Tom Garrity

Duran’s Sentence Provides #PR Opportunity

In Messaging, Reputation on December 14, 2015 at 6:43 pm

The sentencing phase of ex-New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran over campaign finance violations captured the attention of media, elected officials and key opinion leaders around our state.   It also captured the attention of The Garrity Group Public Relations team.

The sentence includes the things that often go with finance related crimes: restitution, fines and certain prohibitions. But this sentence, because the person is a statewide elected official, also includes a mandated submission of letters to the editor, public speeches and outreach to acknowledge her wrongdoing and to help others from going down the same path.

While the crime she is potentially guilty of committing (as of this writing there are some legal maneuvers that could vacate the sentence) pales in comparison to other elected officials, the District Court Judge handed down a sentence that is ripe with public relation opportunities to restore her reputation.

Discussions with our team, after the live television coverage ended, included the following observations for how ex-Secretary of State Dianna Duran could use the sentence to her benefit:

  • Use the letters to the editor to show remorse for the victims who donated to her campaign and to raise awareness about the issue of gaming addictions.
  • Use the public appearances to acknowledge her crime as a way to introduce solutions on how to keep this from happening to others by proposing changes to the laws she was charged to uphold (she is also a former State Senator).
  • After her rehabilitation, aligning with anti-gaming groups as a spokesperson
  • Start an affinity group to address the issues of rebuilding trust in government

The ingredients of rebuilding trust include clear, consistent and transparent information. Trust is an issue that has plagued State Government Officials.; according to the annual 2015 Garrity Perception Survey, only 20 percent of New Mexico residents trust State Government Officials. But the elephant in the room (and donkey, to be fair) is that nearly half of New Mexico residents distrust state government officials.

The proposed sentence handed down by District Court Judge Glenn Ellington to the ex-Secretary of State should be a rally cry for all elected officials to rebuild trust with the electorate by leveraging the same tactics to promote (and enact) meaningful change to win back trust of the residents and electorate.

GPS Trust of State Government Officials 2011 2015.001

Understanding New Mexico’s Trust Deficit in our Legal System

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2015 at 4:51 am

The slaying of Rio Rancho Police Officer Gregg Benner has generated significant criticism of the courts and justice system. Based on media reports, and admissions by various agencies, the suspect, Andrew Romero, slipped through and took advantage of “the system” to go on his crime spree, which resulted in the death of Officer Benner.

Public outrage toward the entities responsible for Romero’s release is intense. Flaws throughout the system all seemed to manifest in this one case. There were apparent issues with crime scene evidence, a judge was reportedly on leave for a time, the district attorney lacked experience, and the driver for a halfway house never showed up to pick up Romero.

Since 2011, New Mexico residents have been losing trust in judges, police officers, and lawyers, as well as losing favor with the courts and justice system. According to the Garrity Perception Survey, a scientific report conducted by Research & Polling, nearly all of the professions and institutions connected to the justice system have also seen an increase in distrust and unfavorable perceptions.

New Mexico residents’ favorability of the courts and justice system has dropped two points to 34 percent (2011-2015). During that same timeframe, the percentage of residents with an unfavorable perception has increased four points to 33 percent. Police officers, although gaining a lot of the trust lost in previous years, has seen trust slip by a point since 2011 to 54 percent; however, dis-trust among New Mexico residents has increased seven points to 26 percent in 2015. One of the largest increases of distrust among all professions surveyed.

Based on the research, only one of the institutions or professions are favored or trusted by New Mexico residents (meaning they failed to pass the 50 percent mark).

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, “when a company is distrusted, 57 percent of people will believe negative information after hearing it just one or two times. Conversely, when companies are trusted, 51 percent of people believe positive information about the company after hearing it just one or two times.”

It will take increased transparency coupled with an explanation of how “the system” operates for the courts and justice system to stem the tide of unfavorable perceptions and increased dis-trust among New Mexico residents. Often, providing insight about why things are the way they are provides peace of mind and starts to neutralize negativity.

CU Gibberish

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Ol MacDonald Credit Union

When picking up a race packet for a weekend 10K, I noticed a variety of things. A nice pen/stylus with the name of the event sponsor, a map of the course as well as promotions for a local restaurant and health club. Oh, there was also a brochure for Kasasa.

Kasa what?

Evidently, this is a trend for banks and credit unions. Instead of increasing relevance the old fashioned way by earning the customer’s trust, at least 230 credit unions across the United States (according to the ABQJournal) decided it would be best to confuse their customer by changing their institutions’ names to made up words.

What is a made up word? It is the letter version of “word salad”, gibberish. The kind of word that is not allowed in “Words with Friends.“

This article in The Financial Brand outlines a few of the gibberish heros. Comstar changed their name to an anagram of money, NYMEO. Another was Wynadotte FCU (which is one of the more challenging to spell) that changed to NuPath.

Recently, a credit union I use, changed their name from New Mexico Educators FCU to NUSENDA Credit Union. I first heard about the change through twitter then called my commercial banker to find out what the name change was all about. Was it a merger or acquisition? Are there any new services or member benefits? Does it mean that new branches are going to open near me? Is the artificial sweetener Splenda at play? Or was it a computer hack and all a bad dream?

The answer, “it was just a name change.” Really? A name change brought to us by the same industry that took years to depart from neck ties to open collared shirts because it was concerned the move might be seen as “radical” decides to change their name to a made up word?

It was either a so-called “branding expert” or a focus group gone wild that resulted in names like Kasasa, Nusenda and Nymeo.

Here is some free advice for any CEO considering a name change to either a made up or existing word: first focus on improving customer service and increasing relevance to your community. If things don’t turn around change your name or sell the business.

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