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FleishmanHillard Helps ‘Educate Girls for Life’

April 29, 2019
By FH4Inclusion

On the second day of my Fall 2018 intern orientation, a group of counselors from the St. Louis office discussed various ways that we could immerse ourselves in FleishmanHillard’s culture. One option was becoming involved with FH4Inclusion initiatives, and I was drawn to our partnership with Marian Middle School.

This Catholic all-girls school serves lower-income students from 26 zip codes around the St. Louis Metro. Its mission: educating its students for life. Marian focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty by developing students spiritually, socially, morally, emotionally and academically. Many of the girls enter at least a grade-level behind, but Marian works to ensure their success while at the school and well beyond. In fact, 96 percent of Marian alumnae have graduated from high school and 82 percent have enrolled in post-secondary programs to further their education and kick-start their careers.

Learning about this school and its students made me reflect on my own middle school years. I remembered the awkwardness, uncertainty and anxiety I faced each day as I longed to express my newly acquired independence, but lacked the confidence to do so. Middle school is especially tough for girls. As they struggle with self-esteem, peer pressure and external stresses, 7 in 10 girls feel they aren’t good enough or don’t measure up to their peers in some way. And those external pressures are that much more difficult for girls whose families fall below the poverty line.

As I thought about all that, it hit me. This was a chance for me to be the person I needed when I was their age. So I signed up to join this FH4Inclusion team. And I’m glad I did.

Marian Middle School’s education model is life-altering for these students at a critical point in their lives. The school places an emphasis on preparing students for the next step in their education, and that’s where our partnership comes into play. Upon graduation, many Marian students choose to attend high schools with strong college preparatory programs – schools that put candidates through an extensive interview process. Our team’s focus was to help them prepare for their high school interviews, but to also work generally on building their self-confidence and how they present themselves. We led monthly interactive sessions with a class of 17 seventh graders, teaching them about personal branding, body language, how to present themselves on social media and ultimately providing them with the resources to develop and deliver elevator pitches about who they are.

For our last session of the school year, we hosted the students in our office. Many of the girls had never been exposed to the communications field, or even a professional office setting. After giving them a tour, we shared some of our client work. By the end of the visit, one student actually asked me, “How old do I have to be to work here?”

FleishmanHillard FH4Inclusion team with Marian Middle School students.

Middle school is tough, and these girls’ environmental situations make it even more challenging. But I saw such drive, resilience and excitement in them each time we met; they left me inspired after each session. I really believe in these students and the work Marian Middle School does every day. Each session was about showing these girls that diverse women can take charge of their lives and choose a career that aligns with their interests and empowers them to be their true selves. This serves as an important daily reminder for me, too.

I hope this program made an impression on these students. They certainly made an impression on me. I wish them success in their school and professional careers, and hope to one day down the road see them again, perhaps as colleagues in the office they once toured in 2019 as students.

FleishmanHillard FH4Inclusion team with Marian Middle School students.
FH4Inclusion team with Marian Middle School students.

Alyssa Potter is a member of the Agency Marketing team in our St. Louis headquarters.


FleishmanHillard’s John Saunders Interviewed on The CEO Show

April 23, 2019

ST. LOUIS, April 23, 2019 – John SaundersFleishmanHillard’s President and CEO, was interviewed by Robert Reiss, host of The CEO Forum‘s “The CEO Show” and is featured on the April 23 radio episode. Each episode includes an interview with a top CEO who offers listeners direct leadership and business model advice.

In this episode, Saunders discusses the importance of authenticity and reputation management as a leader of a global public relations and marketing firm. He also shares his perspective on America and what it’s like having moved to this country at 57-years-old to lead an international company.

“The CEO Show” was launched on April 13, 2007. It is nationally syndicated from over 25 AM radio stations across the United States and has an audience of more than 600,000 weekly listeners.

Click here to listen to Saunders’ episode.

John Saunders, FleishmanHillard President & CEO, discusses authentic leadership in The CEO Forum Podcast.
John Saunders discusses authentic leadership on The CEO Forum Podcast.


ESG Reporting: A Virtuous Cycle

April 22, 2019
By Bob Axelrod

“Investor interest in aligning capital is really a means to an end, and that end is sustainable development.”Tim Mohin

I recently sat down with long-time acquaintance, Tim Mohin, CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and author of the book, Changing Business from the Inside Out, to discuss the state of environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting. The GRI Standards is the most widely adopted non-financial reporting framework in the world.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Axelrod: Tim, what were some of your main takeaways from the most recent GRI Reporters Summit North America?

Mohin: I think we’re continuing to see new entrants into GRI reporting, and it’s being driven primarily by that megatrend of financial interests that are suddenly and rapidly becoming interested in sustainability. GRI started off as kind of an activist organization driving companies to be more transparent. As time went on, this has become more of a reputational movement where companies are interested in communicating about their responsibility. Now it’s become an integral and critical factor in the discussion between companies and their investors, as well as intermediaries like analysts and information brokers. It’s spawned an entire industry and become an essential component of doing business and this is bringing a lot more companies into sustainability reporting.

Is it a good thing that companies are really taking notice of all this investor attention, or does it run the risk of cultivating tunnel vision in their reporting?

I think that goes to the heart of the issue. GRI started with the goal of protecting people and the environment. We certainly don’t want to lose that. Therefore, the definition of materiality at the heart of the GRI Standards, looks at impacts a company has on the world rather than impacts the world has on a company. Investor interest is a good thing; it brings gravitas to the subject that hasn’t been there before. But the cautionary statement in your question is exactly right. Because, if we start to lose sight of the fact that our ultimate goal is to improve conditions, then we’ve lost everything. That’s a pretty big caveat, right?

Initiatives like the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) use a definition of materiality that’s inward-looking and focused on the finances of a company – in other words, they ask the question “how is the world affecting my company’s finances?” That is a very, very different way of looking at it. The SASB standards aren’t created by a multi-stakeholder process – meaning it’s industry talking to industry rather than having others in the room. So, we would differentiate ourselves from that, and proudly so. And I think that it’s led to our massive adoption rate, running at 75 percent of the largest companies. We cannot lose sight of the fact that investor interest in aligning capital is really a means to an end, and that end is sustainable development.

What’s the most important role GRI reporting plays in helping companies improve their ESG strategies and performance?

When we changed from a guidelines organization to a standards setter back in 2014, we were trying to create a common global language for disclosure around ESG topics. The GRI Standards were issued in 2016, and since then we’ve had more than 200,000 downloads. Also, we have updated Water and Occupational Health and Safety Standards and have Waste, Human Rights and Tax Payments all in the pipeline. In addition, we just launched two new sector standards – Oil and Gas and Agriculture. So, there’s a lot going on with the Standards themselves. But the overarching goal is to create consistent, comparable, replicable disclosures so that when companies report on those matters there will be a consistent basis for each disclosure that can be evaluated by an analyst, an investor, a stakeholder or anybody else.

On that last point, Tim, we look at a lot of GRI reports. And a consistent theme that we see is a high degree of inconsistency in the way companies respond. How useful are all those disparate responses? What can or should we do about reconciling this?

You touched on a very important point. The paradigm that we’re in at this point is primarily one of voluntary disclosure. Because of that, quality is all over the map. We’re starting to see some changes here. And they’re coming on a couple of fronts. One is driven by investors, who are demanding better quality. The second is on the policy front. France and Italy, for example, have adopted the EU Directive on nonfinancial reporting and added requirements that reports are also assured by a third party. Assurance is not just to verify that what the company is disclosing is in fact valid, but also to identify any omission from the company’s disclosure. Companies have been held accountable for some high-profile disasters that may have been averted if only a good assurer had identified a risk-disclosure gap and asked how the company was addressing that risk.

You mentioned new GRI Standards. Can you talk a bit about the Tax Standard and what’s driving the need for it?

I think Rutger Bregman, who was invited to speak at Davos and remarked about all the private jets, summed it up pretty well. His message was “taxes, taxes, taxes” – his thesis is that income inequality is at the core of a lot of the problems the World Economic Forum is trying to solve.

Mass migration, displacement and many other issues can be traced to income inequality, which in his view is because we aren’t taxing appropriately. So, it’s a very live issue. Companies have to pay their fair share into the governments that support the people who buy their products and work at their firms. And that information, frankly, is not disclosed anywhere else. We think we’ve broken new ground on a catalyst issue in the overall sustainability debate. I will say it is controversial, and I think it might expose some things that will make people uncomfortable.

Traditionally, ESG reporting has been done by the world’s largest companies. But in the last couple of years, we’ve seen an influx of middle-market companies coming to the table. Many of them have grown through a series of acquisitions and, as such, they’re often decentralized. And that makes it a real challenge to collect data for a lot of GRI indicators. Do you have any advice for these companies?

My advice would be to look to the most challenging of companies, which are the conglomerates. There’s a series of them – primarily based in Hong Kong – that use GRI for reporting. They could be a company that includes shopping malls and airlines and everything in between. Typically, and I write about this in my book, they set up a corporate responsibility committee made up of the top executives from each business line. Then they define the common areas, the specifics of each business line, and conduct an overall materiality exercise. So, my point is it’s definitely done and there are plenty of benchmarks out there. In addition, there are a lot of GRI-approved tools, training and consultants that can help.

Thanks, Tim. Any parting thoughts you’d like to share?

Yes. The power of corporations to do good has never been stronger because they keep getting bigger and more global. And so, the decisions made in a corporate meeting room can affect millions of people across the supply chain. It’s really a wonderful thing that’s starting to happen – a virtuous cycle, if you will.

But the problem is that very few companies know how to approach all this. What are the KPIs? How do I set goals and then track my progress against those goals? How will my company extract value?

Long before I got this job, I was of the belief that if you really want to know what corporate responsibility is, start with GRI because it tells you how to set materiality, what are the issues in that material set, and how do you go off and assess the data that you need to monitor. I’m honored to now lead this organization, helping sustainability go mainstream.

If you’re interested in more learnings from this year’s GRI Reporters Summit North America, check out this piece from my colleague Jill Magruder here


Three Ways to Influence What World We Leave Behind

By Leela Stake

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. – An ancient Native American proverb

This adage hung on my wall at home as a teenager, a decade before I had children of my own. It was meaningful to me then, but ever more so now that I am a parent. With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day just one year away, I wonder what the planet will be like half a century from now, when I may no longer be here. The answer depends – on me, on you, on all of us. So, this Earth Day, I share three ideas for how we can approach sustainability communications to yield better results.

1. Make communications more solutions-oriented. Focusing exclusively or primarily on the magnitude and urgency of problems like climate change and clean water can have the inverse effect of what we need: people decide not to act because doomsday reports make them think it’s too late or the problems are too vast to have any chance of effecting change. As communicators, we need to think about how we not just scare, but motivate. (Recommended reading: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming)

2. Give voice to the voiceless. The Earth cannot speak for itself, and therefore we must advocate on its behalf. Plus, issues like climate change will have the biggest impact on those who are already the most vulnerable. Yet even so, environmental causes are among the most underfunded of any area from a philanthropic perspective; the environment (a category which also includes animals) receive a mere 3 percent of total charitable giving.

3. Promote awe-inspiring beauty. There are so many paradisiacal places in this world that have the power to move people to action. Let’s better capture and share the visuals and stories that can awaken souls and remind us how fortunate we are to live amidst so much magnificence. Here are a few favorite images from National Geographic from the past year.

This Earth Day, let’s remember that we all have the opportunity to influence what kind of world we will leave for others to live in.


FleishmanHillard Named to Holmes Report Best Agencies to Work For in North America & EMEA

April 18, 2019

St. Louis, April 16, 2019 — FleishmanHillard has been named a Best Agency to Work For in both North America and EMEA. The firm picked up an honor in the North American Large category by The Holmes ReportThe agency secured the second spot on the list for the second year in a row.

Additionally, the agency took second place as a Best Agency to Work For in the EMEA Network category.

The annual awards celebrate agencies’ commitment to their culture, attracting and retaining the top talent in the industry who produce award-winning work. Rankings are based on the results of an employee survey that reviews management structure, culture initiatives, diversity and inclusion efforts, benefits, work/life balance and more.

See the full list of North American and EMEA winners at The Holmes Report.


A Writers’ Renaissance: 5 Tips for Aspiring Authors in a Digitally Dominated World

April 9, 2019
By Jason Hillery

A short decade ago, flickers of hope were fleeting for aspiring writers. Overwhelmed by an explosion of emojis, a hailstorm of hashtags, a plethora of podcasts and shaky smartphone videos, writers were left with an existential question: Will anyone read anything longer than 140 characters?

Today’s young writers can take heart, however. Technological communications shortcuts like emojis and hashtags haven’t changed a simple truth: People still like to read well-crafted stories. There are an estimated 31 million bloggers today in the United States. More than 1 million LinkedIn users are posting articles on that platform. And a growing volume of research suggests that longer articles are increasingly sought after by online readers. Even Twitter realized that 140 characters weren’t enough.

Young writers can be confident that an audience exists for their work, even in today’s hyperconnected multimedia world. You just need to keep those digital distractions in mind as you write. It’s no secret that writing needs to be interesting to keep an audience, but with all those GIFs and viral vids out there competing for attention, the stakes are higher. Today, the average reader today spends only about 15 seconds on a specific piece of content. If you don’t pull them in quickly and keep them engaged, they’re gone.

Whether you’re an aspiring novelist or a budding corporate blogger, here are five top tricks of the trade that can help you in your efforts to create compelling content:

1. Read before you write. Every other article you read about writing tips will tell you to read a lot in order to become a better writer. I know this because I read a lot of those articles before writing this one. That’s why I’m going to share a different tip: When you’ve landed on a topic to write about, read what others are saying about it before you dive in. This will help shape your perspective on a topic or issue, and sharpen your approach as you look for angles that have not yet been explored.

2. Balance objectives and audiences. Every writing project starts with an objective, a point of view you hope to share, or information you want to convey. A common trap is to dive into a project without pausing to consider your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Why does the topic matter to them? What issues or concerns stand between your audience and your objective? Understanding the balance between your objectives and your audience’s perceptions will help you navigate an article or message that is much more likely to hit the mark.

3. Linger on the lede. Remember that 15-second attention span? That’s what you’re up against. If your headline and first paragraph don’t set the hook, readers will never reach your brilliant conclusion. A mentor of mine said he often spent half of his writing time on the lede, and the other half on the remainder of the article. That has been my experience as well.

There are many approaches to developing a strong lede. Hit them with an unbelievable “a-ha moment.” Draw them into a compelling mystery. Confuse the hell out of them with a seemingly absurd statement. Whatever you do, force them to break through that 15-second barrier. An internet search for great ledes will provide quick inspiration, and help you to avoid the been-there, done-that “It was a dark and stormy nights” of the world.

4. Back passion with proof. It’s great to have both a strong point of view and the skill to eloquently present it in written form. But these assets aren’t enough to convince an audience that is skeptical or uninformed on your topic, particularly in today’s environment where “fake news” is a daily topic of debate. Conversely, powerful data is a tree falling in the forest if it’s presented with the emotion of a spreadsheet. Don’t write a research paper (even if you are writing a research paper). Start with passion, then use strong data and third-party validation to back up your point of view and seek ways to blend these proof points into your work.

5. Embrace your editor. A good editor always makes a good writer better. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially after you’ve devoted hours to your pristine prose, only to have it shredded by a shrewd editor. But more often than not, a thoughtful reviewer will identify a gap in logic, an opportunity to better articulate a key point, or even a buried lede. You won’t always agree with your editor – and sometimes you will even win the debates that ensue – but you should always embrace the editing process.

If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to developing written content that will hold its own against the online onslaught and keep readers enthralled to the very last word. Then, who knows? Those readers might even share your work on Twitter with a #awesomewriter and a few ?s.


FleishmanHillard Earns Finalist Nods at 2019 EMEA SABRE Awards

April 8, 2019

ST. LOUIS, April 8, 2019 — FleishmanHillard has been named a finalist in several categories at the 2019 SABRE Awards EMEA, presented by The Holmes Report. The global public relations and marketing firm earned shortlist recognition for its work on behalf of various clients, including Thomson Reuters Foundation, Roche, Samsung, Philips, Roche Products Ireland and Aeroflot Airlines.

Winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on May 22, 2019.

  • FleishmanHillard Fishburn (UK Consultancies of the Year)
  • Thomson Reuters Foundation, “The Launch of Openly” (Geographic, Global Programme)
  • Roche with APCO Worldwide and Nudge Digital, “FutureProofing Healthcare – The Sustainability Index” (Advocacy, Public Affairs)
  • Samsung, “Mobile Couture” (Digital and Social Media, Influencer Marketing)
  • Philips, “Dutch Masterjuices” (Experiential, Publicity Stunt)
  • Roche Products (Ireland) Ltd, “MSunderstood Café” (Experiential, Special Event)
  • Aeroflot Airlines with Orta Communications, “Aeroflot’s Sulimov Dogs as Special Children’s Guardian Angels” (Business-to-Business, Transportation & Logistics)

View the complete list of finalists on The Holmes Report.

FleishmanHillard is a finalist in the 2019 EMEA SABRE Awards, presented by the Holmes Report.
FleishmanHillard has been named a finalist at the 2019 EMEA SABRE Awards.


5 Tips for Relationship-Building with Reporters in the Digital Age

April 4, 2019
By Sara Steindorf

In honor of National Hug a Newsperson Day, we’re taking time to give thanks to the #FourthEstate for keeping us up to date and our democracy in check. As a newsperson turned PR maven, it’s also a good day to share tips for fostering journalist relationships in the digital age.

Gone are the days when PR pros must pore over heavy Bacon’s tomes to find the right reporter (I realize I’m dating myself here), babysit the fax machine, or snail mail press kits with photo slides to reporters. Technology and social media can make our jobs easier, but we have new challenges. Gone are also the days when reporters have ample time for editorial board meetings, visits to your client’s headquarters and events, or even phone chats about future stories to see if your organization is a fit.

Today, reporters are busy covering more beats with less time, as many media outlets struggle to survive. However, one thing has remained: relationship-building with reporters is still one of the best ways to secure coverage for your client. Following are five tips for doing so in the digital age.

1. Twitter lists are just as important as media lists. When targeting reporters to pitch for your client, don’t forget to build Twitter lists – and follow reporters’ tweets to keep track of what’s top of mind. A reporter’s tweet may provide fodder for personalizing your email pitch for a story idea, an opportunity to direct message a reporter to offer your client as a resource on a related topic, or a reporter may even tweet a request asking for an expert to interview for a timely story. The more you become a reporter’s resource, the better chance you’ll have of them covering your client.

2. Followers are the new currency. When a reporter posts a positive story on your client, be sure to have your client’s Twitter handle retweet or share the story. Doing so not only extends the story’s reach for your client but also for the reporter, potentially helping both gain more visibility as well as followers on Twitter or other social channels.

On a similar note, some reporters’ follower counts rival an outlet’s UVM. Thus, a reporter’s quick tweet about your client could have just as much reach as an article or video on the outlet’s website. This may come in handy when, for example, your client has a timely statistic to share but not quite enough to warrant a full story.

3. Don’t spray and pray. It’s easy to copy a press release or pitch into an email, add a bunch of email addresses to the BCC, and hit send. But that never works. Reporters hate being blasted. Do your homework to find out the specific topics they’re interested in, and personalize your pitches to them – be a resource, don’t waste their time. If a reporter is unresponsive, try to “add value” in a follow-up email, so that you have something more to say than just, “Did you see my email?”

4. Keep your pitches pithy. Reporters are often bombarded with hundreds of emails a day. Getting a reporter to even open your email is half the battle. Make sure your email pitches have a compelling subject line with the important details included such as an in-person meeting with the CEO who will be in town, or offering news under embargo (e.g. the ability to review news a day or two before it is announced, so that a reporter may report and time a story for when the client announces the news) or an exclusive (e.g. where only one reporter is given dibs on a story). In the body of the email, keep it concise. Use bullets and underline key details so that a reporter may skim the content to see if they’re interested. If you’re sharing a press release, write a brief, personalized, up-front note summarizing the news and hyperlink key resources, and then paste the release below your signature. This advice holds true for phone pitches: get to the point, pronto.

5. Be available to discuss industry trends. There will be times you don’t have news to share or the news you do have doesn’t fit what your targeted journalists are covering. However, oftentimes they’re interested in having a client comment on timely industry news or trends. While it may be just one quote in a bigger story, the strategy here is to be helpful as often as possible. This will eventually lead to the reporter writing a story centered around your client.

If you follow just some of these tips, you will soon have media relations success. For starters, why not reach out to and thank your favorite newsperson today?