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Comments Off on Mayor Tom Menino: A Castle Tribute

Mayor Tom Menino: A Castle Tribute

Guest Blog By: Sandy Lish | @slishcastle

Everyone in our office stopped what they were doing when we heard about the passing of our beloved former Mayor Tom Menino. Although it was not a surprise—it had been announced a week ago that he was discontinuing his cancer treatments and was in hospice care—it still felt like a punch to the gut.

For some of our younger team, Mayor Menino was the only Mayor they have ever really known. Even those of us that have been around the block can have trouble remembering that he wasn’t the only Mayor we’d ever had, before he “retired” last year.

He was the only Mayor that we’ve had since we started our business in 1996, and so in a way, he is the only mayor I’ve known. As we grew our business and involvement in the City and community, we were lucky enough to get to know him. It started when we purchased an auction item at a charity event: lunch with the Mayor. We ended up hosting that lunch at Radius, which was a client at the time, and bringing four local CEOs that the Mayor did not know well—Jeff Taylor, from Monster and then Eons, Doug Rauch of Trader Joe’s, Sue Morelli from Au Bon Pain, and the general manager of Pepsi’s recently acquired Stacy’s Pita Chips. The Mayor so enjoyed meeting this group that he invited us to have another lunch with additional clients. And we did.

One of our most memorable experiences came a few autumns ago, when we were hosting our global PR firm affiliates from PRGN for a semi-annual conference. This was the first time the conference had been hosted in Boston, and we had many plans to show off our City, but the highlight was unplanned, and happened because of Mayor Menino. While we were in our conference, one of our team realized that the Mayor was in the same hotel, speaking in the room next door to ours. When he came out, we greeted him, and let him know that we were hosting an international cadre of PR firm owners behind the closed door. Mayor Menino spontaneously offered to greet and briefly address the group, and then did just that, even posing for photos with the group’s president, our colleague from Ireland. As we hear so often, he was all about the people, and this was an opportunity to welcome new people to his City and shake more hands. It meant a lot to us, and to our attendees, and is just one teeny tiny example of his generous spirit and passion for representing Boston.After that, he invited me and my Castle partner Wendy to have lunch with him at the Parkman House. What an honor and opportunity. And what fun! Over the years, the relationship grew. He helped us christen our Charlestown real estate when we had our new office party, and we had many opportunities to interact with him, and the amazing Angela Menino, over the years, through client events and projects, charitable causes, and City functions and projects.

Mayor Menino was a champion for the City—there is no doubt of that. He was also a champion for small business, and we were lucky enough to get to know him because we fall into that category. I’ll be honest: every time I saw him in person and when I received a phone call from him, it was thrilling to be the focus of his attention, even for a brief moment.

We’re so deeply saddened by his passing.  Having lost my mother to cancer two and a half years ago, I know what a toll this disease can take on a person and the family, and his wife, children and grandchildren are at the top of my mind. I am sending them my prayers and good wishes.

We all know the stories about how personally he touched the City’s residents and businesses. Everyone has at least one Tom Menino story or memory—right now I am looking at a photo of him with my daughter at our Castle party and another of the group of us who attended the Radius lunch. We are all connected through him at this sorrowful moment.

Thank you, Mayor Menino, for being a friend and role model to us, and for showing us all what it means to take pride in, and be connected to, the City you loved.

Mayor Tom Menino with my daughter Lila.

Mayor Tom Menino with my daughter Lila.

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Comments Off on PR Insider: PR is the new SEO

PR Insider: PR is the new SEO

Guest Blog by: Uwe Schmidt, president of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN)

While Google has changed the search algorithms three times between 2011 and 2013, the latest one seems to be causing the most headaches to SEO specialists since it focuses mostly on content. And that’s – alas, dear techies! – first and foremost no technological approach. It’s an opportunity for PR professionals (who develop key message-driven strategies for their clients) to provide deep content and manage both sides of modern PR: the media and the SEO portions.

Here are five tips from a PR professional who’s been following SEO trends very closely over the last few years:

  1. Constantly create new user-oriented content on your website. This will guarantee visitors stay longer and Google will recognize higher relevance for your website.
  2. Create unique content. For instance, pitch bylined articles for placement on reputable websites such as online trade magazines, and get links to that content on your website secured. These links are invaluable for your Google ranking.
  3. Design website content, structure and technique so Google can analyze the content easily. Include keywords within all titles and copy. Eliminate large images and flash animations whenever possible.
  4. Avoid duplicate content. Also, do not book low-value placements on pseudo press portals or directories that were created to distort Google results. Google now ignores such entries and even might punish companies appearing on such “spam sites” by down-ranking their websites.
  5. Choose a smart PR agency as your company’s partner. Doing so will better ensure that each side understands both the content and the technological aspects of state-of-the-art SEO public relations.

This may sound easy, but in reality it’s not. In reality, few companies truly understand the current trends and how they can use them to their benefit, nor do they know how to find the right partner to work with them on the opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s all about including SEO in the content-driven communications strategy of a company and being able to shift a part of the marketing budget to one of the most effective tools that exists today: SEO-PR.

Uwe Schmidt is CEO of the German PR & communications agency Industry-Contact (IC AG) and the current president of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN). Follow Uwe: @IC_AG.


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Breaking News: Ed Stevens, APR+M Assumes Three Industry Leadership Roles

Ed Stevens

Ed Stevens, APR +M, has just been named President-Elect of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), the fourth largest group of independent PR firms in the world. He has served PRGN as Marketing Officer for the past four years. “I am honored to be selected by the people who have helped my clients grow their businesses both internationally and domestically. We have some of the world’s best PR minds as members.”

In addition, Ed also holds two high-visibility positions with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). As a member of the executive committee for the PRSA Health Academy, Ed will be heavily involved on the committee charged with bringing the academy’s annual conference to Cleveland in the spring of 2015. “It is estimated that this event will bring over 300 professionals to the city as we place a spotlight on Cleveland as the center of excellence for healthcare in America,” said Ed.

Finally, Ed will be the next president of the PRSA Northwest Pennsylvania Chapter. “I am excited to be a PRSA president. It is my third stint as a president, having served as president twice with Greater Cleveland Chapter.” Stevens Strategic Communications believes it is great to give back to our community, our industry and PR professional people in Erie and Cleveland.

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Comments Off on Fixing Data Breach PR- Guest Post by David Fuscus of Xenophon Strategies, Washington, DC

Fixing Data Breach PR- Guest Post by David Fuscus of Xenophon Strategies, Washington, DC

“Year of the Retailer Breach” was how Verizon recently described 2013 in their annual Data Breach Report, saying that it “was a year of transition… to large scale attacks on payment card systems”. The report documented 1,367 confirmed data breaches, the largest and most infamous of which was the massive amount of customer information stolen from Target during the busy Christmas shopping season.

Target’s initial handling of the breach was so poor that the iconic bull’s-eye logo had rested squarely on their corporate forehead for months and the Board of Directors finally pulled the trigger and fired CEO Gregg Steinhafel and Chief Information Officer Beth Jacob.  Target’s struggles and executive replacements can only lead one to speculate that their next financial results will be ugly.

Target’s initial communications response was particularly bad because they acted so slowly; media reports started on December 12, but the breach wasn’t publically acknowledged for seven days. Target finally instituted a comprehensive response program (including free credit reports) and a PR campaign to repair the damage, but it was too little, too late — the data breach steamroller was already in motion and crushing customer trust.

And it wasn’t just Target; Neiman Marcus stands out as another retailer who bungled public communications about a massive data breach.  Rumblings of multi-breaches at Neiman’s first appeared in mid-December and a forensic firm discovered evidence of the breach on January 1st, but it wasn’t until January 10ththat they were forced to acknowledge the crisis after security blogger Brian Krebs broke the story  and they didn’t officially announce the crisis until January 23rd.  Their initial media communication efforts were pitiful, mainly an on-demand only statement for journalists.  A key rule of crisis communications is to define yourself rather than be defined and Neiman-Marcus took few and inadequate actions to communicate on a broad level to the public and their customers.

Data breaches are the worst type of modern corporate crisis because they directly impact masses of individual customers on a financial and emotional level. When people are personally hurt or threatened, they can become powerful influencers when those stories are amplified across social networks; when millions are individually threatened, their reaction can severely damage an entire business, regardless of size.

So how could sophisticated, well-managed, companies like Target and Neiman-Marcus bungle their data breach communications so badly?  It’s not like the basics of crisis communications are mystical:  define rather than be defined, fast self-disclosure, respond directly to customers and undertake public facing actions to ensure it never happens again.

While the reasons for Target’s and Neiman-Marcus’s communications decisions are only known within the company, there are some likely candidates:

  • Legal vs Communications.  In a crisis, the first priority of competent communicators is to publically define the situation and exert some influence with the media and customers.  The first priority of legal professionals is generally to put the company in the best possible position for litigation, especially when litigation will be massive.  If a company hasn’t addressed the balance of brand damage vs. litigation before a crisis, it inevitably leads to delay as senior executives tend to defer to their legal teams.
  • Speed vs Full Information.  In any data breach, having a full understanding of what happened can take days, weeks or months. Target’s internal investigation and report on their breach still isn’t done five months after the event.  Waiting for full or robust information can waste precious time and allow the story to break from another source.  Arts and crafts giant Michael’s suffered a data breach shortly after Neiman’s and Target, but they announced a potential breach as soon as they discovered it, engaged with the media and opened a CEO-level dialogue with their customers.  By jumping out ahead of the story, Michael’s was viewed as competently managing the crisis and working to protect their customers.
  • Communications Infrastructure.  When a crisis explodes, public attention is almost instantaneous and can be massive both in the news media and on social channels.  The level of attention and potential ferocity is outside the experience of most business executives and, with no base of experience, ill-informed decisions can reign.  Corporations need to plan for crisis communications, build infrastructure and have the proper outside resources on tap so that they can instantly ramp up and engage with both the media and their customers.

Public communications after a data breach needs to be comprehensive — a company needs to understand its ability to respond to the media and customers, whether it is through the press, social channels, call centers or stores.  And the execution of fast, meaningful, communications depends on the advance identification of issues that can slow down a public response — be it lack of preparation, communications infrastructure or insufficient planning between a company’s communications, legal and technical functions.

David Fuscus is the president and CEO of Xenophon Strategies, a leading U.S. PR firm specializing in crisis & reputation communications and brand management which is headquartered in Washington, DC.  Follow him on Twitter at @DavidFuscus or @XenophonPR.

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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 Five Tips on Handling International PR

Five Tips on Handling International PR


TIP #1: Before you start your international PR program, ask yourself, “What are your objectives?”  Is this a new product/service introduction?  What is your reputation on a country-by-country basis?  If you can provide measurable objectives, that is an excellent first step.

TIP #2: Which countries are you targeting?  Budget and distribution channels should guide the selection of the countries you seek to penetrate.  If you talk to public relations firms in the countries you want to reach, you can learn quickly what will be needed to obtain the coverage you desire.  You will find each country is different.  You will also find that each PR firm has different strengths—social media, media contacts, e-communications, direct mail capabilities, etc.

TIP #3:  Use their language, not yours.  Translations are the key to obtaining exposure.  Remember, some English words do not translate well into other languages.  Create news releases and press materials yourself, but have them translated by the PR firm that works in the country.

TIP #4:  Ask for clippings.  You need to track what appears in print and online.  While there are international services that track publicity, clippings are often lost on a worldwide basis.  You need to measure your success.  You will find out that some countries do better than others.

TIP #5: Use an International PR Network.  There are a number of PR networks that can take your story to the countries you target.  When you work with a network, you will typically have an account person near you.  This account person will engage the services of the network members at a budget that you approve.  I would be remiss not to mention our network:  the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN).  Visit our website at www.prgn.com .

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Comments Off on Holiday PR

Holiday PR

Happy Holidays Around the World

It was very interesting this past Thanksgiving to hear greetings from fellow members of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) from across the world.

Here I am in America, and, other than Thanksgiving in Canada, I am really oblivious to holidays outside of the states and the celebrations elsewhere in our world.

We also know that there are certain periods of time when we just can’t reach our European-counterparts or persons in other countries because they are on holidays. Typically the month of August shuts down just about all of Europe. To be a good global citizen and PR professional, my first suggestion about holidays is to find out who celebrates what.

With the advent of Christmas and Hanukkah, we have an opportunity to stop to reflect on the blessings that have come our way.  We have great faith that the New Year will bring us more opportunities for success.  I hope you are upbeat about the New Year.

Public Relations don’t stop during holiday seasons.  Our research tells us that the search for content knows no holiday.  Significant stories receive significant coverage.  But we also respect our clients’ and the media’s observance of the holidays they hold dear and the shutdowns they may schedule along the way.

It is time for all of us to say a prayer of thanks for all the people who meant so much to us during this past year.  We also need to thank the God who gives us joy and helps us through every day.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  The best PR you can do during any holiday season is to tell the people you care about that you care and remember them at the times of the year that are most meaningful to them.

Ed Stevens, APR         

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Comments Off on Global Best Practices

Global Best Practices


A couple of years ago, a good friend asked me to show her what we perceived to be today’s Global Best Practices.  As the marketing officer for the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), I found the request to be stimulating and it forced me to consider just what we have been able to accomplish as a network and as an interactive PR agency here at Stevens Strategic.

1. PRODUCT INTRODUCTION.  So you want to rollout a new product or service internationally? When we did this for one client, we pinpointed the countries around the world where we wanted our product publicity to appear, while we publicized it in the United States at the same time.  In this case, we selected Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.  Each PRGN affiliate handled local translations, media relations and monitoring.  International and domestic efforts resulted in $21 million (USD) in sales.

2. TRADE SHOW PUBLIC RELATIONS.  In one case, PRGN found spokespersons in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.  After preparing PR and advertising materials, we pitched the media at selected trade shows.  Over 150 articles appeared, each examining misconceptions about the client’s product.

3.  ENHANCE A LEADER’S REPUTATION.  Whether you are president of a corporation or university, you may wish to enhance your stature to facilitate business growth or help your university attract students and faculty.  It worked for a university president who met with the media in Mexico City and Monterrey.

4.  BRING A PRODUCT/SERVICE TO THE UNITED STATES. Tap the major markets across the United States to introduce them to your products or services.  Global alliances such as PRGN offer access to media in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami and more!  Member firms have excellent relationships with the media in the cities they call home.  So, when a French hotel chain wanted to build an American following, we did just that.

5. SURVEY THE WORLD.  As part of PRGN, we have cooperated on numerous surveys that allow us to take the temperature of a global economy and explore any number of topics.  We look at market areas as well as communication vehicles that work best for each part of the world.

Every day is a new day when it comes to Best Practices.  We learn more and more about new methods to better communicate with the world.  Research and experience help us understand what messages work, what kind of metrics we need to be “successful” and more.

Tell me your favorite best practice from around the world:  estevens@strevensstrategic.com.

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Comments Off on E-Crisis Thinking Starts with Social Media Policy–But There’s More

E-Crisis Thinking Starts with Social Media Policy–But There’s More

Highlighting Policy in the Dictionary

Not every organization has a social media policy for their employees, but they should.  And in today’s world, you can use a chapter on social media in your crisis plan.  Not every organization has one of these either.

So if you don’t have an employee social media policy or a crisis plan with a section on social media, why should I be even mentioning our ONLINE WAR ROOM™? The simple answer: Because it is so cool.

How do companies respond to negative, detrimental or even false information on social media platforms?  Thanks to our membership in the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), we now offer a proprietary tool that simulates sensitive, often emotional social conversations that can potentially affect your organization’s brand and reputation in a matter of seconds.  The Online War Room is a secure tool that allows our team to simulate online crises and issues management situations in real time.

The tool works on a closed network, so clients can be assured that the information used in the simulations will never be LIVE or PUBLIC.  Once several scenarios are identified, our team works behind the scenes to develop a variety of posts, comments and content (photos, video, news, etc.) that could possibly be generated about your organization or leadership during each of the scenarios.  Once the training session is complete, our team provides a recap report outlining lessons learned, recommended updates to the current processes and plans, and an executive summary that can be shared throughout our organization.

When you leave our Online War Room, you will know just how ready you are to face your next social media generated crisis.  Pretty cool stuff.

For more information on the Online War Room, contact SSC president Ed Stevens at estevens@stevensstrategic.com.

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Comments Off on Celebrating 20 Years with the Public Relations Global Network

Celebrating 20 Years with the Public Relations Global Network

PRGN 20th Anniversary

The Public Relations Global Network recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

When I sat down to write this blog, I planned to focus on crisis communications. Then, it dawned on me that it would be much more appropriate to write about the 20th anniversary of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN).

Heck, I am a “founding father” who joined the network when it was called the Phoenix network back in 1992 when we split off from the Edelman Affiliate Network.

From the start, we were a group looking at the newest technologies, trends and best practices. Back then our member agencies were located only in the United States. We had no desire to reach across the globe, but we certainly enjoyed meeting and sharing war stories over meals cooked up by the likes of Emeril and Wolfgang Puck.

We started looking across the border and added Perry Goldsmith’s firm in Vancouver in 2002. Shortly thereafter Paris…and the rest is history.

Now we cover six continents with 45 member firms, employ over 900 professionals, earn $110 million (USD) and serve over 80 markets.


As I mentioned in an article in the June issue of O’Dwyer’s, one reason I am thrilled to be a member of PRGN is access. “Within an hour I can get people to weigh in on a situation I’m facing.” We can find out from our member firms what they are doing to solve problems and get quick feet-on-the-ground assistance from all over the world. For instance, when my client wanted to have a worldwide rollout of a new product, we worked together to roll it out simultaneously in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan and Australia—all target markets.


Happy 20th Anniversary PRGN! Learn more about us at www.prgn.com.

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