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Saturday
Jun202015

I was invited to hear a story and was forever changed.

Nearly ten months ago a colleague called me about a film project for a small nonprofit that wanted to tell its story and was set to begin a capital campaign to raise awareness.

Our initial meeting with Cy’s Place founders Randy and Ree Erickson and Board member, Dr. Shakila Khan of Mayo Clinic lasted two and half hours and truly could have gone longer…the story was emotional and heart breaking but at the same time beautiful, full of light and hope.  Cy’s Place, a place that kids on the mend and their families can call home while undergoing transplant and stem cell procedures in Rochester, Minnesota was about to launch the Hand in Hand, capital campaign to raise awareness and support to build Minnesota’s first and second only in the country, pediatric transplant hospitality house for families. The estimated $14M project will be a 55,000 square feet home away from home that includes one- and two-bedroom apartments that will accommodate up to 20 families.

It was clear this was an important story not only to tell but to share. Red Couch Stories was engaged to produce a film that would help tell the story. It was very clear to our team that once the film was produced it needed to be shared. That’s where Encore Public Relations didn’t hesitate to step in and volunteer to spread the word.

The story begins with a courageous little boy

Cy’s Place is named after Silas (“Cy” Erickson), the son of Randy and Ree Erickson, a beautiful little boy who courageously and heroically battled cancer and passed away at age three in 2007. When Silas, became sick with cancer, the Erickson’s began walking down an unfamiliar road that filled them with enormous pain that left them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.

During Silas’ heroic battle with cancer, Randy and Ree had to leave their home and jobs in Williston, North Dakota, and spend much of the next eleven months in Rochester, Minnesota where Silas underwent extensive treatment at Mayo Clinic.

In the midst of the chaos and months of treatment, the Erickson’s learned so much. They became familiar with the ins-and-outs of Mayo Clinic—navigating the buildings where treatment, testing, and appointments took place—they learned what it feels like to sit in the hospital and watch as their child struggled for months and months.  They got to know the kind of help that families with a critically ill child in long-term treatment need and the kinds of needs that often go unmet. The Erickson’s experienced firsthand what it was like to need an affordable place to stay for an extended period of time. Through the great pain and loss, the Erickson’s could sense that they were not alone and felt love was  all around. “Through the kindness of others, many of our needs were bountifully addressed and even though there was great pain and sadness, we experienced great light and hope,” said Randy Erickson.

Reflecting back on all of the different people that stepped forward to help, the Erickson’s found a calling was placed deep in their hearts with a desire to help other children and families facing similar medical situations. In late 2011, the Erickson’s moved to Rochester where they found a walk out house that they could renovated into a guest apartment and Cy’s Place received it’s nonprofit status and began operation in early 2013. They’ve been welcoming families from all over the world and say referrals mostly come from word of mouth, churches and communities of faith.

Families with children facing transplants have many needs

For parents whose children are undergoing transplantation it often means uprooting everything; jobs and families as the average stay with a transplant is 100 days or more. Once in the community there are a lot of restrictions on what transplant patients can eat and the environment that is most ideal for them to recover and heal. There is also great monetary expense with having to find a home for an extended period of time.

 “When a child needs a transplant it often involves the entire family,” said Cy’s Place Board Member, Shakila Khan, M.D., Pediatric Hematology/Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant, Mayo Clinic. “Many patients stay in hotels, rent apartments or find other hospitality houses, but in general these are not geared for the specific needs of transplant children or their families. I can’t tell you how valuable Cy’s Place will be to the entire transplant community.”

 Abundant blessings big and small

The Erickson’s a couple of deep faith and belief, see Cy’s Place as a journey built on God’s provision, grace and love. “It’s really an overwhelming sense of joy that we could be a part of this big plan,” said Randy Erickson. “We know the plan probably started way before we even came here, that God had this in mind and sent us here for some reason with a little boy that would change our hearts forever.”

 Along the way the Erickson’s have encountered amazing goodness through the donation of the land, the amazing physician and provider support, board members and a host of community volunteers that have all stepped forward to help. Donations also began trickling in from near and far that seem to show up just when needed most. “We’re just two people. You can’t do much alone. Over the years we’ve continued to pray that God would bring people along the way that would help us with Cy’s Place,” said Ree Erickson. “ It’s just been one example after another of people coming forward, being gracious of their time, talent and treasure. Truly God’s hand is at work.”

A community gathers to hear and share the story

More than 200 people (patients, families, clergy, communities of faith, city, government and providers) gathered on June 18, 2015 for Cy’s Place Hand in Hand capital campaign kick off. It was an opportunity to hear the story and become engaged in the story.

What happened next is a great example of the power of an incredible story and how it has the ability to connect, engage and move others to action. Once the film was created, Encore Public Relations began to talk to media in hopes they would help tell and share the story. It was a beautiful partnership to witness. In less than 72 hours of releasing the film to the first media outlet, The Med City Beat there were over 6,000 views of the film on Med City Beat’s site with hundreds of likes and shares of the story. In short order all local media outlets were given the story to consider that resulted in more than 400,000 viewers, listeners and readers becoming aware of the story in less than three days time. The story is just beginning to surface and the metrics will continue to rise and it will be awesome to witness where Cy’s Place story will go from here.

As the wider community pulls together to make Cy’s Place a reality, organizers hope the end result will be a place where sick children and their families will have a place to stay and a network of love and support wrapped around them. “Over and over we are asked to provide hospitality, and to love each other. That’s the overall theme, and I think it paves the way for us to speak into people’s lives at a time when they desperately need hope,” said Ree Erickson. “When you are struggling through difficult times, people want to know if someone cares. Cy’s Place is an opportunity to love and provide light during the most difficult and dark days of someone life,” said Randy Erickson.

Laurie Archbold is the owner of Encore Public Relations and co-owner at Red Couch Stories in Rochester, MN. You can reach her via Twitter @laarchbold or through encorepublicrelations.com or redcouchstories.com

Wednesday
Jun102015

Bring Your Non-Profits Into Focus

Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management, www.teamworkspr.com

We live in an increasingly visual world, where electronic and social media is driving an ever greater need for more and higher quality photos and graphics. In our work with non-profit organizations, we’re seeing many of them scrambling to assemble high-resolution photo libraries that effectively represent their work. Tight budgets generally preclude these organizations from hiring professional photographers, so they rely on the contributions of staff members and volunteers to record their activities and events. The results run the gambit from wonderful candid shots that capture the spirit of their work to blurry shots of the back of peoples’ heads.What can these organizations do to make their photo generation consistently productive?

1.  Be Prepared.

Make a “shot list” ahead of time to ensure you capture the elements you want.

 2.  Keep Snapping

With digital, it costs you nothing and may be the difference between a good photo and a great one. Plus, it’s nice to have different angles for different uses. Photos are great for a quick social media update or news story, or for use in things like newsletters, brochures and event slideshows. Having lots of different options is always helpful.

3.  Be Creative.

You know what you need to capture in a photo, but how can you make it more interesting?

  • Take photos from varying angles and heights. Stand on a chair for a different perspective.
  • Facility spaces are always more interesting with people in them.
  • Capture faces that are filled with expression.
  • Look for active shots rather than a typical head shot.
  • Pay attention to what is in the background of your photo. Does it help tell a story or does it distract from your story? Does it give credit to a sponsor? Does it help define the setting?

4.  Don’t be shy!

Let people know you’ll be taking photos so you won’t feel hesitant to get up close for that personal shot.

DO

  • Take photos of speaker/presenter – close up or from the side of the room, capturing the first few rows of audience.
  • Take photos of groups of people interacting with one another.
  • Make sure rooms are well lit. Try to use natural light as opposed to flash when possible.
  • Create unique photo opportunities – perhaps with signage, props.

DON’T

  • Photograph a speaker/presenter from the back of the room – they’ll be too small and you’ll get a room full of the backs of heads.
  • Take photos of groups of people at a table such that the main focus is on their backs. Instead focus in on a few sitting next to one another.
  • Take photos of people without enough light or lit from behind.
Wednesday
Jun102015

Bring Your Non-Profits Into Focus

Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management, www.teamworkspr.com

We live in an increasingly visual world, where electronic and social media is driving an ever greater need for more and higher quality photos and graphics. In our work with non-profit organizations, we’re seeing many of them scrambling to assemble high-resolution photo libraries that effectively represent their work. Tight budgets generally preclude these organizations from hiring professional photographers, so they rely on the contributions of staff members and volunteers to record their activities and events. The results run the gambit from wonderful candid shots that capture the spirit of their work to blurry shots of the back of peoples’ heads.What can these organizations do to make their photo generation consistently productive?

  1. Be Prepared.

Make a “shot list” ahead of time to ensure you capture the elements you want.

 2.  Keep Snapping

With digital, it costs you nothing and may be the difference between a good photo and a great one. Plus, it’s nice to have different angles for different uses. Photos are great for a quick social media update or news story, or for use in things like newsletters, brochures and event slideshows. Having lots of different options is always helpful.

3.  Be Creative.

You know what you need to capture in a photo, but how can you make it more interesting?

  • Take photos from varying angles and heights. Stand on a chair for a different perspective.
  • Facility spaces are always more interesting with people in them.
  • Capture faces that are filled with expression.
  • Look for active shots rather than a typical head shot.
  • Pay attention to what is in the background of your photo. Does it help tell a story or does it distract from your story? Does it give credit to a sponsor? Does it help define the setting?

4.  Don’t be shy!

Let people know you’ll be taking photos so you won’t feel hesitant to get up close for that personal shot.

DO

  • Take photos of speaker/presenter – close up or from the side of the room, capturing the first few rows of audience.
  • Take photos of groups of people interacting with one another.
  • Make sure rooms are well lit. Try to use natural light as opposed to flash when possible.
  • Create unique photo opportunities – perhaps with signage, props.

DON’T

  • Photograph a speaker/presenter from the back of the room – they’ll be too small and you’ll get a room full of the backs of heads.
  • Take photos of groups of people at a table such that the main focus is on their backs. Instead focus in on a few sitting next to one another.
  • Take photos of people without enough light or lit from behind.
Tuesday
Jun092015

Generational Faux Pas

Generational Faux Pas
by Heidi Langer, Langer Marketing & Communications LLC

Nothing screams Baby Boomer more than a double space after a period. Really? Oops, just double spaced after the period! Hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Yes, I’m a Baby Boomer. Actually straddling the fence with Baby Boomers on one side and Generation X on the other. If I fell off the fence, I’d likely fall toward the Baby Boomers as I feel more like them in more ways than I care to share, especially when it comes to typing and spaces. I learned to type in my high school “stenography class” which is the same place I learned to read and write shorthand, take dictation and remember about 8-10 sentences at a time before I had to write them down in shorthand. Remember shorthand? Anyone over about 45 should remember it. I still use it today. Comes in handy when I have to take notes really fast. An invaluable skill I say. But both the double space after a period and the shorthand all came from the same era – the 1980s. So for 35 years, I’ve been double spacing, using shorthand and exuding all sorts of other faux pas that scream my age. Does anyone really care? Is a double space really that bad? There are some, such as New York Times technology columnist and author of True Enough, Farhad Manjoo, who recently wrote an article for Slate.com and says that “…typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong.” Seems pretty drastic if you ask me.

What I want to know is who decided to take out that extra space after a period anyway? It appears double spacing started ‘way back when’ because we typed on actual typewriters that used monospaced typesetting, which means every letter took up the same amount of space when typed. So a double space after a period was required to make it easier to see when a new sentence started. Double spacing created a more reader-friendly paragraph. Today, computers don’t use monospaced typesetting, they use proportionally spaced fonts that automatically adjust spacing based on the size of the letter. Thus, they automatically create a more reader friendly sentence/paragraph. In essence, the computer does the letter spacing for us. It’s just so hard to remember not to double space. Frankly, I wish there were a shortcut in word processing software, similar to the search/replace function, which would let me search and replace all double spaces with single spaces. With no luck in sight for that type of function, this Baby Boomer believes she will have to buck up and single space to fit in with the rest of the Gen Xs, Millennials, and the newest kids on the block, Generation Z. Now all I have to do is get rid of my 1980s leg warmers and my hair scrunchies and I’ll be all set!

Heidi Langer is the owner of Langer Marketing & Communications LLC in Cleveland, Ohio. The company was founded in 1995 and specializes in public relations, marketing, special event management and association management. Whether your project is multi-faceted or small and simple, we provide the personal service you require. You’re not just a client – you’re a friend. Follow us at @hlanger321 or find us at www.langermarketing.com.

Wednesday
Jun032015

Texan meets his match in federal court over Facebook

By Kay Floyd

A Texas gun store owner has found himself in a heated battle with a federal judge that, as it turns out, has nothing to do with guns. Instead, it concerns his Facebook. Yes, that is what I said, Facebook

As reported in the Houston Chronicle, Jeremy Alcede lost his store, Tactical Firearms, and shooting range in Katy, Texas, in a bankruptcy proceeding last year. Over the years Alcede was known for his street signs that showcased his own brand of political commentary, ranging from Obama, to immigration, to former Governor Rick Perry.

On April 3, the judge ordered Alcede to turn over his Facebook and Twitter passwords to the new owners because he judged them to be business assets. The judge, Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeff Bohm, wrote a 30-page opinion in support of seizing the passwords. Alcede refused. As a result, Alcede was held in solitary confinement from April 9th through April 17th. Alcede contends that Facebook is his personal property and he should not have to share it. This could become a landmark social media case for business owners and entrepreneurs.

On Friday, April 17th, Judge Bohm stuck to his guns (no pun intended) and would not reconsider his opinion, nor did he agree to release Alcede on bond. Alcede’s attorney predicts that he will continue to refuse the order to turn over the passwords because he considers them personal.

It may be that Alcede is confusing the Facebook policy statement with his contention that he doesn’t have to provide the passwords to his Facebook account. Facebook states: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.” However, a business’s Facebook site is yet another communication vehicle to reach current and potential clients. Alcede’s Facebook is the company’s voice and is speaking for the brand, not solely for Alcede himself. I am guessing that Judge Jeff Bohm came to this same conclusion and ruled as he did.

The Houston Chronicle reported on May 27 that Alcede provided access to his account and was released from jail after sitting there for weeks. He didn’t finally agree with the judge, but some say he gave up access to his account because one of his friends was diagnosed with cancer. He plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Aside from this overall issue, I am amazed at this scenario: Solitary confinement. In America. In Texas. Over Facebook.

Kay F. Floyd, APR, is owner of Kay F. Floyd & Associates in San Antonio, Texas. She has more than 30 years’ experience of providing public relations consultation in the areas of strategic planning, corporate communications, communications audits, media relations, special events, promotions and merchandising.

 

www.kayfloydpr.com

kay@kayfloydpr.com

Tuesday
May122015

Running Your Own Halloween Haunted Attraction? You Need PR and Social Media.

By Alex Greenwood

Just chillin’ like a villain. (Tweet this, will ya?)Every September, the fever grips me. I gleefully examine the latest arrivals of spooky stuff at the store. I check my podcast stream for new episodes of The Halloween Haunt podcast (rest in peace, Hauntcast) and start doodling ways to make my little green corner house the spookiest on the block. I actually look for fun (safe), ways to scare little children.

I’ll admit it. I am a Halloween fanatic.

Why? I think much of it has to do with a visceral delight I (and many other “normal” humans) get from being frightened. I won’t psychoanalyze myself any further; suffice it to say I love Halloween and a good scare.

Apparently, so do many others. As writer Steve Cooper wrote in Forbes

"Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open up their pocketbook—next to Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, according to Alliance Data Retail Services (ADRS), a marketing and customer loyalty solutions provider. "

It gets better. According to America Haunts, there are at least 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission nationwide every year, with 300 amusement parks “dressing up” for Halloween and more than 3,000 charity attractions that open for one day on Halloween or one of two weekends in October.

"The site also reports that the typical haunted attraction averages around 8,000 guests, depending on the market and size of the attraction. Some attractions do exponentially better. The haunted attraction industry generates between $300 and $500 million in ticket sales per year."

There’s even a trade group: The Haunted Attraction Association.

"Imagine: this half a billion-dollar industry basically thrives in a six-week window once a year. If you own a haunted attraction, it better be good, it better be accessible…and people better know BOO about it. If you have a haunted attraction, you have to be damn good at marketing it, or you’re not going to make it (there are virtual graveyards of failed haunt attractions out there)."

Forget for a moment that we’re talking about haunted houses. Let’s talk about any product or industry–for example, aluminum siding. Do you need aluminum siding every day? No. Every week? No. Every year? Probably not. Yet what do you see on local TV? Commercials for aluminum siding. Why? Do the aluminum siding salespersons presume everyone watching will “Call now”? No. What they assume is one of two things:

1. Some people out there in TV land do need siding in the near future, so why not reach out to them?

2. Many viewers will eventually need siding, so they want their company to be “top of mind” when that day comes.

It’s a basic precept of marketing–if people don’t know about  you, they’ll never buy anything from you. This means that even if what you sell is a rare purchase, you better make sure your name is out there.

Let’s apply this rule to haunted attractions.

One thing I see over and over (with a few notable exceptions) is that haunted attractions do a lackluster job of keeping in touch with patrons throughout the year. Now, no, I do not believe you should run a TV ad in February for your haunted house. It would be weird. (Though I do think a little pattern interrupt–say, an ad in July is a good idea–but that’s not the point.) No, you should not be running ads year-round. However, you should be doing something else to keep your name out there. You should be active in social media.

Wait, wait. Come back!

Here’s the good news: it’s free (of charge, generally). The bad news: it takes time, and if you do not consistently participate, it doesn’t work.

So, being active on social media costs you time and creativity, year round. The benefits? If you maintain a consistent, entertaining presence on your Twitter of Terror, Gothic Google +, Fearsome Facebook, Icky Instagram and even Lethal LinkedIn, you can foster a regular, top of mind relationship with haunted attraction fans. This way, when your hot and heavy marketing push starts in September, you’ll have an army of brand ambassadors ready to help you spread the word.

"Can you imagine the increased bang for your TV buck if  hundreds of fans share your TV spot on YouTube and Twitter and Facebook? What if you have social media-inflamed excitement building over ticket or fastpass giveaways, or people posting pics with your scareactors from the wait line outside your attraction on Instagram?"

And what if your haunt space is used for special events or other commerce the rest of the year? Social media is a great way to let your fans know what’s happening when the lights are on and the monsters are in storage.

It’s  horrifically fun to create an affordable social media (and or PR) strategy to market your haunt. Don’t be scared!

Alex Greenwood owns AGPR is Kansas City, MO. Reach him on Twitter @A_Greenwood or on his website at AlexGPR.com

Tuesday
May052015

Crisis Response: You must be swift, you must be decisive, but above all, you must be accurate

By  

In the weeks following the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash, Lufthansa Group and its Chief Executive Carsten Spohr faced tremendous pressure as they crafted messaging for customers, employees, investors and the general public. PR practitioners (myself included) have closely observed the company’s response strategy unfold. One of the biggest twists came in late March, when Lufthansa said it knew of the pilot’s depression diagnosis, but did not prevent him from working.

The recent history of flight disasters underscores the critical need for airlines to deploy swift and decisive crisis communication, but not at the expense of accuracy.

My evaluation of Lufthansa’s crisis response aligns most closely with that of Scott Farrell, president of global corporate communication for Golin, who is quoted in this Wall Street Journal article:

Mr. Spohr deserves credit for his timely appearance before the media, and his genuine and heartfelt comments. However, in the need to be timely he became victim to a phenomenon we call ‘the fog of crisis’…Companies in the early hours of a crisis are best off telling media and others only what they know, and that they’re in the process of gathering facts and information rather than speculating. In a crisis, credibility is king and this is the best way to preserve that valuable asset.

Photo credit: “D-AKNF A319 Germanwings” by Mark Harkin licensed under CC 2.0