Tom Garrity

Archive for the ‘Reputation’ Category

Some #PR insight for my second cousin, James Comey

In Crisis Communication, Life, Messaging, Reputation, Uncategorized on May 19, 2017 at 6:26 pm

 

The second most polarizing figure in America today is the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey.  Yes, at one point, he was number one, no doubt.

Mr. Comey’s grandmother on his mom’s side and my grandmother on my dad’s side are sisters.  I always knew his grandmother as Aunt Irene.  Mary and Irene Broderick grew up in New York and got along tremendously well. Ensuring that future generations were connected was not on their watch, just a casualty of the nuclear family.

Despite the distance, I am proud of the bloodline that connects our lineage. Yes, I had thought about giving him a call at the office; the potential thought of discussing public relation approaches with my second cousin sounded kind of cool. But in lieu of the awkward telephone handoffs of explaining the family relation for a dozen or so times with federal agents, only to leave a message with a very capable civilian, I opted to put a few of my thoughts on this blog.

As a public relations practitioner for the past 24 years, what insight could I possibly someone who has “been there and done that” in the gauntlet of public opinion?

First, I’d give former FBI Director three quick recaps:

  • The New Yorker story and 60 minutes interview resulted in solid media coverage to share who you are as a person. This is key to creating credibility and likeability.
  • The multiple news announcements about the Clinton e-mail server could have been handled better. While I am convinced that in your mind you were doing the right thing, it came across as disjointed and politically motivated.
  • Conducting an overview briefing to discuss the process for the respective Flynn and Trump/Russia investigations would have helped to shape future media coverage and conversations without giving away any of the investigative findings.

Then I’d ask, “ok, what’s next for you?”  And follow some of these questions (which would surely spur other questions):

  1. What does a win look like? Why?
  2. Where do you want to be professionally three years from now?
  3. How do you want the news headlines to read six months from now, or a year (if you care)?
  4. Are there any pressing issues or public activities taking place within the next 48-72 hours? List them and explain how they might impact the responses to any of the first three questions.

Based on his answers, we’d develop message and a strategy. As a result of that conversation, some exclusive one on one media interviews would be proposed unique to print (New York Times), radio (Michael Smerconish) and television (60 minutes).

Last question that I would ask: tell me about Aunt Irene!

A Political Divide as Scenic as The Taos Gorge

In Reputation, Uncategorized on May 24, 2016 at 10:15 pm

TGG Taos GorgeThe divide in the Republican party is not quite as prominent as the Taos Gorge, but it is close.

In the headlines, the Republican split is playing itself out on the national level with the presidential primary.  On a state level the split has manifested itself with the election of a new national committeeman.

The 2016 Garrity Perception Survey tells a somewhat more in-depth story, highlighting a fundamental rift among New Mexico residents who consider themselves “somewhat conservative” or “conservative.”

The philosophical split surfaced as a part of a scientific, statewide, third party survey commissioned by The Garrity Group and conducted by Albuquerque’s Research & Polling.  The survey focused on gauging favorability of industries, trust of professions among other topics related to perceptions of government and business.  The demographic data, also known as the “cross-tabs” is where some of the disparities between those who consider themselves to be “somewhat conservative” or “conservative” surfaced.

Favorability of…

Somewhat Conservative

Conservative

Oil & Gas Industry

51%

79%

Solar & Wind Industry

55%

33%

National Banks

44%

35%

Public Schools

33%

47%

Medical System

39%

50%

State Universities

73%

60%

National Laboratories

62%

71%

Church & Religious Institutions

63%

82%

The above chart highlights disparities of greater than 10 percent between those who identify themselves as “somewhat conservative” or “conservative.”  The survey, conducted at the end of February 2016 has a 95 percent level of confidence.

The survey shows clear splits in favorability of the oil/gas, solar/wind and  church/religious institutions.  Come voting time, it will be interesting to know if these split ideologies will are reflected on the primary and general election ballot.

Finally, responses to the question “what do you feel causes more problems in government?” highlights an additional rift between the traditionally Republican factions. Those who identify themselves as somewhat conservative are more likely to blame problems in government on “elected officials who are not willing to compromise” opposed to conservatives who blame “elected officials who are not willing to stand up for their principles.”

What do you feel causes more problems in government?

Somewhat Conservative

Conservative

Elected Officials who are not willing to stand up for their principles

33%

50%

Elected officials who are not willing to compromise

48%

29%

Both

14%

17%

Don’t Know/Won’t Say

5%

4%

TGG Taos Gorge Bridge

One final insight on the split related to favorability of industries and institutions; in the areas of the greatest differences, those who identify themselves as “somewhat conservative” align more with registered Democrats than registered Republicans.

A copy of the topline results can be secured through http://garrityperceptionsurvey.com

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 the East (ern Part of New Mexico)

In Messaging, Reputation on April 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Roswell2Eastern New Mexico has a complex.

It is misunderstood and stereotyped by people who live along the Rio Grande corridor of central New Mexico.

Politically diverse, the 2012 Presidential election provided a significant wakeup call for Republicans.  Their votes, for Republican Mitt Romney, in the seven counties that border Texas were off-set in Santa Fe County, by Democrats who were voting for President Barak Obama.

Tourism in Eastern New Mexico is defined by Carlsbad Caverns and the UFO phenomenon.  But it is accented by the Norman & Vi Petty Rock ‘N’ Roll Museum and roadside attractions like the windmill farm in Portales.

Economically, the region relies upon agriculture, fossil fuels and renewable energy for jobs.  As a result, the region sees significant domestic and foreign immigrant traffic.  The area also has a strong federal and state government presence.

When we look at the 2012 Garrity Perception Survey, we learn a little bit about who residents trust, which industries are viewed as favorable as well as how Eastern New Mexico residents access news and information.

Residents living on the Eastern plains have a very favorable impression of the farm and ranch industry, organized religion and the oil and gas industry.  They favor local banks over national banks by a 2:1 margin, and have the same level of favorability in K-12, higher education and the solar/wind industry.

Blood is thicker than water as Eastern New Mexico residents trust family members twice as much as doctors, teachers or police officers. While Eastern residents access news and information in similar ways to those around New Mexico, they have a very low level of trust in journalists.

When it comes to New Mexico’s signature events, residents in Eastern New Mexico like the Balloon Fiesta at a rate that is three times higher than the annual UFO Festival that takes place in their own back yard.

The late and great Buddy Holly once said “I’m not trying to stump anybody… it’s the beauty of the language that I’m interested in.”  Perhaps, in a way, he was referring to Eastern New Mexico, where he recorded many of his “pop” hits.  Eastern New Mexico isn’t trying to stump anyone, it is just a unique place that can’t be easily placed in the New Mexico “box.”

Image from one of the original UFO themed marketing campaigns for the City of Roswell (circa 1997)

NM Trust in Media

In Messaging, Reputation on September 24, 2012 at 11:09 pm

The Gallup Corporation recently issued results of a national survey gauging the level of trust people have toward mass media.

In the 2012 survey, Democrats are much more trustworthy of mass media (58 percent) than those identifying themselves as Independent (31 percent) and Republican (26 percent).

If 2011 is an indicator, New Mexico residents have a higher trust in mass media than the typical American.

Research and Polling asked a similar question as a part of the 2011 Garrity Perception Survey (GPS) commissioned by The Garrity Group.  The 2011 GPS and 2011 Gallup surveys had a similar (not identical) process, asking respondents to rate their trust worthiness of media sources on a scale of 1-5.

Participants in the 2011 Gallup’s survey had more trust in mass media if they were a Democrat (56 percent) than either Republicans or Independents (both rating their trust at 38 percent).

Here is the 2011 GPS breakdown of how New Mexico residents trust mass media (Independent voters are identified as those who “decline to state” a political affiliation):

Local Newspapers:  53 percent of Democrats trust newspaper, compared to 49 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of all Independents.

Local Television News: 65 percent of all democrats trust what they see on the local newscasts compared to 59% of republicans and 55% of Independents.

National Broadcast News: 68 percent of Democrats trust the national news sources compared to 54 percent of Republicans and 40% of those who are Independent voters.

Radio News Coverage: 46 percent of Democrats trust what they hear, compared to 44 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Independent voters.

When New Mexico residents were asked to gauge the trustworthiness of their “conversations with friends” Republicans had a higher level of trust (44 percent) than Democrats (37 percent) and Independent voters (31 percent).

Advertising had only single digit level trust among all of those identifying a political party affiliation.

So now New Mexico residents know why all they see on television are political ads and why your friends are shy to ask about your political opinions.

Fair Time!

In Life, Reputation on September 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Where can you walk around gnawing on a turkey leg while sampling a side of funnel cake and kettle corn?  The New Mexico State Fair, of course.

Resistance is futile. The last negotiating chip I have with my family is “as long as I don’t have to go in the midway”.

The New Mexico State Fair starts its 12 day run this week.  The event has been besieged in a funding tug of war as legislators debate scrapping or funding the State-owned Albuquerque property.

The ghost of past State Fairs linger.  Specifcally, a hop scotch pattern of scheduling has been the biggest point of confusion, which is reinforced on its website “This year, the Fair is condensed from 13 open days over a 17-day run to 12 open days.” The emphasis was theirs.

Based on the Garrity Perception Survey, mobile users are a great base of support for the New Mexico State Fair.  Just yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reinforced his commitment to own the mobile space.  While the State Fair doesn’t have a mainstream “mobile app” there is a lot of opportunity for communicators to leverage their Facebook presence.

What else can the State Fair do in the social and mobile space?  Establish or piggyback on a #StateFair hashtag, have an Instagramphoto challenge” and provide updates about events via twitter.

Personally, my goal this year is to get a close up picture of a #Snout

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.

Politically Radioactive

In Reputation on May 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm

In “PR” terms Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener is Radioactive.

Wiener was photographed in a Southeast Asia red light district with a group of local women and in another image with someone he says is his fiancé.  For more on the story, here is the link from KOB-TV.

In the midst of re-election, republican and democratic leaders are calling for his resignation.  Politically, can Michael Wiener survive?

While he clearly has the election of his life ahead of him, his final “elected” fate will be determined by the 20% voter turnout, not the 100% negative media attention he has attracted during this mess.

What can Michael Wiener do to attempt “political” survival?

  • He needs to do a better, more effective job of telling his story, that is supported with documentation: plane tickets, receipts, his own photographs and motivations for his affinity for the people of Southeast Asia
  • Offer “till you drop” one-on-one interviews to all new and traditional media to talk about the trip and anything else that might come up.
  • Have his fiancé available to collaborate his story.
  • Show compassion to the victims (this list is long and includes women, children, victims of human trafficking and supporters).

Ok, so really, what can he do (since it is clear the above mentioned items are off the table): Focus on what he has done as county commissioner and hope, beyond hope, that his “supporters” have:

  1. No access to television, radio, newspaper or internet.
  2. Already sent in their mail-in ballot.
  3. Been visiting Denmark’s red light district and unaware of what’s been happening on the other side of the globe.

Baring any of that happening, Commissioner Wiener should think about community service instead of public service.

The Beating of APD

In Reputation on April 18, 2012 at 4:07 am

In a strange twist of “man bites dog”, the Albuquerque Police Department needs assistance from its own victim advocacy unit.

In the midst of civil rights accusations, court cases, high speed pursuits and so called “bounty pay” for officer-involved shootings, the Albuquerque Police Department has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

This blog post isn’t designed to provide fuel to either side of this heated political debate, it is only meant to provide APD some insight on how it can truly reshape public perception so their good deeds and all the “good cops” get noticed for the right reasons.

The negative headlines impact public opinion. In the 2012 Garrity Perception Survey, the community’s “trust” in police officers dropped from 55% in 2011 to 45% in 2012.  Specifically, in the Albuquerque area, only 42% of residents trust police officers.  That’s bad.

The scientific survey, conducted by Research and Polling in February 2012, for The Garrity Group Public Relations, has a 95% accuracy rate.

Does APD need to change its image?  If it wants to fend off political attacks, win trust and engage their community, then yes.

But whose mind do they want to change?  Or is it better to engage their supporters to be more vocal advocates?  Identifying the target audience is sometimes the most difficult step, but most important..  Those surveyed between 35-49 years of age and earning 60-79K annually had the biggest trust issue with APD.  A typical APD supporter has lived in New Mexico less than eight years and is 50 years of age and older.

Once APD has decided if it wants to convert its critics or encourage its supporters, messaging needs to be developed. APD should work to develop a genuine story, which showcases its team, their accomplishments and features how Albuquerque is a better place as a result of the work they do.

APD can ignite interest and build credibility with research (i.e. lower crime rates, crime reduction programs, safer roads); once outlined, a plan should be developed to connect with target audiences, sparking thought-provoking conversations.

This is best accomplished through a series of focus groups or surveys.

Change doesn’t take place overnight, and progress and outreach can be destroyed with one negative event (police shooting, scandal) or can be rallied with one positive event (lifesaving rescue).  But taking steps toward change will help to win friends and encourage supporters.

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.