2nd December 2014        Holiday Giving     No comments yet

December 2nd, #GivingTuesday, is a global day to celebrate giving back. At Conover + Gould, we have so much to be thankful for, and we try to reflect on that often. But we love the idea of having a day dedicated to giving back to those who have less. This holiday season, the Conover + Gould team will be making donations to eleven nonprofits that we admire, and we will each blog about our chosen organization. Minna and Heather are making donations to the American University of Nigeria Foundation (AUNF).

AUNF supports the work of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) and furthers education of disadvantaged children in northeastern Nigeria by raising funds to provide them full scholarships. Our donation will go towards AUNF’s #EducateOurGirls campaign which provides scholarship funds for the 21 Chibok girls at AUN.

The world was outraged and vented some of its anger and frustration through #BringBackOurGirls after close to 300 girls were kidnapped from their boarding school in Chibok by Boko Haram last spring. 58 girls jumped from trucks, ran for their lives and escaped their captors, and 21 of those brave young women are now studying at AUN. They were admitted this fall to specialized remedial education programs on full scholarships so that they can adjust both academically and personally and successfully complete the exams that they were taking when they were kidnapped.

We have both been touched by these girls and their stories. The amount of courage, determination and strength they have displayed is just incredible. We know we have been incredibly fortunate in our lives and have taken our educations for granted in so many ways. We are inspired and humbled by the 21 girls from Chibok. Girls like these will change the world.

If you would like to donate to this cause, we recommend doing so today on #GivingTuesday when the Foundation’s online donation transaction fees will be waived. Click here to donate.

16th July 2014        Media Relations     No comments yet

Twenty-five centuries ago, the famous Chinese general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” These are powerful words for any PR pro to live by, which is why I include them as part of my email signature.

This might seem strange to the uninitiated, but a successful public relations campaign should closely resemble a successful military campaign. A public relations campaign should have clearly-defined objectives, a strategy designed to achieve those objectives, utilize an array of tactics to implement the strategy, and a set of demonstrable benchmarks to determine success.

It amazes me how often those in our industry fail to follow these very simple concepts.

In short, you need to know where you want to go, the path that gets you there, the best way to move down that path and markers to help you determine one’s progress on the journey.

C+G specializes in what I refer to as “government affairs public relations,” by which I mean we provide public relations support to achieve client’s public policy objectives. It isn’t all we do, but many of our campaigns involve achieving specific policy objectives.

We view these campaigns differently than many in our field. I don’t say that we are necessarily better than the other firms and I leave those value judgments to others. However, we have a clear vision of who and what we are, how we approach our profession and the standard by which we judge success.

Continuing the military analogy, one could consider us your air force. We provide air cover for the troops on the ground, whether they are community activists, lobbyists, regulatory lawyers or other players. We help achieve the APPROPRIATE type and amount of media coverage to achieve the team objective.

And therein lies the importance of strategy versus tactics.

Taking action solely to say you have done something, or to provide an activity report for a client is not just ineffective and wasteful. It is stupid. The key is to take action that advances the client objectives—no more, no less.

And, sometimes, you achieve the most by saying nothing. I realize that is heretical to some in the public relations business. After all, don’t we need to do something to justify our existence? How does one make money without putting out press releases, and acting busy, right?

Some people fail to understand that there are times when the single most important thing they can do is nothing: nothing but prepare to strike at just the right moment; at the time when you achieve the maximum strategic impact. Lay in wait and marshal one’s resources so that when we do strike it is fast and decisive.

After all, those who know and study The Art of War fully understand that the ultimate objective is that the war be over before a single shot is fired.

 

30th June 2014        Nonprofit of the Month, Nonprofits     No comments yet

This month we turn our non-profit spotlight on Franklin, Massachusetts-based Horace Mann Education Associates (HMEA).hmea

HMEA’s highly skilled and caring staff provide a wide array of services for people with disabilities; from educational programs for toddlers to young adults, housing and everyday living support, to employment and habilitation programs.

HMEA provides services to nearly 4,000 people in 110 communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. These services help meet the range of needs for people with disabilities that they may not otherwise receive. They work to promote the values, dreams, and potential of people with disabilities through education, support and life experience.

While their services are truly impressive, their accomplishments demonstrate how they are fulfilling their mission. HMEA’s Early Intervention program works with children newly diagnosed with Autism, Pervasive Development Disorder or other Autism Spectrum Disorders to provide intensive educational services in home and in the community. This also helps families understand the needs of the children. Their Day Habilitation programs provide services that promote individuality, self-reliance, and self-support by helping people determine their interested skill areas and becoming more involved with the community. Day Habilitation programs provide on-site nursing, speech language therapy, and physical or occupational therapy.

They also put the people they serve to work, helping them learn valuable job and life skills. HMEA operates several redemption and recycling centers and operates a landscaping service. They also partner with companies large and small to provide a wide range of employment opportunities in the community for individuals with disabilities.

In addition, HMEA has started its own consulting service, Cloud For Causes, which provides cost-effective IT services to other area non-profits as a way to defray overhead expenses and maximize the amount of funding available for direct services.

To learn more about all the great things HMEA is doing for people of all ages with developmental disabilities, visit their website or, better yet, check out their new video.


Lately, I have been fascinated by the way that new technology is taking us full circle in the evolution of mass communication. We are essentially becoming modern-day cavemen and cavewomen.

If you think back to how early humans first began to “mass communicate”, it was through pictures and grunting sounds. In fact, humans were telling stories with pictures as far back as 40,000 years ago when rock walls were the communication medium of choice rather than something you climb at the gym on your lunch hour. I wonder who the first prehistoric human was to use a handheld mobile device by drawing a picture on a smaller rock that he or she could carry around rather than having to wait for everyone to come look at the static message on the cave wall?

While images have always been a powerful way to communicate, it has never been easier than it is today to communicate visual messages. The ability to capture and create visual images with incredibly powerful handheld technology and the growth of social media sites and apps for sharing them has created a visual messaging Renaissance at the expense of the written word.

There is no doubt that we are using fewer words and more visuals—photos, videos, infographics, wordclouds, memes, etc.—to communicate our messages today than compared to a few years ago. We don’t always communicate in complete sentences or even use complete words. We grunt with our thumbs in an odd new language of text abbreviations, auto-correct gobbledygook and emoticons.

While this is a troubling development to those who believe we are losing the ability to communicate effectively through the written word, is it really a bad thing? What is the right amount of visuals versus text? Is there such a thing as too many pictures? And just because we have all these new visual tools, are we really any good at using them to communicate clearly and effectively?

Here are a few examples of the balance between the visual and written content as we ponder these questions:

Example 1: Print

The French newspaper, Libération, published their November 14th article with no photographs to showcase the importance of visual communication.

frenchnews
Photograph from British Journal of Photography

Would you buy a paper or magazine with absolutely no photographs?

Example 2: Social Media

Social media has exploded with pictures and videos to pull the reader into reading more. Recently, even Twitter has adopted the ability to display photos and video. The following two examples help demonstrate the visual power of social media. 

Example A: A tweet from the Wall Street Journal uses a snapshot of the front page to attract visitors on Twitter.

wsjtweet

You are able to instantly see some of the day’s major headlines. Does this attract you to click through see the full details?

Check out the second example from Facebook.

Example B: A Facebook post from Safeway using Pinterest images to get readers interested in learning new Thanksgiving sides recipes (and of course, buy those food items courtesy of Safeway).

safewaypinterest

The truly interesting part of this post is that it blends two social media channels together. Images on Safeway’s Pinterest are used to pull the audience from Facebook. Did it work? Starting to feel hungry?

Example 3: Infographics

Infographics are a popular way to translate more complex issues. These are a true test between the written and visual communication. How much text can actually fit on that map? Is text even necessary on the chart? Check out a couple examples that demonstrate the options.

Example A: The New York Time is regularly praised for their infographics. Not only do people find them visually pleasing and informative, they are often interactive. Below is an infographic done in February to display how President Obama might write the 2013 budget proposal.

Image 1

obama budget1

Image 2

obama budget 2

Very few words are apparent in regards to the graph itself. Text has been provided on the sides to provide context. However when you scroll over the graph, a text box pops up providing the details relevant to that point. If this information were inside the bubbles themselves, it would make a busy graphic.

Example B: Using of a map is another popular technique for an infograph. Below is an example from the Washington Post using color to display population change by country.

map

There are only 6 words and the color bar with associated percentages to explain what this graph means.

Of these two infographic examples, which did you find more interesting, informative, and visually pleasing? We might not all agree.

The important thing to remember is that there is no magic formula with regards to the right combination of visuals and text. While visual aesthetic is important; the main criterion is audience comprehension.

I think this is something our prehistoric ancestors understood instinctively as the painted cave walls with messages that we are still receiving today. I wonder if 40,000 years from now, internet archeologists will unearth the infographic I tweeted last week and understand the meaning.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the ways you are using visuals in your work and what you see as the next steps in the evolution of how we use visuals to inform, educate, entertain and persuade audiences.

30th April 2014        Nonprofits     No comments yet

Each year we make a commitment to donate time, expertise and resources to nonprofit organizations because as a company, and as individuals, we believe it is important to give back to the local communities in which we work, as well as to the broader global community. This monthly blog series will shine the spotlight on some of the nonprofits that we admire and to kick it off, we would like to highlight the excellent work of “e” inc.

einc logo

Founded in 2002 in Boston, Massachusetts, their purpose is to foster a deep understanding of environmental protection, natural resources, and sustainability in both children and adults. They have expanded exponentially to teaching 1,500 children and teens per year and work solely in under-resourced areas. ...continue reading

21st April 2014        Uncategorized     No comments yet

How many projects have ended up in a nest of squabbles, impacting the project deadlines and becoming embarrassing public news? Building consensus not only at the beginning, but also throughout the project should start with the internal team, and is vital to resolving issues that arise later in the process with external stakeholders.

Over our four part Building Consensus blog series, we will explore the unique requirements of consensus building in initial project development, pre-permitting, permitting, and construction phases of a project.

To get you started, here are 5 tips to creating that highly functioning team during initial project development to establish a strong base for building consensus. ...continue reading

31st March 2014        Strategic Communications     No comments yet

On March 30, 1984, our Founder, Heather Conover, started a communications consulting firm with the goal of fostering collaborative relationships with clients throughout the US and abroad who shared in the belief that integrating social responsibility with strategic goals and business operations has the power to build better, more sustainable companies and communities.

Thirty years later, this belief upon which our company was founded, remains a powerful and proven formula for the success of our company and our clients. Along the way, we’ve worked on some incredibly interesting and challenging communications assignments related to energy and the environment, healthcare policy, siting and permitting for public infrastructure projects, education and social policy. And we’ve loved every minute of it.

Today, Conover + Gould is an award-winning, independent firm with offices in Washington, DC and the Boston area, and a growing network of staff and consultants with subject matter expertise and knowledge of geographic markets to meet our clients’ needs on a regional, national and international basis.

Our team members have decades of experience and are passionate about their work.

Stay tuned!

This blog will serve as an outlet for our thoughts on industry related topics, issues of the day and our approach to helping clients succeed. Also, we take our own corporate social responsibility seriously and will be using this blog to spotlight non-profit organizations we respect, admire and support for their good work.

Expect to see Heather writing about consensus building, the struggles of sustainability, stakeholder engagement and look forward to Kevin’s thoughts on corporate communications, particularly with regards to brand and reputation management.

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