Dan Hutson – Poke the Beehive


Dan Hutson

Dan Hutson is Vice President of Communications and Brand Development at Southern California Presbyterian Homes. Dan has worked with non – profits , small businesses, a liberal arts college, a weekly newspaper and various corporate clients. Dan hosts Poke the Beehive , a blog where he uses his diverse experience in PR to offer communication advice .

How has your previous experience led up to your current position as Vice President of Communications and Brand Development at Southern California Presbyterian Homes ?

I’ve worked off and (mostly) on with nonprofits for the past 20 years. After a stint as publications director for a liberal arts college in Los Angeles, I launched my own communications design firm serving primarily educational institutions and other nonprofits. I did that for a little more than six years before relocating my family to Charlotte, NC, to take a position as marketing director for a firm that conducted employee satisfaction research for large healthcare organizations. I returned to Southern California in 2006 and served as chief communications officer for the Los Angeles County Children’s Planning Council, a hybrid nonprofit/commission of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors that worked with other agencies and nonprofits to improve the lives of children throughout the county. I left LACCPC in 2008 to join SCPH as its communications director, and was promoted last year to vice president.

What valuable PR lesson do you remember learning early on ?

I think the most important PR lesson I ever learned was to be honest. Honest, straightforward, transparent communication goes a lot further toward achieving your goals than trying to spin, hide or obfuscate. It’s interesting how the development of social media has reintroduced to concept of simple, honest, helpful communication to the world of marketing. I guess its absence is one of the reasons I’ve always tended to focus more on communication and less on marketing in my career.

Recently you’ve written a blog post titled , ‘When Doing Nothing’s Better Than Doing Something. ‘ Can you briefly describe this philiosophy?

It’s pretty simple. Every marketing or communication activity should be preceded by development of tightly focused objectives and a well-considered strategy, long before any specific tactical moves are made. I know it sounds like Marketing 101, but I see it all the time: Ads whose purpose appears to be nothing more than “build awareness,” newsletters that seem unclear as to who the audience is, poorly targeted direct mail, etc. As I said in my post, figure out your communication goals. Choose objectives that meet your goals. Create a strategy that best serves those objectives. Develop tactics that execute on your strategy. Measure the results. Tweak and repeat. Don’t just throw crap communications at the wall and hope it sticks.

What are some of the negative consequences of communicating in a rush ?

Communications that don’t meet specific business or organizational objectives are a waste of time and effort. Whenever something happens in an organization, there’s usually pressure from somewhere to “get the word out.” As far as I’m concerned, if a proposed communication effort doesn’t tie back pretty specifically to your communication strategy (which ties back to your business objectives), then it’s communication make-work. And we’re all too busy to waste our time on that. Time spent on communication efforts that don’t generate a solid return on investment is time not spent on achieving your objectives.

What are your top 6 peices of advice on how to communicate effectively ?

  • Work from a plan that you’ve developed to meet specific business objectives.
  • Don’t overdo it … two or three realistic, achievable goals are better than trying to address every communication issue with limited resources.
  • Pick the tools that make the most sense. If your organization is mostly people without access to email, then print probably makes more sense.
  • Keep it simple, straightforward and conversational. This doesn’t mean dumbing it down or talking down to anyone, it means make your messaging accessible to everyone.
  • Be honest. It’s a lot easier than trying to keep all the lies and half-truths straight in your head.
  • Remember communication is a two-way street. Getting your message out is half the battle. The other half is listening to what your audience has to say. You might even learn something.

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