Bold Moves Inspire, Motivate and Change the World!

By, Aaron Blank

At The Fearey Group, we live and breathe our motto, which is thinking fearlessly while coming up with bold ideas. We always challenge ourselves to think outside the box in ways no others do (or at least we tell ourselves this!). So, of course, I would say yes, when asked to speak about my Bold Moves in 2013 at the annual Counselors Academy PRSA conference in Key West. Goal: inspire fearless thinking, invoke boldness and demonstrate how boldness wins as agency leaders.

2013 was the boldest year of my life.

The local Puget Sound Business Journal said I took over a PR firm from “the godmother of Seattle’s public-relations industry…where she presided over an about-face in gender dominance and a legacy of community involvement.”  Bold? In my world, not bold enough.

In April, my family and I adopted Ermias from Woliso, Ethiopia. When we traveled to this third world, we didn’t really know what was in store for us but we didn’t care. Ermias was our family. His first month at home in Seattle was spent at Seattle Children’s battling a few nasty infections.  Several weeks later, we learned that Ermias had Epidermolysis Bullosa, a very rare genetic connective tissue disorder that is known as the worst disease you’ve never heard of.  Bold? Not bold enough in our world.

In November, we partnered with Children’s Hopechest to find 150 of the most neediest children in Ermias’s birth town and started a new care point site. The goal is to find people in our social networks to fund these children’s childhood from now until they are 18. In exchange, they will get food, shelter, clothing and security in a place where that simply is not available. Bold.  Yes, but we are not done!

Life is full of unknowns. Boldness only advances the ball.

In my talk, I will tell these stories while providing real world examples on why being bold sets you apart from those around us.

Running a public relations firm is a tricky thing.  The first several years are considered to be the years when you’re learning how to ride a bike, or learning how to type. Garrity PR agency owner Tom Garrity said it best: it is like you are in a “hunt and peck” mode and then you transform it into its own unique form. CAPRSA is a place for PR firm owners and agency leaders to share, inspire and motivate each other. Tom, along with many agency leaders from around the world will be there to share their bold moves. Join in on the conversation. It is worth the time, energy and resources!


Media Monday: Emily Heffter, The Seattle Times

Each Monday, we’re giving readers a chance to get to know the media a little better.

With a little flair.

Our goal is to give readers some insight into the work and work style of area journalists, and get to know a little bit about the person behind the byline. Start your week off with an online networking opportunity through our Media Monday blog post.

This Week: Emily Heffter, The Seattle Times

ImageEmily Heffter is a local government reporter at The Seattle Times. Since joining the paper in 2002, she has bike-raced Mike McGinn down Dexter Avenue North (and won); covered a Seattle School Board meeting that went on so long that the lights turned off automatically; and dropped her cell phone in a toilet at a NASCAR race while reporting on a potential Snohomish County track.

Q: What’s the best thing about being in the Seattle media scene?

A: Seattle has a unique culture that goes deeper than coffee and fleece. It’s a smart, innovative place with a real civic conscience, and I’m privileged to help document its progress and foibles.

Q: How has social media changed what you do?

A: I’m more connected to my readers now. We have a more personal relationship. It also makes breaking news even more competitive, which I think is fun.

Q: If you could have someone else’s job, what would it be?

A: Writing novels at a coffee shop.

Q: Press releases: Love them or hate them?

A: Well, I need them too much to hate them, but I delete too many of them to love them.

Q: What hidden talent or skill do you have that viewers/readers don’t know about you?

A: Every year I make a point to get up on a slalom waterski, just to rebel against advancing middle age.

The PR Pro Takeaway: Great thoughts here on social media’s influence on the media. Breaking news is now more of a competition because it can be broken in so many different mediums. It’s a good reminder to be mindful of what you Tweet. Find Emily on Twitter (or on a waterski).

The Fearey Group: A Legacy Built on Integrity and Creativity

By, Aaron Blank

Pat Fearey and I hit it off right away. I wasn’t really looking for a new job, so I met her on a whim. That was almost eight years ago, and I was at Edelman at the time. The Fearey Group had sent out a blast email touting a job opening.

Meeting Pat for the first time was something of an occasion. Here was a person who had really made a name for herself in the local community. How many people can say they helped create Redmond or Snoqualmie Ridge? How cool is that? She also had a reputation for integrity, of always taking the high road. It was a belief that, over time, good things happen to people who commit to doing good things. It mirrored my own ethics perfectly.

The first thing you notice about Pat is that gentle Southern accent, so different from my own. I am a native New Yorker, a former radio news guy who came out to Seattle to experience the west coast and to be closer to my wife’s family. Pat is obviously not from around here, either. In clubby Seattle, where she was often the only woman in a roomful of men, she became a Seattle luminary. That’s no small feat.  She didn’t stay in business for more than 30 years by playing it safe. It was more than values. It was taking risks and putting a huge value on creativity.

“Fearless Thinking” is more than corporate motto for The Fearey Group. It’s really woven into our collective DNA. When I wanted to expand our video capabilities, Pat handed me the company credit card and told me to get whatever I needed. I built out our video suite, and we began projects that included video graphing brain surgeries and live streaming a sleep disorder treatment. Fearless Thinking led to the pioneering of Social Media Journalism – a graph term we eventually trademarked.

Pat appreciated and demonstrated Fearless Thinking in so many ways. Mike Flynn, former publisher of the Puget Sound Business Journal, recently told me that Pat brainstormed the original idea of a special section in their weekly newspaper. A client had a story to tell and no easy way to tell it. Pat got creative. That’s a huge part of her influence that continues in The Fearey Group today and into the future.

For Pat, progress meant buying an IBM Selectric. For me, it’s becoming one of the early pioneers of Google Glass. Technology can allow us to do amazing things, but only we’re not afraid to try it. Again, “Fearless Thinking.”

I feel truly honored to have worked for Pat these last few years. I feel even more humbled to take over the company that bears her name. We’ll continue to grow, evolve, and embrace opportunities, all the while celebrating our clients’ successes and sharing their challenges. We won’t be doing the same things the same ways in five years, let alone 30. But we’ll still rely on Pat for advice and inspiration, and we’ll still call ourselves The Fearey Group.  Because the name stands for integrity and creativity. As legacies go, that’s pretty cool.

Media Monday: Robert Pregulman, Seattle DogSpot

Each Monday, we’re giving readers a chance to get to know the media a little better.

With a little flair.

Our goal is to give readers some insight into the work and work style of area journalists, and get to know a little bit about the person behind the byline. Start your week off with an online networking opportunity through our Media Monday blog post.

ImageThis Week: Robert Pregulman, Seattle DogSpot

Robert Pregulman started the Seattle DogSpot to give area dog owners a one-stop shop for everything dog in our dog-crazy region. Before launching Seattle DogSpot in February of 2012, Pregulman worked for a national environmental and consumer watchdog group for 13 years. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1980 with a BA in Economics and achieved an Executive Masters of Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy at the University of Washington in 2012. He lives in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle with his wife Randy, dogs Dylan and Miguel, and cats Maggie and Sam.

Q: What’s your favorite story you’ve done in the last week?

A: It was a post about a WA Supreme Court decision that allows therapy dogs in court to help abuse victims testify against their abusers. Many of the witnesses in the cases are children who are hesitant to talk about what happened to them because they were abused by a parent or other relative.

The dogs provide a comforting presence which helps both children and adults cope with the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma/abuse that in many cases could prevent them from providing the testimony that can put abusers behind bars.

Q: What skills do new journalists need?

A: Knowing your audience and tailoring your writing to what they want to hear, not what you want to say. Also:

  • Writing as if you’re telling a story, not writing a dissertation
  • Using pictures to make your story more attractive to readers
  • Covering issues that elicit that you’re passionate about
  • Understanding how to structure a story so it will attract traffic to a website
  • Figuring out and highlighting the key informational points you find in research or interviews that will connect your readers
  • Having empathy so you can understand how people feel and communicate it through your writing

Q: If you weren’t working at your current job, what would you be doing

A: I’d work for a nonprofit organization involved with either environmental protection or animal rescue.

Q: Finish this sentence: “A good PR person is …”

A: …someone who can understand their audience and connect the issue they’re working on with their audience’s best interest

Q: What hidden talent or skill do you have that viewers/readers don’t know about you?

A: I’m a pretty good cook and love to garden.

The PR Pro Takeaway: This journalist has developed a very specific and well honed niche that gets great following. Robert is the go-to animal guy in Seattle. Find the Seattle Dog Spot on Twitter.

The Top of The Needle

Observations from Caleb Kruse

Last week I had the opportunity to help staff a promotional event for CenturyLink. The event is called Ultimate Homeseat Giveaway and happens every week on Blue Friday. A green chair is placed at Seattle landmarks and areas with high foot traffic. Onlookers are then encouraged to sit in the chair, snap a picture with their smartphone and upload it to either Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #homeseat to win free Seahawks Redzone tickets as well as signed merchandise from Richard Sherman. Last Friday this display was in front of the Space Needle.

While helping drive traffic to the chair and encouraging people to sit, snap and win I was able to chat with some of our clients at Centurylink as well as the PR director for the Space Needle. It was fun to have the opportunity to share a little bit about myself and hear how these professionals come to be where they are now. While talking with the PR director for the Space Needle, Sean Marshall, he mentioned how he used to work with a number of employees from the Fearey Group at a different PR firm back in the day. He also told me that I landed in a really good spot and encouraged me to make the most of my opportunity. This made me realize how connected the Seattle community is and how important it is to build and maintain working relationships because you never know where you or your colleague will end up.

At the end of the event, Sean offered to take me and the Centurylink employees up to the observation deck which was definitely the highlight of my week. It could not have been a more gorgeous day to view our beautiful city from above. Generosity, kindness and professionalism are common themes I am beginning to appreciate the more I learn about this industry. I am excited to take Sean’s advice and peruse as many opportunities to learn during my time here at The Fearey Group.

Taken from the top of the Space Needle


Media Monday: Zachariah Bryan, Ballard News Tribune

Each Monday, we’re giving readers a chance to get to know the media a little better.

With a little flair.

Our goal is to give readers some insight into the work and work style of area journalists, and get to know a little bit about the person behind the byline. Start your week off with an online networking opportunity through our Media Monday blog post.

This Week: Zachariah Bryan, Ballard News Tribune

ImageZachariah Bryan is the lead reporter, web editor and photographer for the Ballard News-Tribune, a neighborhood newspaper in Seattle that has roots tracing back to 1891, before Ballard was annexed into the city. He is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University, where he majored in English and was assistant news editor of the student newspaper, The Falcon. Before his gig in Ballard, he was an intern at

Q: What’s your favorite story you’ve done in the last week?

A: I was on a little semi-vacation last week, but a recent story I enjoyed doing was on the revival of Bad Albert’s, a 17-year-old neighborhood joint. These days, Ballardites have been mourning the loss of this or that old-time establishment, so it was nice to see one tough it out through some major challenges.

Q: What skills do new journalists need?

A: Creativity. These days, information is zipping around the world faster than particles in the Hadron Collider. To get attention, newspapers need to distinguish themselves from the slop. Take on bold experiments. The old tried and true methods of reporting are great, but what readers want to see is something that hasn’t been tried.

Q: If you weren’t working at your current job, what would you be doing

A: I’d probably be like that guy on the PBS show, “Alone in the Wilderness,” building a cabin with my own hands in Alaska with no connection to civilization whatsoever.

Q: Finish this sentence: “A good PR person is …”

A: Personal and genuine. Don’t be afraid to act like a real person, instead of some kind of mad science contraption equipped with a state-of-the-art journalist-heckling processor. It doesn’t hurt to be funny either.

Q: What hidden talent or skill do you have that viewers/readers don’t know about you?

A: I can make a pretty good potato salad, thanks to my Midwestern mother.

The PR Pro Takeaway: Very unique answers from this journalist; specifically, his call for a genuine and personable PR person. He gives great advice here for a budding journalist. Also, potato salad making could win as many awards as writing articles. Find Zachariah on Twitter.

Social Media Lunch – the most important meal of the day?

By Anthony Cogswell


For decades, people have said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Morning brain food kick starts the metabolism and provides us with the energy we need to get started each day. While this may be true, I contend that another meal has taken precedence in the arena of meal importance rankings: The Social Media Lunch.

This event first came about when several Pacific Northwest business professionals got together at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Renton in November of 2009 and tweeted about their networking experience over lunch. Since that time, the idea has evolved.

Social Media Lunches are based on the notion that a person should never eat lunch alone. Any lunch hour spent in solitude is an hour wasted. Lunch is a meal for making connections, creating partnerships, talking business and taking advantage of opportunities.  As a reflection of that sentiment, these gatherings provide a platform for local social media influencers to gather and enjoy lunch while making connections with a wide cross section of Seattle’s digitally savvy professionals at incredible venues.

While Social Media Lunches are designed without a formal schedule or itinerary, there are usually several notable professionals who speak – other than that, it’s 100% networking.

When in life are you ever going to receive dozens of business cards over a bowl of oatmeal at your breakfast table? Could you ever meet potential business partners while polishing off a breakfast burrito as you sit in morning traffic? I think it’s safe to say that the Social Media Lunch is redefining the way we think about “the most important meal of the day.”

On Thursday, September 12, Social Media Lunch will return to Seattle for the first time in almost two years. This time, @CenturyLinkSea will be hosting a sold out crowd of roughly 100 local social media savvy professionals at CenturyLink Field!

These events are fantastic opportunities to facilitate relationships and create connections. Not to mention, the meals are always a treat. For anyone interested in attending the next Social Media Lunch, details will be announced this week, so be sure to follow @TheFeareyGroup for more details!


The Hansen Show

By Alex Fryer


The Chris Hansen story ended in a cliffhanger: how will Seattle politicians, a particularly scandal-averse bunch, react to Hansen’s Sacramento election hijinks?

Hansen, the hedge fund manager turned Sonics savior, was like a magnet for positive energy. And with just a little public help, Hansen told the community, he could put together a team/stadium package that would have us all celebrating professional basketball championships. Trouble is, he doesn’t have a team.

That’s where the politics got dicey. The Sacramento team was for sale, Hansen bought it, but then lost it to another group that pledged to keep the team in Sacramento, if the public built a new stadium, with no public vote. Local opposition groups sprouted up demanding an election. If the Sacramento arena deal fell apart, the NBA might reconsider a move to Seattle, according to conventional wisdom.

Hansen said he paid his lawyers to research arena opponents. He said he was then approached by them via his attorneys to make a donation to their cause.

But Hansen didn’t join the established opposition. Instead, he wrote a $100,000 check to a brand-new group called “Citizens for a Voice in Government.” He didn’t disclose his contribution, and ran afoul of California election law.

“These are as sophisticated parties as you can get and they should know better,” said Gary Winuk, of the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Except for people who didn’t like Hansen’s proposal in the first place, public reaction in Seattle seems muted. Perhaps local elected officials will decide to sit on the bench and let the NBA process drag on. There’s no need to pass judgment on Hansen if there’s no team to discuss. But after all the rallies, debates, and council votes, it seems vaguely like the show was cancelled mid-season.

CityClub’s 2013 Health Care Series: Washington Businesses in Reform

by Nandi Thorn

A big part of our job is staying informed. This doesn’t just mean keeping up on the latest social media app or following media movers and shakers. It means taking an active role in the conversations that most impact our clients and the work we do every day.

With this in mind, I recently attended a CityClub event on health reform for businesses. This event was a part of the CityClub Health Care Series moderated by KING 5’s Jean Enerson. Panelists included:

Massachusetts gave us a vote of confidence that health reform could bring positive change. We learned that small businesses will have more choices, but it’s unclear what those choices will mean just yet (the Chamber is launching a series for small businesses that could help provide more information). And it sounds like shopping in the “exchange marketplace” will begin Oct. 2013.

The Fearey Group health care practice has been immersed in health reform research. We’ve been attending conferences and webinars, digging into online resources and meeting with experts across the industry. One thing that continues to ring true: everyone is joining the conversation, but it’s tough to decide what conversation is right for you.

So what can you do as an organization or as a communication professional looking to join (or lead) the conversation?

Be an expert on the issues that most impact you and your customers: You can’t be an expert on everything, but if you can shed some light and provide guidance in one specific area, you will make a positive impact.

  • Keep it simple: Imagine that you are explaining this to a kindergarten class. Yes, I said it.
  • Find new ways to engage: Massachusetts partnered with the Red Sox to get the word out – how cool is that? Now, we’re not suggesting that you need something that big, but do think about where your target audience is and what might peak their interest in a new and different way.
  • Don’t wait until you have all of the answers: Own what you know and what you don’t. If you wait until you have all of the information, you may miss the opportunity all together.