Tuesday Tip: Business & Social Media – Look Before You Leave by Chris Zaccaro

Your friends may be taking a break from social media, but should your organization?

In a recent Communication World Magazine article, digital media pro Kristina Podnar asked Is it time to bid social media goodbye? It would take more convincing for me to begin advocating for the shutdown of social media platforms, but Podnar provides great tactical questions to ask yourself if you should consider curtailing or shutting down your organization’s platforms. To wit:

• What would it do to the brand?
• Will it damage audience or customer loyalty?
• How will you fill the communication void you just created?
• And of course, what if this doesn’t work out and turns into a bad idea?

Who of us hasn’t had at least one friend declare that they had enough and were taking a break or getting off social media for good? And these days, can you blame them?

The argument for shutting down platforms comes after a rough couple of years for social media that included a rise in fake news distribution, trolling and data hacks.

In fact, Podnar cites a report by The Drum’s Rebecca Stewart that only 8% of internet users worldwide believe that most of the information shared on social media is true; a number that drops to 4% where influencers are concerned.

Additionally, the Pew Research Center reported in their Social Media Use in 2018 article that “59% of social media users think it would not be hard to give up social media, including 29% indicating it would not be hard at all.”

Pew has also revealed in its 2018 article Americans are changing their relationship with Facebook that “74% of U.S. adult Facebook users either adjusted their privacy settings, took several weeks off from the platform or deleted the app altogether from their cellphone.”

But still, removing your organization from these communication channels is an entirely different, risky and major decision. One that could have big implications to your brand and business.

So while you personally may need a break from social media, don’t automatically let your personal views dictate your professional decisions. Before deactivating, ask yourself Podnar’s questions and see if shutting down your social media platforms is really what’s best for business.

State of the Media Market: How Hartford Likes its Local News – by Chris Zaccaro

Earlier this year the Pew Research Center released results from a survey that asked nearly 35,000 American adults how they consume and rate their local news. While the survey’s main summary provides an overview of the entire U.S. audience, the folks at Pew also provided a nifty tool that allows you to drill down into your local market. In this article we’ll focus on our Hartford market to see how it compares to the rest of nation, while trying to suggest some useful tips that may help you in your public relations efforts.

SIDETRACK: For those interested, other media markets like New Haven-Milford,
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk and Norwich-New London are available through the tool.

Hartford likes TV

When asked how they get their local news, 47% said they “often” get it from TV stations, which is nearly twice as much as both daily newspapers and radio stations. This aligned closely with the National audience–which also agreed that they “often” use television for local news.

(If you combine the aforementioned 47% of respondents with the group saying they “sometimes” get their news from TV stations–then the number jumps to a whopping 79%)

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Everyone is always on their smartphones, how have digital options not surpassed TV yet?”

Like our news, it depends on how you look at the data.

The research from the Hartford market shows that not one single digital option comes close to surpassing TV in the “often” category. However, if you combine each of the digital options-websites, social media and apps–then we see that online sources are within five percentage points of TV.

This shows that nearly the same amount of folks are getting their local news from online sources, with TV still getting the slight edge … for now.


Newspapers & FM/AM radio in the digital era

Daily newspapers are known to have been the most impacted news source since the dawn of the digital era. Here in the Hartford market, 16% of respondents say they prefer to get their news via newspapers and 22% say they never utilize them.

Of course let’s keep in mind that basically every daily newspaper has a well-established website and social media platforms where their content gets posted. Just because consumers are saying they don’t read their news in print, doesn’t mean they’re not logging online to see what they’re reporting.

(Paying for it is a different matter. We’ll get into that later … )

As for radio, it just surpassed daily newspapers in the “often/sometimes” category, with 61% of Hartford respondents saying they “often” or “sometimes” get their news from the radio – seven percentage points higher than those who said the same about newspapers (54%).


Show local news the money!

With newsrooms consistently shrinking and journalists pitching subscriptions on Twitter, it seemed to be common knowledge that local outlets have been feeling the financial pinch over the last couple of years. Perhaps I’m just living in the media/public relations bubble because–not so, apparently!

Some 71% of the American adult population believes that local news outlets are doing quite well financially. This, along with the plethora of free news content available, could be why only 15% of the Hartford market has paid for local news in the past year (85% have not).


How can public relations practitioners put these findings into action? Here are some takeaway lessons:

• Earning media placement on TV is a big win. First, because we know people are watching and second, because your placement can be amplified and live longer on websites, social media and apps, which–when pulled together–are almost as popular as television with the Hartford audience.

• People may not prefer to get their news via print anymore (only 16% currently do), but that doesn’t mean your story won’t be seen. It would be extremely odd in 2019 if a daily newspaper didn’t have a website or social media platforms. Your story will most likely appear on their website, which is where 18% of Hartford respondents prefer to get their local news, and could possibly run several times on their social platforms, which is where 17% of locals prefer to get their news.

• If you’re looking for your story to be posted online, it may be better to aim for the beginning of the month. Clearly folks are not very interested in paying for news. Only 15% of the Hartford market has done so in the past year. If website visitors are only permitted five or ten free articles a month before they hit a paywall, a good strategy may be to try and ensure your story appears at the beginning of the month, before folks use up their allotment of free views.

• There may be media providers that are preferred over others, but any positive media placement–whether on TV, in print, online or on the radio–is still a win because here in Hartford 79% of adults follow local news very or somewhat closely, 70% believe our outlets report news accurately and 56% believe they include people like them in their stories.

Statistics from this article were provided by the Pew Research Center’s: For Local News, Americans Embrace Digital but Still Want Strong Community Connection (March 26, 2019)

Tuesday Tip: Nothing Beats a Good Story – by Dan Tapper

There are several unabashed Game of Thrones fans here at SLPR. And like millions of others, we tuned in Sunday night to see the much-anticipated grand finale episode to see how it would all wrap up, and to see what became of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister and the Stark sisters, Sansa and Arya.

And right at the heart of the 80-minute finale came a speech from Tyrion—the cynical but wise “Imp of Westeros”—that struck us all as public relations professionals. As Tyrion pleads his case to choose the right new king to lead the world, he says:

“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.”

Amen, Tyrion. You are now ready for a career in public relations.

In the PR world, there is nothing more core to the work we do than telling stories. Simply put, for success in our world, nothing beats a story that is well and truthfully told.

For our clients of more than three decades, stories define them, stories drive them forward, stories allow them to let the world know who they are—on their own terms—and the value they bring. You just have to find them, hone them and position them in a way that moves the ball forward for the client in the public eye.

Here’s an example. We had a client a few years back that ran day care centers throughout Connecticut, and they were very pleased with a new cutting-edge machine they had that could sterilize everything in sight—from stuffed animals to laptops to everything in between—without any muss or fuss. It was a welcome alternative to dousing everything with disinfectant over and over again. Obviously in the child care world, creating a clean, germ-free environment is paramount.

But the problem, they thought, was would anybody care? It was just a large, nondescript grey machine that looked like an industrial refrigerator. Nothing flashy or attractive about it. Who in the public would care?

A lot of people, including the media—that’s what we advised them. Because this large, seemingly innocuous machine told a great story, and it was a story all about this day care center.

It was a story of innovation, of finding a way to take one of the most important aspects of child care centers—cleanliness—and make it better. It was a story of uniqueness—this was a technology that very few, if any, other child care centers in the area were using. And it was a story of care—the investment in this new machine showed exactly how dedicated this center was to all the young children and families they served, to keeping the kids safe and healthy.

So. Take one part brand-new technology, add uniqueness, sprinkle in an innovative safety measure, and throw in a dash of healthy young children and parents with the peace of mind in knowing their kids are getting the best, and you have the recipe for a great story. “Let’s tell it!” we advised the client.

So we did. We pitched the story to a television reporter in the area who loves outside-the-box human interest angles. He liked it and spent a couple of hours with our client, checking out the machine and examining all it could do to make things better. And he produced a news segment that was several minutes long and told the story of just how innovative and committed to their clients this place was. It was a big success all around.

Public relations isn’t always about flash and sizzle; often times it’s about framing something of public importance in just the right way to make it understandable, informative and, yes, enjoyable. What we have learned from years of doing this is there is almost always a good story to tell; sometimes it’s easy to find, sometimes it’s less obvious. But it’s there more often than not—it just takes the time to surface it and then to find the right way to tell it.

“There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.” Tyrion Lannister was 100% right (for once). Who knew in addition to everything else, Game of Thrones had such an acute awareness of what makes for good public relations?

Knowing Your Audience: Who’s on Twitter? – by Chris Zaccaro

Without question, Twitter is one of the top social media platforms in the United States. Sitting pretty on the top shelf alongside other social titans like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the real-time, short message communication tool provides a unique and powerful platform to promote businesses/organizations or enhance personal brands and followings.

For proof, see the 2016 Presidential Election.

As many of us know, effective communication means knowing your audience – and in this case, that audience is everyone else clicking on the blue bird icon each day.

Thanks to recent findings from the Pew Research Center, we have a better understanding of the Twitterverse’s current makeup. Here I’ll share with you a quick snapshot of the findings, but for a more in-depth look, be sure to check out Pew’s April article entitled Sizing Up Twitter Users.

“Twitter users are nearly three times as likely to be younger than 50 (73%) as to be 50 or older (27%).” If you’re trying to promote a senior discount or sell a retirement villa, Twitter may not be the place for you. Age is a key demographic to consider when marketing a business, product or yourself.

“Twitter users are younger, more educated and more likely to be Democrats than the general public.” Like age, education is also a key demographic to take into account. For instance, people who have been to college are more likely to read a newspaper or book – which makes Twitter a useful platform if you’re sharing blog content, working within a news outlet, publishing company or any other situation where you’re seeking out an audience that wants to learn more.

“A large majority of tweets come from a small minority of tweeters.” In fact, 80% of all tweets from U.S. users come from only 10% of tweeters. That’s a huge discrepancy! The median user only tweets twice a month. This shows that the vast majority of folks on Twitter are looking for content, rather than providing content. Which is something the heavy tweeters are happy to accommodate because…

You’re more likely to gain followers if you’re more active on the platform and follow others. The top 10% of tweeters have a median number of 387 followers, compared to a median of number of 19 followers for the bottom 90% of tweeters. Those top tweeters, on average, also follow more than six times the amount of people that the bottom 90% do. This could be because they’re so active on Twitter that they want to see everything that’s going on, or they’re taking advantage of good ol’ fashioned Twitter manners: I’ll follow you if you follow me back! This is an old strategy that harkens back to the days of the original 140 character limit, but one that still seems to be working if you’re looking to boost your follower count.

So some interesting data indeed, for a social media platform that each day seems to become more and more indispensable. Here are some tips based on Pew’s findings that may help you in understanding the Twitter audience or boosting your follower count:

• Tweet more often than not to stay relevant
• Know that you’re talking to younger audiences
• Look elsewhere for older audiences
• Twitter is a great platform when looking for folks who want to learn
• Know that the majority of folks on Twitter are Democrats or Progressives
• Follow others within your target audience that you want to follow you
• Know that just because your followers are not tweeting doesn’t mean they’re not watching

Tuesday Tip: No Individual Can Ever Out-Perform a Good Team – by Dan Tapper

The recent victory by the Golden State Warriors over the Houston Rockets in the NBA Western Conference Playoff Semifinals brought to mind a timeless and essential public relations fact – no individual, no matter how great, can beat a good team.

On one side you had James Harden of the Rockets, easily the best scorer in the NBA and at times this year a one-man show for his team. And on the other side you had the two-time defending champion Warriors, the absolute epitome of a true team. A well-oiled machine, if you will.

That the Warriors won the series didn’t surprise many, and one of the reasons comes down to the “individual vs. team” dynamic. And as true as it is in the sports world, it is just as true in the area of strategic communications.

Having the right team in place is the key to every good PR mission, whether you are trying to promote good news or manage bad news. Team players are willing to work together and build consensus, rather than rule by fiat. Team players value pushback as much as they value agreement, because they know it’s the best way to arrive at the best solutions. Team players are confident in their abilities and ideas, but not to the point of shutting out all others.

As an example, we recently had a client which had a major public event to plan and execute, an event which would be noticed and covered heavily by the media. And we created a team, comprised from both our staff and the client’s, to get it done. Everyone on the team had roles – someone was in charge of the legacy media, someone was in charge of social media, someone was in charge of staging and logistics. We had team members who led the way on speech prep for those who would be speaking, and we had other team members who took care of things like registration, flow and everything down to food and beverages. And we met on a regular basis to bring all of these unique abilities together with one common goal in mind. It took a group with single-minded, strategic focus to pull it off, and it’s hard to imagine one individual could have done it all alone.

The result was a major success for the client, and it was all thanks to teamwork. All thanks to – much like in sports – being able to play to the strengths of the individual team member. Teamwork allows for vetting of messages and strategies, and allows for creative, collaborative thought which can lead to outside-the-box solutions. That’s the value of collective thought and talent, rather than just one “lone wolf” trying to go it alone.

And most important, as we often tell our clients, teamwork means support and, most of all, trust. Not everyone has the same strengths and core areas of expertise, but when they are brought together with like-minded people they can depend on, every base can be covered.

Strategic thinkers understand this, just as clearly the Golden State Warriors do. When you have the right team around you, you’ve got to at least like your chances. Very few individuals who compete in the same arena have as a good a shot at success.

Tuesday Tip: Just Say “No” to “No Comment” – by Dan Tapper

I once had a client who questioned the need for people to publicly react to potentially negative stories about them.

“What’s the point?” he asked. “If they just don’t comment, they stay out of the story entirely, instead of commenting and making things worse.”

Is it really that simple? Just refuse comment and you are no longer part of a negative story? As Ernest Hemingway’s Jake Barnes utters in the closing lines of The Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

It is pretty, indeed. And sadly, it’s false. This is what I told my friend that day: If you refuse to comment, you are still very much a part of the story. You’re just choosing to not let your side be heard.

It’s a good bet that every journalist in the world has been told “no comment” at least once—I was a reporter for nearly seven years and I likely could have filled a notebook with the number of people who offered me that two-word response or a variation of it.

Reporters shrug when they are told “no comment” and they move on. Frankly, it makes their job a little easier. They offer someone a chance to respond to a certain issue, that person refuses, and now they are free to write the story without that person.

But while reporters shrug when “no comment” is uttered, public relations professionals grimace.

Why? Simple. “No comment” contains no message. It has no strategy. It provides no plan to advocate on one’s own behalf. All it does is surrender any chance at having a say and eliminate any chance at trying to balance a news story.

And even more? It never looks good; rather, it looks evasive and, often times, invites even more questions and more speculation. And that is how things go from bad to worse in the world of public relations.

You may not have all the facts you need to give a fully informed answer. But even a brief response is a better alternative to “no comment,” or a refusal to comment.

Any negative can be bridged into a positive, and even a brief response can provide what you need to communicate your awareness of an incident and the initial steps taken to manage it. For example, in a very general way, it could be something as simple as, “We are aware of the issue and working to gather more information as quickly as possible.” This helps you buy critical time to engage internal experts and support, gather facts and develop your strategy.

So today’s “Tuesday Tip” is as succinct as a “no comment” is meant to be, only it comes with a clear message: it’s always better to have something to say!

The Update That Never Was – by Chris Zaccaro

“My god…it’s happening.”

I said to myself early in the workday Thursday, December 27, 2018. I had glanced over at my Twitter dashboard and saw the most peculiar trends afoot.




The Twitterverse was NOT happy. I jumped across my desk to my charging smartphone and immediately opened my Instagram.

There it was. The “new Instagram.”

As with any change in the Land of Steady Habits – it was horrifying. Rather than scrolling downward through a feed of the usual brunch photos and videos of college kids showing their disappointed parents new drinking tricks during winter break, I was having to swipe left through a horizontal slideshow to view content.

I wasn’t a fan. It was weird looking, awkward and, of course, very different. I met my lady friend before Tinder and Bumble became a thing, so my swiping motion wasn’t seasoned either.

But really one of the first things that came to mind was how this new feed looked remarkably like an Instagram Story. Over the past few months – and as referenced in my August 2018 blog post – I have mentioned to clients that Facebook (which also owns Instagram) had recently stated that Stories will soon overtake the traditional News Feed as the primary way social media users view content.

Was this it? Were they finally making the jump?

As I mentioned earlier, the Twitterverse was NOT happy with this change. When I say “not happy,” I mean that the update was being universally panned. So bad were the initial reactions that within the very same hour Instagram was back to its original and wonderfully addicting feed.

Oh, the Lords of Instagram were definitely watching and listening. It all happened so fast that my social media colleagues didn’t even get the chance to see it. It was the update that never was.

A couple of hours later Instagram put out a statement. “Due to a bug, some users saw a change to the way their feed appears today. We quickly fixed the issue and feed is back to normal. We apologize for any confusion.”

Yeah, okay.

My thinking is in line with what many others are thinking. That Instagram was clearly trying something out and gauging initial reaction. But this goes to show that the social media giants are clearly thinking ahead to what’s next for their platforms. If Stories are going to be the primary way users start viewing content, then the platforms will need to adapt to that eventually. This was probably the first move.

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.