Planning for the PC (Post COVID) World

I find infrastructure planning related issues fascinating.  The complexity of it, and the requirement for long-term strategies to come up with solutions that not only solve today’s issues, but generational ones.  A local example would be road widening projects within your community or if a roundabout should replace a traffic light. 

An even bigger example is one I heard in the late 1990s about undeveloped countries and the issue of connecting villages.  Without phone access, people needed to travel to the next village and were often cutoff from the outside world. Not an easy task if vehicles are scarce.  Instead of building a physical telephone line infrastructure, the solution was to skip phone lines altogether and jump straight into a new technology using cell phones with towers replacing the need for telephone wires.

With thoughtful planning, solutions are available and achievable.  As 2020 thankfully comes to a close, I kind of feel like many businesses are staring at a similar opportunity as they look to the PC World. PC as in Post COVID. 

We’re finally seeing around the COVID corner. With the election in our rearview mirror and vaccine distribution starting, it’s easier than ever to see an ending of this unprecedented time.  Sure, we’re months away from people gathering together in mass, but the start of 2021 feels like the year when “the world re-opens.”  As we believe the finish line is in sight, it should also serve as a wake-up call to many businesses. They better start preparing for the PC world now or risk their business being too far behind their competitors to catch up.

We couldn’t predict COVID, which is why many businesses had trouble adjusting.  But knowing there’s the light at the end of the tunnel means we need to start thinking about new approaches now.  This need to plan mindset isn’t reserved solely for hibernating companies that purposely paused or struggled during the pandemic.  Companies that pivoted to existing COVID realities and found an opportunity to grow their business during this time, need to start preparing and positioning themselves for what’s next after the immediate fear of contracting COVID subsides.

COVID isn’t going away any time soon, even after vaccinations are commonplace.  Vaccines aren’t a cure. Caution and awareness of the importance or reducing risks will remain for years even as people will slowly start gathering in groups again and face-to-face interactions return.  We’re likely to see a mindset shift among the public beginning this Spring or summer. 

This provides an opportunity for companies who plan ahead for it.  Needs won’t change, but how we talk about them likely will.   We’re also likely to see businesses and institutions trying to return to their pre-COVID normal by fall.

Now is the time to plan, and to start establishing your company in the new marketplace. View Q1 and maybe part of Q2 as planning time and as an opportunity to reintroduce or reposition your company by utilizing a strong public relations strategy. Using this time to rebuild or grow your brand may prove vital because by  Q3 we’re going to start seeing some companies winning, and others falling too far behind to regain their previous market share.

Think about what is likely to occur once the vaccination levels reach 75% or herd immunity is established.  One simple example is that people will be anxious to explore and travel again, once confidence in public safety returns.  Travel destinations and attractions should be planning now how they plan to attract people. 

Companies also need to be wary and thoughtful of what’s going to happen next.  If asked what the first thing I’d want to do in a group post COVID would be, I’d say that I’m most excited to attend concerts again with thousands of other fans.  The challenge might not be getting me to go to a concert, but how many I’ll be willing to attend, financially.  I expect the 12-18 months after COVID there are going to be a glut of concerts worth attending as every band is anxious to get back on the road and generate revenue. The problem is that concert goers still have limited bank accounts, so fans are going to have to pick and choose, which is likely to result in a lot of lost ticket sales for bands who are used to sell-out crowds.

It’s going to be the same for businesses. Every competitor is going to be fighting for the same $100. It’s the businesses that have their strategy and plan in place that are most likely to win, while those starting to rebuild late find that all the key customers have already chosen their vendors, and that available cash has already been spent.

The lesson is that now’s the time for your company be planning for the Post COVID world.  Whether your company is just starting to rebuild after the stress of COVID, or your organization has thrived in this chaos, Q1 and Q2 are going to be pivotal in deciding which companies make it to 2022. 

Now’s the time to map out your destination and make sure your company is ready for arrival in the PC world.  

— written by Josh Weiss, President of 10 to 1 Public Relations

750 news stories in four days, and I wish not one was necessary

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On April 28, 2020 my PR firm signed a new client, Ambulnz, a national ambulance services provider at the time with 1,000 employees in 8 U.S. States and operations in the United Kingdom (they’ve grown rapidly this year expanding their services and geography that ultimately led to them going public, but that’s a success story for another time). I’d been chatting with them for a while, and normally I’d be very excited to get the contract signed. Instead, their reason to sign when they did brought back emotions and memories of the toughest work week of my life back in 2004.  Here’s why.

Incoming Crisis

You may remember when COVID-19 was first becoming a reality in the U.S., New York City was particularly hard hit making it the pandemic focal point of the nation.  Ambulnz had deployed more than 70 employees to New York City to be part of the company’s FEMA COVID-19 response to help New York City’s overwhelmed EMS and healthcare system. Those deployed had volunteered from its operations across the U.S. such as Los Angeles, Tennessee, and Colorado.

One of their deployed Colorado paramedics, Paul Cary, was in the hospital with COVID-19 contracted after transporting New York patients. Doctors said the prognosis looked grim. Expecting the worst, they knew they needed experienced PR guidance. They also needed someone to become the sole primary point of contact for media on behalf of the company, as well as the family, throughout the crisis if Paul did in fact succumb.  

Some quick background for those who don’t know: before launching 10 to 1 Public Relations, I worked in-house leading PR efforts for statewide and national EMS (emergency medical services) companies for several years. The first time I led media relations efforts for a Line of Duty Death (LODD) was in 2004 in the Phoenix area. That experience literally changed my professional career, teaching me the importance of controlling the flow of information and giving me the confidence that I could handle any crisis and that PR was truly my career calling.

So here I was again, 16-years later.  My team quickly engaged, working with the Ambulnz team we began preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, two days later, paramedic Paul Cary died from COVID-19 in a New York City hospital.

Facing Unique Challenges

Any LODD is horrible, but logistically this one was unique. Usually the community outpouring and media interest is limited to a single media market. Living and working in Colorado for more than 30 years, Cary’s Denver community was mourning. With his death occurring in New York City while he came to the City’s aid, New York City was equally mourning. New York City being the largest media market in the U.S. alone can be overwhelming to a media relations department during a crisis but now we were focused on two locations 1750 miles from one another.

Add on top of that, this marked the first death of a volunteer federal responder to New York’s COVID response effort, which created national media interest. National media, New York City media, and Denver-area media. All at the same time, from different time zones. Three because it wasn’t only Denver and New York, but media was also being coordinated from Arizona where my team is located. 

Another challenge: We had never actually met any member of the Ambulnz team before, only a few phone calls with two or three people, so we needed help identifying the right contacts within the organization to get whatever we might need.

The final challenge was we had to do everything remotely because of social distancing. Flying our team into one of the cities to assist on the ground just was not doable.  

In the end, over a 4-day period of 15+ hour days, I think that week was one of the most professionally and personally gratifying work experiences I can recall. 

Enacting the Crisis Public Relations Plan

Ultimately there were more than 750 news stories in four days. We coordinated interviews and worked with reporters from some of the country’s most recognized national media outlets like CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. We coordinated interviews and worked with local print reporters and TV affiliates in New York City and Denver like the Denver Post, the New York Daily News, WABC, WNBC, Denver7 and KUSA. And we did so quickly and equally, regardless of the media outlet’s size so that every reporter felt like they got our full attention.

Developments that led to a lot of the media interest included public statements from the Governors of New York and Colorado, as well as the Mayors of Aurora, Denver, and New York City. The biggest surprise to me came from the Mayor of New York City when during a press conference surprised us all to say that a monument would be built in Paul’s honor recognizing his sacrifice and all the healthcare workers that came from out of state to help the city when it was needed most. 

The New York City Fire Department helped coordinate a massive funeral procession of emergency vehicles, only to have that effort matched in Denver with a 160-vehicle procession. Both the Newark and Denver Airports allowed bagpipes and full honors as the casket was loaded and unloaded from the plane, and both airports saluted the flight with water cannons as it taxied to and from the gate.

These efforts, and participation by other agencies and officials, made a huge impact on other first responders and healthcare workers as well. I’m proud that we had the opportunity to successfully help share it with the public through the media.  

Full Circle

My pride extends beyond our media efforts. We also coordinated all the public statements, employee outreach, coordinated with the family to generate and share their public statements, and also assisted with the planning of the public events as Paul’s body returned to Denver that Sunday night. 

To think of what was accomplished so quickly, I can’t help but think of how many people contributed to the efforts to share Paul’s story with so many. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude towards the many local PR pros that stepped up to help in Denver and New York since I couldn’t be there personally on the ground to do it myself. I cherish the kind notes from media folk and other agencies for how we performed, and for the quality of the communications we shared. 

Throughout this whole experience, there’s been one more emotional tie-in that has taken me back to my first LODD. The date Ambulnz called me to hire us and seek our help regarding the LODD was 16 years to the day of Tammy Mundell’s death, the first LODD I worked which solidified my career path. With that first experience in mind constantly through the week, I was able to lead my team with a solid plan and deliver the results our client was looking for.

Thank you to first responders

My team and I would like to thank our country’s first responders serving on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. We have immense gratitude for the work that you do every day to help those in need and keep our communities safe. Thanks to you and your families, from the bottom of our hearts.

Finally, I hope that my recap doesn’t come across as self-serving.  I actually wrote this nearly a year ago for myself, but never published it.  A year later, as we approach the last week of April and these solemn anniversaries, I keep thinking about how it impacted me personally so I thought it worthy of sharing, now.

Rest in peace, Paul Cary.  Rest in peace, Tammy Mundell. 

One Last (Genuine) Thank You in 2020

One Last (Genuine) Thank You in 2020

With hindsight finally becoming 2020, I wanted to take this last opportunity to say thank you.

Bluntly, the year was just straight-up unprecedented.  While a difficult year for everyone on so many levels, I’m so humbled and appreciative that 2020 was by far the best year 10 to 1 Public Relations has had, yet. 

I just learned a number that simply amazes me. 

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Jeff Davidson

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson, Senior Account Executive –

Believe it or not, I have been in Public Relations for more than 15 years. In that time I’ve dressed up in a mascot uniform, been in a dump truck full of LEGO blocks, was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and ran around SXSW, CES, and HIMSS. Public Relations may seem glamourous, but it’s a lot of hard work. Although I’ve learned a lot from my clients, my coworkers, and my mistakes over the years – I wouldn’t change a thing.

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Sharda Veeramally

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Sharda Veeramally

Sharda Veeramally, Senior Account Executive –

I have been in Public Relation for over a decade and I can bet that most of my family members and friends still don’t know what is it that I do. Do I make ads or write articles for newspapers that don’t really have my name on them? My fellow PR pros can relate to this feeling. Right?! #faceplam. Nevertheless, I’ve had a great start to my career in India before moving to the United States five years ago. It definitely was a tough transition initially, but thanks to my amazing coworkers and clients for making it a smooth ride. It’s been a fulfilling journey, to say the least, and I am just getting started!

  1. If you didn’t work in PR, what would you do?
    Maybe a professional dancer or a theater artist – still telling stories, just like I do in PR!
  2. When you’re not at work …
    You’ll find me running around with my 2-year-old or in the kitchen experimenting with a new recipe.
  3. Best advice you’ve ever been given?
    The best advice I ever received was from my parents to “always trust your unique path and keep putting in the hard work. Everything will fall in place.”
  4. What’s your favorite quote?
    “Stay hungry, stay foolish” – Steve Jobs
  5. If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
    Maybe the power to change things instantly at the blink of an eye, like in the show “I dream of Jeannie.” I would use it every day to spruce up the house after my toddler destroys it! 😊

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Erica Fetherston

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Erica Fetherston

Erica Fetherston, Senior Account Executive –

After starting my career in politics, government, and nonprofits, it’s been fun to experience what “agency life” is all about at 10 to 1 PR. From working with clients of all sizes in a diverse array of industries, to interacting with reporters and editors in media markets across the country, each day brings its own set of challenges and opportunities. I love sharing stories about others.

  1. If you didn’t work in PR, what would you do?
    In kindergarten, I aspired to be a zookeeper. In reality, if I didn’t work in PR, I might have ended up following my parents and becoming a lawyer.
  2. Best advice you’ve ever been given?
    Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
  3. What’s your favorite quote?
    “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” – Socrates
  4. Who’s your celeb doppelganger?
    I went as Taylor Swift for Halloween once and I think I nailed it.
  5. What’s one lesson you’ve learned from your time in Public Relations?
    It doesn’t take a lot of effort to be nice to others. Between working with clients, journalists, and other PR pros, you never know what someone else is working on or going through, so I always try to make the effort to be as supportive and understanding as I can when working with others.

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Laura Slawny

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Laura Slawny

Laura Slawny, Account Manager –

I was a former television reporter, news producer, and executive producer. I really like storytelling and proud to say I’ve earned four regional Emmy awards and the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award. When I’m not at work, you can usually find me outdoors playing tennis, hiking or camping, riding my bike, working in the garden, or even just reading on my patio.

  1. If you didn’t work in PR, what would you do?
    I would love to be on a writing team for a television series about a diverse group that meets new challenges with each show. I am watching the Star Trek Voyager series now and think it would be a blast to collaborate on a similar format that provides room for character development, creativity, and moral issues.
  2. What’s your favorite book?
    Right now, my favorite book is called The Food Lab, by J. Kenji Lóbez-Alt. It is a cookbook that takes a scientific approach to why some cooking methods work better than others.
  3. Best advice you’ve ever been given?
    “Never be afraid of hard work.” It was one of the many great pieces of advice my Dad gave me. 
  4. Who’s your celeb doppelganger?
    When I was younger, I was told I looked like Laura Dern.
  5. What’s your favorite quote
    My mantra is “Keep moving forward” which comes from a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  I love this quote and remind myself that no matter how bad things get, I can always do something as long as I have more time.

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Josh Weiss

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Josh Weiss

Josh Weiss, President and Founder –

My first job after college I worked as the Radio Coordinator for members of the Illinois House of Representatives where I effectively created radio press releases for House members.  When deciding to move to Arizona in 2000, I had a choice- choose a career in radio, politics or public relations.  I’ve been working in public relations ever since.  After leading PR efforts at a couple nationally focused public safety/first responder companies, I formed 10 to 1 Public Relations in 2012, and haven’t looked back since.

  1. If you didn’t work in PR, what would you do?
    Radio talk show host or an Ambassador to a foreign country representing the U.S.
  2. What is your most memorable PR experience?
    I’ve had the unfortunate responsibility of leading media relations during Line of Duty Death events for first responders who died as part of their job. Each experience is very intense and emotional, but also makes me very proud of the role I played in coordinating the company response and media coordination needs while ensuring the family and first responder were properly respected and honored through very tragic, and public ordeals.
  3. When you’re not at work …
    Swimming laps, watching my kids play softball and baseball, or streaming movies/shows.
  4. Best advice you’ve ever been given?
    Worry about what you can control (or influence), not what you can’t.
  5. Your favorite magazine, publication, or outlet?
    Washington Post

Why More PR Efforts Should be Coordinated Around Veterans Day

Why More PR Efforts Should be Coordinated Around Veterans Day

My PR team is always looking for opportunities to draw some media attention to our clients for doing something positive.  As part of this effort, we often coordinate media efforts around various holidays and shared cultural events. Out of all the dates on the calendar, I never expected Veterans Day to become my favorite. Both because of what it represents, and the media opportunities it has provided our clients.

Veterans Day has long been one of those specialty holidays recognized mostly by those who have a personal connection to the military.  It’s not part of a three-day weekend, and people often mix it up with Memorial Day which honors the fallen vs Veterans Day which recognizes the living who have served.

My team took Veterans Day efforts to an entirely new gear this year, and I want to share what we did. Not to brag, but in hopes of sparking your imagination or participation for Veterans Day next year.

The Veterans Day Giveaway Idea

We have several HVAC and plumbing clients. One of those companies was founded by a Veteran after WWII, and the company is now lead by his granddaughter (3rd generation).  Five years ago, we launched a now annual Veterans AC Giveaway Contest where the public could nominate a Veteran or their family member in need of a new AC unit or furnace. After verifying nominations and choosing finalists, the public was given the opportunity to vote for the recipient, with the prize awarded on (or around) Veterans Day.

That single contest has expanded.  In 2020 we held the contest in five different cities spanning the U.S. from Miami, Florida to Spokane, Washington. Yes, the contest is a nice thing to do and it’s generated publicity and stories in each City we’ve done it. But it’s much more than a contest.

Our goal is to share personal stories of local Veterans and active duty members that most people never hear about. These are the men and women who left their homes, their families, and their friends to dutifully serve our country across the nation and around the world. Their stories are incredible. Like an Arizona man who joined the Army after the attack on 9/11 to protect our nation and came back with a life-changing injury from a rocket propelled grenade. Or the Florida man who joined the Navy at age 17 and got to take a newly commissioned ship through the Panama Canal. Or the woman who was the first female in her family to join, and now copes with the debilitating effects of PTSD.

In our eyes, they are all heroes. They all deserve notoriety.  So we share their stories using videos, blogs, social media, and often the news media will help us reach a wider audience. These stories have helped old friends reconnect providing them with a sense of hope and some comfort during an increasingly stressful time.

It amazes me how grateful these Veterans are to be recognized. I am also impressed by their shared bond. They understand what it’s like to be too far from home, and why it’s so hard to talk about what they experienced. We are saddened by how many suffer from mental trauma and inspired by how many of them volunteer to help other Veterans heal.

The other major effort we launched was the #VetDayPledge.

The idea started in 2018, when one of our large construction related clients was looking for ways to recognize their employees that were Veterans. We suggested that the company gather employees on Veterans Day a job site or in their warehouse and simply invite all the Veterans to the front of the group to lead their co-workers in the Pledge of Allegiance.  We used smartphone video to then share it with media and post it on social media.  The response from employees who participated was so positive that the construction company expanded it to multiple cities and job sites the following year.

This year, with permission from the client we decided to expand the idea to include any company willing to participate.  Our only request was that anyone who participated include the hashtag #VetDayPledge to unify the message and make it easier for others to see and hopefully participate on their own. In addition to sharing the idea with other companies (clients and non-clients), we invited other PR firms to share the idea and created a website www.VetDayPledge.com with free resources and tips for companies to do it on their own.

I’m so proud that during this campaign’s first year going national and mainstream that we had participants from 10 states!  While some videos came from our clients, the majority of the participants were not!  In addition to several businesses, an elementary school participated, as did a senior living community!

A Wisconsin TV station even did a news story about one of the participants. You can watch the story by clicking here!

We’re excited to grow the #VetDayPledge further next year and believe that without the election (and COVID) related distractions, even more businesses and organizations will participate.  This idea has become a passion project.  We love that it’s a simple, no cost idea that anyone can do to thank our Veterans and their families.

Ultimately, the most important thing for companies to remember when doing a PR campaign around Veterans Day or Memorial Day is to do it for the right reason. We believe that the VetDayPledge and the Veteran AC Giveaway Contest fit that purpose.  Sure, it might generate some positive publicity for our clients, but most importantly, it generates recognition for those who’ve served and sacrificed- the individual veteran, and their families alongside them.

There are lots of great ideas that companies are doing to recognize Veterans. Share them below and help us inspire others!

Giving Back During a Pandemic

A lot of people are feeling helpless right now. We have been cooped up for months trying to do whatever we can to feel productive and hold on to some semblance of normalcy. With quarantine and social distancing protocols in place, non-profit organizations are also having a hard time keeping up with the need for their services. Many fundraising and volunteer events have been cancelled due to the global pandemic, but you can still get involved with virtual volunteering efforts.

We at 10 to 1 Public Relations took time to show how much we support the work that Teachers across the Valley are doing by writing virtual notes to a teacher through the Valley of the Sun United Way’s website. These cards will be sent to teachers and resource staff in the communities that Valley of the Sun United Ways closely works with and will remind our teachers how valued and appreciated they are. It’s an easy and fun team building exercise, which will make a huge impact to those receiving them.

In addition, our client Plexus Worldwide, a leading direct-selling health and wellness company, has been utilizing their paid volunteer time off policy to gather teams of employees together for virtual volunteer projects. At the start of the pandemic, Plexus joined HandsOn Greater Phoenix, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that puts volunteers to work where they are needed most. To show appreciation to medical staff on the frontlines, Plexus employees expressed their gratitude by sending heartfelt letters, cards, and emails to HandsOn Greater Phoenix, which handed them out to medical personnel who are working tirelessly to fight COVID-19. HandsOn Greater Phoenix is still collecting letters, you can contact them directly to see how you can get involved from home – a great idea for a family activity!

In addition, Plexus team members also recorded themselves reading their favorite children’s books for the children at Ryan House. Ryan House’s mission is to embrace all children and their families as they navigate life-limiting or end-of-life journeys. During this challenging time, Ryan House is limited on the number of children and guests they are able to have at their home, but they still want to continue to provide activities that they would normally have for the children. Click on the link or contact them directly to see ways you, your family, or your friends can get involved.

So how else can you help? After months of staying indoors, most people have gone through a DIY or home improvement phase. You can put that decluttering to good use by donating any clothing items, athletic equipment, furniture, office supplies, games, bedding, and other items to charities throughout your community. Collection bins are usually located at schools or near grocery stores, so you can either look up a location online or put the items in your trunk and keep an eye out for a donation bin.

You can discover the wide range of volunteer opportunities at Family Promise, a local Valley organization determined to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response. Some of their events include organizing a supply drive in your neighborhood, recording yourself reading a story, or helping someone write a resume. Other local organizations that could use your help are Cancer Support Community ArizonaSt. Vincent de Paul, and The Salvation Army – Metro Phoenix, to name a few.

Afterall, just because we’re stuck inside, doesn’t mean we can’t give back.