Monday, December 12, 2011

Keep your job; update your résumé

résumé - n. 1. A brief account of one's professional or work experience and qualifications, often submitted with an employment application.

When was the last time you updated your résumé and why did you do it? Most likely it was while you were searching for a new job and/or because you were ready to leave your current position. Do you regularly update your résumé when you have no plans on leaving?

Assuming you are in good standing with your employer and there is minimal cause for concern of being a downsizing casualty, you probably ignore your résumé. Your short summary of work experience can quickly become an anemic relic to the point of being pretty useless. Bad move.

Regular résumé updates can help you keep your job. Your résumé can be invaluable as your concise record of professional progress, achievements, and assets. Think of it in terms of your own professional ROI. During performance reviews, if you've kept a current résumé, you can point to specific initiatives, projects, or objectives that you've met. And of course, that same résumé will hopefully serve you well when it's time to leave and move on to a new opportunity. Save yourself the time and headache of trying to recall accomplishments from days/months/years ago once the urgency sets in because you're seeking new employment.

What do you think? Is it worthwhile to keep your résumé ready?

On Thursday, December 15, the Help a PR Pro Out (HAPPO) community will once again hold a Twitter chat. The topic? Résumé writing. Check out the details from Arik Hanson's blog: HAPPO chat set for Dec. 15 on resume-writing tips

When will it be held? Thursday, Dec. 15, noon-1 p.m. CT
How do I participate? Jump on the Twitters [Thursday, December 15] and tweet using the #happo hash tag, as always.
How will the chat be organized? We’ll have 5-6 questions to discuss, and our HAPPO champs from across the U.S. will be chiming in with their personal advice. And, of course, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas, too.
(Photo by hanzabean via Flickr Creative Commons)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lesson from pub owner's Facebook rant

Opening Day at Zio Carlo!
Image by Diorama Sky via Flickr
Ft. Worth pub owner, Carlo Galotto, isn't making running his new business easy on himself. Galotto operates Zio Carlo Magnolia Brew Pub which opened earlier this fall after some apparent setbacks. Unfortunately for Galotto, the setbacks continue this time at his own hands.

Apparently, the owner had imbibed heavily when he took to his pub's business Facebook page for a single-line rant: (via
On Monday afternoon, a controversy exploded online, when the recently opened Zio Carlo Magnolia Brew Pub posted what seemed like a bitter indictment of President Obama and his followers on its Facebook page: “I would prefer not have spoiled Obama kids around me.”
Although the specific author of the posting is not clear, a later comment from Zio Carlo in the same thread that reads “I was born in Italy” suggests it was written by Zio Carlo owner Carlo Galotto.
The post was subsequently removed, but this screen shot – taken by one angry patron who claimed he would never return to the place – illustrates the instantaneous blowback Zio Carlo received. The vast majority of the nearly hundred 100 comments were negative.

Fortunately for Galotto, a local public relations pro, Beth Hutson of Hutson Creative Group in Ft. Worth, offered some pro bono damage control and reputation repair. Hutson assisted with the owner's apology and subsequent free pizza slice and happy hour on Saturday.

I hope this works for Carlo Galotto and his fledgling business. Was getting drunk and dropping f-bombs in the comments on his Facebook business page stupid? Absolutely. But accepting PR counsel and acquiescing to a decent mea culpa after the screw up is actually a pretty smart business move. Most likely this episode has caused enough of a stir in the area that folks will come out in support or even just out of curiosity. When they do, Zio Carlo's food and drinks needs to do the talking. The pizza and beer better live up to the hype. That's the best way for Galotto to get back on message.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two Developing Wins for PR

Win No. 1
Last week, the PRSA wrapped up an early collaborative stage of a joint campaign to define the term public relations. I was curious as to the number of submissions for the definition and heard back from Keith Trivitt, PRSA's Associate Director of PR. He responded via Twitter, "927, my friend, for a combined 4,000 lines of data and approx. 16,000 submitted words. We're analyzing the data now."

These are fantastic numbers for the 12-day submission campaign but it's just the beginning. Up next is a process to create the three draft definitions from the PRSA Definition of Public Relations Task Force followed by another round of online responses through a 10-day vote for the top definition on the PRSA website.

Why this is a win: In addition to establishing a concise PR definition, the public relations industry benefits from the ongoing internal discussion about our roles as strategic communicators.

Win No. 2
Businessweek posted an article earlier with some great news for the PR industry, "Public Relations: Coming to a B-School Near You." This is from another solid example of advocacy and research from PRSA's Business Case for Public Relations:
"PRSA surveyed 204 American business leaders in the fall of 2011 to ascertain their thoughts on how well MBA candidates understand the strategic business value and tools of public relations. The survey also looked into the role public relations and reputation management play in modern business leadership and whether business leaders felt that MBA programs were effectively teaching these skills."
Why this is a win: Having business schools create MBA curricula with serious emphasis on reputation management and strategic communication crystallizes further external understanding and appreciation of and credibility for public relations by business leaders.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Help Define Public Relations - #PRDefined

In 1982, a first-class stamp was 20 cents, Michael Jackson's Thriller was released, the world's population was 4.6 billion, and Johnson & Johnson had a PR nightmare on their hands that led to what is now a model crisis response case study. Ironically, 1982 was also the last time the Public Relations Society of America defined public relations.

Last week, PRSA launched a campaign to create a modern definition for PR with a dedicated site and a strategic Media & Advertising column placement in the New York Times.  I was thrilled to see this collaborative effort to get an updated (and hopefully better) answer to the question, "What is public relations?"

We've needed something new. Public relations takes a beating outside the industry from those who relegate it to only media relations or worse, spin. And honestly, we seldom do an adequate job within the ranks of PR pros of fighting these and other misconceptions. So it's time for a change. (Disclosure: I've been a member of PRSA since 2001.)

Out with the old, in with the new
In 1982, PRSA adopted a definition for PR as:
“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”
Today, we have an opportunity to adapt this definition to better fit what it is that we do. Take some time to review the notes from the one-day summit of the Definition of Public Relations Task Force.

The group concluded that a modern definition of public relations should be limited to a single sentence: 
Public relations [DOES WHAT] with/for [WHOM] to [DO WHAT] for [WHAT PURPOSE].
The group also saw the need for the modern PR definition to explain two specific things:
  1. How public relations drives business success; and
  2. How public relations protects and/or promotes the organization or brand.
Submit your definition by Friday, December 2, 2011.

Only the beginning
The campaign is just a start to what could be something really fantastic for public relations. Will the final definition end the debate? No way. Consider it the start to a much greater conversation within our field. I can't wait to see what's next.

Follow the conversation on Twitter with the #PRDefined hastag.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Being a 'What's Next?' PR Pro

Martin Sheen, who provided the voice for the r...Image via WikipediaI loved watching The West Wing. To this day, if I come across it on television I make a point to watch because of the compelling storyline and characters.

One of the random things I took away from the series was a simple two-word phrase by Martin Sheen's character, President Bartlet: What's next?

When Jed Bartlet is in the early stages of his campaign, and his new young crew is laying out the terrain, he says: “What’s next?” – and then, When I ask, “What’s next?”, it means that I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?” [source]

What's Next? and Public Relations
A PR pro with a What's next? mentality is a significant contributor in an organization. You can get caught up in the wins/losses of the day or you can decide that whatever this day brings, tomorrow is next and you need to be ready. I think what helps position PR professionals the best is an ability to enjoy the moments of victories (or lick your woulds after defeats) but then quickly pursue the next challenge ahead.

Consider these: Congratulations on that local/state/national media placement. Way to go, you successfully navigated your organization's leadership through some sticky community relations problem unscathed. Take a bow, that newspaper editorial board is on your side for a change. Well done, you were able to convince your executive to dismiss a bad idea that could have been a catastrophic. Three cheers, you got out in front of a crisis situation and were able to tell you side of the story and thus helped with balanced reporting.

The above are a small sampling of what I'd consider to be public relations victories.


Public relations professionals must take the wins, along with the losses, in stride. Too many things are out of your control. Being ready to move on to other things allows for an appropriate level of professional detachment from situations. This comes in very handy during particularly stressful situations. Additionally, having situational awareness is a valuable asset for an organization. You know when things are working well and you should be able to tell when things are going straight down the tubes. Make adjustments and keep moving forward.

Don't spend too much time patting yourself on the back when things go well or kicking yourself in the rear when things go poorly. Instead, look for what's next.
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Murphy's Law and the PR Pro

(Photo credit: vcorne00 via Flickr Creative Commons)
Murphy's Law states anything that can go wrong will go wrong. In public relations, that adage is ever-present because we work within the realm of possibility and organized chaos.

Some days you keep those plates spinning and some days those plates come crashing in spectacular ways. Those times there's nothing else to do but step back and smile at the ridiculousness of the day.

Here are some PR plate-wobbling realities. A few I have personally endured and (thankfully) others I've had the pleasure of only hearing.

1. You'll have to do an on-camera interview on the day you skipped the tie and/or the razor.

2. Your story will get buried by breaking news.

3. Your carefully hand-crafted email pitch will get stuck in the reporter's spam filter.

4. Your phone battery will die right before that client/supervisor/board member/reporter calls you with urgent news.

5. You will get a jury summons for the same day as a massive special event.

6. A reporter will call after hours for a quote/statement right after you open your first adult beverage.

7. A reporter will contact you to confirm or comment on a situation and all you have to take notes with is the back of a receipt and an eye-liner pencil.

8. You will do an on-camera interview in a muddy field on the same day you happen to wear new shoes.

9. You will have to go after someone cool like a fireman or bomb-squad technician at the local school career day.

10. The day the media picks up that story and wants an interview is the day you wear one black sock and one blue sock.

11. After a year of convincing your boss about a good idea, they tell you the same thing after seeing it a trade show or convention.

12. After multiple design meetings and discussions, your client still wants to use Comic Sans.

13. Your parents still don't know what it is you do for a living.

Your turn. What would you add to this list? 

But first, in the words of the great Jimmy Buffett:
It’s these changes in latitudes,
changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Surviving a Pterodactyl Invasion with Social Media

On Halloween Monday the University of North Texas launched an awareness campaign for some official communication channels and procedures in a fun and creative package. The campaign had a simple premise: UNT had been invaded by pterodactyls.

The campaign included a fake press release, safety tips highlighting some campus resources and even a subtitled PSA from the mascot, Scrappy the Eagle.

Alyssa Yancey, a university News Promotion Specialist, pointed out that the project was "designed to show a lighter side of UNT" and encourage students to engage with the university’s Facebook page and Twitter 

(Full Disclosure: I am a proud alumnus of UNT and thought this was pretty cool.) 

I sent a few questions to Alyssa to get her take.

What was your inspiration for this project?
The University of North Texas’ Halloween mock-pterodactyl invasion was inspired by the Center for Disease Control’s Zombie Apocalypse preparedness tips from last May.

Why did you choose pterodactyls?
The University of North Texas wanted to choose a topic that would be recognized as a joke and not a serious threat immediately. UNT also wanted something that would resonate with students and alumni. An extinct dinosaur, with a striking resemblance to UNT’s mascot Scrappy the eagle seemed to fit the bill.

What did you hope to achieve through this initiative?
This initiative was designed to increase UNT’s engagement with our Facebook fans and our Twitter followers. We haven’t ever really done anything like this, so we wanted to show our students that we have a personality and a sense of humor.

Was it considered a success?
The invasion was definitely a success. Throughout the day, we engaged with students and others in the Denton community, and had a great time. We encouraged students to submit photos, and they did. Some went on to add to the pterodactyl storyline by submitting historic photos of pterodactyls on campus, and suggesting they know other dinosaurs are plotting a Thanksgiving invasion. Students also joined in on the fun by retweeting the safety tips, release and PSA, sharing information to their Facebook pages and blogging about the invasion.

On Twitter, our retweets, direct mentions and follower counts all showed a strong increase from regular news days. UNT Facebook posts about the invasion, as well as student-contributed content, received numerous likes and positive comments, and the Scrappy YouTube video shot to more than 500 views quickly.

In addition to Alyssa, I reached out to Samra Bufkins, MJ, APR, Strategic Communications Lecturer at UNT's Mayborn School of Journalism for some additional thoughts on the invasion"
"They were hoping for a little more student interaction, but we're finding many students still aren't on twitter or following UNT official accounts. However, I think it's the kind of thing they should try again, maybe at another holiday time. You expect stuff like this at Halloween and April Fool's Day—maybe have some fun around a holiday that's not one for pranks. It was a good, fun, creative outlet and allowed everyone to poke fun at the construction and some other things around here. And at mid-semester, everyone needs a laugh!"
I really loved this fun and creative attempt to increase awareness and usage of the university's Facebook and Twitter presences along with some basic campus resource information. This is a great example of an organization demonstrating that they have a personality. Well done.

[Top photo credit: UNT Facebook page submitted photo]
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Turning Rejection Into Opportunity

Today I received my first rejection for a conference presentation proposal. I really enjoy speaking engagements but unfortunately my proposal didn't make the cut for the Spring conference.

At first, I was disappointed and immediately felt the stirring of self-doubt creep in. And then it hit me: No presentation, means no preparation. Uh oh.

Like I said, I really enjoy speaking. However, the value for me as a speaker is what I do to to prepare, research, and compile thoughts, data, and insights to be shared with an audience.

So I decided to turn this rejection into an opportunity. Rather than research and prepare to share for someone else, I'm going to study, prepare, and finally become Accredited in Public Relations. I've been flirting with getting the APR few a couple of years now (yikes, I'm such a slacker). Well now I can't use the excuse of having to prepare for a conference presentation which has become common the last few years. 

More to come.

Photo Credit: picsonline via Flickr Creative Commons

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Speculating to the Media is Playing with Fire

Fire ExitImage by alykat via FlickrEarlier this week, an area chemical plant was engulfed in flames as a huge fire ripped through the facility. I watched with interest not just because of the captivating videos and shocked reactions to the unfolding catastrophe, but also as the local media scrambled to get the latest information from the scene from anyone who would talk. Anyone. One television news station found a worker willing to speak as the fire raged on screen.

What caught my attention about this was the potential for trouble from a PR perspective. The worker identified himself as an employee of the company and said that he lived near the chemical plant and was sleeping when he "heard a loud explosion." The camera was fixed squarely on the fire as the worker was being interviewed by phone from his home. During the phone interview the worker was asked about the incident and he said something that should make the hair on the neck of any good PR pro stand up on end:
"...I don't know exactly, but I can safely speculate that..."
[emphasis added]

In a crisis situation, this is one of those things that you hope never happens from one of your employees. Proper communication protocol and training should be provided. In my opinion, that worker should have never taken on the role as unofficial spokesperson for the chemical company. I don't know what, if anything, happened to the worker that was interviewed.

It's one thing to provide some decent context to a situation by sharing background information on things you know to be true. It's something completely different (not to mention, an awful idea) to provide guesses about the situation on the fly to the media before any official word has been available. As the problem unfolds on live television. After just waking up. Good grief, what a stupid move.  

What do you think, am I being to harsh on this worker's decision to share? Or should his career go up in flames for this lapse in judgment? The comments are yours.
Thankfully, according to plant officials, employees and visitors of the chemical plant evacuated safely and two employees sustained minor injuries but were not hospitalized.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Grass Roots Media Relations and Social Media for the Small Non-Profit

Our local PRSA chapter (The Greater Fort Worth PRSA) held a free workshop for small non-profit organizations as this year's community service project. The workshop included a free presentation and panel: "'Grass Roots' Media Relations and Social Media for the Small Non-Profit" and was held at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Small non-profits, operating on limited budgets, need information, assistance and training to use media relations, social media and other public relations tools to help raise awareness of their important missions. The free workshop was our chapter's way of providing some insight in these areas for local non-profit organizations.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the panelists along with (L-R) Sandra Brodniki, APR, Gigi Westerman APR, and Nancy Farrar, our moderator.

The following is our presentation:

Special thanks to PRSA members Kendal Lake and Dustin Van Orne from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for organizing the community service event.

I enjoy participating in these types of panels because I usually end up coming away with some great insights from the others. This one was no different.

The solid reminders in the areas of media relations and storytelling from Sandra and Gigi, plus the guiding discussion from Nancy made this a wonderful professional development opportunity.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Benefit of School Public Relations

The Brownwood ISD School Board could use a lesson in the need for school public relations. In a recent news article about a decision on whether or not the BISD should hire a new Public Relations Coordinator, the board seemed to have a a hard time quantifying the position's value.
“I know that Emily [the former BISD PR person that left earlier in the year] did a fantastic job, it is evident in ways that can’t be quantified, but when we start to think of the future all I am thinking about is cost,” said school board trustee Michael Cloy. [emphasis added]
 Another board member seemed to grasp the benefits of school public relations.
“I do believe that there is a residual that comes from this particular position that, though hard to quantify, I think it is easy to see by our attendance, by our enrollment, by the communications that our community gets to experience at a different level,” said school board trustee Eric Evans. [emphasis added]
Thanks to the Texas Legislature once again creating havoc with public education funding, costs and budgets receive the bulk of attention instead of the quality of instruction and student academic success.

In my opinion, school districts that cut school PR programs and staff or those that continue to leave out funding to create a position dedicated to communications, lose a fundamental part of effective district operations.

School districts have staff for business, finance, facilities, curriculum, counseling, nutrition, transportation, etc. Each of the these people or teams bring an area of expertise that is hard to substitute or make up on the fly. But that is exactly what districts do when they disregard or cut communications. And yet, when surveys are done, superintendents are hired, and groups discuss the ways in which a school district can be better, typically, the number one response is, you guessed it, communication.

Communication is crucial to school district operations. The expertise that professional communicators bring is one that is hard to replicate with even the brightest of individuals. I'd bet that most district administrators believe that they are adequate to good communicators. What school PR people should be able to bring is the ability to see all of the moving parts within and outside the district and how decisions will be perceived. School communications pros must be able to have that situational awareness to grasp the challenges that are currently facing the district while navigating leadership through situations. Being able to simultaneously adapt to traps and ultimately reaching the district's patrons are what separates the school PR pros that are there to be strategic components versus those that are just press release writers.

I like that those BISD board members from the article seemed to inherently know that communications is beneficial. I just wish they knew why. Perhaps school PR people need to do a better job of explaining that.
Photo credit: saxcubano via Flickr Creative Commons

Thursday, September 8, 2011

PR is lost without Ethics

September is Ethics awareness Month for PRSA. I appreciate that the national organization (of which I am a proud member) highlights this important aspect of the public relations profession. According to the PRSA website, Ethics Awareness Month seeks to "inform and educate the public relations profession about ongoing issues and concerns regarding PR ethics."

We talk a lot about reputation management for our clients and organizations. But what about for ourselves? What's your reputation worth?

PR pros must be proactive in maintaining our own credibility. Thankfully, I have never been faced with a situation where I was asked to intentionally mislead, lie or cover-up something on behalf of an organization. And I hope I never will.

But I think it's bigger than an individual decision. Every time an apparent ethics breach occurs and a PR pro is caught in the middle, or worse, the cause, our profession veers off course. Collectively, we lose and the profession is lost without a foundation of ethics.

Take a close look at the fist line of the PRSA Member Code of Ethics pledge:
I pledge:
To conduct myself professionally, with truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public...
PR ethics is one of those areas that sadly, sometimes gets forgotten from within, mocked from outsiders, and keeps us from taking steps forward.

I've heard for years about how we need a PR campaign for the PR profession. Well it starts with a focus on ethics to (re)build our profession's credibility.

I love the call to action over on Neville Hobson's blog on this topic:
Why don’t we all make September our own ethics awareness month by asking ourselves: What am I going to do?
Here’s a start: before the end of this month, read your respective professional association’s code of conduct:
(If you’re not a member of any of these bodies, read the codes anyway.)
Fantastic idea.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Missouri judge makes good call on "Facebook bill"

Courthouse of Cole County, MissouriImage via WikipediaCole County (Mo.) Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a preliminary injunction on Friday against a law designed to prohibit teachers from having private online conversations with students declaring that it “would have a chilling effect” on free speech.

The law reads in pertinent part, "No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use non-work-related internet site which allows exclusive access with a current or former student."

Judge Beetem writes in the preliminary injunction, "Even if a complete ban on certain forms of communication between certain individuals could be construed as content neutral and only a reasonable restriction on 'time, place, and manner,' the breadth of the prohibition is staggering...The Court finds that the statute would have a chilling effect on speech."

Soon after the injunction, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced that he will ask the General Assembly to repeal the social media provisions in the controversial law.

Good call.

This clumsy state-wide provision was sitting there waiting to be challenged and (hopefully) overturned. I have no issue with the intent of wanting to curtail inappropriate contact between students and teachers using social media. It just seems these provisions were doomed from the beginning from a free speech perspective and from an enforcement standpoint. It will be interesting to see what comes next or if other states watch the Missouri outcome and tailor similar bans.
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Never forget the value of creativity in PR

Working in school PR just like any other area of public relations has its share of ups and downs. As we start another school year I'm struck by the depth of planning, meeting, discussions, training, etc. that go into getting ready for the new year. It is easy to get caught up in all of the minor (and major) details of the week, day, and hours. Preparation, procedures, and planning will always be a key component for an effective school communications department.

But don't forget creativity.
I recently came across a cool post, 29 ways to stay creative, while stumbling through the web with the often-ignored StumbleUpon.

Some of its tips are solid reminders (or possibly new inspiration) for public relations professionals seeking to quench their creative thirst.

Here are my favorites from the post:
  • Get away from the computer - I'm guilty of allowing myself to be tethered to my computer and/or office. You need to be able to step away and unplug.
  • Get feedback - Listen, listen, and listen some more.
  • Don't give up - The same determination and perseverance we try to instill in our kids should be the same well we draw from in our professional lives.
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes - You can learn a lot from a dummy. You can learn even more when that dummy is you.
  • Go somewhere new - Maybe it's somewhere new for lunch or somewhere new in the bookstore for your reading. Get out of your comfort-zone.
  • Take risks - While you are out of your comfort-zone, explore and push boundaries.
  • Break the rules - Sometimes those boundaries can be bent or broken.
  • Stop trying to be someone else's perfect - While I wouldn't advise constant push-back against senior staff, I do think you can (and should) assert yourself when necessary as the organization's strategic communication expert. That's why you're there.
  • Finish something - Take that project from cradle to grave.

Bonus Tip: I'd recommend trying StumbleUpon if you haven't already. After you set-up a profile, it's a quick and easy way to explore, find, and keep track of creative inspiration or just things that are cool to you.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How crisis communication theory meets crisis communication reality

Film poster for When Worlds CollideImage via Wikipedia When Worlds Collide!
How crisis communication theory meets crisis communication reality

Guest post by Brad Domitrovich, PR Zealot

What is a crisis? By definition, it is a crucial or decisive situation, a turning point. For those of us who happen to be in the school PR business, a crisis is better defined as any event that causes us to stop what we are doing and react. From a personal standpoint, I define a crisis as any situation that makes me reach into my medicine cabinet and grab my favorite bottle of headache relief!

Over the past year, I’ve presented crisis communication seminars at several conferences across Texas. In attendance at these workshops were School Board Trustees, Superintendents, District Level Administrators, and Campus Level Administrators. It is always such a breeze lecturing people about what to do in a crisis, especially  when there isn’t one going on at that very moment. It sure is easy being “the expert” on stage answering questions about managing the media when there isn’t a line of reporters at my door. Life is so easy when you’re operating in “theory” mode rather than “reality” mode. I’m a big fan of the show Seinfeld. So what happens when, as the character George Costanza states, “worlds collide?” What happens when reality is here and theory takes a back seat?

Every school district has to deal with a crisis from time to time. The ones I have worked for are no exceptions. A couple of months ago, I had a crisis situation pop up. A big one. One of those that you know that within the next twenty-four hours, you are going to be contacted by virtually every media outlet in your market.

Instead of getting myself worked up into frenzy mode, I opted to close my office door, sit in the quiet for a few minutes, and jot down some notes as a plan of action. When I finished penning my last bullet point, I realized that what I was jotting down, was a parroting of what I have been presenting as “theory” throughout the past year.

#1: Be prepared
Although each crisis is different and should be weighed on its own merit, preparation is paramount. What does being prepared mean? Being prepared for me in this case was reviewing information with key individuals. I made sure that I had all the details I needed so I knew what to say. There is no such thing as having too much information when you are preparing for a media blitz. I reviewed timelines, activities, and actions and made sure that all of us knew what to do and what to say during and after the crisis period. Bradley D. Smith, School Board President for Georgetown ISD reiterates this thought. “My advice to administrators would be to completely understand the facts regarding the crisis and then articulate a strong strategy,” he states.

#2: Never say “no comment”
Everyone knows that you should never say no comment. I always try to view the crisis from the eye of the public. Do they want to hear you say “no comment”? Anytime you ignore a crisis situation, it only makes things worse. If we provided no comment, we would have lost our greatest opportunity to control the crisis.

#3: Have one spokesperson
Having one spokesperson who is comfortable in front of reporters is an incredible asset in a crisis situation. One individual should always be designated as the primary spokesperson to make official statements and represent the company. A back-up individual should also be identified in the event the primary person is unavailable. “Have a predetermined spokesperson to handle all the information releases and interviews,” explains Craig Verley, Public Relations Director for Mission Consolidated ISD. “One voice with correct and timely info – frees up other staff  to do their jobs in dealing with the emergency situation without media distractions,” he adds.

#4: Media relations is critical
The best time to build a relationship with the media is when you don’t have a major issue in the spotlight. Stay current with reporter names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Be proactive. Don’t wait for bad news to begin developing relationships. Mansfield ISD’s Director of Media and Communications Richie Escovedo tells us to “establish positive relationships with the media, community, and advocates before you need them.”

#5: Bleed for a day, not a week
It is always good practice to confront the situation immediately and take charge. If you’re hoping that the radar doesn’t find you because you’re lying low, that just doesn’t work. Embracing the crisis, being prepared, and having a statement ready allows you to get on with business as usual after only one day of controlled chaos.

So those were the five bullet points I jotted down. As I look back, worlds can collide! Managing a crisis can be accomplished as long as you allow “reality” to meet with “theory.”

Brad Domitrovich is a “PR Zealot” with over thirty years of experience in the academic, entrepreneurial, and corporate environment. He is Past President of the Texas School Public Relations Association and served for  six years on the TSPRA Executive Committee. Brad is invited frequently to speak at conferences sponsored by a number of educational organizations. He has delivered keynotes and presentations for several school districts and Educational Service Centers throughout Texas. Currently, Brad is the Director of School and Community Relations for the Georgetown Independent School District. He can be contacted at or (830) 688-9912.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Enough is enough Mr. O'Dwyer, drop your sword

I don't know Jack. Jack O'Dwyer that is.

I don't know much about Mr. O'Dwyer's media company but according to the site, it appears to provide the "Inside News of Public Relations & Marketing Communications."

However, I am aware of a long-standing and ongoing battle between he and the Public Relations Society of America, the reasons for which are probably well-defined and entrenched on both sides. I've been a PR pro for over 10 years the majority of it as a PRSA member. In general, O'Dwyer and his grumblings don't really show up on my radar. (This is most likely a result of being half a country away from the epicenter of O'Dwyer vs. PRSA in New York.)

The latest battle is over what AdAge has called a "phone hacking" issue coming as no surprise framed in light of the Murdoch/News of the World phone hacking scandal across the pond. AdAge writes:
"The Public Relations Society of America has been a target of Jack O'Dwyer's criticism for years, but generally has opted to stay mum. Now, in a rare move, the trade group is speaking up -- and what it has to say is bold.
In a passionate response to a claim by Mr. O'Dwyer, the publisher of the long-running PR newsletter and website, that the PRSA has auditing issues, the group is accusing the writer of engaging in phone hacking."

From the PRSA newsroom:

PRSA Responds to O'Dwyer's Regarding Society's Financial Reporting and Auditing

The PRSA responded to a July 13 blog post on O’Dwyer’s Blog in which its publisher, Jack O’Dwyer, makes false allegations regarding PRSA's financial reporting and auditing.
"Mr. O'Dwyer, while a free press is essential to our country, principles and profession, not everything—or everyone—wrapped in the mantle of "journalism" is right or ethical, as the News of the World scandal demonstrates. But then again, it would appear that your organization condones such practices, given that records from our teleconferencing vendor show that telephone numbers registered to the J.R. O'Dwyer Company connected to PRSA teleconference calls without PRSA's permission five times between May 22, 2007, and May 12, 2009.
This new skirmish is being hashed and discussed in various corners of the online and PR realm. I don't really know if what happened does or does not constitute "phone hacking" in the same sense of the News of the World. I do know that as a member, I'm pleased that PRSA pushed back. It's important for organizations to assess claims and fight back when it's appropriate. Or as Jason Keith tweeted, "in this day and age you can't sit on the sidelines, you have to respond and react when necessary. That's why I liked it."

Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, chair and CEO of PRSA replied to me in a tweet on this issue: "...We have to speak up when misinformation & half truths are so blatant, esp when they question our management."

Yep, good move.

Additionally, I think it's time for Jack to move on. Mr. O'Dwyer holds a grudge and seeks vengeance by trying to catch PRSA in some wrongdoing or another while attempting to come across as the watchdog journalist out for truth. (A quick check of O’Dwyer’s Blog showed that 22 of the last 30 blog posts authored by Jack O'Dwyer were on PRSA.)

Ok, we get it. You don't like PRSA. Fine.

I'm with Derek DeVries who writes on his blog,
"It would be great if an accommodation can be reached (perhaps by allowing another member of the O’Dwyer staff to cover the PRSA beat to lend more objectivity).  Here’s to hoping."
Mr. O'Dwyer, please let it go. Drop your sword or at least pass it on to someone who can be a little more objective.
Photo credit: toddquinn via Flickr creative commons

Friday, July 1, 2011

For a little while, PR means 'Person Resting'

Pause ButtonImage by Kevin Grocki via FlickrI'm a school PR guy in need of a break. Looking back at the last school year (2010-11), I can easily say that it was one of the more challenging years. And looking ahead at possible hurdles next year makes me glad we've started to take our communication department's planning to greater levels this summer.

But for now, it's time for a pause. 

I have a wonderful benefit of having days for vacation. It's time to recharge my mind, enjoy some fun with my family, and remind myself that my focus in life goes way beyond the realm of public relations and school district communications.

As for work, there's much to be done, prepare, ponder and explore. I'm looking forward to (almost) all of that. I plan on being refreshed and ready for what's next. And it'll be because at least for a little while, PR will mean "Person Resting."

And to you, dear reader, I hope you take opportunities to be a Person Resting too.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

#Fail: Social Media #PR Disasters - recap

Thanks to Stephanie Scott and Corey Lark for sharing their 10 Lessons from Social Media PR Disasters for the June Ft. Worth PRSA luncheon: (Get their presentation slide deck.)
  1. You are not in a vacuum
  2. Err on the side of caution; Respond swiftly
  3. Be prudent; Accept responsibility
  4. Update your tactics
  5. Context matters
  6. If you apologize, mean it
  7. Mocking your customers = bad
  8. Be transparent
  9. Manage your social media presence (or someone may manage it for you)
  10. Sometimes you are the problem
Below is a recap built on Storify from last week's Fort Worth PRSA luncheon. Aside: This was the first time for me to use Storify. (Way cool tool.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

8 Takeaways from the DFW Nonprofit Communicators Conference

Last month, I attended and presented at the DFW Nonprofit Communicators Conference here in Ft. Worth.

The sessions that interested me the most were on social media policies/guidelines and crisis communications. (I suppose being in school public relations, I'd gravitate to these two areas of concern since knowledge in these areas is often needed.)

Below are 8 key takeaways from these two sessions:

Legal Policies for Social Media Communicators
presented by Whitney Presley, Sr. Director of Digital Communications, American Heart Association
  1. There's a difference between social media policies and guidelines: policies protect the organization and employee while guidelines should give the rules for how to behave.
  2. Create commenting/posting disclaimer for networks and define difference between personal/professional use of social media and social networks for the organization's perspective.
  3. Check the Social Media Governance website for examples of corporate and nonprofit social media policies or the online Policy Tool for Social Media to get started.
  4. What makes a good social media guideline/policy for an organization? According to Presley, those that at their core tell employees to be honest, stay on message, and don't be stupid. (I'll add organizations should also look into implementing a social media gatekeeper system to keep the properties within their proper control.)

Crisis Communication:A crash course that leads to developing a crisis plan
presented by Jacqueline Lambiase, Ph.D., Texas Christian University
  1. In a crisis, you must determine audience awareness: media relations, community relations, employee relations among the top concerns.
  2. Develop realistic (and reassuring) messages based on audience concerns.
  3. Establish credibility with fast honesty.
  4. Get pre-approved for some “boilerplate” messaging, press releases, information bulletins, safety warnings, and apologies. (Example used of airlines with pre-written initial press releases for plane crashes that only require flight number and locations which is a little disturbing even if it is efficient.)

    [Check out Jacqueline's presentation slides over on Slideshare for some additional tips, tactics, and thoughts on crisis communication.]
Bonus takeaway for Dallas/Fort Worth nonprofits: Pay close attention to progress/plans from  and her team at . Great stuff. Stacy was the conference luncheon keynote speaker and has an infectious energy and passion for engaging philanthropists and investing in nonprofits for social innovation and the common good. My favorite quote from her keynote was, "Communicators for nonprofits need to be thought of as stewards of the mission."

Friday, May 27, 2011

#WordPower for Social Media - DFW Nonprofit Communicators Conference (#dfwnpcc)

Last week I had the pleasure of joining some area and regional professionals as a speaker for the DFW Nonprofit Communicators Conference held at TCU.

Below is the slide deck for those that may have missed something because of the seating fun in the crowded room. (Special thanks to those who came and sat on the floor.)
Nonprofit Marketers and Communicators Collaborative
I really dig the idea and purpose behind this conference: to provide convenient one-day training and support for nonprofit communication professionals through interactive workshops at an affordable cost. (Simple and smart.)

Some of the quality presentation topics this year included:
  • Communicating your Mission
  • Legal Policies for Social Media Communicators (review post coming soon)
  • Crisis Communication & Putting the Public First
  • Social Media and Advocacy
  • Reaching out to Diverse Publics
  • Campus Connections for Nonprofits
  • Social Innovation and Nonprofits
The conference is put on by the Nonprofit Marketers and Communicators Collaborative. Established in 2010, this group hopes "to bring together nonprofit marketing and communication professionals to discuss industry specific trends, tips, and helpful advice."

I'd encourage Dallas/Ft. Worth and area nonprofits to pay attention to this collaborative effort and take advantage of future professional development and networking sessions.

If you attended this conference (and maybe even my session), I'd love to hear what you think.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

James Lukaszewski on Negative Language and PR

The following video interview with James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA was taken after a recent area Communications and Public Relations workshop. The day-long professional development opportunity was provided by the Texas School Public Relations Association.
(Note: apologies for the slight shakiness of the video. Lesson-learned: Use a tripod.)

Lukaszewski's workshop focused on three man areas:
  1. Crisis-proofing your organization
  2. Building Community Relationships
  3. Being a Strategic Advisor
Jim Lukaszewski - SPRF/PRCA PowerPR Conference...Image by hyku via FlickrThis was the second time for me to hear Lukaszewski and he didn't disappoint. Here's the PR gold that was mined from his presentations:
  • We need to change the language we use; Readiness vs. Crisis Management
  • Readiness means being ready for adverse things.
  • Old-fashioned definition of PR - Do good; take credit
  • New definition of PR - Do good and let it speak for itself
  • Strategic Communicators need to ask/answer, "What do we contribute to the mix?"
  • Candor in a crisis - "If you want to be trusted, get the truth out there."
  • Truth = Absence of fear
  • In a crisis, communications becomes an operating function
  • Crises happen explosively but are resolved incrementally

On Victims and Critics during a PR crisis (and other challenging times):
  • Victimization is a totally irrational and voluntary state; it is self-maintaining and self-terminating
  • Victims use language like betrayed, loneliness, personal/personnel failure, grief, why me/us, why now, etc.
  • Victims require validation, visibility, vindication, and apology (This is part of why our media friends like to talk to the victims)
  • The strategy for negotiations need to start with what is possible instead of what organization is not going to do.
  • "Create as few critics everyday."
  • Keep your base supporters and avoid making new angry people.
  • Silence is a toxic strategy
  • You must manage the victims dimension 
  • Don't forget the obvious - Stop the activity that is creating more victims
  • The art of crisis management is to know what the mistakes are going to be
  • "When there's a crisis that needs management, management is in crisis."
  • Take in big picture without taking it personal; go to 50,000 feet and stay at 50,000 feet

This is just some of the great material Lukaszewski shared along with some fantastic information on strategically advising leadership during a crisis. He gave valuable tactics on providing operational advice and how to provide the next useful thing to management.

As a communications professional, if you ever have the opportunity to hear from Lukaszewski at a conference or other speaking engagement, I would highly recommend carving out some time and sharpen your skills.
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    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Closing a School District's Facebook Page

    Facebook logoImage via WikipediaAfter approximately 20 months of building a (mostly) positive online community, my school district has shut down its Facebook page.

    In an explanatory blog post, we shared the following in part:
    "Mansfield ISD will no longer host district or campus-level Facebook pages. The open nature of the Facebook commenting feature continues to cause regular disruption and place the district as a liable participant in issues related to sharing of private student information, defamation of employees and other abusive online behavior. In addition, MISD is not able to commit the administrative or campus staff time necessary to adequately moderate user content posted to these pages."
    Those of you that know me know that I am huge advocate for integrating social media tools into communication and public relations work flow. Facebook page management was/is among those tools I recommend.

    Be careful what you wish for...
    With the District page open for community commenting, of course we created and posted the rules of engagement to back up our removal of inappropriate material. We wanted feedback. We got feedback. Not all of it positive. Which was, and is fine. Getting useful feedback from the community on news and information was an objective since it helped us determine if messages were being received. The human element of the social web will always bring out critics and critiques. The problems came when those were aimed at students, parents, community and individual staff members.

    So what changed?
    In essence the liabilities were outweighing the benefits of the district's Facebook page. We became keenly aware of just how much time it was taking to adequately monitor the page in order to remove postings that were abusive and/or offensive.The page audience grew to a respectable 6,900 fans ('Likes') connected to it. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way it reached a point where detractors (passionate and occasional) decided to use the commenting features to share negative information and feedback about individual students and staff members. There were also instances of bickering and arguing with each other including back and forth between kids and adults that sometimes left the realm of civil and intelligent discourse. I know that is shocking to anyone who has a personal Facebook profile. (sarcasm)

    Perhaps there was a magic number of fans or tipping point for the community that marked this shift. It's hard to tell.

    Why not just turn off the comments for the page?
    In the current Facebook Page editing capabilities, Admins can toggle on/off the Posting Ability to adjust the setting "Users can write or post content on the wall." But, that only stopped new comments going to the wall, not on previous or new posts shared by the Page. That setting simply doesn't seem to exist right now. Admins still have to watch and delete inappropriate replies and ban users if necessary. So it's still a moderation/time issue.

    Moving forward
    If school PR people want to start/continue to use Facebook pages, I would recommend you make sure you (1.) have a policy that includes a response protocol for negative comments and inappropriate posts and (2.) set aside time, resources and money to listen to and moderate the conversation about your school district. This time resource is a sticky one. We could no longer sustain a level of moderation with the current Facebook Page administration capabilities to meet the growing demand for nearly constant oversight.

    Does this mean we are backing away from social media? Hardly. Consider this:
    Facebook ≠ Social Strategy

    I do not consider adopting any one single social media tool, even the current front-runner, Facebook, as being equal to having a social strategy. The underlying reasons or objectives behind why you use these communication tools and how you evaluate and measure their effectiveness are what ultimately propel an organization's success.

    What do you think? Have you run across these commenting management issue on pages you run for your school district or clients? I'm curious to know what others think. As always, the comments are yours.

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    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    QR Codes and School PR

    The following is a guest post by Lauren Bingham from the Texas School Public Relations Association. It is cross-posted  over on the TSPRA Blog:

    What in the world are QR Codes?

    At the grocery store, a bar code scanner reads the bar code on your product and tells the register what it is and how much it costs. QR Codes use the same concept.

    People can now use their cell phone cameras (bar code scanner) to read QR Codes (bar codes), which instantly directs their phone to a designated website, PDF, contact information, video, etc.

    Sufficiently confused? Let’s use it in an example scenario. Pretend I’m a PIO at Mainstreet ISD–my district is holding a TRE (tax rate or tax ratification election) and we’re holding a community meeting next week. We’ve built this awesome webpage with all kinds of information and graphs and videos explaining how school finance works and why we need to pass this TRE. But if we just tell them about the website, we risk them forgetting to go there after the meeting, or forgetting the URL altogether.

    From the creator’s end
    So I take my webpage URL, let’s say it’s, and go to one of many QR Code generating websites, plug in my URL and it will automatically create a unique QR Code (just like a bar code). That QR Code has my link embedded in it so that anyone who scans it will be automatically directed to our TRE website. I can then print this QR Code on any posters or handouts we distribute at the meeting, I can make a giant display version so that anyone in the audience can scan it from their seats, I can even print it on t-shirts or stickers if I wanted to. 
    You can create a personal account on many of these QR Code generator websites that will allow you to see how many people are scanning your code, change the link (without changing the bar code) that your users are directed to, password protect your code or set it to expire at a certain date.

    From the user’s end
    While there are tools that make this technology available on any phone with a camera, it’s really most usefully for smart phone users. All I need to do is go to the app store on my phone and download a QR Scanner app–there are a bunch out there, not all of which work as well as the next, particularly for BlackBerry which seem to have a difficult time. Then, whenever I see a QR Code I want to scan, I open the QR Scanner app, which will typically activate my phone’s camera, then point the camera at the QR Code until your camera can scan the code–just like you’d do at the grocery store. Depending on the app, it’ll typically identify the file, URL, video, etc. that the QR Code is linked to and will ask you if you want to open it.

    Because there’s linking involved, this does require a wireless connection on your phone, which involves data usage and the fees associated with it. If the code links to a PDF, Word doc, Google map, calendar event, etc., these will likely be saved onto my phone; websites, however, will not be saved unless through the phone’s browser history.

    So what are some other ways school districts can use QR Codes?

    • Using codes on back to school materials to link to school calendars (some tools will allow users to integrate your calendar into their phone’s calendar) or school supply lists
    • Displaying codes at the front of schools that will link to school contact information, TEA ratings, etc.
    • Displaying codes at graduation that link to do’s and don’ts, a PDF of the program or information on school-sponsored graduation night activities
    • Posting codes in teachers lounges and workrooms with links to internal communication materials
    • Collateral materials with codes to your district’s fundraising initiatives–information on branded licenses plates, website that allows them to purchase tickets for your event, online store for school/district merchandise, etc.
    Considerations before diving in or writing them off
    • Consider your audience–how many of your parents or community members are using smart phones? What about students?
    • While this technology has caught fire in Asia, and is growing in popularity among the techie Westerners, many people may still be unaware of QR Codes and how they work (even if they already have the technology to use them). Before rolling out any coded materials, take the time to educate your constituency.
    • The mystery of these codes can, however, create more interest in using them and finding out what they do.
    • This technology is free for you to produce and free (besides data usage) for them to scan and use.
    • Because your codes will generally redirect users to existing content, this doesn’t require a third-party developer, or drafting usage policies, or monitoring for misuse, or purchasing expensive/complicated hardware or software. This is just a more direct way to get them from point A to point B.

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Facebook as a school district's newsroom

    I like to keep track of interesting questions in the hopes that someday I might have an answer or would ask others in the hopes of furthering the dialogue on social media and school public relations.

    One such question came from a marketing professional, Chris Stone during the #schoolprchat, (a Twitter chat that is currently on hiatus.)

    This is a great question because it forced me to pause and take a critical look about how I was using my school district's Facebook page.

    A school district's Facebook page is a prime location for sharing timely, relevant, and interesting content with the community of parents, students, staff and even some random people that have decided to 'Like' the page along the way.

    The strategy behind the school district using Facebook could be summed up as fish where the fish are. With so many people on the social utility, it just makes sense for school districts engage their community there.

    But Facebook as a school district's newsroom? I think in the traditional sense of the term 'newsroom' perhaps not since it doesn't really provide enough to meet journalists' expectations. From distribution and content expectations of journalists, Facebook doesn't really work.

    Ah, but journalists aren't the only people school PR folks are trying to reach. Certainly traditional media should (and will continue to) be a fundamental component for school district communication pros. And we should do everything we can to sharpen our media relations skills and approach.

    But don't let that be the only focus.

    School districts should already be leveraging Facebook for communication and community outreach. Set your district's Facebook rules of engagement, prepare and gather content from all over the district to share. Post, listen, engage and promote...and repeat.

    I know some school districts don't allow you to comment on their Facebook page wall. I don't agree with this broadcast-only practice. The magic is in the feedback. When we post items to Facebook like updates, questions, links, photos, videos, student/staff recognitions, explanations, news, events, etc. it's done with the audience in mind. I use Facebook in my school district to share and engage with the community.

    Oh and for the record, I recently tried to pitch a story to a local newspaper reporter only to be told, "yeah, I saw that on Facebook earlier."

    Come to think of it, maybe it is the district's newsroom.

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Commmunication Planning and the Acronym Jumble


    Creating communication plans is tough when you're doing it right. I've been using a short acronym to help me remember the steps for some recent PR planning  and it made me think that we don't talk about PR planning enough.

    It's crucial to put some forethought into your communication efforts. Admittedly, I have made what I believe is the mistake of taking an idea straight to the implementation phase (strategies/tactics) without much planning or analysis.

    Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't.

    PR Plan Alphabet Soup 
    So what should you do? I've used RPIE (Research, Planning/Analysis, Implementation/Execution/Communication, Evaluation) for my PR planning taken directly from the Accreditation in Public Relations Study Guide.The outlined four-step process explains each section and gives questions as a guide. For me, it's as much a learning tool as it is a practical tool for public relations professionals.
    "Public relations programs cannot be successful without proactive, strategic planning that includes measurable objectives, grounded in research and evaluated for return on investment"
    - APR Study Guide

    Research - Research is the systematic gathering of information to describe and understand a situation; check assumptions about publics and perceptions, and check the public relations consequences. Research helps define the problem and publics.

    Planning/Analysis - Goals, audiences, objectives, strategies and tactics

    Implementation - Execution of the plan or Communicating

    Evaluation - Measure effectiveness of the program against objectives. Identify ways to improve and recommendations for the future. Adjust the plan, materials, etc., before going forward. This can serve as research for the next phase or program.

    Here are a couple of other acronyms that might be useful.

    Action Plan


    Thanks to Mary Deming Barber for the REGOSATTBE acronym. She also shared a planning checklist document a while back that is a great, concise tool. (I love learning from PR people that are smarter than me.)
    What about you? Do you use these or a different acronym method for your PR planning? Do you think PR people talk about PR planning enough? The comments are yours.

    (Image credit: noeltanner via Flickr Creative Commons)
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