Rebuilding the East Coast

The unbelievable devastation of Sandy, by now, has passed through the Eastern coastal area.  Traditionally as a public relations blog and posting I could spend hundreds of words about crisis management, company preparedness, and working with media and other constituents during a disaster but I’m not.  I want to give our best thoughts and prayers to all those affected by Sandy.

For many this astonishing force of nature was an image, something you watched with dread and fascination on CNN or the Weather Channel.  But when it becomes personal you become attached.  Each direction shift, each breach of a coastline, each flooding episode becomes real.  That was us Monday night.  It got real personal, really fast as our son and his family live in South Philly dead-on in the path, we have a terrific nephew in Boston, a terrific niece on the farthest north tip of Manhattan and cousins in New England.  Sandy was real to us, not a meteorological abstraction.  Our son and his family are fine, hunkered down and tweeting updates.  We saw reports from the other family members on Twitter and Facebook.

But now rebuilding begins. The reconstruction.  The dig out.

And unfortunately the creeps, the jerks and the crooks who take advantage of people’s innate desire to help others and scam those who want to assist will ooze out from under the flood-soaked rocks.

Wherever you are, there are credible, honest caring organizations which will make sure your contributions are well managed and will do real good.  The Huffington Post has a solid piece on relief efforts on this link:


Two global organizations you can be assured will help where the help is needed are the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Red Cross– HOW TO HELP Donations help the Red Cross provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by disasters like Hurricane Sandy. To donate, people can visit, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone’s local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Salvation Army.

Sandy is only the latest disaster and it won’t be the last.  Every community has its share of disasters and you can help, just make the effort, but with care and prudence.



Guest Blog by Brian Adams: “Calvin and Hobbes on…Crisis Communications”

Two weeks ago I spent the morning sifting through quotes from a favorite character of my childhood. The resulting blog post, Winnie the Pooh on…Social Media, was so much fun to create that I decided to take a look back on another publication that provided me with wisdom during my youth, Calvin and Hobbes.

It seems as if young Calvin was always in crisis mode while Hobbes fanned the flames to watch the meltdown. The mistakes of these two characters contain valuable lessons for anyone facing a media crisis. After all, can’t we all sympathize with a child that so succinctly states what we all think when a crisis occurs: “Reality continues to ruin my life.”

Here are a few more bits of crisis wisdom from author Bill Watterson:

On Ignoring the Crisis
“What state do you live in?”

On Setting Expectations
“To make a bad day worse, spend it wishing for the impossible.”

On Luck
“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.”

On Pity
“Its no use! Everybody gets good enemies except me.”

On Planning Ahead
“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.”
“What mood is that?”
“Last-minute panic.”

On Keeping Your Cool
“Life’s disappointments are harder to take when you don’t know any swear words.”

On Picking a Competent Spokesperson
“I’m not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information.”

On Knowing Your Facts
“As a math atheist, I should be excused from this.”

On Crafting Your Soundbite
“If something is so complicated that you can’t explain it in 10 seconds, then it’s probably not worth knowing anyway.”

“This one’s tricky. You have to use imaginary numbers, like eleventeen…”

On Offering a Scapegoat
“Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?”

More On Offering a Scapegoat
“Nothing I do is my fault.”

On Owning Your Mistake
“Don’t walk away! I’m trying to apologize you dumb noodleloaf!”

More On Owning Your Mistake
“I love the culture of victimhood.”

On Quoted (Gloating) Competitors
“In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.”

On Elevating the Crisis
“A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day.”

On Cutting Your Losses
“Where do we keep all our chainsaws, Mom?”

On Keeping a Positive Perspective
“Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine, and valleys of frustration and failure.”

On Recent Crises:

On Mitt Romney’s Binders Full of Women
“Girls are like slugs – they probably serve some purpose, but it’s hard to imagine what.”

More On Mitt Romney’s Binders Full of Women
“She didn’t even give me credit for my professional clear plastic binder!”

On the Gap’s “Manifest Destiny” T-Shirt
“How rude.”

On Google’s Early Release of Financials
“Another genius foiled by an incapable assistant.”

Original Source:

About Brian Adams: Brian Adams consults with nonprofits, including Komera Project (, regarding communications strategy. Brian was previously Senior Director of Communications at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley ( and the head of Media and Community Relations for the MSPCA-Angell (  A version of this story first appeared on the author’s blog (

6 Do’s and Don’ts I learned about live-tweeting a candidate forum

For those of you who don’t know (and that shouldn’t be many of you) Twitter is not only used to monitor play-by-plays of your best friend’s week; it has also come in handy as a media source and is definitely playing a role in the 2012 elections.

To the surprise of some, the role of Twitter in politics does not just apply at the national level.  Local debates and forums gather attention as well, though it’s definitely not as excessive and may take a bit more effort.  Shank Public Relations Counselors enjoyed its own night of politics on Thursday, Oct 3 when we assisted in the coordination of the West Side Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum.  By creating a hash tag (#WSForum12) specifically for the event, we anticipated and encouraged users to hop onto their social media profiles and join the conversation.

Lucky for me, my role in the night’s event was to live tweet on the @Shank_PR handle, which actually requires more brain power than you would think.  Yes, I use Twitter daily (maybe even hourly) for my own personal use, but live-tweeting an event is a whole new ball game. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts if you really want to engage your audience.


  • Utilize your hashtag: Create a memorable hashtag and don’t forget to use it! Not only will it help you reach users who want to engage in the conversation, but it also helps spectators follow the stream and stay connected.
  • Highlight diverse points: When live-tweeting a political event especially, it is essential to cover the points and candidates from all represented parties.  Make a conscious effort to quote people that you know are from different backgrounds and have opposing views.This way you’re sure to connect with a larger audience!
  • Keep the conversation afloat: Watch out for trending statements among audience members and then react to them. If a candidate makes a strong statement that triggered a lot of attention among audience members, don’t be hesitant to tweet about it and ask for the opinions of users. If it caused that much of a stir, you’ll want to tweet about it. Prime example: #bindersfullofwomen. That hashtag was trending for more than 24 hours after it was said.



  • Share personal opinions: remember that you are representing an organization or even your own firm when live-tweeting. Sharing an opinion that may be offensive or even contradictory to the views of your organization will only leave a bad taste in other people’s mouths. Not to mention, you won’t want to get in a cyber brawl over someone else’s Twitter handle.
  • Ignore your audience: This may seem obvious, but even tweeting a “thank you for sharing” or retweeting users will make a bit of a difference. Remember that you are live-tweeting to expand the event’s reach and to make connections. If you want to keep users engaged and excited, it is a MUST to interact with the audience.

Because the West Side Chamber of Commerce forum was the same night as the presidential debate (we scheduled first), I didn’t know how much attention our tweets would receive, however, we had good reach.  Just one tweet, which included a photo of two candidates interacting, received 6 retweets in a matter of 10 minutes! Some of those “retweeters” were candidates sitting on the stage.

Concentrated Twitter activity during large events has become common and is even more evident on a national level.  Just minutes after the West Side Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum, Twitter blew up with 10.3 million tweets over a 90-minute period (highest Twitter activity in history) as a result of the presidential debate.  The same thing occurred on Tuesday during the second debate, though the numbers did decrease by about 3 million tweets.

Whether we like it or not, Twitter has become an influential factor in the 2012 local and national elections.  Not only do citizens use the site to share their own opinions, but candidates also utilize Twitter to voice their views and platforms.  Our presidential candidates have verified Twitter accounts, both of whom are active with their followers and that activity makes the difference.

It’s hard to deny the effect Twitter has made in educating younger voters on the issues surrounding the 2012 elections. Perhaps the recent increase in activity is a preview of how many young voters will be out on Nov 6.

Act Ethically and Carry On

Last month was PRSA’s Ethics Month and throughout the 30 days of September, the organization has hosted a series of awareness activities to enforce its importance.  Though public relations pros set aside a month to acknowledge ethics, it is essential for practitioners to recognize a code of moral standards all year long.

“Why?” you might ask.  Well, according to the PRSA Code of Ethics, “…our professional values are vital to the integrity of the profession as a whole.” As with any career there are boundaries and the reputation of your company can depend on your ability to act ethically when challenged with a dilemma. Though there are clients who feel that a public relations practitioner’s sole duty is to represent them in a positive light, practitioners have an obligation to their publics as well.  Plus, public relations firms have their own policies and rights—if the client will compromise the integrity of your firm, you can choose not to represent them.

In my short career as a public relations professional, I have already been exposed to many difficult decisions that have had to be made using an ethical standpoint—not in my own experience, but from observing the decisions of my own companies, as well as others.

Here are a couple issues that public relations firms frequently encounter:

  • Tobacco Companies: The decision on whether or not to represent a tobacco company cannot always be characterized as either black or white, ethical or unethical. While some firms find it unethical to promote a product that is dangerous to consumers (also stated in the Code), others believe that the decision to buy solely lies with the consumer.  Choices also become blurred when a tobacco company is represented under a large conglomerate that sells household and food items as well.  The decision lies with the professional, but it is commonly a difficult one to make.
  • Front Groups: Front groups are organizations that support a cause without revealing their financial supporters.  They are commonly found in politics to support a new legislation.  As the Code states: professionals should be open and honest with their publics.  For this reason, supporting or promoting front groups can put you or your organization in an ethical dilemma
  • Integrity of news media: As public relations professionals, we all understand the importance of publicity for our clients, however, that publicity should never be a result of a gift sent to a journalist.  From an ethical standpoint, it would be impossible for a client to measure the effectiveness of our work if we were always guaranteed a media slot due to bribery. Not to mention the importance of staying credible to clients and followers.

Personally, I believe that the Code is a helpful resource in handling tough decisions because it indirectly covers a multitude of situations.  Understanding and following it’s guidelines gives me a better understanding of what is expected of myself as a public relations professional, which in turn makes decision-making a much easier process.

As public relations professionals and members of PRSA, we are always in the public eye; rarely do our actions go unnoticed.  One definite way to maintain a credible reputation as a professional, as well as uphold the standards of the PR profession is to practice ethical decision-making.

While the industry may be ever changing, our love for ethical public relations will always stay the same. The most basic of public relations lesson remains “Act Ethically and Carry On.”