August 2, 2013
By Tom Hayden
As a former professional political communicator, I’ve managed and staffed my fair share of events with elected officials, with big titles such as mayor, representative, senator, governor and even president. One thing that always becomes clear at these types of events is the difference between those staffers who are there to get their personal photo op and those who are there to get the job done. While it is easy to get your head turned among so much excitement, I’ve always held the most respect for those who are more willing to forgo the personal glory in order make sure the event is successful. I was reminded of this again as colleague Sam Kennedy and I helped client Amazon prepare for a presidential event at its Chattanooga Fulfillment Center this week.
Instead of strategizing about ways in which we could be close to the president, Sam and I spent our drive down from Nashville discussing ways to ensure our client’s needs and message didn’t get lost. Once on-site, we set about getting our tasks done, from working with national and local media to helping with staging and working with a wonderful team of Amazon volunteers who played key roles in the event.
With an event of this magnitude, we were interacting with varied interests from the White House, Amazon and the media; but Sam and I kept our focus.
While I wish I had a photo of us smiling with the president, I am more proud of the photo at the top of this post showing a successful event that clearly kept our client front and center. After all, one of MP&F’s mottos is to fulfill our promise to do great work for our clients.
MP&F has received many awards and honors over the past 26 years, and we are proud of all of them. We’re especially proud of our most recent honor – being named one of The Tennessean’s “Top Workplaces” as voted on by our employees – because it means we are succeeding in maintaining one of our core values.
Early on, the firm’s partners committed to creating the kind of workplace for their employees that each of them would want to work in – a place that rewarded creativity and perseverance, that balanced hard work with fun, that treated everyone as family.
We believe strongly that maintaining that kind of work environment translates directly into producing the best work possible for our clients, and that’s what our business is all about. That’s what determines our success.
Here’s a sampling of what MP&F staff members say about working here:
Senior Account Executive
MP&F is a great place to work for hundreds of reasons – the great partners that lead the firm, the incredibly talented staff we have, our long list of diverse and wonderful clients; but my favorite thing about working at MP&F (and what has kept me here for nine years) is the team-oriented culture we have. Our “all-for-one and one-for-all” dedication to the firm, each other and our clients is irreplaceable. We work damn hard, we work together, and we have a lot of fun doing it.
A lot of companies pay lip service to being family-friendly; but here at MP&F, it is ingrained in the company culture. It’s not just that the partners have family-friendly policies – it’s that they truly care about people and understand that giving employees the flexibility to take care of their families is an asset, not a liability, for the company. For me personally, their willingness to allow me to work around family commitments makes me want to work that much harder for them. It makes me extremely dedicated and loyal to this firm, and it makes me feel appreciated as a person, not just as an employee.
I first walked into this office 20 years ago as a summer college intern. Since then I have been involved in amazingly important and meaningful work in Nashville and around the world, while surrounded by the smartest and most creative people in town. Over the years, my bosses became my friends and my friends have become my bosses. I feel very fortunate to have bosses and co-workers who truly care about my family and me, not to mention they are just fun to be around every day.
In short, we work hard and play hard around here. We take our work very seriously, but try not to take ourselves too seriously. We get the job done and have a good time while doing it. Did someone say “beer cart”?
There are so many things that make MP&F a great place to work, but a big one is the formal and informal benefits – they are tremendous. MP&F pays 100 percent of individual employee insurance, 100 percent of parking and offers a generous vacation package. Beyond that, the partners often give additional paid days off around Christmas. And this year, with July 4 on Thursday, they announced we would all get Friday off as well. Some of our younger staff may take those added benefits for granted; but as someone who knows this is not the norm, I sure don’t.
When I interviewed with MP&F three months ago, I constantly heard about its “open-door policy.” I didn’t really know what that meant until I was able to experience it firsthand. From day one I have felt welcome to go to any staff member, from a fellow SA all the way to a partner, with any question I could possibly have. I feel challenged, supported and motivated on a daily basis. I am constantly learning something new or being exposed to a different scope of this crazy industry we call public relations. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that your supervisors want you to do well, not only for the company’s success, but because they genuinely want you to succeed individually as well.
It’s hard to put into words what makes MP&F so special. To me, MP&F is a really great team that’s a lot like a family. I’ve always believed that when the MP&F team works together we can accomplish anything for our clients. That feeling of family and team comes from working with and for people who always are willing to jump in and help, whether it’s with planning a client event or developing a new idea. It’s a special place, and I feel really fortunate to be a small part of it.
Senior Account Executive
MP&F is not the best place to work for everyone. I don’t get to wear jeans every day, I don’t have a business card with a made-up title on it, and there’s only free beer in the break room, like, once a month. But, from the day I was hired I was encouraged to have ideas, share them and put them into action. My colleagues and I work in an environment where staff members at all levels – from interns to partners – are empowered to have a hand on the agency’s steering wheel. We like coming to work every day because we made this office the way it is.
Associate Account Executive
MP&F is one of the best places to work because I work with some of the most talented, smartest and hardworking people I’ve ever met. When I step off the elevator each morning, I know that the day ahead will include a lot of work, but I’m comforted in knowing that I’m a part of a great team. MP&F is my first “real job” since graduating from college, but I wouldn’t want to start my public relations career anywhere else because I’ve grown a lot and I’m learning more and more about the industry each day.
June 21, 2013
By Roger Shirley, Editorial Director
One of the goals of a good writer should be to not raise questions in your copy that you don’t answer, a point I emphasize when talking to our younger staffers.
It’s something that was ingrained in me early in my career by a crusty old newspaper editor who had a tendency of mixing heavy doses of screaming and cussing with his insightful coaching.
I remember distinctly the day he called me over to the desk as he edited one of my stories. “Shirley, what the hell does this mean?” he asked with a snarl. I was about 12 words into trying to explain it when he interrupted me, yelling even louder, no doubt to send waves of fear through the other cub reporters within earshot. “Well, we have two options here. You can either add that to your story now, or you can get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and start calling 38,000 people to tell them what it means.”
Good writers anticipate the questions their readers will ask and answer them, whether it is in a news story, a news release, a letter to employees or a memo to a client. Good writers understand that, when they raise a question, they must either answer it or go back and write around it so as not to raise the question. (Sometimes, the latter just doesn’t cut it.)
If you say that “Tennessee has the second-highest consumption rate per capita of Chili Cheese Pups in the nation,” you had better follow that up with which state tops the list, because that is the immediate question raised. If for some reason you don’t know and can’t find out (unlikely in this digital day and age), then you must recast the sentence. “Tennessee has one of the highest consumption rates of Chili Cheese Pups per capita in the nation” works nicely. It generally makes the point, without raising the question.
The problem with not answering questions you raise, beyond the informational aspect of it, is that it often prompts readers to stop reading and to start bouncing around in the copy trying to find the answer – or worse, pay a visit to Mr. Google, never to return to your carefully crafted prose. And for a writer, few things are worse than losing the reader.
When self-editing your drafts, it’s important to try as much as possible to read them from a reader’s perspective and not a writer’s perspective, to ask the questions a reader would ask and see if you have answered them.
That’s easier said than done, of course, which is why there will always be a role for editors, crusty or not.