In honor of the Arizona Cardinals opening training camp this week, Logo 1HMATIME is pleased to present a football-themed Follow Friday for you! However, since HMA is rooting for the Arizona Cardinals this professional football season, we thought we would recommend folks based on their college football faves:

 ASU Sun Devils:

  • Brian Camen, a public relations practitioner at a top-ranked business school in Arizona, although he also roots for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights
  • Blue Media, a large format printing and environmental design companyLogo 2
  • Krystal Temple Heaton, a public relations practitioner for the Phoenix Suns
  • Kim Cecere, a mom, wife and public relations practitioner by day and freelance writer/blogger by night
  • Amanda Perkey, a public relations practitioner
  • Jonathan Roy, assignment editor at FOX 10, roots for the Devils but still cheers for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (HMA staffer Alison Bailin’s team of choice – an obsession)
  • Andre Willis, a marketing executive in Phoenix
  • Ken Reinstein, a public relations practitioner, but he also cheers for his alma mater – Toledo (they have a football team?)
  • HMA team members Abbie S. Fink and Beth Wilkinson also cheer for maroon and gold (while HMA “quarterback” Scott Hanson roots for his NAU Lumberjacks)

THE Ohio State Buckeyes (groan):

  • Kristen Ward, a public relations practitioner at a healthcare Logo 3company
  • Katy Kelewae, a marketing and public relations practitioner in Scottsdale
  • Laura Scholz, an Atlanta-based public relations practitioner, who also roots for the Florida Gators (so the SEC won’t kick her out of the South? No, her dad is an alum!)

Others:

  • Javier Soto, KTVK TV 3 personality, roots for the USC Trojans (double groan)
  • Stephanie Sheppard, a public relations practitioner, roots for the LSU Tigers Logo 4
  • Tassi Herrick, a public relations practitioner, roots for the Nebraska Huskers
  • Charlotte Shaff, a public relations practitioner and self-professed Midwest girl at heart, roots for the University of Michigan Wolverines and her alma mater, the Central Michigan Chippewas
  • Adam Kress, reporter with the Phoenix Business Journal and ABC 15, also roots for the Michigan Wolverines
  • Ronny Castro, a commercial banker, roots for the Washington Huskies (here’s hoping they WIN a game in 2009!)
  • Natalie Flanzer, KTVK TV 3 Online personality, roots for the Kansas City Jayhawks
  • John Palmay, Arizona REALTOR, roots for the Penn State Nittany Lions

And my favorite…Phoenix Transit’s Yvette Roeder: “University of California, Santa Cruz, home of the Fighting Banana Slugs (with no known predators).”

You tell ’em, Abbie!

July 30, 2009

MediaBistroHMATIME is pleased to announce that its very own Abbie S. Fink was quoted in a recent mediabistro blog about crisis communications, which was written by Whitney McKnight, a New Jersey-based writer and public relations practitioner. Below is an excerpt, but if you are a mediabistro member, you can get all of the case studies in the blog here.

 With the help of some PR veterans, we turn recent adventure in crisis communications into a case study you can use to improve your own snafu response.

 Amazon Appears to Censor Certain Authors
After several authors noticed that their titles had lost their sales rankings on
Amazon.com, they emailed the retailer in search of an explanation. The company responded that certain titles were not being listed due to their “policy regarding content.” Since it seemed to be affecting mainly GLBT and erotica titles, an angry chorus of tweets erupted online, accusing the company of censorship, and calling for a boycott. Bloggers soon followed suit.

 What they did

Two days after the storm broke, an Amazon spokeswoman told The Associated Press that “an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error” and a “system glitch” were responsible for de-listing not only thousands of GLBT and erotica titles, but mind-body-spirit, sexual reproduction, and other titles, but that the situation was being corrected and measures were being taken to “make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.”

 What experts say should have happened

  • Eric Yaverbaum, president of Ericho Communications in Tampa/ greater NYC and the author of Public Relations for Dummies and Leadership Secrets of the World’s Most Successful CEO’s, wonders why a company that pioneered online retailing chose not to engage the online community where the discussion was happening. “While the AP is obvious, that’s a very short list. This started on Twitter. They should be taking Twitter as seriously as they would The New York Times.” Yaverbaum says it appears Amazon lacks a crisis team that “thrives on the heat of the moment.” He says that if it took the company two full days to respond, then “they clearly had no plan in place to address an issue like this.” Meanwhile, he says, “They are not helping clarify for me how they feel about the issue.” He points out that first they said it was a policy decision, then they said it was human error. This ambiguity leaves it open for others to interpret what they want, which Yaverbaum indicates can ultimately hurt them because, “Perception matters at the cash register.”
    • Conclusion: “This should be an opportunity for Amazon,” says Yaverbaum. “They have built a very successful brand, ready made for the generation born with a mouse in their hand. Now they should be engaging Twitter.” But unless Amazon really does want the public to believe they are targeting certain materials, he says the first thing Amazon needs to do is let buyers know that not certain titles were affected and why, but how they feel about these titles having been de-listed, so as to avoid the impression that they were actually censoring their inventory. “And I would get on that yesterday,” he says.
  • Brian Reich, principal at EchoDitto, Inc. in Washington, D.C./Boston, author of Media Rules!, and co-team leader for former presidential candidate Howard Dean’s online campaign presence, says, “Amazon’s first mistake was that they didn’t take the initial wave of complaints seriously. If it’s important enough for someone to bring up to your company, then you need to respond.” And not, he says with “lazy language. By pulling out the formulaic response about the policy, they didn’t really listen. But today’s PR is always a conversation.” Compounding their initial dismissal of the issue, says Reich, is that they still haven’t fully explained what happened. “I see no advantage to them being opaque about it, either.” Reich says it’s not hard for Amazon to do what needs to be done, but that they aren’t making the effort. “They should be flooding the zone with information. Otherwise, it’s not hard for people to fill the vacuum and assume things that might not be true. Amazon needs to be proactive, show us the glitch, tell us how they found it, are fixing it, explain what they’ve learned and how they’re preventing it from happening again,” he says.
    • Conclusion: Reich says Amazon’s challenge is two-part: first, even if their sales aren’t significantly affected, he says they now have to combat people thinking that the company has a distinct point of view about the GLBT community. “So far,” he says, “the story is defined by Amazon’s silence.” The second is that they need to consider who’s on their front line of customer complaints. “They need people who can listen to what’s being said and put it in perspective so there’s a human connection.”
  • Abbie Fink, vice president and general manager of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, says, “Amazon didn’t react fast enough,” especially given that they are big players online “And when they did react, it wasn’t consistent,” says Fink, referring to the first response being that it was policy, the second that it was a glitch. “They seemed completely unprepared. If Amazon actually is trying to control their inventory rankings, she says, “then whatever conversation is going on about their business decisions needs to be communicated to their public response team. Any change in business as usual requires a ready response.” That Amazon chose to go to a more traditional media outlet, the AP, omitting Twitter altogether, also concerned Fink, who says that, “Today, media is media. It’s not social media versus traditional media, or print versus online. You need to use the appropriate channels to reach the audience where they are.” For that reason, she says that at a minimum, Amazon should have had a link on their home page to a place they were Twittering about the situation.
    • Conclusion: Fink warns that Amazon had better get prepared for another onslaught, whether about this or another event. “Right now, they don’t seem proactive. They should have a response team tracking the Internet at all times, looking for trends in what is being said about them,” she says.

SMACNA Radio Stars!

July 23, 2009

smacna_logoMembers of SMACNA Arizona, the Arizona chapter of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association, made their annual trek to the recording studio recently.

 The contractors cut new radio spots that will air during ASU football and Phoenix Suns basketball games this upcoming season.

Participating in the recording session were:  Carol Goguen of SMACNA Arizona; Nick Ganem of Metro Mechanical Mechanical, a Johnson Controls Company, Regina Fisher of Ramirez Mechanical;  Katie Watson of Kinetic Systems, Inc.; Darrell Fox of Dynamic Systems; Jim Dinan of Bel-Aire Mechanical; James Blackmore of Arizona System Analysis Professionals, LLC., and Terry Flood of Q.C. Analytical Services.

Check out their spots.

abbieI spent yesterday morning hosting a webinar for the members of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America’s Parent Advisory Board.  Our topic was Facebook, Twitter, and blogs and how these parents can use the power of social media to share important information about drug awareness and prevention.

HMA Public Relations has been providing pro bono communication services to the Partnership both nationally and locally for the past five years.  Throughout our relationship we have worked with parents whose lives have been directly impacted by drug abuse.  To say that their stories are powerful would be an understatement.  There is simply no one else more qualified to talk about it than a parent or caregiver who has dealt with it firsthand.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done for this very worthwhile organization and look forward to continuing our efforts.

alisonSo, I have gained weight since my December 2008 wedding…and it is all marketing and PR’s fault!

Oh, you heard me fellow communications professionals. You and I have systematically worked together to make me fat.

This realization came upon me yesterday while at the grocery store. As always, I ignored all of the “junk” food like Hostess cupcakes, Nabisco Oreos and Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. After all, it has been drilled in my head over the past two decades never to buy that kind of food for the home if you wanted to maintain your weight.apg_100_calorie_070827_ms

So, what did I buy?

It seems as long as my favorite junk food is labeled with the number “100,” I somehow think it is okay to eat. And why do I think that?

Brilliant PR and marketing people.

Sheesh. Through clever packaging, award wins as healthy snacks, and several news articles, my own people actually convinced me Twinkies were now okay to eat.

Well, my hat is off to all of the hard-working communications folks involved in launching these products. My waistline hates you, but your strategy is certainly working. Keep up the good work – I think.

 

abbieMartin Waxman, president of Palette Public Relations in Toronto. Martin has worked in communications and public relations for 25 years.  He and I met through Counselors Academy several years ago.  He provides interesting perspective on our industry and often shares his opinions on twitter and on his blog, my(PR)palette. And he enjoys a wide variety of music, so you’ll see a few blips here and there as well.

Scott Farrell, president of global corporate communications at GolinHarris in Chicago.  Scott and I met just a few months ago after establishing a connection on twitter through our friend Gini Dietrich.  And any friend of Gini’s I know will quickly become a friend of mine. He’s got the big agency knowledge and is happy to share.  You might even find some helpful hints for DIY projects.

Mike Shaldjian of Media Watch AZ. When you look up customer service in the dictionary, you are likely to see a picture of Mike.  He goes above and beyond for his clients.  It is not uncommon for me to receive an email (or DM these days) from Mike late at night or on the weekend telling me that one of my client’s stories aired on the news.  He is smart, funny, one heck of an actor and his dog, Lenny is good friends with my dog, Viva. He’ll share insight into the news businesses, great Phoenix-area restaurants and coffee houses and is guaranteed to make you laugh at least once a day.

Tom Garrity is president of the Garrity Group, a public relations firm in Albuquerque.  I met Tom several years ago, before he had his firm. He was a great resource for me when I was doing business in the market. We became reacquainted in Cabo San Lucas at Counselors Academy. I know, tough duty. Another top-notch public relations practitioner and someone who knows all the great out-of-the-way restaurants in New Mexico.  Follow him for great insight into the business, but also for the hatch chili updates.

Steve Pasierb, chief executive officer of the Partnership for a Drug-Free AmericaHMA Public Relations has been providing pro-bono public relations services to the Partnership for the past five years.  We piloted their first public relations campaign here in Phoenix and have been honored to work with them on a variety of initiatives ever since.  Steve’s passion for keeping our kids safe comes through in everything he does and his twitter stream is no different.  Not only will you learn about what the Partnership is up to but he is an excellent source on what is happening in the non-profit world and how what is happening on Capitol Hill impacts social issues.

And no Boys Club Edition would be complete if I didn’t include Scott Hanson president of HMA Public Relations. Scott and I have known each other for more than 20 years. When I first met him, he was a part-time sportscaster, in addition to running the firm. I was handling public relations for the Fiesta Bowl at the time and found myself pitching stories to him on a regular basis.  It was that early working relationship that cemented a solid business partnership and equally as important a wonderful friendship.  He’s still getting started on twitter but you can expect to hear not only information about the industry but about his other passion – sports.

While you were busy on Twitter this past month, you may have missed this…Orwell1984

Turns out, it’s1984 again (cue vision of creepy George Orwell book we all had to read in high school), and the positive Michael Jackson public relations is flowing like beer at an after-prom party.

So, let’s take a look at the Michael Jackson public relations plan over the past few weeks, and its amazing time-warping, memory-erasing powers! thriller

  • First – the tributes (and tears), meant to systematically erase 2009 Michael Jackson from our minds and replace him with cute Jackson 5 Michael and top-of-the-world Thriller Michael. Impressive. Hey, when we PR folks pitch a story to TV, we only use our best visuals. So did they!
  • coffin_1439013iSecond – the memorial, where everyone and their mother used the key messaging of “greatest entertainer of all time” until my ears bled. By the time Jesse Jackson said it, our own 12 News’ Mark Curtis was working on a story about it! Hey, when PR folks put together key messaging for a campaign or brand, they can only dream of that kind of success!
  • Third – the video of poor victim Michael being burned by a misfortunate pyrotechnic accident. As we all know from journalism class, once there is no longer hard news to deliver on a news topic, we move on to secondary/background/fluff pieces. These PR folks are smart; using a video of Michael victimized to forget he was accused of victimizing others! _44483518_splash_neverland416
  • Fourth – complete and utter world domination! If the PR folks’ campaign goal was to re-ignite Michael’s popularity by 100%, they exceeded it by about 10 million percent! His albums are at the top of the charts, his kids are superstars, and there are already talks to turn Neverland Ranch (formerly known as a creepy amusement park with a secret room designed as a shrine to Macaulay Culkin) into a West Coast Graceland.

But, at what cost?jacksonscab_1444304c

So, what have been your favorite public relations strategies and tactics during this sad circus?

Judging by the new photos and reports of Jackson’s hideously damaged legs, the best (actually – the worst) seems like it is yet to come.

#FollowFriday – IRL!

July 10, 2009

abbieMy plan for today’s #FollowFriday is to share with you some folks I actually know In Real Life (IRL).  And not just as a result of Twitter, but because we have had the opportunity to work together over the years, share resources and basically become not only professional colleagues, but real friends. This list isn’t all-inclusive so check back again as I’ll add to it.

Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich in Chicago.  A random dinner at PRSA’s Counselor’s Academy in Naples, Florida two years ago has led to a wonderful friendship.  She is kind, witty and one of those smart public relations professionals you want on your team.  She’ll share insight into our industry as well as give you a glimpse into her adventurous side that includes bicycling and mountain climbing, and her take on fashion, beauty products and what kind of wine she’s excited about.

Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland, an advertising agency in Albuquerque.  Steve and I met several years ago when he was working here in Phoenix.  We were both very new in our careers and we shared a client or two.  When he moved to New Mexico we stayed in touch.  He’s one of those ad guys who gets public relations and knows how to use it.  He’s also the author of When Growth Stalls, about how business get stuck and what to do about it.  Read the book and follow him.  You won’t be sorry.

Melanie Green, director of client service at Baker and Daniels, a law firm based in Indianapolis. I had the pleasure of working with Melanie when she was here in Phoenix working at a firm. Our client/agency relationship quickly turned to friendship as we spent countless hours traveling around Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada to visit the attorneys in those offices.  We share a love for sushi and all things Rascal Flatts. She has her finger on the pulse of law firm marketing, communications and how to embrace social media for professional services.

Michelle Olson, president of Olson Communications right here in Phoenix. A competitor, yes, but more importantly, a trusted friend.  Michelle is one of those people who’s got your back, no matter what.  We will see each other coming and going at new business presentations, but if HMA Public Relations doesn’t win an account and Olson does, I am happy to know that it will be well-served under Michelle’s guidance. We met years ago at a PRSA luncheon and realizing that we were both from the Twin Cities, we hit it off immediately.  She’s got great real estate and hospitality knowledge and a fondness for Lance Armstrong so don’t be surprised if her tweets are all about cycling.

Susan Hart, owner of Hart Public Relations in Nashville.  Another client turned friend, Susan and I worked together when she was in-house communications director at a private prison system.  Yes, private prisons.  HMA was the on-the-ground team for work in Arizona and New Mexico.  You really get to know someone when you work with them under extreme circumstances and over the years, we’ve had a few.  She shares her insights on the communications industry through her blog and through her tweets. She’s also pretty funny so expect a chuckle or two.

trump-youre-firedFlipping through the June issue of Inc. magazine, I came across this great quote from Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari.  He says: “I have come to believe that job security is one of the worst things a person can have, especially early in their career. Getting fired gives you a chance to reinvent yourself.

All of a sudden you have the whole world in front of you and you can now leap to a career that you may love more.”

That got me thinking – I have been fired a few times.  And each time, it was the best thing that happened to me.  From my first job at a local magazine where I was asked to write restaurant reviews without ever trying the food.  They were actually paid ads so my journalistic ethics wouldn’t let me do that.  From my first agency job where now looking back I learned so much about what it means to work with integrity and honesty – characteristics I hope I continue to demonstrate everyday.  From the job after that where it really did come down to finances.  But it was that job that gave me the contacts and courage to strike out on my own and start an independent consulting firm.  Which led me to Scott and the team at HMA Public Relations.

I will be forever grateful to those first bosses who knew me better than I knew myself and gave me the swift kick to the curb that I needed.  Without them, I wouldn’t be what I am today.

What about you?  Any great getting fired stories you’d like to share?

Agencies and Indies

July 6, 2009

abbieOver the past several weeks I have had numerous conversations about what is happening in the public relations agency world.  Of course, the usual topics of billable hours, responding to RFPs, doing more with less are common themes.  But an emerging conversation is about the independent practitioner – smart communications professionals who have taken the plunge and decided to do this on their own.

I applaud them – running a business is challenging, and in today’s economy … well, who knows what to call it.  What I do know, is that there are plenty of business opportunities for both the indies and the agencies.  And if we’re thinking creatively, we will figure out a way to work together.  Certainly there is business out there that comes to a firm that might be better served by a sole practitioner.  Conversely, I would guess that the indies are finding new business leads that might need a little more staffing than what they can provide on their own.

So I offer this challenge to all of us – agencies and indies – let’s help each other out.  I’d love to know what types of work you like to do, what client industries you specialize in, what are your billable rates, etc.  I’m happy to share that with you as well.  Just think about the possibilities.