SL7-INTERVIEW’S TALLAHASSEE POWER BROKER CHIP CASE

Case

There are only a handful of influential lobbyists in Tallahassee who have unimpeded access to leadership in the Florida Legislature. SL7 Interviews Chip Case, political consultant, lobbyist and owner of Jefferson Monroe Consulting and Spartan Strategies. Chip is one of a handful of public affairs operatives who can leverage the power of politics with the power of legislation.

#1-SLEVIN: CHIP HOW DID YOU GET INTO POLITICS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS?

CASE: My first paid position was the Campaign Manager in 1995 for Mike Fasano — putting up signs, making phone calls, and walking door-to-door. After Mike won his first re-elect, he was appointed to the position of Whip for the Republican Caucus and given a “third staffer” position, which was my role. It was an exciting time to be involved in Florida politics. It was 1996, and the Republicans had control of the Florida House for the first time in 122 years. With an office in the Majority Office, I got to be involved with floor strategy and debate prep and see firsthand how the process worked–very cool for a 25 year-old kid who loved politics. It was during that time that I developed a strong connection to the Florida House as an institution, and I have focused most of my professional career on that institution and advising members who serve in leadership.

#2-SLEVIN: THE TERM “PERMANENT CAMPAIGN” CAME INTO VOGUE AFTER BILL CLINTON WAS SWORN IN AS OUR PRESIDENT IN 1993. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON CANDIDATES WHO GET ELECTED AND LEGISLATE AS IF THEY ARE STILL RUNNING A CAMPAIGN? IS THAT STILL HAPPENING? GOOD OR BAD IDEA?

CASE: I think that abandoning your principles and the platform that you ran on because of focus group/poll testing results is clearly a negative thing; however, using modern campaign techniques such as polls and focus groups to identify the best ways to message your principles and to measure your effectiveness, are necessary and should be utilized. As the well-known pollster Frank Luntz has often said: “Words matter.”

#3-SLEVIN: WHEN A CANDIDATE FOR THE HOUSE OR SENATE CALLS YOU TO CONSULT ON THEIR CAMPAIGN, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOOK FOR IN THEM? WHAT ARE THE KEY FACTORS THAT MAKE YOU WANT TO HELP THEM GET ELECTED?

CASE: In my opinion, it’s a very straightforward assessment. They need to have good reasons for running, such as service to others or a desire to make things better. They need to have a proven track record in their community. They need to have a strong work ethic, and they need to have the ability to raise money. I don’t like candidates that run because they want to “become somebody”—that’s the wrong reason to run. I prefer a client that has already been successful outside the process and then decides to run. It’s an honor working for people like that.

#4-SLEVIN: THE GUBERNATORIAL RACE BETWEEN GOV. RICK SCOTT AND FORMER GOP GOV. CHARLIE CRIST HAS TALLAHASSEE TIED UP IN KNOTS. THERE ARE MORE THAN JUST A FEW LOBBYING SHOPS TRYING TO HEDGE WHICH WAY THIS RACE WILL GO. WHAT’S YOUR ANALYSIS OF THE RACE AND WHO ARE YOU SUPPORTING FOR GOVERNOR?

CASE: While current polls show the race as “too close to call”, and most pundits will say that this will be an incredibly close race, I believe that Governor Scott will likely pull ahead in the last thirty days of the campaign and win with a clear margin of victory. I say that for a few reasons: Scott has a significant war chest and a strong record to run on–economic recovery and more jobs for Floridians. He also currently has a team in place that understands data and voter turnout. I know some of the people on Charlie Crist’s team, and they’re excellent strategists, but Crist seems more undisciplined as a candidate this time and still must convince dyed-in-the-wool Democrats that he’s their guy. That’s a significant task, given his pivots on most major policy issues.

#5-SLEVIN: WHAT ARE THE KEY RACES IN THE STATE THAT YOU FIND INTERESTING OR WORTH MENTIONING?

CASE: Quite a few seats are more competitive this cycle because of redistricting, so I’m closely watching all of the targeted R and D seats. I am consulting on one major targeted seat in the central Florida Candidate (HD 47). We currently have about 12 seats (in my opinion) that are going to be highly competitive for both Republicans and Democrats. I believe this cycle will be more favorable to the Republican Party. Another interesting issue is not what’s happening in these elections, but what is happening within the major parties and the growth of the NPA voter. I’ll save that for another day. This issue could be a separate article all together.

#6-SLEVIN: YOU HAVE A REPUTATION FOR GETTING LEGISLATORS PLACED IN KEY LEADERSHIP POSTS. HOW MUCH OF IT IS INSIDE BASEBALL VERSUS HOW THE INSTITUTION WORKS?

CASE: It’s a combination of things, really. It starts with a person who has the skill set and desire to be in leadership. And then it is knowing how the institution works, how the caucus functions, and how to show value to the members of the institution.

In late 1998, I started working with incoming leaders. First, I worked with Speaker-Designate Tom Feeney, who taught me much about local party politics and how to communicate effectively. I was then given the opportunity to work with Allan Bense and help him with his four-year race to become Speaker of the House. Most of what I learned about leadership, management, team-building, and investing in people came from my interaction and experiences with Speaker Bense in that hard fought race. I continue to draw from those experiences, as I consult with legislators in leadership races currently.

#7-SLEVIN: LOBBYISTS OFTEN GET A BAD RAP AS AN INDUSTRY. GOVERNOR SCOTT RAN AS AN OUTSIDER, BUT QUICKLY REALIZED THE VALUE LOBBYISTS BRING TO THE PUBLIC POLICY MAKING PROCESS. CAN YOU GIVE US YOUR TAKE ON HOW LOBBYING IS PART OF THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS?

CASE: The term “lobbyist” is often seen as a pejorative term. There’s a small minority who may deserve the negative association. But from my experience, lobbyists are hard-working professionals who provide valuable information on policy and regulatory matters for legislators and professional staff, and lobbyists provide access to the process for their clients. That client could be a large corporation or a small non-profit. Helping individuals and businesses successfully navigate in order to change the law is precisely what lobbyists do. That’s an integral part of the democratic process.

Thank you Chip for sharing your time with my readers.

You can follow Chip on Twitter @clarencehenry.

SPEAKING in TONGUES in CRISIS: How to Integrate Corporate Communications & Government Relations

Leadership with education

In today’s digital age, public policy and public perception have become intertwined creating an uncertain landscape for large corporations. Product recalls, citizen referendums, agency contracts and regulations, activist boycotts and proposed federal/state legislation can threaten a corporation’s reputation, credibility and license to operate.

At the crossroads of this fluid and volatile environment are corporate communications and government relations. Unilaterally, these departments effectively champion the goals of the company, but when crisis forces a bilateral endeavor, more often than not, the effort exposes an internal Achilles’ heel that weakens a company’s ability to mitigate external threats.

Corporate leaders can overcome these internal silos by enacting three essential elements underwriting better practices that I call M.I.C. – Mediate, Integrate and Communicate. M.I.C. establishes a management structure that successfully integrates the best of corporate communications and government relations.

BREAKING DOWN SILOS

According to a 2011 study by the Foundation for Public Affairs, only 41 percent of 115 large corporations surveyed had a “management structure with fully integrated communications and public affairs functions.” This means that nearly 60 percent of large corporations have internal “silos” exposing the company to public and political attacks that can impact its bottom line priorities.

As a public relations professional who has worked and counseled both departments during crisis, the divide is a “clear and present” threat. However, these silos can be broken down and quickly turned into an opportunity to elevate a corporation’s reputation, while expanding its stakeholder impact.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

Corporate communications is mainly HQ-centric working closely with senior management on communications projects ranging from reputation management to branding to events to executive presentations. Corporate communications is responsible for interfacing with the media and managing the company’s social media with an eye toward how every message impacts both shareholder and stakeholder impressions.

 

Government relations is mostly Capitol-centric working closely with federal and state lobbyists, trade association leaders and political operatives. Government relations is responsible for not only passing or killing legislation, but also influencing government regulators, ballot box referendums, mitigating agency backlashes, and to some degree candidate elections. Government relations is focused on influencing and mitigating the perceptions of public officials who have the power of picking winners and losers.

In short, each department has a different culture, perspective and language when it comes to communicating with stakeholders. This creates distrust and strained collaboration between the departments.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL

In 2013, Doug Pinkham, president of PAC, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency. In his testimony, Mr. Pinkham presented 10 common characteristics that companies exhibited in successfully integrating communications and public affairs, which he outlined:

1. Senior Management Engagement
2. Issues Management Process
3. Strong Collaboration Between External Teams
4. Integrated Crisis Communications Planning
5. Understanding of Risk Communications
6. Strategic Use of Communications Technologies
7. Innovate Approaches to Media Relations
8. Transparent and Ongoing Communications
9. Focus on Employee Communications
10. Robust Performance Measurement System

The practices prescribed by Mr. Pinkham can be placed into three categories of best practices that I call, Mediate, Integrate and Communicate or M.I.C.

MEDIATE

The common denominator driving the mission of corporate communications and government relations is building and maintaining relationships. The retaining of a consultant, who has worked in both spaces, is the ideal move to help each department build trust and efficacy.

An internal survey conducted by the consultant, followed by confidential one-on-one interviews, ensures practices will facilitate cultural buy-in that leads to the breakdown of stereotypes and silos. The consultant would then be equipped to mediate and translate jargon, factor in the nuances of each department, as well as help establish a platform that communicates the company’s priorities to a coalition of stakeholders.

INTEGRATE

Each department leader appoints a manager as a liaison for cross-department training, internal reporting and accountability. This is followed by a select number of representatives from each department (maybe risk management rep as well) who are designated to participate on a monthly or quarterly conference call to report on activities and share insights on opportunities and potential threats. These representatives would be the same people who would be called upon to develop or amend a crisis plan, as well as mitigate a crisis in real time.

The result is higher degree of efficiency in information gathering, planning and decision making. This is an imperative integration. I have seen in a crisis situation, a press release take 7 days to be edited and approved. Once it was finally approved by several department heads, the political issue had changed course and the release had now become obsolete.

When tens of millions of dollars of reported millions are on the line, time becomes a critical factor in determining success or failure. This particular multi-national company was not only trying to establish a command and control process on the fly, but it found itself trying keep up with itself, compounding the effects of the external political threats.

The result was a loss of key revenue and a damaged corporate reputation.

COMMUNICATE

Once you have effective mediation and integration, then you’re in the position to dispatch team members to distribute key message points through multiple communications channels. More importantly, the company has a continuity of practices that puts it in a situational posture. Instead of being reactive, defensive, it is now become responsive and pro-active in engaging stakeholders before, during and after a threat.

There are too many variables that factor into the success and failure of integrating government relations and corporate communications for this blog to account. The key is finding the driving barriers that discourage talented professionals from freely collaborating and improving processes that streamline decisions that impact targeted stakeholders.

Today, corporations are expected to be more transparent and do the right thing. Therefore, corporate leaders cannot afford to risk their license to operate without having in place a M.I.C. championing the combined priorities of corporate communications and government relations in times of uncertainty and volatility.

Patrick Slevin heads SL7 Communications, an integrated public relations consulting firm. Over the last two-decades, Patrick has counseled C-Suite clients representing Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, foreign governments, PR agencies and political campaigns. He has developed and executed strategies, corporate campaigns and grassroots operations advancing the bottom line interests of clients in markets across the United States.

Patrick can be reached for a confidential inquiry at 850.597.0423 or email pslevin68@gmail.com. For more info on Patrick’s professional achievements visit his LinkedIn Profile HERE.

Endurance Sports: An Extreme Journey of Self Discovery & Professional Satisfaction

“Every man dies, but not every man lives” is the proclamation on the website of Peak Races’ Death Race (www.youmaydie.com), which is the same event that gave birth to the highly successful Spartan Races. This simple, yet profound sentiment captures and drives the extreme endurance and obstacle course racing craze throughout the Western Hemisphere.

In less than five years, OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) endurance sports has become a billion dollar industry led by two primary race ventures, Spartan Races and Tough Mudder. The emerging sport has attracted a vast cross section of Americans ranging from college students to executives to senior citizens to housewives.

One of the true unisex sports, the average demographic is in her early 30’s, professional and looking for more satisfaction out of life.

What’s the driving force of OCR endurance sports? Society has really become too comfortable and convenient. Americans are gaining more weight, suffering more stress, and spending more time on the couch than ever before in our nation’s history.

A growing number of Americans want more satisfaction in their lives and OCR endurance sports fills the voids of social isolation, low self-esteem, but most importantly, forcing people to get off the couch and go beyond their comfort zones.

DR 6

Less than 2 years ago, I hadn’t heard of OCR and endurance sports. At 43, I was the typical executive leading a local office of an international public relations agency, spending most of my time sitting at a desk, a conference table or flight. Sure, I would find some pockets of time to run several times a week or workout in a little gym in our office building, but it wasn’t filling the nagging void of wanting more out of life.

At an office party, I overheard co-workers, all in their 20’s talking about an upcoming Tough Mudder in Tampa. I loved obstacle courses in high school and the military. It sounded more fun than running a marathon or triathlon, so I signed up.

Tampa TM 1

Sadly, I couldn’t get co-workers, family members or friends to join me on this 10-12 mile obstacle course, which has the unique reputation of ending the race with hanging wires charged with 10,000 volts of electricity. Also, the signing of a death waiver didn’t set well with many either.

TM GA

So, I wound up crashing the group of Millennials who I got to know from that office party. They were very courteous and allowing me to join them. I couldn’t help but to think they were saying amongst themselves, “Great, we have this old man who is going to slow us down.”

Group TM

We did the Tough Mudder in December of 2012. Let’s just say the old man had a great time and I was the only one of the group to successfully crush every obstacle on the course. The inner athlete came out and I was forever hooked on OCR, but that was just the beginning. I now had to find even more challenging races that would test my endurance, strength and toughness.

Backflip

Today, I have not only participated in several OCR events and qualified to race in the OCR World Championships, but I have become one of the few executive athletes who has successfully raced in extreme endurance events, The World’s Toughest Mudder and Peak’s Death Race.

Dual Racer

The Death Race has been ranked in the Top 10 most insane endurance races on the planet. Death Race is a weekend in the Vermont Mountains in town called Pittsfield. About 300 racers begin the race and an average of 15 percent ever finish. Death Racers go more than 60 hours without sleep, enduring upward of 100 miles of insane hikes, painful and physical tests, but most importantly, mental torment, testing your ability to think and perform under extreme pressure.

TM Leap of Faith

The World’s Toughest Mudder is also ranked as one of the toughest OCR venues in the world. It’s a five mile course with roughly 28 difficult obstacles that racers have 24 hours to complete as many laps as possible, while wearing a wetsuit in sub-freezing temperatures. Last year’s Leap of Faith was the most exciting and grueling obstacle on the course.

Both endurance venues required physical and mental fortitude and the signing of a death waiver, which is somewhat PR, but legitimate in sustaining serious injuries. These two events would have been easily considered the most hellish level in Dante’s Inferno. Instead of Virgil giving the tour of hell, it would be Spartan Races Founder and CEO, Joe De Sena, who has recently written a bestselling book, Spartan Up (Will blog about the founders of Death Race and Spartan another time).

What I’ve come to learn from my experiences in extreme endurance sports is you are really racing against yourself. The greater the challenge and danger, the greater clarity of mind and sense self you must possess. Meaning, there was no room for ego or illusionary self-images. There would be pain and you would have to not only go beyond your comfort zone, but also beyond your breaking points, which we never get to experience.

Why on earth would anyone want to put themselves through this self-inflicted crucible?

I believe it comes down to exorcising the illusions of the world to find our own reality. On the race course or extreme event, it’s you against the obstacles. It’s one thing to believe you can climb up a rope or traverse monkey bars, or never believing you could do it at all, but it’s another to actually accomplish it. When you do, the surge of satisfaction, confidence and empowerment replaces the worldly fetters of doubt and fear.

Also, you’re not alone on your OCR journey. Even if you go to an OCR alone, which I have done, you are joined and supported by thousands of likeminded maniacs wanting to experience the same thrills as you. The comradery in OCR is legendary. It’s addicting and sure makes your Facebook and Instagram pages much more exciting with the new friends you make.

Professionally, OCR endurance sports test your ability to lead, plan and execute. However, it goes deeper than that. It calls upon that warrior or beast that’s been suppressed in the inner well of ourselves. OCR feeds and emboldens our competitive nature and draws out our sense of self.

It’s this intrinsic discovery that answers the question of why we do OCR endurance sports. On one level you’re racing and sweating, but on another you’re feeding your soul and uplifting your spirit.

Not to mention, you get to wear cool and functional attire ranging from compression shirts and shorts to shoes for mud, mountains and madness. There are racers who make the clothes, while there are clothes that make the racers. It’s all good out there.

OCR endurance racers from all age groups and social backgrounds are some of the happiest, most driven and inspiring people in the world. They are more successful in both their personal and professional lives, because they know what their lives are about and what’s important to them and society.

They are easy to spot in a crowd and social media. I encourage anyone who is thinking about doing their first OCR, which can be an 5k mud run in their town, to seek out an OCR racer they know or friend a few on Facebook.

You will join a special family and forever change how you approach your life. It will be a decision you will be grateful that you made for yourself.

WTM Group Pic

Patrick Slevin is public relations executive heading his own national consulting practice based in Tallahassee, Florida. He blogs on his professional and OCR endurance adventures at http://www.PatrickSlevin.com. You can follow him on Twitter @patrickjslevin.