Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Welcome Gail Chandler, APR

It’s not that we’re overly partial to SMU alums, but it seems that our alums are just really good. Take SMU alum, Gail Chandler. As head of Public Affairs Communications at Texas Instruments, Chandler supports the company’s broad-reaching citizenship programs (philanthropy, education, volunteerism, community relations), manages government affairs (local, state and federal), and oversees the Texas Instruments Foundation. Since 1964, this non-profit, philanthropic organization provides substantial educational resources to build the number of high-school graduates who are math and science capable. Chandler’s work is also reflected in TI’s annual Corporate Citizenship Report, which highlights the company’s continued social and environmental commitment to citizenship and transparency in operations.

In her off time Chandler serves on a host of boards, including the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce board, Press Club of Dallas, Leadership Dallas Class of 2011, and PRSA, where she has served as professional development officer for the Dallas chapter AND as professional advisor for the SMU PRSSA student chapter. Just last night she worked with communication students in the PRSSA Career Workshop, and tonight, she’s back again to speak to our class on the topic of Public Affairs Communication and CSR. We need to award you an SMU parking pass. 

Thanks, Gail, for all you do for your alma mater. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Welcome Ken Fairchild

The dynamic career of Ken Fairchild
…with insight from his daughter, Elissa

Tonight we're honored to host Ken Fairchild, founder of Fairchild Consulting in Dallas, and a communication innovator who has successfully straddled the world of news media and corporate communication for more than 50 years.  

An originator of spokesperson/media training, Fairchild has coached top executives, corporate spokespersons, government officials and political candidates in public speaking and presentation skills. His clients include four U.S. presidential candidates, eight candidates for governor, members of Congress, and candidates for national, state and city offices. Fairchild built his career helping clients prepare annual reports, address regulatory agencies, create presentations to investors, improve employee communication and form community groups. He has trained countless clients before broadcast interviews with various TV magazine and news programs, as well as print interviews in every major national publication. But he is perhaps best known for coaching dozens of guests before their appearances on "60 Minutes,” which prompted his book: "Sunday Showdowns with 60 Minutes," published in 1998.

Fairchild, a radio and television newsman in New York, Houston and Dallas, also worked as program director at NBC, New York, vice president of programming for WMCA, New York, and news director and general manager of all-news KRLD, Dallas. During his first radio job in Houston, he was known as a “good ad libber,” according to his daughter Elissa, an SMU CCPA graduate. His first news director, Ray Miller, once told him, "Keep your mic open and just keep on talking.”

Miller asked him to cover Hurricane Carla live on the beach in Galveston (still the second worst hurricane to ever hit the Texas coast). He was the first television newsman to ever report from the eye of a hurricane. While Dan Rather covered the hurricane from the city, Fairchild braved the winds and waves. Fairchild recounted the event to Elissa: "One national TV magazine carried a picture of me with my raincoat and hair standing out at a 90 degree angle. The caption read, 'Newsman’s valor stuns viewers.' Unfortunately for my fame, it didn’t mention the newsman’s name. While I was in the eye of the hurricane, Dan Rather was at the weather bureau in Galveston, 90 miles from the eye, watching their new 200 mile radar."

Fairchild moved to KRTH radio in Houston doing daily talk shows, newscasts and sportscasts, becoming PA announcer for the Houston Colt 45's at the old Colt stadium and the Astrodome. Additionally, he covered a range of hard-hitting new stories, like  racial integration at the University of Mississippi where student protests led President Kennedy to send in Federal troops.

In 1966, the chairman of the Republican Party informed Fairchild that George Bush, then a congressman, would resign that seat to run for the U.S. Senate. They asked Fairchild to run for the position, guaranteeing him the nomination and the election in George Bush’s heavily Republican district. But Fairchild had just been offered a job with NBC in New York to be the manager at the network flagship radio station, WNBC. And he took it.

As vice president and program director, with an office at 30 Rock, he produced and directed stories about the Vietnam War, hippies, the Beatles and the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.  At the time, the station was the number two rock-and-roll station in America, but it was making the transition to talk radio. They asked Fairchild to take over the sleepy, early afternoon show. With him at the mic, ratings went up so fast that he was moved to the morning drive. The Morning Drive in New York City was the top spot in the profession for a non-network person. He covered Vietnam, Richard Nixon, Watergate, the Pentagon Papers (He calls this the "WikiLeaks: 1970s version"), the ousting of Vice President Spiro Agnew, “Jimmy Carter coming jacket-less off a Georgia peanut farm to become a different kind of president,” and the political rise of Ronald Reagan.

He did the morning drive show for four years, moving it into the top five of morning shows in NYC.

When the media attacked U.S. oil companies and the government for permitting the U.S. oil embargo in 1973, the major oil companies found themselves on the media hot seat, and needed someone to teach their executives how to deal with the media during news interviews like “Meet the Press." Fairchild helped design this crisis communications curriculum and later started a company specializing in training executives to handle the media. In the midst of this, KRLD radio in Dallas asked Fairchild to revamp the program. He accepted the job and helped to turn KRLD to an all news station, changing radio in Dallas forever.

It is no exaggeration to say that Fairchild has been a pioneer in the communication field. His daughter Elissa summed it up this way: “My dad made history in Houston, New York and Dallas by doing things that nobody else had done before. He was on the beach in Galveston, he covered the areas where the race issues were most tense, he went to NYC to introduce a whole new way of being on the radio, and he created a new hub for news in DFW.” But, she noted, this doesn't even begin to cover the many facets of his career. 

 -- Nina Flournoy