Thursday, April 1, 2010

North Coast Strategies

Thanks for visiting "The Public Affairs Lawyer." We have consolidated our blog and our website and integrated our social media at

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

5 principles of breakthrough success in the "Relationship Era" -

Until recently, there were only two eras of marketing. But times are changing. Here are some approaches that successful brands are using to push past the rest of the pack.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Audacity to Win

During this holiday break, I read "Audacity to Win" by President Obama's Campaign Manager David Plouffe. Whether you are a Blue Dog or Gingrich Republican, I recommend this book to any public relations professional (I saw it today for half-off at Barnes and Noble). Not only is it a well documented history of the 2008 Campaign, with insider views and frank discussions about what actually went on behind the scenes, but it is a blue print for how we, as PR professionals, can create memorable campaigns for our clients.

Plouffe and then-candidate Barack Obama did not just run a campaign, they created a movement. They did not follow the typical guidebook that comes with running for President, they set their own rules. They built a grassroots movement by talking to people and taking there message person-to-person, block-by-block, town-by-town. They started a dialogue, absorbed their ideas, developed a message and shared it. People wanted to do something for Barack Obama and the Obama Campaign had plenty for them to do. You could volunteer in a campaign office, go to a battleground state, raise money online, or join the discussion on-line.

The volunteers came because they were interested. That interest turned into action, then to passion. And throughout their involvement, not matter at what level, they felt a part of that movement -- Making President Obama's victory, was their victory.

Following the election, the President kept and continues to keep that movement alive, through Organizing for America (OFA), now run through the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

In the book, Plouffe tells us that "in politics your two main pillars are message and electoral strategy." The message is what the candidate offers voters in terms of vision, issues and biography. Plouffe tells us that you can adjust the tactics, but never deviate from your core message and strategy -- Have one slogan, and stick to it. Make decisions based on strategy and have a clear road map to know what is important, and commit to that map.

Plouffe also tells us that technology should also be the core of the campaign from day one. Use social media to raise money, move the message and organize. Create lists and sublists to keep key groups in the loop and a part of the campaign.

Important lessons for how we can help our clients create movements. A good book, a great read and important lessons for us all to know.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Tooth Fairy

Today my daughter lost her tooth. Although she believes that I am the tooth fairy, she still believes in tooth elves. It is good to believe. Here is a copy of the letter the "tooth fairy" left under her pillow:

My Dearest XXXX,

You were such a brave girl today when you lost your front tooth. I heard all about how your mommy pulled it out – Wow!

I am so proud of how you take care of your teeth, especially this one that I found under your pillow. I left something under your pillow in exchange for your tooth. Thank you!!! I can’t wait to add it to my collection. I heard you are also learning about counting money, so I left some change for you to count.

I also understand that you think I am your father. I get that a lot, so I included a picture of me – It is a drawing because fairies don’t take good pictures.


The Tooth Fairy

P.S. I am pleased to see that you enjoy brushing and flossing your teeth. Keep up the good work!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Congressional Expectations in 2010

Congress is not even close to finishing the issues it began this past January, and when they return following their brief winter break, they will face a number of regulatory issues, including:
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -- Expect the FTC to get more involved in consumer financial protection. Under new proposed regulations, the FTC will be given more authority to levy fines and investigate firms doing with others know to violate FTC rules. Privacy will also be an issue, in terms of how media companies, retailers, advertisers and others collect and use consumer information. THOUGHTS??? Contact your Member of Congress.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- Next year Congress also will look at our nation's food safety laws.
  • Transportation -- Congress will look at two major bills next year, including the new proposed "Jobs" bill and the re-authorization of the Transportation Equity Act which expired this past September but was extended into next year. Another issue however, will be an issue that a number states have already considered -- TXTing while driving. But these regulations will be geared toward truck drivers.
  • Environment -- Congress will continue their debate on climate change and air emissions while also looking at our nation's fresh water system.
  • Taxes -- Congress will also address tax issues that are set to sunset in the coming year.
Regardless of the issues, next year proves to be a busy one. On top of the packed Congressional agenda, 2010 also is an election year so by definition each issue is a political issue and will be weighed in the context of how it is perceived back home. Therefore, it is vital that you make your views known, advocate for or against issues important to you and your business, and ask for money for various programs and projects. In this economy, we all can use a little help from Congress and the Federal government.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Today's Legal Market Demands Broad Business Solutions

*Story Originally Posted in the American Bar Association's Law Trends and News, Fall 2009, Vol. 6, No. 1.

Today’s legal market demands a broad range of business solutions lawyers can provide their clients. A strategic communications plan can prove to be an extremely helpful tool law firms can provide their clients. For example, in today’s 24/7 media culture, companies lack access to and control over the media who cover their industry and to the people that talk about them online.

In addition, businesses often find themselves navigating a complex environment that requires dealing simultaneously with litigation, governmental and regulatory actions, media scrutiny, and public perception. Oftentimes business strategy demands a multidisciplinary approach of legal action, public relations, and government relations. Knowing where these issues converge can help protect your reputation and enhance your position in the marketplace.

For example, new court rules were recently unveiled in Michigan directing jurors not to Twitter about the case before them or to turn to the Internet for information beyond that which was presented to them in the court. Social media is becoming more than a tool for us to use to stay in touch with friends: it is becoming a new area to look out for our clients' interests and/or a new medium to promote our practice.

Also, in just seven months, Congress has passed a number of key bills that have been enacted by the president, including the economic stimulus package, expansion of SCHIP, Pentagon acquisition reforms, and other key reforms. Congress is in the midst of tackling a number of difficult issues, including energy and climate legislation, health care reform, FY 2010 appropriations, the reauthorization of the transportation bill, financial regulation, food safety, and immigration reform—all of which will affect our legal practice.

As a result, attorneys should extend their services beyond the courtroom and into the court of public opinion or legislature. If attorneys will not provide such services, then they should build strategic partnerships with public relations firms and/or lobbyists. To meet the needs of today’s businesses, lawyers will need skilled advice regarding how to position their clients before the media or in front of the legislature, while legally protecting their clients.

For example, seeking PR counsel is an important aspect of representing clients in high-profile cases. Even if the issue is a small matter, there is no way we can tell how public opinion can or will shape the outcome of a case. Therefore, in engaging PR counsel:

  • Have the lawyer retain the PR firm as opposed to your client directly, to try to preserve attorney-client privilege;
  • The PR counsel should consult with the client only in the presence of an attorney and first talk things over with the attorney to seek their support and buy-in for the PR strategy.

Once a PR firm is engaged, they will (depending on the strategy):

  • Asses the situation, review any media to date;
  • Create key messages;
  • Create talking points for key audiences including, staff, vendors, clients, and the media;
  • Using the key messages, educate and sensitize the media to mitigate damage or control the story;
  • Facilitate interviews; and
  • Diligently work to preserve and protect your client’s image in the public eye.

“An attorney’s duties do not begin inside the courtroom door. He or she cannot ignore the practical implications of a legal proceeding for the client.” SeeGentile v. State Bar of Nevada (Kennedy opinion) 510 U.S. 1030, 1043 (1991). Just as an attorney may recommend a plea bargain or civil settlement to avoid the adverse consequences of a possible loss after trial, so too an attorney may take reasonable steps to defend a client’s reputation in the court of public opinion

In today’s fast-paced environment, where it may take years to build up one’s reputation and only seconds to destroy it, a lawyer’s role as advocate extends to managing his or her clients’ reputations inside and out of the courtroom.

Daniel Cherrin, an attorney, is the former communications director/press secretary for Detroit and to Detroit Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr. He is now president of North Coast Strategies, which provides cutting-edge practical advice where government action or inaction, litigation vulnerability, or complex regulatory requirements will impact your reputation and bottom line. You can reach Cherrin at or 313-300-0932.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lessons for Baltimore, from Detroit

Baltimore has been used as an example many times by Detroiters about what it did as a city to turn around its downtown, to revamp its waterfront and breathe life back into a city. Now, with its Mayor recently convicted of taking gift cards as bribes and using gift cards that should have been used as gifts for the needy, Baltimore can and should learn from Detroit.

The Mayor of Baltimore refuses to resign after her conviction last week, saying she still has Baltimore's interest at heart. If the Mayor truly had Baltimore's interest at hear she would step down as Mayor, end the drama and let the city move forward without her. If she does not step down, then a cloud will continue to hover around the city.

With the Mayor staying in office, the city cannot move forward. Businesses will not want to do business with the city, its bond rating could be in jeopardy due to the volatile situation in the city, with a lack of uncertainty as to what may happen with or with out the Mayor, and the continued scrutiny of the Mayor.

There is no doubt that the Mayor's attorneys are advising the Mayor to stay put. It provides leverage in negotiating a settlement and a platform for her to speak. But her speech will be limited by what her attorneys tell her she can or cannot say, pending the legal action against her.

Now it is easy for me to sit here in Detroit and be critical of a Mayor who I don't know in a city that I have only visited. But, I can speak from experience about what a city needs to do to move forward and beyond the negative stories that have traumatized a city, a region and a state.

The Mayor of Baltimore and the President of Baltimore's City Council should learn from Detroit. Step down as Mayor. If she is not going to step down, then the President of Council should ask for her resignation, being to create a transition plan, meet with local business, community, labor and faith-based leaders. Travel to Annapolis and meet with the state legislative and executive leadership and begin to make the plans for taking Baltimore back and shift the focus from scandal to hope and opportunity, faith and transparency, accountability and action.