Archive for January, 2012

HOMEGROWN Concessions® to be Offered at Super Bowl XLVI

January 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (January 31, 2012) — Farm Aid is partnering with Centerplate, the hospitality and culinary hosts of Super Bowl XLVI, to bring fans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis a Super Bowl first: HOMEGROWN Chili. With three varieties — organic vegetarian chili, beef chili and pork chili — this marks the first time that HOMEGROWN Concessions® or an organic concessions item will be sold in the history of the Super Bowl.

“Farm Aid knows family farmers. Our mission is to make sure you do, too,” said Farm Aid co-founder John Mellencamp. “Farm Aid is introducing football fans to family farmers by serving HOMEGROWN Chili at the Super Bowl. It’s good food from family farms, including some from right here in Indiana.”

In addition to bringing the story of family farm food to football fans, HOMEGROWN Chili sales at the Super Bowl will benefit Farm Aid and family farmers. Centerplate will donate $2 to Farm Aid for every bowl of HOMEGROWN Chili sold.

“We’re proud to stand side by side with Farm Aid, local family farmers and Indiana icon John Mellencamp in their mission to create thriving family farms. And we’re thrilled they’re working with us to create a true Heartland Experience for fans,” says Centerplate CMO Bob Pascal. “With this HOMEGROWN program, Centerplate is raising the bar for local partnership and, with the first-ever organic concessions item at the Super Bowl, we’re setting a new standard for healthy and organic hospitality.”

The HOMEGROWN dishes at Super Bowl XLVI are:

  1. HOMEGROWN Beef Chili, featuring hormone- and antibiotic-free beef from regional organic beef producers as well as from Patty Reding of Langeland Farms in Greensburg, Ind. The tomatoes are grown in the Midwest and processed in Indiana. The onions, celery, peppers and garlic are organic.
  2. HOMEGROWN Pork Chili, featuring hormone- and antibiotic-free pork from Stanley and Evan Hall of Hall Farms in Paoli, Ind. The garlic and oil are organic.
  3. HOMEGROWN Organic Vegetarian Chili, featuring organic beans from the Fields of Agape Cooperative in Carthage, Ind. The onions, celery, garlic, carrots, peppers and oil are also organic.

HOMEGROWN Chili recipes will be made available at www.farmaid.org/homegrownchili so that fans at home can make their own HOMEGROWN Chili.

Interview Opportunities: Farm Aid staff, Centerplate representatives and Super Bowl XLVI chefs will be available for interviews. Please contact Maria Enie at 202.248.5460 or at menie@vancomm.com to coordinate.

Since 2007, Farm Aid’s annual concert has distinguished itself as the first major concert event to serve family farm food in concessions and backstage. More than 100,000 concertgoers have eaten HOMEGROWN food, from hot dogs and burgers to corn on the cob and fresh fruits from farmers markets. The success of HOMEGROWN Concessions® proves that family farm food can supply food service and has the potential to open vast new markets for family farmers.

HOMEGROWN Concessions® serves food that is sustainably produced by family farmers, identified as local and/or organic, or involving other ecological practices such as grass-fed or non-genetically engineered, while upholding a commitment to a fair price for farmers. Through existing supply chains and by leveraging Farm Aid’s relationships with family farmers, brands and cooperatives, HOMEGROWN’s culinary director identifies family farm ingredients and ways to integrate these ingredients into food service menus for entertainment events.

Introducing more healthful food choices and bringing local flavor to major events is an emerging trend in the hospitality and food service industry. Centerplate is at the forefront of this trend, and they identified HOMEGROWN Concessions® as a natural extension of its innovative approaches to improve the fan experience.

About Farm Aid
Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America that ensures farmers a fair living, strengthens our communities, protects our natural resources and delivers good food for all. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to help farmers thrive and to promote good food from family farms. HOMEGROWN Concessions® brings the experience of tasting good food from family farms into events and venues. Learn more at www.farmaid.org/homegrownchili.

About Centerplate
Centerplate crafts and delivers “Craveable Experiences. Raveable Results.” in over 250 prominent entertainment, sports and convention venues across North America, annually serving over 100 million guests. Centerplate has provided event hospitality services to 15 official U.S. Presidential Inaugural Balls, 12 Super Bowls, 20 World Series, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the largest plated dinner in history at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Centennial Celebration. The company was recently named the fastest growing hospitality group in the country by Nation’s Restaurant News. Visit the company online at www.centerplate.com.

Contact:
Maria Enie, (202) 248-5460, menie@vancomm.com

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A Lesson For All: Effective Apologies Do Make a Difference

January 2012

We all make mistakes in our careers, but it is how we communicate those mistakes that shows our true character.

On January 21 around 8:30 p.m., reports began surfacing that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno had passed away. It started when Penn State’s online news organization, Onward State, posted to its

Twitter account, “Our sources can now confirm: Joseph Vincent Paterno has passed away tonight at the age of 85.”

Source: Poynter.com

The news was quickly picked up locally and nationally by other outlets, including CBS Sports, which tweeted the story and published an obituary of Paterno without attribution.

Around 9 p.m. that same night, a Paterno family spokesman made clear that the rumors around Paterno’s death were “absolutely not true.” Onward State and CBS Sports both made official retractions immediately following the family’s announcement Saturday night, but Onward State took it one step further.

At just 21 years old, Onward State Managing Editor Devon Edwards possessed the maturity to understand that a simple retraction was not enough. He published a personal apology letter on the publication’s website and Facebook page that is both well-written and genuine. The letter works because it is heartfelt, and he did not make excuses or place blame.

We can all learn something from Edwards. Thanks to social media tools like Twitter, every day brings headlines about crises, most of which immediately go viral. As professional communicators, we need to be as transparent as Devon Edwards in all of our communications–especially our apologies–in order to be effective.

Why We Crave (and Deserve) Credit

January 2012

Picture this: You’re in a staff meeting, and a colleague serves up the great idea you expressed during an earlier brainstorm as her own. You want so desperately to raise your hand and say, “Um, excuse me? That was MY idea.”

Source: webster.edu

Think of inventors. Songwriters. Visual artists. WRITERS. Don’t you wish you would have thought of Post-Its®? Wrote “Jingle Bells?” Developed the storyline for the “Twilight” series? (That would be 3M, James Lord Pierpont, and Stephenie Meyer, respectively.) The medium for idea sharing may vary, but it all comes back to the creative process. When the result of that process generates a masterpiece, creators naturally want (and deserve) credit.

On Jan. 18, several major Internet sites blacked out their content for users in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and predictions were flying that another major blackout was planned for Jan. 23. The latter blackout didn’t pan out as predicted, but the Jan. 18 blackout made people pay attention to the issue. Seems a good time to revisit what’s both appropriate and required in giving credit in PR communications.

As you draft that brochure or conceive a campaign tagline, keep in mind that Plagiarism.org lists the following as conditions for committing plagiarism:

1) Turning in someone else’s work as your own

2) Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit

3) Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks

4) Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation

5) Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit

6) Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

Similarly, citing your work — and doing so completely — is the responsibility of all communicators. If your heart is where it should be (directing readers to the original source for more information), then there’s really no excuse for sloppy citations. Dig deep, look up the exact page online, do whatever is required so that you can feel good about what you’ve contributed to the process.

Civil Rights Organizations to President Obama: Investment in Education Reform Is Critical to U.S. Economic Stability

January 2012

WASHINGTON (January 25, 2012) — The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE), a coalition of leading civil rights and education advocacy organizations, is calling on President Obama to fully commit to investing in education reforms that are critical to the success of the country’s future workforce. Sustainable U.S. economic growth will require meaningful support of policies that ensure all of America’s students graduate high school prepared to drive innovation in critical sectors like manufacturing, health care, educational services, and alternative energy.

“We cannot afford to tolerate a climate in which students of color, the very ones who will make up the bulk of the nation’s future workforce, have the least access to high-quality public education,” said Michael Wotorson, executive director of CHSE. “American companies cannot be expected to bring jobs back home if our workforce is not prepared to claim them. President Obama’s recognition of the need to prioritize high school graduation rates is very encouraging. Still his administration must do more than the president revealed in the State of the Union address to lead essential education reforms that provide the strategic investment of the resources necessary to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.”

CHSE’s Plan for Success is a blueprint for the administration and Congress that’s designed to ensure that America leads the world in educating its people. The Plan for Success provides a comprehensive set of recommendations designed to strengthen public schools, support effective teaching and offer every student a pathway to graduation and beyond. Specifically, the Plan for Success calls for policies that:

  • Make all students proficient and prepared for college and career;
  • Hold schools accountable for student success;
  • Provide students with the excellent leaders and teachers they need to succeed;
  • Invest communities in student success;
  • Provide equitable learning conditions for all students; and
  • Provide students with expanded learning opportunities.

CHSE is also calling for the meaningful engagement of communities of color to ensure that all students, including English language learners and students with diverse learning needs, have access to high-quality educational content and teachers who have been trained to effectively teach students from under-resourced communities by using methods that research demonstrates are essential to success in college and career.

“The current level of investment in public education is completely inadequate to meet the demands of a knowledge-based economy. If America is truly committed to building a strong and sustainable economy, then we must recognize that all of our students are the building blocks,” said Wotorson.

Contact:
Stephanie Dukes, (202) 248-5463, sdukes@vancomm.com

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Margaret Bourke-White: People’s Photographer

January 2012

January 2012

“It is my firm belief that democracy will not lose hold as long as people really know what is going on, and the photographer has a very valuable part to do in showing what is going on.”

– Margaret Bourke-White

Margaret Bourke-White was a renowned photojournalist with a deep commitment to civil and political rights. Her work captured the poverty and discrimination of the South in the 1930s and the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust.

Bourke-White became Fortune magazine’s first photographer in 1929 when she documented the working conditions in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Six years later, she joined Life magazine, and her photo of the Fort Peck Dam graced the cover of the very first issue.

She is perhaps best known for her photos of foot soldiers, generals and the destruction resulting from World War II. Accompanying the U.S. troops that liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, she snapped some of the most difficult photos of her career. Her documentation of the atrocities of the Nazi regime gave Americans a look into the scale of human suffering that WWII caused.

After witnessing the horrors of war, Bourke-White focused much of her work on humanitarian issues. She covered Gandhi’s nonviolent independence campaign in India. In fact, she photographed him just hours before he was assassinated. Her coverage of African mine workers and apartheid in South Africa led one associate at Life to say, “Margaret Bourke-White’s social awareness was clear and obvious. All the editors at the magazine were aware of her commitment to social causes.”

Bourke-White developed Parkinson’s disease in 1956 and spent the rest of her life taking photographs and writing her autobiography. She died in 1971 at the age of 67.

Why the SOPA Blackout Worked

January 2012

Photo courtesy of acf_windy on Flickr

When we first posted about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) blackout protest scheduled for January 23, we had no idea that Wikipedia and Reddit (which had planned a January 18 blackout protest) would persuade other sites to join their effort yesterday. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 10,000 sites participated in the SOPA protest by either making their sites inaccessible, or “blacked out”, on Wednesday or posting messages to encourage visitors to contact Congress about SOPA.

It appears their bold effort worked.

By the end of Wednesday, at least three lawmakers withdrew their support for the legislation – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) withdrew as a co-sponsor of the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) withdrew from SOPA, which is the House version of the bill. A few more may be added to that list this morning.

Google reports that at least 4.5 million people signed their online anti-SOPA petition during the protest. Even the White House received nearly 104,000 signatures on a We the People petition calling for President Obama to block passage of bills like SOPA and PIPA.

It is still too early for SOPA protesters to get excited, as support remains for PIPA and SOPA in the Senate and House, respectively. However, the success of the SOPA blackout protest thus far demonstrates how understanding your audience and using what they value to make them take action can spur policy change.

Internet users are constituents, and removing their access to content or interrupting their Web routines with SOPA and PIPA protest notices compelled them to get involved in the protest in their own way. It just goes to show that reaching your audiences where they are is an effective way for communicators to raise awareness and encourage action on an issue. Plus, it doesn’t hurt your cause if you get support from an opinion leader like Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

While time will tell if signatures to online petitions and increased calls and emails to Capitol Hill on Wednesday changed the outcome of the January 24 vote in favor of SOPA and PIPA protesters, it is already evident that the reach and response to yesterday’s Internet blackout will definitely impact it.

Beware: Monday, January 23 the Internet May Go Dark

January 2012

MacBook

Flickr photo courtesy of Redjar

While I may not be able to foresee  the future, my media savvy crystal ball is suggesting that Monday, January 23, 2012 will be a very bad day for communicators. If you haven’t heard the troubling news already, Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Paypal and other major Internet websites will be staging an “Internet blackout” on January 23 to protest proposed federal legislation that will make them liable for lawsuits for content posted on their websites.

Congress is considering a new bill – called the Protect IP Act or Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – which would allow companies to sue websites for posting protected content without permission, forcing the entire site to be shutdown. For example, if I posted a video on YouTube of my friend dancing at a party with our favorite Adele song playing in the background, if SOPA passes, the record company would be allowed to sue YouTube and force them to close their whole website. There will be a hearing on Tuesday, January 24, hence the reason for the scheduling of this online protest the day before.

It’s not clear how long these websites will keep their content and services offline on January 23; it could be a few hours to an entire day. For communicators, the uncertainty of the  Internet blackout means we need to find and plan for alternative ways to do our online-heavy tasks on January 23. It is rare for a public relations activity to not have at least Internet-related tactic that needs to be executed, so avoid scheduling events or releases for January 23; it will be a day that our normally big world will be smaller just to make us – and Congress – understand how dependent we are on the World Wide Web and social media.

Stress Cover Story in USA Weekend

January 2012

(January 12, 2012) — Findings from the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America™ survey were the cover story in the January 13 issue of USA Weekend. The story, “STRESS: Men and Women Handle it Differently,” focuses on differences in how men and women experience and cope with stress.

Leading Civil Rights Groups Urge Secretary Duncan to Hold States Accountable to ESEA Waiver Application Guidelines

January 2012

WASHINGTON (January 12, 2012) — The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE) sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Wednesday, urging him to closely examine states’ applications for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waivers and only grant waivers to states that meaningfully engaged low-income and communities of color in their application development process.

“By mid-century, today’s students of color will make up nearly half of the adult workforce. More than just a moral imperative, none of us can economically afford to disregard their education,” said Michael Wotorson, CHSE executive director. “We must ensure that these young people graduate from high school prepared for college, career and beyond.”

CHSE — a coalition of leading civil rights and education advocacy organizations — was disappointed to learn that several states participating in the first wave of waiver applications last November did not take seriously application guidelines requiring them to: 1) engage a diverse set of stakeholders to inform applications, 2) support strong graduation rate accountability, and 3) create accountability systems comprising all student subgroups.

In the open letter, which is posted in full on the CHSE website at http://bit.ly/xQq6xy, CHSE partners say that, “Flexibility must not replace accountability, and we hope that Secretary Duncan does not abandon the ambitious, achievable goal of closing achievement gaps and improving education for all students by letting states backtrack on the progress made in ensuring that all students receive a high-quality education.”

For the applications due to be submitted in the second wave in February, the civil rights community is appealing to Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education to use the federal guidelines — all of them — as a standard for evaluation. Only by implementing these guidelines as a whole can states truly be accountable to the waiver application process requirements.

For information about CHSE’s policy priorities, visit www.highschoolequity.org/plan-for-success, join the CHSE community on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hsequity, or “follow” the conversation on www.twitter.com/hsequity, hashtag #Plan4Success.

CHSE is a coalition of leading civil rights organizations representing communities of color that is focused on high school education reform. Members include the National Urban League, National Council of La Raza, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, Alliance for Excellent Education, National Indian Education Association, and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.

CHSE is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Contact:
Kirana Bammarito, (202) 248-5471, kbammarito@vancomm.com

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Mayor Vincent C. Gray and U.N. Environment Programme Announce District Will Be North American Host City for World Environment Day 2012

January 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 11, 2012) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray and officials from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced that the organization has named Washington, D.C., as the North American host city for World Environment Day (WED) 2012. With the regional theme, “Unite for a Sustainable D.C.,” UNEP invites area residents and organizations take part in energy-efficiency and sustainability activities during the six weeks linking Earth Day on April 22 and WED on June 5.

Mayor Gray’s office and the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) will work with partners that include UNEP’s Regional Office for North America, the D.C. Public Schools, local businesses, Earth’s Natural Force and other non-profit organizations to galvanize the D.C. community into action.

“By its 1987 U.N. definition, the word ‘sustainable’ means to ‘meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs,’” said Mayor Gray. “In other words, our resources are finite. We must do everything we can to protect the interests of our children, our children’s children and beyond. Through our Sustainable D.C. initiative, the District has been moving forward with purpose to ensure our city is the greenest in the world. We are honored and proud to be selected as the North American Host City for WED 2012, as it is the perfect platform to unite the city around its successes and future goals.”

This year, the overarching international WED theme is the “Green Economy.” The UNEP-led Green Economy Initiative aims to foster investment in green sectors and to fully value the Earth’s natural resources.

A key way that citizens and businesses can help create a green economy is through business efforts to promote energy efficiency. The WED 2012 celebration will highlight this link by focusing on energy efficiency, sustainability and the important role residents play in their local communities in these efforts.

“The District of Columbia was chosen as the North American host of WED 2012 not just because of the work that the city has already done for sustainability, but also because of the city’s plans for the future,” said Amy Fraenkel, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for North America. “I am excited to see how WED will help link local and global actions — particularly in the lead-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20.”

Planned activities that highlight the regional theme, “Unite for a Sustainable D.C.,” will include the following:

  • The District will be signing a Green Economy pledge with an array of international embassies at the end of January to show a united commitment to a green economy and sustainability.
  • The International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment will engage local students in a global art contest that addresses why environmental protection is important. Sponsored by UNEP, the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace, Bayer Corporation and Nikon, the competition has been held annually since 1991 and has received over 3 million entries from children in 150-plus countries.
  • Elementary and high-school students in the District that participate in Energy Patrol programs will receive energy education and assessment training that they can use to assess how their school uses energy. During WED, this program will expand to include additional D.C.-area schools and students.
  • WED will offer the opportunity to forge linkages between the District of Columbia and Brazil, the global 2012 WED Host Country.
  • Mayor Gray will present his 2012 Sustainability Awards to local individuals, schools, organizations and businesses just prior to WED, recognizing efforts to build a greener, more sustainable future for D.C.

UNEP and District leaders invite the entire DC community to participate in these activities, and to develop others in support of this United Nations day.

“The District will be looked upon as a leader in sustainability and green issues. Serving as the North American host for WED 2012 will bring attention to what D.C.-area residents, schools and businesses are already doing to help preserve our environment,” said Allen Burriss, CEO of Earth’s Natural Force and WED Host Committee Chair.

Already a leader in green building, job creation, and energy assistance, D.C. is engaged in a robust collaborative process to make the city the greenest in the nation. The Sustainable D.C. effort is touching every aspect of natural and indoor environmental protection and provides an optimal network for spreading the word about WED 2012 activities.

Notable existing programs within the DC Department of the Environment include free energy audits and weatherization assistance, the Energy Patrol program, the Renewable Energy Incentive Program, and “Skip the Bag, Save the River” which has reduced disposable bag use in the District by 60 percent since it started in 2009. The city implemented the first large-scale bike-sharing program in the United States and 50 percent of District trips are taken by public transit, walking or biking.

Those interested in becoming sponsors of WED 2012: Unite for a Sustainable D.C. or becoming a partner in the celebration should contact Allen Burriss at earthsnatural@aol.com. WED 2012: Unite for a Sustainable DC is organized by the WED DC Partnership. For more information about WED 2012: Unite for a Sustainable DC, please visit: www.ddoe.dc.gov/worldenvironmentday.

Contact:
Doxie McCoy (EOM), 202.727.9691; doxie.mccoy@dc.gov
Donna Henry (DDOE), 202.299.3338; donna.henry@dc.gov
Matt Forke (World Environment Day), 202.248.5484 (o); 202-341-8973 (cell); mforke@vancomm.com

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