My Story of Professional Gratitude

As Thanksgiving approaches I have been thinking about my personal and professional blessings. As my solo consultancy celebrates its 15th anniversary I have been reflecting on the meaningful projects and experiences I have been thankful to be a part of in the role as the public relations consultant.

Here’s a small window into my professional life.

For the past two seasons I’ve been fortunate to serve as the public relations counsel for Houston Chamber Choir, the city’s oldest professional choir.  It was a thrill to watch the Artistic Director Robert Simpson and the Choir prepare for the premiere of the “lost” manuscript of Giovanni Paolo Colonna’s Psalmi ad Vesperas (1694).  Dr. Anne Schnoebelen, the world’s foremost authority on Colonna’s music, was present at the rehearsal and offered her insights into how musicians would have pronounced certain notes in the 17th century.  The result of the performance is the first recording of this work – ever.

Another long-term client, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company continues to deepen its repertoire by commissioning new works by renowned choreographers.  Recently Larry Keigwan of Keigwan + Company came to the Houston Met studio to re-set his exuberant work, Air, on the company.  I got to sit next to Larry in the studio, and talk with him about the inspiration for his piece (flight attendants and the fun of flying) and then watch him work with the company.  Larry radiates positivity and grace.  So as the company polished the work, his revisions and corrections were shared with laugher and love. It was one big smile.  This work was clearly an audience favorite at the conclusion of the company’s seasoner opener, 11.11.11, as people openly laughed and exploded in applause at the conclusion of the piece.

These two examples demonstrate how much I have to be thankful for on a professional level.  Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll.

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Three Grand Seeks Qualified Texas PR Student

It’s just like dating. The Public Relations Foundation of Houston has a $3,000 scholarship to award to a deserving student.  The Foundation Board seeks a well-rounded public relations student.  The student or parents of the student are seeking unrestricted funds to be used for college expenses. “Deserving” translates to a student that is majoring in public relations or a related field (communications, etc.) at a Houston area university. They maintain at least a 3.25 GPA in the major and a 3.0 GPA overall.  They are a full-time student.  They have leadership skills like serving as an officer in PRSSA; or demonstrated community service. Match? Then apply for the PRFH Scholarship by this Friday, March 11.

Not convinced? $3,000 means new software.  A FlipCam for creating videos. A trip to the PRSSA National Conference. A rewarding and valuable internship instead of a minimum wage job.  So don’t hesitate – download the application now and apply today.  It could be the match that propels you from college to a career.

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Mike Leach and Crisis Communications

Someone please tell former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach to seek crisis communication counsel immediately and drop his personal attorney Tedd Liggett, whose speciality is personal injury law. As of January 1, 2010, the Texas Tech firing of Leah is official,  but there’s still his reputation to manage for future opportunities. Being an “iconoclast” cost Mike Leach his position at Tech and his opportunity to coach his team at the Alamo Bowl.  Fortunately, his week of drama didn’t negatively impact the focus or emotions of the Texas Tech Red Raiders team as they romped over the Michigan State Spartans in a 41-31 victory last Saturday.

Leach’s quirky and irreverent style were an asset as a football coach whose core objective was to motivate young football players.   However, he should have had an expert crisis communication counselor at his side after allegations arose that he mistreated an injured player.  It’s clear after last week’s investigation that Leach mishandled the treatment of Adam James, a sophomore inside receiver who was injured in practice in December. By now, everyone has watched the James cell phone video of his time spent in the Texas Tech closet.  Not exactly a primo recruiting piece for Texas Tech.  Even the NFL now understands the traumatic impact of a concussion, however mild, on the human brain.  Whether James was a slacker on the field or not is irrelevant – it is abuse when a coach places an injured player in a closet or garage instead of having him sit on the bench and watch the team practice.  Leach is the coach/leader and should have handled the situation in an instructive manner.  He put himself in an adversarial position when he didn’t sign an apology letter drafted by university leadership.  Instead of acknowledging that he behaved inappropriately Leach decided to bring in his personal attorney to represent his position and sue the university to allow him to coach his team at the Alamo Bowl.  A crisis communication counselor would have started a conversation with the university leadership and worked out a collegial conclusion to the matter.  Leach chose poorly.  He gave Texas Tech the perfect opportunity to rid the university of $12.7 million worth of G&A; and the same individual who has made some colorful statements at post-game press conferences including this gem: his players shouldn’t listen to their “fat little girlfriends” tell them how wonderful they were after the Red Raiders disappointing loss to Texas A&M.  That’s not exactly the messge you want your head coach communicating to the sports media, the university community or the world.  What’s left now is the speculation of whom will Texas Tech appoint to Leach’s former position; and the interpretation of his contract with the university.  Should be fun.

Bring on the BCS Championship game with the Texas Longhorns versus the Alabama Tide.  Mike, who?

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Is Traditional Media Dead?

Nope.  Traditional media, while not at the center of the audience universe it held decades ago, is not dead.  In fact, it’s generating serious revenue for clients as well as establishing them as thought leaders in their areas of expertise.   These were some of the key messages delivered during a PRSA/Vocus webinar, Does Traditional Media Still Matter?    Annie Jennings, CEO of Annie Jennings PR and Donald Wright, Professor of Public Relations at Boston College shared their professional insights with more than 1,000 listeners.  And guess what kids – traditional media is a foundation of the mix that provides a solid platform for social media.  The big three: TV, Radio and Newspapers are still reaching devoted and engaged readers and listeners that act (buy) on information delivered via these channels.  Social media offers communication professionals an outlet to amplify this coverage and content.  Annie Jennings emphasized the use of radio as an ideal outlet to allow clients to develop their skill sets for television.  Radio interviews are a conversation, which allows speakers to share their insights, direct listeners to their web site for more information and possibly sales conversion (Jennings practice focus is on authors). 

Donald Wright, Ph.d, Boston University, emphasized that research, measurement and evaluation are still the hallmarks of a solid quantifiable public relations campaign.  You still need to conduct the research to define: what is the problem? Lack of audience interest in your client’s product? Lack of awareness? It’s the “what” that needs to be answered.  Then a commuications plan can be developed using traditional and social media focused on the target audience to reach the client’s goals and objectives.  

What I find fascinating is the blending of traditional and social media.  One of my clients appeared on www.myfoxhoustonlive.com.  She was able to “chat” live with FOX 26 News audience members; and then was interviewed about her topic by the 5 PM anchors, Mike Barajas and Melissa Wilson live for less than a minute.  That conversation lead to an explosion of questions about the event, which translated into increased audience attendance.  We were in the studio for less than 45 minutes – but it was time well spent. 

Newspaper bloggers are another fascinating development in the past five years.  At The Houston Chronicle almost every reporter maintains an active blog.  It’s an insane job description.  Not only do they write for thenew paper; but they produce content – articles, video and photos for the Chron.com web site.  The paper’s leadership was at the forefront of developing an active on-line news product.  Frankly, it’s hurt the hard product – distribution and circulation are down; but the on-line edition is perking along.  Just how anyone makes money from it – other than the obnoxious pop-up advertising – is the next question to be answered.

In summary, social media has all the buzz – and it’s great if it meets your client’s bottom-line objectives.  But never overlook the power of telling your client’s story to a mass audience.  The media world is fragmenting; so you just need to stay on top of the media tsunami and keep your eyes on the horizon – meeting client goals and objectives.       

 

 

 

 

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Hardy Wallace wins Goode Job

I'd love to live in Sonoma Valley

I'd love to live in Sonoma Valley

Murphy Goode Winery announced yesterday (July 21) that Hardy Wallace of Atlanta was selected as the world’s first Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent.  What a great title.  He has secured a six month position with the winery to exclusively use social media to drive media and consumer attention to the winery. Learn more about Hardy through his site Goode to be first and Dirty South Wine, with the slogan “wine is meant to be crunk.” The women’s t-shirts he has on the site are pretty cute.

The big winner is Murphy-Goode winery.  They scored more than 300,000,000 impressions and more than $7-million dollars worth of publicity for the winery and Sonoma Valley.  That’s brilliant. Congratulations to Murphy-Goode and Mr. Wallace.

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Blending Social Media & Fine Wine – Murphy-Goode

Last week I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in Healdsburg, CA.  We started our morning at the Ferrari-Carano winery enjoying their reserve varietals and signing up for their wine club.

Ferrari Carrano winery

Ferrari Carrano winery

 We meandered back down the valley stopping in the charming city of Healdsburg to enjoy lunch at Bistro Ralph.   After lunch, we wandered the city’s shops, finally stopping into the tasting room of Murphy-Goode winery.  As I wandered the tasting room – I was “wined” out at this point – I found myself intrigued by the candidate submissions for “a really goode job.”  I had read about this opportunity in the New York Times back in May about tweeting your way to an awesome job in the wine industry, but it’s cooler than that.  Basically, you become the social media guru for Murphy-Goode for 6 months – most likely alongside their stellar communications team.  You get to live in a deluxe private home and create your own wine with wine-maker David Ready, Jr. to celebrate your experience.

Glamour shot of Murphy Goode wines

Glamour shot of Murphy Goode wines

 And right now, they are down to the 10 final candidates.  You can view their videos and cv’s at a really goode job.  The “Top 10” is an interesting group of techies and foodies. The winning candidate will be announced on July 21st.  But the big winner is Murphy-Goode.  The MG public relations team mastered the intricacies of Web 2.0 early on and this campaign is a great case study.  The video for the campaign is a video travelogue for Sonoma County.    They have engaged thousands of applicants to apply for “a really gooode job” introducing them to their wines, and have scored copious amounts of quality media hits.  It’s brilliant and fun.  I’ll be checking in on July 21 to see who the winner is of  “a really good job” as I sip a glass of Liar’s Dice.  It’s brilliant all the way around.

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