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20 years

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MLK: ‘I Have a Dream’: A Half-Century Later, Still the Greatest Speech of the Century

It will come as no surprise  that Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered 50 years ago this week has been ranked number 1 among all famous speeches of the past century. 

As we reflect on his iconic, emotional and moving words we discover some interesting facts from a professional communications perspective.  For instance, the ‘dream’ phrase had been used in a speech Dr. King delivered in Detroit just a few weeks before the March on Washington.  Reportedly, it didn't resonate very well.  Some of MLK’s advisors cautioned that this phrase should not be uttered to the crowd assembling in DC.  How wrong they were!

Understandably, in MLK’s inner circle, there were a great deal of opinions voiced in the days and hours before the final speech content was finalized.  Many differed on what the content should be, the length, the tone, the pitch, the emphasis and on and on.  But all agreed that this speech would be historical and very important, even if they weren't quite able to predict the degree of magnitude.  As we have learned it was a last second reminder from singer Mahalia Jackson, that perhaps prompted King to extemporize, when she said, “Tell them about the ‘dream’.”

50 years later, it seems clear to this communications pro that despite our digital age with near endless channels of communication, it’s a public speech, a keynote speech, even a global employee town hall that  can still generate great and lasting emotion, galvanizing action and even a culture shift.

Suggestion:  When you have the power of a pulpit, consider the impact and make a connection with your audience. 

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Video: Andrew Gilman CEO Explains the Three Types of Crisis

Friday, August 23, 2013

There’s no true delete button for social media

When is deletion not deletion? On the Internet.

That famous TV psychologist Dr. Phil recently polled his Twitter followers to find out how they  felt about women consenting to sex while inebriated.

Immediately, Dr. Phil’s Twitter account was filled with angry backlash criticizing the tweet for perpetuating a rape culture by legitimizing the question.
Rather than acknowledge the angry criticism with an apology or explanation, Dr. Phil deleted the tweet from his feed and stayed silent.  That only enraged his critics, like Laura Hudson, further:

What began as a controversial  tweet turned into an escalating scandal, as news organizations like Washington Post and USA Today began covering the story, as well.

When a crisis such as Dr. Phil’s tweet occurs, we at CommCore suggest the following:

First, acknowledge the tweet, and the controversy surrounding it.  Dr. Phil should have known better than to try to delete it with no further engagement with his Twitter followers.  Thanks to screen grabs, tweets that cause controversy can never be truly deleted.  By trying to hide the tweet instead of acknowledging that he had unintentionally offended people Dr. Phil came across as cowardly and unapologetic.

Second, bridge to your message.  After acknowledging the problem, Dr. Phil had a great opportunity to explain why he posted the poll to begin with.  Dr. Phil’s brand is that he cares about people and wants to help them.  By failing to respond and acknowledge he came across to many as uncaring, insensitive, and not very social media savvy.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing

None of the obituaries for Elmore Leonard matched his writing style.  The best article I read was a reprint of an interview in the Detroit Free Press, which listed Leonard’s 10 rules for writing.

Death is as good a news hook as any to focus on what makes good writing. Most of CommCore’s work is in non-fiction business writing, but many of his suggestions apply.

I loved the rule:  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

“Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue.”

I’ve always thought that to be a good writer, means being your own best editor.  Writing takes time and careful editing.  In the blog and twitter world, there is a pressure for speed over economy.  Heed the advice of Mr. Leonard.  Focus on the what the reader needs, not everything you want to say. 

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013


…the more they remain the same, apparently, in the PR world of media relations.

The Internet Press Guild (IPG) is a community of PR practitioners that focuses entirely on online journalism and news about the Internet. IPG just issued its Care and Feeding of the Press and Care and Feeding of Editors reports intended to update the traditional do's and don'ts of pitching journalists, and particularly tech sector journalists.


After reading the reports, surprise: I noted that you could apply just about every tip to tried-and-true mainstream media relations as well. These include: know to whom you are talking, e-mailing, or online chatting with; know what they have published; know both the news value and the value proposition of your product; meet promised deadlines; write in AP style with an extra-strong and terse lead paragraph; test all links before sending; and keep it short.
Not much new under that sun.

I did find some nuggets that seemed to me to advance traditional media relations best practices a bit:

·        With tech news avoid hyperbole and provide the following information up front: what your product is, when it was/will be released, what platform(s) it runs on, what the configuration requirements are, a spec sheet including OEM vendors, how much it costs, and a URL

·        Never send unsolicited attachments of any kind, and when following up with an attachment keep PowerPoint pitches illustrating your technology news to 5 slides or less

·        Don’t assume the reporter wants an online demo; they usually don’t

·        Do not send a vCard; rely on a detailed signature with your full contact information

Pretty much everything else was the kind of common sense that could have come from a media relations primer from 15 years ago. Which is not a bad thing from our point of view because it reinforces that despite advances in technology and changes in how news is produced, disseminated and consumed:

·        News is still news (or not)

·        Journalists are still journalists even if there are fewer of them than before and their media platforms have changed to include highly interactive blogs and a growing panoply of social media

·        Cultivating, establishing and maintaining relationships with journalists, commentators, bloggers, moderators and editors remains the key to successful media relations, whether they are mainstream, tech sector, or moderating online communities

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Federal Budget Cuts and Training

The sequester bite is taking a toll on government programs.  According to the NY Times the sequester is temporarily changing the way the government does business.

One example is pulling out of an international space conference held in the US. “We talk about being a leader in space exploration,” said Elliot H. Pulham, the chief executive of the National Space Foundation, which sponsored the symposium in Colorado that features experts from around the world, but now not from NASA. “But it’s hard to be a leader if you don’t show up.”

On the opposite side are elected officials such as Senator Tom Coburn, R- OK, who think that sequester makes agencies think about their spending . “There is no question that federal employees should have some travel and go to some conferences, but most of it has nothing to do with their jobs. It’s a perk.”

One federal employee talked about having to drive to an airport to rent a car and then drive another 10 hours to reach a conference. Sure, the government saved the difference between the actual air fare and the rental of the vehicle, but what about the loss of 2+ days of productivity?

Another view comes from the US Travel Association, which wrote a report on the value of government participation in meetings.

At CommCore we have seen the impact of the blanket sequester.  As a taxpayer I’m all in favor of eliminating waste, but random across the board cuts are, as they say, a cleaver when a scalpel will do.  Of course, some Media, Presentation and Critical Thinking training can be done on-line and by reading.  But like driving a car the only way you can good at learning the right behavior is with in-person guided training.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fall Internship Opportunity

CommCore is recruiting for a Public Relations/Marketing Intern for an Internship to work directly with the founder of the company and his team.  The position involves all aspects of marketing and new business development with major focus on developing pitch letters, as well as:

  • Database management
  • Social media
  • Traditional public relations tactics, such as assisting with press release writing and distribution, and media outreach. Developing lists and maintain press list
  • Contribute ideas for monthly newsletter – Observer
  • Conduct research on recent media and crisis news, current clients, etc
  • Attend and observe local client meetings and training workshops
  • Assist office with daily projects

This is a non-paid internship. The benefit: letters of recommendation and evaluations for your résumé. Hours: 20-30/week (days flexible).

Please visit our web site to learn about the company: www.commcoreconsulting.com
We specialize in:
  • Communications Training for Media Interviews, Presentations & Testimony
  • Message Development
  • Communications Strategy
  • Crisis Planning & Response
  • Public Relations
Our office is located in downtown NW Washington DC.  If you believe you are that unique person we are looking for, send your resume and cover letter to Daiva MacKenzie dmackenzie@commcoreconsulting.com.  Include in your cover letter your availability and why you believe you are the best candidate for this position.
The ideal candidate will have the following skills:

  • The #1 criteria is an entrepreneurial spirit and a creative thinker
  • Organized and excellent written skills
  • Fluent knowledge of Microsoft Office products
  • Strong telephone/people skills
  • Experience in market/competitive research
  • Experience using social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
  • Interest in marketing, public relations, business development, communications

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CEOs: Remember That It’s About People!

Being a Captain of Industry shouldn't mean looking down on the crew from the Upper Deck.

As businessman Jeff Haden wrote in a recent column in Inc. Magazine, he saw a company he had admired "in a different, less positive light" after being summoned, and then dissed, by the CEO at his company's event in New York City.  

Wrote Baden, "I wasn't bothered by the fact that he didn't seem interested in talking tome; after all, who am I? I was bothered by the fact that he asked to talk to me...and then came across distracted and disinterested and glad to get rid of me."

Conversely, on the same trip to New York, Baden writes that he found himself lost and decided he had to hail a cab, which was proving more difficult than he imagined. Suddenly a tall, handsome man took pity on Baden, asked him a few questions, gave him directions, hailed a cab for him, and wished him a good stay. Even though he recognized him in a flash, the tongue-tied Baden was too shocked to ask the man -- star actor Hugh Jackman -- for his autograph.

Jackman at FICCI-FRAMES 2011 seminar in Mumbai, India on 25 March 2011
In his column Baden notes what we at CommCore tell our C-Suite clients: As Communicator-in-Chief of a company and a brand, an effective CEO requires good people skills and complementary good communication skills with employees, stakeholders and the media. A good first step is CEO self-confidence and self-awareness to find and then fix their Achilles Heel.

If Hugh Jackman can do it, so can a CEO who thinks the world of him or herself. As Baden concludes in his plea to CEOs, "That is the 'you' that other people deserve -- and will see as a star."  

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