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, November 19, 2012

Project USO Elf: Help a Military Child in Need!

We’ve been involved with the USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO-Metro) for over 16 years, and each program reminds us why we love being involved with this phenomenal organization! Project USO Elf is one of the organization’s special holiday programs, dedicated to helping military children and families.  We hope you’ll agree this is a program worth supporting!

Project USO Elf is devoted to providing 1,200 children of military families with gifts for the holidays.  Area companies, organizations and families can register to "sponsor" a local military child this holiday season. While military families face challenges year-round, holidays can be especially difficult. Volunteering as a sponsor for this program can help to bring a smile to a child’s face, and reminds us what the holiday season is really about. 

To volunteer as a sponsor, please visit -- this provides registration information and matches you with a child in the program. Within two weeks, you will receive your sponsor child’s first name, gender, age and holiday wish list. Donors are asked to purchase a minimum of two gifts and/or gift cards from the list, totaling $50 or more for each child. Once you make your selections from the child’s wish list, you will receive information about where to drop off the gifts – drop off locations include the OUCP Warehouse, Fort Belvoir & McGill Training Center, and Fort Meade. All gifts must be dropped off on December 10th between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm. Do not worry about gift wrapping the presents; USO-Metro will do that for you! 

If you are able to help and would like to assist military families in the Washington D.C. metro area, please register to be a sponsor in the Project USO Elf program! If you have questions about the program and how to help out, contact Shannon Rush at 703-805-4277 or If you would like to support a military child in need through Project Elf, but don’t have time to shop, you can donate $50 per child at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Superstorm Sandy Inspires Proactive Communication from Government

Last week, when Hurricane Sandy was getting ready to slam the East Coast with high winds, flooding, destruction and even heavy snowfall, one thing I believe truly went right -  governments at all levels  implemented a strong proactive media communications strategy to prepare citizens and  organizations for the impending disaster. 

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