Why we celebrate Memorial Day

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(The following appeared in USA Today on May 24, 2014)

Americans love Memorial Day and, according to various polls, celebrate it in o variety of ways: 55 percent have picnics or barbecues, 21 percent take a trip somewhere, 21 percent go to a parade.

          However, many Americans aren’t quite sure what the holiday represents. When a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll asked Americans in 2000, “Would you hope to know why we celebrate Memorial Day?” only28 percent correctly answered that the day honors those who died while serving in the armed forces.

          The most common misperception: 40 percent said the holiday is for remembering veterans,” confusing it with the November celebration of Veterans Day.

          That takes us to: “What were we thinking in 1967?”

          Memorial Day first come into existence during the Civil War and was celebrated annually on May 30 for more than 100 years before being officially recognized as a federal holiday in 1967. One year later, Congress passed a low moving the holiday from May 30 to the last Monday in May. lt was not a popular move. Only 38 percent of Americans favored the idea in a Harris Poll conducted in late 1962 while 59 percent were opposed.

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Jack Welch’s 5 Stages of Crisis Management

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Jack Welch is a former chair and CEO at General Electric. His “Five Stages of Crisis Management” along with hundreds of other words of wisdom on crisis communication are contained in The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook for (all) Strategic Communicators. Check it out.

1. Denial – Denial in the face of disaster is human. It is the main
and immediate emotion people feel at the receiving end of any
really bad news. That doesn’t excuse any official from not reacting
quickly and staying “in front of the story.” Rather than denial,
the reaction should be forthright, calm, fierce and bold.

2.  Containment – In companies and other organizations, containment
usually plays out with leaders trying to keep the “matter”
quiet – a total waste of energy. All problems, and especially
messy ones, eventually get out and explode.

3.  Shame-mongering – This is a period in which all stakeholders
fight to get their side of the story told, with themselves as the
heroes at the center.

4.  Blood on the floor – Too many times, officials believe that
someone has to pay for the crisis with his or her head.

5. Galvanizing effect – The fifth and final part of the pattern – the
best part – is the awareness raised by a crisis.

5 Commandments of Strategic PR

To comment: larry at larry litwin dot com.

The George Washington University offers a master’s degree in Strategic Public Relations. One of its promotional emails offers this:



Public relations in the modern era is fast-paced, highly visible, and unforgiving. PR professionals are tasked with increasing demands and accountability; the ability to think strategically, communicate effectively, and lead your organization in this intense landscape is paramount.

1. Know your audience — Communicate meaningfully, effectively and with purpose.

2. Become a conduit — Facilitate real conversations and drive timely, appropriate follow through.

3. Speak through actions — Be socially responsible, transparent and proactive.

4. Establish credibility — Earn trust, maintain respect and manage your image.

5. Make it count — Contribute real, measurable results and leverage to data plan your next move.

Might I add, check out so much more in Larry Litwin’s The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook available on www dot larry litwin dot com. The sections on the MAC Triad-Plus P and T are worth it alone.Y

To comment: larry at larry litwin dot com.

An ACCC Pioneer

On Friday, May 2, 2014 Atlantic Cape Community College honored me with its “Faculty Pioneer Award.” I was asked to make a few remarks. Those remarks follow. To comment: larry at larry litwin dot com.

       Congratulations to all award recipients tonight. I am honored to be included.

       When I hear the term pioneer, I immediately think of the men and women who settled in the American west – back in the 19th century. And, in spite of what some of my students believe, I was not there in the 1800s.

       I also think of those in more modern times – the men and women who helped establish the communication profession: Edward Bernays, his wife Doris Fleischman – known as the father and mother of public relations – and – Pat Jackson…who helped define the Triple Bottom Line Theory.

All four stressing…

it begins with RELATIONSHIPS.     

       A true pioneer was the first broadcast journalist… Edward R. Murrow. We mustn’t forget Alice Paul, from nearby Mount Laurel, who led the way for women’s rights in the early 1900s…and…I would be remiss if I did not mention journalist and strategic communicator, Walter Lippmann – the father of the MAC Daddy Triad.

       Where would we be today without their vision and legacy? All helped define public relations – something each and every one of us practices almost daily – even though…most times we don’t even give it a thought.

       So, what IS Public Relations? Public relations is as simple as a Thank You Note. But it is much more.

       It is now…Strategic Communication – including public relations, advertising, marketing, social, and other emerging media.

       Strategic communication is: good work, publicly recognized. It is the group itself saying:

This is who we are;

What we think about ourselves;

What we want to do;

And, why we deserve your support.

Those four sentences should help craft your personal mission statement.

             No matter how we define public relations…and deliver it, it is as Edward Bernays said…100 years ago, “Public Relations is establishing a reciprocal understanding between an individual and a group.” Again, it all begins with relationships…and relationships begin with communication.

       Some other advice from those communication pioneers I pass along to my students is…read read read – because you cannot become an outstanding strategic writer without reading – novels, online news stories, magazines, even comic books.

       Reading helps with your critical and strategic thinking…and as you learn to express yourself through writing – it will transfer to better oral communication.     Writing is and always will be theee most important skill followed by…I repeat…critical and strategic thinking, oral communication, planning, and relationship management.

       Yes, strategic communication helps contribute to your total package.


              I most appreciate being recognized as a Faculty Pioneer – it is a humbling honor.

       And while I do not consider myself a pioneer, I do view myself as someone who – to this day –tries to carry on…carry the torch…and emulate what those communication pioneers discovered many years ago.

       It has been a great journey. One I hope is far from over. My wife Nancy and I have so much to be thankful for – from our chance meeting at our alma mater Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa…even though we were both from the Philadelphia-area, two wonderful children

and their spouses, and three terrific grandchildren. We were fortunate enough to share mentors who touched our lives and helped shape me professionally.

       As many of you move toward professional careers in the next few years, I offer you the same advice my mentors and college professors gave me. Those Parsons’ professors were pioneers in their own right.

             They suggested my greatest thrills would not come from awards I might win, but rather when my current and former students are recognized. How correct they were.      To this day, I get emotional when I read good things about former students.    

       More advice from those who influenced my life: If you become a professor, do more than educate. Turn your classroom into a “laboratory for practical knowledge” and do it through edutainment. Be more than a teacher. Be a coach – because coaches teach “how to overcome adversity.” They teach hard work, stress getting up when you get knocked down, and demonstrate turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

       The best advice this coach can offer is exactly how those early pioneers practiced their lives and professions:

       They truly believed the definition of luck is “preparation meeting opportunity.” And please…never forget…as my parents taught me: “If you dream it, you can achieve it.”

       Thank you so much for this Pioneers’ Award. It is very special.

To comment: larry at larry litwin dot com.