Securing a news story for a client doesn’t mean the work is done. Clients must find creative, effective and, sometimes, aggressive ways to share the fact a journalist outside of their orbit thinks what they do is important. Here is a great example from ASPR client Catalogue for Philanthropy. Washingtonian magazine named its founder and CEO Barbara Harman one of its “Washingtonians of the Year.” The Catalogue told all of its stakeholders the news with an e-news blast as well as highlighting the honor on its website home page. Supporters want to celebrate your success; it’s not bragging, it’s bringing them into the process.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.