Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some 2012 Predictions for the PR Field

Every year, prognosticators lay forth their predictions for the coming year, and when you look back one year later you find that in some cases, they couldn’t have missed the mark any further, while in others, their predictions would better be described as pointing out the obvious. 

With that in mind, I will follow that tradition here in making my predictions of PR trends for 2012:

1.       The fax machine will make a comeback.  As more and more people tire of high-speed Internet connections and instant access from anywhere there is a smart phone, they will long for the days when they had to sit next to a fax machine and wait for it to jam.
2.       During the 2012 election cycle, politicians will usher in a new era of civility.  In debates, they will let each other finish their sentences and the media will give each candidate equal time.
3.       The social media fad will go the way of the hula hoop, pet rocks and Chia Pets.  Rather than spend hours on Facebook or texting, people will once again walk to the public library to read, meet face-to-face for lunch, and listen to their favorite music on eight-track machines. 
4.       The news media will ignore stories about Lady Gaga, and do more stories on how most companies actually create jobs and help society.
5.       In 2012, not one PR professional will call for a new definition of the profession or send out a single, meaningless press release.

Right or wrong, I’m betting that by next year at this time, I will have batted 100 percent. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

When You're Hard to Buy For

“You’re hard to buy for,” it’s a line I started to hear for the first time this season from family trying to figure out what I might want or need for Christmas.  Since I said it enough times to my own parents I know what is behind it.

It means that the things I want you can’t buy or you can’t afford. 

I’ve seen those luxury car commercials during the holiday season that show beautiful young couples buying each other cars that cost more than my first house, all wrapped up in a red bow on a snowy Christmas morning.  These cars are so special you can’t just buy them during a Holiday Sale but rather a “Winter Event.” 

Someday, maybe I will wake up to a new Mercedes with an oversized red bow on it, but that day won’t come on this weekend.

“You’re hard to buy for,” my wife told me just a few days ago, and I know what she means.

Over the years, if I’ve wanted something, I bought it myself when I thought I needed it.  If I didn’t think I needed it, I didn’t buy and never asked for it.  I’ve never seen the need to drop hints in the months leading up to Christmas and then wait for it.

I’m not much of a collector.  I don’t wear jewelry, and whatever big boy toys I’ve wanted over the years, I already have by now.  But I do know what I really want and I’ve already compiled my list on bended knee and mailed it to Santa.  Here are a few items on their way to the North Pole right now:

·         I’d like the people I know who’ve struggled with health problems in 2011 to have a healthy and happy 2012.
·         I’d like to find new ways to spend more time with my family.  This is something that’s been on my list for as long as I can remember and it never gets old even when I get my wish.
·         I’d like to see my kids continue to find their way as best as they can, support them when need be, and be there when they see the fruits of their labors.
·         I’d like new socks.
·         I’d like to be able to continue to work with the many good friends I’ve made over the course of my career, which is the best thing about doing what I do.
·         I’d like Hershey’s chocolate in my stocking.
·         I’d like to read the newspaper, go online or watch TV one of these days and see more truth and less agenda.
·         I’d like to see more football.
·         I’d like to spend more time with friends old and new.
·         I’d like a nice warm day on March 17th, the day of the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
·         I’d like to get more use out of that treadmill we bought last year.

But most of all, I’d like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Difference Between a Social Media Crisis and a Traditional Crisis

My last blog post on the crisis communications missteps of Lowe’s sparked some interesting dialogue with some social media professionals.   My point in the blog post is that if you have a social media crisis, turn to a crisis communicator before relying on a social media guru for advice.  This is because social media gurus typically have very limited crisis management experience.

The first thing that struck me in some of the feedback was how the social media industry defenders jumped to the assumption that it’s more important to know the technology and the current etiquette of social media than to have a broader understanding of effective crisis management.

If I were to buy into that line of thinking then it would also make total sense to me to have a golf pro serve as primary investigator of a murder on the basis of the fact that the crime took place on the 14th tee.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’d still rather have an experienced detective on that case.

My point is that when it’s crisis time you need someone familiar with crisis management and strategy first and foremost.  Since social media is a channel or delivery system for communication, understanding the fineries and etiquette of managing such things as “comments” sections becomes secondary.

This brings me to one of the most fundamental discrepancies I have found in some research on social media crises – because so many social media gurus are so new to crisis communications, they are not able to differentiate between a social media crisis and a traditional crisis.  This is extremely important if you are to manage a social media crisis effectively.

Case in point, one social media marketing guru defined a social media crisis according to this three-part criteria:  “1) You don’t know what’s happening; 2) There is a spike in commentary or a new topic of conversation; 3) An issue with a very broad impact or interest is raised.”

It would be easy to dissect those three statements for the remainder of this blog post, but the main thing is that not one of these factors is exclusive to social media.  Further, they are not very good barometers of the severity of any crisis.  In fact, these statements can apply to a broad number of normal, non-crisis situations.

So let’s go back to what defines a crisis and then get into how that differs from a social media crisis.

What is a crisis?

A crisis is any development or potential development that has the potential to seriously disrupt the company’s or organization’s operations.  Against this premise, the organization typically does not have the systems, personnel or resources in place to address the situation in the normal course of business, and so the situation becomes a high priority until it can be brought under control.

Since every organization has its own issues, what might be a crisis for one may not be for another.  An extreme example of this is a fire company.  Since fire companies exist to extinguish fires and save both property and life, responding to out-of-control blazes is a part of their normal operations.  They have systems in place to deal with what are crises to every constituent they serve.

What is a social media crisis?

A social media crisis is any development or potential development that is rooted in social media or can be exacerbated by social media that has the potential to seriously disrupt the company’s or organization’s operations.  The two definitions are similar with one basic exception – in this instance social media activity is at least part of the problem if not the cause.

This is where the social media gurus have the biggest challenge in dealing with such crises.  If they are not crisis communicators first, they often don’t appreciate that when a crisis occurs, every company behavior must go under the microscope, including all forms of social media activity.  Nothing is sacred.

This is standard crisis communications practice.

Where social media experts tend to fall down is their continued belief that some things tied to social media are sacred.  Most base their counsel on the belief that companies cannot and should not withdraw from social media forums or change their fundamental behaviors to address a crisis. 

In several social media crisis situations, the general consensus in the social media community is that the company at the center of the controversy should not aggressively moderate comments in social media forums that they control.  This is just one example.  Another common belief is that if a crisis flares up on social media, it must be handled there.

This can be a problem when a comments section of a social media site is filled with hate speech or such vitriol that it can spur violent or irrational behaviors in the public.  And that’s just a worst-case scenario.  Many other social media wild fires can spell disaster for a company.

Without getting into specific situations and strategies, it is important to remember some of the basic objectives of crisis communications and then to act accordingly.  To the extent that effective communication can help, we have a duty to protect the reputations of our organizations and brands, the health and safety of our constituents, and to do so with integrity, ethically and truthfully.

Crisis management is about fixing the fundamental problem first, and when a crisis is rooted in social media behavior, then that behavior must be addressed and corrected before substantive change can be achieved.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Some Holiday Greetings

It's that time of year when our mailboxes fill up with holiday greeting cards.  In the spirit of the season, I thought I'd post some holiday greetings YouTube-style.  Here are some songs, commercials and features that may strike a holiday chord with you.  Happy Holidays!

Charlie Brown Christmas Song

Griswold Finds the Perfect Tree

Miller's Classic Christmas Card Commercial

Budweiser's Entry into Commercial Christmas Cards

Bing Crosby's White Christmas

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Keeping the DUQ in WESA...huh?

Essential Public Media purchased WDUQ radio from Duquesne University not too long ago.  They made a few somewhat unpopular programming format changes that no doubt alienated some of the now former listeners of the station.  At the same time, the current format is likely starting to build an audience of its own.

I will refrain from injecting my opinion on all of this, but I can say this: I became a lover of jazz music going back to my days as a student volunteer at the station.

Just recently, the management of 90.5 FM, which is now WESA-FM, reached out to us WDUQ alums to garner our support of an effort to ensure a continued presence of Duquesne University students on staff as part of a special program.  That is very encouraging for those of us who benefited from learning from our own successes and mistakes courtesy of WDUQ.  They asked us to provide a few words of what WDUQ meant to us. 

After I wrote my comments, I thought an edited version might be worthy of a blog post, so here they are:

My tenure at WDUQ ran from 1980-82 in the station’s News Department, where I volunteered and then worked a part-time student aid job as Assistant News Director.  Because the station was student-run, we may not have produced the seamless on-air product that WDUQ later became known for, but a team of very motivated and driven students did some things at that station that set us up for successful careers in communications.  We experimented, hustled and competed with each other to see what we could do.

One of my proudest moments was when I had the opportunity to cover a speaking engagement in the 1980 Pennsylvania primary, when I covered Republican candidates Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, both speakers at a dinner in Westmoreland County.  I sensed that Mr. Bush for the first time opened the door to the notion that he might lose to Mr. Reagan, but he’d support the Republicans no matter what.  As soon as the dinner ended, I scrambled up to Mr. Bush, thrust a microphone between two Secret Service agents and got the sound bite I needed that essentially confirmed this fact. 

The next morning, my work aired on Morning Edition, but just as importantly, I got a check for $40 from NPR and I was no longer an unpaid volunteer.  I cannot tell you what that meant to me at the time, and what it still means to me when I think about it 31 years later.

Over the years, I have been reminded that the foundation for my career was built at WDUQ and through the opportunities to experiment with and experience the power of radio.

About six of us WDUQ student volunteers ended up landing jobs at KDKA-TV and Radio at before we graduated from college.  Obviously, WDUQ was doing something right.

It would be my hope that Essential Public Media could continue to foster an environment where Duquesne students will have the same opportunities that I had.  Without them, not only would I not have been able to achieve what I have so far, but more importantly, I would not have been able to help the people I have been fortunate to be able to help during my career.

It is also my hope that the structure of the student program be such that students be afforded more responsibility than a typical internship.  By having the chance to make our own “executive” decisions as students, and then to see what worked and what didn’t work, we were able to more effectively and more rapidly hone our skills and secure our place in the profession.  This eventually helped the station by having many well-placed alumni in solid positions in the community.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cain Campaign's Lawyerly Statement Misses the Mark

This is not a political statement about whether or not presidential candidate Herman Cain should or should not be president.  At the same time, it is not an analysis of whether Mr. Cain is responsible for anything of which he has been accused in the press of late.  I will leave that to the political pundits and Entertainment Tonight.

It is, however, an effort to explore what I think was a serious PR mistake by the Cain campaign.  In this case, the issue is a woman named Ginger White, who stepped forward in the media this week, claiming to an Atlanta TV station that she had a 13-year affair with Mr. Cain.  Such a bombshell announcement would rock any campaign, but this one is particularly tough on the Cain campaign because of a series of prior allegations of sexual harassment.

Enter Mr. Cain’s lawyer, Lin Wood, who provided this statement to the press on the alleged affair:

“Mr. Cain has been informed today that your television station plans to broadcast a story this evening in which a female will make an accusation that she engaged in a 13-year long physical relationship with Mr. Cain. This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace – this is not an accusation of an assault - which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate.

Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults - a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door.

Mr. Cain has alerted his wife to this new accusation and discussed it with her. He has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media.”

There are two things about this statement that virtually convict Mr. Cain in the court of public opinion.  First, nowhere is there an explicit denial that the affair took place.  Because of that, it leaves the reader to assume there must have been an affair.  Secondly, one thing the statement makes clear is that the campaign has a narrow view of what the media should cover. 

The spirit of the last line in the second paragraph, The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door,” seems ignorant of the nature of a free press in a democratic society.  Yes, the candidate has a right to believe in boundaries and that those boundaries should respect the privacy of the individual.  But those boundaries are for the individual, not the press.  We are not talking about a private citizen or a minor in this case.  This is about media coverage of a man who wants to be President of the United States.

Mr. Cain can choose whether or not to comment on certain issues, but his campaign has no ground to stand on when trying to tell the media what it can cover.  Mr. Cain’s lawyer did nothing positive to support the presidential candidate, and through this statement alone, did more harm than good.  This is one of those cases where the lawyerly impulse to respond with a “no comment” would have been a better approach.  And from a PR standpoint that still would not be good enough.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Story of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday and one that does not mark the beginning or ending of a war.  Rather, it’s a celebration of peace and of giving thanks for our blessings.

We all may associate Thanksgiving with turkey dinner and football, with getting together with family, and with the official launch to the holiday season.  To be sure, it’s all of those and more.  But it is perhaps one of America’s greatest opportunities to showcase what it does best on its best days – a peaceful celebration of freedom and the accomplishments of free men and women.

A Little Background

The Mayflower began its journey to New England on August 1, 1620.  The context was pretty basic.  England’s King James I oppressively pursued anyone who did not bow to his authority.  This included his final say on matters of religion.  Those who disagreed with the king suffered from religious persecution, which meant prison or death.

A group of people left England’s oppressive rule and sought a better life in Holland at first, where they established their own community.  A few years later, a group of approximately 40 members of this community decided to explore life in America with the hope that in the new land, they could worship God in their own way.

The leader of the group was William Bradford, who established a contract with each member of the group, respecting everyone’s own religious beliefs.

Arriving in New England in November, the Pilgrims encountered an untamed land in the harshest season of the year.  Half of the Pilgrims died of starvation or illness that first winter.

The Pilgrims encountered the native Americans who lived in that region, who taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, fish and skin small game for coats.  While it is likely that the Pilgrims were thankful for all of this, historians are also quick to point out that the celebration of Thanksgiving goes a little deeper than that.

The original plan for the Pilgrims was that everything was community property and that no individual owned anything more than a single share in the larger community.  This was deemed fair in their contract.  So for example, when they built houses in their community, all property was owned by the collective, not the individual or family.  All food and material goods were to be distributed equally.

 William Bradford, the leader of the group, made a decision, however that would change this.  He gave a plot of land to each family within the group.  In return, the families could work the land as they saw fit.  But still, they would have to turn over the fruits of their labor to be distributed equally among the group.  That didn’t work because some families did not see the point in working any harder to produce for the community.  No matter how hard you worked or how lazy you were, you all received the same equal share of the bounty, which ended up not amounting to much.

So they ditched that plan.  Bradford realized that if they were to eat and avoid starvation, and eventually grow in America, what he needed was a way to incentivize the people.  What made the difference is that when Bradford decided that every family was permitted to work their own land AND sell their own crops.  Bradford’s words:

“'This had very good success for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”

After that, the Pilgrims established stores and began to exchange goods with the native Americans.  As a result, they were able to pay off their debts to their London sponsors and live free in America.  Word of this led to an influx of Europeans making the journey to the New World.  And the rise of free trade continued.

So, the story of the original Thanksgiving is one of friendship and partnership with the native Americans, who taught the Pilgrims how to survive and thrive in their new environment.  At the same time, it’s also about a celebration of freedom from religious persecution, and of the chance to practice free trade and to make the life you want in a land of opportunity.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lessons from Eight Years of Football Programs

Over the course of eight years, I worked in various capacities on high school football programs.  For the most part, my role was advertising sales and project management, but in many, many cases, I had to get hands-on in creative direction, layout, production and in the development of copy or individual ads for businesses and families.  I didn’t do this in my role at O’Brien Communications, but rather as a parent volunteer.

Without getting into great detail, the process usually started in the early Spring and culminated with a print run prior to the first game at the end of August.  With so many people involved in the effort, and almost all of it volunteer or in-kind, a football program is much different from producing an annual report or CSR report. 

With this in mind, here are some of the lessons from producing high school football programs:

  • Most peoples’ favorite pictures of their kids are grainy, hard to see and sometimes coffee-stained.
  • Underclassmen families will always complain there is too much emphasis on the seniors. 
  • Senior families will forget their underclassmen complaints from the previous year and always demand there be more emphasis on the seniors.
  • Never ask high school football players for creative input.  There's a reason their coaches always look on edge and yell a lot.
  • You can’t double-check name spellings enough.
  • Most small retail businesses still don’t use email.
  • High school activities would not exist without the support of orthodontists and pizza shops.
  • People love pictures, usually of people, always of themselves.
  • Deadlines are meaningless to most people.
  • No matter how much professional experience you have in supervising photo shoots, it’s always best to get out of the way and let a cheerleader mom run the group photo shoot. 
  • The most important thing you can do when overseeing a photo shoot of teenagers is to watch the group and make sure no one is using nonverbal communication that could eventually make the photo unusable.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Update on O'Brien Communications' Web Site

The off-site servers that host O’Brien Communications’ Web site, along with many others, had apparently been hacked.  For this reason, we took down the full Web site and have re-posted a summary site.  Meanwhile, I will continue to use this blog space for current information on and from O’Brien Communications.  Thanks.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

We Get to Play...

In the spirit of October baseball that’s about to descend on the nation, I thought I’d use a Disney movie about baseball that’s starting to emerge as a classic to support a point. The motion picture is “The Rookie,” a true story about a high school baseball coach that had missed his chance at Major League Baseball fame and fortune because of an injury many years before.

Now, a husband and father with bills to pay and obligations to keep, the coach played by Dennis Quaid, goes about the business of living and coaching. One thing leads to another and much to his surprise, the coach gets noticed and has that second chance at the majors that he never dreamed would come. Of course, he’d have to earn his way up by spending time in the minor league system. That’s the struggle of the story.

He knows time is not on his side and this is his last chance. He’s put his life on hold to pursue his dream, and it’s creating hardships at home. He misses his family and wonders if it’s all worth it. The stress shows in his performance. He’s in a slump, and as negativity dominates his thinking, it all starts to spiral.

Through the course of it all, he has an epiphany. He finally remembers what it was about the game that drew him to it as a boy. He loves baseball. When he was a kid, every day on the ball field was pure joy, and seen by him as an opportunity to live his passion, if only for a few hours each time. The solution becomes clear, change his mindset.  To get back to the love of the game, his passion for it, and the notion that every day he gets to put on a uniform and take the field is an opportunity, not a job, an obligation, a struggle.

The turning point of the story is when he realizes this and then returns to the locker room with a new attitude. While not profound, the line stands out as a classic. He approaches the young star of the team and says simply, “You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball.”

It’s a great movie moment even if you’re not a baseball fan.

So how does this apply to communications?

Quite simply, we are often confronted with communications challenges or business challenges where communications plays a role. We become preoccupied with the nature of the challenge or the work. And sometimes we forget that what may have drawn us to the profession is a love of writing, strategizing or problem-solving.

Every now and then, it’s good remember our own “love of the game.” Play ball!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First Response in a Crisis

The concept of first responders came to mind recently when I was involved in a discussion on how fire, police and emergency medical personnel respond to emergency situations. While the term may have been around a long time, “first responders” took on new meaning on September 11, 2001 when we saw these everyday heroes run toward the problem while trying to help everyone else escape.

Their real-life example provides a certain model for those who may serve as “first responders” of a different sort – crisis communications.

That said, the first thing that a first responder does is assess the extent of the problem, who is affected, how they might be affected, and the potential risks to the public. This all serves to help alert all who might be affected to at the very least, remove them from or keep them safe from danger. First responders must follow clearly established protocols for establishing a perimeter around a problem area, and then they must enter the fray, doing what they’ve been trained to do to take control of the situation and then resolve it.

No matter who you talk to, a police officer, a firefighter or a paramedic, all will tell you how important it is to have clear lines of communication and an established chain of communication and decision-making so that first responders can do their jobs.

In the business world, an effective first-response strategy is to apply some of these basic principles to crisis communications:

1. Assess the risks to those already affected and those who could be affected.
2. Make sure the public well-being is top of mind from the very outset.
3. Make sure your response team is properly trained and briefed on the situation before they get actively involved.
4. Have established operational protocols in place, including chains for communication and timely decision-making.
5. And make sure that you have sound systems in place for communication within the team.

All of this is very basic and very fundamental to the larger process of gathering information, assembling a crisis communications team, and creating the strategies, messages and action plan required to put forth an effective crisis communications response.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

It’s been ten years and a common question these days is, “Where were you on 9/11?”

My memory is probably less interesting than most, but for that matter, I remember being in a meeting with a colleague right next to the Pittsburgh airport. The air traffic outside became a distraction over the course of the hour we met. By the time we finished, as I was leaving, an administrative staff member asked me if I had a plane to catch. I said, “No.” She said that was good because all of the air traffic was backed up due to a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

I hustled to my car and listened to the latest on the radio. By that time, it was being reported that two planes had hit the towers and one of them may have been from Delta. I have a niece who is a flight attendant stationed in Boston at the time. I spent the ride calling my sister to see if my niece was okay. She was fine. By the time I got back to home base, like everyone else, I was fixated on the live TV coverage the rest of the day.

A few months earlier, I had been on the 93rd floor of one of the towers in a meeting with people from Fred Alger Management. This was in my prior position just before starting my own business in May of that year. I wondered how the people I had met were doing on that day.

In the days to come, like so many others, I gained a new appreciation for so many things and continued to watch the news more carefully than I already had been doing.

Eventually, an article in a business publication reported that 35 of Fred Alger’s 39 employees at the World Trade Center had lost their lives on 9/11.

This past week, National Geographic has been running a series of compelling documentaries centered on 9/11, focusing on how leaders at that time felt and dealt with the minute-to-minute decisions they had to make.

If you have the chance to spend an hour or so watching, you won’t regret it. It’s a very good way to step back and reflect on how 9/11 changed this country’s worldview.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Art of the "Thank You"

For as much as I try to focus in this space on communications topics where I have enough good experience to provide some value, I have to admit that there is one area where I could stand some improvement. That area for me is the art of the “thank you.”

I have a friend and colleague who is the absolute model of the proper way to thank people, whether the context is business or personal. I’ve come to expect that after nearly every interaction with her, she will surely follow up with the appropriate level of acknowledgement. If we meet for coffee, she’ll likely send an email shortly thereafter just saying how good it was to catch up. If we’ve worked on a project together, she usually sends a handwritten ‘thank you’ note that is written in such a way that you know she put some thought into it.

When she was a client, she was well known for how she would thank everyone who supported her efforts in any number of ways, but always accompanied by a nice ‘thank you’ note. I’d mention her name here, but I’m sure it would be against her wishes to call attention to her quiet practice of treating others with respect and appreciation.

What I’ve learned is there is a right way to thank people, and when you do it, it really can strike a positive chord with others. The key is first to be consistent about it. Don’t just thank people after particularly big projects or challenging times. Thank them all of the time.

When thanking people, consider the various ways to do it, from a simple email, to a handwritten note, accompanied by a token of appreciation in the form of a gift card, a specialty item, or even balloons or flowers. Handwritten notes are not only very personal, but because they can physically be saved (unlike a phone call or email) in a box or a drawer, they are quite often kept by their recipients for days when they need a pick-me-up. Handwritten notes can have a very long shelf-life.

And whenever thanking people, make sure to put some thought into the words you choose. Don’t just use stock language that suggests you have not given the message proper attention. Rather, in your note, tell them specifically what they did for you and why it was so important to you. Then thank them from the bottom of your heart.

I wish I could feature all of these tips in the context of a skill I’ve mastered, but in this area I am still a work in progress. But as I’ve been on the receiving end of proper ‘thank you’ notes, and as I have tried to work at it, I have gained an appreciation for the difference it can make.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Five Things They Don't Teach You in PR School

Since I graduated from college PR School has emerged as the primary feeder for the public relations profession. Unlike today’s PR graduates and like many from my generation, I entered the PR field after spending the earliest part of my career working in the media and after studying journalism in college. In the many years since, colleges have produced countless numbers of very bright and talented PR professionals who learned about everything from communications ethics and new media technologies, to how to create winning communications strategies and how to integrate research into public relations campaigns.

This is not to say college PR instruction hasn’t had some major failings. The dead horse I refuse to beat in this space (beyond this paragraph) is the ever-increasing number of incompetent writers graduating with PR degrees. This is probably the most common complaint in the profession when it comes to PR curricula, and it seems to be largely ignored by the university community. Most PR hiring managers would rather see resumes that showcase extensive and rigorous writing instruction rather than courses like “Media and Sports Relations,” or “Sex, Myth & Media.”

There are, however, some lesser known areas where PR majors enter the profession with little to no clue as to what they may need to do to be effective professionals. Let’s call these the “Five Things They Don’t Teach You in PR School.”

1. “Nothing Happens Until You Make the Sale” – I wish I could take credit for this, but I’m quoting the founder of a company I once worked for, though I doubt he was the first to say it. Bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Public relations is a business whether you work for an agency or a nonprofit. You can’t be effective in public relations if you can’t convince people to buy into a strategy, a creative approach, and garner the necessary funding and resources to pursue that approach. Sales skills and a willingness to sell are major assets.

2. Menial Details Matter – Proofing, media lists, checking spellings and titles, hand-delivering important documents that could have been e-mailed or snail-mailed. Sometimes the most important things we can do for our clients and companies are the most menial. While there may be a place in PR for fantastic cocktail parties and nationwide media events, we can never be above the seemingly unimportant tasks. Remember the old saying, “The devil is in the details?” It’s true.

3. Some Organizations Deserve Their Reputations – It’s almost assumed in PR school that through PR, we can save organizations from themselves simply through communications. There are times communications cannot solve systemic problems. If an organization consistently neglects its important stakeholders, an employee barbecue, a news release and a new Web site can’t fix that. If the organization has been consistently insular PR can’t save the day when the organization finally decides to communicate when it is under fire from the media. Goodwill must be earned over time.

4. Journalists Build Reputations on the Change They Effect – There are many reasons for the changing behaviors of today’s journalists, from the economics of shrinking newsrooms and shrinking market share, to the rise of the “new media’s” influence. Regardless, if you are a journalist wanting to make a name for yourself today you know this is best achieved, not simply by being a good reporter, but by effecting change – forcing management changes, shaming elected officials into resigning, or even driving changes to legislative or corporate policy.

5. Keep it Human – Members of the current generation graduating from college are considered “digital natives,” a term meant to describe people who’ve grown up online through any number of electronic devices. They are not the only ones however, who may have fallen into the trap of distancing themselves from real, in-the-flesh, human interaction. Thanks to email, smart phones, texting and social media, the need to physically meet or even talk personally on a live telephone call seem to be unnecessary. A business editor recently told me one of the best ways to reach her now is simply by picking up the phone and calling her. She said she only gets around five or six real telephone calls a day. Good advice for any PR pro.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Getting Organized for Communication

It was one of those meetings that galvanized for me what chief executives often look for in a communications person. The executive in question was someone I had known for many years and who needed help with some new corporate communications initiatives. He worked in an industry with which I had no experience. When he asked me if I could help, the first thing I pointed out was that I had no experience in his industry and didn’t consider myself a “techie.”

He said, “I don’t need a techie, I need someone who can organize us.”

Based on our previous discussions, I knew I could do that, and in the end not only was I able to do so but I also learned that I could be a techie if the situation warranted. In fact, I learned that if you can master the full range of communications disciplines, it does not matter which industry you represent and where you operate.

Since then, I found that this CEO wasn’t the only one who wanted help in organizing his company’s approach to communications. So what are the key issues that lead to this?

Growth – When companies grow, they find that they need new and different capabilities that their early stage communications function did not possess. Perhaps they need to add staff, but just as importantly, they need to rethink the role of communications in their growth and management structure.

Downsizings – When companies shrink, they find that they may not need certain capabilities they’ve maintained for years, but that they do indeed new ones to reposition themselves in their markets.

Repositioning – As nimble companies adjust to changing market and operating conditions, they sometimes need to make adjustments in the way they communicate. Often, they need to communicate with more intensity than they have before to ensure that their stakeholders understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, and where they are going.

These are just three reasons companies need to reorganize their communications efforts, but enough to gain a sense of what you may really need in a professional communicator – an organizer.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Celebrating Freedom of Speech

We often hear references to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, but every now and then it’s worth a revisit to see exactly what it says. I thought I’d use the occasion of this Independence Day weekend to do just that. So here it is, the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Forty-five words that have been argued over, litigated over, debated and which have provided protection for everything from prayer services to flag-burnings. When the First Amendment makes news, emotions are charged on both sides of the issue.

It is because of this amendment that while people in the PR profession can earn any number of degrees and professional credentials we cannot be licensed. This is because it is illegal to censure or ban one from the practice of free and open communication in American society.

Many years ago, I heard someone say the best way to address speech you don’t like is to make your own voice heard. Since that time many technological advances have enabled us to not only make our voices heard, but to make them heard around the world in real time.

On this holiday weekend, I’d like to wish you a safe and happy time to celebrate with friends and family, and to take at least a moment to think about what a privilege it is to live in a place where freedom of speech is the cornerstone of our national constitution. And a big “thank you” to all of those who put their lives on the line to allow the rest of us to exercise these “inalienable rights.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hospital Lessons Part II

A little over four years ago, I wrote an article for PRSA’s PR Tactics on how the hospital where my father spent his final days shaped its own reputation for the worse. The article here was called Lessons from a Father's Final Hospital Stay. The hospital damaged its own reputation, I maintained, not because of inadequate PR tactics but rather through the behaviors and actions of hospital staff. I argued that reputations are shaped through first-hand experience, one person at a time.

The article I wrote drew quite a bit of attention. I received several requests from across the country to reprint the piece in hospital newsletters as a reminder of how individual patient care can have a bearing on everyone associated with the organization.

Fast-forward to 2011. We can call this blog post Hospital Lessons Part II.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve become familiar with a few horror stories coming out of a couple of hospitals. One involves a family member who had appendix surgery, and the other involves a 20-year old Type I diabetic who was admitted to another hospital due to complications.

I will just list some instances here where the hospitals did themselve no favors:

• Nurses had a playful syringe fight (akin to a water gun fight) with saline solution in my family member’s room.
• Nurses snuck into my family member’s room for the sole purpose of gossiping about other nurses, totally ignoring my family member.
• When my family had questions for one nurse about timing and protocols for discharge, he said he did not want to be “put in the middle.”
• When my family had questions for doctors, they directed the family to the nursing staff. When the family approached the nursing staff, they were directed to the doctors.
• The hospital’s Web site said the primary care doctor should be involved in discharge decisions. When the family talked to the primary care doctor that was news to him.
• Doctors and nurses, who clearly knew my family member was in a fog thanks to drugs and complications from a serious infection communicated with him tersely and verbally on important instructions and information to be used by the family to make important decisions. Needless to say, my family member didn’t remember even seeing certain doctors, let alone the information they “passed along.”
• Because of his condition, my family member was not able to eat solid food for a time. That didn’t stop the hospital from delivering him a tray of solid hospital food three times a day.
• The diabetic child of one of my friends was admitted to a hospital because her sugar levels had spiked to dangerous levels. That hospital made sure to deliver sugar-laden trays of food to her on a regular basis.

In an automotive manufacturing plant, this might be diagnosed as a quality-control problem. In a hospital, where human lives and human quality-of-life issues are at stake, these things are inexcusable. What usually makes matters worse is the blank stare - and quite often the pushback - you get from hospital staff when you point out discrepancies in care, even if all you are doing is asking questions to obtain better understanding.

I said it four years ago, and apparently it is worth repeating. PR can only do so much. At some point, leadership in organizations must come to the realization that their behaviors have a major impact on their reputations.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Crowdsourcing and PR Implications

“Crowdsourcing” is yet another one of those terms that results from taking a timeless practice and combining it with new technological capabilities, establishing the practice as a seemingly credible discipline.

In the most simplistic terms, here’s how crowdsourcing works. You have an idea that has not been fully fleshed out, or you have a problem you have not solved. You want the input of others before you arrive at a solution or next step, so you throw it to a group for discussion, debate and brainstorming. The group takes your initial idea or situation and arrives at a collective conclusion and solution, though given you are dealing with a group, you could end up with several next steps that are diametrically opposed.

Crowdsourcing purists might say that ideally, the crowdsourcing process should lead to a more definitive conclusion and direction.

What gives crowdsourcing its legs as a discipline is the emergence of social media, where collaboration among many disparate individuals from around the world can be tapped in ways that may have never before been possible. The theory is that if two heads are better than one, imagine what 3,000 heads from Texas to Japan might be when it comes to “ideation.”

To be sure, the people who came up with crowdsourcing might be on to something, but the practice also presents some obvious challenges. Once you turn your problem or idea over to a group in such an open-ended and public way, you are often likely to end up with committee-think. We’ve all heard this one: “What do you call a race horse designed by a committee?” Answer: “A camel.”

But beyond the practicality or perceived value of crowdsourcing as a practice, there are also some very real public relations implications. The first being whether or not the subject for discussion is or should be proprietary. The last thing you want is to start a discussion on a topic that could lead to damage control for your public relations team.

Tied to this, you have to know that once you initiate a crowdsourcing project, it will take on a life of its own and could go in a direction you can’t imagine. I recently read a story from a major daily which started a crowdsourcing thread that invited its hundreds of thousands of readers to share their comments on a specific topic. The editors promised participants that their comments would not only be quoted, but that they would essentially drive coverage of the particular topic, assigning the reader the roles of writer, editor and in the end, the subject of the story. I’m not sure if crowdsourcing has yet amounted to a trend, but it is certainly a fad in some news rooms.

This is the journalistic equivalent of that carnival mirror that shows you a reflection of a reflection of you ad infinitum. I don’t know about you, but after a few seconds, I find it’s time to walk away from the mirror and move on.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting the Communications Function on Track

You may be interested in a backgrounder I recently developed that may be helpful to you or someone you know. While the document is titled “Getting the Communications Function on Track,” it is anything but an indictment of the people who comprise the function. Rather, it is centered on how to systematically assess communications to take a snapshot of the current operating environment and challenges faced by the communications function, and using the process to provide a basis for future planning and activities.

The assessment evolved out of communications audits I’ve done for clients over the years. Only, rather than use the old “audit” process simply to identify problems as most audits do, the assessment is designed to identify what’s working, where there may be inconsistencies that need to be addressed, and how the process can be leveraged for future communications success. Senior management tends to find such assessments helpful in staying on top of one of the most important leadership functions within the organization – communications. And communicators may find this approach useful in helping them manage expectations and support their own cases for a renewed commitment to communications.

Here are some questions that managers may want to ask themselves if considering a closer look at the communications function:

1. Are you concerned that recent changes could have an impact on communications, and ultimately the organization’s marketing, recruitment and retention, or any other important function?
2. Has your organization been forced to make cuts in the communications function?
3. Have these cuts affected the staffing levels or responsibilities within the communications function?
4. Have people in the organization begun to go “rogue,” preparing their own communications materials leading to inconsistencies and reduced quality?
5. Do you have excessive amounts of old collateral materials mixed in with newer designs?
6. Are you concerned by how important stakeholders now perceive your organization?

It’s obvious that the more questions you say “yes” to, the more likely you’d have an interest in the backgrounder. The development of these backgrounders is in response to common questions or issues I currently tend to address in my own work. If you’d like a copy of the backgrounder, just get in touch with me using the contact information on this page, and I will follow up. Thanks.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Advertising Equivalency Measurement and Why it Shouldn’t Matter

Communications professionals are not infrequently asked by clients to provide Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) numbers as one means to evaluate the effectiveness of a public relations program. Most commonly, AVEs are tied to the measurement of publicity campaigns that support larger marketing communications efforts.

The thinking behind AVEs is to show management how much value is received by publicity. While the AVE has become more sophisticated over the years, it is basically a process where the PR firm calculates the volume of media space or time and compares it to that media outlet’s advertising rates and/or its market share.

Numbers crunchers then estimate that a certain amount of media placements are equivalent to a certain amount of ad dollars and audience reach.

For example, if the ACME software company is prominently featured in a Daily Gazette article that takes up an entire full page of the newspaper, the PR firm would then find out how much it would cost to actually purchase a full-page ad. It would then make an assumption what the article about ACME is worth in advertising dollars. Further, if the publication has a circulation of say 250,000, then the PR firm might tell the ACME software company that the publicity generated 250,000 “impressions.”

That’s pretty simplistic. I’ve seen PR firms throw in other factors that gin up the numbers even further. “Pass along rate,” is one. This is where the PR firm tells ACME software company that not only did the Daily Gazette’s original 250,000 subscribers see the article, but it is likely that about 15 percent of the newspapers were “passed along” to others who also saw the favorable publicity. This then serves to reinforce the PR agency’s claim that the publicity actually generated 250,000 plus 15 percent favorable impressions, or 287,500 gross impressions.

As an aside, it appears that the PR firm does not usually take into account that of the original 250,000 subscribers to the Daily Gazette, some may not have read or cared about the full page article, and of those who did read the piece, how many may have gained a favorable impression of ACME software company. I’m absolutely sure the actual numbers are much less.

Over the years, I’ve been in meetings or seen AVE reports where it was said that a particular campaign generated millions of media impressions in towns with fewer than 250,000 residents. Even with the Internet and SEO, I don’t know how this is likely.

There are many other bells and whistles that to some extent further refine the AVE approach to measurement, but since the whole process is based on what I believe is a flawed assumption – that publicity is in effect free advertising – I just think it all serves to further confound anyone who wants a true picture of the effectiveness of the PR campaign.

Because public relations is as its name states is a relationship business, it really cannot be effectively measured according to the AVE system, which is now largely considered archaic in communications measurement circles. Rather, it is best measured by finding out what targeted audiences perceive, comprehend, remember and act upon. This often requires both quantitative and qualitative research of the actual targeted audience. Tactics include primarily surveys and focus groups, but of course, there are many other ways.

What I like best about how far the communications business has come is that it no longer sees itself only as a publicity machine that can be measure according to the same standards as advertising. Instead, its focus is on the building and preservation of reputations, creating awareness among broad swaths of stakeholders, not just the media, and at the end of the day, making sure that everything it does is designed to build stronger relationships with key audiences.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Attitude Matters in Media Interviews

I saw a woman interviewed on television today. She was the mother of one of the World Trade Center victims on September 11, 2001. Her son was an off-duty police officer who was supposed to be on the golf course that morning, but he voluntarily rushed to the scene to help, where he saved many lives and sacrificed his own.

This woman broke every media interview rule in the book this morning. She wore a hat that didn’t fit. She had no “talking points.” She talked of struggling to forgive Osama Bin Laden but that she would try, and then leave justice to God. And she talked of a meeting with then President Bush in the days after her son died. In matter-of-fact terms, she described another human being, not a caricature, who consoled her at a time of need.

Any one of these things could cause a media interview to go south in seconds, yet this interview was different. She broke every rule of successful media interviewing, and yet she likely won the hearts of hundreds of thousands if not millions. So how did she do it?

She spoke from the heart, simply and with compassion, and ultimately with a general optimism that she exuded from start to finish. Through all her experiences in life, she continued to have faith, and it all came through.

There is no better preparation for a media interview than going into it with the right attitude.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Five Commandments of Local Television News

I know your first question. “Why not ten commandments?” That’s been taken, and since we’re talking TV, there’s no time for ten, so we’ll have to go with five commandments.

After years of witnessing the evolution local television news and pitching substantive story ideas at times only to lose out to stories about 20-pound cats and talking Christmas trees, I feel compelled to list the unsaid rules of local TV news story selection. So, here goes – The Five Commandments of Local TV News:

One - Begin with Sports and Weather teasers. Feature Sports and Weather. And end with Sports and Weather.
Two - Always lead the newscast with a fire, a car accident or a crime story.
Three - Always find someone who’s long on opinion but short on information for a man-on-the-street interview to explain macroeconomic concepts like foreign trade deficits. (“They took our jobs!”)
Four - Lay a guilt trip on your audience with at least one preachy story about what people shouldn’t eat, or what they're not doing to save the planet. (“Remember, it’s good for you, and it’s good for the environment.”)
Five - Scare your audience into watching. Food recalls are great. Light snow or rain is even better if you can work the words “storm watch” into the teaser.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Katie Couric and the Future of the "Evening News"

In the industry trade magazines, all the talk is about Katie Couric stepping down from her anchor spot at “CBS Evening News.” To be sure, within the industry, it is a major position because it’s the same desk where Walter Cronkite told the world of Moon landings and the John F. Kennedy assassination. But times have changed.

The country no longer sits in living rooms at 6:30 or 7 p.m. each night to get the news. Cable news, satellite news and the Internet have made it possible to get up to the minute information from anywhere in the world no matter where we are. In effect, the Walter Conkites of days gone by have been replaced by a smart phone.

Against such a major shift in information consumption, Ms. Couric took the helm of “CBS Evening News” in 2006 and was never able to build enough market share among a decreasing pool of viewers to even take first place among network news. At last check, her newscast was a distant third in the three-horse race with about 6.5 million viewers, the smallest number ever recorded for the broadcast’s audience since Nielsen tracked such numbers in 1992.

What’s been interesting for me is to watch how local news operations have responded to the same dynamics. Local news stations emphasize breaking news and place a lot more attention on fresh video, weather, sports and neighborhoods. As a result, they’ve maintained somewhat healthy viewership simply by being current, extremely local and thus relevant. Just don’t count on your local news to keep you current on world affairs and business news.

On the other hand, Couric’s news operation has tried to stay true to the 1960s vintage Walter Conkite model of newscasting – a 30-minute report, once commercial breaks have been removed, amounts to about 20 minutes of news reporting. “CBS Evening News” has opted to spend more time on the world-event-of-the-day, whether it be a comprehensive report from a war-torn country, or analysis of a major bill before congress.

The CBS operation usually picks another major social issue on which to focus a second comprehensive feature, such as the state of public schools or the lack of affordable housing in some cities.

What this means is that once commercials and the two feature stories are removed, the “CBS Evening News” has allotted roughly ten minutes to report nearly all of the news of the world. And Ms. Couric does so with all of the energy of a driver's license center worker who missed her coffee break.

I think CBS has a tremendous opportunity to make its news operation more relevant going forward, but to do so, it would have to start by thinking beyond the boundaries of simply, “the evening news.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Second-largest St. Patrick's Parade in the Country

One of the best things about St. Patrick’s Day in Pittsburgh is that it usually follows a cold and dark winter and marks the first glimmer of warmer weather and the arrival of Spring. Around the middle of March, the grass in the region starts to turn from brown to green again and so do the streets as roughly 200,000 spectators line the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Always held on the Saturday immediately prior to or on St. Patrick’s Day, the Pittsburgh parade is considered the second-largest St. Patrick’s parade in the country. Over 23,000 participants travel the parade route along Grant Street and the Blvd. of the Allies to the review stand at Stanwix Street.

I help with the handling PR for the event, which is one of the highlights of my year. This year will be the second time in as many years that I have worked on the parade, and it seems to only get better with time.

We started a Facebook page last year, along with a Twitter feed. The Facebook page has about 10,100 followers, and the Twitter feed has over 500. These are helpful in keeping people informed leading up to the event, and it’s a great way to get the pre-parade buzz started. One of the things I like best about this event is its genuineness. For an event of this magnitude, sponsorships are extremely reasonable and nothing is contrived. The volunteers do it for their love of their Irish heritage, the City of Pittsburgh, and for the camaraderie of doing something with their old and new friends.

This year’s parade is Saturday, March 12th, rain or shine. Slainte!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Levi's Commercial Puts Marcellus into Some Perspective

Levi’s has an interesting ad campaign targeting its national audience of youth. I understand that the ads are designed to sell blue jeans, but one ad struck me at a level beyond marketing and perhaps what the producers intended.

The ads feature Braddock, Pennsylvania as a setting to create these striking mini-motion pictures that seem more like what you’d expect if watching a classic movie about the Great Depression.

Even a casual viewer gets the sense that this town was once a vibrant hub of steelmaking and has gone through years of neglect and abandonment. What the ads could not capture, however, was how the loss of this industry affected the steelworkers, their families and these communities for decades.

The point of this campaign is to show good people in Levi’s jeans working to bring this downtrodden community back through the general volunteer, clean-up, fix-up approach.

What the ads never hint about is that it takes much more than sweat equity to truly revitalize a community, a region. It takes the emergence of a major industry to drive an economy big enough to build new schools, churches, infrastructure and hospitals.

Not far from Braddock and all around it, natural gas producers are converging on the region to tap a tremendous deposit of natural gas known in energy circles as the Marcellus Shale. For the first time since the demise of steelmaking in this region, an industry has emerged here with that kind of economic potential.

Most residents welcome this because they know that we have a strong history of co-existing with heavy industry. We were able to do so because of strict pollution controls and diligent monitoring and enforcement of rigid environmental regulations.

This is not to dismiss the concerns of those who worry about the impact drilling could have on local communities. Concern is good, but blind opposition ignores this region’s strong track record of fostering thriving industry while protecting the environment.

While Levi’s may not have had the Marcellus in mind, its “Go Forth” ad campaign follows a theme that is more than fitting when considering the opportunity Marcellus presents.

A child runs down dark hallway, out a door into daylight, and metaphorically speaking into a brighter future. The voice of another child speaks softly over a building soundtrack of strings and percussion, “People think there aren’t frontiers any more,” the child says. “They can’t see how frontiers are all around us.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Two Tips for your Crisis Communications Plan

Imagine you just finished your crisis communications plan, complete with template news releases for every eventuality. In fact, the last news release you inserted in the plan takes into account the possibility of a flood shutting down one of your company’s production facilities.

Now it’s two weeks later, and a flood actually does shut down one of your company’s production facilities. Do you really think you’re going to use that template, or is it more likely you’ll start from scratch, making sure to include all of the relevant details specific to this situation that you never could have anticipated?

My vote is for the latter, so with that in mind, when you develop your crisis plan, my recommendation is to ditch the templates and focus more on your process for anticipating, evaluating and responding to various types of crises.

Here’s another tip. Don’t keep your plan in a binder or on a single computer, or for that matter in a single facility.

Remember that flood? Imagine if all of the people charged with mounting an effective response to the flood lost the plan because their computers and all of their book shelves are under water.

Best to have the plan accessible from anywhere there is an Internet connection. This is attainable by having off-site company servers “host” the plan. If your firm is too small for such an arrangement, consider just backing up your plan onto an external hard drive that can be stored in multiple locations

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Age of the Social Media Guru

There is a new breed of communications pro emerging in response to increasing interest and confusion over how to factor social media into a communications strategy. Enter the “social media guru.”

You may know the type. They can text in their sleep and tweet messages on their smart phones faster than you can blink. You can usually spot them in crowd, looking down, undistracted by what’s going on all around them, thumbs twittering away.

The problem is that most social media gurus that I know are so infatuated with the technology and its potential, that they don’t appreciate the need to be a little more deliberate in communicating on behalf of their organizations. Or tied to this, they think nothing of asking busy executives and managers to allocate significant chunks of their time to social media without giving serious thought as to whether certain activities are worth the effort, possibly at the expense of another PR activity that may be more worthwhile.

I’ve seen a few organizations run into trouble on the advice of the gurus because they never took into account the need for research, planning, and sometimes the simple development of complete and coherent sentences in their communications.

One former client of a guru said it to me this way, “They’d rather get the response out messy now rather than wait to do it right.”

That kind of sums it up. Too many social media gurus are more focused on exploiting social media technologies and the many possibilities that they don’t always think in the true best interests of their clients.

I had the opportunity to talk to a recent college graduate who is leaning toward developing her social media skills into a career path. She asked if I had any advice.

I told her our employers and clients don’t pay us to just to play with the latest techno toys. They want us to help them use these technologies to advance their business and organizational objectives. Sometimes that means taking the time to establish systems and review processes that ensure we are using social media effectively and responsibly for our organizations.

That may sound a bit cumbersome for those who like the instant gratification of pushing buttons and generating instant digital dialogue, but it helps to avoid a lot of problems in the long run.