The Labor-Management Cooperation Committee: A recipe for success

For more than three decades, Farr Marketing has represented Labor-Management Cooperation Committees (LMCC) in several industries. Our longest relationship is with the IBEW Local 11 and NECA Los Angeles Chapter LMCC.

For those not familiar with the LMCC structure, it is a Committee composed of precisely what it says: Labor and Management. Why have so many industries adopted the LMCC? The LMCC structure provides the optimum vehicle to promote their industry. After all, after the collective bargaining agreement has been negotiated, there needs to be a means to promote their industry so work flows to contractors who in turn employ skilled labor.

For the IBEW/NECA LMCC, we promote the union electrical industry to a range of audiences which include:

Business — Corporations who design and build the largest, most high-tech projects in Los Angeles. Union electrical contractors and electricians have worked on many of the most high-profile projects in Southern California.

Political leaders — Political leaders are an important target audience for several reasons including the approval process needed for large-scale projects. They are an equally important audience for Project Labor Agreements (PLA) when large public projects are created.

General public — Visibility among the public is always important. The public elects politicians and local neighborhoods and homeowners associations are very vocal about projects that are planned in their backyard. In addition, recruiting new workers is always an important objective, although currently the business environment is strong and there are as many jobs as there are trained apprentices and journeymen electricians to fill those jobs.

Media — Media have different views on unions and projects. Nurturing and maintaining good media relations is critical. Unions have many great stories to tell about how they are providing great jobs to a trained workforce (that they train). Those stories need to be told as it sets the tone for development growth.

Our marketing and public relations campaigns are geared to these three audiences. The strategy is to convey how our LMCC clients benefit the economy, workers and the public at large.

We do this in a number of ways. We produce materials that show the finished product that our client, in this case union electrical contractors and electricians, have produced. We do this photographically. Being the electrical industry, we are afforded the opportunity to show dramatic lighting in large, complex venues.

We also promote the training that is afforded young men and women who are seeking a skilled career. Publicity on projects is also a vehicle when a high-profile project is being built and especially when it is completed.

The same can be done for all construction industries. Each trade makes a significant contribution to a high-rise office building, stadium, housing complex and more. Whatever the construction trade, promoting the skills and knowledge of union workers benefits everybody.

PR for the nonprofit gala

Every nonprofit organization needs to fundraise. There are many avenues to raise much-needed funds. Grants, fee for service and fundraising events, just to name a few. Many opt the events route and that means putting on a large gala.

Having a gala event with supporters sounds great. It can be at a lavash hotel, or a supporter’s home. It can have a dozen people or hundreds. But before you go booking the Four Seasons Hotel, give it some thought.

The upside of a gala, of course, is to raise money. Also, it is an opportunity to bring more supporters into you tent and PR opportunities. But there are also downsides. First, the time, effort and energy it takes to put on a large-scale event can be daunting. Depending on the details, it often takes upfront cash before one dollar has been raised. And finally, there never is a guarantee that a fundraising event will be successful.

One aspect many nonprofits struggle with is should the work be done in-house or hire consultants. If the organization doesn’t have the capacity, there really isn’t much choice. You can’t commit your entire staff to one thing when you have an organization to run. So if you work with consultants, what kind do you need?

There are companies that will do the entire program for you, the marketing and PR, graphic design, printing, catering and on and on. If you get the right consultants who charge reasonable prices, you usually will come out ahead.

PR in the digital age

In this digital age in which we live, organizations, corporations and public figures have to be extra, extra careful what they say.  The wrong statement or the right statement said the wrong way, will undoubtedly result in immediate Twitter backlash and instant apologies.

Actor Mario Lopez learned this the hard way when he appeared on the Candace Owens podcast.  She is a right wing commentator and their interview led to a discussion of genders and how some in Hollywood said they will allow their children to choose their sex.  Lopez disagreed, much to Owens’ delight.

Before the microphones could be turned off, Twitter erupted. He was skewered for his comments and many called for E Networks to fire him.  His publicist came out with a statement that Lopez’s remarks were ignorant and insensitive.  Within hours Lopez apologized and promised to educate himself about gender issues.  He didn’t want to lose his career over some ill-thought out comments.

What’s the lesson we can learn from this episode, and countless others that are similar?  Is it that nobody can give their true feelings in the media?  Are opinions other than what media agree with career-changing?  Kathy Griffin is still feeling the effects of her Trump stunt, two years later.  And she is on the left.

From a communications perspective, or a crisis communications perspective, the lesson is not what you say, but how you say it.  Can anyone in Hollywood have a right of center opinion?  Perhaps.  But beware how it comes out.

Instead of Lopez’s publicist throwing his client under the bus, perhaps someone should remind the publicist that it’s his job to properly prepare clients for interviews. 

First, if you’re going on a very right of center show, know that.  Same if you’re being interviewed by a left wing reporter.  Know what areas the interviewer will want to get into and be prepared with appropriate responses.  Do some prep work, publicist.  There is no reason a public figure or a representative of an organization can have an opinion.  But when discussing sensitive, political views, be prepared in how you express your views.  If you are going to remove all filters and just let it go, then be prepared for the public to react.

I don’t know the Lopez story about this interview and why he did it.  Perhaps Owens knew she would have an ally.  She was right.  So she did her job to get her views across.

Lopez didn’t do his job in speaking his mind without thinking it through.  Yes, sometimes whatever you say will be the wrong thing or said the wrong way.  So maybe do a pass on the show.  If you can live with the consequences, then go for it.  If you want to keep working in your chosen industry, give the media some thought before the mic is turned on.   

Words PR people should never say

Those of us in the marketing/public relations business are well aware that the foundation of communication is good writing. If you can’t write, then don’t think of a career in PR.

That being said, there are a number of overused words, phrases and grammatical symbols that we need to retire. They don’t have to be put away permanently, just used when necessary.

And I just used one.

“That being said…” is so overused and meaningless that, well, we need to stop. We say it after we make a statement that is to be followed by another statement that contradicts it. If we make a statement, why do we need to state that we made a statement?

Here are some other words that need to go:

“Space.” “Our firm works in the digital space.” Hua? In other words, your company is an expert in online work. When did “space” define work?

“Transparency.” This word is used only about a billion times a day, most often by news personnel and politicians. Everybody wants “transparency” which simply means full disclosure. Issues can’t be transparent. Glass can.

“Could care less.” This is a simple grammatical mistake. When people say they “could care less” they are saying they do care. They mean they don’t care and in that case, it should be “couldn’t care less.”

“Best.” How many emails do you get that end with the word “best.” What the writer means is “all the best” which has been shortened to best. Either way it is meaningless. If you’re writing to someone who is not an enemy, what else would you say, “worst?”

“In all honesty.” Again, an email useless term to begin a thought. When you want to make a statement that you feel is serious, some lead with “in all honesty” which is meant to warn the reader that the writer is about to contradict them or offer a different opinion. “I want to say this to you, but in all honesty, I need to say that.” A waste of time writing and reading those words.

I could go on and on and will in future posts. If we took all our emails and removed the unnecessary words and phrases, we’d all have a lot more time on our hands.

Right?

Loughlin and Litigation PR

Word is spreading that Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying bribes to get their daughter into USC, now are shopping for a crisis litigation PR expert to resurrect her image.

We are not among the firms contacted, and Loughlin’s publicist denies the report.  However, two crisis PR firms, who chose to remain anonymous, told CNN they were called to discuss public relations strategies because Loughlin is quite upset that all the news about her is about the scandal and not her career.

Whether this is real or fake news, both firms said they turned down working for Loughlin.  And for good reason.  When someone is faced with criminal charged – charges that could result in jail time – a career should take second place to beating the case.  It won’t do much good to have a great image while in prison.

The example that is commonly cited for a celebrity image resurrection is Martha Stewart.  Stewart was convicted of a stock fraud scheme and served time in prison.  She did her time, her company continued without her, and when she was released she picked up where she left off.  Today, few remember or care that she is a convicted felon.

Since Loughlin pleaded not guilty, rather than guilty as the others did, the government added charges of money laundering and hence potentially more time in prison if convicted.  This could be legal maneuvering or maybe denial, but in any event, it doesn’t look good for Loughlin and Giannulli.

So let’s take a look into the future.  Suppose she does prison time (unlikely as it is) and after a year or so gets released.  Can she pick up the pieces of her acting career?  Already since the indictment she has lost her Hallmark contract and other acting jobs.  She is essentially “Hollywood toxic” as of now.  Her daughter, Olivia Jade lost most if not all of her sponsors for her YouTube channel.  But she is young and Loughlin claims she didn’t know of the scam.  Time will tell.

If Loughlin goes to prison, her first task will be to write a book.  It will be a tell all book about “doing the right thing” and how to succeed after a major setback.  This, if she admits wrongdoing, and that’s a big question.  Then, the release of her book will be timed with her release from prison so she can make the talk circuit rounds.  She’ll do The View, Colbert, 60 Minutes.  The usual round.  She will talk about what she has learned and how it made her a stronger person.

For those of us in the crisis PR business, there is a template for re-creating an image.  There are limits, such as heinous crimes that can’t be forgiven, but most celebrities are the white collar sort of criminals.  People forgive and forget, especially if they were not hurt personally.

There is no doubt Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman will land on their feet, sooner or later.  Fortunately for them they have the financial means to stick it out, buy the best lawyers and pay the bills.  The lasting mark will be on the internet, on their Wikipedia pages that will note their transgressions but it is more likely than not that if they do time, they will resume their lives with the help of professional crisis PR experts.

Key to PR is media attention. But how to get it?

Everybody wants PR. Publicity and marketing for nonprofits can make a huge difference in fundraising and growth. And when in litigation, PR can help win or lose a case.

But today’s media world is dominated by politics. The left vs the right. Investigations and interrogations. It appears the air is being sucked out of storytelling, which makes it more challenging for nonprofit organizations to convey their message to target audiences.

And with all the talk of political legalities coming out of Washington and Sacramento, civil litigation cases need to be much more intense, interesting, unusual and important than just a couple of years ago. More important, they need to be positioned as such, which is where professional PR people come in.

Today, communicators need to be smarter than yesterday. Social media is fast overtaking traditional media and always beats them out in speed. Many people get their news from Twitter and by the time the LA Times posts the story, it is already around the globe on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

While all of the above is the reality, it also is the reality that communications today is as, if not more, important than ever. With all the avenues of communication, come opportunities for more outlets. Yes, stories get out quicker and often not by professional journalists. Everybody carries a camera in their pocket and within seconds it is online. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for journalistic professionalism. Yes, a video may be posted, but the explanation or what happened can only come from journalists.

This is all to say that if a nonprofit or corporation wants its share of publicity, it has to be smart, fast and nimble. It work with professionals who spend all day focused on the media so when opportunities arise, they can jump in. This is especially true when a crisis occurs. In crisis communications the biggest challenge is time. You need to get your message out immediately because the media demand so. Giving it thought and strategizing is important, but then action must be taken.

These challenges will only exacerbate. The world will function faster not slower. As information travels at the speed of light, so much communicators.

And that’s what we do.

Who won the Amazon/NY PR war?

For about two years, Amazon, the company all of us wished we had thought of and started, went on a massive nation-wide search for a second headquarters. Some said it was genuine while others called it a publicity and PR stunt. In either event, they eventually settled on Long Island, NY for their planned expansion that included 25,000 jobs and generous tax revenue — eventually.

About 360 cities competed for the venture, wanting the political credit for bringing their communities jobs and a partnership with the fourth largest company, and fastest-growing company in America if not the world. NY Gov. Cuomo and NY City Mayor De Blasio worked hard to make the deal happen and celebrating when it did.

Until it didn’t.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Amazon pulled the plug. Why? According to their own statements, the push back from local politicians and community activists foresaw a rocky road ahead. Who needs constant problems and roadblocks when you’re just trying to get packages shipped? So local NY politicians, who sing the praises of socialism, won and Amazon basically said, “who needs this.”

Those in NY who worked hard on the deal were not happy, but everybody went into spin mode, blaming Amazon for not being a good partner and unnecessarily killing a deal they worked so hard to make happen. They didn’t mention that the local politicians, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others wouldn’t even meet with them. She Tweeted the richest man in the world should not ask for a hand out from working people. That may be so, but tell that to those who were looking forward to a good job with good benefits and who now are left out in the cold.

Do people love Amazon more than socialism or the other way around? If you want a frying pan sent to your house by tomorrow, try calling someone in Venezuela.

Like most controversies, there are two sides to the story. But one thing is for certain. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, knows how to run and build a company. Not sure the same can be said for most Washington politicians.

Amazon has a large presence in NY already and an even larger one in Virginia, not to mention probably every state in the country. It is hard to tell who the winner is and who the loser is in this PR battle.

I don’t think it is New Yorkers who were looking forward to a better career.

The Marketing and PR Plan for Nonprofits

When we launch a marketing and PR campaign for a nonprofit, clients often ask us, “where do we start?” Unless the client is brand new, they already have done marketing. They usually have social media, issued some news releases, maybe put on a special event or two. and more. Usually with minimal success.

What we virtually always recommend is basic. Create a marketing and PR plan. Anybody in business finds this obvious. How can you build a building without blueprints? How can you get from point A to point B without a map or GPS?

So the first thing we do is the plan. And the plan starts with us getting to know the client. If we are to be an nonprofit’s PR strategist, we need to know everything about them. We need to know their strengths and weaknesses. What they have done and what they plan to do.

After we become oriented, we conduct interviews with key personnel to get internal perspectives on their vision for the organization. One would be surprised to learn how people who work at the same entity can have different views of how they are perceived by customers and those they serve.

We put all our research together, give it some thought, conduct additional outside research and create a plan. Often this plan contains an Action Item list of activities and in many instances it also included a crisis communication plan.

Why don’t organizations, nonprofits, create their own plan? Many do. But it often takes an outsider, someone with fresh eyes, to come in and see what they take for granted or assume everybody already knows.

If your nonprofit organization doesn’t have a current marketing and PR plan, or if your plan needs updating, consider creating one or at least a fresh approach. The world changes rapidly, donors come and go, opportunities arise unannounced. Remember, if you are not keeping ahead, or at least keeping up, you are falling behind.

Marketing yourself by being yourself

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to market herself for the 2020 presidential race has started with an Instagram Live session.  In it, Warren first pops open a been, hugs her husband and talks to people while casually leaning over her kitchen counter.

She no doubt is channeling some of the younger members of Congress who were raised on social media and use it naturally.  But Warren is of a different generation and trying to act natural in a medium they really don’t understand only leads to disaster – and lots of social media ridicule.

That’s what happened with Warren’s attempt to look “cool.”  Instead of appearing relatable to the average person by drinking beer instead of champagne, she looked like she didn’t know who she was, who she wanted to appeal to, and very awkward.

The first rule of marketing and PR positioning is to know your product.  It can be a car, soap, cereal or a person.  You’re not going to sell a Chevy by pretending that it’s a Bentley.  And a 69 year old politician is not going to fool anybody by doing Instagram Live, even if she learns what iPhone buttons to push.

Sen. Warren wants to be Native-American.  Now she wants to be young and hip.  She obviously is successful having been elected to the U.S. Senate, but she is not a 20-something millennial and nobody is buying it.

Whatever messaging she did to get elected is what will carry her further, if that is her destiny.  Trying to redefine a personality is a tough task, especially in the eyes of your marketing audience.

And that’s all that matters.

 

 

Marketing nonprofits in the age of the soundbite

One of the most frustrating aspects of marketing is not getting the space or time needed to fully tell your story.  Not all products, services or organizations can be explained in six words.  Yet, today’s media demand that you find a way to do that.

It is called the soundbite, but we are all familiar with it.  The media move at lightening speed.  Guests on TV are given only seconds to explain their organization before the host shoots a follow up question.  The thinking is audiences today have the attention span of a two year old.  And they probably do.  With switcher in hand, TV watchers are all to eager to hit the button and turn to a another show if they find themselves just slightly bored.

There is nothing PR and marketing people can do about this.  It is the way of the world.   All we can do is deal with it and prepare our clients.

That’s why when we prep clients for TV appearances, we teach them to talk in soundbites.  They need to get the essence of their messages across immediately. If they don’t, their comments will either be chopped up or deleted entirely.  Host and reporters have it easy.   They have pre-prepared questions they fire off in one liners.  Those on the receiving end are not so lucky.  They need to be prepared for any question, and be prepared to shoot back an answers as short and meaningful as possible.

Some call it the “elevator speech.”  But we are not talking about a speech here to explain your organization to a group.  It is much different being in front of a camera, lights shining in your eyes, microphone in your face.  The nerves can set in.  Words don’t always come out as you intended.  And if it is live TV there are no second chances.  Making a difficult situation worse, it lives on via YouTube.

The only way to handle these situations is simple: practice, practice and more practice.  If you believe in what you are saying — and that is step one, then practice saying it in succinct language.  Practice answering different questions, and the same question asked differently.  The more you practice, like playing an instrument, the more proficient you will become at conveying your organization’s marketing and PR message.