the Story
Adam Shapiro
Public Relations, LLC
Shaping a Powerful Narrative.


Uncovering the Inauguration

ASPR was proud to support client 360 Live Media in sharing its views about how to update the Inauguration. The following op-ed by 360 Live Media CEO Don Neal recently appeared in The Washington Post.


In an election cycle that saw all the old rules broken, why should the staid, traditional inauguration ceremony be left out of the fun?

That’s the question my colleagues and I at 360 Live Media asked ourselves. We took on an exercise of building a different kind of experience for the presidential inauguration. We started by wondering if standing outside in January staring up at a podium or distantly watching the ceremony on TV was really the way we would design an inauguration for the 21st century. 

While the ceremony may seem steeped in tradition, it has evolved a bit through the years. For instance, the location was changed in 1980 from the eastern front to the western front of the Capitol for Ronald Reagan’s 1981 ceremony. That change stuck.

First, organizers should engage the public early. Get people excited, connected and ready to participate. The inaugural committee should unite the country on what we must do as a nation. Certainly, we understand any change has to fit into the constitutional requirements for the handover of power. But even within those parameters, there is room for creativity.

In that spirit, let’s have people look over a list of issues. They then could vote on their smartphones with the result being a shared national priorities list.

We need to give the American people a role in the experience, a job. This job could include reading the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the president-elect’s platform or agenda for the first 100 days or participating in a community-service project.

There should be more attention paid as one president and family leave the White House and the new residents move in; this should be televised and include the handing over of keys, moving in of household items, etc. This would include a brief ceremony, lighthearted and amusing, that would highlight the ease of the transition.

We should make a game of understanding of what our founders set forth for us. That would mean creating an online game that would test participants about, say, the amendments to the Constitution. Players with the most points would be competing for a tour of the Oval Office, a behind-the-scenes look at the Gettysburg Address narrated by a renowned historian or for a chance to play a role in the actual inauguration ceremony.

Instead of having only exclusive galas attended by the rich and famous in the District, how about every VFW, civic arena, convention center, hotel ballroom and high school gym hosts a national party celebrating democracy, the new administration and our national unity?

We should launch a tribute to our military personnel who aren’t in the United States and celebrate a new inaugural day of national unity.

At the main inaugural ball, Cabinet nominees should be seated with relevant congressional committee chairs and ranking minority-party members. We strongly believe that the best way to encourage effective actions is to have face-to-face meetings and social interactions.

Jan. 20 is one part Fourth of July, one part New Year’s Eve, one part Super Bowl Sunday and one part something new, something that doesn’t exist, something that celebrates what is good, honorable and noble about our democracy. It’s the hope of a new president and the healing of a divided nation.

America is home to disruption and reinvention. And 2021 is just around the corner.

What Does ‘Uncover the Story’ Mean?

The following originally appeared on Huffington Post

Friends and clients know my company, ASPR, has a tagline: Uncover the Story. In its simplest reading, this tagline is easy to follow. It means we are a public relations firm that stresses the importance of storytelling in all it does. But a trusted adviser recently asked me, “What does uncover the story really mean?”

Good question. Recently I attended a lecture where the importance of storytelling was shared. Research has shown that “stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered, than simply stating a set of facts.” So now we have data to back up what we intuitively knew.

However, this is where the real trouble sets in. Most people are too scared and uncomfortable to really tell a good story. You know, one with a protagonist, foreshadowing, drama, a real challenge and then resolution. Hillary Clinton was afraid of telling stories about her dreams, ambitions and goals for the country; Donald Trump has more stories to tell than anyone wants to listen to.

As a reporter, I often had the unenviable task of knocking on the doors of family members who had tragically lost a loved one. It took me a few years to find a successful way to approach this assignment. I finally hit upon the right words: “I don’t like having to do this, but I have to report on your loved one tonight on the news. I’d like him to be known and remembered the right way, with your words. Otherwise, my audience won’t get the real understanding of who he was.” Almost always, the door would open, I’d be invited in and a story would be told.

Today, as a public relations consultant, I’m still asking those tough questions. One time I asked a client how much money he lost in the financial crash; I told him that detail was vitally important in order to build credibility for the story he wanted to tell. After questioning my sanity, he agreed to publicly share the number: $2.5 million. MILLION. Wow.

Indeed, my pushing made his op-ed one that POLITICO published and then I got CNBC interested in. Without this key fact, the author was just adding to the hot air. By inserting the fact, the readers got the point: This man meant what he wrote and he had the proof in his own balance sheet.

Uncover the story is really an investigative approach to PR, but it’s the only way I have found to get to the heart of stories that can make us cry, angry and motivated to create change.

Uncovering Words of Wisdom

ASPR aided in the research, writing and  editing of a blog for New York Times best-selling author Dr. Deepak Chopra. TIME magazine named him one of the top 100 heroes of the century. ASPR client Genomind, a personalized medicine company, is grateful to have Chopra weigh in with his perspective on Eastern and Western medicine along with Dr. Rudolph Tanzi.

They write: “No one in healthcare has yet developed a genetic test that can pinpoint the cause of mental illnesses or diagnose an individual with a particular mental health condition. However, pharmacogenetic testing is currently available and has helped to guide clinicians toward what a patient suffering from depression or anxiety may need to feel better, faster.”


ASPR Finalist for Op-Ed Award

ASPR is a nominee for the Best of Maryland award from Public Relations Society of America for an op-ed that was researched, co-written and placed in The Washington Post.

“The choice is simple: We fund voluntary home-visiting programs that have a proven effect on the health and safety of children and parents and long-term benefits for taxpayers, or we can pay more later for the costs of crime, incarceration and lost human potential,” stated Montgomery County (Md.) Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger.

Thanks in part to such a persuasive argument, Congress reauthorized federal funding for home visiting. 


ASPR Uncovers Genetic Test Research

As Mental Illness Awareness Week begins, a new poll finds Americans have divergent views about illnesses that affect thinking, feeling or mood; this discrepancy is notable when it comes to genetic testing recommended by a doctor to help with personalized treatment.

Thirty-four percent of Americans report having been diagnosed with a mental illness or have a friend or family member who has been. A mere 7 percent think the country does a good job at dealing with mental illness, while 45 percent feel we do a poor job, a percentage that is more than twice as high as the responses for how the U.S. deals with cancer, heart disease and diabetes, according to the Genomind Mental Health Poll™. Genomind (www.genomind.com) is a personalized medicine company bringing innovation to mental health care.

Recently, celebrities such as Bruce Springsteen have been more open about their own struggles with depression. Nearly half of poll respondents see such revelations as a positive trend and agree it would be great to see more disclosures, while 17 percent say this is a private matter and these public figures should keep this information to themselves.

Almost half of the poll respondents say the country should be spending more than it does on mental health (currently the U.S. spends roughly 4 percent on mental health of the nearly $2 trillion it spends on health care each year), while just 25 percent feel the current balance is about right.

However, 28 percent of Americans agree that “except in extreme circumstances, issues like depression and anxiety should be solved on a personal level and not with medication.”

Also pointing to the split opinions Americans hold on mental health issues, 67 percent are very or somewhat excited about using genetic tests to individualize patients’ treatments for a wide variety of illnesses to make treatments more effective. However, when asked specifically if they would take a genetic test recommended by a doctor that would help determine the best treatment plan for mental illness, respondents are less likely to choose to take such a test than they are to take a test to guide treatment for cancer, heart disease or diabetes.

A majority (53 percent) did agree the following was a strong statement to support genetic tests for mental illness treatment: They help reduce the time, expense and struggle of finding the right treatment by trial and error.

“I think what we are seeing when we dig deeper is that mental health issues still seem to carry a stigma for many Americans, despite all the public education that has been done and what we know today about their diagnosis and treatment. This stigma evidences itself in the way that Americans seem to view mental illness differently than other chronic diseases,” says Stefan Hankin of Lincoln Park Strategies, who conducted the poll for Genomind.

“I’ve felt the stigma of mental health in my life,” says Patrick J. Kennedy, a noted mental health advocate, Genomind adviser and former Congressman. “The poll results clearly show that some Americans still view treatment for mental health differently than they do for other diseases. We would never tell a breast cancer patient to just ‘deal with it.’ During this important week I hope we can make progress on advancing understanding and acceptance of effective treatment and genetic testing to help guide treatment for mental health.”

The Genomind Mental Health Poll consisted of a representative sample of 1,000 interviews that were conducted online Sept. 21–25, 2016. The Bayesian confidence interval for 1,000 interviews is 3.5, which is roughly equivalent to a margin of error of ±3.1 at the 95 percent confidence level.

“We conducted this poll because we think it’s important to understand where the country stands on these vital issues; the results will hopefully lead to greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the mental health sector,” says Michael Koffler, Genomind president and CEO.

Genomind’s Genecept Assay® is a genetic test designed to help clinicians optimize treatment decisions for their patients with mental illness. Clinical research has found 87 percent of patients demonstrated a clinically measurable improvement with treatment guided by the Genecept Assay. It also reported improvement in 91 percent of patients who had previously failed at least two medications.

The Genecept Assay is available for use by any licensed and prescribing clinician. Patients should discuss with their clinician whether the Genecept Assay is right for them: https://genomind.com/talk-to-your-doctor/. Patients should have their clinician contact Genomind directly to order test kits and/or to receive more information about testing.

About Genomind

Genomind is a personalized medicine company bringing innovation to mental health care through genetic testing. Genomind is comprised of pioneering researchers and thought leaders in psychiatry and neurology and specializes in pharmacogenetic laboratory testing for psychiatry. Genomind is committed to partnering with clinicians to improve their patients’ lives. Learn more at www.genomind.com.

About the Genecept Assay®

The Genecept Assay® is a genetic test designed to help clinicians optimize treatment decisions for their patients with mental illness. It identifies patient-specific genetic markers that indicate which treatments are likely to work as intended, have no effect or cause adverse effects. It is an easily administered cheek swab test that analyzes key genes that have been selected based on hundreds of studies showing that variations in these genes can inform treatment decisions. The Assay is used to guide treatment for a range of psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, schizophrenia, chronic pain and substance abuse, and has been shown in peer-reviewed published studies to improve patient outcomes and reduce overall medical costs. Each Assay provides clinicians with an easy-to-read patient report and a complimentary psychopharmacogenomic consultation. Learn more at www.genomind.com


Kristina Habermann

Vice President, Marketing and Corporate Communications Genomind



Adam Shapiro