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.
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
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-Indianapolis, Earth Charter Indiana, Friends of the White River, Green Broad Ripple, Growing Places Indy, Health by Design, an Alliance for Health Promotion Initiative, Hoosier Chapter – Sierra Club, Improving Kids’ Environment, Indiana Citizens’ Alliance for Transit, Indiana Public Health Association, Indiana Recycling Coalition, IndyCog, IndyHub, Irvington Green Initiative, League of Women Voters-Indianapolis, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Midtown Indianapolis, The 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
Although my primary business is focused on public relations and strategic communications, I sometimes take on a freelance writing assignment, most often for Indiana Living Green magazine. I find it gives me an opportunity to dig deeper into sustainability issues that I wouldn’t necessarily encounter in my client work.
I also enjoy the chance to turn the tables and play journalist. However, I have to be honest – I’m amazed at how many sub-par PR professionals there are out there, from account executives at small agencies to directors of corporate communications at major companies and organizations.
I don’t claim to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer or J-school classically trained investigative reporter, but the folks who practice public and media relations who blatantly ignore basic, tried-and-true principles marvel me.
For example, if a writer calls you and asks for information or an interview, call them back. I can’t believe I have to say this!
In my most recent assignment I emailed, phoned, left voicemails and even left a message via the assistant of not one, but two, PR executives for a major organization in Indianapolis. Didn’t. Hear. A. Peep.
When I practice media relations I return messages to the smallest of media outlets to the big boys. And I don’t take my sweet time getting back to them either – I’m back in touch with them ASAP because that’s my job. Based on their name appearing as the media contact on their company website, it’s their job too.
The other thing that blows me away is when a PR executive doesn’t follow through. On this same recent story, I spoke with an executive who said she would provide me an answer to my ONE question and I told her my deadline. The deadline came and went but the info never arrived. Upon my follow-up, there was silence – as in no response.
They way I work is like this: If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. And if it’s something I can’t do, I will contact the reporter and let them know if I’m unable to fulfill their request. Call it courtesy if you will, but I call it good PR.
Ever since I began my career in public relations more than 12 years ago, I’ve taken seriously the advice and wisdom of my wiser and more experienced colleagues. Therefore, when I frequent the monthly luncheons of the Hoosier PRSA chapter, attend a “Meet the Media” program, or listen in on a webinar, I sometimes listen to the speaker and think to myself, “Really? Isn’t this obvious advice!? Doesn’t everybody do this?!?”
So if you’re new to PR or you’ve been in the trenches for decades, the lesson of this post is simple – Responding is NOT optional.
Whenever I tell somebody the name of my business, I often hear this, “What is the significance of two21?” or some hybrid of that question.
It’s a fair question. After all, I could have named my business something more obvious or descriptive like Ryan Puckett Communications, RMPR (my middle initial is M), Ryan Puckett Consulting, etc. But those just didn’t do it for me and I settled on two21 LLC.
The name two21 is a reference to one of my favorite movies as a child and it remains a comedy classic – Mr. Mom starring Michael Keaton as reluctant stay-at-home-dad Jack Butler.
There is a scene in the movie in which Jack’s wife is getting picked up in a limo by her new boss, Ron Richardson (played hilariously by Martin Mull).
In a feeble attempt to impress Ron with his machismo, Jack grabs a chainsaw from the shed, puts on a tool belt and dirty clothes, a pair of safety goggles and swaggers into the room where Ron is waiting. He offers Ron a handshake with a live chainsaw in his other hand. After offering Ron a beer and a scotch at 7:30 in the morning, he goes on to tell Ron how he’s going to tear down some walls in the house, add a whole new wing and, of course, re-wire it all himself.
Ron asks, “Yeah? You gonna make it all 220?”
Jack, having no idea what he’s talking about replies: “Yeah. 220… 221, whatever it takes.”
Enter Jack’s wife…
So that’s where the name two21 comes and I like it for my business because a) I think it’s a funny scene and b) I’ll do “whatever it takes” to make a communication project or campaign a success.
After sitting on this name for some time, my wife gave birth to our son on September 26, 2009, at 2:21 a.m. I thought it was serendipitous and provided yet another reason to go with two21 as the name of my business.
With his presence in my life, I’m even more committed to sustainability issues and challenges that confront our American culture. I wish a brighter future for him and I want to support companies and organizations working to make this world a cleaner, healthier, smarter and better place to live.
Hello. My name is Ryan and this is the brand-spanking new blog for two21 LLC. Welcome!
For the past several years, I’ve watched blogging take off. About eight years ago, I remember my wife reading some entertainment journalist’s blog during an awards show. The author was posting live throughout the event. I thought, “why would anyone want to read that?” Apparently my wife, she was guffawing at many of the blogger’s comments.
Eventually, I got it. I figured out why people blog. I even started my own blog just to try and get a laugh out of my friends – sometimes it worked. I blogged steadily for about a year and then it faded into the cyber-distance.
I watched company after company launch blogs and I watched company after company neglect their blog.
More recently, I’ve contributed to other organizations’ blogs as a guest author, regular contributor and vlogger. I’ve attended Blog Indiana, twice. I’ve edited others’ blogs and even debated over the ethics of ghostblogging.
So in this obligatory first blog post for my new business, I want to tell you about what I plan to post. It really comes down to two things: communications and sustainability.
The majority of my posts will revolve around public relations, marking and communications issues and where that intersects with sustainability topics such as conservation, environmental issues, urban ecology, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, recycling, multimodal transportation, improving community health and even education.
Of course, this is my blog and I reserve the right to post whatever I want, change course, whatever.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Tell me what you like and/or what you don’t like. Feel free to agree or disagree. And most importantly, let me know if you there might be an opportunity to work together.
Thanks for reading.