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Ryan Puckett named to Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Series Class XXXVIII

Ryan M. Puckett, principal of two21 LLC, will have the opportunity to advance his community leadership interests as a member of Class XXXVIII of the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Series.

SKL Logo

Puckett is one of 25 young professionals to be accepted into the series, a highly competitive program that seeks to expand the ranks of community leaders by teaching and motivating members to address the needs of central Indiana.

“I am honored to have been chosen to participate in SKL, which has helped many of central Indiana’s most prominent leaders become more effective community leaders,” Puckett said. “It’s humbling to have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps and have the opportunity to make a lasting contribution to our region.”

Class members are chosen because of their significant community involvement and professional achievement; their demonstrated interest in community issues; a record of participation and achievement in voluntary community activities; and their willingness to expand their leadership role in the community.

Sam Odle, Senior Policy Adviser for Bose Public Affairs Group and former COO of IU Health, has been named Moderator for Class XXXVIII.  To ensure that the series is timely and topical, each class’s moderator identifies aspects of broad economic and societal issues that are specific to central Indiana for the class to study.

Class XXXVIII will meet monthly from September through June. Participants will interact with local leaders, professional experts and community decision makers to discuss issues such as the region’s quality of life, education and economic development.

About the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Series: Formed in 1976, SKL informs and motivates emerging leaders and raises their awareness of community issues and sense of community trusteeship through seminars, tours, reading and interaction with experts, leaders and decision makers. The series is named in honor of Stanley K. Lacy, an Indianapolis banker and active participant in civic projects, who died in a tragic automobile accident in 1973 at the age of 27.

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Opinion: Marching for Equality

Principal Ryan Puckett  worked with RecycleForce President Gregg Keesling on the following opinion editorial originally published in the August 31, 2013 edition of The Indianapolis Star. The op-ed is in reaction to the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

Dream of Equality Must Include Ex-offenders

by Gregg Keesling

On Aug. 28, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s empowering and invigorating “I Have a Dream” speech.

In that historic address, King spoke of the state of racial inequality in 1963. In the shadow of the statue of the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years earlier, he lamented that black Americas were still not free. He rightfully accused America of writing a “bad check” that came back marked “insufficient funds”.

While there has been great progress since 1963 there is much ground to cover. As former President Clinton reminded us at the anniversary celebration, “there remain racial inequalities in employment, income, health, wealth, incarceration, and in the victims and perpetrators of violent crime.”

The demographics of the U.S. criminal justice system underscore this inequality. African-Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the 2.3 million incarcerated population. In Indiana, black males make up 4.3 percent of the state’s population , but 37 percent of its adult prison population .

If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime. Not only must we prevent this trend, we must change the way we treat those returning from prison, regardless of the color of their skin.

The destiny of white ex-offenders is tied up with that of African-American ex-offenders. The freedom of each of us is “inextricably bound” in the freedom of the former inmate.

We are destined to continue to fund prison budgets at astronomical rates if we don’t change the way we handle those who have served their time and if we fail to provide true, legitimate second chances.

The idea that by serving time one has paid his debt to society is ingrained in our social narrative, but it is not true. Once one is caught up in the tides of the criminal justice system it is very difficult to escape – recidivism rates in America exceed 66 percent. To borrow from King, it’s like “quicksand” of injustice.

But Dr. King’s words inspire me, “This situation can and will be changed” and I am not willing to allow formally incarcerated men and women to “wallow in the valley of despair”. As President Obama urged Americans during the celebration, we must continue to march.

Obama reminds us “that one’s liberty is linked to one’s livelihood, that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security.” For most ex-offenders, that liberty is elusive.

But not if we march.

We must march against a growing prison population – the world’s largest – filled with individuals who have not committed a new crime. Roughly one-third of the Americans entering prison each year return for a technical rule violation.

In 2012, of those on probation or parole who were subsequently remanded to the Indiana Department of Correction, 71 percent were remanded for a technical rule violation (TRV). A variety of issues can result in a TRV, but key to the definition of TRVs is that a new crime was not committed.

By providing flexible employment and immediate wage-paid work in combination with job skills training and supportive services, we can eliminate the massive amount of human capital languishing in our prisons for minor infractions.

But we must march. Indiana’s new expungement law is step in the right direction, but we must continue to march.

If we believe prison should be reserved to provide rehabilitative services to those who are a threat to society, and not how we punish those who are unemployed and unable to keep up with re-entry fees and obligations, we must march forward.

I march for second chances.

Keesling is president of RecycleForce in Indianapolis

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Opinion: Training vs. Recidivism

Principal Ryan Puckett worked with RecycleForce Vice President Tom Gray on the following opinion editorial originally published in the February 7, 2013 edition of The Indianapolis Star. The op-ed is in reaction to an article by Star columnist Matthew Tully on reforming the Indiana state budget.

Let’s Train Ex-offenders, Don’t Send Them Back

Mathew Tully’s Jan. 27 column exhorts us to make smart reforms to the state budget. Our criminal justice system would seem ripe for smart reform as it represents one of the larger budget line items. For example, the Indiana Department of Correction spends $650 million each year to incarcerate more than 24,000 individuals. Smart reform would preserve public safety at the same time of realizing savings.

Roughly one-third of the Americans entering prison each year did not commit a new crime. Instead, they return for a technical rule violation. Upon release, they are subject to certain terms, conditions and supervision. They can be returned to prison if these conditions are breached. Minor rule violations such as missing counseling meetings, failing to pay a probation fee or failing to find employment can all lead to re-imprisonment.

According to the most recent data available, Marion County returned to prison 73 percent of those on probation and parole because of a technical rule violation and not because they had committed a new crime. Lack of employment and access to necessary supportive services is what’s behind a large percentage of these violations.

We propose that prosecutors and judges be given the option to sentence some of the technical violators to social programs. The cost savings could be significant. In Illinois, a recent study estimated that technical rule violations cost our neighbors more than $100 million a year. Furthermore, this approach would more adequately reintegrate ex-offenders into civil society. Numerous studies demonstrate that number one predictor of whether or not an individual will return to prison is a job.

At RecycleForce, we believe that we can no longer afford to waste the massive amount of human capital languishing behind bars for minor infractions. We see the value and potential in these individuals and that’s why we offer them transitional employment.

Let us cut what is not working and invest in what does.

Thomas Gray, Vice President, RecycleForce

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Promoting Social Impact Bonds

Principal Ryan Puckett worked with RecycleForce to promote the strategy of using Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) in the state of Indiana. The result was an op-ed in the September 6, 2012 edition of The Indianapolis Star.

Investing Private Funds Into Re-entry Programs

By Thomas Gray

In August, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the launch of a program at the Rikers Island jail complex with the goal of reducing the recidivism rate of young offenders. This is a social problem that Indianapolis and municipalities across the country are looking to tackle. The unique twist in this program is the source of financing for the program — Goldman Sachs will invest nearly $10 million in the program through social innovation bonds.

Also called social impact bonds or pay-for-success bonds, SIBs draw upon private investment dollars to address entrenched social ills, such as recidivism, homelessness and substance abuse. These private dollars are used to fund nonprofits groups, which tackle these social problems and, in turn, produce measurable results such as lowering the recidivism rate. The cost savings realized by the government through these efforts are paid to the private investors and represent their return.

This idea is in its infancy, but its potential is tremendous. There are many different sources of private capital: pension funds, foundations, hedge funds, all of which in this era of low-interest rates are in search of higher returns. For some investment funds, reducing these social problems would benefit their business operations as well. For example, insurance companies might be drawn to reducing crime, especially if it had an impact on such crimes as burglaries and car theft.

While the New York City program is being touted as the first of its kind in the United States, SIBs were first used in Britain and are being explored in Australia. In this “age of austerity,” SIBs could prove to be a powerful tool to help facilitate social innovation. This funding stream allows governments to engage in preventative strategies that could unlock dramatic future savings.

Another advantage of SIBs is that the risk of failure is transferred from public funding to private investors. Essentially, private investors endure the risk and afford municipalities the opportunity to test new strategies.

Nonprofit organizations that receive SIB funding are promised a sustained flow of financial support that allow them to operate at scale over a longer period of time. In the case of the Goldman Sachs investment, the nonprofits delivering the services are guaranteed funding over a period of four years.

The cost of corrections consumes a huge portion of state and municipal budgets: the Indiana Department of Corrections budget is more than $670 million a year and combined criminal justice budget consumes more $500 million of the Indianapolis/Marion County budget. In these tight budgetary times, government officials at all levels need to think outside the box on how to produce sustainable savings. SIBs could be one answer to this dilemma, as they provide the initial investment to begin the process of restructuring budgets.

In the case of re-entry and lowering the number of individuals incarcerated, the concept of SIBs has an overlooked upside. We largely ignore this population. We hide the facilities out in the countryside. We make it extremely difficult for felons to re-enter the workforce. However, through SIBs, possibly, we will be forced to recognize these individuals and realize that they have value.

Gray is vice president of Indianapolis-based RecycleForce.

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Op-ed on Transit: The Right to Get to Work

I was honored to have the following op-ed published in The Indianapolis Star. As an advocate for mass transit in Central Indiana, this piece reflects an argument in favor of improved transit that has been on my mind for some time. I thought Labor Day was the perfect opportunity to express my point of view.

Let’s promote the right to get to work

Sep 2, 2012

Earlier this year, the debate over “right to work” legislation consumed the Statehouse and personified the partisan warfare dominating the Indiana General Assembly and electoral offices throughout the country. “Right to work” even got in the way of a bill before the House Ways and Means Committee, impeding an effort to consider a mechanism to create more transit, more transit options and more funding for transit.

Regardless of the merit of “right to work” legislation, and, as we celebrate the American workforce on Labor Day, I can’t help but think of another work-related right — the right to get to work.

While the majority of Hoosiers get a day of respite from the daily grind, many residents of Central Indiana are looking for work. Job seekers face a variety of obstacles, but enhancing transit is one where taxpayers actually can wield influence.

The fact is that transit options are a major hurdle for many locals looking to earn a paycheck. Anecdotally, I volunteered for Indiana Citizens’ Alliance for Transit at the Indiana State Fair this year to help collect petition signatures in support of more transit, and I heard from a number of people that they need better transit options for getting to work.

Many of us don’t understand this. We have our cars that comfortably and reliably move us back and forth to work each day. I’ve heard transit detractors say their fellow Hoosiers just need to get a car.

However, the notion that owning an automobile is a prerequisite for a job or necessary to access any job in the city seems simply unfair. I wrote something to that effect recently on my Facebook page and a friend shared an astute observation made by a youth worker she knew from the United Kingdom. He said that, for the most part, the dividing line for poverty in America isn’t education or geography — it’s having a car.

Many people simply can’t afford a car, much less a reliable one, while others may not be able to drive. Some people have had their licenses revoked for mistakes they’ve made. Should they also be unemployable too? Some people are simply physically incapable of driving for one reason or another. Should they have less opportunity to work just because of an illness, disability or life-altering accident? There are also men and women permanently disabled from a wound suffered while serving their country. Don’t these veterans deserve the right to get to work?

We hear from our politicians all the time about creating jobs, yet if these politicians are serious about creating jobs, they also need to make sure people can get to jobs. What good is a job when some Hoosiers are already eliminated from consideration for said job because they can’t afford a car or rely on our woefully underfunded bus system?

Again, at the State Fair, I heard anecdote after anecdote from people who must get a job within a certain radius of their homes or who can’t take a job because the bus doesn’t run late or early enough.

I recently ran across a blog post about a business owner who interviewed a potential student intern. The candidate opened up the interview stating that she would be taking the bus for her internship. The owner explained that for the first time he realized how the bus service (or lack thereof) dictated where she was going to work and that public transportation was going to be a factor in her career choices. Interestingly, she wasn’t applying for a minimum wage job; this was a young woman one year away from a college degree.

There are a variety of other reasons to support transit, including economic development opportunities, permanent jobs, environmental benefits, and other quality of life enhancements. However, the reality is that a truly sustainable region is a city at work, where all of us have the equal opportunity to earn a living. Without transit, that equality is lacking. Everyone deserves the right to get to work.

Puckett is principal of two21 LLC and a member of Indiana Citizens’ Alliance for Transit.

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Social Enterprise in Indiana

Principal Ryan Puckett worked with RecycleForce President Gregg Keesling on the following opinion editorial published for the June 13, 2012 edition of Indianapolis Business Journal. The article promotes the need to foster more social enterprise in Central Indiana to help tackle social problems and create jobs.

Putting the Heart in the Heartland

By Gregg Kessling

Upon the birth of the social enterprise model in the early 1970s, it just seemed like a good thing to do. Organizations like Delancy Street out of San Francisco strived to empower people with problems to become the solution.

The next wave of socially conscious endeavors aligned with the environmental movement, especially in the form of businesses making gourmet and artisan foods, the kind of goodies you’d find at a farmer’s market. Ben & Jerry’s and its eco-minded ice cream factory really signaled the rise of social enterprise on the East Coast.

But is the social enterprise model ready to take advantage of the industrial and manufacturing infrastructure and heritage embedded in the middle of the country?

Organizations like Green for All, which advocates for growing the green economy, have convinced me the answer to this question is, “Yes!” We’re never going to win the battle for environmental justice if it’s embraced only on the coasts. The mission of RecycleForce—which employs ex-offenders to collect and sort recyclables—is a model of what social enterprise can look like in the Midwest.

In November, Green For All released its Communities of Practice report at our location on the east side of Indianapolis. Its report illustrated the need for green social enterprises and highlighted RecycleForce as a promising model.

We admire Green For All for the courage to launch its report in the Midwest, where concepts that are socially centric are too often (incorrectly) labeled as socialism. However, our model reduces recidivism, strengthens families, and saves taxpayer dollars. As part of a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Labor, our results will help leaders craft smart policies to address re-entry. With the help of Green For All, we hope others are inspired to learn and follow what we are doing at RecycleForce.

A few months ago, Kabira Stokes of Los Angeles came to visit RecycleForce. Stokes has a passion for civil rights issues and a firm belief in the importance of second chances. She’s convinced there is little room for new businesses without a social mission.

She came to learn about our operation with the intent to essentially replicate our social enterprise model in California, where the rate of recidivism is the highest in the United States. I’m thrilled she is copying our success.

Then I began to connect all these dots, like my model for the modern agitator, Frank Zappa. I realized more businesses need to recycle and hire ex-offenders. We need to foster the social enterprise movement by re-creating our own model right here in the Midwest. There is so much e-waste to be recycled and we ought to be the operation collecting it and helping ex-offenders in neighboring cities and states along the way.

We’re growing new RecycleForce outposts. We’ve started to do so near Evansville, and in Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville and Columbus, Ohio. It is early in the process, but we believe folks in these cities can do what Isidore Recycling is trying to do in California.

In addition to growing these programs, our next steps include leading an effort to create a local chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance and we hope to grow Midwest membership in the Social Venture Network. Both organizations can become valuable resources for growing the Midwest social enterprise movement.

So get ready, America. You haven’t seen heart till you’ve seen it come out of the Heartland.

Keesling is president of RecycleForce.

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With Environmental and Social Justice for All

I was pleased to work with RecycleForce President Gregg Keesling on this opinon piece for the RecycleForce blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

I love planet earth. I think it’s a cool place and I like living on it. But I must admit that I struggle a little when my friends and colleagues talk about “saving the planet” or “protecting the environment” without talking about saving our citizens.

I know we have enormous environmental challenges before us, but the conclusion I’ve come to is that we can’t ask people to protect the earth if they don’t have a job.

Read the full post here: With Environmental and Social Justice for All

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Op-Ed on Sustainability

Since July 2011, I have been working with the Hoosier Environmental Council as the organization’s PR/media consultant. During the summer, HEC Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda led an effort to unite several advocacy groups and not-for-profits with an interest in sustainability. The coalition made every attempt to insert sustainability issues into the conversation surrounding the race for Mayor of Indianapolis.

The most recent effort is perhaps the most visible – an op-ed appearing in The Indianapolis Star on behalf of HEC and its coalition partners: American Institute of Architects-IndianapolisEarth Charter IndianaFriends of the White RiverGreen Broad RippleGrowing Places Indy, Health by Design, an Alliance for Health Promotion InitiativeHoosier Chapter – Sierra ClubImproving Kids’ EnvironmentIndiana Citizens’ Alliance for TransitIndiana Public Health AssociationIndiana Recycling CoalitionIndyCogIndyHubIrvington Green InitiativeLeague of Women Voters-IndianapolisLocal Initiatives Support CorporationMidtown IndianapolisThe Earth House Collective, and U.S. Green Building Council-Indiana Chapter.

I’m proud to have played a role in the publishing of this piece, doing much of the research, writing and melding of ideas together. I had a great deal of help too, especially from Jesse.

The op-ed can be found on IndyStar.com. I’m also pasting it below.

Our View: Take us to next level with vision of sustainability

November 4, 2011

Months before the first debate between the leading mayoral candidates, an unprecedented coalition of organizations convened with the determination to make sustainability — for the first time — a core theme of the next Indianapolis mayoral administration.

With all of the public debates in the rearview mirror, the race for mayor is near the end. Our organizations believe that sustainability — issues such as air and water quality, energy use, land use, recycling, availability of locally grown food, and lower impact transportation options — lies at the heart of Indianapolis’ future prosperity. It intersects with many of the aims that are core to the mayor’s role, including job creation, economic development, neighborhood development, public health and public safety.

We recognize a bipartisan commitment to making our city more sustainable exists. We appreciate Mayor Greg Ballard for his support of the Office of Sustainability and its initiatives in energy efficiency, urban gardens and bike lanes. We also appreciate Melina Kennedy’s “Sustainability Vision for Indianapolis” and her graduate training in environmental science.

Whichever candidate emerges as the victor — and our groups are not making endorsements — Mr. or Ms. Mayor has a unique opportunity to accelerate our movement toward sustainability in Indianapolis, and use the mayor’s “bully pulpit,” as President Theodore Roosevelt was fond of saying, to rally the public.

As part of a multiyear vision for Indianapolis, we urge our next mayor to embrace specific measures for how Indianapolis stacks up to its peer cities on various sustainability measures, such as bike lane density, proximity to farmers’ markets and recycling rates. We urge our next mayor to develop a compelling, fiscally responsible plan that underscores a commitment to make Indianapolis a city that truly rivals our peers in sustainability. At stake is the competition for talent and investment, which — in a tough economy — becomes even more challenging.

According to research by CEOs for Cities, “Two-thirds of mobile, educated, young adults are choosing the places they want to live before they choose their jobs. College-educated 25- to 34-year-olds want to live in cities that are clean, attractive, green and safe.”

As a great city, we can no longer be satisfied with the view that improving transit is important; we need a champion who will say, “We need dedicated funding to expand transit and I’m prepared to fight for it.” We need a message from the mayor’s office that not only is air quality important, but it’s worth committing dedicated resources to enhance our city’s ability to fight air pollution. We need our next mayor to not only fight for clean energy jobs, but to push for policy change at the Statehouse that empowers our city to invest more in clean energy.

We need a mayor who not only is committed to increasing and improving bike-friendly infrastructure, but will provide safeguards for bikers, pedestrians and motorists. We need a mayor who not only supports urban farming, but also expands the scope of urban agriculture to enhance food access and encourage food culture entrepreneurship. We need a comprehensive approach to assessing and remediating brownfields in such a way that encourages neighborhood revitalization and fosters economic development. We need a mayor who will not only repair the broken process for responding to illegal dumping, but also seek tougher penalties for dumpers and work with the health department and neighborhoods to prevent dumping and effectively enforce dumping laws. We need a mayor who will look seriously at best practices in building a sustainable infrastructure and create incentives to put those practices into action.

A few decades ago, Mayor Bill Hudnut made a commitment for Indianapolis to dust off its undesirable reputation as Naptown and transform the city into a vibrant, clean and dynamic city that delights its residents and pleasantly surprises its visitors. Indianapolis has largely achieved that thanks to vision and commitment.

Our next mayor, whoever prevails, has an opportunity to allow sustainability to play a key role in taking our city to the next level. And we believe that with focus, fiscal discipline, and a passion from the bully pulpit, he or she can harness the energies of our community to give our peer cities a run for their money, and continue our city’s upward climb.

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The Great Green Hope

Since the summer of 2009, I have had the pleasure of writing blog posts for IndyHub, an organization aimed helping Indianapolis residents in their 20s and 30s get more connected, involved, and energized. My posts are about sustainability and I’ve titled the column, The Great Green Hope. I intend to link those posts here on my blog going forward and hope that you’ll check them out!

I just posted a new one today about why and how the Indianapolis Colts should green their game. Check it out – The Great Green Hope: A Green Challenge for the Boys in Blue.

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Four Reasons to Hold a News Conference

A few weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made headlines by announcing that the Fed would hold a news conference. You read that right, he made news by announcing he’d have news to share. This was news because banks, investors, lenders, economists and the financial media hang on the Fed’s every move.

Too often, executives want their public relations team to arrange for a news conference to make an announcement, share a milestone, issue a statement, etc. But a news conference may not be appropriate and it’s important to keep in mind that news conferences aren’t necessarily newsworthy.

(BTW, I prefer to use news conference over press conference, because press doesn’t accurately describe the audience you are trying to attract.)

So when do you actually need to hold a news conference? Here are four reasons:

  1. You have news that everybody wants to know about. These tend to be best served for major economic development announcements, a serious public safety issue, response to a major organizational crisis, any announcement for a product that begins with a lowercase “i” and a few other scenarios. Bottom line: The more people affected by the announcement, the more appropriate the news conference.
  2. You expect the media to have many of the same questions. The main point of a news conference is expediency. If you can have a few phone conversations or face-to-face meetings with a few journalists, you don’t need a news conference. Bottom line: If you expect drones of media to be calling and asking you the same questions, hold a news conference.
  3. You have a visual. This is especially true for working with television news. Nothing is more boring to a television news director than a bunch of talking heads behind a podium in a drab meeting room at a hotel or convention center reading a verbose speech written lots self-serving statements. The same holds true for the whole large check and ribbon cutting with extra large scissors. Those might be good for your own website, e-newsletter or even a printed newsletter or magazine, but they don’t make the news because if the media did that, that’s all they would have time to cover. Bottom line: If you have a visual that people must see for themselves, hold a news conference.
  4. You have a guest speaker with serious media cache. If your spokesperson is a well-respected professional and highly regarded in their field, guess what – the general public still doesn’t know who they are! If your spokesperson is a local celebrity who is in the news all the time or not necessarily a household name, even that person might not be a draw. Most local news outlets are appealing to the general public. Bottom line:  If your spokesperson is somebody the media and the general public is hungry to hear from, arrange for a news conference.

So if you shouldn’t hold a news conference, what should you do? A simple pitch is likely the best route. In today’s local Indianapolis news, a philanthropic act grabbed headlines. Indy residents woke up to news that Wishard Health Services and Wishard Hospital will get a new name thanks to an extremely generous donation by the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi. Wishard staff could have held a news conference, but they went a different route and it worked!

Other, more guerilla ideas include the flash mob, a rally, or some other publicity “stunt”.

The other popular method these days: the tweet. Yes, with 140 characters you can eliminate worries over scheduling a bunch of busy executives, checking the weather forecast every few minutes, podium and audio rentals, purchasing donuts and coffee, the big check and the big scissors.

When do you think a news conference is necessary? What alternatives have worked for you?

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