When it comes to getting your message a prominent place in breaking news coverage, the race belongs to the swift.  Reporters are on multiple, tight deadlines, and they often will file stories within minutes of an event like a Supreme Court decision or a presidential appointment.  They’ll want to use a quote or statement from a prominent expert or opinion-maker, but they’re not going to wait around for a press release that takes hours to write, approve and distribute.

I’ve worked with clients to shorten that process down to a matter of minutes.  When the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Janet Yellen as Chair of the Federal Reserve, for example, I had a statement ready from Terry O’Neill, the President of the National Organization for Women (NOW).  We hit “send” on our distribution list the minute that the vote came down, even beating the White House to the punch.  The result?  The New York Times front page coverage included this paragraph:

As a woman, Ms. Yellen will be a rarity among the world’s central bankers, a club dominated by men. “Practically one hundred years to the day from when the Federal Reserve was created, the central bank finally has its first woman president,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. “It’s about time.” 



NOW was also at the center of a national debate over domestic violence and the NFL. On September 8, 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, following the release of a video of Rice punching his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell focused his public comments on the issue of who had seen the video, and when they had seen it. The NFL started to frame their story as a single instance of bad behavior by one NFL player - when in fact; the NFL has a much larger domestic violence problem. What began as a scandal involving one NFL star became a national conversation about domestic violence. The National Organization for Women had a leading role in sparking and continuing that debate.

On September 9, the day after the story broke  I drafted NOW’s first statement on the issue that began: “The NFL has lost its way. It doesn’t have a Ray Rice problem; it has a violence against women problem.”

On September 10, this story appeared in The Washington Post

The owners for whom he works may disagree, but the president of the National Organization for Women thinks Roger Goodell should resign as NFL commissioner because, under his leadership, the league has failed to take a strong stance against domestic violence — most recently in the case of Ray Rice. 

“The NFL has lost its way. It doesn’t have a Ray Rice problem; it has a violence against women problem,” Terry O’Neill said in a statement (via ESPN). “… The only workable solution is for Roger Goodell to resign, and for his successor to appoint an independent investigator with full authority to gather factual data about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking within the NFL community, and to recommend real and lasting reforms.”

I also worked with Terry O’Neill on numerous op-eds on the subject of domestic violence, which were published on her Huffington Post blog.

The media clips that appeared featuring NOW and quoting its president, Terry O’Neill, numbered in the thousands – a quick Google search finds over 15,000.

But, the most important result was that the issue of domestic violence got thrust onto the national stage and more women came forward that needed help in domestic violence situations, which was NOW’s goal.

According to one report, there was an increase of 84% more calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, one of the organizations NOW recommended to have people call.

• NFL policies changed – including changing personal conduct policy and trainings for all NFL staff, players and personnel.

• The host of CBS’s Thursday night football, James Brown, dedicated ten minutes at the top of the broadcast to challenging the NFL to tackle the issue of domestic violence. He made clear that this issue is bigger than football and an issue that everyone must focus on. He suggested educating men about the issue and how to appropriately view women. The ratings for that show were tripled from a year ago, during the same time/day.

• The story about domestic violence and the NFL are still following Goodell from OpEds and stories continuing through the Superbowl and most recently, at the NFL draft – he got booed by fans, every time he appeared on stage to announce a new draft pick.

• NOW continues to be called on for comment about the NFL’s domestic policy initiative as well as other professional sports and athletes.

• The media hook of a scandal within one of our most iconic national institutions became an opportunity for NOW to lead a national conversation about the issue of workplace policies towards abusers and their victims. This conversation continues today.

Along with NOW’s PR consultants, Scott Circle, I received the 2015 Bulldog Media Relations Award for Best Response to Breaking News