Saturday, August 30, 2008

Your Political Diet
Meat and Potatoes or Moose Stew

It’s official! Democrats had about 8 hours to bask in the historic spectacle of the DNC Convention (and it was truly grand) when John McCain leveled the second round of his “one, two birthday punch.”

His congratulatory ad to Barack Obama celebrating his historic bid for the Presidency: Classy!

McCain’s pick of conservative pro-life Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate: Brassy!

According to politicos, conservatives and heartland evangelists throughout the US applauded McCain’s pick of an accomplished, attractive gun-toting, oil-drilling 44-year old mother of five who embodies the “new generation” of politics.

It was a shrewd move on behalf of the RNC.

Sarah’s hit an emotional chord with Republicans and Independents, courting the “Hillary Vote” right out of the gate and added spice to what could have been a lackluster RNC convention. She seems comfortable in her own skin, which is a very good thing.

My husband Roland and I even commented that she looks a little like Elaine from Seinfeld. Arsenio Hall described her as “Fine!” last night on Jay Leno. Tempered and tough, she was dubbed “Sarah the Barracuda,” a high-school label that stuck. As a communications professional, I read this to mean, “We Republicans now have our own celebrity – a woman.”

Although I’m a registered Democrat, even I can somewhat relate to her as a working woman and “hockey mother” (you’ll recall my son Clinton was an ‘Ice Hockey in Harlem’ team member for years). However, I don’t drink Kool-Aid or eat Moose Stew (Sarah’s favorite dish); I look past the hype and encourage you to do the same this election season.

First, I’m pro-choice; Sarah’s pro-life. She may choose to have 5 kids … that’s her prerogative. I’m of the mindset that difficult personal decisions are made in a lifetime. Sometimes that includes the decision not to have a child. Abortions must stay safe and accessible; it’s every woman’s right.

Obama-Biden laid out their domestic and foreign affairs plan. They “get it” and I’m in their corner. But, be careful not to dismiss the impact Sarah Palin can have on the election; she’s knowledgeable about pipelines and the environment—and that’s not just a pipe dream.

Political campaigns are like a “hunt in the wild” and it’s not over until you kill your game and his or her head is literally stuffed and mounted for all see. As the daughter of a stanch Republican (my dad) and granddaughter of a hunter (by grandfather), I know the hunt for game is often bloody. But, the meal you get from the “kill” (if you win) sure is satisfying. And you can even mount the head of your opponent like a celebrity “trophy.” (In this case a deer, complete with antlers mounted in my mother’s den in Virginia!)

The stakes have been raised, and rest assured folks will not be staying home on election day. The battle will be fierce and the election will be close. If I can sense commonality between myself and this woman, then surely middle-American women and a few Hillary holdouts may be swayed.

Whether you prefer a healthy small diet or hearty fare, here are your menu selections for the Fall political season:

Appetizer: “Primaries”
> Tasty, but left you hungry for more

EntrĂ©e: “Conventions”
> Examine issues amid the pagentry
> Check out C-Span or YouTube for instant replay
> Discuss, delve into background to learn more

Chef's Selection #1: Meat & Potatoes (Democrats)
> Everyone “Get’s it”
> Dependable … think for the people, by the people

Chef's Selection #2: Moose Stew (Republicans)
> A bit exotic, but still favored by many and Sarah P’s favorite dish
> Overbearing & filling … think George W. Bush’s ascent into the White House
> Quells hunger yet leaves aftertaste … think sinking mortgages and our shrinking US economy in global markets

Dessert: Election Day!
> By voting Nov. 4, you provide the sweetest and most satisfying way to finish off a meal!

Choose your political diet wisely as you make your decision over the next two months.

Had your fill of current trends that seem to keep you treading for water? Perhaps it’s time to push the plate away and exercise your right to a better way of life.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fall into Productivity
As We Return from Summer Hiatus

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me and there’s a lot of exciting news to report!

Last Wednesday, the Black Public Relations Society-New York (BPRSNY) and the National Association of Market Developers (NAMD) hosted an interesting mix of creative professionals Aug. 20 at Lola is Soul Restaurant in Manhattan’s fashionable Soho district. BPRSNY Visual Historian Gerald Peart shares the following pix for your viewing pleasure:

Digital Discipline: Writing & Media Relations 411
3-Part Communications Skills Boot Camp
Sept. 17, 24 & Oct. 1 @ Burson-Marsteller, NYC

Keep your writing, media and social networking skills fresh, by attending a 3-Part Writing & Media Boot Camp, FREE with $50 annual membership in BPRSNY, a multicultural, 501 ( c ) 3 nonprofit educational corporation.

To learn more about Digital Discipline: Writing & Media Relations 411, visit or contact any of the officers (list below). Classes will be held Sept. 17, 24 & Oct. 1, Burson-Marsteller, 230 Park Avenue South, Manhattan, Wednesdays, 6 - 8 PM. Please spread the word about this GREAT VALUE, for students, entrepreneurs, artists and for impact (nonprofit) associates, as well as those in career transition—particularly journalists and content developers.

Boot Camp participants members will receive e-tip sheets, media worksheets, personal consults and participate in real-time exercises to refine critical thinking and communications skills. Workshops will be led by the org’s executive leadership team who will explain how membership in BPRSNY and other professional industry associations can help advance your career.

Seminar topics (boot camp and future panels) include: Entertainment PR, Writing for the Web, Media Relations, EPKs (electronic press kits), Podcasts / Video, Talent and Artist Relations, Travel Publicity, Government Relations, Conference Management, Event Planning, Personal Branding & Reputation Management, SEO (search engine optimization), Maximizing Social Networks, Crisis and Emergency Communications, Investor Relations and Tax / Accounting Tips for Freelancers and Small Businesses.

This “been there, done that well expertise” is offered at a fraction of rates charged by other leading industry groups and driven by the BPRSNY mission—mentorship! The boot camp also includes presentations from (partial list) BPRSNY VP Diversity & Events Michael Millis, MX2 Media; Director of Membership Kimberlee Bradshaw, CPJ Communications; Co-President Gordon Balkcom, PR Practitioner; and Visual Historian Gerald Peart, photographer, who will share insight on special events, effective networking, corporate / investor / community relations and digital imaging.

Connect >> Communicate >> Collaborate

The Black Public Relations Society—New York (BPRSNY) is a 501 c (3) nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to the professional development of African-American and multiethnic public relations practitioners throughout the tri-state area. Also known as “Beepers NY,” the organization includes diverse talent from corporate America, leadership groups, government, public policy, entertainment and arts institutions. Membership is open to all and includes executives and entrepreneurs from the US and abroad; Contact:, or 212.614.4599.

> Renee Foster - Co-President;
> Gordon Balkcom - Co-President;
> Lynne Scott Jackson - VP Programs & Membership;
> Mike Millis - VP Diversity & Special Events;
> Kimberlee Bradshaw
- Director of Membership;
> Gerald Peart - Visual Historian;

Job 1: Get the Job Done
The Race is Swift

Michael Phelps made history at the Beijing Summer Olympics and we’re now in the midst of the Democratic National Convention.

Now it’s time for Presidential Candidate Barack Obama to win the gold. He used his summer vacation to wisely focus on Job 1: Get the Job Done and select a political partner who won’t drop the baton—someone who doesn’t make false starts, completes assigned tasks, crosses the finish line and is immediately ready for the next race.

By selecting Joe Biden as his Vice Presidential running mate, he shored up perceptions about his leadership and management style. Here’s why Obama nailed the first major decision of his presumptive US Presidency. Biden has:

> Gray hair
* let’s get real, it’s generational … Gray Hair = Years on the Planet … that is with the exception of my man, Anderson Cooper
> Experience
*yes, we can ALL AGREE 35 years in the Senate counts and winning your first Senate election at age 29 is a huge deal
> Resiliance
* get the job done despite personal tragedy
> A narrative that resonates with blue-collar, middle America, middle-of-the road voters

And, Biden gives good PR. He’s a great orator; is persuasive and ready to lead. Obama and Biden both have great people skills AND they understand the “code” of Congress:

> Work together
> Reach across the aisle
> Bridge generations
> Get the job done

It works in Congress and it works for the American people. If the election were held today, I believe this would be THE winning ticket!

Today’s Candidates
Message + Tech = Success
Is Obama the First Cybergenic President?
You Decide …

Everyone knows Barack Obama has raised millions via the internet. Check the website for the latest dollar tally—the bank account grows by the minute and I can’t even keep track.

This week, organizers were hawking $15 Obama-Biden car magnets. Click, donate, believe and you shall receive.

Guess what? Each dollar is green and each dollar counts big in the click and tumble world of 2008 Election Politics.

Online fundraising allows regular Americans—like you and I to painlessly be part of the process. To feel WE have a small stake in the political game. So we can say we donated to a winner. To show that our money, when pooled, is a valuable piece of the political machine.

And you can comfortably do this from the comfort of your home or office; all you need is a computer screen. While some might still actually volunteer to work in a campaign, organizing door to door, most Americans are mouse potatoes. It’s much easier to make your voice heard through a “click.”

It’s modern communication, activism and political involvement.

We all understand the “VP Choice” text message was released around 3 AM Aug. 24 while college students were out partying. Hundreds of thousands were lured in by this creative promotion, including yours truly and thousands of journalists.

What was achieved by this creativity? The Democratic VP candidates names were kept prominently in the news for about two weeks. Not bad for a free viral publicity gimmick—that worked.

And yes, Springfield … the campaign now has your cell #.

Just like Master Card’s “Priceless” ads that generate mindshare with the public, Obama strategist David Axelrod has created a “Brilliant” IT political strategy.

As quoted Mark Leibovich’s Aug. 3 New York Times article “Hail to the Twitterer,” John McCain has a bit to learn about email and other tech tools:

“We’re not asking for a president to answer his own e-mail,” said Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley futurist who teaches at Stanford. “We’re asking for a president who understands the context of what e-mail means.”

Further, the story went on to say …

“There’s a certain tempo to the thinking of someone who uses all kinds of new media,” said Mr. Saffo, who said he would anoint Mr. Obama, if elected, “the first cybergenic president,” just as John F. Kennedy was considered the first telegenic president.

The Power of “A” Words
Pride and Perseverance

As a proud African American woman witnessing the impending Presidential victory of Barack Obama, the past few months have been exciting and eye opening.

Most of all, I’m glad we’re learning to understand the power of the “A” words. Take your pick:

> Astute
> Accomplished
> Acceptable
> American
> Ageism
> Arrogant
> Articulate
> Aloof

“A-list” qualities are definitely conversation starters and can help your candidate get tons of media exposure.

Trying to insert ageism or chastise sitting US Senators because of the perception they are arrogant, articulate or aloof is simply a non-starter.

Frankly, the first three “A” words—astute, accomplished, acceptable—are traits that make Obama appealing to millions of middle Americans … traits that make America tick. Successful people use these as success drivers. Those at the top of their game are usually “Type A” personalities.

The last five A words could apply to Obama or Joe Biden, his Vice Presidential Running mate. Yes friends, it’s uber cool for a Black or Anglo man to have “A-List” qualities.

Let’s use a simple checklist to fact check a few red-blooded American traits held by Obama and Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain:

> Harvard degree? Yes.
> Service to country as POW? Yes.
> Patriot? Yes.
> Multicultural* heritage? Yes.
* Understand no American is “pure” … admit it … we’re a “motley mix” of cultures!
> Solid family life? Yes.
> Experience? Yes.

Please note that President of the United States of America is an exclusive executive management position. Few have held the position; most successful Presidents have used a "management team" approach including scores of individuals with a wide range of experience, i.e. the Cabinet.

Yet, the buck stops with the President. That type of "heady experience" befalls the individual elected to the "hot seat," which is the chair behind the desk in the Oval Office.

If you’re a student of culture and language, as I am, then you realize the power of words and the audacity of argument. Words can serve as weapons or friends. We’re at the apex of the information age, with ideas and insults transmitted at the speed of light.

The trick is to have vision. To interpret the meaning and not get swept into the fray of propaganda to obtain viewers, sell magazines or get the most eyeballs to a website.

Analyze the issues. Think and vote with conviction of the proud American you are. Don’t pay attention to every single word of madness that swirls around you. Pay attention to the word in the middle of our “A-List” – American.

We can no longer straddle the fence. We’re at a crossroads. Let’s embrace a blended society and get over ourselves. If Americans used HALF the energy expended to beat each other up (on the campaign trail, on the job or at home) we could create a cross-functional, multicultural braintrust of helping the Obama or McCain team solve some real American problems.

That should be at the top of everybody’s list. Clicking to donate is still uber cool; but don’t forget to get off your butt and get involved!

I submit it’s acceptable for America to elect an articulate, arrogant, aloof, accomplished African American or Anglo American as our next President. Just do your part to ensure it’s your candidate of choice.

Understand no one is the “Anointed One.” In America, if you’re running for leader of the free world or trying to snare you next gig, you’d better have good dose of arrogance or you simply won’t win. You must be audacious in your approach; the competition is stiff.

What folks don’t understand is that Obama, African Americans and other ethnic groups (in your neighborhood or on the job) are uniquely poised to run many races—and win. They're chameleons, champions who are always up for a good fight.

All Americans, in fact, have unique DNA that allows us to win big.

It’s that simple. "A" words should be at the top of any list. Remember that "A" denotes success, an outstanding grade.

American can no longer stand for “B” or “C” status. We need leaders and achievers of all races who are at the top of their game—people with experience and tenacity who play to win.

Asian Americans and African Americans
Advise … Advance … Achieve … Together

I got a personal glimpse of our “new America” this summer as my colleague Mike Millis of MX2 Design Force met with Kendra Lee, Executive Director of the Greater Chinatown Community Association (GCCA).

On behalf of the BPRSNY Board of Director’s, we’re smoothly diving into uncharted waters and forging creative alliances between leading African American and Asian American community and educational groups. Watch this blog and the BPRSNY website for exciting news about future collaborative programs.

In the words of Yanni, “We are One.”

DNC Strategist Jamal Simmons
Offers Grassroots Election Insight

Okay, you’ve heard all the hoopla surrounding the election and the need to become “one America.” But how to turn hoopla into the most important “A Word”—ACTION?

We have an action plan thanks to CNN Analyst and Political Operative Jamal Simmons (President, New Future Communications). He offers “behind the scenes” insight on his fascinating career in governmental affairs and revealed what PR pros can do to get out the vote during this historic Presidential Election year!

Jamal is behind the scenes and in front of the camera in his role as a strategist and advisor to the Democratic National Committee; BPRSNY members and friends were privileged to get the inside scoop July 9 when he shared words of wisdom with PR pros here in Manhattan.

Jamal’s Tips include:

> Encourage people to vote early (before work)—particularly in precincts of color where heavy turnout is expected due to the surge in new voters;

> Be prepared to “wait it out” … there may be long lines;

> Check the weather … take an umbrella;

> Help seniors and others obtain absentee ballots if they can’t make it to the polls;

> Drive or accompany friends and relatives to the polls … take a day off (if possible);

> Understand the issues and candidates’ positions (see websites);

> Make your views known via posts on mainstream blogs like the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Talking Points Memo;

> Political journalists and producers track these blogs for hot topics … if you feel there’s an important election issue that should be covered—start blogging!

Powerful and Persuasive Friends

Everyone who knows me understands I’m big on trends.

Latest trend: Folks I know are serious power players. They’ve earned it and it feels good to know them

Back in my reporting days at the St. Petersburg (FL) Times, my good friend Laurie Hollman Brutch and I tried to interject trends into stories we covered about Dunedin, Clearwater and north Pinellas County. She had I are both now in education; she in Pennsylvania and me here at The City College of New York. It feels good to use our love of writing, research and interviewing skills to pass info on to the next generation.

[Side trend: St. Pete is now all the rave and a haven for artists. They’re positioning it as the next Miami. I don’t think so, but we’ll see!]

For me, small town reporting was the BEST training a communications professional could receive. It stands me in good stead to this day. Writing is a core competency and something that has helped me achieve my goals over the years. As others taught me, I try to pass this skill on to others.

I was privileged to have great editors like Joe Childs, Bonnie Limbach and Paul Tash. Other colleagues are leading journalists such as Denver Post Editor Greg Moore (a mentor from my internship days at the Cleveland Plain Dealer), Washington Post Editors Vanessa Williams, Marcia Slacum, USA Today Editor Jackie Green, Philadelphia News Editor Karin Berry, New York Times columnist and MSNBC contributor John Harwood (check out his new book Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power) and Daily Press Sports Editor David Squires, who pines away in my hometown of Hampton VA. The Daily Press happens to a former employer of (the late) White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow.

To borrow a line from John McCain, the world, MY FRIENDS, is very small. I submit there are a mere three degrees of separation, instead of six.

Often, it’s hard to believe my reporting days were more than 25 years ago. We worked hard. We played hard. We learned from each other. We developed lasting friendships. We’re part of a generation who had access to our “dream jobs” and were afforded the opportunity to excel. We grabbed the brass ring with brash gusto and went for the gold. I chose the PR path; others like Judy Brennan went on to a successful career on the West Coast covering the business side of the entertainment industry, and then on to screenwriting.

For all of us, writing and a genuine “curiosity” about people is at the core of all we do.

Open Letter to Hillary Clinton Supporters
From Barack Obama Loyalist Lynne Scott Jackson

Dear Fellow Democrats:

I watched Hillary Clinton’s speech as she made a graceful stage left departure from the 2008 Presidential Campaign in June.

While my side smelled victory, as I put my ear to the community-at-large (ever the PR practitioner), I learned how passionate Hillary Clinton supporter are; they’re still smarting as the DNC convention’s second day draws to a close. I’ll be glued to the TV as she addresses an international audience this evening.

Hillary always gives “good talk.” I had the pleasure of hearing her speak in person when she was First Lady, during a meeting of the American Booksellers Convention as she promoted her book It Takes a Village.

Consider Democrats we must act “as a village” and forge strong alliances in order to win the gold. Let’s learn from the Olympic athletes. Details count. We have to get over ourselves, pass the baton, stay in our lane and FINISH the race.

We simply can’t afford a DNF.*

*Did Not Finish, the score Olympic track & field athletes receive when they drop the baton and cannot finish the race

Before the Democratic primary ended, I received about a dozen Hillary Clinton emails. I’m a registered Democrat, college instructor, New York City business owner, a member of the Public Relations Society of America, Black Public Relations Society and countless other social networks. Folks can find me. I’m on everyone’s list and in the business of being known.

Full disclosure: I’ve gotten more emails from John McCain than I received from Hillary Clinton (makes you want to say huh?). I’m on everyone’s list and as an advertising/public relations professional, sign up for many promos to analyze and critique how candidates and companies handle everything from issues to new product intros.

I trust everyone reading this blog to make an informed choice for President in the fall. Examine the issues. Don’t blindly accept Hillary’s endorsement of Barack.

Barack Obama knows he has to earn your vote. Just because he earned mine long ago doesn’t mean he won’t work to earn yours.

And, with my politico friends, I’m the first to say when there’s a BOM – “Barack Obama Misstep.” Like 10 days ago during the Rick Warren faith based interview. McCain was on point, offering short easy-to-understand answers. News and opinions folks could use—not info that was over everyone’s heads.

But, true to form, Barack’s team (and he’s working with the best in the business, in my view) “went to the videotape”, analyzed their missteps, and are (undoubtedly) coaching their candidate to finish first by tweaking messages to bite size “Twitter” text blurbs (140 characters or less).

Keep an open mind. Analyze what’s going right. Discuss what you don’t like.

Examine the issues and then vote with conviction. Because I believe in the power of politics and effective persuasive techniques, I trust you’ll make the right decision on Nov. 4.

This historically unique election season provides an opportunity for multicultural educators and marketers like me, to dig deep and use what we know, passing along valuable insight to the next generation.

Our opinions matter and they can certainly affect change.

Pat Tobin
Founder, National Black Public Relations Society
A “Dash” of Brilliance

Marketing communications professionals gathered June 27 in Los Angeles for a fond farewell to Pat Tobin (1943 - 2008), business leader, community relations advocate and founder of the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS).

Pat expired June 10 after a valiant battle with cancer; she was 65.

A timeless spirit and tireless in her contributions, she seemed much younger than her chronological age. Pat was one of those souls who connected with everyone. We often shared professional stories and a passion for our young men (her grandson, Aaron Curry and my son, Clinton Jackson), trading photos and stories about ice hockey and baseball practices.

Known for her work on the Toyota account, among others, understand as American companies lost market share, Tobin & Associates work was and is responsible for the growth of that Japanese company’s market share among ethnic consumers. Pat’s daughter Lauren will continue that tradition, as community relations spokesperson—that’s a wonderful legacy Pat can be proud of!

In the world of PR it pays to know who has influence … who can make the connections … who has a pulse on the community.

The consulting world has always included a veil of mystique. By carefully examining the life of Pat Tobin, people are in a better position to understand the driving force of professional excellence.

At a tribute hosted by the Black Public Relations Society of New York, organization founder Teresa Lyles Homes said, "Make sure, as Pat did that the 'dash' means something as you live your life."

Pat will be missed, but the brilliance of her smile and contributions lives on in all who knew her.
Memorial donations may be made to the Pat Tobin Scholarship Fund or Pat Tobin Memorial Fund, 4929 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 245, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

Fiscal & Physical Fitness

Question: Is your fiscal house in order? Why not use September and the onset of fall as a motivational touchpoint to plan 3Q (3rd quarter) finances and budget projections for ’09 (it’s never too soon to plan ahead). As the summer winds down, I try to cross check finances, chart career/personal/business development, delve into new advocacy projects and devise ways to reach “the next phase.”

Here’s one thing I’ve learned in nearly a half-century on the planet. We all grow in unique ways. I find my attention wanes for those who don’t share the same trajectory. Wisdom comes in knowing that’s okay. Everyone won’t share your same goals. The trick is to keep moving forward. For me, these days it’s more fun to set a new course instead of following others.

That said, check out “Fighting the War Against Distraction,” a fantastic article in the July 1 edition of the New York Times.

Four Years: A Degree of Separation

I’ll soon begin my fourth year as a communications instructor. I’ve had the honor of delivering educational messages to nearly 500 individuals at leading institutions and writing workshops, including The City College of New York, New York University, Black Public Relations Society, International Special Events Society and lifelong mentees I’ve met throughout the years.

Students and working professionals alike must aspire to be on point 100 percent of the time. While you won’t always hit the mark, work smart and “try harder,” like the Avis car rental tagline suggests. Shore up weak areas; ask for the strength of others’ expertise. The danger is not to know your weak points … or worse yet, to ignore them. Respect and appreciate constructive criticism. If people take the time to point out possible flaws, it means they care about your career growth. Seek out the advice of others as you continue to grow.

Tip of the Week: Focus on your strengths

If you like to write early in the day, then get up, write and respond to those wonderful thoughts that need to be digitized. Tap into your creative energy; it’s easier than you think. Use this momentum as you build your day. Undoubtedly, you’ll get more done.

Be an Over Achiever

At a Corporate Women’s Network meeting, Evelyn Cunningham (esteemed African American journalist, now 91) once she was “Honored to be in the presence of so many over achievers.” A grand dame de force, she has been regularly featured in the New York Times by society/fashion photographer Bill Cunningham (no relation).

Evelyn and her generation set the standard for grace, elegance, creative energy and talent among women (and men) of all races.

She’s the type of woman whose 20 years older than you and still has a sense of style and fashion sense (plus leather pants) that stop you dead in your tracks.

Whatever your age or gender, aim to be an "Evelyn Cunningham" and over achieve!