Communications Approaches My Grandfather Taught Me

Written by FCP Communications on . Posted in Stuff We Like

fa and dan

Today, January 31, is the birthday of my late grandfather, Bernard Berkowitz.  He lived through the Depression, World Wars, and made it to the cusp of the 21st Century.  He had a tremendous sense of humor and a sharp eye for bull.  At various points in his life, he worked in a tiny family grocery store, made money (literally) at the US mint, delivered dentures, and owned and ran a corner bar.

It rocks my world that today is also a celebration of the Chinese New Year – a moment to celebrate life and our ancestors.  It is also the first of the Jewish Lunar Calendar Month of Adar – a time to treasure the silly and topsy-turvy in all of our lives.

In honor of this amazing chronological convergence, here are three lessons from my Grandfather, blended with thoughts on the calendar, to guide our communications thinking.

Find the funny

No meal with Bernie was complete without a few belly laughs, either as the result of a story from his past, or his ability to draw a story out of you.  Or best case, he would just seize the moment to engage our funny bone – and those are the memories that really stick.

All of us as communicators can sometimes lose the funny.  The lesson:  Let’s not take ourselves, our causes, or our products so seriously that we can’t find the humor.  Think about Oreo’s use of the Superbowl blackout as just one example. And if we can’t find it, we can make it.

Try not to blow smoke

The knock on communicators is that we sometimes operate with smoke and mirrors. That in some way we “spin” the truth.  It’s one of the most difficult criticisms to hear as a PR professional.  The question for us to ask is “are we delivering accurate and useful information in a way that can be heard?”

Here’s my take – based on what I learned from Bernie: audiences expect us to shoot straight and be clear with them, regardless of the platform.  We shouldn’t have to rely on their B.S. detector – we should rely on our own judgment well beforehand to make sure our work is straightforward.

Just get it done

The celebration around the Jewish month of Adar relates the story around the holiday of Purim.  At its core, it’s a story about finding yourself in a position to make significant change…and then choosing to risk everything to make it happen to do something positive for humankind.

Bernie felt the same way.  In story after story he shared with us, the crux would always be that nothing happens unless you make it happen.  He was an inspiration that nothing is handed to us as communicators or individuals – we have to work for it.  That’s a lesson we apply everyday.

As communicators, it’s easy to feel we’ve done “enough” to get the message out…but have we?  The Lesson:  There is probably always one more thing you can do to help get your message out there – ask yourself if you’ve done it.

A final thought

FCP’s office is adjacent to Oakland’s Chinatown. Outside our office today, the air is clouded with firecrackers from the Chinese New Year celebration. Each “POP” of a firecracker for me is a moment to reflect on what I learned from Bernie and a moment to think about how I can put it into practice for our clients and causes.

Another Face of the New War on Poverty

Written by FCP Communications on . Posted in Stuff We Like

The statistics are staggering.  $15 Billion cut from California’s programs to serve those in need.  200,000 Alameda County residents living below the Federal Poverty Line.  250,000 Alameda County residents went hungry last year – half of them children.

The War on Poverty goes beyond the statistics and touches lives.  This film, another in the series developed for the Human Impact Budget Project, highlights Sharon Rhinehart’s journey.  Sharon was in foster care and battled homelessness when she aged out of the system.  Today, she is a mother and on the path toward rebuilding her life.  Her story is a positive one – an example of what happens when our social safety net catches families and individuals going through tough times.

Foster youth are at great risk in our society.  Sharon bravely shares her story and serves as a model for how we can wage the New War on Poverty.


Faces of the New War on Poverty

Written by FCP Communications on . Posted in communications, Stuff We Like

As calendars turned to 2014, many marked the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty.  The 1964 political push matched the stories and faces of income inequality with the start of a series of public policies meant to impact lives. Part of what made the War on Poverty so compelling were the personal stories that helped to move legislators and the public. That lesson wasn’t lost on local leaders.

This week, FCP helped Alameda County launch two important initiatives.  The first is “The New War on Poverty” led by Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan.  In her words, the effort is meant to use new tools, technology and resources to help turn the tide against the growing income inequality – which in many census tracts is worse than in 1964.

In addition, FCP also helped to launch Alameda County’s new “Human Impact Budget” website.  It asks Alameda County residents and others to “Experience the Stories. Get the Facts. Take Action.”  

It features dozens of personal stories that put a face on the impacts of relentless budget cuts.  It also provides a message of hope, in the voices of Alameda residents, for what modest investments in the community can yield for all of us. For a powerful start, you can watch Judy Nguyen’s Story.

Please take a moment to enjoy this first video – we’ll post more in the weeks ahead.  And let’s hope we do more to transform lives in the next 50 years.

Steal a page from the newsroom: build an editorial calendar

Written by FCP Communications on . Posted in Stuff We Like


Our friends at LightBox Collaborative just released their 2014 editorial calendar, designed to help you become your own publishing powerhouse.

We share LightBox’s view that today’s nonprofits succeed when they craft their own content — and then share it across multiple channels, from newsletters to Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to blogs and action alerts.

But it can be tough to coordinate all this storytelling, managing deadlines and writers and content parameters. That’s where the editorial calendar comes in.

Giving Thanks (For the Non-Obvious Stuff)

Written by FCP Communications on . Posted in Stuff We Like, Uncategorized


As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, its a great moment to reflect on gratitude.  At FCP, we are thankful for our clients and the work they ask us to do.  We are also grateful for our collaborators, colleagues and friends.  As individuals, we are thankful for our family, our health and our community.  So, in honor of the day, we wanted to share some non-obvious things we are thankful for.

Hey, FCP team…what are you thankful for?

Edit: Gorgeous walks to and from work. I am so lucky to live right near Lake Merritt and walk to work every morning. I am greeted with sunshine reflecting off the water in the morning and the “necklace of lights” that encircles Lake Merritt in the evening. Top that off with a view of the Cathedral of Light, and what more could a girl ask for?

Debra: Dialectical Thinking, Perseverance, & the Bay Area

Zoe: the tasty cappuccinos at Modern Coffee

Sarah: I was able to visit Mendocino County for the first time.

Josh (The Intern): Good Bay Area sports teams/ESPN Insider, cooking, music and the Internet

Dan: Great fiction, SportsCenter, Spotify, and the 24/7 news cycle (sometimes). And given that the confluence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah won’t happen again for 70,000 years, I’m thankful for seeing this happen as well.

Happy Thanksgiving friends!