By DeeDee LeGrand-Hart

The United States’ brand has been kicked up a notch now that President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Our brand needed it. The recent National Brands Index report from GFK Roper shows that the United States moved from number seven to number one as the most respected country in the world.

President Obama has a rare combination of social skills and gravitas, and cautious of his brand-wielding power. In times of both war and peace, Nobel Peace Prize winners are relentless in their introspection, not glory-seeking for their brands. Nobility and humility are the magic brand ingredients.

By DeeDee LeGrand-Hart

“My, how you’ve grown,” I remember that that phrase from my childhood days, too. –Natalie Merchant, 10,000 Maniacs

At some point in our youth, the growth chart hanging on the back of our bedroom doors told us we stopped growing.  I don’t measure my height anymore. I don’t obsess about raising revenue notches on my Excel spreadsheets.   I measure success by the number of new ideas we generate.

Growing tall is alluring.  It’s a requirement for being a Ford model and for making a jump shot in the Final Four, but it is not a requirement for successful business. I know companies with a “be bigger” cult. Their addiction leads to extreme urgency, which leaves little room for good ideas and good judgment.  Blinded by the magic number, people make costly decisions.

Great companies don’t let audacious growth goals replace meaningful goals.  When they stray from their values, they adopt a slow-growth mantra to reinvigorate high standards of sustainable and profitable growth. A yardstick didn’t tell them how to do that.

“The research that went into my books showed that mediocre companies tend to focus on growth for growth’s sake.  …. The problem isn’t the market’s rise or fall. The problem is people who react to events, rather than seek to create something great.” – Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

By Emalee Fulks

It’s no secret that Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate to move beyond traditional PR tactics. He used a smattering of social media tools to create a network of millions of supporters that helped drive him to the presidency.

 Now Obama’s encouraging the rest of the government to join him. Matt Bigge’s (co-founder and CEO of Strategic Social) Federal Computer Week article, “Social Media: Threat or Revolution” focuses on the president’s memo “Transparency and Open Government.”

 While some may see use of social media as a threat to safety and security, Bigge says that “our nuclear secrets and many others were stolen without the assistance of Wikipedia, Facebook, or Google. Robert Hanssen and other traitors betrayed our nation without the help of LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, or Slashdot.” In short, people will find a way to get what they want, and social media will not advance nor deter them in the long run.

 Bigge says social media is a direct line to transparency because it fosters collaboration and communication. To him, social media is a perfect and increasingly important way for officials to engage with their constituents.

 Transparency is the new buzz word in all types of communication, particularly in PR. Instead of hiding behind closed doors, it is more important to tell all in order to create a sense of greater trust between companies and their customers.  This trust leads to collaboration that lasts long after some tidbit of embarrassing news breaks or an idea is somehow compromised.

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And why PR makes this battle a fair one

by Caitlin Boyle

While catching up on my reading yesterday, I came across several stories regarding the battle between the Palm Pilot Pre, a new touch-screen smart phone and the “next generation” Apple iPhone. I emphasize the word ‘next’ because the third generation iPhone has not even been released. Neither has the Palm Pre (release date 6/6/09).

Whichever product the winner, it’s amazing that myself, and others, probably many others, have already made up our minds of who the winner is, and the fight has yet to begin.

Being an ever-dedicated iPhoner, my opinion is skewed of course. And it would seem other writers have already made their decisions as well, shocker. A Wired article titled “Why Apple Can Afford to Phone It In With the Next iPhone” gives its vote to the Apple’s well seasoned fighter, while The New York Times believes the Palm Pre is an “Elegant Contender”.

Publications with pull and writers with strong POV’s, public opinion influencing at its best; PR professionals around the world should raise their hats or take a bow. We know brand loyalty strongly influences consumers, but someone has to be there first, knees bent, arms extended, giving them a firm, yet helpful, push in the right direction.

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By Jocelyn Hudson

Reality TV has penetrated the halls of the United States Capitol. In a series called “Freshman Year”, follows two new members of congress and documents their experiences via video and online diary entries. The self-shot footage brings viewers in contact with day-to-day activities, and the shoddy-do-it-yourself recordings are reminiscent of the first days of high school.

One freshman representative taking part in the series is Congressman Jared Polis. The Boulder Democrat is the exemplary new age, tech savvy politician. Gone are the days of inaccessible politicians (ok, maybe not gone, but certainly dwindling). Polis blogs, Tweets and even answers his own emails, a task usually left to the communications team. A recent Denver Post article  profiles Polis’s unconventional approach to lawmaking (“A 34-year-old multimillionaire, Polis seems to relish breaking the old rules, including whether talking about his ripe wardrobe might, say, undermine the kind of a serious image that some voters like in the people charged with making the country’s laws.” Denver Post, June 3, 2009), in a place so set in convention and tradition, and the effects it could have on his credibility as a member of congress.

Does transparency help or hurt a politician’s ability to be taken serious?

Personally, I love the energy, ideas and transparency Polis is bringing to Washington. He’s making politics engaging for his constituents. And he’s not the only one – approximately 70 members of congress are Twittering. Instant updates and information, it’s a whole new game in politics. I’m interested to see how it plays out for Congressman Polis. Will he be praised for using new media and his attempt to break the “stogy, stuffy” politician stereotype or will he be chastised for not falling into tradition?

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By Erin Jones

When your mother asked you to eat your Brussels sprouts before leaving the dinner table – you swallowed them.  When your chemistry teacher told you what to mix – you created a blue amalgam.  And, when your mentor told you what to not say in an interview – you landed the job.

The mayor of New York City recently told his people to cut their intake of salt. Did he ask them if they wanted to partake in this lifestyle change?  Not exactly.  Michael Bloomberg simply announced that “the city is starting a ‘nationwide initiative’ to pressure the food industry and restaurant chains to cut salt intake by half over the next decade.”  And that was that.

This made me think.  Do people like decisions being made for them, especially if it is in their best interest? 

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By Heather Lindemann

I love talking to entrepreneurs. Their no holds barred, take-the-leap approach to business (and to life) is inspiring. It takes a unique personality type and perspective to go from an idea to a successful business. Over the past few weeks I’ve been meeting with local entrepreneurs for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) award as part of the nomination and entry process. Our firm, LeGrand Hart, is a fourth-year sponsor. From solar to tech to CPG, the wide range of companies have one common denominator – successful and savvy entrepreneurs at the helm. Their passion for business proves that the entrepreneurial spirit can drive success. Particularly in this economy, when all we hear about from the media is doom and gloom, these bright sparks seem like the glimmer of hope business needs.

I had the benefit of sitting in on the semifinalist interviews. Here are my three favorite quotes:

  1. “It’s better to make a decision and be wrong than to make no decision at all.”
  2. “I’m addicted to affecting change”
  3. “I’m not really an entrepreneur; I’m just a guy that believes in changing the world.”

These thoughts exemplify the characteristics of strength, perseverance and vision. The EOY semifinalist event is this week. We’ll know who makes it to the finalist round in mid-May. Stay tuned to our Web site and local coverage to follow the winners. We can all learn lessons from these motivated individuals.

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By Jocelyn Hudson

As PR professionals we plan for worst-case scenarios for our clients – we create crisis communication plans for such occasions. Therefore, I have found it fascinating, and informative, to watch as the World Health Organization, the Department of Health and Human Services and other government officials address the swine flu epidemic – a crisis on such a large scale under the scrutiny of the entire nation.

While it’s still too early to stake my final opinion on how the situation’s been handled, my initial thoughts are the authorities are doing a decent job considering the information they have. I was pleasantly surprised when CNN’s homepage on Monday morning, around the time the news broke, was a Q&A addressing my concerns. Education and transparency around the known and unknown is, in my opinion, the best way to manage the publics’ fears. I am, however, a bit perplexed by an article released yesterday informing us that the regular flu has killed thousands of people since the beginning of the year, and will continue to do so. Is now really a good time to tell us we have to worry about both the swine and regular flu? Or is this a tactic to divert the attention away from the swine flu and the severity of the risk at hand? Is that a PR tactic?

Today the first death in the US has been reported and the potential for a pandemic is rising; I will continue to watch to see how the health officials combat this mass outcry for more information – information now.

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By Dana Slone

Backlash is predictable behavior. One day you are up, the next day you are toast. Fad or must-have, fly by night or instant classic…For example, singing talent Susan Boyle becomes an instant darling and now a rip in the world’s goodwill begins to appear.  And so it is with the fickle pundits of not just entertainment media, but public relations media. Ah, Twitter, current social media darling and perhaps next up for examination of its bushy eyebrows and kissing tales. 

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By DeeDee LeGrand-Hart

Arms open wide

I took a plant tour with a business owner today. I saw evidence of the classic business success factors every step of the way — product innovation, fiscal responsibility, production efficiencies and happy employees. Then, I figured out his secret sauce. Prepare yourself for this: a love of his customers.

A wall-full of customers’ pictures hung like family portraits in the lobby. The CEO recounted how he recently flew to a site to correct an installation, personally. Customers drive us to do great things.

Google stats show the term “revenue” garners 85.4 percent more hits online than the words “customer satisfaction”. Looks like some of us may be missing the target in the search for a successful business.

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By Dana Slone

Raising the rile of regulators

For public relations professionals and marketers, mommy blogs are a great source for seeding ideas, testing concepts and gaining product feedback. Regardless of the professional value mommy blogs hold for me, in the past eight months have I been a first-hand user in my own journey of becoming a mother to sort out opinions, filter fact versus fiction and ask for local resources using both local and national online forums, blogs and product review aggregators. It’s been invaluable in getting prepared and more up-to-date than say, my own mom’s advice. Naturally then, this national news piece screamed to be shared given the extent that such subjectively sought information may be regulated and perhaps even muzzled.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is assessing whether or not “reviews by bloggers”  are in violation of good business practices.” This is tied to the fact that free products get sent by marketers for review and therefore the potential for quid pro quo may mean a less-than-subjective review in theory, unduly influencing the reader. Then, product liability comes in to play. Word-of-mouth is so powerful in the consumer industry (to the tune $2.1 trillion in spending) that clearer guidelines and disclosure polices make sense, but they could also offer a chilling effect.

The potential impact reaches beyond mommy bloggers. Are such bloggers “corporate shills” or expressing a true personal opinion? Where does transparency begin and where does it end? What are your thoughts? Do you review products?

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By Heather Thill

Put on your binoculars, or turn on your plotter, or get your zoom on.

This year’s Web Trend Map by the Information Architects gives us the perfect touristic diagram (Tokyo Metro map style) of current Internet trends. Download the large version here and take a ride. You’ll find 333 of the most powerful Web domains and 111 of the most influential people on the Web today. Be sure to check out the keys on the map, the height, width and position of the stations are based on statistics such as: traffic, revenue, trend, stability and service or industry.

Yes, the evolution of online trends is overwhelming, but so is looking at Earth from outer space. It’s big and it’s real. Deal with it. Online trends are one thing, so is the shift to digesting our information visually – and from a designer’s perspective, the world just got a lot busier.

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At LeGrand Hart Public Relations, we focus on evolution brands, companies blazing a new path while setting trends and standards for success.

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© 2009 LeGrand Hart Public Relations and The Flying Desk. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LeGrand Hart Public Relations and The Flying Desk with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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