Wilkinson Scholarship Winner

Anna Gaidenko, a first year graduate student at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, has been awarded the 2011-2012 annual Wilkinson Scholarship Award.

Gadeinko is working toward a master’s degree in strategic public relations, focusing on the global market.  She intends to bridge her interest and experience in both the international arena and communication field post-graduation.  Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Gaidenko lived in Cleveland before moving to Miami and completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies and criminology at the University of Miami. Prior to applying to USC, she taught English in the Czech Republic, travelling the surrounding regions and doing freelance writing, which led her to discover public relations as a profession.
The Wilkinson scholarship is awarded annually in memory of Cecilia A. Wilkinson, an active USC alum and a principal of PondelWilkinson, who passed away in 2007.
The video above is Gaidenko’s take on how social media can enhance public relations.

Setting Goals for Your IR Program

Nearly three-quarters of all investor relations officers set specific goals and objectives to measure their IR programs, according to a just released NIRI survey.  I’m actually quite surprised that the number isn’t closer to 100%.  In the absence of goal setting, how do you determine priorities and make decisions about what to tackle on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?  How do you adequately assess which activities add value for your company and which don’t?  How is your personal effectiveness evaluated?
Of those who do report formally measuring their programs, 80% use both quantitative and qualitative measures.  The top five measurement criteria noted were:

  1. relationships with the financial community;
  2. feedback from the financial community;
  3. individual meetings with top shareholders;
  4. qualitative assessment by the C-suite; and
  5. composition of the shareholder base.

I might also consider looking at changes in sell-side sponsorship, additions to earnings conference call participation and introductions to new potential shareholders as a tactical method of determining how an IR program is progressing.  Unsurprisingly, and for good reason, most of those surveyed do not believe a change in their company’s share price is a valid measurement tool.
Clearly there are many ways to track and measure IR effectiveness, and much is dependent on company performance, size and maturity.  Although investor relations is a delicate balance between art and science, it seems that not setting goals and objectives for your program is a big disservice to yourself and everyone involved in building sustainable value for shareholders.


Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

Don’t Get Preoccupied

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street on November 2, 2011 (Photo Credit: Mario Tama, Getty Images)

The Occupy Wall Street movement is less than two months old, and yet it feels like the story has been around for decades.  I’m not convinced it’s a result of the Occupiers’ public relations prowess.  It’s probably more of a function of the archetypal roots of the story – media have been covering protests ever since the dawn of newsprint.  And think about the ingredients that comprise this protest story.  There’s emotion, civil disobedience, and plenty of cause, especially with a staggering unemployment rate and an allegedly clear and present culprit: Wall Street.
But the future of the Occupy movement is unknown, and even though big banks are the targets du jour, who’s next in line and what are the Occupiers’ long-term goals?  It appears the movement is in the midst of a public relations crisis, and unless the collective consciousness can think of something quickly, the cold snap of winter is going to shut this protest down.
War, civil rights and genocide all present perfectly valid theses for inciting protest.  There is a means to an end, and even if the end is not near, the path to salvation is clear.  But the Occupy movement has no such endpoint.  All of the ingredients are present, with the exception of a well-articulated goal.  Hey, hey, the protesters might say, the movement is evolving organically because that’s what the people want.  But when was the last time you tried to accomplish something without knowing what exactly you were trying to accomplish?
So here’s some public relations advice to keep the protest alive and media engaged:

  • Set some realistic goals that Occupiers and non-Occupiers can understand and rally around to stay motivated;

  • Assemble a dream team in Washington, i.e. lobbyists, politicians, union leaders, financial executives, etc … and create an action plan that everyone running in the 2012 election will have to address and promise to review if elected;

  • Keep the messaging consistent across the country.  Yes, there are a lot of things people are angry about, but staying focused on specific topics will ensure a more cohesive and powerful message;

  • Know your allies and do whatever is possible and practical to support them;

  • Do not generalize or stereotype when attacking a target.  Be specific.  Not everyone on Wall Street or who works for a big bank is an enemy.  The movement has already alienated itself from powerful people who can help accomplish the very change the Occupiers are (perhaps) seeking.


Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com