Posts Tagged ‘Shonali Burke’

I remember the time I went through my first fire drill. I was finger painting in kindergarten and having a good ole time.  No doubt I was probably doing what I thought to be a rendition of Hong Kong Phooey or the Lone Ranger(both great heroes in their own right, in my humble opinion).

I was so shocked by the noise and the flurry of activity that I began to wipe the paint on my clothes to hurry myself outside. And of course, then came the questions from my mom: “What happened to your clothes?”

Fire drills are important – they get kids used to the idea of orderly exits in case of an emergency and ultimately aim to keep them safe.

In the business of communications, the need for a “fire drill” can be equated to needing a crisis plan in place. Although not quite as simple as school’s fire drill, having a crisis plan serves the same purpose: to keep everyone in the company (including its reputation) safe.

Not everyone agrees with this… before it hits the fan, that is.

Tiger Woods took things into his own hands by saying NOTHING when he had his accident not too long ago. He avoided the press, refused to make a statement and just stayed out of sight. This kind of attitude BEFORE this incident made him come off as mysterious or unattainable – like a hard-to-get kind of prospect. Not realizing that his circumstances were quite as big as they were, this same demeanor made him look like he was hiding something…

…or guilty of something.

You can also see this kind of attitude with the current housing crisis. A lot of builders went into duck-n-cover mode – quite a PASSIVE move if you ask me. Especially since this kind of climate serves as a great opportunity for homebuilders to identify themselves as homeowners, reconsider their plans and RETHINK their efforts – not pull back. The smart brands kept their chips in: they stayed in the game with different messages, new incentives and, ultimately made themselves part of the conversation.

I can go into other examples, but… you get the point.

Keeping all this in mind, following are my top tips for whenever you have to develop a crisis management plan.

1. Prepare contingency plans – like we did as kids with the fire drills, we have to

  • Know what to do.
  • How to do it.
  • When.
  • How to behave.

2. Move swiftly; unlike Tiger and BP, this is no time to hide out or “ride the storm.”

  • Take charge of the situation by making yourself the focal point.
  • Speak with the press.
  • Use your online presence.

3. Adapt & change; keep yourself loose and flexible. Things happen, and change, in times like these: long hours…emotions.

4. Give accurate & correct information.

  • Don’t provide “shades” of the truth.
  • Keep it real.
  • Be a resource.

5. Be yourself – people and the press respond to a human being that is both emotional and rational. Plus, it immediately humanizes and puts a face to the situation.

What other tips would you recommend?  How have your “fire drills” helped your clients?


This post was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the wonderfully savvy and smart Shonali Burke.


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Play that funky music

I’ve said it before, but I’m gonna say it again: I’m a bit of a music freak.

Anytime I can take some time away (be it in business or pleasure) to jam out to a good tune or two, I’m a happy camper. It could be Marvin Gaye, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Kid Koala or a studio performance by John Legend & The Roots – I don’t care.

If it’s got a good vibe, I’m there.

There’s a lot you can learn from musicians and their music: they can help express a thought or feeling in 4 minutes or less; the right song can lift your mood on a bad day; and a band has the ability to rally an organization to an important cause with a fitting melody.

They can also help drive home an important point in business.

If you’ve seen Some Kind of Monster, Metallica may not be the first band you think of when you consider “equality,” especially since the film depicts the group in the midst of a huge crisis.

The big thing I get from the film (aside from the drama) is that, like a romantic comedy, the players emerged from that experience much stronger, closer and wiser. And in the case of Metallica, much more democratic.

And even though the funky and powerful Robert Trujillo plays the role of bassist in Metallica, he does not let it define him.

More importantly, the band does not allow Robert to be defined by this role.

As the video shows, James & Kirk didn’t shush him away when Robert started playing a six-stringer. They did quite the opposite: the other members of Metallica not only heard him play, these guys collaborated on how to ‘Metallica-lize’ it for their sound. They threw something heavy n’ hard down together with “the bass player” as partners… kinda like a real band.

Go figure.

Supervisors/Managers/Directors/VPs: we’re still in a bit of a workforce-money pinch. As a result, you’re probably piling on some additional duties to your team; they’re working longer hours and getting paid the same (or less) salary. You’re probably in the same boat: trying to wrangle new business, handle existing clients, mentor, etc. and getting weary just thinking about it. It’s not a great scenario. You know it; I know it.

Consider this: instead of allowing the ‘leader’ role to define you, why not lead with your team?

  • Just because someone works in a different group doesn’t mean that they may not add some value. Chances are, if they are eager, they may actually have something worth exploring. You can’t get fresh ideas from a burnt out team.
  • Those volunteers you’re working with may see something on the street or have a chance conversation with a friend that can shine a light in an area that (for some reason) you and your team have been missing.
  • That “kid” who just graduated from college may blurt out something that could turn the tide for a vital client. I’ve see it happen at various agencies (large and small) way more often than you may think.

Who knows… you may have a flamenco artist in your midst.

When was the last time you were jolted by a fantastic concept from an unusual source? What has been the most “surprising find” in your group?


This post was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the wonderfully savvy and smart Shonali Burke.

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This past week, I gave a presentation to the Dallas IREM group about the importance of giving the implementation of social networking a second look.  Before I set foot at the place, I knew that the crowd I was going to speak with would be


  • a bit more conservative

  • a bit more skiddish about getting involved with social networking

  • a bit more unaware (than the ‘average bear’) on how this tool can potentially help them

  • a bit older than the average audience I’m used to speaking with

But I knew that they’d be open to hearing me out and taking notes……cautiously. 


So, I did what I knew: I told them that one of the best ways to tap into social media could be done by channeling Jimi Hendrix (you can see a copy of the unanimated version here).


At first glance, you’d think I was crazy for trying to do such a thing for this kind of audience.  Quite frankly, it got me a little nervous presenting this information in that kind of way.  But my experience and instincts told me 3 things:

  1. Music is a great way to help the social networking medicine go down.

  2. Using Jimi Hendrix as an example would get ME revved up.

  3. Using Jimi Hendrix would (hopefully) get THE AUDIENCE revved up.


And it paid off: not only was the audience engaged, but they really began to grasp what I was telling em.’  Go figure. 


So what does this all mean for you?  Whether you’re writing materials for a new client, gearing up for a new business pitch or hammering out some facts for a presentation to your peers…


Know Your Audience: the fact that they were there to hear some dude talk about social media points to the obvious fact that they are at least curious about it; so there’s room for being a little ‘different.’  I also knew that I was going to be part of one of the last presenters for the day, so I had to punch up the presentation.  Given the fact that the audience was a bit older, I bet on the idea that they would not only know who Jimi Hendrix was, but (at the very least, even if they didn’t like his music) that there was a certain amount f respect for what he did.


Know What Works For You: the idea of presenting to an audience about how his music inspired me  to think a little differently in business got me excited – this led to an energy and enthusiasm to ‘get it right’ in a way that naturally seeped into the slides.  I wasn’t going to talk analytics or measurement (Shonali Burke, Chuck Hemann, K.D. Paine or Don Bartholomew would be better suited for that) – I was going to hone in on showing the value of a person using ‘their own swing’ when they go up to bat in social networking.


Know Your Stuff: as you get ready to speak with a client; present an idea to your peers; or talk about why you believe why using something like Foursquare may be just the ticket for an event, you want to have some back-up right?  Because people are going to ask questions.  Why do you think this will benefit us?  How are other organizations using this?  Do you have any stats or research to back this up?


Because at the end of the day, you don’t have to be a rock star like Jimi Hendrix to have that kind of influence – even if it’s on a ‘small’ scale.


This post was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the wonderfully savvy and smart Shonali Burke.

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Last week, we went to see a live show at one of our favorite spots around Dallas.  We like it because the atmosphere is a little laid back and the bands that they book are pretty solid.  This night was no exception – the music was interesting and the overall performance was enjoyable.

At least the part of the performance that we caught.

You see, the sound levels were just WAY OFF.  Even though we witnessed one of the band members ‘test’ their levels to a point that was satisfactory (to them); and even though they asked for some corrections on their levels during the show….they never quite made it work.  In fact, the more they fussed around with it all, the worse it got.

It’s not like they had their microphones on backwards (yes….backwards)…

But the sound quality was so bad, we ended up leaving after four songs…..and we weren’t the only ones leaving.

Here’s the thing, PR pros: we don’t work around with sound levels or do mic-checks before a show.  But we do serve the ‘roadie’ role from time-to-time by providing support for a ‘featured act.’  This could come in the form of

  • making copies for a client presentation
  • getting an editorial calendar for a pitch
  • physically cutting-and-pasting a news article to make it look nice for a client that may not have access to the piece itself 

These ‘little’ things go an exceedingly long way when done right.


Because if any of those ‘little’ things come out sloppy, EVERYONE in your team (top to bottom) looks sloppy.  And you lose trust.  Rightfully so.  Would YOU trust your money; your time; your IDENTITY with a team that can’t handle being a ‘roadie’ from time to time…?

Roadies make shows happen.  Plain and simple.  Doesn’t matter how great your music is – if you don’t have someone handling your equipment, levels, lights, etc. correctly, your only prepping for a bad show.


This post was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the wonderfully savvy and smart Shonali Burke.

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Filmmakers come and go – some have the staying power to make a real career out of it, while most fizzle out after a few films.  As a lead player in cinema, until you’ve earned some street cred in the business, studios and executives look for any kind of upward trend in your work – even though you were well-received in your last feature, you could very well tank (hard) in your next flick.  This is why veterans always tell newcomers that you’re only as good as your last picture. 

One filmmaker that has earned his stripes (and then some) is Martin Scorsese.  He has not only made a career out his cinematic ventures, Mr. Scorsese has made his name synonymous with brilliant movies.  And even though he’s got some interesting eccentricities like never really wanting to go to Central Park and is listed as one of 50 people barred from entering Tibet, Martin Scorsese can teach us a thing or two in PR.

Martin Scorsese is

  • a consummate student – his knowledge of films is encyclopedic and his mastery of various techniques is remarkable…the guy served a tour of duty at NYU and taught the likes of Oliver Stone and Spike Lee.  Moreover, Mr. Scorsese’s love of films has led him to establish The Film Foundation to promote the preservation and appreciation of film history.

Regardless where you may be in your career, there is ALWAYS time to learn something new in PR.  Yes, you have to stick to the basic tenets of public relations…and, yes, you have to be a strong writer…but there will always be a new way to skin that communications cat – it’s our job to find out how we can leverage their power for our company / client(s) and be smart about using these tools…wisely.

Be it from our clients, bosses, colleagues, whatever – working in PR can be a bit stressful.  There’s a lot to handle and it has to be done in a timely manner – now more than ever.  Who the heck has time to breathe…?…YOU DO.  This is not rocket science and it’s not like we’re working on a cure to end world hunger.  Yes, it’s important, and yes, there is a great deal of value that we bring to the table; but the work we do is not so imperative that you can’t take a break or get some perspective by having a laugh or two at your own expense.

  • always trying new things in his work – from directing Michael Jackson’s Bad video, to a film like The Age of Innocence and then onto Casino takes a tremendous amount of stretching…not only from the dynamics of the actors he had to work with, but from a storytelling perspective as well. 

Hold fast to the tried and true methods of communicating your ideas, both internally and externally; but explore these new social media devices that are well within your reach.  Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, CrowdCampaign – they are easy to use, manageable and effective in communicating your client’s / company’s message.


So go out there and be the ‘Good Fella’ in your PR team.  Keep refining your methods & approach… never get ‘too big for your britches’ and keep yourself in ‘sponge mode’ – there’s always more to do in the Scorsese School of PR.


This post was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the very savvy and smart Shonali Burke.  I want to thank Shonali for opening up her readers to some Method + Moxie, as well as sharing some ‘real estate’ online.  I look forward to working with her again (in any capacity) in the very near future.

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