Bring Me Thinkers.

February 13, 2017

by Roger Pynn

An interesting article in Tactics, a publication of the Public Relations Society of America, makes a case for writing as the most sought-after skill in public relations.  With apologies to the author Hanna Porterfield, let me say that writing is just a bar for entry.  What I want is people with critical thinking skills … who hopefully are writers.

Of course, you have to be able to put your thoughts “on paper” in this business.  But I can teach even a fair writer to do better work in that area.  What I can’t do, I’ve found, is teach people to logically think through a problem or challenge instinctively.

Why?  I think it stems from what and how they are taught in school.  Few public relations programs I’ve seen have more than one – if even that – course addressing how to think through the challenges you’ll face as a practitioner.

Sure, it is true, that in your early days in our world you will be doing sometimes repetitive research to find out what has already been published on a topic, or to create a media list or identify thought leaders.  And you’ll be asked to write a lot less than the Great American Novel.  But if you are truly cut out for public relations, you’ll approach each of those tasks by asking one big question.

“Why?” is the question that should drive everything.  When you understand why you are doing something, why information is important, why the three paragraph release or blog post fits into an overall communication program, you’ll be on your way to bigger assignments.

We’re trying to hire an entry-level communications specialist now.  To us, entry level is someone with a couple of years of experience under their belt.  They should be looking for that second job … one that gives them the chance to write bigger things, be part of creating strategies and take their place on the front line with clients and community.

The biggest challenge for us right now is finding that person who can think … as well as write.


The Proof About Proofing

December 27, 2016

by Roger Pynn

We all make mistakes.  My pastor reminded us of that in his sermon on Christmas Eve.  He also reminded us that forgiveness is important.

So is taking responsibility.

Just as you can’t rely on a spell-check utility in your word processor to proof your work, a priest in Sri Lanka learned that you can’t count on a “young boy” you ask to download lyrics to be sure he got the right song.

As CNN reported, the priest wanted the words to the traditional Christian prayer “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” for printing in the program for a Christmas carol service.  Instead, churchgoers found the lyrics to rapper Tupac Shakur’s trashy “Hail Mary.

I hope, Father Da Silva, whose apology included laying blame on the young boy, remembers that the buck stops here.  Proofing is an art almost lost for many – as I found out when I caught a typo in our family Christmas card after Shutterfly had already shipped it to us.  It was my fault.


A True Celebrity Spokesman

December 13, 2016

by Roger Pynn

We’re not big on using celebrity spokespersons.  Many in our business have experienced problems when a paid celebrity becomes embroiled in a media controversy, has a run-in with the law or – as some high-profile personalities are wont to do – cancels at the last minute when media and fans are already expecting to see a star.

We’ve worked with many celebrities over the years and most have been a lot of fun, although some have been a royal pain.  We won’t mention any names, although one is currently embroiled in one of the most distasteful court cases in recent history.

But we did have several opportunities to work with a true celebrity and I will never forget that this man, who was also one of my boyhood heroes, was not only a fantastic “draw,” he was an extremely effective spokesperson and one of the most humble, pleasant and gentlemanly people I’ve ever met.

John Glenn was a partner in a Holiday Inn ownership group we represented for many years … a group built by Henri Landwirth, also founder of Give Kids The World.  Landwirth had been a hotelier in Brevard County during the earliest days of the Space Race, and the Mercury astronauts often stayed in his hotel and became his lifelong friends.

So when we launched a new family-oriented brand of Holiday Inn with Henri and his group, Senator Glenn was more than happy to attend a major New York City media event for travel writers.  If memory serves me, we had almost 100 percent acceptance of our invitation to attend the news conference, meet our American hero and receive an autographed copy of his book John Glenn: A Memoir.

About a year later we hosted another group of travel writers for a visit to the innovative new resort and once again, John Glenn was a willing storyteller.  I will never forget that he also made one lady very important to me very happy.  My mother-in-law had just lost her husband and we were most concerned that she not be left alone … but my wife and I had to be at the hotel for the events the senator was hosting.  Henri and John’s managing partner Terry Whaples insisted we bring my wife’s mother along and that she be included in a dinner with our astronaut friend.

Imagine the impact when John Glenn wandered over to our table and asked “could I please meet Louise Kiefer?”  He sat down next to her and they had a wonderful time chatting.  It lifted her spirits and you could see in his eyes that he was totally focused on her … including when he handed her a personalized autographed copy of his book.

It rests on a shelf near our fireplace today, a memory of Louise and a true celebrity now gone.  I hope they meet up soon.


Who Will Run the Last Story?

November 3, 2016

by Roger Pynn

As I read this article from The New York Times about the malaise of the newspaper industry, I had to wonder which paper will run the final article … the one that says, “This is the end of the road for an institution once so powerful that what they thought drove what the most powerful did?”

I’ve written many times about my affection for daily newspapers, having started my career there and relied on pulp far more than airwaves or bandwidth to deliver news all my life.  My paper is a good friend.  My paper and my morning cup of coffee have a lot of shared memories.

But this quote in particular stood out:

“More and more publishers are coming to the recognition that there’s a new normal,” said Alan D. Mutter, who teaches media economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and writes about the media on the blog Reflections of a Newsosaur. “And the new normal is not nearly as nice as the old normal was.”

I’ll adjust and I’ll surely get used to consuming news on one of my devices, but I won’t like it.  And I don’t think I (or anyone else) will ever see those who deliver information to my digital door as institutions of power, objectivity or authority.  The model they’ve crafted makes them click chasers who erased the invisible line between newsrooms and the revenue-driven front office.

To people in our business, perhaps it is a good thing.  The door is wide open for us and our clients to become much more important sources of news and information to our stakeholders.


Alt-What?

September 1, 2016

by Roger Pynn

Until a week ago, if someone mentioned “alt-right” most people would have thought it was some new keyboard shortcut.  We could only have hoped it would automatically eradicate political rants of all kinds from our social media inboxes.

Although this article from Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) suggests that this is a “political movement” that has been around and been talked about in some media for more than a year, my guess is that I’m not alone in having been clueless when Hillary Clinton first used the term as a means of tying her opponent to what sounded like some dark and dangerous political cult.

The CJR article offers brilliant insight into how little we know of what goes on online.  Just as the Islamic State appears to have cornered the market on unstable young minds desperate for raison d’etre, it seems there are as many people and groups trying to infiltrate the psyche of the disaffected as there are those trying to sell products (legitimate and otherwise).

And from a communicator’s perspective, it is an important reminder that vetting sources of information is more important today than ever.  Who and what you quote is important.  Truly knowing who you are quoting is critical.


Can’t Take a Joke?

August 15, 2016

by Roger Pynn

I got a big kick out of the dustup last week about John Oliver’s view of the state of the newspaper industry.  Remember, Oliver is a comedian, but people like Newspaper Association of America really let his humor get under their skin.  Said NAA President and CEO David Chavern, “newspapers need solutions, not petty insults and stating the obvious.”

I’m a recovering journalist.  I say that because far too many people claim to be practicing journalism when in fact they are practicing commentary.  I’ve had a hard time finding degrees offered in commentary, but I can tell you that when I studied journalism we were schooled to never, ever offer our own opinion.  That was for those folks who produce editorial pages where the newspaper was to express its “corporate opinion.”

“I would just ask Mr. Oliver to spend more time talking about what the future of news could be, and less time poking fun at publishers who are trying to get there,”  begged Chavern.

I would just ask Mr. Chavern to spend more time standing up for the practice of real journalism … and, less time letting a joke get the better of you.  Learn to laugh.


Never Stop Learning

August 15, 2016

by Roger Pynn

I’m just back from the 78th Annual Conference of the Florida Public Relations Association, which I’ve had the honor to lead as its president for the last year, and I’m reminded of the critical importance of continuing education for professionals.

From the tremendous insight into leadership communication by senior Ketchum executives Jamey Peters and Chris Thorton to  an incredibly candid opening keynote presentation by SeaWorld Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Jill Kermes to an inspiring closing session of pick-up basketball with Gainesville Police Department Public Information Officer Ben Tobias on the power of viral video, PR practitioners had dozens of opportunities to gain valuable takeaways to improve their professional value from these general sessions to breakout talks and workshops.

And we didn’t just listen to fellow public relations people.  Florida Trend Publisher Andy Corty recruited Duke Energy Florida President Alex Glenn for a discussion called “Listen to the C-Suite,” with this powerful Florida business team exploring what our employers and clients expect of us.  Glenn’s belief in the power of public relations was refreshing.

To me, it is about public relations.  To others it may be about accounting, law or engineering … but my takeaway from these past few days was that we must never stop learning.  If you consider yourself a professional, align with an organization that can fulfill the need we all have for knowledge.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the Florida Public Relations Association in my life since 1974.  It has shaped my career in more ways than I can count.  If you consider yourself a professional, align with an organization that can fulfill the need we all have for knowledge.  You’ll get a lot more than you pay for and if you take the time to become involved, you’ll get a lot more than you give.


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