Essential Writing Books for Every PR Pro

Writing Wonders

Writing Wonders

Posted by Tom Gable

Gable PR has been working with a rapidly growing mortgage broker company on building its national image and reputation. The program components include media relations, community relations, awards programs, social media, video and other tools, tactics and channels to reach their different audiences with good news about the company, its people and quality, which is in abundance.

The company differentiates itself based on its entrepreneurial culture, quality people and commitment to unparalleled customer service. Its leaders urge everyone in the organization to communicate its values well and deliver on all promises, to build credibility and trust – and loyal customers that keep coming back.

The leadership team has taken the quality communications theme even deeper by creating a continuous internal education program to improve writing at all levels. They started by giving several hundred team members copies of The Associated Press Stylebook and Stephen King on Writing. They provided classes and guidelines on blogging and social media. The next stage: establishing an ongoing series of tips on how to improve writing skills at every level.

Gable PR, with former journalists aboard and team members who teach at the university level and write and lecture for national audiences, was asked to create the series. As with any program, we started with research to find compelling ideas from outside experts to share with the company’s internal audiences.

We started with some old friends, such as Strunk and White (Elements of Style), then searched more broadly. We are still reading and looking to quote more sources, which is great fun. We also get smacked in the frontal lobe on occasion when we find an obvious shortcoming in our own work. The quest goes on and we have a growing bibliography shown below. Out of all this, we did find four seemingly universal truths to good writing:

1. Use short sentences and one idea per sentence.

2. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and clichés.

3. Use active verbs and the active voice; not the passive voice. Choose positive language versus negative.

4. Use definite, specific, concrete language.

That’s a start. Now, for your ongoing reading pleasures, some of our favorite resources:

  • “25 editing tips for your writer’s toolbox,” Leah McClellan., July 5, 2013.
  • Business Communication: Building Critical Skills, Kitty Locker. McGraw-Hill, 2010.
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss. Gotham Books, 2003.
  • Fresh Passion: Get A Brand Or Die A Generic, Michael D. Brown. Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013.
  • How to Write Short, Word Craft for Fast Times, Roy Peter Clark. Little Brown and Co., 2013.
  • It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences, June Casagrande. Ten Speed Press (Crown Publishing), New York, 2003.
  • On Writing Well, William Zinsser. HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.
  • Stein on Writing, Sol Stein. St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook, Perseus Publishing, 2013.
  • The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well, Paula LaRocque. Grey and Guvner Press, 2003.
  • The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein. Free Press, 2005
  • The Classic Guide to Better Writing, Rudolf Flesch and A.H. Lass. HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
  • The Elements of Business Writing, Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly. Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.
  • The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Allyn and Bacon, 2000 (earlier editions, 1959 and 1972 by McMillan Publishing Co.).
  • Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, Gerald M. Weinberg. Dorset House, 2005.
  • Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark. Little, Brown and Company, 2006.

Twitter and FB Flame Wars: Knocking Down the Big Ones in Crisis PR

Crisis Counter Attack

Crisis Counter Attack

Posted by Tom Gable

When the flame wars break out on Facebook and Twitter, don’t you wish you could call in the air tankers and dump chemical retardants on the perpetrators?

We have had several recent crisis PR challenges at Gable PR where clients wanted to go to war. Being of a competitive nature, they envisioned blowing away the critics with nuclear twitter attacks from all angles. Keep the miscreants on the defensive. Show them the error of the ways. Prove that we are right.

Unfortunately, experience shows that dueling vitriol and aggression only perpetuate the madness. New critics jump aboard. The snarkiest and most clever attacks go viral, attracting new garrisons of hostile forces. Gable PR had one technology client who kept arguing against online critics for a week, only to see the ratio of bad comments to good rise faster than floodwaters during a tsunami. When he set ego aside and stopped debating, the tides of criticism receded rapidly. He moved the conversation into calmer waters with updates on popular programs and future plans.

A financial client came under the gun after a marketing person erred in posting a joke rather than a typical inspirational quote on the company’s digital billboard on a main city intersection.  The joke made fun of the traits of a certain breed of animal. A lover of the breed saw the billboard, took a photo and shared on the institution’s Facebook page, Twitter and several special interest websites. The photo went viral and critics chimed in from all over the country in the first 24 hours.

The client responded quickly, taking down the joke, issuing an apology and pledging funds to support a foundation related to the animal’s care. The institution then initiated a series of positive Facebook posts about community activities, awards programs, pending charitable events and other news that reinforced its long-time values of community service. Support came in from customers and the community. Within 72 hours, the negative had disappeared and all was good again in banker land.

You can fight most negative conflagrations with facts. Keep up a steady stream of positive information. Redirect the debate with new evidence and provide links to impartial outside sources and experts wherever possible. If you’ve erred, apologize as soon as possible, provide a plan to right the wrong and then carry out the plan, with regular reports of progress.

There are other nuances to consider. We blogged earlier about the half-life of a Tweet – the rapid decline in commentary when facts prevail and nasty exchanges stop – and responding immediately in what we classified as a social media “lightning round.”

Bottom line:

  • Don’t stoke the flames
  • Cut a fire break (apologize, provide a new direction)
  • Bring in the air tankers (bombard them with facts)
  • Congratulate yourself for knocking down a big one

Creating Great Content: Five PR Research Tips for Starting Right

Digging Wide, Deep

Digging Wide, Deep

Posted by Paige Nordeen

One of the daily challenges and adventures for PR professionals is helping our clients break out of the clutter of competing messages. What are the anecdotes, case histories, cultural attributes and other credentials to help bring their stories to life? How do we create great content to show what may be different or compelling about each on a continuous basis?

We interact with media specialists with expertise in many areas, making it our duty to be prepared to speak and write intelligently on a wide range of topics. From representing a biotechnology company to promoting an up-and-coming chocolatier, PR pros are responsible for translating their client’s desired message to connect with different audiences, often in a short time frame. How does one effectively conquer this communications challenge? Research, research, research!

The process can be daunting. But if you approach it with a plan and then just chunk away, you will soon find yourself amassing potentially great content to use in your work. Here are five tips for building your own database of information for creating brilliant client content.

Use all Media Outlets and Channels

In addition to your favorite search engines, check out every available online channel. Track the company’s Twitter feed to look for potential interesting anecdotes, insights and links to intriguing facts. Delve deeper into their voice, vision and personality by following the client’s Facebook page or Google+ account. Check LinkedIn for details on the leadership team that go beyond what is found in a standard executive biography. Use the same approaches to learn more about a specific journalist before making the big pitch. Listen to the online conversations. Get a feeling for tone.

Add Facts from Credible Sources, Remove Jargon

In the PR world, we translate company and industry jargon into more precise and interesting language to connect with outside audiences. This isn’t always an easy task; especially when working with clients in complex fields such as the life sciences, technology and law. Searching for terms with is a quick way to find more information and links to other resources. Lexis/Nexis and industry websites can provide exquisite detail and precise definitions if needed. Wikipedia can be a useful starting point as well by looking for additional resources in the footnotes. Also, keep in mind that Wikipedia should be considered a tertiary source of information and not to be cited.

Slice and Dice, Chunk Away

Chopping up a huge research task into smaller, individual categories will help keep you organized, on track and not let those daunting research projects get the best of you. Try dividing the main assignment into little research buckets, such as people, products and points of differentiation.  Be journalistic and research who, what, when, where and why. Pursue a chunk or two at a time.

Keep plugging away at the task at hand. Look at each topic as a separate task and you’ll avoid an information overload.

Take 5

A small break here and there will keep you focused and your eyes and mind fresh while you work your way through your research. Keep a few pieces of candy in another room; step away for a moment and have a little dose of sugar. Watching calories? Take a short walk around the office or an outside break to stretch those legs and the mind. Read something different. Alternate between different projects to stimulate the mind in different ways.

Fact Check

Make sure that whatever you deliver to your client and the media is stellar and error-free. PR professionals need to be diligent, obsessive fact-checkers. Don’t rely on automated spell-checkers or just reading documents on a computer screen.  Scrutinize a printed copy, update and then share with a colleague.  Anyone can miss little things, if they have been with a document too long. Outside eyes (and brains!) can help ensure that you have turned your research into clear, fact-filled and compelling content to delight the client, the media and the ultimate target audience.

Happy researching and best of success telling those exciting new client stories!

Are your pitches newsworthy or snooze-worthy?

By Anna Crowe


When I first moved into the public relations profession from marketing, one of my biggest challenges (opportunities) was thinking like a journalist. This notion resonated everywhere I turned – from PR blogs and the Twittersphere, to media and colleagues. Having no experience as a reporter (nor a journalism degree), I was now asked to identify what made my clients compelling (people, products, services, technology), write the story in journalistic style (huh?!) without hype and then pitch with all my might in hopes of securing coverage. I needed to quickly perfect my storytelling skills and be able to continuously identify the news over the snooze.

Back in one of my first jobs, in auditing, I did my share of ‘investigative’ work but the resulting working papers weren’t exactly stories and although some of my findings may have been compelling, I never had to sell the information to anyone for promotional purposes. I just documented with my #2 red pencil and moved along to another financial statement.

Then, having spent nearly a decade in a traditional marketing environment, my brain was accustomed to jumping on the latest product development, bonus feature or upgrade as if it were breaking news. Although I was used to selling the ‘value,’ I was also accustomed to selling the features of my clients’ products and brands. Another brand attribute meant more bullet points on a sell sheet, ammunition for sales reps and potential enhancement to an existing marketing campaign.

Journalists (and readers) don’t care much for bullet points unless those bullet points can relay the benefits of a product or service and demonstrate that something had occurred or changed. The attribute may not be a factor in a compelling story but the life-changing nature of that added benefit can mean the world to a reader if properly conveyed. I quickly learned that the capability to sniff out the news is both a creative talent and a procedural skill.

If 80 percent of writing is reporting (and generating media interest and resulting coverage), we need to continuously be asking ourselves – what does the product or service do that people would care about? Does it solve a common or important problem? Does it improve health, appearance, love life or save time and money? Does it help one’s career, a business or investment? Is it informative, poignant, humorous, sexy, provocative or inspiring? Of course this takes us back to that critical ‘so what?’ question, which editors aren’t afraid to ask when pitched with a potential story.

Facts are essential – we can’t overhype or oversell the story. But unless we’re dealing with breaking news, facts are not always enough. What’s the story and is that story interesting, compelling and of interest to anyone other than the client, or snooze-worthy? Working hard to tell a good story will be much more likely to generate coverage. The snooze-worthy, superficial approach will likely go directly into the reporter’s trash folder, among all other underwhelming, inferior and misspelled or overcapitalized pitches. That’s my story, anyway.


See Anna’s post on Ragan’s PR Daily


From the Pinnacle to Pariah? Crisis PR and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

TV Apology

TV Apology

Posted by Tom Gable

Within a few days, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner had gone from the pinnacle of power to operating from a communications bunker, charged with many instances of sexual harassment and watching his power wane all around.

The story broke with KPBS where three of his key long-time supporters and fellow Democrats submitted letters asking for his resignation. The next day, his chief of staff resigned, followed by a steady stream of fellow Democrats piling on with calls for his resignation, as further documented by KPBS.

He issued an apology by means of a video (with no opportunity for Q&A), said he needed help, said he wasn’t resigning and characterized some of the problems as being changes in society. At age 70 and a veteran of politics, community service and a position of fighting for the underdog, Filner may have trouble making the case for somehow missing the women’s movement of the past few decades.

KOGO radio (AM 600) approached Gable PR on deadline Friday to talk about the key issues and what could be done from a crisis PR standpoint. Chris Merrill, talk show host, thought the video and CD approach was ludicrous. He asked for a fast analysis of what Filner had done and how it compared to standard approaches.

Gable PR has an essential crisis and risk communications check list. We have covered breaking crisis news many times, the most recently with President Obama and the IRS scrutiny of his political enemies.

The basic elements of facing the public when a crisis hits:

  1. Recognize the issue; admit to the transgression
  2. Apologize when necessary
  3. Provide a solution
  4. Set a vision for next steps and how the solution will be achieved
  5. Perform as promised

The first four steps are almost always done in public, where those presenting allow for questions. When organizations have issues with services and products, or even aberrant behavior by the leadership, image and reputation can be regained over time. The length of time is directly related to an organization’s accumulated goodwill, the magnitude of the crisis and the honest commitment the organization or individual makes to performing as promised. Those with the best reputations are given the benefit of the doubt in most cases.

Our previous blog on the Obama-IRS crisis offers links to many other resources as background for consideration. Organizations and individuals who have built up goodwill among many constituencies over the long term are more likely to recover than those with less goodwill (or more bad will) in the bank.

Can he recover? Can he change? Can he move reputation in a positive direction? Chip Merrill asked a great question: does he care?

Filner has a well-reported reputation for being a couple of different parts of the male anatomy in his dealings with people. He has been ecumenical, though, doling out the vitriol regardless of race, color, creed or national origin. Detractors from all stripes have provided testimony to his running government with unfettered arrogance, bullying and confrontational behavior. The alleged attacks on women, which may be made public soon, have created a new level of outrage and could bankrupt whatever remained in his goodwill bank.

(July 21 Update: UT San Diego offered Filner a crisis PR playbook, quoting Sitrick, Dezenhall, yours truly and others from throughout the country.)


PR Professionals: the new chief relationship and reputation officers

Masters of Listening

Masters of Listening

Posted by Tom Gable

According to Dr. Glen M. Broom, author of the definitive university textbook on strategic public relations, the role of the PR professional has evolved radically in the past two decades from being focused on communications to that of the more strategic role of chief relationship officer (CRO).

This evolution into trusted counselor to the most senior executives and managers was chronicled by Dr. Glen M. Broom, retired head of the public relations school at San Diego State University, during a recent presentation to the San Diego and Imperial County chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). He said the role of PR has gone through three stages:

  • In the old journalism model, it used to be: ‘How do we say it?’
  • As PR evolved into a more strategic role, it became: ‘What do we say?’
  • Now, as PR works directly with CEOs and senior management: ‘What do we do?’

Broom, co-author and author of the last five editions of Effective Public Relations, the comprehensive, case-rich textbook used in public relations classrooms worldwide, said PR combines the conceptual, creative, communications and critical thinking skills that can help change perceptions and behaviors for the long term.

As covered here many times, PR professionals should become chief reputation officers (CRO-2), providing strategic counsel to build reputation and image with all audiences for the long term as a part of organizational strategy. Click here for a piece from PRSA Strategist on the topic. The key elements:

  • What do you stand for? What are your core values? Can you walk the talk over time?

Only PR is capable of advising individuals and organizations of all sizes on doing this because of its role in building and maintaining relationships for the long term. Its professionals have become the masters of all the relationship-based communications channels and tools. PR professionals routinely manage complex programs using a mix of media relations, community relations, social media channels, trade relations and ensuring that organizations maintain a sensitivity to all of its constituencies and their communications needs.

Broom said that in the current era PR is being approached as a strategic component of organizational growth and not part of the traditional marketing functions. PR is driving the creation of content for all relationship-oriented channels. The same key values-based, non-marketing themes and core values can be adapted into paid channels, such as advertising, marketing and sales.

Broom advised that as chief relationship officer, each PR professional should be looking at the big picture, keeping public and client interest in mind at all times and using a wide-angle lens to view all audiences, not just the customer. We learn in marketing that customer is No. 1 but it’s not just the customer.

“Relationships are key,” Broom said. “Build and maintain relationships with all audiences to help organizations achieve their goals.”


Crisis PR: Fundamental Change First, then Pro-Active Reputation Management

New Road Ahead?

New Road Ahead?

Posted by Tom Gable

NBC reported that the White House is facing a major PR crisis related to the IRS and other recent issues that have rocketed to the top of news coverage globally. As noted by many PR gurus over the years, this isn’t a PR problem. It is a management problem and deals with the fundamental values of any organization, its operating culture and ability to commit to change, then achieve it.

In crisis PR, the correct approach starts with introspection, critical analysis and long-range thinking. In the short term, recognize the problem, apologize if necessary, pledge to make changes to right the current wrong and prevent its occurring in the future, set a vision for where the changes will go, and then deliver on the promises.

We’ve covered many transgressions in the past two years that provide good lessons for any organization, individual or institution dealing with a management crisis. As referenced in an earlier blog on crisis PR, the concept is simple.

As management guru Peter Drucker noted decades ago: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

The lessons come from TEPCO and the Fukushima Daiichi Plant in Japan, BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Penn State and its molestation scandal, a surge in Toyota recalls, HP management and market turmoil and Tiger Woods, among others, with the classic case being Tylenol. Here are links to the previous posts, which carry a common theme based on the Drucker teachings and sage advice from crisis PR luminaries all over the globe that real values, mission, organizational culture drive crisis PR. Get it right internally, then tell the world.

PRSA Silver Anvil Competition – Ideas for Improving Your Next PR Plan, Program

PRSA Silver Anvil

PRSA Silver Anvil

Posted by Tom Gable

The judges in the 2013 Silver Anvil competition were faced with a plethora of programs built on using the latest and hottest tool or distribution channel available. Beyond the fluff, we often found a spectacular lack of substance. This leads to sharing a compelling truth that runs through the heart of every winning Silver Anvil entry and may benefit all PR professionals: good research provides the foundation for smart strategic planning, brilliant creative and precise execution toward achieving measurable objectives that matter.

The PR tool kit has expanded considerably over the past two decades of my judging Silver Anvil entries (done in years when Gable PR didn’t enter). But are we using the tools in an integrated and strategic fashion? Will the results drive anything meaningful? Are we just having fun playing with things that don’t really drive sales, help achieve marketing goals or turn around an image?

The annual competition can feel like the classic movie, Groundhog Day. The same fuzzy-edged little critters keep popping up each year and in every category (usually chirping about media hits). In reviewing results with other veteran judges from the Counselors Academy and College of Fellows after this year’s recent session, I found a universal impression that some of the entrants hadn’t read the rules or bothered to check out past winners on the PRSA website. The latter exercise would have saved several hundred of the 847 entrants from wasting their entry fees.

The judging criteria are straightforward: 10 points maximum in each category of research, planning, implementation and evaluation, or 40 points total. Sadly, we had many entries that didn’t hit double digits.

I delved deeper in last year’s Silver Anvil coverage. This year, I asked some fellow judges for insights they felt were worth sharing.  Here are the highlights:

Top Five Winning Program Essentials

  1. Solid research to establish a baseline for measurement and evaluation (this can be both secondary and primary; polling; online surveys; crunching one year of social media data to find trends that could lead to a new position for a client; use of psychographics, demographics and other findings that would help in the positioning and planning).
  2. Setting measurable objectives (e.g. turning around image from 3-to-1 against the company to 2-to-1 favorable within one year; successfully introduce the new family of mobile applications, build market awareness to X percent within six months, generate reviews in the top ten media, grow subscribers by Y percent within one year, introduce one cause marketing program that adds another Z subscribers in one year and generates $X for the cause).
  3. Implementing strategically through all channels that can help drive a result (print, broadcast, social media, local events, direct mail, contests, guerrilla marketing, promotions, conference programs, and cause marketing).
  4. For evaluation, the best programs set measurable objectives in many categories. As noted last year, the top programs included achievements in: meetings and special events held, increased attendance, better product reviews, increased distribution, doubling social media likes and followers, winning design awards, expanding promotional program results by a certain percentage, improving share of voice, launching a cause marketing program that raised X dollars, doubling the number of analysts following the company, increasing stock volume, improving internal communications globally as measured by continuous progress in online surveys among all employees on impressions of quality, using social media to drive more hits and qualified leads to the company website, reducing calls to the 800 number in favor of website conversations and increasing sales and market share.
  5. Always keep the results-oriented continuum in mind: great research drives new creativity and smart planning; the detailed planning across all channels helps set measurable objectives and guides precise implementation; and evaluation ties back into all your brilliant work in research and planning.

Ten Biggest Shortcomings

  1. Poor or missing research (e.g. one entry noted that they conducted research by interviewing the client contacts; another cited research in the executive summary about consumer motivations but didn’t include anything in the Research section for validation; some didn’t have a Research section)
  2. Not setting measurable objectives
  3. Setting objectives based solely on amount of media coverage
  4. Setting vague objectives, such as building brand image, but with no means of measurement (the winners documented how they conducted research on baseline consumer awareness, and then built their programs to drive awareness, which was measured at the end, along with metrics)
  5. Developing one-dimensional plans, such as just having a social media strategy
  6. Not outlining the rationale behind strategies and plans (e.g. one judge called this “doing a lot of stuff because the tools were exciting”)
  7. Relying on huge budgets and spectacular events to carry the day (fellow judges shared background on several entries where the scope of the program was impressive but the results weren’t)
  8. Not having a precise plan for implementation
  9. Providing numbers on media hits, Twitter followers and other metrics but without tying them back into the research and planning
  10. And the number one shortcoming: not turning in an entry that covered each of the four areas being judged: research, planning, implementation and evaluation

Beyond the transgressions, there was agreement that the PR profession is continuing to raise the overall quality of all programs. We are being given more opportunities to conceive, create and implement complex and strategic programs that are out of the purview of most marketing, advertising and other consulting companies. We are becoming more trusted advisors in the C-suite and included in company-wide long-range strategic planning. But the bar needs to be raised another notch. These ideas may help.

Ultimate Sequester PR Strategy: the White House as content creator, channel master

Posted by Tom Gable

Case histories will be written and studied for years on how the Obama White House has found new tools and tactics for connecting at the local level, while marginalizing major national media.

As covered in Politico in a piece called “Obama the puppet master,” the Obama White House has developed its own content creation machine to feed all channels of communication with tightly crafted messages that build the Obama brand. It chooses the channels with surgical precision. Why interview with The New York Times beat reporter who knows the issues and risk facing tough questions, Politico notes, when one can dominate local media through strategically scheduled interviews with friendly anchormen and women who may not be up on the issues?  The cumulative effect can be bigger than scoring a national media hit, as covered in depth by Politico.

The orchestration of coverage of potential economic Armageddon from the automatic budget cuts scheduled for March 1 (called Sequester) is the latest and most complex example of a local-national strategy. From the Secretary of Transportation setting the stage with future delays at major airports because of fewer air traffic controllers, to interviews in local markets with data on the anticipated loss of jobs (e.g. underway Feb. 26 in military towns in Virginia), the PR efforts are carrying consistent messages carefully chosen to appeal to each audience. How does it work?

Politico and a follow up piece by the Poynter Organization (“The dangerous delusions of the White House press corps and the president”) provided details. To summarize the key elements of the Obama White House approach and one that can work for brands, organizations, political candidates, new product introductions, crisis PR and other PR campaigns:

  • Develop a comprehensive, cohesive message strategy with consistent themes and supporting evidence;
  • Be precise in targeting and masterful in scheduling and orchestrating the individual parts of the program;
  • Go for local issues, with local examples;
  • The White House (or any brand) becomes the ultimate publisher (print, broadcast, photography, video, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and more);
  • Every appearance or event needs to support the brand, to include great photo opportunities with locals for driving local coverage;
  • Control the content and flow through all channels by picking the media carefully;
  • Stage events to focus on the big messages and memorable lines and don’t allow time at the end for random media questions that might delve into negative territory and take the candidate, CEO or other luminary off-message;
  • Go for easy wins at the local level, then build regionally;
  • Ignore the major media unless they are friendly;
  • Produce your own photography and video rather than allow media coverage (local outlets are always looking for free content);
  • Shun those who have produced or written anything that would be considered negative;
  • Pound away at key messages through major pieces with the friendly media and TV personalities and support with social barrages to hit every target relentlessly;
  • Use the classic “weekend document dump” to avoid negative coverage and “minimize attention to embarrassing or messy facts”;
  • And orchestrate all the elements to ramp up for strategically and with surgical precision for maximum impact at a pre-designated date, such as an election or the day before the so-called fiscal cliff.

The latter – strategic planning of all elements for total control – represents the biggest challenge. Many organizations, brands and individuals can master parts of integrated campaigns.  Few would have the budget, the talent, the discipline and the power even close to that of the Obama White House to succeed on all fronts.

The bottom line, according to Politico:

“With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly.”

Hot Dog on a Stick: Sticking a Smile on a Gable PR Employee for 20 Years

Fun Food

Posted by Katelyn O’Riordan

The red, white, blue and yellow colors light up the food court, beckoning mall visitors with the bright and inviting façade. The friendly employees clad in uniforms in company colors and matching chapeau catch my eye. I immediately picture them handing over a paper boat filled with a crispy, golden-brown treat – the iconic Southern California Hot Dog on a Stick, with a cup of fresh lemonade. It was one reward my mom would offer my brother and me for our patience after dragging us elementary school kids around to stores like Ann Taylor and Crate & Barrel.

To this day, every time I visit the Fashion Valley mall, near our office in San Diego, I visit my old friends at Hot Dog on a Stick and indulge in an ice-cold fresh lemonade. Memories of my childhood always come rushing back and now I have a greater understanding of the work and passion that go into each store location.

It wasn’t until working for Gable PR that I got the rare opportunity to learn about Hot Dog on a Stick’s brand and the company culture behind the menu items and colorful uniforms. Gable PR was retained to promote the company as it expanded nationally through franchising and a new drive-thru concept. Our research and working directly with their passionate team afforded me the chance to build on a fun family memory that has endured for years and continues to make me smile (proving that the Hotdoggers behind the counter really do live up to their mission, “to stick a smile on your face!”).

For me, a remarkable trait of working in public relations is you are given ongoing opportunities to learn about a company or brand that you may have only known superficially.  In preparing to launch a creative, strategic PR program, you discover a wealth of information: the company’s history, mission, vision, inner workings, team ethic, culture, history and personality.

Here are 10 interesting facts about Hot Dog on a Stick:

  • Hot Dog on a Stick started in 1946 next to the sandy beaches of Santa Monica, Calif., and was originally called Party Puffs. Founder Dave Barham changed its name to Hot Dog on a Stick in 1948, and the company has since flourished into 100 stores, spread throughout 12 states and three countries.
  • Employees have a vested interest in company success; Hot Dog on a Stick is actually a 100 percent employee owned company!
  • Hot Dog on a Stick’s leadership team has as an average tenure of more than 19 years with the company; several started as Hotdoggers and worked their way up.
  • Founder Dave Barham used to call the signature uniforms “red, white and blue, with a splash of lemonade!”
  • Past celeb Hotdoggers include actress Eva Mendez and singer Sara Bareilles.
  • Dave Barham created Hot Dog on a Stick’s “Party Batter” using his mom’s delicious cornbread recipe inspired from his childhood on his family’s Missouri farm.
  • The employee uniform has changed over the years from polka dots and berets, straw hats and knee-length shorts to the catchy striped uniform and hats worn today.
  • The lemonade is made fresh every two hours, and all menu items are made-to-order using fresh ingredients.
  • Hot Dog on a Stick has new growth initiatives that include franchising and opening more drive-thru restaurants away from the traditional malls.
  • If all the fresh lemons used in one year by Hot Dog on a Stick (more than 6 million) were laid end to end, they would reach from Los Angeles to Monterey!

The knowledge gained from research, interviews, writing, and ongoing involvement in new client activities gives the PR team priceless insights to help plan community events, drive media coverage of a new store, and land a print article or a broadcast segment for a company or brand that you believe in. The results bring a special joy and sense of accomplishment that I hadn’t found in other industries, putting another smile on my face!