Media Training Information

We have experienced a significant increase in requests for media training in recent months. We think our training is well thought of because it is genuine TRAINING – there are concepts to learn and techniques to master. We have trained c-suite spokespersons for businesses of all sizes. We’ve trained politicians and their staff and government workers. We’ve trained people to handle high-pressure media interactions and to manage day-to-day media relations. I think it is a good sign that months or even years after the training takes place, we get emails from trainees asking for advice or “revising” a technique that we taught.

For more information download the PDF below. If you want to talk about it, contact us through the usual channels.


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Letter from Washington D.C.

The latest from our friend and colleague Frank Salinger in our nation’s capital. He is good enough to mention Keymer in this installment. Follow frank on Twitter @annapolislawyer


May/June 2013

Baghdad Bob, Cool Hand Luke, and Telling Your Story in Washington

This has been a difficult Washington Letter to write. I originally planned to focus on Benghazi until the IRS’s political operation against the Tea Party surfaced so I redid the Letter. Then the AP wiretapping story broke and I decided the focus shouldn’t be on still unfolding scandals, but rather how and why effective communications matters in Washington.

Whatever the lessons of the last few weeks, the performance of the hapless White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has been an object lesson in how not to do your job. I’m actually not unsympathetic to the situation he finds himself in, since I suspect he’s in the dark about much of what goes on.

It doesn’t help that replacing the avuncular Robert Gibbs with the always smirking Carney, who comes across like a silent movie actor playing Dennis the Menace, doesn’t help the Administration, but it may not be his fault. Press Secretaries, with the exception of the legendary Pierre Salinger (who had an integral role in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis) don’t make policy.

That’s why their talking points often sound like they are channeling Saddam Hussein’s Information
Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf (remembered as “Baghdad Bob”) or Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler who called Watergate a “third rate burglary.”

Having worked in Delaware for years, I feel a little sorry for Carney since his last job was heading Joe
Biden’s communications shop. It’s the kind of sympathy I have for abused spouses or abandoned pets (my sympathy is ameliorated by Carney’s marriage to the overtly anti-Republican ABC Reporter Claire Shipman).

As Strother Martin’s Captain said in Cool Hand Luke: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” universally misquoted as “a” failure.

All this makes brings to mind the essence of advocacy whether before the White House press corps or
Congress or the agencies: clear communications. This is a lesson Jay Carney evidently forgot.

In 1967, Marshall McLuhan became famous for writing The Medium is the Message. Like so much from The Sixties, it turned out to be nonsense. The message is the message, we just have more choices of medium. While I don’t like the word “messaging” (particularly as a verb), I’m going to join the 1990s and use it.
Legislative and regulatory advocacy requires understanding the substance of an issue and the distillation of your position into a clear, truthful message. While most messaging to Capitol Hill is, at least, pretty good, much in the regulatory arena is awful. While much is inescapably hyper-technical (and I’ve drafted some impenetrable prose, especially when a client’s inside counsel helpfully becomes engaged), at the end of the day regulatory comments should tell a story.

George Bernard Shaw said Britain and America are “two nations divided by a common language” and it’s
no different when business and government try to communicate. You are used to dealing with 13 week quarters. Washington deals in two year sessions. You are used to strict budgeting. Congress hasn’t passed a budget in, well, forever. You answer to shareholders and owners. Congress answers to voters.

This means crafting your message in terms understandable to a political audience and you need to be
aware agencies are just as political as Congress.

My good friend and PR maven Simon Keymer speaks of using a holistic approach to communications. He’s absolutely right. Your message must be consistent throughout your communications. In today’s transparent world, when everything is common knowledge, telling Congress or an agency that a bill or rule will all but destroy your business while your company’s SEC filings describe the same law or regulation as an insignificant matter is guaranteed to get you in trouble.

There are also reminders that messaging has many, and occasionally unintended, audiences. I remember in the run-up to the passage of the 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (the Wall Street “rescue” or “bailout” depending on your ideological bent) when, the night before the House was to take up the bill, the Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association held a conference call between Wall Street analysts and the Department of the Treasury to discuss the then pending legislation.

It didn’t go well—the analysts described Congressional efforts to toughen the bill as “deal breakers” as if they were negotiating an acquisition rather than begging for relief. It may have been the appropriate response—I suspect it was even true except, in an era where anything can and does go viral, the call ended up on YouTube.

How did I find out? I received the link from a Congressional staffer whose boss opposed the bill. That was an object lesson on lobbying in an era when anything may end up in every computer in the country.

Finally, don’t hide bad news. If you are laying off employees (or, as they are known on Capitol Hill, constituents), tell your elected officials. It may be a painful call for your lobbyist, but it’s far better than having your Senator learn of it from a newspaper article, blog posting or a tweet from a laid off employee.

Rest assured, you and your team will be better at this than Jay Carney.

Let’s get started.

Frank Salinger

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Reputational Risk Worries Directors

The Wall Street Journal last week reported on a survey of 235 directors serving on the boards of publicly traded, private, not-for-profit and private-equity owned organizations which found that, excluding financial risk, reputation risk was the top concern cited by 73% of respondents. The survey was conducted by Eisner Amper

For corporate affairs practitioners this underscores more than ever the need to build meaningful reputation measurement, analyses and decision making structures into their operations. There is a small irony in the fact that the tools that are used to do this are very similar to the tools that require us to do this – digital means by which data and information can be shared and interrogated.

The WSJ story is HERE (log In required):

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Letter from Washington DC

The latest from our friend and colleague Frank Salinger in DC. Follow Frank on Twitter @annapolislawyer

January 2013


Lessons from the Naval Act of 1794 (yes, really)

The inaugural ball venues are vacuumed; the parade route bleachers are disassembled; the Hollywood glitterati’s G-4’s and Learjet’s have lifted off to Sundance and DC is back to its usual dull normality.

Again, Congress and the Administration are wrestling with the nation’s shaky finances although, at this writing, the GOP is punting on the debt limit because, as we know, it will be so much easier to deal with later rather than now.

While the Democrats are famously profligate, the GOP has its own sacred cow: defense spending. Localities wanting to protect their hometown military bases from closure or force reduction and powerful defense contractors are potent lobbyists that can quiet even the noisiest budget hawk.

That’s also the reason so many defense acquisition projects have subcontractors from all over the country (or, as we say in DC, many Congressional districts) and you often see Congress making the armed services buy weapons systems they no longer want or need.

This is nothing new.

As a kid—although I was an army brat—I always liked reading about the post-Revolutionary War Navy frigates. The Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), Constellation, Chesapeake, Congress, President and United States are iconic symbols of our history as well as being particularly attractive and graceful ships.

To the extent that anyone cares about the four Americans left to die in Benghazi while one of our drones motored above, it’s clear candor is not a strongpoint of this Administration.
It was generally bad news for a Barbary (Algerian) Pirate, French Revolutionary Republican or British frigate to run afoul of one these vessels. However, their political history is a little darker and sheds light on why we are where we are today.

George Washington’s second term was not going well. European wars stunted our exports and the economy was sluggish. Portugal, which blockaded the Barbary Pirates for years, made peace with Algeria and American shipping became easy prey. It was obvious the US needed a Navy.

But how to get one approved? Although we were taught there was no partisanship in those days, don’t believe a word of that. Washington’s supporters controlled the then 30 seat Senate but his opponents dominated the House (sound familiar?).

How many ships would we need? The British had over 700 warships. Rearming France, Spain and Portugal had fleets numbering in the hundreds. It was decided six would do nicely for the US. And here’s the best part: building one each in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and
Virginia shipyards and using live oak from Georgia meant seven of the 15 states had a piece of the action.

The $688,888.82 expenditure for the Naval Act of 1794 was approved by the House by a 50 to 39 vote margin and was voice voted in the Senate.

This, of course, wasn’t the end of it. The nation’s first great weapons’s program gave birth to the nation’s first great cost overrun. The early shipyard owners (the Lockheed Martins and General Dynamics of their day) received another $200,000 to complete the first three ships and finally billed the taxpayers nearly
$1,500,000, a mere 56% cost overrun, for all six (today’s troubled F-35 is looking better and better).

The nation’s first cost overrun led to the first (and inevitable) Congressional oversight hearings finding mismanagement, some corruption (must have been at the yard in my home state of Maryland) and excessive cost in the naval construction program. The good news, of course, is we got the ships and the Constitution is still anchored in Boston harbor.

The bad news is that seemingly every federal program has followed this sad template. The worse news is that defense spending is “discretionary”—although perhaps for some federal contractors it’s an entitlement.

I don’t write this solely to pick on defense spending, but to emphasize that conservative Republicans on the federal level are, at best, marginally less profligate than the Democrats.

For example, many believe President Reagan cut spending. In reality spending rose during his Administration including also, for a time, as a percentage of the GDP. Parenthetically, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was only able to cut spending as a percentage of the UK’s GDP toward the end of her
10 years in office and she had an absolute majority in compete control of Parliament.

Why am I writing to you about budget issues? In 30 years of lobbying I’ve learned that, just like pilots like flying or actuaries enjoy numbers, legislators like to legislate. At a time when Congress (and the State Houses) have no public money to spend, the easiest way to legislative policy changes is to impose the cost on business. After-all, if your company passes the costs of new legislation on to your customers, who’s going to know? And, more importantly, who would be blamed.

That’s why this two year Congressional session and the current state legislative sessions pose risk to business. My advice is to be watchful and engaged. It’s your customers and shareholders who will be impacted.

Let’s get started.

Frank Salinger


Wanted: Outstanding Media Relations Professional for Project Work

Keymer is looking for a seasoned and effective media relations professional to work on a project basis engaging the national print and broadcast media.

Applicants should be able to demonstrate a track record working with major US media outlets, with a good balance between print and broadcast. An ability to identify appropriate pitching techniques and story angles, is essential, as is a deep and abiding love of the telephone as a tool for voice communication…….

The successful candidate will work on issues-driven projects driving a news agenda under pressure. All press and public-facing materials will be provided, as will media lists, though an ability to dig deep and do personal research to identify possible homes for our stories would be considered a winning attribute in a candidate. Close contacts at major newspapers or cable news channels would also be particularly valued. Candidates should bear in mind that this will be proactive news placement, not reactive news management. Success will be tracked and measured in terms of coverage secured.

Remuneration will be based on experience and paid hourly at DC agency rates. To submit your resume or request more information email Simon or Kristen at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with “Media Projects” in the subject line. we would rather receive emails first, but will be delighted to speak on the ‘phone to provide more information for interested parties.

Candidates from Jacksonville, FL or Washington D.C. would be ideal, but we will work with anyone in the Eastern Time Zone to ensure the right person gets the work.

Cut off for applications is September 10, 2012. Work would begin at the beginning of October.

Thanks for your interest.

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Letter from Washington D.C.

The latest from our friend and colleague Frank Salinger in DC. Follow Frank on Twitter @annapolislawyer

June 2012


Executive Privilege and the Lily Tomlin Rule

From time to time, I attempt to unravel Washington-speak in response to inquiries from clients and friends. Today, having received a few questions, I am taking a whack at explaining “executive privilege” — the doctrine invoked by the White House in the “Fast & Furious” matter to allow Attorney General (and unlicensed gun dealer) Eric Holder to forestall delivering documents to a House oversight committee.

First, while it sounds Nixonian, the doctrine actually has its roots in George Washington’s administration. He refused to pony up background documents regarding the 1796 Treaty of London which resolved open issues left over from the War of Independence. The Jeffersonians in the House, favoring revolutionary France over royalist Great Britain, demanded the information and the President refused to comply defending the separation of powers between the two branches of government.

Throughout our history, presidents have refused to hand over executive branch documents deemed to be privileged, but in general, the concept has been invoked when the request dealt with presidential documents.

This was broadened dramatically by President Eisenhower when he refused to let his Attorney General testify before the ironically named House Un-American Activities Committee. This was the first time the concept was used to shield documents beyond presidential papers.

The most famous examples of executive privilege stem from a series of post-Watergate cases brought during the Nixon Administration. For example, in United States v. Nixon, a unanimous Supreme Court forced President Nixon to release the now legendary White House tapes.

The concept applies to more than spats with Congress, it is regularly invoked to defeat Freedom of Information Act requests and to oppose subpoenas in civil litigation.

In the most general terms, an Administration must prove three elements in order to assert executive privilege:

• The documents the President seeks to protect must relate to a core power of the presidency (in other words, political documents are unprotected);
• The document must come from the President or a very senior member of the Administration, and;
• The documents must not contain information that, absent their release, congressional investigators could not find elsewhere

The political hubbub around this issue is part of the natural order of things. Congress always opposes executive privilege when it is asserted by a President from the opposing party.

For example, in 2007, President George W. Bush invoked executive privilege to prevent his White House Counsel and Chief of Staff from testifying and providing subpoenaed information about the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. House Democrats, then in the majority, voted 223-32 to cite the White House officials for contempt.

This is why it’s amusing to see Romney’s defense of President Bush the Younger’s assertion of Executive Privilege and then-Senator Obama’s strident call for Bush to release documents. This also explains why in Washington matters, I follow Lily Tomlin’s Rule: “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”

There is another policy hurdle an Administration must overcome. As Nixon discovered, Executive privilege cannot be used to shield illegal acts and even MSNBC must concede smuggling automatic weapons into a friendly country is an illegal act.

What I find interesting is the Administration’s resistance in this matter. Even Richard Nixon, who argued that privilege applied to decision making at a high governmental level conceded it had to be related to presidential decision making—which raises a more serious issue.

I believe the real issue is not the applicability of privilege or Eric Holder’s own personal misconduct (if any). Rather it is who is the White House protecting?

Thus Congress may next need to pose Senator Howard Baker’s famous question during the Senate Watergate hearings: “What did the president know and when did he know it?” I hope this is a helpful explanation. As always, let me know if I can be of help to you or your company.

Let’s get started.

Frank Salinger

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Exploring CEO Weblogs

For a long time now, we’ve been aware that the CEO weblog (blog) can be an important part of a strategic social media effort. We looked into some of the best CEO blogs out there and thought we’d list a few of them for you here. Take a look, learn from these and see how you may best utilize a CEO blog at your company:

Public Companies:

Jonathan Schwartz, Jonathan’s BlogCEO of Sun Microsystems
Bill Marriott, On the MoveCEO of Marriott International
Mike Critelli, Open Mike — Executive Chairman of Pitney Bowes
Robert Lutz, Fast Lane — GM Vice Chairman
David Neeleman, Flight Log — Chairman of JetBlue Airways
Michael Hyatt, From Where I SitCEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers

Closely Held Companies:

Mark Cuban, Blog Maverick — Internet entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Landmark Theaters
Paul Levy, Running a HospitalCEO of Deaconess Beth Israel Hospital in Boston
Bob Parsons, Hot PointsCEO of GoDaddy.com

Source: Wall Street Journal


“The way we share information has fundamentally changed…....”

Last week I was honored to address the Communications Committee of the American Financial Services Association (AFSA) on the challenges and opportunities associated with new and emerging technologies. The committee is made up of senior communications practitioners from firms such as Wells Fargo, Ford Motor Credit, HSBC etc. all of whom have faced significant challenges in the last couple of years and are now grappling with the prospect of widespread regulatory reform.

I used two case studies to illustrate my points on issues management and wider communications. I thought readers might like to see them:

#1 was from Ford itself:

“…Ford has got a lot to be proud of in this area. It has a head of social media in Scott Monty who has proved time and time again the value of the medium. Incidentally, he has 27,000 followers on Twitter. Compared with Ford itself – 13,000 or so.

In this example, Monty was alerted to online criticism of Ford’s legal efforts to shut down a fan website “therangerstation.com” The criticism began as a blog post, spread to twitter and eventually resulted in over 1000 direct customer complaints.

Monty didn’t wait to ascertain the facts, posting to his blog and his Ford and personal Twitter feeds that he was investigating it and frequent updating his followers – some of whom he could be pretty sure would forward or retweet the information to their followers.

Within hours, he reported that Ford’s lawyers believed the site was selling counterfeit goods with Ford’s logo. He persuaded Ford’s lawyer’s to withdraw the shut-down request if the site halted the sales. By the end of the day, Monty was able to Tweet that the situation had been resolved.

This action actually resulted in plaudits from the rangerstation.com. They even posted a very positive blog post, which must have gone some way to rehabilitating the brand with the complainants.

This result came about because Ford, through Scott Monty, was monitoring the conversation. Using social media in this way, routinely, or in a crisis can sometimes yield surprising results.”

#2, from Southwest Airlines, illustrated this point:

“Last month, a Southwest airlines flight from Nashville to Baltimore made an emergency landing in Charleston W.Va..

Southwest’s dedicated emerging media team immediately took to the information superhighway to gauge customer reactions.
To their surprise and delight, they found that comments were mostly positive and focused on the professional way in which aircrew handled the situation. This immediately shifted the company’s communications strategy from crisis mode to a celebration of the way in which staff and customers had worked together in an exemplary fashion. A net win for Southwest.”

We also spoke some about CEO weblogs. I’ll post separately on this subject. No doubt much, much more on new and emerging technology in the months to come……


Visit to the City of Brotherly Love…

This year, the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Legislative Summit was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I had the privilege of going with a client to the event. It turns out there’s much more to Philadelphia than just Philly cheese steaks and the Liberty Bell.

During the three days we had there we went to sessions, walked the trade show floor and rubbed elbows with state legislators from all over the US.

The most interesting session had to be one on Consumer Credit and Getting Out of Debt. Credit and debit card use has exploded in recent years, creating a $960 billion industry. The panelists discussed new legislation designed to regulate the industry more tightly and the pitfalls of over-reaching regulation.

On the trade show floor you see booths for almost any group you can imagine, from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) to the American Association for Nude Recreation. Who knew? (I did make sure I got a few brochures and some swag from that booth!)

Seriously though, the booths are always impressive, and it is fascinating to see what businesses and associations are doing to get their messages across to state legislators, many of whom will be voting on pieces of legislation that will affect their causes in some way during the upcoming legislative session.

At a time when the economy is the number one stressor for most businesses, it was exciting to be at an event where the mood was positive. I look forward to next year when NCSL will be holding their Legislative Summit in good ole’ Louisville, KY…


Why rebrand?

Everyone has an opinion on when rebranding a company is a good idea, and when it is not. The smart ones recognize that, done properly, a corporate rebranding exercise can provide a catch-all solution to multiple business challenges.

I am going to lay aside the tired examples of a thousand marketing seminars – BP, Firestone, New Coke etc. Instead I want to concentrate on our less sensational reasons for a rebrand. Our business challenges stemmed from the way I had started the agency.

Back in 2005, as soon as we were up and running I immediately immersed myself in client service. In my spare time, I put in place the rudiments of a corporate identity, deliberately avoiding huge expenditures of treasure (which was limited) and time (which I preferred to spend with my clients). I knew that I would want to change things, further down the line.

After three busy years, I was able to look around and take stock. Though a global recession had not allowed us to grow at the rate my most optimistic daydreams had envisioned, we had built an agency and a reputation, serving clients that we cherished in the US and abroad.

I realized, however, that to maximize our competitiveness in the down economy, now was the time to take decisive action. Now was the time to kick things up a notch, to refresh our brand and more accurately express the post start-up nature of our agency. A number of specific factors added to the urgency:

  • While maintaining a strong public affairs practice, we had expanded the number of clients in marketing support and corporate communications, drawing on existing strengths with analysts and business media while developing new areas of expertise. Over time we had become more than simply “the issues management people”. We needed to express this better.
  • In common with our more savvy industry colleagues, we have had a steep learning curve as web communications have become ever more crucial in all our campaigns. We have developed significant expertise and a solid track record in this area. We needed our identity to reflect this.
  • The look and feel of our website and marketing materials (our corporate identity) though good enough for a start-up, needed more polish – a more mature look. Likewise, I wanted to get away from our start-up name The Keymer Group. I wanted to simplify things. Keymer seemed the right thing to call us. An unusual name with…. ahem…. personal significance*.

There were other factors, but these were the main ones. Of course many out there (the disciples of Malcolm Gladwell…yawn…) will point out that we have not really ‘rebranded’, we have simply tweaked the name of the firm, created a new corporate identity and rewritten our marketing materials. To a significant degree, they are right. The point to take away, however, is that all of these changes allow us to express better our unchanged brand promise – the one thing I did spend significant time on when I founded the business:

“Keymer will provide smart, innovative communications consulting and execution to clients in the US, in Europe and elsewhere, while maintaining a true focus on clients, personal service and attention to detail.”

So there you have it. I’d love to get your feedback. Email me or leave comments – tell me what you like and don’t like. We can take it – we’re grown up, now….

*(Aside: You should know that while many in England boast that their families are so old that they came over from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066 AD, the Keymers were there to meet them when they arrived. I trust there will be no “brand ramifications” from the fact that the name itself is popularly meant to mean “dweller by the cow pasture” in a form of Anglo-Saxon…..)


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