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.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Thursday, November 8, 2012
All levels of government did a great job of being out in front of their message to the public about the severity of the storm, who it would impact, and what steps citizens should take to protect themselves and their property. Several days before the heart of the storm came on land in New Jersey and New York, national and local government officials had informed residents of preparation procedures and even gave evacuation orders to people in some areas, including New York City. New York City Mayor Bloomberg gave orders to close all public transportation and ordered residents living in low-lying areas (what was called zone A) to evacuate by Sunday afternoon. The city that never sleeps was shut down. This had a worldwide impact when the New York Stock Exchange was closed on Monday and Tuesday because of the storm, but it was the right thing to do. The government deployed national disaster relief from FEMA, the Air National Guard, the Army and the American Red Cross early so they were on location when people needed them the most.
From the top down, the government did an excellent job being proactive about Hurricane Sandy. During a critical campaign week before the election, President Obama canceled campaign visits across the country to do his job as the leader of our country. The President’s commitment to providing disaster relief was intense – he stated that “We are not going to tolerate red tape, we are not going to tolerate bureaucracy, and I’ve instituted a 15-minute rule, essentially, on my team. You return everybody’s phone calls in 15 minutes, whether it’s the mayor’s, the governor’s, or county officials. If they need something, we figure out a way to say yes.” Implementing the 15-minute rule was critical to clearly get things done and solve real problems fast. This approach enabled the White House to share vital information and delegate strategic action plans to the lower levels of government. Rapid response is crucial in a disaster; the people in charge need to continuously know about changes to the plan, status reports, and what is happening on the ground. In addition to communicating effectively among themselves, these multiple government organizations did a great job of quickly and clearly communicating with the public.
Days and even weeks before the storm started its destruction of the Northeast, the government was sending warnings through traditional communication channels, such as televised press conferences, as well as more interactive channels like social media. The most predominant communication channel used was news television broadcasts, but according to the New York Times, social media channels such as Twitter recorded over 20 million tweets about Hurricane Sandy between Saturday and Thursday of last week. The public was clearly involved in information sharing about Hurricane Sandy; this provided guidance, comfort and reassurance.
As government public affairs organizers, we must be proactive, flexible and connected to ensure we are reaching all of our different citizen groups with timely, accurate information and guidance, through the communication channels they use and trust. Various government officials like Mayors Bloomberg and O’Malley did just that, using several Twitter accounts to get information to the public. They were focused, and provided an excellent example of strategic crisis communications done right: leveraging communications effectively to educate the public, disseminate critical information in a rapid, reliable and easily understood format that their audience could embrace, calming fears and dispelling rumors.
If these past few weeks have inspired your organization to dust off your strategic crisis communications plan and see where it needs updating, now’s a great time to review your plan to ensure you’re building in the use of interactive communication with new social media tools as well as traditional communication channels to ensure the public has timely, accurate and clearly understood information and guidance. For more information on how Advice Unlimited can help you create and implement a successful disaster communication plan, or provide support for other public outreach and communication initiatives, please contact me at 301-924-0330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, October 12, 2012
USO-Metro’s Stars and Stripes Fundraiser for Wounded Warriors and Military Community Honors Largest Corporate Sponsors
The focus of the night was the Circle of Stars presentation, where USO-Metro President Elaine Rogers announced the top corporate sponsors for USO-Metro. The 30 sponsors provide generous funding to support USO-Metro’s mission to lift the spirits of military service members and their families.
The fundraiser reminded us that USO-Metro’s generous top corporate sponsors make it possible for USO-Metro to serve their mission each and every day, providing a broad range of programs to our service members and their families, including programs for children with deployed parents, support services for spouses and emergency housing programs. We had a wonderful time last night, and are humbled to be involved with such a fantastic organization!
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Many of the key exhibitors were there, supporting this new approach. There were some booths at the show that had great displays and there were some that fell short. Following are my thoughts from some of my observations, and some gentle reminders of ‘do’s and don’ts’ for booth display and personal conduct at a trade show. We expect the trend to smaller exhibits and more regional and smaller shows will continue; with smaller exhibits, these basics become more important, as it becomes harder to stand out among a sea of 10 x 10s.
1. Use Large Font and focused, concise messaging in your display. The most effective background displays used only a few words that described the product or service represented. You should also WRITE YOUR KEY MESSAGES IN LARGE FONT SO PEOPLE CAN READ THEM. People at trade shows are walking around all day through what sometimes feels like a maze of booths. It is easy to get lost or overwhelmed by all the displays, so a potential customer could walk right by your booth without understanding a single thing about the company or the product. Using large font to highlight a few key words about the company and the product near the top of the display will help catch the eye of a passerby more than a paragraph-long mission statement or product description. You want the passerby to look and think, “Yes, I need that!” Once you’ve drawn them in, then you can review the details of your service, discussing your features and benefits that align to their needs.
2. Color choice matters – the most eye-catching displays were also really easy to read.
3. Interactive displays are always better than static displays. While not always possible, whenever you can bring in an interactive demo, that’s more appealing than static signs and ‘boxes.’ iPads seemed to be a big hit – this might be a relatively inexpensive way to make the demo and description of your products and services more engaging. Many attendees seemed to be drawn in by the ability to play with an iPad for a little while.
4. Giveaways still work, and they don’t have to be expensive. One of the biggest hits at the TechNet East show was the booth that was giving out free popcorn. Popcorn and candy are great ways to bring people into the booth where your representative can then interact with the customer. Fun toys also still have their place – there’s a little bit of a child in most of us. A giveaway that I have used in the past with great success is the Slinky - everyone loves a Slinky! And they come in lots of different colors, providing great eye candy for a clever display to help pull people into your booth.
While there were some interesting booths and sophisticated presentations, I was surprised to see some booths and representatives that evidently had skipped “trade show etiquette 101”. Following are some reminders that everyone attending a trade show should know – but some folks need reminding:
1. PUT THE SMART PHONES AWAY! There was no bigger turnoff than walking by a booth and seeing every single representative sitting around playing on their smart phones without a clue there was someone that might want to learn something from their booth. It is understandable that booth representatives need to check their phones, but step aside from the booth for a moment when you know that a colleague has you covered; don’t get into an absorbing email session or use your phone as a shield so you don’t have to interact with potential customers walking the aisles. There were more than a few booths where I saw all of the reps behind computers or in a deep gaze into their smart phones.
2. Don’t look so unhappy to be there. Not only were the people on their smart phones not being helpful, several of them looked so bored and unhappy to be there that no potential customers would ever want to bring themselves over to such a boring and dead environment. Booth representatives need to be at attention, happy and prepared to help any person with any question. Sometimes it is not the booth display that draws people in, but the positive environment and interaction with people that looks so welcoming and makes people think, “I wonder what is going on over there.”
3. Stay positive and on message. I really don’t want to hear how much your feet hurt; I do want you to make me feel like you really want to talk to me and hear about what kind of problems we’re dealing with, and I want to hear why you believe your solution will solve my problem. Basic etiquette is always important: don’t use bad language, don’t make potentially offensive comments, stay away from political opinion and no bashing the competitor. Focus on your company’s differentiators and strengths, and you’ll always come out ahead.
Trade shows may shrink or morph, but we strongly believe that these face-to-face gatherings that provide the ability for customers to test drive, demo and ‘touch and feel’ solutions will always matter. Take advantage of these opportunities to really impress and educate your audience, and leverage your trade show investment, by remembering the basics. For information on how Advice Unlimited can help you create and implement a successful trade show effort, or provide support for other public outreach and communication initiatives, please contact me at 301-924-0330 or email@example.com.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
The group will work with girls ages 13 to 17 from underprivileged neighborhoods to help them pursue degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, also known as the STEM fields. The program will be taught by women who work in STEM fields and will help teach the girls tech skills such as computer programming, Web design and robotics. The program is being backed by technology giants Twitter, Google and Ebay.
This program is important to women in the workplace all across the country. While only 14% of female bachelor degrees are in computer science, women use the internet 17% more then men do. Something that, as a Communications Professional, I found especially of interest: while online, women are dominating the social media/networking arenas – they are responsible for creating two-thirds of the content on social networking websites. Clearly, women are tech savvy; we just need more motivation and incentives to pursue this as a possible career choice.
There was an article recently on dice.com that stated, “Thirty percent of 450 companies in the Harvey Nash poll said their IT departments have no women in management positions at all.” Women are fully capable of doing well in these tech jobs, they just need to be introduced to the industry and taught the technology, which is exactly what “Girls Who Code” is planning on doing. By increasing the opportunities for women to learn technological skills there will hopefully be more women with highly skilled jobs in technology.
Girls Who Code is a program that gets things done – and that elevates the skills, expertise, and number of female knowledge workers across industries. It’s good for all of us – especially us women! Learn how you can get involved at: http://www.girlswhocode.com/.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
It is important that your company makes the right moves to stand out to those attending the show. Effective, proactive PR is a great tool to help you secure attention from attendees. Take the time to really shine - if you’re investing in being at a show, invest the time and creativity to ensure you make a splash. The following steps will help you get the most out of your trade show investment:
1. Make your booth enticing -- have some visual displays that draw the attention of attendees, so they will look closer at the important content at your booth, but remember – nothing extravagant or excessive. Creativity counts – and content rules!
2. Have good handouts- reprints of recent press articles around your company or customers, and information specific to the target audience attending the show. Make sure your booth is organized. Handouts should be very clean, clear and concise in delivering your message.
3. Nominate customers or executives for speaking slots – this is a great way to build credibility and provide educational and insightful information on your solutions.
4. Hold a media breakfast or lunch at the show if you have an important announcement to make there, to ensure you get an attentive audience.
5. Try to time important announcements for the show.
6. Take advantage of the show press room. Find out how they support your efforts, and leverage their offerings.
The new focus on smaller trade shows can be a great opportunity for your company to reach your target audience. Less extravagance is good for your bottom line, and more focus on creativity and content will bring you stronger results and better quality leads. For more information on how Advice Unlimited can help you create and implement a successful trade show effort, or provide support for other public outreach and communication initiatives, please contact me at 301-924-0330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, May 21, 2012
A majority of communication now takes place over the web and having access to the web is key to staying in the loop. The boom in social media has made for a tremendous increase in the speed at which information is made public and how quickly that information spreads. It is important for organizations to keep up with social media channels and how the public is accessing the information across these channels. If they do not keep up, they will be left out of the loop because of a digital divide they did not account for - it’s not just about leveraging the web; it’s also about the tools your specific audience is using to access the web. And for some critical demographics, the device of choice is mobile.
There was a very interesting comment posted about GovLoop’s report. The comment pointed out the great digital divide of how different demographics access the web and social media. It noted that personal portable devices such as smart phones are a critical web access point for the poor, the young and people of color. If the government does not expand to make communication possible through a mobile interface, they will be missing out on communication with a large and important demographic.
Accessing social media through mobile devices has become increasingly popular. Forward-thinking organizations need to take advantage of social media outlets as a means of spreading their message and information updates. Sometimes the bounty of different social media sites can be overwhelming. The report gives good insight into some of the most popular sites; public information specialists such as Advice Unlimited can help organizations determine which social media outlets will be most effective for specific messages and to reach different audiences.
With a mobile app for every social media site at the fingertips of every smart phone user, there is a great deal of information spreading at an incredibly fast speed. The increase in the speed at which information travels has significantly changed how organizations perform crisis management. Instead of setting up press conferences to update reporters who would in turn update the public on the process and progress in dealing with the crisis, public information specialists need to be proactive and go directly to constituents, using social media and various communication channels the public will look to for information, guidance and reassurance. Our audience will be looking to these social media sites for updates, information, and reassurance – so that’s where we need to be. For example, when the earthquake hit in Virginia last summer, there were updates about feeling an earthquake flooding the news feeds of Facebook minutes before any television media outlet could place a response or update to the public.
To read the GovLoop State of Government Communications Report in its entirety, please visit http://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/annoucing-govloop-state-of-government-communications-report. I recently led a workshop on how to use social media in a disaster at the GovSec 2012 conference; if you couldn’t attend and would like more information on that topic or any of the topics discussed in this post, please contact me at email@example.com.
Friday, March 23, 2012
The evening was devoted to honoring outstanding individuals from each branch of service, as well as the exceptional people who support our nation’s service members through volunteerism and USO-Metro’s countless charitable programs, with a special emphasis on the military families served. Attended by senior government and military leaders, celebrities, business and community leaders, more than 500 guests joined with USO-Metro last night to honor our nation’s heroes and their families. This year also included a celebration of the Medal of Honor’s 150th Anniversary.
USO-Metro presented the John Gioia Patriot Award to Terri Santiago, the mother of retired Marine Sergeant Christopher Santiago, who was severely wounded in Iraq. Terri has been an amazing source of strength and inspiration, supporting her son and others as they heal. The program also included a Special Salute to our Nation’s Heroes, honoring active-duty service members from each branch of service. The honorees this year were Medal of Honor recipients – 18 Medal of Honor winners attended the dinner in celebration of the Medal of Honor’s 150th Anniversary. These service members were acknowledged for their courage and selfless service to our nation.
The entire night was a touching tribute to our service members and their families, and we were honored to be a part of it. The night reminded us all how crucial it is to give back to the community we serve. During this time of transition, supporting our nation’s heroes is more important than ever. Advice Unlimited’s involvement with USO-Metro allows us to give back and pay tribute, and is a constant reminder of the sacrifices these heroes make for us each and every day.
Monday, March 19, 2012
The session will provide hands-on guidance on how to integrate social media into your disaster recovery communications plan. We will review real-world scenarios, such as the 2011-2012 LA Arson Fires, where social media played a crucial role. I'll also discuss with participants how we, as government public servants, can use social media to help us meet our mission: educating the public, disseminating critical information in a rapid, readable and easily understood format that our audiences embrace, calming fears and dispelling rumors.
Attendees will learn how to evaluate different social media sites for broadness of reach, targeting of specific audiences, and message delivery speed. The session will also include information on how to prioritize and integrate social media goals to ensure the overall communications plan gets implemented in a timely and effective manner, with energies focused for maximum results, especially in the crucial first few days immediately following a disaster or emergency.
This is a must-attend event for those who want to learn best practices in using social media in a disaster, and figure out how to integrate these practices into your organization as appropriate. To learn more about the conference and register, please visit https://www.xpressreg.net/register/GOVS042/start.asp.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
The focus was on how to strategically drive public outreach using traditional and new media – and I emphasized the importance of choosing communication channels based on goals and objectives and how they work, not on what’s ‘hot’. One of my key points was: ‘listen to your audience.’ And I got to practice what I preach – I listened to my audience.
The group was outstanding – all government communicators, a good mix of public affairs officers, writers/editors, webmasters, community outreach specialists, social media coordinators. Military, civilian, and even state and local organizations were represented. And here’s what I learned, listening to my audience:
1. Most government communicators, as I’ve always believed, truly care about doing the best job they can, and understand the importance of the message they are often tasked with communicating.
2. Pay attention to your personal communication style, and translate what you like and why to how you can best reach your audience. When you’re comfortable with a certain communication channel, that’s going to show, and your enthusiasm will resonate with your audience.
3. Think through the demographics of the target audience you want to reach, and meet them where they go to communicate with the people who are important to them.
4. There is so much to learn about all the wonderful new ways to communicate and collaborate! Be open to learning new things every day, and trying new things – always motivated by what will help you better communicate with your constituents!
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 10:30 – 11:30 am
Use promo code: GSSPK for a 20% discount on the GovSec Conference!
I’m honored to be presenting at GovSec 2012, which brings together top decision makers in government security, law enforcement and first response. This is a great opportunity to attend three days of education and training addressing counterterrorism, critical infrastructure protection, cybercrime and cyber terrorism. Your paid conference pass provides you access to over 50 conference sessions, including my session. Learn more about the registration fees here.
At my session April 4, I’ll provide hands-on guidance on how to integrate social media into your disaster recovery communications plan. We will review real-world scenarios where social media played a crucial role, and discuss how we as government public servants can use social media to help us meet our mission: educating the public, disseminating critical information in a rapid, readable and easily understood format that our audiences embrace, calming fears and dispelling rumors. Several popular social media sites will be reviewed for their strengths and weaknesses, along with new, less known sites that we feel might be of value for disaster recovery and emergency response efforts. Attendees will leave with a clear understanding of the value of integrating social media into their disaster recovery and emergency response communications plans.
While you’re attending GovSec 2012 don’t forget to check out what’s new this year including:
Keynote Presentations –
Opening Keynotes: Tuesday, April 3 – 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM - Ralph S. Boelter, Assistant Director, FBI Counterterrorism Division and Gordon M. Snow, Assistant Director, FBI Cyber Division
Wednesday Keynote: Wednesday, April 4 – 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM - Senator George J. Mitchell, Former U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace
Pre-Conference Workshops – Monday, April 2 – These half-day workshops provide you in-depth training before the conference begins!
Live Demos – Challenge your boss in our Force & Firearms Championship or see Bomb Response Robots in action in the exhibit hall.
Mobile Apps Experience – Discover how these enterprise-class mobile apps for government and first responders can be used to help your agency fulfill your mission and secure our nation.
…and much more!
I invite you to join me and your peers for a unique opportunity to help meet your comprehensive security challenges!
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
My session, April 4, 2012 from 10:30 am - 11:30 am, will provide hands-on guidance on how to integrate social media into your disaster recovery communications plan. We are going to review real-world scenarios, from the October 2011 Connecticut snowstorm to the 2011-2012 LA arson fires, where social media played a crucial role. We’ll discuss how we, as government public servants, can use social media to help us meet our mission: educating the public, disseminating critical information in a rapid, readable and easily understood format that our audiences embrace, calming fears and dispelling rumors. Several popular social media sites will be reviewed for their strengths and weaknesses, along with new, less known sites that we feel might be of value for disaster recovery and emergency response efforts.
My goal is for attendees to leave with a clear understanding of the value of integrating social media into their disaster recovery and emergency response communications plans. We will be focused on:
- How to evaluate different social media sites for broadness of reach, targeting of specific audiences, and message delivery speed.
- How to shape the message to best fit the social media site being used and the audience targeted.
- How to prioritize and integrate social media goals and specific sites being used, to ensure the overall communications plan gets implemented in a timely and effective manner, with energies focused for maximum results, especially in the crucial first few days immediately following a disaster or emergency.
If you have any comments or suggestions for my speaking topic, I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a must-attend event for those who want to learn best practices in using social media in a disaster, and figure out how to integrate these practices into your organization as appropriate. To learn more about the conference and register, please visit https://www.xpressreg.net/register/GOVS042/start.asp -- if you have five or more attendees from the same organization, you’re eligible for the group rate! I look forward to seeing you there!
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Even with today’s budget cuts, the government might be a good customer, if you provide a solution that can help enterprise organizations improve efficiency and productivity. Particularly with the current focus on innovation and cost-saving initiatives going on in how the government runs its business, IT is particularly well positioned to increase its government sales – if the government knows you exist, and that your solution can truly help them serve their mission.
The government is aggressively looking for better value, and those who make the buying decisions are actively and effectively using technology to improve efficiencies, performance and productivity in many different areas, from the battlefield and homeland security initiatives to running the 'business' of government - human resources, payroll, ordering office equipment. Particularly in support of homeland security initiatives, technology has moved to the center stage of many discussions, seen as the enabler of many of the capabilities required to support the current ongoing efforts, particularly in today’s economic downturn and tightening budgets.
Do you have a product or service that could help these government initiatives improve efficiency and performance? If so, do they know you exist?
The government marketplace has always been regarded as one with high barrier to entry - the perception was that you need to make a significant commitment of resources and manpower, there are a myriad of rules and regulations to comply with, that it's an extremely complex market to break into, requiring a long time before reaping a significant return on investment. Most of these perceptions are accurate - but the payoff is significant. And if you truly have a technology that meets current needs, the government wants to find you. So how do you break through?
First and foremost, the government marketplace is still spending serious money on information technology. While major cuts are inevitable across the government in the next few years, including the Defense Department, companies providing IT services can still expect a healthy level of spending in fiscal 2012, even if it’s not the same level as earlier in the decade, according to Deltek, a leading government market intelligence firm.
“We rode through most of the earlier part of the decade with unprecedented growth, especially in the IT segment. We were looking at 11 [percent] to 12 percent year-over-year growth,” said Brian Haney, vice president for client services at Deltek, speaking at Deltek’s FedFocus 2012 conference November 3, 2011. “For the last two years we’ve been relatively flat…we’re seeing about two to three years of flat spending. That said, we still are seeing the spending of significant dollars in this particular space. IT is still a healthy market." Haney said the fact that money is being spent on IT in new and unique ways means there are still market opportunities. “Even though overall discretionary spending is flat, growth in IT spending is outpacing the overall average as IT is looked to as an enabler,” Haney said.
However, along with this spending is a heightened sense of fiscal responsibility. Throughout the government — military and civilian alike — executives are under pressure to do more with less. There are transforming initiatives at work across all agencies, and a real push for transparency and accountability that expects technology to be a key element for success.
Within this environment, the government marketplace can be a valuable customer if you understand its unique requirements, deliver real value-add, and market yourself appropriately. The key to help you scale the barrier to entry is focused, strategic public relations – the best bang for the buck in any marketing arsenal – and networking-focused, relationship-building marketing.
Questions? Please contact me at email@example.com – we’d love to help you engage with this important customer!