by blewis on June 3, 2013
Nearly nine years ago, several common connections brought us the opportunity to meet Mark Bowlin and to get acquainted with EverittCo. At LPR, we had completed our fifth year of working as strategic communications consultants, and had started working to build broader internal capabilities… particularly in design, video and web.
Getting to know one another, we both saw ways that we could make each other’s companies stronger and more nimble in delivering even more powerful communications programs. What started as a traditional sale of services soon morphed into consulting with each other on new activities and, later, going to market together. As a result, we earned some great assignments together.
Even though our teams complemented each other and delivered a “one plus one equals three” equation, Mark and I wanted to pilot our own ships. As a result, we set in place a number of structures to allow us to increasingly leverage technology and other assets to the benefit of our public, community and corporate relations clients and EverittCo’s marketing customers.
Recently, the time came for EverittCo to gain greater scope within its disciplines. As a result, the team connected with Aars | Wells, a firm led by our friend Alex Wells, with whom we’d had a chance to collaborate on a few key projects in the past. Since then, our three organizations have gotten even more familiar with each other.
Earlier today, Mark shared with EverittCo clients and others that his firm would be merging with Aars | Wells. We’re all looking forward to continuing our collaborative activities in the coming months and years as trusted colleagues and friends. More importantly, we are wishing Mark, Alex and their employees all the best as they take two talented marketing firms and make them one.
by blewis on January 22, 2013
Eleven years ago, the Harvard School of Public Health, Mentor and the Corporation for National and Community Service launched National Mentoring Month.
As public relations professionals, we’re more than familiar with ‘fill-in-the-blank’ days, months and years… a mainstay for many topics that otherwise could go unnoticed.
While the potential exists for mentoring to fall into such a bucket, relegated to once annually recognition, I believe we need to give mentoring much more attention – and credit – to advancing the art and science of life.
Thirty-six years ago, a malleable young broadcast and film production graduate started out on a meandering tour of the offices of various professionals in the journalism and production world around the Midwest, seeking advice and counsel. While he secretly hoped to stumble upon a great first job, his purpose was, in fact, to secure initial guidance for the launching of a great career.
And, so was born an understanding of mentoring. From those days of plotting my exodus from college to finding myself meeting and sharing professional experiences with students back on the campuses such as Baylor or Southern Methodist University, mentoring has become an integral aspect of my professional track and that of our team at Lewis Public Relations. In fact, I’ll be personally capping-off National Mentoring Month by participating in the formal admission of new members to the Baylor University chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.
My friends in academia will be pleased to hear that an honest discussion with college students and new professionals about professional realities does not in any way replace formal, structured and disciplined learning. You cannot effectively queue-up and run the race of a career – be it medicine, engineering or communications – without having the necessary formal credentials.
Yet, how knowledge, skills and abilities gained in the classroom are applied to specific opportunities and challenges is what makes for a rounded professional. For nearly all fields, the most frequent staple of daily life is solving a problem or capitalizing on an opportunity. These calls to action usually are best addressed when one has had a number of opportunities to tackle similar situations. Access to mentoring often can help jumpstart the process.
Similarly, mentoring helps break the endless cycle of “you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job.” Doors opened through active, ongoing mentoring better equip ‘mentees’ to adequately answer questions that facilitate a first job, a major assignment or first promotion.
Beyond new pros, intentional mentoring is part of a mindset of lifelong learning. Experienced and highly capable senior professionals increasingly are finding the value of connecting with professionals several decades their junior to go beyond where the world is today to better understand where the world is headed tomorrow.
Much like the ideological gridlock our nation currently is facing inside the Beltway, established and up-and-coming professionals frequently have found themselves clashing in a battle over smarts and status. In reality, using mentoring opportunities to share knowledge and experience in both directions enriches both.
Young or old, perhaps just this once, heed the declaration of a special month and reach out to your industry group or professional society to find an opportunity to connect with someone with whom you can share professionals experiences and perspectives. Regardless of age, you may be surprised at what you learn.
by blewis on April 13, 2012
(Based on whitepaper written for ImageGUARD™ from The Gibraltar Group)
Behind the visible attributes of every product and service sold in our economy is an invisible value. It’s reputation, and it can simultaneously be the hardest value to acquire and the easiest to lose.
With the delivery of products or services according to all expectations comes the willingness and confidence of individuals to buy what you have to sell. When all is working right, today’s highly technological environment can make you an overnight success. Yet, if something goes wrong, the same rapid communications makes managing reputation even more difficult. What negative comments people make about a person or an organization one day just might end up in social media the next few minutes, rather than traditional media the next day.
With the increasing amount of challenges faced in protecting reputation today and a matching level of exposure received, there needs to be a more defined sense of control.
Business leaders tend to focus more on the short-term cost than the long-term impact, when facing a problem or incident. However, at the end of the day, how organizations are viewed by their constituents often has a greater impact on a company’s ability to survive than the financial factors might suggest.
To prepare for a crisis, the time is now to develop a strategic plan for what you and your organization will do when facing threatening reputational risks. The following is a framework a company or organization can follow in order to help better protect their reputation:
- Conduct a risk analysis
- Identify key participants in an image protection program
- Take corrective measures to eliminate or reduce risks that can be controlled
- Create and exercise a practical issues and crisis response plan before it’s needed
- Establish or enhance awareness and a culture for protecting your organization’s reputation
Whether you’re facing a Tylenol tampering case like Johnson & Johnson or recovering from a $2.15 billion market loss from an ill-fated resignation letter delivered in the “New York Times” like Goldman Sachs, it’s about being proactive in reputation risk management.
About the Author
Blake D. Lewis III, APR, Fellow PRSA is a senior consultant who leads The Gibraltar Group’s reputation management team. As principal and senior consultant at Lewis Public Relations, Blake contributes to the development, delivery and assessment of The Gibraltar Group programs, products and services that assist public, private and nonprofit organizations in maximizing overall reputational value, and minimizing or eliminating potentially negative impacts of course-of-business events on organizational image.
by LPR on January 5, 2012
1. Enlisted military soldier
3. Airline pilot
4. Military general
5. Police officer
6. Event coordinator
7. Public relations executive
8. Corporate executive (CEO)
10. Taxi driver
Looking at this list, I refuse to view the public relations profession as a truly high-stress calling.
Chalk this up as another case of making a mountain out of a molehill.
Throughout a career that’s spanned more than 30 years, it seems that the public relations profession as a whole – if it’s even possible to apply such a sweeping label — has been good at creating causes. Early in my career, it was “PR for PR”, probably best referred to as “The Shoemaker’s Kids Syndrome.” As time progressed, the campaign shifted to “getting a seat at the executive table.”
Today, it’s about how our work is going to shorten our longevity and unduly deprive professional communicators of an ultimate quality of life, however that might be defined.
Aside from our professional cousins – the “event coordinators” who actually reduced our stress-out factor a bit by taking the number six slot – I feel a bit like a guy wearing wing-tips to a reunion of the Village People. Soldiers, public safety personnel and pilots all make sense to me, as well as taxi drivers… though, by extension, that should include those who ride with taxi drivers.
Prior to visible events, such as the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl while on assignment in the Middle East, I might have questioned photojournalist, but no more.
But, public relations professionals?
We do not cure cancer. We don’t routinely rescue babies from burning buildings. We do not make decisions in an operating room at 3 a.m. Our job is to support those who make these sorts of decisions… and thousands of less significant ones… every day.
I believe that most of us prepare for our career with solid textbook teaching, and then build on this core with strong life-lesson ‘continuing education’. We are called upon to take actions that have real implications for our employers or, in the case of LPR, clients. For example:
Yesterday, we announced a change in media relations practices on behalf of one of our clients — a decision aimed at improving their business by reducing noise and focusing on what’s important in their business.
For another client, I helped revise messaging on a major policy change that previously had not been well received by the company’s most important audience.
“Off the clock,” I recently tag-teamed with my public relations professional/daughter in helping very close family friends manage communications in the murder of their daughter, a case that continues to be under investigation by authorities.
In each case, our job was to make things better. It’s what we’re paid to do.
A word to the students who read the article in either extreme horror as to their career choice or thinking they had just signed up to be a modern day mercenary. Our job is to work our way up into the role of trusted advisor to one or more organizations, where we take steps every day to manage and mitigate the issues that otherwise put us in front of a global microphone at times of challenge or disaster. While prudence says we should prepare as if an organization’s very existence depends on us, practice says we should surround and be surrounded by colleagues in a wide range of disciplines and areas of subject matter expertise.
Dismissing the silliness of ranking our jobs at the same stress level as others on this list, the one aspect of the article I appreciate is the opportunity to thank those who truly risk their lives for the safety of us all. They deserve all the appreciation for a well-earned label of stressful career.
by LPR on January 4, 2012
For more information:
(contact information for news media use only)
Richardson Real Heroes Program Seeking Selfless Residents
Call for entries honoring silent generosity in the City open now through February 12th
RICHARDSON, Texas (January 4, 2012) – With the start of the New Year, a group of Richardson volunteers has begun the process of soliciting nominations for the third annual Richardson Real Heroes Award.
The Real Heroes Award was created in 2010 to draw attention to individuals who give of their time and talents for the betterment of the Richardson community.
According to Chelsea Schmidt, 2012 Richardson Real Heroes chair, the selection process for this year’s group of finalists and the ultimate Real Hero starts with the all-important nomination.
“From the first two years of the program, we’ve learned that the most critical – and, yet, most challenging – aspect of the program is surfacing nominees,” said Schmidt, a paramedic currently attending nursing school who personally has served in a number of volunteer capacities. “The committee knows that thousands of people throughout the City of Richardson are making a difference in seemingly countless ways, but the humility that frequently accompanies these volunteers makes it challenging to get their nomination. That’s why we’re working to encourage anyone in Richardson who is aware of someone who are silently generous with their time and talents to go online and make a nomination.”
Criteria for selection of the 2012 Richardson Real Hero include a review of information provided in each nomination, initial assessment of all nominees by the selection committee, an individual interview between each selected finalist and a member of the selection committee, and popular votes garnered online.
In 2010, a group of ten finalists were interviewed by the inaugural Award committee, from which two award winners – Courtney Scott and George Jones – were named. Last year, six finalists were chosen, with Lisa Rees selected from among them for the 2011 award. All selected Real Heroes and each year’s finalists have been recognized for their contributions at receptions held annually at the Richardson Civic Center.
This year, nominees must again represent one of two different categories for entrants:
• Richardson residents who provide unpaid service in an exemplary manner inside or outside of the City
• Non-residents who volunteer their time and talents to benefit Richardson community members
Additionally, candidates should not have received prior recognition for their efforts in the recent past. Public sector employees are eligible only if the qualifying activity occurs on personal or unpaid time. Past and present elected officials cannot be recognized for any activity.
Volunteers can nominate themselves or be nominated by another member of the community. According to Schmidt, the selection committee invites both self-nominations and nominations submitted by another member of the community.
Nominations are now being accepted online at www.richardsonrealhero.org, with the process open through Sunday, February 12. Public voting on the nominees will begin on Friday, March 2 and will close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 6. Finalists and the winners will be announced at a special reception to be held in Richardson on April 19.
For more information or to nominate a candidate for the Real Heroes program, visit www.richardsonrealhero.org.
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by LPR on December 29, 2011
This time of year, everybody starts talking about their New Year’s resolutions, and how to start off fresh on Jan. 1.
I remember when my family used to gather around the dining room table on New Years Eve, and my mom would pass us each a piece of paper and a pen. I also remember writing down items like “keep my room clean, make more time for health and exercise and keep my grades up.”
As much as I’m a relative newcomer to the business world, I think the organizations of all sizes could benefit from gathering this sort of basic ‘resolutions’ view of their world from team members at all levels as part of planning for the new year. Businesses are collectively about increasing revenue and expanding client bases, but individuals oftentimes ignore or don’t think about how they could make a difference in their business as an individual, and this seems to be undervalued by business leaders, as well.
The right mentality comes when you think “how will (insert improvement here) contribute to my work environment?” Every day is full of assignments, meetings, phone calls, email exchanges, etc., but we don’t take a step back too often to simply ask ourselves how can we better our agency or business?
At LPR, we’re focused on outcomes. We want to generate the best results for our clients as possible. There’s always room for improvement, and here’s a list of a couple ideas to potentially incorporate in the corporate version of New Years’ resolutions:
• Think more consciously about how your time spent is impacting your organization as a whole, especially when factoring in your clients or customers
• Think more critically about how you can improve your work, especially if one or more practices are not generating desired results
• Think more carefully about how you make daily decisions, especially when these decisions and the reasoning behind them will make a big impact
I think the business world, in general, has become too complacent with how things are. What if more individuals chose to be proactive, taking on some responsibility of improving the business in which they work in 2012? Think about how things could be.
by LPR on June 29, 2012
Our client, Alon Brands, the Dallas-based supplier and marketer of fuels and largest licensee of 7-Eleven in North America, this week announced its support of the new Marine Recovery Fund (MRF). This fund exists to support service personnel seriously injured while in service in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.
U.S. armed forces are being deployed every day in some of the most dangerous settings in the world, facing the potential of serious injury as a result of their service. In situations where this potential becomes a reality, these injured soldiers often face life-changing situations that call for substantial levels of support.
The MRF started as a venture of several individuals and organizations located across Texas, looking to support the family of a Marine explosive ordnance disposal technician from Odessa who had been seriously injured while serving with a multi-national force in Afghanistan. However, broader interest in the unique needs of family members of service men and women seriously injured in active duty gained the attention of Alon Brands, amongst others, resulting in the individual fund being expanded into the MRF.
One program supporting the MRF was developed by MillerCoors through a contribution of 50 cents for each case of Miller Lite 18-pack of cans/bottles or a 9-pack of aluminum pints sold at any participating retail outlets in West Texas and New Mexico through July 31. As the lead retail outlet in this campaign, 302 ALON and FINA/7-Eleven stores are supporting this initiative.
The new MRF is being administered by the Boot Campaign, a grassroots initiative started by five Texas women known as the Boot Girls. The Boot Campaign provides an easy and tangible way for Americans to show appreciation – both past and present – cultivate awareness of the challenges they face upon return and raise funds that assist in meeting these physical and emotional needs.
The experience and capabilities of the Boot Campaign enable the new MRF to benefit from a capable and experienced Boot Campaign team as the fund creates it future.
by cchesner on March 20, 2012
Behind a confident politician or an accomplished author oftentimes stands an individual hidden in the shadows, given the name of a ghostwriter. A ghostwriter is a professional copywriter who creates content and then attributes it to someone else.
Face the facts… the public relations profession is full of ghostwriters. We are hired to clearly and accurately represent our clients in the media and in their respective industries. We leverage our clients’ expertise and thinking, utilizing those thoughts and concepts as the strict framework of a particular writing assignment.
Is it ethical?
While we have creative freedom in word choice and overall presentation for our clients, we walk a thin line in ethical considerations. As Voltaire once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” When public relations professionals are given guidance from a client on an assignment – such as a guest article or blog entry – it is how we use that framework that makes the difference.
Many argue undisclosed ghost blogging, tweeting or Facebooking is unethical. However, if a public relations professional does the job right, understanding a client’s organization inside and out, there shouldn’t be a question of whether or not the organization is misleading the public.
Is it fair?
The work of public relations professionals is published all the time, without credit. Yeah, you can post a link to your New York Times video piece on Facebook and show your mom the op-ed piece you helped create for the Dallas Morning News, but it’s not the same as seeing your name beside it in print, right?
Fortunately, it’s not fame or recognition that drives public relations professionals; it’s the positive impact our work has on our clients and their businesses. It’s rewarding to know that we aren’t just copywriters creating content… We are communicators making things happen.
What do you think?
FULL DISCLOSURE: Fellow ghostwriter and colleague, Kara Fordyce, also contributed to this post.
by cchesner on March 1, 2012
It’s that time of year. PRSA Dallas is hosting its annual Pro-Am Day on Friday, March 16, and the Lewis Public Relations team is looking forward to participating again.
True to its name, Pro-Am Day is an opportunity for students and experienced public relations professionals to connect through one-on-one shadowing, followed by an educational luncheon program that is open to all participants and local professionals.
Public relations students from across Texas (and throughout the southwest) sign up to:
- network with Dallas public relations professionals,
- gain hands-on experience at public relations agencies, corporations and nonprofits,
- learn about summer internship opportunities,
- and spend some time in our shoes to find out what it’s really like to work in public relations.
Sounds like a great opportunity for public relations students, right? Of course. But the value doesn’t stop there.
Not only is Pro-Am Day a chance for mentors to give back to the profession and share our insight with ambitious students, it’s also an opportunity for us to help better prepare the professionals who will be entering the “real world” on our side tomorrow. These students will be sitting in the office or cubicle next to us, working on our teams, before we know it. Why not take advantage of this time to let them know what it takes to be successful…and what they can be doing now to be more equipped on Day 1?
Pro-Am Day is also a hot spot to find up-and-coming talent, all in one place. If you’re looking for an intern or an entry-level team member, you will find some great candidates participating in this program.
We’re excited to host a student and join our colleagues and peers for the monthly luncheon program, “The State of Public Relations,” on March 16. Our agency principal, Blake Lewis, APR and PRSA Fellow will be moderating the panel, in which panelists will discuss the future of our industry, share experiences from their specific areas of focus and cover topics relevant to any organization, such as media relations, marketing, crisis communications and social media.
Panelists will include:
- Scott Allison, Allison+Partners CEO
- Carmen Branch, March of Dimes communications director
- Denise Stokes, Frisco Convention & Visitors Bureau PR and communications manager
- Wendell Watson, Texas Health Resources PR director
I hope all you PR pros and students out there will consider participating in this valuable program. You can check out the PRSA Dallas website for more information and registration details – www.prsadallas.org.
by LPR on February 24, 2012
By Blake D. Lewis III, APR, Fellow PRSA
Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to spend time with a group of students in Baylor University’s Public Relations Agency course. As an elective for juniors and seniors in the Journalism, Public Relations & New Media department, the class focuses on both the creative and administrative work that occurs in an agency setting.
During our time together, teams of aspiring public relations consultants shared their experiences with what is best termed their “Meet the Client” session. One team was particularly challenged by their client and assignment.
I listened as members of the group described their business to business PR assignment with a Waco-based organization. With a mixture of responsible concern and uncertainty, characteristic of soon-to-be new professionals entering the world of business public relations, I heard two distinct observations from the team:
“The client knows what they want as an end product – a website – but doesn’t know what the actual site will focus on or say.”
“When we went to our first meeting, our client left us with tons of information.”
After providing encouragement about the process, we talked about what the group had taken away from the meeting, literally and figuratively:
- That the deep supply of background information provided them with both the raw materials and the license to draft some initial straw poll content
- That the straw poll content likely would serve as a means of moving the process forward, with a likely result of either confirming a direction for the website or additional guidance toward the ultimate direction of the project
As they described their experience, I realized that they hadn’t yet learned one of the core competencies of public relations advisors – using an expertise in forensic communications to shape public relations strategies and tactics.
When facing a communications opportunity or challenge, business leaders generally know what they want to accomplish for their organization or broader industry. Where they often have uncertainty – and why they engage a public, media and community relations professional or team – is in their need to secure the how.
Fact is, the students were concerned about something that experienced professionals experience regularly. We often serve as the sketch pad on which leaders create and formalize their organizational persona.
Moving from the conceptual to the concrete in creating, enhancing and sustaining public perception requires a skilled, experienced and trusted advisor who also can function as a positioning and messaging sherpa.
This is a great lesson for these students, and a great reminder for others engaged in shaping the direction of our nation’s institutions, big and small.
by LPR on February 10, 2012
While one of the big buzz words was “sustainability” in 2011, this year already appears to be the year of engagement… with peers, co-workers, customers and others. From creating desires to visit a FINA/7-Eleven convenience store to extending the customer experience beyond store doors, LPR client Alon Brands illustrates engagement at its best through its Clean TEAM initiative.
Clean TEAM recognizes and awards FINA/7-Eleven stores for clean and attractive facilities, as well as top-quality customer service. This program goes the extra mile in recognizing the hard work and persistence it takes to make a store customer-ready.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, a group of Alon Brands employees and FINA/7-Eleven store managers and employees gathered across the street from store #51703 on Menaul Blvd. in Albuquerque to honor winning store manager Christina Lopez. Joined by Trudy Jones of the Albuquerque City Council and Joy Davis of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, company leaders recognized and spoke about the importance of well-run and well-stocked convenience stores to the community.
At the end of the event, Christina received the keys to a 2012 Chevrolet Equinox. This presentation is, in itself, a form of engagement. The award sets the standard for other FINA/7-Eleven stores to strive toward, as well as reinforces the engagement demonstrated by Christina and her teammates.
Going beyond the Clean TEAM event, Alon Brands sponsored a Customer Appreciation Week at all the company’s stores in Albuquerque during the week of the Clean TEAM event, providing customers with discounts and giveaways. This is another form of customer engagement, a key element to creating brand relationships.
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Whether you’re a store manager organizing your employee’s daily assignments or a store employee making sure the store is ready to deliver an over-the-top customer experience, engagement connects everyone together.
Food for thought, from the public relations perspective: The realm of public relations works the same way: employees, professionals and clients are all connected through engagement. Without the buzz word “engagement” in the public relations profession’s vocabulary, our job would cease to exist.