A Media & Communications Checklist for Savvy Attorneys Sue Evans, Northwest Media Allies

Understand the fundamentals of communications: your goal drives strategy and tactics. Media, social media and marketing are tactics, not strategy. For most attorneys, the goal is to secure a strong result for their client. The second goal is to generate more referrals.

Start planning your media strategy when you sign your client. Make sure you understand early on what your clients want. Some clients are passionate about sharing their stories. Others prefer to maintain their privacy. Your job as an attorney is to comply with your client’s wishes throughout the litigation process.


 Screen your clients. Attorneys must work with real people and real facts. Does the client profile inhibit the case facts? Do the case facts hurt the client profile? Not all clients cooperate. Not all facts favor clients. Not all family members in a case agree on a media strategy. Make sure you understand how your client’s profile and case facts will impact the media strategy.


 Budget for marketing and media relations on high-profile cases. High-profile cases attract the media and drain law firm time. It’s inevitable. Maybe the client and the attorney don’t want the spotlight – it won’t matter. Either way, the cost is time. Plan for it. Get estimates from local media relations professionals on what it may cost to assist you in managing the media for you and your client.


 How to prioritize media strategies for a high-profile media case


 The press conference – The press conference is reserved for high-profile cases that already have a media following or will undoubtedly generate a media following. A press conference allows attorneys and their clients to address a large volume of media traffic at once in the span of 30 minutes. Press conferences are best suited for cases where clients want to actively share their story with the media. Clients and attorneys will need to be prepped with an event script, talking points and press handouts for the press conference. Attorneys should hold a press conference on the day the case is filed, settled or a verdict is rendered. Press conferences are expensive and should be reserved for big cases.


 Media availability – Designating a time for media availability is an effective way to handle a large volume of media traffic when the client does not want to be involved in the media process. Attorneys handling the case can make themselves available to answer questions and release a statement about the case at a designated time quickly.


 Distributing a press release – Attorneys and clients may want to distribute a press release and forego hosting a press conference. This enables both the attorney and client to drive the message around their case while minimizing costs to the client and involvement of the client. Press releases should be distributed on the same day a government claim is filed; a lawsuit is filed; a lawsuit is settled or a jury verdict is delivered. The media does not appreciate receiving press releases long after a case has been filed or settled. It is also important that press releases be sent to the appropriate reporters and editors. Sending press releases to the wrong media outlet, wrong reporter and wrong editor can hurt a law firm’s reputation with the media. Do not send out a press release every time you file or settle a case. Reporters and editors will quickly tune you out. (There is no such thing as the “embargoed” press release. Once you release the information to the press, consider it public.)


 Pitching an exclusive – Pitching a media exclusive helps attorneys get ahead of the media storm to ensure a client’s story is told in a preferred framework that favors your client. It gives the reporter and editor more time to investigate the details of your case. Reporters and editors are more likely to give the case a big spotlight from their outlet if they have the exclusive rights to tell your client’s story first. Pitching an exclusive is often the best option when dealing with controversial or complex litigation. Only attorneys and media professionals who have built trusted relationships with key reporters and editors should pitch an exclusive on a client’s case.


When to avoid media – Obviously when clients don’t want their profile in the media, then attorneys should not take steps to generate media. However, if attorneys believe a case is likely to garner media attention anyway, attorneys should prepare talking points or a statement on the case that can be released to the media if necessary. It’s better to be prepared and have a short statement available than to scramble with a reaction or simply say “no comment.” If attorneys believe the client’s profile may hurt the case or that the case facts are controversial or complicated, a law firm may want to consult with a public relations firm for advice on how to proceed before the case is filed. Do not wait until the day before you file the case to ask for professional help.


 A word on filing government claims – Major newspapers and television stations routinely check for claims filed against local governments before the case is filed in court. In Washington, government claims require attorneys to provide an estimated value of the claim. The media often relies on these forms and will mistakenly report that clients are demanding this amount to settle their claim. Not all reporters and editors understand that a jury or judge ultimately decides the value of a case if it is not settled before trial. It’s important to educate the media on this important fact:  citizens as juries have the last word.


 How you write your complaint brief can impact how the media covers your case. Attorneys either use form complaints or customized complaints to file a case in court. The media scours court filings in search of interesting cases to cover. Whether you want the media to cover your case, how you draft the complaint is likely to influence how the media frames your case in the headlines and on camera. Try to include as much factual information as you can. Many attorneys will go into great detail on a settlement demand letter, but scarcely cover the details in the complaint they file in court. More information in your complaint can help influence how the media covers your case. It is important to remember that complaints are public documents and hold much more power over how the media covers your case than a press release.


Prepare your staff and clients for the media. ALWAYS, ALWAYS direct your staff and clients to refer all media calls to your office or a designated media spokesperson so that you can coordinate media coverage as a team. You want to make sure your clients are on message and do not needlessly reveal details about their cases that could damage them. Make sure receptionists, paralegals, investigators or expert witnesses working on a case understand who is the designated media contact for each case. Attorneys and clients who will be participating at press conferences or media interviews should be prepped with talking points and media coaching.


How to respond to the media ambush. There is no such thing as a media ambush if you’ve done your homework and prepared your case for the media early on. As a rule, all clients should be instructed to refer all media calls to their attorneys – period. Attorneys should develop a plan for media that includes a strategy and protects the integrity of the case. If possible, attorneys should try and work with the media where possible and develop personal relationships with reporters. Be honest about what you can answer and what you cannot. Some helpful responses for reporter ambushes include the following:



1)    Let me get your name, media outlet, phone number and deadline and call you back ASAP. I’d like to pull up the case and take a look at it so I am prepared to answer your questions. Can you give me an idea of what you want to know?


2)    We are currently investigating this case and would be happy to discuss more details after we’ve completed our investigation.


3)    What are your questions? If I can answer them now I will. I may have to fact check a few things and get back to you. What’s your deadline and phone number?



A word on social media going viral………………………


Make sure your attorneys and law firm have accounts for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. You cannot impact social media if you are not a part of the social media stream. That means you need to be following relevant reporters, editors and media outlets that cover your issues and region before you file a case. Designate a law firm staffer to manage your law firm social media accounts. Do subscribe to a social media platform like Hootsuite so you can respond and track multiple social media streams at once. This is not a task you do on the day you file the lawsuit. This is a task that should be completed months in advance. It takes many months and time to build a following on social media streams.



Responding to comments on online media platforms and social media streams. Redirect hostile or misinformed comments to a statement, press release or favorable media story listed on your website politely. Do not argue, but simply redirect people to the facts like a press release on your website. Encourage clients to ignore online media comments and social media streams regarding their cases and inform them you are handling this for them. Too often, clients feel persecuted and obligated to respond to comments in a manner that could negatively impact the case. It’s not their job to respond. It’s the job of the law firm to determine the appropriate response.



Do not engage on social media about your case without a complete media strategy. Sometimes attorneys will engage on social media and online media before they have launched a press event or filed a case. Do not engage on social media or online media unless you have a complete media strategy for your case. Advise your clients that their social media accounts will be reviewed by media outlets if the media is covering their case. Attorneys should screen client accounts.



Build your law firm brand around your practice areas and expertise. Engage with opinion leaders, reporters, advocates and allies in the media and social media streams that share your values and reflect the issues of your practice areas. For example, attorneys should be targeting senior editors and reporters who cover the courts, social justice issues, public safety, health, government and specific industries of their practice.



Distribute your message about your case via social media streams. How often you do this depends on the social media stream. Since social media is an interactive platform, you drive the frequency of your interactions with followers and friends. Here are some suggestions: Post an interview or press conference about your case on YouTube once a day. You can post a Tweet about your case on Twitter hourly from 8 am until 7 pm. You can post on LinkedIn and Facebook twice a day. More if you have a high-profile case that commands attention. Hashtag (#) key words that mark the case issue and client name if you want to promote the case. Distribute favorable media stories about your client’s case on all streams as they emerge in real time. Educating the public about your client and case facts is an opportunity to educate the potential jury pool in your favor. Social media platforms like Hootsuite allow law firms to schedule social media posts throughout the day in advance. Nobody needs to stare at their social media streams all day to be effective on social media.



The rules of engagement for social media are slightly different than traditional media. Generally speaking, expect sloppier, mistake-ridden posts on social media streams because anybody can participate. Traditional media outlets generally have stricter guidelines about fact-checking stories. But in the age of social media, all media types (bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, online media, traditional media, etc.) are working harder to drive content out to the public faster and in real time. If you or your law firm mistakenly send out wrong information on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, the general rule is to acknowledge the mistake and provide the correct information – not to delete the post. If you repost content from another party, you are expected to credit the author or source and note if you’ve altered the content. For example, on Twitter, if you modify a Tweet, you repost with MT (Modified Tweet) to acknowledge you’ve edited the original Tweet by another party.



Collect photos and video from clients early on.


Photos and videos of your clients help tell your clients’ stories. You may need them for a settlement-demand package or trial, not just the media, so do not delay in acquiring digital versions of old photos. Purchase a scanner to scan old photos if you do not have one. Train paralegals and staff to collect these items from clients early on and make sure you have a variety of quality images. You will want photos of property damage, crashes and injuries. In wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases, you will also want photos of clients during happier times to illustrate the impact of injuries or loss of life and relationships. Don’t just ask for standard family portraits. You want photos and videos of milestone moments, hobbies, sports, birthdays, graduations, weddings and births to capture your client’s narrative in an emotional way. The media always appreciates access to these kinds of photos. Open a Dropbox account so you can collect digital images quickly over the Internet with clients.



Communications planning builds brand ambassadors.


There is no such thing as a “media ambush” when you’ve done your homework. Build relationships with traditional media, social media, clients, allies and advocates – they are all potential brand ambassadors for your firm and practice.






Gov. Jay Inslee signs Rep. Gael Tarleton’s first bill in Olympia!

Gov. Jay Inslee signs House Bill 1647, a bill sponsored by Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-36th, that protects residents in multi-family housing. Northwest Media Allies worked with Rep. Tarleton on this important new law along with attorneys Jay Flynn and Kristi McKennon and their client Dana Widrig.

This legislation was inspired by the courage of Dana Widrig who was willing to share her story with the media and state lawmakers to help protect Washington citizens in their homes. Dana was brutally assaulted in her apartment by a maintenance man who gained unlawful entry into her home with an unsecured duplicate key. This legislation had bi-partisan and industry support because everyone agreed the law did not go far enough to protect the safety and privacy of Washington citizens.


Why I love Tumblr and gifs


Nobody has time to investigate every social media app or stream every second of the day. But I’ve fallen in love with Tumblr, Instagram and Gifboom, here’s why. Sheer impact. Like an asteroid aimed at Earth, these images give you pause. They tell stories that captivate your imagination and heart instantly. You either dig it or hate it.

More than 90 percent of the way we receive communication is visually driven.


One snapshot on Tumbler, Instagram or Gifboom slaughters words and blogs with instant, creative visual messaging. Take any of these social media streams for a ride and you will instantly fall in love with strangers who echo your heart or twist your mind in pictures.


I’m in love with ridinggirl10 on Tumblr. She sees horses the way I want to see them – big and bold. Tumblr is more interesting than Pinterest because it forces you to focus on the image. Pinterest overwhelms you with images: like a shopping spree you can never afford.


On Gifboom, I’d like to see more sophistication. Too many teens on Gifboom are stripping and posing. Gifs and photos on Tumblr are more sophisticated and provide little bookmarks in history that capture a moment in time. They allow an intriguing pause on life. I dig it when I can.


When you are forced to tell your story in pictures, you witness a new narrative you never knew existed. It’s more emotional, spiritual and grounded in what you love the most. What you choose to share in pictures is very different than what you share in words. And that’s an adventure worth having.





Eat the meat of the feedback sandwich

My favorite thing I learned this week was this: When we deliver praise sandwiches, people only hear the bread, not the meat.

It comes from an article in The New York Times by reporter Alina Tugend. She interviews Tim Harford, author of Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure. He says this: “Most people offer feedback inside a ‘praise sandwich,’ where we stuff the bad stuff between two slices of compliments. But people often only hear the praise.”

The article aptly points out that young professionals want and need encouragement while seasoned pros want specifics.

Whether we’re talking to co-workers or clients, successfully delivering and receiving feedback is critical to improve these relationships. We all want to be heard. We all want to be understood. We cannot do either without eating the meat of feedback. And we won’t get it unless we ask for it and consume it like a hungry carnivore.

A movie-buff friend models the delivery of smart-meat feedback this way. Whenever we trash a movie, he retorts,  “Did you understand it?”

While his question might feel snarky, his aim is always to force the critic to explain what worked and flunked in a movie. He’s not interested in glib pronouncements that offer zero insights. He always follows up with precise questions: Was it the screenwriting, the acting, the storyline, the special effects, the landscape or the dialogue you hated? Do you have a bias against this director? What, if anything, did you like about this movie?

When we fail to ask why efforts are working or failing, we stop listening. We should embrace the investigation of a blockbuster or a box-office bomb with equal fervor.

When we eat the meat of the feedback sandwich, we understand what inspires our clients. We hear them.

Have you picked up the tab lately?

Like most people, I have a favorite spot I like to hang out at and drink with friends. We share stories, debate politics, discuss community events, swap recipes and gossip about celebrities. It helps define my day, my outlook on life and what I care about. My friends are generous with their time, opinions and information. And to top it off, they have always picked up the tab, until now. I always thought my wit and company alone would be enough to sustain their hunger and quench their thirst.

Lately, they’ve been greedy about sharing their gossip and asked me to pitch in for the tab and tip. I was stunned. Was it something I said or did? Turns out, they enjoy my company and insights, but just got tired of paying my way.

Ok. This never happened. But it’s how I think of newspaper paywalls when I hear people grouse about them. We’ve all been receiving a free flow of information from newspapers and journalists for years. While you might disagree with their strategy to save themselves by erecting paywalls to their content (labor), you really have not been asked to help pick up the tab for the past decade.

Maybe you will find new friends and a place to hang out and talk about the world. Maybe you will pick up part of the tab to keep the friends and lively conversations you love. You will ultimately decide. I’ve decided to help pick up the tab.

I have watched my journalist husband spend months and weeks investigating a news story that has changed the community we live in. I have watched him carefully select the words and write with a flair that has earned him respect and a following.

A good hunting dog with a strong prey drive will hunt on command. But sooner or later, that dog won’t hunt without a bone.




Social media – the free focus group

I’m a social-media binger. I jump on the merry-go-round of social media and then jump off to clear my head and stay focused on strategy and objectives. But my No. 1 objective when I jump on is to listen.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are still my preferred streams, easily managed through Hootsuite. They help drive the conversations and constituencies of my clients and their brands. I have explored Google+, Pinterest, Feedly, Storify, Paper.li, Youtube and others. While lots of them are equally fun and engaging, I have to eliminate the streams that do not enhance the volume of relationships and feedback necessary to deliver the biggest results for my clients.

It’s easy to rant and rave on social media. I’m profoundly good at it. It’s much harder to shut up and listen. When you close your mouth and open your ears to a targeted group of people, you can identify obstacles that divide you from future relationships and business.

Social media is a free focus group for every constituency whether it’s a consumer or potential client. Listen to what they are saying about you. Listen to what they are saying about your competitor. Listen for praise, listen for rants, listen for complaints, listen for suggestions and listen for ideas. By listening, you help inform your research, marketing, media outreach and overall market position.

When you say “I don’t have time for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn” you’re essentially saying you don’t have time to listen to the people you need to succeed. Those people will simply shift their attention to the people who do.




Congrats to Gael Tarleton as the new 36th District State Representative

Congrats to Northwest Media Allies client and Democrat Gael Tarleton on her victory as the new state representative for the 36th Legislative District in the Washington State Legislature. Gael is the outgoing president of the Port of Seattle Commission and won with more than 55 percent of the vote in a record-voter turnout in this election. A shout out to campaign partner Argo Strategies for managing Gael’s successful campaign. Gael will be sworn into office on Jan. 14, 2013.


Congrats to Northwest Media Allies client Gael Tarleton in her primary election victory!

(Left to right) Sue Evans, Gael Tarleton and Carol Vipperman
(Left to right) Sue Evans, Gael Tarleton and Carol Vipperman.

A big congratulations to Northwest Media Allies client Gael Tarleton in her victory in Washington’s primary election. Tarleton is running for the 36th District House seat #2, being vacated by retiring State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson. Gael beat a crowded field of seven candidates with more than 29 percent of the vote so far counted. Read Gael’s victory message here: voteforgael.org! A shout out to Argo Strategies, our partner on this campaign! Great job team!

Our quality of life begins with our quality of discourse in Olympia

If you want better dialogue in Olympia, you have to elect better people. Let’s start by electing Democrat Gael Tarleton to the 36th Legislative District.

Gael was recently endorsed by The Seattle Times: “Gael Tarleton, Democrat, is by far the most qualified candidate for state representative in the 36th District for the seat being vacated by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson.” Tarleton also earned the highest rating of any candidate in her race by The Municipal League of King County which rated her “outstanding.”

I have the good fortune of working for people and organizations I believe in. One of those people is Gael Tarleton. She is the only candidate in the 36th Legislative District race who has demonstrated an ability to bridge the divide between our quality of life and our quality of discourse about critical issues that will shape our lives over the next 20 years.

I’ve been in politics since 1993. I met my husband on Nov. 3, 1992, the night Bill Clinton was elected.

My view of politics has changed with my professional and personal commitments along the way. I have a unique perspective. I have been a journalist, a politico and a professional media advocate over the past three decades. I spent 12 years inside Olympia. I’ve spent the rest of my life outside of Olympia in the private sector trying to reshape it as a constituent or an advocate for progressive causes. I have dedicated my life to telling other peoples’ stories as a reporter, a lobbyist, a communications director and a public relations professional. I know what moves me and I know baloney when I see it.

In 2007, I met Gael Tarleton. She wanted to run for the Port of Seattle Commission and reform the Port. She successfully beat an incumbent Republican. As a former reporter who covered the 33rd District and as a former legislative aide to Rep. Greg Fisher and Rep. Karen Keiser, D-33 (Karen is now the senator), I was amused and intrigued. This would be my first chance to work with an ally on the Port of Seattle Commission, an institution I was previously paid to despise and thwart on behalf of 33rd District constituents. Gael brought both private sector and public sector experience to the job.

(Left to right) Gael Tarleton and State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-36th.

Gael was elected in 2007 and is now the Port of Seattle Commission President. She is now running for the 36th District House seat, Position 2, being vacated by powerhouse Democrat State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson. Mary Lou has endorsed Gael.

Gael kept her promise to reform the Port and hold it accountable to the public. She did that by ensuring the Port spends public money in public. She also transformed the competitive-bidding process to ensure more businesses had a shot at the contracts and more workers had a shot at the jobs. She launched a clean-trade initiative at the Port by cleaning up the air, building clean-green infrastructure and mandating the use of clean fuels.

Gael’s private sector experience began with reaching across continents and cultures to make the world safer. As a national security expert, she was the first U.S. business woman to testify before the Russian parliament – speaking in Russian. Her reach and deep understanding of our global economy is critical for our trade-dependent state of Washington.

Gael has also translated the rhetoric around clean trade into reality and real job creation, leveraging taxpayer dollars for critical infrastructure. Here’s what Gael got done:

  • Helped create more than 7,000 jobs
  • Advocated for and helped find the money for the Viaduct Replacement Project, the South Park Bridge, E. Marginal Way Overpass and the Sea-Tac Car Rental Facility.
  • Secured and developed an aviation biofuels market based in Washington with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
  • Fought for the best-paying, middle-class jobs on Seattle’s working waterfront.
  • Advocated for alternative urban transportation projects: bikes, buses, trains and pedestrians.
  • Prioritized cleaning up the lower Duwamish as the Port’s No. 1 environmental project in the next 20 years.

Progressives often invoke people like Van Jones, who is credited for jump-starting our national conversation about a green-collar economy, when they want to merge the environment with jobs. But when leaders like Gael translate that dream into reality – inside the industry tent – some progressives default to polarizing rhetoric that diminishes the efforts they claim to exalt. It’s time to honor the work, the truth and the proof of real results in Olympia with people who can deliver it.

The 36th District is blessed with candidates who promise to bring “progressive values” to the job. Apart from Gael, none of these candidates have been tested in public office. Gael has been tested in public office while facing a dire economy. Still, Gael delivered more than 5,000 union jobs, watch-dogged taxpayer dollars, jump-started clean trade, and helped outlaw human trafficking. Professionally, she has secured critical funding for higher education while working for the University of Washington.

Gael has been a voting resident of the 36th District for 18 years. She owns a home in Ballard with her husband Bob. She knows the District.

Two of Gael’s senior campaign consultants were instrumental in the passage of Referendum 71  to secure domestic partnerships for the state’s LGBT citizens – Jason Bennett and myself. Jason Bennett is an openly gay political consultant who helped Gael launch her career in politics. Gael has advocated for the passage of marriage equality under the Approve 74 campaign.

When we all suffer greatly, as we do now, we care less about the rhetoric and more about the results. The race for the 36th District should ultimately be decided by the candidate most capable of delivering proven results. That candidate is clearly Gael Tarleton.

If you don’t believe my rhetoric, listen to what other people who know Gael have to say.


Trusting great journalism begins with a commitment to a truthful narrative

Trusting great journalism

I have been married to journalism professionally and personally for nearly two decades. My husband is a journalist. I used to be a journalist.

I don’t always agree with journalists, but I know I can’t live without them.

In February, I lost my college friend Anthony Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer winner for The New York Times. Anthony was my college peer at The Daily Cardinal back in the late 80s. Anthony was considered, by many, America’s most trusted ambassador to the Middle East. His loss is profoundly tragic. Anthony paid the ultimate price in journalism with his life, dying at the age of 43, succumbing to an allergic reaction to horses while covering the Syrian revolution. The majority of us, including myself, would never be willing to offer our lives in exchange for the truth. Anthony staked his life on it.

This week, Seattle learned that we have lost the online news outlet Publicola to another failed journalism business model. Josh Feit and Erica Barnett have been our faithful political guides every morning and afternoon in Seattle. We relied on them for the inside gossip as political junkies and on what really drives politics. Thankfully, Crosscut has adopted them.

While the stakes are different, I would argue that the aims of Anthony, Erica and Josh are the same. We need journalists, regardless of the evolving journalism venue or model, to report on their respective beats. Anthony was committed to telling human stories of  innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of war in the Middle East. In Anthony’s stories, these people were no longer objectified by the rhetoric of the U.S. State Department. They became human beings instead of rhetorical, faceless enemies.

I believe that all journalists carry the capacity in their hearts to understand the true human narrative. It’s why they became journalists. And it’s why I remain hopeful about journalism.

At the end of the day, we seek to understand each other. The measure of our truth is not in what we say, but in whom we trust to tell it.

On April 28, 2012, my Cardinalistas came together in Madison, WI, to honor Anthony’s legacy in journalism. These photos embody most of the people who crossed continents and borders to honor his legacy when his journalism dream began and ended. Anthony lives on in the hearts and minds of journalists who are committed to the human narrative everywhere.




Visualizing the world we want

I posted a photo on Pinterest of a salad I made. The photo of the salad lied to my tastebuds. Nobody on Pinterest cared. It was too pretty.

The salad was visually stunning. The caption read: “Strawberries (substituting for a bad watermelon), Feta, red onion, toasted almonds on a bed of crunchy Romaine.”

Sue's beautiful salad that tasted bad

The salad was beautiful to look at, but sucked when I ate it. That did not stop Pinterest followers from re-pinning it. On Pinterest, beauty trumps truth.

Pinterest is not about foodies and fashionistas. Pinterest is really about social-streaming a message visually. The human brain is wired to receive 90 percent of all messages visually first. We believe what we see. That’s why my bad salad is still popular. Feta and strawberries do not agree on the tongue, but they agree on the eyeballs.

I’ve spent the past week on Pinterest to see how easily family, clients, friends and strangers are manipulated by its beautiful pictures.

A view of Mt. Rainier from Puyallup River.

Pinterest allows users to create board themes with visual proof points uploaded by users like you and me. It’s the ultimate “love it or hate it” message board. If you love tattoos, horses, macaroni, Obama, Paris, French-country flowers and savvy quotes, Pinterest allows you to define your brand, style and life philosophy in a visually compelling palette of images and photos organized by the boards. You can re-pin images from followers and friends or upload your own and define a new trend. It’s fun, easy and addictive.

In one afternoon, I created a spectrum of images that define my business, my life, the life I don’t have and want, and the life I fight for.

Cannon Beach

High notes:

1. All pictures of my two German Shepherds taken by my cousin MollyDillphotography.com are getting re-pinned by the hour.

2. None of my client’s political opposition has caught on to this trend. This is short-lived because they are reading this blog.

3. I also discovered through my uploads that I’m not the only person who loves whales, German Shepherds, Obama, Cannon Beach, Absolutely Fabulous and earthy, weather-beaten housewares.

Mut and Brinx running on the beach.

Pinterest requires you to be connected to Facebook and conversely allows you to “like” your pins to Facebook to broaden your reach. It’s where the poster boards of witty quotes and vibrant photos on Facebook are now born.

I am mostly amazed at how much the foodies dominate the stream. If you were born on another planet, you’d think we all are starving for pretty food.

People like me are coming to Pinterest with bigger motives and agendas. We are plotting and planning to fill your brain with our ideas and our vision for the world. Consider this visual plug for my friend Gael Tarleton, a standout Democratic candidate for state representative in the 36th Legislative District.

Learn more about Democrat Gael Tarleton at voteforgael.org

My vision for the world has lots of critters, good food and pocket reviews of my favorite movies, TV shows and preferred political candidates. It also includes signage and images for a better world that can be realized through progressive engagement, voting and thinking.

Pinterest is destined to become deeper and more philosophical as more people catch on to its power. Pinterest will compel all of us to visualize the world we want with the images in our brains or on Pinterest. I can visualize my children’s future on Pinterest. And that makes me happy.


My kids at Yellow Stone parÂ

Gael Tarleton – A standout candidate for the 36th District House seat

Gael Tarleton
Gael Tarleton

SEATTLE, WA – Port of Seattle Commission President Gael Tarleton today announced her bid to run for the 36th District House seat to be vacated by State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle.

Tarleton says she will run on four key issues: job creation along with protecting women’s health and reproductive rights, higher education and the environment.

“We need to carry the accomplishments and legacy of Rep. Dickerson forward,” Tarleton said. “I have a proven track record of protecting and creating jobs, fighting for women and minority-owned businesses, protecting the environment and championing Washington’s higher-education community.”

Tarleton has raised nearly $20,000 in the past 48 hours. The 36th Legislative District includes parts of Ballard, Queen Anne, Magnolia, Phinney Ridge, Fremont and Belltown.

Tarleton, 53, is a life-long Democrat. She has lived in Ballard with her husband Bob for 18 years.

She has worked at the University of Washington for the past eight years, most recently serving as strategic advisor at the Institute for National Security Education and Research. The Institute focuses on research and initiatives for public safety and national security.

We must renew the fight to protect women’s health and reproductive rights, Tarleton said. As a member of the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Tarleton said passage of the Reproductive Parity Act is a priority in her campaign. “We have fought hard to secure the basic health and reproductive rights of women. It’s clear our battle to protect women’s health still has a long way to go. The women of today must always fight for our next generation,” Tarleton said.

Tarleton was re-elected for a second term to the Port of Seattle Commission last year with 59.5 percent of the vote in King County. She defeated Republican incumbent Bob Edwards in 2007, with 54 percent of the vote. She is the third woman ever to be elected to the Port.

In her re-election bid last year, Tarleton earned the endorsements of 15 labor unions, King County Conservation Voters, Washington Conservation Voters, state and local Democrats throughout King County, The Seattle Times and The Stranger.

Tarleton currently serves as president of the Northwest Progressive Institute, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to researching progressive ideas and solutions for the Northwest’s progressive community. At the UW, Tarleton co-founded the UW’s Citizen Roundtable on Politics and Democracy, in an effort to expand citizen involvement in the democratic process.  She earned an M.A. in government and national security studies from Georgetown University in Washington D.C., and a B.S. from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.

Tarleton co-founded the Northwest Chapter of Women in International Security (WIIS) and organized a forum at the Port to discuss important security issues facing our region, including the proliferation of human trafficking. She is also a member of the UW Women’s Center’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force.

“With the leadership of Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, we worked together to help stop human trafficking in our state,” Tarleton said. “I am proud to have worked with Sen. Kohl-Welles to help pass legislation that made Washington the first state in the nation to criminalize human trafficking  – a crime primarily targeting women and children.”

As a Port Commissioner, Tarleton has focused on creating and retaining jobs, protecting the working waterfront, clean trade and restoring accountability at the Port. She has helped create more than 5,000 jobs, launched clean-trade initiatives to remove dirty trucks and introduce clean fuels in the air, on the ground and at sea. Tarleton also guided the Port through major reforms on its contracting and spending process to bring accountability and transparency to how taxpayer dollars are spent.




Anthony Shadid – Journalism Inspired

I lost a college friend. The world lost one of the best journalists on the planet. His family lost a son, a brother, a husband, and a father. His name was Anthony Shadid.

The journalism world has been mourning his loss, but celebrating the ferocity of his talent and the humbleness of his human spirit. These qualities endeared him to the people whose lives he touched. There were clearly many.

We lost Anthony to an asthma attack while he was in the field in Syria reporting for The New York Times. It is a stunning blow to the journalism community. It comes at a time when journalism needs heroes.

Anthony was a two-time Pulitzer winner for The Washington Post and most recently the Middle East correspondent for The New York Times. His journalism colleagues throughout his life celebrated him for his human-centered prose, bravery and devotion to story telling.

Anthony escaped death many times. He was shot on the West Bank. He survived a kidnapping in Libya. His death was unexpected despite so many other times family and friends expected certain death on his dangerous reporting assignments. He was 43.

There are no words that can reconcile his loss to his family or to the world of journalism. He was a brilliant comet of light and energy that blew through our respective skies with decisive impact. I believe Anthony’s work renews hope for the embattled craft of journalism and how we think about the Middle East. It starts with celebrating people as human beings and sharing our stories and ignoring our borders.

My stalwart college friends from The Daily Cardinal at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have mourned his loss since we got the bad news. We all knew Anthony when his dream of becoming the world’s best foreign correspondent was a goal. We’ve been trading our favorite stories about him and reflecting on what his loss means to the world. When you lose a friend who offered and accomplished so much, you can’t help but examine your own accomplishments against the deadline of death. But in life, I believe Anthony beat that deadline with his work and big heart. He accomplished great things and inspired so many people in such a short amount of time.  I want to celebrate Anthony’s story with my own children. Owning your dream is achievable. Making a difference in the world is possible. Caring about people is critical. Compassion and understanding will inspire you. Loving what you do will get you where you want to go.

We all knew Anthony was destined for greatness when he was a college student. His journalism always came first. He scheduled girlfriends on his day planner in between learning Arabic, working at the Cardinal and correcting our errors.

Cardinal editors were elected by the staff. In order to win the helm, you had to win the approval of snarky upstarts who cut class to cover stories and competed for coveted bylines above the fold. But Anthony’s name was already branded on the campus editor job before he ran. His work as a campus reporter dominated the front page with the encouragement of Mark Pitsch, who is technically Anthony’s first editor.

Once elected, the pressure to be a great editor at the college newspaper was surviving the Cardinal’s Friday staff meetings. These meetings were reserved for reviewing the week’s worth of papers and calling out the good and the bad in story choices, writing, editing, headline writing, copy editing and story placement. The process could be likened to the decorum of the House of Commons, except the Cardinal allowed drinking, swearing and smoking. Applause was reserved for flawlessness. Jeering was reserved for everything else, especially the editorials.

I can honestly say, as a former Cardinal city editor, I cannot remember a moment in which Anthony was ever a victim of that process because his work was always stellar even then.

Even when Anthony pitched campus-desk stories as worthy of above-the-fold treatment, he was always gracious about it. He was generous with his knowledge and time back then. I believe his work at the Cardinal cemented that generosity for the journalists he groomed and helped along the way. I do hope that the University of Wisconsin-Madison recognizes how significant the Cardinal was to Anthony’s beginning and future journalists inspired by his work.

It was within this framework that Anthony began to build his dream.

I wish I could tell Anthony this story now. I love telling stories about my own mistakes because it brings levity to learning along the way. As a student reporter, I was dispatched to cover a protest march to the Madison Capitol (almost a weekly event). I was told the march would start near the Falafel stand. At the time, I honestly didn’t know that Falafel was a Middle Eastern dish, not a student group. I kept my ignorance to myself when I discovered my error. This confession would have made Anthony howl with laughter.

In this age of social media and blogging, where we search for trusted brands of truth, there is still no better source for news than journalists like Anthony. He put his life on the line to bring us stories you can’t develop sitting on the couch with an iPad. Anthony was a studied veteran, fluent in Arabic, who built his life on truly understanding the culture, history and politics of the Middle East. Anthony translated what mattered in the Middle East to the Western world in a manner accessible to everyday people.

His distinctive storytelling demystified the Arab world. In one way, Anthony was America’s best ambassador to the Middle East.

In one of Anthony’s last reports on Libya for The Times, he reported on the chaos in the wake of the country’s revolution from the perspective of everyday people.

“How can you change people overnight?” interrupted her friend, Naima Mohammed, who is also studying pharmacy. “It’s been 42 years of ignorance.”

Anthony’s life’s work was dedicated to abolishing the ignorance about the Middle East across the globe. He translated wars and revolutions with a human face. He spotlighted the brutal suffering and fears that simple humans faced at the hands of dictators and foreign invaders like the United States.

It is deeply disturbing that we have lost his voice at a time when the Middle East and Americans need him most.

There is only one peace in losing him. Anthony died achieving his journalism dream while challenging the world to think differently. His heart will now rest on the Arab sands that consumed it.


Soylent Green Apple: Jobs, the vegan who ate people

I own a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2.

It gets worse. If you include family Apple products – more iPhones, iPods, iTunes and holiday Apple family photo books – we’re pushing past $5K of Apple investments from my small business and my family.

I used to brag that once you go Mac, you never go back. All that has changed. I recently read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and The New York Times. Together their collective reporting on Apple’s horrific abuse of human beings in both America and China – has soured my personal appetite for Apple products.

Charlton Heston warned us in 1973: Soylent Green is PEOPLE!

When we consume capitalism on the backs of human misery, we consume each other.

The biography of Jobs reveals that he routinely abused his own executives in a code known as the “reality distortion field.” He cannibalized his own corporate divisions.

Jobs dismissed odds and humans – any perceived obstacle to getting stellar products to market. He did it on the backs of other people and himself. It’s likely his single-minded devotion cost him his health and life. He ignored doctors’ orders and put Apple before himself, his family and his workers. When you abuse yourself and the people around you – what’s another country like China?

Jobs clutched a bipolar view of his products and people. Products and people were either shit or amazing. Products always trumped people.

Today I sent a note to the Apple supply chain executives. I was horrified by the human misery behind the brand. Well-paid PR professionals above my pay grade are working to spin atrocity into misunderstanding.

Jobs courted one human condition: our impulse to buy his products.

For that, I thank Apple. This is the wake-up call that I needed.

Apple isn’t the only brand out there abusing people at home and abroad.

When Apple embraced the Jobs’ reality distortion field, it distorted our reality, our basic human values as consumers. It’s time Americans own their reality and the brands they covet. We must demand honest brands, American jobs and human decency behind the products we buy. We will never get there if iConsumers don’t speak with iMoney.





Owning 2012 – Mapping measured success

Happy New Year!

As we launch 2012, I am reminded of just how important our allegiance to transparency and the truth is to public relations. When you make truth your friend, you have to answer for less. It’s a great resolution to follow in all things politics, friends and family. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Most of public relations is the art of managing what we mean to say to the world. A lot of people spend big checks and time on trying to reinvent what comes out of their mouths when it’s simply too late. So why not create a plan to say what you really mean when you first say it? It’s a simple strategy.

Here’s the truth I know for most clients and businesses: Times are tough. We have more work to do with less money. We have less people who have money to buy things. We have more people with problems and troubles than time. We still have big dreams for our children, but small resources. Our challenge is hard, but not insurmountable. We need more smart people doing more quickly. We need to be inspired to face these odds. Who and what can inspire us to tackle what lies ahead?

What inspires you? Who inspires you? Share that with the world in 2012. Make that the foundation of your public relations plan. Here’s 12 ways to make that resolution a reality:

1) Tackle one new technology that frightens you – Iphone, Ipad, Android, laptop, social media, software, etc. Make a point of mastering something in technology that keeps you current with the world.

2) Make a commitment to change the way you do business  – Pick something that is not working and change it. If you know your customer relations is bogging down your business, make improving customer relations your No. 1 goal for 2012.

3) Dare to be different – Adopt a new marketing tactic to solidify and grow your referrals. Launch a social media program, schedule more lunches, critically evaluate your existing client base, develop a creative ad strategy, walk at lunch, get up early, go home early, eat better, live better, work smarter.

4) Research and read about people who are smarter than you each week. Invite them to breakfast or lunch.

5) Review your biggest accounts and successes in 2011 and examine why they worked.

6) Don’t forget to look at the numbers. The numbers don’t lie. Look at how much you spent and how much you earned and embrace it truthfully. Know your client base.

7) Celebrate and honor your top referrals. They love and trust you best.

8) Celebrate and honor your top disasters. They will tell you what you need to know about your business.

9) Create 2012 goals that are achievable based on measurable outcomes. Measure this: Increased referrals, diversified client base, higher income, steadier income, stronger brand identity, higher client/customer satisfaction, and/or better return on investment, more time to walk the dog.

10) Create a strategic plan for the future. Decide who you want to be in five years and map the path to achieve that end game.

11) Connect with people who matter. Identify 10 people who you admire and invite them to lunch to discuss your plan for your future. And be honest about what terrifies you the most and see what they say.

12) Identify your worst habit that negatively affects your productivity and eliminate it.

Our commitment to transparency and truth will always set us free to succeed. The answers to 2012 are already there.


Smart tips for building a trusted brand of truth on social media

Jumping into social media streams can be like inhaling a cloud of gnats up your nose. How do you screen social media content for value? And how do you create it?

I recently attended Seattle’s Interactive Conference #SIC2011 where the top social media gurus and brand managers gathered to highlight what’s working and what’s headed our way. I walked away feeling validated by one repeated theme – social media is not a marketing strategy, but a tool.

It’s clear that people tune social media out when they are besieged with useless content. People follow trusted brands of truth that cut through the noise.

The frenetic output of social media can never match our personal ability to consume it. So at the end of the day trusted brands of truth prevail.

I screen social media like a mother eavesdrops on a teen-girl slumber party. Amid the hailstorm of useless chatter, I’m listening for what I want to know and what I need to know: “I hate her, I love Muse, I’m failing biology and Matt is a brat.” The same rule applies to the marketplace. Who loves who? Who loves me? Who hates who? Who hates me? And why?

Consumers and brands operate with motives. Know your motive and know the motives of your target audience. Tools for communication may change, but rules for strategic communication remain. Here are tips from #SIC2011 that stuck with me:

  1. Social media is not a brand/marketing strategy. It’s a tactic.
  2. Embrace ALL third-party testimonials – the good and bad. Don’t  abhor, ignore or delete them.
  3. Adopt transparency to create credibility. People scan for trusted sources.
  4. Speak concisely and with relevance. Edit like an umpire.
  5. Know why you’re in it. Answer this question: What’s my home run?
  6. Respect social media tools. Hiring cheap labor to manage your social media communities is like asking frat boys to plan a wedding. (Inspired by Louis LoPresti @RedPantsMeme)
  7. Metrics for social media must be tied to a marketing strategy and goals – brand lift, allegiance, buy-in, transactions, market share, customer service and referrals – not just increased traffic.
  8. There are no substitutes for good products and content. Have something worthy to sell and say.
  9. Consumers and clients are your best brand ambassadors. Celebrate them.
  10. Shut up and listen. What are your social media streams telling you?

Branding law firms to inspire & empower people to change their world and own their future

I can honestly say, I have worked with some of the top trial lawyers in Washington and the country and never get tired of it.

The trial lawyers I work with are among the most passionate, smartest, hardest working and fiercest advocates for people on the planet. They empower their clients to change the world and make it better. They challenge their clients to define destiny as they want to know it.

Developing brands and marketing plans for this sector of humanity is a joy for me. And there’s one reason: Trial lawyers embrace marketing strategies that move their firms and client goals forward. And they do this for one simple reason: They routinely test their messages and objectives before judges and juries – the toughest focus groups and truth squads on the planet.

Trial lawyers are tested on their client truths every step of the way. It’s what makes them model marketing clients. They get the drill and own it.

Northwest Media Allies had the privilege to work with one of Washington’s top employment lawyers Vicky Vreeland.

Attorney Vicky Vreeland

Vicky launched her law firm and brand with a commitment to showcasing more than three decades of trail-blazing legal work, a stellar reputation and a unique aesthetic and style that only she could own.

The results of our collaborative marketing process showcase her commitment to integrity, results, courage and dedication to the clients she serves.

We invite you to take a look at the branding and website design we recently launched with NWMA partners TrueGood Creative (who provided web design and development) and  Kirsten Hopperstad (branding designer):  www.vreeland-law.com.

Vreeland Law inspires and empowers and is a model brand.

The tricks and treats of political campaigns – political ads

Behind the tricks and treats of political campaigns is a lot of voter contact and hard work. There’s no substitute for voter outreach. And while candidates orbit the Earth like the moon in attempt to reach you, they can’t possibly do that without targeted mail and television ads.

If you’re a political PR junkie like me, you relish the rhetoric in campaign ads like a kid with candy stockpiles at Halloween. Like a trick-or-treater, you divide the rhetoric into piles because you don’t trust how it’s been wrapped.

I feel fortunate because I get to work alongside some of the best political consultants in the Northwest and I get to choose which candidates and campaigns I work with each election cycle.

This is my second election cycle with the Gael Tarleton for Port of Seattle Commissioner campaign. I wrote a lengthy blog about my reasons for supporting Gael Tarleton a few weeks ago. Back then I didn’t mention that I was privileged and proud to work with two great political strategists: Argo Strategies and Guenther Media.

Take a look at Argo’s mail for Gael that just hit King County mailboxes: Tarleton Mail piece [PDF]. And take a look at the TV ad produced by Guenther Media in partnership with Argo:


Thanks to social media, the stream of political ads is no longer confined to campaign budgets and demographics. We all have an opportunity to review these political treats to see if we trust how they are wrapped.

Take a bite and tell me what you think.

Know what the shot is

“You want to learn the first rule you’d know if you’d ever spent a day in your life? You never open your mouth ‘til you know what the shot is.” -  Ricky Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross

Only three questions matter in marketing – Do you love me? Do you hate me? Why?

Knowing why you’re loved or loathed is critical to identifying your position in the worlds of the marketplace and the media. I ask my clients to conduct an inventory of their brand assets and liabilities to develop a savvy marketing/communications plan.

The strategy is this: You have to know where you are if you want to know where to go.

If you want a long-term relationship with a targeted market share, you can’t dodge tough questions that rock your world. Ask people why they love you or hate you head on. Testimonials prove your worth and credibility. If you can’t find a single person to boast about what you do, you need a marketing intervention.

On the other hand, if you have more than 20 people stalking you with their love, ask them why they love you so much. Harness their passion with a direct request for a two-paragraph testimonial. Keep it short. Ask for a valentine, not a sonnet. Don’t be greedy.

Not knowing why you are loved is just as bad as not knowing why you are loathed. We dig deep for this kind of intelligence when it comes to our egos, dates, marriages and holiday dinners. It’s human nature to want to be validated. But we don’t always do it for our business or our politics.

Clients are typically happy to brag and tell you why they’re loved. Yet when you ask them to go out and grab testimonials to prove it, they  shrink like a chubby at Weight Watchers. Weigh in on reality to inform your goals, strategies, tactics and plans. Any brand manager will tell you that you are only as good as your testimonials and brand ambassadors.

Every candidate or company who looked at a poll or focus group knows this. It’s tough love. But there’s only one thing worse than bad feedback: flying blind. Al Pacino explains the foundation of all marketing in Glengarry Glen Ross: Never open your mouth ‘til you know what the shot is.