June 16th: 2010 IABC-LA Annual Banquet: “Putting Communications at the Center – A Way to Frame the Future of Media, Public Relations and the World”

On June 16, 2010, at IABC-L.A.’s Annual Banquet 2010, the chapter presented “Putting Communications at the Center – A Way to Frame the Future of Media, Public Relations and the World” at the trendy venue of First & Hope Downtown Supper Club.

After cocktails, a Downtown family-style dinner and some lively networking, the chapter welcomed and was challenged by esteemed keynote speaker, Ernest J. Wilson III, Dean, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, to “figure out or fail” in the ever-changing new media environment.  Dean Wilson relayed a quote “The new rules environment has created both a blessing and a curse of the nearly unmanageable deluge of information essential to the communications function.”  The Dean also encouraged “weird experience and weird stuff” works to our advantage to figure it out (!)

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Collectively and individually, the L.A. Chapter has the brain power, determination, and the talent to figure it out.  As a new resident of Los Angeles over the last three years, The Dean spoke of “just listening” in his first year in The City of Angels resulting in four big issues facing communicators:

• The gap between C-level execs and the communication function of an organization.  Executive staffs don’t understand media, while communications professionals don’t always understand a CEO’s big-picture strategy.   He notes communicators get comfortable knowing what works, then a profound communication change comes along like the internet…then social media…then what’s coming by 2013. Dean Wilson has heard the same story from communicators whether it’s the White House, entertainment, manufacturing, oil companies…it’s a multi-industry-wide issue.

• “Who does what?”  This second big challenge issue is the reconfiguration of communications functions in the midst of new media.  Corporate communications, PR, Marketing, Strategic Communications all used to have clearly defined roles.  Yet a vast realignment of these departments and roles has shifted due to the new rules environment of new media and technology.

• With the expansion of dense communications through tweets, blogs, etc. beyond the traditional methods of communications and PR, the walls are falling away between these two functions.  The most trusted information now comes from employees, not the PR department of a company.  Who is managing the content?  Dean Wilson spoke of his faculty meeting which was reported in the L.A. Observer the next day.

• Finally, the “blessing and curse” and unmanageability of vast information increases the importance of metrics.  By measuring and evaluating messages, there are strong implications for organizational design, who gets promoted, and even on whole industries. Dean Wilson emphasized we’re only 10%-15% along in this social media revolution journey.

We appreciated Dean Wilson’s quest to thrive through “SAKE!”
• Skills
• Attitudes – we must embrace and adapt to change
• Knowledge – of technology, sociology, and globalization
• Experience – “We can’t afford to have identical people.”  Talk to innovative people who are doing weird stuff, weird experiences in new media and elsewhere.  The grid and demographics is constantly changing.
 
The quite accessible (and humorous) Dean took questions as the L.A. Chapter stood fortified and ready to take on his proposed issues.
 
Christie Ly, IABC-LA President, ’09-’10, presented the “State of the Chapter” thanking this past year’s board members and welcoming incoming President 2010-1011, Paula Cassin.  Paula presented Christie with a sincere “thank you” gift commemorating Christie’s dedicated service this past year, especially while the chapter faced strong challenges during a tough economy.  Paula also introduced new board members and their roles, as well as plans to update the website to become more social media-connected with the communications community.

A pregnant and glowing Jamie Lipson, past chapter president ’08-’09, presented the “John F. Cartwright – Sunshine Award” to a pregnant and glowing Jessica Schlotter, Chair, Membership ’09-’10!  The award is presented to a dedicated member of IABC for “infectious humor, kindness to others, enthusiasm and, above all, dedication and service to the Los Angeles chapter.”

Chris Cabrera, past chapter president, and Communications Project Manager, Corporate Communications, Southern California Edison, hosted Dean Wilson and chapter members at an “after-party” at the Downtown’s elegant-cool bar.

The event not only celebrated the success of the chapter this past year, yet also provided an extremely informative networking opportunity for all attendees.

The event was kindly sponsored by Toyota, VMS, and Cut Through Communications.

April 23 Event Summary: Inside the Mind of a Reporter

On April 23, 2009, Mark Bernheimer, Principal of MediaWorks Mark Bernheimer photoResource Group  (http://www.mediaworksgroup.com/), and former CNN correspondent, presented insight on news reporting and interviewing to 20+ IABC members.  The late, great Tim Russert would have celebrated this lively, interactive event and Mark’s key point: “Always have a message of distinction prepared.”

We watched a hilarious clip of imposter reporter Stephen Colbert interviewing Georgia Congressman Westmoreland, whose questionable PR team did not prepare the deer-in-the-headlights congressman for Colbert’s questions…or even Colbert’s fake reporter status!  

While IABC members are much smarter in preparing our executives, employees, or clients for real interviews on or off-camera, Mark’s example illustrates the crucial need for his 2-step formula when preparing interviewees:

1. Satisfy interviewee’s own objectives first (get his/her messages across)
2. Help the reporter satisfy his/her objectives

We watched more video clips illustrating tricks by reporters, who are not looking for answers. Capturing sound bytes is the goal.  Unsuspecting, unprepared interviewees provide emotion. Better story, but an even better train wreck from a PR perspective if unprepared.

In addition, interviewees:
• should never answer a question they don’t know the answer to (instead say, “We’ll try to get information for you later.”)
• should not answer a question they don’t understand (reporters often prepare minutes prior to interview asking confusing questions…interviewee should ask for clarification.)
• should direct a question better suited to someone else when necessary
• should not answer questions based on reporter’s speculation about the future (news stories are more dramatic regarding what could have happened, not what did happen.)

Finally, volunteer Jessica Schlotter put Congressman Westmoreland to shame during Mark’s surprise on-camera interview. Jessica did a terrific job answering Mark’s questions.  She delivered messages of distinction regarding IABC’s purpose with the audience in mind. Mark suggested Jessica’s only improvement was to always insert the organization’s name instead of using pronouns like “we” during the interview.  Here’s Mark’s interview of Jessica…

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