Disrupting Disruption

Reprinted from Rhudy & Co. blog post.

I had never even heard of the term “disruption” as a positive before our Rhudy & Co. annual retreat, but now it seems I see this everywhere.

Techcrunch.com says, “A disruptive product addresses a market that previously couldn’t be served — a new-market disruption — or it offers a simpler, cheaper or more convenient alternative to an existing product – a low-end disruption.”

Think about Google and how it entered the advertising marketplace previously fairly monopolized by Yahoo! Yahoo’s business model required advertisers to make a $10,000 minimal ad investment. Google offered a self-service ad product for as little as $1. You know the rest.

At our retreat we discussed, “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption,” in the October 2013 Harvard Business Review.

As a nimble communications company, our business model is solid. We have a select group of incredibly talented people with an ingrained service mentality that serves clients well. But competition is fierce.

As the HBR article stated, “ …a disrupter whose product was once barely good enough achieves a level of quality acceptable to the broad middle of the market, undermining the position of longtime leaders and often causing the ’flip’ to a new basis of competition.”

So how do we stay relevant, compete with new players, maintain excellent quality, and continue to bring new solutions to our clients? 

At Rhudy & Co., we are more than problem solvers. We are proactive thought partners. We are not only invited to communications meetings, but often to business meetings and boardrooms. Our clients look to us to bring fresh, new ideas to the table.

Our team includes seasoned strategists, marketing and public relations experts, but also talented writers who are skilled at helping our clients tell their stories. 

It is thrilling to be the disrupters ourselves. By bringing new ways of thinking, new technology and new solutions to our clients, we have sometimes won business from much bigger players. But we are mindful of the need to stay on our toes and not become too comfortable or complacent.

As the Techcrunch.com article ended, “Understanding disruption is hard. Disrupting is even harder.”



VPW President Sande Snead presents the 2008 Distinguished Service Award to Pam Stallsmith and Cynthia Price.


This past Saturday was a historic day for Virginia Press Women (VPW), and for some, a very sad day as well for it marked the end of an era. When President Bonnie Atwood adjourned the spring 2014 conference with a bang of the organization’s 56-year-old gavel, it was VPW’s Swan song.

About VPW
Founded in Richmond in 1958 as an organization for newspaper editors and writers, VPW members amended the organization’s constitution a year later to extend membership to “any writer actively engaged in journalistic services for remuneration.”

Charter members included the late Norma Lugar, Agnes Cooke and Lib Wiley. In 1973, membership was opened to men who support the mission
of VPW. Venerable VCU Professor and the late George Crutchfield was its first male member.

A new name and brand

On April 5, VPW revised its bylaws again – this time to change the name of an organization many of our members have been associated with for decades. Virginia Press Women now is called, Virginia Professional Communicators.

While there are still members who are journalists, many long-time members, like me, who were writers and editors for newspapers and magazines, have now moved into public relations, marketing and even advertising careers.

We had a spirited debate on the name change. There was one dissenting vote and when the inscription on the 56-year-old Virginia Press Women gavel was read, there were tears.

Virginia Press Women


This gavel was made from the wood of a

tree that stood within the bounds of

the original colony of Jamestown, Virginia

First permanent English settlement in America


Recognizing that changing the name is not a panacea for increasing our membership, the name change to Virginia Professional Communicators will be accompanied with a re-branding campaign called, RELAUNCH 2014.

Having met so many trailblazing and inspiring women who came before me through my association in Virginia Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women, I’m not sure exactly how I feel now that we have changed our iconic name. But one thing is clear, it will be awfully difficult to get more wood from a tree that stood within the boundary of the original Jamestown colony to make a new gavel.


Teleworking with interruptions

Teleworking on Amtrak Virginia Inaugural Train from Norfolk on 12-12-12.

Teleworking on Amtrak Virginia Inaugural Train from Norfolk on 12-12-12.


Working for a marketing and advertising agency is a pretty intense endeavor. It takes a lot of meetings, teamwork, conference calls, deadlines and demands.

When Telework!VA was my client, we used to joke that I teleworked every day – from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. Of course I was in the office in the hours in between.

But that is not teleworking. That’s working after hours. Teleworking is also not about sitting around in your pajamas or taking care of the kids or sick parents while working from home. Teleworking is about reporting to your home office at a specific time of day each morning and working remotely from home until the end of your workday – sometimes with a lunch break in between. But sometimes not.

In any case, I love working from home because I save at least an hour on my roundtrip commute that I can invest in working instead, avoid countless potholes and construction on Richmond city streets, tolls and about $135 in monthly downtown Richmond parking costs.

Another thing I enjoy about teleworking is that there tend to be fewer workday interruptions. That is not to say there are none. Once, I was talking to a state senator on the phone when the little boy next door thought it would be a fine time to ring my doorbell – continuously. Another day, this same little boy wandered over and got his head stuck in the swing set in our backyard. And while I have a pretty strong work ethic, this didn’t seem like something I could just ignore.

What I don’t have any problem with is working through a non-emergency when I am working from home. My children, now 23 and 21, learned from an early age that when Mommy is working, there is no reason to interrupt unless someone is bleeding. They were actually charged $1 for stepping one toe in my office when they were as young as two and fours years old. It’s just been a tad more difficult to get that concept across to my 19-year-old stepdaughter. Perhaps I should post my hours on the door…


When needed in Northern Virginia or Washington, D.C. Sande likes to take Amtrak Virginia where free Wi-Fi allows her to telework on the way – or catch a nap. Here, she takes the inaugural train from Norfolk on Dec. 12, 2012.

Lectern Lecture

RTD Photographer Bob Brown took this picture of me with the venerable Roger Mudd.

RTD Photographer Bob Brown took this picture of me with the venerable Roger Mudd.


Public speaking is not a sexy topic, but the one-to-many platform has been used since the time of Julius Caesar and it’s an important communication skill to have. Almost as important as finessing the skill of crafting and delivering an effective speech or presentation, however, is knowing proper etiquette at the lectern or podium.

And before we go any further, allow me to clarify the difference between a lectern and podium. A lectern is an upright desk or stand with a slanted top used to hold text at the right height for a lecturer. A podium is an elevated platform for an orchestra conductor or speaker. Podium comes from the word podiatry, care of the feet, so you might remember that a podium is a platform where you put your feet.

But I digress.

I’m blogging about this topic because I attended two awards events honoring communications professionals at the very height of their careers and I was shocked to see that many of these seasoned men and women were not familiar with lectern etiquette.

One such event was the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, for which the emcee was Roger Mudd, the nationally known and well-respected television journalist and broadcaster, most recently the primary anchor for The History Channel. The 84-year-old Mudd knew exactly how to handle himself on the podium and at the lectern, but some of the people being honored did not. (Granted, I did not receive a Hall of Fame Award, but I am not bitter.)

Mudd gave an interesting biographical sketch of each award recipient hitting the high marks and adding personal observations without reading entire resumes. When the award recipient came up on the stage, Mudd looked the person in the eye, shook his or her hand, handed over the award and took a photo.

Award recipients were not as consistent. I would not be bringing this up, but I saw the same behavior just a few weeks later at another star-studded event.

Here are five steps that will make you look like a pro not only when you deliver your well-rehearsed acceptance speech, but when you greet the emcee and receive your award as well.

  • Walk up to the lectern and first acknowledge the emcee with a smile and a handshake.
  • If you are receiving an honor, you shake hands first and wait for the presenter to hand the award to you.
  • Pause with the handshake and the award for a photo op.
  • When the emcee turns the lectern over to you, thank the emcee, shake hands, and deliver your speech.
  • When finished, wait for the applause, signal the emcee with a nod that you are done, shake hands again and exit. Proper protocol demands that you never leave the lectern unattended.

If you are interested in improving your public speaking, presentation and award-receiving skills, Toastmasters is a wonderful organization that will give you plenty of opportunities to practice. When you do finally earn your “lifetime achievement” award, you will look like you have a lifetime of on-stage etiquette and good common sense manners towards your fellow man to boot.

And to Roger Mudd, who I was fortunate enough to meet at the event, I promise to look you in the eye, shake your hand and never leave the lectern unattended should I ever reach the Hall of Fame.


I Might Be a Bad Mom


SOCR30BAs I heard paper flapping in the back seat and saw her certificate about to fly out onto state Route 288, I could imagine Jeff Foxworthy’s voice saying, “If your daughter finally wins an honor that she never dreamed of getting and you lose the award on the way home, you might be a bad mom.”

OK, I’m not really a horrible mom. It’s just that I’m the opposite of the so-called helicopter parents who constantly hover over their children making sure their homework is done just right and that they’ve written the perfect essay to submit with their college application.

I’m a single parent who works full time at an advertising agency and writes freelance stories on the side. I serve on boards for Virginia Press Women and the VPW Foundation and do volunteer work for Easter Seals Virginia.

I’m training for a half marathon, and I have a lively social life. Who has time to check homework?

My co-worker Tamara Neale has her own “bad mom” stories. She told me about the time she missed her son’s play (he forgot to tell her about it), and when she didn’t know he was being honored at an awards ceremony because the note never got fished out of her son’s backpack.

As working mothers, Neale and I feel pulled in different directions all the time.

“More is expected out of women in general,” Neale said. “Most women work, but also manage the bulk of the household, including taking care of the kids. You just can’t be there after school every day at 2:30.” But there can be positive results from not always hovering over your children.

“I think your children become acclimated to [not having you there every minute] and become more responsible,” Neale said.

John Rosemond, a psychologist and nationally syndicated columnist, is one of my child-raising heroes. He said, “It’s human nature to pawn responsibility off on other people, so the more you do for a child that the child can do for himself, the greater chance you have that the child will act irresponsibly.”

When I was a stay-at-home mom when the girls were little, I taught them to fend for themselves pretty much from the time they could read. If they told me about some new activity they wanted to try, I tossed the burden of responsibility right back to them.

My older daughter, Brittany, once told me she wanted to take belly-dancing lessons. I told her to find a class. The next thing I knew, she and I were doing belly rolls and hip drops.

While I have not had the time to micromanage my children, I have had the time to get to know them. And I fully appreciate the amazingly accomplished and successful young women they have become.

Nicole is getting ready to go off to the University of California Berkeley, more than 3,000 miles away. My little bird who learned to fly at such a young age is going almost as far away from the nest as she can. I know she is fully equipped with important life skills that will see her through.

One of the things my father used to say about my sisters and me was, “I will not take credit for your successes, nor blame for your failures.”

I always thought this was a wise Mark Twain-kind of thing to say. So you could have knocked me over when Nicole said in her high school graduation speech, “My last piece of advice must be credited to my mother, who taught me absolutely everything I know.”

Doggone it all, I am going to take credit for these two.

Sande Snead is an award-winning writer who lives in Richmond with one of the two beautiful daughters she has raised to fend for themselves. The other is already on her own. She can be contacted at sandesnead@hotmail.com.

This ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch as an In My Shoes column in 2010. In honor of my upcoming visit to Berkeley to see Nicole in her final year there, I publish this as a blog.