Brent Buchanan

Public Relations, Politics, & Advice

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How Your Government Entity Can Partner with an Energy Services Company (ESCO)

Outside of personnel, energy and utilities is probably one of your biggest budget line items.  What if you could find substantial energy savings and convert that savings into a capital improvement or deferred maintenance project…guaranteed?

Brent Buchanan, Managing Partner with Engage South, explains in this webinar why you need to work with an energy savings company and how to get started.  In “Selecting an Energy Services Partner: Answering 6 Questions for Government Entities,” Brent answers question you may have about energy savings performance contracting (ESPC).  He covers the following topics to give you a better understanding of the process:

  • How savings are generated using ESPCs
  • How ESPC projects can be funded and financed
  • How ESCOs implement ESPC projects
  • How to get started with your own ESPC project

After watching the webinar, you will have the knowledge you need to implement meaningful energy savings within your government entity.

For more information about how your government entity can pursue an energy savings performance contract, please contact Brent Buchanan at (334) 239-3903 or brent (at) engagesouth dot com.

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

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Callie Hincy of 24 Communications Offers Event Planning Tips

Callie Hincy - 24 CommunicationsAfter starting her career in Los Angeles with Twentieth Century Fox, Callie Hincy worked with recognizable brands like InStyle magazine and Martha Stewart Living.  She moved back to Montgomery, Ala. in 2008 and served as marketing director for an insurance company.  Just last year, Callie partnered up with Jennifer Solt who started 24 Communications back in 2006.  The two have quickly carved out a niche in the capital city’s marketing, public relations and event planning world.

Mrs. Hincy applies the same organization and management skills to events that she employs for any other type of public relations effort.  She believes the first step to event planning is answering “who, what, when, where and why.”  Once those questions are answered, the remaining event preparation steps can be completed.

When asked about other key components of events, Hincy replied, “Details, details, details.  Everything is in the details when you’re doing an event.”  She said that keeping detailed lists and notes is imperative.  “Check and recheck everything before your event happens,” Callie affirmed.  “You have to think of everything, because if something goes wrong, the first thing they’re going to say is ‘who organized this,’ or ‘who was responsible for planning the event.’”

She mentioned it is important to select the right venue to fit the budget, because too large of a location can quickly explode other line items within the budget, including food and decorations. The target audience should also dictate venue along with guiding every other aspect of the event.

Once the planning stages are completed, Callie recommends sending professionally addressed paper invitations.  “People notice that when they get it in the mail, and they’re more likely to attend,” she said.

Callie Hincy & Jennifer Solt at 24 Communication's 2013 Christmas PartyOne of Mrs. Hincy’s favorite events to plan was 24 Communication’s 2013 Christmas party.  Due to a limited budget, the event was not large, but it was intimate due to smart planning and selection of a cozy venue.  Her firm designed and printed books showing all the company’s work for the year.  Clients thumbed through the pages as they sipped on a signature cocktail.  “It was a nice way to thank our clients for a wonderful 2013, and we didn’t break the bank doing it.  It was a nice quality event,” Callie concluded.

 

 

Below are audio clips from the interview with Callie Hincy.

Steps Callie Hincy always includes when planning an event

Common pitfalls Callie Hincy recommends to avoid when planning an event

How Callie Hincy views her role in planning and managing events

How Callie Hincy conducts researching in the planning phase for smaller events

What Callie Hincy normally includes in event promotion to ensure the right people attend

The most memorable event Callie Hincy has managed

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

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Cision Hosts Webinar About the 10 Essentials for Getting Started in Content Marketing

On February 28, 2013, Heidi Sullivan, SVP, Digital Content, and Laurie Mahoney, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, at Cision presented a 30-minute webinar entitled “10 Essentials for Getting Started in Content Marketing.”  The webinar is still available on demand on Cision’s US website.  As a provider of public relations and social media tools, Cision hosted the webinar to provide ideas about content marketing to its target audience – public relations practitioners and brands.

Sullivan and Mahoney both stressed the need for content marketing as a key component of any public relations initiative.  They pointed to a quote by Seth Godin to substantiate their claim: “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”  According to Heidi Sullivan, “Content marketing is finding the format for a story, finding a platform, and then finding a way to promote that.”

During the webinar, the presenters covered the 10 key aspects of creating and executing a content marketing plan.  Laurie Mahoney reminded attendees about the social media/contact curation “Rule of Thirds,” which is what one’s content should be on social media.  She said, “One-third should be about you; one-third should be straight interaction and one-third should be promoting other peoples’ content.”  Some of the highlights of the ten ideas for content marketing were:

  • Have a written content strategy
  • Build relationships with influencers
  • Optimize your content from the top down
  • Set goals then measure along the way

The webinar was promoted through Cision’s email list, a Facebook event and the company’s Twitter account.  It was considered to be in the event leadership subfield of meetings and conferences though conducted online and not in person.  Live attendees participated via Twitter in a crowdsourced manner, and presenters incorporated comments, questions and ideas from audience in real time.

Cision also has a free eBook available for download that explains more about content marketing and the power of storytelling.

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

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Proposed “Purpose” Initiative – New Coca-Cola Initiative and App Will Bridge Digital Divide

Coca-Cola-Proposed-Internet-Access-Expansion-and-Mobile-App-InitiativeAs one of the largest companies in the world with an extensive international distribution network in all but two countries, Coca-Cola is taking the lead to shrink the digital divide through more accessible Internet access and a new mobile application.  By the end of 2015, Coca-Cola will have installed in every vending machine worldwide free WiFi hotspot access dependent on usage of its mobile application.  The free app, available on all devices, is designed to increase learning and job skills.  As users complete levels of the learning app, their time usage at the WiFi hotspots will be increase proportionally.  Coca-Cola aims to incentivize education and life skills improvement in the developing world and also among underserved populations in developed counties.

Coca-Cola’s “Drink, Play and Grow” app will be language-specific for each area in which the company has distribution and vending machines.  In order to encourage usage without discouraging an individual, the app will start users out with a skills and comprehension game that will test understanding of language and gauge education level.  Based on the initial test, the app will ease the user into play at the most conducive level to promote learning.  Those people without the ability to comprehend written language will be presented with a graphical interface that teaches reading and writing. More advanced users will be quizzed on basic job skills and critical thinking challenges.  The app even has a few upper levels that could stump an Ivy League PhD graduate to show that everyone should never stop learning.

Coca-Cola got the idea for its Internet access expansion and mobile app initiative at the 2013 Seoul Conference on Cyberspace where multiple speakers covered the topic of the digital divide between the “e-haves and the e-have-nots.”  Since the company is already in every country except Cuba and North Korea, the leadership wanted to put its vast distribution network to work for the public good.   Two of Coca-Cola’s three mission statement points are fulfilled in the new initiative: “To refresh the world” and “To create value and make a difference”.

Social media will play a key role in Coca-Cola’s rollout of the “Ice Cold with Internet” WiFi hotspot network and its corresponding “Drink, Play and Grow” mobile application.  The company has enlisted its best internal country-specific new media experts to help determine the best social media networks for each area.  Additionally, Coca-Cola will hire news carriers to distribute flyers to families in the surrounding area of each “Ice Cold with Internet” location.

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

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App Review – WordPress iPhone App Takes Web Editing and Content Creation Mobile

Introduction to WordPress for iPhone

Wordpress iPhone iOS App - Slide Tray

WordPress is one of the most utilized content management systems (CMS) available, much of which can be attributed to its ease of use and open-source platform.  In the early stages of the software, editing a website or creating content was difficult from a mobile device.  Like the system, WordPress for iOS is also developed under a public license.

Available from the App Store by searching “Wordpress”, the application is quick to download and easy to figure out.  The user interface is the central hub of the app.  Once a WordPress website is connected to the app through secure login, a simple swipe to the right reveals the complete navigation.

 

Adding or Changing a Post

Wordpress iPhone iOS App - PostsWordpress iPhone iOS App - Post SettingsAfter selecting correct website (WordPress of iOS can handle multiple sites), touch “Posts”, and every post on the site is displayed.  To add a post, select the plus button in the top right corner.

As you can see, each current post has an arrow pointing right, which means the post is editable on the WordPress for iOS application for iPhone. Once the post is selected and the settings button touched, the Properties for each post can be updated right from your mobile device.

 

Downfall: Having to Known HTML

Wordpress iPhone iOS App - Edit PostsNot every blogger or content creator knows HTML off the fly without needing at least a little help.  I personally understand the language and its construct, but coding from scratch is not a strong suit.  This is one downfall of the WordPress of iOS app.

As you can see from the screenshot, there is no option for HTML editing without the HTML, a feature offered by WordPress through the administrative portal on each site.  If the developers – the tens of thousands of them out there – could add one feature for us non-HTML wizzos, it would be live text, photo and video editing on the mobile app like is found online.

 

Why Every PR Professional Should be Using WordPress for iOS

For every public relations professional, doing the job on the go is now a must.  One cannot always carry a laptop or tablet to push out new content or update a client’s website. Those who have been doing this a while and even new practitioners know that taking care of a client’s needs as soon as possible is crucial to the client’s mission and satisfaction.  The WordPress for iOS app empowers anyone to edit a website, create content or approve blog comments from anywhere.

 

A PR Pro’s App Wish List

The WordPress for iOS app is very close to the public relations professional’s best-in-the-whole-world app.  Stay with me here.  Think of this app as the hub of your work.  Integrated into the app would be the abovementioned non-HTML-weenie user interface for posts and pages.  Connected to the app would be your cloud storage solution (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) with built-in Word document editor allowing for collaboration on content prior to posting.  Like the iPad version of this same application, photo and video capture and rich editing would be included.  Now are you following me?  Since the website or blog is the center of your content strategy, why not make the mobile app that allows editing and creating thereof to be the one-stop-shop?

 

Note to all WordPress for iOS Developers: There are probably a lot of PR pros out there, along with just regular bloggers, who have sprained thumbs due to the excessive use of their mobile devices that would really appreciate this “wish list” app.  And thank you so much for all you already do for the WordPress community!

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

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Brand Story Video – Bettering Communication Through Instant Feedback

Learn how to improve your communication by soliciting instant feedback.  This one small tip can help you cut through the noise in your communication with others.

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

 

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Featured Article – Washington Could Learn From Its Own Monument

Washington Monument with Scaffolding

The Washington Monument complete with scaffolding nearly two years after an earthquake damages the icon. Taken by Brent Buchanan on June 20, 2013.

As Congress pushes the nation ever closer to shutting down the government over a showdown concerning Obamacare, the Washington Monument stands two miles away from the action surrounded by scaffolding.   The icon of our nation’s capital was damaged over two years ago when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the East Coast.  A few months after the damage was assessed, a billionaire philanthropist stepped forward and donated $7.5 million toward fixing the Washington Monument – half the projected cost of the repairs.  In December 2012, a private contractor started the work, which is still underway and expected to be completed by year-end.

So what does a frail but fixable Washington Monument have to do with the current wrangling in Congress?  The monument was shaken and damaged, but people joined together, including private individuals, to fix the national treasure.  Our government has been shaken time and time again, and it is approaching the breaking point.  The people elected to fix the problems have yet to figure a way to work together to achieve this goal.  No one wants to see the Washington Monument fall, and no on wants to see our government fail.  However, only the former appears to be of concern for our nation’s leaders.

The cracks in our country are not new.  Attempting to govern from crisis to crisis has created an atmosphere of rancor and division.  Gerrymandering sends individuals to Congress who are farther right and farther left, leaving very little room for compromise in the middle.  Politicians stick their fingers in the wind to check the direction before every vote.  Democrats think compromise is when Republicans coalesce to their demands.  Republicans want the whole shebang or nothing at all.  Americans end up paying the price for Washington’s dysfunction.

Another earthquake.  Crack.  Another crisis.  Crack.  Another problem.  Crack.

All the while, scaffolding still stands around the Washington Monument as talented and hardworking people fix the cracks and strive to stick on schedule for completion of the project around the end of the year.  Two miles away, bitter arguments between politicians and talking heads fuel a twenty-four hour news cycle that thrives on conflict.  We regular Americans feel the earthquakes and see the cracks, but no one has stepped up to lead like David Rubenstein did for the Washington Monument.  No crews have erected scaffolding around over government’s problems.  No politicians are working around the clock to meet the deadline.

At what point do the citizens stand up and shake the status quo to the point where leaders step up and problems get solved?  The Washington Monument’s repairs will be done soon.  Maybe by then the so-called public servants will start serving, too.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

 

 

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Public Service Announcement – Smartphone Use While Driving

There’s a reason states and municipalities around the country have outright banned phone use during driving.  Texting, Facebooking, emailing, and Tweeting while driving is downright dangerous.  Take the pledge to not text and drive – www.ItCanWait.com.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

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Blog Post – Four Ways Citizens United Has Transformed Corporate Speech in America

Money has always been and will always be a part of the American political process.  Any candidate for federal office can confirm this notion as a majority of his or her time is spent “dialing for dollars.”  Congressmen especially know this be true since they have to run every two years.  What has really changed over the past few cycles has been the influence of outside spending in campaigns and on issues.

Prior to the United States Supreme Court’s decision Citizens United, corporations and unions could advocate for the social welfare utilizing IRS Code Section 527.  However, this type of political advocacy placed limits on the content advertising, including the inability to expressly request action (“Vote for Joe Smith”, etc.), and on the timing of the advertising – no more than 30 or 60 days from an election depending on the situation.

Citizens United changed the game and created what is now known as super PACs.  Corporations, individuals, and unions may now give unlimited funds to these entities, but super PACs may not coordinate with any candidates for office.

Here are four ways the Supreme Court rewrote the rules for corporate speech with their decision:

1. Money is considered speech.
The opinion of the court made the point that anyone who takes part in free speech uses money “amassed from the economic marketplace to fund [their] speech.”  Therefore, if a corporation wants to spend money on a campaign or issue, they are free to do so because funding corporate speech with corporate money is no different.  While there are still limits on how the money may be spent, Citizens United freed corporations from many of the previous constraints on corporate speech.

2. The “magic words” can go away.
Anyone that has worked in campaign independent expenditure efforts knows to avoid the “magic words”: elect, vote for, defeat, oppose, etc.  Citizens United strikes down this ban for super PACs and allows them to participate in express advocacy.  The court overruled two previous Supreme Court decisions – Austin and McConnell – as part of Citizens United.

3. Advocacy can occur through Election Day.
In striking down previous case law in Austin and McConnell, the Supreme Court also removed the previous ban on independent corporate advocacy occurring within 30 or 60 days from the election.  Out of all the changes as a result of Citizens United, this one makes the most sense because it was the biggest limit on freedom of speech, in my opinion. Telling someone they can speak up until a certain date but then they have to be quite thereafter just doesn’t make sense.

4. Candidates are no longer necessary to disseminate a message.
While no one wants to admit it, candidates for office tend to deliver messages to the public that are in line with those donating to their campaigns.  If a corporation wanted to speak directly to the public on an issue prior to Citizens United, they had to follow the strict rules associated with 527s.  Now with super PACs, corporation can go directly to the voting public with their message and spend unlimited funds in the pursuit thereof.

Despite these changes, it appears that publicly traded companies are not jumping on the free spending bandwagon.  In fact, less than 1% of the money that went to super PACs in 2012 came from publicly traded companies.  The large majority of the money came directly from individual donors.

What remains to be seen is whether this new conduit for corporate speech becomes a viable, utilized channel for public companies.  I guess no one is clamoring to be the first corporation to test the boundaries and see what flack comes from the media.

On a briefly related note, while the Supreme Court showed its willingness to touch this sensitive issue of corporate spending in politics, it recently declined to hear a case challenging corporations’ ability to contribute directly to federal campaigns.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.

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Press Release – cygnal Unveils New Survey Research Option

cygnal Logo

cygnal Unveils New Survey Research Option
More cost-effective Flash Polls now available

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – July 29, 2013 – Survey research is not always conducted when it should be due to a function of budget.  cygnal, a national communication and campaign firm, today announced is new Flash Polling service that allows any campaign, organization, business, advocacy group, or non-profit to afford quality and accurate survey research.  A Flash Poll can include up to ten questions, not including demographic data, and are conducted over a two to three day period to ensure a representative sample size.  Crucial information can be collected through a Flash Poll to help organizations make strategic decisions based on data and the sentiment of the target audience.

“Through Flash Polling, we have made quantitative survey research affordable while maintaining the methodological integrity of the data collection process,” said Brent Buchanan, Managing Partner at cygnal.  “Now political candidates, small businesses, and advocacy groups can afford to field a poll, receive usable data, and make informed decisions at a fraction of the cost of traditional polling,” he concluded.

While traditional polling collects responses through live telephone surveys completed by phone bank personnel, flash polling reaches hundreds of more potential respondents through interactive voice response (IVR) technology.  Although old school pollsters eschew “robopolling”, as they call it, the data suggests that IVR polling is as accurate, if not more accurate, as live polling.

What sets cygnal apart from other “robopolling” operations is that cygnal approaches the survey research process in the same professional manner as full-time pollsters.  Surveys are written on the frontend in an unbiased manner.  Data is collected during multiple dayparts across several consecutive days.  Completed surveys are properly analyzed and weighted, after which, toplines and detailed crosstabs are generated.  cygnal puts dozens of hours of work into every Flash Poll to ensure to that final survey results are accurate, actionable, and worthwhile.

cygnal recently completed two statewide flash polls in Iowa in conjunction with TheRun2016.com.  The surveys were for the potential 2016 candidates for President on both the Democrat and Republican races.  Full results are available here:

cygnal/TheRun2016 Flash Poll of Iowa Democrats about the 2016 President Caucus

cygnal/TheRun2016 Flash Poll of Iowa Republicans about the 2016 President Caucus

Due to the complex nature of Flash Polling, cygnal only accepts four Flash Polling clients per week.  In order to lock in your place in line to receive a Flash Poll for your effort, contact Brent Buchanan today before these limited slots are filled.  cygnal will also conduct full-length traditional polling for clients with its preferred partner polling firm.

More information about cygnal is available on their website, Twitter feed, and Facebook page.

 

DISCLAIMER: This specific post is a submitted assignment for my Master’s in Public Relations program.