Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Russ Dawson's Retirement

In addition to celebrating our 30th anniversary this month, January has brought us another major milestone – but this time, a more bittersweet one. Russ Dawson – one of our Partners and a great friend and colleague for the past 20 years – is retiring, marking the first retirement in PCG’s history.

Russ joined us in 1990 from EPA, where he had served as press secretary to the Administrator, Lee Thomas, and then deputy director of the office of public affairs. He headed EPA’s media and communications related to some of the biggest environmental stories of our time, from Chernobyl to the Exxon Valdez.

Here at PCG, Russ led the way into a broader environmental communications practice. He helped major clients manage such sensitive issues as electric and magnetic fields, toxic release inventory and climate change. He also became a recognized expert in risk communication, combining the academic findings with the needs of real-world communications practice. Under his leadership, we have trained dozens of corporations and government agencies – including several who have flown to Washington from other countries for the training – in how to discuss issues when the audience is skeptical because of perceived environmental, health or financial risks.

Russ will now focus more on other interests, including the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., where he proudly sits on the Board of Trustees. And we expect to see him regularly, along with his wife Charlotte, in the office and after-hours.

For all of you who know Russ, join us in wishing him the best.

- Potomac Communications Group

Friday, January 14, 2011

Happy Birthday To Us

I’m proud to note that this month marks the 30th anniversary of Potomac Communications Group. In January 1981 – the month Ronald Reagan was sworn in – my late partner Ellen Lepper and I hung out our shingle in two small rental offices, with two rented IBM Selectrics. We had come from energy trade associations, during the oil crises of the ‘70s, and our goal was to help clients involved with energy, technology and the environment communicate their messages more effectively to their target audiences.

Well, here we are 30 years later – still going strong, I’m happy to report. Over the years we have expanded our practice areas considerably, into science and engineering, construction and infrastructure, risk-related industries and the full range of associations and professional societies. And our client roster has been made up of major blue-chip corporations, associations and government offices throughout the United States and several other countries.

So when we pause to look back, it truly is a happy birthday.

In the coming months, from time to time we’ll offer some recollections and lessons we learned since 1981. But for now, let me just present some basic numbers, proudly, that provide a glimpse of Our First 30 Years:

Clients Served
Corporations and privately owned companies: 225
Associations, coalitions and professional societies: 132
Federal, state and local government agencies: 21
Education, science and research organizations: 32
Charities and cultural organizations: 10

Loyalty and Stability
Number of management changes: 1 (to our current structure of 5 Partners)
Number of clients in 1981 that are still our clients: 3
Average number of years every staffer has been with us: 9

Number of cups of coffee drunk here every day: 28, when Andy is out of town
Number of cups of coffee drunk here every day: 39, when Andy is here

- Potomac Communications Group

Friday, January 7, 2011

2010 Milestones in the Media Revolution

The media revolution continued in 2010, and when you stop to think about it, continued to be astonishing. Here are some major milestones, as reflected in year-end reports, that are reshaping journalism, public affairs and all communications.

Year of Facebook. Hollywood paid tribute with The Social Network, which is high on the list of Oscar favorites, and Time magazine followed suit by naming Mark Zuckerberg its Person of the Year. But even more historic: Facebook topped Google as the most visited website in the country, pulling in 8.9% of all website traffic compared with 7.2% for Google. Amazing.

The Time profile of Zuckerberg shows that the radical impact of Facebook goes far beyond its size and reach. It's creating a post-Google Web that is changing the way people connect and work around the world. Instead of an anonymous jungle filled with howling strangers, which is how the Web was evolving, 600 million Facebook users now enter a world of friends, contacts, referrals and recommendations. "It's a shift from the wisdom of crowds to the wisdom of friends," says (Sheryl) Sandberg (Facebook’s COO). "It doesn't matter if 100,000 people like x. If the three people closest to you like y, you want to see y." And it’s becoming a primary channel for reaching Americans of all ages.

Gaining on TV. The Web continued to gain on television as the primary source of news for most Americans. Only three years ago, the public favored TV news by a huge margin, 74% to 24%. By the end of last year, the gap was 66% to 41% - still sizable, but down by half and rapidly shrinking. A new study by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press showed that 31% of the public cite newspapers as their primary source for national and international news, and 16% radio. (Respondents could cite two primary sources.)

Web Ads Top Newspapers. And in another historic milestone, for the first time websites took in more advertising money in 2010 than newspapers. Early reports indicated that online ads grew by nearly 14%, to about $26 billion, while newspapers suffered an 8% drop, to about $23 billion (not counting their on-line editions).

We know we are living in a revolutionary era. Reports like these show how fast the changes are coming, and how radically they’re changing our world. Hang on.

- Potomac Communications Group