TFG’s Herb Garden

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Our Chief Administrative Officer at The Fearey Group, Chris Nettles, has a green thumb, and she’s sharing the benefits with our whole office! Chris recently planted an herb garden in our (currently) sunny office in downtown Seattle and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Complete with Thyme, Sweet Basil, Sage, Cilantro, Oregano, Rosemary, Thai Basil and Tarragon, our team is always armed with the perfect herb for any dish. In fact, just last night, our newest team member, Amy Snow Landa, cooked up bruschetta! We’ve included the recipe and a photo of the decadent meal below.

 Amy’s Bruschetta:

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Amy says bruschetta is a great choice for a summer meal because it’s easy to make, satisfying to eat, and a terrific way to use fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden or farmers market.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 medium Roma tomatoes – or the equivalent in cherry tomatoes – diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Crusty Italian bread, cut into ½-inch-thick slices (probably 4 to 6 slices, depending on the size of the bread)

Instructions:

In a large bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar into the olive oil.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. 

Taste to see if you want to add more of anything, and set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly brush each side of the bread slices with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Put baking sheet in oven for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip the bread slices and put back in oven for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove and place on a plate.

Top the bread with the tomato mixture.

Tear basil into small pieces and sprinkle on top.

Note: You can also add a bit of grated Parmesan to the tomato mixture, if you like.

Bon appétit!

 

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Guest Post: Fixing Data Breach PR

Our guest post today on public relations around recent data breaches comes from our PRGN partner, David Fuscus, president and CEO of Xenophon Strategies based in Washington, DC. Find his original post here

Fixing Data Breach PR

By David Fuscus

Xenophon Strategies, Washington, DC

“Year of the Retailer Breach” was how Verizon recently described 2013 in their annual Data Breach Report, saying that it “was a year of transition… to large scale attacks on payment card systems”. The report documented 1,367 confirmed data breaches, the largest and most infamous of which was the massive amount of customer information stolen from Target during the busy Christmas shopping season.

Target’s initial handling of the breach was so poor that the iconic bull’s-eye logo had rested squarely on their corporate forehead for months and the Board of Directors finally pulled the trigger and fired CEO Gregg Steinhafel and Chief Information Officer Beth Jacob.  Target’s struggles and executive replacements can only lead one to speculate that their next financial results will be ugly.

Target’s initial communications response was particularly bad because they acted so slowly; media reports started on December 12, but the breach wasn’t publically acknowledged for seven days. Target finally instituted a comprehensive response program (including free credit reports) and a PR campaign to repair the damage, but it was too little, too late — the data breach steamroller was already in motion and crushing customer trust.

And it wasn’t just Target; Neiman Marcus stands out as another retailer who bungled public communications about a massive data breach.  Rumblings of multi-breaches at Neiman’s first appeared in mid-December and a forensic firm discovered evidence of the breach on January 1st, but it wasn’t until January 10ththat they were forced to acknowledge the crisis after security blogger Brian Krebs broke the story  and they didn’t officially announce the crisis until January 23rd.  Their initial media communication efforts were pitiful, mainly an on-demand only statement for journalists.  A key rule of crisis communications is to define yourself rather than be defined and Neiman-Marcus took few and inadequate actions to communicate on a broad level to the public and their customers.

Data breaches are the worst type of modern corporate crisis because they directly impact masses of individual customers on a financial and emotional level. When people are personally hurt or threatened, they can become powerful influencers when those stories are amplified across social networks; when millions are individually threatened, their reaction can severely damage an entire business, regardless of size.

So how could sophisticated, well-managed, companies like Target and Neiman-Marcus bungle their data breach communications so badly?  It’s not like the basics of crisis communications are mystical:  define rather than be defined, fast self-disclosure, respond directly to customers and undertake public facing actions to ensure it never happens again.

While the reasons for Target’s and Neiman-Marcus’s communications decisions are only known within the company, there are some likely candidates:

  • Legal vs Communications.  In a crisis, the first priority of competent communicators is to publically define the situation and exert some influence with the media and customers.  The first priority of legal professionals is generally to put the company in the best possible position for litigation, especially when litigation will be massive.  If a company hasn’t addressed the balance of brand damage vs. litigation before a crisis, it inevitably leads to delay as senior executives tend to defer to their legal teams.
  • Speed vs Full Information.  In any data breach, having a full understanding of what happened can take days, weeks or months. Target’s internal investigation and report on their breach still isn’t done five months after the event.  Waiting for full or robust information can waste precious time and allow the story to break from another source.  Arts and crafts giant Michael’s suffered a data breach shortly after Neiman’s and Target, but they announced a potential breach as soon as they discovered it, engaged with the media and opened a CEO-level dialogue with their customers.  By jumping out ahead of the story, Michael’s was viewed as competently managing the crisis and working to protect their customers.
  • Communications Infrastructure.  When a crisis explodes, public attention is almost instantaneous and can be massive both in the news media and on social channels.  The level of attention and potential ferocity is outside the experience of most business executives and, with no base of experience, ill-informed decisions can reign.  Corporations need to plan for crisis communications, build infrastructure and have the proper outside resources on tap so that they can instantly ramp up and engage with both the media and their customers.

Public communications after a data breach needs to be comprehensive — a company needs to understand its ability to respond to the media and customers, whether it is through the press, social channels, call centers or stores.  And the execution of fast, meaningful, communications depends on the advance identification of issues that can slow down a public response — be it lack of preparation, communications infrastructure or insufficient planning between a company’s communications, legal and technical functions.

David Fuscus is the president and CEO of Xenophon Strategies, a leading U.S. PR firm specializing in crisis & reputation communications and brand management which is headquartered in Washington, DC.  Follow him on Twitter at @DavidFuscus or @XenophonPR.

How to Make Measurement Tangible and Manageable for Employees and Clients

Before this year’s PRSA 2014 Counselors Academy Conference, we reached out to Linhart PR’s Kelly Womer to learn more about her presentation, “How to Make Measurement Tangible and Manageable for Employees and Clients.”

Measurement is one of the most challenging things to deliver in a digest able format for both employees and clients. At Linhart PR they have developed a method, Linhart PRoof™, to give their employees and clients an impactful measurement tool that shows what successes they have seen. We asked Kelly to give us a sneak peek into the framework her team uses to provide measurement for clients.

Kelly: We developed LinhartPRoof to help us better determine and measure what most matters to our clients. It gives our team a seven-step framework, guided by best practices we already use, to know when, how and what to measure to share success. The seven-steps include:

  1. Mission and objectives: It starts by understanding the ins and outs of an organization’s business and how communications can help.
  2. Strategic planning: This involves developing ideas – from “mild to wild” – to create a plan, scope of work and budget to meet the goals created during step one.
  1. Success metrics: Any agreed-upon plan and activities must be measured to understand what’s working and what’s not.
  1. Tools: There are many measurement tools and techniques available, ranging from online software to in-depth consumer research.
  1. Frequency and formatting: It’s important to develop a schedule for reporting results based on the plan, the organization’s needs and budget.
  2. Analysis and reporting: There’s great power and potential in interpreting results-related data at appropriate intervals.
  3. Satisfaction: There’s always room to learn and continuously improve

We can’t wait to see Kelly’s full presentation and learn how effective measurement has become a best practice for her team to deliver results for their clients.