It’s All His Fault: January PR History

Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian

January 11, 1908 was a big day in public relations – as big as the Grand Canyon. In fact, it was the day the Canyon was designated as a national monument.

Strolling around today in our North Face jackets and Merrell hikers, the designation might not seem like such a big deal. But the idea of making the Grand Canyon a National Park had been considered – and despised – for years. In the 1880s, an Arizona newspaper had written an editorial expressing the popular sentiment of the locals, explaining that “whoever fathered such an idea must have been suckled by a sow and raised by an idiot.”

Enter President Teddy Roosevelt. Only Congress has the authority to create a National Park, so pig-suckling Teddy craftily found a way to designate the area as a National Monument. “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he once said the area. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for … all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see. #bullypulpit #visitourgiftshop.”

Congress finally designated the area a National Park in 1919, and today, the park is visited each year by more than 6 million people, many of whom even get out of their car. And Roosevelt’s legacy is secure: The nonpartisan Miller Center at the University of Virginia calls Teddy “the nation’s first conservationist President,” not to mention the driving force behind the Build-A-Bear corporation.

Which just goes to show, PR pros always need to be ready to think big. And when all the naysayers are telling you to take a hike, well, go right ahead.

Join us for our next GFW PRSA luncheon on Wednesday, January 9, at Colonial Country Club!

Join us for our first GFW PRSA luncheon of 2019! Hear from Eric Harris, Founder of GatherRound, who will share how to sell ideas and tell stories without relying on presentation slides.

What’s with modern businesses’ dependence on presentation software? Why are 30 million decks being prepared EVERY DAY, when slides have proven to be the least effective method for selling in ideas? There’s a science to the dependency, and when you understand it, you can overcome it.

As communicators and marketers, we are challenged with selling abstract ideas and concepts that our audiences can’t really understand, unless we do our part in bringing these stories to life. Join us as Eric Harris takes us through:

  • The science of addiction to slides
  • Storytelling as an antidote to deck addiction
  • A storytelling formula you can use right away

 Many thanks to our January luncheon sponsor, TCU Bob Schieffer College of Communication!

Bob Schieffer College[4]

When: Wednesday, January 9, 2019, 11:30 A.M.  – 1:00 P.M.

Where: Colonial Country Club 

Register here.

Join us for our Holiday Happy Hour on Tuesday, December 4, at 5:30 p.m.!

Join us for our next GFW PRSA luncheon on Wednesday, November 14, at Colonial Country Club!

As a relatively new frontier, digital is a discipline that has generally been left to specialists. However, we’re not always lucky enough to have one of these specialists on hand when a prospect or client asks questions or indicates an interest in exploring this realm. As digital tactics and strategies become more integrated, if not inseparable, from PR and communications, the ability to talk digital is more important than ever. In this presentation, Jim Lin (Partner/SVP, Ketchum Digital) will share relevant points and best practices on digital tactics that brands and organizations are asking about today. With this knowledge, you will become dangerous enough to get your client or prospect to the next meeting, when you can bring a specialist into the room to take it the rest of the way.

When: Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 11:30 AM  – 1:00 PM

Where: Colonial Country Club 

Register here.

Wanna Get Away? October PR History

When the going gets tough, the tough get going – on a taxpayer-subsidized vacation. And that’s exactly what the executives at insurance giant AIG did in September 2008, when they flew out for a relaxing vacation at the swanky St. Regis hotel in southern California. And boy, did they need it: Just six days earlier, AIG had received an $85 billion government bailout. Apparently they converted it into traveler’s checks.

To their credit, the AIG execs made the most of their trip, spending a whopping $440,000. The tab included $10,000 in bar bills, $1,400 in salon expenses and $23,000 at the spa, where they racked up thousands of frequent-rubber miles.

AIG’s Most Excellent Vacation hit the media in early October and was a PR disaster. The New York Daily News may have summed it up best with their headline: “AIG big shots get $500G vacations on taxpayers’ dime.” And when it was reported that rooms at the St. Regis ran up to $1,200 a night, one Congressman pointedly remarked, “That’s more than some of my constituents pay on a mortgage payment on homes they’re now losing.”

To their defense, AIG had planned the trip before the bailout. They also tipped generously, spending another $3,000 of (taxpayer) money. And whenever possible, they used a Groupon.

But give AIG credit for being consistent. Just three months before the bailout, they fired the CEO — and gave him a $15 million parachute. And in 2014, another AIG CEO sued the government, complaining that the bailout was not generous enough. Meanwhile, several other executives are still hoping for a lucrative movie deal offer from Oliver Stone.

All of which should help PR pros remember: You never want to have bad optics. But if you do, at least make sure your room has a nice view.