Museum of the American Revolution Hosts Monthly History Series

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By Elena Bras, Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution hosted “History After Hours: Power of the Press” on Tuesday, May 15, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

This event is part of the Museum of the American Revolution’s monthly History After Hours series, which features extended evening hours until 8 p.m., special themed programs, happy hour food and drink specials in Cross Keys Café from 5 – 7 p.m., and full access to the exhibits. The Museum highlighted the theme of press and printing and its impact during the American Revolution in several ways.

Ben Bartgis, a book historian and bookbinder demonstrated the process of printed sheets becoming pamphlets and books. Visitors could make their own pamphlet, featuring poetry by Phillis Wheatley or a mini booklet of The American Crisis by Thomas Paine.

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Stamps featuring historical letters and symbols were also available as printing tools for guests as they made their own political pamphlet or broadside. Also offered in the lobby was a re-created Liberty Tree. Guests could write down answers in response to the prompt “How will they carry on the Revolution?” and add them to the life-size tree vinyl placed on one of the lobby walls. The Museum café also offered special happy hour-priced food and drinks, with a signature cocktail made for the event. Guests could enjoy these in either the café or in the lobby with the activities.

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Museum Registrar Michelle Moskal gave a tour during the event that examined the challenges of displaying paper collection items. Some of the objects featured included a signed book of poems by the first published female African American poet, Phillis Wheatley. In the featured gallery, a costumed educator stood under the replica of the Boston Liberty Tree as they told stories of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty who would post broadsides to revolt against the British tyranny. In the same gallery, the touch-screen interactive “Posters of Protest” was also called out. Guests could interact with original broadsides on the digital platform by expanding on original text and translate era-specific language.

Finally, guests and staff were invited to donate a book to Tree House Books, a Giving Library and Literacy Center in North Philadelphia. The organization provides free books to the community as well as programs that increase literacy skills to promote a lifelong love of reading and writing in children. At each History After Hours event, the Museum partners with a specific organization that ties to the theme of the night.
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Top Tips for Managing a PR Crisis

By Kirk Dorn, Ceisler Media

Sometimes, bad things happen to good companies. Even the best can’t always avoid a crisis – whether it’s man-made or a natural disaster.

But you can make a bad situation better by taking the right steps. That’s where I come in.

 One of the services we offer at Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy is crisis management, guiding a business or social agency or individual through a negative event. We are experts in helping people and companies identify the problem, take steps toward defraying it, devise a strategy to get through tough times and come out healthy at the other end.

It’s hard work, and it often isn’t fun – for all sides. But dealing head-on with a crisis is important, and a lot smarter than the alternative.

Before we get into the steps of handling these challenges, let’s define what we’re talking about. There really are two kinds of crises:

  • A negative-event situation. This can be a train derailment, a natural disaster, an incident of violence – any unforeseen episode of trouble. For example, we at Ceisler are currently helping a large energy company after a gas leak explosion in Ohio in February.

  • A reputational-damage situation. This involves crises created by, say, criminal or ethical misbehavior by a company executive. Alas, these cases are in the news far too often these days – in government, industry, show business and sports.

Of course, the first kind of problem can spill into the second if the executive in charge makes a poor decision or an ill-advised statement. A small negative can balloon if matters are mishandled at the top.

 Sometimes, there’s a perception when I’m called in that I can make the problem disappear. Hey, I’m good, but I’m no magician. If something really happened, it has to be dealt with.

Or, an occasional client will see me as being like a character from the TV program “Scandal.” Well, it’s a fine show, but it’s way over the top. Life can be thorny, but it’s rarely that dramatic.

Like most of television, however, a crisis can have a happy ending. But only if you take the right steps.

It starts by doing the right thing. And doing it quickly. If there are allegations that someone in a position of authority did something improper, my first word of advice is that the person has to step aside from the scene – a kind of self-suspension or one imposed by the board of directors while a full investigation is conducted.

That’s necessary to send the right message to the work force. And, if the story is already in the media, it sends the right message to the public. You are not convicting the person, but you are suspending until the facts are determined.

I’ve worked cases for Ceisler Media where there has been a reluctance to do this when the person accused of wrongdoing is popular with the board. I have to tell them to put their personal affection aside and do what’s right for the company.

By the way, sometimes the person accused is not guilty. If the accused can make a compelling argument of that innocence we can help the individual and the organization take on the most credible defensive posture. But those cases represent a minority. Most often, we are protecting an organization’s reputation.

Once we had a case where the leader of a religious congregation was accused of having an inappropriate adult relationship with a congregant. The clergyman was beloved, but he had to be suspended and it had to be investigated.  Many members of the congregation opposed the move. But in the end, it became clear the clergyman’s actions made it impossible for him to return to his job.

If the problem is more rampant than one person at the top of the organization, you need to do more. You need to have someone with an impeccable reputation come from the outside and investigate. That ensures the community that the company is taking the issue seriously.

Once those initial moves are made, there’s a basic step-by-step process to follow:

 1) Establish a core team to handle the situation. This should include the CEO (assuming that the CEO isn’t the problem), one or two members or the board of directors and – if the company has one – the communications director. And let us help.

 When that gas line burst in Ohio, Ceisler Media Managing Director Kurt Knaus and associate Caitlin O’Connor went to the scene with top energy company officials to develop a strategy and address the concerned community. They stayed there for several weeks, talking with citizens and reporters.

 2) Do your fact finding. What went wrong? What better decisions might have been made? Who is handling what issue? Where do we go from here? Decide what needs to be done and run it through the prism of what is ethical and legal.

 3) To the extent you can, try to take your emotions out of your dealings. I know that isn’t easy, and that’s why a crisis communications manager like me is so important. When I walk in, I’m not as personally invested. I can better see the scope of things without getting caught in the emotion. Sometimes I have to remind clients to breathe throughout the process.

The biggest fear clients often have is the media. Not that long ago, I was often asked, ‘How do we keep this out of the media?’ These days, with the prevalence of social media, chances are good that employees have already posted Facebook messages before I even come through the door.

Here’s the top rule in dealing with the media and public: Everything you say has to be true. It really is the case that the cover-up can be worse than the crime. That doesn’t mean you have to disclose everything behind the scenes, but be honest in what you tell people.

You should always have a unified message. Even if the board of directors splits 4-3 on an issue, everyone has to be on the same page in public. I’ve seen situations where a lone wolf within a company writes an opposing-viewpoint op-ed. That can blow up the entire strategy.

And, of course, you have to honestly attack the problem. Whatever went wrong, you need to aggressively work to fix it and keep public apprised of your progress. Show people your commitment to never allow it to happen again. The key is to communicate that you’re doing everything possible to do the best.

There’s typically a crisis cycle.  Unfortunately, you do need to bottom out before you can recover. But if you do the right thing and effectively communicate your message, you can win people’s confidence. And in some cases, you’re actually more attuned to the need to promote yourself positively going forward.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

 

#PPRAMemberMonday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marissa Reale is Assistant Account Executive at Braithwaite Communications. She’s been a PPRA member for 1.5 years.

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/mdreale

Twitter: @mdreale

Facebook: www.facebook.com/marissa.reale.5

Marissa is passionate about public relations and the unique city of Philadelphia. Through storytelling and relationship building, she connects people through effective communication. After just graduating from Temple University Klein College of Media and Communication, she is so excited to start her career at Braithwaite Communications and live in Center City. At Temple, Marissa was the Vice President of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), an Assistant Firm Director of PRowl Public Relations and completed six internships.

PPRA: Who are your clients and/or what projects are you working on right now?

MR: Although not assigned specific clients yet, I have worked on projects for the Clean Air Council, Wawa, Inframark, Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Foundation accounts.

PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?

MR: My favorite part about my job is the culture of Braithwaite and my co-workers. By working together, we work hard to create meaningful and rewarding work for clients.

PPRA: What was your latest & greatest accomplishment at your job?

MR: Since I haven’t officially started yet, my greatest accomplishment was getting an offer from my first-choice company before graduation.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

MR: Keep hustling — no one should be too comfortable in whatever they’re doing. The best advice I’ve received was to just show up with a willingness to do anything, enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

MR: I could watch the Father of the Bride movie every week — It’s a sweet story!

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly (museum, park, store, etc.)?

MR: I love the square in Rittenhouse during all seasons.

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?

MR: Wit provolone from Carmen’s or Geno’s.

PPRA: Our PPRA 2017-18 PRoactive partnership is with Tree House Books. What was your favorite childhood book and why?

MR: I have great memories of my parents reading Guess How Much I Love You to me and my sister.

Trust the Process: It’s Working for the Sixers (& it can work for assessing your communications team, too!)

By Debbie Albert, Albert Communications

For Philadelphians, the phrase “trust the process” has become part of the lexicon about the Sixers, our NBA team, who have played through a series of rough years (an understatement) but is now emerging stronger than ever.

Throughout those dark, dismal seasons, they kept admonishing fans to trust the process. They couldn’t build a strong team overnight; it would take years. It was a process.

For the die-hard fans, it has been a grueling wait, but the process has led to a team on fire, and in the wake of the Super Bowl win for the Eagles, this is a city excited about more winning possibilities.

Trusting the process is a tough ask for the impatient. (I know. I count myself among them.) But trusting the process, and respecting the steps in that journey, usually pays off in dividends. Ask any sales person about their wins, and they are bound to tell you that they trusted the sales process at their business, even when they were wishing they could skip three steps and jump ahead.

When it comes to building a team – or dismantling and rebuilding – it is a process. Major change shouldn’t happen overnight, because when it does, results can be calamitous for scores of people, with immeasurable ripple effects.

In business, in academia, and in the non-profit world, there are times when a new CEO or an executive director takes the helm and inherits teams that may not be up to his or her standards. Which area should be tackled first? What help do I need in addressing these issues? What should the priorities be?

It can be overwhelming to take on a new role, but strong, confident leaders know when they need to bring in outside eyes to help them with a process.

Assessing the value of a communications team (sometimes called the PR team or the marketing communications team) may not be as high on the leader’s agenda as the financial health of the organization, but it should be near the top of that list. The communications department is responsible for the company’s voice, the CEO’s words, and the language spoken among employees. All of those areas impact how the company or organization is seen internally and to the outside world.

As experts in building and/or re-building rebuilding communications teams, we’re often called in to help with this process; an effort the CMO or the CEO may not have the time to do, nor the expertise to tackle.

Our Communications Audits & Assessments, one in our series of Clarity Playbooks, include one-on-one interviews with team members and their primary stakeholders, both inside and outside the organization. We dive deeply, and are gratified when, as it is in most cases, complete candor is shared with confidentiality promised. We often add a quantitative survey, expanding the reach of the assessment and ensuring the findings from the qualitative process match the candid responses from the personal meetings.

These findings – unabridged, and sometimes difficult to hear – are shared with leadership and include recommendations for next steps. In many instances, we’re asked to stay on after the assessment to help clients implement the recommendations. It’s a process.

The tortoise knew that “slow and steady wins the race.” Today, especially for Sixers fans, we’ll just say it this way, “Trust the process.”

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

The Value of Collaboration in Strategy Development

By Todd Bergey

Let’s face it, getting your strategy right is vital to the success of any marketing plan. It’s easy for strategy to be viewed in a very pragmatic way, when in fact, strategy development is never a straight line and should be pressure tested along the way. So, whether you are in the discovery or execution phase, how you approach the process plays a vital role in how you succeed.

It’s true, people who help create something are more invested in its success. As marketers and brand managers, we all want to think our entire team is fully vested and inspired to see a strategy prove to be wildly successful, so the question is – how? The answer is collaboration. The more people you have rooting for and participating in the success of a strategy the better. Here are four areas that affect how and if collaboration will play an active role in your strategy development.

  1. Culture. Assuming you have the right people/partners in the right seats, team members need to know that they are “licensed” to participate at all levels of a strategic plan. A creative director should not resist listening to insights from other members of the team that are not “creative”, and brand managers should welcome feedback from sales teams that may see advertising as an expense rather than an investment. This type of culture does not diminish the role that a creative director or brand manager has in the process, it should actually strengthen their position. It’s simply the difference between working for someone (vendor) and working with someone (partner). When we choose a culture of collaboration, we work side-by-side, each having equal weight in the success of the strategy – while having distinct roles in the process.
  2. Commitment. A collaborative culture can easily be thwarted in strategy development by the actions of just a few people on any team who clearly want (and prefer) divisions and separations in the process. In light of the fast-paced environment that we are all in, it’s true, a collaborative approach can cause the process to take longer, may cause more disagreements/differences of opinions, and to some it may seem completely unnecessary. So, making sure the entire team is committed to the benefits of the process is fundamental to succeeding. This may mean that you have to pull a team member aside to either encourage them to participate more in the process or to be less critical of the comments of others – this takes commitment.
  3. Conviction vs. Concession. Collaboration can be destroyed when you and your team don’t have a proper view of how to “stand your ground” or “let go”. In a healthy collaborative environment, you don’t have to (and can’t) always “win” – and quite honestly, you shouldn’t. We’ve all been in that meeting when 9 of 10 people are in full agreement on something and one colleague just can’t let their opinion go – which, to be fair has been given every opportunity to be heard – then it’s time to concede. At the same time, being willing to hold strongly to an opinion should be celebrated and encouraged. This is often needed when there is no strong consensus, and the strength passion and conviction for a specific viewpoint is what the team needs in order to move forward. Regardless of whether conviction or concession is exercised throughout the strategy development process, it is still about winning – winning as a team!
  4. Celebration. How you celebrate the success of a strategy is vital to encouraging collaboration. Nothing halts a collaborative approach faster than the word “I”. Giving credit should always trump taking credit for success. Period!

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.