Following Successful Pilot, South Korea’s Jeju Island Launches Blockchain-Based Contact Tracing App to All Visitors

The Jeju Safety Code App Uses Decentralized Identity Technology to Provide Secure, Private COVID-19 Contact Tracing for Jeju Island’s 15 million Annual Visitors 

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Korea’s leading enterprise blockchain technology company ICONLOOP (https://www.iconloop.com/en/) and the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province today announced that its blockchain-based contact tracing system ‘Jeju Safety Code’ is now fully operational following the successful completion of a pilot program. Jeju Safety Code provides secure, private contact tracing for Covid-19 for Jeju Island’s 15 million annual visitors. 

Jeju Safety Code was developed jointly by ICONLOOP and Jeju Island through a public-private partnership agreement. Since August, the system has been used at public institutions on the island. A pilot program was conducted at a number of businesses, including restaurants near the Jeju Provincial Office. Based on positive response to the pilot program, Jeju Safety Code was included as part of the ‘Safety Net Strengthening’ project in the ‘Jeju-type New Deal Comprehensive Plan’ in October. Already, 5,000 businesses on Jeju Island have completed applications to register for the system. 

As Korea’s most popular domestic tourist destination, a large number of people visit high-traffic areas throughout Jeju Island, making it crucial to deploy effective contact tracing methods. The Jeju Safety Code system simplifies this process by enabling quick access to an infected person’s record of where they visited, and who they came in contact with, allowing them to be quickly notified.

To use the Jeju Safety Code app, visitors scan a QR code at a business or tourist destination. Business owners can place QR codes throughout their facilities, allowing people to check in without congregating or forming a line. Users do not need to sign up for an account to check in. When a visitor checks in, their location is authenticated, without the business needing to store any of their personal information. 

“With the Jeju Safety Code, we’re working to establish a prevention system that works for both Jeju residents and tourists using technology,” said Kim Jong-hyup, CEO of ICONLOOP. “As our daily lives change, ICONLOOP continues to work towards a safer and more secure world through these innovations.” 

This process prevents forgery or the altering of visitor information. When using the Jeju Safety Code, personal identification information and visitor record information is encrypted and stored on the blockchain. This information is only used for the purpose of epidemiological investigation of confirmed cases. 




Golin Promotes Ellen Ryan Mardiks to Agency’s Global Chairman

Fred Cook to Take on Chair Emeritus Role

 CommPRO Editorial Staff

Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG) agency Golin announced the promotion of Ellen Ryan Mardiks to global chairman. Fred Cook, who assumed the role of chairman in 2017, becomes chair emeritus. Both roles were effective on January 1, 2021.

As chairman, Mardiks will work with CEO Matt Neale and Gary Rudnick, president & COO, to lead and shape the agency where she has worked for more than three decades. Mardiks’ principle focus will be to foster the agency’s most significant global client relationships and oversee the strategic work to innovate those accounts. As leader of the Golin Group’s Top Client Leaders (TCL) program, Mardiks empowers and inspires the leaders of the agency’s largest partnerships, introducing them to evolved services and incentivizing organic growth. Mardiks also will serve as an executive consultant to C-suite leaders for some of the agency’s largest client partners, including Humana, Nestlé and Walmart.

“Ellen is one of the most gifted and talented client counsellors in Golin’s history,” said Neale. “She helps clients, from our oldest to our newest, understand the value of earned-first ideas to drive business. There is no better time to recognize and extend Ellen’s influence and make it possible for more clients and more of our people to benefit from her sage guidance.”

Mardiks is a key new business driver as Golin has welcomed new clients General Mills, Micron and Johnson & Johnson NA Skin Health just last year.

In addition to global client management, Ellen will be responsible for shaping work products and agency IP. This will include her role in adapting and enhancing The Playbook, Golin’s internal step-by-step planning process, which was designed to produce better earned-first, data-driven creative.  

“The public relations discipline has never been more strategically important. It’s a privilege and an honor to take on this role at such an exciting time in our business at the agency that I’ve loved for more than 30 years,” said Mardiks.

Mardiks also will drive Golin’s reputation externally and work to advance the PR industry through her involvement in the Arthur Page Society, the PR Council, PRSA and the 4As.

“Having worked with Ellen for more than 30 years, I can think of no one more qualified or deserving of this important position,” said Cook. “She embodies the values that have defined our continued success, and she serves as a role model for all of us.”

As chair emeritus, Cook will remain on Golin’s global executive leadership team and continue to oversee key legacy accounts. Based in Los Angeles, Cook will have special responsibility to work with managing director, Deanne Yamamoto, to evolve the firm’s LA office to be a beacon of progressive public relations in the global hub of culture. He also continues his role at the University of Southern California as the director of the Annenberg’s Center for Public Relations.

“Fred is the architect of Golin’s success as a world-class agency in the modern era,” said Neale. “He has been Golin’s North Star for the past two decades and I’m thrilled to be working with him in this new role.”




Mark Weiner Launches New Research Practice within Cognito

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Mark Weiner on PR-ROICognito, the international specialist communication and marketing agency, today announced the appointment of Mark Weiner as Chief Insights Officer to develop the firm’s newly launched research-based consulting practice Cognito Insights. Weiner is responsible for establishing and growing the firm’s research organization by serving clients and accelerating the organization’s growth through the provision of data-informed analysis, insights and guidance.

Cognito represents clients across the financial, professional services and technology sectors from six offices around the globe. The appointment is a direct response to the increased ability – and growing expectation – that communications and marketing will deliver measurable and meaningful growth to businesses while protecting and enhancing reputation and profile.

Based in the United States, the practice will serve Cognito’s clients globally and look at the strategy, effect and impact of marketing and communication activity on Cognito’s clients – including communication, social and digital campaigns.

Mark brings 35 years of professional experience having built businesses in the United States and internationally.  Prior to Cognito, he led PRIME Research as its CEO before transitioning to Chief Insights Officer after Cision’s acquisition of the communications research provider.  Mark led Ketchum’s global research practice after leaving Delahaye Medialink.  He is a member of The Arthur Page Society and a Trustee for the Institute for Public Relations.  His new book, “Public Relations Technology, Data and Insights” will be published in April by Kogan Page.

“With our Insights practice, we enhance our commitment to data-informed communications and marketing.  Data enables us to elevate our performance while demonstrating value and generating a positive return on investment,” said Rowan Benecke, Cognito’s US President.  “Mark is a recognized leader in our profession as reflected by the businesses he’s created, the awards he’s won and his many years of experience across diverse business categories.”

“The pandemic has reaffirmed the essential role communication plays for our clients. The crisis has accelerated the need for data-informed strategies and measurement,” said Tom Coombes, Cognito CEO. “This new practice will help our clients to ensure that they work we do is underpinned and informed by solid insights and analytics and that impact and outcomes for the business are maximized. Ultimately it will enable our clients to direct their investment into communication and marketing more effectively and make it more measurable. Ideally, we want to correlate communication and marketing impact on profile and sales and other business functions.”

“Cognito’s commitment to the development and deployment of its research capabilities is a source of great excitement for me,” Weiner stated. “The agency’s faith in my leadership underscores my commitment to providing research-based counsel and guidance to the world’s greatest companies and brands.  Unlike the many commoditized data analytics tools available to communicators and marketers today, we focus on expertise, insights and quality counsel, the uniquely human elements that differentiate our offering and drive client success.”




BitMart Exchange: Bitcoin Is Still On Top, But Altcoins Take A Step Forward

CommPRO Editorial Staff

BitMart, a global digital assets trading platform, announced its release of Cryptos of the Year 2020 Report. This report sheds light on ten altcoins listed on BitMart worth investors’ attention in the new year. The list recognizes outstanding projects that defined the year in blockchain, and thought influencers who come from DeFi ecosystems and the Web3 universe.

The BitMart research team has reviewed all coins listed on their platform and selected the top ten coins that might be worth paying attention to, based upon their popularity with investors, year-to-date return rate, and the potential to increase in value over time. In addition, BitMart spoke with ten front-line blockchain entrepreneurs and experts from the selected project teams to learn their insights on what is coming for BTC and the crypto world in the new year. From BTC price prediction, keywords of 2021 investment, to project teams’ prospect development strategy, the report presents ideas that might enlighten you at the beginning of 2021. Grab the complete report here.

Tokens Nominated

  • Loopring (LRC): Loopring aims to design and engineer the best-in-class orderbook-based DEX protocol on Ethereum.
  • Energy Web Token (EWT): Energy Web is a global nonprofit organization accelerating a low-carbon, customer-centric electricity system by unleashing the potential of open-source, decentralized technologies.
  • Injective Protocol (INJ):  Injective is the first layer-2 decentralized exchange protocol that unlocks the full potential of decentralized derivatives and borderless DeFi.
  • ShareToken (SHR): the ShareRing ecosystem has developed an open-source blockchain-based platform, standing out with its custom-designed distributed ledger.
  • The Sandbox (SAND): The Sandbox is a community-driven platform where creators can monetize voxel ASSETS and gaming experiences on the blockchain.
  • Akash Network (AKT): The DeCloud for DeFi, and the world’s first decentralized cloud computing marketplace.
  • Apollo Currency (APL): Apollo Currency boasts the fastest and most feature-rich blockchain in cryptocurrency.
  • SparkPoint (SRK):  SparkPoint focuses on financial inclusion by integrating blockchain technology and promoting financial literacy awareness to reinvent the world of digital payments.
  • Crust (CRU):  CRUST provides a decentralized storage network of Web3 ecosystem. It supports multiple storage layer protocols such as IPFS, and exposes storage interfaces to application layer.
  • SocialGood (SG): SocialGood works in a way at which the more users increase, the more the asset value increases. SocialGood has received multiple patents, including patents for its business model and for a mechanism to accumulate cryptoassets by using credit cards and smartphone payments.

BTC Price Prediction

We gathered 2021 BTC price predictions from these thought leaders in the space. Almost everyone agreed that 2021 is going to be big especially for BTC, with more and more major financial institutions embracing crypto as payment or investment choices. “Between real enterprise adoption and its growth as a hedge against fiat currencies, we predict that 2021 will be a very good year for BTC,” commented Walter Kok, CEO of Energy Web Foundation.

Andy Agnas, Founder & CEO of SparkPoint, is also optimistic about bitcoin price. “We can say that BTC will continue breaching new heights in 2021. But of course, there will be some occasional dips in price, but it won’t be as harsh as what happened in 2018 where it hit its lowest,” While Steve McCullah, CEO of Apollo Fintech thinks it may have a long period of stabilizing in between increases.

Source: Blockchain Wire




SIMBA Chain Awarded $1.5 Million Contract From the U.S. Office of Naval Research

CommPRO Editorial Staff

The U.S. Office of Navy Research has awarded a $1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract (N68335-21-C-0178) to SIMBA Chain to design and build a blockchain solution to enable demand sensing for the Defense Logistics Agency, the combat support and supply chain agency of the United States Department of Defense. Demand sensing is essential to ensuring the U.S. military has critical replacement parts for various weaponry available when required.

The award follows an SBIR Phase I project awarded in June 2020 during which SIMBA Chain worked with the U.S. Marine Corp to define a use case for a blockchain-based prototype to monitor the inventory and movement of physical assets at its Albany, Georgia Depot. This effort resulted in a proof of concept for a single source of truth ledger to support monitoring the inventory and movement of physical assets.

SIMBA Chain’s new contract, the ALAMEDA Project—short for Authenticity Ledger for Auditable Military Enclaved Data Access, commenced Jan. 6, 2021. During this time, SIMBA Chain will further build out the prototype developed in Phase I, working in tandem with the Naval Enterprise Sustainment Technology Team (NESTT) on a use case centered on the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet supply chain. The project will be conducted at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, one of eight fleet readiness centers commissioned by the U.S. Navy and one of just three that perform maintenance on the F/A-18 Hornet.

SIMBA Chain CEO Joel Neidig, who will serve as principal investigators on the project, says the Phase II award further demonstrates the power of the collaboration with the U.S. Navy. “We are very honored to work with NESTT and the FRCSE on one of the most pressing issues facing the nation today, managing and securing military supply chains and ensuring readiness to thwart cyber and physical threats. Blockchain is well suited to solve complex supply chain pain points as it enables a decentralized mechanism for the recording of non-repudiable transactions, making data both immutable and auditable, and lastly, tamper-proof once written.”

Neidig adds, “Our goal with this pilot program is to use blockchain to dramatically improve vital supply chain interactions between FRCSE and the Defense Logistics Agency to mitigate against disruption, issues, and threats to engineering and maintenance operations. Our hope is it becomes a model across the Navy and other branches of the U.S. military.”

Steve McKee, NAVSEA program manager and lead for the NESTT, says the mission of the NESTT is to align system improvements across the Navy and Marine Corps that improve readiness. “In 2020, the Department of the Navy’s SBIR Program allocated over $30 million to help the advance innovations to improve readiness. This blockchain project with SIMBA Chain exemplifies the role of technology in revitalizing not just our military facilities, but our systems as well. Pilot projects like this one with the Fleet Readiness Center in Jacksonville drive both innovation, and ultimately positive outcomes,” he said.

Source: Blockchain Wire




Digital Asset Firm BTCS Reports 1,327% Year-Over-Year Gain

CommPRO Editorial Staff

BTCS Inc., a digital asset and blockchain technology focused company, has provided an update on its business and digital asset portfolio.

Establishing positions in key digital assets is a core part of the Company’s business plan. Through timely purchases of Bitcoin and Ethereum, BTCS has substantially grown its digital asset portfolio over the past 18-months. The Fair Market Value of the Company’s digital asset position increased 1,327% to $3.9 million in 12-months ended December 31, 2020.

The Company believes Bitcoin, Ethereum, and certain other digital assets are a great store of value and can be an effective hedge against monetary debasement in the wake of multi-trillion-dollar economic bailouts. Bitcoin has rallied over 700% from its March 2020 low, which the Company believes is driven by institutional interest in digital assets, PayPal allowing its customers to buy and sell bitcoin through their platform, and a flight to safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil. On January 8, 2021, the Company’s digital asset portfolio had a Fair Market Value of approximately $7 million, which includes $800,000 worth of digital assets purchased with the proceeds of management’s recent $1.1 million investment.

“Our original thesis that has guided our operating decisions across the years has proven very prescient over the past 12 months,” stated Charles Allen, CEO of BTCS. “While we are pleased with the strong gains of 2020, management believes the best is ahead for BTCS and recently backed this belief by investing $1.1 million into the Company, representing a substantial financial commitment. We want to thank our shareholders for their continued support and look forward to sharing more of our successes with you in 2021 and beyond.”

Source: Blockchain Wire




The Stevens Group PR Masters Podcast Acquispectives – Larry Weber

Larry WeberLarry Weber, CEO & Chairman, Racepoint Global

“We are going to see PR programs and engagement programs start telling a story around what we can do better for humanity. We have huge social channels focused on technology and innovation and a number of influencers that are set up to discuss and recommend different technologies to help your business. It takes a lot more research to ensure you have influencers at your disposal to create content that’s impactful enough to have them discuss you.”

Listen to the PR Masters Series Podcast.




Richard Levick – How to Stop the Madness

“From Andrew Jackson to Richard Nixon, we have seen presidents abuse their power, but we had never witnessed
an American president incite a violent mob on the citadel of our democracy in a desperate attempt to cling to power.”

– Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island

 

IN MEMORIAM: This week’s essay is dedicated to Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick, who was killed in Wednesday’s siege of the United States Capitol, and Howard “Howie” Liebengood, who took his own life over the weekend.

The single article of impeachment, co-authored by Reps. David Cicilline (RI), Ted Lieu (CA) and Jamie Raskin (MD), states that President Donald Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” I keep reading that sentence and – wherever you stand politically or if you have never so much as picked up a history book – is language we never, ever imagined we would read.

Shortly after I started writing this Monday morning at 6:00, a helicopter flew over my home, which is just off of 16th Street in Washington, DC, and consequential because it is at the DC-Maryland border. Helicopters are not permitted to hover over Washington DC, so the airspace over our otherwise tranquil neighborhood is prime space for news and military helicopters that want unobstructed views of the Capitol during demonstrations. During the summer, when the peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protests occurred, they hovered and hovered MASH-like for days, deep into the following mornings. On Wednesday, January 6th, a day that will live in infamy, the skies were virtually empty. With apologies to singer songwriter John Gorka, the “presence of their absence” was deafening.

There is no perfect political solution to our current dilemma. Censure might pass and, though serious, is the mildest of rebukes. The 25th Amendment has promise due to its relative speed, but requires a timorous Vice President Pence to do what is unthinkable for him. Impeachment is powerful but late, long and divisive. And, of course, it isn’t just the President who has gone off the rails. One hundred and forty-seven Republican Senators and House Members voted not to certify the election of Joe Biden after the attack on the Capitol.

What were they thinking? Playing with fire before the house burns down is at least vaguely understandable – but afterwards?

The fastest way to a politician’s soul is through their wallet. Even before the armed and organized mob seized the Capitol, one publication – the investigative Popular Information – had figured that out.

Starve the beast.

When I was asked to write a column last Wednesday night – with the Capitol still reeling from the assault, leaving broken glass, graffiti, stolen artifacts and feces in its wake, and the death of a Capitol Police officer not yet reported – my first thought was how this political tragedy would quickly morph to a boardroom concern. And it has.

Led by Blue Cross Blue Shield and Marriott and followed by JP Morgan, Citi, Dow Chemical, American Express, the PGA of America, Twitter, Facebook and dozens more, corporations across America are announcing limitations on political donations, access to their platforms and cancellation of high-profile events. As I mentioned to CNN last night, this shift is historic. At this moment of national existential crisis, we have turned to capitalists, as well as politicians, to help solve our most pressing problems.

A critical point here of gentle warning – those companies that are pausing all political donations to both parties rather than just the 147 Republicans, led by Senators Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) – who incited these tragic events – are employing old-line thinking for a radical new moment.

Heretofore, contributions to both parties were smart business, political and CSR decisions for most companies, though IBM found it helpful to stay out of the contribution game entirely, as founder Thomas Watson directed more than a century ago. Today is different. As the country and the GOP cleave, it is anything but leadership to punish both parties and believe it will be well received by history let alone tomorrow. Already, the powerfully effective Lincoln Project is preparing to “out” corporations who continue to fund the “the 147.”

A pox on both your houses is not an effective strategy.

This was not a protest that broke into a riot. As is clear by the planning, sophisticated weaponry and shocking videos of brutality against law enforcement and the hunting down of politicians, this was an army of mutineers that paused for a protest.

 

“I’m a firm supporter of the First Amendment. This was none of that. This was criminal riotous activity.”

—Resigning Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund

Richard Levick, Esq.

Chairman & CEO, LEVICK




A Call for Orderly & Peaceful Transition of Power

 

LEVICK has joined more than 400 Civic Alliance member companies in issuing a joint statement rebuking attacks on our democracy and calling for a peaceful transfer of power. Read the full press release below:

The attack on the U.S. Capitol represents an attack on American democracy, a dangerous break from our democratic tradition, and must be rejected.

There is no doubt about the integrity of the 2020 election. We reaffirm that the election result was determined by the will of the voters, certified by every state, and upheld by the courts. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were duly elected in the manner established by the U.S. Constitution, and they will be inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021. We commend those members of Congress who upheld their constitutional duty and certified the results.

An orderly and peaceful transition of power is a hallmark of a functioning democracy. Any attempts to incite violence or otherwise thwart a peaceful transition in the coming days cannot be tolerated. Today, we call on all Americans – including the current Administration – to accept the will of voters, abide by the rule of law, and support an orderly and peaceful transfer of power without delay. As we look ahead, we will deepen our efforts to protect our democracy, build trust in our elections, and strengthen our nation’s civic resilience for generations to come. Read the full list of signatories here.




Tuition-Free PR Lessons You Could Have Learned From The Political Scene By Watching Trump, Biden, Pelosi, Cuomo and Fauci

(Author’s Note: This is the 15th in a series of occasional political columns that I’ll  be writing for CommPRO.biz  until Inauguration Day, January 20. Previously, I wrote 17 political columns leading up to Election Day. FYI: My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. In this column I write about PR lessons from the political arena that are transferable to none political agency accounts.)

Arthur Solomon

Despite the more than four years of his inflammatory rhetoric; despite his more than four years choreographing the mob action which led to the storming of the Capitol on January 6; despite his much more than 22,000 lies that he has told without shame; despite his slandering any person who didn’t follow his depraved, decadent, corrupt and wicked leadership, there were important lessons that PR people who paid attention to the political scene  could transfer to their none political agency clients. And the lessons came from the voices of the five most significant persons in the political arena during 2020 and, thus far, in 2021 – President-elect Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and from President Trump himself. 

Public RelationsMy first PR job was with a political agency, where I worked on campaigns ranging from local to statewide and a couple of presidential elections before deciding that I didn’t want to spend my life being asked to promote candidates and their positions that I didn’t agree with. During my days at the political agency, when I told the owner of my negative feelings about a candidate, he always said, “If you don’t agree with a candidate, let me know. I’ll never ask you to go against your beliefs.” But the most relevant factor in my leaving the political world behind was the early death of the firm’s owner, the most generous, creative and caring PR individual I’ve ever known in a cut-throat industry not known for the niceness of its top brass and their lower-level group supervisor lackeys.

So when I was asked to head up the publicity arm of a nonpolitical agency after his death, I jumped at it. There were important PR lessons from my political days that I incorporated into my work at my new agency, where I toiled for 10 years before being recruited by Burson-Marsteller, where I spent almost 25 years.  

The most important of the PR political lessons I utilized was to not follow the run-of-the-mill PR tenets that were created eons ago and still are 

taught in communications schools. When considering tactics, I always attempt to think out of the box, and still do. (FYI: I never attended a communications school. In college, I majored in English and minored in philosophy and history, believing those courses would expand my ways of thinking. I did take a few journalism causes toward the end of my college days, because they were easy, but my best journalism lessons were self-learned, from reading seven newspapers a day and studying different approaches to story telling The school I attended didn’t have a public relations course. Those of us who were interested in PR learned it by what I still consider the best way – purchasing an inexpensive book that details PR approaches, pay attention to how PR problems of individuals and entities are covered by the media and, most important, using common sense.)

But for people in our business without the ability to think creatively, there are nuts and bolts take-a-ways from the past year’s political landscape that doesn’t require a person to be inventive in order to use them.

Below are a few PR lessons from the five people who dominated and influenced the political media scene in 2020 and who I consider provided valuable PR tutorials that were not taught in communications schools — Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Cuomo and Anthony Fauci. 

President Trump: No matter how you feel about Donald Trump’s politics he stood out from the crowd by being different. It helped him get elected as well as being the reason for his unsuccessful reelection attempt.

The main take-a-way from him was not to lie; to always tell the truth. His constant lying damaged his reputation with the media. During his four years, whatever he said was fact checked for accuracy and proven wrong more than 22,000 times. Closely following and damaging to him was his thinking that he is always the smartest person in the room and denigrated the advice of his own medical scientists regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps the major reason for his defeat, as well as disregarding advice from close associates.

Lesson To Remember: Once you lose creditability with the media it’s gone forever. Don’t lie. And never assume that your title means that you know more than those who report to you, or that you are the smartest person in the room.

President-elect Biden: He proved that just because you are not promoted you should continue to do your best. For Biden, the third time was the charm. He previously ran for president two to other times before being nominated in 2019 and winning the presidency in 2020. Importantly, Biden also was not adverse to seeking the support of his primary opponents and rewarding them. Unlike Trump, he never assumed he knew more than the medical scientists during the election campaign. And all during the primary and general election campaigns, Biden did what many PR people do not do: In every speech and presser, he always restated his talking points, which every PR person should do.

Lesson To Remember: In our business, it is not unusual for an individual who is passed over to reach the heights at another agency. That because it’s important to remember that more often than not, the true ability of an individual is often clouded by the group concept and office politics. Another lesson learned from Biden is to not hold a grudge against others seeking the same promotion you are. Ours is a small world, and the person you disparage today might be the individual that can help you another day.

Rep. Pelosi: Unlike President Trump, Ms. Pelosi acted like a confident leader. She was never afraid to share the spotlight with others in her caucus and defended the right of others to state their opinions even if they disagreed with her, again unlike President Trump who belittled and fired those who expressed an opposing viewpoint.

Lesson To Remember: Never attempt to stifle the opinions of people you supervise who have a different opinion than yours regarding tackling a PR problem; they might be correct. Also, belittling those under your supervision accomplishes nothing. A true leader doesn’t resort to threats or humiliating others, as President Trump has done from the first day that he announced for the presidency until today. Instead of denigrating others, offer to help. (Unfortunately, in our business, many supervisors cannot offer to help because they attain their positions because of office politics, not because of their PR smarts. That’s the dirty secret agencies attempt to keep from clients.)

Governor Cuomo: The way Gov. Cuomo handled his pressers should be used as a template for every press conference. Unlike too many press conferences where one individual wants to be the star (remember Trump at his pressers where he contradicted others who said something that differed from his script?), Cuomo always permitted others to share the spotlight.

Lesson to Remember: During a press conference, reporters want new information. The more speakers who can deliver information the greater chance of the press conference achieving its purpose – getting out the company message. 

Dr. Fauci: From his first talk about the coronavirus to his most recent, Dr. Fauci did what every PR person should do: Not be afraid to change their mind if a program is not working. As the science changed, so did Dr. Fauci’s advice. I believe that at a certain point, a PR person should tell the client that the approved program is not receiving the desired results and should suggest ways to amend the program. In my long PR experience, too many PR people are fearful of letting a client know that the plan is not working.

Lesson to Remember: Letting the client know of problems is a must. There are few things worse than letting a client think everything is on track when it is derailing.

Perhaps the most important lessons that PR people should take-a-way from the political scene is to avoid doing what Trump did – making promises to clients that he could not keep or had no intention of keeping.

Early in his tenure he promised to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it and kept insisting that they would. That was a promise he should not have made because he had no control over Mexico. But most damning was a promise that he made on January 6 – the day his supporters stormed the Capitol – that he had no intention of keeping, when he said he would join the march to the Capitol. Instead, he retreated to the safety of the White House and watched the onslaught on a TV set.

All of the above lessons from the political scene are transferable to none political client agency accounts. As in 2020 and prior years, 2021 will provide additional tactics that were never taught in communication school classes. Pay attention. There are definitely lessons to be learned – and used.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.

 




Patterns of Language that Lead to Violence

 

Helio Fred Garcia, President of Logos Consulting and author of Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It joins Richard Levick to talk about the consequences and patterns of language that can do great harm and what businesses and civic leaders can do…

Listen to the Podcast




The Role of PR In Stopping The Spread of Misinformation

Danielle Ruckert, Account Director at Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications

Fake news is all around us, from disinformation related to election security to misinformation about effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. As PR professionals, every one of us in this industry has a responsibility to adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and communicating with the public – hell, it’s clearly in the PRSA Code of Ethics. 

I have to believe that the anger and malice we saw January 6 at Capitol Hill, when rioters and domestic terrorists invaded the U.S. Capitol, was a direct result of the misinformation that continues to poison our nation. Kudos to Twitter and Facebook for taking a stand against the sitting U.S. president and blocking his posts that violated civic integrity. By showing leadership here, perhaps we can break through to others with similar opinions and prove they should reconsider. Social media platforms have a responsibility to maintain ethics and integrity, and PR people have the same responsibility when managing organizations’ profiles and recommending tactics. 

Time and time again, we see the public challenged with the quick spread of fake news.  By slowing down campaign videos, a tactic known as “deep fakes,” people have made president-elect Joe Biden appear as though he’s stumbling over his words and hesitating when faced with challenging questions. This narrative even earned him the nickname “Slow Joe.” What’s important here, is that the video was altered by splicing segments of Biden speaking – a move that is clear when viewers take the due diligence to compare the video to the original. The role of a PR person here? Don’t share deep fakes. Check your sources. Don’t just jump on the latest news cycle without being sure you understand all of the nuances. 

Take for example Theranos. Many of us have heard the story about Elizabeth Holmes’ fraudulent path to success. The Stanford-dropout started a diagnostics company and claimed it could screen for hundreds of diseases with a finger-prick blood test. Interviews with former colleagues shed light on situations that just didn’t seem right and a lack of proof for the company’s claims. Yet many invested in what they believed was a fast-track to rapid financial success through the evolution and growth of the company. Theranos changed the game in health-tech reporting, and made more reporters warry of covering startups without evidence or efficacy to back their product. 

For PR people, this was yet another reminder that while our job is to help frame a story in a positive light, spreading false hope of a product that doesn’t yet exist, claiming life-saving solutions that haven’t been proven to work, and flat out lying to the public are surefire ways to discredit yourself, your company and possibly end up in jail.   

So, as PR professionals, what is our role? 

  1. Fact check, then fact check again. As a tendency, people across PR tend to move quick – it’s a fast-paced industry and we often support timely, high-stakes campaigns. Don’t sacrifice deep understanding of a story to try to get a client into a news cycle. 
  2. Ask the hard questions. When clients push you to earn positive coverage of a product or a vision that you aren’t sure will live up to its promise, ask for a demo, look for evidence, and find third party validators to back up the story.
  3. Trust your gut. If a news cycle is breaking but something about it seems off, trust your gut and take the time to dive deep into the story. Don’t pitch media offering an expert’s perspective on a breaking story if you may be perpetuating fake news or adding fuel to a fire that you’re not willing to die on. 
  4. Words matter. The words we choose as communicators make a key difference in the tone, sentiment and perspective of the ultimate story that is told. Be accurate. 

While our roles do include spin, it’s important we adhere to the ethical and moral standards across our industry. What PR professionals do to influence the public and shape narratives can have a lasting effect, and we all need to do our part to ensure that effect is true and positive. 


About the Author: Danielle Ruckert leads public relations campaigns for innovative healthcare and cybersecurity organizations at Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications’ Washington, DC office.

 




Honoring Harold Burson One Year Following His Death

 

As we remember the great Harold Burson, who died one year ago, let’s look back at one of the first known references Burson made about launching a PR agency.  In 1945, while he was serving in the Army at the end of WWII, Burson described to a friend the kind of agency he hoped to lead one day.

 

 

Now, all that I must do is get out of the Army and get some accounts, which may or may not be difficult. We have to our advantage the fact that there is no public relations agency in New York which makes a specialty of industrial accounts. In fact, the larger agencies don’t like them, preferring, of course, to handle consumer product accounts. All of which are a lot of pipe dreams and pretty far into the future, I suppose. But it does give me something to look forward to — without which my being here would lose a lot of its purpose.

This original letter is part of a large archive of artifacts Burson donated to the Museum prior to leaving NYC for Memphis in 2019.  It was one of the first of 2500 artifacts digitized by the Museum.  Please support our Digitization Project at prmuseum.org




2021 Goals for Small Businesses

 

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR.

With the new year finally arriving and everyone hoping to see better times in the coming months, it’s the perfect time for small business owners to start planning to have a successful year ahead. After all, businesses need to plan ahead and define their goals early on, and look for potential opportunities to achieve and even surpass them throughout the year. 

The beginning of the year is one of the best times for business owners to think about what they want to achieve for the business and the potential end goal. Thinking about the business’s ultimate goal means having a clear path forward and a successful journey to get to that destination. That’s why business owners should write out what they’re planning on achieving throughout the year. Even longer with their business, to ensure everything that the business focuses on throughout the coming months is directed at achieving those goals. 

Alexei Orlov of MTM has noted, “Plenty of people assume correctly that finding new customers is the key to increasing their sales, and they set that as a business objective. To achieve that objective, companies have to start by understanding their customer base because everything else in the marketing and sales aspects of the business is going to stem from that point. Understanding the needs, wants, pain points, and desires of the target audience means getting a clear picture of who is in that target audience and reaching them with ease.” 

Most small businesses have found themselves in a similar scenario: scheduling a post to go up on Facebook, fixing up the Google Ads dashboard, and then remembering that it’s been a couple of weeks since the last tweet was shared from the company’s account. Instead of managing every single social media platform, businesses need to focus on the channels that truly matter to the target audience. As was outlined in the previous point, knowing the target audience also means knowing which platforms that audience prefers and focusing most of the content on them to perfect this strategy. 

No customer constantly wants to be bombarded by promotional content from every single brand they’re interested in – they much prefer to see content from those brands that are relevant to them and their interests. That’s precisely the key to marketing and sales – knowing what the customer wants to read or hear about and combining that knowledge with the content that the business shares on social media platforms. 

Small businesses that have entered a crowded market grow best when focusing on a specific niche. Even though many business owners want to have a large customer base, that’s not always a realistic approach, and instead, they should be focusing on the people that are really going to enjoy the company’s solutions. That way, a smaller business can focus on honing their message and budget and talking about why the company and solutions are better than their competitors.


About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of NYC based PR agency 5WPR.




Dan Balz, Guest – That Said With Michael Zeldin

 

Join Michael Zeldin in his conversation with The Washington Post Chief Correspondent Dan Balz as they break down the recent presidential election and discuss how Joe Biden won and the specific challenges that await the Biden administration and the country more broadly.  What message does this send about the United States on the global stage?  What is the impact on main street and Wall Street?

Guest

Dan Balz

Chief correspondent covering national politics, the presidency and Congress.

Education: University of Illinois, B.S. in communications and M.S. in communications.

Dan Balz is chief correspondent at The Washington Post. He joined The Post in 1978 and has been involved in political coverage as a reporter or  editor throughout his career. Before coming to The Post, he worked at National Journal magazine as a reporter and an editor and at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is the author of several books, including two bestsellers. He was born in Freeport, Ill., graduated from the University of Illinois and served in the U.S. Army. He is married and has one adult son. He is a regular panelist on PBS’s “Washington Week” and is a frequent guest on the Sunday morning talk shows and other public affairs programs.

Honors & Awards:

  • John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, 2017
  • Robin Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, 2015
  • White House Correspondents Association’s Merriman Smith Award for deadline writing, 2011
  • Gerald R. Ford Award for Coverage of the Presidency (shared), 2002
  • American Political Science Association’s Carey McWilliams Award, 1999

Professional Affiliations:National Press Club. Gridiron Club. American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Books by Dan Balz:

  • Storming the Gates: Protest Politics and the Republican Revival
  • Buy on Amazon
  • The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America”
  • Buy on Amazon

Host

Michael Zeldin

Michael Zeldin is a well-known and highly-regarded TV and radio analyst/commentator.

He has covered many high-profile matters, including the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the Gore v. Bush court challenges, Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump impeachment proceedings. 

In 2019, Michael was a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught a study group on Independent Investigations of Presidents.

Previously, Michael was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as Deputy Independent/ Independent Counsel, investigating allegations of tampering with presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s passport files, and as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee, October Surprise Task Force, investigating the handling of the American hostage situation in Iran.

Michael is a prolific writer and has published Op-ed pieces for CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.




Op-Ed: Things We Learned From The Trump Presidency

Politics Aside, He Is A Truly Terrible Person

(Author’s Note: This is the 14th in a series of occasional political columns that I’ll  be writing for CommPRO.biz  until Inauguration Day, January 20. Previously, I wrote 17 political columns leading up to Election Day. FYI: My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. In this column I write about Trump’s personality and lack of character and the appalling reaction to the president’s autocratic actions by the Republicans in Congress.)

Arthur Solomon

In a few days from today, on Wednesday, January 20, Donald John Trump’s depraved presidency will come to an end at noon and president-elect Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States.

Future generations will have to wait until presidential historians write books about the years of the Trump Administration, between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021,(unless he steps down sooner) to understand why he was beloved by many citizens but loathed by so many more. 

But for those of us who have lived and observed Trump, the first draft of what historians will say about his administration has been written and told by journalists on a daily basis. Despite the claims by Trump and his followers that what is reported is “Fake News,” the “Fake News” is Trump’s claim that it is “Fake News.” We have witnessed it daily as it happened, on TV, and it has been preserved on tape for both you and historians of the future to see.

In his “Julius Caesar,” William Shakespeare wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” In Trump’s case, there will be very little good to be interred and much evil that lives on after him.

There are so many negative and illegal things that we have learned about Trump that it would take more than an entire wing of the Library of Congress to catalogue them. (Alcatraz might be more appropriate for a Trump Library.)

Until January 6, when he egged on his supporters to storm Congress during their counting of the Electoral College votes, I thought that the more than 22,000 proven lies he has told would provide the most important basic research for Trump biographers. Now, his leading an insurrection will surely be their main theme.

Instead of rewriting what happened, present and past, I’ll just list several of the most important and obvious lessons to be remembered about Trump and his administration.

The lessons:

The two most important ones were: 

  • That despite his supporters insisting that Trump is a reality game showman, he was much more. He was the producer of an insurrection, and,
  • He couldn’t have done it alone.

Also,

  • His own self-interest was always his number one priority.
  • He had no respect for democratic traditions.
  • He ruled by fear.
  • He is a crook.
  • He could not take criticism.
  • He believes that he is the smartest individual on earth.
  • He is incapable of not lying.

(An October 10, 2017 Bloomberg Opinion article by Timothy L. O’Brien, said of Trump: “He believes that he is the smartest individual on earth…”: “President Donald Trump has challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to a duel, suggesting that he and his beleaguered adviser match scores from their respective IQ tests to see who’s smarter.”

“Trump’s always been the world’s leading gladiator when it comes to IQ smackdowns,” the article continued.  “In 2016, he challenged London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to compare IQ tests after Khan dismissed Trump’s take on Islam as “ignorant.”

Trump has also boasted that he has a higher IQ than George W. Bush, Barack Obama, George Will, Karl Rove and the entire staff of the Washington Post. Lest he missed anyone, Trump has also issued blanket warnings to those who might question his intellectual chops, as he did in this Twitter post from 2013: “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”)

In one of his famous “fireside chats,” another president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said,” I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.” If Trump had the intelligence to think like FDR, the country wouldn’t be in the mess it is now in.

As you might have noticed, this list did not include his political decisions. The list emphasized Trump’s personal traits, which reveal him for what he is, a truly frightful excuse for a human being, who was aided by other terrible human beings, headed by many Fox News commentators, like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, all of whom have blood on their hands for their defending Trump’s handling of Covid-19, as does the president and others in his administration like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who have defended the president’s lies. 

But most appalling was the reaction to the president’s autocratic actions by the Republicans in Congress; more than 99% of them marched in lock step with Trump during the past four years. Even after protesters, egged on by Trump and other speakers like Giuliani and Trump. Jr., stormed Congress, resulting in five deaths as of this writing on January 9, only a handful of GOP members stood up for democracy. The great majority, about 150 members of the House, refused to condemn the president for his actions and nearly two- thirds of them, 139 members, joined by eight GOP senators, refused to certify Biden’s election.

To this day, the overwhelming number of Republicans in Congress, who were mute for the past four years, still refused to condemn the president. And that’s a red flag warning for people who believe in democracy.

As he was leaving Constitution Hall in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The fascist elements in the Republican Party, together with Trump’s autocratic tendencies, prove that Franklin was correct when he said, “If you can keep it.”

As those of you who have read my past columns about Trump over the years know, I have long believed that his actions (many of which resembled those of Hitler’s as he destroyed Germany’s democratic Weimer Republic) was evidence of his autocratic beliefs and was a danger to our republic. 

For years, most “respectable” news outlets and public figures would not use the word “lie” to describe Trump’s fibs. I called him a liar before they did, because a lie is a lie no matter who utters one.

For years, comparing Trump’s tactics to those of how Hitler destroyed Germany’s democratic Weimer Republic was not to be written or talked about. The comparison was evident and should have been written and talked about from the early days of Trumpism. Now, after the storming of the Capitol the comparison is written and spoken about, years after I wrote about it. 

History reveals that many Germans did not believe that Hitler would do what he said he would do. They were proven wrong.

Recent events show that many Americans did not believe that Trump would do what he said he would do. They were proven wrong.

I wish I was proven wrong.


The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.

 




Four Key Ways COVID Has Changed Physical, Virtual and Hybrid Events

Mark Roberts, CMO, PGi  

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of how we operate, and we’re probably going to be dealing with these changes for years to come. 

But many people may not realize how COVID has changed events, not just amid the pandemic but for the long term. It’s not an overstatement to say that events may never look the same. 

In-person get-togethers, meetings and conferences will return, but they will look different. Here are four key short-term and long-term ways COVID has changed physical, virtual and hybrid events and trade show and exhibitor booths. 

People have rethought their messages. 

Virtual events call for a different type of preparation, and as many organizations plan and produce an event, they also rethink their messaging. In the current climate, we can’t take people’s attention for granted. We must earn it every time. 

Concurrently, as the world enters the “Next Normal,” audiences will view meetings and events differently. The pandemic brought into sharp contrast how many obligations are unnecessary, and they won’t engage with unrewarding gatherings moving forward. 

Being together in person isn’t always necessary to truly connect. 

While the pandemic may have initially caused in-person events to cease, many organizations quickly realized being together in person wasn’t a prerequisite to making real connections. Our client say that when in-person events return, many will opt to include virtual components as they allow more people to participate, including those who can’t or won’t travel. 

Early in the pandemic, we worked with Model N, a revenue management software provider, to pivot their in-person conference, Rainmaker20, to a virtual event. The event, with two days of webcasts, garnered 27% more registrants than they expected for the in-person event. 

People value their personal connections more. 

According to a new survey conducted by APCO Insight, more than eight in 10 Americans (83%) working from home because of the pandemic say they miss in-person meetings and conventions. The result is many people place an increased value on personal interactions. 

All too often, teams lamented at gathering in a conference room. Now they miss the personal interaction. 

When the world returns to in-person events, I believe attendees will appreciate the opportunity to attend in a new way. They will expect event organizers to make personal connections a more significant part of any gathering. 

One large event is no longer the rule of thumb. 

Many sales events had morphed into expensive affairs where everyone from the company and many clients traveled somewhere exciting for a massive gathering. Given that many companies will keep a closer eye on their spending in the near-term, large national events may be out for some time. 

Instead, many organizations may look to hold regional events, which offers several benefits. For starters, it can lessen travel costs for attendees, and smaller events may allay fears about larger gatherings. 

While change often seems like a hurdle, we need to change how we view it and see the opportunities it affords us. I believe we will emerge stronger, and how we communicate and collaborate will improve.


About the Author: Mark Roberts serves as PGi’s CMO responsible for all marketing operations worldwide, driving growth opportunities and building brand recognition for the company within the communications market.




The Urge to Act, Unintended Consequences & Impeachment  

Simon Erskine Locke, CEO, CommunicationsMatch

The push for the impeachment of President Trump playing out this week in Washington has parallels with a classic communications dilemma. 

How do you respond when your business or client is perceived to have been attacked?  

While it goes without saying that negative media coverage or rants on social media do not rise to the level of what we saw on Capitol Hill last week, there are takeaways that can help frame our thinking about our day jobs.

The Urge to Act

Our first reflexive “fight-or-flight” response to an attack is driven by deep-seated behavioral impulses – our emotions. 

The initial urge to act is not a response based on reasoning. We are propelled to do something and to do it now. Thinking through the consequences of our actions is generally a secondary priority. 

There’s good reason why we need to take a breath, resist the urge to do something immediately, and let cooler heads prevail. Before doing, we need to stop and think, to allow our higher reasoning functions to kick in and dispassionately evaluate options and all potential outcomes.     

Unintended Consequences

Raw from the bloody events of last week, the process of impeaching President Trump is moving forward, accompanied by righteous calls for his resignation and the implementation of the 25th amendment.   

But, without broad bipartisan agreement, the consequences of a passionate, partisan battle to remove Trump will ensure that he remains the focus of attention, at a time when the spotlight should be on the new administration, the pandemic, and the economy. It risks being a lightning rod that keeps Trump’s more rabid supporters and enablers energized, and dangerous. 

The challenge for leaders in the few remaining days until the Biden inauguration is to balance the desire to remove Trump and prevent him from running in the future, against the potential consequences of rallying his supporters toward further violence and boosting his relevance in ways that will shape the next four years. 

As communicators we must make less dramatic, but similar calculations.                  

Taking Away the Oxygen 

A former CCO I worked with was a master of the art of stepping back and making the decision not to engage, when engagement would be counterproductive.   

Fanning flames leads to a bigger fire. Taking away the oxygen is the key to putting it out.

Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon have all taken steps to restrict the flow of Trump’s now blood-stained stream of falsehoods.   

Let’s add to this, that over the last four years, journalists had no choice but to cover Trump. From January 20 they do. 

Freedom of speech is a sacred right. Amplifying it is not.  

Casting those who seek the spotlight into the wilderness of irrelevance by turning our backs and ignoring them is as valid an option for communicators, as it is an approach to moving beyond the Trump presidency.

Seeing the Wood from the Trees  

This does not mean that we should see no evil or hear no evil, or that in Washington that the wheels of justice should not continue to turn. We must be vigilant, find ways to engage all those who found the actions of the mob abhorrent, and hold Trump accountable.     

When decisions are clouded by emotion, framed by political, ideological or cultural context, our ability to see the woods from the trees is limited, yet this is what we must be able to do if we are to move forward, not backwards.  

We need to ensure that the decisions we make, and strategies we implement, are clear-headed to ensure that the fires we fight do not reignite. 

This is critical. Wood that has been left to smolder, becomes charcoal. It burns hotter the second time around.      


About the Author: Simon Erskine Locke is CEO of communications agency and professional search and services platform, CommunicationsMatch™. His is a regular contributor to CommPRO.biz and vice president of the Foreign Press Association. 




The Many Perils of a D.I.Y. Sale

Art Stevens, Managing Partner, The Stevens Group

Some things were inherently meant to be “Do-It-Yourself” projects, like repainting your spare bedroom, planting a new bed of hydrangeas, or updating the latest operating system software on your mobile device. However, the sale of your PR firm is definitely not one of those things.

With the  arrival of 2021, we find that the U.S. economy thought tarred and feathered during the pandemic of 2020, is ready to grow again and the financial markets are continuing their unprecedented record-setting pace. In fact, as I write this, the bellwether Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed above the 31,000 level for the first time in its 123-year history. All signs are pointing to a record year for merger & acquisition activity – including within the public relations industry.

The Many Perils of a D.I.Y. SaleWith new buyers constantly emerging, potential sellers of PR firms should be especially sensitive right now to what they don’t know about acquisition protocol. Understanding the many twists and turns of the negotiation process is an essential prerequisite to a successful transaction, and a rash decision to “go it alone” can result in costly mishaps. Just as many major world seaports require all merchant ships to have a local harbor pilot at the helm for added safety, having a qualified, trusted advisor on board during the sale of your PR firm can truly help to avoid many potential disasters.

What’s It Worth?

For starters, the proper valuation of a PR practice doesn’t involve any rocket science. However, it does involve the application of a certain degree of common sense combined with a comprehensive understanding of the current marketplace. Just as many FSBO (For Sale By Owner) homeowners tend to overprice their offerings due to sheer naiveté, sellers of PR firms sometimes overvalue their practices and then find themselves wondering why they’re having difficulty attracting interested buyers. In contrast, because buyers of PR firms tend to be experienced acquirers who are seeking bargains, without objective counsel to assist in a firm’s valuation, a seller might be induced to hastily agree to a below-market purchase price.

The mechanics of a business sale can sometimes be necessarily complex, and having a trusted advisor on your side can help to ensure that all scenarios are properly evaluated in order to achieve the most favorable outcome. For example, an inexperienced seller may fixate on the potential personal income generated by a sale, rather than opting to negotiate a deal based on capital gains treatment. And even when electing for a long-term capital gains treatment, a portion of future contingent payments made as part of an earnout agreement may be taxable to the seller in later years as ordinary income. With recently-enacted federal tax law changes that impact corporate and individual returns,  it has never been more important to consider all financial implications of your firm’s sale before inking a deal. 

Parsing The Fine Print

As a PR firm owner, you’ve read many contracts, and perhaps you’ve even authored a few. But if you’ve never been a party to a business sale agreement, you may be in for some unpleasant surprises. Take, for example, the imposition by a buyer of a “management fee” which automatically reduces the seller’s profit margin. Or a buried clause that banishes all use of the seller’s name at the buyer’s firm. Or a non-compete clause that bars you from starting another PR firm for any number of years following the sale’s closing date. In all business dealings, some fine print is unavoidable, but an experienced advisor can help you to evaluate which terms and conditions are de rigueur and which ones are simply onerous.

PR firm owners electing to become employed by the buyer after selling their firms – who constitute the vast majority of sellers these days – face a separate set of conundrums. Such deals invariably involve employment agreements that define the terms and conditions under which the seller can earn a full earnout. These agreements can occasionally contain pitfalls camouflaged in contorted legalese, including clauses that preserve a buyer’s right to terminate the seller’s employment at any time without cause, that tie payouts to unrealistic financial performance goals, or that force a seller to surrender the right to hire, retain or fire personnel.

Having thoroughly reviewed numerous employment agreements over the years, I can personally attest without hesitation that the devil is in the detail. These documents are binding contracts prepared by the buyer’s attorney that become very difficult – if not impossible – to undo once executed. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential for you to the have the agreement reviewed by an objective third party who understands all of its implications.

Mitigating Risks With Sound Counsel

If you’ve been contemplating the sale of your PR firm in 2021 or beyond, take a moment to consider all that could possibly go wrong should you opt to handle the negotiations yourself. You may yearn to impress your friends with your best Frank Sinatra impression by crooning: “I did it My Way.” But take note that in penning this famous song for Sinatra, Paul Anka conspicuously included the line: “Regrets, I’ve had a few.”

Don’t set yourself up to be on the short end of the stick by going it alone. There’s simply too much at stake. And it’s never too early to begin reaping the benefits of having sage counsel by your side throughout the entire process.


About the Author: Art Stevens is managing partner of The Stevens Group, comprised of consultants to the PR agency profession and focusing on mergers, acquisitions and management consulting. 




Op-Ed: Mr. President, Here’s Some Crisis Management Advice You Might Think About Amid the Blazing Fallout Stemming from the Capitol Chaos You Ignited

 

Thomas J. Madden, Chairman and CEO, Transmedia Group

Emergency crisis management is badly needed after you urged that mob so forcefully to “fight” and march on the Capitol.  What happened afterward is a despicable event that will live in infamy to the peril of your legacy if you don’t do something right away to counter the political tide running against you.   

You should consider trying what we in PR call crisis management.  So far, you and your staff haven’t done too much of it.  

Yes, it was nice that you asked the rioters to go home and then deplored “the heinous attack” on the United States Capitol. It was proper to express your “outrage” over the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.

It was good you deployed the National Guard and the federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders, reminding them that “America must always be a nation of law and order.”

You were right to say those who infiltrated the capitol have “defiled the seat of American democracy . . . engaged in acts of violence and destruction . . .  and do not represent our country.”

That speech you made was a beginning of halting the flow of infuriating, divisive and inciteful words and actions coming from your side of the wall.   

Millions are embarrassed for you.  And for our country.  It’s time for you to admit you made some mistakes and say you wish you hadn’t aroused those animals in that gigantic crowd you exhorted to march on the Capitol.  

I’m sure you didn’t mean it to go as far and ugly as it did.  I sure hope so.  

Now, you need to bite the bullet and attend Biden’s inauguration.  And smile, which will help to bring our country back together! 

An emergency crisis management program should now be put into action.  The focus should be on preserving and protecting your legacy by underscoring all the positive things you did to keep America great, while keeping you a safe distance far from the madding crowd that wants to destroy you.  

Meanwhile, you need to show more profound remorse for those hurt and killed in that melee at the Capitol and condemn it even more forcefully than you did, not with just words, but deeds.  You need to lay a wreath at the grave of that slain capitol police officer.  And do much much more as part of a crisis management program.  

And you need to persuade Twitter to give you your account back, promising you will never incite violence.  You without Twitter is like Joe DiMaggio without a baseball bat.  

But next time, not too many tweets and no foul balls inspiring lawlessness.  You need to be more careful what you whip up.  

Do this, Mr. President, and you might have a chance to Make Trump Great Again!  Or at least not as hateful by some who seek to once again impeach you.