Alaina G. Levine
President
Quantum Success Solutions

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Alaina's latest articles and columns:


National Geographic News Watch:

Quantum Correlations: A Science of Scaling in Cities: A City as a Social reactor, July 2, 2013
Quantum Correlations: Chasing Ice Review: Prepare for a "Glacier-Less National Park", December 15, 2012
Breaking News: There's a LOT Less Life on Earth than We Thought (Intelligent or Otherwise), August 27, 2012

Breaking News - We Found the Higgs, Unless You're a Scientist, July 4, 2012
Nerd Heaven Has A Name - Lindau, July 2, 2012
Quantum Correlations: Unless You're Vulcan, Say Toodle-oo To Venus, June 5, 2012 
Quantum Correlations: Down There: Life Under the Sediments Under the Sea, April 23, 2012
Quantum Connections: Stalactites, Flagella, and Ponytail Physics: A Ray of Light on Natural Pattern Formation, April 8, 2012




Conventional Forensic Theory on Order of Bugs that Feast on Corpses Upended, Scientific American, September 13, 2012
Finding Balance: The Professor/Entrepreneur, Science Magazine, September 14, 2012
Learning From Lindau: A Physics Meeting Like No Other, APS News, August/September 2012

A World Within, COSMOS Magazine, June 2012
To Infinity and Beyond with Physics, APS News, June 2012
Ode to an Astrophysicist: Fang Li-Zhi, 1936-2012, APS News, May 2012
Getting the Most Out of Conferences, The Euroscientist, May 29, 2012
Come Fly the Friendly Skies With You-Know-Who, APS News, April 2012
Conjure Your Own Career Opportunities, The Euroscientist, March 30, 2012
Scientists Can't Network and Other Myths, The Euroscientist, March 3, 2012
An Astronomer's Solution to Global Warming, Smithsonian, February 3, 2012

Dream Jobs 2012: Designing Automation for Acrobats, IEEE Spectrum, February 2012
Career Column: Your Career, Your Value, The Euroscientist, January 31, 2012
Wanted: B.S. and M.S. Scientists in Life Sciences Industries, ScienceCareers.org, January 13, 2012

The Happiness Equation, New Scientist Careers Guide 2012
A Smooth and Silky Career, APS News, January 2012

Mmm, Mmm, Physics! The Man With the Plan for Cans, APS NewsDecember 2011
Academic Opportunities in European Science, Science Magazine, October 21, 2011
A Matter of Chemistry
, New Scientist, September 17, 2011

CSI: Mother Nature --Forensic Meteorology a New Growth Industry as Weather-Related Damage Intensifies, Scientific American Online, September 12, 2011

Internationalizing Japan's Scientific Landscape, Science Magazine, September 2, 2011
Physicists Take the Plunge as Entrepreneurs, APS News, October 2011
Farewell, Mr. President, Arizona Alumnus Magazine, Fall 2011
UA Goal: A Global Water-Research Hub, Arizona Alumnus Magazine, Fall 2011
Earthquake Engineer: UA Team Performs Earthquake Reconnaissance in Haiti and New Zealand, Arizona Alumnus Magazine, Spring/Summer 2011
Resumes and CVs: A Problem-Solving Approach for Scientists, Optics and Photonics News, April 2011

Designing Games in Sin City Pays Off
, APS News, April 2011
Recovering from Postdoc Mistakes, Science Magazine, March 18, 2011
Interview with President Obama's Science Advisor: President Will Mount Vigorous Defense of Science Funding, Says Advisor Holdren, APS News, March 2011
Life 2.0? First Let's Figure out Life 1.0, Scientific American Online, February 19, 2011
Physicist Loses Congressional Race in Arizona
, APS News, December 2010
To Boldly Go Where No Tomato Has Gone Before: Growing Plants on the Moon, Arizona Alumnus Magazine, Fall 2010
Nobel Prize Winner Celebrates 90th Birthday, Arizona Alumnus Magazine, Fall 2010
Advancing Science in Spain: Not Simply a Quixotic Quest, Science Magazine, June 11, 2010
It's a Bumpy Ride to Private Management for Los Alamos, Livermore, APS News, June 2010
Beauty Contest, Nature Magazine, March 18, 2010
NIH Recruits Physicists to Battle Cancer, APS News, March 2010 (page 3)
Fear as Fuel, Arizona Alumnus Magazine, Winter 2010
A Marvelous Mischief-Maker with Astronomical Aspirations, Arizona Alumnus Magazine, Fall 2009

Optics and Photonics News
Resumes and CVs: A Problem-Solving Approach for Scientists, OPN, April 2011 
Strategic Planning for Emerging ScientistsBright Futures Blog, February 11, 2011
Professional Etiquette for ScientistsBright Futures Blog, February 3, 2011
Team Dynamics: Understanding Your RoleBright Futures Blog, January 21, 2011

Science Magazine

Blurring the Lines Between Academic and Industrial Cancer Research, Science, March 29, 2013
Opportunity Knocks: But Which Door Should You Open?, Science, March 2, 1013
Finding Balance: The Professor/Entrepreneur, Science, September 12, 2012
The Creative Fundraiser: The Many Roles for the Postdoc in Search of Support, Science, March 9, 2012
Wanted: B.S. and M.S. Scientists in Life Sciences Industries, ScienceCareers.org, January 13, 2012
Academic Opportunities in European Science, Science, October 21, 2011
Internationalizing Japan's Scientific Landscape, Science, September 2, 2011
Recovering from Postdoc Mistakes
, Science, March 18, 2011
Advancing Science in Spain: Not Simply a Quixotic Quest, Science, June 11, 2010
From Cells to Selling Science, ScienceCareers, May 8, 2009
In Vino Oportunitas, ScienceCareers, March 27, 2009
Finance's Quant(um) Mechanics, Science, November 21, 2008, 
A Toilet Technologist,  ScienceCareers (Science's online career magazine), October 24, 2008

APS News
Alaina is currently writing a series of articles for APS News, the national publication of the American Physical Society. The pieces focus on physicists who have chosen to pursue non-academic careers. Read the "Profiles in Versatility" articles here:




Mmm, Mmm, Physics! The Man with the Plan for Cans, APS News, December 2011
Physicists Take the Plunge as Entrepreneurs, APS News, October 2011
Designing Games in Sin City Pays Off, APS News, April 2011
At Play, Day and Night in the Museum, APS News, January 2011

In Command, On the Front Lines of Radiation Research, APS News, December 2011
Run for Office: Just Follow the Law and Leave the Spherical Cow Jokes at Home, APS News, October 2010
Brewing a Life of Worts and Ale, APS News, August/September 2010
The Futurama of Physics with David X. Cohen, APS News, May 2010
The Greening of the Physicist, APS News, February 2010
The Auto Industry's a Deal for Physicists, APS News, January 2010
Consulting Firms Make Use of Physics Skills, APS News, November 2009
Missile Man: Raytheon President influenced by Physics, Feynman, and Senators in Geeky Glasses, APS News, August/September 2009
The Dark Matter on Earth and the Physicists Who Find it, APS News, June 2009
Helping Patients Leads to Satisfying Biotech Career, APS News, April 2009
Finding Sanctuary in Faith and Physics, APS News, February 2009
A Physics Star Among Stars, APS News, December 2008
He's Having a Ball at Ball, APS News, October 2008
After the Particles, It's Power to the People for Physicist-Turned-Politico Bill Foster, APS News, June 2008
Quants and the Conquest of the Street Called Wall, APS News, May 2008
Physics Major Facilitates Success in Speech Writing (and the Funny Business), APS News, February 2008
From Physicist to War Correspondent: Mr. Glanz Goes to Baghdad, APS News, December 2007
From Researching the Universe to Running the University: The Physicist as President, APS News, November 2007
Science Fiction Storytelling, Star Trek Style and Beyond, APS News, July 2007
A Leading Lederman in Industry, APS News, June 2007
His Expert Opinion: Patents and Physics Make Great Partners, APS News, April 2007

PhysicsBuzz Blog
Looking for Hydrocarbons - "Physics Answers These Questions", May 17, 2011
Physics on the Disneyland Express - There are Lots of Large Worlds After All, May 13, 2011
Writing Science Fiction: Trying to Avoid the "Button" (Physics in Hollywood, Part 2), May 10, 2011
Q and A with Q, et al: Physics in Hollywood, Part 1, May 5, 2011

Van Der Waals Wildcats Away!, January 28, 2011
Know When to Say When on the Golden Gate Bridge, January 27, 2011
I SPIE a Hot Guy, January 26, 2011
From the American Astronomical Society Meeting: Mind Your Bulge, January 13, 2011
AGU Part 2: Geophysics is Loud and Icy, December 17, 2010
Putting the G in AGU, Part 1, December 15, 2010
The Law of Attraction: I Will Meet Physicists, July 9, 2010
City of Brotherly Love. City of Lights. City of Angels. City of Science, July 6, 2010
Nico Turns 90 (and I was there!), March 13, 2010
Warning: Loss of Digits can be Expected, March 12, 2010
New Unit of Energy from a "Godfather", March 9, 2010
I Heart Particle Accelerators!, March 4, 2010
Much Ado About Dolphins, Even if They Don't Wear Physics T-shirts, March 2, 2010
Interview with an Intelligent lifeform: Jill Tarter, Director of SETI, February 25, 2010
Science: The Gathering, February 23, 2010
Fingers and Franks in the LN2, February 17, 2010
Physicists (and Physics Aficionados) Are Human Too, February 9, 2010
Study Physics - It's the Whole Enchilada, February 3, 2010
Interview with Brian Greene, renowned physicist, author, and string theorist, April 2, 2009
Origins Symposium Blog - Origins: The Big Questions, Disagreements and Laughter Amongst Scientists, and Hangin' with Frank Wilczek, April 2009
The Bethe That Got Away,Part 1, May 14, 2007
The Bethe That Got Away, Part 2, May 15, 2007

The Euroscientist Blog
Marie Curie: Inspiring Millions, Advancing European Science, February 27, 2011
Space Weather is a Threat, but Don't Panic, February 23, 2011
Energy Efficiency Success Stories, February 21, 2011

APS Historic Sites Initiative (Physics History)
Alaina is currently writing a series of articles on the history of physics for the American Physical Society's Historic Sites Initiative.
Shelter Island, Fall 2010
Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy, Winter 2010
The Large Horn Antenna and the Discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, Fall 2009
Discovery of the Positron, Fall 2009
MIT Radiation Lab, Spring 2009

Invention of the Transistor, Fall 2008
Rabi and Magnetic Resonance, Fall 2008

Laserfest.org Laser Pioneer Profiles (2010)
Michael Fayer
Enrique Galvez
Anthony M. Johnson
Henry Kapteyn
Eric Mazur
Harold Metcalf
Wilson Sibbett
Warren S. Warren


PRNerd
Alaina's popular column on PR and marketing appeared in Inside Tucson Business newspaper from 2005-2006.
Brand on the Run: Branding 101
Relate to the Press with Finesse
It's the Buzz, Baby

Be Visible and Eat Pig
You Rock! (But Does Anyone Know?)
Ethics as the cornerstone of good PR
Personal PR: The Fundamentals of Launching Your Own PR Campaign
Crisis Management: May the Plan be With You
On Time, In Time, Every Time
Sex Matters in Marketing
Panning for Gold in Them There E-Newsletters
What to Look For in a PR Pro
'Please don't call me a PR flack!'
Everyone Wins When You Establish an Awards Program

Alaina's other selected published pieces:

It's more than ordering pipettes and running samples, Lab Manager Magazine, September, 16, 2008

Letter to the Editor, The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2007

An Etiquette Lesson (in a Ball o' Butter), Inside Higher Ed, August 28, 2006

Surprise – you can apply math skills to all areas of life, Arizona Daily Star, April 20, 2005

Interview with Tommy Hilfiger, Inside Tucson Business, April 2006

Communicate with Compassion: Public Relations is Human Relations, Tactics, October 2005

Entrepreneurship Gains Ground in the Physics Curriculum, APSNews, August/September 2004

Information for Editors

The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2007

Gutter Snipes or Savvy Businessmen?
(Re: "
Wardrobe Malfunctions, Inc.," Weekend Journal, Feb. 2)

Sam Walker wrote a really terrific article. I administer a class at the University of Arizona designed to encourage science students to become entrepreneurs, and only days ago did we discuss supply-chain management and distribution. When I read this piece, I was delighted how he exposed the business side of this industry and articulated the need for superb supply-chain management and customer-needs analysis to sustain and grow these businesses. The article reinforced a guiding principle I emphasize in my class: The fundamentals of operation, sustainability, growth and expansion of any business are universal across industry lines. The distribution techniques that bring triumph to the "exotic dancing" industry can also bring success in biotechnology and optics. The article serves as a great case study. You can learn a lot from any victorious business, and I hope my students got this message from the piece as much as I did.

Alaina G. Levine
Director of Special Projects
College of Science
The University of Arizona
Tucson, Ariz.

PRNerd
 Brand on the Run: Branding 101

By Alaina G. Levine

A brand is a promise. It’s not a logo, a slogan, a cartoon character, a product, or even a business. It is “the promise a company makes that shapes it relationships with its stakeholders based on its unique value-creating abilities,” says Larry Ackerman, the group director of the consulting practice of Siegel + Gale, a leading brand and corporate identity consulting firm with clients such as American Express, Polo Ralph Lauren, and the nation of New Zealand.

Branding, says Ackerman, is “the act of making changes happen through a brand”, such as utilizing a logo, website, or product design to align different aspects of an organization together and to communicate the core message of the institution.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ackerman, whose 25-year career has branded him an expert on branding. He is the author of two books, Identity is Destiny: Leadership and the Roots of Value Creation, and
The Identity Code: The 8 Essential Questions for Finding Your Purpose and Place in the World.

Your brand, and the branding that you execute, are vital to the survival and growth of your enterprise. Think of your brand as “the center of gravity for how your organization creates value in the world,” Ackerman states.

It is your job to bring that brand to life, and to communicate your principles to your publics. After all, Ackerman believes, “if people don’t know what you stand for, they are going to have a hard time deciding that you are worth doing business with.”

Ackerman suggests that as you develop your branding strategy, you think about it as if it were an iceberg:

--The part of the iceberg that is publicly visible is your name, logo, and corporate identifying marks (for example, taglines).

--Just below the water line are your communication strategy and tactics, both internal and external to the company. It must be stressed that your employees will be your “front line of defense” for communicating your brand and core values to the public. Therefore, they must be more than familiar with the brand to allow them to represent you to the best of their ability.

--The next level is operations. This is the point at which you examine how the brand literally affects what people do everyday. Observe how the sales and service forces interact with customers, how the brand affects product you develop and sell, and even how you recruit staff. This level of your branding strategy is essential because it allows you to scrutinize and isolate exactly how your brand is perceived and digested by your publics. In doing so, you can change the course of how your company does its business, to optimize flow of information, solve problems better, cut costs, and increase profits.

--At the base of the iceberg (and of your business) is your brand. This is “the core of who you are”, says Ackerman. The promise of your organization rests here, with your values, which dictate the way in which you behave.

To stay functional and triumphant, and to ensure that you keep evolving in your marketplace as an innovative being, you must apply all components of this branding strategy to your company, working from the brand upwards.

As you consider (and possibly rethink) your brand, Ackerman offers these guidelines to assist you in building and bolstering a healthy, vibrant company:

--Define a brand that has staying power. Great brands are consistent and don’t change year in and year out. Create your brand with an eye towards the future.

--Don’t design a new product unless it supports or enhances the brand. Products and technology come and go. Brands have resilience and vigor. Use your brand as a filter or a lens to decide whether the product you have in mind clearly aligns itself with the promise - don’t just look at the economics or market growth. Remember: Your product is just a vehicle for communicating, expressing, and offering the brand. Get people to buy the brand, not just the product.

--Seek to understand the customer experience completely. Know the “touch points” of connection with your publics. Every avenue that a person interacts with you is a touch point. Those touch points include ads, websites, invoices, customer service phone lines, and even your physical office. Recognize how a customer comes to you, buys from you, stays with you and interacts with you. Every touch point should reflect on the brand (including how your office is designed).

--Ensure your employees are the first to know what your brand is all about – they must be brand ambassadors who carry it and believe in it, and live and work accordingly.

--Ensure that the look and feel of the company, including the name, logo, and entire visual presentation is consistent – it must reflect who you are and be organized and systematic.

Copyright, 2006, Alaina G. Levine.


 PRNerd
Relate to the Press with Finesse


By Alaina G. Levine

It’s all about the relationship. You’ve heard that statement before, and you know it’s true – in life and in business. In public relations, it is more than a mantra, it’s a core mission of what we do and we abide by it religiously. When it comes to working with the media, you must build and bolster your relationship with deliberate diplomacy, tact, respect, and skill if you are to garner great press and forge a fruitful (and symbiotic) relationship with editors, reporters, and producers.

To develop terrific relationships with members of the press, you have to start thinking like members of the press. The first thing you should realize is that reporters and editors need you as much as you need them. Without your stories, they would not be able to do the job they do. Grasp this concept and recognize that your relationship with the press should be mutually beneficial.

Think long term. The rapport that you create with the media is one that takes time and effort, and pays off in the long run. Yes, you want to be featured in an article now, but think strategically: you want your relationship with the media to be one where your pitches are always welcome, and the reporter knows you are not going to pitch “fluff” pieces. Your media contacts should know that you are always ready to help them with other stories, and can offer ideas for stories that have nothing to do with you. By molding a strategic relationship in which both you and your media contacts help each other, you are more likely to be featured in the press more often.

Meet the press. Find out who works the different beats at the publications you are targeting, and introduce yourself and your company. If the publication is local, ask to meet the reporters for a cup of coffee or lunch so you can get to know them. Don’t start pitching the second you sit down for your latte – you wouldn’t do that if you were a salesperson, would you? Your job at that moment is to start building a relationship and share your ideas and information with the reporter. If your invitation is accepted, be aware that certain media organizations have specific ethical guidelines for accepting meals and gifts, so don’t be concerned if you end up splitting the bill.

Pitch people, not products. Think like a reader. Would you rather read a story about a person who has overcome challenges to start a successful company, or the launching of a new gadget? In your pitch, tie your product to an angle that is people-oriented, one that draws a positive emotional response from the reader, and drives the reader to connect your product with that positive feeling. This makes for a much better story than one that merely highlights a product or service. You will find exciting angles by speaking with your customers, vendors, investors, employees, and colleagues about their experiences with your company.

Respect the reporters. Don’t call a writer and start talking his ear off about how great your company is. Be respectful of his time and deadlines, and if you do call him (rather than emailing first), introduce yourself and ask if this is a good time to chat. He will appreciate the gesture.

Be persistent but not a pest. If you propose a story idea and don’t hear back immediately, don’t jump to the conclusion that you should abandon your pitch due to lack of interest. The reporter or editor may have their hands full with another project, or may not be interested at this particular moment. There is no harm in following up, and asking the writer if this is something that is of interest to them, perhaps for a future issue of the publication. If you do receive a firm “no”, thank them for their consideration and be ready with another idea.

Make the media’s job easy. When pitching a story idea, have all available information ready for the reporter. The less they have to track down themselves, the more likely they are going to develop the story and do so expeditiously. Write and deliver them a press release about the story and a fact sheet about your product or service. Have a contact list of sources that can support your story - include their relevance to the pitch, testimonials, and contact information from customers and colleagues. Show that you are accessible: include all of your phone numbers where (and when) you can be reached. When a reporter calls, respond promptly.

After working with a reporter or editor, don’t forget to thank them. Too often subjects don’t express gratitude to the reporter for writing the story and advocating for it within their media organization. A quick thank you note (handwritten, preferably, but email is just as fine) shows your friend in the press that you truly appreciate their hard work, and recognize that they were helpful to you. And here’s an another idea: even if you did not work with the editor or producer directly on the story, send them a thank you note too, praising the work that the writer did on the story and thanking the editor for their support. You just can’t beat the power of a thank you note!

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
It’s the buzz, baby


By Alaina G. Levine

Have you heard? A new Harry Potter book was released to the public at exactly midnight on July 16 around the globe. The circulation involved extremely tight security and major public relations maneuvers, set record sales, and did some great things for a lot of people, not the least of whom are youngsters whose love of reading has been rekindled and nurtured by the entire series.

Did you know about this book release? If your answer is no, I can imagine a few scenarios to explain why you were unaware of this monumental retailing event. Could it be due to the fact that:

a) You are completely against any form of communication, including all written and television media, radio, internet, and your neighborhood PTA newsletter?

b) Utilizing your expertise in quantum physics, you invented a time machine, and have been on holiday in the 11th Century for several years?

c) You have been in an extremely deep, meditative state that caused you to be unaware of your surroundings and yet be at great peace with the universe?

If you answered b, you might be interested to know that there is more to quantum physics than time travel, and it directly relates to public relations, boosting sales, and rocketing your company to the next dimension.

In a word: it’s the buzz, baby. And it’s the buzz that has made Harry Potter a sales star.

Buzz, according to Judy Phair, President of the Public Relations Society of America, is the latest terminology that reflects us “getting the word out” about a product or company.

When people are discussing you and your services, and promoting it to other folks, this is buzz. You don’t have to be a wizard or a whiz-bang physicist to gather that a key PR technique is to build buzz, and ensure that it is maintained (and continues to grow), among your publics.

Buzz is vital because, as Phair states, “it is important to have people talking about your product because of the awareness it brings to you. There is so much competition for getting the attention of the audience, so you must find a way to connect with your publics so they will be more receptive to you.”

Generate buzz, and you create awareness. Create awareness and you form a relationship with your audience. Form a relationship and your publics will be more open and accessible to hearing your message, and ultimately to investing in your goods. It’s simple mathematics.

And speaking of math and quantum time travel, recently, two physicists published a paper in a scientific journal describing research they did about the correlation between buzz and boosting sales, particularly in the publishing industry.

In the July 18, 2005 issue of Physics Review Letters E, the scientists examined what happens to book sales when two types of promotional strategies are implemented. They observed PR campaigns that centered around short- term advertising or publicity blitzes that took place very close to the time of the release of a book versus publicity operations that incorporated a build up of buzz over a longer period of time.

What they discovered is that the buzz is better. It boosts the book business, and it can boost your business, too.

James Riordon, Head of Media Relations for the American Physical Society, equated the publicity tactics with the actions of an avalanche versus an infection.

“When you look at publicity and sales in books, there are effects that look like an earthquake or an avalanche,” Riordon states. “You hit [the public] with a big bump like an ad campaign and the sales gradually go up over time.”

But eventually, as the physicists found, with a quick avalanche of publicity, the sales reach a certain level and stay there.

But buzz is different. Buzz, in a certain respect, is spread like a disease, and as such, Riordon says, “the popularity caused by buzz seems to last a little longer and is more effective in getting the word out and affecting sales long-term.”

Just like the PR leaders who helped create and spread buzz about Harry Potter, Riordon suggests to “slowly infect the population with information about your product rather than execute a quick media blitz and stop. You have to keep going and it will affect the product sales in the long run.”

Build buzz and bolster your business. And physics, math, and infectious disease modeling can assist you in developing effective PR campaigns that produce great results for great periods of time. I wonder if Harry Potter himself realizes the magic that buzz can bring?

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
Be Visible and Eat Pig


By Alaina G. Levine

May I present for you, in time for the Winter Olympics, an utterly true parable about a young(ish) girl’s adventures in Torino, involving a walk along the River Po, a fried ball o’ cheese, and a chocolate salami, tightly wrapped around a guaranteed lesson in public relations strategy?

Last summer, I traveled to Torino, Italy for a conference. I arrived in the country having not (intentionally) eaten a single morsel of pork products in over 15 years. I am not kosher; I just had a rule that I didn’t dig the pig.

However, something happened in the Old World that profoundly changed me at my very core for potentially all eternity.

I was confronted with pork and bacon and salami (Oh My!) and all sorts of unidentified meat that surely originated from the pig. It was everywhere, man! I bought a fried ball o’ cheese to enjoy as a snack as I leisurely walked along the River Po one day and Bam! There’s a big ole hunk of sausage in there. I traveled to Genoa and Boom! Salami everywhere in everything. They even had chocolates in the shape of salami (I believe that was a purposeful example of subliminal advertising).

Suddenly, I had a craving for pig products. I no longer looked at this meat in disgust, but rather with eyes bulging and a watery mouth. I wanted to eat the pig. The pig was calling to me. I had to succumb. The last straw was a ham sandwich in the Milan airport on my way home. I am sure I heard it yell to me: Signorina! Devour me! Grazie!

I ordered the sandwich and savored the buttery texture of the meat as it melted in my mouth. Magnifico!

I was hooked. I left Europe a certifiable ham hock-junkie.

After such a steadfast conviction not to eat this animal’s flesh, what, in the words of the modern master of fables, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, convinced me to “dine on swine”? And why, on Earth, didn’t the phrase “what happens in Italy, stays in Italy” apply to me?

One word: Visibility. Everywhere I went in Italy I saw pig products. I was inundated by it. There was no stopping it. And every meal I ordered was influenced in some way by pork, so I had a taste of it with everything. And everyone who was eating it, was doing so with smiling faces. Eventually, my disinterest in pork gave way to a curiosity that was bolstered by extremely affective advertising, marketing, and public relations activities.

The very fact that the pig products were so visible affected me deeply. It began to look delicious. I saw everyone ordering pig and loving it. I got caught up in the swing of the thing with the swine.

And once I had hankered for the hog, I transferred that enthusiasm with me when I returned to the States.

I am sure that the Italian pork association would be thrilled to know that their promotions, in any of its forms, were just meaty (pun intended) enough to sway me. But according to Cindy Cunningham, Assistant Vice President of Communications with the National Pork Board based in Des Moines, Iowa, there is no surprise in my conversion to pork-enthusiast.

She told me: “You saw people trying [pork] and having fun with it. And then you came back [to the States] and applied some of those things to the pork around you today.”

“When you have something new and exciting to try,” she said, “you try it and you learn to like it.”

Clearly I wouldn’t have tried it if it wasn’t as visible as it was. I developed a taste for it, a need for it, and it was all due to the extensive and overwhelming visibility of the product everywhere.

The moral to the story is that being visible is vital. Make sure that the public knows who you are and what you offer. Make sure your products are in as many places as your customers are, because if you are visible enough, eventually the public will at least want a taste of your services to see what you are about. And once they hanker for a taste of you, they will continue to want you and buy your products. Then you will truly be in hog heaven.

Some specific and creative ways to stay visible, particularly within a region:

--Sponsor a charity event. And don’t just buy a table at a ball – seek to do more to get your name and wares out there. Volunteer to help out at the event, and donate your product to give away or as an auction item.

Copyright, 2006, Alaina G. Levine.

 PR Nerd
You Rock! (But does anyone know?)


By Alaina G. Levine

You are totally awesome! Your company rocks!

But does anyone know this?

If you are not promoting yourself, your company, and your products on a regular basis in a specific and strategic fashion, it matters not how much you rule. If no one knows about you, why would they hire you or buy your wares?

Self-promotion, be it on behalf of an individual or a company, is absolutely vital, and yet many people simply don’t do it. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable in talking about themselves. Well, guess what: while you are at a mixer talking to strangers about football, your competition is at the same event discussing the merits of his services and how he can help solve customer problems.

If you don’t promote yourself, who will?

You have to be on the front lines, leading the PR charge for your cause. The buck stops with you.

Part of being PR savvy is knowing when and how to promote yourself in an appropriate and efficient manner. Recognize the important goals of self-promotion: keeping your name and talents fresh in the minds of the public, establishing and solidifying credibility and expertise, and demonstrating dedication to your business and success.

Ultimately, your energy should be focused on ensuring that you are branded as an expert in your industry, and in creating a specific link between you and the product your deliver, so much so that at the end of the day, the public makes no differentiation between the two. In other words, strive to promote yourself not only as the best in the industry, but also as the sole representative of the industry itself.

For example, there has been some recent local press about a dentist in Tucson who has married his practice with a spa experience. His clients come to have their teeth cleaned and can get a massage and a pedicure while they are strapped in the chair. Mickel Malek, the owner of Smile Dental Spa, promoted his company extremely well, utilizing media relations techniques. In reading about his business, I made no distinction between his company and the dental spa industry: he IS the industry. I know of no other dentist who offers such services, so should I desire a root canal with a paraffin treatment, I will call him.

Take advantage of opportunities to promote yourself and communicate your expertise, value to the customer, uniqueness and brand distinction to the public.

Seek speaking opportunities. When you speak in front of a group, you are automatically branded as the expert, so volunteer to present about topics relating to your field as much as possible. Make certain that you target venues and organizations where potential customers are (a gun manufacturer who decides to present in front of an association of toy industry folks might not necessarily find the most fruitful of situations).

Research conferences, trade associations, networking groups and even schools for potential speaking opportunities. Offer to present on industry trends and important issues relating to your field, but don’t make it a sales pitch! Providing value to the audience is the key to a successful speaking engagement.

Write, for goodness sake! Write as much as you can about your industry. Submit articles for publication in trade journals, business magazines and newspapers, websites, and the general media. Write letters to the editor and opinion pieces. Get your name out there where potential customers and the public will read it, and equate your expertise with the solution to their business problem!

Apply for awards. Awards are a win-win opportunity. If you win the award, you are golden. Promote your achievement to your customers and the public using the above avenues and through media relations and your own collateral. If you lose the award, you still gain generous PR opportunities. You are a nominee, after all, which means your name is in the ceremony program and your qualifications have been publicized to at least the awards committee (which probably is populated by influential leaders). Plus, you can now promote the nomination itself (and this might even give you a better chance of winning next time).

Volunteer for committees and boards. Serving a leadership or team member role, particularly in a non-profit, is never a waste of time. You interact with influentials, and you profit from the visibility. In many cases, volunteering to assist with a charity, special event, school, or a political or trade organization acts literally as an audition that allows people to get to know you and your capabilities, solidifying your brand and encouraging them to seek you out for their business needs. Furthermore, a leadership role in an organization enhances your credibility and expertise.

Self-promotion is an art and a science, and a skill every business person must have to survive and succeed. But if you don’t do it, who will?

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
Ethics as the cornerstone of good PR


By Alaina G. Levine

You may have a business plan, but do you have an ethics plan?

If you don’t you are risking everything you worked for – your business, your reputation – your assets are literally on the line.

Most professional organizations have ethical principles framed for their members to follow. I often find these lists of do’s and don’ts quite humorous. Do these associations assume that their members need written guidelines on which to rely and consult when faced with a decision to lie, cheat, or steal?

Unfortunately, the truth is that most businesses don’t realize the strategic importance of having and enforcing a code of ethics, which provides not only the platform upon which they do their business, but also the keystone of pubic relations success.

We live in a surreal world of Enrons and white collar crooks who are celebrated and get their own TV shows after being sprung from the joint. Companies have imploded and exploded, died and been reborn (Hallelujah!) all in the wake of unethical behavior in business. So are those lists of ethical rules posted on association websites of any value to their members, and to their businesses?

Perhaps. But here’s the catch: the larger challenge is not that individuals do not follow inscribed ethical rules, but rather that they themselves don’t have their own set of ethical rules emblazoned on their brains, and more importantly, on their very souls.

Ultimately, the bigger issue is that building, sustaining, and growing your business necessitates good ethical practices and those ethical practices can translate into good PR for your business, through reputation management techniques. In fact, your own and your company’s code of ethics can and should serve as the cornerstone of all public relations actions you take.

I am no scientist, but I am almost certain that there is a law in physics which says that bad news travels faster and further than good news. There is also research in physics which says that there are 11 dimensions (as opposed to three in space and one in time), which means that for every publicly-known ethical digression you take, you have 10 other universes and their media to worry about in addition to the one in which we reside.

But then there is good news. For example, the news about your business’s excellent record of customer service. The fact that your organization went above and beyond to assist a charity. The announcement of your company’s new product which provides a good, solid value to the public.

All these bits of great news about your organization are all based on your unwavering adherence to the law of your land – your code of ethics.

And the really good news is that while bad news often gets press, it is the good news about a company that will keep it growing.

So if you have not already, develop a code of ethics for yourself and your company, with the knowledge that you can then use your code of ethics as a platform to develop and execute strategic PR initiatives to promote your company. T

he key points to remember:
--Good ethics can be good PR.
--It is not unethical to tell people about your good business practices.
--You must have a personal and a company-wide code of ethics if you are to be successful in your business and as a business leader.
--You must follow this code of ethics and be ready to walk away from deals when your ethics are challenged. -
-You must enforce the code of ethics amongst your employees with consequences for inaction and improper action.
--You must create an environment within your company that encourages and fosters good ethical behavior, but does not necessarily reward for good ethical behavior - no one should be saluted for doing the right thing - this should be ingrained into the minds of you and your employees as the only way to operate.
--Good PR has the ability to stick around in the minds of the public longer than bad PR – if you work hard enough to solidify this.

Ultimately, maintaining pristine ethical standards will strengthen both you and your company, and people respond to this. And, as it is written, at the end of the business day, you are left with only yourself as the responsible party in your own decision making. Those ethics that you practice and never surrender make you your own PR powerhouse, leaving you with your company and your reputation intact, strong, and ready for the next deal.

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
Personal PR: The Fundamentals of Launching your Own PR Campaign


By Alaina G. Levine

A strong public relations program is of absolute necessity for a business. Effective PR can improve the reputation of a company, build and maintain a customer base, increase sales, and drive growth. While it is recognized that the fundamentals of successful public relations can be applied to any organization to achieve the goals of that entity, too often, individuals within a particular organization do not think to apply the rules to their own situation to meet their own professional and even personal objectives.

The principles of PR are universal and can and should be taken into account by those of us who want to succeed in business and advance in our careers, no matter what field we are in or position we desire. Indeed, whatever type of position one has, no matter how much time one spends interacting with others, in some regard that person is engaging in public relations.

The CEO, consultant, and custodian all can glean something from the same basic rules of PR that are applied to the same business for which they work to help drive their own success.

1) Establish the goals of your PR program: Don’t enter into the PR game haphazardly. You must identify what your goals are before you begin to think about what tactics to take. Some of your goals might be to inform the publics about yourself, bolster your reputation in the local community as well as the wider industry and even national community, and promote an understanding of your role in an organization’s victories. Your PR goals might mirror or act as an extension of your overall professional goals, but they will not be the same as your wider mission.

2) Identify, remember, and build relationships with your publics: In designing a public relations program, it is absolutely necessary to remember whom you are targeting your PR strategy toward. Identify who you want to receive the message you are delivering and this will give you the much-needed focus that your strategy deserves. Great PR is all about building strong relationships with your publics. Once you identify who can influence your success, you can cultivate those relationships to achieve your PR goals.

3) Build your brand: One doesn’t often relate a brand with the realization of one’s professional goals, but it can be one of the most important tools you have in your public relations toolbox. A brand is a promise: people rely on a brand because they know that that the service or product or person that the brand represents will consistently deliver something to them.

An individual needs to build a brand in order to create public support and interest. The most basic promise of a person to his or her publics is to provide excellence and reliability in whatever it is that that person does. By building your own brand with your constituents, you can greatly add to your success.

4) Every interaction with the public counts: Personal PR holds a lot of power. Every time you interact with someone you make an impression. Every person with whom you relate may have the opportunity to either positively or negatively influence your professional triumph, and certainly, thanks to the theory of six degrees of separation, you never know how far the impression you make on a person is going to go. Therefore, make every encounter with a new individual your most important encounter. Never say to yourself “this person or this interaction does not matter”. It matters. It counts. Always keep this in mind when you execute your PR campaign.

These fundamentals are meant as a guide for you as you decide what PR tactics to take to achieve your professional mission and objectives. Public relations should not be looked upon as a burden for you to undertake, but rather as an essential and extremely effective instrument in your quest for business and personal career advancement and growth.

Copyright by Alaina G. Levine, 2005


 PR Nerd
Crisis Management: May the Plan be With You


By Alaina G. Levine

I was 10 years old when I had my first taste of the importance of crisis management. My Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader action figures were supposed to have the ultimate fight for control of the galaxy, and I had spent months of planning and preparation to successfully execute and promote this showdown.

I had a sell-out crowd of over 300 Barbies, Smurfs, GI Joes, and neighborhood kids who had traveled from as far away as across the street to see the prizefight. The arena (the den) was saturated with press from such elite media organizations as the East Windsor, NJ, McKnight Elementary School Mustang Courier.

But about 30 minutes before the fight was to commence, there was no sign of Luke Skywalker. I looked throughout the house for him, and discovered that my brother had dumped him in a can of slime for kicks. His joints were shot and his plastic head had fallen off. My principle fighter would be unable to participate.

What should I do, I thought? Should I cancel the fight? Should I refund the tickets? How do I communicate what’s happening to the audience? How would this affect my credibility should I decide to promote another ultimate fight in the future? I was in the middle of a crisis that could potentially damage my reputation as an action figure fight promoter, and I had no contingency plan.

How old will you or your business be before you encounter a crisis? Chances are you already have dealt with one, be it as simple as an unsatisfied customer, or as complicated as someone getting sick from your product. Crises will always occur, but successful organizations are those that know how to deal with crises effectively by having a crisis management and communications plan in place.
Rene A. Henry, a leading public relations and crisis management strategist and author of the book “You’d Better Have a Hose if You Want to Put Out the Fire”, says that that the best insurance against a crisis is to be prepared.

“Anticipate every crisis,” he writes, “Then develop a communications plan for each potential crisis. Be prepared to respond immediately. This is essential if one hopes to avoid crisis or be able to manage one if the inevitable happens.”

Prepare your plan: Identify every conceivable crisis that could possibly happen, Henry says, and then write your crisis management plan around those crises. The plan should outline procedures to follow in the event of the crisis, and should include such information as the emergency numbers of all team members who can deal with the crisis, a designated spokesperson, contact information for regional authorities, such as fire and police, guidelines for releasing information to the media, and maps of your facility.

Communicate. Once the crisis hits, be ready to communicate what you know to be happening to your customers, vendors, and the public. Tell what you can about the situation, however incomplete it is at the time. If you don’t have all the information, say so. Let the public know that you are working to get the facts but are aware of the situation as it stands, and are working to end it.

Apologize. Show empathy for the situation. In times of crisis, Henry says, apologizing is the best way to restore your image. University of Missouri-Columbia communications professor William Benoit agrees. “To maintain your credibility, say you’re wrong and you’re taking steps to ensure the problem never happens again,” he says.

Don’t worry that an apology is an admission of guilt. Gerald Meyers, former chairman of American Motors Corporation and professor of crisis management at Carnegie-Mellon University says that “honesty during a crisis is in vogue in management…the alternative is to stonewall and be accused of one of three things – ignorance, indifference, or worst of all, guilt.”

Practice. A crisis management plan is only good if it is practiced. Assemble your staff and present the plan to them to be reviewed and rehearsed.

“The last thing a company or organization needs in a crisis is for the person in charge of its crisis communications plan to be getting ‘on-the-job training’ when a crisis strikes,” says Henry.

The bottom-line is that crises will always occur, and more often than not they will happen when you least expect them. But if you are prepared, and you and your staff know how to handle the crisis, then you and your company have a great chance of emerging with your reputation safely intact (and sometimes even enhanced).

May the crisis management plan be with you.

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
On Time, In Time, Every Time


By Alaina G. Levine

Hooray for hamburgers! According to holidayinsights.com, May is National Hamburger Month. It is also National Salad Month and National Bike Month. May 6-12 is National Nurses Week, May 22 is Buy a Musical Instrument Day, and May 24 is National Escargot Day. Who knew there were so many exciting days to celebrate in this country? Or, more to the point, so many days for you to synchronize with your public relations campaigns?

Timeliness is a major issue with any public relations strategy. Your pitches, tactics, and special events should be executed with a specific attention to timeliness, to ensure that your PR investment generates a significant return. Timing your PR activities appropriately will give you a strategic advantage to maximize your exposure and optimize the public’s awareness of your company.

Pledge to make your PR programs on time, in time, and with respect to all aspects of time, including that of the public and the media.

Confirm your launch/pitch date does not fall on a day that will cause conflicts or will be result in a battle for media attention (with you as the loser). For example, if you are launching a new product, the last thing you want is for that pitch to fall on a national day of mourning, or a media-heavy day, such as the Super Bowl. If you are executing an event, check with local organizations and the media to make sure your event does not fall on the same day as another fairly large and well-attended activity. The less competition you have for the public’s and media’s time, the better.

Set target dates to issue press releases and to alert the media and potential customers. Make sure your announcements are made far enough in advance to allow for people to be aware of your activities, but not too far away that they will be forgotten by the time the actual execution occurs. Send out friendly reminders.

Take advantage of significant national and state dates to highlight your company in media pitches, special events, and philanthropic activities. The more creative your endeavor, the better the chance it will be covered by local media and the public will take interest in it.

For example, a bike store has a great opportunity to develop PR tie-ins with National Bike Week. The store could offer a free tune-up or a series of “fix your own bike” clinics. The media pitch for these events could include a top ten list of the most common mistakes made by bike owners when fixing their bikes themselves, and tips for maintaining a healthy bicycle. In addition, special promotions of products and services can be offered for people who attend the clinic. A special kid-friendly event would be a neat opportunity to encourage the whole family to visit the store, and would provide a great visual for the media (the press loves kids!).

Don’t underestimate the significance of targeting your media pitch during the holidays. Traditionally the slowest news days, holidays provide a plentiful opportunity to pitch news and you can bolster the pitch with a holiday tie-in. For example, if you own a paper store, July Fourth might be a super time around which to suggest a story about paper projects that can be done with your family in celebration of Independence Day. Just make sure you deliver the pitch a few weeks in advance of the holiday – don’t wait until July third to call the media about your idea.

Pay attention to national trends and think about a story you can develop in which you provide a local angle. Are you a real estate agent? Pitch yourself as an expert on real estate issues facing the nation, such as the rising prices of homes or the increased interest in investing in real estate.

Are you in the wedding business? June, traditionally the most popular month during which to get married, would be an excellent time to encourage the media to do a piece on your new and unique product or service. Consider holding a special event well before June to promote your company to brides and grooms, and let the media know of your expertise in the field. Your media pitch can include special tips for grooms or creative ways to tie the knot with little or no budget. Your expertise in this area will strengthen your credibility, giving you great bang for your PR buck.

Another great way to get press and to establish your credibility is to write an editorial on a topic related to your industry. Ensure that your editorial is not blatantly self-promotional, but rather argues a specific point. Time your editorial to coincide with a national trend or specific date.

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PR Nerd
Sex Matters in Marketing


By Alaina G. Levine

Sex sells. It seems these days companies are clamoring to incorporate some aspect of sexuality into their promotional campaigns, be it scantily-clad models hawking products, “wink wink, nudge nudge” jokes hinting at sexual encounters, or blatant thrusts of body parts aimed at titillating consumers.

And for some companies, sexually-charged advertising works wonders. Check out GoDaddy.com, the Scottsdale-based internet company, which promotes itself as the world’s largest domain name registrar. The organization’s 2005 and 2006 Super Bowl commercials, in which a curvy actress jumps around wearing a strappy tank top plastered with the GoDaddy.com logo, generated so much buzz, it ignited a frenzy of traffic on their website. In 2006 alone, traffic went up 800% immediately following the airing of the Super Bowl commercial, according to Barb Rechterman, Executive Vice President of GoDaddy.com, in charge of marketing and advertising, and it was the third most recalled commercial in the month of February 2006.

Admittedly, I was intrigued by the chatter about this company. I don’t watch the Super Bowl, but I had heard about the commercial. There was no need for me to question why the company was getting press – in this day and age especially, sex-themed marketing and advertising campaigns will often offer a one-way ticket to buzz stardom.

“We wanted to attract the right attention and stand above the crowd,” said Rechterman, who helped design the ads. “The commercials were playful and funny. Anything that can get someone to pay attention and laugh is the right way to do business.”

Were people offended? Bob Parsons, the CEO and Founder of GoDaddy.com, has a blog in which many people have posted comments about the commercials. Most were positive, but a few indicated offense. He writes, “overall 5.9% of viewers found our Super Bowl ad offensive.”

However, he writes “It doesn't matter what people say…Pay no attention to what anyone is saying about the ‘pudding’. Instead, the only thing that counts is if people are eating it or not.” And in the case of GoDaddy.com, it appears that sex has made the company a star and the public is buying.

Other companies have tried tying their products to sex and also succeeded. Calvin Klein’s own brand statement includes the passage "we stand for sex in a very big way." Indeed, from the very first commercials featuring a young Brooke Shields declaring “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins” to later promos depicting models wearing jeans or underwear and little else, the company has infused sexuality into its marketing to bolster the brands themselves. Would Calvin Klein be as successful as it is today if it had not done so? Would it attract the high numbers of loyal customers who, in some way, have linked wearing Calvin Klein clothes to being sexy?

My prediction is that more and more corporations will capture some aspect of sex to sell and market their products. And as more and more companies do this, the sexual element will increase and become more blatant. The challenge for these organizations is to ensure that they continue to capture new customers, retain returning customers, and generate buzz and attention for their brands, all while not crossing the proverbial “line”, which no one seems to be able to specifically define.

“I am sure there is a line but it is in the eye of the beholder,” says Rechterman. However, in creating new ways to promote your company, she says one should “not to be afraid to take the risk [of incorporating some aspect of sex in ads]. If you feel comfortable with the ad, you are probably fine. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it, don’t do it.”

As you think about your next marketing or public relations campaign and contemplate whether you should integrate a factor of sexuality into your design, consider these questions:

Does this relate in some way to the essence of my brand? To my company? In some cases and in some industries this doesn’t matter. In other instances, it is everything. Be cautious.

Will this offend my core customers? Will this amuse my core customers?

Will this cause supplemental publicity? A controversial campaign can generate more publicity, sometimes negative, but the negative publicity can be a double-edged sword –it can fuel more brand awareness; however, it can also possibly lead to the termination of relationships with vital publics.

Are you crossing the line between sex and sexism? Can you define the line?

Does your idea border on pornography? Or worse yet, child pornography? The apparel company Abercrombie & Fitch has gotten into trouble in the past with its publics when its catalog featured pictures of scantily-clad children.

And finally, are YOU comfortable with the concept?

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
Panning for Gold in Them There E-Newsletters

By Alaina G. Levine

Email marketing works. It can be effective. It can attract new customers and sustain current clients. It can expand your brand. It can amplify your mission.

It can also tick people off.

One particularly efficient email marketing tactic is the electronic newsletter. Many of us subscribe to them; I think I must get about 35 different newsletters in my inbox every week. Do I read them all? No way. I only read those that I truly consider valuable, and that, my friends, is rule #1 in email marketing and in business: you must create value or the public won’t respond to your efforts.

I originally subscribed to newsletters with the thought and hope I would get great content, presented in an easily readable and digestible format, that, what a shock, would help me in some way.

And for those newsletters that don’t provide that value, especially in the first few lines of text, they get ejected to the “Land of the Lost” (otherwise known as my trash can). And I get ticked off that my time has been wasted.

Here are some of the reasons why I will delete an electronic newsletter, often without even reading it:

The newsletter is way too long.

The meat of the publication, or in other words, the chunks of valuable information that are supposed to improve my life, are either hidden in large paragraphs of text or are sometimes absent altogether.

There are huge graphics that don’t download quickly or make reading the newsletter impossible.

Content is repetitious in every issue (how many times do I have to read about your new store on Valencia (without any new information to support this fact)? I got it! There’s a shop there – congratulations).

The newsletter is too focused on self-promotion and not providing nuggets of information gold for the reader.

As you make the decision to plan, write, execute, and deliver an e-newsletter, you must first solidify your specific and strategic goals for doing so. Certainly you want to promote your company. Interconnected with this concept is the core notion that by building a newsletter you are building a brand delivery system. Never forget that whatever information or product you project into the ether must be completely aligned with your brand, and the newsletter is no exception. So ensure that one of your newsletter goals is to amplify the brand and deliver the core message and promise of your company to the public.

In addition, you want to keep your business fresh in the minds (and wallets) of your customers. Perhaps you also want to create a community around your company. This is an especially effective public relations approach. If you are a retailer, you might want to utilize the newsletter as a way to inform your publics about specials and coupons that you offer. The e-newsletter of Terra Cotta, the southwestern-style restaurant in the Catalina Foothills, often provides discounts and even gives free offers for folks on their birthdays (which are only promoted through the newsletter).

In embarking on this sort of project, reflect on what the basic content of your newsletter should address. Is your mission to inform customers what’s new for them to buy? Is it to let vendors know what is innovative in the industry? It could at least include news about your company, public speaking engagements of top executives, recent press you have received (with links to the articles), news about the industry, and, most importantly, valuable advice relating to your company; for example, a restaurant’s newsletter providing a unique (and easy) recipe.

Here are some dos and don’ts for engineering and delivering great email newsletters that get read every time:

Each issue should follow the same format – it is an extension of your brand and should look the same every time you send it so people recognize it and connect it with you and your business.

Don’t send too many emails too often.

Don’t make the newsletters too long.

Send issues only when you have something valuable to communicate.

Have an opt-out feature that is easy to follow.

Copyright everything you write.

If you use other people’s essays, get their permission before you publish.

Depending on your corporate culture, watch your language and topics of discussion.

Graphics can be ok as long as they are easy to download and are viewable on a variety of systems.
Have a table of contents at the top listing subjects so readers can quickly scroll down to the section they want to read.
Have your contact information, including an embedded link to your website and email address, at both the top and bottom of the newsletter.

Copyright, 2006, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
What to look for in a PR Pro

By Alaina G. Levine

You have your company and it’s a mighty fine company. You have your management and your board, and it’s a mighty fine leadership team. You have your sales and marketing, operations, logistics, finance, and research and development folks, and it’s a mighty fine group of folks. But where, oh where, is your PR pro?

Often when companies are launched the business plan includes all of the above people and departments, and yet somehow public relations is left off the map. Then when companies refocus, and create and execute strategic plans for where they want to be one year, five years, or maybe even 10 years down the road, the plan again may not include public relations.

Public relations is as vital to the birth, growth, and survival of a business as any other component. The faster you embrace this concept, the faster your mighty fine company will prosper.

If your company does not have a PR professional on staff, you should look to hire one. This person can help you assemble and organize your strategic plan, vision, mission, and resources for the company as you prepare to advance.

Whether you decide to hire someone in-house, a PR consultant, or a full service PR firm, there are certain things you should look for in retaining the services of the folks who will help you chart the course of your PR initiatives.

Hire public relations leaders who embody the understanding that creative endeavors must be strategically designed to bolster your company’s brand or image, and also possess business and professional sensibility and prowess.

1. They should be professional: Your PR representative should be serious about their craft and serous about your business. They should be respectful, respected, have a good reputation (you can easily check on this), enthusiastic, knowledgeable, talented, and an expert at what they do. In addition, if at all possible, they should have a specific knowledge of your industry. This of course will aid them to understand the market and the publics you serve better, and how your organization serves their needs. They should also have a deep understanding of your corporate culture, and dress and act appropriately for that culture.

2. They should have a global awareness: A PR pro with an understanding of what your company is and does, what your values are, how you do your business and how this relates to where you want to go in the future is indispensable. This person sees the company not in terms of individual parts but rather as the sum of a whole unit that operates successfully only when all components work together. The PR pro should have a very keen comprehension of being a contributing element of this team, no matter whether they are a permanent or contract employee.

3. They should be a leader: The PR pro is in your midst to help you define your organization’s goals and messages and to communicate those messages to your publics. By their very nature, the PR pro must be able to create, plan, and implement projects, leading teams of employees, possibly with limited financial and time resources to triumph on behalf of the company. They must be empowered to make decisions to benefit the company and they must be able to communicate to you and your staff the PR initiatives that they have orchestrated and how this will benefit the business.

4. They must be a visionary: In the October 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine (“Commercial Success”), Dany Lennon, president of the Creative Register Inc., a business that places leaders in creative positions in advertising firms, stated what her industry desires: “They want a visionary--someone who can see not only what's happening now but what's possible in the next 15 to 20 years.” In your fast company, your PR pro should have the same foresight as you and be able to counsel you on strategic initiatives that will guide you to your objectives.

5. Their heart should beat business. Ultimately, PR is a strategic merger of creativity, problem-solving and bottom-line sensibility. Your PR pro must understand that the purpose of a business is to solve problems for consumers and that you have company goals and a bottom-line. They must have business proficiency and an appreciation for how a business is managed.

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
'Please don't call me a PR flack!'


By Alaina G. Levine

It was a hot, sultry evening in the Old Pueblo. I was poised to attend a swanky affair and the moment was percolating with creative potential, perspiration, and public relations.

The occasion was an annual event, called the Big C, hosted by five communications organizations in Tucson. Attracting approximately 200 professionals in public relations, marketing, advertising, and writing, the gala reception was presented by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Tucson American Marketing Association, Tucson Advertising Federation, International Association of Business Communicators, and the Society for Technical Communication.

I networked my way across the noisy room on my way to the bar to order my usual (a Shirley Temple), and I marveled at the wealth and diversity of the creative minds that were at work in my midst. I also marveled at the intensity of the pain I was experiencing from my four-inch heels. Perhaps, I thought, the Shirley Temple would numb the pain.

But as I mingled my way through the crowd, my throbbing feet soon gave way to a throbbing brain as I spoke to and overheard many of Tucson’s finest business minds discuss issues pertaining to communications and PR projects in which they were currently involved. It was pretty clear that our fair city has its share of interesting public relations and marketing projects, involving such industries as government, environment, healthcare, education, biotechnology, aerospace, and even children’s literature (someone’s gotta promote that new Harry Potter book, after all).

I was delighted and excited by the creative communications solutions I was privy to, but in chatting with my colleagues, it occurred to me that many business leaders don’t often recognize the value of public relations, or even know what the term means.

PRSA asserts that "public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other."

The Institute of Public Relations states “public relations practice is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.”

That’s all fine and dandy in theory, but what does PR mean to a business in the real world? With mocktail and notebook in hand, this roving reporter set out to illuminate how public relations plays a big role in the bottom-line of any organization. I asked some of my communications comrades at the Big C the simple question: “what do Tucson’s business leaders need to know about public relations?” and received the following responses.

“PR is essential to building the kind of relationships and reputations that are vital to business growth and prosperity.” – Linda Welter Cohen, The Caliber Group

“Positive publicity is usually even more effective than paid advertising, given the same amount of space or air time.” – Pamela Dickens, KUAT Communications Group, UA

“It’s about much more than ‘getting the word out.’ One of PR’s most vital functions is monitoring and listening to what our audiences and customers are actually doing and saying. This allows your company to respond accordingly rather than getting caught up in its own B.S.” -- Casey DeLorme, Getspine Communications

“A lot of people say PR is free but PR really costs something. It takes an investment in relationships and resources that then get you the PR.” – Sally Mildren, Westin La Paloma

“Stay the course and make the commitment. A lot of people expect immediate results [with public relations actions] – you have to be patient.” – Mary Davis, Strongpoint Public Relations

“PR can make or break your business so when you’re interacting with the media, you must treat them like your best friends. Kill them with kindness because they can really do a lot to enhance the public’s perception of your organization.” – Cynthia Klein, Compass Health Care

“PR permeates all facets of the business. It is not something to be taken for granted or overlooked. It encompasses customer, community, and internal employee relations…. It all starts on the inside with the CEO setting the tone of the business.” – Sarah Evans, UA Community Relations

“Always adhere to high standards of integrity because if you ever lose your credibility with the media or the public, you will be out of business.” – Roger Yohem, Southern Arizona Home Builders Association

“Remember that you have both stockholders and stakeholders, and their interests are not always the same. A vibrant public relations program for your business can help you to communicate your message to both.” – Bob Kovitz, Town of Oro Valley

And then there was perhaps the most significant statement of the evening:

“Please don't call me a ‘PR flack!’” – Pamela Dickens


Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 PRNerd
Everyone wins when you establish an awards program

By Alaina G. Levine

At a recent luncheon of the Public Relations Society of America, everyone in attendance went around the room to introduce themselves and their companies. We all spoke, except one man, Joe Bourne – he sang. Turns out, the guy is a local jazz singer and had attended, I presume, to make associations and expand his business. And rather than tell us he was a musician for hire, he sang instead, giving us a free sample of his product line and displaying verve and an innovative sprit which caused him to stand out from the crowd. An instant connection was made with the audience and as everyone applauded his singing, I realized that no one ever applauds when Joe Schmo gets up and simply speaks his name and company affiliation. The jazz singer was creative in promoting his business and you need to be too.

One creative and especially effective way of promoting your organization is to establish an awards program which you sponsor, organize, and with which you are associated. Compass Health Care, Inc. did this when they initiated the Dynamic Duos Award nine years ago. The non-profit provides community-based alcoholism and other drug abuse prevention and treatment services, including both outpatient and residential programs.

The organization designed the award to be given to two people who “working together, have made an outstanding contribution to their business, family, organization, community, school, neighborhood, wherever they have helped to make a difference.” Clearly this is within the realm of the mission of Compass. In the years since it was launched, it has grown into one of the most sought after awards for which to be nominated in Tucson. The awards ceremony, which consists of a dinner and silent auction with corporate sponsors, is their largest fundraiser for the year, and a huge promotional tool for the company.

Your organization can launch an awards program too. But you have to be creative. Recognize that the awards program itself is a promotion for your company, but you have to promote this promotion to get a rich return on your investment.

Bring together a team of folks within your company, as well as board members, customers, supporters, donors, and community representatives and leaders to serve on the team that will plan, design, and implement the awards program. Give yourself at least a year of planning.

Determine the theme of the awards and ensure it intersections or aligns with your company’s mission. The premise of the awards program should be one that promotes you to potential clients and the public at large, and gives you the opportunity to showcase your support of the community and the industry.

Choose the criteria for the award, the judges, and the timeframe in which to make a decision. Will you announce the winners at a special event, or as a stand-alone broadcast?

Decide how you will give your awards out. Will you organize a gala dinner? Will it be a simple luncheon? Who will be on the invitation list? Who will be the emcee? Use the awards program as an opportunity to raise money for your non-profit or partner with a charity to collect funds for their cause.

Alert the media, both before and after the awards are given out. Announce the awards and the nomination process in local (and perhaps industry-wide) publications. Invite the press to the awards ceremony. Following the ceremony, issue a press release announcing the winners and the financial outcome of the program.

Write about it or promote it in industry trade magazines. Show your industry how innovative and successful you are with your awards program. Share the challenges and the triumphs in orchestrating the event – this establishes you as a leader in your industry – someone who thinks beyond the known dimensions to advance the industry, your company, and solidifies you as an authority in your field.

An organization must promote its brand as a winning brand, and the establishment of an awards program and ceremony is a useful technique to do this.

And by the way, the PRSA luncheon I was attending? It was for PRimus, the annual awards program our organization sponsors for excellence in public relations.

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

Editorial
Arizona Daily Star
Published April 20, 2005 

 Surprise – you can apply math skills to all areas of life

By Alaina G. Levine

I consider myself a mathematician who doesn’t do math. I have a bachelors degree in math, I love math, and yet I do very little math in my profession of public relations and public speaking.

But it is my mathematical education that has given me an edge in a competitive marketplace by instilling in me strong problem-solving and analytical skills, and awakening in me a desire to pursue other subjects and projects with a zestful and keen eye.

In mastering mathematics, I have come to see the world linearly and non-linearly, allowing me to plan, manage, and orchestrate projects with an especially rigorous attention to detail.

More children and adults should invest their time in learning as much mathematics as they can in an effort to acquire strategic skills that go beyond figuring out interest rates.

Mathematics provides an excellent foundation for success in any profession, and the operation of studying math generates a greater level of proficiency in a variety of other subjects as well.

By studying math, I have discovered how to more effectively strategize, manage conflict and crises, and communicate.

I can learn, retain, and process information more quickly and efficiently. I have been exposed to other disciplines and am able to develop connections between diverse subjects.

Every time I write a press release or deliver a speech, I utilize my mathematical training and treat my project planning as if it were an elegant mathematical proof, with various contingencies and outcomes that need to be identified and handled.

I did not expect this result when I chose my major, and it has taken me many years to realize the benefits I gained.

My original interest was an arcane area of theoretical mathematics involving the calculation of formulae that describe donut holes and coffee mugs. Not exactly the typical dream of a wee lass.

Whenever I reveal my math background, I always get the same reaction: “Math is hard. Why would you study that?” Yes, mathematics can be difficult.

But the actual act of learning the subject can stimulate an appreciation for the value of hard work and self-discipline, vital skills which serve anyone well in their lives.

One should view math not just as a discipline to be studied, but as a method in it of itself to master other subjects to foster personal and professional growth.

Students with less and inferior mathematical education significantly lose an advantage that can not only help them calculate a tip correctly, but can also aid them in negotiating multi-million dollar deals, and give them an edge in a global market that demands superior skills in many areas.

I may not investigate donut holes any more, but my math education has definitely contributed to my professional success.

Encourage your children to take more than the minimum required math classes in school. If they have difficulty, get them tutoring.

As an adult, consider brushing up on your mathematics skills. You will be surprised at how valuable your return on the investment will be. 

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine. 


 Inside Tucson Business
March 2006
My Time with Tommy

By Alaina G. Levine 

I don’t often come face-to-face with celebrities. Sure, I met Sherman Helmsley at LAX, but that’s different. I shook his hand, but I never got the opportunity to ask him about his craft. And if there is one thing I treasure, it is being able to ask talented, creative, and triumphant individuals about how they do what they do.

But on March 30, I had the chance to not only meet and shake hands with an internationally-known star, but also ask him about his creative vision and his masterfully-executed craft as well. The Man? Tommy Hilfiger, Founder and President of Tommy Hilfger Corporation. The Moment? Around 6:37pm. The Market? The UA-sponsored Global Retailing Conference at the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa.

My time with Tommy was brief but fruitful. I intercepted an informal chat fest consisting of UA students, Federated Department Stores, Inc., Chairman, President and CEO Terry Lundgren, and Tommy. They were discussing Tommy’s wares and Tommy’s company and Tommy’s successes. As I worked my way through the crowd, I had my sights set on the Man, the Myth, the Visionary, the Television Star, the Celebrity Wrangler, the Tireless Innovator, in sum, Tommy.

I wasn’t wearing Tommy garments that day, although I do own a Tommy purple sweater with a velvet collar that is pure Tommy. However, I am a Tommy Girl, in that I appreciate Tommy’s foresight and understanding of how his market ebbs and flows. I admire how Tommy takes simple ideas and turn them into global brands. I marvel at Tommy’s talents in public relations, advertising, and design, and I respect his ability to manage and lead a multi-billion dollar business with the skills of a mogul. And I laugh that he never went to fashion or business school and is more on top of his game now than ever, with a constant influx of innovation and creativity.

(An especially original addition to his company was the 2005 acquisition of designer Karl Lagerfeld’s business and trademarks, which positioned Tommy Hilfiger with a “new growth platform in the upscale apparel segment,” according to a press release on the corporation’s website.)

In my few moments with Tommy, I had a mission: to find out what makes Tommy tick. I asked him about the genesis of his vision for his style of clothing. Tommy replied that it was originally about “satisfying myself”. He said he was looking for “cool, casual, preppy ware” and he redesigned preppy clothes from his youth by “injecting them with cool”, in an effort to “build something different than Ralph Lauren.”

He elaborated the next day during his keynote in which he recalled starting a clothing business at age 18 by selling bellbottom pants out of the back of this Volkswagen in the high school parking lot. After he had saved some cash, he opened up his first store in his hometown of Elmira, NY. Recognizing the rich market of college kids, he opened several more stores around upstate New York in college towns, and thus, a passion and a talent for business and design was ignited.

I asked Tommy about his approach to public relations and marketing. He replied: “it’s all about F.A.M.E. – Fashion, Art, Music, and Entertainment”. He later stated that his goal was to “connect our fashion brand to pop culture, which makes the world go round.” Tommy has built his empire based on all of these elements, and he recognized the potential of utilizing celebrities in his marketing campaigns, even as their fame was just blossoming. He chose Britney Spears for a jeans ad when she was relatively unknown, and her album went number one on the charts the day the ad came out.

Ultimately, I found Tommy to be a gentleman, quite approachable, and surprisingly open about his experiences. He embodies his own brand – cool, casual, clean cut. I was glad students were there to hear his advice for business success, and it occurred to me that in chatting with Tommy, I, too, had become a student to a titan who has changed the way the fashion business operates for the better.

Copyright, 2006, Alaina G. Levine.

 Tactics
October 2005

Communicate with compassion: Public relations is human relations

By Alaina G. Levine

I was supposed to travel to New Orleans at the end of September for the national AARP convention. Now the city lay in ruins, the conference and all other major events in the community are cancelled, and the convention center is left in ill repair, haunted by demons of despair, danger, and desperation. While the Big Easy is no stranger to ghosts, those that emerged from the unspeakable horrors left in Katrina’s wake are sure to continue to plague us as a people, scaring and disturbing us with every memory.

But we are resilient. Those business people who are directly and indirectly affected by the crisis have a great opportunity – not to profit from the tragedy, but to firmly establish their support of their community and the customers they serve. In a time of catastrophe, companies must reach out to their customers and recognize that this is a moment not for public relations, but rather, for human relations.

Businesses often lose sight of the fact that what sustains them are human beings. “The public” to which we all try to relate and communicate, is actually a population of humans, just like the individuals who work for and founded an organization. Or, more to the point, just like you.

So when “the public” is hurting, human beings are hurting. And when “the public” is buying your product, it is human beings, no different from yourself, that are purchasing your product.

Therefore, during crisis, communicate with compassion. We are all in this together. The soul you see on TV crying is just as vulnerable and precious as you. The person who calls your company with questions about refunds, concerns about missing products, and worries about how you can help them through the tragedy, must be treated with only respect and dignity.

The ultimate public relations strategy is built upon compassion, understanding, and empathy for the humans that your company serves.

I had the occasion following Katrina’s wrath to interact with and observe several organizations directly influenced by the devastation. Some acted in what I think was an appropriate manner given the circumstances, especially from a PR point of view. Others did not.

Tulane University represents the very best in crisis communications. Since I work for the University of Arizona, I thought of the students affected at Tulane. I had heard from a colleague about a tale of the students and employees seeking shelter in the university’s gymnasium during the storm, and then dispersing to airports around the south to go to their home states or shelters. I visited Tulane’s website to see how it was handling its constituent communications. I was extremely impressed to see that Tulane, the largest private employer in Orleans Parish (according to its website), had completely removed all non-relevant information from its site and replaced it with only a simple list of updates from the President and key leaders. Tulane recognized that the only thing that had to be on its agenda was straightforward, detailed, and up-to-the minute communication with its community. Even though eyes nationwide were focused on its organization, the administration did not use this as a platform on which to advertise or promote their campus with the typical college web content.

In communicating with compassion and in practicing extraordinary human relations, Tulane has in fact promoted itself as caring and strong, supportive and sympathetic, and has solidified its brand in our minds.

Furthermore, the case of Tulane highlights a very important aspect of crisis management – maintaining consistency in communications. Tulane did just this. By removing all content from its website, save for the administration updates and later a database input system to keep track of employees, it demonstrated not only exceptional public relations skills, but also a unified commitment to its consumers. No ads or promotional pieces about the university appeared on the site, and thus a consistent message of compassion was communicated to its human consumers.

While Tulane acted appropriately, Delta Airlines and Orbitz leave much to be desired. I had booked my flight to New Orleans with Orbitz. This company’s website stated that “we will act as your advocate to negotiate with airlines…to waive their cancellation or change penalties.” I encountered trouble in obtaining a refund from Delta, as well as rude and confused employees, who insisted that Delta was taking the situation in the delta one day at a time and would not give me a refund on a flight that it had not yet cancelled (I probably should just show up at the New Orleans airport on October 2 and ask to get on my plane). I called Orbitz and told them what Delta employees had said and asked for the advocacy I was promised on their website. I was told no such services would be provided by the company and there was nothing they could do for me until Delta refunded the cost of my ticket. The lesson here? A Catch 22 should never be part of a crisis communications operation.

You have to do business to stay in business. And you have to promote your business to get and sustain customers and rally support for your products and services. But in a time of crisis it is essential to remember that public relations is human relations, so treat your constituents with the dignity and respect they, and you, deserve.

Copyright, 2005, Alaina G. Levine.

 APSNews
August/September 2004

Entrepreneurship Gains Ground in the Physics Curriculum

By Alaina G. Levine

What are the chances that the next millionaire entrepreneur will be a physicist? With more physics departments offering graduate curriculum in entrepreneurship and business, the chances are getting better and better.

“An understanding of basic business skills has become increasingly useful to many physicists, not the least of those who, not long ago, seldom ventured outside of academic research,'” says Daniel Stein, professor and Head of the University of Arizona (UA) Department of Physics. “Courses in entrepreneurship and new opportunities to develop skills in related areas can only help physicists who wish to contribute by creating products and companies that may benefit all of us."

With funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the UA launched a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Applied and Industrial Physics, Mathematical Sciences, and Applied Biosciences in 2000. While its curriculum always included business and project management courses, only recently did the Physics Department launch a new course, Topics in Entrepreneurship for Scientists, designed “to give students understanding of the elements of the entrepreneurship process in scientific ventures to prepare them for scientific careers in industry, and to pursue the development of new scientific ventures.”

The significance of this course, says Stein, is that it is housed in the Physics Department, as opposed to having a home department in the business college. However, it is cross-listed in the UA’s McGuire Entrepreneurship Program (as well as departments of biology and math), which not coincidently, awarded the grant that ignited the course’s development and teaching.

The class is just another step in the right direction, says Raymond E. Goldstein, UA professor of physics. “With more and more students going into industry, or expressing an interest in starting their own company, it is common sense to provide coursework that will help physicists succeed in these occupations.”

Other Sloan-funded PSMs offer electives in entrepreneurship, although the classes are not housed in the physics department. The University of South Carolina’s PSM in Modeling for Corporate Applications requires students to take a business elective, which can be in entrepreneurship. Participants are also encouraged to attend an annual workshop on science entrepreneurship.

Rice University’s PSM in Nanoscale Physics also requires business classes, taught through the business college, and again, gives students the option of delving more deeply into entrepreneurship through electives and exposure to regional entrepreneurial development and business investment communities via the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. Georgetown University and the University of Arkansas also provide opportunities at the graduate level to learn and practice foundations of entrepreneurship and business.

A rather unique approach to graduate education combining the two disciplines is represented by the award-winning Physics and Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). PEP is a two-year master’s program that seeks to “empower physicists as entrepreneurs by providing training and real-world experience to students with a background in physics and a vision for new and growing ventures,” said Cyrus Taylor, Program Director and Armington Professor of Physics.

The program integrates graduate-level physics coursework (specifically focusing on innovation in physics) with classes in entrepreneurship, and includes a seminar series, and a physics master’s thesis involving an entrepreneurial-based project. The thesis typically arises from an internship at a start-up, or from a student-designed research project that can be the foundation for launching a new venture.

Now in its fourth year, PEP has graduated 14 students who have gone on to start their own companies, work for new ventures, or even Fortune 500 companies, in roles that range from technical to business-focused.

“Physicists can do anything,” said Taylor, “but starting a new company is an enormously painful process. We want to produce graduates who are experts in the various subtasks of the entrepreneurial environment so they have the skills to transform their advancements in physics into viable, successful ventures.”

One PEP alumnus started a company the first year he was in the program. The firm, Neomed Technologies, developed a nuclear medicine technique for screening coronary artery disease, and it has just secured funding for the last round of clinical trials before FDA approval. Another alumnus has a position with a Fortune 500 corporation in which he “bridges the gap between the science and business sides of the company,” said Taylor.

According to faculty in the UA Karl Eller Center, the home of the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, future physicists can greatly benefit from entrepreneurship education because at its very heart, scientific entrepreneurship is about bringing together a technical vision, a business sense, and an entrepreneurial spirit. These elements can only serve to help students advance in both technical and business-based careers, and give them more insight into the scientific process itself.

Tony Nottke, a student in the UA PSM in Applied and Industrial Physics and founder of a company based in photonics and spectroscopy, concurs: “I took the entrepreneurship class because I wanted to learn skills that would help my business grow and help me be a better physicist. Entrepreneurship education has helped me to better translate my technical prowess into business success and has given me a greater appreciation for doing research outside academia. Our entire society is based on technology, and it is essential for technically-trained professionals to have business skills so they can better contribute to society’s issues. A physicist with a good education and research work, and experience in entrepreneurship can do anything. The world is your oyster.”

Copyright, 2004, Alaina G. Levine.

 Information for Editors

Alaina G. Levine is widely published and welcomes inquiries from editors regarding reprints and syndication of her work. If you are an editor of a newspaper, magazine, website, or newsletter and are interested in publishing her articles and would like information about reprints, please contact her directly at 
alaina@alainalevine.com.