I have long aspired to model my career after my mentor John Onoda, who, as my boss decades ago at Visa USA, used to return from Page Society meetings with new insights about corporate communications as well as memorable anecdotes others had shared with him, each containing a pearl of wisdom.
Like others on John’s staff, I longed to attend a Page Society gathering to soak up the knowledge freely shared by giants in our profession. This goal seemingly slipped away when I accepted the role of chief of staff for Visa’s chief operating officer and then went on to manage a division in Visa’s R&D group. It seemed to slip even further from my grasp when I moved back to Honolulu and started my communications consulting firm, iQ 360.
Fast forward to 2023. I convinced John Onoda to join my team. As he had in the past, he talked about the Page Society’s thought leadership and the value of networking with industry all-stars. But now, in my role as founder and CEO of iQ 360, I qualified for membership. In short order, with the sponsorship of society members Dave Samson and Jin Montasano, I was in. It took me 25 years, but I made it!
A month later, I was in Brooklyn, attending my very first Page meeting. As I always imagined, the conference was a unique opportunity for me to discuss pressing challenges like the impact of AI and growing visibility of ESG, in person, with other smart professionals. The conversations made clear to me that, collectively, Page Society members are dealing with every key business and policy challenge facing society. I admit that I expected to feel a bit uncomfortable and alone attending my first meeting, but I was struck by how kind and welcoming many longstanding members were. While I’m the first Page member to hail from Hawaii, I felt the Aloha spirit in the room.
“The conversations made clear to me that, collectively, Page Society members are dealing with every key business and policy challenge facing society.”
What I never imagined about belonging to the Page Society was that the personal connection with other members would be as strong as the professional connection. I wasn’t meeting a vice president of this company or a chief communications officer of that company, I was meeting an individual full of humanity. Every member could talk easily about corporate reputation, crisis management, and C-suite politics, for sure, but they were just as likely to chat about helping their kids deal with stress, or taking care of their aging parents, or their coping strategies throughout the pandemic.
I quickly realized that these people were my tribe, folks with whom it was amazingly easy to find common ground.
It struck me that the society’s large meetings are gifts, precisely because we all get to have real conversations in which personal and professional connections are made in ways videoconferencing cannot replicate. And in Brooklyn, through the smart idea of spontaneous “unconference” meetings, attendees were able to further explore any topic of conversation that had intrigued them earlier in the day.
Another reason I was so impressed by my first Page Society meeting was that my thinking was repeatedly challenged or improved by keen insights. For example, I learned that “community is the new marketing.” In a world where people report having fewer friends, teens spend hours a day on their phones and we have more connections but many of them superficial, creating a sense of belonging is crucial for organizations of all types to influence their audiences.
I also came to understand why the conference theme was Influence At Work: Influence is our rightful focus, not persuasion, because persuasion is a zero sum game where the persuader acts on the assumption of being the one who is right, whereas influence, predicated on a relationship of trust and mutual respect, is a two-way dialogue. I think this model is something we all must keep in mind in our polarized society.
I left the conference having absorbed new ways of thinking that will make me a better counselor and with new friends that I can’t wait to see at the next gathering. I am also grateful to everyone on the Page team who made this rookie feel welcome and for fostering such rich dialogue.