Friday, October 31, 2008

Oct Lunch Recap: Advocacy PR, Take 1

For those of you who missed Wednesday's lunch, the topic was Advocacy PR.

And despite some problems with the location -- Mackey's told us we'd have a private room and the room was, well, less than private, which made it hard to hear our speakers with all the diners having their own conversations -- the speakers took it all in stride and shouted their advice to our 40+ attendees.

Over the next three days, we're going to post pearls of wisdom from our three speakers for those of you who couldn't make it. First up...

From Bill Malone, Press Secretary, Bread for the World
-- "I rely heavily on data and research to make my case."
-- "You need to reach out to like-minded groups who will help you make your case. Share notes. Share story opportunities. Share information. When you work together, the sum is greater than the parts. And your partners don't need to have the same motivations for you in what they're doing. They just need to want the same outcome."
-- "Look local. I rely heavily on my local people as an advocacy tool. It's crucial to find the right person at the local level who has a name and credibility with that audience."
-- "For every press release I issue, I write three op-eds."
-- "In terms of social media, I contribute to a lot of 'open' blog sites. I also thought I knew a lot about social media. Then I met the 20-somethings who work at Bread for the World and realized I knew very little."

Still to come...
-- Danielle Roeber, Deputy Director for the Office of Safety Recommendations and Advocacy, National Transportation Safety Board
-- Martin Montorfano, Public Relations Manager, The Humane Society of the United States

Keep an eye out early next week for the next two updates.

And to those who attended yesterday -- and could actually hear our speakers -- did I miss any important points from Bill?

Also, since there wasn't a lot of time for Q&A, what questions do you still have for our speakers? Let us know, and our speakers are happy to respond here on our blog so we can keep the lunch conversation rolling...

-- Robin

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tragedy = Good PR Opp? I don't think so

Okay. I just couldn't resist jumping in the fray on this one. But I'll be "polite," though I'm not sure it's deserved... I won't name names. Anyway, here's a quick background on what incensed me and my $0.02 on the situation:

There are a handful of companies out there using the tragedy concerning Jennifer Hudson's family as an opportunity to promote their companies. It doesn't matter the method -- social media, traditional PR, etc. -- bottom line: It's in bad taste!

Why haven't people learned from the past? Why haven't they figured out how to handle these sorts of situations? Tragedy does not equal PR. For anyone. At least, not if you have an shred of decency.

Which isn't to say you shouldn't be out in the public eye when a tragedy occurs. It just means there are tasteful ways to be HELPFUL in situations like these versus predatory. For example, when the Virginia Tech situation occurred, there was an organization I'm familiar with that deals with children and mental health. They wanted to know how they could HELP OUT THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC during the aftermath. Not how could they get attention for their organization. How they could HELP! That's the right attitude, people.

I advised them that the tasteful response would be to provide information to reporters about signs your child might have mental health issues. Just a nice simple list that reporters could reprint if they so desired that might help out parents who are concerned about whether their child might be in trouble.

So here's my lesson for the day: In the face of a tragedy, don't be self-serving. Put yourself in the public eye only if you can HELP and provide counsel that will be of use moving forward.

Your thoughts? Weigh in.

-- Robin

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wash Post Article: Fed Gov't Agencies Rated on Scientific Candor

One of my CCG colleagues sent me a link last week to a Washington Post article about federal government agencies being rated on their "scientific candor."

Apparently, the only government agency that received an "A" was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with a surprising second place going to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (I don't know why, but I always think of "nuclear power" related topics as being secretive, and yet they're the second most "candid" agency in the federal government. Another interesting fact: The Occupational Safety & Health Administration -- whose mission is to "prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths" -- received an F. I would think it would be hard to prevent injuries, illnesses, and deaths if you aren't allowed to share information about how to do so. I also think it's sad that the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the EPA both got a "D." Again, two more agencies that really should be focused on sharing what they know.)

The agencies were graded by the Union of Concerned Scientists based on their policies regarding the release of scientific information to the press and the public.

So as a communicator, especially one at one of these agencies that scored poorly, how do you react? And what can you do, if anything, to fix the problem and/or perceived problem?

-- Robin

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Review: Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

For anyone who's sat through a painful PowerPoint presentation... or fought with a boss or colleague about PowerPoint slides filled with microscopic text... Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds is the book to read (or recommend to the presenter responsible for the bad presentation).

A colleague, Sarah Morgan, Director of Client Services at MCS Public Relations, received the recommendation to read this book from a fellow speaker at the Tech Council of Maryland's Social Media conference. I decided to check it out myself.

It's a quick read, and when you're done you'll leave behind the days of clutter-filled, text-heavy slides. You'll realize that a PPT presentation SHOULD NOT be able to stand on its own. And you'll realize that you should spend as much time planning your presentation (preferably on paper, sticky notes, or white boards, according to Reynolds) as you do actually creating the slides themselves.

Filled with great examples of "before" and "after" slides, Reynolds makes a strong case for the complete revisioning of how you and your colleagues use PPT. Now if I only I can convince those around me that he's right!

Read it yourself and let me know what you think.

-- Robin

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Job Seekers' 60-Second Pitches

In what is the first of what I hope will be a weekly feature, I present elevator pitches from our members who are searching for jobs...

Mark Feldman
I am a marketing professional with over 20 years of experience in building brands and building businesses. My career has been very diverse having worked in different verticals including Internet, media and entertainment, real estate, an association and the agency business. My areas of expertise include branding, lead generation, customer conversion and integrated marketing and communications. I have particular strength in customer engagement. I am happy to connect and help people and organizations in any way that I can. I am currently doing marketing and communications consulting and looking for my next senior-level full-time career position. Contact Mark at MJFeld (at) aol (dot) com.

George Flett
With a unique blend of marketing communications experience in consumer branded companies such as Pillsbury, Sara Lee and Quaker Oats and recently in Higher Education (Boston University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute) as a consultant and senior administrator, I am a marketing generalist with experience in brand and marketing strategy, media relations, marketing research, print and web development, e-marketing and all forms of advertising. I've also spent several years with a government contractor that partners with federal and state agencies -- such as the USPS and Depts. of Transportation, Education and Health and Human Services -- creating marketing programs that take important information for citizens, make it more user friendly, and distribute it more efficiently.

My job goals are primarily to find a full time position in the non-profit or government arenas in the DC area that will take advantage of my background. Along the way, I would be pleased to find contract, temporary or part time work where I can make a solid contribution. My email address: gsflett (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Sarah Howell

I'm a senior communications executive with extensive international corporate experience directing media affairs for a Fortune 50 corporation. My career path is highlighted by ever- increasing responsibilities for public affairs and U.S.. press office teams where I created and implemented media strategies resulting in hundreds of pieces of favorable and well-balanced coverage in the most influential international media outlets. Over my tenure, I developed ‘trusted counsel’ relationships with C-level executives for interview preparation and guidance leading to optimal message development and delivery. My crisis communications skills have resulted in vital and effective media and reputation management at local, national, and international levels.

I'm looking for a position in a large firm that has a strong position on sustainability issues. I'm happy to send my resume and references. Send requests to sarahhowell100 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Mitchell Katz
I'm currently a senior public affairs specialist at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC. I'm coming up on 10 years with the agency and am looking for something in the public affairs/media relations/outreach area in the federal government in the DC area.

My experience includes planning, developing, and implementing strategic public relations outreach programs, drafting press releases, coordinating and staffing interviews with senior agency staffers, and coordinating and working press events for the agency. I'm looking for something in the GS-14 range. If interested or you would to see my resume or examples of my work, I can be reached at 202-326-2161, or via e-mail at mkatz415 (at) gmail (dot) com.

Gabriela Linares

I am seeking to work at an organization or company that has a notable mission and needs a versatile professional that is a strategic thinker and creative problem-solver. I am an international communications professional with 15 years of experience in developing and implementing strategic media, marketing and public relations campaigns via online and traditional channels.

My expertise is in performing research, crafting web sites, designing interactive campaigns, organizing events, generating business development, enhancing media coverage, lecturing at public venues, writing materials (fluent in English and Spanish), and fostering partnerships and sponsorships. For more info:

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Networking "Infomercial" – When an Event Masks Marketing and Sales as Education, Credibility is Compromised

A DC-area vendor held a "panel program" recently, and got gracious help spreading the word. You may have heard about it too. But did you know that if you could not be considered a "client or prospective client" of this particular vendor, you would NOT have been allowed to attend?

I should say I'm not surprised, nor naive thinking that a vendor would allow just anyone (like its competitors) to its event, but think when planning outreach and events like this, some more careful considerations and better words choices (we are communicators after
all) should be made to preserve credibility. Please consider these

1. Title of event and wording of invite
I'm not going reference the specific event here but will tell you that the publicly posted announcement said "Who: Washington DC PR Professionals and Communicators" with no mention that it would be "closed" if you're not a "client or prospective client" of the firm.

2. Second party endorsement
Because of this apparent openness, the invite was forwarded by a friend and colleague who did not know the invitation was limited and the vendor was "discriminating against potential attendees." That was a little awkward.

3. Colleague or coworker
The vendor used the word "colleague" repeatedly (See definition here) as opposed to coworker, encouraging me (and others I presume) to further share the invitation, only to rescind the invitation when it was extended to a friend and colleague who is their competitor.

4. Did the panel know?
I wonder if the professionals on the panel knew that the event is not open and that the vendor/host used the event as a tool to generate business? Would they have agreed? What does it say about the panel's credibility if they were willing to participate in a marketing event for a specific company?

5. Paying for a pitch
For those ("client or prospective client") that did make the guest list, the event cost $20. But I can't help but wonder if maybe some clients got in for free and prospects had to pay?

The bottom line is this seems to be a big, blurry blunder.

So here are my suggestions for other vendors: If you want to host an educational event and that's what the panelists agreed to, it should be open - treat your clients and friends, charge your colleagues and competitors. If you want to market you firm to make your company look good, invite who you want, charge who you want, put a bouncer at the door if you want, but don't mask education for sales and offer to share among "colleagues." Most important, make sure your panel knows which kind of event they're participating in.

Better yet, leave these kind of panels to impartial, credible, professional groups like IABC, PRSA, WWPR or this one, for example.

-- Joe