Category Archives: JJ&WPR.COM

How To Say “No” Effectively to Leadership

Such a joy to be back IN PERSON for a presentation at the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) annual seminar last week.  It reinforces how important face-to-face communication is in building relationships and cementing our learning.

My colleague John Lyday, APR, Fellow PRSA and I presented on the challenges and strategies needed to say “no” when leadership is heading in the wrong direction.  Some “takeaways” (both from us and our participants) included:

  1. Remember leaders are human too (and that includes our School Board members).  They have egos, and they do not want to appear wrong or be depicted as bullies; they want to please others, etc.  They also have past experiences that influence their decisionmaking.  The key is to really get to know your leadership what makes them tick and motivates them.
  2. Five strategies for saying “no
    • Education – being the expert before the issue arises, teaching leadership about effective communication practices and behavioral/communication theories, strategies
    • Having data – doing research on stakeholders to know them well; also having ability to do dipstick research overnight to help inform any decisionmaking
    • Offering options rather than solutions (caveat: never offer an option that is not good – it is the one they will pick)
    • Create scenarios on what is likely to happen with or without action, with options (including their suggestions).  Be sure to include pros and cons.
    • Know who influences leadership, where they stand on most subjects; and how to most effectively use their influence to help guide leadership when needed
  3. Critical strategies/theories to utilize, educate leadership about:
    • PR Behavioral Model (Jackson/Grunig) 
    • Behavioral Messaging (Grunig)
    • (email either one of us for copies!)
  4. Regularly conduct issue anticipation brainstorming to identify issues that might break and build strategies.  Group into “latent”, “emerging”, “hot” and “fallout” issues to manage discussions.  Here are some issues that were identified by session participants:
    • COVID-19 and its continuing impact on school communications
    • Critical race theory conspiracies that appear to be happening independently but are reportedly being fueled by organized conservative groups
    • Violence being directed at Asian-American families and students
    • Organized opposition to school district efforts to make LGBTQ students feel welcome and safe in school
    • Cyber-security in light of recent malware and ransomware attacks on other sectors
    • … and, of course, those that were old which may become new again, e.g. gun safety, sex education, etc.

For more on these subjects and more, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or email us. We would love to hear from you!

Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Counsel & Partner, JJ&W, ssmith@jjwpr.com/603.205.6302

John Lyday, APR, Fellow PRSA, jlydaycommunications.com/309.201.3669 www.lydaycommunications.com

Pearls of Wisdom from pr Road Warriors

Last week I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at the PRSA Northeast District Conference called, “Pearls of Wisdom From PR’s Road Warriors.”  One of the things I value most about my membership in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is the willingness of our members to share their experiences (as well as their networks) with each other.  A few “pearls” from this session with Gail Winslow, APR (Director of Corporate Marketing, LexaGene); Clark Dumont, APR (Dumont Communications) and Gail Rymer, APR, Fellow PRSA (Gail Rymer Strategic Communications):

  •  Prepare Yourself With More Than Communications & Writing Courses.  Though the ability to communicate succinctly is important, it is not the only skill required in public relations.  An understanding of how to motivate behavior (psychology, sociology); how the organization you’re counseling operates (business); corporate culture (organization development) and research (statistics, analysis) are all essential.  “Knowing that PR is being called upon to provide metrics on outcomes and how PR contributes to ROI (return on investment), I wish I’d been less afraid of statistics back in the day,” said Winslow.  (References:  PRSA’s Barcelona Principles and 9 Ways PR Impacts The Bottom Line by Patrick Jackson). The good news:  we are never done learning in this field, and there are many opportunities for professional development, via courses offered from professional associations like PRSA, going back for a Master’s Degree or developing specialized skills through certificate programs.
  • Take Advantage of Networking & Mentoring Opportunities.  Whether you are attending a PRSA International Conference, representing your organization in a Rotary or Chamber organization or volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about, there are countless ways to build your network.  “Say yes to every cup of coffee” — because you never know where it might lead.  It’s never too early to seek advice and counsel; surround yourself with people who can serve as mentors throughout your career as you build your “personal Board of Directors.”  Reference:  www.prsa.org for information on Mentor Connect. The good news:  every time you invest time in mentoring someone, there is a good chance “reverse mentoring” will occur and you’ll learn something new yourself.
  • Building Authentic Relationships Requires Transparency And Good Listening Skills.  Gail Rymer, who had a long and successful career in Environmental Communications with Lockheed Martin and Tennessee Valley Authority, faced many “angry publics” in her career.  “There is no replacement for face-to-face communication — but it takes time and effort.  Only by listening to the issues, finding common ground and providing honest answers (even if they aren’t popular answers) will you earn trust.”  Identify those who are influential “opinion leaders” who can serve as credible 3rd party ambassadors.
  • Use Core Values To Guide Your Decisionmaking.  Clark Dumont shared wisdom gleaned from a culture transformation effort he led while working for MGM.  “When you’re disrupting people’s lives, it becomes personal.  Start with the ‘why’ – providing the rationale for change is key.”  Using values as their guide, MGM established themselves as a leader in DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion).
  • Trust Your Gut And Have Confidence In Yourself.  Confidence comes from a combination of experience and education, but even highly-skilled practitioners can suffer from “imposter syndrome.”  Have open conversations with organizational leadership; talk their language but stand by your own principles.  Explained one panelist: “I was told by leadership that I didn’t have the pedigree – meaning I didn’t have a degree from Harvard – to continue advancing in that organization.  During COVID-19 I took an executive leadership course at Cornell University that helped me build the confidence in myself to walk away from that job and find a better fit for my skills, talents and career path.”

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is Senior Counsel and Partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management consulting firm based in the Seacoast of NH.  For more information, visit www.jjwpr.com or contact rschell@jjwpr.com.

Using the Triggering Event of COVID to Impact Culture Change

Triggering events, whether created for us or by us, can create a fissure in the current behaviors and beliefs of stakeholders. These fissures, if smartly managed, can help transform an organization’s culture.

Even before the trauma of the last year, healthcare was reeling from a bevy of changes and pressures. Nursing shortages, changing business models, cut-throat competition, systemic racism, the disappearance of small, rural hospitals, and more had an already shaky system on the edge.
Staff were dissatisfied and demoralized. This was no longer a profession respected and supported or so it felt.

The upheaval of an event like COVID19, for all its negative outcomes, can be a catalyst if harnessed, to re-imagine and re-create an internal culture that can thrive going forward.

Five COORR steps to take:

1. Catharsis
2. Opportunity
3. Ownership
4. Repair
5. Repeat

Catharsis: Allows employees to express their feelings, pain, ideas. This is the time for leadership to listen, empathize, comfort and express humanness. It is accessed through meaningful and thoughtful listening by way of qualitative and quantitative research.
Opportunity: Opportunities and problems are identified in Catharsis and with an environmental scan to see what in the future may become pressing. These are verified with employees, prioritized.
Ownership: Responsibility for seeing that change happens is assigned at all levels, not just leadership. By spreading responsibility throughout the organization and levels, silos can be torn down and healing can begin.
Repair: Measurable goals and objectives are established, strategies determined, and action is taken. Ongoing measurement tracks successes and need for tweaking actions.
Repeat: Change is not a “one and done” process. Different groups are ready to move at different times. Some need others to take the lead, to make sure change is not dangerous. Sometimes alternative strategies need to be adopted to move those who linger.

As vaccines ramp up (a triggering event of its own), and COVID winds down (hopefully), the window for change is ending from this triggering event. Make use of professionals with communication and organization behavior expertise to be most effective in this effort. Act now and make a difference for your organization.

Isobel Parke 1926-2020

ISabel Park

Isobel Parke was born in 1926 in Dorset, UK, the 3rd of 5 daughters of Charles and Jean Hamilton Gordon Parke.  She graduated from the Winsor School, Boston, MA, and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, UK, with a degree in History in 1947.  Isobel worked for a short time at the UK Ministry of Education. After teaching in Germany and Kenya, she served as the adult education manager at Moor Park College (Farnham, UK) for 12 years.

In 1965, Isobel joined the behavioral public relations and management consulting firm of Jackson Jackson and Wagner in NH, where she provided invaluable counsel to clients in a wide variety of industries for over 5 decades.  She was a trailblazer, advocating for public relations practitioners to have a place at the decisionmaking table and influencing the PR field with their innovative strategies and behavior-change theories.  She was married to Patrick Jackson, a past PRSA president and PR leader in the public relations field.

An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Isobel served as National Secretary.  She was inducted into the College of Fellows in 1991.  She served as PRSA’s representative on the Council for Journalism and Mass Communications as well as on two PRSA education commissions. Isobel was best known for her work with independent schools and environmental concerns. Her work with the coalition SPACE (Statewide Program of Action to Conserve our Environment) led to a NH constitutional amendment change in 1968 and passage of the current use law to preserve open space in NH – a law that still stands today. She was the first woman president of the NH Timberland Owners Association and served on both the boards of Lamprey River Watershed Association and UNH Cooperative Extension Rockingham County Advisory Council. Passionate about land conservation, she worked closely with the Southeast Land Trust on their efforts to conserve open space.


http://bodypiercingsavedmylife.com/

Since 1963, Isobel lived on Tributary Farm, a 1745 house in West Epping, NH with 700 blueberry bushes and 160 acres of forest land.  She loved spending time outdoors and in her garden; and every July, she would host a blueberry breakfast for members of her JJ&W family. Raised in the Episcopalian church, she became a long-time member of the West Epping Quaker Meeting.  Loved and respected by countless family members, friends, professional colleagues and clients, Isobel will be missed by us all.


A Celebration of Life will be held in the spring and announced when set. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to a conservation or environmental fund of your choice.

School Communicators Take Note: For Flawless Execution, Prepare Beyond Your Written Crisis Plan

Yesterday, it was the dismissal of a teacher at the Fieldston private school as a result of anti-Semitic remarks that enflamed tensions between Jewish parents and school administrators.  Today, it is concern over the Coronavirus and its impact on boarding schools with Chinese pupils and international study programs abroad.  What will it be tomorrow?

While most private schools – especially those with boarding school programs – have had had to put their crisis communication plans to the test with issues ranging from student fatalities to inappropriate teacher/student relationships – how many have solid issue anticipation programs in place to prepare for the crisis around the corner?

In our experience, spending a little time and money upfront on thorough preparation goes a long way.  For consideration:

  1.  Updated contact information for ALL key internal audiences.  Most schools have their Board members and leadership team on speed dial…but anticipate everyone you want to communicate with directly in a crisis.  This means working with Development to insure you have up-to-date text/email information for alumni, and with Admissions in case prospective students need to be reached.  When the crisis hits, you want to be able to press a button for instant notification.
  2. Spokesperson training in advance.  Chances are, your Head of School and Communication Director have had the most experience with on-camera or phone interviews – but how about your subject matter experts?  For example, you might have your Head of Security as the spokesperson in a data breach situation, or Human Resources for a roundup story on your school policies impacting transgender students.   Mock interviews — where your spokespersons can practice staying calm and circling back to key message points in the face of tough media questions – are a valuable exercise.  Take it one step further by recording and playing back the interview to observe body language, nervous habits etc.  Make it engaging by involving the others in the recap of what worked well and what needs improvement.
  • Make time for issue anticipation and social media monitoring.  Whether you appoint someone inside or work with an outside firm, your Communications Director should be asking themselves this question everyday: “What’s going on out there, and could it happen here?”  Social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite Insights and Synthesio allow you to monitor news sites, blogs and forums by specific topics and audiences.  Cultivate relationships with your PR/communications network of professionals for best practice sharing.  Google search recent cases on topics of concern to see how other schools handled – or mishandled – issues and learn from their situations.
  • Prepare templates for likely situations for a “headstart” on your holding statement.  While you can’t have a statement for every situation, you can identify likely issues within specific categories (e.g. mishandling of finances, security issues, personnel issues, accidents and fatalities etc.).  Decide with your leadership/crisis management team on key messages to deliver in each situation – then get the holding statement templates blessed by the legal team in advance.
  • Update your media, social media and spokesperson policies.  It’s one thing to have these on paper, buried on page 60 of your crisis plan, and another to proactively and regularly communicate them to all members of your school family.  You want everyone to know what to do when the media calls, or how to handle student friend requests on LinkedIn and Facebook.  When new employees come on board, make sure they are up to speed as well.
  • Have a system in place for the “Lessons Learned” review.  Decide who from the crisis team should be involved and schedule the review right after the crisis ends, while it is fresh in everyone’s minds.  Important:  appoint a good note-taker to capture the conversation … chances are you, or a colleague, will need it for future reference.

For more information on issue anticipation programs and proactive media training, contact Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Counsel and Partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner at 603/770-3607.