It's not taught in business schools, yet it's more fundamental to business than economics. Adhering to this GAAP (Generally Accepted Accountability Principles) seems to matter more to your customers than your financial statements. You can't buy it, but advertising helps. Having it is your greatest asset; losing it is your biggest liability. Yet, few companies invest comparable equity into it. And finally: The telephone extensions for the people who do it at your company probably should be "411" and "911."
By now, you might have guessed that I'm describing public affairs. While most of us don't underestimate the importance of a company's reputation, to customers, regulators, bankers and other stakeholders, our investment in it is often undervalued. That is why the Cable Television Public Affairs Association (CTPAA) has chosen "Public Affairs: Completing the Value Equation" as our theme for this year's annual meeting in Washington, April 22-25.
Many companies already recognize the importance of favorable perceptions and relationships in running a successful business. For them, public affairs is strategic and intrinsic, permeating the "what," "where," "when" and, especially, the "why" for virtually everything that they do.
Procter & Gamble is one of the best examples of a company that lives by the principles of mutual interdependence and corporate citizenship. That is why we're very pleased to feature John E. Pepper, P&G's chairman, as one of our keynote speakers at this year's meeting.
A visit to Procter & Gamble's Web site (www.pg.com) gives an example of how truly great companies complete their value equation with public affairs. An entire textbook could be devoted to the investments and value of P&G's public affairs program. Although time allows for only an abbreviated version, our conference participants will walk away from John Peppers' remarks filled with a better understanding of how corporate citizenship and successful business practices go hand in hand.
CTPAA's Forum 2001 also will highlight the outstanding performers within our own industry. Our annual Beacon Awards ceremony recognizes dozens of exemplary public affairs activities, ranging from national campaigns to some of the most impressive and impacting initiatives created in small communities and on a shoestring budget.
CTPAA's Beacons are the Emmys of the cable industry for public affairs professionals, whose efforts are selected by their peers for much deserved recognition and emulation. This year, it is my personal pleasure to recognize two industry leaders who have set a high standard for public affairs within their companies and, by example, for the entire cable industry. Steve Burke, president of Comcast Cable Communications Inc. and Carole Black, president & CEO of Lifetime will receive CTPAA's 2001 President's Award during the Beacon Awards ceremony.
Comcast increases the scope of its public affairs programs with each passing year, especially in the area of education. Most recently, the company has complemented its high-speed Internet connections to schools and libraries with an extensive donation of computers and training.
Likewise, Lifetime continues to build upon a 15-year tradition of community outreach programs linking local cable systems and cable programming with issues that are of vital importance to its viewers. The network has become synonymous with the fight against breast cancer and it has recently taken on the issue of violence against women around the world. These two winners of CTPAA's President's Award represent a commitment to public affairs that is essential to completing the value equation for a truly great company.
CTPAA is also privileged to join forces with the National Cable Center and Museum in recognizing the winners of the Maxwell Media Awards. Founded by cable pioneer and longtime publisher Paul Maxwell, the awards annually recognize excellence in news coverage of the cable telecommunications industry by consumer news journalists.
REPUTATION OUTPERFORMS INVESTMENT
Operating in a competitive arena magnifies the importance of a company's reputation to its value, and it's easy to trace the loss of that reputation to a decline in sales and, more importantly, in stock value. In contrast, modest infusions to improve a company's reputation outperform the rate of return on the same investment amount in other areas.
The 1999 Cone/Roper Cause Trends Report indicates that more than 80 percent of Americans have a more positive image of companies that support a cause that's important to them. More importantly, nearly two thirds of those polled, representing about 130 million consumers, said that they would be likely to switch brands or retailers to competitors associated with a good cause.
This year's CTPAA Forum will provide the practical applications to these investment and perception realities as we study the importance of crisis management and harnessing the potential of cause-related marketing. One of our featured sessions, entitled, "More than a Good Neighbor: How Community Relations Can Build and Expand New Markets," will explore the value of partnering with local schools and not for profit organizations. Another session, "Getting Your Act Together: Integrated Marketing and Pubic Affairs Activities," will share proven techniques from marketing and PR practitioners who have combined forces to achieve greater results than either could accomplish independently. This year, we're also bringing back our popular working session on creating local market promotions that are fueled by programmer-operator collaboration.
Managing communications at the global and local levels will thread throughout the Forum agenda, beginning with the opening general session, "Public Affairs with the Whole World Watching: The Florida Recount." This fascinating and timely kickoff to the Forum features news correspondents who were on the scene, including USA Today's Donna Leinwand, the Miami Herald's Mark Seibel and Palm Beach Post
reporter George Bennett. Related sessions include "Communicating in the Midst of an Overbuild - Ongoing or Potential," a panel on "Media Relations: Achieving Press Coverage" and a highly interactive session on "Crisis Communications" moderated by two of the industry's most seasoned veterans, Lela Cocoros and LaRae Marsik, principals of October Strategies.
INCREASING THE VALUE QUOTIENT
Understanding the latest broadband-media tools is integral to successfully deploying them in the communities we serve. This year's Forum attendees will be well informed, thanks to a panel of experts who also comprehend the operational issues associated with these technologies. Speakers include senior vice president of engineering and chief technology officer for Cox Communications Chris Bowick, president & CEO of High Speed Access Corp. Dan O'Brien, president & CEO of Diva Hank Hanselaar and senior vice president for Worldgate Communications Gerard Kunkel.
In a special luncheon session, David Jensen, vice president of interactive broadband for Razorfish, will look at "The Future of Television" from his perspective. We'll also examine the "digital divide" and explore the public service opportunities provided by new technology with National PTA president Virginia Markell and CEO of PowerUP Rae Grad.
CTPAA'S SILENT AUCTION: A VALUE-ADDED PRACTICUM
For more than a decade, CTPAA has sponsored a silent auction to benefit a deserving non-profit organization. This year marks our third consecutive year for supporting the Emma L. Bowen Foundation for Minority Interest in Media. Thanks to the generous donations from CTPAA's member companies, auction items in the past have run the gamut from leather jackets worn by the Rolling Stones to a golf putter from Jack Nicklaus.
Whatever this year yields, we guarantee a good time for everyone and lots of money-historically over $10,000-for the Emma L. Bowen Foundation.
A CAPITOL BONUS TO YOUR CAPITAL INVESTMENT
Holding this year's conference in Washington enables MSO's and state associations to combine their attendance with visits to a new Congress and a new administration.
Our government affairs agenda will include an opening keynote address by National Cable Television Association president Robert Sachs on the "State of the Industry, Public Policy and Education," as well as federal issues updates and a workshop on conducting effective meetings with legislators. NCTA also serves as the catalyst for national industry initiatives requiring the support and participation of its member companies.
Our featured luncheon speaker Art Torres, president of the Walter Kaitz Foundation, will spearhead a discussion of one of the industry's major initiatives, increasing diversity. Then National Association of Minorities in Cable president Patricia Andrews Keenan will moderate a session on supporting diversity, internally and externally.
I encourage you to take a minute to review the full agenda for this year's CTPAA Forum ( www.ctpaa.org/forum) and hope you decide to join us.
Our Forum isn't just for the people who have public affairs in their job title. It's for anyone who understands that enhanced brand equity comes from linking business objectives to company image, that credibility and customer loyalty come from commitment and consistency and that public affairs can be the factor to achieving long-term success.
Bonnie Hathaway is CTPAA president and senior director of community relations and public affairs for Time Warner Cable.
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