Author: Sandi Poreda

Conflict Resolution Through Good Communication

 

From a high level perspective, the entire legal profession is based on conflict. Attorneys deal with various forms of conflict on a regular basis; it’s negotiating a settlement, arguing for your client in court, going point for point with opposing counsel in a brief. But unnecessary conflict can take a heavy toll on lawyers, and conflict resolution is a valuable skill to possess.

Good communication may not be the cure-all for conflict, but it is a critical component for conflict resolution. The key is understanding two elements: how you communicate and how the other person communicates.

Communication Styles

The good news is that there are five main communication styles, so with a little practice you can hone your own skills and better identify the styles around you. While many of us may use different styles in different situations, most will fall back on one particular style, so it’s good to know your default.

  1. The Assertive Style: This communication style is founded in confidence; assertive communicators are able to clearly express themselves without being overbearing or overly submissive. Assertive communication is the most effective style as well as the healthiest.
  1. The Aggressive Style: Aggressive communicators value their needs above others; people often miss the message because they are turned off by the delivery.
  1. The Passive Aggressive Style: These communicators often leave people feeling confused or misdirected because while they may seem supportive, they are subtly undermining or acting out their aggression behind the scenes.
  1. The Submissive Style: People who communicate with a submissive style put others needs above theirs to avoid conflict, but may end up deeply resentful. This is a highly ineffective form of communication in many circumstances.
  1. The Manipulative Style: This communication style is destructive. Manipulative communicators often have their own agenda and control situations to achieve it, sometimes without the other person knowing.

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. Once you understand your own communication style, you’ll be able to practice more assertive communication.

Communication is a Two-Way Street

Understanding the communication styles of those around you is also beneficial. It’s like having a cheat sheet; you’ll be able to quickly recognize how a difficult person is communicating and you’ll know how to respond to diffuse further conflict.

Ultimately, the person communicating is responsible for how his or her audience receives the message. Different communications styles can impede or even block messages altogether, which is why learning to communicate effectively can stop unnecessary conflict even before it starts.

Need help practicing effective communication? Bulldog Strategy Group can help. Talk to us today to get started.

Move Over PR Daily — 5 Ways to REALLY Use a Press Release

by Kathleen Haughney

Scrolling through my Twitter feed last month, I noticed a PR Daily tweet on “Unconventional ways of distributing press releases (and a few you know)” followed by a link to a 2014 post on ways to use releases.

My reply to PR Daily? Those thoughts were hardly unconventional. (Also, were they really so low on good tips that they had to recycle from 2014?)

The suggestions were pretty standard — pitch the release, put it on social media, post it to your company/institution/group’s website, use a wire service and share it with your sales team.

If you’re not already pitching your release and posting it on social media and your website, you’re doing it wrong. I was #thoroughlyunimpressed. Plus, communications pros around the world often work on a shoestring budget, so using an expensive paid distribution service may not even be an option.

So, here’s my take on how to make your press release go that extra mile.

Try SlideShare.

Use bullet points and/or quotes from your release to make a SlideShare presentation to share on various social media platforms. It’s a great way to work graphics and photos in with your text while getting the main points across. Let’s be honest. You may be the next Ernest Hemingway, but some people still won’t read your full release. This tactic lets you communicate the main takeaways in a quick and dirty fashion. Extra points if you make it pretty with photos or graphics.

Share the love.

PR Daily suggests sharing your release with your sales team. I say share it with EVERYBODY.

Crash through those silos that may separate communications from other areas of your company/organization/group. Why? Glad you asked. First, everyone needs to know what messages, priorities and initiatives are being communicated to the general public. Second, your non-communications colleagues may have some creative ideas of how to further your message. That feedback and creative partnership is especially important if you’re a one-man shop. And third, your release might be particularly interesting to a stakeholder/constituent/friend of someone else in the organization. This could translate into new business, partnerships, contacts or other opportunities down the line, but everyone on your team has to know about it first.

Leverage your networks.

Posting your release on your institution’s social media accounts and website is a given, so what’s next? Communicators build relationships at every turn, whether they’re directly related to your organization or for personal development. Use those people. Re-post your news releases or links to them on your own social media pages. Make sure your business cards, Twitter bio and Facebook page have the web address to your organization’s news page so your friends and contacts can check it out. Know a friend or professional contact (doesn’t have to be a reporter!) who might have an interest in your release? Ask if they’d consider posting your release on their pages.

Don’t forget about radio.

One of my best friends is a public radio reporter, and she constantly gripes about PR people catering to print outlets. She needs sound whenever possible, so think about ways you could provide some high quality audio. Maybe you could record your spokesperson/president/CEO reading a snippet of the release — that could give you some extra options when trying to pitch a story or position to reporters and your CEO can’t do interviews.

Make it a full story.

OK, hear me out on this one. Many practitioners think your release should be a one-pager. This concept is generally true, but consider this: The media landscape is changing, and some outlets print the releases when they don’t have time to do the story. Many businesses are hiring journalists to create content that reads more like news stories to fill the gap in news coverage. It may be worth your time to lengthen that press release by throwing in some background, statistics or any other supporting material that gets your point across.

Let’s be honest. Some stories are easier to sell than others, but if you don’t move beyond standard practices, your chances are pretty slim. Even getting it in front of a few more eyeballs can be worth the extra time and energy in the end.

Happy writing!

Kathleen Haughney is the Research Media and Content Specialist for Florida State University, which means she spends her days promoting discoveries by FSU faculty members and their students. She is a former reporter for the Sun Sentinel and News Service of Florida and a proud graduate of Penn State University.

Social Media: Survive & Thrive

Social media can feel like quicksand. Everyone says you have to be all over it and there are new platforms popping up all the time. It’s easy to get sucked in and quickly feel like you’re drowning. Plus, there are so many rules about how attorneys can use social media. Why should you bother engaging? Because if used strategically, social media can be a force multiplier, not a resource drain.

First, let’s talk about the basics of your marketing plan. Your marketing plan should at the very least identify who matters most to you (your target audiences) and what you want them to do (become clients, give referrals, etc.). Focus on specific, measurable actions; busy doesn’t equal effective. If you need help developing a marketing plan, let’s chat.

Now that you’ve identified your target audience, study them. Where do they get their information? That’s where you want to be. You’ll waste time and resources trying to pull an audience to you instead of going to where they are. This includes evaluating social media channels because it’s better to pick a few platforms and do those well than be mediocre at many. For this audience, we recommend starting with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

Next, set up your social media accounts correctly. Make sure your accounts are public, so people searching can see your posts in their search results. Keep all of your information, including your logo, your name, your website, your phone number and your address, identical across all channels – NO EXCEPTIONS. Having different information, even something as simple as St. vs Street in your address listing, can affect where you show up on search engine result pages.

Which is where this whole conversation is headed – how to get good positioning on search engine result pages. These pages are what a search engine returns when you type in a specific keyword or phrase. Most search engines use some sort of an algorithm to determine placement. Used correctly, social media can help boost your placement on these pages.

Overall, the silver bullet is to have killer original content and a plan for posting it. Create and post content that sets you apart as an expert, as someone with a well-supported opinion or someone who has a voice worth listening to. You can review a recent CLE or talk about a recent court ruling – whatever might be interesting or important to your target audience.

Once you’ve developed the content, you need a network to help you get the most out of it. Look for places to submit your content so you can drive even more people back to your website. These could be legal blogs or they could be parenting blogs, depending on the topic you’ve chosen and your target audience. Key influencers in audiences matter, and they can promote your content on their networks, reaching people not necessarily in your sphere of influence. Pro tip: start building these networks early so the first time they hear from you isn’t when you need something. It’s also important to pay attention to what is going on around you, so you can join the conversation in an authentic way.

For best results, you should post updates, new content, information, etc., at least once every two weeks. This rate won’t help you thrive, but it will least keep you alive. Anything less frequent, and Google will start to penalize you. But remember – using social media effectively in the legal world really isn’t about the sheer volume of posts – a little planning and some strategy will go a long way here.

Finally, make sure you use best practices when you’re on social media. Don’t overload your posts with keywords or hashtags. Try not to purchase too many of your friends, followers or likes; paid advertising is fine, when used correctly. Do build a “cheering squad,” people who will champion you on social media when you need them. And make sure you’re interesting.

Social media can be overwhelming, so be strategic and take it one step at a time. Don’t sign up for a platform just because someone says you have to be on it; evaluate your marketing plan and how to reach your target audiences and choose your channels wisely. Post relevant, interesting content and share it through a network of people with similar interests, and you will see improvement on those search engine result pages. #forthewin

Xavier: Foster Dog Friday featured pet

Foster Dog Friday (Adopted): Xavier

Meet Xavier at the City of Tallahassee Animal Shelter!

Xavier’s owners encountered a medical tragedy and are no longer able to care for their sweet pet. This dog is loving, playful and adores people. He plays well with other dogs, is healthy and is already neutered. He’s just waiting for someone to love him!

To visit Xavier and to explore the possibility of giving him a loving second home, please visit the City of Tallahassee Animal Shelter.

Press conference with media microphones held in front of business man, spokesman or politician

Attorneys: Know Your PR Rights

As an attorney, you’re trained to focus on the case inside the courtroom – to develop a winning legal strategy and implement it for judge and jury. But what happens when you also need a win in the court of public opinion? Let’s talk about a few basic public relations skills that can help you (and your clients) when relationships with the public matter most.

1. Build relationships early. The worst time to make friends is when you really need them. Get to know the people whose opinions have weight in the community – these are people you may need to speak on your behalf (or stay strategically silent) when things heat up. It also doesn’t hurt to get to know the reporters who cover the courts, because you want them to see you as a person and not just a source. Relationships matter immensely.

2. Take time to listen and evaluate before responding. It’s easy to rush to respond, especially in the heat of the battle. But take care to make sure you’re not being baited. Sometimes silence really is deafening. And if a response is warranted, be thoughtful and deliberate. Try not to repeat the negatives – focus on your message and what you need people to hear.

3. Pick your battles. It’s ok to go to the mattresses when it really matters, but don’t be the attorney who takes offense at the smallest slight. People will eventually learn not to pay attention. If you are strategic, people will listen when something matters to you.

4. Be memorable for the right reasons. Whether you’re interacting with the public or the press, avoid these rookie mistakes:

  • Don’t get belligerent. It’s not your job to fix stupid.
  • Stay on message. Don’t get pulled down a rabbit hole.
  • Project confidence. You’re the expert.
  • For TV, don’t wear loud colors or tiny prints or stripes.

5. Avoid saying “No comment.” It’s comfortable and safe, but it usually doesn’t do anyone any good. If you need help framing a message, get in touch with an expert who understands litigation communications, a specialty area of public relations for attorneys and their clients.

When you boil it all down, public relations is about understanding what people around you care about and how you can build relationships to influence that environment. Start small and let it build as your get comfortable. You and your clients will benefit!

Sarah: Foster dog Friday featured pet

Foster Dog Friday: Sweet Sarah!

This adorable girl is Sarah, a lovely little 4-5 yr old pit mix. She is a petite girl, weighing in at 40 lbs, and is full grown.

As you can see, Sarah’s tail is always wagging and she is friendly to everyone! She gets along well with other non-dominant dogs, cats and older children (little ones scare her a bit).

Sarah is house- and crate-trained, spayed and up to date on shots.

If you can give Sarah the perfect home, please email Last Hope Rescue.

White dog in front of brick wall

And… here we go!

Florida Public Relations Pro Launches New Firm
~ It’s not just another PR firm – promise. ~

Tallahassee, FL – Veteran Florida public relations professional Sandi Poreda, APR, today announced the launch of her new communications firm, Bulldog Strategy Group. The firm is headquartered in Florida’s capital city and specializes in the under-served field of litigation communication, as well as crisis communication training and response.

“I’m excited to plant a small but meaningful flag in the landscape of the public relations industry,” Poreda said. “Bulldog Strategy Group strives to be exactly what our profession needs – smart, honest and tough.”

A nationally accredited public relations professional, Poreda has more than a decade of providing strategic communications counsel to organizations and clients. As communications director for former Attorney General Bill McCollum, Poreda was directly responsible for the communication of complex and sensitive legal issues to the media and public at large.

So often, public relations takes a back seat when a legal case is in process, and if a client wins a lawsuit but damages its reputation in the process, the damage may be irreparable. Litigation communication can help a client protect their reputation, brand and audience relationships in tandem with a successful legal strategy.

“This specialty service area gives Tallahassee’s legal community the opportunity to provide added value for their clients,” Poreda said. “Traditionally, attorneys and public relations professionals are polar opposites, but we know that good communication and successful cooperation benefits everyone, especially the client.”

In addition to focusing on litigation communication, Bulldog Strategy Group specializes in crisis communication training and response. Poreda has extensive experience managing crisis scenarios, from natural disasters to internal disruptions, and she emphasizes the importance of planning ahead. Crisis communications services include the development of a customized crisis communications plan, scenario-based training, media training, media relations and direct crisis management.

“Sandi’s range and depth of experience will serve our community well,” said Sarah Bascom, president of Bascom Communications and Consulting, LLC.

Poreda’s firm also offers a full range of public relations and marketing services, including target audience identification, message development, copy writing, social media management, media relations and special event coordination. For more information about specific services offered and a range of industry information, please visit http://www.bulldogstrategygroup.com.

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

What is Litigation Communication, Really?

Declining to comment during pending litigation is fairly a common, even comfortable response, but it’s a default that may do clients a disservice in the long run. As news cycles move faster and faster, a company’s reputation can be forever altered in an instant, even after a win in court. Sometimes, a loss in the the court of public opinion can be just as damaging for a client, which is why litigation communication is so valuable.

Litigation communication is building a public relations strategy that works in coordination with an ongoing legal strategy. So often, public relations takes a back seat when a legal case is in process, but if a client wins a lawsuit but hurts its reputation in the process, the damage may be irreparable. Litigation communication can help a client protect its reputation, brand and audience relationships in tandem with a successful legal strategy. This field of public relations is almost empty, and clients are suffering for it.

So how does it work?

First, find a public relations firm that has experience working directly with attorneys. These PR people understand the value of playing the long game – it’s not about immediate media hits for them. I can’t remember who said it, but it’s true that the worst time to make a friend is when you really need one. Start looking for a good litigation PR firm now, before you have a client in need, so you have time to get to know the team.

Second, talk to the public relations team about how they set their goals. Firms that focus on measurable results will enable you to demonstrate ROI to your clients. Don’t be fooled by busywork; being busy doesn’t equal being effective.

Third, take the firm for a spin. Get a proposal for working a case and have a conversation about ways they could make a difference for current and future clients. A client shouldn’t have to choose between good PR and good legal work, and if you can make that happen your clients will appreciate your service even more.

Still wondering if litigation communication might work for you and your clients? Give us a call. We’d love to sit down and see how we can help!

Petunia: Foster dog Friday featured pet

Foster Dog Friday: Meet Petunia!

Petunia is a sweet bulldog/boxer (?) mix who loves to snuggle and has the cutest underbite! When you feed her a piece of cheese, her teeth chatter because she has never tasted anything like it…is that not the cutest thing?! She is about 2 yrs old and weighs 42 lbs. She is crate-trained, up to date on vaccines and spayed.

Petunia is a very quick learner and is beginning to walk well on a leash. Her favorite thing to do is nap in the sun, but she also likes to be inside playing with toys. We know she’d appreciate being an inside beloved pet, for sure! She also gets along very well with other dogs.

Petunia deserves a home where she can be pampered like the princess she is and get treats every day. She is an incredibly sweet girl with a full life ahead of her.

If you can give Petunia the perfect home, please email Last Hope Rescue.

Thank you written sparkler

TYFBA (Thank you for being awesome)

As we embark on this brave new adventures, there are many thank yous that we owe to our friends and colleagues for their support. We’re blessed to be part of a community that is supportive, talented and kind – without you, this would not have been possible.

A special thank you to Ashley Daniell Photography and TREW Media for the lovely photos featured here on this site, and to LAT Consulting for the graphic design and website design and development.

Thank you to everyone who had coffee, shared advice, made recommendations and poured wine over the last several months. We appreciate each of you immensely. Look what you’ve helped create!