Thursday, November 29, 2012

Halloween Horror Stories

A Report from the October Professional Development Luncheon 

by Monica Cuevas

The Nov. 1 PRSA luncheon, “Halloween Horror Stories: Real-Life Communication Mishaps” was a delightful and entertaining experience. Throughout my coursework at UTSA and during my internship, I have listened to several lectures on steps to take when faced with a crisis. Listening to the real life stories of PR professionals who have experienced hairy situations and how they were able to turn them around offered wonderful examples of how to apply these lessons.

I particularly enjoyed the story by Dee Dee Poteete, director of communications for the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, where her team found themselves with no light just before midnight as Anderson Cooper was about to go on air to feature a San Antonio New Year’s celebration. As hearts where pounding, her team thought quickly to come up with a solution. The team spotted a neighboring party and reached out to them for help connecting to an electrical outlet. Cords were thrown over a balcony and seconds before airtime lights illuminated Cooper. Poteete’s story, as well as the many others told, shows how PR professionals must be flexible to unexpected situations that occur even when planning is well laid out.

Leaving the luncheon I felt a sense of excitement knowing I would soon encounter the challenge of experiences just like Poteete’s. Encouraged by the Halloween spirit, the corners of my mouth perked up into a giant grin. As I walked out, I couldn’t help but envision my opportunity to play PR superhero rescuing those in need, if even for just a moment.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Using CSR to Establish Credibility

By Randy Escamilla, APR

In 2004, activists labeled The Clorox Company one of manufacturing's "dirty dozen." They branded Clorox one of the nation's worst environmental polluters.

Two years later, Clorox remained the only company in the super-packaged goods industry that had not issued a Corporate Social Responsibility report.

Green Works or Greenwashing

Then in 2007,  in an attempt to boost its green credibility, Clorox acquired Burt's Bees and Green Works natural household cleansing products. But critics charged Clorox, the bleach manufacturer, with "greenwashing." Greenwashing is a term stamped on corporations who make unsubstantiated claims about the environmental benefit of products, services, or technology.

After critics continued a barrage of attacks, Clorox decided to respond. Clorox realized it needed to tell its story. The Clorox corporate communications team prepared a focus and a framework.

Corporate Response

Clorox began formalizing its CR (Corporate Responsibility) strategy, began conducting surveys, and pledged to be accountable. Their strategy needed to be robust and transparent. Clorox began telling its story.

Clorox bleach, the flagship product, not only kills germs and cleans clothes, but the chemical makeup is made of the same compound as table salt and by the time it goes down the drain 98 percent of the bleach has reverted to salt.

Rebuilding Reputation.

Clorox issued its first sustainability report in 2010.

It also became the first cleansing manufacturer to voluntarily disclose all ingredients in its company products. 

Clorox executives also wanted to establish credibility through results.

     A survey found employee engagement at 88 percent.
Suppliers must certify a code of conduct to abide by human rights, provide a safe and healthy work environment, environmental stewardship, and follow ethical practices. 

    Repositioned the Brita water filtration brand to help reduce plastic water bottle waste.

   Making Clorox bleach concentrated to reduce bottle size and increase store shelf space. 

Repacking Fresh Step cat litter to reduce box size and increase store shelf space. 

As a result, Clorox is using CSR to drive business. Already, it has seen a 40 percent growth in products that are sustainable. By 2013, Clorox has a goal of reducing its operational  footprint by 10 percent.

 Walking the walk

Clorox set out to inform stakeholders that what it's doing is true and transparent.

Activists groups, namely the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, have now partnered with The Clorox Company.     

Clorox has also provided more than $20 million in contributions:

    $15 million corporate product donations (crisis response).
    $3.3 million foundation cash grants.
    $1.5 million cause marketing.

Also, because nearly 100,000 people die annually from hospital-acquired diseases, researchers at Clorox will focus on healthcare products; now it's fastest growing market.

"I feel that public relations communications can really drive what we're doing," said Kathryn Caulfield, The Clorox Company Vice President of Global Corporate Communications, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Crisis Management.

"Transparency is helping us set more aggressive goals. We use public relations to be more strategic in how we talk about what we're doing," she said.

Strategic Move

On October 15th at the PRSA 2012 International Conference in San Francisco, the world's largest public relations gathering, The Clorox Company released its annual report. Download it here at:

Transparency and story-telling are building trust and establishing credibility through results.

Editor's Note:  Randy Escamilla, APR, was a delegate to the PRSA Delegate Assembly. He holds a Master of Professional Studies degree in Strategic Public Relations from the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. You can reach him at

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

San Antonio PRSA Loses PR Giant, Charlie Kenworthey, APR, Fellow PRSA

Charlie with his wife, Dottie.
With the sad news of Charlie’s passing on Sunday, I’ve been reflecting on his wonderful contributions to our chapter, to the public relations profession and to me personally. What follows is adapted from a profile that our chapter published in 2005 on Charlie’s 80th birthday. (Please let us know if you’re the original author.) Information about his memorial service is online with his obituary in the San Antonio Express-News with an online guestbook.

Charles Kenworthey, APR, Fellow PRSA, reached many milestones both in years and accomplishments that few others have or ever will. He was one of the San Antonio PRSA chapter’s most active and valuable members.

2005 marked Charlie’s 40th anniversary as a member of PRSA. And, nationally, he was one of only 130 members with that much active longevity in the organization. Locally, he served on the San Antonio Chapter’s board of directors as ombudsman into his 80s, lending his wide-ranging knowledge and expertise to solving problems for PRSA members. He brought a unique historic perspective to board discussions and helped guide strategy and decision-making on a regular basis.
As the first-ever winner of the Chapter’s Del Oro Tex Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award, Charlie was recognized for pioneering the profession of public relations in many of the San Antonio organizations in which he has served. His professional achievements include:
  • PR director, National Bank of Commerce
  • PR director, St. Mary’s University
  • VP of Communications for the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce
  • Executive director of PR for USAA
  • Manager of the San Antonio office of Hill & Knowlton
  • President of BSM Consultants, Inc.
  • Commander of a Naval Reserve Public Affairs unit
  • Executive director of the Texas Public Relations Association
  • Twice president of San Antonio PRSA Chapter, 1971 and 1979
  • Elected to the PRSA College of Fellows
In addition to his professional career, Charlie amassed an incredible record of public service, using his public relations expertise to help others. For example, he helped raise millions of dollars for Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital. His fundraising skills resulted in the construction of a modern treatment center for people with cerebral palsy.

As a mentor, Charlie’s sound advice, encouragement and good humor probably benefited hundreds of PR professionals over the years. He served on the chapter’s board of directors since before written records exist, and his latest title of PRSA ombudsman was created especially to enable his continued official involvement in chapter affairs. In addition to mentoring, Charlie was a staunch defender of the public relations profession against adverse treatment in the news media.

Through hard work, outstanding standards of honesty and integrity over more than 40 years of professional and public service, Charles Kenworthey stood as a model for all PR professionals.

Thank you for everything Charlie. Rest in peace our friend, mentor, leader and inspiration.

Update: The San Antonio Express-News published a story today (July 25, 2012).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The "R" in PR

By Randy Escamilla, APR

The PRSA-San Antonio chapter summer networking mixers are enjoying strong support among members and future members. The Association for Women in Communications chapter along with PRSA co-sponsored the event.

An estimated 60 people attended the July 12 event at Azuca Restaurant and Cantina in San Antonio's South Town.  Roughly half of the attendees are potential PRSA members.

While the mixer is for professionals, PRSA keeps it relaxed which contributes to the event's success. Also, the co-sponsors did a great job of communicating the message and reaching out. "I received the email notification and subsequent reminder about the PRSA networking mixer and was compelled to attend by the casual premise," wrote Hart-Boillot Account Director Andrea Dunbeck.

Future member Uche Ogba from BethanyEast PR enjoyed getting to know people and engaging with other public relations practitioners. He and his wife learned about the mixer through a post on LinkedIn. "I see myself getting more involved in the PRSA-San Antonio chapter. The mixer gave me the opportunity to meet interesting people, exchange contact information, and build lasting relationships."

The payoff in a new job or big contract may or may not occur later on but no one endured hard sales or membership pitches. The PRSA networking mixer focuses on relationship-building and puts the R in public relations.

"The PRSA mixer provided a forum to introduce those folks I know well to each other, hopefully expanding their communities. As I headed home for the evening, I felt rejuvenated by my growing personal community-a truly successful networking event," Dunbeck said.

For more information about public relations visit PRSA-San Antonio.

Randy Escamilla, APR, is on the board for PRSA San Antonio. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Memories of Sharing the Newspaper at the Kitchen Table

By Monica Faulkenbery, APR

I recently read an article about the Times-Picayune in New Orleans laying off one-third of its staff, reducing its print edition by five days (only printing three days a week), and focusing on its digital presence. 

The Picayune was established in 1837 with issues costing one picayune – a Spanish coin equivalent to 6 ¼ cents. Under Eliza Jane Nicholson, who inherited the struggling paper when her husband died in 1876, the Picayune introduced innovations such as society reporting, children’s pages, and the first women’s advice column, according to Wikipedia. Between the years of 1880 to 1890, the paper more than tripled its circulation. It became The Times-Picayune after merging in 1914 with its rival paper, the New Orleans Times-Democrat.

As a news junkie, I find all the reductions in newspaper staffs over the past few years very disheartening. I grew up in a household that would gather around the kitchen table every morning to read the paper. My dad read the Muskogee Phoenix in the morning and the Tulsa Tribune in the evening. It was a ritual I remember fondly and tied us together as a family.

I just don’t get the same satisfaction gathering around my iPad, scrolling through the newspapers. There’s no ink smell, no ink on my hands when I finish, no fighting with the cats who want to lie down on the paper while I’m reading it, no trading this section for that section. 

Steve Jobs once said that he loved the printed product but that our lives are not like that anymore. I know I have to embrace the new technology, and I have, but it’s okay to say that you miss the “old ways.” Just think, our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be viewing printed newspapers behind glass in museums wondering how we ever held those big pieces of paper and read them. 

What about the old political saying, “never argue (or pick a fight) with a man who buys ink by the barrel?”  There’s something else for the history books. 

Another saying also comes to mind – “can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” 

But, as Jobs said, we can’t live like we have in the past, so as I scroll through my iPad reading a San Antonio Express News article, I still worry about all my journalism friends, and the integrity of good news gathering and storytelling as newspaper staffs dwindle. And, I still remember the “good old days” as I sat with my dad sharing the newspaper at the kitchen table. 

Monica Faulkenbery, APR, is on the Board of PRSA San Antonio and the Assistant Director of Communications for the Northside Independent School District.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The ABC’s of Setting Goals and Objectives

by Monica Faulkenbery, APR

Recently I was asked to judge a national awards program. My category for judging was communication plans. 

It was disheartening to view so many plans, submitted by seasoned public relation professionals, who did not understand the difference between goals and objectives, or strategies and tactics. Many of them wrote tactics as objectives.

So the purpose of this post is to serve as a primer for understanding the difference. It’s not that I’m an expert, but I do understand that you cannot measure the success of a project without setting a measurable objective. Maybe because I have taught it for so long in our APR sessions, but it just seems so simple and reasonable to me, so here’s my version of the 411 on understanding the difference.

First of all, goals are not objectives. Goals are longer-term, broad, and more global future statements of “being.”  Probably unbeknownst to him, Shakespeare was well on his way to writing a goal statement with his famous line of “to be or not to be.” An example of a goal statement is “to become the recognized leader, foster continuing public support, etc.” Consider using action verbs when writing goal statements, such as “to maintain, to continue, to create, to enhance, to increase/decrease, or to promote/prevent.”

Objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, audience specific, relevant, results (outcome) oriented, and time-specific. You should also think short-term and long-term when writing objectives. An easy way to think of it is to remember: who, what, when, and how much? For example, “within six months, 40% of employees will contact the benefits office to inquire about setting up a 401K account.” Or, “by the end of 12 months, 65% of the residents living within one mile of the plant will be aware of at least two anti-pollution projects undertaken by the company.” 

Strategies serve as a road map or approach to reach objectives. This is the planning process of how you will approach the challenge to reach your objective. You probably will have several strategies for each objective. Examples include media relations, third party endorsements, and public engagement.

And finally, tactics serve as specific elements of a strategy. They are how you plan to use your resources to carry out your strategies and work toward your objectives. Examples include meetings, publications, community events, news releases, etc. These are probably what many of us are most familiar with doing; the hands-on activities that get the job done.

So you can see, it is definitely not rocket science or even earth shattering. But it is important and should be something that you pull out of your toolbox and understand how to use. 

Monica Faulkenbery, APR, is the assistant PR Director for the Northside Independent School District and serves on the board of the San Antonio chapter of PRSA.