Mark Grimm


PR has a PR problem: The Truth About What We Do

Many people think of public relations as “spinning,” twisting facts or shading the truth to get people to do something —- buy a product or service, vote for a candidate, support a cause. These abuses occur every day but they no more reflect the true essence of public relations than bias reporters reflect journalism’s core values.

A true public relations pro helps build positive relationships with constituencies that matter to a business or cause. The best ones create compelling clarity for what you do and why you are the best alternative in the marketplace. They also understand the most effective and cost conscious ways to distribute your message so it produces tangible and quantifiable results. PR will always be about content, distribution, and effectiveness. No amount of technology will ever change that.

Public relations begins with a vision, seeing something clearly that your client either does not see or does not know how to express. It is about uncovering truth, not manufacturing it. It is honest storytelling. Too often, attempts are made to cover the holes in the story with slickness or omission. That’s a mistake. Core problems cannot be fixed with PR.  Resolution comes from candid assessment and corrective steps that ensure accountability.

The best way to produce a good story is to build one properly in the first place.


Social Media & the Tech/Communication Marriage

Tech guru Jim Spellos with Mark Grimm at MPI event

You’ve heard the old expression, “Can’t live with him, can’t live without him.” That pretty much sums up where technology and communication are right now when it comes to social media.

Tech guru Jim Spellos gave an Albany presentation February 14th at a Meeting Professionals International forum. Jim rightly said the question is no longer whether you should be using social media, but rather how you use it. Managing the “information overload” is where our focus should be.

All the gadgets in the world won’t help much if you cannot produce good content. In other words, you have to be interesting. That’s a skill. Everyone on Facebook is now a publisher, yet few have been trained well in the art of producing compelling clarity that is relevant to the audience. This “Clarity Gap” presents an enormous communication challenge with the explosion of information we now produce and consume.

On the other hand, great content, and the engaging conversation it can provoke, will be buried under the social media avalanche without an effective plan for its circulation.

What’s the answer? Try not to feel overwhelmed and choose the options that fit your needs. One step at a time. Spellos had dozens of options, one included using hashtags to locate Twitter topics you find most relevant to you, another was to visit to create a personalized magazine for your mobile device. On the content side, ask yourself, “Why would someone care about what I am about to post.” You can find a lot more clarity tips in my book.

Just like any long-term relationship, the technology and communication marriage will require patience, a greater sensitivity to each’s needs, and a willingness to grow together. And yes, the relationship will have something to do with how fulfilling your life is.

What suggestions do you have for the marriage?

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Try a Personal Note for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to demonstrate what that special person means to you. Christmas has presents for the kids. Thanksgiving is consumed with food and family gatherings. Valentine’s Day is “show time” for lovers.

Do we make the most of it?

Try something different this year. Write a personal card that is both specific and revealing. If you need a hand getting started, maybe this will help:

1- Jot down the things you love most about your partner. Make a list.
2- Think of specific examples that reflect those traits
3- Locate a photo or two that represents the examples
4- Create a brief outline that tells this special story
5- Start writing

You don’t have to be Hemingway. A little editing here, a little polishing there, and you’ve got something that will be memorable. No time you say? How much time have you spent on social media lately. Give it break for a moment and pause for something that matters most.

Flowers last a week. The right note can be an enduring treasure. Go for it!


Why the Media Should Post Video of Fatal Stabbing

A fatal Albany stabbing was caught on tape with a cell phone and became available to the public during the trial. Should the media air it?

Times Union editor Rex Smith posed that question to readers after the newspaper posted the video. First, here’s the video.

As you might expect, reaction on Mr. Smith’s blog was strong and highly emotional. Even the victim’s mother participated. Many condemned the posting for the pain it inflicted on the family. One called it “sadistic, another “disgusting.” Some supported the act. The paper has “an obligation to report the truth” wrote one, another felt the world needs “a lesson violence is not the answer.”

I believe the video should have been posted. Reports of violence in the news are so commonplace that it is easy for the public to become detached from what are deeply personal and profound tragedies for those affected. The harsh reality the video exposes drives home how incredibly senseless these acts are. The video also provides an extraordinary window on how others react. To me, the videographer seemed more interested in capturing the video than stopping the tragedy. The onlookers did little to prevent the attack.

How did we get this way?

It isn’t easy for the family to relive the tragedy and I do sympathize with them. But the real harm to them has already been done. The questions are, “Will exposing this act in such stark terms lead to a greater awareness of what senseless and deadly violence is really like? Will that awareness lead to a greater resolve to end it? If so, then future tragedies could be prevented. If not, then we have bigger things to worry about than just one video.

I once interviewed a mother 20 minutes after her four-year-old boy was pronounced dead. A pit bull had ripped his throat out. The raw nature of her profound grief upset many of our viewers. It also got their attention. Pet safety became a much higher priority with owners and new restrictions on pit bulls were passed.

The video of the fatal stabbing might leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Maybe it should.

The writer is a former TV news reporter and current Siena adjunct media professor.



The Komen Crisis: Six Steps Needed to Survive

The Susan G. Komen Foundation did not just dip a toe into politics, it put the whole foot into a boiling pot. The foundation’s survival depends on what it does next.

Komen cut Planned Parenthood funding because it claimed its policy was to stop funding organizations that are under government investigation. Whether this move was political or not no longer matters, the perception is that it was. A furor, led by the power of social media, caused Komen to reverse its decision just days later. Many of the protesting tweets pledged to abandon Komen for ever. As one tweet stated, “I’d rather die of breast cancer than turn to Komen.”

Now what? Consider these six steps to manage the communication crisis:

1- Komen has a judgment problem that needs to be fixed
Regardless of how you feel about the issue, Komen’s leaders should have anticipated the reaction. Didn’t someone there say, ” Hey, Planned Parenthood funding is a really controversial topic.”

2- Heads need to roll
Komen needs to transfer the venom now directed at the organization to the person or persons responsible. It’s tough medicine for the people axed, but the survival of the organization is at stake.

3- Go ALL IN on Staying Out of Politics
Komen has to show how it is taking politics (or the perception of it) out of its decision-making process. It has to be careful, it would be a mistake to go “all in” on being pro-choice or pro Planned Parenthood. It has to go “all in” on staying out of politics.

4- Find Respected Advocates
It has to find people who are respected by Planned Parenthood who are willing to speak up for its survival. The quotes should be something like, “Yes, I’m angry at Komen, but the good they do should continue for the sake of women.

5- Provide stirring examples of its success
Komen’s work has no doubt saved many lives. Some of those survivors are needed now to speak up on the value of Komen’s work and the pending impact if it no longer existed.

6- Change the debate question
Whenever you are in hot water, it is a good idea to change the question. Shift the question from “Should Komen survive because of the mistake” to “Should this one mistake end what Komen is doing for women.”

2012 is going to be a difficult year for Komen. But its ultimate survival will depend on how well it makes it case for it.

Do you think Komen will survive?

The writer is a crisis communication expert and adjunct media professor.