Tom Garrity

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

New Mexico and Teacher Trust 2017

In Education on August 14, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Over the next week and a half, public schools and universities will be starting the fall semester.

A critical component to student success are teachers and the trust parents/community have in the profession. In New Mexico, the profession has been under fire as a result of various discussions about ways to track student and teacher performance.

According to the 2017 Garrity Perception Survey, 70 percent of New Mexico residents trust teachers.

Overall, females (73 percent) and residents who identify as Hispanic (73 percent) are more trusting of teachers than males (68 percent) and Anglos 69 percent).

While many age groups and household income groups trust teachers, there are some groups below the state average.  Residents between the ages of 50 – 64 and those with a household income higher than $60,000 trust teachers but fall below the state average of 70 percent.

Residents living in North Central New Mexico have a higher level of trust (76 percent) than residents in the Northwest (63 percent) and Eastern parts of the state (63 percent).  Seventy three percent of Albuquerque area residents and 66 percent of Las Cruces area residents trust teachers.2017 GPS Trust of Teachers Graphic

A glaring area, in need of improvement, are the number of residents who are lukewarm about the profession.  Statewide, a little more than two out of ten residents neither trust of district teachers.  If school districts, teachers unions and the Public Education Department hope to win public support for various initiatives the respective groups will need to claim the middle ground in addition to support in other key sectors.

The Garrity Perception Survey will be taking a closer look at the favorability of both institutions in the near future.

The Garrity Group commissioned Albuquerque-based Research & Polling to conduct the Garrity Perception Survey from February 8-14, 2017. A total of 403 adult New Mexico residents were interviewed by telephone (both landlines and cell phones), providing a 95 percent level of confidence. For more information and analysis – or to request a copy of the Garrity Perception Survey 2017 – visit

An Insiders Guide to CAPRSA’14

In Education on March 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Cabo San Lucas was the location of my first Counselors Academy Spring Conference. During my brief tenure, I’ve had a chance to meet a number of top-notch professionals.  People who have taught me so much, making me realize I have so much to learn!

Putting together this year’s program, with a strong co-chair and an engaged executive committee, I wanted to share a few quick inside tips on how you can get the most out of this year’s event in Key West.

Get involved

It is easy to sit on the sidelines and listen to some great speakers, gleaning insight that is relevant to where your practice is headed.  But that is like being at the Super Bowl and watching the event’s inline at the concession stand.

This year’s event has a number of great opportunities for you to get involved.  The Counselors 101 event is a great way to meet other first time attendees and to connect with seasoned attendees who know the ropes.  Take the momentum of your first session and soak in the fun at the opening night reception.

The breakfast roundtable and dine around events are a great place for informal networking.  Also, if you have a question for one of the speakers, ask away.  Chances are someone else has the same question.  If not, they are all very approachable to talk to after the session or at other points of the conference.

Favorite Children

As a father of two great and confident daughters I know I am getting into dangerous turf by even hinting I have “favorite” sessions.

Well they are all great sessions!

However, there are some of the sessions that I am looking forward to seeing how you respond..  They include: the “Bold Moves” session where we will hear from PR firm owners about a bold move they implemented that worked well for their firm; key note speakers Stan Phelps, Shonali Burke and Steve McKee; and the “Focus” sessions, a new approach that will feature TEDx style presentations from our presenters.


Enjoy Key West.  There will be plenty of time to knock out emails during your flight and after the session.  Get here early or stay later to enjoy an extra day.

The hotel is a great place to relax.  They have an hourly shuttle to the center of activity where you can hangout at Mallory Square, shop, rent a boat or take a selfie at the southernmost point in the United States.

But you can’t do any of these things unless you register. There are airline discounts and free shuttles from the airport to the Marriott.  Just visit this link.


One of the biggest benefits to attending and participating is returning to your team at home! Sharing the contacts you’ve made, lessons you’ve learned and ideas that your office can apply is invaluable. Hope to see you in sunny Key West!

Click on these links for more information about Tom and his firm The Garrity Group Public Relations.

Keys to Agency Management: Legal

In Education on November 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm

few-good-men-jack-nicholson_480_posterNOTE: This blog post was developed from my notes for a recent presentation to the Public Relations Society of America International Conference titled “Keys to Agency Management.”  The presentation included a number of back to back Ignite style presentations.  This portion focused on legal concerns.

“You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. You want the truth about the legal aspect of running a business?” – Colonel Nathan Jessup (as played by Jack Nicholson)

The movie “A Few Good Men” gives us insight to the legal realm.  While Tom Cruise is an actor playing attorney.  I am Tom Garrity, a public relations firm owner who is not an attorney.  My late grandfather, whom I am named after was a very successful attorney, judge and an admitted lawyer to the United States Supreme Court.

If he was alive today, he would discourage me from giving this presentation, asking that I leave it to an attorney.  However, in his spirit, let me reiterate that I am a public relations firm owner and NOT an attorney.

In that same vein, I am also not an accountant.  However, I have attorneys and accountants on retainer.  I also have a core group of advisors providing me insight and counsel.  You should do the same.

How should you set up your company?  Sole practitioner, LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp… it all depends how much legal protection you want and how you want to be taxed.  I started as an S-Corp and am now an LLC.

When I talk about “level of legal protection” I am talking about what attorneys call a  “veil” that protects you personally from what happens in your work/professional life.  Only the sole proprietor does not provide that protection.

What an LLC, S-Corp and C-Corp provides is a “veil” of protection between your business and your person.  You have to protect that veil by keeping your business and personal affairs separate.

That means getting a business credit card, business checking account, business savings account, etc. There are ways to set up your company and you should consult an attorney and accountant who has experience.  Again, I am not an attorney or an accountant only someone who has run their business for the past 16 years.

Once you decide, you want to set up a business, register with your City, County, State and Federal Government.  Where I live I need a city business license, a state identification number and a federal tax-ID number.

Other key documents you will need include a “Letter of agreement” with clients.  This will include their contact information, term of agreement, services you will provide, how much and how you will charge for services.

The letter of agreement will identify what happens when they are late paying or don’t pay.  It also should provide indemnification if you are relying on them for information. And yes, be sure they sign it!

On the employee side, the I-9 immigration form and W-4 wage and information form are two documents that are mandated by the federal government.  Include it as a part of your process bringing on a new employee.

On the topics of new employees, a letter of offer that states the date of hire, wage, exempt or non exempt, salary, vacation and other items like “at will” employment. This provides peace of mind to everyone.

Exempt vs Non-exempt.  This is a classification by the Labor Department that identifies what jobs are available for overtime and which ones are “exempt” from paying overtime. Exempt = Salaried, Nonexempt = Hourly

Have an employee policy manual that includes information about conduct, benefits, employment practices like timekeeping, overtime, reviews.  Lots of things to include here; resist the temptation to use cookie cutter manuals.

Finally, educate yourself about all of these things but don’t self diagnose.  Choose an accountant a tax attorney and a business advisor to provide insight and counsel and have conversations with other PR firm owners.  A safe place for these types of conversations includes the Counselors Academy annual spring conference this May 4-6, 2013 in Key West, Florida.  Peer discussions, best practices and details behind the numbers.

Keys to Agency Management: Finances

In Education on November 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm

imagesNOTE: This blog post was developed from my notes for a recent presentation to the Public Relations Society of America International Conference titled “Keys to Agency Management.”  The presentation included a number of back to back Ignite  style presentations.  This portion focused on financial concerns.

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.” – Gordon Gekko

Fictional character Gordon Gekko is one of those people that has ice cold water running through his veins.  He is positioned as a “master financier” who knows the right moves because he watches the bottom line.

When you start a business, there are several financial items you need to keep in mind.  I will only be able to touch on a number of these.  One thing I will not be able to provide in the context of this blog post is depth.

During this “financial” discussion, I’ll be addressing “clients”, what do you charge, how do you determine what to pay employees, what do you determine to pay yourself and what are other considerations and questions.

The first thing you should do, is find a good accountant, someone you trust.  You are good at public relations, you are great in a crisis, awesome with clients and can woo the media.  Running a business… not so much.

First, lets start with the basics.  You will have expenses and you will have income.  The goal is to have more income than expenses.  However, there might be some months, years that scenario doesn’t pan out.

In the beginning, there were expenses.  They take the form of computers, printers, software, smartphone, paper, pens, logo, business cards, stationary… In QuickBooks, these are known as office equipment, office supplies.

Eventually you will have income.  Your “income” is provided by organizations and individuals who will pay you to provide public relations counsel, develop of a news release or provide connections to media leaders.

Some refer to that group of organizations and individuals as clients.  Clients are great! They provide you status, provide you tasking and they will fill up your day.  In the beginning there are clients.

As you build your practice, you will look for clients that pay.  The “client that pays” helps you to cover expenses and provides great peace of mind to you, your accountant and employees.

So now you are aware of two of the three types of clients.  There are clients, clients that pay and the third is clients that provide a profit.  This last class of “client” is the preferred client.

Next, I am going to review a basic principal of running a business.  It focuses on time, money and the rule of thirds.  The rule of thirds helps you to manage staff and profitability.

How much do you charge? Here’s how you find out. There are 365 days a year, take out weekends, you have 260 days.  This is equal to 2,080 hours. Take out holidays and vacation you have 1,400 hours available.

But you can’t work 100% of the time.  If your public relations account team bills 85% of time, or 1,200 hours a year, that’s pretty good.  Some say that business owners shouldn’t be billing more than 50% (or 700 hours) of your time.

Taking an example of hiring an account executive staff member for $50,000 a year, working 1200 hours a year, their rate should be $42 an hour.  That is their salary. But how do you pay for their computer, office and supplies?  And where do you build in profit?

That is where the rule of thirds comes in take the rate of $42 per hours and multiply it by three. The billable rate should be 1/3 salary, 1/3 overhead and 1/3 profit or in this example $126 an hour.

Hourly Rate



Billable Rate
















You can adjust this based on expenses and the amount of profit you want to take. Overhead can be adjusted if the person works out of home or is a contractor with his or her own equipment.

Other rules of thumb to consider are you develop your business includes having a business checking and savings account.  You need to set a budget, have at least one line of credit as well as securing insurance for you and your business.  You should also set accountability standards and secure advisors.

How do you learn these and other principals?  Here are some “must reads” as you develop your business and service clients.  One is Tom Gable’s PR Service Manual (available through PRSA).  The other is Managing a Public Relations Firm for Growth and Profit by A.C. Croft.  These are two great resources

Of course the best way is through the Counselors Academy annual spring conference this May 4-6, 2013 in Key West, Florida.  Peer discussions, best practices and details behind the numbers.

A Butterfly, an Ostrich and Transparency?

In Crisis Communication, Education, Reputation on July 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

The High Desert Investment Corporation (HDIC) and its parent the Albuquerque Academy (New Mexico’s academic leader for independent and public education), have a financial problem that has spiraled into a crisis which threatens its reputation as a trusted institution.

The Albuquerque Journal has an excellent overview of the situation in today’s publication by Rosalie Rayburn and Richard Metcalf.

The Readers Digest version: The Albuquerque Academy’s HDIC is pulling out of its most recent residential development, Mariposa (which means Butterfly).  Homeowners in the high-end community are now faced with the potential of staggering increases to their property taxes.

Aside from making a board member available to media, the Albuquerque Academy is in a communication “ostrich mode”; not communicating with Mariposa residents, parents of students and the community at large.

Opportunities to communicate the issue through social media are non-existent.  Mariposa’s website, facebook and twitter feed (run by HDIC marketing) are silent on nearly everything, including the issues facing its community.

The factors driving the HDIC decision are complex; annual bond payments of $1.2 million are the root cause.  Those complexities should be the motivators for the Albuquerque Academy communication efforts.

Getting consistent information from the Albuquerque Academy is difficult.  Their website is silent on the Mariposa issue as well as the current status of its endowment.  Reported to be $298 million in 2008 by the Albuquerque Journal, the New York Times reported its value at $180 million a year later.

Transparency and consistency of message are two approaches that the Albuquerque Academy can use to start addressing this communication abyss manifested by the Mariposa pull out.  Whether it will be enough to salvage the brand of a New Mexico education icon; that depends how its leadership addresses short-term communication efforts.

Disclosure: My firm, The Garrity Group, provided public relation assistance to HDIC on Mariposa issues unrelated to the current situation.  The work was completed two years ago.

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?

Out with the old…

In Education on May 20, 2011 at 11:51 am

Recently, the University of New Mexico announced it was eliminating its traditional Public Relations and Advertising track, creating a merged “Strategic Communication” degree program.  A UNM student, who was assigned to write a final paper on the topic asked for my thoughts on the creation of the new program.  Here is what I had to say:

Eliminating traditional advertising and public relation degrees only to fold them into a strategic communication degree really illustrates how out of touch the University leadership is regarding the public relations industry, needs the business community and employability of its graduates.  It is the equivalent of combining sociology and psychology or financial accounting and organizational management.  It might look really good on paper but those moves are really out of touch with the specific disciplines.

While I cannot speak for the advertising community, eliminating a public relations degree program creates a ripple effect of negativity.  For example, without a public relations degree program, the University of New Mexico no longer qualifies to host a Public Relations Student Society of America chapter.  Having PRSSA helps students to make connections for internships.  It also gets students out of textbooks and into reality, which makes them more employable.

What does “strategic communication” mean?  By its name, it infers that some communication is not strategic?  What it comes down to is how can the University of New Mexico prepare its students to help companies make connections with their target audiences?  You can go the paid (advertising) or earned (public relations) path.  Look at a television station, it has a sales department and a news department.  Where the two collide is called advertorial, which has little credibility when compared to the respective traditional advertising and traditional public relation entities.

As an employer, I look specifically for public relation education and experience.  Northwestern University, Syracuse, Pepperdine, University of Texas, University of Charleston and my alma mater Texas Christian University that have storied public relation programs. Those programs provide access to internships and real world experience.  Will the new University of New Mexico approach provide that same kind of access?  We will now be forced to wait and see.

I have no idea how prominent my comments were or even if the student passed his class.

Counselors Academy

In Education on May 31, 2009 at 11:03 am

Counselors%20AcademyToday’s Meet the Press provided a good backdrop for discussions that took place at the PRSA Counselors Academy in La Quinta California.

Back East, the “change” words that were prominent in the Meet The Press discussion from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange included investment, downsizing, competitiveness, opportunity and innovation.

Out here in the West, those words resonated throughout Steve McKee’s keynote address.  Reflecting on themes from his successful book When Growth Stalls, McKee drove home the point that understanding the causes of failure is the key to eventual success.  He identified ways to identify reasons why growth stalls, they include: Lack of Consensus, Loss of Focus, Loss of Nerve, and Lack of Consistency.  He finished by encouraging CEOs and business owners to take a confidential self-assessment at  As a side note, The Garrity Group was (and still is) a proud sponsor of Steve McKee’s address to the Counselors Academy.

The last two “classroom sessions” of the day were in the form of roundtables.  The two roundtables I attended included Lean Public Relation and (a session on how to provide effective new media strategies. 

Lean PR was of particular interest because of my familiarity with Lean Manufacturing approaches through our client New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership.  Michael Greece APR of Padilla Speer Beardsley moderated a lively discussion.  While I was anticipating a few more ideas on how to streamline processes and eliminate waste (trademarks of Lean approaches), the discussion about developing a “War Room” approach to address new business and client opportunities was particularly interesting.  There was also a lot of great discussion about how to change client perceptions.  Specifically, PR firms send mixed messages when touting results-focused activities but invoicing by the hour.  PR firms are not about selling time, we are focused on generating specific outcomes.

The discussion was led by David Anderson of Off Madison Avenue and Jason Baer of Convince & Convert.  Expectedly there was a lot of Twitter traffic on this topic.  Here are some of the Tweets that were posted during the roundtable discussion:

@Scott_Farrell: Looking to get your CEO engaged with social media? There is no silver bullet. Start small and build from there. @mmcclennan
Other great social media insights from twitter during the first day include:

@Thornley: @mcclennan companies should listen to social media discussions and ACT on what they hear before joinng the conversation

@prsachicago: Soon everything PR will be digital and everything digital will be PR. Everyone in company needs to understand it.

@Thornley Making Websites is not a great business. Revenue fluctuates. Good developers are hard to find. @jaybaer says grow other services.

@PRSAChicago The first level of social media is monitoring the conversation – Google is not enough.

@thornley: “If you’re a PR firm principal and you believe soc media is the future why would you delegate it to a kid?” @Jaybaer

@Thornley “Eventually digital and public relations will be interchangeable. Digital will be baked into everything PR.” @jaybaer

@PRSAChicago “What’s our Twitter or Facebook strategy” is the wrong question. How do you use the technologies to have better relationships?

Next up, a reception and dinner… darn, started seven minutes ago… gotta go!

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!