Shaping Understanding

Many of our clients come to us because they seek to advance important ideas – in areas such as public health, education, or business growth, we are asked to draw attention to ways to improve the quality of life in the Upper Midwest.  Part of this can be seeking ways to enhance the client’s reputation as a thought leader on an issue.

Other times, our clients ask us to help them prevent a bad idea from advancing, or manage a potential risk to the reputation they have spent decades building. 

In each of these instances, Rapp Strategies’ goal is to shape understanding of key audiences – helping others understand your organization’s vision, goals and challenges.  Shaping understanding – whether the focus is a specific issue or your overall reputation – is an essential component of business success. 

Every organization has a mission or purpose. 

  • What are the core values behind that mission? 
  • What drives people to work for you as employees or volunteers? 
  • What are your biggest challenges?  
  • What is the simple story you want to leave with your audiences? 

The answers provide a clearer understanding of who you are and where you’re going.

At Rapp Strategies, Inc., we help organizations pursue their full potential, overcome obstacles and achieve business goals. 

We are strategists. We are relentless thinkers. We solve problems. We advance great ideas.

Your organization is unique, and we make sure that our planning is tailored to your unique needs. We help our clients communicate their value in an authentic way. That’s how we make your outreach and engagement plans more effective. 

How do we shape understanding for your organization? Here is where we start:

  • We work to understand your goals.
  • We identify your opportunities to achieve those goals and the risks you will encounter.
  • We develop a strategy, not an off-the-shelf retread but a strategy tailored specifically to your needs.
  • We create an action plan, one that can be implemented by the client or in partnership with the Rapp Strategies team.
  • We develop outcomes and benchmarks that we can work towards, because every great trip needs a destination.

Shaping understanding is a fundamental objective of our work. We cultivate relationships inside your organization and help you connect with those from the outside. We work alongside our clients to maximize their expertise and insights.  And with that understanding, we find a path to success.

Most of all – we stay focused on the target.  If you are successful managing issues ... if you are building and sustaining the reputation you seek … then we’ve done our job.

Rapp Strategies Rundown - May 2018

What we’re reading, listening to and thinking about this month.

Todd R.: I just finished John Sandford’s latest [novel], “Twisted Prey.” An interesting twist to a new Lucas Davenport case. I spent the weekend on “Bobby Kennedy for President” on Netflix, a four-part series that offers a look at a time when we were even more politically divided than we are today.  Cheryl Reeve on the Talk North Podcast network is great, but it's 80 degrees out – time to listen to Beauty and the Beat by the Go-Gos

Todd S.: Don’t miss “WriteLane” with Lane DeGregory, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer/reporter at the Tampa Bay Times. You get terrific insights and pointers on how to write better by one of the best. The conversation is inviting and easy to follow. And Lane offers tremendous insight on how journalists write challenging stories.

Rita: The New York Times Morning Briefing provides a bulleted look at what you need to know to start your day. It’s enough information to skim through and feel like you know what’s going on, but not enough to bog you down. Of course, there are links to full reports if you need to know more. In addition to the news of the day, you also get a smattering of lifestyle tidbits.

Sarah: The Skimm – my favorite blogger turned me on to this morning newsletter years ago. Current events with the perfect amount of sass and pop culture. I start every morning with NPR’s “Up First” podcast. It gives me the need-to-know headlines first thing as I get ready for work.

Aaron: WNYC Studios “Note to Self” is my go-to podcast that explores how technology affects culture, the way we work and the way we live our lives.

Andrea: Recently, I’ve been reading “Damn Good Advice” by George Lois – an encouraging book for creatives/people who think outside the box. I’m a weekly listener to Latino USA, where I get to hear stories of my people and important issues that are affecting us.

Todd Stone Joins Rapp Strategies as Senior Director

MINNEAPOLIS, May 2, 2018 -- Rapp Strategies, Inc. announced that Todd Stone, a veteran news journalist and former business editor of the Star Tribune, has joined the strategic communications and public affairs firm as its senior director.

 Todd Stone has joined Rapp Strategies as its senior director.

Todd Stone has joined Rapp Strategies as its senior director.

As Rapp Strategies (RSI) expands its client services, Stone will provide strategic counsel in the areas of media relations, public affairs, risk management and strategic communications.

"We are thrilled that Todd has become a member of the team at Rapp Strategies," explained Todd Rapp, Chief Executive Officer. "His background as a journalist, editor and team leader will offer clients outstanding value as we help them shape understanding and manage their issue and reputation challenges."

Stone recently returned to Minnesota after working almost three years in Texas as a senior leader at the Houston Chronicle, where he helped lead new content and product initiatives for its digital and print operations. From 2010 to 2015, he was the Star Tribune's business editor, directing news coverage of the Twin Cities' most celebrated companies, major developments, business innovations and trends.

Stone has worked as an editor, department head and writing coach for several major newspapers, including the Denver Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He earned his BA in journalism and MBA at Texas A&M University.

Stone said he was deeply intrigued by RSI's mission to help clients solve problems and leverage new opportunities through creative thinking and building relationships. "The staff is energetic, smart and focuses on client needs over firm rewards," Stone said. "Rapp Strategies' strategic focus and commitment to service feel like the perfect fit for me."

Founded in 1982, the firm has provided top-tier strategic counsel and communications support to companies, trade groups, non-profits and government agencies in the Upper Midwest for more than 35 years. Last year, Rapp acquired 100 percent ownership of the firm from John Himle. Rebranded as Rapp Strategies, Inc., the firm continues to help clients navigate complicated issues, raise public awareness, strengthen partnerships and manage reputation risks to reach their goals.

Rapp joined the firm in 2001 after serving in a number of senior public affairs positions, including executive director to former Minnesota House Speaker Phil Carruthers and director of Minnesota Public Affairs for Xcel Energy. He became a partner in the firm in 2008, when the firm was named Himle Horner.

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About Silence, Megyn Kelly and the Struggle to Control Your Story

After becoming sole owner of my business, I asked my staff to give me some ideas on how to solidify our brand in the public affairs market. High on their list – a regular blog about what we do at Rapp Strategies. 

For the first edition of About 500 Words, let me shed a little light on how we encourage clients to manage their story.

Recently, Star Tribune political reporter J. Patrick Coolican asked his morning blog readers whether the silence of Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and the Washington Post, was a good idea in the face of a tweetstorm from President Trump. My answer to Patrick, which he was nice enough to republish, was basically, “Silence is rarely a strategy.”

In my experience, silence is used to avoid making any other decisions, and people rationalize that they will only make things worse if they speak.

In fact, silence is an invitation to lose control of your story by allowing others to shape public opinion of you and your organization. The modern information age will spread those opinions with great speed and reach. That means when you change your mind about speaking, you will be responding to the way that others have defined you or your issue.

But speaking out doesn’t mean you have to babble endlessly. You should control what you say, when you say it, where you say it and how often you repeat it. An undisciplined or inconsistent story can be as risky as silence.

Which brings me to Megyn Kelly, who has seen a significant loss of viewership during her first eight months hosting the third hour of NBC’s Today franchise. To some extent, Kelly is not to blame. The network made a huge change in the format of its flagship program and by doing so, risked giving viewers a good reason to check out what Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest are saying on another network. 

Megyn Kelly has reached a critical moment of self-analysis – how can she reconnect with The Today Show’s core audience? When interviewed by the Wall Street Journal about her ratings struggles, Kelly’s response was a head scratcher that caught my attention:

“There are definitely some who only know me through some caricature they learned about on ‘The Daily Show’.”

I’m not sure if The Daily Show’s audience overlaps with the demographic losses The Today Show faces. However, if Kelly’s quote accurately reflects her challenge, she needs to look a little closer in the mirror to find the real problem.

After seven years hosting for Fox News, publishing a bestselling autobiography and benefitting from a massive NBC promotional campaign, there are only two reasons why Megyn Kelly would be defined by a caricature on The Daily Show:

  1. The Megyn Kelly story, after all this time, sounds incomplete or self-contradictory; and/or
  2. The Daily Show’s caricature is more believable than NBC’s promotional campaign.

I’m not looking for The Today Show’s business, as Rapp Strategies doesn’t promote entertainers. But Rapp Strategies does help clients shape understanding. Sometimes we help with an issue in the public domain, while other times we help build and/or protect reputations of companies and organizations. 

In either situation, the basic strategy is the same. First, if you expect others to listen and care about your concerns, you need to speak. Second, the story that you tell needs to be honest, consistent and connect with audiences.

Finally, if you want others to step up and support you, they need to know that you are willing to step up and support yourself. 

After all, you can’t shape understanding through silence, or by using a story that your audience doesn’t believe.

In future blogs, I will write about what makes me passionate about my job – developing strategy, managing issues, preventing crises and building capacity to communicate successfully. 

I will also write about politics. Minnesota Public Radio gives me a great opportunity to analyze today’s political landscape, but sometimes I will have something to say that can’t wait until my next appearance.

And from time to time, I might write about some things outside of work that interest me – sports, my family or 70’s music. It will be interesting to see if I can work in a Meat Loaf reference.

I hope you will join me. I will try to keep it to About 500 Words next time.

Todd Rapp