I’m going to answer a question I received regarding my post, “How To Survive the Nightly Conference Party”. It is about the, ahem, “hooking up” that sometimes happens at conferences. Originally, I wasn’t going to get into that, but after receiving the question, and then having Gini Dietrich mention it in the comments, I decided to address it.

Let me begin with a true story.

Early in my career I attended a financial aid conference. (I was a marketing representative for student loans back in the nineties.) It was a tight knit group because there are only so many colleges and universities in the state of Florida, or any state for that matter.

As I mentioned in my post, my boss was a smart young man who wasn’t too bad looking. And, he was single. Of course, this meant that many of the young women in our state industry had their eyes on him. He didn’t help matters by flirting with them, but no harm, no foul, right?

Back to the conference in question. It had been a long conference and it was the final night, which meant people were really letting loose. As the night wore on, my boss and a client were getting “close”. The rest of us weren’t too worried because the boss had never crossed that line.

Weeelllll…the next morning I was waiting on the elevator. The doors opened and the client was standing there, horror in her eyes as she looked at me in recognition. You see, she was wearing the same clothes from the night before, and it was clear that she was doing the “walk of shame”.

I think it’s clear what happened.

The aftermath? The client was so ashamed of herself that she quit her job.

What we learned

Regardless of why the hook-up happened, it happened. The result was a loss of reputation, and damage to another. In addition to the client quitting her job, there were numerous awkward encounters between my boss and clients after that.

You must remember that you’re always working when around clients or co-workers. There is no free pass if you do something embarrassing. Even if people laugh it off, it’s still a part of your reputation.

integrityHere’s hoping you liked my first post regarding how to survive the nightly conference parties. I’m back to share an experience I had regarding ethics and integrity in public relations for you to contemplate.

Consider this situation:

You are the assistant to the Public Relations Manager who handles communications for a manufactured home company. (No worries, it has been out of business for years.)

You like your boss because she is fair, good at what she does and works hard. She honestly believes the people she works for are ethical.

It’s a small town where many people relied on this company for their jobs. The local media put up with the company because of this even though a new model of a manufactured home wasn’t really the news they wanted to hear.

One day, the CEO decided he wanted some publicity and proposed the media visit his local home, manufactured by the company. (Talk about spin!) Now, back in 2001, you pretty much received a directive and did your best to make his wishes come true.

I want to reiterate that my manager was a professional and had ethics.

Now, I’m going to give you a scenario and would like to know what you would do. I’ll also let you know what I did.

The CEO says he wants to prove how fabulous the homes are by inviting the media to his “open house”. As part of the PR team, you’ve alerted the media to the event and arrived early to check out the house yourself and look for anything that could go wrong.

You discover it’s what you expected. It’s never actually been lived in, despite the decorative kitchen and pair of tennis shoes next to the room that the treadmill occupies.

The PR manager knows the CEO is arriving with his wife in 30 minutes and is frantically calling all of her local media contacts, urging them to show up.

A couple of cameras arrive just before the homeowners.

What would you do?

  • Smile as you stand in the background
  • Help sell the media
  • If the media shows up, back up the story
  • Support your boss and then look for a new job
  • Stand off to the side in disgust
  • Other suggestions?

It’s was obviously fake, but we all went through the drill with smiles on our faces. Fortunately, the media did a brief story over some b-roll.


My manager was (and still is) a great person, very professional, and went on to a very productive career with a Fortune 500 company. We did our job as professionals, because we are professionals. I supported my boss in every way and engaged with the media as appropriate. In addition, I wasn’t about to lose my job or let her lose hers because of an executive’s whim. Yet this experience, combined with a few others, was the final straw for me. This company was not the place for me. I continue to do my job to the best of my ability while quietly looking for a new job.


You will, at some point in your career, be asked to do something that isn’t your cup of tea. And it could be asked of you by someone above you, which usually leaves you with no choice.

Depending on the situation, you will have to make some choices. My advice to you is to have a conversation with yourself first.

partyonLast week Gini Dietrich asked me to write a guest blog post about handling internal communications in a man’s world. It will be published on Spin Sucks in November. I’ll keep you posted!

Writing that post brought back a lot memories and experiences from my 20+ years in marketing communications. I thought I’d start sharing them in the hopes that they help others as they chart their careers.

I want to be clear, my post that will be published on Spin Sucks is about being a communicator in a man’s world. This does not mean that I am bashing men in the business world. I am sharing experiences about how to be successful in those and other situations. That is the point of this post and others to come.

In addition, please keep in mind that my career started in 1994, a far cry from today – 2014.

Let’s get to it.

Like many people, I showed up to my first marketing job bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I worked in student loans. My job was to travel around the state of Florida to colleges and universities, building relationships with the financial aid departments so that they would list my bank as the preferred lender. I traveled throughout my home state, developed collateral, attended conferences…you name it, I did it – as part of a team. It was fabulous!!!

The VP of marketing was himself a young whipper-snapper who could do no wrong. Yet, he did have experience, knew the market and had good ideas, which meant there was a lot to learn from him. The manager was a strong woman who was a few years older than me, and she was in love with the VP. (Another story for another day.)

Back to the purpose of this post.

Be True To Yourself

At one of the first conferences I attended in this role, I learned that part of “entertaining clients” meant staying up half the night partying. Being in my twenties, this wasn’t an issue.

BUT! I didn’t want my career to begin as a a “party girl”. Here is what I chose to do:

  1. Enjoy the client dinner, getting to know my customers better
  2. Go to the dance club with everyone
  3. Leave the club  between 10:30 and midnight with those clients who didn’t like to stay out late. (This made those customers happy while my colleagues stayed out late with the others.)
  4. Get a good night’s sleep
  5. Repeat.

Lesson Learned

You don’t have to do everything the way someone else does it. Find your own way and be true to yourself.

basketballUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard or seen the news about the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and their owner, Donald Sterling. Sterling’s now-famous comments to his girlfriend were taped and made public. If you have not heard about it, you can catch up here.

What followed this story were more stories (and more will come as this is not over yet) about the reactions from players, the NBA, Sterling’s wife and Sterling’s continued PR fails (How do you attack Magic Johnson?).

Today, however, I discovered 32 people who like basketball, the NBA, and they are decidedly not racist.

(Disclaimer: This post is restricted to just the NBA.)

This morning I attended a presentation titled, “Meet the Young Authors”. During this presentation, 32 diverse (in culture, skin color, etc.) second graders read aloud their very own stories that each wrote and illustrated. The stories ranged from aliens to animals, from dreams to fantasy, and from superheroes to sports. In fact, several of the stories were about basketball. (One of my favorites was by a young author who had Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan dunking on each other!)

After each story was read out loud, the author then shared a few items about who they were, what they liked/didn’t like, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. And yes, each author of a basketball story included being a player in the NBA as one of their items.

But, here’s the thing: each author has a different ancestry, a different culture, a different accent, and a different skin color. Yet they all love basketball and have similar favorite players.

Oh, to be so wise as these young authors.

flashboysI am currently reading Michael Lewis‘ new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. A quick overview of the book can be found here.


So why am I writing a post about the book if I have not yet finished reading it?

In chapter four, there is a section where it is shared that while the big banks, etc., are working to keep their actions confidential, “DIY detectives” were able to find all the information they wanted by connecting with bank employees on LinkedIn and reviewing their profiles, resumes, etc.

Knowing the ongoing discussions around companies wanting access to employees or potential hires’ social accounts, I found myself asking the following:

  • Will one possible ripple effect of this book be that companies attempt to crack down on employees’ LI profiles?
  • If so, can they do so? Legally?

Personally, I don’t know. It’s just a question that popped into my head while reading the book.

What do you think?

SpinSucksBookI don’t care how long you have been in communications – you MUST read “Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age”, by Gini Dietrich.


The communications and PR world has changed immensely and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Too many professionals are not changing or evolving with it. Add to that the fact that there are people who think they “know how to do PR”, and you or your brand is at even higher risk of running into problems or failing at PR efforts.

This whole “spin sucks” thing? Well, yes, spin really does suck and you will get called out for it.

Enter Gini Dietrich. One of the PR industry leaders, she has shared PR’s secret – that there is no secret!

Open and transparent communication is what will earn you/your brand the credibility desired. Gini walks you through tools, best practices and case histories to show you how and why they work. She explains in simple but good detail with plenty of real life examples.

She’s done all the work for you by showing and sharing how to engage your audience, build their trust, grow your community and more. It’s not about typing facts into a release and hitting “send”. It’s about writing a story that compels your audience to act, and then delivering that story the right way – the way your audience wants it delivered. It’s about responding and being there for them. It’s about listening to them. The opportunity is there to engage with them one-on-one and measure it as well!!! As she says, “this is a marathon, not a sprint”. “Spin” is not required.

Regardless of how long you have been a PR professional, you NEED to and MUST read this book. You will be amazed at what you’ve forgotten and what you don’t know. After you read your copy, buy more copies and share with your team and executives. Reach out to employees with this latest knowledge and educate them as well.

You can also watch Gini describe why she wrote the book via this short video.

Amazon is just one place you can find “Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age”.

NOTE: I was honored to be asked to read the galley. Once I read it, I couldn’t wait to buy an actual copy of the book once it came out!


DSC_0083The other day I read a post by Shel Holtz, who wrote about an employee being fired after doing an interview with Advertising Age. Titled, “Jill Rowley’s dismissal could be a case of misguided adherence to 20th-century spokesperson policies“, Shel shared his opinion regarding authorized reps for speaking to journalists. Is it an archaic practice as he stated, or is it a practice that is dependent upon the company and its culture?

Does trying to control its brand/image require large companies to be strict in requiring employees to direct all media inquiries to the public relations (PR) group?

Or is it easier to for smaller companies to be stricter or more flexible?

Lots of questions that I invite you to weigh in on – please!

Here are my initial thoughts on this topic, but please be mindful I’m coming at this from experience in an industry-specific (such as Oil & Gas) example:

  • There should be a defined media policy for any company, regardless of its size
  • In-house PR should be the first contact for media (or an agency on record if you’re outsourcing)
  • With that said, it used to be that the only employees who were put through media training were executives. Today, media training should be expanded to as many employees as it can, anyone who may come into contact with the media. Take the time to select which ones should actually interact with the journalists, such as subject matter experts (SMEs), versus someone who is at a conference for a different reason, such as a graphic designer (I’m not being mean).
  • Due to social media, trade shows, industry groups, etc., journalists now interact with company employees at varying levels. It’s not always the CEO an industry journalist wants to speak with, especially regarding new products, services and technologies. They want the SME. In my experience, they want to speak to the person who knows the product inside and out, not just at a high level.
  • This leads to the fact that SMEs should be media trained so they can speak to a reporter if approached at a tradeshow, via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • With that said, the SME should notify the PR group and his/her manager ASAP, both as a professional courtesy and to keep them in the loop. You have to consider opportunities for follow-ups, requests for pictures or videos, etc., that the SME may not be able to get to because of travel schedules.
  • And, suggest the SME to always share the PR contact information with the reporter as well, again to increase ease of communication for follow-up questions, etc.

Jill Rowley commented on Shel’s post, reminding us that “…with the web, EVERYONE is a reporter”.

I concur, and urge companies to learn this quickly if they have not already.

What are your thoughts?

This post originally appeared on “Fumbling Towards Epiphany”.
Susan Cellura CEO of E. Marketing Communications, Susan Cellura is a marketing communications professional with over 20 years of experience.  She is a dynamic communications professional and enthusiastic team-builder, with a progressive history of success in designing and implementing communications programs for global organizations. A strategic thinker with the ability to understand the needs of multiple audiences and deliver solutions, Susan is a results-oriented problem-solver with exceptional interpersonal and negotiation abilities. Having worked in a variety of global industries, she has grown business communications in her current position via a strong mixture of strategic resources, including social media.
Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 596 other followers

%d bloggers like this: