Hurricane Sandy hit New York like a bag of bricks. The aftermath resulted in over 650 homes and businesses without hydro and the entire infrastructure of the city collapsed.  Major highways, transit systems, bridges and tunnels closed producing $42 billion in devastation repairs. Victims of Hurricane Sandy are still recovering today from the $19 billion of losses and some will never recover. The death toll was over 108 people and New York was at a standstill (as still as New York can be).

Here’s a great idea! Let’s put on a marathon with 47,000 runners, deplete the remaining rescue and power resources left in the city. That’s exactly what the New York City Marathon (NYCM) did.

Watching the outcome of Sandy unfold, I didn’t even consider to the New York City Marathon. It was pretty hard to forget when my PR Case Studies Instructor went through the details of the debacle. The news of the NYCM cancellation messaging flip-flopped for 3 days, distressing many.

The NYCM officials attempted pointed the finger at the Mayor’s office. I imagine city permits required to closed 5 boroughs and recruit policemen since 2012 are tougher to secure nowadays.

At one point when the marathon was “still on”, NYCM’s volunteer stations were operating 2 massive generators that could each produce enough electricity for 450 homes. This was right after NYCM officials confirmed to New Yorkers that “they wouldn’t take away any rescue relief” resources.

The runners lost their entry fee and couldn’t cancel flights. What’s worse, is that the runners that booked hotels were feeling badly about taking up valuable spaces for victims that had nowhere to go.

The Mayor’s office and NYCM botched their messaging and confused everyone. The residual resentment from the mismanagement and lack of public relation strategy still has New York citizens, runners and politicians enraged. Instead of participating in the NYCM, runners from all over the world were gliding into devastated areas bringing survival packs to victims. Gotta love a runner’s spirit, dedication and determination!

The 2012 NYC Marathon: How not to handle a crisis


Jian’s Seeds of Doubt Grow to Guilt

Before the scandal that rocked Jian Ghomeshi’s world, I had the privileged to be a part of one of his live shows here in Winnipeg. The night was amazing, my sister treated us to tickets and we maximized her babysitting dollars. We giggled and chatted up the University students to our right and met a sweet, long time Folk Fest volunteer who drove from Brandon to see the Famous Jian Ghomeshi. We were so enveloped in the entertainment and our new neighbors that the night was over before we knew it.

A few short weeks later,  the news of his sexual escapes and personal intimate choices emerged. All hell broke loose. My friends and I are loyal CBC listeners and Q (Jian’s radio show) is usually our Friday night topic.  I refused to believe a word and I was trying to digest it all.  Phewpft. The media again, or so I thought.

Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, the principal of Rock-it Public Relations was transparent and responsive for her long time client. She was successfully running interference for Ghomeshi throughout the beginning of the ordeal. Rock-it tactics were effective, they used social media, press releases and coordinated with CBC to investigate collectively. They were gaining ground and establishing trust with public opinion.

In my heart, I was still in the denial stage of grief, so my perception was flexible. Rock-it did a good job. I was still convinced he could be innocent, or at least have the right to have a unique sexual preference.


Until Jian’s long jumbled defiant Facebook message surfaced, which was advised against by his PR firm. Ultimately that lead to Rock-it PR firm dumping him, do to allegedly lying to his own handlers and Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski herself. There’s no recovering from there. He had no message defender anymore, he was on a island by himself and it was sinking.

I felt disappointment, disgust with his ethical choices and reports of abuse started to pile up. Now that I believed the allegations, as a mother I started to sympathize with all of his victims. Have could I have been fooled? How could I not support these poor women?

It wasn’t an intentional persuasive message that changed my mind. It was Jian’s over-persuasive desperate facebook message that dropped seeds of doubt. Doubts confirmed when a well established PR firm decides to divorce him as a client. He lied to them. He hurt them. He lied to us. Number rule of PR? Never, ever lie. You’ll always get caught.

Do you remember an impactful persuasive message changed your mind? If so, please comment below!

Plan Definitions

“A birth plan is a way of communicating with the midwives, doctors, and nurses who care for you in labour. It tells them about the kind of labour you would like to have, what you want to happen and what you would like to avoid, if possible. It’s not written in stone because the best birth plans acknowledge that things may not go according to plan. “


A few simple text changes and a PR crisis communication plan is born.

“A PR crisis communication plan is a way of communicating with stakeholders, executive management and the public who care for your organization in a crisis situation. It tells them about the kind of communications and message you would like to have, what you want to happen and what you would like to avoid, if possible. It’s not written in stone because the best PR crisis communication plans acknowledge that things may not go according to plan. “

– Adapted from

PR Crisis Communication Plan or a Birth Plan?

I say it’s both.  Each of these scenarios present opportunities to manage crisis with grace and leadership. As a public relations expert or a new mother – poor planning leaves you deflated and apprehensive to make more tough decisions. PR crisis communications calls for confidence and support from your organization.

Follow these few tips to manage and prevent PR crisis communications.

  1. Implement a communication crisis plan before chaos strikes.
  2. Respond quickly and factually (use numbers and specifics).
  3. Choose an approved spokesperson to represent your company to deliver the messaging (recruit a back-up). Prepare both spokespeople and conduct “mock-interviews” in accordance with the severity of the crisis.
  4. Control media communications through one appointed source. Press releases and organizational statements could lead to media interviews. Maximize these opportunities with a coordinated media schedule. Be organized.
  5. Eliminate “no comment”  it implies guilt or avoidance.
  6. Own it. When crisis strikes and victims are involved, it’s essential to be human about it, it makes your organization empathic and caring.
  7. Crisis communications needs to be transparent, even if the information isn’t good news. Attempts at burying bad news looks like you’re spinning the truth and leads to mistrust.
  8. Keep your cool during a crisis. Leadership and management requires clarity. Learn few good breathing techniques here.

Nowadays, things change quickly. The public is more interactive, accessible to technology are more informed due to social media. An effective example of negative viral PR is the PINK SLIM Campaign built with food expert Jamie Oliver.

Social media can be a favourable relationship building tool unless it fuelled by an unsightly rumour. There is no small rumour on social media. Ever heard a childbearing woman answer “kinda” when asked if pregnant? It’s present or it’s not. Unfavourable information that doesn’t align with your annual communications plan must be addressed quickly. You manage the messaging to avoid viral disasters.

Before you begin your planning – do your research. Define who you’re stakeholders are and gain support. A stakeholder is an interested person or party that’s concerned with your organization. Generally, it includes the public, the media, employees, suppliers and affected third parties. Continuously informing your stakeholders with simple messaging is a great relationship-building tactic. You’ll need that to recruit support when the unforeseen unravels.

Is it a PR Crisis communication plan or a birth plan? Both plans account for predictable circumstances and expected outcomes of calculated situations. What the heck happens when the unforeseen unfolds?  As a public relations communicator, just like healthcare professionals – you’ll be faced with tough decisions. Prepare, inform and repeat.

Do you have a good example of a negative PR viral campaign? Please post it here! We love YOUTUBE videos : )

Jamie Oliver/Youtube

PR Strategies and Tactics of a Supermom

Sometimes as a traditional woman with modern roles, I forget how much I’m accomplishing.  I’m a Mother, a wife, a business woman, a sister, a friend, a daughter and more recently a student. As women – we do a lot.

Society in general is buzzing around half dazed trying to accommodate our dutiful and familial responsibilities. Personally, I struggle to manage it all and when I resolve to drop something off my impossible list… It’s the two things that makes me whole again. Healthy eating and physical fitness. It’s a terrible circle of guilt. I’m left feeling “WHY? WHY? WHY?”. I need to find the time to take of myself and take care of my heart.

That’s right my heart. If your to-do list won’t kill you, heart disease will. It’s the number one cause of death in Canada for women (55 plus). You may be thinking “I’m too young”, but lifestyle choices can linger until you find yourself celebrating your 55th birthday.

I was inspired to reevaluate my lifestyle choices after I stumbled upon an amazing PR strategy in one of my University classes. I was searching for a great PR campaign that does it right. The American Heart Association’s (AHA)  initiative “Go Red for Women” hit the mark.

The campaign’s primary strategy was to create awareness of heart disease, the #1 killer of women in America. The AHA leveraged influencer relations with Elizabeth Banks, delivered clear media relations and created an impactful social media campaign. It’s inspired me!

The “Go for Red for Women” PR folks implemented some smart tactics. The viral Youtube video featuring Banks delves deep into a day-in-the-life of a modern women. It’s plays off the impossible “super-mom” role. Trying to take it all on, ignoring the signs to slow down. I won’t spoil it for you – but it’s entertaining and a great public relations tactic.

The engage audiences on social media sites, primarily Twitter (#goforred) and Facebook.  The PR campaign received from top tier media, including Associated Press, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Today Show and Nightly News, The View, Extra, CNN, CNBC, FOX News, USA Today, The New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Daily News, and hundreds of local outlets.

The engagement of these tactics engaged big names that participated by wearing red. Big names like Katie Couric, Barbara Walters and the cast of The View.

The success of this campaign was exceptional. The AHA logged nearly 40,000 calls to its heart health information line: 888-MY-HEART (a major objective of Go Red). They had a specific measurable goal set and had the ability to evaluate the uptake of the audience’s response.

This is one of my favorite PR campaigns not only because they had a clearly defined strategy and measurable tactics, mostly it made me think.

I’m going to make an effort to include my health in the list of priorities. I’m going to pat myself on the back more often. I’m going to try to ask for help when I need it. I’ll be a struggle to incorporate the two things that make me feel whole again, but I gotta try.

It’s important.

RACE! Cute. Catchy. Clever.

Put the word “RACE” and “formula” and people assume youre talking about the exciting hot rods and beer filled stands of Daytona Beach. Then I layer the words “ public relations” into the sentence and everyone’s engines cool down.

Cute. Catchy. Clever.
Let’s start at the begining. Firstly, I’d like to applaud the person to coin this snazzy little formula, it must have been a PR person. Cause it’s cute and catchy. It’s also clever. (Side note – all great tactics to achieve when creating your PR plan).

The RACE formula is simply the backbone of devising your prefessional PR plan. Think of it as a house. Before you start framing walls, you need to pour a foundation. This tried and true foundation works repeatedly when proposing PR events, community involvement and multiple media relationship building methods.

WHY it works
There’s a lot of the history of the RACE formula on the internet. I won’t bore you with it, I think it’s more important to focus on WHY it works.

What we know is the RACE formula is a planning guide to successfully target your specified PR goals. It’s devised in the 4 areas to achieve those goals.



It’s obvious to most that you can’t make any business plan, marketing plan or PR plan without a great deal of research. Knowing who you’re talking to is just as important as what you want to say to them. Digging deep into research will give you and your company greater perspective on how to make that important connection to you audience. Creating and maintaining those connections through relationship building tactics can only stem from  knowing where to start. Research is key.

Be really specific getting to know your client or target audience. Think of profiling influences like age, gender, economic level, personal likes and dislikes unrelated to your brand, geographic location, lifestyle choices. etc… the idea is to FIND THE COMMON THREAD. How can we connect to them as a whole?

This is the real meat and potatoes of the plan. It’s essential to keep it simple yet specific. The action plan is a carefully prepared 2 step waltz between you and your audience. It’s intimate and interactive. Personally, I think it’s the most fun!  Since you’ve got detailed information on your audience – you can match them up with appropriate tactics, key messages, timelines, goals and objectives.

Avoid negative results! Try to plan measurable PR goals, it’s a lot easier when you’re at the evaluation stage. As a PR professional, a big part of your job will be educating some folks within your own company (or even external clients) about the value of public relations. The more concrete results at the end of your initiative, the more time you have to plan your PR projects. Eventually if you’re results are measurable and positive – the less explaining of why PR works you’ll have to do : )

VIPS – Communication and Evaluation
Stay tuned for the final 2 steps of the RACE formula! Communication and evaluation are equally important. Without them – the acronym would be “RA”, which is much less cute, catchy and clever.

Please post any information you’d like to share regarding the RACE formula!

Who are these PR experts anyway?

It takes a certain personality type to serve a public relations (PR) position. The hours can be long, sporadic and media relations requires a quick response. The most daunting role is the pressure to maintain high emotional intelligence under duress. Promptly switching gears can be especially challenging as an engaging spokesperson on camera.


Here’s looking at you kid. Did you know that Lauren Becall’s famous “Look” was due to her nerves on camera? According to Wikipedia, to minimize her quivering, she pressed her chin against her chest and to face the camera, tilted her eyes upward. This was her trademark. 

As they say “the camera doesn’t lie” and it’s tough to fake confidence if you’re not prepared. Sometimes this can be the case due to timing, urgent call-to-actions, disasters and volatile executives. All these external circumstances make up the day-to-day PR environment, even if you can’t control them.

Asking questions without questions?

So who are these PR people? What inspires them? What are their beliefs? As a student in PR, I’ll be honest, I feel like a dumb-dumb asking experts in my academic field those questions. (Eventually, I’ll be knocking on their door for a job).

To gather my answers, without asking my questions, I’ll turn to one of the finest questionnaires that has made me laugh and cry.

Culture Soup Grand Finale!

Over a decade ago I had a small obsession with the unique American TV show “Inside the Actors Studio”, hosted by James Lipton. The interviews were an insightful and honest conversation with successful actors. (Success in this instance is measured by quality of craft – not by paycheque).

As the grand finale, Mr Lipton asks the same 10 questions to each guest.  Originally created by Bernard Pivot (host of a French talk-show “Bouillon de Culture”) the questions reveal thoughts, beliefs, likes, dislikes and personal quirks.

It’s a fascinating questionnaire. Have a look!


1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
5. What sound or noise do you love?
6. What sound or noise do you hate?
7. What is your favorite curse word? (stars with pre and post indicators will suffice)
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
9. What profession would you not like to do?
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

My goal is to send this to blog post to a few PR experts with the hopes that I’ll get a response. I’ll collect the information and follow up with another blog post. I’m looking forward to gaining some insight on what makes a PR expert tick.

In the meantime, feel free to answer them via comment box. I’d love to hear from you.