Preparing for the Future of PR

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I was recently privileged to receive an invitation from the Native Society to be profiled among its list of nationwide public relations leaders. In its own words, its “mission is to feature and promote high-quality content from industry experts, leaders, entrepreneurs and equivalent role models with the intent of inspiring, encouraging and enlightening our readership. One way we do this is by highlighting the unique achievements, insights and attributes of our select contributors.”

In the profile, I outlined what I see are emerging industry trends:

  • Multicultural communications, whether it be in languages other than English or in being sensitive to niche cultural norms and expectations, is increasingly important for all industries. Our nation is ever the melting pot; however, these days, large segments of minority populations do not subscribe to immediate and total assimilation, proudly guarding their individual, cultural identities. Organizations hoping to earn the trust of these populations with ever-growing importance must build upon this recognition.
  • Communicating with multicultural audiences is not simple, and it is much more than a matter of translation. Various Latino communities, each with their own identity, both share similarities and complex differences. For all of them, there are different levels of acculturation, native ethnicities, lexicons and geographic origins. Essentially, there are millions of youth growing up multilingual and multicultural, and the mainstream marketplace will most effectively reach their minds and hearts with culturally savvy insights and communications.

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In regards to opportunities and challenges within my professional service segment:

  • The proliferation of openly biased news, the practice of click-bait and the death of fact-checking is a challenge to public relations and the journalism profession. As news outlets continue to struggle for survival, it is unfortunate that outright bias and salacious headlines are becoming common strategies for capturing reader interest. Reporting unsubstantiated stories to get the scoop is common practice even among the old guard news outlets that one would expect to uphold the principle of fair and balanced reporting. But the news isn’t all bad. I see excellent journalism coming out of the new generation of media such as BuzzFeed Big Stories and even neighborhood-focused outlets like Hoodline in San Francisco.
  • The growing influence of algorithms in how people discover and access information is both an opportunity and a challenge. Virtually all online/digital/social content is customized to each person based on past behavior (search, purchases, clicks, etc.). This means that there is significantly more competition for people’s time and attention while presenting an opportunity for communicators to be more targeted in their approach. There’s even more impetus now to create integrated campaigns with synergies between paid, earned, owned and shared media.

Our key initiatives to ensure the success of our business:

  • Strategic partnerships with digital marketing firms
  • Developing multicultural communications services
  • Building niche industry strengths
  • Risk management partnerships with other category professional service firms
  • Ever-increasing sophistication in research and analytics
  • Adaptability to industry and client trends while affirming our own core tenets of brand PR and crisis communications

And my career advice to those just entering or interested in entering the public relations profession:

  • Be a voracious reader of the news and closely follow contemporary culture.
  • Continually work at being a good writer and storyteller; no typos, no grammatical blunders, easy transitions, and no overkill.
  • Keep up with the latest tools and trends in today’s communications.
  • Find something that differentiates you from everyone else on staff; become the acknowledged go-to on specific issues and/or competencies.
  • Go beyond tactics, and think of situations creatively and strategically. Be solutions-focused and avoid naysaying.
  • Be a team player; you cannot create ongoing situations that define you as difficult to work with. Show your appreciation for the help you receive.

Unseen risk: troubleshooting a crisis plan

Let’s face it: your crisis communications plan is inadequate. Sure, you have a document gathering dust on a bookshelf or somewhere in a seldom-used file folder. Or maybe that plan follows a generic template you found online. Or maybe you don’t have one. You can still do something about it and you should … before the you-know-what hits the fan.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death, yet many CPR-trained bystanders forget what to do and panic when they could be providing life-saving support. Having a plan in place is the first step in preparing for a crisis, but it’s worthless if you don’t use it.

See 10 issues you need to address to help ensure your crisis response safeguards your organization’s reputation on O’Dwyer’s.

6 Ways Nonprofits Can Overcome ‘Empathy Fatigue’

This has been a tough year. We’ve been flooded by news and images of refugees from the ongoing crisis in Syria, warned about the spread of Zika, frightened and saddened by terrorist attacks and mass shootings and (barely) survived the seemingly never-ending presidential campaign and election.

As the negative news piles on, we become increasingly numb to it and less affected by tragedy. It may not be right or good, but it’s a fact. I recently heard Jeff Kositsky, director of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness, call this “empathy fatigue.” Although he was speaking about the chronic issue of homelessness, the term applies more broadly. We’re unable to constantly operate in a hyper-affected state, and as we hear more and more bad news, it’s impossible for our empathy not to hit a ceiling.

So, what does this mean? Americans are hopeful, charitable and committed to advancing the causes they care about. In 2015, $373.25 billion was donated to charitable organizations (Giving USA), with 17.4% of all giving taking place in December (Blackbaud 2015 Charitable Giving Report). Clearly, end-of-year fundraising is important for nonprofits. But what can they do to overcome empathy fatigue and stand out among all the nonprofits clamoring for contributions? Below are a few suggestions from a communications perspective on how to keep donors engaged and feeling generous.

See 6 tips on how nonprofits can overcome ‘Empathy Fatigue’ on PR News.

That’s What He Said: My Guide to Do, See, Shop and Be in San Francisco

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Well, it’s that time of year again, and I am doing all I can to get into the holiday spirit and support the local economy (my wife, however, will lament the topic of this blog, since in our relationship I am the shopper and she is the saver). But this is business, I’ll argue, and she would have to agree (or at least take a breath to hear me out).

I have spent the majority of my career observing, analyzing and applying brand-to-consumer messaging, strategy and communications; it is the cornerstone of what I pride our agency’s award-winning work on. Fineman PR also has a strong lifestyle public relations practice with our experience in food, wine and hospitality. So, I’ll tell her, I must have inspiration, first-hand knowledge and ideas (and, I’ll say it all with a straight face, because it’s true). In San Francisco, expectations of visitors run high, as they should. The city is spectacular, expensive, and wrought with tourist-traps all the same.  I have to know where to recommend that clients shop, dine, relax and have a glorious time while they are visiting. We host conferences here for public relations agencies from around the world (IPREX network, www.iprex.com), I attend professional conferences here, and I travel to other cities to speak, learn and attend to client business.

I also know the impact of peer-to-peer recommendation and word of mouth marketing for a business’ reputation and growth potential. It’s only natural for me to practice what I preach.  Whether by reflex or perennial practice, I can’t help but take note when I encounter an exceptional customer experience. That is why, in the spirit of the holiday season, I’ve compiled this not-so-short list of a few of my favorite things to do, see, shop and be in San Francisco (ho, ho, ho):

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Best wine and spirits retailers

  • Cask – 17 Third St., San Francisco
  • Draeger’s Market – 222 E. 4th, San Mateo – Also in Menlo Park, Danville and Los Altos
  • Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant – Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, San Francisco
  • Jug Shop – 1590 Pacific Ave. (off Polk), San Francisco
  • K&L Wine Merchants – 855 Harrison St., San Francisco – Also in Redwood City
  • PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – 3201 Fillmore St., San Francisco
  • Weimax – 1178 Broadway, Burlingame
  • Whisky Shop – 360 Sutter St., San Francisco
  • Wingtip – 550 Montgomery St., San Francisco – (wine & spirits in the back)
  • There is always Bevmo, highly commercial, but excellent selection (stores throughout Bay Area)

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Best men’s retail stores in S.F. Bay Area

With some further qualifications – you won’t find highly swanky or ultra-modern shops mentioned here, although all listed below are upscale. You won’t find for “youth only” clothing that wouldn’t fit you anyway. What you will find are upscale labels, tailored, off-the-rack, tasteful men’s clothing for guys from 35 to 75+. You’ll find help that knows their business and knows how to fit their customers in straight forward, stylish threads, whether casual or for more dressed occasions. Some of them are more casual than others, and some offer custom made as well. If you know a store in other parts of San Francisco or the Bay Area, let me know, and I will be happy to review for inclusion here.

  • Couture, 395 Sutter St., S.F.
  • Gene Hiller, 729 Bridgeway, Sausalito
  • John Varvatos, 152 Geary St., S.F.
  • Sarrtori, 740 Laurel St., San Carlos
  • Ted Baker, 80 Grant Ave., S.F.
  • The Hound, 140 Sutter St., S.F.
  • Wingtip, 550 Montgomery St., S.F.

*Also, in San Francisco, three top-shelf department store men’s departments – Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom (both downtown Westfield Center), and Sak’s Fifth Avenue Men’s at 220 Post St., San Francisco.

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Best sights, activities and views while in San Francisco and the immediate Bay Area

  • Ocean Beach and the Cliff House restaurant and view point just above
  • Ferries
  • Tiburon, Sausalito, Angel Island (S.F.’s Ellis island for Asian immigrants)
  • Fort Point and Fort Baker and the Golden Gate Bridge linking them
  • Marin Headlands (the views, Point bonita Lighthouse, Marine Mammal Center)
  • Mount Tamalpais – drive, bike or hike all the way up
  • Jack London Square Oakland
  • Bezerkley
  • Point Reyes and Lighthouse
  • Sutro Baths
  • Hwy 1 from S.F. and Great Highway to Santa Cruz or north to Bodega Bay
  • Legion of Honor
  • Belden Alley
  • City Lights Book Store
  • Haight Ashbury via the Magic Bus Tour
  • The Embarcadero – walk the waterfront for miles or hike between the distractions on the way
  • Beach Blanket Babylon
  • Ferry Plaza – one of the great Embarcadero distractions; shopping and dining, ferries and views
  • Twin Peaks – high point in San Francisco
  • Mount Davidson – also right in the city
  • Berkeley Hills and Tilden Park
  • Union Square – shopping, people watching and home to Fineman PR
  • Golden Gate Park – hiking, biking, museums
  • Land’s End – you’re at the edge; stunning
  • Alcatraz – worth it I promise
  • Treasure Island – look back for a spectacular view of the downtown skyline
  • Mount Diablo – one of the highest points in the entire region; hard to fathom you are a short drive from downtown (not at height of commute time)
  • Crissy Field and Marina Green
  • Presidio – former military post, now national park
  • Crystal Springs Reservoir
  • And not to be forgotten, the mainstays: Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square and The Cannery, cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, and crooked Lombard Street

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San Francisco neighborhoods

  • North Beach – Columbus Avenue, Italian flavored, vestiges of old bohemians, restaurants and bars
  • Castro – LGBT-centered, edgy
  • Marina – Think singles, Chestnut Street, Bay views
  • Noe Valley – gentrified, families, 24th Street shopping
  • Chinatown – touristy but authentic
  • The Mission – still Latino but more and more the younger folk in hip restaurants and bars
  • Fillmore – lots of shops
  • Haight-Ashbury – where it’s still the ‘sixties
  • Richmond – down Clement, think fog
  • Sunset – down Irving, think fog
  • Union Street – near and related to the Marina
  • Hayes Valley – a “scene,” near San Francisco’s Civic Center
  • Potrero Hill – Think Bullitt car chase, street scenes up and down, up and down, up and down
  • Pacific Heights – Billionaire Row
  • Bernal Heights – Cortland Avenue shopping village thoroughfare

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Watering Holes with views

  • Top of the Mark (Nob Hill)
  • Top of the Marriott Marquis The View Lounge (downtown)
  • Waterbar – along the Embarcadero, almost underneath the Bay Bridge; also good fish and seafood
  • Epic Steak – next to Waterbar
  • Cliff House (on the ocean)
  • Slanted Door – in Ferry Plaza; also known as one of the best restaurants in the U.S. (Vietnamese/Pacific rim)
  • Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39 – several
  • Scoma’s Sausalito
  • St. George Spirits (distillery on the Bay in Alameda)
  • Sam’s Tiburon
  • Beach Chalet (near Cliff House)
  • Green’s – wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason along the Bay
  • The Waterfront Restaurant
  • Coqueta – a personal favorite
  • La Mar Cebicheria – Peruvian; a beautiful space along the Embarcadero, right on the Bay with terrific food
  • Skates – on the Berkeley side of the Bay
  • Claremont – spectacular views from the Oakland hills
  • McCormick & Kuleto’s – in Ghirardelli Square
  • Cavallo Point – at foot of Golden Gate Bridge on Sausalito side

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Extended Stay/Exploring Nearby

  • Wine Country (Napa and/or Sonoma)
  • Russian River
  • Carmel/Monterey
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Santa Cruz
  • Point Reyes
  • Stinson Beach
  • Muir Woods
  • Tahoe
  • Yosemite
  • Palo Alto (Stanford, heart of Silicon Valley)

Redefining “Outdoorsy”

My colleague Travis and I recently returned from the annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) in Salt Lake City. A fantastic annual conference hosted by the renowned National Outdoor Leadership School, WRMC brings together leaders and innovators to discuss issues and best practices facing the outdoor industry. Travis and I were there to conduct a media training workshop for attendees – Media Masters: Crisis Training for the Spotlight.

Although I attend WRMC every year, work with many outdoor organizations and collaborate regularly with some of the nicest, most welcoming leaders I’ve ever met –  ironically, I still feel like an “outsider” among this group of hardcore mountaineers, heli-skiers and wilderness experts.

It’s not because I don’t enjoy the outdoors. I love snowboarding, diving, stand-up paddleboarding and take every opportunity to go on outdoor adventures when I travel.  But I do not identify as an “outdoorsy” person. And neither do most people in my demographic. Statistics show that most Asian American millennials like myself feel like a fish out of water in the Great Outdoors.

In the October issue of National Geographic, Timothy Egan points to a “passion deficit” for the outdoors among millennials. The director of the National Park Service is quoted saying millennials “are more separated from the natural world than perhaps any generation before them.” A 2016 report by the Outdoor Foundation found that only seven percent of Asian Americans participate in outdoor outings, the lowest among all minority groups surveyed. Only three percent of National Parks visitors are Asian.

Upon further self-reflection, research and discussions with my peers, I realized that the definition society has of an outdoorsy person is actually quite narrow and isn’t something we aspire to. The common refrain was “I enjoy the outdoors but I’m not outdoorsy.”

But as the country becomes a minority-majority nation and as millennials outpace older generations in population and buying power, the outdoor industry is challenged with converting new audiences to the lifestyle. To do this, outdoor organizations need to make the Great Outdoors more relatable. Some suggestions:

  • Update the perception of an outdoorsy person from this:
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To this:
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The traditional image of an “outdoorsy” person is often that of an older person seeking solitude in nature. This isn’t the image millennials have of themselves, and isn’t an experience that we crave. We want to share experiences with our loved ones. We are not necessarily looking to commune with nature. We want to commune with our friends while enjoying nature’s bounties.

  • I truly believe that the Great Outdoors has something for everyone. Update “outdoorsy” vocabulary to emphasize values that resonate most with millennials.
Instead of: Say this:
o   “Getting away from it all” o   Focus on new experiences
o   Exclusivity and remoteness o   Accessibility
o   Solitude o   Share adventures with friends and family
o   Unplugging o   Leverage tech innovations to enhance the outdoor experience
  • Be present in pop culture. Seek out opportunities to engage with people on their own turf and on their own terms. Take for example this Buzzfeed list about camping hacks. Most millennials, especially urbanites, don’t know how to build a fire and would shy away from even trying. Show that you can start a fire with a handful of Doritos and the task becomes much less intimidating and a lot more fun.

As for me, I’m going to embrace a broader definition of “outdoorsy.” I am outdoorsy, I enjoy the Great Outdoors my way (and with pics to prove it).

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Feeling small but not feeling alone at the Grand Canyon.

Brand-Building for California’s ‘Green Rush’

California voters appear poised to unleash a “green rush” in the cannabis market. With the likely passage Nov. 8 of Prop 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, revenues from the legal cannabis market in the nation’s largest state economy could balloon to $6.5 billion by 2020, according to the latest report from Arcview Market Research.

With the legalization of recreational cannabis, competition in an already competitive state is going to skyrocket. Cannabis growers and retailers looking to build their brand and turn trial into repeat purchases must be able to explain and effectively promote the reasons of their brand’s trustworthiness to consumers, at the risk of seeing customers go elsewhere. At the top of the list for successful brands will be the development and implementation of a branding strategy that allows them to rise above the noise.

See 10 tips to help your brand prosper over the long term in our column on Cannabis Business Times.

Quick Photography & Video Tips for PR Pros

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You’re at a client event and your photographer is stuck in traffic; the broadcast media you were expecting have changed plans as some breaking news has developed, and you desperately need B-roll. What ever the case may be, in your PR career, there will  be a time when you need to take decent, if not exceptional photos.

We’ve had high quality footage that was taken on an iPhone run on the news the next day, and many times our clients have asked for our photos from an event rather than use the shots their photographers took.

So here are some quick tips for when you’re in a pinch and just need to buckle down and get the shot:

    1. The Rule of Thirds – Once you know it, this one is very easy to remember, and will make a word of difference in your photo composition. An image should be imagined as divided equally into thirds—both horizontally and vertically—and important elements should be placed either along the dividing lines or their intersections. Like so:
    2. Don’t be afraid to get in close – It can be intimidating to get in front of a crowd or possibly get in someone’s way to get the photo you need, but getting in close is often necessary for the best picture. So don’t be afraid; get in there and get your shot!
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             It can be the difference between this photo                                   …and THIS photo
    3. Remove distractions! – Good photos and videos should look as clean as possible, with a focus on the subject. When in doubt, just shoot against a plain white background, and remove anything that distracts from the subject. Even if it’s just a small crack, or there’s a poster on the wall, or replacing a patterned paper plate with a plain white sheet of paper. Minor details make a big difference.
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This is part one of a series of quick tips we will be doing on the blog, so please keep an eye out for our next batch!

Mosaico PR Lands eHarmony Español

logoSAN FRANCISCO –– Mosaico (mosaico-pr.com) has been selected to launch eHarmony Español, eHarmony’s Spanish-language dating website for the U.S. Hispanic market. This is the first effort by Los Angeles-based eHarmony to promote its Spanish-language website via public relations strategy, tools and tactics.

An independent website, in operation since 2015, eHarmony Español has experienced significant growth in users. The company is now ready to expand further into the pool of Hispanic singles. Mosaico will develop a strategic approach to communicate the brand’s benefits on a national scale with a strong focus on the top Hispanic markets in the U.S. The program will leverage the dating nuances of Latino culture to better communicate the many benefits eHarmony Español offers and show how these align with Latino cultural traditions and values.

“We are delighted to be working with such an iconic brand and industry leader,” said Mosaico Senior Director Juan F. Lezama. “We believe our work with eHarmony will grow the website’s user base and help generate awareness of the benefits that eHarmony offers to the U.S. Spanish-speaking population.”

“We are eager to work with Mosaico,” said Harmony Espanol’s Senior Product Manager Francine Nicholson “We selected Mosaico because of its comprehensive understanding of the Hispanic market and its culturally relevant strategies that will convey our brand’s promise to Latino consumers. We are enthusiastic about helping more people find love and fulfillment through our unique, scientific approach.”

About Mosaico PR

Mosaico PR combines the insights of a Latino communications and marketing agency with the substantive, wide-ranging brand and issues savvy for which parent company Fineman PR is recognized in the general market. Since 2005, Mosaico has led highly successful Brand PR, crisis and issues management programs for clients that exceed expectations and resonate with Latino communities. For more information visit www.mosaico-pr.com.

About eHarmony

eHarmony, Inc. was founded in 2000 and is a pioneer in using relationship science to match singles seeking long-term relationships. Its service presents users with compatible matches based on key dimensions of personality that are scientifically proven to predict highly successful long-term relationships. New peer-reviewed research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) ranks eHarmony as number one for producing the most marriages and the most satisfied marriages. Of all meeting places measured, eHarmony also had the lowest divorce rate.* On average, 438 people marry every day in the U.S. as a result of being matched on eHarmony, nearly 4 percent of new marriages. Currently, eHarmony operates online matchmaking services in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore.

*2012 survey conducted for eHarmony by Harris Interactive®.

(Covered in MediaPost and Bulldog Reporter).

Giving Consumers a Reason to Celebrate

img_1019Today is National Coffee Day which has been transformed by coffee brands as a day to celebrate everyone’s favorite morning drink. Our client, Dunkin’ Donuts has used today as an opportunity to reward customers for their loyalty these past 66 years and is offering medium-sized cup of the brand’s hot coffee for the price of 66 cents at participating Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants.

National Coffee Day has taken the country by storm with media from CNN to People Magazine reporting on the restaurants participating in the festivities. Celebrities like Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Banks and Trisha Yearwood have also joined the conversation.

Consumers across the country are also sharing in the excitement by engaging with coffee brands on social media, using the #NationalCoffeeDay hashtag and flocking to their local coffee shops to get a cup of their favorite roast. So far there have been over 300,000 Instagram posts and 178,000 tweets with the hashtag. cheers-to-66-years

And if 66 cent coffee isn’t enough to get you celebrating, Dunkin’ Donuts also made an exciting announcement this morning: they have partnered with Coca-Cola to launch a line of Dunkin’ Donuts branded ready-to-drink coffee beverages in the United States in early 2017. Cheers to 66 years!

Surviving and Moving On

towerThis past Sunday, Sept. 11, as I joined millions of others in reflecting on and honoring those lost in the 9/11 attacks, I boarded a plane with a bit of trepidation. Flying on this day was not ideal, but necessary. My heart was pounding as I stepped aboard but I soldiered on. This single-minded determination to overcome fear now has me reflecting on that day in 2001 when our lives were changed forever – and our agency as well – and we soldiered on with resolve and more than a little introspection.

On September 11, 2001, I was in my fourth year with Fineman PR, then already 13 years old. It was 6 a.m. PDT and I was at home, getting ready for work. Little did I know that from that hour, my life – and life in America – would never be the same.

At the time, I was commuting on BART between the East Bay and San Francisco. My husband was already out the door. During his commute, he was listening to the radio and heard that the World Trade Center in New York had “exploded.” He called to tell me to turn on the news.

I flipped on the TV and saw one of the World Trade Center towers with a plume of black smoke. It was surreal. The news reported that a plane had flown into the tower, but little else was known. I decided to quell my fears and head into work.

When I boarded the BART train, it was eerily deserted. I arrived in the city and had a spooky feeling walking downtown to our office building. Hardly anyone was on the street, and only three people showed up at the office – including me and my boss, agency founder Michael Fineman. I didn’t know what to do. By then, a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and another had flown into the Pentagon. It was suspected that a plane destined for SFO was headed for downtown San Francisco, possibly the Transamerica building, possibly BART, neither far from our office.heidi-blog-image2

Like many other offices, we had turned the lights off to avoid attracting attention, so we sat there in the half light, nervously watching the news and waiting, speculating where/when another plane might strike. The uncertainty was unnerving. And the silence deafening. Like many businesses, we closed the office early.

Officials were discouraging people from taking public transportation and now that I was 35 miles from home, I felt trapped. What made the situation worse was the sinking feeling that I might be pregnant. My life was passing in front of me, I was panicked and didn’t know if I would live to see another day.

When I finally made it home we sat in disbelief, glued to the TV watching for any developments. I cried and cried, wondering how I could possibly bring a baby into a world where such horrific acts were possible.

From then on, no one felt safe. Everyone canceled travel. People stuck close to home and sought solace and comfort among friends and family. What once had seemed important now felt trivial.

Later, our agency reviewed all planned programming with a critical eye. With many in our nation’s media based so close to Ground Zero, we were especially sensitive to if/when/how we might reach out, in light of the aftermath that they were living and breathing first-hand every day.heidi-blog-image

One of our clients at the time, outdoor sporting goods retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), was on the eve of launching a holiday gift-giving campaign involving new products. There was talk of canceling any outreach because of its commercial nature, but we counseled another approach, one that got to the core of our client’s business. On the client’s behalf, we commissioned a survey to assess the services REI could provide during the holiday season and gauge Americans’ beliefs about the role the outdoors played in their lives. The survey clearly indicated that Americans value the time they spend outdoors and place great faith in its restorative powers.

Following one of the greatest atrocities on U.S. soil, we found that 70 percent of Americans said they planned to head outdoors during the holiday season, a move that nine out of 10 reported relieves stress and lifts their spirits.

We released the results to coincide with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) Nov. 10-12 “Weekend of Unity, Hope and Healing” around Veterans Day, during which DOI waived entrance fees at all the federal lands it oversees. DOI also invited state and county parks to join in, and many did.

While we did not highlight REI products in announcing the survey results, we did include the finding that seven out of 10 Americans said gifts related to outdoor activities and experiences would be especially meaningful and would promote family togetherness. Sharing the results of the survey struck a chord with the nation’s media, which gave the story wide coverage. At the time, the REI Denver manager was quoted saying, “The survey confirmed that REI’s role of helping people to have great outdoor experiences was an important one at that time.” He said, “We will particularly look at our clinics and events over the next few months to see what more we can do to help people get outside.” And they did. Today, REI remains a trusted resource for outdoor activities and gear.heidi-blog-flag

Last year, for my son’s 13th birthday, I took him to New York City and we visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum. We took a guided tour and met people who were there that day. Seeing that first-hand made me truly comprehend what an awful day in history 9/11 had been, especially for New Yorkers. As painful as it was to relive that day, it was also incredibly moving to meet a survivor – now a museum docent – and have him guide us through displays of storefronts still covered with ash, people’s torn shoes and papers in the street, video of people jumping from buildings to avoid burning to death, and the staircase down which some – including him – escaped on that awful day. To read the stories of the people lost made it more real and helped my son truly understand and feel the magnitude of 9/11 far beyond the pages of his history books.

On the professional side, looking back from the perspective of 15 years, I see even better how being mindful of our audience and timing, using tact and showing respect helped our client. Our approach was sound and principled then – as it remains today.

Before They Were Famous

James SavageThroughout my 19-year career in public relations, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with some highly recognized and accomplished athletes, performers, chefs and winemakers.

As examples, I’ve managed media-only golf course previews with golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller and promoted Warren Miller ski films with Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley and World Champion Darren Rahlves. Through publicizing events, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several San Francisco Giants players and Manager Bruce Bochy, as well as Grammy Award and Oscar winner Lionel Ritchie.

In specializing in culinary and wine clients, I’ve worked with acclaimed chefs including Thomas Keller and Ken Frank and celebrated winemakers Philippe Melka and Heidi Peterson Barrett, the first winemaker for Napa Valley cult wine Screaming Eagle.

While it’s personally and professionally thrilling to meet and work with famous individuals and leaders in their respective fields, it’s also gratifying to work with those who may be on their way to the top, perhaps even contributing to their rise to prominence.

Chef Roy Choi pioneered the food truck movement in Los Angeles, a trend that has now literally swept the entire country. You can’t walk a block in Portland without running into a food truck. You can say the same about Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York City. I worked with Roy when he was the chef at the Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Resort. Who knew he would go on to be named one of the top 10 “Best New Chefs” of 2010 by Food and Wine magazine, the first food truck operator to win that distinction.

Now, Fineman PR has the privilege of meeting nine-year-old James Savage. Earlier this year, James completed the three-mile swim from San Francisco Aquatic Park to Alcatraz in a little more than two hours, becoming the youngest person to accomplish this feat.

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Working with our client, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Out of This World, we’ve invited James to be the honorary “Space Fleet Launch Captain” to lead the countdown for tonight’s performance at the SAP Center in San Jose. James’ role with performance has been covered by the Associated Press and he was live, in-studio this morning, on the popular drive-time radio show Sarah & Vinnie.

Will James continue his swimming career and go on to further achievements? Maybe he’ll be the next Michael Phelps, and we can say we knew him when.