The Oak Tree Story

We all like to be told stories, and the best ones work on more than one level. This is the story of how Oak Tree Communications got its name.

Our family lives in a comfortable home on a shaded, tree-covered lot. We have walnut, maple and oak trees, along with red bud and tulip and buckeye. Some of our trees are saplings, some seedlings sprout up in spring wherever they please, and some are over fifty years old and rise up to sixty feet tall.

One oak tree rises above the canopy in the neighborhood and is one of the tallest trees around. It stands at the end of the driveway near our clematis-covered mailbox.

About 15 years ago, we experienced a torrential storm one night. Thunder cracked and lightning flashed; winds roared past at forty miles per hour. About 2 a.m., my husband and I awoke to hear a loud CRACK! and a ground-shaking THUMP! that felt like a level-three earthquake. We knew immediately that something close had been struck by lightning.

The next morning we saw that a heavy stone had been thrown five feet from the base of our tallest oak tree. A large branch lay cracked and broken on the lawn. A black gash three inches wide ran down the side of the giant oak tree from the top of the tree to its base.

As we cleaned the debris, we wondered what would happen next. This oak was the tallest in the neighborhood. Would it die, or heal and survive? Oaks can grow up to 32 feet in diameter, and over 100 feet tall. Our tree had reached about half of its potential growth.

My husband, who studied biology as an undergraduate, determined that the tree would most likely die over time- but what tree-- and what person-- doesn't die eventually?

We watched that fall to see what would happen. Squirrels built a nest at the top. Winter came, and snowstorms and windstorms. Its leaves curled up and turned brown, but hung on.

In spring, when the leaves began to bud, we noticed that a branch near the top looked dead. A tree trimmer knocked on the door one day and handed me his business card. He would take down the tree for $1,200.

We looked at the tree, and thought about $1,200, and mentally measured the distance between the tree and our neighbors' roofs. We thought about the time it took to grow a tree like this, and the potential still left for growth. We said no thank you to the tree trimmer and decided to assess the tree regularly to see what might happen.

Each year since, the tree buds green-lobed oak leaves; each fall the tree turns a brilliant yellow. Squirrels build nests there, woodpeckers tap it for insects, and birds sing on its branches. Despite the lightning strike 15 years ago, it's grown taller and wider.

Each year the oak tree self-prunes and drops a couple of branches, and each year another tree trimmer knocks on our door. Its bark is scarred, and the scar is now two feet wide, but it's still an impressive tree.

Imperfection is not a tragedy; few people and enterprises are perfect. Imperfection is a fact of life, and it can be a visual reminder of our ability to adapt and survive.

This is more than a glass-half-full philosophy; it's an acknowledgement of the beauty and opportunity in all that is living during our time of life.

What does this story have to do with your enterprise? Your business or endeavor isn't perfect. It's a work in progress-- it's growing tall, which can be a slow process, sometimes over many years. And when lightning strikes your oak tree, you either adapt and keep struggling, allow the wound time to heal, trim the injured branch, or pay the trimmer $1,200.

A scar on a tree, like a downturn in business, may be upsetting, but it can be a lesson in acceptance and perseverance. It can also be an invitation to look for the opportunity in adversity.

Is the Oak Tree story true? Yes, it truly is. Business, like life, isn't easy. Sometimes the tallest trees take the biggest hits. Those who stand out can be targets.

Have you had a lightning strike-- a sudden realization that you need to do something new to grow your business? Do you have a solid track record and are an authority in your area of expertise, but need to tell your story publicly to get the attention-and the business-- you deserve?

Oak Tree Communications can help tell your organization's story to the people who need to hear it, in a way they want to hear it.

Call us today at (513) 706-3737 or email us to set up a free initial meeting.


Oak Tree Communications president Melinda Zemper has grown her communication skills over a career that revolves around writing: daily journalism, public relations, and teaching writing and critical thinking.

A graduate of Miami University of Ohio with a master's degree in English from San Diego State University, Zemper has worked as a daily newspaper reporter and feature writer; a magazine editor; public relations editor; university teacher of English; and community volunteer. She has also helped plan and execute school, community, and business events.

She is a member of the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance; the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce; and the Better Business Bureau. She was a 2007 John J. Frank Client of the Year award recipient through greater Cincinnati's SCORE Chapter 34.

She was a finalist for 2006 Citizen of the Year for her volunteer work with the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting; Lakota Public Schools; and West Chester Township. She is a board member of the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester and the Women's Health Initiatives Foundation in Dayton and Mason.

News and feature stories she has written appear regularly in Cincinnati area radio, TV, print and online media. Articles she has written have been distributed through AP and UPI, and have been published in newspapers, magazines, and websites worldwide.