Grace is the CEO and co-founder of Hunter Public Relations. She talks about her journey, female mentors and the importance of learning from your mistakes.
On April 27, 2016, a group of 13 High School students visited the Weber Shandwick headquarters in New York for a Behind-The-Scenes career exploration event. The students were in for a treat. It's not every day you get the opportunity to hear from and meet working professionals from the number 2 top global PR agency. Weber Shandwick has distinguished itself by racking up 1000+ industry awards and securing an enviable client portfolio of world notable brands such as Nike, Disneyland, Oreo and more.
The event began with meet-and-greet introductions with Fanni Gabor, recruiter; Melissa Robinson, human resources director; and Tameka Green, their recently appointed director of diversity and inclusion. As an ice-breaker, the students were asked to introduce themselves and state their favorite leisure and hobby activities. The students then watched a video that gave them an agency overview history and scope of business.
Over a pizza and salad lunch, students were treated to a panel presentation from several young Weber Shandwick employees, ranging from interns to senior executives: Kwanza Johnson- director, Digital, Lauren Hudson- AE, Corporate, Julian Vasquez- account supervisor, Corporate, Khadijah Davis- assistant account executive, Healthcare, Parmida Schahhosseini, AAE- Technology, and Damilare Oyefeso- intern, Technology. All of them outlined the day to day activities of a PR agency and the responsibilities, challenges and rewards of various PR roles.
Some of the students were unsure about their college majors. They were reassured by Parmida Schahhosseini, who shared her story of having 11 majors before finding her passion in PR. She gave invaluable insight on how to make the best out of an internship experience and also how to strengthen their writing skills. Lauren Hudson had a great way of describing PR as “…being at the pulse of everything that is happening in the world.”
The high school students were invited to ask questions to get a clearer understanding of PR operations and the range of current and emerging opportunities that are available in the industry. PR is one of the few sectors that touch every business industry. The students learned that regardless of what career they are interested in pursuing, there is a place for them in PR. Tameka Green summarized the wide scope of PR career opportunities when she said, "Twenty years ago it wasn't common to have a scientist working in the PR field, but with the growing demands of technology and healthcare system, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has become part of the storytelling process, and who better to connect and tell that story than a doctor, dietitian or scientist."
The students were clearly engaged by the experience and were asking lots of questions. “Before this experience, I had a lot of confusion over the difference
between Public Relations and Advertising. Through my engagement with the staff at Weber & Shadwick, I not only have found clarity, but with that clarity, I have increased my interest in pursuing a prospective career in Public Relations,” said 11th grade student Je’Jae Daniels.
The visit closed out on an inspirational high note when Tameka Green advised students to "…take chances; don't live the rest of your lives wishing you could've done something you were scared to pursue. Listen to your parents but most importantly follow your heart."
Our deepest thanks to the Weber Shandwick team, and Judith Harrison, for being such gracious hosts.
— Nathalie Cazeau & Jacqueline Dolly, High School Outreach Committee
With the beginning of the year comes the season of resolutions and goal-setting, both personally and professionally. For those of you considering a career in communications and public relations, listen up. Here are three recommendations for actions you should be taking right now if you want to work in PR.
When someone in public relations is said to use “spin,” it is often an accusation of being dishonest — or at least misleading — in interpreting the facts. On a mission to change the PR industry’s negative image, Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, created a blog called Spin Sucks and put what she learned into a new book. According to Gini, "Spin is stretching the truth or a downright lie."
While the word “sucks” is forbidden slang in many circles, Gini’s intent is to present an unvarnished, plain-spoken description of the negative attributes of “spin.”
Divided into four sections, the book includes:
- How to tell your story without sex or extortion (includes the differences between paid, shared, earned and owned media.)
- Dealing with scammers, liars and beggars (includes whisper campaigns, media manipulation and the dark side of content.)
- How your customers influence your brand (Hint: your brand is what your customers think it is.)
- Spin Sucks (includes media convergence, crisis communications and the future of communications.)
NYWICI Member Tricia Kenney, Chief Communications Officer at Publicis Kaplan Thaler, says that “Spin Doctor” is the worst thing to call a PR practitioner. “There is a huge difference between spinning the story versus turning a negative into a positive authentically," Tricia says. "When your CEO hands you a lemon, make lemonade and turn it into something worth talking about.”
Gini wrote the book with CEOs in mind, but it’s accessible and should appeal to anyone interested in the field. The book is engaging and well written, and held my attention with compelling examples, “how-to” advice, witty anecdotes and recent case studies. I liked the balance of examples between what not to do (Kenneth Cole, Susan G. Komen) with stories about companies that got it right (Zappo’s, Oreo.)
My favorite section is on crisis communications in Chapter 9. Gini contrasts recent case studies from Applebee’s and Domino’s Pizza to illustrate how issues can escalate or be defused depending on how they are handled. She writes:
“When you’re managing an issue so it doesn’t become a crisis, it’s important to remember that often, it’s not the content of the story that matters, but who tells it first. When you tell your story, you have the best opportunity to stay in front of it. Take the punch to the nose. It may break, but it will heal.
When the media finds out about your issue and they tell their [version of the] story, you almost always end up with a crisis. Once your issue becomes a crisis and makes the headline news, there is no way to answer what you knew, when you knew it, and what you’ve already done without looking guilty in the public eye. Wouldn’t you rather be the one in control of that message?”
Further reading and viewing
Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich (March 7, 2014)
Spin Sucks, the book
Publicity is free with no PRs, Financial Times
A Fundamental Lack of Understanding, Edelman
Sucks is a Bad Word, Spin Sucks blog
Spin vs. Positioning, Spin Sucks blog
Top Tips for Working Your Way to the Top -- Without Stepping on Others
It was announced Tuesday that Lance Armstrong will be appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Network on January 17 to address the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency reports accusing him of doping. This fall, the agencies stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life from competing in all Olympic sports and athletic events. In recent days, Armstrong and his PR team may have been taking a temperature check on how an admission would pan out for him.
According to The New York Times, a source claims Armstrong may admit to doping for professional gain in order to lift his ban and to compete in sports again. The World Anti-Doping Code states an athlete might be eligible for a reduced punishment if he fully confesses and details how he doped, who helped him dope and how he got away with doping. According to the Times:
Lance Armstrong, who this fall was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping and barred for life from competing in all Olympic sports, has told associates and antidoping officials that he is considering publicly admitting that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions during his cycling career, according to several people with direct knowledge of the situation. He would do this, the people said, because he wants to persuade antidoping officials to restore his eligibility so he can resume his athletic career.
Armstrong has been under pressure from various fronts to confess. Wealthy supporters of Livestrong, the charity he founded after surviving testicular cancer, have been trying to persuade him to come forward so he could clear his conscience and save the organization from further damage, one person with knowledge of the situation said.
Reactions have been across the board, but from a public relations standpoint, here lies a potential crisis strategy plan in the making. Most PR professionals will tell you that a long-overdue apology is not the usual way to handle a PR crisis. However, an intentional leak through an anonymous source in a major publication could begin the conversation, to gauge not only what the public reaction might be, but also to give Armstrong's team an advanced look into how to build their strategies from a public relations and private sector perspective.
But does PR matter if he admits lying under oath? Perhaps there is an explanation for a delayed admission. "I would count back the years to make sure he is past the statute of limitations for perjury," said New York trial attorney Stuart Slotnick. The Times also suggests a public mea culpa may be in exchange for an agreement for the Justice Department to not prosecute him for perjury.
We ask our Hot Sheet Panel:
- Do you think Armstrong will admit to doping in the upcoming Oprah interview?
- From a public relations perspective, does it matter if Armstrong apologizes?
- Has Armstrong's window of opportunity to apologize closed, or at this point is any apology better than nothing?
- Lastly, do you think The New York Times piece was a public temperature check designed by Armstrong's camp?
I think Oprah would refuse to do the interview unless she stipulated in the ground rules that Lance Armstrong fully confess and she likely laid out the points on which he must acknowledge his wrongdoing. Otherwise, why waste her time?
I believe that to have lied to EVERYONE for so long, to have included his teammates in the doping and the lies, he's proved he's no more than a drug addict and a pimp.
The ONLY reason to go on Oprah is to begin to restore his reputation. I don't think he cares a hoot anymore about competing. But the irrational person who drugged for decades still thinks he can restore those wins. It's what therapists would call magical thinking. Sadly, the charity may likely not survive. These are the consequences of lies. Someone who was a hero to so many was anything but. Terribly, terribly sad. But this is the human condition. We have to accept the truth, just as he does. No more delusions anywhere. He must face them. Acknowledge them. Then, possibly, something new and valuable can replace all the old which must be washed away. Think of Nixon. Think of Clinton.
Owner, Ginny Pulos Communications, Inc.
NYWICI Integrated Marketing Communications Committee Member
JC Penney Handles Boycott of New Spokesperson
On the heels of the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle, a conservative group called One Million Moms (OMM) has called for a boycott from JC Penney for hiring Ellen DeGeneres, an openly gay personality as their spokesperson.
OMM has accused the company of "jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon." JC Penney is trying to rebuild its customer base with help from a new spokeswoman, calling the decision to hire her "a no-brainer."
Grassroots movements and coalitions pop up around hotbed issues every day - and they make their opinions heard loud and clear. They demand that people be fired, advertisements be pulled and support be withdrawn. It's never going to be possible to please everyone, but companies seem to be facing even more backlash from advocacy groups than ever.
Is it possible for organizations to ever stay neutral on polarizing issues? Should they even strive for that? Should a company like JC Penney have predicted that selecting DeGeneres would create controversy? Should JC Penney even pay attention to their new critics?
JC Penney should ignore the critics and stay the course. Their choice of Ellen as a spokesperson is brilliant - she represents a new face for the American family and is a fitting new face for JC Penney. I doubt that JC Penney intended to create controversy but this is one case where any PR might be good PR. Ellen's fans are passionate - 28 million tuned into her debut on American Idol last year - yes, 28 million! I'm sure JC Penney did its math before they selected Ellen and even now are saying they'll take 28 million passionate Ellen fans over one million unhappy housewives. I hope for JC Penney that the dedication of Ellen's fans will be reflected at the cash register.
New York Women in Communications Foundation Board Immediate Past President
The very vocal, lunatic conservative fringe can make noise - but the numbers of Americans who support birth control (99% of American women will use birth control at some point in their lives, as per the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley last night) and who support equal rights for gays are huge - and they both vote and buy. JC Penney needs a new image that differentiates it from its competitors and to appeal to a younger, more diverse audience. Let's not forget that Ellen DeGeneres also represents Cover Girl, and P&G has traditionally not been a radical-risk-taking company. This publicity could be a bonanza - to remind people who support equality that JC Penney is a brand they can identify with and support.
The Ryan Group
New York Women in Communications Foundation Board Member
The practice of public relations is all about networking, so it's no surprise that discussions during the PR panel mainly focused on making connections wherever and whenever possible. "Being a networker and a go-getter will help you succeed no matter where you are," said Erin Tracy, Team Leader and Vice President of Regan Communications.
Calling all aspiring careerwomen! On Saturday, Nov. 6, join your fellow NYWICI girls at the Student Career Conference in NYC! More than 50 communications professionals will gather to offer their expert advice to students and young professionals -- and even reveal some secrets about breaking into the industry. Bottom line: register NOW! The conference will be divided into three sections with various panels.
BP’s mid-July announcement that the Gulf oil spill was capped left media outlets speculating about the fate of @BPGlobalPR, the controversial Twitter user with more than 185,000 followers. During the past three months, @BPGlobalPR has moonlighted as an ironic foil to the oil company’s slow efforts to inform the public about progress in alleviating what is now dubbed the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Though the future of @BPGlobalPR is uncertain, the social media trifecta of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube remains a popular conduit for marketing campaigns that embrace corporate social responsibility, commonly known as CSR.
Social media branding firms such as the NYC-based BRANDfog develop campaigns to shape their clients’ images as leaders in CSR. BRANDfog was founded by CEO Ann Charles, who also conceived the firm’s upcoming Great Leaders Conference in October, an event that will honor leaders of organizations that integrate CSR into their business philosophies.
BRANDfog is not the only player in this field. The concept of CSR seems to be especially appealing for women, and media outlets have harnessed this interest with their own campaigns. Ladies’ Home Journal Editor-in-Chief Sally Lee honored Avon with the magazine’s Do Good Stamp for the makeup company’s Hello Green Tomorrow program. The campaign, which aims to raise awareness among women about environmental issues and help restore South America's Atlantic Rainforest, is a multimedia effort that includes a Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube videos such as the one below.
Interestingly, new market research suggests that CSR campaigns transcend gender, especially when the focus is sustainable or “green” products. Two recent surveys, including one conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Tork® brand of SCA Tissue (a company that produces sustainable hygiene products), support this notion. As SCA Tissue’s sustainability marketing manager Mike Kapalko told Forbes.com: “The results of the two surveys indicate a true trend — that consumer interest in green is here to stay, regardless of region, age, gender, or the country's economic state.”