OKRP CEO and Founder, Tom O’Keefe:

Since we stuffed, stamped and sent out our inaugural holiday cards, I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from many who received them.  But the one thing that comes up the most is the thing you’d think nobody would have noticed – the old school “ILL.” abbreviation of Illinois that signs off the bottom of the card.  To a world that’s grown up with the modern, two-letter postal code abbreviation, that one extra “L” with period punctuation is about the coolest thing ever – the perfect touch to an already special greeting.

It’s the big things that make us, but it’s the details that make the difference.  And if I can make one wish for all of us in 2014, it’s that we treat every detail like we treated that Illinois abbreviation.

Details are where the gold is, where the true art comes out and the human touch is felt.  They make up the one percent that separates greatness from goodness, where the smaller the detail, the bigger its impact on the discerning eye that finds it.  Details enhance everything, but it’s not just the artful touches we add that matter, it’s also how we manage the daily little inconveniences and small print items, which seem like nothing until they’re done wrong or not done at all.  Then they stick out in flashing fluorescence – disproportionate to their size in their ability to un-do an otherwise solid effort.  Like the guy in a Brooks Brothers suit with un-shined shoes, something just ain’t right.

The big things get the glory, but the details say so much about us, and our sense of self.  Are we aware or are we asleep?  The answer is in the details.

Much of what happens to us every day we have no control over.  Opportunities, problems and encounters come at us with a fire hose ferocity – and all we can do is react and ride them as best we can.  But details are different.  Details, we control.  We decide which of these little things deserves our attention and which ones we blow off.  And the fierceness with which we take them on, that’s up to us, too.

Of course, I’ll be the first to admit I’m more of a “freak” (as Matt would call me) about this stuff than most, but I’ve never met a detail that didn’t matter – whether we’re talking about what color coffee mug to grab in the morning or what word goes next in a memo.

Yes, God is in the details.  So is anything else you believe in.  In the details is where our agency’s fourth principle forever lives.

Last week, I saw an article in the Tribune about Charles Dickens’ profound impact on today’s writers (“Dickens’ Influence Lingers With Passage of Time” by Kevin Nance.)  It was a passionate piece.  The author had obviously done his homework, including interviewing many current, acclaimed writers to make his point.  It would have been a perfectly fine piece of journalism, except for one thing – near the end the article, Mr. Nance referred to the character of the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge’s ex-partner in “A Christmas Carol” as “Joseph” Marley.  No big deal, except to anybody familiar with the play (as obviously, most who bother to read an article about Dickens are) will tell you, this key character’s name is “Jacob” Marley.

Fact incorrect.  Story compromised.  One word out of a sixteen hundred-word article – wrong.  Fatal flaw.

That’s the thing about details, they can bite you in the ass just as easily as they pat you on the back – but they almost always do one of the two.

Happy New Year.  God bless us, everyone.

Tom