The Making of Paul Ryan [The Brand]

Rep. Paul Ryan built his own path to prosperity by cultivating a high-profile public image. That image was shaped by being accessible to the media, always having something compelling to say and always staying on message – with a smile.

Regardless of your politics, you have to admire Republican Party Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan. Over the course of his congressional career, Paul Ryan charted his path to power not so much inside the halls of Congress, but outside – using a lot of the tools of my trade: public relations.

Unlike his peers, Paul Ryan didn’t toil for years working up the subcommittee ranks or giving lots of PAC money to colleagues. He simply made it a priority to get his name in the media – often.

According to NPR, he’s been quoted in the The Wall Street Journal more than 100 times in the last few years. He’s been frequently featured in or interviewed by a number of high-profile magazines and newspapers that follow Washington, D.C. politics. He’s been a regular on the Sunday morning political talk show circuit for several years – and he did all of this long before speculation of his VP candidacy surfaced.

No matter how you vote or feel about the congressman from Wisconsin, PR professionals of every stripe should take note of what he did and how he did it.

He followed some basic tenants of PR:

  • If you want to get quoted, take an audacious position on a popular topic and share the hell out of it
  • Hone a compelling back story. People want to read about or watch people they think are interesting
  • Cultivate relationships with the media, and always make yourself available to answer their calls or emails
  • Give the media compelling content, and they will reward you
  • If you make an announcement, be damn sure it has news value beyond what you think is newsworthy
  • Have a clear and compelling set of talking points on key issues to your brand, and know them like the back of your hand
  • Be gregarious with, and accessible to, the media
  • Project confidence – always project confidence – when engaging the media
  • Always be on message

Whether you like Paul Ryan the Man or Paul Ryan the Politician isn’t the point. If you’re in PR (or even politics for that matter) you have to admire Paul Ryan the Brand because what he did is what a lot of us work hard to do for our clients every day.

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Fear of Clothing In Las Vegas, or The Pantsless Prince

Who among us hasn’t stumbled into an innocent-but-ill-considered game of competitive naked billiards every now and again? Yeah … neither have I. Although I suspect an invitation might be pending, for research purposes.

Following Prince Harry’s recent “Fear OF Clothing in Las Vegas” incident, I honestly found myself astounded he has learned so little since his 2002 photographic outing in a Nazi SS Halloween costume or his more recent video tirade against people of Middle Eastern cultures. Seriously, where is the Royal Palace’s public affairs team? Have they taught this man-boy nothing?

Clearly they have not.

Therefore, in service to Her Royal Majesty’s government and Regal Personage – and in acknowledgement of the “Special Relationship” of our two countries – I offer Lt. Wales the following public relations advice for managing his Royal Person:

Prince Harry in the buff at the billiards table in Las Vegas.

  1. One should not strip down at any public or private function unless One’s bodyguards or “Wing Men” have searched for and confiscated all electronic devices of the guests in advance… to protect the Crown Jewels, of course.
  2. One must remember, as a Royal, nothing is off the record.
  3. One must not pick up random “hot chicks” in a Vegas hotel lobby. Nothing in Vegas stays in Vegas. Ask any Urologist.
  4. In managing the Royal message in such circumstances, One might help defuse the situation by citing if One actually won the competitive naked billiards match in question.
  5. One must now do two or three select TV interviews explaining One’s Self after first having conferred with comedy writers such as Tina Fey, Seth Myer, or whoever handled Hugh Grant’s appearances in the early 90s.
  6. One must, finally, grow up.

This advice I offer free of charge to His Royal Highness in the sincere hope He will act on said advice. We hope, as well, He will now put his big boy pants back on and work to become a functional and responsible adult.

God save His tailor!

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Everything I Need to Know About Customer Service I Learned from My Parents … and McDonald’s


I recently bought a house. Somewhere in the process of securing a mortgage, packing my every possession onto a truck, and connecting with various domestic service providers, I became re-acquainted with my long-held appreciation for good customer service.

As a consumer, I was asking organizations – banks, moving companies, landscapers, cable providers, roofers, real estate agencies, etc. – to take my money in exchange for the services they advertise to the public.  What distinguished each of these companies was the demeanor in which they approached the task of providing those services.

There were companies that genuinely appreciated the fact I called to offer them my business. Simply by doing their jobs while being pleasant and helpful they earned my loyalty. Their employers should be proud.

But there were others; organizations represented by individuals who made clear every interaction was an inconvenience. These people thought it was appropriate to make me understand – at every stage of the transaction – they were doing me a huge favor and that I ought to get down on my knees and kiss their feet for … doing their jobs? I was baffled and alarmed by the frequency of these occurrences.

Good customer service in this instance didn’t require anyone to move heaven and earth … just my belongings. Good customer service begets loyalty and future business. Poor customer service … well, it warrants the Wrath of Rod. (I assure you those companies know my name if they didn’t before.)

Maybe it’s just me, but poor customer service is always a jolt to my system. My parents raised me to be respectful and polite. Throughout my high school and college careers I worked at McDonald’s, where good customer service is a full-contact sport. I was a journalist who relied on good relationships in order to get the story. I work in public relations, where what you say is equally as important as how you say it. For as long as I can remember, treating people well and doing your job was just what you were supposed to do.

If your employees don’t recognize the manner and tone with which they speak to your customers has genuine consequences for your brand then you have already weakened your brand with consumers.

Today, treating your customer well is perceived as a premium service in too short supply. The good news is there are countless consumers out there like me who recognize good customer service when we see it. We reward you with referrals, repeat business, and genuine appreciation.

This philosophy has been one of the key principles of my career, and I haven’t seen it fail me yet. My clients know I’ll do everything possible to get the job done, and done well. I am rewarded with continued business, referrals and happy clients.

Perhaps I should introduce some of those less-than-savvy service providers to my parents or my former McDonald’s managers. They could learn a thing or two about manners and how to treat people.

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Creating a Social Media Plan (Part 2 of 2)

Insights and humor on how small businesses should go about creating a social media presence. Part 2 of 2.

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Evaluating Social Media

Part one of a two-part video series on how some companies evaluate – and resolve – social media issues.

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Public Speaking: One Part Art, Two Parts Unadulterated Panic

This morning I will be speaking at SoMeBizLife’s 2012 Conference in Doylestown, Pa., on the fundamentals of social media. If you find yourself with a free morning on your hands, I hope you’ll stop by Delaware Valley College and join in some great sessions on social media.

Meanwhile, I’ve already hit the gym (it hurt) and am psyching myself out for what I think will be a fun and informative presentation. (There’s also free chocolate at my session … so yes, I’m not above offering bribes.)

As I’ve been preparing, I have been thinking a bit about public speaking. There is an art to it that I love.

But there is also the unadulterated thrill of putting yourself out there – putting your presentation skills in the hands of strangers to be judged. I admit to loving it. Yes, I feel a bit queasy about 4 minutes before and for nearly 10 minutes afterward. However, in the middle of the act of speaking, I’m in the zone and loving it; most especially when the audience is clearly with me.

So to my fellow presenters, I wish you all the best. To those in attendance, I ask for your thoughtful attention and welcome your feedback. And to my brother, who is also preparing for a series of public speaking engagements, I say: You never get over being a bit nervous, but with practice, it becomes a real thrill; kind of like jumping out of a plane.

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Thanks to All Our Brave Men & Women

Thanks to All Our Brave Men & Women

Memorial Day is more than BBQ and fireworks. Remember to thank a veteran today!

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