Randall Kenneth Jones: Six Women Who Changed My Life

The marketer, publicist, author, speaker and JONES.SHOW podcast host shares best practices learned from Erin Brockovich, Barbara Corcoran, Pat Benatar, Susan C. Bennett, Hoda Kotb, and Suze Orman.

Beginning in 2012, marketer, publicist, author and speaker Randall Kenneth Jones began to conduct best practices interviews with successful people associated with Southwest Florida.

More than 100 interviews later, his book, Show Me: Celebrities, Business Tycoons, Rock Stars, Journalists, Humanitarians, Attack Bunnies & More!, was released. Neapolitan Janet Evanovich described the book as “a bit David Sedaris, a touch Dale Carnegie” and “a dash of Janet Evanovich….”

Jones will continue his quest for business courtesy, creative thinking and meaningful conversation when his podcast, JONES.SHOW, debuts this summer.

They say if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. Despite the actual letter-count, I’ve never considered “work” to be a four-letter word. Work is love— or, at a minimum, work should reflect our values, character, and those people and platforms most meaningful to us. I’ve interviewed some extraordinary men: James Carville, Jack Hanna, Magic Johnson, Sonny Jurgensen, Tyler Mathisen, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Regis Philbin and Willard Scott; nevertheless, my primary influencers have always been women. (Thanks, Mom!)

As I often feel like the underdog—fighting for truth, justice, the American Way and a world where hate and negativity aren’t required elements to gain attention—perhaps I relate to how hard women have had to work to achieve what many men seem to be offered simply due to the presence of a Y chromosome.

In the spirit of admiration and joy, I legitimately LOVE the women you will meet on the following pages. Their time, wisdom, support and friendship have meant everything to me.

Author Randall Kenneth Jones interviews Erin Brockovich


In the ’90s, Erin Brockovich spearheaded an investigation revealing that Pacific Gas & Electric had been poisoning the water in Hinkley, California. As chronicled in the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, PG&E was forced to pay out the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S. history: $333 million.

In person, Erin actually accomplishes the impossible: She almost made me forget about on-screen doppelganger Julia Roberts entirely. Julia’s Brockovich is frozen in time in the late 20th century, whereas Erin’s Brockovich is fixated on the issues of today. And like her cinematic Ghost of Brockovich Past, she is a force to be reckoned with.

The Kansas native credits much of her success to a (flawlessly Midwestern) word: stick-to-itive-ness, the very basis of her pop-culture persona. But I’m most grateful that my new friend Erin “stuck” with me since we met. And my No. 1 problem-solving tool? I ask myself: What would Erin Brockovich do?

Not long ago, Erin posted on social media about her very hectic schedule. As a popular keynote speaker and unrelenting clean water advocate, Erin frequently squeezes 25 hours of work out of a 24-hour day. Despite an agenda that would make others crumble, Erin posted another photo a few hours later. This image featured a smiling Erin holding a somewhat bemused turtle she stopped to save from potential roadkill status.

Her selfless act gave me pause. Would I have stopped? How busy is “too busy?” Is it instinct that causes some people to rush to help while others simply drive by?

Still unclear? Ask yourself this: When was the last time you saved the turtle?


Sure, Barbara Corcoran’s bio proudly highlights “straight Ds in high school and college” and “20 jobs by the time she’d turned 23.” As a young adult armed with a $1,000 loan, she quit job No. 20 and opened a small real estate firm in New York City. This very personal project evolved into a $5 billion real estate business—a company she sold in 2006 for $66 million.

The Shark Tank star is equal parts smart, sophisticated, warm and wild. And despite several interview highlights, one specific Corcoran comment resonated the most: “The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves.”

Wow! I’ve hosted a ridiculous number of pity parties in the last few years, and, as a solopreneur, I’m typically the only attendee. But thanks to Barbara, I started attending different, more productive, intellectual functions. And once I started getting out of the house more, the guest list dramatically improved, too.


Helen of Troy may have been the face that launched a thousand ships; however, as the original voice of Apple’s Siri, Susan of Atlanta is the voice that launched a million road trips. To this day, Susan has no idea who at Apple chose her voice for Siri. Her comment: “I’m accidentally famous.”

A highly successful voiceover artist and singer, Susan C. Bennett assumes a position that is at odds with Siri’s basic job description: “I have a problem with the changes in the English language caused by technology. Because everything is so abbreviated now with texting and social networking, I don’t know that we’re expressing ourselves as clearly as we could if we used some of the great and beautiful vocabulary of our language.”

Technology sometimes seems poised to supplant anyone and anything. Even Susan C. Bennett’s original Siri has been replaced by a new voice. Susan’s quip: “Siri is only 6 years old, and she’s already been replaced by a younger woman!”

But hold the iPhone, Susan wryly confesses: “The original voice of Siri is a complete ‘non-techy.’ If there’s a wrong button to push, I will find it!” Yep, a Siri-less Susan C. Bennett would rather sit down and share a laugh and cup of coffee than text, tweet, post or email.

The irony? Despite Susan’s accidental fame as the poster child for artificial intelligence, I’d prefer to question Susan over Siri any time.

What began as a goal to talk to that woman inside my devices ended in a friendship with a trusted colleague whose real-world intelligence consistently influences the very person I am today.

Human conversation. Try it. It works.


In my younger days, I didn’t know I had an entrepreneurial spirit. That changed in 1982 when Pat Benatar came to my Columbia, Missouri, hometown. As Pat’s visit corresponded to my college days as a singing telegram messenger, I concocted a scheme to send a telegram as a warm and welcoming display of Benatar love. Naturally, I would personally deliver said musical message.

Dressed as “Prince Charming” and assisted by the wow factor of six-dozen balloons, I gave Pat my musical heart and soul—as well as a personally penned adaptation of her song, Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Pat Benatar’s kindness and generosity of spirit changed my life that day. Without knowing it, she taught me that I could take my own creative notions and—through perseverance, hard work and patience—forge a new reality outside of Columbia’s city limits. I was invincible.

Thirty-three years later I finally got to say “thank you” to Pat Benatar.

Having spent more than three decades wondering when and if a reunion would take place, her comment, “I don’t just remember the telegram, I remember you,” made my heart go all Grinch: It grew three sizes that day.


When NBC announced on January 2, 2018, that Hoda Kotb was going to join Savannah Guthrie as co-host of TODAY, I gave my television a standing ovation.

Since joining NBC in 1998, Hoda has covered domestic and international news, as well as human-interest stories and features across all NBC News platforms. Since 2008, Hoda has shared the screen with her partner-in-wine, Kathie Lee Gifford, on the fourth hour of NBC’s TODAY.

In reality, one’s “celebrity” does not impact Hoda’s interest or her curiosity. “Whether I am interviewing a celeb or Betty Bowling Alley, I like people who tell the truth,” says Hoda, who is also a New York Times best-selling author. “The best life lessons I have ever learned are from people who are honest.” She then reeled off a litany of inspiring Joe and Josephine Averages who have recently crossed her path. Her point? “Every single person you meet knows something you don’t know.”

I have interviewed Hoda twice. She has interviewed me once. Despite my significant role in a live-TV disaster on KLG and Hoda— search #DerekGoBoom—Hoda has remained steadfast in her support. And no matter where I may be speaking, once I mention “Hoda Kotb,” smiles go boom.

There is only one Hoda. Yes, she is that funny, caring and sincere—she even confesses to trying to appear more “interested” than “interesting.” Several friends have noted that, in interviews, she comes across as my best friend. But that’s her secret: Hoda Kotb is everyone’s BFF.

So why did I applaud my TV set on Jan. 2, 2018? In a world where so many selfish wrongs still seem to advance the not-so-rights, how refreshing to see good, kind and smart win the day.


It’s impossible to write about time spent with personal-finance wizard Suze Orman using a detached, third-person voice. Why? Suze Orman excels at leaving no financial or emotional stone unturned—she lives to get personal.

Suze is intent on understanding “you” first. Her voracious line of questioning flows naturally until she is satisfied your truth has been exposed. Why? “One can never fix a financial matter with money,” she advises. “Always speak in truths, rather than in words.”

Suze may be a two-time Emmy Award-winning television host, a New York Times mega-best-selling author and one of the top motivational speakers in the world, but she is also the most quotable person to ever take up residence in the interview spot opposite mine. Almost every sentence that exits her mouth seems destined to appear on a motivational poster. But one comment literally haunts me—every day. An Ormanism that may be the single best piece of advice I have ever heard:

“Every new moment you spend with anybody and anything has to be a new moment and not just a re-creation of the past.”

Wow. Just wow.