Advice Unlimited

My small, woman-owned public relations/marketing firm, Advice Unlimited, has been serving the Federal government marketplace for nearly 30 years to help companies with innovative technology get their solutions to the government. Every month, I’ll offer unlimited advice on how to work with this unique market. Please email me with questions or comments.

Advice Unlimited

Advice Unlimited

Monday, June 23, 2014

Thanks for the Memories...

As many of you know, I’m retiring and Advice Unlimited LLC is closing its doors the end of this month. It’s been an incredible journey: after a career as a journalist, I founded Advice Unlimited 31 years ago, focusing on providing public relations/strategic communications for technology companies serving the government. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with amazing companies – from tech giants like VMware, Microsoft, McAfee and Cisco to innovative startups like MetaCarta, CloudBolt, and Passport Systems, to name a few.

I want to thank you all. It’s been great fun learning about so many new technologies, finding interesting approaches to educate, entice, and inform sometimes skeptical audiences, and working with such visionaries and game-changers. It’s been an incredible adventure, wonderfully rewarding. I’ll miss all the twists and turns of the public sector technology marketplace.

For the past 16 years, we’ve also provided pro bono PR for USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore, and this was always a source of pride and inspiration. USO-Metro does exemplary work supporting our servicemembers and their families; it was an honor to help this organization meet its mission.

Still, I’m looking forward to this next phase of my journey. Thank you to all of you who have been a part of Advice Unlimited – and I wish you all exciting new experiences and continued success! 


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ways to Win with the Media

Interviews with the media are a wonderful way to educate your audience on your organization and get your story out. However, actually participating in the interview and speaking with reporters and editors can be daunting.

Like many executive-level responsibilities, the more you prepare ahead of time the better you’ll do – you might even find that it can be fun! Following are some basic do’s and don’ts for effective media encounters.


Be Prepared with a Media Plan:

Ensure that your organization does in fact have a media plan, and that all employees know who your designated spokespeople are. Make sure all employees know to direct media requests to your PR professional and/or the approved, pre-appointed, media trained spokespeople.

Remember Who You Are Talking to:

Sandy’s #1 Rule: make sure you’re comfortable with whatever you say being used as a headline on the cover of the Washington Post. Seriously. You are always on the record; be sure you are always honorable, truthful, and comfortable with what you are saying to any media representative, anytime.

Be Respectful:

Media inquiries need to be dealt with by the PR team in a timely and efficient manner. Be polite and direct when answering any questions or concerns for them. Always be honest and transparent; treat reporters with respect, and they’ll respond in kind.

Understand Your Body Language:

During face to face meetings, be aware of your body language. Body language can say a lot about you so be calm, relaxed and attentive.

Always Have Facts (Stats are Gold):

Whenever you are answering questions for reporters, you need to know the facts. If there is a question that can be explained with stats, provide them. Reporters love numbers, as long as they’re facts that are relevant and accurate. Irrelevant facts can turn a strong answer into a meaningless one; inaccurate facts can do a world of damage.

Read the Publication:

Before the interview, take some time to review the publication (or TV or radio program or blog or e-zine, etc.), and if possible, read some similar type stories by the reporter you’ll be talking with. It will be tremendously helpful in understanding what the reporter will be looking for, and who their audience is.



Lies will ruin a person’s credibility and an organization’s reputation. If you do not know the answer to a question or cannot provide specific facts, tell the reporter that, then offer to find out that information after the interview and get back to them. This will help to build credibility and trust with the reporter and will ensure you do not provide any inaccurate information.


Remember Sandy’s #1 Rule – there is never a conversation that’s truly ‘off the record.’ If you say something, you own it. So think before you speak.


You own your words, you control what you say. If a reporter baits you, or says something that’s absolutely not correct, state the truth clearly and calmly. Do not repeat any inaccurate statements; state only what is accurate and truthful, clearly and calmly.

Particularly if you’re in a crisis situation, practicing with tough questions and a trained PR professional will improve your performance significantly. When things are great and you have a positive story to tell, practice helps you stay focused on your key messages and on providing the reporter the information they need to get excited and understand the value of your story. So practice! Try to simulate stressful situations to be prepared for the unexpected. Practice until you feel comfortable with the interview topic, and with telling your story to someone new. Remember this quick checklist when you are preparing for your interview and it should be a hit! For more tips on dealing with the media, and to learn about the media training we offer, please contact me at

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remember the Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day has become a great celebration for families to mark the official kickoff of the summer season. People enjoy parades, cookouts and all kinds of sales across America. It’s great to have fun and celebrate summer; but we also want to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. 

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

To ensure the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day."

This year, please take some time to honor the brave men and women that have served our country. One organization that is dedicated to honoring our servicemembers every day of the year is the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore (USO-Metro). This is a wonderful nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is dedicated to "serving those who serve, and their families" in the Washington-Baltimore region. With the help of nearly 5,000 volunteers, USO-Metro provides programs and services for active duty troops and their families at area military hospitals and local military bases; through their Mobile USO program; at six USO Centers, and four USO airport lounges.

Volunteering with USO-Metro is a great way to honor our servicemembers and make a direct impact. There are many different types of programs, so you can choose where you feel your skills and interest will be most effective. The generous support of individuals and organizations in the local community is what allows USO-Metro to fulfill its mission. You can find out more about getting involved with USO-Metro here.

And have a wonderful, memorable Memorial Day!