A market that breeds loyalty

In the fourth year of its Regional Forums, PRWeek is returning to cities it has previously visited, as well as adding a handful of new regions to the roatation. For each event, leading PR pros from a variety of agencies, corporations, nonprofits, and other organizations take part in a roundtable discussion about the issues affecting them and their peers. PRWeek's Erica Iacono and Keith O'Brien were in Minneapolis for this year's fourth Regional Forum.

In the fourth year of its Regional Forums, PRWeek is returning to cities it has previously visited, as well as adding a handful of new regions to the roatation. For each event, leading PR pros from a variety of agencies, corporations, nonprofits, and other organizations take part in a roundtable discussion about the issues affecting them and their peers. PRWeek's Erica Iacono and Keith O'Brien were in Minneapolis for this year's fourth Regional Forum.

Keith O'Brien: PR is global industry, but each region, each city, has its own unique qualities and unique approach to the practice. Anyone can start off talking about what it is to practice PR in this area. How does it differ from New York, Chicago, LA, or the rest of the US?

David Mona (Weber Shandwick Twin Cities): I don't think it differs a great deal from the rest of the country. When I started the agency 25 years ago, one of my frustrations was that there were so many Fortune 500 companies here and the business, with the exception of local events, was all fleeing the market. I looked around and said there are so many great practitioners in the market. What a great opportunity. One of the gratifying changes is so much national work has come to the market and stayed here.

Riff Yager (Exponent): There's an enormous amount of horsepower in this area; both on the corporate and agency sides. Certainly, on the ad side there are a couple lead agencies that have helped generate attention. We are in that same situation with PR. I think most of us are doing [more] business with clients out of the market than in the market.

Doug Spong (Carmichael Lynch Spong): Of our 30 or so [clients], only five are based in this market. But this market has had a disproportionate share of great brands.

Lynn Casey (Padilla Spears Beardley): Part of it is that those of us who came to work here - or were born here - love it here and want to stay. Even with all of the companies in town, there is not enough work for all of us who want to stay here and grow. Fortunately, we had a great reputation and we made it better for being a communications hub. That's allowed us to go out and get that business. If we didn't have that business and didn't have it coming to us, I don't think we would have been able to stay vibrant. I think we're all committed to staying in this market. I think it's worked out for the best.

Doug Spong (CLS): Having come to this market from Boston ... I did not expect the variety of media and the aggressiveness of the media here. Boston is a big, aggressive market, but so is the Twin Cities. From that standpoint, in addition to the depth of talent here, the local media surprised me in terms of their sophistication. I guess because I had never been exposed to it before, coming from a larger market to a smaller market.

Keith O'Brien: Is there anything unique about the area having two cities being so close to each other and being grouped into the same region?

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): They function as one large city. For the most part, we don't make that distinction.

Riff Yager (Exponent): It means that we have two competitive daily newspapers. But many regions have that. In terms of how we practice PR, I don't think it makes a difference.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): From a PR viewpoint, it is interesting that the agency climate has been centralized in Minneapolis. I've worked in St. Paul for PSB for many years, so I certainly represent the other side, but I know it has been such a tough nut to crack and an issue that people have debated in terms of why it is that way when there is such a strong corporate presence in St. Paul. The creative environment, the recruiting, I have heard a lot of theories thrown out.

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): I don't think finding young talent is that difficult. People come from wonderful universities and programs. I think we're having trouble finding people with five or six years' experience due to 9/11. There is this missing class of people who couldn't find jobs and just got out. There is a real premium on people having those years' experience.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): I am fairly new to the area and come from Dallas, which has a similar situation with Dallas and Fort Worth. I was stuck by how closely the two cities function as one and how people view this market as one.

David Mona (WS): Something your magazine will see d├ębut in two months is a cooperative effort to market this region under the province of the Greater Minneapolis Convention of Visitors Association. But for the first time in history three of the largest PR firms of the region are working together on this program to market this region as a unit. It is based on research telling us that we have challenges in that direction.

Lynn Casey (PSB): It is also the first time in history the two cities are working together - really closely and very visibly together. I think our industry is going to take credit for that. We had a St. Paul office because we had a contract with the city of St. Paul to do some research. They thought we had an office in St. Paul and held the contract until we bought space in St. Paul.

Keith O'Brien: As many of you had said, many of you on the agency are working with national clients. So I wonder is there any sort of added competition for clients from the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area? Or if you are vying for a national client elsewhere are you coming up against other Minneapolis firms?

Doug Spong (CLS): We have that experience with Weber Shandwick. We've shown up in Maine and VT - coming out of a presentation, and they were the next to come in. We run into each other all the time.

Riff Yager (Exponent): I don't run into most folks here. But 80% of our revenue comes from outside the market.

David Mona (WS): Some of the large companies have history of working with global firms and there are a number of people here who share clients, and share very comfortably.

Keith O'Brien: That brings us to the next subject: talent. Specifically, young talent. Everywhere we go people talk about a talent crunch, perhaps more nationally than regionally. So I'm wondering specifically how you are attracting talent in the area and what they say they are looking for [in a location].

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): I don't think finding young talent is that difficult. People come from wonderful universities and great programs. I think we are having a lot of trouble finding people who have five or six years of experience, due to 9/11. There is this missing class of people who couldn't find jobs and just got out. I think there is a real premium on people having those years experience. Younger talent we don't struggle all that much.

Bob Hanvik (Fleishman-Hillard Minneapolis): There is a great basis for building up entry-level talent. There's wonderful senior-level talent. But that mid-level is a little hard to find. Nationally, there was a survey within Fleishman and that was the biggest concern from GMs throughout the network. As far as attracting talent, you are talking about dollars. You pay a bit of a premium on mid-level talent.

David Mona (WS): You are recruiting from out of market because you need to; the pool has fallen.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): In terms of recruiting out of market, the person has to have some Twin Cities tie. It's a tough sell sometimes to get someone from [bigger cities] to take an interest here.

Laurie Bauer (Carlson Hotels): It's a challenge. People fear the weather here.

Riff Yager (Exponent): That's an interesting perspective, but it's from the agency side. Are the corporate folks finding that too?

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): I think it depends. We've hired four or five new people in the last year. We've had a great group of candidates and at some points not to where we've had to reopen the pool.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): It's gotten brutal in the last few months.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): We just hired two people from out of state who had ties back here and wanted to come back.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): In that five-to-eight-year-level market?

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): I recruit to two markets. I'm in Connecticut and here.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): Is Connecticut easier to recruit?

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): Not necessarily. We have an advantage here that most people are interested in the community. Once people are introduced to the market here and have that taste, that's really the hurdle as far as bringing people in. It's getting the outside talent here.

Bob Hanvik (FH): I think that's the hard part for the recruiter. But once you get them here, you can't get them to leave.

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): I think that is part of the secret of success for the agencies here. People do tend to stay. Once you do the teaching, I think the average tenure is longer than some of the sexier markets.

David Mona (WS): I heard someone saying at a meeting, "I hear the Twin Cities are a wonderful place to live but I wouldn't want to visit there."

Lynn Casey (PSB): I wonder if the tough-to-get-in, easy-to-stay [situation] has contributed to the health of the corporate and PR programs. We've got really strong programs at the university. We have a great self-interest in funding the adjunct teaching. I think this is one of the largest PRSA chapters.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): This is one of the largest PRSA chapters, one of the strongest, and one of the highest number of accredited PR professionals. Our members stay members.

Keith O'Brien: Besides the obvious benefits of having a strong PRSA, does it help you bring talent to the area?

Ann Folkman (Cargill): I'd love to say the answer to that is yes, but I don't know if that's true. Is the strength of the chapter just a reflection of the market?

David Kanahan (Allina Hospitals and Clinics): I think [the PRSA here] helps people along early in their career. People tend to gravitate toward that sort of association when they are learning and want to get established. Having a strong PRSA [chapter] helps people get established and develop contacts. It keeps them in the industry.

Keith O'Brien: For the corporate side here. Is anyone currently looking for an agency or if anyone wants to talk about their relationship with their agency whether it is in market or out of market?

Ann Folkman (Cargill): The question is: Are you looking for an agency in-market or out of market? I'd say in-market. There's so much to offer here that it's rare to have to go outside for anything.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): We are fortunate to have such good PR firms. Yet, I also believe that, as a Minnesota firm, I have an obligation to support Minnesota firms. I always look first here before going to an outside market.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): Coming from outside this market, I was struck by the depth of talent on the agency side and the degree of smarts that exists. It's conspicuous compared to [other] markets.

Laurie Bauer (Carlson Hotels): I'm with a global company in the hospitality industry that believes it needs a New York agency to get coverage worldwide. We have one, but I still think we need a local firm to bolster [our efforts].

Ann Folkman (Cargill): It's not uncommon.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): It's a blend of Twin Cities' resources and those in other markets.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): The belief that you need a New York firm is not out of the ordinary.

Lynn Casey (PSB): There are some industries where that is absolutely true. Our pharma business is in our New York office. If we are going to build up a healthcare practice, we won't try to do that here. So there are legitimate industry reasons for doing these things, but I think they're getting fewer. There's really no reason for organizations [here] to not look first to hometown firms.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): There's certainly not a cultural reason. I think the Twin Cities has a reputation for having creative people. You see it in the PR field and in the ad arena in this market. That is certainly no reason to drive a client to look elsewhere.

David Mona (WS): We were in a meeting in Indianapolis about a month ago, and, ultimately, we were awarded the business. The client, after speaking with us, had one last question, "This is the biggest thing we've ever done and our board instructed for a New York firm, so we called a New York PR firm and you guys showed up and you are from Minneapolis. . . what happened?" Well they had talked to our people in New York and had told them what they wanted. After looking at our network of people, we thought the people who could do that best are in Minneapolis.

Brad Allen (Imation): From the client side, that's the key. We hire talent. When I hire an agency, I hire both brains and hands. You can hire a lot of hands, but it's the brains that you really need. You need to be able to tap a network. As a client you need to be able to work with an agency that can seamlessly tap their network. Certainly there is an advantage to having someone you can drive to, but you need to be able to take advantage of the technology.

Keith O'Brien: Let's talk a bit about diversity. Is there a push for more diversity? Has it changed over the years? Is the industry getting more diverse?

Doug Spong (CLS): We face the same challenges as all other regions, except for maybe Washington and New York, to a certain extent. The Twin Cities at one point had a 6% minority rate. Now it's at 13%.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): The diversity is limited based on our population. The thing I see is the efforts within the PRSA have really taken root. This is a big change I've noticed. I'm encouraged for the first time that we are seeing more people of color joining our industry.


Wendy Tai (General Mills):
I think that's reflective of the population change. I came here in 1984 and I was shocked. It's been a remarkable transformation. The opportunities are terrific, whatever color you are. I think it's the same struggle that news organizations have. General Mills has been working very hard at that. I do think it has changed in terms of availability. The pipeline is growing.

Lynn Casey (PSB): We have one of the fastest-growing new immigrant populations in the country. We're in between two generations. We can't hire the people we would like to hire because they are not skilled in the kinds of things that we need them for and the kids are too young. But as they go up in that next generation, we're going to have some amazing people that look different. There's a program that a former reporter started... to get more folks into the market. [It's] tapping high schools and getting kids interested in journalism. They run their own papers. We know that some of them may not go into journalism, but will go into PR. Our next generation is going to be very different.

Bob Hanvik (FH): There's the step-up program in Minnesota. You have kids who may not have opportunities normally, and they are getting opportunities. I was at an event and there was an impressive Somali girl. She approached me with her hand out and said, "When can I work for you?" I was impressed that she was interested in PR.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): Have you hired her yet?

Bob Hanvik (FH): Close to.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): Just seeing that initiative is a great thing to see.

Keith O'Brien: Seems like a close knit group of people here and I've been wondering about what we've been hearing. We're hearing that the industry is changing? How is it? How is it adapting with the times, especially approaching people who are literally growing up online?

Bob Hanvik (FH): Right now the way that I tend to think about it that we're at a nexus point. How does traditional PR meet up with online, offline, and wireless communications? If we can figure that out, I think that's going to go a long way in ensuring that traditional PR has a place in the future of communications.

Riff Yager (Exponent): It's not just traditional PR. It's advertising; it's traditional direct marketing. Marketing communications is undergoing a sea change. There is still traditional media as a conduit. There's also consumer media and direct to consumers. It becomes much more relational than it ever has been before. In my view, there's probably a more singular opportunity for PR to truly drive strategy because so much of it becomes relational, rather than just imposing messages. There's a better opportunity for us to lead strategies in the integrated environment.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): The technology is just the tool. The same skills and same principles is what we've been doing for a while.

Doug Spong (CLS): So many new opportunities. That's the beauty of it; there are so many different ways to reach out. Most of us in this room are digital immigrants. Today's kids are digital natives. They are communicating in different ways. The Association of National Advertisers did a study and asked where people found the most effective [way of spending marketing dollars]. Number two was advertising at 88%; number one was PR at 89%.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): We don't look at PR as a marketing function, but as a leadership function. My team has a responsibility to look at ways we can support leadership's success.

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): In the past it was that forced marriage between ad agencies and PR firms. Over the past few years, when PR firms and ad agencies work together, they come in as equals.

Brad Allen (Imation): One of the challenges is that the Rolodex has changed in terms of media contacts. Traditional media is getting squeezed. People are getting out of that business. A lot of the longtime contacts I've had are moving on. But also with the non-traditional media, some of them are self appointed, but you have deal with them as media. Just keeping on top of that ever changing Rolodex is hard from my standpoint.

Wendy Tai (General Mills): There are plenty of opportunities for PR with advertising and marketing. Also trying to figure out how to cut through the noise. The downside is there are too many opportunities. The market segmentation is just huge. It's very difficult.

Keith O'Brien: Do you monitor blogs? I imagine it would be a difficult endeavor.

Wendy Tai (General Mills): You have to. We do to the best extent that we can, but you have to.

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): I remember a big, local Fortune 500 company. We did a program once and we included blog and Web mentions. They told us to take them out, saying they didn't matter. This was in the past five years.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): I'll speak as a Fortune 100 company; we pay attention to any channel. We include it in our research and our monitor.

David Mona (WS): We developed a product called Blog Watch, probably one of the most successful products we ever introduced because everyone is trying to get a handle on it.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): Blogs don't matter until they destroy your reputation.

Lynn Casey (PSB): Does anyone remember the definition of PR? Planned effort to build two-way dialogue. We're finally living up to our definition. I had some great experiences with sharing the strategy with ad agencies and other marketing related firms, and I've had some not so great experiences. I think it is because the organizations who haven't embraced this are scared. They want to hang on to what they have. Maybe they aren't in the position to invest the manpower and money into getting the new business. That's a dynamic that I've noticed in our clients.

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): I think the tough part is when it's client driven. When the client says, "You two work together," then there's a chance for territorial behavior. But what we have been experiencing is the ad agency approaching us and saying we think you can add value; we think that you can add a different perspective. They know that we are not going to encroach on what they have traditionally done, but that we can help solve a problem. We have seen so much more of that and it is really refreshing.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): It is often times how it's positioned by the client. You can make the best of a bad situation, but it's really tough. Sometimes the ownership falls on the client and not the agency to work together. Sometimes it's a competition.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): The client should set the tone there. It shouldn't take long to know whether the client really want collaboration or competition.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): Even though what I said seems obvious, it took me a long time to figure that out.

Laurie Bauer (Carlson Hotels): The first thing [on ad agency said] said is, "We are fully integrated and we are different from everybody else." I was excited and then they did their pitch, and I said, "Where is PR?" And they said, "Oh we can give you an agency." Then you are not fully integrated.

Keith O'Brien: I would love to hear some more from the corporate people about whether CMOs are thinking about integration.

Laurie Bauer (Carlson Hotels): If CMO understands PR and is a proponent of PR, then you are at the strategy table. But if the CMO is old school, [he or she will] say we're going to build a strategy and you are going to go off and write a press release because that's what you do. Then you are going to fight the entire time. The companies that do really well [have PR] championed by the CMO.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): Our CEO makes integration a priority. If PR is a just thing you do, you're in trouble. If it's part of how you think about the business, that makes a huge difference.

Keith O'Brien: How different does your day-to-day change when you're dealing with someone who values PR versus one where they are pushing that press release function as PR?

Bob Hanvik (FH): I think it does make it a lot more fun, but also makes it a lot more interesting. You feel like you are accomplishing something and making a difference. When you're in that kind of situation you want to deliver more when you feel you are part of a bigger thing.

Erica Iacono (PRWeek): I think one of the ways PR has been gaining a spot on the table is through measurement and ROI. How important is measurement and what kind of measurement are you doing? Is it just clippings? How much of it is budget?

Brad Allen (Imation): Measurement is important, but I have no budget for it.

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): That is what we hear. It is important, but I don't have any additional budget to spend on it. So you have to be creative. Or do it yourself.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): [You need to] partner with your marketing function, so that you can share some of the information - brand awareness. If I had my way, I would not bother with clippings. I think that media relations is not the most important part of PR. A whole lot of PR is about not getting in the paper. So much of what we do is manage the story and take a reporter's questions that are going in the wrong direction so he or she understands what's going on. It's an ongoing education opportunity.

Wendy Tai (General Mills): We have PR divided into two sections: brand PR and then corporate communications. So much of our work nobody ever sees. But that's a success. How do you put a dollar figure on a [negative] piece that never made it [to publication]?

Ann Folkman (Cargill): Here's what you didn't see...

Riff Yager (Exponent): When I was on the corporate side for a few years, the year where I received my largest year-end compensation was when we had the Washington Post looking at us for several months and the story went away. Clearly the company recognized the value in that. But how do you put a price tag on what we do?

Ann Folkman (Cargill): It's priceless... the impact that it could have had on the business.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): We do measure the pieces; most of the time and our budget go to measuring the result. Looking at our customers, intermediaries, our communities, various stakeholders, how the messages relate to their world.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): I think, as practitioners, we're more sophisticated than we used to be. We're doing media relations training and focusing on messaging. We're trying to look at whether or not our message is coming across in the piece. I think we have evolved in the last ten or fifteen years as well.

Bob Hanvik (FH): I think about it as shortening the synapse a little bit. One thing that we've done that has been successful is to take an anecdote and demonstrate what happened. We had an example in the medical space. This is a positive placement: one million people and 8,000 potential new patients viewed it. That is tripling the number of people who could have been able to get that product previously. Being able to say to the executive that with one effort, we're able to reach 8,000 people with a positive spin on your company. That was really powerful.

David Mona (WS): After laboring for years with measurement, our company took a turn and got a new contract with government. It put us into a whole new arena of negotiated expectations. It was based almost not at all on media relations, but on changing behaviors. They know whose behavior they want to change and they can track that down to the person because they are the government. To know exactly what the measurement is over the last 90 days is extraordinarily productive.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): Isn't that all that really matters?

David Kanahan (Allina Hospitals and Clinics): That really goes to: every measurement component is different and needs to be integrated with the way a company keeps score of itself. If you're doing it as a different thing, at the end of the day that only gets you so far. There is a concrete way that you can measure, but that is based on the strategy, and that is not a communications strategy, but a business strategy, of which communications is a part.

Doug Spong (CLS):
I find that somewhere within the organizations the answer exists. If you reach out and talk with the Web master, they do the tracking and they might be able to find a way. Then you go to consumer services and ask if there is a way to track consumer response. There are ways to fund it without actually having to pay for it.

Keith O'Brien: What is the delineation between PR and customer service when you are hearing very vocally either your customers praising or condemning you?

Brad Allen (Imation): All of the angry customers end up my desk, if no one else wants to deal with them.

Keith O'Brien: Is there a need to get customer service a lesson in PR?

Doug Spong (CLS): If you go to maytag.com and go to the newsroom, you see our contacts. Whenever Maytag get an angry customer, they email the CEO, the head of PR and they e-mail me. I answer every e-mail that comes to me.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): It's critical because that customer that writes to Doug, they're going to go to the blog and that story will be picked up nationally.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): When you call them and talk to them in person, they're shocked.

Doug Spong (CLS): I still correspond with someone I answered two years ago. I think he was so shocked that a real person responded to him.

David Mona (WS): I don't think that's changed a lot. [Customer service] is a reflection of the values of the people at the highest levels of the company. One vivid example of that is when I worked at the Toro Company. [The mower company's president] would call [customers with complaints] and take care of it. He said, "You can make every problem go away." He got it. People that get it have more tools.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): We are the antithesis of the customer call center where you have 20 seconds to voice your complaint. Can we make a pact around the room? When we hear public relations synonymous with media relations, can we correct them? I think we are doing it to ourselves. We talk about reputation, and yet the definition of PR is often media relations and the measurement. It's just wrong.

Riff Yager (Exponent): We're getting more sales force and customer-service training; where we can understand the value of the relationship they are trying to manage. This is perceived to be a value PR can deliver, and it is a service that we sell.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): Customer reputation management is more and more important.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): Nothing can destroy a company's reputation faster than an unhappy customer.

Doug Spong (CLS): The flip side is true, too. Where you have enthusiasts for a brand, they will support that brand and resurrect that brand.

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): There are some clients where we don't do any media relations at all. It's brand management; it's helping them understand the consumer and word-of-mouth marketing. Media relations is of course the bread and butter of what we do. I see it becoming less and less so.

Bob Hanvik (FH): On the negative side of the equation, if you have an issue, it seems that PR is being tapped to drive the messaging for the corporation. PR needs to be at the table good, bad, and ugly, and really see what's in there. We're in a unique position to offer those insights.

Brad Allen (Imation): My current company has gone through lots of organizational changes. Each instance where we had some organizational development, we've always given scripts to customer service reps. We're assuming they are going to get a call and how to deal with that issues, even if it means passing it on to a higher level.

Keith O'Brien: How does internal communications, on the agency side you are offering guidance to clients or on the corporate side, if that is becoming more important?

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): I've always believed that employee communications is the single most important thing you can do. That's our sales force. When our employees leave at the end of the day, what they say about our services and products is what people believe.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): I agree. I have employee communications, but I didn't when I started. The case I made is that we were launching a brand and there was no way we could do it without staff support. It's the most important audience.

Doug Spong (CLS): We had a program for American Standard where we introduced a product to Home Depot for six weekends and they were there in their t-shirts. We worked that partnership with Home Depot and they were actually there in store all of that time.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): They're the ones that will take care of support.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): On the media side, employees believe you've won press. When things are good, they rally around the company. Considering employees any less of an audience is a mistake.

Lynn Casey (PSB): Did anyone else besides me start their corporate life in employee communications because it was the entry level?

David Kanahan (Allina Hospitals and Clinics): I did.

Lynn Casey (PSB): Now when I look at our most enlightened clients, they realize that they need strong employee communications people. I think the executive suite is tuned into the fact that they cannot use the typical channels, so they have to use really experienced people to make employees a strategy.

Doug Spong (CLS): If you're not focused on employee communications: you have employees with blogs, etc. You have to pay attention to them

Keith O'Brien: You mentioned that employees keep blogs. Are blogs, wikis, or podcasts becoming more prevalent for internal communications?

Bob Hanvik (FH): [A client] had a new VP of sales that put together a podcast... and it became a cult thing that they were excited to get. This has almost become this guy's radio show. Response has been amazing. People are like, "Wow, I don't work for an old-fashioned company. I work for this new technology-driven company."

Riff Yager (Exponent): It's a slippery slope with blogs. They can be easily misused. If it becomes corporate speak, they will be caught right away. If the writer isn't speaking with an authentic voice, it will do them more harm than good.

Bob Hanvik (FH): That's why we recommended the podcast. It was much easier to contain.

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): We've done a page for our CEO where he will [write] a message and then there's a contact button. So people can go in and comment to him. He answers each one personally.

Laurie Bauer (Carlson Hotels): The president of our division has started a blog and it is the highest read. She wanted to do this. It is the number one vehicle because it is from the heart. It humanizes her a lot and then she'll give a leadership message.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): That personality has to come through.

Keith O'Brien: What local media is important to you? How do you fit in the local media to your approach?

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): It depends on the story. If we're trying to reach a younger audience, we go to radio and skip print.

Bob Hanvik (FH): If it's a complex story, go with a local beat reporter who knows you and who you feel confident will take the time to understand the issue.

David Mona (WS): That's a tough question to answer from an agency standpoint. According to research that we've done, 70% of our reach has been outside the market, while only 30% is inside the market. I would have answered that question very differently 10 or 15 years ago.

Riff Yager (Exponent): We're seeing a shift to key markets more than national. National will always be important, but how you localize a story to a key market is becoming more important than before.

Bob Hanvik (FH): If you have a large corporation based here they want to see themselves in the local paper.

Ann Folkman (Cargill): Someone said to me that the media in this area is as tough as any in the country to work with. This is one of the toughest media to work with. It's not a fun group to pitch.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): I love all reporters and editors here. I think they all do a terrific job.

Bob Hanvik (FH): It's a really interesting time right now. You have the St. Paul paper acquired by McClatchy. You've got some upheaval in the local broadcast media. It's kind of interesting to see what they are going to do with that. Channel 29 giving up news; issues with KARE TV. It's an interesting time.

Brad Allen (Imation): For us, the local media is our primary employee communications tool to reinforce what we are telling employees. We want the coverage more for that.

Jorg Pierach (Fast Horse): I'd like to see more media in this area cover our industry. There are a handful that do it well.

Doug Spong (CLS): Public radio is the crown jewel in this market.

Wendy Tai (General Mills): The news industry has changed so dramatically. The type of stories you cover and how deep you go and keeping the audience in mind has faded. Many reporters entered post Watergate thinking they were doing God's Work

Margaret Ann Hennen (Fairview Health Services): There's a lot of disillusionment now. People are entering PR for the save-the-world aspect that people usually entered journalism for.

Brad Allen (Imation): That brings up an interesting point. I think that there's a real crisis in terms of corporate reputation in terms of how companies are viewed. Journalists are continuing to approach companies as basically "You're lying to me, but I have to figure how much and how bad you are." A lot of it has to do with the post-Enron world. I think this is just going to get worse.

Bob Hanvik (FH): I was in a meeting a few weeks ago with an editor from the NY Times. One of his key mandates for his people was we're going to set the agenda for what's discussed. Not report on the news, but set the agenda. That's an interesting shift.

David Kanahan (Allina Hospitals and Clinics): They always have set the agenda.

David Kanahan (Allina Hospitals and Clinics): I've been struck by how many journalist resumes I get. I bet I've gotten 20 in the past six months.

Doug Spong (CLS): Business reporters have all been challenged with finding that next Enron by their editors.

Shane Boyd (St. Paul's Travelers): As a company based here, we still find ourselves ending up with those traditional stories in the hometown paper. But by and large we don't look at it as a market specific issue for us. We don't think of it as exclusives for one specific reporter or another.

Participants

Ann Folkman
, marketing director, Cargill

Bob Hanvik, SVP and partner, GM, Fleishman:Hillard Minneapolis, MN

Riff Yeager, MD,Exponent

David Mona, chairman and founder of Weber Shandwick Twin Cities

David Kanahan, director of PR, Allina Hospitals and Clinics

Lynn Casey, CEO, Padilla Spears Beardsley

Margaret Ann Hennen, system director of communications, Fairview Health Services

Doug Spong, president and CEO, Carmichael Lynch Spong

Brad Allen, VP, corporate communications, Imation

Jorg Pierach, president, Fast Horse

Laurie Bauer, senior director, PR/Communications, Carlson Hotels

Shane Boyd, VP of corporate communications, St. Paul's Travelers

Wendy Tai, director, issues management, General Mills

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