Emotional Intelligence: Rising Up in the Face of Organizational Dis-Ease

By Heathere Evans

We are living in an era marked by epidemic dis-ease and misconduct in the workplace. More people every day are finding their courage in a unified outcry for a better way. As communicators, how can we help unhealthy organizations heal and detoxify our workplaces so they stay healthy? A starting point is emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

The term “emotional intelligence” was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, Peter Salovey of Yale and John D. Mayer of UNH. While some popular definitions focus on qualities like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence, this definition is misleading. EQ comprises skills in five areas that all require specialized communications skills, using our inner voice, outer voice or both:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
  • Empathy for others
  • Social attunement, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks

What can public relations professionals do to build EQ?

From my perspective, as professional communicators we are compelled to take the lead within our organizations to create a more empowered and conscious way of being. As Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, “The institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Creating a healthy workplace begins by each one of us taking a leadership role within ourselves.

Here are two EQ skills to get you started.

First: Foster a Growth Mindset

When organizations and individuals become rigid and fixed, they stunt their growth. They become totally unaware that assumptions and limited perspectives are operating under the surface, sabotaging the next level of success. Check out this list and get clear about yourself. Notice when you slip into a fixed mindset. What circumstances trigger that response in you? Make a choice to adopt a growth perspective instead.

Growth Mindset
I can learn anything I want to.
When I fail, I learn.
If you succeed, I’m inspired.
My effort and attitude determine everything

Fixed Mindset
I’m either good at it or I’m not.
When I fail, I’m no good.
If you succeed, I feel threatened.
My abilities determine everything.

Second: Challenge Your Own Assumptions

As we cultivate an approach to work and life that is built on a model of personal growth, the creative center of the brain gets stimulated. When that happens, our perspective can expand and we start thinking in new ways, asking new questions, and seeing new possibilities. Think of a work challenge you’re currently facing. What assumptions are you making? What is this challenge trying to teach you? Who could you ask for a new perspective or who might be able to reflect back to you the situation as they see it?

While these skills hardly resolve all dysfunction in an organization, EQ is one of many forms of intelligence needed at every level of management. Cultivating skills in self-awareness and new ways to respond rather than being reactive creates a giant shift in corporate cultures and in the harmony of teams and work environments.

About the Author: Heathere Evans, APR, is a professional coach teaching emotional intelligence to organizations and individuals nationwide for healthier communications and more successful work environments. She is a PRSA-NCC past president and founder of IPRA and can be reached on Instagram and Twitter.


Client on a Roll? Help Them Slow It.

I’m talking about a spokesperson being on a roll during a press interview with relevant and tangible information being rapid-fire peppered at a reporter.  Most people in leadership and subject matter experts can talk for days on their given topics, right?

That, however, doesn’t mean that they should.  In fact, it’s often counterproductive and doesn’t allow for a natural back and forth in the interview process.  As public relations pros, we need to prepare spokespeople for media interviews.

I recently interviewed a CIO for a freelance article I was writing. While he was knowledgeable and well-spoken, he truly never stopped talking.  I was struggling to keep up and capture the good points he was making in quote form.

I even asked him to slow down and repeat a key point, which he then couldn’t remember.  Not only did he not slow down his pace of speech, he also kept shooting words out fire-hose style which only made the exchange more difficult and annoying.

Effective spokespersons are true story tellers who are adept at speaking in sound-byte form – leaving time for the reporter to take good notes and either follow up or move on to their next question.  All of this takes practice AND preparation – as well as timely reminders from PR folks like us.

Not every client wants or even needs full-scale media training. If you are the one prepping a spokesperson then you can showcase your added value by some quick, ad-hoc interview prep reminders prior to an interview so they are top of mind.

Agree to get the client on the line about 10 minutes before the interview and first do a quick review of talking points and pivots for possible tough questions.  Then set them at ease and get their media “game face” on by reminding them they need to be as human as possible to maximize this opportunity for good exposure.

Basic interview tips to share:

  • Talk much slower than normal – if it sounds unnatural or strange, you’re doing it right.
  • Try to speak in three sentence increments when answering questions.
  • It helps to repeat the question to buy time to formulate a strong and concise response.
  • REMINDER: dead air is ok and don’t feel obliged to keep talking just because there is silence.
  • Avoid language like, “First of all” or “As you know…”
  • Steer clear of industry jargon and acronyms.
  • DO NOT add a new thought if a reporter asks, “Is there anything else to add?” Either emphasize your most important point or you’re all done!

If you are on the phone staffing the interview, you want to remain on the sidelines as best you can. You can interject at the end if there is something you think needs clarifying or defining if some jargon creeps into the discussion.

Securing the interview is the hard part but prepping the source so they can shine in the process is crucial to actually generating positive coverage – the ultimate goal.

By Scott Frank, President, ARGO Communications and former Senior Director, Media Relations for the American Institute of Architects

Pro Bono Call for Proposals

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

  • John Wesley


“Do all the good you can.” A powerful and inspiring, yet simple statement.

DCAYA photo

Former PRSA-NCC pro bono client, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA). Pictured (L to R): JR Russ, DCAYA director of community engagement; Sabrina Kidwai, PRSA-NCC president; Lauren Lawson-Zilai, vice president and pro bono and community support committee liaison; and Maggie Riden, president and CEO of DCAYA. 

As public relations professionals, we serve as a gateway to our organizations’ audiences and the public, and hold responsibility for the brand, image and reputation of our organizations. That’s why I chose to work in the nonprofit sector — so that I can effect change for causes and organizations which have missions I feel passionate about.

In the nonprofit space, some non-traditional professional skills come into play, including “servant leadership” and caring more about what you can “give” to others than what you are going to “get” from the organization. Service to nonprofit constituents or association members demands agility, persistence and stamina within the framework of a little budget or limited capacity.

I know this from experience. My career didn’t start off in the nonprofit world. I was able to get a perspective on it by contributing to a local D.C. nonprofit through pro bono work. In the process, I garnered skills that were assets to me professionally, including event management, fundraising, partnership building and writing strategic plans. I learned valuable lessons about leading and motivating a team, holding people accountable and more. I was bolstering my understanding of how nonprofit organizations function while simultaneously making a difference in my community. It was definitely a win-win experience for me.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce that PRSA-NCC is accepting applicants for its next two-year pro bono client. Nonprofit organizations, especially those with limited staff, often have a challenge or situation to address but not the bandwidth to execute. They rely on volunteers to achieve their missions. PRSA-NCC’s pro bono and community support committee  works with its two-year, adopted client to help assess its organizational priorities and advance its goals through strategic communications in order to provide an infrastructure and foundation for the future.

The best part of this is that it is complimentary. As with my personal experience, this relationship is a win-win! Committee members give back to the community – while the nonprofit benefits from the committee’s expertise. The committee has the opportunity to get hands-on experience with an industry they may not typically be involved with, expand their networks and discover new approaches.

If you know of a nonprofit in the D.C. area that needs additional resources, encourage them to apply by midnight on Friday, February 9. And if you are a PR professional looking to give back, I encourage you to join the committee. Volunteer-based experiences are often equally as beneficial as on-the-job experiences, and the ability to articulate your role in a successful project with limited resources can speak volumes to your impact and leadership skills.

Lauren Lawson-Zilai is a vice president on the PRSA-NCC board and liaison to the pro bono committee. She previously served as chair of the pro bono committee and has also served as the international PRSA conference gala chair, the Thoth Awards Gala Chair, board director, secretary and on the membership, professional development and association/nonprofit committees.

Crisis Management in the Age of Citizen Journalism

By Aaron Ellis, Professional Development Committee co-chair

If you attended the National Capital Chapter’s “Crisis Management in the Age of Citizen Journalism” professional development event Nov. 7 at Hager Sharp in downtown Washington, you probably walked away feeling you invested your time wisely.

Brian Ellis - Padilla Executive VP, presents on crisis communications 11-7-2017For most, it was their first interaction with crisis management expert Brian Ellis. A former broadcast journalist who is now executive vice president for Minneapolis-headquartered Padilla public relations and who also teaches crisis management at Virginia Commonwealth University, Ellis’ riveting, rapid-fire lessons about responding to various crises reminded participants that advance preparation is the key to success.

In today’s age of citizen journalists, where anybody with a smart phone can record an event and post it online within minutes, the timeline as to who controls the narrative of a story has collapsed to mere minutes. That means professional communicators and the organizations they represent must anticipate questions in advance to tell their side any story, or risk losing the advantage.

According to Ellis, there are three steps for effectively communicating during a crisis:

Brian Ellis5 - Padilla Executive VP, presents on crisis communications 11-7-2017

  1. Identify what audiences want and need to know by writing out in advance the questions they are most likely to ask.
  2. Based on the anticipated questions, develop three key messages and short, memorable quotes to go with them.
  3. Practice your messages and quote(s) out loud, honing your transitions until they’re seamless.

Ellis said the key messages should focus on: a) showing compassion for those impacted; b) providing information about your organization’s crisis response plan, and c) explaining your organization’s crisis investigation and how to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again.

For his advance crisis preparation exercise, Ellis provided each table with one of three scenarios: a data breach, a criminal activity and an active shooter incident. Each table’s participants were then given a few minutes to develop a list of questions they thought they might be asked, write out three key messages and quotes to use in response, and write out four social media posts and five action steps to take from a communications perspective.

The more questions each group anticipated, the more articulate were their key messages, social posts and action steps.

“In the blame game of a crisis, the CEO will usually get fired if he or she isn’t prepared and then tries to wing it,” said Ellis. “Being unprepared is inexcusable.”

Ellis cited an example of the apology made by BP CEO Tony Hayward during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Hayward concluded his apology by saying, “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”

“Few will remember (Hayward’s) apology, but everyone remembers those infamous last five words,” said Ellis. “They negated everything else he said.”

In a more recent example, United Airlines made the mistake of using the term “re-accommodate” when referring to the action the airline took in dragging a recalcitrant passenger off one its planes. “United lost $1.4 billion over that incident. They transport millions of people a year. They should have foreseen the risk and been prepared to respond appropriately,” said Ellis.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, Ellis noted that the “media beast” must constantly be fed. To that end, he highly recommends creating a dark website that can be quickly engaged in a crisis, then reviewing and updating its content regularly. He also reminded workshop participants that an organization’s internal audiences can be either their greatest allies or worst enemies in a crisis, depending on how they are treated and kept informed.

“In a crisis, the best strategy is to always play offense and be out there telling a positive story,” he said. “By pointing your audience to what they perceive to be inside information, they’ll pay more attention to your side of the story.”

Celebration, Recognition…and a Little Dancing – PRSA-NCC’s Thoth Awards

By: Kelsey O’Planick, News Generation

The 49th Annual Thoth Awards Gala, PRSA-NCC’s premiere annual event, was a wonderful evening of networking, recognizing the strongest PR campaigns, and celebrating the Egyptian culture.


The News Generation and American Psychological Association teams winning the Thoth Award in the Media Relations: Radio Campaign category.

Thoth, which is pronounced “tot,” is the ancient Egyptian god of communication. The Gala was held on Thursday, October 12, at the National Press Club. Some of the big winners include Hager Sharp, which won Best of Show, as well as Padilla, Coster Communications, Environics Communications, McCabe Message Partners, The Reis Group and Crosby Marketing Communications, just to name a few. A list of all of the winning entries can be found here.

The Gala kicked off with a traditional Egyptian dance from Mr. Mohamed Ali from Seven Egyptian Dance Troupe, included multiple videos of King Thoth (aka Danny Selnick) learning about PR in D.C., honored impressive campaigns, provided a wonderful meal, and inducted two Hall of Fame inductees, Carman Marsans and John Seng.

Guests also enjoyed a raffle, where they could enter to win items such as Apple Watches, Washington Redskins tickets, and an overnight stay in Alexandria, VA. Proceeds from the raffle benefitted the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, PRSA-NCC’s pro bono client.

Do you still have photos or stories to share about your experience at the Gala? Use the hashtag #Thoth2017.

FBI Spotlights STEM

Today on National STEM Day, PRSA-NCC observes the holiday set aside to encourage individuals to follow their passions in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Recently members of PRSA-NCC had the opportunity to interview Raushaunah Muhammad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Press Office on the FBI’s efforts to spotlight STEM.

PRSA-NCC: We understand you have a background in STEM and now work in Public Affairs at FBI. Tell us a little about your background and how you transitioned from working in STEM to the National Press Office for the FBI.

RM/FBI: Currently, I am a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) with the FBI’s National Press Office where I handle most of the science and tech portfolios.  I earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and have a research background in cryptology. Before joining the Press Office, I was assigned to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for nearly 12 years where I worked extraterritorial matters emanating from the continent of Africa.

PrintI learned of the Office of Public Affairs shortly after joining the FBI. Since then, I have always wanted to work in this field. I have been fortunate to have deployed all over the world, and our reputation precedes us. I am grateful to have found a career with the FBI. We do a lot of amazing work, and I am proud to share those successes with the world—when we can. From an operational lens, when my colleagues and I stack up on a door or go interview a subject, I want that individual to think twice about their next move. So yes, I can take down a bad guy with my pinkie finger and one hand tied behind my back and look good in a suit while doing it!

PRSA-NCC: You’re currently doing a campaign at FBI that promotes these fields and the people who work in them. What made you want to put the spotlight on this industry and why now?

RM/FBI: I remember coding for the first time when I was in third grade; STEM has always been an important part of my life. I have experienced firsthand the benefits of a STEM education but have also seen all the amazing work done by the Bureau in the STEM arena. I have always wanted to give back to a community that has given me so much. Obviously I am a big proponent of STEM, especially among women. After being assigned most of the science and tech portfolios, I realized in keeping with the FBI’s vision is to stay ahead of the threat through leadership, agility, and integration, I could contribute through our acknowledgment of the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in our communities and inspire future generations to consider a career in STEM.

PRSNA-NCC: What skills does one need to have in order to work in these fields and how is it different in the FBI than in private sector?

RM/FBI: STEM professionals at the FBI have opportunities to work with advanced technologies to address unique investigative and intelligence challenges not found in the private sector. STEM skills such as critical thinking, communication, problem solving, creativity, data analysis, and increased science and technical literacy are transferable across numerous job paths within the FBI. The FBI seeks and recruits graduates with degrees in a variety of STEM-related degrees to serve in roles such as Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts, Computer Scientists, Electronics Engineers, Information Technology Specialists, Chemists, Biologists and Physical Scientists. That’s just to name a few. At the FBI, we are about the mission, and our mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States against all threats foreign and domestic.

PRSA-NCC: What has it been like promoting the STEM campaign in the Press Office? Do most people know what it is? What has been the reaction?

RM/FBI: This is my first nationwide initiative. It has been a labor of love, but I have received overwhelming support from the Office of Public Affairs, the various divisions within the FBI, and FBI executive management. Most people I encountered knew about STEM; however, for those that did not, once I explained what it is and what I wanted to accomplish, they were all in.

PRSA-NCC: How are you reaching out to people to inform them of the STEM opportunities at the FBI from a Public Relations perspective?

RM/FBI: At a HQ level we are issuing a press release, hosting a live Twitter chat, posting a lead story to the FBI.gov website, and doing a podcast. We are also posting a story on our internal website. Most importantly, we are very fortunate that in addition to the Office of Public Affairs at FBIHQ, we have Public Affairs Officers in each of our 56 field offices. The field is our greatest resource. They are promoting our efforts in their markets. Additionally, they are working on their own STEM-related projects and engaging with their offices’ community outreach specialists and human resources departments. The success of this initiative will be mainly as a result of their hard work; they are a force multiplier.

PRSA-NCC: When most people think of the FBI, they might think of agents fighting crimes. How does STEM play a role in solving crimes? 

RM/FBI: We understand when most people talk or think about the FBI, they may not immediately be thinking of how the FBI’s mission relates to STEM or is supported by people who have backgrounds in STEM. However, in today’s world, every investigation is touched by science and technology. The FBI develops cutting-edge technology and uses science to help fulfill its mission. All of these disciplines and the skills that are inherent to them are vital tools within law enforcement. We have STEM professionals in every field office and at Headquarters. They are mostly in divisions such as the Laboratory Division, Operational Technology Division, Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate and Cyber Division, but they are also in our Criminal Investigative Division. Matter of fact, CID recently reshaped a portion of its organization model to manage hi-tech criminal threats.

PRSA-NCC: How do you think the public’s perception of these fields has changed over time? Do you think shows like “Big Bang Theory” or “Project MC2” have helped make these fields seem cool to get into now?

RM/FBI: I believe STEM has always been cool. However, I think there is more of an awareness now of STEM and how it permeates every part of our daily life. It’s not just science fiction anymore. Television shows and hopefully outreach efforts such as this will make it even cooler to pursue a STEM education. Also, an important underlying theme is diversity and inclusion. Maybe a child will see a character or see an FBI employee that looks like them and see themselves in that world, see themselves in STEM.

PRSA-NCC: How do you recruit people in these fields to work for the FBI? 

RM/FBI: We like to say that everyone is a recruiter. First and foremost, we recruit through word of mouth. The FBI is a great place to work. Bureau personnel regularly visit colleges and universities to speak with prospective job candidates. Matter of fact, I was recruited at my HBCU’s career fair. I had never considered a career with the FBI prior to that. We also have a unit within HRD solely dedicated to the recruitment of STEM personnel. Further, the FBI maintains educational outreach academies. Some of these programs promote STEM in the communities we protect and serve such as the FBI’s Teen/Youth Academies, Future Agents in Training (FAIT), Safe Online Surfing, and Cyber STEM. For a more robust list of our outreach programs visit https://www.fbi.gov/about/community-outreach.

PRSA-NCC: What are some of the challenges and rewards with recruiting for STEM?  

RM/FBI: The market for STEM expertise is highly competitive to say the least. STEM skilled and trained personnel are an integral part of the FBI. We work to recruit and retain top talent from both private and government sectors to maintain an exceptional cadre of diverse professionals. What we offer at the Bureau is an opportunity to make a real and positive difference in the world. We want those individuals that are about service over self, and when you meet someone with the skills and the drive to do just that, it’s exciting to see. Best of all, you know when they join the FBI family—and we are a family, that they will have a unique, inspiring and fulfilling career.

PRSA-NCC: Where can people go to learn more about STEM work at the FBI?

RM/FBI: There are a wide range of STEM careers at the FBI, each with its own advantages and opportunities. For more information about STEM-related career paths in the FBI, please see https://www.fbijobs.gov/career-paths/stem. However, for a look at which positions are currently available, please see www.fbijobs.gov. Also, students majoring in STEM fields in undergraduate, graduate, or Ph.D. programs are encouraged to apply to our Honors Internship Program and Collegiate Hiring Initiative.

Seven Ways to Form Meaningful Business Relationships

By Susan Matthews Apgood, News Generation


Susan Apgood (middle) at the 2015 Thoth Awards

No matter your industry, the benefits of knowing how to form meaningful relationships with other professionals are exponential. And while maintaining relationships may be as simple as sending an email once in a while, forming those relationships is a whole other story. All meaningful business relationships have one key factor in common: mutual benefits. Being able to give is just as important as getting, and one cannot happen without the other. Each of these seven ways to form relationships rely heavily on mutual assistance:


  1. Find a Mentor and/or Mentee: Early in my career, I viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness. As a young business owner, I feared that not knowing how to do something would turn away potential clients and make employees nervous. It wasn’t until I found myself in a position where people came to me for assistance that I realized the true benefits of asking for help. The mentor-mentee relationship is a great way to build a strong business relationship early in your career, and even decades in. But the most important factor of a meaningful mentor-mentee relationship is mutual benefit. The relationship must go two ways. Don’t overlook how much your mentee can teach you, and don’t ask too much of your mentor. If the relationship becomes too much of a “take” on one side, it will not last.
  2. Consider Joining a Peer Group: Peer groups are an easy way to meet other professionals in different industries, that are in the same position as you, and faced with the same challenges. As a member of Vistage for seven years, I came to realize how much others can help you, and how much you can help them in return. Not only have I gained insightful advice from my peers, I’ve also seen first-hand how giving, but not getting in return, can limit business relationships. Like all networking groups, you get back what you give out. And don’t overlook the benefits of joining industry-specific groups, like PRSA. Getting to know peers within your industry in your community is invaluable. My experience with PRSA-NCC here in the D.C. area has allowed me to build some of the best personal and professional relationships I have.
  3. Understand Who You’re Working With: Everyone differs in how they like to be communicated with, and nothing is more beneficial than understanding what type of person you’re trying to form a relationship with. A simple way to read people is by evaluating their personality based on tests. Some people like quick and to–the-point communication, while others prefer more personal sentiments like starting an email with “Hope you had a nice weekend.” Knowing how people want to be communicated with, and showing them how you want to be communicated with in return makes a balanced, meaningful business relationship. For example, if the person I am working with is a “red,” I don’t have to go through the formalities when asking a question of them, but if they are a “green,” I definitely do.
  4. Help Others Get Valuable Experiences: In the business world, few things are more meaningful than helping others get valuable experiences. Connecting one meaningful business relationship with another that will provide mutual benefits for both will not only help out a peer, it will strengthen your relationships with both parties. Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask someone you know professionally to introduce you to other people. If you think a connection would be great to speak on a panel or serve on a board, speak up and ask them if they would like you to nominate them. Many people are too shy to nominate themselves, and if you do, they will not only be grateful to you, but so will the beneficiaries of their talents at the conference or on the board.
  5. Work with Clients with Similar Office Cultures and Thoughts: As a business owner for 20 years now, I’ve learned how I want to represent myself and my business, and how I don’t. Staying true to your office culture by working with clients that hold those same values is a great way to form relationships with both individuals and companies. Working with and trying to form relationships with those who have very different ways of conducting business may make it difficult to form meaningful relationships. It is important to know when a culture is not a fit, and potentially walking away from a client that is not a good match for you and your time.
  6. Be Persistent: Being persistent is important, but there is a huge caveat. Be persistent, but always have a reason. Emailing prospective clients to just ask for work can quickly read as too sales-y. But, when you have a reason such as “I was recently reading about your work” or “I loved your post on LinkedIn,” can make the difference between a read and unread email. One easy “reason” to connect clients is by sending out a newsletter, which involves minimal work on the receiver’s end, but can keep your business in the back of their mind. My goal is never to convince clients and potential clients to use broadcast services in general, because they can come to that conclusion on their own. But, if a client is in the market to buy products that we offer, we want them to choose us over a competitor. Building and maintaining a strong relationship before it comes to decision time is one way to do that.
  7. Know Your Industry: Being a master of your industry will allow you to fully understand how to give and receive in your business relationships, especially when they are with professionals outside of your industry. Even if that means working with competitors, being able to recognize a mutually beneficial opportunity comes from a deep understanding of your industry. This understanding will also help you identify ways that you can give in a professional relationship, thus making the relationship stronger. Let your hard work speak for itself.

The key to making it in the business world is to know how to interact with other professionals, and form mutually beneficial relationships with them. Having these meaningful professional relationships will allow you to advance your careers and find opportunities that may not have been presented to you otherwise. But always keep in mind, you will only get out of your relationships what you put in.

Stay tuned…