New Leadership Announced at Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc.

Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc. (SLPR), which for 30 years has been one of the leading strategic communications and public relations firms in Connecticut, announced new leadership effective January 1, 2019.

Gene Sheehan, the Managing Partner and President since SLPR opened its doors, will be stepping back from managing the day-to-day operations of the business and moving into a new role as Senior Counselor, where he will still remain actively involved with SLPR clients.

SLPR is excited to announce that Brian Flaherty— former Connecticut Deputy House Minority Leader and a longtime strategic communications and government affairs leader in Connecticut—will join the firm as Executive Vice President, while founding co-partner Paddi LeShane, who serves as CEO of SLPR and its sister government affairs company, Sullivan & LeShane, Inc., will continue to serve as CEO of SLPR. Dan Tapper, who has worked in a client services capacity at SLPR since 2007, has been promoted to the role of Senior Accounts Manager.

Mr. Sheehan, dubbed the “PR King” by a prominent Connecticut journalist, founded SLPR with his partners Patrick Sullivan and Paddi LeShane in 1988 after leading the state’s largest advertising firm for several years. He said today that after 30 years at the helm of one of the state’s most respected strategic communications firms, the time is right to move into a more advisory capacity.

“I have put my heart and soul into this business for the past 30 years, and every single day has brought reward and success—I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the finest business, community and media leaders during this time, and I cannot imagine a better way of spending my career,” Mr. Sheehan said. “Our clients understand that I will continue to advise them and work to help tell their stories wherever my assistance is needed. But I am leaving the firm in the talented hands of my longtime business partners Paddi LeShane and Patrick Sullivan, as well as Dan Tapper, Chris Zaccaro and our newest member Brian Flaherty.”

“It has been such an honor to work with Gene for all these years—to collaborate with him and strategize with him on behalf of some of the most important businesses and organizations in the state,” Ms. LeShane said. “I look forward to our continued success together, just in a slightly different capacity. So much has changed on the media landscape since we first commenced operations in 1988—the consolidation of legacy media, the explosive world of digital media and the business climate in Connecticut—but we have the perfect team in place to keep adapting to changes and continuing on the same upwards trajectory.”

Prior to arriving at SLPR, Mr. Flaherty spent the past four years as Senior Vice President of Public Policy for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), and before that spent 12 years as both a Director and Vice President of External Affairs and Public Policy for Nestle Waters North America in Stamford. He has worked as a communications coordinator for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), an editor at Business & Legal Reports, Inc. and a press secretary in the Connecticut General Assembly. For 15 years, he served in the Connecticut General Assembly’s 68th District, rising to the level of Deputy Minority Leader. He lives in Watertown with his wife, Melanie, and their three children.

“The decision to join SLPR is an easy one, and I am thrilled to work with the very best in crisis and strategic communications in Connecticut—the opportunity to become a part of such a talented group, to serve such top-notch clients and to help grow the business is incredibly exciting for me. I have been friends with the folks at SLPR for a long time, and together we will make a great team,” Mr. Flaherty said. “It’s only fitting that after talking repeatedly at CBIA about the need to grow businesses in Connecticut, that I go out and do it myself by joining the SLPR team.”

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over. If you haven’t already, please go get yourself checked out in November.

The idea of writing this post has been spinning around in my head for about a week now. Yesterday was October 31st – Halloween – but also the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I have been hesitant to write this because I am not entirely sure the person occupying my thoughts over the past few months would like me writing about him. But following conversations with others – which I will explain later – I felt compelled.

Back in August, the day after my 32nd birthday, I found out someone very close to me – a man – was diagnosed with cancer. It turned out to be breast cancer. The cancer diagnosis certainly surprised me, but finding out later on that it was breast cancer did not. I had read or seen on TV somewhere that men could contract breast cancer. It’s rare, but it happens and I knew that. However, many don’t and many men never think to look for the symptoms. Or when they do discover symptoms, they choose to ignore them.

Up until recently, I never truly understood the devastating impact cancer can have on the human body, a spouse, a family or a group of friends. I thought I did. I knew that receiving a positive diagnosis would be tough. That going through the fight would be hard. But I was ignorant. I would be a hypocrite if I said I comprehended the monstrosity of the disease. Seeing it up close changes your consciousness. Seeing one of the strongest individuals you’ve ever known fight like this changes your attitude.

I’ve donated, I’ve thrown support behind cancer organizations, and I have sent notes of encouragement and condolences to friends of mine who had someone close to them fighting. But cancer hasn’t directly touched my life until now.

And I get it now

Just a few weeks ago I was having a conversation with an older colleague of mine. A mutual acquaintance of ours went in for that annual screening men never look forward to.

He said to me, “Boy, I am long overdue for that. It’s been years since I had that done.”

I am a little sensitive to this stuff these days, so my immediate retort was, “You need to go get that done. Take care of yourself because people care about you.”

My hope in writing this is that maybe I can convince a person or two reading this to WAKE. UP.

If it’s been a while – hell, if it’s only been a year – go get yourself checked out. If not for yourself, then for the people that love and depend on you.

A week ago I was walking with my sick friend into one of his many appointments and we were talking about everything that’s been going on the past few months. I embarrassed myself by revealing my own absent-mindedness when I commented, “You know, this whole experience really makes you think about our healthcare system.”

My friend, who was using every bit of his limited energy to just walk 30 feet down the sidewalk, laughed and said, “It really makes you think about life, Chris.”

It certainly does. Please go get yourself checked out.

To the men, women, boys and girls out there fighting cancer and to the doctors, nurses, receptionists, pharmacists, family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers supporting them – please fight on and know that there’s an entire community out there rooting for you.

Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc. Wins Gold, Silver & Bronze at the 2018 PRSA-CT Mercury Awards

Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations Inc. won three awards at the 2018 PRSA-CT Mercury Awards. Pictured left to right is Chris Zaccaro, Paddi LeShane, Tom Andrea, Dan Tapper and Eugene Sheehan.

Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc.’s “Pros From Dover” took home three awards from the 2018 PRSA Greater Connecticut Chapter Mercury Awards, an event that took place at the New Britain Museum of American Art on Thursday, October 25, 2018. SLPR won in the following categories:

  • Gold in the Public Affairs Category for our work with Making Every Vote Count.
  • Silver in the Special Event & Observances Category for our work with United Technologies Corp.
  • Bronze in the Media Relations Category for our work with Masonicare.

The PRSA Greater Connecticut Chapter hosts the Mercury Awards to honor excellence in public relations and communications.

Chris’s Clickbait: August 2018 – by Chris Zaccaro

SLPR Public Relations Associate Chris Zaccaro, our social/digital media Pro from Dover, pours through blogs and articles each week so he can stay up-to-date on the latest trends, tips, and innovations in digital and social media for our clients. Here’s a collection of recent third-party articles he’s found useful or at least worth a read…

 

📄 Social Media Today:
YouTube Adds Vertical Video
Support on its Web App,
Underlining Vertical Trend

As Story features from Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat continue to dominate the social media landscape, the vertical video push has forced video-sharing giant YouTube to adapt to the times by enabling users to view these videos as they are, without those annoying black or blurry lines on the side.

If you’re one of the few that are unfamiliar with Stories – a Story is a collection of videos or photos that will “expire” after a 24 hour period. You may have noticed the circular profile pictures at the top of your Facebook and Instagram News Feeds. Click on one and see for yourself what these Stories are. Just be aware that the other person will see you viewed it. CNN Tech’s 2017 article How to use Facebook Stories provides a solid overview. Also, I only refer to you as “one of the few” because Facebook has stated that Stories will overtake the News Feed as the primary way users view content by the end of this year.

For those that are familiar with Stories, you may well know that shooting your photos and videos vertically (not sideways, aka landscape) is definitely the way to go. That’s because Stories are primarily viewed full screen on smartphones. Many social media users will download the Story they created on one app and use them again on another app – or just send the file directly to friends via text or other means (there’s way too many options to list and I haven’t had my third afternoon coffee yet).

For this reason, and possibly because social media users are becoming conditioned to automatically start shooting their photos and videos vertically, it made sense for YouTube to make this move.

And yes, while I, and probably many of you, prefer to watch videos in the traditional landscape, 16:9 format (how old school of us) – this trend appears to be sticking around.

📄 Hubspot:
The 15 Best Video
Editing Apps for 2018

This article from Hubspot kicks off with “If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you already know you should incorporate more video content in your marketing.”

Don’t we know it? And if you don’t, here are some stats from WordStream blogger Mary Lister:

  • 51% of marketing pros worldwide name video as the type of content with the best return on investment
  • 61% of consumers make a purchase after watching branded social videos
  • Views on branded video content have increased 258% on Facebook and 99% on YouTube as of June 2017
  • By 2019, internet video traffic will count for 80% of all consumer internet traffic

The beauty of today’s technology is that the current slate of smartphones and tablets allow you to shoot and edit pretty decent video content without having to burn through your budget. As you could probably deduce from the title, this helpful post from Hubspot blogger Sophia Bernazzani provides a list and quick overview, including the “catches” that come with using free versions and trials, of the 15 best video editing apps for 2018.

📄  Social Media Today:
Twitter Chooses
Two Academic Projects
to Help Improve Platform Discourse

Twitter has turned to the academic community as the major social media companies continue their “fight” against the rise of fake news, increasing division within society, and data breaches – all of which they have been hammered for (and deservedly so) the past few years. As you’ll read in this article from Social Media Today’s Andrew Hutchinson, Twitter has chosen two academic projects to help improve discourse on its platform. The two individual studies will examine the echo chamber effect, which happens when social media users only follow and read views that they agree with, and whether exposure to a variety of perspectives can decrease prejudice and discrimination and increase more worldly views.

It remains to be seen if the studies will highlight the Twitter “snark” epidemic, which unfortunately (but amusingly) targeted both a Black Eyed Pea and pancake (and burger!) restaurant chain just this year. You’ll learn more about that below…

📄 Ragan’s PR Daily:
Twitter Erupts in Snark
Over ‘IHOb’s’ Name Change

And finally, the last article I wanted to share is not social or digital media specific – but the story certainly did make waves in the Twitterverse.

Back in early June the International House of Pancakes, you may know it as IHOP, kicked off SnarkFest 2018.2 when the folks at corporate decided to change the restaurant’s name to IHOb.

This phenomenon is not to be confused with Snarkfest 2018.1, which occurred back in February after Fergie’s legendary National Anthem performance at the NBA All Star Game. Not sure if John C. Reilly of Step Brothers fame chimed in on this one.

Back to the point.

It was fairly obvious from the get-go, and the chain eventually came clean once the waves finished crashing down, that the whole thing was a publicity stunt intended to create buzz about the restaurant’s new line of burgers.

Boy did it ever.

 

For what seemed like an entire week, I could not scroll through a Twitter feed without seeing some sort of IHOP/B mention. To be clear, I am not advocating for temporary name changes or publicity stunts, but throughout SnarkFest 2018.2 all I kept saying to myself was, “Until this week, I can’t remember the last time I thought about IHOP.” And this is coming from a big pancake fan. Huge.

Sure IHOP received a lot of snark that fateful week in June. Ragan.com even listed the move as one of its Top 10 Blunders of the Year – so far. But I don’t know if I can agree that it was a bad move or didn’t work. Here we are almost two months later and I’m STILL talking about IHOP!

A Career Begins, A Career Continues – Dan Tapper Remembers:

SLPR’s Public Relations Manager Dan Tapper takes a look back at the start of his career 28 years ago this July

I don’t recall the date, but it was exactly this time of year in 1990 – late July, during political season in a major statewide election year – that my full-time career in media began. It was 28 years ago almost to the day that I began my first-ever full-time job as a staff writer for the Journal Inquirer, which at the time was, I believe, the 5th-largest daily newspaper in Connecticut as well as the largest afternoon daily newspaper. I had previously worked for two months as a “stringer” for the Hartford Courant out of its Enfield bureau, but this was what I had been hoping for when I graduated from the University of Connecticut two months earlier with a degree in English – a full-time job as a news reporter. I was thrilled; a little scared as any 21-year-old might be, but without question ready to get going.

A few things stand out from Day 1; oddly enough, I didn’t do any writing that day. I more watched and learned the basics and logistics. Like how to use the “computer terminals” we all shared and, frankly (and anyone who was in the newsroom with me in that era can surely agree) looked like they were at least a decade past their prime. Like the schedule of morning deadlines and the groupings of reporters (we did our most intensive deadline-based work between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. in this pre-Internet era). Like where the bathrooms and the snack machines were, and what time the morning coffee truck came. Not to mention meeting our team of 25+ news reporters and 10 or so editors, all of whom were polite but had little time to get to know me in those first few hectic hours of my first day. So I watched, I observed, I read that day’s newspaper from cover to cover at least a few times, and I waited.

Oh, also? I met my wife that day; she was the reporter/editor assigned to show me around and, I think, make sure I didn’t break anything. She continues in that role today 28 years later, but that’s a story for another time 😊

It was later that night I was given my first assignment – to accompany a reporter to a local Town Council meeting (Vernon, I think) and assist her in covering the news that came out of it. I would report on…whatever it was I was covering…and file my first-ever story the next morning. Then we journeyed across town to cover a local nominating convention for a State Representative – interestingly enough, that State Rep. was none other than Connecticut’s current Congressman in the 2nd District, Joe Courtney. I met the then-State Rep., enjoyed his very pleasant and easy-to-quote demeanor, and headed home with my head spinning around 9 p.m., my brand new reporter’s notebook filled with my first day of notes and quotes and sitting next to me sitting on the passenger seat of my old Oldsmobile Cutlass. I was off and running.

The next morning I filed those stories, then the next day a couple more, and a pattern was born that is familiar to surely any daily journalist who ever covered a beat. I remember a particularly colorful exchange with a local official in that first week, who for some reason wasn’t willing to give me public information which I requested. I remember calmly telling him I was entitled to this information and, if he wasn’t going to cooperate, I would have to say so in my story. Nonetheless he agreed, and I scored my first (albeit very minor) victory for the public’s right to know.

Over time I would earn my first full-time beat (a combination of the town of Somers and the Enfield Board of Education, and a couple years later I shifted to the town of Windsor) and go through enough of those reporter’s notebooks to fill the trunk of my old clunker of a car. I covered the good and the bad, wrote features and in-depth reports, occasionally tussled with headstrong local officials and made some solid relationships with the people I covered. In the newsroom I made friendships that have lasted to this very day, friendships rooted initially in our common professional roles but which would soon grow deeper and more meaningful. Oh, and did I mention I met my wife there? We were married June 6, 1992 and just celebrated our 26th anniversary last month. I spent 6 ½ years at that newspaper before leaving for a career in public relations at the end of 1996, and while I can’t say I loved every moment (who can?), I can say without question that that crusty, dusty old newsroom played a huge role in shaping who I was and who I would become.

So many of us who worked there are no longer journalists today, though a few still are. Others among us are now teachers, lawyers, social workers, technical writers and, yes, a few of us remain on “the dark side” in the world of public relations. My daily grind no longer features a set-in-stone deadline of 9:15 a.m., but deadlines sure do still exist. I still rush to get things done, still write as much as I ever have, still cram research and fact-checking and tracking people down quickly into my workaday routine. I have spent 28 years working on one side of the media or another, and I cannot possibly imagine having spent my career doing anything else.

And it all started pretty much 28 years ago today, on that hot July day where everything seemed to be in front of me. And the good news? It still is.

“You Took My Speech!” – by Gene Sheehan

That’s apparently what happened at UConn on Tuesday night, in an incident that immediately garnered national attention and, quite honestly, left no one looking good.

According to published reports, while alt-right commentator Lucian Wintrich was delivering a speech entitled “It’s OK to Be White” to a room of a few hundred people – amid loud protests from many in the audience – a State Community College Adviser took his speech from the lectern and made off with it. The speech itself was certainly meant to be provocative and probably intended to be disruptive, and I’m not defending its point of view.

But let’s remember something.

“Speech” itself is pretty much the only thing that separates us from the animals, and it is so important to us as Americans (and as humans) that our Founding Fathers ensured that the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contained a provision guaranteeing its absolute freedom from government intervention.

And once the words are taken away from people, the only option that usually remains is getting physical. That seems to be what happened here – something of a brawl ensued and the event was cut short, with the physical violence resulting in police arrests.

So much for the state of civil discourse in our current academic environment.

I participated in some of the disruptive social protest in the 1960s, and I understand the communication value of political theater. I also understand that a certain amount of disruption can be good and support positive change. In the end, however, we must depend on words and reason in order to live together.

After all, when you take away people’s speech, often times all they have left are their fists.

 

 

How Filler Words Can Erode Your Credibility – by Gene Sheehan

First, let me confess, I am not the most eloquent speaker. Because I speak like I write – composing each word – I am prone to pauses as I struggle to frame a thought or come up with just the right word. But better the occasional silence than the prolonged ums or ahs or, far worse, the annoying repetition of filler words that add nothing of substance while distracting from our message.

One of the worst examples of this has come from those who feel they need to begin every response with the word “so.” I’m not certain how this started or who started it, but I suspect the academic community. It mimics a professor’s knowing response to a student’s question and perhaps lends an air of authority to the speaker. “So we looked at the Land Rover and the Ford Explorer, but there was really no comparison between the two.” So this. So that.  So what? Or more to the point – why “so?” Another ubiquitous filler word is “look”—again at the beginning of a sentence. “Look, my position on this has been totally consistent.” You “look.” I’ll listen.

The bottom line is that the consistent use of nonessential filler words is viewed as a crutch by the discerning listener, causing them to focus on how you’re saying things rather than what you’re trying to say.

Best to opt for the thoughtful pause.

Protecting Your Good Name When the News Is Bad

  1. Be prepared to tell your side of the storyTake the time to develop your key messages on one page or less.
  2. First things firstBefore you talk, your first responsibility is to get the situation under control and gather the facts.
  3. Speak with one voiceAs much as possible all information should flow through one spokesperson.
  4. Talk to the mediaIf you don’t talk to the media don’t blame them if they treat you like you’ve got something to hide.
  5. Insist on balanceGood journalists are obligated to report both sides of the story and you shouldn’t settle for less.
  6. Respond to all negativesAs in any political campaign, each and every attack on your credibility must be responded to in some way.
  7. Be quick on your feetIn this digital era of instant access to breaking news, you must be prepared to mount a rapid response.
  8. Demonstrate responsibilityA too-legalistic approach to addressing the results of an accident can send a message to your neighbors that you don’t care.
  9. It ain’t over ‘til it’s overContinually monitor the media and reevaluate your communication strategy.
  10. Learn from your mistakesDon’t expect to do everything right but plan on doing it better the next time.

The Day I Met Glen Campbell – Gene Sheehan Remembers

It was at Charlie Kaman’s house in Farmington at a small fundraiser for the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. Glen had a major role in the success of the Kaman-designed Ovation guitar, which he had prominently played on his national television show, and he and Charlie became friends for life.

A devoted Beach Boys fan, I was pumping Campbell for details on his early session work with the group when he was part of the “Wrecking Crew” and his experience of going on the road with the Beach Boys to replace an ailing Brian Wilson (they needed someone who could sing the high notes on their hit record at the time, “Caroline No”).

He was gracious, thoughtful and funny in his responses. Thank you, Glen Campbell, for giving this fan a magical afternoon all those years ago in Charlie Kaman’s living room.

This clip will give you an indication of the magic he could make with an Ovation guitar.

A Lesson in Holding Your Ground

 

By Dan Tapper

We frequently remind clients of the need to stand your ground when being interviewed by a journalist, particularly when the interview is at least a bit contentious. “Don’t let them dictate what you are going to say,” we say over and over. “Don’t let them speak for you or put words in your mouth. Their job is to ask the tough questions. Your job is to hold your ground and speak for yourself.”

It’s advice that never gets old and never gets any less important. Everything you say to a reporter, on or off the record, has to be the truth. But you get to deliver it on your own terms, not anybody else’s. And if you have messages that you believe in, that you are willing and able to not just stand by but to stand up and tout, chances are you will come out ahead.

Recently I saw a rather perfect example of the value of holding your ground, from an article written by a sportswriter in 2012 commemorating the death of Marvin Miller (pictured at left), the man who formed the first ever Baseball Players Association in the 1960s and, in the eyes of the majority of baseball fans, changed the game forever, and largely for the better. No less a baseball authority than legendary broadcaster Red Barber once said, “Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history.”

This sportswriter, Joe Posnanski – now a senior columnist for Sports Illustrated – recalled at Miller’s death an interview he did with him 10 years earlier in 2002 about the then-current labor situation in baseball, when a strike was being threatened and the growing sentiment seemed to be many in the public had turned against the players in favor of the owners.

And it’s here where Posnanski pointed out perhaps Miller’s greatest strength—he always held his ground and never once budged from delivering his message. He was able to do this, it seems, because he so fervently believed in his message

As Posnanski wrote 10 years later, looking back on that interview: “For every question, there was an emphatic answer. For every proposition there was suspicion. For every search for middle ground, there was a powerful push back. But, through it all, I don’t think he raised his voice once. Through it all, I don’t believe he ever said one word that hinted at arrogance or dismissiveness. He was just explaining things, patiently, with some humor, without doubt.”

Read for yourself. Here are some excerpts from that 2002 story Posnanski wrote about his interview with Marvin Miller. And take special note at how hard Posnanski pushes him, and how hard Miller pushes right back. His refusal to accept what he saw as flawed premises, his refusal to accept a reporter’s questions as facts – this is, as the saying goes, how it’s done.

“It’s a different world,” I suggested. (Than it had been in the 1960s when the union was born)

“No,” he said bluntly. “It’s the same fight.”

“There are people who blame the players for not cleaning up the game by submitting to steroid testing,” I challenged.

“Do you want someone searching your car without proper cause?” he asked back. “Your house? No. Of course not. But you think it’s fair for people to search your bloodstream or bladder? That’s absurd.”

Some players — current and former — seem to feel like the union has already won so many battles, it should be willing to meet the owners more in the middle.

“I remember when we were trying to do away with the reserve clause (NOTE: This is the clause that essentially tied a player to one team for life; when Miller appealed to an arbitrator that it was illegal, he won his case, the clause was abolished and this directly led to free agency). I marveled at the fact that something like that could be in players’ contracts. … But even more, I marveled at the fact that, when I brought it up to the players, they gave me a response which, in effect, said baseball couldn’t survive without it. They had been brainwashed to believe the reserve clause was good for baseball.”

Yes, maybe, but what about fans? They cannot even relate to the money these players make. How can you expect them to relate to the players’ plight?

“I don’t expect that. Fans never have related. Here’s what I would say to that. Fans don’t seem to understand that the largest pocketbook issue that faces them is the tax money being used for essentially free stadiums for wealthy owners. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in cities where schools are crumbling and highways and bridges need repair.

“Players make what they deserve to make on the open market. That’s all. And let me say this again: Fans have their rights. But they should have nothing to say on what a player earns. I liken it to an automobile company. Somebody might buy six or seven Chevrolets in his life. Automobile companies ought to listen to the things he has to say about how a car looks, how it runs, how it stands up. All important things. But I don’t think a car buyer has any right to have any input whatsoever on the wages and benefits of automobile employees.”

Here is the full interview for those who wish to read it. It’s a great lesson, from a person who knew as much as any the value of a strong, immovable message.