How To Survive The Donald Trump At Your Agency: A Few Characteristics You Will Certainly Recognize

(Author’s Note: This is the 11th in a series of occasional political columns that I’ll be writing for  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 that many agencies have a Donald Trump type executive, and ways to deal with such an individual.)

Arthur Solomon

Donald Trump’s nightmarish assault on American democracy and our Constitution is soon to end. Thank God! Hopefully so will his involvement in politics. I never wish poor health on anyone, but I do hope that the soon-to-be former president and would-be dictator never again has a golf game that results in him having less than 200 stokes a round. If that causes him to have high blood pressure or an ulcer, it’s his own doing. Instead of playing lousy golf, he could have prayed for forgiveness for the damage he has done to American society.

For many in our business, the flawed Trump characteristics that were exposed daily since 2015 was nothing new, because there was and will still be at least one Donald Trump at your agency.

If you were fortunate to stay at the same  PR agency for more than a cup of coffee, as I was before starting out on my own (full disclosure: 10 years at a fairly large agency, no longer in business, before being recruited by the mammoth Burson-Marsteller firm, where I toiled for almost 25 years) you certainly have known of or worked for the Donald Trump at your agency. It’s the supervisors who lie, bullies, threatens, takes all the credit for your good work and blames you for their mistakes.

Here are some characteristics of the Donald Trump at your agency, hopefully not at your expense.

  • Have you ever toiled to craft a new client program and when it was completed and ready to be submitted for client approval a higher-up, who added nothing to the program’s elements and remained quiet during its crafting, said, “I don’t like it. Redo it.?” That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • A supervisor’s dismissal of anyone that disagreed with him: .That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • A supervisor’s discarding the advice of staffers when crafting a program or media strategies because he/she thinks no one is smarter. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency. 
  • A supervisor refusing to admit that things went wrong because of his or her screw-ups. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • Promoting individuals because of their loyalty. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • Thinking that lashing out at lower level people will result in their doing better work. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • Belittling people. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • Supervisors writing “team concept” reports to management, instead of giving credit to individuals. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • Supervisors rejecting ideas from people in their groups. Then making trivial changes to give the impression that they developed all the ideas and let higher management believe it was so. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • Supervisors threatening staffers with dismissals for not showing enough loyalty to a manager. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • Supervisors setting unrealistic time frames for the completion of a project without offering a helping hand. That’s the Donald Trump at  your agency.
  • Supervisors giving poor evaluations to people who are smarter than they are for fear of being exposed that they lack the skills of people lower down the ladder. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • Supervisors making false promises to staffers to keep them from leaving. That’s the Donald Trump at your agency.
  • But, perhaps, the most upsetting Donald Trump characteristic to a low level account staffer at an agency is when a manager resorts to playing office politics, rewarding favorites or drinking buddies, at the expense of those who deserve to be rewarded. That’s a supervisor’s Donald Trump trait that many people at agencies have surely witnessed,

If you are unfortunate enough to report to the Donald Trump at your agency you must protect yourself.

Here are a few ways to do so:

  • You can become a supervisor’s lackey.
  • You can become the office spy and report any griping to management.

But I don’t approve doing the above; it’s self degrading. Also, you will lose the respect of other employees and when management shifts occur, all your ill conceived hopes for advancement will disappear. (No one, except the actual Donald Trump, likes a conniver.) 

Instead do the following: 

  • Keep detailed notes after every conversation or group meeting with your supervisor and write a memo for file.
  • If your ideas are constantly being appropriated by your supervisor you must let management know or you will never get the recognition and promotion you deserve.
  • Ask a client who complements you to please put it in writing and to specifically mention you in the client’s year-end evaluation to agency brass.
  • As a last resort, you must go over your supervisor’s head by preparing a memo detailing how you have helped accounts and send it directly to top management. This will upset your supervisor. But let’s face it. Despite the in-house agency propaganda of “we’re all in this together,” agency life is similar to being ship wrecked and then trying to out swim chasing sharks, of which there are plenty at your agency.

Remember: At an agency, there are five rules to commit to memory: 1) It’s every person for themselves, because if you can be replaced with someone who will work for a lower salary than you, it’s only a matter of time before management will find reasons to terminate you.  2) On a merry-go-round, there are only so many brass rings to go around. 3) At an agency, the green eyed jealous monster is alive and thriving at promotion time. 4) Good work is no guarantee of long tenure and 5) As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in “The Prince,” “The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present”. Remember that when management makes a promise.

It is also important to understand that H. R. people are not your friends. Their job is to protect the agency. So never complain about being treated unfairly to H.R. personnel. Chances are that you’ll be listed as a “complainer” by the H.R. person whose traits are like former Trump Attorney General William Barr.

Yes, in addition to the Donald Trump at your agency, there is also a William Barr type, who is a devotee of another Trump-like person at your firm – Kellyanne Conway, the former Senior Advisor to President Trump, better known as the originator of “alternate facts,” which surly is used often by supervisors at your agency.

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 nonsports 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) or





How to Protect, Prepare, & Organize Your Personal Digital Health in 2021

Bruce Mendelsohn (The Hired Pen)

Just like changing our smoke detector batteries when we shift from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time, the beginning of each year reminds us to conduct a “Personal Digital Health Checkup”. 

Beyond the practical benefit of protecting your digital health and privacy, the hour or so you invest to review, clean, organize, and update the settings on your browsers, social media, email, and Virtual Home Assistants will enhance your digital privacy and security throughout 2021. 

In 2020, the average internet user spent 6 hours and 43 minutes online every day (Statista). You can visit a lot of sites in almost seven hours. Multiply that by 365 and you’ll have a rough idea of how vulnerable you are to revealing Personally Identifiably Information (PII). (This doesn’t include sites you visit on your smartphone, mobile device, or other internet-enabled devices).

Before you start assessing your personal digital health, you need to discover where you’re vulnerable to cyberattacks, malware, phishing scams, or worse. How open is your digital door?

Of course, you use strong passwords. Sure, you regularly clear your cache, disable cookies, and erase your browser history.

As a savvy Internet user, you know that companies and websites track everything you do online. Every ad, social network, and website collects data about your location, search history, browsing habits, purchasing patterns, and more. That info is stored somewhere in some digital folder, which means it’s vulnerable to bad actors. (See security breach, Pentagon).  

Aggregated over time, the digital data you disseminate in cyberspace could be used to identify you and/or track your behavior via tactics like IP lookups and browser fingerprinting. All that info can enable bad guys to create a profile that matches… you. Like the saying goes, it’s not paranoia if it’s real. 

The checklist and resources below can help safeguard your personal digital health.


As of January 2, 2021, the Internet was home to more than 1.83 billion websites (Tek Eye). Regardless of the browser you use to access your favorite sites (Google Chrome is the most popular, with 61.77% web browser dominance), don’t leave behind digital breadcrumbs for bad actors to follow.

  1. Use the free analyzer at It offers several tests to evaluate your browser privacy, listing info that any website, digital ad, and/or widget can collect from your web browser.
  2. Find out if your data has been breached. 93% of data breaches happen within minutes, and 83% aren’t discovered for weeks (Statista). Search for your email address on Have I Been Pwned? to cross-reference your email address with hundreds of data breaches. 
  3. Opt out of data sharing. User-friendly programs like Simple Opt Out let you reduce your profile by opting out of data sharing routinely done by prominent companies like Netflix, PayPal, and Facebook.
  4. Clear your cache. Do this after you’ve completed the three steps above. Even though you may likely have to re-enter your passwords when you return to sites you visit often, you’re going to update your passwords anyway. Regardless, it’s prudent to clear your cache and browsing history routinely.

Social Media

The best way to protect your privacy on social media is to not be on social media. For most of us, though, opting out of social media is unrealistic. The steps below can increase your privacy on sites like Facebook (nearing 3 billion users worldwide), Twitter (336 million monthly active users), LinkedIn (500 million users), Instagram (1 billion users), YouTube, SnapChat, TikTok, etc.


One in every 131 emails contain dangerous malware such as ransomware and phishing attacks (Statista), so you should always be vigilant about privacy when using email. For shopping, contest entries, or other commercial online activities, create and use a burner email account you don’t care about. (This can also decrease spam you get at your “main” email account.)

Weak or stolen passwords is the most common tactic among cybercriminals. Because 81% of cyberattacks are based on weak or stolen passwords (Statista), the best way to protect your privacy and security is to use a password manager to generate and remember different, complex passwords for each account. 

LastPass and 1Password each generate passwords, monitor accounts for security breaches, suggest changing weak passwords, and sync passwords between your computer and phone. 

Use two-step authentication whenever it’s offered for your online accounts. Two-step authentication requires you to enter your password and a number only you can access. For extra security, use an app like Google Authenticator to receive the temporary log-in access codes you receive. 

Here are three top tips to protect your security when using email:

  1. Use strong passwords and change them often (see above)
  2. Avoid public Wi-Fi
  3. Guard your email address: Because cybercriminals constantly troll these venues for victims, don’t share your email address on social media or in blog posts. 

Now that you’ve secured your data and email addresses, the tips below can help you quickly access the data and emails you so diligently protected:

    • Empty your trash and spam folders on your email accounts
    • Create a “Archive” folder and put inactive folders (2019 and earlier) into it
    • Create a “2020 Master Folder” where you store inactive or completed 2020 project folders
    • Create a “2021 Master Folder” where you create and place sub-folders for continuing projects, anticipated projects, or action items (e.g., “To-Do” sub-folder)
  • Organize your folders on Google Shared Drive, DropBox, etc. Review permissions and add or remove contacts as appropriate.

Virtual Home Assistants: Mute the “Never-Sleeping Ear”

This one’s simple. 

If you’re concerned about your personal privacy and don’t want anyone recording or listening to your conversations, don’t install or use a personal virtual assistant in your house. Using these or other smart devices are calculated risks that significantly increase your vulnerability.

“You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard.” (Orwell, 1984)

But since Amazon has sold more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices, you may be one of the five U.S. adults who own a home voice assistant (Alexa, Echo, Google Assistant are the most widely used). Always “on” (even when they’re not awake), the devices are always listening but not always transmitting.

We’re not (yet) at this stage of Orwellian intrusiveness; you can protect your privacy and still benefit from your home virtual assistant via a few easy steps. 

  1. Turn off the camera and mics: On the Echo Show and Show 5, use the “off” button on top of the unit. The red LED light visually confirms the mic and camera are disabled.
  2. Change your wake word: Open the Alexa app on your mobile device, find your speaker in Devices and choose your new wake word (options: Computer, Amazon, or Echo)
  3. Change your privacy settings:
    1. Open the Alexa app on your mobile device.
    2. Tap the menu button on the top left of the screen.

(Alexa app > Alexa Account > Alexa Privacy > Manage how your data improves Alexa > Disable the button next to Help Develop New Features > Disable the button next to your name under Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions)

  1. Turn off automatic purchasing: Under the Voice Purchasing setting, disable “Purchase by Voice” in the Alexa app. Or create a PIN code to avoid unauthorized purchases. (Alexa app > Settings > Account Settings > Voice Purchasing > Disable Purchase by Voice)

Reviewed offers more details about how to protect your privacy when using an Alexa-enabled Virtual Home Assistant. 

One last piece of advice: Put a reminder in your calendar to check your personal digital health around July 4th. As we use and store more of our PII online, rising cybercrime, ransomware, malware, and data breaches demand that we manage our personal digital health as diligently and zealously as we manager our mental, physical, and spiritual health. 

Three Reasons to Include “Traditional Media” in Your Ad Budget in 2019 & BeyondAbout the Author: Bruce R. Mendelsohn is The Hired Pen, a Digital Marketing and Content Development Consultant who helps diverse clients develop memorable, measurable, monetizable, and culturally sensitive multimedia engagement campaigns. He is a verified professional journalist and a U.S. Army Veteran. The Hired Pen is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise (SDVOBE). Please follow on Twitter @brm90 or connect onLinkedIn.

Resolution: Committed to Cursing?


Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable Influence, Founder of 

Do you have a resolution for 2021?  According to Parade, the most popular annual self-promise is to lose weight.  Given interests in appearance and health, it’s understandable that many people want to watch what they put into their mouths.  What’s surprising is that individuals seem increasingly unconcerned about what comes out of their mouths.  In fact, an ad campaign from an unexpected source is encouraging people to let profanity fly.

One might guess the campaign comes from a company like Budweiser, which a few years ago ran an infamous Super Bowl ad featuring outspoken British actress Helen Mirren who delivered a caustic anti-drunk-driving rant that had parents rushing to cover their kids ears.  Amazingly, the current profanity-laced campaign is from the Mental Health Coalition.

Actually, “laced” is an understatement.  The 90-second spot’s central theme and action are the F-word and its accompanying hand gesture.  Why so much obscenity?  The premise is that since people have suffered so much over the last 12 months from a global pandemic, racial injustice, and an extremely combative election, the best thing to do is to blow off steam by telling 2020 exactly what we thought of it.

The ad ends with a fittingly obscene call-to-action: “Text [middle finger emoji] to 1-877-EFF-THIS and donate $5 to the Mental Health Coalition.”

Why would the Mental Health Coalition want to connect its mission and brand to cursing?  The rationale is not as tenuous as you might first think.  In fact, there’s a body of literature that suggests that expressing anger through swearing is good for mental health.

One study, which asked participants to submerse their hands in ice water, discovered that swearing increased pain tolerance by nearly 50%.  Other research found that people could achieve greater physical performance, pedaling a bike, when employing profanity.

Writing for Psychology Today, Neel Burton, M.D., a psychiatrist and philosopher who teaches in Oxford England, offers “The seven best reasons for swearing,” which he suggests are:

  1. Pain relief
  2. Power and control
  3. Non-violent retribution
  4. Humor
  5. Peer and social bonding
  6. Self-expression
  7. Improved psychological and physical health

It’s hard to argue against empirical science and respected health professionals, but it seems that the preceding research and writing gives less than adequate treatment to a pair of important considerations, which the following two questions address:

1) What’s the long-term impact of swearing on self-concept?  Even if uttering a curse word helps reduce pain in the moment, it seems that swearing could affect one’s extended mental health, which is partly a function of others’ perceptions of us.

First, to be forthright and hopefully avoid seeming self-righteous:  I have sworn.  I’m not sure that any of those irreverent expressions helped me in the moment, but one thing is certain: I never felt good afterward about what I said; rather, I regretted each of those instances.

While it’s uncomfortable for me to admit that I’ve sworn, it would be very painful if I had to think of myself as ‘a person who swears,’ and it would be unacceptable if I in some way encouraged others to have such a perception of me.  I don’t want to swear and, for various reasons that include my faith, I would never want swearing to be something that defines me.

A few years ago, triggered by what I saw as a troubling increase in casual cursing, I wrote an article for The Marketplace, “Don’t curse your own brand.”  In the piece I identified five adjectives, or “unbecoming brand qualities,” that profanity projects: unintelligent, angry, unproductive, indecent, and untrustworthy.

Granted, it may be more important for some people/professions to maintain the impression of piety than it is for others.  Still, a vulgar vocabulary fuels the preceding unfavorable perceptions in others, which is hard to believe have a positive net impact on anyone’s self-concept.

2) What’s the impact of profanity on others?  Almost all of the research and writing of others I referenced above suggests that ‘You should swear because it’s good for you.’  Largely missing in the analyses is the affect that one’s cursing has on those exposed to it, especially if the unpleasantries are directed at them.

Burton does mention that swearing can foster “peer and social bonding.”  I believe there are better ways to foster social bonds than swearing, but I can understand how cursing could work to that end, if it’s ‘friendly’ and mutually accepted.

In most instances, though, being on the receiving end of a curse word is not appealing.  That’s why in any kind of potentially volatile situation, from a customer service encounter to a hostage negotiation, swearing rarely helps.  In fact, it usually increases the tension by making people more uncomfortable, angry, or upset.

Overlooking the impact of cursing on others is probably the biggest irony of the Mental Health Coalition’s ad campaign.  On the organization’s own website, its homepage expresses an important truth: “The language we use is powerful, so let’s talk about it.”  Yes, words are powerful, and, contrary to the “sticks and stones” adage, poorly chosen ones can hurt deeply.

Of course, being bullied or shamed can’t be good for anyone’s mental health, but how that belittling often occurs is particularly pertinent here.  A report on workplace bullying by Safe Work Australia found that “The most common forms of bullying included being sworn at or yelled at (37.2 per cent).”  Others affirm the connection between cursing and bullying, for instance:

To summarize:

Cursing –> Bullying –> Low Self-Concept –> Poor Mental Health

These relationships are a big miss of the ad campaign, but there’s one more notable fail:  Tourette syndrome, “a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.”  Though rare, some individuals with the disorder experience coprolalia, which includes “uttering socially inappropriate words such as swearing.”

Although Tourette’s is a disorder of the nervous system, not a mental illness, one can imagine that people who suffer from the syndrome are easy targets for bullies, and that those social interactions could be especially strained if the individual’s specific symptoms include swearing.

At the risk of getting waylaid on memory lane, many of us can remember a time, not that many years ago, when it was unusual to hear people swear outside of an R-rated movie or a locker room, both of which carried ‘language warnings,’ express or implied.

Now it’s not unusual to be shopping in a grocery store or watching ESPN and hear conversations punctuated with profanity.  It’s also puzzling that, unlike those in the Mental Health Coalition ad, the people cursing often don’t appear to be angry or upset; rather, swearing has simply become part of their routine communication.  Do ads like the one in question normalize such indecency?

The Mental Health Coalition serves a very important societal mission in aiming to “to end the stigma surrounding mental health and to change the way people talk about, and care for, mental illness.”  Unfortunately, however, its ‘swearing ad’ curses that very purpose, making the campaign an unfortunate example of “Mindless Marketing.”

About the Author: Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable Influence, Founder of 

Richard Levick – A New Year’s Resolution

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past.

Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.”

—Justin Brooks Atkinson

Upon his death in 1984, the New York Times wrote of Justin Brooks Atkinson, where he had worked from 1922 until 1960, that he was ”the theater’s most influential reviewer of his time.” I wonder what he would have written about the “show” that was 2020?

He did write that, “In every age ‘the good old days’ were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them.” He wrote through the Great Depression, World War II and the McCarthy Era, so he lived through no shortage of trials and tribulations.

I know one of the things I have been thinking a lot about lately has been the perseverance of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. When my father was a child during the Great Depression, his parents couldn’t afford to repair the holes in the soles of his shoes, so he stuffed them with newspapers. Those aren’t just stories anymore. They’re beacons. Who ever thought we would walk in those shoes?

The Greatest Generation learned many lessons, not the least was the extraordinary power of collective action. Marching, as it was, in the same direction. To say we have lost that theology is an understatement. To get from here to there, to take advantage of the returning optimism, requires that we listen, learn and let go of our certainty. Or, as Mr. Atkinson wrote, “The most fatal illusion is the narrow point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.” Seems like a perfect New Year’s resolution.

Richard Levick, Esq.

Chairman & CEO, LEVICK

Competing and Winning in the Inbox

Jill Kurtz, Owner, Kurtz Digital Strategy

Did you know that the average person gets more than 120 emails each day? Wow! How do you get your marketing message to be one that is opened and read?

Structure Your Message Well

Paying attention to the details will help your messages win attention. It is fine to use a tool like MailChimp or Constant Contact to manage your list and send your messages. You need to go beyond the defaults to be effective.

  • Sender: Set up your sender field to be something your recipients will recognize. Use your name if that’s what they know best. Use the business name if that’s what they connect to.
  • Subject line: Speak to a need or interest of the reader. Make them want to open the message. Be specific and compelling!
  • Summary text to start: Have text right up top that lets the recipient know what your message is all about.
  • Preview text: Write preview text that identifies the value of your message for the recipient. Don’t repeat the content of the subject or summary text.

Offer Content that Matters

Getting the details right will set you up to be read. Now your content has to deliver!

Make sure your message is relevant to the recipient. Don’t send the message if it isn’t. You may need to segment your email list to make sure you send only to those people who will find it highly relevant. Sending to fewer people who care is much better than a blast to all.

Tell a story in your message. Stories capture interest and are easy to read. Make sure your story is easy to read online with short paragraphs, short sentences, and simple sentence structures. People who scan rather than read every word should get the gist.

Experts recommend that you focus each message on a single topic. People who open a message will give you 1-2 minutes, so keep it short!

Influencer Marketing in 2021: A Look Ahead

Katie Coulter, FrazierHeiby Account Executive 

Across the board, organizations are taking note of the measurable impact of influencer relations. As the industry nears a $10 billion market size, you might be wondering — where’s this money coming from? 

Many brands are making sizable investments in influencer marketing. In fact, nearly two-thirds of marketers increased their influencer budget in 2020. And, with the ongoing pandemic, many in-person engagements are cancelled, leaving extra dollars on the table to be allocated toward safer communications campaigns that limit in-person interaction. 

As you plan your marketing strategy for the upcoming year, here’s what you should keep in mind about the future of influencer marketing. 

Video content is still on the rise.

Mobile video consumption rises by 100 percent annually. Traditional video platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook, along with emerging tools like TikTok and Instagram Reels, suggest that video is here to stay. And as we’ve learned, where there are viewers, there are influential people entertaining them. 

Many big brands began working with TikTok influencers in creative and unexpected ways early on. Take this #TooSickToBeSick campaign from Mucinex, which engaged four influencers to showcase a transformation pre- and post-medicine. Video content gives more time for influencers to explain product details, showcase it in action and share key message points, making it a great alternative to static photos. 

Virtual opportunities trump IRL activations. 

Influencers are people, too. Groundbreaking, right? With the pandemic continuing to impact our daily lives, we need to remember that safety always comes first — and that includes the safety of our beloved brand ambassadors. While in-person influencer activations are usually ideal, it’s not worth putting your organization or its influencers at risk. 

Instead of hosting an in-person event, try bringing people together through Instagram or Facebook Live, or coordinate video calls for more intimate gatherings. Ship any important items to the influencer ahead of time. Plan the virtual experience to be seamless and impactful. Long story short: Until the world opens, virtual alternatives are a must. 

Influencers power the content engine. 

If done correctly, influencer content should be authentic, on-brand and appealing to your target audience. That’s why it’s the perfect content to repurpose on your brand’s owned channels, like its social media, blog or newsletter — just make sure content usage is baked into the contract. 

Plus, influencer content gives you a chance to see what your target audience is saying about your brand and products. What’s the conversation in the comments? Are users tagging their friends? Are they excited about the partnership? This is an opportunity to read, learn, engage and begin to build a community that rallies around your company. 

While the elements of influencer marketing might ebb and flow, it’s a marketing tactic that’s here to stay.

About the Author: Fueled by coffee, big ideas and a good blazer, Katie Coulter roots her communications strategy in storytelling. As an account executive at FrazierHeiby in Columbus, Ohio, she’s passionate about media relations, influencer marketing and social media. Katie is a proud Bobcat and alumna of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. You can reach her at

Getting Conversions Covertly

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR 

Selling is essential for any business, especially for ones that are looking to grow. Without sales, the business can’t thrive, and it will have to close down – sales are the livelihood for many businesses. Without any sales, without the exchange of money for goods and services, businesses can’t survive. 

To have a successful and profitable company, business owners have to master their selling strategies in a way that’s going to net them impressive results with clients. Although no one solution can fit every business or business model, several strategies can be implemented everywhere to increase conversions and profitability. 

As marketer Alexei Orlov notes, “One of the most important aspects of selling is to start with the truth – and this means doing the right thing, even when no one is paying attention to the business. When a company is honest and authentic, people are going to appreciate it, sooner or later. And the right consumers will be interested in a business that’s looking to serve them at the highest level, instead of hiding the true information or worse. These consumers will then share this information in their social circles, which will increase brand awareness for the business and lead to more conversions.” 

Sales are an art form as well as a science, but when a business is selling its products or services with integrity, as we mentioned, there is no need for any of the sales strategies that are implemented to feel too “sales-y” to the consumers. Being honest with the target audience and the consumers are key in making them feel less like they are buying or doing something wrong and removing any doubts that they might have around the business. This way, there aren’t going to be any negative ideas surrounding the company. 

Additionally, it’s also important to listen and get the timing right for good sales and closing deals – the consumers have to be approached at the right time and through the right channels to be convinced into converting. But if the business isn’t paying attention in this way, it’s easy to create negative associations in the consumers’ minds, which will make them avoid the business and its products altogether. 

Finally, businesses should give value to the consumers, not just in offering solutions in terms of products or services that the company sells to the audience. Consumers have to look to the business for other values, such as education, training, or even raising thought-provoking topics, that will make them think and add something more to their lives, aside from solving a problem they didn’t even know they had until the company’s products came along in their lives. 

This way, the business can cut through the noise and the crowd of the market and position itself as a leader in the industry that other businesses and consumers can turn to in their time of need.

Google Responds to Employee Protest - Ronn TorossianAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of PR agency 5WPR.

American Exceptionalism: 2020 Didn’t Have to Be This Way

Helio Fred Garcia

The first American case of COVID-19 was diagnosed on January 20, 2020. 

Exactly one year later Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

What happened in the United States in between is different from what happened in other developed countries. 

Twenty million Americans contracted COVID-19 between the first case and the end of the year.

2020 was the single deadliest year in American history. The first U.S. COVID-19 fatality was on February 6. By year end another 351 thousand Americans had died from the virus. For context, that is more than all the U.S. combat fatalities in World War II and Vietnam combined, but in a single eleven-month period rather than in the 24 years of those wars. For several weeks in December we were seeing the equivalent of a 9/11 casualty rate every day, with total 2020 COVID-19 fatalities equal to 118 separate 9/11 attacks.

Much of this was avoidable. And yet, here we are. So the question is – why did this happen?

Everything Changed

It was a year that changed everything: what it means to be “at work” or “at school”; how we visit the doctor; how we greet each other; how we shop for groceries and other goods; how we say goodbye to loved ones as they take their final breath.

It was a year of great trauma: medical, emotional, spiritual, economic, social.

And it was a year that saw great sacrifice and some of the best of humanity: in the front-line medical workers, in the agility of many companies to re-imagine their business models and their product offerings, in the emergence of a new class of heroes – postal workers, delivery drivers, and grocery clerks, who risked infection to keep us supplied.


And it was a year that intensified much that had already been fraying in the fabric of American civic life: hyper-polarization in politics, mistrust of each other and of civic institutions, and the shattering of social and political norms.

In the time of the pandemic we saw the explicit elevation and endorsement of white supremacist and conspiracist groups, such as the Proud Boys and QAnon. But also the largest civil rights protest in American history, with more than 25 million Americans marching in support of Black Lives Matter – and this in the days and weeks following the first wave of reopening after two months of stay-at-home orders.

After decades of one party discrediting science – from refusing to accept the reality of evolution, to redefining when human life begins, to denying the reality of climate change – we saw millions of Americans deny what scientists, public health experts, and their own doctors told them: that the virus is real, that it is deadly, that you can transmit it even when asymptomatic; and that masking, distancing, and handwashing are keys to prevention. The American population seemed to divide into those who believe what science teaches and those who choose not to. But as a popular T-shirt and internet meme noted, Science Doesn’t Care What You Believe.

The pandemic coincided with one of the most bizarre and contentious presidential election campaigns in American history, in which despite no evidence of fraud the sitting president refused to acknowledge defeat and lost more than 50 lawsuits challenging the results. And who for the eight weeks between the election and the new year seemed to give up on being president. He stayed out of sight and silent on anything having to do with the pandemic, even as fatalities approached the 350 thousand mark and infections soared to 20 million, and as he rage-tweeted about the so-called “massive fraud” that had prevented his re-election.

But the hardships were real and were devastating. In the weeks before and after Christmas, hospitalization rates reached record highs, with whole regions, including southern California, reporting zero intensive care beds available. At least one Los Angeles hospital started treating patients in the gift shop; another in a cafeteria; yet another in its chapel. But the real shortage was of medical personnel to treat the record number of patients. Doctors began talking about the need to choose which patients to treat, and which to leave to die. 

The nation saw the infection rate grow by a million cases every few days. And despite pleas from public health officials and hospital front-line workers, Americans continued to travel for the holidays, risking what health workers called a surge on top of a surge. And some governors refused to require citizens to wear masks in public. Florida’s governor even forbade Florida cities and counties from requiring masks and social distancing in their jurisdictions. And the White House, the State Department, and other federal agencies held dozens of holiday parties indoors and without a masking requirement: yet more super-spreader events.


It did not need to be this way. 

Much of the suffering, the hardship, the sacrifice could have been avoided. It resulted from a lethal combination of incompetence, dishonesty, and neglect. 

The United States, alone in the world, intentionally refused to follow or mandate basic public health steps: a national masking, distancing, testing, and contact tracing policy. There was no whole of government response; at best there were fragments of government responses. And some parts of the government seemed to be at war against other parts. Indeed, some parts of government seemed to be at war against themselves, such as the White House Pandemic Task Force, where in a single press conference the politicians would contradict the public health experts, and vice versa. 

The president and other senior government officials modeled the opposite of the public health guidelines, remaining unmasked in public and holding super-spreader events where the crowd was unmasked and packed close together – in violation also of local masking and distancing ordinances. 



A Cornell University Alliance for Science report named the president as the single largest source of misinformation about the virus. It noted, “[I]f people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they may attempt harmful cures or be less likely to observe official guidance and thus risk spreading the virus.”

Its conclusion:

“One major finding is that media mentions of President Trump within the context of different misinformation topics made up 37% of the overall ‘misinformation conversation,’ much more than any other single topic. The study concludes that Donald Trump was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic.’”


On January 28, 2020, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien had told Trump that COVID-19 would be, “the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.”

Trump knew about the severity of the virus in February and March. In taped discussions Trump told Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward what he knew about how dangerous COVID-19 is:

  • It is spread in the air
  • You catch it by breathing it
  • Young people can get it
  • It is far deadlier than the flu
  • It’s easily transmissible
  • If you’re the wrong person and it gets you, your life is pretty much over. 
  • It rips you apart
  • It moves rapidly and viciously.
  • It is a plague

But he told the nation the opposite of what he knew. He told Woodward that his approach was to downplay the severity

In March, Woodward named COVID-19 the leadership test of a lifetime, but Trump disagreed. In August, when the death count was more than 168,000, Trump told Woodward about his leadership of the COVID-19 response, “But nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.” 


And he has been AWOL on COVID ever since. 

Just before election day the White House science office announced that among Trump’s accomplishments are “ending the pandemic.” Cases doubled in the two months afterward.

In the third week in October 2020 Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness published a report in which it compared the United States’ response to COVID to six other high-income nations and several low-and-middle income countries such as Thailand, Pakistan, and Honduras.

Its conclusion

“The abject failures of U.S. government policies and crisis messaging persist. U.S. fatalities have remained disproportionately high throughout the pandemic when compared to even other high-mortality countries.”

At the time of the report, more than 217,000 American lives had already been lost to COVID-19. It noted that with “a proportional mortality rate twice that of neighboring Canada and more than 50 times that of Japan — a country with a much older population than the U.S. — The United States has turned a global crisis into a devastating tragedy.”


The report concluded“We estimate that at least 130,000 deaths and perhaps as many as 210,000 could have been avoided with earlier policy interventions and more robust federal coordination and leadership.”

Here’s an interesting point of comparison: On same day that the U.S. had its first confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis on January 20, the first case was confirmed in the Republic of Korea. Unlike the U.S., Korea took it seriously.

Columbia’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness report contrasted the U.S. response with Korea’s:

“South Korea was able to institute an aggressive diagnostic testing strategy and isolate infected patients, leading to a proportional mortality rate today that is 78 times smaller than that of the United States.”

The report noted that as of mid-October 2020, Korea had experienced 0.85 deaths per 100,000 of population, the lowest rate among six high-income countries, including Germany and France. The U.S. had the highest rate among peer countries, at 66.33 deaths per 100,000 of population.

Here’s another way to understand this: Between January 20 and December 31, more than one in every one thousand Americans died of COVID-19.

Leadership matters. Leaders are judged by how they deal with their biggest challenges. In the hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths, in the millions of avoidable infections, and in the avoidable social, economic, and personal pain that followed, we see the tangible human consequence of leadership failure.

The tone is set at the top. And there are still three weeks to go before the new administration inherits this tragedy. At the start of a new year, here’s to the next leadership team, and hoping that they approach the pandemic with competence, honesty, and urgency.  

Helio Fred Garcia discusses: Contrasts in Leadership: Cuomo v. TrumpAbout the Author: Helio Fred Garcia is the president of Logos Consulting Group and teaches crisis management, ethics, leadership, and communication at New York University and Columbia University. His next book, in progress, is The Trump Contagion: How Incompetence, Dishonesty, and Neglect Led to the Worst Handled Crisis in American History.


OP-ED: Remembrance Of Things Current: The Disgraceful Legacy Of President Donald John Trump, A Would-Be Dictator

(Author’s Note: This is the tenth in a series of occasional political columns that I’ll be writing for 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 list a few of what I consider some of Trump’s most disgraceful actions.) 

Arthur Solomon

As Donald Trump is nearing the end of his disastrous presidency, there are many actions that he will be remembered for on the national and international scenes.

Below is a sampler that should be accepted by all non-partisan Americans, as they certainly will be by non-revisionist presidential historians.

A Few Major Disgraceful National Actions

  • He will be remembered for his bungling of the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in the deaths of more than 318,000 Americans as of this writing on December 21.
  • He will be remembered for being the most divisive and racist president in U.S. history, making Andrew Johnson look like a boy scout.
  • He will be remembered as a president who has probably lied more than all the other presidents’ lies combined in our history.
  • He will be remembered as a president who has caused many people to distrust our legal system.
  • He will be remembered as a president who enriched himself at the expense of tax payers.
  • He will be remembered as a president who ran the White House like a family employment organization.
  • He will be remembered as the president who demanded complete loyalty, firing people who had different opinions. 
  • He will be remembered as the president whose vitriolic comments about a stolen election resulted in his supporters engaging in violent actions, including a riot in Olympia, Wash., where one person was shot, and did nothing to calm them down.
  • And most of all he will be remembered as the president who attempted a coup to keep him in office.

A Few Major Disgraceful International Actions

  • He will be remembered as a president who cozied up to dictators.
  • He will be remembered as a president who has frayed relations with our long time allies.
  • He will be remembered as a president who pulled the U.S. out of the World Health Organization during the time of an international Covid-19 pandemic.
  • He will be remembered as the president who said that NATO was no longer viable.
  • He will be remembered as the president who scuttled an Asian compact, meant to keep China in check by pulling the U.S. out of it.
  • He ignored the exposure that Russia has offered money to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops.
  • He will be remembered for ignoring Russian hackings of U.S. government departments.
  • He will be remembered as the president who asked Chinese President President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection, as former National Security Advisor John Bolton reported.
  • He will be remembered as the president whose famous telephone call to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, during which he said, “I would like you to do us a favor, though” led to his impeachment.”  

From the moment he was inaugurated as president in 2016, and all during the 2015 campaign, President Trump has shown his true persona. It encompassed traits of egotism, dishonesty, deception, slander, hyperbole, mendacity, and vilification. But the most frightening aspect of his character was his totalitarian instincts, which he has never attempted to hide 

After he soundly was defeated on November 3 by Joe Biden, Trump commenced on a campaign to undermine the democratic American election process. Republican power-brokers in and out of government excused the president’s actions, saying that they just want to give him time to grieve and that all will be well in time. But that didn’t happen.

Trump’s many statements that the election was stolen from him are reminiscent of Hitler’s Big Lie technique that vaulted the Nazi to power: Repeat the lie often enough and people will believe it.

Trump has encouraged violence among his supporters. Many of his actions are carbon copies of Hitler’s rise to power by using the Big Lie technique and constantly blaming scapegoats. He still is a threat to American democracy. His totalitarian instincts must not be forgotten now that he has been kicked out of office by voters who have had enough of his dangerous actions. History will remember him as America’s would be dictator, abetted by what was one of America’s great political parties.

(As I wrote in a previous column, the comparison of Trump’s actions and what occurred in the early days of Nazi Germany is chronicled in books written by reporters and historians who were on the scene (and the similarity is scary to everyone who believes in democracy). I suggest the following books, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” and “Berlin Diary” by William Shirer, and the story of the  American ambassador to Germany in the 1930’s,William Dodd, told by Erik Larson in his “In The Garden of The Beast.”)  

There weren’t many, if any, bright spots that occurred during the Trump administration. One was the speed at which a vaccine that can inoculate people against the coronavirus was developed. But that accomplishment needs a footnote: His “warp speed” program was necessitated because of his originally declaring the coronavirus a “democratic hoax,” keeping the seriousness of it from the American public for many weeks, and by telling his supporters to disregard the advice of medical scientists urging everyone to wear a mask and to practice social distancing. 

Other bright spots were the anti-Trump responses to his attempted coup by Republican office holders in Georgia, dozens of judges at local and federal levels and, especially, by a conservative Supreme Court (which included three justices appointed by President Trump) that twice rejected his efforts to rule that the election was rigged against him and was unconstitutional.

Historians will also remember Trump as the “Fake News” president, whose claims of “Fake News” was directed at reporters and publications, when they ran an article that he didn’t like. (Fact checking the stories he didn’t like showed that the “Fake News” was his declarations of “Fake News.”) Of course the impeached president had allies among right wing news outlets that backed up whatever ridiculous lies he told. The best known among them were the Fox News trio of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, all of whom defended the president regardless of the facts regarding the “democratic hoax” coronavirus (even though Carlson also urged his viewers to take the virus seriously before other right wings commentators did.)

History books normally give little space to one term presidents. President Trump will be the exception. He will be remembered for mishandling the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S., as well as spreading a virus of his own, which has polluted the political scene and the American landscape by espousing totalitarian, undemocratic positions and sought to undo a democratic election. The damage he has done to our democratic traditions will take years to repair. 

Historians will remember Trump as a dictator in wanting, who instructed his allies to disregard legal subpoenas, supported anti-democratic allies, caused distrust in American institutions, whose job it was to protect us from domestic and foreign anti-Americans foes and organizations, deliberately created a rift among Americans, urged Americans to liberate themselves from their democratically elected state governors and attempted to install himself as an autocratic president by attempting a coup to change the outcome of the 2020 election, which is still on-going.

He will be remembered as the president who attempted to kill the democratic republic we live in.

He will also be remembered as the “scam president,” who enriched himself by instructing government agencies to take their business to his hotels, established the rip-ff Trump University, and misused funds from his Donald J. Trump Foundation to pay off his business debts and promote his presidential campaign. (Legal actions forced the closure of both the foundation and his so-called Trump University). But his newest scam continues by his falsely asking people to donate money so he can continue his fight to prove that he was the true winner of the 2020 election.

But politics aside, Donald John Trump will be remembered as the appalling, vindictive human being that he is.

On January 20, 2021, President Donald Trump will become citizen Trump. But the political plague of his essence will not soon disappear. His name will live on, but not in the manner that he will like. 

A Few Hopeful Signs

  • Trump’s autocratic style of governing was rejected not only by the margin of his Electoral College defeat, but by more than 7-million voters who preferred Joe Biden over the would-be dictator. The popular vote differential was the most since the 1932 election, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover.
  • Republican judges, including three Trump appointees to the Supreme Court, decided election cases on their merit, ignoring their personal political beliefs.
  • So did Republican state elections officials in battleground states, despite the pressure that emanated directly from the White House.

But the bottom line from President Trump’s 2020 election defeat is that our democracy is fragile and when a candidate’s rhetoric sounds autocratic, as Trump’s did in 2015 when he was campaigning for the GOP nomination, it should not be considered “campaign talk.” It should be taken at face value.

A reading of history shows that Hitler’s poisonous speeches were not overly worrisome by many democratic political leaders in Germany until he took office; neither were President Trump’s until he attempted to put them into practice after his election. But once Hitler took over the reign of the Weimer Republic, he did what he said he would so. Trump attempted to, but was prevented from doing so by a free press and the courts, despite his efforts being supported by more than 100 members of GOP congressmen and 18 Republican state attorney generals, while less than a handful of Republican senators spoke in support of democracy. 

This time the fabric of our democracy, while tattered, held. American’s must remember that what happened in the totalitarian countries that Trump so frequently admired can happen here.

During his lifetime, Benjamin Franklin made many memorable statements. The one that should be most remembered was said in 1789: “Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” 

The Trump administration and his autocratic attempt to overturn the 2020 election must be remembered as a Lesson Learned that should never be forgotten: Our democracy is only assured by the actions of people who believe in democracy. Donald John Trump does not.

On January 3, news stories broke that President Trump threatened the Secretary of State of Georgia for refusing to change the votes of its citizens so that they would show a Trump victory. But even after that story broke, none of the more than 100 GOP House members and 11 Senators who said that they would challenge the Electoral College vote on Wednesday condemned the Trump threat. They, along with Donald Trump, will forever be remembered as foes of a democratic election.and proves that  U.S. democracy can not be taken for granted.
Margaret Atwood the Canadian poet and novelist said, “The fabric of democracy is always fragile everywhere because it depends on the will of citizens to protect it, and when they become scared, when it becomes dangerous for them to defend it, it can go very quickly.” Americans should not forget that.

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) or


It’s Never Too Late: Do What You Want. Be Who You Want to Be

Wendy Glavin, Founder & CEO, Wendy Glavin Agency

Last year crystalized my vision to help others discover their true potential by looking back.  I’ve been doing this all throughout my life. Now, I have the tools to help you.

Your Background

Think about what you loved as a child. I’ll get you started by highlighting what was most important to me: playing with Barbie Dolls, catching butterflies, taking swimming and acting lessons (among others), becoming a lifeguard, and a camp counselor.

I dreamed of becoming a lawyer, like my dad, or an actress. I went to middle school with Kevin Bacon in Philadelphia and hung out with friends after school. And often, my grandmother took me clothes shopping and after, let me swim in her building’s rooftop pool.

What were your passions? 

Your Experiences

So, if you consider six degrees of separation, you’re likely to know someone with whom you may have forgotten. After majoring in acting in college for two years, my professors said I was too dramatic, which led me to obtain a degree in communications. 

I did take the LSAT, but my prosecutor dad said, “you’ll never win your case until you can see the other side…you’re more of a Norma Rae.”

My parents were all about tough love. After graduating, I worked at General Electric for roughly five years. Surrounded by engineers, scientists, and others in technology, I was hired by a full-service agency; my first account was a division of DuPont. 

After marriage, my husband and I moved to New York City. My previous boss recommended me to someone at Burson-Marsteller. While there, I managed a division of DuPont while my now-ex worked on Wall Street.

Throughout the years, we lived in the south of France; where my love of fashion and accessories led me to start a business importing jewelry from France to the U.S.

At the time, I learned about customer service; educating myself on what different types of women wanted. The business grew. Over time, my partner and I did shows for employees at magazines like Vogue, investment banks, law firms, hospitals and more.

Most importantly, I learned a lot (and continue to do so) from my three grown sons. Some twenty-years ago I traveled worldwide and had memorable experiences like ziplining in Costa Rica, boating in Corsica, touring Bilbao in Spain, and doing watersports in the Dominican Republic.

What experiences were significant to you?

Your Relationships

Most of us can name our friends, business colleagues, clients, and other connections from social media. But what I’m suggesting is for you to reflect on who was or has been significant to you throughout your life; whether you’re still in touch or not. 

For me, it’s my dad, my previous agency boss, several people with whom I knew in politics, a global marketing executive, an attorney, a book publisher, a global speaker, a digital marketing leader, a business consultant, a graphic designer, and my three boys.

Others include: a serial software developer of mobile apps, two startup founders, and many other leaders in technology, marketing, and social media.

What relationships have been particularly significant to you?

Weaving It All Together

When you carve out all the experiences you’ve had in your life, you’re able to look at yourself through a broader lens. The process I created with my team is called Decode Your Value.

You may have heard me discussing it in a video or during a live event. Or, if you’ve followed my articles on the subject, you’ve learned the importance of looking back to identify your core values and merging your professional and personal personas to seize opportunities instead of waiting for external events to change.

While recognizing your hard and soft skills is one way to categorize your strengths and weaknesses, life skills consist of what you’ve learned throughout your life. When you know what they are, you can incorporate them into your brand and your communications.

Recently, I began thinking about how I could illustrate the Decode Your Value method. This sparked a memory for me of hiking in a forest long ago with my family and getting lost. Everywhere we looked was the same; tall trees, colored leaves, fallen branches and rocks. We panicked and didn’t know how to find our way out of the woods.

Perhaps, this is how you feel because of or in spite of the pandemic. To help you make sense of the concept, here’s an illustration of my Life Skills tree below. The trunk represents my core values; the greenery are my notable life experiences; and the branches represent how the categories connect:


Here’s a Life Skills tree PDF that you can download and complete. If you need help, please reach out with your questions, ideas or comments. Like a patchwork quilt, create your own life tree and spread the word. Hopefully, this year, we’ll create a digital forest. 

Recently, I read an article in Inc. about the perfect age to start a business. Interestingly, it’s older than you think. Regardless of age, gender, location, and other self-limiting characterizations, you can do what you want to do. I’m not suggesting that you necessarily start a business or a startup, but it’s something to consider. 

Someone I know was furloughed. During this off-time, he chose to focus on a passion of his that he didn’t have time for in the past: writing. He used the time to self-publish a book, create a basic website (which he’d never done before), and ultimately release his work to the world. Now, he’s onto his second novel. 

As for me, the skills I learned in acting are still relevant: to get inside the head of the character in which you’re playing (know your customer) and use storytelling to deliver an experience.  My interest in law helps me understand other people, see both sides of a problem and work towards a mutual solution.

While in Paris, a friend taught me to look at the colors in nature and art to learn what goes together in fashion and décor. My inspiration comes from art museums, aquariums, beaches, the streets, culture and architecture. In fact, the colors of my website are from  photos of wild berries.

Another lesson is to build on your strengths. My interest in technology grew by reading, listening to others and covering events. Eventually, I became a published writer and a technology columnist.

As for law, I’m still considering getting a degree. After watching, “The Post,” Spielberg’s account of the Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, I remember watching legal movies with my dad, like, “Inherit the Wind,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “12 Angry Men,” “Good Night. And Good Luck” and, “All the President’s Men.” We spoke about ethics, the importance of standing up for what we believe in and the Constitution.

At night, I enjoy watching Law & Order. While the episodes are not real, it’s interesting how evidence is collected to solve a case. Amazingly, last night, I was watching SVU and saw a childhood friend of my son’s sister on tv. She had been abducted. Only because I knew the girl, I stayed up late to see what happened (she was found).

Getting back to Kevin Bacon, years later, I drove his father to a radio interview and told him about the years watching him in school plays; an example of relationship-building.

I hope my article inspires you to think about your story since “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – Mark Twain

#SXSW - Wendy GlavinAbout the Author: Wendy Glavin is Founder and CEO of Wendy Glavin, a NYC full-service agency. Wendy is a 30-year veteran of corporate, agency, consulting and small business ownership. She specializes in B2B2C marketing communications, executive writing, PR and social media advisory. Her website is: Contact her at:

Honoring Howard J. Rubenstein

Filomena Fanelli, CEO and Founder, Impact PR & Communications

The world – and the PR profession – lost a great when Howard J. Rubenstein passed. His firm was the place I got my start at (thanks for taking a chance on 21-year-old me!) and I had the pleasure of spending eight-plus years there. I not only learned about excellence in PR from Howard, but also took away valuable business and life lessons that I carry with me today as I run my own agency.

Howard had the unique gift of walking the line between being powerful and poised; influential and insightful; quick-witted and kind. He was the man in the room that everyone wanted to talk to, yet he took the time to listen to even the most entry-level associate. I fondly recall my first elevator ride with him. He casually smiled and asked me, an account coordinator at the time, how I liked it at Rubenstein Associates and suddenly I felt at ease. 

It’s true he knew all the big players, but he never got a big head about it. The office hallways were lined photos of him and every VIP, celebrity and elected official you could imagine. At his firm’s ultra-memorable 50th anniversary party at Tavern on the Green, I saw how genuine he really was. I watched Howard rub elbows with Dr. Ruth Westheimer and now-President Donald Trump and then turn around and pour the same amount of energy into a conversation with my husband.

For years after working at Rubenstein, people would wondrously ask about the high expectations that came with working at the agency and note that, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” I’d agree. After all, Howard personally looked over all weekly and monthly reports from his publicists, wrote remarks and asked detailed questions. I welcomed it, because he put a high value on results and looking after each client personally, so much so that he wanted to know what was going on with each himself. I felt accountable and motivated. Many years later, I have held onto Howard’s memos and notes of praise. Ask anyone that worked for him about his hand-drawn birthday greetings – they are legendary!

Though Howard is sadly gone, his presence is felt throughout New York City, among his noteworthy clients, with his beloved family who mourn his loss, of course, and in the many careers he’s shaped. So many agencies, including mine, were launched and carry with them Howard’s commitment to ethics, keen attention to news-style writing and respect for the art of public relations. 

May Howard continue to mix, mingle and make headlines up above. And, if anyone needs PR in the afterlife, I know a guy.


Finding Reasons to Be Cheerful

Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch™

At this time, we need to find, as the 1979 Ian Dury and the Blockheads song goes, “Reasons to Be Cheerful.” (If you’ve never come across the song – I encourage you to take a listen. It’s an earworm.)     

Dury provided many reasons for cheer…  In homage to the song, here are three of the moment:   

We are turning a page

Although there’s always the potential for further black swan events, there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel that bodes well for the future. Vaccines have been developed and are being rolled out in record time. There’s new-found recognition for frontline healthcare workers and all essential workers who provide the services and support we all need for the economy to function and food to get to our tables. We are more focused than ever on the need to end racism. And, more people chose democracy than demagoguery in the election.  

We are learning to appreciate what we have

With so many deaths from COVID-19 and economic damage, again and again I hear friends, neighbors, and colleagues expressing their appreciation for what matters. Life. Spouses. Grandparents. Friends. The ability to go outside. Takeaway food. A salary. Much of this comes from what many have lost. A deeper appreciation of what really matters, and recognition of the importance and urgency of helping others as an outcome of the pandemic, will make us better humans for it. 

There will be new opportunities in a different world

COVID has shaken up our lives, the economy, and world in ways that will only become fully apparent over years. The pandemic is driving both change and receptivity to change. This applies both at an individual and national level. It is not a coincidence that at the same time many businesses are struggling, new business formations are rising. Or that big ideas like a government run healthcare option have gained currency. And, that de facto technology monopolies are now at risk of being broken up. Times of crisis force us to think differently. Necessity is the mother of invention and opportunity.

Some are making the argument that this confluence of events will drive a new social and economic boom – the roaring twenties. There is reason for optimism, but for people standing in line at food banks, families who have lost loved ones, jobs and capital, recovery will be uneven, and it’s unlikely to be quick.  

During this dark winter it is important to keep sight of and plan for the promise of a brighter future on an economic, but even more important a human level – relative to 2020.        

We need “Reasons to be cheerful part one, two, three.”        

About the Author: Simon Erskine Locke is Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch™. He has started several startups and is a former head of communications functions at Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Prudential financial. CommunicationsMatch™’s search tools and services help clients find, shortlist and engage agencies, consultants and services providers with the industry and communications expertise that match needs. Developed by communicators for communicators, agency and professional profiles provide an opportunity to showcase capabilities with clients when they are looking to hire communications partners. CommunicationsMatch™’s Agency Select™ RFQ/RFP tools offer a path to streamlining the hiring process. Find out more at


Will 2021 See the Return of the Evergreen Story Pitch?

Kristine Maloney, Assistant Vice President of TVP Communications

Sometime during the endless hours of news coverage I consumed in the days following the presidential election, I caught a comment from a podcast producer who was providing political analysis. I don’t remember where I saw or heard him (though CNN was on in the background a lot that week) or what podcast was his, but he said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since—and something that could represent another shift in how media relations professionals do our work.

Just before the producer signed off, he remarked on how a Biden presidency might allow him to finally revisit his file of evergreen stories he had hoped to be able to cover someday. The file had been building for about five years, he said, just around the time the Trump campaign exploded on the scene in a major way. And he anticipated that a more traditional administration might slow the news ever so slightly to allow for this type of coverage again.

My favorite stories to pitch have always been features—which are also the first to go when there’s a lot of news. And, it’s true that I have both pitched fewer in recent years (because I knew reporters just didn’t have the time to focus on them) and had fewer successes when I did decide to try them. But they are powerful and can tell an institution’s story in ways unlike a straight news story can, and the possibility that some reporters might be more receptive to them in the near future is an important opportunity.

I don’t know if his prediction will prove true. It’s possible, especially while we’re still dealing with the pandemic, that the news will continue at its current pace. But if he’s right, we might expect the ways in which we do our jobs to change slightly as well.

For starters, a slower news cycle might mean we, too, could slow down. It might mean that we don’t have to feel like we’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions every time a major new story breaks, which sometimes can happen multiple times per day. We could be more deliberate in seeking out feature stories that highlight our missions and strategic priorities. We could talk to more people and identify spokespeople that aren’t yet on our radar. We could spend more time gathering stories that evoke emotion and demonstrate our ethos in ways other types of communications can’t. These are the kinds of stories that caused me to fall in love with media relations and higher education. 

To be clear, even if the news cycle does start to slow again, it’s unlikely to happen right away. We remain in the grips of a devastating pandemic (which some might argue also took a back seat to presidential election news at points). But I am optimistic, even despite our social media-programmed, constant search for content, that more outlets will find themselves with more space for those evergreen stories again. And I, for one, am looking forward to that.

About the Author: Kristine has forged strong relationships with members of the national print and broadcast media on a wide range of beats. Her work with college administrators and faculty has helped to establish them as leaders among their peers and in the media. And her passion for sharing student perspectives and stories has contributed to measurable enhancement of their institutions’ national profiles.

In her role at TVP Communications, Kristine also serves as a co-editor and contributor for the Inside Higher Ed blog, Call to Action, which explores the marketing and communications for higher education and the collegiate experience through a variety of industry voices.

Prior to joining TVP Comms, Kristine built and managed a comprehensive media and public relations program at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. She also served for a time as the associate web editor at Holy Cross, where she was responsible for strategic content planning, branding and message development.

Food and Drink Marketing for 2021: Growth Hacking Your Food and Beverage Brand


Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

This year, the food and beverage industry managed to grow to nearly $80bn in revenue, and in just a few years, it’s expected to grow to over $100 billion. The growth rate and the volume of consumption in this market mean that brands are becoming more competitive. For every brand to get its own share of consumers, these companies have to find very efficient ways to reach out to their target audiences and convert these people. 

For brands in this niche to truly grow, they have to create fully integrated digital marketing and food and beverage PR campaigns that will increase brand awareness, distribution, sales, and engage with target audiences everywhere. 

Social Media Platforms

One of the most popular marketing strategies is advertising a brand on social media platforms, as these types of businesses are very popular on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. These platforms’ users love brands in the food and beverage industries, which makes these social media channels very effective in leveraging a strong digital campaign – both in terms of results and in costs. 

Between social ads that utilize targeting algorithms to optimize spend while attracting high-quality leads, forming strategic partnerships with other businesses or influencers in the same niche, or encouraging user-generated content, food and beverage brands can capitalize on plenty of different strategies for their social media campaigns. 

Video and Written Content

One of the highest degrees of trust in digital influencers comes from food bloggers and vloggers because they provide their big audiences with entertaining or educational content that is very engaging for the public. 

Partnering with key individuals in these niches is a great opportunity for food and beverage brands to reach an even higher number of people, whether it’s to introduce a new product in the market, increase trust in the quality of the brand’s products, or simply to educate the audience and build more trust between the company and its target audience. 

Reviews and Testimonials

Encouraging customers to write reviews about products is a great way to generate more engagement and to closely monitor the audience’s customer satisfaction. Additionally, reviews and testimonials work well as a form of word-of-mouth marketing because the public tends to trust customers who have tried out and tested products and talked about their experiences a lot more than product descriptions written by the brand itself on the product page. 

Furthermore, getting a negative review on any product can easily be reversed when the brand can directly respond to that person in a polite manner and focus on solving that customer’s problem. This way, any disappointed customer can receive excellent customer service, which can easily sway the brand’s opinion towards a more positive direction. Then they can share that revised opinion with others.

About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading food and beverage PR firm.

Howard J. Rubenstein – Remembering A Public Relations Legend

Howard J. Rubenstein, PR industry legend with a career spanning more than 60 years, passed away Tuesday.  Howard, known as the “godfather of NYC PR” was 88-years-old.  From advising governors and mayors, to counseling cultural institutions, to founding and supporting civic and philanthropic organizations, Howard  always had a passion for making New York City a better place to live, work, and visit.

His son Steven, president of the agency his father founded in 1954 announced his passing:

“It is with great sadness that we announce that my father passed away today after 88 years of what can only be described as a big, full life. He died at home, in peace and in no pain, with my mother Amy by his side – and the rest of us not far behind. 

My father loved his family, his work, this agency, our city, and of course, the New York Yankees. While I loved so much about him, what made him truly special was how he embraced the world with vigor, confidence, and optimism for what lay ahead. No matter how challenging the circumstances, his commitment to his family, the people he worked with, the tumult of the job, being part of a big story, and being part of helping our city were always on full display.”

CommPRO reached out to PR industry colleagues to share their remembrances of Howard.  

Howard Rubenstein was one of my mentors.  He taught me a lot about public relations.  When I was president of PRSA-NY I came up with the idea of having keynote speakers for the Big Apple Awards.  He helped me attract such speakers as Mike Wallace, Al Roker and Dan Rather.  He was proud of his relationship with George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees.  Whenever I was in his office he would show me photos of him, Steinbrenner and some of the Yankee players. 

I didn’t mind at all because I became a Yankee fan when I was nine years old.  Howard was always proud of his accomplishments as he had every right to be.  He was always honest and straightforward.  He always encouraged me to do good work for clients and constantly reminded me that doing this would lead to new and more clients.  I took his advice very seriously.  Rest in peace, Howard.

Art Stevens, Managing Partner, The Stevens Group

I enjoyed my conversations with Howard! He influenced the technology PR crowd as we treated the entrepreneurs and CEO’s like celebrities! A true legend he also recommended Hollywood agencies to buy in the late 90’s which we did. Rest In Peace Howard. 

Larry Weber, Chairman & CEO, Racepoint Global

While my agency rarely competed with The Rubenstein agency, Howard was  definitely the godfather of PR in New York, one of a kind and a titan in the industry.

Alan Taylor, Founder, Alan Taylor Communications

Howard was a brilliant advocate for his clients. He stood alongside Rupert Murdock and George Steinbrenner as they emerged as powerhouses in NYC. His media contacts were unmatched. He was the giant of our industry for four decades. He passed his firm along to a worthy successor in his son Steven who upholds the family tradition of excellence and decency.

Richard Edelman, Chief Executive Officer of Edelman 

Howard Rubenstein was an honorable man, a credit to our profession, a good husband, a loving father and a true mensch. Few operating today in PR have his deep connections, his deft touch and his intuitive understanding of what is needed and how to make it happen. There is a void that will not soon be filled.

Howard Bragman, LaBrea.Media

Other than having almost worked there (instead opting to join the nascent Cohn & Wolfe after leaving H&K), I will always remember tag-teaming with Howard’s folks to help promote the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square for the 2000 Millennium.  Our shared client was the Times Square Business Improvement District (BID). 

Since HJR was the go-to agency for all things New York City, our (Burson-Marsteller’s) role was simply to ensure that the video footage the BID captured of this hyperbolic event made it into newscasts across Europe, LatAm, and Asia, in real-time. HJR did everything else. The footage did in fact go global and we were retained for the next New Year’s.  

Looking back, one can understand how the Rubenstein brand lands on every high profile client’s agency list, especially for the big NYC real estate families. In their father, sons Steven and Richard have been left an incredible legacy. 

Peter Himler, Flatiron Communications, LLC

I had the honor of meeting Mr. Rubenstein after receiving a kind personal note from him regarding the success of my latest book. I immediately called him and he invited me to my office when I was traveling to New York City. 

I spent an enjoyable and memorable hour in his office and we talked about all kinds of things from work to life for people and beyond. 

He was a graceful man, not a word often used today. Grace is that dignified elegance about a person’s appearance, movement, personal style, or behavior. To be grateful is to be strong and assured in who one is and to move gently within that energy. One did not need to be Freud or Einstein to figure out that Mr. Rubenstein was an exceptional man and will be missed by all in our industry.

Michael Levine, Author & Media Expert

We welcome you to share your remembrances of Howard.

That Said with Michael Zeldin – Guest, Bakari Sellers (On-Demand Video)

Free Virtual Event: On-Demand Video

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Join Michael Zeldin for this important conversation with Bakari Sellers. Named one of Time Magazine’s 40 under 40, Sellers became the youngest-ever African American elected official when sworn into the South Carolina State Legislature at the age of 22 in 2006.  After earning a BA at Morehouse and JD at the Univ. of South Carolina, Sellers has taken up the causes of his father, Dr. Cleveland Sellers, the renowned civil rights leader. His recent book, My Vanishing Country, a memoir, charts his extraordinary journey from Denmark, South Carolina to the State Legislature, to CNN, where he is one of the most important voices in the movement for racial justice.


Bakari Sellers

Bakari Sellers made history in 2006 when, at just 22 years old, he defeated a 26-year incumbent State Representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. His political career did not stop there. In 2014, Sellers won the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor in South Carolina, and has also worked for United States Congressman James Clyburn and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. He is widely considered to be a rising star within the Democratic Party and leading voice for his generation.

Sellers was born into an activist family. He has followed in the footsteps of his father, civil rights leader Dr. Cleveland Sellers, in his tireless commitment to public service while championing progressive policies to address issues ranging from education and poverty to preventing domestic violence and childhood obesity. Sellers earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College, where he served as student body president, and his law degree from the University of South Carolina.

Sellers is the author of The New York Times best-selling book My Vanishing Country: A Memoir, which has been described as part memoir, part historical and cultural analysis – illustrating the lives of America’s forgotten black working-class men and women. He has also expanded his audience with the Bakari Sellers Podcast, a twice-a-week show part of The Ringer Podcast Network that addresses a variety of topics from politics, race, sports, media, the presidential campaign, and much more.

Sellers currently practices law with the Strom Law Firm, LLC in Columbia, where he heads the firm’s strategic communication and public affairs team and has recently added diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting to the list of services offered. He is also a prominent political contributor for CNN.

In addition to his impressive list of early accomplishments, Sellers served on President Barack Obama’s South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election. That coupled with his uncommon ability to reach across the aisle and get things done has led to numerous accolades including being named to TIME Magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2010 as well as 2014’s “The Root 100” list of the nation’s most influential African-Americans. Sellers has been a much sought after public speaker and has provided political and social commentary and analysis on many major national news outlets.

He has served as a featured speaker at events for the National Education Association, College Democrats of America National Convention, NAACP, the 2008 Democratic National Convention and, in 2007, delivered the opening keynote address to the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC.

Sellers is married to his wife Dr. Ellen Rucker-Sellers and father to twins Sadie and Stokely. 

Follow Bakari on Twitter @Bakari_Sellers

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, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.

Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelZeldin



5WPR CEO On Great 2020 Digital PR Campaigns


Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

While more businesses reap the rewards of digital PR, some brands undertaken great digital PR campaigns.  Here are some great examples of the past year.

#1. Netflix and CO2 Emitted Campaign

The campaign evolved from a simple statistic showing that streaming a video for 30 minutes led to roughly 0.2 kilograms of CO2 emissions. Calculating how much CO2 was generated by each series on Netflix, marketers could pinpoint which series was the most unfriendly to the environment.

Why the Campaign Worked

Turning key statistics into a relatable story, the campaign worked by capitalizing on current news, emotional connections, and leveraging a big brand—Netflix.

With the United Kingdom headed to a lockdown and Netflix being a preferred mode of entertainment, current trends on quarantine measures to curb the novel COVID-19 helped highlight relationships between favorite shows and the environment. At the same time, leveraging a notable brand (Netflix) made the story catchy to media outlets.

Also, the emotional connection between conserving the green earth and watching a favorite show on Netflix, helped draw attention to the environmental impacts of favorite shows.

The results spoke for themselves. In the end, the campaign earned 85 links from reputable websites like The Daily Mail, Quartz, Forbes, and MSN.

#2. Taxi2airport Campaign

With the summer holidays fast approaching, Taxi2airport needed an edge over large companies dominating rankings on airport transfer services. The Campaigns main goals: pushing-up the brand’ Google’s SERPs, increasing the number of keywords the brand ranked for, and gathering highly relevant and top authority backlinks.

Why the Campaign Worked

Leveraging data from, the campaign illustrated taxi fares for 3.1 mile or 5-kilometer journeys in more than 20 destinations around the globe. Presenting data in a visual infographic showing a list of countries based on cab hailing expenses.

With some leading economies like the uK, Germany, Japan and Switzerland emerging at the bottom, the story was incredibly newsworthy.

The results were phenomenal. The campaign secured 90placements. As well, the campaign went viral. At the same time, Taxi2airport keyword rankings increased by 55%—that’s from 323 top-three keywords to 502 top-three keywords by the end of the campaign.

#3. Single Grain’s Content Strategy

Being a successful digital PR and digital marketing company, Single grain leveraged the knowledge that each customer has their preferred platform. With the understanding that brand-building and SEO are important foundations in content marketing,Single grain has adopted an omnichannel content strategy to reach target audiences.

Why the Digital PR Strategy Works

Thanks to  a daily and weekly marketing podcasts, and a youtube channel,Single Grain produces content that’s repurposed to a variety of channels. Single grain repurposes its content to blog posts, Fireside Chats, Facebook Lives, ImpactBND, webinars, speaker events, interviews etc.

With the omnichannel digital PR strategy, single grain reaches customers hanging out on different media channels, increasing the brand’s visibility, credibility and SEO rankings.


Please Pardon This Parody of Pardoning


Thomas J. Madden, Chairman and CEO, Transmedia Group

First, if you don’t mind, I would like to add a few pardons of my own.

I want to pardon my daughter for giving me so many nuts for Christmas. They were in this humongous bag stuffed in a large wicker basket wedged between  two odd couple bottles, one containing rubbing alcohol, the other my favorite vodka. Thanks Adrienne, I’ll be cracking, rubbing and chugging all year long! But it was the thought for which I thank you.

Next, I would pardon Roger Stone for wearing those ties, tight vests and jackets, capped by that black fedora top hat and dark glasses like he just came strutting out of a gentlemen’s parlor during the roaring twenties.

Then I hasten to congratulate my esteemed client Peter Ticktin who was the lawyer who presented the petition to President Trump to pardon Boca Raton, Florida real estate mogul James Batmasian.  The crime to which Batmasian had pled guilty involved a technical tax evasion matter, while he does much to help homeless and other charities.

Coincidentally, Ticktin wrote the latest and probably most favorable book about Trump, “What Makes Trump Tick: My Years with Donald Trump from New York Military Academy to the Present.”

Then I would pardon President Trump himself for over pardoning all his cronies like Stone.  While left-leaning media clocks him exceeding the pardon limit in his waning days in The White Igloo, conservative media pardon him for not wearing his face mask at those jam-packed rallies that looked great on TV, but were perhaps as much virus spreaders as vote getters.

Next, on a more somber side, I would pardon my Black American friend Lamar who has already spent over 20 years in prison for fatally shooting someone during an early-morning dice game outside a Houston night club.

Lamar Burks must have been one hell-of-a-craps-shooter for at the time evidence shows he was at his sister’s wedding in Louisiana.  Still, Houston DA Kim Ogg refuses to take her proverbial knee off poor Lamar’s neck so he’s near forgetting what it’s like to breathe free air, poor guy.

I also would pardon another prisoner, William Hawley, who wrote a book about an alleged “serial killer,” the billionaire Robert Durst, which I subtitled “Dursturbed.”

My PR firm TransMedia Group just set up “Help Rebuild a Life,” a GoFundMe account for Bill, so when he’s finally released on February 24 after serving a draconian 18-year sentence for non-violent offenses, he can devote what’s left of his life to raising awareness of the need for prison reform.

While serving his time in Virginia, Hawley has evolved drastically and deeply repents his past criminal actions in Florida where he was convicted.  He spent a big chunk of that prison time for walking off a minimum custody work detail, a mistake he deeply regrets.

During his time behind bars, Hawley has become a devout Christian, a skilled writer, an academic and an advocate for justice.

I pray that the COVID-19 rapidly spreading in his prison doesn’t clip his wings.


HPL Leadership 2021 Outlook: Looming Challenges, New Opportunities and Cautious Optimism

Hot Paper Lantern

While this year has presented many unique challenges for communications professionals, it has also brought new opportunities. We asked our leadership team what they predict the next year will look like. Here’s what they had to say:

“2021 will continue to affect how we work, collaborate and spend time together as Americans. We will continue to live in this closed-off COVID-19 world for the first 6-9 months, until the vaccine has seen widespread use. Then, the workplace and how we experience each other, customers and colleagues in closer quarters will be supercharged for a brief time period. This is because of the need and void that exists and how strongly the urge to come back together will be. 

The net result will be many new/added conferences, meetings, events and a host of other ways people can come in contact with each other to build opportunities and business. 

Eventually, life will change, creating a middle ground because technology has allowed us to operate effectively in a virtual world. But, the initial mad rush to see and experience people close up will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before throughout the latter half of 2021.”

Ed Moed, CEO

“Taking a page from Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities,” 2021 will be the best of times and the worst of times. The worst of times during the first half of the year will be plagued by the rapid and unchecked spread of COVID-19. Infections, deaths and lockdowns will soar as the country awaits the mass roll-out of the vaccine – all of which will place additional strain on the U.S. healthcare system and economy. However, as vaccine deployment reaches a tipping point where society and the economy can resume more normal operations, which I anticipate will be sometime during Q3, consumers will unleash pent-up demand and spending in what some are predicting will resemble the Roaring ‘20s. This dichotomy between the best and worst of times – and the speed in which it is likely to happen — will create challenges and opportunities for brands like never experienced before. 

With some surveys showing that a majority of Americans are hesitant or afraid to take the vaccine, the public relations industry will play a central role in educating the public, assuaging fears and convincing people that the vaccine is safe and viable. The stakes will be high and the risk of failure will loom large for those who wade into these waters, but it’s also a huge opportunity for the industry (and those who take the lead) to showcase the impact of strategic communications in what is arguably the most significant campaign of our lifetimes.” 

Ted Birkhahn, President 

“Corporate purpose, as an anchor to build out feel good initiatives that serve to better the world is, without a doubt, essential. In 2021, with the tenor of uncertainty and mistrust, purpose must also have meaning. Individuals – be they employees, customers, partners or prospects – have wants and needs that have shifted. People may or may not want to know your purpose; but people need to see that you mean what you say. 

Actions will be rewarded. Words will not. And words that are not supported by positive and direct actions will render purpose meaningless.” 

Mike Friedin, Chief Strategy Officer  

“Leadership communications and actions around mental and physical health – for employees, customers, partners and themselves – will remain at the top of list of 2021 priorities. Pandemic fatigue and prolonged challenges will test that focus and commitment but keeping that at the core of all actions and decisions will strengthen resolve, perseverance, creativity and performance in 2021.”    

Sara Whitman, Chief People Officer

Our outlook for what lies ahead is cautiously optimistic for the marketing and communications industry. The first half of the year will likely present similar challenges to those we have faced throughout 2020, however, this will dramatically shift as vaccines continue to roll out. Mental and physical health will continue to be paramount for informing leadership communication strategies, and corporate purpose will be centered around organizations’ actions, not promises.  

What are your 2021 predictions for the communications industry?

Richard Levick Goes Over the River and Through The Woods


When I was in second grade, my teacher died of cancer, but not before she taught the class to sing Over the River and Through the Woods, as one of her last acts before a long hospital stay that she would never escape. And there I was, at seven, and had already lost the two most important women in my life, both in their mid-20s. First my mother, suddenly on Christmas Eve when I was four, and now a favorite teacher. It’s been more than half a century, but I’ve never heard that song without thinking of my second-grade teacher, whose name is long lost to me, but not her influence.

Among her parting gifts has been a lifelong love of music. I cannot carry a tune or play a note of any instrument, despite Mrs. Knoll’s best efforts — my octogenarian grade-school piano teacher (I know, practicing might have helped). Despite these shortcomings, the sound of music has always filled me with awe. In every home I have ever had, the first order of business was setting up the stereo, something far easier today than a bygone era of room-sized speakers. Even as I write this, I am listening to Paul Cardell’s Gracie’s Theme. I challenge you not to be moved.

Music is a part of every culture on earth and has been since we stood upright. It has the power to move us so quickly to joy, tears, romance or recollection faster than just about anything. Who hasn’t heard a song and been instantly transported back in time? What is the Psycho shower scene without Bernard Herrmann’s haunting theme, “The Murder?” It has been 60 years, and we can still hear it pulsating.

This week I interviewed a true “Music Man,” Freddie Ravel, who played with Earth Wind & Fire, Madonna, Carlos Santana, Prince and so many others. The gift of music has been an inspiration for Freddie his entire life, but he also wondered, what if there is more? What if I can take this common interplanetary language (there are 27 songs on the Voyager “Golden Record” sent into space in 1977 to see if we have neighbors who are intelligent enough to have built a turntable) and use it in business to help us find our humanity, be more team-oriented, customer-focused and productive? And thus was born Life In Tune where Freddie keynotes conferences for Microsoft, Walmart, Toyota, NASA and so many others. Madonna said Freddie is “brilliant” and IBM said he was “By far the best motivational performance we have seen.” All my life I have wanted to quote Madonna and IBM in the same sentence.

Freddie’s mission is to get teams and individuals “in tune” with their sustainable peak performance. Music applied to business. We speak at 150 words per minute, but we listen at 600 WPM. No wonder we don’t listen very well. If we are going to move forward with empathy and partnership it has to start with really listening.

Freddie speaks on the Rhythm of Success, The Music of Leadership, Teamwork and Getting in Tune with ESG. Truth be told, I’ve never been an audience member to one of his performances, though I have worked with him for a year now, watched many of his videos and, most importantly, never spent a moment with him when I didn’t feel better, happier and more abundant. Exactly the place we need to be to lead.

Enjoy the melody.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Richard Levick