Tom Garrity

Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

Follow Friday

In Life on July 31, 2009 at 1:45 am

FFridayWho should you follow on Twitter?

The August 7th #FollowFriday list will feature a group I will call Albuquerque’s Active and Interesting

@AshDHart – Realtor by day and techie by day… by night?  I don’t think she knows night because she is always on 24/7.  If I didn’t meet her at the @ElPinto tweet-up I’d say she was a bot with personality.  Very helpful and knowledgeable person to follow.

@Jrnygirl – She hunts zombies, helps people with computer/server issues and loves hers kids almost as much as Journey (kidding, she loves her kids more).  She has a new tattoo and will chime in on any conversation.  She is a good person to have in your twitter corner.

@LisaMays – A teacher, mom and wife.  She will tweet on random topics and will ask topical questions.  Her love of film and music is apparent in her tweets.  I have a degree in film and can tell you that she knows her stuff!

@Swbaboon – Her bios says it all “A money loving wannabe hippie…” She knows her primates and doesn’t follow any missing links (ha ha ha).  She’ll occasionally share things about family activities, Swbaboon always makes twitter interesting!

The Chalmers Crew – Ok this next group is like the three musketeers.  All you have to do is sit back and watch their tweets and you’ll be entertained on a regular basis.  The trio includes: @iaretanja @KesslerQT and @Missmandibaby.  Trust me on this one… just watch their tweets develop and you will smile and chake your heard with that little grin that makes others think “whatever it is on the screen it sure must be interesting.”


The July 31st Follow Friday list is a group of the “First’s” and includes some of the 18 people I first started following when I signed up on Twitter and sent that first tweet on October 28, 2007.

@mattgrubs – Matt is a reporter at KDFW in Dallas, the CBS affiliate.  When Matt was covering the political beat for KOAT, he and I had the chance to work together during several legislative sessions when my firm did work for the Senate Democratic Caucus.  He is a quick wit, is a balanced reporter and responds to Tweets!

The Comcast Crew – Scott Westerman @comcastscott, Chris Dunkeson @cdunkeson and Tiffany Payne @tiffanykpayne are three people who, in addition to being a client, taught me the most about twitter and the different ways to leverage information to exceed customer expectations.  Comcast has a great approach to customer service on the net and these three are a key part to Comcast’s New Mexico and Arizona success.

@tracyweise – Tracy’s firm, Weise Communications, was first brought to my attention through my wife… the two befriended eachother poolside at the Counselors Academy in Cabo San Lucas over a chilled bottle of water (ok, maybe they were sipping something else).  Anyway, Tracy’s Denver-based firm specializes in the healthcare and social media realm.  In addition to MarComm tweets, her firm also has a clever blog called The Side Note.

@peter770 – Peter wears many hats… and wears them very well.  By morning, he is a radio news reporter who has a passion for politics.  By afternoon, he is a public relations practitioner who is responsible for putting Taos Tourism on the map.  By night, only heaven knows where he is cruising on his Vulcan motorcycle.  He tweets on a variety of topics from news to balloon rides.

@desertronin – It takes a special pair of legs to make a kilt work, Benson “Braveheart” Hendrix makes it happen!  Benson and I got to know each other on the New Mexico PRSA Board.  He is a public relations professional who works with the University of New Mexico.  He knows new media and he has clever tweets.

Boatloads of …

In Messaging on July 30, 2009 at 1:43 am

BoatloadsWednesday was a big day for Yahoo!.  They were able to tame the financial beast of Microsoft with a partnership that originally started as a takeover attempt by the software giant.

The announcement was a grand achievement of sound negotiating and long-term thinking.  With so much thought and money that went into the deal, why didn’t Yahoo spend more time on the messaging?

In describing the partnership and its impact for investors, Carol Bartz, the chief executive officer and a director of Yahoo! leveraged the message that the deal would result in “boatloads of money” for investors.

Whether she was consistent in her message or just said it once isn’t really the point.  Just do a quick Google, Bing or Yahoo! Search and you’ll see how popular her characterization has become.

I first became aware of Ms. Bartz’s “Boatloads” comment while watching the unflappable CNBC commentator David Faber chortling and wondering what kind of “boat” Ms. Bartz was referring to.

Was it a toy boat, canoe, paddleboat, cigarette boat, rowboat, oil tanker, cruise ship, container cargo ship?  It is hard to say. 
So many “boatload” visions of the Exxon Valdez surface (or should I say sink) when I read her comment.

Suffice it to say, whoever put “Boatload” on her talking points should be sent off in a dingy.

Photo of my two brothers-in-law on the Madison River in Montana bringing in a boatload of fish.

Transparency and Accountability

In Crisis Communication on July 15, 2009 at 1:40 am

transpaccessYou are accused of wrong doing.  You are named in an indictment.  Your name shows up in a “tell all book” about steroids in sports.  What do you do?

Building/maintaining trust is a three part approach.

The first key to building/maintaining trust is to be truthful.  Shortly after South Carolina’s Governor was caught-up in lies over his schedule and personal relationships, reporters around the country started asking for the schedules of various public officials.  Access to public schedules is peeling back the first layer of the onion.  Providing access to private schedules and commentary about the activities only increases the level of transparency.

The second key to building/maintaining trust is found in communicating directly with your audience.   Be accessible.  Communicate in a timely manner directly with them.  The Governor of Alaska is taking this to an extreme.  In announcing her resignation from office, she announced through the general media then pushed her comments through to her “friends” on FaceBook, providing her message direct and unfiltered.

The third key is timing.  Timing is everything.  You can be transparent and accessible, but if it is after the fact, your efforts are disingenuous.  Case and point, let’s take a quick look at Roger Clemens.  The baseball great was named in a “tell all” book where he was accused of taking steroids.  His immediate criticism of the claims was to be expected, but he didn’t provide anything to support to his innocence.  He used an attorney to speak on his behalf and then tried to use his star power on Capitol Hill to try and divert attention prior to his testimony before a Senate subcommittee.  He could have helped his case by releasing his calendar and personal medical records (even just blood tests) to refute claims of where he was and what he was doing.  That suggested approach is extreme but, if he had nothing to hide, it would have helped to turn the tide more than using attorneys and ‘he said she said” defenses.

Being truthful/transparent, accessible and timely in your positioning and response will help determine how long you will find yourself in the midst of the public spotlight.

Sharing Your Message

In Messaging on July 14, 2009 at 1:38 am

Sharing your message is all about how you communicate with your target audience (i.e. constituents, customers). In the past, communicating with the larger public was largely relegated to the news media. 

Today, there are a multitude of options available when communicating with a broader spectrum of people.

While there are new ways to tools, the guiding questions about sharing your message remain the same: What do you want to accomplish?  Who do you want to reach?  What do you want them to know about your organization?  What do you want to say?  How do you want them to feel about you and/or your group?  The answers should be found in your measureable objectives, target audiences and key messages.

Sharing your message is akin to having a conversation.  In your personal life, you typically want to celebrate good news with everyone.  If you have bad or sensitive news, would you want to share that face-to-face or one-on-one?  Despite what we see on reality television, the same approach is true in a business setting.

During my ten years as a news reporter and seventeen years in public relations, I cringe at the thought of a news conference.  As a reporter, I like the personalized pitches.  Everyone sharing the same talking heads, same quotes generally the same setting is akin to everyone sharing the same cup of coffee at a breakfast.  As a public relations professional, news conferences are maddening.  Granted they are easy on the client’s schedule, but that is about the only really good thing about news conferences.

Sharing your message is a personal conversation and connection with your target audience.

The news media is not your target audience, it is a conduit to reach your constituents and customers.

The new media (yes “new” and not “news”) provides effective ways to engage your target audience.  Websites, blogs, wiki’s, and social media are all different ways to connect, unfiltered, to your audience.   Direct mail, personal letters, magazines, newsletters are some good standbys to reinforce your brand beyond the computer screen.  These tools are an effective complement to reaching your objectives through traditional media and tactics.

Think of your communication tools as golf clubs.  They each provide a specific purpose to move Clubsyour message/brand forward.  You wouldn’t use a putter in the tee box or a driver on the putting green.  Knowing your audience and your objectives will help you to identify the right tools to share your message effectively.

Picture provided courtesy of

Shaping your messsage

In Messaging on July 13, 2009 at 1:35 am

We use a number of effective tools to help shape messages.  In a crisis/reputation management scenario, I usually focus on either Message Mapping or the Rule of Threes.

Message Mapping can be effective in developing effective responses to a critical line of questions, where inaccurate information is built into the premise.  It takes a little time to work through.  Think of Message Mapping as a good “defense.”

A good “offense” is found in the Rule of 3s.  Before every interview, I ask my clients what three pieces of information they want to present during the conversation.  Public speakers use a similar approach when developing presentations.

I also like to illustrate the rule of three by sharing with a client that they can survive three days without water, three weeks without food and three minutes without oxygen (that is the friendly reminder to breathe during an interview).

In all seriousness there are three rules of three that are very useful in interview situations.

The first has to do with your disposition during the interview.  You should be authentic, prepared and conversational.

The second is what do when confronted with hostile questions.  You should answer/acknowledge the question, bridge the discussion (usually by providing a natural transition) and convert the discussion to one of the three items you identified in advance of the interview.  Justifiably, reporters hate this approach.  Some people have abused this approach to the point where a reporter could ask the subject what time it is and he/she would break into a talking point.

The third is, have a conversation, engage the reporter and ask questions of your own.  Remember, this is a conversation.  Transition your confidence into asking questions of the reporter about his or her knowledge of the situation.  Now, you don’t want to do a reverse news conference.  Just ask a question to help you clarify your response.  Reporters have to know a little about a lot, help them to get the most accurate story possible.

Developing Your Approach

In Reputation, Uncategorized on July 12, 2009 at 1:28 am

In a crisis/reputation management situation, you approach should always be focused on what you want to achievApproache as a result of your effort.  What are the deliverables? 

If your organization is faced with declining business, your end result could be measured by generating more business.  If your business is faced with a product recall, the end result could be securing the tainted product.  If you are getting slammed by critics, your end result could be improved perception and accurate information about your business.  All of these items are measureable.  The strength of your approach is determining how the outcome is measured.

Once you have your end game/result identified, you need to identify your target audiences.

In a crisis there are four groups of people that need to be addressed: victims, employees/vendors, customers/clients and the media.  Lets briefly explore each of these groups.

Victims – The level of compassion you show to this group will determine how successful you are in rebuilding bridges and winning public perception in the wake of your crisis.  A victim is anyone who says they are a victim.  Don’t spend time on who is a victim, welcome and communicate with everyone who could be a victim.

Employees/vendors – This is typically the last group to know anything.  Don’t fall into this trap of “mushrooming” the people/supporters who have a vested interest in your organization. If the situation allows, inform them first.  They can be a great first line of defense and a great sounding board.  Provide enough information to keep processes flowing, keeping them engaged and thinking on behalf of the organization.

Customers/Clients – Shape the message by getting out ahead of the story, when possible.  Leverage existing tools to communicate.  Provide FAQs, leverage websites, wikis, blogs and social media (more on this in Sharing Your Message).  Connect and provide as much transparency as the situation and leadership team allows.

Media – Your communication with the media should be a culmination of your communication and messaging provided to the victims, employees and customers.  Like the other communications it needs to be deliberate and concise, some would say purpose-driven. 

Now that the measureable objectives and target audiences have been identified, it is time to shape your message.

Rules of Engagement

In Crisis Communication on July 11, 2009 at 1:26 am

Political pundits in New Mexico indicate this is “the” week that indictments will be handed down from a grand jury impaneled to hear claims of pay-to-play.  Of course, “this” has been the week ever since a prominent New Mexican withdrew his name as the Cabinet Secretary nominee for the United States Department of Commerce.  Whether it is or isn’t the week, I’ll be posting a few items to consider in the event you or someone you know is on the receiving end of a federal indictment.

There is a courtroom of public opinion and a courtroom of law.  You need professionals in both arenas to make sure you can survive and have some resemblance of a life when the dust settles.  Since I am not an attorney, my insight only focuses on shaping public opinion.

One of my favorite public service announcements of all time was produced for the Partnership for a Drug Free America, it and aired during the Reagan era.  It showed a hot skillet with an egg being fried broken and fried with the words, “This is your brain; this is your brain on drugs.”  It is timeless because of its simplicity.

With that in mind, surviving a life changing event like an indictment is also timeless.  If you are guilty of the accusations then you should repent and come clean.  If you are innocent of the accusations, you should fight aggressively.

What we see time and time again are people thinking they can work out of their situation by mixing these two basic truths. 

The result, often those who are guilty of the accusations fight aggressively to prove their innocence.  We saw this play out over the last several years with former State Senator Manny Aragon pleading his innocence, only to later plead guilty to many of the same federal charges.

The rules of engagement are simple; the situations that got you to this point are complex.  How do you share this information with credibility?  We’ll address that in tomorrow’s installment “Developing Your Approach”.