The PR Perspective

Casey at the Bat (with a speech)

Casey at the Bat (with a speech)

This is the season when school speeches are prepared. Each provide some unique insight to a period of time and a small bit of prognosticating for the future. My youngest daughter, Casey, recently completed a speech that was considered for her 8th grade ceremony. While another was selected, fatherly pride got the best of me and I wanted to share her effort (a great effort) with you.
Welcome and thank you for attending this special event. As the student body, we are so thankful for all parents, family members, and teachers. We couldn’t have made it through middle school if it weren’t for your support and guidance. Teachers, we think of you as our gateway to education. You help us understand homework and make us smile when we’re down. Most importantly, you help us to reach the next level in our education. Thank you. Mothers, fathers, great friends and family members, we think of you as our moral guidance. Telling us right from wrong and helping us with our issues. We students are so thankful for your support through our middle school years.
We have learned so much as students. So well done, eighth graders, for completing some pretty tough years of middle school. The past years are so memorable, from Mr. Guy’s hilarious jokes to Ms. Bapty’s never-ending exams. I’m so glad that I could have you all as my classmates.
Apple Mountain 2008 was a great trip to learn about ourselves and our new classmates. Learning new things about myself that I never knew before was the most memorable part for me. All of the sixth graders sitting inside on a rainy night, holding candles and letting loose of our feelings. This moment was very emotional toward many of my classmates including me. I felt like I really learned a lot then. The other activities were also great, while the weather changed from hot to cold to rainy and back to hot and then to gloomy again. The constant change during that trip provided us a taste for the change we would expect for the remaining of our middle school experience.
Ten years ago I can remember sitting at my window waiting for my dad to return from New York City so our family could go to the State Fair. The built up excitement, anticipated exhilaration, and the thoughts of having fun raced through my head. I couldn’t wait. Like the State Fair, I know that so many of us are so excited to be in high school already. But I hope that we don’t take high school as something we’re so excited for that we don’t live for the moment. High school will be memorable, that’s for sure, but I hope that we’ll live for life one day at a time.
September 11th, 2001. A fearful and memorable date for many people. We think of the bad and the sorrow that happened instead of looking into today. For me, it was waiting for my dad to get back home from New York City, which he did several weeks later. Since that date, a whole lot has changed in this world. Back then it was the event that we thought of, today it’s the relief of Osama Bin Laden’s death. But how will these feelings affect our future? We find ourselves worrying about things like this that aren’t in our control. We fear that the future will hold events like this for us to be concerned about. So what do we do? The only thing we can- look to the future and hold responsibility for the choices that lay there for us. Like high school, for example. There will be trials and decisions that we will be looked at to deal with. All we can do is to keep going and to be conscientious about the next four years. The world is changing fast. Every event and understanding that we’ve experienced whether is it on the global, national or local level will impact us as of today on.
I’m going to read a favorite quote of mine by Al Gore written in 2005. “My bet is that thirty years from now, you won’t have any idea what was said here, but you will remember the parties tonight. You will remember your families being here, you will remember the hard work that got you to this point, and you’ll remember how you felt. And I hope you feel great, because this is a remarkable achievement we are honoring here today.” Al Gore has carved us a path. We’re not only celebrating an end, but looking forward to a beginning. Our slates are clean, and our mind’s are prepared, so let’s make it happen. Let’s put in our all for a great four years of high school. No matter what happens, never give in. Never let go of your potential because you all have a lot of it. Our biggest obstacle next year will be ourselves. So I wish the good and the bad to you. Fall down and get back up, make a mess clean it up, and maybe make another one. Our lives aren’t over until we stop trying.
Our middle school years are past, taking along some of our young memories. Eighth Graders- You’ve matured now and moved on, and made space for new experiences. You’ve tested, written essays, done your homework (sometimes succeeding from the dog getting to it), and you’re prepared for the future. Class of 2015- Congratulations on finishing a fabulous middle school.

Out with the old…

Out with the old…

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.

Vista Award Speech

Vista Award Speech

One year during Balloon Fiesta, I think it was 1998, I wanted to have a way to show the color of the Fiesta to the national and international media after the balloons had landed. We had developed this elaborate backdrop from an old balloon envelope, draped it from the top of the tent to the back of the stage. Since there was so much extra fabric, we covered parts of the stage for effect.

It was the first year we had regular press briefings at the event; we’d talk about the number of balloons launched, have guest speakers, things of that nature. Well the person I had just introduced to the microphone was bigger than me and I remember the person was taking a more middle of the road approach to the podium instead of yielding so I could sneak by. I decided to make a wider than usual exit. But, because the balloon envelope was draped across the back of the stage it was impossible to figure out where the stage ended and air began.

I took one step, then two, making contact with the stage. The third step was nothing but air. The next thing I remember was being cocooned in a balloon envelope, in this nook between the stage and the back of the tent and hearing a collective “gasp” from the 30-40 media in attendance. All of that to say, I tend to avoid stages, elaborate backdrops and memorable exits.

Thank you to the New Mexico Public Relations Society of America for the Vista Award. While my interactions with Lee and Marie Hirst were limited, I am truly humbled to be included in a recognition that includes New Mexico’s first family of public relations and so many other practitioners whom I’ve called upon in the past. I respect them more than they will ever know.

One thing Lee loved to do was run. It is a passion which I’ve successfully avoided for 46 years. Completing two marathons and two half marathons over an eight month period, recently provided some insight as to why Lee loved it. It helps to clear the mind and prioritize. It also helps to provide a great metaphor for what we do, collectively, for our clients. We help them to run in such a way as to win, to finish the race. There are many different ways and speeds which you can run. Like running, campaigns run their course, events end and a marathon is always 26.2 miles. We do what we do because it is our passion.

How do we define what it is we do? There use to be an ad for Porter Novelli that read “not even my mother understands what I do.” Well it must not have been my mother, because she understands and does quite well with her own “PR.” How do we describe it to someone who doesn’t know? I’ve often use the phrase “its one beggar showing another beggar where to get food.”

Or in the words of fictional character Leo McCarry, who was chief of staff in the long running show The West Wing, describes: This guy’s walkin’ down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, “Father, I’m down in this hole; can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey, Joe, it’s me. Can ya help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are ya stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.”

For me, it is a great privilege to help people when they are in that hole, in the midst of a crisis. The families of Ana Marie Regino Martinez, Matt Propp, Joe Vigil, Dr. Daniel Ronel; organizations that include the Balloon Fiesta, Furrs Supermarket, Calvary Chapel, First Community Bank and the Kirtland Partnership Committee through two BRAC hearings; as well as a host of other people and organizations I can’t mention that allowed me to provide insight when they were in the midst of their waterloo.

The biggest threats to our industry are best fought with transparency, ethics and integrity. The enemy is found in complacency and relevancy.

Sometimes relevancy just looks at us straight in the face. Such was the case as a cub reporter in Billings, Montana. My assignment, cover a revival being led by the Reverend Billy Graham. I went and covered the event and came back to edit my story. When finalizing the sound bite to use, I called in the evening anchor, a salty newsie who was also a member of the John Birch Society. I played for him the sound bite of John 3:16 “That God so Loved the World that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The anchor took a drag from his cigarette and asked, “that’s it?!” I said, yeah. That is a message as relevant today as it was more than two thousand years ago.
As long as we are relevant, we are part of the discussion and have a seat at the table.

Thank you to the current members of The Garrity Group Public Relations for enjoying Jimmy Buffet songs and making our office a fun place to work. I covet your perspective and professionalism. Also, thank you to our Garrity Group alumni, your continued contributions to the profession provide motivation as I continue to celebrate your successes.

Finally tonight, it is a gift to have my wife Jackie and our two daughters Emily and Casey here… thank you for not changing the locks on the front door!

My mom is here and my dad, while in Houston is here in spirit. I am also blessed to have extended family and friends in the audience tonight.

Thank you for this honor and good night.

Movie Lessons for the CEO

Movie Lessons for the CEO

You know your business. You have a passion for what you do and a process for how to accomplish it.

The people you have in place are the “right ones on the bus.” You are well read and can work an iPhone or android better than most people half your age. So what’s keeping you up at night? You go to bed early and wake up early. But it isn’t on purpose. Unresolved issues shake you in the night and tire you throughout the day. It is a vicious cycle that can zap the life out of you and your organization.

You want to connect with your customer in a unique way. You not only want them to buy the product, you want them to feel like their organization and world will be a better place as a result of their partnership with your business. The connection with your customer is where the science of deliberate communication occurs. That point of contact says you understand your client and know how they consume information. It also relays confidence in your product, messaging, team and how the “collective” integrates with the community to make our world a better place to live.

How do you become that company? Have a team come along side your organization that specializes in message development, customer relationship management, and shaping perception. Public relation firms have a proven track record of helping clients generate business results and goodwill in their respective communities.

Since you’ve seen all of the movies that come on in the middle of the night, here are a few “movie lessons” to consider when bringing on a team to help you:

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (Gone With The Wind) Be Rhett Butler. Know who you are and what you want. Having firm goals will set the course for all of your initiatives.

“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (The Godfather) Don Corleone can name his own price, can you? Identify a marketing budget. It will ensure nobody is wasting their time “capisce.”

“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) Take time to research perception about your company. You might be like Jessica Rabbit, looking good for all of the wrong reasons.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” (Jaws) That’s chief Martin Brody’s way of saying know when you are in over your head. In “PR” terms: you don’t need a news release, you need a strategic plan.

“You had me at ‘hello’” (Jerry Maguire). There is paralysis in analysis. Dorothy Boyd went with her gut, so should you.

“In this town I’m the leper with the most fingers.” (The Two Jakes) Jake Gittes’ advice is value integrity and be sure you have an ethical communications partner.

My best to you as you become the company that integrates with your community.



GPS: The Importance of Faith

GPS: The Importance of Faith

New Mexico has a very diverse “faith” history. Native American Spirituality, Spain’s quest to promote the Catholic religion, the rich Jewish history in our state, a growing base of Eastern religions and the long established Christian outreach to people in urban and rural areas is a hint of how important faith is in New Mexico.

Curious about the importance of faith in the lives of New Mexico residents, my public relations firm ask a question on the topic in our recently completed Garrity Perception Survey.

GPS: Accountants

GPS: Accountants

The greatest area of opportunity to build trust for the Accountant is in the age range of 50-64 years. This group, which includes some of the highest wage earners, has a lower level of trust than any other age group in New Mexico. Perhaps the recession coupled with discussion of higher taxes clouds the trust. Whether or not that is the case, accountants can increase their trust level through “plain speak” about the issues facing this age group and the solutions they might want to consider as they approach retirement.