Location, Location, Location

November 21, 2017

by Dan Ward

When planning a special event, the walk-through is critical. You look at the space and account for placement of signage, locations for media and VIPs, sight lines for cameras, background music that could interfere with your plans, including anything outside of your control that could impact your event.

Unfortunately, the event planners at The Weather Channel missed a couple of steps, and it offers a lesson for all of us.

The Weather Channel set up a live stream to broadcast the implosion of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, with what appeared to be a great wide shot of the dome.  Everything was great for about 40 minutes, right up until the first explosion.  That is when a Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) bus pulled up directly in front of the camera.

So instead of a livestream of a massive demolition, viewers saw a bus … with some dust in the background.

Lesson: for your next event, make sure your audience has an unobstructed view.


Your Next Crisis May Have Already Happened

November 7, 2017

by Dan Ward

Professional communicators realize the importance of a crisis communications plan, guiding companies and clients on how to maintain the timely and accurate flow of information in a crisis situation.

We plan for the things that might occur in the future that could affect our clients’ business … weather-related events, workplace accidents, etc.  But the allegations that have made for breaking news since the first Harvey Weinstein story was published point out the need for companies to plan for emerging crises that may have been smoldering for years.

Perhaps the best thing to have happened as a result of the Weinstein scandal (aside from putting a stop to his alleged predatory actions) is the creation of an environment in which many women (and some men) feel for the first time that they are safe to call attention to their own stories of harassment.  And though media stories have focused primarily on the entertainment realm because of the celebrity status of both the accused and the accusers, we should expect more allegations to be made public in the corporate world.

Those in charge of corporate communications for their companies and clients should be doing two things immediately:  1) connecting with HR to ensure that corporate policies for preventing and reporting harassment are up-to-date and that proper training is taking place; and, 2) updating crisis communications plans to account for potential harassment claims.

This can be a difficult discussion to have with the CEO, but it’s a critical discussion to lead.  As with any crisis, our job is to prepare for the worst even if we believe the chances are slim that the plan will ever be put into action.  Preparing a response to a potential harassment claim is not an admittance of guilt or a suggestion of impropriety.  It is simply proper planning.

I listed the conversation with HR first, because a company’s actions in a crisis are much more important than its message.  The lack of a harassment policy can itself lead to a crisis of reputation for your company, so it’s critical that you ensure a policy is indeed in place.  Is the policy clear in defining harassment and prescribing penalties?  Does your company provide training for both supervisors and employees?  Is the process for filing complaints clear, and are complaints taken seriously?

Don’t let your discomfort with an issue that has long been taboo keep you from making the right decisions for your company and clients.


Dangers of Cut & Paste

September 26, 2017

by Roger Pynn

I always feel bad when I’m reviewing résumés and come across an applicant who self-eliminates with a stupid mistake.  I feel bad because I long ago decided it isn’t my job to teach someone to read what they write before sticking it in the mail.

Today’s example was a chap who appeared to be a pretty good fit for a job we have open (see description below if you are someone interested in joining a really good PR firm that demands excellence of itself to provide excellent service to excellent clients).  However, he sent a cover letter along with his résumé and some writing samples in which he clearly had cut and pasted a paragraph from another cover letter he’s using in his job search.

His opening paragraph was OK: I am writing to express my interest in the position of Communication Specialist with Curley & Pynn. As a communications professional with over a decade of experience reaching out to the public I know what it takes to get people talking.

But two paragraphs down things went south: I will love to be able to bring my assets to The Florida Bar Foundation as your next Marketing Coordinator and Social Media Coordinator.  I am excited about this opportunity and welcome the opportunity to discuss with you my credentials. Please contact me to arrange an interview. I look forward to meeting you and thank you for your consideration.

No … the boldface and underlines were not his, but added for emphasis.  I just wanted to make sure you saw it.  I let slide that this guy actually said, “I will love to be able to …”  Lord, this guy has a college degree!  Albeit, from an online school I’ve never heard of before.  He positions himself as a Seasoned bilingual communications professional experienced in network, cable and local news, with both English-language and Spanish-language speaking audiences.

Now … to the real reason I wrote this post.  We’re looking for good talent.  Please see below, email us or pass the word.  Extra points to those that get our name right.


It’s time to stop “working” and start getting paid to do what you love.  At Curley & Pynn – The Strategic Firm®, our award-winning team of creative thinkers is excited to offer you this opportunity.  As a communications specialist, you can do big things in an environment that will challenge you to contribute 100 percent every day, while empowering you to succeed.

Our specialists play a critical role in the implementation of communications strategies for clients from varied industries.  No two days are the same at Curley & Pynn, but there are several things you can expect to do:

  • Research, research, research.  It’s the bedrock of every communications plan.
  • Write compelling stories about our clients, their products and services for news releases, blogs, social media posts and more.
  • Publicize those stories by pitching them to news media, developing eye-catching collateral, planning and executing events, and more.
  • Brainstorm new and innovative ideas that bring our strategies to life.

What you need:

  • Bachelor’s degree in communications, marketing, public relations, journalism or a related field.
  • Overwhelming desire to grow your career.
  • Writing skills stronger than the Hulk.
  • Annoying obsession with details.
  • No fear to call a reporter, get rejected and call again.
  • Confidence to raise your hand and take responsibility for new projects.
  • Penchant for to-do lists and ability to juggle.

Ideally, you’ve had some on-the-job experience and are ready for the next step in your career.  Solid internships and a high level of maturity go a long way, too.  Experience with graphic design and digital marketing will earn you bonus points.

What we have:

  • Experienced, friendly and enthusiastic mentors who will always have your back and are invested in helping you grow.
  • Long-standing relationships with some of Florida’s most well-respected organizations, including globally recognized brands.
  • Generous benefits:  a competitive salary, health benefits, three weeks of paid vacation time, financial support for professional development activities and reimbursement for continuing education.
  • Work-hard, play-hard mentality, which often leads to cookie breaks, birthday celebrations, happy hour and more.

Interested?  Email your resume, writing samples and a meaningful cover letter to Dan Ward at dward@thestrategicfirm.com.  In your cover letter, tell us which of the Five Steps to Professional Success you have applied on the job.


Sticks and Stones

September 21, 2017

by Dan Ward

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

When and why did that rhyme I learned as a child warp into “sticks and stones should break the bones of those whose words might hurt me?”

A new study by The Brookings Institution shows that of 1,500 college students surveyed nationwide, an astounding 19 percent believe that violence – physical violence – is an appropriate response to prevent a controversial speaker from speaking.  Let that sink in.  One in five attending college in a country that is in many ways defined by its protection of speech believe that mere words should be met, and stopped, with violence.

A majority believe it is appropriate to stop hateful speech by shouting it down so the speaker cannot be heard, and a plurality believe that hate speech is NOT protected by the First Amendment.

How did we reach a point at which young people believe the response to speech with which they disagree is to force it to stop, with violence if necessary?

One of the things taught to me as a child, and reinforced in college, was that First Amendment protections are not extended only to those with “acceptable” viewpoints, but more importantly to those with whom we strongly disagree.

I realize times have changed and we live in a charged political environment, but I remember the conversations I had with friends and family as a young man, conversations in which we discussed the need to protect hateful speech, because doing so defines who we are and what makes us different.  Our willingness to tolerate hateful, horrible words is what sets us apart.  I can only hope we find our way back to having those kinds of conversations.

As communicators, it is our job to protect and preserve First Amendment rights, and to ensure that the next generation understands these rights. As a father, I want my children to be confronted with ideas and language they find disagreeable and even hurtful.  I want them to seek out this language.  And I want them to respond not with violence or shouts, but with better arguments.

The way to confront hateful speech is not sticks and stones.  We can only defeat hateful speech with reason, with conversation, with more speech.


Mistaken Identity

August 23, 2017

by Dan Ward

Have we lost our ever-loving minds?

When I first read that ESPN pulled a broadcaster from covering an upcoming University of Virginia football game in a decision tied to the events in Charlottesville, my reaction was “he must have said something horrible.”

Nope.  He didn’t say anything.

The broadcaster was pulled from the ESPN assignment “simply because of the coincidence of his name.”

Given his Chinese heritage, few would confuse ESPN’s Robert Lee with the Confederate General who died nearly 150 years ago.  But rather than trust in the intelligence of its viewers, ESPN pulled Lee from the game. To avoid what may have caused a few moments of discomfort, ESPN touched on a controversy that has it and its communications team on their heels.

In the wake of Charlottesville, we should certainly remind ourselves that what we say matters, that we should think before we speak, and that we should be mindful of the impact of our words.

But avoiding conversation is not the answer.  ESPN says it regrets that “who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”  They should regret making it an issue.


Faith’s Farewell

August 18, 2017

by Kacie Escobar 

Curley & Pynn was fortunate to be joined this summer by intern, Faith Fogarty, a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi who “wowed” us with her positive attitude and work ethic.  Read on for Faith’s account of her internship experience.

I had interned at several other places before joining the team at Curley & Pynn.  As I prepared for my first day, I woke up and found the most comfortable shoes I owned.  I was ready to run errands, clean and do other “intern work.”  Little did I know, my experience at Curley & Pynn was going to be so much more.

I was assigned a writing project right off the bat.

“Woah,” I said to myself.  “No one needs coffee or anything from Office Depot???”

On top of providing public relations counsel and marketing communications to several clients, Curley & Pynn puts in plenty of valuable time helping others succeed and grow in this profession.

Being an intern can be overwhelming, especially in an agency where something new is always happening.

One of the most important things I learned this summer was to simply ask questions.  Ask once, ask twice or as many times as you’d like, but don’t be afraid to just ask questions.  I’m sure there were times when I asked a million follow-up questions, but the team never hesitated to answer them.  I was a sponge, soaking up all the information I possibly could.

I learned another important aspect of “adulting” as well:  time management.  I give a great deal of credit to the team at Curley & Pynn because, as I quickly learned, working in an agency environment, having good time-management skills is the key to being successful.  Bouncing from one project to another on completely different subjects and with multiple clients, you must be able to manage time effectively.  Learning this hasn’t only helped me in the PR field, but in everyday life as well. To-do lists are my new best friend.

I strongly recommend the internship program at Curley & Pynn to every college student or recent graduate looking for more experience in the PR industry.  The Curley & Pynn internship program isn’t like most and that’s what I loved about it.

I could write a novel about the valuable experience, connections and knowledge I gained these past couple of months, but I know the work samples I’ve assembled prove it best.  I couldn’t be more grateful for the time and effort this team puts in to creating better PR professionals.


Charlie Needs PR People … Not Salespeople

August 9, 2017

by Kacie Escobar

Today, I received an email encouraging me to apply for a role with the Charlie team in Chicago as a key salesperson for the company’s new product.  Seemingly innocent, everything about this email rubbed me the wrong way.

Having just returned from the 2017 FPRA Annual Conference, PR:  It’s Personal, the power of personalized communication was fresh in my mind.  And this email was anything but personal.

Ironically, Charlie’s success is built on technology that “finds information from 100,000’s of sources” to build one-page profiles about your professional contacts, helping you get to know them without doing all the work.

Perhaps Charlie should have put its technology to the test.

I once researched the Charlie app, but never used it.  In fact, I had not received any previous emails from Charlie since the day I signed up nearly one year ago.  Simple research would have uncovered my lack of engagement and unfamiliarity with the company, along with my lack of experience (or interest) for a senior account executive role in sales.

The advertised position has enough responsibility that it reports directly to the CEO, yet Charlie clearly used an email distribution service to spam everyone on its list without any knowledge of the recipients’ qualifications.  The kicker:  it was sent to the inbox of the email address where I currently work, which, for others, might have sparked an awkward office conversation.

While Charlie’s tactic may eventually achieve the desired outcome, the company could have taken a far more effective approach.  A little research would have gone a long way to personalize this outreach and, as a result, reach the right target audience with the right message in the right place at the right time.

Before it can recruit the right salespeople, Charlie may want to consider recruiting someone to drive a more personalized approach to its PR.


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