient, but mostly how social media can lend a compassionate hand. Even though his mom passed, Simon’s tweets still resonate.

As sentimental as the Scott Simon account was,  Laurie Penny, contributing editor  wrote Selfies at Funerals and memorial hashtags: mourning in the digital age , “In recent weeks and months, social media has been unremittingly macabre….. Most recently, 25-year-old journalist and socialite Peaches Geldof was found dead in her home and…. everyone from Boy George to the Irish prime minister tweeted their condolences…..”

Stephanie Buck from Mashable published, How 1 Billion People Are Coping With Death and Facebook, and concludes that as of 2012, 30 million people who maintained Facebook accounts have died. She freaked me out a little and inspired me to dig a little more on my own. Here is where you begin on Facebook and this is what you’ll see if you want to remove a deceased friend or family member.

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 6.58.38 PMOn Twitter, the company’s policy asks that a representative acting on behalf of the estate or a verified family member manage this process. The most helpful site I found is dedicated to grieving and dealing with death, Modern LossModern Loss. It posted this comprehensive listing with instructions required by Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and other social media platforms.

These decisions are very personal and there is no right answer and your position may evolve like mine has. I’ve moved toward acceptance because social media’s influence will continue to flourish with most of it for the greater good. When I saw the respectful comments on my deceased friend’s Facebook wall recently, I mustered the courage to write a condolence and took it a step further to pay my respects digitally on the funeral home’s community web site.

When you die you’ll definitely leave some sort of digital footprint, but how big do you want it to be and how much hassle do you want your family to endure? I’m still leaning toward sharing my passwords with my survivors so they don’t have to file a bunch of requests and hopefully remember more of the real me rather than the digital me.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich

picture of Ron Petrovich

All communicators need to know multimedia

If you want to flourish in today’s fractured media environment jump in and don’t worry about your age or your technical ability.

Graphic showing different positions in social media

Graphic showing different positions in media and journalism

Many of my former TV news colleagues say I’m too old to be learning social media and my family will attest that I can barely load paper in our printer, operate the TV remote or organize the dishwasher.  Despite this, I am doing OK with social media and multitasking with multimedia, proving that if I can do it, anyone can. If you work in communications, you need to learn these skills now.

An instructor at San Francisco State University, Rachele Kanigel Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 5.38.25 PMwrote this blog post about journalism in the 21st century. She mixed reporting skills and multimedia storytelling which received a positive reaction from students.  Her lessons apply beyond the classroom and journalism.  If you work in media today you should always think about delivering your story on TV, radio, newspaper, blogs and mobile. You can drive the same message with slight alterations through multiple social media tools and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vine, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Vimeo.  No longer is this an extra; it is now  a requirement for your job.

This strategy can potentially reach thousands and millions of people at very little cost and it will increase your value as an employee. Today’s integrated workflow affects journalism, marketing and every other facet of communications. Rachele, thank you for preparing students for the future and teaching  all of us about the importance of communicating effectively on multimedia. Definitely worth a retweet!


Brand Journalism creates new opportunities

We are living in the Golden Age of news and information because consumers have more news choices than ever.  These sources that deliver instant messages range from credible to unreliable, balanced to biased and newsworthy to inane.  It’s messy and yet still better than the good ole days when we watched anchorman Walter Cronkite dominate TV news against two other networks.  In those times every town supported at least one daily newspaper and we accepted that because it’s all we knew.

Walter Cronkite delivering news

Walter Cronkite

Back then, media groups had a license to print money and faced minimal competition.  In the 1980’s Ted Turner built 24 hour cable news and Gannett created USA Today with a mission to publish articles with colorful pictures and graphics.

Logo of USA Today

Logo of USA Today

This ignited the digital media revolution that has exploded with satellite TV, the internet, mobile and social media offering a stream of unlimited data.  Admittedly a lot of it is garbage; at least you can decide what you consume.

A new survey by my alma mater, Indiana University (reported in this article by Romenesko) says journalists believe that we’re headed in the wrong direction.  Several news managers posted on social media that they aren’t too surprised by this because journalists are typically cynical.  Despite their nonchalance they admit that they are facing daunting challenges. Recently Slate reported that newspapers hit a milestone-Ad  revenues are the lowest since 1950.

In my opinion this evolution is natural and is creating unprecedented opportunities.  New versions of journalism, communications and marketing are forming, especially with branded content.  The definition of brand journalism is evolving.  Consider this definition by marketing, communications, technology expert Ben Stroup, who says it’s an effective way to distinguish yourself and quiet the noise by telling your story with a journalistic approach. Firehead says there are three types:

1. Sites that are produced in-house or by an agency

2. Messages that target a  persona

3. Content producers that create and report the news

To me, brand journalism is individuals, media and organizations telling their story by branding themselves and the content they are producing. This material needs to be real and engaging because today’s savvy audience can sniff out marketing posers. The Poynter Institute published this article by Joe Grimm on journalists strengthening their own brands and Mark Glasser, writing for PBS Media Shift added his thoughts about this trend. Today’s customized Twitter feeds are branded journalism and essentially yesterday’s news wires.

Twitter feed

Twitter feed

I am involved in a branded journalism project with the Mayo Clinic News Network as cited by Lindsey Kerr from The BuzzBin who profiled this trend in health care.  This opportunity reaches beyond health-related communication and is a powerful tool for any individual or organization. The key is to deliver accurate and credible content.

While attending Mayo Clinic Social Media Week in conjunction with Ragan Communications in the fall of 2014, branded journalism speaker Lisa Arledge Powell stressed that marketers need to tell not sell their stories.  She’s right and that’s why journalists will prosper in this evolution, they’ll just look a little different.

Below are two articles that add more perspective to this conversation, including a feature on Coca-Cola, considered to be a leader in this area.

Inside the Coca Cola Newsroom

Wall Street Journal cover

Agencies model news rooms for real time marketin


The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich.

picture of Ron Petrovich

picture of Ron