President’s Column – March 2013

Chris Smith, Greater Fort Worth PRSA President
csmithcommunications@gmail.com

ChrisSmithPortraitLRAre You Worthy?

Do you have what it takes to be a communications professional?
Long hours, lots of meetings, emails, phone calls, computer desk work and unnerving presentations may eventually earn you that paycheck – always a good thing – or maybe even a pat on the back from the boss via an email you’ve saved for posterity. But what else? What about professional acknowledgment for that portfolio you’re constantly nurturing for that next big promotion?

Do yourself a favor: Get some professional “street cred” and earn some recognition from your peers, where it really counts. Enter The Worthys, an annual communications awards program with entries reviewed and judged by your peers in another state.

Maybe you’re like I was for the past several years, always delaying the task of entering competitions until the deadlines passed. Takes too much time. The boss probably won’t want to fork over $75 for an entry. I’ve already proven myself. Sound familiar?

As a PRSA board member though, I felt an obligation to support our first competition and accordingly, found an hour or two to grab just one thing I did in 2011 and enter. Thanks to the guidelines written by PRSA Fellow Carolyn Bobo, APR, my entry was organized and thought-out. I had done my due diligence as a responsible, supporting board member and maybe even learned something in the process. Then I won. Just one entry in one category and now I could show clients (and potential clients) that my work had merit beyond what the resume showed. My peers had deemed it so.

Board members Gigi Westerman, APR, and Sandra Brodnicki, APR, are firm believers that entering competition is worth the time and effort. Their entry, “Money School,” a financial education program offered by two prominent local non-profits, earned the Worthy’s inaugural 2012 Best of Show award. Gigi says that just the application process alone requires a good amount of self-reflection in order to present judges a compelling entry. “You have to cut to the chase and explain what you did and why you did it clearly and concisely,” she said.

VP of Membership Richie Escovedo adds, “It’s a smart way to see where your materials might be lacking or where there are areas for improvement. The recognition is great, but the analysis is also a worthy endeavor.” No pun intended.

Convinced? Good. Time to look back at your 2012 accomplishments and enter NOW. The deadline is right around the corner on March 8. To enter, visit: http://www.worthyawards.com.

Worthy Award Entries Due March 8
Work from 2011 and 2012 is eligible for entry in one of the seven strategic communications programs or 28 tactic categories of the Worthy Awards presented by the Greater Fort Worth Chapter of PRSA. Campaigns, which require evaluation, have a two-year entry time frame, and tactics have a one-year time frame. There also are  categories for academic contributions to public relations. For tips about how to prepare a competitive entry, visit http://fortworthprsa.org/the-worthy-awards-are-back.

The Worthy Awards recognize the very best in strategic communications in our region. The chapter also will honor the Communicator of the Year, a leader outside the public relations profession who exemplifies open, effective communications.

Visit www.WorthyAwards.com to enter your work and submit Communicator of the Year nominations by March 8, 2013. Winners will be announced April 25, 2013 at the Worthy Awards celebration dinner at the Fort Worth Club.

For questions, contact Jahnae Stout at jstout@nctcog.org or Margaret Ritsch, APR, Margaret@prperception.com. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Rita Parson at prsaparson@gmail.com.

President’s Column – February 2013

Chris Smith, Greater Fort Worth PRSA President
csmithcommunications@gmail.com

ChrisSmithPortraitLRDon’t know about you, but my February schedule is already jam-packed (what happened to January?).

Last month I wrote about the necessity of always learning something new, and thanks to the planning efforts of our Vice President of Programs Michelle Clark and Professional Development Chair Brian Murnahan (with input from our new Digital Committee Chair Chip Hanna), our February half-day program has the potential to teach us all something we didn’t know beforehand.

Forging Social Media Success, http://fortworthprsa.org/2013/01/23/social-media-success-program, will include knowledge for the novice as well as the expert. Speakers will present case studies from RadioShack and Catholic Charities Fort Worth and encourage interaction during breakout sessions on audience engagement, content creation and metrics. It promises not to disappoint, so sign up soon.

Also, Activities Chair Lisa Albert has been busy planning evening events that might especially interest those who can’t make our mid-day monthly programs. The first one has already been confirmed, so mark your calendars for Feb. 19 when she brings in a speaker to give an overview on The Value of Networking http://fortworthprsa.org/2013/01/23/prsa-after-hours. (Lisa also shared her goal of hosting at least one evening event each quarter this year, so stay tuned.)

Have I left something out? Be sure to visit our website at http://fortworthprsa.org, kept current by our Website Chair Rebekah Moore.

Honestly, who could ever complain of boredom with such an active February agenda?

Setting Professional Development Goals in 2013

PRESIDENT’S COLUMN – Chris Smith, Greater Fort Worth PRSA
If you aren’t constantly learning something new, you can lose your competitive advantage rather quickly in our fast-paced profession. So even if you don’t make New Year’s resolutions, you might consider at least setting some professional development goals in 2013.

Luckily, PRSA makes that easy. Each month except July, our Greater Fort Worth Chapter offers a luncheon program on a timely topic, including two half-day professional workshops planned this year. Already an expert on that topic? Go anyway. Members say they often get valuable tips simply from sharing a conversation at the table.

Can’t make a midday program? Try one of our evening mixers, primarily designed for networking but also to inform.

Senior-level practitioner? Go anyway. Giving back to your profession not only offers intrinsic rewards, but some senior members suddenly out of a job have learned the hard way that networking isn’t just something you do when you’re looking for work.

Feeling on the fringe? Get involved. With numerous chapter committees, there’s something for everyone to do. The important thing is to stay connected.

You can’t afford not to in 2013.

Being green is good for the environment, but is it good your bottom-line?

Big Elephant EarsImage by K. W. Sanders via Flickr

President’s Column: Andra Bennett, APR

Green’s my favorite color. Huge green elephant ears gently sway in the breeze outside my home office window as I write this, bringing peace to my work.

My affection toward green extends to the ink on U.S. currency. Having that kind of green brings peace of mind, too.

Can those two greens live in harmony? As environmentally-friendly “green” initiatives have come upon the PR scene, how do we implement programs and campaigns that are relevant to our customer and measure the return to our company / client?

Find out at our next PRSA luncheon Oct. 14 as our panel shares how the public and private sectors are working to steward our precious environment, communicate these efforts to the public, and bring a positive return to a company. Panel members are:

Brian Boerner, director of environmental management, City of Fort Worth

Tom Burke, APR, manager of public relations and communications, IBM

Chris Smith, Texas media director, Environmental Defense Fund

Giving away some green…
We’ll also be handing out some green. The Greater Fort Worth Chapter has established scholarship funds for outstanding PRSSA students at ACU, TCU and UTA.A student from each university is selected to receive $500 each and will receive their check at the October luncheon. The students are:

 

 

ACU – Will Moore

TCU – Katie Pool
UTA – Kathelin Buxton

Finally, congratulations to Diane Rhodes Bergman, APR, for achieving her accreditation status from National PRSA.Diane will receive her APR pin and $100 from the Chapter’s Jim Blackmore APR Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund was established last year in memory of Blackmore’s PRSA legacy in Dallas-Fort Worth, and is awarded to GFW members who achieve accreditation.

Chapter members, your annual dues fund these important local awards that elevate the status of our profession and help support fellow members and students. Please join us in October at our annual meeting for the luncheon program, presentations and elections. Your participation is appreciated.

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Hack and Flack: Still Adversarial

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From Andra Bennett, APR – Chapter President

My journalist husband and I have considered starting a blog called Hack and Flack, taking off on NPR’s Click and Clack but more like Mary Matalin and James Carville. Remember TV’s “Odd Couple” intro: “Can two divorced men {hack and flack} share an apartment without driving each other crazy?” Neil Hefti music up now.

Those sentiments were all in play at last week’s GFW PRSA luncheon when four publishers/editors of local weeklies [Lucie Allen, publisher/editor of the Spanish-language Panorama News; Lee Newquist, publisher of the Fort Worth Weekly; Blake Ovard, managing editor of The Star Group Newspapers, and Kay Pirtle, editor of the Wedgwood News] and an ex-ombuddy were corralled in a room of PR practitioners.

The weeklies were invited because Greater Fort Worth PRSA members wanted to hear how they were doing financially and how we could work together on news stories.

Oscar, meet Felix.

During the Q&A, Lee Newquist, publisher of Fort Worth Weekly, was asked how PR practitioners could be of the most value to the weeklies. As part of a longer response, Newquist answered, “PR companies, at least on the journalism side of what we do, are problematic because they’re in between (us and) the person with the real answer. I don’t want to talk to a PR person whose sole role in their career is to spin it and make it sound good.” There was nervous laughter from the audience, and several Tweets.

Blake Ovard, managing editor of The Star Group weeklies, echoed: “All of the cities have a PIO, and their job is to keep you from getting the story, so they don’t understand why I don’t want to talk to them. They say, ‘Well, I have all your information.’”

At this point, neck hairs began to bristle. Marc Flake, Tarrant County PIO, took umbrage with those statements and stepped forward. He related how he had facilitated the Weekly’s requests for a recent cover story by Peter Gorman that examined issues related to the medical examiner’s office.

“I was very helpful with Mr. Gorman,” Flake said, “and told him who he needed to talk to, gave him background, gave him all the documents (and) contract information he needed. I don’t stay between you guys (and county sources). I help you get the information you need.”

Spontaneous applause erupted from PR crowd.

I found the exchange refreshingly candid — and disturbingly enlightening. It brought home to me that the adversarial relationship between hacks and flacks is still alive and well.

Some may dismiss weeklies (and indeed all newspapers now) as non-influencers or think their constituents don’t read those papers, so who cares what they think? But with the market share of dailies falling and weeklies currently increasing, we need to have this honest dialogue to bridge the gap of misperceptions.

Maybe the panelists didn’t realize they were in a room with cream of the crop PRSA practitioners, who hold to a PRSA Code of Ethics,which state in part:

 

HONESTY – We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests ofthose we represent and in communicating with the public.

LOYALTY- We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.

FAIRNESS- We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and thegeneral public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.

PR practitioners are obligated to our organizations / clients and their stakeholders as well as to the public interest. Journalists are obligated to the public’s right to know, their readers and advertisers. (Yes, advertisers were mentioned several times by the panelists as being quite an important audience.)

Here’s the rub: being honest and ethical doesn’t always translate (in the private sector, anyway) to being as “open” as some of us would like. This is due to a number of reasons, including proprietary information, SEC regs, security concerns and political sensitivities.

As PR practitioners, we have to weigh the benefit vs. risk of responding to certain media inquiries. Brave responders will answer even a hostile reporter in order to provide balance. But cautious ones will favor silence if media objectivity is questionable and they are mischaracterized or taken out of context repeatedly.

In our changing media landscape and diminishing dailies’ prowess, it would behoove PR practitioners to eschew derogatory terms for alternative or community weeklies (punk rags, podunk papers) and appreciate their financial strength and scope of influence among many constituencies.

By the same token, journalists should re-examine their broad-brush generalizations about PR practitioners as spinners and blockers. In light of shrinking news staff and resources, ethical PR pros provide information, assistance and access to high-level sources that will only become more critical for journalists who want to report the truth.

Read about the financial status of the dailies and the hack’s take on it here.

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