Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ASAE's Gold Circle Awards

Are you particularly proud of a recent communications program or product? If so, and you happen to work at a trade association or professional society, consider entering the ASAE Communication Section’s 2012 Gold Circle Award competition. The awards recognize outstanding communications, and will be handed out at the ASAE Marketing, Membership and Communications Conference next May in Washington D.C. You don’t even have to be a PCG client to enter, though we’d be proud to have our work recognized!

All the details you need can be found at www.asaecenter.org/goldcircle. The entry deadline is January 20, 2012. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

PCG Supports Bread for the City

What’s more fulfilling professionally than enjoying the work you do and the people around you? My short answer: having the opportunity to work with colleagues to do our small part to support a cause that’s doing amazing things for the lives of D.C.’s most vulnerable residents. Earlier this year, PCG began a partnership with Bread for the City, a D.C.-based non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, legal and social services, medical care and a host of other comprehensive services to those in need in the District.

As a first endeavor, our project team, which includes Karen Heinold, Barbara Longsworth and myself, developed an advertisement that appears on several Metrobuses in the District through the end of this year. The intent is to encourage pedestrians and others to support BFC’s Combined Federal Campaign (#61733) and United Way Workplace Campaign (#8219).

We incorporated a QR code in the body of the ad so that people can easily scan it and make a donation right on the spot. It also allows those interested in giving to save the donation link from their smartphones and electronic notepads to reference later.

All in a day's work! :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We Ran A Marathon and Survived To Blog About It

When co-workers gather for lunch, the conversation topics are endless. But lately, the conversation at the PCG lunch table has been leaning more and more often to running. (Sorry, non-runners.) That’s because two PCGers recently completed the Philadelphia Marathon!

That’s right. Two of us were crazy enough to put in weeks of training to run 26.2 miles. For fun. While Philly was my second marathon, it was the debut marathon for PCG Coordinator Natalie Vegel.  

We survived!
Our mutual love for running was discovered over lunch one day. This discovery quickly revealed the coincidence that we were both registered for the Philly Marathon in November. With several friends training for fall marathons, a training group quickly formed. We were a gang of runners comprised of friends, significant others, and current and former co-workers, all with the goal of conquering 26.2 miles in various races several months down the road.

For 16+ weeks, the alarm went off early on Saturday mornings and we collectively headed into the early-morning darkness to conquer the gradually increasing mileage. (We even raced the clock against a looming hurricane one weekend!) 

Before we knew it, we were tapering (translation: no more crazy mileage) and the big day was upon us. As we nervously gathered on race morning, we marveled at the great racing weather and confirmed with each other that yes, we were really doing this.

And run the marathon we did. With friends and fellow runners cheering us along the way, we crossed the finish line one by one. In one piece and with big smiles on our faces.

To answer a question we've both been hearing quite a bit over the past week - yes, there are definitely more marathons in the future for both of us!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Impressions of a First Trip to China

I just got back from a first-time trip to China, and my head is still spinning. Not from the jet-lag (though that’s still fogging things up a little), but from trying to sort out everything we saw. It’s one thing to read about a country that’s rapidly growing and changing, but another to see, first-hand, the astonishing history that’s being made. The scale is overwhelming, and so are the contradictions.

We passed through a little-known city in southwestern China, Chongqing (formerly Chung King). It’s the largest metropolitan area in the world, approaching 40 million, and has a massive, glitzy skyline that looks like a cross between New York and Las Vegas – modern, rich. Then we saw that our luggage was being carried from a van to a boat on bamboo poles, balanced on the backs of laborers straining under loads of hundreds of pounds. Just the way it was done 200 years ago, in the shadow of neon-flashing skyscrapers.

Sleek high-rises are everywhere, with more popping up daily. Shanghai alone has built over 6,000 skyscrapers higher than 35 floors just in the past 20 years. That’s 300 a year. But those shimmering buildings can’t hide the bitter poverty of the vast majority of Chinese, with disabled beggars lining the streets near every tourist attraction.

The most blatant contradiction we saw is the country’s basic governing philosophy. Officially, it still reveres Mao. In souvenir shops we saw his likeness plastered across books, key rings, coffee mugs and T-shirts. But in reality, the country has essentially rejected his fundamental economic views. It seems that China has adopted Wild West-style capitalism – buying, owning, building, selling, making fortunes, all with little regulation. And the Chinese are using their new prosperity to buy into Western culture on a massive scale, with more signs for Starbucks, KFC, 7-11, Subway, Hagen Daz, Gap, Hooters and Apple than (it seems) noodle shops. And more shops for the economic elite, like Prada and Hermes, than we could count. The dress is Western, the ads are Western, and the people seem to love Americans. I was tempted to stand in the endless line leading to Mao’s tomb in Tiananmen Square just to see him spinning in his grave.

The educated young people seem to accept all this. Those smart and lucky enough to succeed on the national academic tests are pouring into the big cities by the million, from farms and small villages, to attend college, get a small apartment in a new high-rise and begin leading a Western-style life. Our tour guides fit this mold. They understand the miracle of China’s booming economy as well as the long-term questions it is raising about the billion-plus still living an 18th-century life in the countrysides. And they realize that they don’t enjoy many of the basic freedoms that the Western world sees as sacrosanct.

To me, some of the candid comments of our tour guides summed up these contradictions:

“How can I be so critical of our government? They don’t care what I say to you. You’re foreigners, and you already know all this.”

“Sure, we’d love to have all your freedoms. But we have IPads and apartments. To us, for now, that’s a fair trade.”

“Nobody wants to say it, but we know we’re now capitalist. Anything goes. We don’t have any freedoms – but we can do anything we want.”

Watch this space

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Google+: Why it’s Worth Your While

With Facebook as perhaps the most widely used social utility that lets us all stay connected with family, friends and those with whom we have shared interests, you might ask yourself “Where does Google+ fit in?” Well surprisingly enough, many people and organizations alike are drawn to the “Hangout” feature that enables group video chats. With “Circles,” you can push information to segmented groups. For trade associations, that’s especially handy if you only want to reach communications staff within member companies or your government relations contacts. And there’s the inevitable fact that Google is expanding integration of its other assets like YouTube, Google Maps and Google Places with Google+. [I never thought I’d write “Google” so many times in one sentence.] In any event, that’s just a small sample of some of the perks of using Google+.

It’s worth checking out. Click Z, a Mashable publishing partner, offers more reasons why Google+ is worth your while. http://mashable.com/2011/11/16/google-brand-pages-invest/

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pakistani Coal, Nepalese Hydropower and Indian Energy Communications

The debate over how best to meet the nation’s energy needs and grow our economy can be contentious. But the hurdles we face pale in comparison to those stacked before decision makers in emerging nations.

Last week, The Brookings Institution held an event, titled “Energy Security in South Asia: Cooperation or Conflict?” that examined the looming energy crisis building in the region. Charles Ebinger, senior fellow and director, Energy Security Initiative at Brookings, provided opening remarks for the event and painted a humbling picture for the stability of the region as nations attempt to meet rapidly increasing energy demand while working to overcome the barriers of limited domestic resources, institutional shortcomings, subsidized energy prices, a lack of investment in energy infrastructure and little regional cooperation.

Joined by panelists Stephen Cohen, senior fellow at Brookings; Martin Indyk, vice president and director, Foreign Policy at Brookings; and Ron Somers, president of the U.S.-India Business Council, Ebinger argued that concerted cooperation between India and Pakistan, and smaller neighboring states, is critical to meeting energy demand and is both the key challenge and opportunity to providing stability in the region. The panel agreed that cooperation has so far been absent between these states due to a lack of political will – largely contributable to the inability of leadership to communicate effectively on the scale of the energy challenge and the need for cooperation between historical rivals.

To be clear, the challenge is immense. In India, rapid economic growth has given birth to a middle class pushing 300 million strong – 10 million new cell phones are activated each month and 54 percent of the population remains under the age of 25. India needs a $350-billion investment in new electricity generation sources in just the next five years to keep up with energy demand. And India will need fuel from every source available – whether that’s natural gas from the U.S. or Myanmar, hydropower from Nepal or coal from Pakistan’s immense reserves in the Thar Desert.

But despite the real and obvious benefits presented by better trade relations and collaboration on the region’s staggering energy challenges, building the case for cooperation between suspicious rivals has proven exceedingly difficult. Security and stability in South Asia might very well hinge on the ability of governments to effectively educate their populations on both the scale of their energy challenges and the need to holster historical enmity and cooperate with regional neighbors. Just like in the U.S., tackling energy challenges is less a technology issue than a leadership issue. Let’s hope great communicators can emerge in South Asia and unify the region behind an energy policy that makes sense.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This Is Not Journalism

We often work with clients to help them prepare for public meetings and other information sessions where media are likely to attend. At one of these recent events I saw a reporting tactic that I have never before experienced. Minutes before this meeting began, a reporter handed out hundreds of business cards in the crowd with the following message hand written on the back:

This just blew me away. This was brazen controversy hunting. I am all for reporters keeping companies accountable and reporting the facts of a story so the public can be informed, but this is something else all together. When I started my career as a television reporter the influence of news consultants was beginning to shape the need for an investigative reporting team as a path to ratings success. I believe it is this ratings mindset that is driving newsrooms today to always have a controversial scoop whether one exists or not; even if it means using tactics like a handwritten note begging for a whistle blower. While not a clear breach of ethics, it is tacky.

(P.S. -- I won't name this reporter or the station he worked for, but I sure wanted to.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mission to Mars

You won’t find me in the stores come Black Friday. I’ll be riveted to the TV, watching NASA launch its latest mission to Mars. If all goes according to plan, the Mars Science Laboratory will lift off at 10:25 a.m. East Coast time on November 25, and arrive at Mars at roughly 10:00 p.m. West Coast time next August 5.

Though as an old space geek I’d probably watch anyway, I’m particularly invested in this mission. Laura Hermann and I traveled to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., recently (twice) to provide media training for a team of engineers responsible for getting MSL safely from the edge of the Martian atmosphere down to the planet's surface.

MSL will deliver the largest payload ever to the surface of another planet, the Curiosity rover. It’s about the size of a Mini Cooper, and it will look for signs that Mars once had – or currently has – the conditions necessary to sustain life. The NASA Langley engineers also will collect data on the spacecraft’s descent to the surface and use it to improve on future missions, both manned and unmanned.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a terrific video showing the spacecraft’s entry, descent and landing. It’s amazing what they can do on a planet tens of million miles away.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Long Live The Cloud

I am completely dependent on Dropbox. I quickly switch between my iPad, Iphone and PC working on important client deliverables and saving them in one place with ease. It is the power of cloud storage at its finest and, much like e-mail, Facebook and many other innovations before, I have trouble remembering a time when their wasn't a virtual drive available to me. Because of this addiction, and the fact that I am a sucker for a teasing headline, I couldn't help but share a link that caught my eye via Twitter from CNET.

4 Killer Dropbox Tricks

I am putting this on the blog today because, who doesn't want killer tricks? And secondly, because it is a great example of Twitter headline writing that can grab views. It is informational and promises value you can use if you only click on the link.

As communicators who are often tasked with creating catchy Twitter headlines for clients, we should remember to think about what catches our eye and apply this standard to our own social media approach.

If all else fails, add the word "killer" or "crazy" or some other equally outrageous term to your next post. It won't always work, but it will make you feel hip and relevant. See you in the cloud.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Innovation Takes Center Stage at the Polyurethanes 2011 Technical Conference

Courtesy of the
American Chemistry Council
We recently had the opportunity to support the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) on its Polyurethanes 2011 Technical Conference, which was held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. In the months leading up to the conference, we worked with both ACC and CPI staff to provide communications and media relations support.

The trade media in attendance were pleased with this year’s conference program and had the opportunity to interview several members of CPI leadership and other industry insiders. There will certainly be some great stories about this year’s conference in the coming weeks.

Courtesy of the
American Chemistry Council
After hearing about previous years’ conferences and anticipating the arrival of this year’s conference for several months, it was exciting to see the event come to life and work with both ACC and CPI staff onsite.

Congratulations to the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry and the American Chemistry Council on an outstanding event!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cameras in the Supreme Court?

Should our top court become a reality show?

That’s the way I see the issue raised most recently by Kenneth Starr (ex-independent counsel, now president of Baylor University) in a New York Times op ed yesterday. The court itself seems to believe that televising hearings would fundamentally change the nature of their proceedings. Justice Kennedy, for example, has testified that the justices themselves would inevitably start playing to the cameras, putting more emphasis on lively “sound bites” for the evening news, promoting their positions, than on serious questioning and consideration. Starr dismisses these concerns: “The idea that cameras would transform the court into “Judge Judy” is ludicrous.”

It may be a hard call, but to me it’s not just a difference of opinion. We have facts – a very relevant case study – to guide us. TV cameras began broadcasting the House of Representatives in 1979 and the Senate in 1986. Has anyone noticed any change of tone or style in our Congressional discourse since then?

Case closed.

- Potomac Communications Group

Friday, September 23, 2011

Little Trust in the Media - But Less in Business and Government

So, you work in the media, and you hear that by record numbers the public considers the media inaccurate, biased, influenced by powerful interests and even immoral. How do you live with yourself?
Easy, when you read a little deeper. Even with all this, the public still trusts the media more than business, government or politicians.
All this is from the Pew Research Center’s insightful View of the News Media, 1985-2011, just published. Among its important findings:

• More Americans think the news media are often inaccurate (66%), one-sided (77%) and easily influenced by powerful groups (80%) than ever before.
• Local news organizations are still highly trusted as a source of information (69%), with business (41%), Congress (37%) and political candidates (29%) falling far behind.
• TV is the main source of national and international news, maintaining essentially the same 20-point lead over the Internet that it enjoyed last year.
• The dominant news medium is cable TV – when Americans are asked to name a “news organization,” 63% cite a cable channel.
• 58% of Americans say that the media’s criticism of political leaders is worthwhile because it keeps them “from doing things that should not be done” – with essentially the same percentage among all political viewpoints.
• 27% at least sometimes get their news through Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites – increasing to 38% for those under 30.
• 42% - a record high – say that the press is “immoral,” but majorities also believe that the media try to do a good job and are highly professional.

It’s hard to know what to make of all this. But as an ex-journalist now working mainly for businesses, it’s painful, anyway you look at it.
- Potomac Communications Group

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Truth Shall Set You Free (I'm Talking to You Patriot's PR Pros)

Yesterday, Tom Brady, the all-world, super-model marrying, NFL MVP, football god quarterback for the New England Patriots was asked how fans can better support his team with some noise during this Sunday's home game. According to Yahoo Sports, his tongue in cheek answer was: "Yeah, start drinking early. [...] Get nice and rowdy. 4:15 game, lot of time to get lubed up. Come out here, and cheer for the home team."
Courtesy of Yahoo Sports
Whether or not you agree with Brady's sentiment, the video clearly shows he was making a joke. However, it was a little embarrassing for the team's ownership and so they decided to reach out to reporters and suggest that Brady was encouraging fans to stay hydrated. Ridiculous!

This kind of lame spin-doctoring just doesn't work. It is always the best PR policy to tell the truth and find a different way to work on your image.

The team could have easily said, "While we don't share all of Tom's thoughts, we echo his desire for our fans to show up and loudly cheer for the home team." That would have been the end of the story and this brief episode would have been kept brief  by utilizing the truth. The team's cover up effort has now made the story a brief internet sensation.

So what can we learn? Weak attempts to "spin doctor" embarrassing stories often leads to more pain, but the truth can set you free (eventually).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More and More, It's All About Social Media

So when people are hunched over their laptops, Ipads and smartphones, what are they really doing? Not reading online newspapers and magazines. A new report from Nielsen on the state of social media shows that more than ever, they’re focused on social networks and blogs. News and current events barely register:

Social networks and blogs 22.5%
Online games 9.8%
E-mail 7.6%
Portals 4.5%
Videos/movies 4.4%
Search 4.0%
Instant messaging 3.3%
Software manufacturers 3.2%
Classifieds/auctions 2.9%
Current events and news 2.6%

(All the rest, 35.1%, was labeled ‘Other,’ which includes sports, education, gambling, adult entertainment, etc.)

Other findings in the report:

• Nearly 40% access social media from mobile phones.
• The fastest growing demographic in using social media is the over-55 age group.
• We spend far more time on Facebook than any other website.
• Tumblr is coming on strong, nearly tripling its audience over the past year.

This report is a valuable snapshot, but the scene is changing fast. Check back.

- Potomac Communications Group

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When The World Shakes/Work Goes On

By now many of you know that Washington D.C. and the entire Eastern Seaboard was rocking and rolling this afternoon as a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the area. Downtown building managers evacuated everyone into the streets as you can see from the picture below. However, PCG workers stayed connected through iPhone hotspots and their iPads. Even a rumbler can't stop Apple.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Social Media and More in St. Louis

Here’s my headline coming out of the recent American Society of Association Executives annual meeting in St. Louis: Trade associations and professional societies are using social media tools to influence public policy in exciting new ways.

Social media allow associations and societies to activate their networks in response to public policy challenges essentially at the push of a “button.” One group representing military officers used Facebook to generate so many emails in such a short amount of time that it succeeded in knocking down a proposal to reduce military spouse benefits in a matter of days. A health care group had similar success against a proposed regulation they opposed, largely using Twitter.

In both cases, social media directed members to websites that allow visitors to type in their Zip codes and send custom or pre-written emails to their members of Congress (there are many such sites). The power of associations and the reach and speed of social media combine to create a very powerful tool.

The ASAE Annual Meeting attracted more than 5,300 attendees from across the country and more than 20 countries around the world. The city rolled out the red carpet, starting with fireworks, food and a concert by native son Michael McDonald (of Doobie Brothers fame) under the Gateway Arch and ending with a celebration along Washington Avenue.

If you’d like to catch up on what happened at the meeting, visit the ASAE website.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July Award for Honesty and Humility in the Media

As a native of Big D, I’m proud to give the award to the Dallas Observer. It carried a Page 1 article about the show Top Chef being taped in Dallas, then followed with this correction on its blog (about its description of Janis Burklund of the Dallas Film Commission):

Due to the author being a complete moron, an earlier version of this article misidentified Burklund as someone totally different. We regret the error, because getting the names of people right is definitely in the top 25 of Important Journalism-y Things.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The TODAY Show Features the Direct Selling Association

Congratulations to the Direct Selling Association (DSA) on the terrific coverage it received this week from The TODAY Show! The segment showed the vibrancy of the modern direct selling industry, highlighting the flexibility and fun of running your own business, while painting a realistic picture of the amount of work it takes to be successful.

PCG has worked with DSA for more than five years on an Image Enhancement Program, an integrated communications and marketing campaign designed to help change outdated perceptions of the direct selling business (think Mary Kay and Avon). The effort is paying off. As the TODAY segment noted, there are now more than 16 million direct sellers in the United States – a record number for the industry.

Watch the segment below to get a snapshot of the direct selling industry and an inside look at a home party. It may inspire you to attend a friend’s party or even to host one of your own.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

PCG Featured in Associations Now

It’s always nice to be recognized for a job well done. It happened to us recently in an article published in the monthly magazine of the American Society of Association Executives that recounts PCG’s recent work with the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS).

Trade associations and professional societies are looking for new ways to raise non-dues revenue, and new or expanded sponsorship opportunities are an increasingly popular option. CAS hired PCG to expand its offerings and develop an integrated approach that would provide existing sponsors with new opportunities and bring additional sponsors into the program.

“A smart new sponsorship strategy involves working collaboratively with interested sponsors to create bundled packages tailored to their budget, interest and market,” the article in Associations Now states. “CAS and PCG took this approach when it created the Society Partners Program two years ago. Offered on an annual basis, the program requires an upfront commitment and investment from sponsors, who can then select from a menu of media through which to deliver their messages.”

Our resident marketing expert, Senior Associate Marge Wasson, credits the success of the new CAS program to the fact that it makes the most of the Society’s assets and offers maximum flexibility for sponsors.

If you subscribe to Associations Now, we encourage you to read the full article by Jennifer J. Salopek in the June issue. Page 42.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

PCG Congratulates David & Kelly Cousineau on Birth of Baby Madeleine

A beautiful bundle of joy entered into the world this week. Madeleine Marie Cousineau, the daughter of PCG Project Director Kelly Cousineau and her husband, David, was born on June 20th at 2:47 p.m., weighing in at 7 pounds and 4.8 ounces.

Mommy and baby are doing well, and all of us at the office couldn’t be more excited for the Cousineaus. Congratulations to Kelly & David.

Exciting times are ahead and we look forward to meeting Madeleine soon.

Friday, June 10, 2011


We’re excited to have once again had the opportunity to work with the great team at the IEEE Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Technology (CPMT) Society on the Electronic Components and Technology Conference (ECTC). This year’s 61st annual conference was held May 31 through June 3 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in sunny (and already hot!) Orlando, Florida.
While we provide general marketing communications support for the conference, including promoting registration and calls for papers, another one of our major roles is to develop the branded CPMT luncheon. This luncheon, a special event in the ECTC conference program, is an opportunity for the Society to take a moment to honor the outstanding engineers and scientists who continue the profession’s progress into the future.

As part of our work with the luncheon, we develop a theme to make the luncheon memorable for the nearly 900 international attendees. This theme carries through the award recipients’ souvenir posters to the tchotchkes for luncheon attendees. Given that we were in Florida, the theme for this year’s luncheon was “The Majors.” Attendees had the opportunity to show off their golf knowledge with the branded CPMT presentation featuring golf trivia and facts – and good luck trying to find a CPMT golf ball by the time the luncheon was over! (Apparently we had some avid golfers in the room!)

One of our favorite parts about this conference is having the opportunity to talk with CPMT members and staff, especially those we’ve been working with frequently in the months and weeks leading up to the conference.

Here’s to another successful conference and CPMT luncheon – and watch out for those CPMT golf balls out on the links!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Introducing George Burke

Our newest team member is George Burke, who just joined us as Senior Program Manager. He seemed an ideal fit because of his trade association and public policy background. Before coming aboard he was public relations manager at the American Council of Life Insurers, and earlier spent five years on the Hill as press secretary for a New York State Congresswoman. He graduated from Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., with a degree in political science.

George was also a Division I baseball player in college, plays several instruments and is something of a serious cook. He is now attending culinary school part time.

Join us in welcoming George to the group. We think you’ll enjoy getting to know him.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Congratulations, Nathan!

We’re proud to announce that Nathan Petrillo, a Senior Program Manager at PCG, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Construction Writers Association for a two-year term. Nathan has deep roots in the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry, having spent most of his career providing support to organizations involved with the built environment. At PCG, he has provided communications services to construction-oriented trade associations and major commercial companies. In addition to his other talents, he is our go-to strategist and writer for projects related to energy, infrastructure, construction, engineering, STEM education and related issues.

CWA is a non-profit international organization that provides a forum for journalism, photography, marketing and communications professionals in all segments of the AEC industry to connect with other professionals and enhance skills through education.

Way to go, Nathan!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pinnacle Worldwide’s New Website

From our offices in Washington, D.C., PCG does a large amount of national and international work. To help us serve our geographically diverse client base, PCG belongs to a global network of independent public relations agencies called Pinnacle Worldwide.

Our Pinnacle membership gives us access to the best PR minds and resources in more than 40 cities around the world. We’re pleased to announce that Pinnacle has launched a revamped website at www.pinnacleww.com, which makes it easier for potential clients to learn about Pinnacle and its members.

The site was created and developed by Pinnacle member Bailey Gardiner, a creative marketing agency based in San Diego. “By focusing on the energy and thought leadership of Pinnacle’s members, the team at Bailey Gardiner was inspired to create a clean and vibrant new site,” said Chief Operating Officer Indra Gardiner.

In addition to expanded information on Pinnacle’s members, the new site highlights Pinnacle member blog postings and Twitter feeds. We encourage you to take a look, and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Traditional Press Turning to Social Media

We all know that print and broadcast journalists are rapidly turning to social media – not just as a source of information, but also as a way to enhance their own “brand” and distribute their coverage beyond their normal outlet. Thanks to a new study, the 3rd Annual Survey of the Media in the Wired World, we now know just how fast this is happening.

The new study, by the Society of New Communications Research and Middleberg Communications, found that over 90% of the 200 journalists they interviewed said they had increased their reliance on social media over the past year. And what social media tools are they using? The full range:

Company websites 78%
Facebook 75%
Blogs 70%
Twitter 69%
Online video 54%
Wikipedia 53%
LinkedIn 31%
Citizen photos 10%

Other key findings:
• 69% use Smartphones to help with their reporting.
• 69% use Twitter in their reporting (up 21% from 2010).
• 66% believe that in the age of social media, “scoops” are more important than ever.
• 49% manage a work-related Twitter account.
• 39% have their own blogs.
• 31% contribute to social networking sites.
• 64% believe that Twitter helps journalists create their own personal brands.

Still – and this is important – the vast majority prefer to be contacted by traditional channels: 53% prefer receiving emails, and 34% prefer phone calls. What percentage prefers to be contacted via Twitter?

Try 1%. So there’s still a big role for the tried and true, at least as media input.
- Potomac Communications Group

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi – A Teachable Moment for Nuclear Energy Communicators

Earlier this month, I conducted a workshop at the American Nuclear Society Annual Student Conference in Atlanta on how to speak with the public about nuclear energy. In the wake of the events at the Fukushima Daiichi, I presented information on recent trends in public opinion (hat tip to Ann Bisconti of Bisconti Research, Inc.) along with trends after the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents.

After TMI, public support for new nuclear energy plants rose for three years. Why? We needed the energy, and the Iranian revolution a few months later brought that message clearly to the public. After a brief initial dip after Chernobyl, public support for new nuclear energy rose to 52% a month later. Another common thread – each of these events presented the nuclear energy industry with a teachable moment, and the industry stepped up.

But the events at Fukushima Daiichi present a real challenge. Although it withstood one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, along with a 70-foot wall of water, it has experienced explosions and radioactive emissions that have contaminated the area around the plant. We can’t say, as we did with Chernobyl, “our light water reactor technology will contain any radiation,” because it didn’t.

The workshop generated a lot of passionate discussion among the participants. And we came to a few conclusions. First, our independent regulator, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, gives nuclear power plant operations in the U.S. a high level of credibility. We need to cite the NRC’s rigorous oversight. Second, our near-term messaging must focus on safety – what we’re learning from Fukushima Daiichi, our operating record, and the steps each nuclear power plant operator is taking (or has taken) to make sure that its plant(s) operate safely regardless of the severity of any external events. Third, we need to focus on the benefits of nuclear energy – clean air energy that can be generated here in the U.S., adding to our nation’s energy security.

Two hours after it began, participants left the workshop ready to step up to the teachable moment that Fukushima Daiichi presents. They recognized that it is their moment to make a positive difference in the conversation about nuclear energy in the U.S., and are now armed with the information to make it so.

For those who are interested in a post about the entire conference, don’t miss Rod Adams’ terrific piece in his Atomic Insights blog. Many thanks to Rod for permission to use his photo of conference participants. http://atomicinsights.com/2011/04/ans-student-members-express-excitement-about-nuclear-technologies.html

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Snapshot of the Rapidly Changing News Media

We’re a little late in flagging this, but the best annual report on “The State of the News Media” has been released for 2010, providing an invaluable snapshot of the radical changes taking place in the way Americans receive their news. The report is a publication of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The chart on the right shows the basic changes that took place last year: every news medium saw its audience shrink (cable by nearly 14%) except online, which grew by more than 17%. For the first time, more Americans said they got their news at least three times a week from online sources than from newspapers (46% to 40%). Only local TV news had a bigger following (50%).

Other highlights:

• Nearly half of all Americans – 47% - get at least some of their local news on cellphones or other mobile devices.
• Despite audience trends, revenues grew for every news medium except one, daily newspapers. Leading the list was local TV, which registered an increase of 17%, followed by online, about 14%. Newspapers saw their revenues shrink by over 6%.
• For the first time ever, advertisers spent more money online (over $25 billion) than on print ads.
• Newspapers laid off another 1,000 to 1,500 reporters and editors, leaving their news staffs 30% smaller than they were in 2000.

Structurally, the Pew report says that the most important change taking place in the news media is the shift in control – from journalists to software programmers, content aggregators and device makers that connect with the public and control the audience data that is key to communicating in an online world.

The report includes a fascinating interactive page that will let you pick the media and the topic to learn the extent of the coverage in 2010. Check it out.

- Potomac Communications Group

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hosting the Italians

PCG recently had the honor of hosting a group of southern Italian businessmen and women who were touring the United States as part of the State Department International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The program, which began during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, has brought hundreds of thousands of foreign professionals to the United States to learn about the American way of doing business and to meet new friends and potential colleagues. Many future leaders, including Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, participated at one time.

We were happy to meet them for many reasons. One owns a solar photovoltaic company and is having trouble with siting issues, despite Italy’s push to develop more renewable energy. Another participant is an architect who produces major events and exhibits, and we were delighted when he admired our offices. They brought along two translators, so we had a chance to practice the pace of simultaneous translation – good for a firm like ours that’s doing more international business.

After visiting us, the group left D.C. for stops in Silicon Valley, Sacramento, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Albany and New York City before heading home. We wish them well – and if any of them becomes prime minister of Italy, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Distinguished Speaker?

Last week I gave a speech to about 80 people at the U.S. Department of Transportation. I was invited as a “distinguished speaker” to honor National Women’s History Month.

My charge was to talk about my career and give the audience insights about how to navigate the many shoals that one encounters over a long career. Although I give talks to many groups, I’m not used to – or particularly comfortable with – talking about myself. So, this was a real challenge for me.

Camille Hazeur, Director of the Office of Civil Rights for U.S. Department of Transportation, gave me the advice that I give clients – tell stories. And so I did. I talked about the six women who were managers and professionals in 1973 at Westinghouse’s 23-story headquarters building … about the company’s all-female financial communications team in 1997 (we spanned legal, finance, investor relations and PR, and we all were #2s in our organizations) … and on to the C-level women that we support today in our client relationships. Yes, the world has changed.

I told of some of the ethical challenges I encountered … how I almost took the wrong job (one in administration) because it was a two-step jump in grade and salary ... the day I met the executive who became my mentor, and how I insulted him by asking if he had ever thought of getting help with his presentations. (He soon asked for help.) These stories and many, many more.

I spoke for about 20 minutes and took questions for the rest of the hour. Camille tells me that her office has gotten many emails and phone calls of appreciation for my little talk. The feedback is nice, and I had a lot of fun meeting so many great folks from all the branches of DOT.

So what have I learned over the decades of my career? In a nutshell … Make friends. You’ll need them. Avoid making enemies.
  • Find a great mentor, who you believe in and who believes in you.
  • Know what you really want to do/be and don’t get distracted.
  • Do the right thing. This isn’t always easy, but it’s really important.
  • Speak truth to power. There’s a way to do this tactfully. Most executives know that they’re insulated, so they appreciate it.
  • Hard work pays off – in two ways: what you learn, what your management sees.
  • Let management and opinion leaders know what you’re doing and the results you’re delivering.
And what did I learn about communications? We give good advice to our clients. If you tell stories about real people, you’ll engage an audience.

Finally, I learned something interesting about DOT. (Actually there are many interesting things about DOT – the FAA, Maritime Administration, Railroad Administration, etc.) The Maritime Administration is the owner of the Nuclear Ship Savannah, a national historic landmark in Baltimore,which is being decommissioned. So you see, there are nuclear reactors and nuclear experts in the most unexpected places.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

30 Years of Helping Associations and Societies

Since it’s our 30th anniversary year, we’re occasionally using this blog to turn the spotlight on ourselves. Today, let me focus it on one of our strongest practice areas – our work with trade associations, professional societies and non-profit coalitions.

Over the years we’ve worked for more than 125 “501(c)” organizations, as we call them, based on their tax code designation – from many of the most influential in the country, like the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to important niche associations like the Envelope Manufacturers Association Foundation and the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, to a wide range of professional and technical societies, such as the American Physical Society, the International Association of Forensic Nurses and the Reserve Officers Association.

Just this year alone our 501(c) clients cover the waterfront – from the Solar Electric Power Association to the Construction Specifications Institute, from the Direct Selling Association to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, from the Snack Food Association to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. They represent important industries and professions, and we are proud to be associated with them.

Our services for them also cover a wide range: marketing and positioning, strategic communications planning, media outreach, speeches and editorial products, graphics and design, social media, crisis management and helping reach decision-makers on key public policy issues. We work hard to understand the communications and marketing challenges facing associations, and to have the capabilities that will help them succeed.

One of our proudest measurements of success with associations is the long-term relationship we have maintained with many of them, despite management changes, industry upheavals and ever-evolving communications technologies. As examples, we have worked for the IEEE Components, Packaging, and Manufacturing Technology Society for a decade, for the National Fenestration Rating Council for 15 years, and for the Edison Electric Institute – off and on, with projects almost every year – since 1981, our very first year in business.

The 501(c) world is a huge one. It includes over ninety thousand 501(c)(6) trade associations and well over a million 501(c)(3) societies. The Washington metropolitan area is the home of most national trade associations, but tens of thousands of other associations and societies operate across the country. We have been fortunate to with leading 501(c) organizations not just in the DC area, but also in over a dozen other states, from Connecticut to California (including Texas, I'm proud to point out). We’ve also been active with the American Society of Association Executives – serving on committees and speaking at conferences – to help us stay on top of the issues facing associations and savvy about their best practices. With 30 years under our belt, we like to think we're succeeding.

- Potomac Communications Group