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The Role of Community Relations Today
An ACC Online Chat – February 23, 2011
Download .PDF version of the transcript


  Michelle_Butler Welcome to ACC’s latest online chat – the Role of Community Relations Today! During the next hour, we will discuss how community relations can help you achieve company goals.
  Michelle_Butler All are welcome to participate. We only ask that you remember that this is a professional forum and act accordingly.
  Michelle_Butler ACC has lined up three experts to help us dig deeper during this discussion. They are: John Borack – director of community affairs, Time Warner Cable Tamar Hoapili - manager, community relations/video production, Cox Las Vegas Reinaldo Llano - director, corporate community relations, Bright House Networks
  John_B. Hi, I’m John M. Borack, and I’m the Director of Community Affairs for Time Warner Cable. I’m based in Orange County, California and am part of our company’s West Region, which includes properties in Southern California, Arizona, Idaho and Texas. I’ve been with the company for nearly 25 years, and have been part of our community affairs team for the past 13 years.
  Reinaldo_Llano Hey everyone. I'm Reinaldo Llano, director of corporate community relations at Bright House Networks. I have had the pleasure of working as a Community Relations professional for over sixteen years now. I have six years with the Cable industry with Bright House Networks and ten years within the Media and Entertainment Industry (specifically at Time Warner Inc.), both at the corporate level. I also have a certificate in Corporate Community Involvement at the Boston College Carroll School of Management’s Center for Corporate Citizenship.
  Tamar_Hoapili Hi, this is Tamar, and at Cox Communications Las Vegas I’m focused heavily on bridging the gap between community relations and driving revenue - whether it be residential sales, Advertising Sales or Business Sales. I've been with the company for 13 years.
  Michelle_Butler Unfortunately Klayton Fennell - regional vice president, government affairs & community investment, Comcast - Florida East Coast Region is no longer able to participate in this chat because of another work commitment.
  Michelle_Butler Welcome, everyone! Thank you for joining us. Please feel free to ask questions!

Community Relations Today
  Michelle_Butler What do you think the role of community relations is today?
  Reinaldo_Llano Great question Michelle! For me, Community Relations today continues to be about building and strengthening relationships with the community in order to build the bank of good will for companies.
  John_B. To me, it’s all about localism and positioning yourself at the forefront of a cause – with us at TWC, it’s our “Connect A Million Minds” initiative, which is working to connect kids to after-school learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.
  Reinaldo_Llano I love how John brought it back to his company :)
  Michelle_Butler Has company restructuring, franchising law modification or the technological advances in the cable industry over the past few years affected the role of community relations in your company?
  gbd John, how did you develop the idea for Connect A Million Minds?
  Tamar_Hoapili The role of community relations has definitely changed and is continually changing. It's about relationship building while promoting your brand
  John_B. Time Warner Cable believes it is important to support activities that strengthen the communities in which we operate. Over the years, that support has taken many forms, but an overriding emphasis always has been on education. In late 2009, after a comprehensive review of our national and local philanthropic efforts, TWC took a more focused approach to its giving strategy in order to drive more meaningful and lasting benefit to its communities. Ultimately, we have decided this focus should be to inspire young people to build the skills they need - science, technology, engineering and math - to become the problem solvers of tomorrow.
  Michelle_Butler I know you have gotten great press for TWC's STEM efforts. What has worked for you?
  Reinaldo_Llano Given all the changes going on in our industry, community relations is being looked as a strong differentiator for us in our local communities. At the same time we continue to have to become more strategic and more relevant.
  gbd How has Connect A Million Minds helped with TWC's corporate reputation and changed the way stakeholders view the company?
  Tamar_Hoapili The changes in our industry have forced us to take a more strategic look at our operation, our returns on investment while insuring that it meets our corporate and local outreach initiatives.

Localism and Community Relations
  Michelle_Butler How does community relations help with localism?
  John_B. We have employed various tactics to promote CAMM, including a recent Global Online Town Hall and Connect A Million Minds Week, both of which have garnered positive press nationwide.
  Steve_Jones In follow up to gbd, can each of you site a specific instance where community engagement helped to "shut down" or lower the level of a negative event in your respective areas.
  Reinaldo_Llano Everything in cable is local. As a company we've always touted the fact that our companies are local, our employees live and work in the communities we serve. Each community is different, so we try and address issues that affect those communities. At the same time, we try and have a global strategy and framework that allows us to coordinate our message about the things the company stands for. For example, we have chosen Afterschool Programs as an area we support. Each local market supports different partners within this focus area in order to localize the relationship and impact. Not every community we serve has a Boys and Girls Club.
  Tamar_Hoapili CR is HUGE with localism! Changes in our industry have allowed CR to be brought to the forefront showcasing its importance to the company and its bottom line. For example - Cox LV has been able to host a Back to School Fair in our market, offering residential opportunities for our sales team, advertising opportunity for our media team while promoting/branding our education initiatives
  KLaCava Connect a Million Minds brought Glenn Britt to the White House and TWC has become a major player for the President's educational initiative Change the Equation
  Reinaldo_Llano Steve - that's a great question. I'm trying to think of an example. As you know, we don't have any negative things happen :)
  John_B. I believe our stakeholders also appreciate the fact that our company is committed to a cause - education - that is on everyone's minds.
  Michelle_Butler Karen, the connection to the White House is so exciting!
  Steve_Jones Then you all are doing a great job at BHN...just building a lot of good will all the time!
  John_B. Steve - I agree with Reinaldo 100%.
  John_B. :-)
  Reinaldo_Llano Steve, in reality, when we were going through State Franchising back in 2005/2006 here in Florida, it was all the deep and long relationships in the community that helped position us for a pretty fair and balanced Franchising Bill here. We were able to activate those relationships to give elected officials a great message: treat cable fairly.
  Reinaldo_Llano Karen, did that come with an invitation the state dinner?
  gbd I think what I'm seeing from all the suggestions is that to maximize your community relations planning, you need to find a key cause for which the company and employees have a passion. It doesn't prevent you from undertaking other CR activities, but it does help further define what your corporate brand stands for. Do the panelists agree?
  KLaCava Not for me....
  Reinaldo_Llano gbd! You kind of hit the nail on the head for the following reasons:
  John_B. Yes, that's correct, gbd.
  Steve_Jones Are any of you using social media within your CR programs and how is it being utilized?
  Michelle_Butler Karen, nobody wanted to pull a Salahi?
  Tamar_Hoapili In LV, community outreach also includes our community channel - Cox 96. In response to alcohol driving related incidents in our market during prom season, we were able to broadcast a Town Hall Meeting in partnership with STOP DUI - to encourage no drinking during the prom season. We also did some on site programs with a few local high schools. Our CR engagement to this topic, drove tons of media AND according to the school district and our local police department, the accident rates decreased during that time frame
  KLaCava gbd - absolutely!
  Reinaldo_Llano We will always support causes that are strategic and non-strategic (or really more business focused, i.e. there's a relationships with a person or an executive interest) but the strategic cause helps us hone our message. It gives us a narrative to talk about even though we may be doing a tone of other stuff that's equally as important to the community. The strategic cause/focus helps us create the narrative
    Social Media and Regionalization
  Tamar_Hoapili Social Media is brand new for our market. Have not been able to capitalize on this form of outreach just yet
  Michelle_Butler That's great, Tamar, that you were able to help decrease DUI/accident rates.
  John_B. We use Twitter and Facebook quite often to promote our community relations activities and find it to be an effective way of getting the word out about our efforts.
  Reinaldo_Llano Karen, me either :(
  Jennifer_Aho I have noticed an industry trend towards regionalization, which has obvious benefit. Anyone care to comment on how we see this impacting or benefiting local programs?
  Reinaldo_Llano Steve - we are on our way here at Bright House. We currently posts videos on YouTube and we twitter certain things. We're building up our social media strategy so I expect a lot more involvement in this area soon
  KLaCava We have difficulty getting press in NYC for our efforts, but Twitter and Facebook have worked well for us
  gbd Sorry, have to go. Great info from this chat. Thanks everyone!
  Tamar_Hoapili @ Michelle - yes reports have shown that this CR program did decrease the accident rates. It also received great reviews that we are gearing up to do this type of 'cause related' outreach annually
  John_B. Jennifer: for us, regionalization has been a positive and a good way to ensure that we are all on the same page as far as our community relations activities. Connect A Million Minds is a nationwide initiative, so we are able to gather a lot of "best practices' info from our counterparts throughout the country.
  Reinaldo_Llano Jennifer - I think you'll find that the answer varies by company. For us, local community relations is still an important competitive differentiator so we manage our programs close to the customers. Again, we have a corporate strategy and framework, but we allow local flexibility based on the market.
  Tamar_Hoapili Jennifer - that is a great question! Cox just merged some of our mid west system together. Overall it has been positive as it allows us to execute our programs on a much larger scale.

Changes in Your Approach to Community Relations
  Michelle_Butler How has your approach to community relations changed?
  John_B. Mainly, we’ve become more focused – we’re no longer an “inch deep and a mile wide” in terms of our philanthropic efforts. We’re now focusing on Connect A Million Minds, which aligns more closely with our core business.
  Reinaldo_Llano We've introduced research into the mix. We're upped our game in terms of branding and marketing, and we have really focused on industry partnership with our programming partners as a way to add additional resources.
  Tamar_Hoapili We have been able to be more focused and strategic on our outreach to drive more viewership, sales and positive branding.
  Michelle_Butler Reinaldo, can you expand on how you are using research?
  Michelle_Butler Tamar, you mentioned strategy. How are your community relations efforts strategic?
  Jennifer_Aho Reinaldo - what kind of research and how was it used?
  Tamar_Hoapili We have started to do the stop/start effect. Stop doing thing 'just because' and start doing things that really meet the company goals, community needs and market initiatives.
  Reinaldo_Llano One of the first things we did when I came to bright house was a big research project with customers to identify the important community issues, the areas they want business to focus on and the area they specifically though we could make an impact. Now, we're in the process of updating the research and will be expanding on that to find out where they are hearing our messages about our community support, how aware are they about specific programs, and does that help move the NPS scores. (I'm assuming that every company is focused on NPS scores?)
  Michelle_Butler What is NPS?
  Reinaldo_Llano Net Promoter Score. I believe most companies are tracking this. It's a metric companies are using to judge how customers feel about the company. I don't know how exactly it works, but I hear it's all the rage. lol
  Tamar_Hoapili We are concentrating more on how can this 'donation/partnership' to a nonprofit/organization become a bundle partner for all of our departments. For example: CR donated $$ for a sponsorship, incorporated that organization to purchase advertising via Cox Media and then was able to have that organization purchase our business products. It's a win win for all of us. Cox secures the sponsorship while also driving revenue to the bottom line.
  Reinaldo_Llano I think the theory is that if you are more likely to promote/recommend the company then you're more likely to stay as a customer
  John_B. We also did research before we launched CAMM at Time Warner Cable, and it showed that nationwide, a great number of people were unaware that we sponsored local events and initiatives. Obviously, sponsoring things "just because" wasn't working for us - we needed to focus and become more strategic.
  Steve_Jones With part of this discussion about focusing on really good national or regional efforts are you still able to support long time good local events that fall outside of the main strategic focus?
  Tamar_Hoapili John - I agree! We have had to refocus more to insure better return. The just because theory doesn't work anymore
  Reinaldo_Llano In our case yes. Again, our folks have some degree of autonomy still. They know their communities better than someone sitting in a corporate office somewhere outside of their.
  KLaCava We have some flexibility to support non-CAMM initiatives, but very little
  Reinaldo_Llano Can I recall that last sentence? :P
  John_B. Steve: We do still sponsor local events at Time Warner Cable that fall outside of CAMM. We have just had to cut some of the fat, so to speak.
  Tamar_Hoapili @ Steve - yes we are still able to support those long time good local events. We may not be able to write the $$ at the same level but look at other ways to support the cause. For example: offer bill messaging, flier distribution at our local retail stores, website, etc. The power of cable is so much more than just $$ and/or cross channel spots
  Steve_Jones I'm sure that the research that was noted earlier impacts all of the decisions regarding what's supported and what's not.
  Reinaldo_Llano Research is a great influencer.
  Reinaldo_Llano It helps support some decision making, but it's not the end all be all.
  John_B. But in order to focus on CAMM, some longtime partnerships have gone away. On the whole, when these organizations find out that we are now supporting after-school STEM education, the response has been very positive.
  Tamar_Hoapili Research definitely impacts our decisions. For example - in Vegas the Hispanic penetration is nearly 30% - that's huge for our market. We have to outreach more to this demographic and working with our marketing sciences team enables us to learn about this outreach and how we can reach it

Marketing Your Community Relations Efforts Externally
  Michelle_Butler How are you marketing externally all the great work you are doing in community relations?
  Reinaldo_Llano That's a great question Michelle. Part of our overall marketing strategy has been to begin to organize our story and define some clear umbrella programs that allow us to tell our story. In some cases we've created a brand for certain groups of investments. For example. Our work in afterschool is branded Bright Kids Network. We have a cute logo, a mission statement, and some create collateral.
  KLaCava Sometimes things just fall under the cost of doing business i.e. requests from the Mayor's office
  Reinaldo_Llano That's just a first step though. We have to think more strategically about all the various tools we have that can be deployed to get the message out. The branding helps us organize that message.
  John_B. Various ways - through social media, a focused corporate PSA campaign, a website ( with rich content and other things that fall a bit outside of the box, such as local video on demand segments that promote our CAMM focus.
  Reinaldo_Llano If you have 100 events that are unconnected, then that's 100 different messages. if you have 20-30 events/sponsorships/grants/programs you fund that are under an umbrella as Youth, Education, Afterschool then you have a story you can tell that's more organized
  Reinaldo_Llano Just like TWC Connect a Million Minds! :P
  Tamar_Hoapili At Cox - tooting our own horn has always been a challenge. The belief was to just help/support the cause - get the pat on the back later. The changes in our industry and the competition in our market have forced us to toot our own horn. We do everything from taking out ads in the newspaper, run cross channel spots, grass roots marketing, etc.
  Michelle_Butler Have you seen any positive business results due to promotion of your company's community relations efforts?
  Tamar_Hoapili You have to realize Las Vegas is a town where someone can win $10million dollars when dropping $10 in a machine. To do something extraordinary to capture the audience really has to be moving and/or met the needs of a cause
  Reinaldo_Llano YES! One of our most developed brand Star Teacher Awards has had the highest level of recognition with the public when we do our research and gage awareness.
  Reinaldo_Llano We're hoping that by organizing the other brands that we can elevate our newer brands
  Michelle_Butler That does sound like a challenge, Tamar!

Selling Your Community Relations Internally – to Employees and Senior Management
  Michelle_Butler We have talked about marketing these efforts externally. How about internally?
  Michelle_Butler In other words, how do you obtain senior management’s support for your community relations efforts? or employee support?
  Tamar_Hoapili We also have to 'create' the opportunity. For example - our goal was to promote our new retail store. In order to drive the local market to stop by - we had to do something other than free hotdogs - we were able to partner with UFC and bring a few fighters to the store for a meet and great. Unbelievable response in a two hour period - over 500 people stood in line.... by the way we did offer free popcorn and water instead of the hotdogs :)
  John_B. We have traditionally had a large and active employee volunteer base and combining that with the fact that many of our employees are pleased with our new CAMM focus, we get a lot of great feedback on and support for our efforts. We also have surveyed our employees on our community relations activities in order to solicit their feedback.
  Reinaldo_Llano We actually have taken several steps: 1) we have started to collect and organize the list of awards the companies has received from all the great work we do in the community across the company. We publish that list twice a year in our employee newsletter. We also include articles around specific major investments we make on an issue.
  John_B. We also publicize our efforts internally through our intranet, weekly e-newsletters, etc.
  Tamar_Hoapili Another great question...leadership and senior management IS the driving force. Without their buy in our efforts will go nowhere.
  Reinaldo_Llano I'll admit that we could do more and there's still room for improvement though. We're still a fairly new company.
  Steve_Jones Do you have an internal Facebook page or Twitter account to communicate community efforts to employees along with a newsletter or Intranet?
  John_B. Our senior management understands the importance of giving back to the communities in which we do business
  Reinaldo_Llano No. Our public facebook page started initially with employee fans.
  John_B. Same here
  KLaCava and here
  Reinaldo_Llano Again, we're building our social media strategy so this could change in the future.
  Steve_Jones Or if you launch something new with its own Facebook ask employees to "like" it?
  Michelle_Butler Did you plan that? Starting a facebook page with employee fans?
  Steve_Jones Sort of to give it a boost
  Reinaldo_Llano I think it was an organic thing that happened.
  John_B. We don't necessarily ask our employees to click the "like" button, but many of them do.
  Reinaldo_Llano Not sure if it was planned that way. Wasn't my area :(
  Tamar_Hoapili Like John Cox LV is meeting the needs of our employees. We have created a Cox Charities program - where employees donate $$ and work with an administrator to donate the $$ to various organizations in our community. In the three years since the start of the program - we have been able to donate close to $200,000. This enables the employees to make the donation decision - not corporate/senior management
  Reinaldo_Llano oh - we have asked our employees to click the like button and to share us with their friends and family more aggressively now
  Tamar_Hoapili Great idea on the internal facebook page - we don't have that here in Vegas
  Steve_Jones That donation program for employees sounds great for Cox LV
  Tamar_Hoapili Cox LV just started with an external facebook, twitter, cox channel on you tube within the past year.

Partnerships – How do you choose your partners?
  Michelle_Butler You have mentioned partnerships. (UFC, etc.) How do you choose your nonprofit or community group or programming partners? What do you look for in a partner?
  John_B. Various ways – some contact us through our website, we know of others through either research or referrals from our government affairs team or the fact that we’ve worked with them in the past. As far as what we look for in a partner, they have to be aligned with our CAMM goals and it’s certainly a positive if they reach a large number of people.
  Tamar_Hoapili For Cox the partner must meet our initiatives: Family/Children, Education (STEM) and Diversity. That is the first criteria. In addition - Cox LV has created our "Five Filters" of participation. This allows us to use the start/stop effect that I spoke about earlier as well as meeting the needs of our organization.
  Michelle_Butler Tamar, can you tell us more about the 5 filters of participation?
  Reinaldo_Llano Well it depends. For example, some of our major partners we include in our research to understand how consumers feel about their brands. Because we want to protect our brand we don't just partner with every group. On the smaller amounts, that's based on their focus, who they are reaching, what the impact is, those kind of things... A lot of the groups we support we have for many years.
  Michelle_Butler John, that's really interesting that some partners contact you through the Web site. Can you give us an example of a great partnership that happened that way?
  Reinaldo_Llano We also try and go out and identify partners versus being reactive to request.
  Tamar_Hoapili The 5 filters was created as a guideline to insure that our participation efforts were measurable. In order for Cox LV to consider participation/sponsorship of an event, etc. it must meet one or more of the following criteria:
  KLaCava All requests for our support must be made on the CAMM website
  John_B. We recently had a group called the Saturday Academy of Mathematics contact us through our Connect A Million Minds website looking for support. After meeting with them and learning more about their goals and their program - which is an after-school, hands-on learning program for middle school children - we worked out a partnership with them.
  KLaCava However, we actively seek out partners that align with our CAMM initiative
  Tamar_Hoapili In no particular order a) Drive revenue b) Meet Government Relations goals c) drive Media Outreach d) Meet our Diversity goal(s) e) Meet our company initiatives that I mentioned earlier.
  John_B. This is a program that serves a great number of kids in different locations, so we're excited about it.
  Michelle_Butler There is about 10 minutes left to this chat. Please feel free to ask any questions you have!
  Jennifer_Aho Is partnership potential ($ client prospect) a factor in your selection process?
  Jennifer_Aho I mean do you ask for that online?

Partnerships with Programmers and with Government Relations
  Michelle_Butler Thanks, Tamar! I know that there was a strong connection between community relations and government relations in the past. Is that still the case? Does community relations help you achieve GR goals?
  Tamar_Hoapili @ Jennifer - $$ is not the driving factor but it always welcomed.
  John_B. We partner closely without government relations teams throughout the company. Personally, I am in close contact almost daily with our VP of GR in our area. We work on strategic partnerships that help further both of our departments’ goals.
  John_B. *our, not out.
  Reinaldo_Llano I'm curious how others collaborate with their programming partners? We have a pretty ambitious partnership program where we strategically incorporate our partners into our initiatives versus just being reactive and doing their initiatives (we do those too, but more often than not, we try and get their support for our programs).
  Tamar_Hoapili Yes CR and GR are still strongly connected here in Vegas. For the fourth year in a row, Cox is providing the community 'access to the government officials' during the voting season. We call it Elections on Cox. By offering 2 min of video time (uploaded to our ON DEMAND platform) we are able to provide our customers with another means of learning about the candidate and their platform - the goal is for our customers to make an informed decision. This also helps our GR outreach by providing the candidates with an opportunity to outreach to our customers.
  John_B. Reinaldo - Here in the West Region, we have a single person who has been tasked with working with our programming partners to find mutually beneficial opportunities. In the past few months we have worked with Discovery Networks and The Golf Channel on CAMM-related events and activities.
  Tamar_Hoapili In addition - we broadcast the State of the City addresses on our local community channel (Cox 96) every January.

Obtaining Media Coverage for Your Community Relations Efforts
  Michelle_Butler How do you obtain media coverage for your community relations efforts? Does community relations help you accomplish your media relations goals?
  Michelle_Butler About 5 more minutes...Please feel free to ask any remaining questions.
  Reinaldo_Llano Michelle, I just ask our PR Manager and it magically happens. lol
  John_B. Connect A Million Minds has helped us garner some great publicity, both locally and nationally. With the state of education being at the forefront of folks’ minds these days, we’ve found that newspapers and websites are eager to run stories that are education-based. Our company’s Director of Media Relations does a great job of pitching stories to the press. On a local level, we have folks in the trenches who have relationships with smaller, local newspapers and websites. This has traditionally been a great source of media coverage for us.
  Michelle_Butler Your life is great, Reinaldo!
  Reinaldo_Llano All kidding aside, that's our biggest challenge and it's one that we continue to try and improve
  Tamar_Hoapili At Cox LV we have a fabulous Communications Manager who has great relationships with various reporters, writers, etc.
  Reinaldo_Llano We're hoping to use Social Media to extend the life of our community relations stories beyond the traditional media cycle because we don't always get the press we think we deserve
  Michelle_Butler Before the chat is over, I wanted to congratulate John Borack for his second published book!
  KLaCava Reinaldo - I feel your pain
  Michelle_Butler John has a biography about John Lennon that was recently published. Can you tell us a bit about it?
  Reinaldo_Llano Karen - I feel yours more! NYC is the media capital
  Michelle_Butler Link on amazon:
  Tamar_Hoapili Reinaldo - I feel your pain. At the end of the day - no matter how many press releases, phone calls we make to the reporters, something 'newsworthy' will always bump us. We have decided to secure our own camera operator to produce VNR's for us and we will turn them in to the stations ourselves. Most the time the stations are not able to provide a camera but will take our b-roll and cover our story.
  John_B. Thanks, Michelle! My book is called "John Lennon: Life is What happens," and it is a coffee-table styled biography. It's available at bookstores, on Amazon, and out of the trunk of my car.
  Reinaldo_Llano I hear that John has included some Community Relations strategic tips in his new book - but you have to have a secret decorder ring to find them :)
  John_B. ::laugh
  Michelle_Butler The ring is available on Amazon?
  Reinaldo_Llano The ring is more expensive than the book!
  Reinaldo_Llano :)
  Michelle_Butler Too funny!
  John_B. J
  Reinaldo_Llano Thanks everyone for reading today
  Michelle_Butler Any remaining questions or advice?
  Reinaldo_Llano Hope you found some gems
  Reinaldo_Llano or were at least amused
  KLaCava Always amused!
  Jennifer_Aho Very helpful chat, thanks participants!
  Michelle_Butler Thank you everyone for participating! Please remember that a transcript of this conversation will be online in the members-only section of the Web site by the end of the week.
  Reinaldo_Llano Au revoir!
  Steve_Jones Nice job everyone!
  Reinaldo_Llano You guys were great
  Reinaldo_Llano Best co-panelist ever!
  John_B. It's been my pleasure to participate - have a great day, everyone!
  Tamar_Hoapili Thank you for the opportunity to be a panelist! Aloha!
  Michelle_Butler Thank you for participating in ACC’s latest online chat. ACC offers an e-learning opportunity every month. Check for more details. Please feel free to contact me at or 202-222-2372 if you have any suggestions for future topics, feedback on this chat, questions, etc.
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