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Monday, June 30, 2008

Portman Hired at CLS

Catherine Portman has been named senior associate at public relations firm Carmichael Lynch Spong and will be based out of the New York office. Her new role includes leading clients Lutron® and Therma-Tru® and working with the media relations team to pursue broadcast opportunities for the firm’s clients.

Portman comes to Carmichael Lynch Spong from ABC News, where she was an associate producer for “Good Morning America.” While there, she produced tape pieces for anchors Diane Sawyer, Charles Gibson, Robin Roberts and ABC News correspondents.

"We are very pleased to have Catherine join our team of achievement addicts here at Carmichael Lynch Spong," says Douglas K. Spong, APR. "Her extensive experience with broadcast media will be beneficial to our clients who call for support in this area."

Portman has over five years of experience in television news. Prior to her role at “Good Morning America” she was a production assistant at the Washington Bureau of ABC News. While there she helped produce the show open for “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” along with coordinating all graphic and tape elements for the weekly show.

Portman began her television career as an intern for CNN in the Washington , D.C. and Los Angeles , Calif. news bureaus. During her time at CNN she covered the contested election of 2000.

Throughout her television news career, Portman received several accolades for her work. In 2005, she was on the Emmy-award-winning team that produced Diane Sawyer’s reports from the tsunami-afflicted area. Then in 2007, as a part of the “Good Morning America” staff, she won a daytime Emmy for “Best Morning Show.”

Portman received her bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of California , Davis . She also studied abroad for a year at Trinity College , University of Dublin in Dublin , Ireland .

Thursday, June 26, 2008


The Minneapolis-St. Paul office of Weber Shandwick today announced the new hires of six employees in the interactive and emerging media, technology, financial services and corporate, community and public affairs practices.

Andy Keith joined the interactive and emerging media practice as an interactive B2B strategist. Prior to Weber Shandwick, Keith was a strategist providing expertise in Web marketing, online communities and portals, corporate blogging, social media, knowledge management and e-learning for companies such as Macromedia, TechRepublic and Analysts International, as well as several local tech startups. Originally from the Los Angeles area, Keith graduated from California State University at Northridge with a bachelor's degree in theater and also received his master's degree in education from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.

After completing her internship, Mary Elizabeth Sisk joined the interactive and emerging media practice as an assistant account executive. Prior to Weber Shandwick, Sisk was an event staff member for the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion and was the public relations director for the Daily Gamecock, University of South Carolina’s student newspaper. A native of Greenville, SC, Sisk graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor's degree in public relations and a minor in business with cum laude honors.

Amy Steigman joined the technology practice as an account supervisor. Prior to Weber Shandwick, Steigman managed public relations and membership marketing and communications at Scientific Societies. A native of International Falls, Minn., Steigman earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and her master's degree in technical communication from Metropolitan State University. Steigman is also a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

Jessica Walstrom also joined the technology practice as an assistant account executive. Prior to Weber Shandwick, Walstrom held internships with Piper Jaffray, Wells Fargo, Padilla Spears Beardsley, Carlson School of Management and Trammell Crow Company. A native of Anoka, Minn., Walstrom earned her bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in business management from the University of Minnesota.

Sue Diekman joined the financial services practice as an account director. Prior to Weber Shandwick, Diekman was the senior director of corporate communications for HealthPartners. A native of Brooklyn Park, Minn., Diekman earned her master's degree in business communication from the University of St. Thomas and received her bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota.

Jeff Falk joined the corporate, community and public affairs practice as a senior account executive. Prior to Weber Shandwick, Falk served as director of communications for the Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto and worked as the broadcast media relations manager in the University of Minnesota's Office of University Relations. He also served as a press aide to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. A dual citizen of Germany and the United States, Falk holds a bachelor's degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Successful Public Relations Does Not Equal Clip Books

So I must admit I am so tired of PR success being personified by a statement like – “It was a successful PR campaign because it generated 10 million media impressions and had an ad value of $12 million.”

MNPR Blog readers – it is time we take a stand against these statements and work to educate the business community that strategic public relations does not equal clip books. That is all well and good that your campaign generated a ton of media coverage – however what did those results accomplish? How did they drive your business? Did the tie back to your business objectives?

By definition
public relations is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. Now I am not unrealistic, I fully understand that media relations is one of the key functions of our industry but it’s not what PR is. For decades, we as a profession have trained businesses that PR is measurable by clip books. We are perceived to churn out press releases and “spin” the story to make an organization look good. Too often, PR is brought in as an afterthought – “oh we have a great product and our ads are done – lets see what PR can do with this.”

I think it is time that we as professionals revisit the definition of PR. It is not about spin, it’s not about clip books – it’s about communication, it’s about perception, it’s about relationships. This is the core of our business ladies and gentleman but yet there is this massive lack of understanding about what the utility of public relations truly is.

The landscape of the media is changing daily. The lines between PR and marketing continue to blur and intersect. No longer can marketing and PR fall under a one-way communication model. The multitude of ways consumers or audiences relevant to your business receive information is staggering. Consumers can now engage directly with organizations and voice their opinions, good or bad. And companies now have the opportunity to engage with audiences on so many different levels.

The concept of
is at the forefront and PR professionals need to be leading conversations with organizations about the impact public relations can have on an organizations brand and message. PR needs to be at the table from the beginning.

Organizations do not bring the legal team or financial team into the picture at the last minute – because these entities are viewed as strategic counsel. My questions is – why is public relations viewed any different?

So I want to have a conversation with all you blog readers out there. Share your thoughts. I am sure people have an opinion on the matter.
  • Do you gauge PR success to be the clip books you build? 
  • Where does long-term strategy fall within the walls of your agency or company? 
  • How do you define PR? 

Friday, June 20, 2008

Value of APR

Ok I must be completely honest and candid for one moment – when I made the choice to pursue my Accreditation in Public Relations I just thought it would be good for my resume and would allow me to further entrench myself with PRSA. Boy was I incorrect!!

As I mentioned to Joel Swason one day – obtaining my APR has been one of the most valuable, challenging and thought provoking experiences in my career. Before taking the steps to pursue my APR, I would hear how valuable it was but never truly understood why until I begin the process. I wanted to share some of the key insights I learned from the APR process and why I feel it is one of the most valuable things I have every done for my career.
  • Rethinking the PR Profession: Going through the studying process, I found myself really reevaluating the approach I take with clients. So often, we all seem inundated with work that what once was a long-term strategic process now becomes a reactive day-to-day task. The APR process stresses massive importance of planning and brings back to light the true realities of what PR is and how it should work. 
  • Distinction in the PR Profession: When you hear APR is a distinction among PR professionals, that is not an inaccurate statement. APR professionals understand the challenges of the PR profession and are enabled with the rationale tools to justify their role within an organization or with a client. The APR process pushes an individual to a higher level of thinking and continues to stress the counsel aspect of what it means to be a PR practitioner. I think the largest challenge is educating the business community about this powerful distinction. 
  • Rewards That Cant Be Quantified: I think the biggest thing I gained from the APR process was just the opportunity to reenergize myself about this career path and the work I do everyday. It also reinforced the approach I take as a PR professional. 
I truly believe in the APR process and would advise anyone who understands PR to be more than clip books and tonnage should really explore beginning this journey. I believe anyone would find it as rewarding as I did.

Monday, June 16, 2008

“We need to do something in MySpace.” – Strategizing for social media

The PR profession has seen significant growth in social media marketing. There is a lot of chatter on how to best participate in online environments and networks and utilize the latest apps and technologies. One area of particular interest, however, is the initial strategy piece of social media marketing.

Now that the “” question has been chewed over for several years now, how can PR counselors be more strategic in this category? Here's a starting point: ask good, thought-provoking questions and seal the deal on clear objectives.

Presence vs Participation
We’re seeing a strong desire from CEOs and marketing managers to connect with key stakeholders online and experiment with or enhance social media marketing efforts. This is commendable and encouraged as it demonstrates a willingness to better understand the customer, grow as a brand and be open and involved. But Jason Heller from Online Media Daily shares a relevant concern about assertive statements (e.g. ’We want to do something in MySpace.’ ‘What about Facebook?’ ‘Second Life?’ 'Twitter?' ‘We need to do a viral campaign.') that are "without respective objectives.” Yes, many of these platforms, networks and technologies are great places for a brand, but first, some desired objectives please.

Heller also draws a nice distinction about forced social media marketing: “presence” versus “participation.” Participation requires a thoughtful strategy and a serious time and resource investment. While participation is certainly ideal and presence can be generally valuable from an awareness point of view, when done without a strategic vision there is simply more at risk. Like what? The potential to fail in “clear sight of your most valuable consumers and brand advocates.”

Social Media Marketing Strategizing
The abovementioned statements and questions are examples of how brand managers want in but may not understand what would be the most meaningful, appropriate and strategic way(s) to be in. That’s when as communications professionals (in all industries) we have a responsibility to help guide that strategy based on a deep knowledge of the business and opportunities, an understanding of social media marketing best practices and use of the right tools, OR, by pulling in the smart resources and experts out there to partner with for sustainable social media marketing projects.

What are some of the questions and considerations to ask or ponder when shaping a social media strategy? Lee Odden from Online Marketing Blog throws out a few common outcomes for when talking about goals or strategy, including driving traffic for ad revenue models, building links for SEO or increasing brand visibility and authority. And when asked to strategize social media marketing initiatives for brands, Heller suggests first starting with “Why?” A standard reaction? Hopefully. Smart? Yes. He goes on:
“What are your specific objectives? Engaging and developing brand advocates? Establishing or expanding your consumer feedback loop? Creating additional media reach? Dissemination of marketing activation like coupons, incentives? … Does the combination of your existing brand personality and assets lend themselves to engaging consumers, or do you need to create new assets and a brand personality extension to accomplish your objectives?”
Simply doing it because everyone else is just doesn’t cut it. It needs to tie back to business and communications goals. Then, the value derived from the social media marketing effort becomes much clearer, rewarding, and – important to ROI – measurable! Hello KPIs.

In managing and committing to your or your client’s social media marketing plans, what have you found to be the most popular answers or drivers received when prompted with the “Why” question?

Beehive PR

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Keeping the message fresh

Keeping your message fresh?! What does that mean? I do not claim to have the answer, but rather want to share my experiences and challenges – and welcome all of you to do the same.
My name is Sandy Sweep and my job consists of internal communication among military personnel. I am the marketing director of the Services Squadron which is part of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation division of the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC). The services available include things such as lodging accommodations, fine and casual dining, travel discounts, a fitness center and professional catering options. Although I am part of the AFRC, all services are available to all military personnel, regardless of branch. Thus, there are reservists (who spend one weekend a month “on duty”), active duty, and retired personnel – all of whom come from different lives away from the military. How do you reach all of them … and keep the message fresh although the services stay the same?
It’s the same problem faced by each of you, just a different audience. When I started in the position, I observed that the previous method of delivery was no longer working (colored bulletins and flyers posted around the base, mailed to homes and posted online) and facility participation was declining rapidly. It became clear that most reservists are only “military” one weekend a month and find it more convenient to belong to their local health club than work out at the base, active-duty personnel who work all week on base would rather eat at Applebee’s than return to “work” and have dinner, and retired service people, although faithful participants, are, for the most part, war veterans and not getting any younger.
My mission? Don’t try to compete with Applebee’s or Lifetime, and stress what we can give our people that civilian enterprise cannot - respect for their military service and major military discounts. Think about it – how many times have you heard “Discount with valid military id.” Well, we offer the full and original military discount, and on services that rival any civilian offering. Many service people, especially the younger ones, enlisted in the military for the benefits. It’s just time to remind them of those benefits.
The saying, “Keep on doing what you’re doing and you’ll keep on getting what you’re getting” was absolutely true in this military marketing world – but it is also true anywhere. Without preaching to the choir, it is of utmost importance to routinely assess your audience and make modifications. Of course, you can guess that I have run into objections, mainly from my older audience, that they aren’t too sure about the redesigned newsletter and the use of urban-influenced posters. Feedback from facility managers, however, is that they are getting positive response. I consider it a plus that people ARE noticing and making comments at all. Isn’t that the whole objective – to be seen? Practically speaking, the payoff is that brunch and lodging reservation numbers are on the rise!
Thanks for allowing me to share. I welcome your comments and own experiences!

Friday, June 13, 2008

In Memoriam: Tim Russert

I felt it important to change the focus of my post today and address the untimely passing of Tim Russert.

For those of you unaware, Tim Russert passed away this afternoon while at the NBC Newsroom. He was 58.

Russert was one of those rare journalists who became known for his relentless questioning of politicians on
“Meet the Press.”  Democrats or Republicans, Russert truly conducted every interview with the same thoughtfulness and intelligence wanting to seek the truth and hold politicians accountable for statements they would make. He had a true desire to get the story right and report it with integrity and honesty. He was proof that good people can also be good journalists.

I was honored enough to hear him speak at the 2007 PRSA Conference where I found him to be simply captivating as he candidly and openly discussed his father and the emotions behind his books “Big Russ and Me” and During his speech it was evident he was passionate about being a reporter, being a father and being an avid sports fan.

I think
Tom Brokaw said it best today when announcing Russert’s passing. “... He was like a quarterback who could see the whole field,” Brokaw stated. “He was a tough interrogator, no question about it, but he kept his very strong personal opinions to himself. This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice.”

I will certainly never be able to look at a whiteboard the same. He will be truly missed.

Feel free to share your thoughts...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Playing in the Sandbox: The Trend of Collaborating with Other Agencies

Hello! First things first – my name is Heather Schwartz and I am thrilled to be a guest blogger for the next few weeks. Just some background about me: I currently work at Maccabee Group in the role of Brand Public Relations Director. I’m also actively involved with PRSA serving as chair of the business outreach committee and I’m one of the founders of the . Ok ... now on to more interesting things:

Ben Franklin once said, “We must all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” I can’t tell you how true I have found that statement to be as I continue through my career. Over the course of the last five years, I have worked with ad agencies, interactive companies, direct mail firms, copywriters and guerilla marketing firms to create campaigns for companies like OfficeMax and American Medical Systems.

Now working with other agencies to create a campaign is nothing new, but in recent years I am seeing a trend of sharing ideas at the same table and collaborating for the betterment of the client project. I am seeing clients holding open forums for their agency partners to voice honest opinions and thoughts on any facet of the campaign whether it falls under that agency’s area of expertise or not.

At the 2006 PRSA National Conference, I sat in on a session put on by Unilever about the success of
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. Unilever’s brand manager for Dove candidly shared how it was a requirement for every agency involved on the project attend every planning meeting and brainstorming session. Now at first when I listened to this session I honestly thought an approach like this could cause massive issues from dealing with different egos to territorial problems. But I now believe this to be an extremely smart and strategic approach to a successful creative process.

When I created the
in 2006, it was amazing to watch the creation of this event take place. Here was talent from PR, advertising, communication, interactive and marketing companies all around the Twin Cities, some competitors and some collaborators, all sitting at the same table sharing ideas, asking questions and pushing each other to do the best work possible. People putting the competitiveness aside to do the best work for the organization they were representing. The end result: a stellar event that members of IABC, PRSA, AMA and are truly proud of.

So I am curious if other people have seen this trend of sharing ideas with other agencies and actually working together. And if you are on the client end of things, do you actively work to bring all your partners together when working on a project?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The rise of citizen journalism

Hello, my name is Arik Hanson, APR. Full disclosure: I am a board member of Minnesota PRSA and the liaison to the programming and networking committee. Last week I had the privilege of participating in one of Ragan’s Social Media Workshops led by the incomparable Shel Holtz. For two full days we discussed the potential business impact of a host of social media tools that have burst on the scene the last few years—including , FriendFeed, Second Life and and how we, as communications professionals, can leverage these tools to start meaningful discussions with our key stakeholders to create value for our organizations.

What I found fascinating about the conversations was how quickly the democratization of content has changed the way communicators interact with their audiences (just look how multinational corporations like Kodak and Starbucks are leveraging social media to build their brands). To me, this sounded eerily similar to a trend that’s taking hold in media circles: Citizen journalism. Much like social media, citizen journalism (or, participatory journalism), has given readers and customers a voice. It’s changing the way we consume our news. While social media tools like blogs, podcasts and YouTube have allowed anybody with a computer and internet access the ability to shape, influence and change the perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of our audiences (see what happened when two guys got creative with the and Mentos brands), citizen journalism has given those same folks the ability to directly contribute to the news in their community.

Interested to hear more? (Here’s my shameless plug—remember, full disclosure) Attend an interactive session on citizen journalism at American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio’s offices in downtown St. Paul on Thursday, June 19. We’ve assembled an all-star cast of journalists, editors and producers who will discuss the changing model of journalism and how you, as communications practitioners, can take advantage of this new trend to help better tell your organization’s story to your key audiences. Visit the MN PRSA Web site for complete details. I look forward to seeing you next Thursday. (Also, big thanks to Ryan for giving me the opportunity to guest blog).

CaringBridge® Selects CLS As Agency of Record

CaringBridge, a nonprofit that offers free, personalized Web sites to connect seriously ill or injured people with their family and friends, recently selected Carmichael Lynch Spong as its agency of record. This adds to the Minneapolis-based public relations firm’s growing list of non-profit clients. CaringBridge, of Eagan , Minn. , is funded nearly 90 percent by individual donations. Nielsen//NetRatings ranks as the third-most heavily trafficked non-profit Web site in the world, behind and

When family members and friends are concerned about a patient who is hospitalized, in treatment or recovery, CaringBridge offers free, easily-created, private and personalized Web sites to ease the communication process. A CaringBridge Web site can help keep loved ones aware of a patient’s day-to-day progress. The user can select varying levels of privacy for his or her site, and it is always free. CaringBridge Web sites do not contain banner ads, pop-ups or spam. Since its creation in 1997, visitors to CaringBridge sites have left more than 15 million messages of hope and encouragement. The CaringBridge community includes families in all 50 states and over 190 countries around the world.

"Having Carmichael Lynch Spong on board to help spread the word about our nonprofit service means a lot to our organization," says Chris Moquist, director of marketing and communications for CaringBridge. "We’re confident in the firm’s ability to increase broad awareness of CaringBridge, and therefore help more and more families stay connected to share information, love and support during a critical time in their lives."

As one of the 20 largest public relations firms in the nation, Carmichael Lynch Spong represents a select portfolio of clients that are the leaders of their industries. Current nonprofit clients include the American Humane Association and TransFair USA, owners of the Fair Trade Certified trademark.

"It brings us an immense sense of fulfillment to be able to work with an organization like CaringBridge," says Douglas K. Spong, APR, president of Carmichael Lynch Spong. "From a business standpoint, we’re proud to be affiliated with such a successful enterprise; and from a personal standpoint, it is fulfilling to be able to aid distressed families in any capacity."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Job -Select Comfort - Corporate Communications Manager

Thursday, June 05, 2008

LaBreche Launches Health and Wellness Practice

LaBreche, announced yesterday that it has launched a health and wellness practice dedicated to serving the communications needs of medical device, biotechnology and health care organizations.

"We wanted to introduce an offering during this perfect storm in the health and wellness industry," said Beth LaBreche, CEO. "Medical device, biotechnology and health care organizations need top talent to help them meet their aggressive growth goals. But competition for talent is fierce. Thus they are tapping into agencies to help fill the void and realize their business potential through sound market development strategy and communications programs."

LaBreche adds that Minnesota and Wisconsin, where the agency has offices, represent an epicenter for early- to late-stage medical device companies. More than 927 medical device companies in 16 diverse market segments are headquartered in the two states. Minneapolis, specifically, is the city with the largest concentration per capita of medical device companies worldwide, and is home to such industry icons such as Medtronic, St. Jude Medical, Boston Scientific and 3M.

Carrie Nelson will lead the firm’s health and wellness practice. Nelson brings 16 years of experience in consumer and business-to-business health care marketing with companies such as Medtronic, American Medical Systems and United HealthCare. Nelson notes that medical device marketing demands a different approach, skill set and experience than other sectors. “Marketers must understand the regulatory, product development, sales and marketing processes that launch and sustain products. They must also understand and apply AdvaMed best practices,” she said.

Most recently, Nelson served as the public marketing manager for the National Marrow Donor Program. Her innovative work in direct-to-consumer medical device marketing has earned several top industry awards including an International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Gold Quill Award and two Medical Marketing and Media (MM&M) awards. Nelson earned her journalism degree from the University of St. Thomas.

"Health and wellness is a dynamic, complex sector," said LaBreche. "Carrie Nelson is a highly experienced marketer with a strong track record of creating original, results-oriented marketing strategies that are fueled by an intimate understanding of the market. She will lead a strong team dedicated to innovative strategy and personalized service that will be a valuable asset to our clients."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


The Minneapolis-Saint Paul office of Weber Shandwick today announced the promotion of Ryan Benbo to group manager in the corporate, community and public affairs practice.

Benbo manages key defense and government services accounts, including BAE Systems and Opus Government Programs, providing strategic planning, public affairs, media and community relations and tradeshow media relations support. Benbo also has worked to develop award-winning campaigns within the defense industry by leveraging innovative electronic communications tools and strategies. His media relations efforts have helped to position key clients in the real estate industry to be recognized as leaders in environmental and sustainable building practices.

Benbo is active in his community serving on the Board of Spiritual Guidance at New Creation Lutheran Church in Perham, Minn., and by serving as a mentor and member of the Board of Directors at Perham Kinship Program. A native of Winger, Minn., Benbo earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Northwestern College in Roseville, Minn.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

MNPR needs your assistance!!!

I will be out of the office on business next week and then on vacation the following week I am looking for volunteers that would be interested in guest blogging.

I will be out of the office from June 9 - June 24 and I would like to schedule sometimes for people to act as guest bloggers.

There are a couple of rules to being a guest blogger. They are as follows:
  • Don't say bad things about other companies.(even if they are true, this isn't the forum)
  • Don't use language that the FCC wouldn't approve
  • Don't post images of people or images that the FCC wouldn't approve
  • Don't get into personal attacks
  • Don't make unrealistic claims about your company (for example, "we are the greatest thing since sliced bread")
I think that covers it.

If you are willing to stick to these rules and you think you have some communications insights you want to share I am happy to have YOU as a guest blogger. and I will send you an invite. Also, if you could let me know what days you are interested in posting that would help me plan with other guest bloggers.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Cohen vs. McClellan

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan shook up the PR community this weekend when he released his book which admits that he lied during his tenure as Press Secretary.

While many were shocked others, like Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen, suggested that telling a PR person not to lie is like telling a burglar not to steal. In response to Cohen's comments saying, "the PRSA Code of Ethics, to which all members pledge, embodies a strict set of guidelines defining ethical and professional practice in public relations."

Are all PR professionals liars? I certainly don't think of myself that way, but maybe I am just a really good liar? If all PR people are liars, what does that make lawyers? Watch the video and then comment below.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Job - Cooper Power Systems - Proposal/Technical Writer

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