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Archive for Miscellaneous’ Category


Comments Off on Ed’s Reflection on the RNC

Ed’s Reflection on the RNC

I am very proud of my city and my state. After witnessing our first major sports championship in Cleveland after more than 50 years, we have witnessed another event of extraordinary magnitude. It’s the Republican National Convention.

With the sadness of police ambushes in Dallas, Baton Rouge and elsewhere in our minds, the song of Blue Lives matter broke through along with demonstrations of love for the three thousand police who protected the Quicken Loans Arena from danger.

The beauty of our skyline from the apron near the Rock and Hall of Fame greeted the delegates for a first evening of music, great food and breathtaking views that define our metropolis.

No matter what we may think of the Republican candidate, we should all recognize that our venue and the Trump show captured the attention of the United States and the world with media from all over the globe and audiences who have a chance to discover whether the messages and candidate resonate with them.

Where will our country be one year from today? How safe will our world be? What will the economy look like? How well will small businesses be doing? Will it make a difference to have an outsider become president? Or should we stick with the establishment?

A bit of history.  In 1924 and again in 1936, Cleveland hosted Republican National Conventions. In the second election, Calvin Coolidge won in 1924; Alf Landon lost in 1936. What will happen this year?

Cleveland rolled out the red carpet to over 50,000 people. We revel in the fact they enjoyed their time here. When I switch from CNN or Fox to watch our beloved baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, on our sports channel, I find they are still on a path to the World Series.  Cleveland will never be the same.

-Edward M. Stevens, APR+M

Chairman & CEO, Stevens Strategic Communications, Inc

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Comments Off on Accessorizing a Laptop Computer for your Desk

Accessorizing a Laptop Computer for your Desk

Diagram Depicting Proper Posture For Sitting at a DeskHow many of us sit hunched over a laptop computer’s small screen and tiny keyboard all day long? Then we wonder where those aches in our shoulders and cramps in our hands come from at the end of the day. Laptops have become ubiquitous in businesses, but they aren’t the most comfortable to use for extended periods of time. When used on top of desks, the keyboard is too high and the display is too low for good posture. Those posture recommendations for desktop computers are in the back of our minds, but they are more challenging to implement with laptops.

That’s why if you’re going to purchase a laptop for its portability, make room on your desk and in your budget for more than just the laptop:

– A mouse and a keyboard with a numeric keypad will minimize cramped hands. If you go the wireless (Bluetooth) route, be sure to tuck some spare batteries in your desk drawer. Check Dell and Logitech for mouse and keyboard combos. (What works for laptops can also be applied to tablet computers. One of those tablet cases with a fold-up stand and a wireless keyboard makes typing easier.)

– Remember those typing stands with adjustable height? Along those same lines, we need the computer’s keyboard lower than the desktop. Consider a keyboard drawer mounted under your desk. Try one from 3M or Fellowes.

– One method to raise a laptop display is to use a cooling pad or stand. These come with fans to circulate air better than the small fans inside laptops. Remember, heat is the enemy of all electronic devices. If the fans in your laptop sound like a jet taking off, try a cooling pad from Cooler Master or Targus, among others.

– A wide-screen LCD monitor with adjustable height is essential for your viewing pleasure, perhaps something in the 21.5- to 24-inch range with 1920×1080 resolution. It can be configured to be the only active screen, or to mirror your laptop’s display or as a second screen, letting you expand your virtual desktop. For example, you can keep an email inbox displayed on the laptop and flip among windows for Word, Excel and an Internet browser on the big LCD monitor. To minimize head bobbing, elevate the laptop so the two screens are at the same level. There are many manufacturers of computer monitors. Dell, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and LG are the worldwide market leaders.

– To tie everything together, consider a laptop docking station. They are convenient in that you just snap on a laptop and the power and peripheral connections are already made, at least if you buy a docking station and compatible laptop from the same manufacturer. With third-party “universal” docking stations, you must connect some of the cables yourself. Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba and other business laptop manufacturers carry docking stations. Third-party brands include Kensington and Targus.

Once you’ve accessorized a laptop for use on your desk, think about buying a smaller laptop. You won’t need a 15- to 17-inch laptop display when using an external LCD monitor. Look for laptops with displays in the 11- to 14-inch range. That will make lugging it back and forth between work and home easier on your shoulders. And avoiding aching shoulders is where we started this discussion!

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Comments Off on Teaching Old Dogs: Keeping Your Computer Files Organized

Teaching Old Dogs: Keeping Your Computer Files Organized

A Group in a Dog Park

A recent Web story about the letters assigned to computer drives made us feel like old dogs. Some of us remember that day at work when a computer was plopped on our desk and we were told to start using it. Training, what training? Everything was learn-as-you-go and a bunch of Post-it notes stuck on the desktop monitor to remember it all. With another Post-it under the keyboard for our logon password we were set, or so we thought.

We learned enough about Windows to get by and nothing more. We didn’t learn the easiest and fastest way to accomplish a task on a computer; we learned one way and stuck with it. And years later we’re still stuck with it. Some of us picked up these bad habits:

– We don’t use folders enough. Folders are for organizing computer files just like the folders in a file cabinet. Name them for projects or clients or months or whatever scheme works for you. Also, use folders to organize Web browser bookmarks (favorites) and your e-mail inbox.

– We put file icons on our desktop so we can find them quickly. But what happens when the whole desktop is covered with icons? Good luck finding that file! It’s better to use the My Documents or Documents folder with subfolders.

– We store items in the Recycle Bin or Trash. Do you only need to keep that interim file until the project is complete? Make a desktop folder called “delete later” or something along those lines. That will prevent accidental deletion of the interim file when emptying the Recycle Bin or Trash.

– We use the browser history to remember Web sites. This isn’t a good idea. For one thing, the browser history is long and organized by date. For another, bookmarks can be easily transferred to a new computer and the browser history cannot.

– We don’t back up files. That presentation you just spent all day creating is worth a lot of time. Don’t forget to put a backup somewhere, whether on a network drive, in a cloud account, on a flash drive, or as an attachment in an e-mail to yourself.

– All of us could benefit from a refresher course in computer usage or a course to learn a new program. If your company doesn’t provide what you need, check out the local library, vocational school or community college. And, there are video tutorials on the Web for just about any topic. If you have a Microsoft or Apple retail store nearby, take advantage of the training classes they offer.

We might be old dogs but we need to learn new tricks!

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Comments Off on Media Training Helps You Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Media Training Helps You Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking


In most polls taken, fear of public speaking is rated the number one phobia. For the majority of us, standing up in front of a group to speak causes great anxiety.

How many times have you witnessed someone melt down in front of the press? Reporters are shouting questions. Bright lights from camera news crews may be blinding you. There might even be a heckler causing a disturbance. So, how do you relax those sweaty palms, wobbly knees and get your heart rate to slow down?  Media training.

Practice and preparation are the best way to overcome these potential obstacles. Stevens Strategic Communications has trained numerous CEOs, politicians and civic leaders how to best prepare for a media event. During our workshops, we literally set up what looks like a live event in our studio complete with lights, a podium and reporters in the audience asking you questions. Prior to the pseudo-news event, we’ll train you on things such as professional appearance, delivery, what to say and what not say, shaping your message and more.

What we’ve discovered is that with practice, every speaker becomes more polished and confident. If you or anyone at your firm wants to become a better public speaker, we encourage you to sign up for our Media Training Workshop. In less than a half day, we’ll help you overcome any public speaking phobias you might have. You’ll leave feeling confident and excited about the next opportunity to address an audience of any size.

–David Walker, SSC President

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Comments Off on Stop the Dumbing Down of Taking Pictures

Stop the Dumbing Down of Taking Pictures

Camera App
It seems everywhere you look these days someone is snapping a photo. It could be at the playground with a picture of children on the swings, or in a restaurant with a photo of a just-served meal, or at the beach at the end of the day to catch the sunset. Then we post them online to share with our family and friends. Having a pocket camera or cell phone at the ready is one aspect of good photography, but that is just the beginning. Here are some next steps:

– Learn the basics – Composition, lighting, exposure, framing, focus, flash and more are all things that make for a good photo. The photo of Prince William, his wife Catherine and their new born Prince George discussed on CNN.com needs help with the basics. The grandfather of Prince George could use a few lessons.

– Know your camera – Read the manual and find out what all those symbols mean on the function dial. Experiment with different camera settings (e.g., panoramic photos with an iPhone). Also know your camera’s limitations. The pros carry big cameras and lenses for a reason.

– Use a photo-editing program – Learn how to fix the easy problems. Photoshop is probably overkill, but Photoshop Elements, Google’s Picasa, Apple’s iPhoto, and Pixelmator are good for amateurs. You can color correct, change resolution and exposure, crop and size, and more to make a good photo better.

– Self edit – Use moderation when posting photos. Don’t make us wade through a hundred photos to see a handful of good ones.

– Print the good ones – At family gatherings, do you pass around your phone or camera or show photos on a big screen TV? Don’t forget to go to the drugstore and make some prints. Grandma and grandpa want something for their refrigerator door without jumping through the hoops of online ordering.

– Lower the resolution – Now that even cell phones have high-resolution cameras, we receive multi-megabyte images in email attachments. While you’re editing the photos, lower the resolution to something more reasonable. For viewing on a computer screen, a 4×6 image at 72 ppi is fine. The Photoshop guru, Scott Kelby, says 150 ppi is plenty for printing photos up to 10×14 on an inkjet printer. Only if the photo is for print publication is 300 ppi common.

As for those food pics and sunsets, at least learn how to do them better. But don’t get us started on posting endless selfies to Facebook!

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Comments Off on Keeping Clients Happy

Keeping Clients Happy

Illustration of Handshake

Relationship.  Relationship. Relationship.

In the public relations world, it’s not location, but relationship that counts at almost everything you do.  And, if you are part of a public relations agency, it starts with client satisfaction.  Without great clients and your relationships with them, you cannot be successful. At Stevens Strategic, our team has served many of our clients for more than 20 years, even over 30 years.

When it comes to client service, there are a few things that drive the process.

1.        Listen.

A long time ago in a land far away, I learned from Henry Eaton that listening was the single best way to help clients succeed.  Through listening, we learn why clients stay up at night and how PR or other communications techniques can solve problems.  How we can create a team with the skills our clients seek.  And, what triggers success.

2.       Exceed expectations.

It is sometimes easy to meet expectations.  But, it is a true bonding experience when you exceed expectations—especially when you can do it over and over again.  Now, this doesn’t mean you set the bar so low that you will succeed.  It does mean that you should always be looking for that extra twist that makes the client experience “memorable.”

3.       Be there through good times and bad.

In today’s economy, our clients have faced some very challenging waters.  Some have come very close to shutting down operations.  When times get tough, we are there for our clients.  If a crisis arises, we are ready to lend a hand.  When it is necessary, we provide services beyond the call.  Our clients become our family.  When our family members hurt, we share the pain.

4.       Know their business.

Every day is a learning experience. That goes for learning your client’s business.  You will never be able to be as savvy as a client or their technical staff about their products, but you can come as close as you can.  You hire technically smart individuals to move your firm forward, and you reward them for their achievements.  By knowing your client’s business, you go a long way to retaining the client.

5.       Continue to reinvent yourself. 

I had a former client compliment me by saying that he was impressed how many times that Stevens Strategic has been able to reinvent itself to stay competitive and provide top notch services.  It used to be you had to reinvent yourself every three to five years.  Now, it seems like it is every year.  You do this by hiring smart people, staying current with technology and looking in the mirror and asking “am I the best I can be.”

6.       Track results.

We are doing everything we can to monitor, track, count, compare, evaluate and measure what we do for clients.  We have a responsibility to provide the best report card we can for what we do.  If a client invests in our firm, we invest in the research and tracking mechanisms able to tell us whether what we do works or does not meet expectations.  Information is power.  What we know helps our clients win.

— Ed Stevens, APR, Stevens Strategic Chairman

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Comments Off on PRGN Conferences

PRGN Conferences

This is an exciting year for the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN).  As a founding member 21 years ago, Stevens Strategic Communications has a special bond with PRGN, the fourth largest international network of public relations firms.

We are making plans for our meeting in Australia.  Just like all of our meetings, we will spend three full days addressing ways we can help our clients on a global basis.  We explore better methods of tapping the extraordinary talents within the network that are just a phone call or email away.  For our clients, it is like having a local agency that is global in scope.

In our recent gatherings, we spent quality time discussing best practices:  What is working and what is not working in terms of agency operation, customer service, staff retention and knowledge expansion.  The more we know, the better we can serve.

When we arrive in Sydney, we know we will see friends and professionals whom we have come to trust and learn from.  We meet twice every year.  One member said something very eloquently that I have adapted for my purposes here.  “When you hire Ed Stevens and Stevens Strategic Communications, you also get partners in Paris, Singapore, Warsaw, Montreal, New Delphi, Capetown and Dubai.  That is because PRGN members are on the same page when it comes to global communications and the best practices that drive the public relations industry today.”

Ed Stevens, APR — Stevens Strategic Chairman

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Comments Off on Make Your Press Event the Star of the (Trade) Show

Make Your Press Event the Star of the (Trade) Show

Someone Entering Information from a Piece of Paper onto a Computer

A trade show is a perfect platform for unveiling new products and making company announcements.  Shows provide you with a built-in audience made up of customers, prospects and media personnel. What more could you ask for? Take advantage of this opportunity to generate buzz, increase press coverage and–ultimately–grow sales, by holding a press conference or media event.  When it comes to pulling off a flawless event, it’s all in the details. Hark back to lessons from journalism 101 and cover your bases with the 5 Ws.


What are you announcing or unveiling? Don’t give the entire story away before the event. Rather, offer teasers with a promise of the full story at the event. The executives and product managers should be on hand to make statements and answer questions.  You want to give the media all of the information and resources they will need when—hopefully—writing up a feature for publication or posting. Pass out press kits with news releases and images on memory sticks or CDs.


Don’t just pick a date and time spontaneously. Do some digging first. Ask the show organizers to send you a master list of all scheduled press conferences. You don’t want to compete for media attention.  Also check the show schedule for any show-sponsored activities or seminars that may conflict with your event.  Will your event take place during regular show hours or will it happen before or after the show opens for the day? There are pros and cons on both sides. If it is outside of show hours, check the hotel trolley/shuttle schedule to be sure transportation won’t be an issue for your invitees.  It’s almost never a good idea to host a press event prior to the start of the show on opening day. Your media audience needs time to check in and obtain their press credentials. If you go with a press conference during show hours, choose a time when traffic is typically low as to not interfere with potential selling opportunities.


Ask the show marketing department for a list of registered media. Narrow that list to those individuals representing publications and sites you are targeting. Quantity is better than quality. There is no use in inviting everyone on the media list if half of them cover categories that don’t match your focus. Send the initial invitation two weeks prior to the event.  Follow up seven days before the event. Finally, issue a reminder one day in advance. Personalize the correspondence for a better response rate.


Location, location, location. You have several options: your booth, a designated press conference room, a hotel suite or conference room off-site.  Unless there are some special circumstances, on-site is always preferable to an off-site location. The benefit of having a press conference in your booth is the ability to demonstrate equipment on the spot. The disadvantage is that it may hinder regular booth traffic or draw a crowd of nosy competitors rather than interested media. Weigh the options to decide what is best for your particular circumstances.


Why are you holding this special event? Why should the media come? Find the angle that is going to intrigue the desired audience and give them a reason to show up. Does the new product offer a solution to a previously unmet need? Will the announcement revolutionize the industry? Remember to give them a taste of what you will cover without giving away the whole story.  For early morning events, consider serving breakfast to provide motivation to get out of bed.  For evening soirees, the allure of appetizers and/or cocktails may draw in more guests.   After all, it doesn’t matter how you get them there, just that they come!

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Comments Off on Reflections on Media Training

Reflections on Media Training

I am constantly touched by the reactions of people who have received media training from our team.  They improve so much from the start of training to the conclusion.  In the end, they understand the areas they need to improve upon.

Media training considers the media world we live in.  We discuss how the media works.  We look at the messages that work and those that don’t.  We evaluate body language and articulation.

When you view your video, you know instantly what you can do to improve your performance.  You learn quickly that when you are in front of the camera you talk to your audience NOT the reporter.  We prepare you further by testing you with the kinds of behaviors that reporters may throw your way.

The greatest reward that any media trainer can receive is a sincere “thank you” from the individuals we train.  A transformation has taken place.

– Ed Stevens, APR

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Comments Off on Five Quick Tips for Managing an Agency Blog

Five Quick Tips for Managing an Agency Blog

Editorial Calendar for August 2013

Are you the manager of your agency’s blog? Are you the one responsible for making sure all of the entries come in on time, are edited properly and posted in a timely fashion? We know your job may be tougher than it seems! Here are some tips to help make the process a little smoother for you.

1. Create an Editorial Calendar: Creating a schedule you can distribute to the staff is crucial. This will keep everyone aware of the deadlines for the blog entries, topics, authors, and posting dates. Here is an example of the editorial calendar we create for our team.


2. Choose Broad Topics: If the topics you assign to your team are too narrow, some on your staff may find it difficult to get their blog completed by the deadline due to heavy amounts of research and detail needed. Here is where you can allow some flexibility. In the editorial calendar above, we don’t pinpoint the five tips to offer to the audience. That is up to the author. And, if the topic doesn’t work for the author that month, let him/her know it’s OK to come to you to discuss alternative topics.

3. Never Steal Photos from Google: This is something you should never do. Saving photos from a Google images search can lead to your agency receiving a cease and desist letter from the company that owns the photo. And, that letter can come with a hefty bill. When searching for photos for your blog, first see if there is anything you can snap a picture of quickly in your office. If that doesn’t work, try visiting www.all-free-download.com to see if you can find a suitable, royalty-free photo there. But, BE CAREFUL! Not all of the resources are allowed for commercial use. If in doubt, contact the photo author for details.

4. Send Reminder Emails to Your Staff: You’re busy. Your team is busy. This is understandable. However, that doesn’t mean your agency’s blog should be put on the back burner. Blogging is a great way to spread the word about your agency’s services and products while showcasing your knowledgeable staff. Believe it or not, well-written blogs can lead to potential clients, equaling potential revenues. If a deadline for a blog entry is approaching or has passed, do not hesitate to send the author an email or have a quick conversation about the due date. You should be able to work something out so the schedule doesn’t go awry.

5. Don’t Bombard Yourself: An agency blog should be a team effort. Do not allow yourself to write a month’s worth of blogs with no help if your team has agreed to participate. As long as you keep up with your editorial calendars and reminders, everything else should fall into place.

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