SL7 Interview’s Cynthia Henderson

Can Jeb Bush win the Republican nomination for President? What kind of leadership can we expect from new Republican Party of Florida Chairwoman Leslie Dougher? Is Rick Scott the most likeable governor? Are women second class citizens in politics? Cynthia Henderson, president of the Florida Federation of Republican Woman answers the questions driving today’s political landscape.

Cynthia Henderson President of FFRW
Cynthia Henderson
President of FFRW

#1-SLEVIN: WELCOME CYNTHIA AND THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SHARE YOUR INSIGHTS. LET’S START WITH WHAT IS FLORIDA FEDERATION OF REPUBLICAN WOMAN (FFRW) AND HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH THE ORGANIZATION?

HENDERSON: Thank you for letting me participate in your wonderful new publication! I am so honored to serve as the new President. Florida Federation of Republican Woman is a statewide organization, started in 1950, and composed of nearly 50 clubs with over 1200 members. It is part of the National Federation of Republican Women. The organization has been building, and getting bigger and stronger every year.

Past president, Cindy Graves, has been the power behind FFRW and a fabulous leader for many years. She is now on the national board. I became President for a 2-year term this past January. In my mind, she is Chair Emeritus and our leader forever!!! Her communication skills and high energy are unmatched. She asked me to get involved and I was excited to meet a whole new network of fabulous lady leaders. I learn from and try to lead in a positive, supportive way every day. I am joined by a very talented board. It really takes team work to keep the organization running.

#2-SLEVIN: WHAT ARE FFRW’S KEY INITIATIVES GOING INTO THE 2014 ELECTIONS?

HENDERSON: Paint the State Red is our boldest initiative. We want to communicate with citizens about the principles of conservative ideas rather than focus on whether you have a title as a republican, democrat, independent or even if you’re not registered to vote. If we can educate more Floridians and help them understand the history of government, policy positions that support less government, more personal freedoms, and strong national security, then they would vote for our candidates.

 

Governor Scott has been such a strong advocate for all of these principles. He believes deeply in making Florida a better place for his children and grandchildren. As I have heard, I think from Commissioner Putnam, in this election the press is never going to treat him as “Most Popular”, but there is no doubt he would win “Most Likely to Succeed”! And I want the guy running our state to spend every day working for us, creating jobs and a solid, growing economic climate and not working for his personal advancement.

#3-SLEVIN: FFRW IS VERY EFFECTIVE IN CANDIDATE RECRUITMENT. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN CANDIDATES?

HENDERSON: Cindy started a really smart initiative called “Women to Watch” and “Women to Watch Out For” to support women candidates or to oppose. We have a list of criteria that a candidate must meet to qualify. Our Attorney General, Pam Bondi, and our Senate Majority Leader, Lizbeth Benacquisto, are strong representatives of the ladies we want elected.

We want to ensure they have a solid track record of decision making, a good campaign staff and a demonstrated ability to raise money. We want role models for our state. We are so tired of this misrepresentation that there is a War on Women by republicans. Garbage! Our leaders are in a War for Women. They care about and push for the same things we want- a job for our children when they graduate, affordable college tuition, less debt, etc.

We look for ladies that will work hard for our families and not for personal interests. And we support candidates like our Governor that have made college tuition more affordable.

#4-SLEVIN: IT’S NO SECRET THAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS PERCEIVED AS OLDER WHITE, EXCLUSIVE, COUNTRY CLUB, MALES. WHAT CHALLENGES ARE THERE FOR FFRW WOMEN AND WHAT IS FFRW DOING TO HELP THE PARTY BE MORE INCLUSIVE?

HENDERSON: I don’t buy that. I haven’t personally seen that. One of my mentors was a huge stalwart in the Party, Al Austin. He never made me feel that way. Our new Chair is Leslie Dougher. We had Carol Jean Jordan as a chair. Goodness, we have Sharon Day as Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee!!! These ladies were deeply involved in FFRW too!

I had witnessed challenges early in my legal career but that came from men AND women but I have not seen it in politics. In politics, whoever is willing to do the hard, day-to-day effort gets to do it. No one focuses on their gender. The perception is created and pushed by the liberal media.

Most elected republicans are men because they have the confidence to run for office. Most women do not like to talk about themselves or ask people for money. We want to do everything ourselves. So the challenge is encouraging them and supporting women to run. Showing them it is possible and helping them feel comfortable with talking points and raising money.

#5-SLEVIN: THE RECENT ELECTION OF LESLIE DOUGHER AS THE NEW CHAIRWOMAN OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA CERTAINLY BREAKS DOWN THOSE PERCEPTIONS. YOU KNOW HER WELL. WHAT TYPE OF LEADERSHIP CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE FROM MS. DOUGHER AND HOW WILL SHE MAKE AN IMPACT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA AND THIS ELECTION CYCLE?

HENDERSON: Leslie is a “Do-ER”. That sounds cliché, but she seriously works so hard and is focused. She is a grassroots person. Like Carol Jean, our party likes a grassroots person. She does not dictate. She encourages and supports by creating an atmosphere of opportunity to participate and educate. She shows by example. She is fun, articulate and committed. Those are the qualities we need in a leader- make people want to participate and great things happen- like electing a Red Cabinet and Legislature.

#6-SLEVIN: I’VE BEEN TO SEVERAL OF YOUR FFRW MEETINGS IN TALLAHASSEE. FFRW HAS A DIVERSE MEMBERSHIP SPANNING MODERATE GOP WOMEN TO TEA PARTY. IT SEEMS THAT YOU’RE ONE OF THE FEW GOP ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAS BEEN ABLE TO FOCUS ON COMMON GROUND VS DIFFERENCES. IS THERE SOMETHING THAT CAN BE LEARNED FROM FFRW?

HENDERSON: Thank you for that! We work really hard to mentor people, make every effort fun, and to deeply care about our members and all people. We focus on the positive. Girl Power is fun and as Cindy says, “Politics is Women’s Work!” It is really important to talk about two things. One is pick your elected officials based on what they will do for Florida versus personal advancement. Second, pick a candidate that you agree with 80% of the time, as Ronald Reagan said.

I love the involvement of the Tea Party folks because they bring energy. I just wish after the Primary they would focus on the candidate representing conservative ideas and quit being so mean. I heard at a National meeting one of their representative’s said they wanted to tear down the Republican Party. I know that is NOT the motivation of most but it sure worries me a lot! We need to work together to elect conservative candidates and not tear apart our fellow candidates to the point they cannot recover. It is ugly and nasty and must stop. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

#7-SLEVIN: JEB BUSH HAS BEEN TRAVELING THE COUNTRY MEETING WITH KEY PARTY CONTRIBUTORS AND WILL LIKELY ANNOUNCE HIS INTENTIONS TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT IN 2016. DO YOU THINK JEB COULD WIN THE GOP NOMINATION? WHO ELSE SHOULD WE KEEP OUR EYES ON?

HENDERSON: Of course I think Jeb would win! He is the most inspiring thought leader we have in the Party. Here is what excites me about Jeb’s involvement.

Let’s say we have a presidential race between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. We would have two smart, articulate and experienced candidates. The debates they could have would be mesmerizing. Younger folks would listen, learn so much about the differences between the parties. Most do not really know what a democrat stands for or a republican when it comes to important issues. They see who they like more and vote. We would have presidential candidates with clear and opposing views that would showcase the differing policies of conservatives and liberals. The debates wouldn’t be about petty, personal attacks.

It would also minimize the “not another Bush” because it would be another Clinton. They would engage in thoughtful, strong policy discussions and our country would be inspired and motivated to get involved. It could be amazing for re-nourishing the spirit that made America great!

Could Jeb win? I really think he could take key states that would be more difficult for others, like California, Texas, Florida and many more. So the numbers could work.

I do not know of anyone with his ability to build a national network but I sure hope Marco Rubio is deeply involved in working to spread his ideals and positions. We want him as our Senator for many years and ultimately should be President too! I would love Condoleezza Rice as his running mate – Girl Power! Brains and Beauty!

Thank you Cynthia for sharing your time with our readers.

For more information on FFRW go to http://www.ffrw.net.

15 Enduring Keys for PR Success

Very informative blog by Michael Geczi. His 15 Enduring Keys for PR success is spot on. Keys 4 and 7 are particularly worth noting. Messages and audiences.

It’s vital to know the demographic profile of your primary audience as well as coalition of stakeholders. Once you understand your audiences’ beliefs, opinions and prejudices, then you can craft core and sub messages that will cue the desired action.

In the end, public relations is about building and maintaining relationships. Keep that as your focus, then PR will endure even more in your endeavors.

Michael Geczi

ImageWithout question, the practice of public relations has been changed significantly by technology. Stakeholder targeting has become more specific, new channels have emerged, and conversations have replaced simple news delivery.

It has been transformative.

But maybe not entirely.

What is interesting is the fact that the keys to being an effective communicator remain the same. Analytical, writing and counseling success have remained the same irrespective of whether a writer is pecking away at a typewriter and pulling copy paper and carbons from the carriage, or devising a digital strategy in a remote site thousands of miles away from the client.

They are:

1.  Be curious.

Successful PR professionals want to know why – and all the other Ws. And when they do, they consider and apply the PR skills they learned in school and on the job. In the process, they are curious once again – wondering about outcomes and…

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THE RISE OF CORPORATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING

 

SlevinNote: This is the first of a series of articles covering the emergence of corporate grassroots lobbying. Be sure to sign up for future blog posts for complete coverage.

Corporate grassroots lobbying has led to an estimated $1 billion-a-year industry and it’s growing. In today’s political and social environments, an increasing number of C-Suite executives have realized they need more than big PAC checks and high-powered lobbyists to achieve their public affairs strategies.

Slevin

It’s the smart move, because the influence of NGOs, public scrutiny of corporate responsibility and reporting, and high-profile issue legislation have made grassroots lobbying a vital part of corporate political management.

A CHANGING PARADIGM

Corporate grassroots lobbying has long been considered taboo and a political affront to CSR and reputation management programs. Ironically, what was once considered a contradiction to corporate good works has now become an emerging public affairs sub-specialty charged with protecting and promoting the corporation’s reputation on the political stage.

In larger public corporations, corporate communications is mainly entrusted with the image, identity and reputation of the company. The notion of public affairs now sharing that responsibility has exposed cultural barriers or silos preventing seamless operation, but that’s another blog article in our series of coverage.

The fact is corporate leaders must break down silos and corporate blind spots to effectively integrate their resources to obtain the strategic high ground in the field.

 

WHY CORPORATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING?

Citizen activist groups and anti-capitalism special interests have an extensive grassroots playbook (literally) that successfully mobilizes citizens, consumers and voters to attack, erode and weaken a corporation’s reputation and an industry’s credibility.

By generating negative grassroots impressions, activist groups are able to shape public opinion, or at least project an inflated “majority” viewpoint, that adversely influences political outcomes. Highly regulated industries are often engaged in controversial legislation that always seems to come down to one key legislator “sitting on the fence”.

Advocacy 3

More often than not, he/she typically sides with his/her visible and vocal constituents from the home district over a platoon of corporate and association lobbyists at the Capitol.

Corporations lose more than just high-profile legislative battles. They also suffer a damaged reputation in the eyes of stakeholders including community leaders, vendors, employees, investors, business media, bloggers, industry associations, public officials and most importantly, consumers.

Corporations no longer have to sing solo. They can organize a chorus of stakeholders who are eager to participate in grassroots advocacy campaigns.

Corporate grassroots lobbying is rapidly augmenting direct lobbying. According to a recent study, firms that cater to corporate clients to help promote their image and build and mobilize community coalitions are also more likely to provide direct lobbying services. More than 43 percent of grassroots lobbying firms are now providing some level of government affairs representation.

How this impacts direct lobbying firms not offering grassroots lobbying remains to be seen. I’ve worked with many lobbyists who are savvy and counsel their clients to retain grassroots public relations firms. However, I suspect a percentage of firms will expand their inside lobbying services to include outside lobbying, which is comprised of public relations consultation, stakeholder education and engagement, and grassroots mobilization.

As in any industry that’s rapidly growing, there’s mistakes and causalities. When done haphazardly, corporate grassroots lobbying can be “Astroturf” or a manufactured façade simply managed by hired political operatives hiding behind the curtain. This happens much too often and can seriously damage both lobbying efforts and reputations. In today’s digital age, it’s very easy for legislators and media to sniff out an Astroturf campaign, so avoid it at all costs.

 

SlevinIf done correctly, however, grassroots lobbying will complement corporate responsibility initiatives and GRI Reporting priorities i.e. safeguard reputation. More importantly, it will create favorable stakeholder impressions that elevate direct lobbying efforts that improve the political odds for legislative and regulatory success. That one key legislator who was “sitting on the fence” will now have the political cover to vote for pro-business, pro-market and often times, pro-consumer legislation.

However, it comes down to how the well the corporate grassroots lobbying campaign is designed, organized and executed.

In Part II of my Corporate Grassroots Lobbying series, I will address corporate “best practices” for grassroots lobbying to ensure compliance with corporate governance, while effectively engaging stakeholders on the political stage. We will explore how best practices optimize unilateral initiatives and bolster bilateral or coalition endeavors.

Be sure to follow my blog so you can continue to follow the series.

You can also find out more about my professional background by going to “Profile” page on the site.

About Patrick Slevin

Patrick Slevin is a motivational and communications professional leading his firm, SL7 Communications. Patrick is a former mayor, Fortune 500 manager, national trade association director and international agency executive. Corporate leaders from around the country have retained Patrick for his strategic counsel, campaign leadership and organizational solutions.

For more information go to www.PatrickSlevin.com. Or contact Patrick directly to schedule an exploratory, confidential call at 850.597.0423 or pslevin68@gmail.com.