Monday, June 29, 2015

14 Tips from a PR Hall of Famer



Editor’s Note:
Last Wednesday, I was inducted into the Ag Public Relations Hall of Fame. What follows are the tips from my career that I shared during the induction ceremony. Providing background for each tip makes this post extra long ... but what the heck, how often do you get inducted into a Hall of Fame?!


I’m going to share a few stories that I hope provide useful tips for your professional career.

Among those tips are:
  1. Having the “luck” to be at the right place at the right time.
  2. Be willing to say “yes” even if it puts you out of your comfort zone.
  3. Associate with positive, proactive professionals.
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My life in agricultural public relations began when I was growing up ... I just didn’t know it at the time!

I grew up on a bull farm. My dad was a pioneer in the AI business ... which then stood for artificial insemination. Part of Dad’s work in the 1940s and 50s was convincing dairy farmers that AI was better than the backyard bull.

Those early experiences included ...
  • The test tube calf trailer at county fairs to show farmers that a calf born from AI looked just like a calf born via “the old bull.”
  • Jersey bull Colonel Harry’s 10th birthday cake; the photo of which a journalism prof shared 15 years later as an example of press agentry! 
  • Bull of Your Choice, Bull O’Rama field days and Flying Bull.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Building and Protecting Your Association’s Brand Is Vital - Part 2


Yesterday I shared the case of the St. Louis Cardinals and protecting your brand.

I closed saying:
  • Who at your association “manages” its brand?
  • Who monitors activities to ensure your brand is not tarnished?
  • Who watches events and activities within your environment so your association’s brand benefits?
Having a great brand does not guarantee continued success. Just think of Kodak and Blackberry.

Watch for signals for change.

After posting the blog, I read a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article headlined Harley-Davidson’s Hurdle: Attracting Young Motorcycle Riders.

This represents a case study on how an iconic brand is working to be sure its brand is relevant to Millennials and the incoming Generation Z. [And, it is in direct contrast to the “old guys” of golf who are resisting golfing changes for younger players: bigger holes, teeing it forward, rounds of 12 rather than 18 holes.]

Here are highlights from the WSJ piece:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Building and Protecting Your Association’s Brand Is Vital

Brands – whether companies, products or associations – are difficult to create, hard to nurture and easy to destroy.

Recently, the St. Louis Cardinals brand – one of the icons of professional baseball – took a hit when the FBI announced it was investigating whether the Cardinals hacked into the computer system of the Houston Astros baseball club.

For background, read Brand Tarnished, Cardinals Likely to Avoid Economic Damage.

Early in my career, I joined the management team of a sleepy, 40-year-old trade association as part of an effort to dramatically enhance the association’s brand and effectiveness.

The experience offers a case study for other associations.



Industry leaders decided the association needed to grow and develop to better serve the industry. Several leaders earned seats on the national board. Then, they hired an outsider to become the organization’s CEO. During his first 12 months, the new CEO hired an executive management team with diverse experience in all phases of association management. I was lucky enough to be hired as the public relations director responsible for communications PR and the association magazine.

Here are some key points (as I remember them) in our rebranding and rebuilding process:


Monday, June 15, 2015

Kids Skate Free: Association-Managed Cause Marketing Campaign


I love the strategic thinking behind Kids Skate Free!

Kids Skate Free represents a great example of a locally-initiated, association-managed cause marketing campaign that benefits a struggling industry.

It demonstrates how associations can use cause marketing to enhance their members while benefitting a cause.

And, with another generation (“Gen Z”) emerging, what better way to introduce your member businesses to millions of potential new customers.

Here are the basics of Kids Skate Free:
  • Societal Issue: childhood obesity
  • Industry Issue: number of roller skating participants declining
  • Strategy: provide kids coupons for free roller skating ... normally on “slow times”
  • Cure: exercise from roller skating can help reduce obesity and free coupons brings new customers to skating rinks
If you want to read more about a local establishment’s implementation, see this article in the Fort Myers News-Press.

Many successful cause-marketing programs start at the local level:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

2 Examples of Breaking Through Communications Clutter

Jim Palmer, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, once told me:

“Steve, make it short, sweet and easy to repeat.”


Here are two great illustrations of Jim’s advice:

Daniel Pink shared this via Twitter: