Tom Garrity

Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

An Inconvenient Belch

In Life on February 26, 2009 at 1:50 pm
an-inconvient-truth-movieThe causes of global warming are all around us. Burning fossil fuels, mining and an increasing human population are the three top causes of global warming, according to  The same website also cites “One natural cause is a release of methane gas from arctic tundra and wetlands.”
Today, the Wall Street Journal ID’d the latest culprit: Belching Sheep.
The page one story (titled “Silencing the Lambs) cites a United Nations report that there is a global “effort to keep sheep, deer, cows and other livestock from belching methane when they eat and regurgitate grass.” The report states that the animal world is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than cars.
A few things come to mind when I read the story: 1) I am glad we are getting a return on our investment in the United Nations; 2) Vegetarians have more arrows in their quiver on the reasons why “meat” is baaaa’d (sorry couldn’t resist); 3) When will there be a survey commissioned to study the greenhouse “gas” emissions generated by Tex-Mex Food?
While, I always had a suspicion, now there is proof of an ovine’s impact on the ozone. I am glad to see that we are making progress on identifying the catalysts of climate change… now it is time to go outside and enjoy a 70-degree February day in Albuquerque.

The ABC’s of the WSJ

In Life on February 18, 2009 at 1:48 pm
WallStreetJournalIt has been said that the simple things that can make you or break you.
In most sports, the simple things include keeping your eye on the ball.
In business, it is making sure you bring in more money than you spend.
For news media, its making sure you get the name spelled and identified correctly.
Before, I finish this short blog post about the simple things, I need to share with you a little bit about my daily routine.
One of the simple pleasures I enjoy each morning consists of a fresh cup of coffee and reading both the Albuquerque Journal and Wall Street Journal. I typically open both papers up and stack one on top of the other.
I enjoy the coffee, read the news and get ready for the day.
There is a problem with the very linear routine. My Wall Street Journal almost always arrives out of order. I am not kidding.
The sections should go A-Page One, B-Marketplace, C- Money & Investing, D-Personal Journal. The publisher reinforces this approach on its website “How to Read The Wall Street Journal”. I think there is something about the alphabet that is a challenge to those who gather and fold the daily press together because in this WSJ world, the one delivered to my driveway every morning, “C” comes before “B”.
So, back to the simple things.
In this economy where newspaper publishers are more vulnerable than the Big Three automakers, one would think there should be an emphasis on the “simple” things, like delivering the Wall Street Journal so that “A” comes before “B” which comes before “C” and finishes with “D”. 
Maybe the publisher should develop a special website to show its printer “How To Compile The Wall Street Journal”

Ode to APS

In Education on February 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm
APS-Apple-logo_2Those of you who have known me for a while are aware that I took a leave of absence from my public relations practice several years ago to help lead the Albuquerque Public Schools as Chief of Staff/Superintendent of Advancement.
At the time, APS was 87,000 students and 14,700 employees strong. A revolving door of superintendents was documented through seven leadership transitions in 12 years. Lack of trust was reflected through the first defeat of a capital funding election in recent history.
After helping APS reconnect with the community, despite controversial leadership, we saw the passage of a needed capital funding election and the highest approval rating for the school district in recent memory.
But the time to celebrate the success was short lived. Five months after the successful election, the superintendent was killed in a motor vehicle accident. The person who was driving the superintendent’s car was drunk those who were not killed in the crash were all dead within three weeks… which coincidently, was the amount of time before the school year started.
The situation was a classic crisis communications case study. I’ve had a chance to share the 48 hours of the crisis response to the National School Public Relations Association, Council of Great City Schools and, tomorrow, the Texas School Public Relations Association. Lest anyone think I am making money off of this tragedy, I cover all of my expenses and never charge for this talk. In fact, I never do a soft sell for services.
I do this as my community service. Using the approach of “one beggar showing another beggar where to get food”, the talk is designed to refresh communicators minds, encouraging them to look into all aspects of building community trust before and during a crisis. Incidentally, tomorrow will be the last time that I’ll give the presentation. It is emotionally draining and, after five years, it is time to move on and let others share their examples.
So, why the blog post? I guess in part to encourage communicators to share their success stories. I saw in the newspaper today that colleague Joann Killeen provided pro bono services to the mother of the very controversial mother of the octuplets. While I have mixed feelings on the client and situation, I look forward to hearing from her about the unique challenges. If you have a success story, send it to me and I’ll post it up here… changing the names to protect the innocent!

Signs of the Times

In Life on February 13, 2009 at 1:40 pm
UnemploymentlineI remember the day well, despite it being 18 years ago. I was in New York City to help my sister celebrate a birthday. I received a page to call the office. My friend and co-worker Rich was on the other line letting me know that the nationally syndicated show we worked for in Miami was going to be cancelled.
When I returned to Florida, the show canceled, on schedule. And we all scattered across the nation looking for work. Some had an easier time finding work than others.
The economy was soft, there was no freelance work and the other stations/shows were not hiring so I downsized, rented an un-air conditioned room in Little Havana from a good friend and collected unemployment.   This four month menagerie occurred during the months of July, August, September and October. During those months, the only thing higher than the temperature is the humidity.
One of my many memories from that time was from my time in the unemployment line. My occupation placed me into a unique top category, alongside unemployed physicians (is there any such thing?). That unique status in life provided me $250 a week in unemployment – based of course on my completion and submission of a card documenting my employment search.
There were so many things I remember from that time. The drunk who needed help filling out his unemployment card, the Spanish speaking mom who needed some help translating a box on a form while her kids were screaming (yes, living in Miami automatically makes you multi-lingual), the people staring off into nowhere and the government worker who seemed the least bit enthused about the job she had. It was a community as diverse as any political campaign and ignored just the same. It was surreal and very real.
Today, I am hearing from friends who are “displaced” by the economy. One is a former assignment manager for a network news operation who is looking at a job as a production assistant for a local affiliate. Another was laid off and is enjoying her time as a mom. Some are looking at additional schooling and one wants to start their own business. 
Despite discouragement, they are all pressing forward in their own way.
They don’t want me to fix their problems; they just want a sympathetic ear and an occasional suggestion on how to stay encouraged during a difficult time.
Been there, done that.
I can see that one of the benefits of starting in the unemployment line many years ago is serving as a resource to those who are walking in it today.

The A-Rod Diplomacy

In Crisis Communication on February 10, 2009 at 1:37 pm
ArodWe are all familiar with the nursery rhyme/story about Goldilocks and the three bears. How she stumbles upon their cottage and samples porridge that is too hot, too cold and the other is just right… that’s what she devours. 
In some ways, Alex Rodriguez (a.k.a. A-Rod) selected what he thought was the middle ground recently when discussing how he knowingly took performance enhancing drugs. The baseball mega-star, and soon to be an all time home run leader, admitted he took drugs shortly after signing with the Texas Rangers. That season he had one of his best offensive seasons in baseball history.
But when Sports Illustrated started reporting about a failed drug test A-Rod decided it was time to put his plan into play.
Seeing how Barry Bonds and Roger Clemmons responded to allegations of steroid use was perhaps seen as too “hot”.
Andy Pettitte’s approach was seen as, perhaps, too cold.
And the middle ground, a road taken by Jason Giambi, seemed like the right move.
So, A-Rod remained silent, signed with the New York Yankees and had a one-on-one tell all interview on ESPN where he accepted responsibility.
Scott Olster, a San Francisco area columnist, has a nice take on the apology in his column on SFGate.
What do we learn from the A-Rod Diplomacy? Disclosure is a good thing. Transparency is better. And, Major League Baseball has larger credibility issues than any institution that has recently accepted TARP funds.

Time to Swim

In Uncategorized on February 6, 2009 at 11:57 pm
PhelpsTo everyone’s and nobody’s surprise, Michael Phelps is human. He made a mistake, which was documented on a camera phone and positioned to an international audience.
He lost the Kellogg’s sponsorship and USA Swimming suspended him for three months.
Yesterday, he apologized.
Michael’s biggest public relations challenge now becomes getting the news media to do a flip turn and move on to another story. Hindering this is the news media’s goal to secure their own unique apology for their respective news magazine programs.
The best way for Michael Phelps to start reshaping public perception is simple… get back in the pool. When he is in front of news cameras, it conjures images of a bong at a college party. When he starts swimming, he helps to reattach himself to the strongest brand connection available…8 Olympic Gold Medals.
Michael, it is time to suit-up and get back in the pool!

Communicating Layoffs

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2009 at 11:54 pm
layoffsThere has been, and will continue to be, a lot of attention about corporate layoffs.
Workforce reduction strategies are the same in a bull market and in a bear market, the only thing that changes are the tactics.
However, there is something about companies doing this all at once that makes this a bit disconcerting. The layoffs are so huge and the impacts on already declining stock prices are so significant that many organizations are resulting to tactics they normally wouldn’t employ in a different economic climate.
Take for example the timing of these internal announcements. Typically reserved for Friday, layoffs are taking place on every day of the work week except for Tuesday (which is ironically the one day the postal service would like to halt service – but that is another story).
The reason for making layoff announcements on Friday is so you don’t disrupt the traditional workplace, provide the “downsized” a cooling off period and allow the remaining workforce a chance to recover. Retailers typically have their “weekend” on Monday and Tuesday.
The old rules also don’t apply as to who is and is not impacted. In the past, the human resource folks were the last let go – because they have to stick around to process the “downsized”. Not anymore, HR professionals, in many of the recent firings, were among the first wave. This raises concern about who is handling the termination and do they “know” how to carry out the action?
Finally, there is public notification. In a normal environment businesses will announce and layoff on the same day. In recessionary periods, organizations need time to communicate information face to face – thus delaying the amount of time it takes to make the announcement because there are so many people to contact.   Some businesses are using the time to delay the inevitable of a stock price decline, that will always come back to bite those organizations in the backside.
So, what’s the answer? Transparency. With so much being made of the banking industry and TARP funds, 100% transparency is the new “green”. Investors, employees and their respective communities will respond favorably to transparency during recessionary communications if care and compassion is shown to those who are considered the “victims” of the recessionary tactics.

Kellogg’s Ad Misses the Purpose of Charity

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2009 at 11:52 pm
TonyTheTigerI admit, I enjoy football and watching the Super Bowl advertisements. While I am a bit surprised at the $3million price tag for a thirty-second spot, I put aside friendly competition between Advertising and Public Relations just to soak it all in.
I like the funny commercials. Therefore, Bud Light’s Conan O’Brien and both Doritos commercials (Crystal Ball and Strong Snack) consisted of my commercial trifecta. The Bridgestone Potato Head commercial was also a classic. On the flip side, I was surprised that Avon’s ad was so bland. Go Daddy pushed the envelope, leveraging Danica Patrick’s assets.
But the one commercial that really caught my attention was Kellogg’s and their Plant a Seed campaign. The program, through a well done commercial, boasts about Kellogg’s benefiting the inner cities by reseeding and rehabilitating ball fields. When I saw the ad, I thought, “good for them.” But then I thought again, how much are they spending on the program? Is it more than the cost to buy the air time, $3 million?
I went to the website and read the rules:
Thirty (30) Grand Prizes – An Athletic Field Makeover in Sponsor’s discretion based upon consultation with field makeover experts and consistent with Kellogg’s Worldwide Marketing and Communications Guidelines and the Council of Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Initiative (ARV – not to exceed $15,000 ea. field makeover). Total ARV of all prizes – not to exceed $450,000.
That’s right, no more than $450 thousand dollars will be spent by Kellogg on a maximum 30 possible makeovers.
If Kellogg had put its money where its mouth is, instead of using money to shoot its mouth off, 200 additional programs could be funded from the cost of a thirty-second Super Bowl spot (not to mention the cost to make the commercial and custom song which are all available on the special website).
Make no mistake, the $15K makeovers will be a big boon to the winning communities. I do applaud Kellogg for investing in community. But when the cost to toot your horn is so prohibitively more expensive than the gift being given, one has to wonder about the true motives.
Sorry Tony the Tiger, this form of community relations is far from Grrrreat!