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On Message: Keep it Simple

By Kevin Sullivan, PRSA Tampa Bay Member and author

In the 1970s, PepsiCo had a mission statement that was simple, direct, and powerful: Beat Coke.

The three most important factors in message development are simplicity, simplicity, and simplicity. And it doesn’t get much simpler than, “Beat Coke.”

Packed into those two words are aspiration and inspiration, clarity of purpose, and a sense of “us against them” team unity. Not bad for eight letters.

By contrast, the mission statement for one of America’s most prominent universities consumes 523 words. Over dinner one night in Washington, the president of that institution confirmed what I already suspected: It had been written by committee.

When developing messaging for a political campaign, a product rollout, or a crisis response, don’t take chances – keep it simple. And always remember, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

That old political adage hit me hard in the fall of 2007 during my time as President Bush’s White House Communications Director.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was up for reauthorization. SCHIP is a program administered by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that provides matching funds to States to provide health insurance for children in uninsured families whose income was modest, but exceeded the eligibility requirements for Medicaid.

President Bush was calling for a 20 percent ($4.8 billion) increase in funding, which would have been used to help enroll an additional 500,000 children in the program. This should have been a slam dunk. 

Democrats wanted to expand the program by $50 billion and add coverage for some adults. Their plan would have put 48 percent of American children on government health insurance.

President Bush said that he would veto any bill that used SCHIP to launch a major expansion of government-run health care. 

So the message battle broke down this way:

  • Democrats supported health insurance for poor, sick children.
  • President Bush was for health insurance for children from poor families, but was against the Democrats’ plan to use SCHIP to expand taxpayer-funded health care to include adults and families who could afford – or already had – private coverage.

They had a bumper sticker, and we had a three-page fact sheet. We were talking about supporting the bill, but then threatening to veto it in the same paragraph. We were definitely explaining.

Our team in the White House Communications Office issued a steady stream of fact sheets and other documents designed to defend the President’s position and clarify our message. “Five Key Myths About President Bush's Support for SCHIP Reauthorization” presented a fact-based debunking of misconceptions about the President’s proposal. It came in at 936 words – way too long for a bumper sticker.

Things got interesting when the Democratic Party response to President Bush’s weekly radio address – usually delivered by a member of Congress – was delivered by Graeme Frost, a 12-year-old from Baltimore who had recovered from a brain stem injury and whose health insurance coverage came through SCHIP.

“If it weren’t for (S)CHIP, I might not be here today,” he said. “I just hope the President will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me.” Through young Graeme, Democrats had succeeded in putting a sympathetic human face on their policy position – they made it personal.

In the end, President Bush vetoed two SCHIP bills – he may have won, but it didn’t feel like it. We had lost in the court of public opinion. They had a bumper sticker, and we had a fact sheet.

So keep a 3”x 3” Post-It Note on your desk. If your messages don’t fit on there, they’re not crisp enough, bold enough, or simple enough to break through. To summarize, the keys for sharp messaging and a few other tips for getting quoted amid the clutter:

  • Extremes are good. If your message can be honestly described in terms of first/last, biggest/smallest, oldest/youngest, or most/least expensive, that’s newsy and a good place to start.
  • Use metaphors and analogies to make your point: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer offered a memorable description of Google during her days as a product manager there: “Google should be like a Swiss Army knife: clean, simple, the tool you want to take everywhere.”
  • Put numbers in context. “There are more mobile phones on Earth than toothbrushes,” said 3Cinteractive founder John Duffy. That’s much more effective and memorable than if he would have given the actual number of mobile phones.
  • Be colorful, paint a picture. In a Wall Street Journal article about iCloud-related upgrades to Apple products, Tulane University professor Thomas Beller scored two memorable quotes.: “I don’t go to church. I don't go to synagogue. I buy Apple products.” Then, to characterize his frustration, he said, “By forcing all these changes, Apple is driving me into the arms of Google.”
  • Build your message around what you are for, not what you’re against. The affirmative almost always works best. Talk about what you have, not what you don’t have. Define your idea or product around what it is, not what it’s not.
  • When developing your message, make it about people and their stories, not numbers or dollars. Emotions beat facts every time.

But above all, keep it simple. For years when I was asked about media bias I used to say, “Yeah, they’re biased. They’re biased in favor of conflict.” New York Times reporter Peter Baker adds an interesting twist to that theory, telling Politico, "The bigger bias is the bias toward conflict, the bias toward sensation, the bias toward the quick and easy and the simplistic.” Baker is right to add “the quick and easy and the simplistic” to the list.

Today’s reality is that the attention of the media – and consumers, too – is pulled in so many directions that if your message is complex, your audience will move on to the next email, tweet, post, or pitch. If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

About:

PRSA Tampa Bay member Kevin Sullivan, the founder of Kevin Sullivan Communications, Inc., is the author of the new eBook, “Breaking Through: Communications Lessons from the Locker Room, the Board Room and the Oval Office.” The book, which details his experiences with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, NBC Universal and The White House, is excerpted here.

“Breaking Through” is available at amazon.com and iBooks. Sullivan can be reached at ks@ksullivancomms.com.

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PRSA Tampa Bay Has Strong Showing at PRSA Silver Anvil Awards

The PRSA Silver Anvil Awards honor the best and brightest in public relations. This year, two PRSA Tampa Bay members were honored for their award-winning campaigns.

Mitch Lubitz of Humana received an Award of Excellence for the company’s Covering Mississippi consumer and community education, engagement and enrollment media relations and public relations campaign. Humana's media outreach in collaboration with Coyne PR generated extensive regional, statewide, national and international positive media coverage for the health benefits company's efforts to provide health insurance to uninsured Mississippians

PRSA Tampa Bay Board Member Mike Flanagan, partner at LDWW Group, was presented the Best of Silver Anvil Award for his company’s work with Carnival Corporation on a corporate recovery campaign that generated substantial reputational advances for Carnival in 2013-14, following a series of high profile negative incidents during the prior two years. The campaign was selected as the best from among the 136 public relations campaigns designated as finalists for the Silver Anvil Award.

Mike Flanagan (far left) and LDWWgroup accepting 
Best of Silver Anvil Award

The Silver Anvil Awards were presented on June 4 in New York City.
 

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PRSA Tampa Scholarship Winners lead the way to Walt Disney World!

Its summer time and Florida is heating up with the 2015 PRSA Sunshine District Conference in Orlando at the Walt Disney World Yacht and Beach Club Resort July 16-18.

PRSA Tampa Bay is proud to announce our 2015 PRSA Sunshine District Conference scholarships winners Jennifer Lane, Marketing Coordinator at Franklin Street and PRSA Tampa Chapter Secretary, Laura Fontanills, APR with B-2 Communications and local PRSSA Liaison.

Jennifer Lane       
Jennifer Lane                                      Laura Fontanillis

The two-day conference is a premier event hosted by the Orlando Regional PRSA Chapter that features public relations professional networking, as well as workshops to develop and enhance current knowledge in areas such as crisis communications, social media, and more. Along with the workshops, speakers from various companies like The Coca Cola Company and Walt Disney World will be attending. Breakout out sessions will also accompany this highly informative annual conference.

Our winners will be active on social media, as well as blogging to share their experience and highlights of the conference so other members can follow along. I was able to ask Jennifer recently what she looked forward to most about attending the conference, she mentioned that it was her third year attending and was excited to learn more about the latest technology including creative strategies that are currently trending in the public relations industry. Jennifer offered some great advice to those who are interested in submitting an application for the scholarship for the conference next year, she said, “try to add your PRSA experience and dedication and how you want to get more involved. Lastly, show how you will improve not only your career but also help others around you with that information.” We are very proud of our scholarship winners and know they will have great time! A little Disney magic mixed with the 2015 PRSA Sunshine District Conference event held by PRSA will be a great way to highlight their summer!

If you are interested in learning more about the conference or attending, please visit this link for more information. http://www.prsasunshine.com

If you are interested in learning more about the scholarships, please select the links below http://prsatampabay.org/blog.php?id=63&reset=1

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Proof Positive: How to Edit Your Own Copy

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

You’ve just hammered out a difficult news release, beat your deadline by an hour and left yourself one last opportunity to polish your work before you submit it. But you don’t want to proof this yourself after being so close to it, and you don’t have any co-workers available to look at it before deadline. What can you do?

It takes a village to raise a child, and bringing in a cold eye to proof your work is without a doubt the best way to ensure accuracy, clarity and quality in your writing. But when this isn’t possible, there is still a way you can proof your own material effectively. In my 15 years as a writer and editor, I’ve developed five central guidelines that I use to review my own copy as best as possible.

No matter how well-written a document is, a single mistake can eclipse the quality of the rest of the communication and become the thing that the readers remember the most. Regardless of how long you’ve worked on a document or many times you’ve reviewed it, if you’ve made any recent changes to it or are not 100 percent sure it reads flawlessly, it’s important to sweat the details with one final proof and not settle for anything less than perfection. These guidelines will help.

  1. Rest between writing and proofing - Once you’ve finished a piece, take a break from it for as long as possible to give your mind time to forget about it and fill itself with other thoughts. This distance will allow you to come back to proof your piece as objectively as possible.
  1. Change environments - Before you begin proofing, find a space away from your normal workspace – an empty conference room or a bench in an open area, for example – that will allow you to get away from the usual email, phone and people distractions. Not only will this change of location allow you the quietness to concentrate more easily, it will take you away from the comfort zone of your familiar computer, desk and chair to give you that extra sharpness to scrutinize copy better.
  1. Proof on hard copy - This could be the single most important guideline for proofing. Always review your work on hard copy. Proofing on hard copy allows you to read a printed text more naturally, enabling you to look down to read instead of looking horizontally. It also lets you take printed text with you to an optimal location for reading, and it helps you review with a keener eye because you’re breaking away from that familiar and comfortable computer screen.
  1. Read out loud - Similar to reviewing on hard copy, this can prove an invaluable aid that enables you to see your work from a different perspective and judge it more objectively and minutely. By rendering your piece in an oral format, you can take advantage of a different one of your five senses to pick up on errors, discrepancies and questionable passages.
  1. Proof at least two full times - Begin your proof with a preliminary skim of the document to ensure that major typographical features – such as font size, line spacing, text alignment and bullet indentation – are correct and consistent. Next, make one complete editorial read-through (pass), reading it at about the same speed and level of detail as your intended audience will upon first reading. Then make your second pass, reading v-e-r-y slowly to scrutinize and ponder everything from spelling and punctuation to grammar and word order, and also to look for errors that you may have missed on the first pass and to fix any errors you may have introduced on your first pass.

Do you use any similar guidelines yourself? Would you add any guidelines to this list? Email me at joseph.priest@syniverse.com to let me know.

 

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Welcome New Members, May 2015

Welcome PRSA Tampa Bay new chapter members!

Patty Kim
Public Relations Manager
Moffitt Cancer Center

Meredith Holland
Public Relations Account Manager
St. John & Partners

Kevin Wiatrowski
Media Relations
Visit Tampa Bay

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May Program Offers Universal PR Advice from Healthcare Experts

By Erica Everett, USF PRSSA Chapter Member

John Dunn, APR, director of public relations at Tampa General Hospital, opened up the panel discussion by asking, “‘I’m sorry’ – What does it really mean?” Using examples of hospitals that fail to meet an effective apology, Dunn explained the difference between being sorry and an apology and how that can affect the outcome.

“’Sorry’ is not an apology. An apology is a communication expressing fault or admission of a mistake,” said Dunn. “It takes a long time to build trust and only one instant to destroy it.”

According to Dunn, there are four components of an apology that are applicable to all facets of PR: Empathy, compassion, admission of fault, and how to prevent it in the future.

May program panelists John Dunn, APR; Alicia Argiz-Lyons; and Chris Duffy share important best PR practices for health care professionalsMay program panelists John Dunn, APR; Alicia Argiz-Lyons; and Chris Duffy share important best PR practices for health care professionals

Christine Duffy, vice president of U.S. Health Care Provider Practice at Hill+Knowlton Strategies,  tacked on to Dunn’s message with an approach on “Aligning Industry Trends To Thought Leadership.”

Duffy communicated that it’s important to establish communication pillars to leverage expertise and focus resources when implementing a successful leadership campaign. Her four-step process is to identify the industry trends, research media coverage, analyze coverage and develop insights, and lastly, identify pillars for a proactive outreach.

Alicia Argiz-Lyons, director of development at Shriners Hospital for Children, drove the talk home, touching on the subject of re-branding. Until recent years,  Shriners Hospital for Children provided free medical services to its patients for 90 years. The hospital recently launched Fezzy the teddy bear as Shriner’s new mascot in transition to this newer image.

The discussion opened up to the event attendee’s diving further into questions about the affects an apology has on an organization’s reputation and trust and even some questions asked via their twitter and Facebook channels.

The conversation will turn a new page at the PRSA and FPRA Annual Media Roundtable June 24, where PR professionals will get to build relationships with local media about and discuss how to work with them to generate media coverage.

PRSA Tampa Bay members and guests mingled at the Brio Tuscan Grille dining room for its “Universal Lessons from Healthcare PR Pros” luncheon.

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Join PRSA as a Group and Save Big in May!

To celebrate the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, the PRSA Group Member Program is offering a special promotion for all New Group that join PRSA between May 8 and June 5. New group members can take advantage of the following discounts:

  • FREE initiation fee for all new members (a $65 value)
  • FREE reinstatement fee for returning members in the group (a $35 value)
  • FREE professional interest section dues for one year for all members of the group (a $60 value – excludes Counselors Academy)
  • FREE chapter dues for one year for all members of the group (dues vary per chapter – Tampa Bay dues are $50)


There are several advantages for employers who join PRSA as a group, including:

  • Single Invoicing - Make a single payment each year for group members' dues, rather than numerous individual payments.
  • Transferability of Membership - Each membership within a group is easily transferable. This is convenient when an employee changes departments or leaves your organization.
  • Ease of Adding New Members - PRSA will prorate the dues to maintain the same term year and renewal date.
  • Employer Posting Opportunities - Receive discounted or free postings on PRSA's career and employment website, the PRSA Jobcenter.
  • Listings in Online Organization Search - Take advantage of complimentary listings in our Find-A-Firm Directory.
  • The Best Pricing on PRSA Events - Save on registration for on-site training at the annual PRSA International Conference, as well as various specialty conferences and seminars throughout the year.
  • Geographic and Sector-Specific Networking - Membership to specialty communities, such as our local Chapters or Professional Interest Sections, is provided according to group size.


To learn more about group membership, visit www.prsa.org/groupprogram. To join PRSA as a New Group, please contact pamela.weess@prsa.org for the next steps.

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Welcome New Members, April 2015

Welcome PRSA Tampa Bay new chapter members!

Kourtney Berry
Assistant Account Executive
Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Timothy Cook
Managing Director, Corporate Communications
Greystar

Barbara St. Clair

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Turning Bad Reviews into Positive Promotion

By: Aroushad Tahsini, University of South Florida PRSSA

Bad reviews in any industry, specifically the restaurant industry, are inevitable. But your response can decrease negative criticism and help maintain a positive reputation for your brand.

PRSA Tampa Bay members and guests met at Datz Deli to hear a panel discuss how to respond to reviews on social media. Panelists included Suzanne Perry, owner of Datz, Jennifer Vickery, president and CEO of National Strategies PR, Brett Nehls, senior community manager of Yelp Tampa Bay and Lauren Cresta, digital marketing manager of Bonefish Grill.

So how can you navigate reviews on social media?
1)     Handle the situation promptly. It’s easier to alleviate a problem immediately rather than wait until it escalates. Perry explained that every table at Datz has a card that includes funny suggestions such as crumpling the card and throwing it at a manager. She admits the method is risky, but it also encourages unhappy diners to contact management right away if there is an issue.

2)     Track online reviews: Both Perry and Cresta use software to collect online reviews. They are updated quickly and know when a client is unhappy.

3)     Apologize: Try to acknowledge that person’s point of view. If the situation were reversed, what would you want to see? Apologize immediately and promise to work on a solution.

4)     Use discretion with private or public responses: It really depends on your team whether or not you want to address a review publicly or privately. Perry usually responds privately and publicly to posts, while Cresta usually responds privately due to the large scale of Bonefish.

5)     Politely address corrections and disgruntled comments: Sometimes reviewers make incorrect or frustrating remarks. Nehls highly recommends politely correcting the comment and avoiding rude responses.

6)     Encourage direct communication: In order to diminish negativity on social media, Cresta and her team invite clients to contact the company directly.

7)     Be yourself: Formality is not necessarily the right tone to use in every situation. Vickery suggested that you tailor your responses to suit your publics’ and organization’s personality.

8)     Appreciate good reviews: When clients leave good reviews, be sure to thank them. It makes them feel appreciated and shows good customer service.

Guests also enjoyed delectable treats and beverages provided by Datz.

The next PRSA Tampa Bay event is the membership picnic at Picnic Island Park in Tampa on Saturday, May 2 from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tickets are free for members and family and $10 for guests. Please RSVP by April 30.

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Agency Leaders: Grow Your Business by Knowing Your Worth and Creating Value

For anyone running and growing a business – public relations agency leaders included – you must be able to recognize and express your worth and the value your firm brings to clients. If this is unclear in your mind or you are not able to communicate it effectively, you run the risk of giving things away instead of growing a successful business.

Tap into your inner CEO to identify your worth and make the money you deserve by following these tips:

Understanding Your Worth
As the leader of your firm, your time is extremely valuable – and it’s your most precious resource. In your industry, time is literally money. Do you know your worth and is your firm set up to help you realize it?

Let’s imagine you want to have a personal annual income of $200,000 – that means you value your expertise at that amount. Now multiply that by three, and $600,000 is roughly the amount your firm should be billing to support your desired income. Further calculations, including taking into account all of the business expenses associated with servicing clients, will lead you to a solid understanding of where you should set your billing rates so your perceived worth becomes a reality.

Also, take a good look at how you and your firm are spending time. Is every activity, every networking event, every volunteer opportunity, even every client, ultimately contributing toward the goal of making what you’re worth? If not, consider how you can delegate or even suspend tasks and activities that will distract from achieving that goal.

Creating Value
Once you have a firm grasp on your worth, the next step is being able to communicate that to a client or prospect so that you don’t give away your time. Giving away your services is the quickest way to slow or reverse your business growth. You have something of value – do not give it away!

When working to create value for your agency, it’s critical to understand that people buy the why and the results. The why means that when you meet with prospects, you need to clearly articulate why they need your services, why they should work with you and your firm, and why they need to get started now.

The results means you clearly express to prospects what kind of results they can expect if they work with you – this helps to create value in the prospect’s mind. However, this does not mean you should sit with a prospect and give him or her a bunch of ideas for free. Instead, share examples of results you’ve gotten for other clients so they can understand the types of results they can expect if they hire you. You want to clearly illustrate the ROI you will bring the prospect without giving away your valuable time and ideas.

Knowing your firm’s worth and creating value so you can get paid what you deserve are two essential keys for unlocking business growth. Here’s to bringing out the CEO in you!

About the Author:
Juliann Nichols is the CEO of Focus On You Strategy. She combines an open and welcoming personality, contagious sense of humor and astute head for business that has propelled her to be consistently approached as an expert in personal and business branding and being the CEO of you. She can be reached at (813) 609-2223 and juliann@focusonyoustrategy.com.

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