Randall Kenneth Jones grew up in Missouri — the Show-Me State — and on Thursday, Jan. 8, he is going to show Marco Island his true colors during the Marco Island Center for the Arts’ first “Up Close and Personal” presentation of 2015.
Beginning at 5:30 PM, Jones will regale attendees the wit and wisdom he has gleaned from the many interviews he has conducted while writing his column, “Business Class.” The Naples Press Club, of which Jones is vice president, is a sponsor for the event.
“Part of the Naples Press Club’s sponsorship of this event is to encourage the public to positively support Southwest Florida’s remarkable local media,” Jones says.
Still, Jones did not take the traditional road to becoming a member of the media. In fact, after graduating in 1984 from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in speech and dramatic art — not journalism or business — he spent 25 years in marketing and sales positions in the Washington, DC, area. During this time, he often jokes, his only brush with fame was gassing up next to the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile at a Lansdowne, VA, gas station.
He came to Marco Island on vacation five years ago a sun-deprived Northerner, joked about staying forever and then actually did. Since then, he has become a familiar face in both Marco Island and Naples. Jones is the president of MindZoo, a marketing and PR firm in Naples, and is the creator of the national professional courtesy initiative known as RediscoverCourtesy.org.
Coastal Breeze News recently sat down with Jones to find out more about him, his business and his upcoming “Up Close and Personal” presentation.
Q: How did you come to work in the media and more specifically in marketing and PR?
Jones: Aren’t most careers a series of happy accidents? Without going through my resume one item at a time, I look back, and I’m amazed at how every professional change made sense. I’m stunned at how every new opportunity effortlessly connected to my evolving goals, developing skill set and professional history.
Though the leap from would-be actor in the 80s to publicist, marketer and business columnist may seem a bit baffling, it was actually a very seamless and natural progression.
Q: Let’s take it one step further. How did you come to specialize in business?
Jones: What’s the warning we give all new college grads about job interviews? ‘Whatever you do, don’t look naïve and say you’re a ‘people person!’’ Even today, I will unapologetically describe myself this way. Plus, if there’s one thing I have learned from writing a business column, every profession is part of a ‘business.’
However, in my professional life, I am lucky that I was always smart enough to play to my strengths. I recently relearned this lesson from NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and subsequently had the honor of writing about it from his perspective.
Nonetheless, as one who entered the business world with an arts perspective, I have ultimately made my living being ‘analytical’ (music) and ‘creative’ (drama). I have to visualize a concept and work with a team to bring my vision to life on the client’s behalf (art).
I am music. I am drama. I am art. Regardless of what my business card says, I am my arts education.
Q: Tell me about your column and how that came to be?
Jones: Before moving here, I was well aware of the celebrated backgrounds of so many of Southwest Florida’s full- and part-time residents and guests. However, unlike some who come to Collier County, I was not after anyone else’s money. I did, however, wish to have access to their brains, guidance and influence —and if I earned it — perhaps even their respect. As someone whose dream job was — and still is — to be a teacher, I ached to be a student.
One day, I happened to ask (then) Editor in Chief of the Naples Daily News Phil Lewis if anyone was actually talking to — and writing about — these extraordinary people, and not long after that, a column was born. That was two-and-half years ago.
From the onset, ‘Business Class’ was meant to be an exploration of positive business principles selected from interviews with high-level executives, newsmakers, business leaders, media stars and business-savvy celebrities.
As a journalist, I view my reason for being as an unwavering focus on positive stories of success — a journalistic approach that deserves more support.
Q: Has writing the column impacted your business and your own outlook on the media?
Jones: Yes, but it’s really impacted me in a more personal way. The process of writing this column has completely changed my views on aging, relevance, success and resilience.
I was ‘pushing 50’ when I moved here, yet I quickly discovered I wasn’t actually ‘old.’ Though not everyone I have interviewed was in their Golden Years, many were. Plus, they were actively embracing life with more skill and panache than I ever thought possible. In particular, Myra Daniels blows me away. Still, there were others positioned comfortably in midlife who continued to boldly provide ongoing value.
In many ways, my heart belongs to the seniors — those who have earned the right to be heard and respected. In the end, what is ‘seniority’ if not a tip of the hat to longevity?
Of course, anytime we present ourselves in the media we have to hope, sometimes against all odds, that the exposure accurately represents our character. In my case, writing ‘Business Class’ has done much more; it redefined my character.
Q: How did the opportunity for the “Up Close and Personal” series come about?
Jones: One simply does not say ‘no’ to Marco Island Center for the Arts Executive Director Hyla Crane. In my view, she is one of the greatest new assets to our community. She has wit, vision, compassion, drive, determination and a heart of gold.
Q: Tell me about your presentation. What makes it a “love letter” to Southwest Florida?
Jones: The opportunity to meet so many talented people — and be trusted to tell their stories — has been a gift in so many ways. I have pinched myself a lot.
But, the column can’t possibly print every entertaining or inspirational aspect of the interview experience. My presentation on Marco is more ‘behind the scenes’ and highlights a bit more humor and a lot more heart.
For example, without knowing it, Janet Evanovich changed my 83-year-old father’s life. I interviewed Sean Hannity and wrote a column that seemed to resonate with both sides of the political fence. Who knew? I openly admit to having a crush on Erin Brockovich — the real Erin, not the Julia Roberts version. Was it a mistake she gave me her cell phone number? Only time will tell…
Peggy Post from The Emily Post Institute is, in a word, ‘perfect’ — and she’s too polite to tell me it embarrasses her when I say that. Clyde Butcher’s attention to detail will change the way you look at art and life.
Yes, there are still men I would refer to as ‘gentlemen’. Former Good Morning America President Phil Beuth, CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen and voiceover icon Peter Thomas, please take a bow.
Plus, there’s a reason I want to party with Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran.
With ‘Love Letter,’ I am simply referencing my overwhelming appreciation to those whom I have interviewed, those who have taken the time to read my work, and those who understand the importance of having a healthy sense of humor.
There is so much we can learn just from talking and listening to each other. Plus, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can move mountains.
For more information about the Marco Island Center for the Arts’ “Up Close and Personal” Series, call 239-394-4221 or go to marcoislandart.org/node/494. Tickets for the event are $20.