Media & Communication Strategies, Inc. Honored Again by the 2013 Bulldog Stars of PR Awards

August 16th, 2013

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2013 – /PRNewswire/ – Media & Communication Strategies, Inc. is honored to announce winning a 2013 Bulldog Stars of PR Award. The firm received honors for Outstanding Achievement by Communications Agencies and Professionals for its campaign entitled, “Supporting Whistleblowers, Saving Lives, and Repairing Reputations,” at the Gold level for Crisis Agency of the Year.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130809/PH62172LOGO)

“It’s all about results for clients and the personal satisfaction in knowing you’ve done your best,” explained Scott Sobel, president and founder of Media & Communication Strategies, Inc. “Awards confirm we rank among the Best PR Agencies and reaffirm our commitment to our clients and the excellent results we get for them.”

The 2013 Bulldog Stars of PR Awards honored 57 public relations firms. Winners were chosen by working journalists from hundreds of entries representing the very best strategic and tactical prowess that corporate communications has to offer. Campaigns were judged by a team of working journalists who assessed them on the basis of the campaign and the agencies abilities to achieve extraordinary visibility, influence opinion, demonstrate industry leadership, creativity, command ofmedia relations, social media technology expertise and be tenacious in the pursuit of client goals. The winning campaigns will be summarized in the Bulldog Awards Stars of PR Hall of Fame magazine, which is published in late August 2013.

Media & Communication Strategies, Inc. is a boutique public relations firm based in Washington, DC, but solves client issues worldwide. We are senior counselors with extensive backgrounds in:media and journalismcorporate and financial relations, B2B, B2C, social media, corporate social responsibility (CSR), public affairs, lobbying, associations, high-level video production and combating or preventing attacks on reputations … among many other areas of expertise.

Follow Media & Communication Strategies, Inc., on Twitter and Facebook. “MAC Strategies” is a founding member of Public Relations Boutiques International (prboutiques.com)


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/08/09/5638099/media-communication-strategies.html#storylink=cpy

 

How To Create A Crisis Managment Plan

July 23rd, 2013

Implementing a crisis plan is not easy. It’s definitely not easy when you’re in the middle of a public crisis. That’s why Scott Sobel, president of Media & Communications Strategies, gave The Washington Post seven steps to create a solid crisis management plan before you’re in the crisis.

 

To read Scott’s comments, click here.

 

Scott Sobel is president of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., a Washington, DC-based public relations firm that manages reputation and communications challenges of all kinds worldwide. www.macstrategies.com. He is also a former corporate public relations practitioner and major market and TV network investigative journalist with a Media Psychology MA from Touro University Worldwide www.TUW.edu and a founding member of Public Relations Boutiques International http://www.prboutiques.com.

Anticipating the News Cycle for PR Thought Leadership: Lessons—So Far—From the NSA Security Breach

June 19th, 2013

By Scott Sobel, MA, Media Psychology; President, Media & Communications Strategies. This post originally appeared here on Bulldog Reporter.

      The day that Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed it employed Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old Maryland man claiming responsibility for leaking classified U.S. surveillance programs, a legal reporter with a national paper of record asked me if the revelation would hurt the defense contractor’s bottom line and reputation—if so, for how long? Keep in mind, the corporation’s stock had already tumbled that Monday by as much as 5 percent, putting a damper on the contractor’s impressive gains over the last six years when it had more than doubled its sales to the federal government—the latest sales figures showing $4 billion in 2012.

      I swallowed hard before I answered the reporter’s question about the prognosis for the damage the contractor would suffer and resisted the temptation to say, “what do you think, arguably Booz Allen employed the analyst responsible for the biggest security breach of its kind since the Pentagon Papers leak … those are really stupid questions!”

      I did indeed answer that obvious question and several others from different top print and broadcast news outlets and tried to put my answers in the context of the not-so-obvious and frame my answers in ways that would keep the reporter friendly and help the journalist to do their job better. I remembered when I was a reporter in their position and I also sources to craft quotes or sound bites to move the story along because a journalist, in a perfect world, should be an objective conduit of information and not a subjective source themselves.

      The reporters calling shortly after the metadata leaker came forward asked their questions in a predictable order worth mentioning here. In a crisis circumstance, PR practitioners should be prepared to field questions like: 1) What happened? 2) Why did it happen? 3) What is the impact? 4) Who or what was responsible for the crisis and how can the impact be mitigated? 5) What is being done to prevent another crisis? 6) What will happen for the long-term?

      I’ve associated my actual published quotes and responses to the various reporter questions in the following text below.

1) What happened? I pointed reporters to the initial Booz Allen holding statement on its website … “News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm.”

2) Why did it happen? I told reporters I wouldn’t speculate on why or how the leak happened.

3) What is the impact? I explained to all reporters that a major PR challenge for Booz Allen, like any entity caught in the maelstrom of crisis, is the capability to quickly get past the immediate shock and then thoughtfully manage the outcome because their clients and prospects will likely judge them less about the initial culpability than how the contractor handled the ongoing outcome. I said in light of the leak, “Money and man-hours are going to be flying out the windows,” said Scott Sobel, president of Media & Communications Strategies, a Washington crisis-management company. Booz Allen has not been a client.

The company’s existing contracts may not be damaged, but Sobel said that Booz Allen is certain to shoulder extensive legal fees, federal investigations and news media scrutiny in the months to come.

… those next big next steps after Booz Allen, for example, released their good holding statement:

4) Who or what was responsible for the crisis and how can the impact be mitigated? I mentioned to reporters that Booz Allen’s base for repairing its reputation depended on problems it may have had in the past and any steps they took to inoculate themselves against security liabilities. One media outlet did check that angle and reported a Booz Allen’s recent and routine disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission about the possibility of:

“… employee misconduct involving the “improper use of our clients’ sensitive or classified information.”

“It is not always possible to deter employee or subcontractor misconduct, and the precautions we take to prevent and detect this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses, which could materially harm our business.”

My related quote: “I’m sure there’s a certain amount of risk that’s unavoidable,” he said. “But at the end of the day Booz Allen was the company that was on watch when this happened.”

5) What is being done to prevent another crisis? I was quoted correctly in Bloomberg, for instance, on this suggestion based on my experience of how government-related businesses can prove their good intentions and enhance their image of transparency. “Scott Sobel, president of Media & Communications Strategies, a Washington-based crisis communications firm, said the company may be discussing other options as it seeks to contain the fallout over the disclosures, such as ordering an independent outside review headed by experts formerly of the National Security Agency, CIA or FBI.”

6) What will happen for the long-term? “It strikes right at the heart of credibility and security for a company like Booz Allen,” said Sobel, president of Media & Communications Strategies Inc., a public relations firm in Washington.

      The contractor has to put systems in place that strengthen their relationships with government and other clients and should have constant contact working together with clients to make sure both internal and external security vetting of potential employees and certainly checking current employees take place … the contractor needs to be very public about all the actions they take to prevent a repeat of the security breach, even if their vulnerability isn’t any worse than their competitors. After all, Booz Allen is perceived as the captain on watch when the ship went down.

      And this particular story joining the NSA and Booz Allen at the hip will certainly not evaporate quickly. There are congressional investigations percolating, legal civil and criminal cases brewing and ethical stews boiling as our nation decides the balance between privacy, protection and the obligation of citizens to potentially break oaths and the law for the greater good. A PR cottage industry built on this event should anticipate the fall-out and prepare to provide the best counsel for all stakeholders.

Scott Sobel is president of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., a Washington, DC-based public relations firm that manages reputation and communications challenges of all kinds worldwide. www.macstrategies.com. He is also a former corporate public relations practitioner and major market and TV network investigative journalist with a Media Psychology MA from Touro University Worldwide www.TUW.edu and a founding member of Public Relations Boutiques International http://www.prboutiques.com.

Scott Sobel Discusses Booz Allen’s Silence With The Washington Post

June 17th, 2013

After almost 2 weeks, the story surrounding the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden has done anything but go away. For his former employer, Booz Allen, they haven’t been doing any talking. In fact, since the company acknowledged it fired Snowden, it has been quiet in the face of public speculation. The Washington Post reached out to Media & Communication Strategies’ President Scott Sobel. Scott offers this reason on why Booz Allen has been silent in the face of this media storm:

If Booz Allen was a different company and didn’t have a primary client who was the government — whose key directive was public safety — they would probably be more vocal,” he said. “But they’re probably being cautious because they don’t want to inflame the situation. If there’s an oil spill, you can be vocal about having engineers figure out ways to prevent oil spills in the future. You can speak immediately, and be transparent and proactive. But in the case of national security, you have to be much more conservative in what you can say. You could say something, make a mistake and cost someone their life if they’re an undercover agent. You could talk about something that’s a security breach.

To read the rest of Scott’s comments, read them here on The Washington Post.

 

 

Scott Sobel is President of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., a Washington, DC-based public relations firm that manages reputation and communications challenges of all kinds worldwide. www.macstrategies.com. He is also a former corporate public relations practitioner and major market and TV network investigative journalist with a Media Psychology MA from Touro University Worldwide www.TUW.edu.

NBC News Asks Scott Sobel about the NSA Leaks Consequences for Booz Allen

June 17th, 2013

Media & Communications Strategies’ President Scott Sobel discussed the ongoing NSA leaks scandal with NBC News. When asked about steps Booz Allen could take to repair their security reputation, Scott suggested the following: “Booz Allen [should] look for former cabinet-level security advisers and former leaders of the CIA and NSA to perform an investigation and make recommendations about how to stop leaks in the future.”

 

Find the full article on NBCnews.com here.

 

Scott Sobel is President of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., a Washington, DC-based public relations firm that manages reputation and communications challenges of all kinds worldwide. www.macstrategies.com. He is also a former corporate public relations practitioner and major market and TV network investigative journalist with a Media Psychology MA from Touro University Worldwide www.TUW.edu.

MAC Strategies President Discusses the Fall of Booz Allen in Bloomberg’s Businessweek.com

June 10th, 2013

Media & Communications Strategies President, Scott Sobel, commented on the corporate crisis surrounding the release of classified documents detailing a pervasive data-mining program by the National Security Agency (NSA). An employee of Booz Allen sent the documents to The Washington Post and created the firestorm of controversy surrounding the relatively unknown operation. Scott talks about the effect of the scandal on Booz Allen’s reputation in this Bloomberg Businessweek article:

“It strikes right at the heart of credibility and security for a company like Booz Allen,” said Scott Sobel, president of Media & Communications Strategies Inc., a public relations firm in Washington.

“If they can’t represent to government and other clients that their employees are properly vetted and secure, their business and credibility certainly will take a huge hit. They have to be scrambling right now.”

To read the full article on Businessweek.com, click here.

Scott Sobel is President of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., a Washington, DC-based public relations firm that manages reputation and communications challenges of all kinds worldwide. www.macstrategies.com. He is also a former corporate public relations practitioner and major market and TV network investigative journalist with a Media Psychology MA from Touro University Worldwide www.TUW.edu.

 

Scott Sobel On Why News Releases Still Matter

May 20th, 2013

Scott Sobel, President of Media & Communications Strategies, believes news releases still matter. He responds to a Commpro.biz article on the declining value of news releases. Scott writes:

The call-and-send-a-release strategy is even more valuable when you are pitching a novice desk-assistant or editor who you get interested in a story and then needs something concrete in their hand or in an e-mail to pass to a decision-maker.

We are in the PR trenches and work every day with media outlets like 60 Minutes, ABC News’ Ross Unit, Washington Post, Huffington Post, legal and aviation trades, national radio and every kind of local media outlet – even international news outlets. Our news releases are part of almost every engagement; the release is not the only tool used, but one that should not be ignored.

For more, read the full article here on Commpro.biz.

Look For the Helpers: Anticipate Both the Good and the Bad News When Handling a Crisis

May 13th, 2013

By Scott Sobel, MA, Media Psychology; President, Media & Communications Strategies. This post originally appeared here on Bulldog Reporter.

 

As a society, as a nation, we are now decompressing from the horrific events and outcomes surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing and the chemical explosion in West, Texas. As public relations practitioners who have to prepare for all kinds and degrees of crisis events, we need to take accounting of how those events were handled or mishandled by first responders, police, medical teams, political spokespersons, the news media and us.

 

The good news is that by and large the PR people and spokespersons who I witnessed did a laudable job of being as even-handed as possible, attempting not to speculate and looked for calming information that attempted to keep the public from panic. The more experienced and responsible journalists did the same in the face of the constant live reporting which showcases the best in journalism and also put a spotlight on the very worst reportage.

 

The ironic bad news is that we are collectively getting better at handling these kinds of terrorism or mass disasters because unfortunately it appears we have had to weather more of these incidents or, at least, have had more of these incidents reported 24/7 by the ubiquitous media, both mainstream and social. We are now becoming practiced at dealing with disaster.

 

Observation. Almost immediately after both tragedies erupted we would hear facts and warnings from official spokespersons and then we would hear, e.g., – from a Boston Celtics spokesperson, “Our Celtics family and our fans join all Bostonians in demonstrating our city’s great strength by coming together to stand as one to get through this difficult time,” or, from a West, Texas first responder, “Everybody knows everybody. We know people who didn’t make it, so we are all here for each other.”

 

It is commonsense to look for that silver lining in the face of chaos and danger but PR professionals need to make sure the silver lining comments and strategies are planned for proactively and not ad hoc and reactively. If you do fashion a silver lining plan, it should not be created as an afterthought but as an integral part of the news and healing process. We all need to know that there is order and potential good outcomes to help us balance our emotions and reactions. The silver lining plan is good and essential PR.

 

Again, balancing the bad with the good is needed, not a PR luxury, especially doing a service for families and young people who need to know there is order out of chaos. It is our responsibility as communications professionals to build on the good societal and personal frameworks so we can weather the inevitable bad, or what some describe as evil events. There is additionally an expectation of balanced communications from our clients and stakeholders. For more of a structured psychological perspective, consider the following comments soon after the Boston Bombing from Touro University Worldwide’s Media Psychologist Darlene Mininni, PhD.:

The Boston Bombing: The Media & What Kids Need To Know

 

The round-the-clock media coverage of the events in Boston is understandable. Our anxious minds find something soothing about information—even if the news is scary—because we want desperately to understand what’s happening. We want to know that everything will be okay. We want to know the bad guys have been caught.

 

At the same time, the media’s relentless analysis can give the impression— particularly to children—that the world is a terrible and frightening place, and we are all just one-step away from harm when we walk out our front door.

 

For that reason, it’s important for us to highlight the positive aspects of this story as well. Not in a Pollyanna-way that suggests everything is fine, but in a real way. It’s necessary to talk about the people who have opened their homes to others, sent food to first responders and provided an outpouring of support and kindness to those in need.

 

A popular post on Facebook this week is a quote from the beloved children’s television host Mr. Rogers:

When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’

My daughter was 3-1/2 when two planes deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City. It was a devastating experience that traumatized our country. As a former New Yorker, I was deeply affected by the horrible images I saw of my hometown.

 

I thought long and hard about how to explain this event my preschool-age daughter in a way that her young mind could grasp. I worried that the way I described the events would influence her view of the world. I finally told her, “A few people did a bad thing and hit the buildings with their planes. And now thousands of people are helping to make it better.”

 

I hoped that explanation would ease her into the realities of life. Yes, sometimes bad things happen. Really bad. But there’s also good in the world. A lot of good.

What to tell your children about these events will differ depending on their age:

  • Young children should be shielded from violent or graphic imagery on television and the Internet. They need to know that they are safe, secure and protected by the adults around them.
  • Older children might have questions about the event and why it happened. Answer their questions and explain the details without getting overly sensational or frightening.

 

And keep in mind that we adults can be easily overwhelmed by the constant barrage of news, too. For me, as I follow the media’s coverage, I am reminded that terrible things happen in life. I grieve for the families and the community affected.

 

And then I think about the courage, bravery and kindness of the people who helped. I think about the good in this story because it’s always there.

 

As Dr. Mininni underlines, we all have a need to know what is happening surrounding these tragedies, and I submit, we have the same need to know about all kinds of news that generally has a negative component with conflict between the bad and good aspects of the storyline.

 

The need to know is, of course, the primary driver in our communications business, period. We have to be prepared to accurately tell all parts of any story and not overlook the good news because some might think it is “soft.” The silver lining component of crisis PR is a legitimate part of the story when told as part of the overall narrative context and when properly prioritized. I am not advocating having an opening statement that emphasize good news when a bad news story is breaking but there is no reason at all not to end that kind of statement with a silver lining comment. Look and plan for the hope element…look for the helpers.

 

Scott Sobel is president of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., a Washington, DC-based public relations firm that manages reputation and communications challenges of all kinds worldwide. www.macstrategies.com. He is also a former corporate public relations practitioner and major market and TV network investigative journalist with a Media Psychology MA from Touro University Worldwide www.TUW.edu.

ABC.com Asks Media & Communication Strategies About the Art of the Apology

April 5th, 2013

Mark Sanford, former governor and Congressman from South Carolina, is running for a return to the House of Representatives. ABC.com contacted Scott Sobel, president of Media & Communication Strategies, for comment.

Best Public Relations and Branding for the New Pope — Part Two

March 25th, 2013

By Scott Sobel, MA, Media Psychology; President, Media & Communications Strategies

This is Part Two of Scott’s PR and branding analysis of Pope Francis’ ascension for Bulldog Reporter. See Part One here.

Everyone knows the Catholic Church is laboring through a sensitive time of crisis of faith and credibility right now following priest sex scandals and questions by its flock about the church’s political and social dogma. Let’s put aside who or what chose Pope Francis and take away additional branding and PR lessons from what he has done and is doing, at least from what we see publically:

Walk the walk and don’t just talk the talk. Pope Francis decided to choose his new name that set a tone for his brand and the church’s rebranding of serving the poor and at the same time he dropped the ornate garments of his predecessor and rode on a bus with fellow priests to his public appointments.

The Pontiff didn’t just choose a symbolic name but immediately created credibility in his brand by taking action that said, hey I mean what I say, believe me, believe I will take the church (my organization) in this direction. It’s like the new CEO of a food manufacturer with a product contamination problem saying, “My company problems are being fixed, our foods are now safe,” and then publically taking a bite out of his company’s hot dogs.

The buck stops here. Pope Francis has not only been seen and heard from a high balcony at the Vatican, removed from his public, he has been making statements to reporters, seen with his flock and photographed petting a blind guest’s guide dog. The previous Pope almost always spoke from script while Pope Francis has been speaking off-the-cuff, no script, speaking from the heart.

He is connecting and relating to the common man, that congregation, that target audience, he has spoken to from the minute he was named pope, taking advantage of his newness when there is so much scrutiny of every single moment of his public life.

Who do you trust? As human beings we process and decide in the very first few seconds of meeting each other whether we like and trust whom we have met. Those first impressions are incredibly powerful for us, especially if we are meeting a new leader who can make, in some cases, life-changing decisions. Pope Francis apparently understands this dynamic.

We all pay attention to change. Change and the recognition of something new that can help or hurt us is a primal human reaction. The new pope looks like he understands this focus we have and is playing to that focus. Some leaders actually manufacture change and designate a “new” direction in order to take advantage of our interest in something new. Remember President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and JFK’s “New Frontier.”

And, by the way, Pope Francis is indeed the first pontiff from the New World.

Unified message and playing to your strength. A time of crisis is also an opportunity for leveraging new perception and growing business because of a sharp focus on what a new leader does … how he/she handles a crisis. Churches and all entities always do better when there is reasonable transparency and correction after a crisis is reveals as opposed to cover-ups.

Pope Francis is playing to the universal positive perception of what a church can and should do for its congregation, it primary audience, during good times or during a time of crisis. The new pontiff is playing to the church’s strength, which is to be charitable, supportive and forgiving. He is cutting through the clutter of all the negative perceptions and realities and zeroing in on who he is and has been and how he wants his church to be known.

Pope Francis is very effectively setting an example of leadership, credibility and action. He is choosing a branding position of strength, an unquestionable position that will mitigate problems and set a tone for future success. His challenge, and the challenge for managing all successful organizations, is the difficulty of consistency. Leaders must stick to their initial mission statements and keep doing what they promised to do or risk being seen as hypocritical which plunges their organizations into even worse positions. Let’s all hope the Pope keeps his promises and sets examples for all kinds of leaders who struggle with resurrecting their respective brands in their respective businesses, whether they are fishing for the souls of men or trying to improve sales and providing redemption for stockholders.