Tom Garrity

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Paper Cuts!

In Education on February 28, 2012 at 3:40 am

A good friend of mine in Asia recently asked what kind of books I would recommend for Public Relations Strategy.

After reeling off the usual suspects of “Effective Public Relations” by Cultip & Centers and “Crisis Response” by Jack Gottschalk, he responded asking for more.

That is when the fun started and the idea for a quick blog started (all of these books and other great reads can be found on my Pinterest page!

As I was going through my home library, these were the quick MarComm books I recommended:

Execution” by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. It tends to focus more on management (which I find is a key part of PR strategy).

Top Dog” by J. David Pincus.  This was recommended to me by a friend at a PRSA International Conference more than a decade ago.  It discusses corporate strategy and how communications (internal and external) play into business success.

When Growth Stalls” by a personal friend Steve McKee. It focuses on a good mix of business and communication strategy.  A similar read but on the social media strategy front is the “Now Revolution” by Jay Baer.

Another great read is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell.  This is the book that has celebrated Mavens and other cool terms.

Two really quick reads (if you only have three to five minutes), “Customers for Keeps” by Lois Geller and “Selling The Invisible” by Harry Beckwith.  Excellent books.

Finally, one that I bought on a trip to Nordstroms in California is by the founder of TOMS shoes Blake Mycoskie “Start Something That Matters”.  It addresses a new way to look at Corporate Social Responsibility.

Of course there are many many many others.  What are some of your favorites?

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Go Barefoot?

In Messaging on February 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm

We’ve all heard the sad tale of how the “shoemaker’s children go barefoot” and can all relate, to a degree, about how that correlates to our own businesses and professions.

For the first 13 years, that saying described The Garrity Group Public Relations.  We do amazing things for our clients but fall short on touting our own successes.

Two years ago, we started a strategic planning process.   It started by focusing on the vision and mission.  Then shifted to identifying the clients we wanted to work with and could benefit from our expertise.

One of the focus areas identified in our strategic planning process was to be the public relations thought leader for New Mexico.  That idea manifested itself in the Garrity Perception Survey.

It was a third party survey commissioned by the firm that focused on  the perceptions of New Mexico residents on 16 industries and trust of 16 professions.  We identified how people access news and information in our state and how much they trusted government or corporations.

The survey opened doors and helped us to move closer as the firm that leading organizations turn to for critical opportunities and issues that impact their operations in New Mexico.

I’ll be sharing some insight about our planning process and how we leveraged the perception survey to increase market position and secure top tier clients at the Public Relations Society of America’s Western District Conference, March 12-13 in Denver, Colorado.  Here is the website for more information on how to register and participate in the discussion: http://prsacolorado.org/2012westerndistrict

The iFactory

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2012 at 4:51 am

Recent months have been profitable and uncomfortable for Apple Computer.

In the shadow of record iPhone and iPad sales, fair labor and human rights groups have taken aim at the company and its suppliers for how it treats those who manufacture the works of art.

The critics successfully hurled accusations of low wages, unsafe working conditions and issues with some workers committing suicide at the China factories.  They made Apple flinch.

Facing pressure from its customers, the media and elected leaders, Apple opted to move towards transparency, opening the doors to ABC News Nightline Anchor Bill Weir.

The “unprecedented” tour of the Foxconn factory where the Apple iPads and iPhones are created was very interesting.  Though 20 minutes hardly seemed long enough to really “tell” the story, the show provided a glimpse into the factories that have generated so many products and so much controversy.

Would this kind of tour have seen the light of day if Steve Jobs was still alive? That is a question that has been debated at many levels.  My guess is, probably not.

Three key takeaways to how Apple handled this simmering crisis:

1)   While it was a difficult program to watch, Apple was able to position itself as the owner of the intellectual property while introducing FoxConn as the manufacturer.

2)   Apple did well by inviting a respected program to tour its facility “no holds barred”; having a gaggle of media would not have been easily controlled.

3)   Apple was available for this piece, their PR move of not granting any on camera interviews for the story (referring Bill Weir to statements made at an investors meeting) was risky but smart.

The news media story and third party audit of its Foxconn supplier is a good transparent move.

Go Frogs!

In Crisis Communication on February 17, 2012 at 12:44 am

Football in the State of Texas is a religion all its own. My college denomination is TCU, that’s right the Horned Frogs.

In recent years, Frog Football has helped to reconcile the ghosts of past coaches. Today a different issue haunts the campus as a police sting nabbed scores of students including four football starters who sold drugs to undercover officers.

Gone are the moral victories of being David versus Goliath. As Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway wrote “But gone forever is that one element that always had separated TCU from most of the rest. The clean image has been stained. No matter what else, it’s a stain that remains.”

While this is a set back, it is also an opportunity.

TCU did well in establishing a culture of transparency and consistency of message.  Calling a news conference within hours of the arrests; the communications team posted a letter from the University’s leadership and openly discussed the issue on social and new media throughout the day.

But the heavy lifting will continue at a marathon pace. These are the critical weeks for all universities as high school seniors are making decisions about their post-graduation schooling. While nearly every university has some kind of drug problem, getting national negative attention during decision week is not necessarily in the playbook.

TCU needs to continue its path of transparency and consistency of message.

The first 24-48 hours of crisis communications management focuses on replacing speculation, accusation and clues with facts. TCU has done this through effective statements and even releasing the number of football players that failed drug tests.

Just as TCU set a new standard in football, the university leadership can now set a similar standard in the processes it will use to win back the trust of students, faculty, parents, alumni, opinion leaders and fans. The focus of the discussion shouldn’t dwell on the arrests and failures; there has been enough self flagellation. The leadership needs to shape the discussion towards solutions and processes to remain focused on providing a successful college experience.

The Cure for Komen

In Crisis Communication, Reputation on February 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I’ve been in those board meetings.  A policy change is presented, and in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order, a “second” is sought.  Like Ferris Buhler’s name being called for attendance, the words are uttered “does anyone want to second this motion?  Anyone… anyone…”

Reluctantly, a second comes and discussion moves forward… the rest takes its own unique course.

I am not sure if that is what happened with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but somewhere a policy was presented.  It was approved by the foundation board and in that moment, funding would be restricted or denied for organizations under federal investigation.

Properly define what constitutes an investigation and, on face value, that kind of approach makes sense.

But, in politically charged environments where accusations are made and investigations launched as common place, additional filters need to be in place to try and separate the rhetoric from reality.

Planned Parenthood was the subject of an investigation, launched in a political arena, and didn’t pass the litmus test established by the Komen Foundation.  As a result the pink ribbon was engulfed in its own political firestorm.

Its critics branded this as an issue over mammograms and abortion.  In reality, The Susan G. Komen Foundation is in a public quagmire over policy.

In the midst of intense media and public scrutiny, the local chapters initially felt the pressure.  Then, a chapter in Colorado was granted an “exemption” from the policy.

Within 24 hours the national organization cried uncle and rescinded the policy.  In its wake, the organization left its supporters questioning the national leadership and looking for new avenues of charitable giving.

The greatest harm to the Komen Foundation is not in the policy controversy.  It is in the fact that policy is the focus of media attention instead of the compassion for victims of breast cancer.

Can the “cure” recover?  Only time will tell.

The organization’s focus for the next six months needs to be on the basics.  Focus on showing compassion to the victims.  Continue to put different faces on this issue and sharing the human element.  Use success stories to show how the organization is meeting and exceeding the needs of those who are, or are potentially, impacted by cancer.

Good policy fosters good public relations.  And for nonprofit organizations, compassion is always good policy even when the board and its leadership get in the way.