Meet Heathere Evans-Keenan, Public Relations Entrepreneur: The Power Of Communications In Business

Heathere Evans-Keenan, Keenan PR

As a 20-something reporter working for the NBC affiliate in her hometown of San Diego, California, Heathere Evans-Keenan knew her career path laid in media relations–an interest recently acknowledged with her 2011 Washington PR Woman of the Year award. Evans-Keenan now works as an executive media and speaker training leader.

For the last 18 years, the president and founder of Keenan PR has spearheaded public relations campaigns for a dynamic mix of human and organizational clients, including: a friend in need of a lung transplant, a former nuclear weapons plant, a telecom tycoon, a large community banking association, a technology giant, the family of a murder victim and large public trade companies.

In the following interview with WashingtonExec, Keenan discussed how she became a successful entrepreneur  and how mobility and social media are reshaping the PR landscape. We also asked Keenan about her PR Woman of the Year win and for her advice regarding what a corporation should do after receiving bad press.

WashingtonExec: What did you think when you learned that you won the 2011 Washington PR Woman of the Year award?

Heathere Evans-Keenan: What? Oh no! Is there kale in my teeth?

The announcement was made at the end of a wonderful lunch program hosted annually by Washington Women in PR, so what other response is there before you take the stage in front of so many respected colleagues and mentors?

The thought that immediately followed was that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of WWPR. There are a ton of institutions in Washington that do great work, but I believe WWPR is especially important because it does so much to elevate the communications profession. Up-and-comer communicators need resources and mentors to help set a standard of excellent to emulate, and this is one organization in town that does it well.

—————————————————————————————–

The fact is 94 percent of an executive’s day is spent in communications-related activities. The reputation of the organization relies on its executive’s ability to effectively communicate.

—————————————————————————————-

WashingtonExec: What can you tell us about the role of a female president or CEO?  What advice can you give other women who are in executive positions?

Heathere Evans-Keenan: For every rule about how females communicate differently than males, there are a thousand exceptions. I find it more useful to understand that different people have different ways of communicating and require different approaches. My advice for executives is to master the art and science of communicating. The fact is 94 percent of an executive’s day is spent in communications-related activities. The reputation of the organization relies on its executive’s ability to effectively communicate.

Discover what you are unwittingly communicating with your non-verbals, and learn about what factors play into making you credible and believable. Doing this is essential to your ability to earn and keep trust, as well as motivate and inspire those around you to do great things.

WashingtonExec: What is the hardest part about starting your own company?

Heathere Evans-Keenan: If you’ve started your own company, you should be very clear on your offering to the marketplace, but one of the biggest challenges is getting everyone else sold on your Big Idea.

Successfully branding and marketing your company is often one of the biggest factors in long-term success. My advice is to hire expert help—even if you are a skilled marketer by trade.

Remember, as CEO you’re too close to do the best positioning work for the organization. An outsider perspective is often just what you need to give your company its best start. I did this for my own company and have brought in marketing exerts several times over the last 12 years to help keep our brand fresh.

WashingtonExec: What advice can you give to companies that are struggling to rebuild a reputation after some bad PR?

Heathere Evans-Keenan: Any organization struggling with rebuilding its public image has learned the hard way that the saying “all publicity is good publicity” is an archaic and arguably irresponsible notion. To rebuild public trust, you must go back to basic rules. My favorite Edward R. Murrow quote comes to mind:

To be persuasive, you must be believable.
To be believable, you must be credible.
To have credibility, you must be truthful.

With the truth on your side, here is a 10-step guide for companies in crisis to help regain credibility:

1)    Face the facts, don’t try to hide them.

2)    Assign a consistent person to be responsible for press relations.

3)    Take problems seriously and respond quickly.

4)    Remain calm. Emphasize action. Provide context. Be positive.

5)    Consider the public interest in every operating decision.

6)    Perform dress rehearsals before speaking engagements with large groups or interviews with journalists.

7)    Make sure that everyone in the company is expressing the same view by sharing your key messages and answers to key questions with all employees.

8)    Have a colleague or hired expert act as an objective observer at important interviews and privately review your performance afterward.

9)    Don’t expect to win all the time. Communications, particularly during a crisis, will likely have a zinger or two.

10) Be human.

—————————————————————————————-

Successfully branding and marketing your company is often one of the biggest factors in long-term success. My advice is to hire expert help—even if you are a skilled marketer by trade.

—————————————————————————————–

WashingtonExec: What book has had the greatest impact on you? Why?

Heathere Evans-Keenan: Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis. Through case studies from the Manhattan Project to Disney and Apple, it gives a variety of examples of how some of the most successful groups have built truly excellent teams and fostered creative collaboration like no other business or leadership book I’ve read. This book was an inspiration to me as I chose a virtual agency business model for my firm, rather than the more traditional bricks-and-mortar approach.

WashingtonExec: How has the change from print to online media changed your industry? How has mobile/social media changed the landscape of PR?

Heathere Evans-Keenan: Most simply, changes in the media—from print, to online to social—have given communicators more targeted tools to add to our public relations and marketing toolkits. We now have more outlets for building brands and engaging with customers.

Most importantly, however, is that these new tools have given us additional means of listening to customers and prospects. That is the most significant impact: giving public relations experts the ability to change the course and manner of their programs based on new feedback mechanisms and more meaningful, two-way communication with target audiences.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to The DailyGet federal business news & insights delivered to your inbox.