Leadership: What Matters

May 27, 2016

by Kim Stangle

For two years I was the elected board president for Orlando Rowing Club.  Honestly, I had no business taking the “job,” because a few short years prior I had never even heard of the sport.  But, enough people thought I could do it and pretty soon I was running the 100-member club alongside an all-volunteer board.

One of the things that always puzzled me was how many times members came to me with a problem or question and were legitimately surprised when a.) I simply responded to their inquiry, or b.) Found them an answer.  This was a head-scratcher because isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do?

Two nights ago, this very idea resurfaced in a class about leadership.  Our professor explained the concept of mindful leadership.  To be a mindful leader, you must be attentive, focused, responsive and clear.

Aha!  Not patting myself on the back here, but finally, some clarity.  I may not have been the best person for the job or the most knowledgeable about rowing, but I was most certainly a mindful leader.

You don’t have to have direct reports to be a leader, either.  As our professor so eloquently pointed out, leadership starts with self.  Whether you want to be a better leader of others or yourself, think about what it means to be attentive, focused, responsive and clear.

I’m a People Person

April 15, 2015

by Kim Taylor

I’d place a pretty hefty wager on that phrase being uttered in almost every interview we hold with potential candidates. 

I suppose it’s sort of a given in public relations, right?  Maybe that’s why we find ourselves somewhere between a giggle and a wince when we hear it.  What does being a “people person” really mean, anyway?

If you’re a people person, by definition, you’re a person who enjoys or is particularly good at interacting with others.  That doesn’t mean, however, that you’re suited for a career in PR … you could just as easily be a car salesman.

Sure, to work in our industry, dealing successfully with the public is essential.  But, more essential is your ability to build relationships with clients, media, other stakeholders, peers, and the list goes on.

Convince your potential employer that you’re a connecter, a masterful networker and a skilled relationship-builder.  I promise it’ll go further than being a “people person.”

Start with the “Why”

March 2, 2015

by Ashley Tinstman

Today, you have to write a news release.  Tomorrow, you need to finish two blog posts.  Next week, you’re planning a major event and managing a photo shoot.  You’ve got a list a mile long of things to do, but have you ever stopped to think, “Why?”  Why are you writing that news release?  What’s the goal behind that event you’re planning?

There’s a great TED Talk by Simon Sinek on this topic.  He illustrates it through what he calls the Golden Circle.  Take a moment and imagine three concentric circles on a sheet of paper—or better yet, draw it out.  The outermost circle is labeled “what,” the middle circle is labeled “how,” and the innermost circle is the “why.”  In other words, the “what” is your tactics, the “how” is your strategies and the “why” is your goal.

For most of us, our natural instinct is to start with the “what.”  It’s easy to tell people about our tactics and what we do.  Though slightly more challenging, many of us are able to define our strategies—the “how” of what we do.  But there are very few who start with and remember the “why.”

But when you do, it makes all the difference.  It impacts how you write the story, plan the event, pitch a journalist and the myriad other things you do as a communications professional.

So, how do you make sure you’re starting with “why?”  My suggestion would be to do what Simon Sinek does—map it out.  Draw an actual road map for your project, starting with your goal.  And if you don’t know what the goal is, it’s OK to ask or even be the catalyst that helps figure it out.  But once you build that road map, you can make sure that your strategies and tactics are always tethered to the “why.”

So, ask yourself:  Are you guilty of leading with tactics or strategies, rather than the goal?  If so, challenge yourself to go through this process.  You might find yourself looking at things through a wider lens.

The QR Code Debate

July 10, 2014

by Kim Taylor

We recently had a small debate in our office about the relevance of QR codes and whether there’s still a place for them in marketing.  I argued that they were “out” and that many marketing and PR people I follow mostly mock their usage.  But, who cares about mockery if they’re effective, right?

The ink was barely dry on my argument when Curley & Pynn Founder & President Roger Pynn handed me two recent pieces of direct mail with, you guessed it, QR codes.  The first mailer presented three options for requesting a copy of a long-term planning guide:  go online with a code, scan the code or complete the form and mail it back.  Scanning the code was easy enough and it pre-populated his information for ordering the guide book (keep a lookout in the mail for that one, Roger).

In this scenario, scanning the QR code was the easiest of the three options.  My only complaint was whether their target audience (a presumably older demographic) would know what a QR code was and how to scan it.

The second was a small postcard for a local cabinet maker.  Scanning the code launched their website, which sadly was not optimized for mobile … totally pointless use of a QR code.

The moral of the story is obvious, I think.  If you’re going to use QR codes, think about how you use them.  Make it worth it for the user to open their app and scan the code.  And, most importantly, don’t send them to a website not optimized for their phone—that’s the ultimate dead end.

The Good Times

July 2, 2014

by Roger Pynn

I had a delightful lunch yesterday with one of our first employees.  After marriage, she and her husband moved to Atlanta where she went on to a great corporate career (even became a client), then went on to raise two great kids and now that they are all but out the door, she’s started her own firm.

Talking about the good old days and about how much the business has changed, she stopped me and said, “No … it really hasn’t changed all that much.  It’s just that a lot of people are out there selling the things of public relations instead of the relationships.”

As an independent practitioner, Pat Check’s Latitude 34° Company Communications is built on the promise of “taking your message in the right direction.”  We always tell clients that first and foremost public relations is about their message, so it is nice to see one of our “alums” staying true to that philosophy.

But Pat said something else.  “I think of you all the time when I’m meeting new clients because I remember when we’d go visit a prospect you always started with a conversation … getting to know them and showing that you’re really interested in them.  It is still about that … relationships.”

Flattering, for sure … but Pat’s right.  It hasn’t changed.  For all the shiny balls of communications technology that roll around the table every day, this is still a business of, by and for relationships … and you can’t build them if you don’t get the message firmly in place from the outset.

Sometimes the Answer is No

January 25, 2014

dwardby Dan Ward

For those of us who work in public relations, “yes” is often a default position. We’re trained to serve our clients, serve our communities, and serve the public interest. A client asks for a strategic plan and we get to work. A reporter asks for information and we quickly follow up. Ours is a service industry, after all.

But sometimes the best service we can provide is to say, “no.”

Saying no to a client or boss paying you thousands of dollars a month can be hard to do, but it’s always better than saying yes to a bad idea. Clients and companies pay us to provide advice, and that means we need to advise.  If you believe a client is about to make a mistake, stop them and counsel them on how to make their idea work more effectively. If your CEO asks you to issue a news release about something that’s not newsworthy, tell them why that’s a bad idea.

We often talk about the need for public relations to have a seat at the boardroom table. The quickest way to lose your seat is to say yes to every question.

Broken Hearts Pave the Way for Broken Rules

April 23, 2013

by Kim Taylor

For the public relations industry there are no doubt dozens of lessons to be learned from the Boston Bomber tragedy … from crisis communications to media relations to the use of social media … it’s a communicator’s dream or nightmare scenario depending on which story you reference.

But, in perhaps the most unexpected twist, instead of issuing a fine to Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz, aka, Big Papi, the FCC is standing behind the player’s heartfelt—albeit less than eloquent— message to Bostonians.




If you haven’t seen it, cover your kids’ ears and push play.

Sometimes, rules are meant to be broken.

Where’s the News?

April 2, 2013

by Kim Taylor

When I was younger, “Where’s Waldo?” was hugely popular.  I was probably a smidge older than the typical demographic, but I had every book and would spend hours thumbing through the pages looking for the red-and-white-striped character.

Save for the red and white, I felt an instant feeling of nostalgia when I opened OrlandoSentinel.com today.

I get it; ads pay the bills, but where’s the news?


Worst to First

October 4, 2012

by Dan Ward

From what I was reading on twitter and Facebook, Wednesday’s Presidential Debate was the worst ever, and Jim Lehrer was to blame for letting the candidates walk all over him.

Don’t get me wrong. Lehrer was awful. His performance reminded me of an old Robin Williams joke about London cops who carried no firearms: “Stop! Or I’ll say Stop again!”

It was like he wasn’t there, but that’s what made it an actual debate. The candidates actually addressed each other, they asked questions of the other, they leveled accusations and (gasp) answered them instead of repeating sound bites.

Worst debate in years? No, we just witnessed the FIRST debate in years.

Responsibility & Accountability

October 2, 2012

by Roger Pynn

This great blog post by Ken Mueller at Inkling Media struck a chord with me and I hope it does with you.  (Thanks to the always great Gini Dietrich – whose blog I love – for sharing this on Twitter.)

Nearly 30 years ago my founding business partner and I created a document we hoped would become the foundation for the culture of our little enterprise.  We called them Curley & Pynn’s Four Steps to Professional Success.  In fact, it worked quite well and over time our steps became a badge of honor … a brand statement, if you will, to tell clients what they could expect from C&P.

Some years later I added a fifth step … Accept total responsibility and be accountable for everything you do.

Our commitment to these five steps is so deep it is even printed on the back of all business cards.

When was the last time you said “I’m wrong” or confessed before your peers “I really screwed up”?  Eating crow or, perhaps even worse, burned oatmeal is really unpleasant.  The best way I know to avoid the aftertaste of a mistake is to avoid them.  Making a commitment like our fifth step is a step in the right direction.

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