Standing Partnership

The Joys of Being the PR Firm Around the Corner

By Communications, Public Relations

I worked in St. Louis, Missouri for years.  17 in all, in fact. Five of those I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. And while I loved that job, the firm I worked for, my colleagues, my clients and the work itself, traveling (and all its inevitable hassles) back and forth and not having the ability to “walk the halls” of my clients’ offices frequently wore me out. While I’m clearly a big believer in staying connected to others through social networks, I deeply value the ability to show up, to be present and to be eyeball to eyeball with people who are important to me.

At the end of 2010, after that last lonely hotel room, that last airline delay, that final unexpected layover, I quit the job in St. Louis and at the beginning of 2011 I opened my own shop in Charlottesville. I haven’t looked back since.

One of the truly great joys of working here is the ability to be present, live and in person, with our clients. A common day might include running into clients on the downtown mall, or really anywhere around town. Or learning the Gangnam Style dance from a client prospect at a mutual friend’s birthday party. Our proximity to those we serve allows us to dash, sometimes literally around the corner, to a client’s office. A client had a crisis recently and my colleague Rusty and I were able to pick up sandwiches for a working lunch and land at their office to work through the crisis management within the hour.

I’m not saying it isn’t perfectly possible to work at a distance, and we’re happy to do that, but there’s great gratification at being able to connect with those right here in our community.

Chipotle Commercial and Reputation Management

By Communications, Public Relations, Social Media

My friend Nick Sargent wrote about the Chipotle commercial that debuted during the Grammy awards.  The commercial is causing a lot of buzz among those interested in agribusiness, the local food movement and Chipotle fans in general.

It was appropriate to bring up and share during a discussion with a client whose work is at the center of the local and natural foods movement yesterday. We watched it together and shared some reactions. Someone commented, “Isn’t Chipotle owned by McDonald’s?”

McDonald’s, often villified (see Supersize Me) and taking it on the chin often, as the symbol of the entire fast food industry WAS in fact, the majority owner of Chipotle from 1998 to 2006 but it is no longer. 

Since, clearly people still associate the two (oughta work on that aspect of your reputation management, Chipotle), McDonald’s wisely chose this opportunity to release the news that they are phasing out “tiny cages for pigs,” the very image the television ad offers up.

 What do you think of the campaign?




Crisis Planning: What Comes Before Blood on the Floor

By Crisis Communications

The Shark Attack photo by Kelsey Sparkle Rakes

My former colleagues at Standing Partnership have written some really good content on advising clients in a crisis. I particularly like Nick Sargent’s recent post providing tips for an effective crisis response video.

Another Standing alum, Mistie Thompson  has a saying about crisis work; it’s not a crisis unless there’s blood on the floor (or in the water, in the case of a shark attack).

Real PR professionals, the down in the ditches, get your hands dirty communicators love a good crisis; the messier the better. When Mistie talked about blood on the floor, it was simply that any other crisis was a cake walk; that the challenge of a situation where lives were at risk was the kind of communications challenge that really got our hearts pumping, our minds working overtime and our fingers flying across keyboards, crafting the right messages to alert, reassure and ultimately, restore order and reputations.

I freaking LOVE a good crisis.

That isn’t to say that I wish crisis situations on any client, ever . . . but when they do happen (and they will) the adrenaline rush coupled with my desire to think and move fast and accurately is the ultimate communications experience. It’s the PR person’s version of base jumping.

Crisis recovery doesn’t happen easily without prior planning; decisions can be made before any alarms sound. Messaging can be created well in advance of disaster. The communication contacts, stream and process can, and should be mapped in these, the quiet, uneventful days before the storm. Sure, it’s the less glamorous, decidedly less fun aspect of crisis communications, but seasoned professionals know that having these tools in place are what make the rush worthwhile. The planning process is the safety harness, the wire cage, the helmet and the flak jacket of public relations; critical for success, not to be neglected and the difference between business life and death when the blood hits the floor.

Tears at the Office: Missing Amber Morris

By Uncategorized

Amber MorrisI awoke this morning and learned, via Facebook, that a friend and former colleague at Standing Partnership passed away over the weekend. It’s not the ideal way to learn of the death of a friend, but with the way news travels and the speed of social platforms, it’s become more common to find out from Facebook first. Yes, it was sudden and unexpected and it is not an understatement to say that there are many people in St. Louis and Orlando, Fla. and elsewhere reeling from the shock.

Amber Morris was a fellow vice president at Standing, where I worked with her for more than five years. I remember when I interviewed with Amber for the job at Standing thinking how impressive she was and how pretty. (I also remember noticing her tiny diamond nose ring and thinking she must be the rebel of the office!)

I learned from Amber and loved being part of a team that included her. I watched her very capably tackle and manage big clients and dive into social media with a personal blog to help her learn from the inside out, what she could to inform clients about blogging and social networks. I liked to think of Amber as one of my “blog spawn” — yet another person I pushed into launching and enjoying the blogging life. Her posts about cooking and crafts are inspirational, but as a long-distance coworker, I especially liked learning about the animals Amber fostered (and sometimes adopted). The best, however, was learning about Amber finding the love of her life in Shane, someone she waited a long time to find. It was so good to know she’d found so much happiness with him.

Not only did I work with Amber, but her mom, Sharon, worked with us as well. Sharon isn’t just Amber’s mom, she’s been kind of the office mom. I am always delighted and cheered to hear her voice answer the phone when I call the St. Louis office. My heart just aches for Amber’s parents, her boyfriend Shane, and all of our colleagues and friends at Standing. I can’t imagine how they will endure the silence from Amber’s office and the hole left in the team, that empty chair at the table. I wish that I could be there now to give whatever comfort I could possibly impart. If you knew Amber, or any of my teammates at Standing, keep them all in your thoughts and prayers today and in the coming weeks. (If you’d like to leave a note of condolence for the team, you can do so at https://www.facebook.com/standingpartnership )

I find it ironic that one of Amber’s last blog posts for Standing Partnership was called Tears at the Office — and was about communications work done in the interest of unwanted pets. Amber was a total softie when it came to puppies and kittens. In fact, one of my first thoughts on learning of her death was how much her pets will miss her, as well. There are sure to be tears in the office today.

To readers of this blog — I’m sorry for the dramatic departure from the usual content, but sometimes life overtakes work and in these cases, there’s nothing to be done but honor the moment and share what’s foremost on my mind.

Social Media Tip of the Day: Don’t be a Douche

By Social Media

I’m working along, doing what I do, minding my business, and then I see this:

Best. Endorsement. Ever.

Also, before you get offended, the slang definition of “douche” is less offense-making than the non-slang, so consider: “The term refers to a person, usually male, with a variety of negative qualities, specifically arrogance and engaging in obnoxious and/or irritating actions without malicious intent.”

I do, here on Change the Conversation, try to redirect acts of douche-baggery when I encounter them.

Thanks, Dwight, for the recognition.