the Story
Adam Shapiro
Public Relations
Shaping a Powerful Narrative.


Wall Street Editorial Praises ASPR Client

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote this favorable editorial about ASPR client the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation: 

These days it’s popular to lament that immigrants are destroying America’s national identity, but maybe we’re getting it backward. When the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation recently put questions from the U.S. Citizenship Test to American citizens, only one in three could pass the multiple choice test.

It’s embarrassing. According to the foundation, only 13% of Americans knew when the Constitution was ratified, and 60% didn’t know which countries the United States fought in World War II. Most couldn’t correctly identify the 13 original colonies, which at least is something of a teaser. But only 24% could identify something that Ben Franklin was famous for, and 37% thought it was for inventing the light bulb.

Even with a highly contested Supreme Court nomination now in play in the Senate, 57% of Americans couldn’t say how many Justices are on the Court. Older Americans did much better than younger Americans—only 19% of the under-45 crowd passed—which probably reflects the declining state of American public schools. None of this augurs well for the future of self-government.

We’ve always thought it important that immigrants must pass a test on the basics of American history and civics before they can be sworn in as citizens. Immigrants who are motivated to become citizens will take the time to learn. The real threat to American freedom is the failure of current citizens to learn even the most basic facts about U.S. history and government.


Kiefer Sutherland at ASPR Client Event

ASPR was excited that renowned actor Kiefer Sutherland heard the story about our client the American Pops Orchestra. He joined the audience for a great performance and later took a picture with singer Betty Who and conductor Luke Frazier. The original news release is below.


Pop Sensation Betty Who to Sing with an Orchestra for First Time

WASHINGTON — Washingtonians rising early to watch Prince Harry marry Meghan Markle on TV or online on Sat., May 19 can now end this romantic day by enjoying some of loveliest and sometimes over-the-top songs composed and written by the legendary Cole Porter.  

Let’s Misbehave: Cole Porter After Dark,” will feature pop star Betty Who in her orchestral debut. Who, who is a native of Australia, is best known for the chart-topping song “I Love You Always Forever.”

APO, in keeping with its mission to disrupt the status quo, will intersperse Porter’s works with dramatic readings of cheeky and outrageous online dating profiles.

Joining Who in bringing the musical works to life will be:

Liz Callaway: Tony Award nominee, voice of Disney’s Princess Jasmine and Anastasia

Ali Ewoldt: Phantom of the Opera, Broadway cast

Bobby Smith: Crazy for You, Broadway cast, Helen Hayes Award winner

Vishal Vaidya: Groundhog Day, Broadway cast

Luke Hawkins: Star tap dancer from “America’s Got Talent”

“Cole Porter was so ahead of his time — he’d probably be overjoyed that we have this idea to celebrate the wedding of the Queen’s grandson with great singers and musicians and also mix in the creative ways people try to find love in the 21st century,” says Maestro Luke Frazier.

 Frazier has won a following for his ability to connect the APO with modern audiences. According to The New York Times, “As much as any individual singer, what warmed the evening was the sumptuous lilt of the American Pops Orchestra, conducted by Luke Frazier.”

 The program will include Porter’s mischievous, and sometimes bawdy, play on words and situations that resonate more than ever in today’s complex meeting and dating scene. These songs include “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” and “Love for Sale.”

Tickets are available at www.TheAmericanPops.org for “Let’s Misbehave: Cole Porter After Dark” at Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater at 1101 6th St., SW, Washington, D.C. on Sat., May 19 at 8 p.m.

 The Cole Porter production will conclude the third season for APO that has featured acclaimed events such as a performance by singer Marilyn Maye and an Aretha Franklin tribute.

Supporting Good Causes and Great Clients

ASPR was proud to honor our friends Anthony Shop and Emily Rasowsky as they served as co-chairs for this year’s LearnServe gala in Washington, D.C. Shop is Chief Strategy Officer at Social Driver, an ASPR client. LearnServe is part of the Catalogue for Philanthropy, another ASPR client.

The Essence of Being a Publisher

Meryl Streep’s performance as Katherine Graham in “The Post” is so exceptional because she brings to the screen the anxiety, thrill and stress that comes with holding the title of publisher. It was especially fitting to see such a portrayal as I’m still processing the loss of a publisher I knew and admired so much.

Diane Straus was the publisher of Washington Monthly; she recently passed away from cancer at the relatively young age of 66. I never had a boring conversation with Diane; every discussion was full of her vision and energy.

The Monthly is a unique publication with a strong perspective on the issues of the day. Subscribers bring a critical mind to each article they read and Diane more than kept up with them. The Monthly is known for its annual college guide and ranking, which examines institutions on what they are doing for the country and is an alternative to what others in the space already offer.

Diane found innovative ways to harness the power of nonprofit foundations to support the guide and other journalism projects, such as coverage of mental health issues. This is coverage mainstream journalism and even blogs aren’t covering.

Yet even as Diane searched for new support from foundations, she always held to the belief that writing a check didn’t constitute control of the reporting.

In some ways, Diane walked a more difficult line than traditional publishers. It’s somewhat easy to tell a corrupt advertiser that his money won’t buy good coverage. It’s harder to say to a program officer at a foundation whose mission you personally support that the journalism needs to guide the coverage. This is the fine line that Diane walked with grace and ease.

There were many other parts of Diane’s life that I only learned about in her obituary. When you see “The Post,” keep good publishers like Diane in mind. You will never read their bylines. You will probably never know their names. But they are essential to the search for truth that is more important than ever.

Media Training Uncovered

Thank you to ASPR’s friends at Lipman Hearne for allowing us to share these thoughts about media training. https://www.lipmanhearne.com/uncover-the-story/

Uncover the Story Through Media Training

By Adam Shapiro

I just read an article that said a Hollywood star, facing an upcoming gauntlet of critical questions from reporters, had better get herself media trained right away.

It struck me that this is exactly the wrong approach to take. Indeed, if done effectively, media training is something that is integrated into a communications strategy from the beginning, not crammed in after a crisis.

This is especially true for leaders in higher education and other vital institutions. They wouldn’t run a 5K without training, so why would they face critical questioners without preparing for the experience?

Uncovering the story is a process of media training that I’ve used with much success. “Uncover the story” has two meanings:

–In media training sessions on campus, I work with the university president, provost, department heads and other academic leaders. They always have messages, ideas and mission statements about their work. Yet there is a need to put them in human language and discover what is truly unique about their institutions. It takes time to uncover these elements and they aren’t always obvious.

–Once we have the defining messages down pat, it’s time to ask the tough questions in practice sessions. I began my career as an investigative reporter, the type of journalism that thrives on making Freedom of Information Act requests and highlighting when things go wrong and why. Investigative reporters do love to uncover a good story. Therefore, I’ve honed the ability to develop questions that can trip up even the best leader.

This process, conducted well in advance of a need to walk into a news conference, is ideal in today’s intense media environment, where everyone can be on Twitter and the next Mike Wallace might be a freshman with an iPhone.

Here’s a secret: It’s not always the tough questions that cause the most headaches. Sometimes an easy, uniformed question can lead a spokesperson to a regrettable answer (for instance, “How long to you plan to stay here as university president?”). Media training helps prepare officials for that situation as well as understanding that comments made when you think you are off camera often are not.

I’m reminded that even Michael Jordan, the best basketball player in the history of the game, needed a coach. It’s an honor to visit college campuses, explore their stories and help leaders prepare to tell those stories in accurate, compelling and motivating ways.