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LUCID’s CEO Talks Small Business and Public Policy

June 3rd, 2014 |

Small businesses are considered the backbone of the United States’ economy. Broad legislation is sure to have an impact on these scrappy companies and it is crucial to find a minimum wage balance that small businesses can afford, while giving workers a livable income. LUCID Public Relations, who represents entrepreneurs and start-ups, has seen this topic widely effect its clients. LUCID’s CEO, Jonathan Franks, appeared on HuffPost Live alongside Oregon Labor Commissioner, Brad Avakian, this week to discuss the impact public policy has on small businesses. Take a look!

LUCID Public Relations on HuffPost Live

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Montel Williams On The VA Scandal: A National Outrage That is Merely a Symptom of a Greater Problem

May 26th, 2014 |

MW3 Having served 22 years in the military before beginning my career in television, words do not exist to adequately express how enraged I am at  this egregious failure of leadership and breakdown of process. A delay in care for our veterans is shameful in and of itself; however, the  apparent existence of a widespread scheme to avoid disclosure of the backlog is nothing short of a travesty. Veterans have reportedly died as a  proximate result of this political game of hide-a-cup and the resulting national outrage is deservedly swift and fierce. We owe a lifetime  commitment to those who have risked their lives for the freedoms afforded to us on a daily basis and this commitment should be a matter of  national pride – a staple of who we are and what we stand for as American citizens.
Certainly, those responsible for this atrocity should be held to account. The families of those who have suffered and died needlessly deserve nothing less. Yet, as history has proven time and time again, our political system prefers to focus on finger pointing rather than solving problems. Amidst the endless debating of whether or not the Secretary should resign, what everyone seems to have missed is that we desperately need to take the patients – OUR veterans – OFF THE BATTLEFIELD, especially the political one. Convincing ourselves that stripping someone of their title or position is an actual solution to the greater problem at hand is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a freshly lost limb: it solves absolutely nothing. Instead, lawmakers need to roll up their sleeves and do some real work together.

We have been at war for nearly thirteen years, and while our troops were on the front lines  receiving mortar fire and avoiding cleverly hidden IED’s, we had plenty of time to plan for the  increased cumulative stress on the VA system. Yes, the VA budget has increased to “record” highs  in recent years, but to suggest that it has expanded enough to account for the amplified strain  placed on the system by the fighting in the Middle East is illogical at best and downright deceitful at  its core. Considering this, what steps can we take to ensure that the VA receives the funding it  deserves and if it does, what assurances do we have that the increased expenditures will be used to  clear the existing backlog as opposed to subsidizing more waste?

I’ve not deluded myself to think that I can adequately answer these questions on my own, and at  the same time – given the state of our political system – I’m not sure we ought to place any trust in  Congress or the VA to answer them either. Does that mean we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place? If so, let’s be clear that it will be of our own making. Consider this thought – what if the President were to order the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, whomever it be, in collaboration with the Secretaries of Defense and HHS,  to within thirty days report back with plans to execute a 90 day “surge” using the existing healthcare resources of the various Departments and such civilian support as may be necessary to entirely clear the backlog and establish a baseline such that we can accurately judge the resources needed to provide timely care to every veteran and honor the commitment that seems sadly to have been broken. If need be, Congress should appropriate such funds as may be necessary to do so.

In many ways, finger pointing is the smartest political move. It looks good to the masses and checks off the proverbial due diligence boxes. Better yet it distracts people from the far bigger task at hand: figuring out how to meet the rising demand for healthcare services at the VA. One CBO analyst predicted that it may require as much as a 75 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. With many in Congress bent on indiscriminately cutting the federal budget at all costs, I seriously question whether our elected leaders have the courage in sufficient numbers to even begin to tackle this issue if they know the end result could be spending more money.

This is alarmingly contradictory, as we’ve repeatedly seen that Congress has no problem routinely wasting billions of dollars on airplanes that the military doesn’t want and funneling taxpayer dollars into any number of other ridiculously inflated and unnecessary programs – eliminating just a few would likely be sufficient to fund what I propose here. Therefore, I simply refuse to accept the notion that we lack sufficient resources to fund something so pivotal to who we all claim to be as Americans.

This problem is not new, nor is it limited to this President, this Secretary or this Congress. In fact the President’s speech this week simply illustrates the problem and the need to take veterans off the battlefield. The President’s remarks last week could have been taken to imply that the Government’s steadfast refusal to stand behind some of blue water Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange was fixed – it is not – imagine how many of the 75,000 or so veterans in that category called in thinking they would finally get help only to be heartbroken yet again? Even one is too many for me, and it’s just one example of decades of mismanagement when it comes to the care of our veterans.

One thing I know for sure is that there are few obligations more fundamentally American than the keeping our collective promise, a sacred one in my opinion, to care for those who have served and are currently serving. As you read this, whether it be while sipping your coffee or lounging in your comfortable chair, consider that at this very moment some active duty enlisted man or woman is hunkered down in a country you’ve only seen pictures of avoiding incoming fire. At the same time, an aging veteran lives every day suffering from service related injuries of wars past– that is the human cost of the freedom you’re exercising right now. How dare we not do everything in our power to hold up our end of the bargain? A powerful question and one I hope we all take time to consider with Memorial Day upon us – saying “I support the troops” used to be in vogue, it’s time we mean it.

Montel Williams served 22 years in the Military, first in the enlisted ranks as a Marine before entering the Naval Academy and being commissioned a Naval Officer – he retired a Lieutenant Commander before launching his career in television.

What’s Your Story?

May 26th, 2014 |

(Article first published in The Huffington Post by Molly Reynolds)

A couple years ago, I was the Chief Marketing Officer for a high-end surgery center in Los Angeles. And at least one day out of the week, my morning went a little something like this:

Hernia Surgeon comes bursting into my office in an angry sweat:

“Do you know who I saw on the news this morning? (My arch nemesis) Dr. So-and-So! I went to school with that guy and he sucks! I am a WAY better surgeon. Why did they choose him?!”

And after offering him seat and a warm croissant, I’d calmly explain. “Well…THAT guy clearly has a good publicist.”

Yep. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, publicists aren’t just for celebrities and authors anymore — even hernia doctors have them. And business owners who know what’s up are following suit.

In this digital age we live in, consumers are absolutely inundated with information and it is easy to get a little ADD. Back in the day, we used to be able to take out a commercial for our business — but since the invention of Tivo, how many viewers are actually recording their shows and fast forwarding through the commercials? In this world of short attention spans, are you going to take out a full-page, sexy, glossy print ad in a national magazine? Unless you’re Coca Cola or Maybelline, you’ll most likely find your marketing dollars at the bottom of a trashcan, alongside that forgotten ad. Publicity can be significantly less expensive than advertising and has a greater impact.

“Every business requires publicity to succeed,” says Ben Cooke, one of the owners of LUCID Public Relations – a firm that specializes in placing start-ups, experts, and businesses in national media. “That could mean word-of-mouth, referrals, involvement in the neighborhood or involvement in community activities. No business can function without relating to the public in some way.”

One of LUCID’s clients is Give Forward, which is a fundraising website like Kickstarter, but for medical bills. Based on that description, are you going to check out their site? Well, maybe you would if you saw MSN’s heartbreaking story of Nolan and Morgan, a couple getting married despite the husband having a terminal illness and how Give Forward helped give them the honeymoon of their lives. Or the numerous features in Yahoo, CNN, and the Associated Press about the work Give Forward has done to raise money for victims of the Boston Bombing. Because of proper publicity, this incredible company is showcased for what it is and has raised tens of millions of dollars during the last eight months for people in need.

Bottom line: you need publicity. And there are effective ways to do it yourself. If that’s the route you are going to go, here are some things you need to be aware of:

Identify your target audience and find out what they are reading and watching the most. For example, if you make nail polish, your target is mostly women between the ages of 14-30. So you’d want to look at platforms like Marie Claire, Glamour, Elle, etc.

Study those platforms. Pay attention to the stories they cover and really watch the style of communication. Make sure the story you are telling is media appropriate for the audience and write your pitch in the style of the platform. For instance, if you’re pitching to CNN, you probably want to refrain from using phrases like “Awesome-sauce!” or “Wicked fresh!” — though those might be totally appropriate for Maxim.

Tell a great story starting with a compelling subject line. The subject line is what gets your email opened, so make it enticing. “I Lost 250 Pounds by Eating at the 99 Cent Store” was an effective conversation opener for media sensation, Papa Joe – who has been featured on Good Morning America, Yahoo, Reuters, and most recently The Rachel Ray Show. One of the reasons he became so widely popular is that so many people could relate to being overweight and his story inspired them.

To sum it up, we all love a great story. And you have a story to tell — you just have to find the best way to mesmerize your audience with it and you’ll be golden.

How Emotionally Intelligent Are YOU?

May 26th, 2014 |

(First published in Yahoo! Small Business)

Between the hours of nine and five, should you care that one of your employees may be going through a divorce or have a loved one battling cancer?

“Leave your personal life at the door,” isn’t that what good managers advise?

We all know the most effective employees are stoic, logical, and even clinical when navigating the corporate world, right?

Ha. Maybe in the 1950’s. The “good old days” when people were treated like machines and emotions were a sign of weakness.

And how about that eight hour work day? It’s been proven to be the absolute most effective system of turning out the highest quality of productive employees…hasn’t it?

Uh, no. The eight hour work day was invented by Robert Owen to improve extreme working conditions during the Industrial Revolution – when factories were working their employees to the bone and paying them pennies. It certainly was better than what those 18th century workers were used to…but is a staunch 8-hour day, 5 days a week the best way to get the premium work out of your modern-day employees?

It seems that cultivating a happy work environment has been a rising trend among start-ups ever since Tony Hsieh founded Zappos and became obsessed with creating a strong company culture. Flexible work environments have been proven to reduce stress, enhance employee engagement, and improve their physical and mental health – all leading to a boost in productivity.

Across the United States, there are prestigious awards for companies with the best work environments and the qualifications tend to all revolve around the same things:

1.       Relationship with Supervisor

2.       Job Title Satisfaction

3.       Flexible Work Environment

4.       Employee Engagement

What do all these traits have in common? On closer inspection, all of them really depend on the emotional intelligence (EQ) of the CEO and those employees hired. Emotional intelligence is becoming a buzzword in the corporate world. In fact, more managers are starting to value emotional intelligence over IQ.

Let’s examine the above traits as they relate to EQ, shall we?

Relationship with Supervisor.

The emotionally intelligent boss must understand that he/she is managing human beings…not robots. A human being’s lack of performance on a given day could have to do with problems in their personal lives. Having an open, appropriate dialogue between employer and employee is a good thing. This does not mean the employee gets a free pass to do subpar work because he/she drank too much last night or woke up on the wrong side of the bed!  But a healthy amount of understanding from the boss builds a good relationship where employees feel valued, which in turn, makes them want to work harder.

Job Title Satisfaction.

In the interview process, the CEO should have listened to the employee to make sure that the employee’s dreams and goals fell in line with that particular company. This way, the employee feels that their boss is committed to his/her personal growth and success. Trying to fit square pegs in round holes rarely ever leads to a low turn-over rate. Hire emotionally smart.

Flexible Work Environment.

Any good manager of a creative team has the emotional wherewithal to understand that creativity is sometimes elusive. Fostering continuous creativity includes letting your talent work in such a way that is conducive to his/her own creative facilities. Control freaks don’t tend to do very well in this department. If you’ve hired smart, you won’t need to control.

Employee Engagement.

An employee is going to work better on projects they are passionate about and with people they enjoy working with. This all goes back to hiring smart and putting together a team of people who share the same goals / values (company culture) and fit together as a cohesive team.

In considering, building, or revitalizing your company culture, ALWAYS come from a place of emotional intelligence.  It will save you time and money – and also make your work life that much more fulfilling.


Is Social Media Actually Making Us More Social?

May 26th, 2014 |

(First published in The Huffington Post)

No question that social media has revolutionized communication. As a result, are becoming more knowledgeable, more direct, and in a lot of ways, more diversified. But what is going to happen to real, human experiences and interactions in the years to come?

Social media has significantly changed the way many of us operate in our personal and professional lives. Well — some of us more than others! We have all seen people who are so obsessed with pouring their life out on social media that they actually forget how to live it. We complain “that couple” who fights with each other over Facebook, or that bride-to-be who is so swept up in the attention of posting every moment on Instagram — that she forgets to enjoy her engagement. Or even the guy that pretty much just details every move he makes on Twitter: “Just woke up and made some toast. About to mow the lawn. #Saturday.” With this rapid change in online behavior, it is no wonder why some say that social media has totally corrupted us.

You we could choose to think of it that way. Or we could choose to think that social media has actually given us a platform for greater, and more direct communication. Because of social media, we are able to connect with people that we would never have the opportunity to meet, simply because we are allowed access — instead of having to be in the right place at the right time. We’re able to passively share the lives of people we know on Facebook and other social platforms. We COULD see this as an opportunity for greater personal growth.

Reading or hearing about something will never (and SHOULD never) replace really connecting with others through shared experiences. New social media networks are starting to pick up on this trend — using their platform as a tool to allow people to have real life experiences.

Skout is probably the most popular example of this. It is a social media dating site that uses a GPS tracking device to find other singles in your area, view their profiles and decide if you want to meet. It’s similar to Tinder, but a little classier. It seems to be more about making real human connection than simply “hooking up.”

Nexercise is a social exercise app that tracks your gym and eating habits, while keeping you engaged in a social network of other health-conscious friends. It alerts you whenever your friends are currently working out or have reached a milestone in their fitness goals — giving you a huge incentive to stick with your exercise and eating plans. It also promotes friends going to the gym with one another, rather than alone. It’s social and fun if you’re working out (and yeah, it kind of shames you to your friends if you’re not!).

1st Class Fashion is a very new social platform. It was founded by a medical doctor with a passion for fashion and travel. One day while waiting at the airport, he found himself paying close attention to people’s fashion and thought of how cool it would be if people could fly according to their personal style. So he developed this media platform in which people from all over the world can post their fashion pictures and generate “likes.” Those reaching over 300 Likes receive a first class plane ticket to anywhere they would like — so they can actually experience fashion in different cities FIRSTHAND.

Living in a world where limit our communication to 150 characters or less, we should support social media like this and get ourselves out making real personal connections.

Web by Monica Meza