Understanding the History and Significance of Juneteenth

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but it would take over two years for all enslaved people to secure their freedom. Juneteenth, which is short for June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed the remaining enslaved people of their emancipation. 


Families and communities across the nation have honored Juneteenth with parades, gatherings and festivals for generations. However, it wasn’t until June 17, 2021, that Juneteenth was officially recognized as a federal holiday in the United States. 

Why is Juneteenth Significant?

Despite the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which proclaimed that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” slavery remained legal in the United States. Consequently, Independence Day on July 4th does not hold the same significance for all Americans, particularly Black and African Americans. 


June 19, 1865, was a pivotal day in American history. Today, it serves as an opportunity for Black and African Americans to honor their past, present, and future and express gratitude for their ancestors. Moreover, it is a day for everyone to celebrate and acknowledge the resilience of Black and African Americans throughout history. 

How can I celebrate Juneteenth?

Juneteenth should be a day of learning, reflection, listening and engagement. We might not be able to participate in organized celebrations in-person, but there are some productive things we can do, including educating ourselves and supporting Black businesses, to meaningfully observe Juneteenth 2023.


Take Action 

  • Register to vote 
  • Contact elected officials to advocate for social and racial justice 
  • Support Black-owned businesses 


  • “Four Hundred Souls,” by Dr. Ibram X Kendi and Keisha N. Blain 
  • “The Little Devil in America,” by Hanif Abdurraqib  
  • “Juneteenth,” by Ralph Ellison 
  • “On Juneteenth,” by Annette Gordon-Reed 

Learn from Relevant Films or Shows 

  • Amend: The Fight for America  
  • Lovecraft  
  • Hidden Figures 
  • Moonlight 

A Quick Look at AI Tech, ChatGPT and Creativity in Public Relations

Many recent discussions and online debates have been about the pros and cons of rapidly advancing AI technology. These debates continue to thrive on LinkedIn and elsewhere today, many of which are among public relations professionals. If we focus on the positive aspects of AI technologies, specifically those that help creatives in the public relations realm reach beyond their typical scope, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about these recent technological developments.


Of course, a wide variety of AI technologies are available to the PR professional. Depending on our needs, we can seek out software that gathers unprecedented amounts of detailed information with tools such as media monitoring, sentiment analysis, influencer analysis, social listening, predictive analytics and beyond.


Many recent discussions and online debates have been about the pros and cons of rapidly advancing AI technology. These debates continue to thrive on LinkedIn and elsewhere today, many of which are among public relations professionals. If we focus on the positive aspects of AI technologies, specifically those that help creatives in the public relations realm reach beyond their typical scope, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about these recent technological developments.

Some PROs of AI in Public Relations

  • Better Understanding of Audiences:

    AI can help us better under our clients’ audiences. By analyzing the data we collect with AI tools, we can create more thoughtful content for our clients, from singular posts to full campaigns. Improving audience engagement and understanding clients’ needs also allows us, the humans making the decisions, to strengthen relationships across the board while delivering the most effective messages.

  • Data Analysis:

    We can analyze large amounts of data to predict behaviors and trends. With this information, we anticipate our clients’ communications needs and work out strategies that support the most productive efforts on their behalf.

  • Real-Time Insights:

    Have you ever wanted to adjust a campaign on the fly? With AI, we can gather real-time insights on how audiences are engaging with our work. We can get closer to our desired outcomes and optimize results using the latest data.

ChatGPT as a Creative Tool

  • Ideation and Brainstorming:

    Perhaps the most useful aspect of ChatGPT for creatives is the nearly boundless opportunity for generating ideas. If we’re not sure which way to go, any road can take us there. (“What are the pros and cons of X?” “Tell me a story about Y.”)

  • Good Prompt, Better Response:

    We can analyze large amounts of data to predict behaviors and trends. With this information, we anticipate our clients’ communications needs and work out strategies that support the most productive efforts on their behalf.

  • What’s in a Story?:

    Many of us consider ourselves storytellers, and we need to harness both fresh ideas and accurate information to develop engaging narratives. Try using ChatGPT to add a twist or give you a fresh perspective. (“Give me a story or scenario that would help a professional organization that’s focused on X to promote itself.”)

Let’s Get Ethical

What are the safest and most ethical ways to use generative AI in public relations? The Public Relations Council released a guide in April 2023 on this very subject. In sum, the Council urges PR professionals to:

  • protect sensitive information and avoid using it as part of search prompts;
  • keep an eye out for misinformation and biases;
  • remain committed to checking the accuracy of the information generated and how we use it and;
  • disclose to clients when generative AI has been used to create any of their public-facing content.

For more information, view the Public Relations Council’s guide here.

Brooke Leader

Clear Strategy Partners Culture Series Spotlight

Brooke Leader, one of our Senior Account Coordinators, was unsure how to begin her career after college. In fact, given her far-reaching interests and knack for picking up skills on the fly, it was a challenge to choose just one educational path. She felt like she could choose any college major, secure a job and be able to enjoy the ride. It took some soul-searching and a fortuitous conversation with a stranger to send her in a fulfilling and clear direction.

Looking for Clarity

Born in Las Vegas and raised outside of Chicago, Brooke grew up alongside siblings who always had a clear plan for their future careers. She, on the other hand, had a different perspective: “My sister knew what she wanted to do since middle school. I never had that kind of clarity, so I decided to go into journalism because I love reading and writing,” Brooke said.

In her final year of high school, she applied to the undergraduate journalism program at the University of Missouri (Mizzou). She and her mother visited campus to learn more about the program and ended up having a long conversation with the concierge at their hotel. The polite small talk quickly segued into a detailed discussion about the differences between journalism, public relations and strategic communications majors. Brooke found herself surprisingly intrigued by what she had learned about writing- and communications-focused majors outside of journalism. Despite feelings of uncertainty, she decided to press on and accepted Mizzou’s offer.

Similar to many college freshman stories, Brooke felt unsettled during her first semester at Mizzou. “I thought I wanted the big SEC school that was well known and had a lot to offer,” she said, “but, I realized it was easy to get lost there and harder to find who you are and where your skills lie.” Surprisingly, the conversation with the concierge about strategic communication programs remained front of mind ever since her campus visit. She decided to act on the stranger’s advice, transferred universities and picked a new major in her second semester.

Brooke transferred to a small private school, Butler University, in Indianapolis, Indiana: “When I transferred to Butler, I changed majors to strategic communications with a concentration in public relations and a minor in political science.” Butler also had a well-known strategic communications program, which was also an important factor in her decision.

Making Transitions

While enrolled at Butler, Brooke further honed her communications and writing abilities along with soft skills that would prepare her for an internship at a communications firm in Indianapolis. She considers this a major turning point in her career trajectory, as the role turned into a full-time Account Coordinator position after only two months and allowed her to gain significant hands-on work experience.

The position with the Indianapolis firm served as an excellent springboard to other opportunities that would take Brooke to the east coast. Upon leaving the job in Indiana, she moved to Washington, D.C., and secured a job with the Department of State in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs as a speechwriter. Working directly for an Assistant Secretary of State, she wrote blogs and social media, congressional testimony and remarks for senate hearings. “Some of the work I am most proud of doing is promoting the US’s demining efforts around the world and helping move policy forward to protect threatened communities,” she explained. “Working at State made me realize I wanted to continue to have a positive impact on the world and support clients who want to create a safe and sustainable future.”

Finding a Fit in Public Relations

For someone like Brooke, a position with aspects of unpredictability, coupled with a heap of weekly challenges, is a great fit. “The same type of energy and quick pace of public relations really can’t be found anywhere else,” Brooke explained. “I am grateful for my time with the Department of State, but I was anxious to get back into more PR-focused work.” In the summer of 2022, she accepted a full-time position with Clear Strategy Partners (CSP).

The variety of challenges that comes with a diverse portfolio of clients in public relations is important to her. A young professional who’s building her skill set and hoping to develop a nuanced area of expertise in the field, she finds that the unpredictability of public relations work plays to her strengths: “As an Account Coordinator, I get to work on a lot of different clients and projects, so I’m always working on something new. That’s a good thing because I’m always looking for moments where I can really shine. I’m still relatively early in my career, so I’m just taking it one day at a time. I learn everything I can from new experiences, projects and my gifted colleagues.”

Writing a New Chapter of Her Career

CSP’s company culture and its efforts to support its employees attracted Brooke for this new chapter in her career. She enjoys the flexibility of remote work and, along with finding a good work-life balance, takes advantage of the extra time that affords. She elaborated, “Since I’m not spending time commuting, I can pursue many fulfilling things during the work week. I am passionate about working out because it helps both my mental and physical health. I also love fostering dogs that are waiting to be adopted.”

The time she has been able to spend fostering dogs, she is quick to point out, has significantly changed how she approaches stressful situations both inside and outside of work. “When it comes to fostering dogs, I have had to learn a lot of patience and positivity because animals can feel that. I used to be a more impatient person, and it was sometimes to my detriment when it came to interacting with coworkers. I could get easily overwhelmed but working with animals has taught me how to slow down and be more patient in everything I do.”

Brooke was also excited to join CSP because of how members of the firm treat each other. From her first interview, she identified aspects of company culture that she knew would help her align with CSP’s values and ultimately put her best foot forward. “When I was first interviewing for a new position, one of the top things I was looking for was healthy interpersonal dynamics,” she explained. “I have a dry sense of humor. I enjoy bantering with my friends and coworkers. During my interview with CSP, there was a certain type of levity in the conversation that I saw immediately and appreciated. Everyone I spoke with seemed to be themselves, not putting on a front, which I loved.”

Even though Brooke has been with the firm for only eight months, she feels like she has hit a healthy stride. She looks forward to growing her skill set and engaging in creative collaborative projects with her coworkers as we approach the new year. “I love how small and close knit the CSP team is, but also how productive we’ve been this year,” she exclaimed. “I look forward to being with CSP as the firm grows and growing along with it!”

Brooke Leader

Senior Account Coordinator

Research and Valuable Sources in Public Relations

Many of us rely on some type of research to do our jobs well. We might not consider ourselves researchers, but most of us are digging into the depths of the internet or conducting interviews to carry out this work. How do we know if we are locating credible sources? Why does it matter? I would like to offer a closer look at what we might consider valuable research and why that’s important, especially for those of us in public relations. At the same time, I hope this post gives readers an inside look at some of our values at Clear Strategy Partners and highlights the care we take in crafting materials for our clients.

The Purpose of Research in Public Relations

For those readers unfamiliar with the day-to-day processes of a public relations firm, it might come as a surprise that our work requires a significant amount of research. At first glance, it might appear that our clients provide us with all the information we need to know, and we then shape that into a public-facing message for print or online publication.

Many of the details that inform our creative processes and help us accurately represent their voices, services and products come from the clients themselves; that much is true. There is often, however, an important research component that allows us to produce more comprehensive, current and thoughtful deliverables.

PR firms with the knowledge and agility to conduct thorough research can better support their clients in a variety of ways. In addition to improving their image in the marketplace, these firms also facilitate the best connections with other businesses or consumers through written materials, digital content and beyond. Generally speaking, good research helps us identify issues, problem solve, manage crises and assist clients in building long-lasting relationships with their target audiences. Additionally, educating ourselves with credible sources helps us learn more about our clients and their industry, ultimately improving the services we provide.

Valuable Sources

What makes the research useful, credible and thoughtful? Whether we work in public relations or another industry that requires independent research, it is important to know the quality and origins of the sources we consult. There are three essential categories from which we can gather valuable information, provided we choose them with care: interviews, primary sources and secondary sources. While this is not an all-inclusive list, these three types of sources can help us build well-supported messaging and communications. What makes each of these categories useful and how can we locate them?

Conducting Interviews

As a writer with formal training in Cultural Anthropology, my first thought when tasked with a research assignment is always, “Whom can I talk to about this?” Conducting interviews to learn more about a subject might seem rudimentary or obvious, but it’s easy to forget the value of interviews or even miss opportunities to take full advantage of them.

By choosing your interviewee carefully and asking thoughtful questions, you improve your odds of receiving well-informed answers to help you form solid arguments or support what you’re trying to accomplish. Ideally, your interviewee is an expert on the topic and has the qualifications and track record to have an authoritative voice on the subject, also known as a subject matter expert (SME).

An overlooked advantage of conducting SME interviews is that they give you the opportunity to ask the questions demystifying any grey areas for you. This might include questions you have about information stated in other sources and common misconceptions about specific topics that you have carried with you over the years. Chances are that you are not the only one out there with those misconceptions, so you will be adding value to your work by addressing it head-on somewhere in your content development process.

I have found interviews particularly helpful when it comes to educating myself about topics in STEM fields in which I have no experience. While talking with SMEs in these areas, I try to ask some of those “pedestrian” questions, when possible, as I know that others are probably pondering similar ideas based on things they have read, hear-say, folklore and social media. Additionally, I relish the opportunity to ask SMEs some version of the questions, “What else do you think we should know?” and “What do you wish other people knew about this topic?” In many interviews, these questions yield some of the most valuable information that, in my experience, are worth their weight in gold.

Primary Sources and Secondary Sources

Sometimes we can’t locate an SME, and that’s okay. There are other sources from which we can gather trustworthy information. Additionally, even when we have an opportunity to interview SMEs, we may still need to seek out primary sources to supplement that work. Primary sources are first-hand accounts of a particular topic or event, including written texts, audio recordings and photographs. It might be easier to think of primary sources as those documents that captured an event while it was happening or directly with people who experienced the event. Memoirs, oral histories, newspaper articles, polls, statistical data and academic journal articles can all be primary sources, although they were created after an event occurred.

Secondary sources are typically those that analyze, comment on, or interpret primary sources. This category includes books, articles, blogs, encyclopedias, textbooks, reviews, essays and documentaries that synthesize or summarize information. For a quick reference, check out the guide on Scribbr.com.

Sometimes it is difficult to determine if a source is credible. Generally, it is best to err on the side of caution. Those top-level domains such as .gov, .org and.edu sites tend to have the most trustworthy information, but you still need to do your homework. Scribbr.com offers a compact list to help us decide, which they call the CRAAP test. The A’s are particularly important:

  • Currency: Is the source up to date?
  • Relevance: Is the source relevant to your research?
  • Authority: Where is the source published? Who is the author? Are they considered reputable and trustworthy in their field?
  • Accuracy: Is the source supported by evidence? Are the claims cited correctly?
  • Purpose: What was the motive behind publishing this source?

Where to Locate Sources

When it comes to interviews, since Clear Strategy Partners has long-standing relationships with many clients, I often have easy access to SMEs who are ready to meet at a moment’s notice. For freelancers and other professionals, it is not always easy to find a knowledgeable interviewee to speak with, let alone a highly qualified expert. After working as a freelance writer for several years, I know this challenge intimately. Resources like Help a Reporter Out can be helpful when you are in a jam. Bear in mind that you will need some time to post an inquiry to the site and vet the submissions you receive before you can proceed with a worthwhile interview. You can also contact colleges and universities when interviewing an academic researcher or a professor might prove useful.


For primary and secondary sources, your searches can follow any number of paths depending on your needs. Aside from locating original primary source documents in archives and special library collections, which can be quite time-consuming, you can find high-quality scans of primary sources in online digital collections. The American Library Association and the National Archives can help you get started, especially if you are consulting sources in the arts, history, or humanities. Google Scholar can also provide free access to many primary and secondary sources, just be sure to click on the PDF links to the right of the article titles after you conduct a search. That is the best way to read articles online without having a login credential from an academic institution, which most of us don’t have. Academic articles are typically peer-reviewed, meaning that they must pass a rigorous review process before publication. They are typically a valuable resource if you can find what you’re looking for.


Alternatively, you can look for interview materials with experts in specific industries, seek out materials posted by professional organizations that are an authoritative voice in their field, consult reports from market research firms, and dive into journalists’ writing and reporting if it aligns with your research questions.


While the goal of a public relations firm is to help each client meet their communications goals and find creative ways to engage audiences, there’s much more to those efforts than meets the eye. Locating and utilizing valuable and credible resources is only one piece of that puzzle. To me, there is a myriad of other processes and efforts within a progressive firm that rely on that research. If we draw on weak research, many aspects of our work will suffer in the wake.



Written by Timon Kaple
Digital Writer/Strategist
Clear Strategy Partners

Quiet Quitting Isn’t a Movement: It’s a Side Effect

Did you know about 50% of the U.S. workforce feels burnt out, frustrated by workplace expectations, underappreciated by their employers or some combination thereof? Since late 2021, dissatisfied employees have taken to social media to express their lack of engagement at work and thoughts on workplace culture. Banded together on platforms such as LinkedIn with #quietquitting, posts about workers’ trials at work and coping mechanisms have blossomed into a widespread phenomenon.

Is quiet quitting simply a sign that employees are losing interest in their work, or is it a side effect of larger issues? Let’s dive into what quiet quitting means, what might be causing it and different ways to address it.

What is quiet quitting?

The quiet quitting label might lead you to imagine an employee exiting their company without much notice and without a specific reason. The way the term is used today, it simply refers to employees performing their basic job duties without taking on tasks outside their job descriptions or spending extra time to build social and professional relationships with colleagues.

Some employers see this as a symptom of laziness or negativity, while others recognize that many employees are not satisfied with their jobs. Without a sense of satisfaction, workers are less likely to perform to the best of their abilities or take on new challenges. With this in mind, let’s consider some of the elements of workplace culture that seem to be contributing to quiet quitting.

Why are people quietly quitting?

The tendency for employees to do the bare minimum can be a product of many different factors: burnout, desire for a healthier work-life balance or constant miscommunication with colleagues and leadership. After evaluating online discussions of quiet quitting on social media platforms like LinkedIn, I have seen many similar sentiments. Why go to a team happy hour after work when you have kids waiting at home? Why put off that bucket list vacation just to avoid using PTO?

Stress and anxiety are a main factor in the quiet quitting phenomenon. A recent survey found that 40 percent of people experience high levels of stress and burnout on a regular basis. When our jobs weigh this heavy on our minds and bodies, it’s difficult to meet the minimum expectations of our roles, let alone go above and beyond to help a teammate or take on an extra project.

Some quiet quitters have also voiced discontent with the balance of their work and personal lives. Workers are sacrificing several aspects of life outside work, such as pursuing romantic relationships, spending time with family and friends and getting adequate sleep. In a role where the employee is required to work late nights or join calls during PTO, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate work and personal lives, which is yet another factor contributing to employee burnout.

Today’s quiet quitters have also identified miscommunication and a lack of transparency from leadership as a source of frustration. Even if managers encourage a healthy work-life balance and outline growth opportunities, actual day-to-day expectations can remain unclear. In fact, only about half of workers are confident that they know what is expected of them. Without clear and understood expectations from both parties, the workplace can become a breeding ground for frustration, discouragement and discontent. Eventually, this can lead to a vicious cycle in which the employer perceives their employee as underperforming and the employee sees themselves as meeting expectations.

Larger implications on workplace culture

The quiet quitting discussion sheds light on what is important to employees today. What some supervisors see as quiet quitting may be an employee setting boundaries to maintain balance and prevent burnout. If quiet quitting is so prevalent that it trends on social media and sparks countless conversations surrounding workplace culture, then it’s probably time for organizations to reevaluate their priorities, day-to-day management and transparency.

As an employee, if you find yourself wanting to be a “quiet quitter,” it could be time to start a conversation with your manager or supervisor. For employers, if you find your employees are often burned out or disengaged, there might be a few things you need to address:

  • Setting clear, realistic expectations
    If the next big project requires your team to stay an hour late, or if you expect someone to take on a task that’s outside of their traditional scope, schedule a conversation with them in advance. Having clear expectations—and an opportunity to discuss them—avoids confusion and disappointment.

  • Encouraging balance
    You want your employees to feel engaged and positively challenged while on the clock. By the same token, they should also feel supported in taking time off. Employers need to make space for life’s unpredictable challenges, employees’ self-care and PTO. Being understanding of changing circumstances can go a long way in helping employees find a good work-life balance. Better balance means better work.

  • Providing feedback
    Giving feedback is valuable for opening lines of communication and aligning expectations between employer and employee. Companies that conduct regular feedback experience almost 15 percent lower turnover rates compared to those who don’t. Letting your employees know where they stand and how they can improve helps to contribute to positive workplace culture.
Regardless of our efforts, nearly all workplaces can become a source of stress and burnout, just as most employees are susceptible to toxic and challenging work environments. We all deal with it, and Clear Strategy Partners (CSP) is no exception. To foster a positive and productive environment to the best of their abilities, management at CSP actively tries to stay current and in tune with workplace culture considerations. This includes offering its employees thoughtful guidance with clear expectations and enough flexibility for them to develop a healthy work-life balance. CSP, a fully remote firm, also has a virtual open-door policy so employers can meet with management whenever they wish.

Looking ahead

With clear leadership and the flexibility for employees to develop a good work-life balance, workers are more likely to take pride in their work. Satisfied and motivated employees are often more excited to take on new challenges at work, produce more valuable work for clients, and are less likely to experience undue stress and burnout.

Upon closer examination of quiet quitting and feelings voiced by dissatisfied employees, the desire to quietly quit may not signify laziness or lack of ambition. Rather, quiet quitting is a symptom of larger issues within organizational culture. Maybe it is time to reconsider how we’re talking about quiet quitting and avoid placing blame on employees alone. Rather, let’s consider it a sign that we might need to reevaluate our organizations’ workplace culture, priorities, daily expectations and communication styles.

Senior Account Coordinator, Clear Strategy Partners

Amy Thompson

Clear Strategy Partners Culture Series Spotlight

Amy Thompson has seen it all in a communications career that started at one of the largest teacher’s labor unions in the country and took her to some of the most prestigious positions in D.C. During this journey, she worked with creative legends from Madison Avenue, well-known newspaper editors, and former advisors to presidents, first ladies, and congressional leaders.

Now she calls Clear Strategy Partners (CSP) home in this next chapter of her career. A senior account manager at the firm, she’s managing a growing number of clients that provide her with fruitful challenges and utilize her wide-ranging expertise in public relations. As a consummate professional, she is still looking to learn from every experience and building on the knowledge base she has gathered along the way.

How it all started

Amy grew up in Eighty-Four, Pennsylvania. Located just about 45 minutes southwest of Pittsburgh, the small town is home to the well-known 84 Lumber Company. In her early years, Amy developed ways of navigating tight-knit social circles that often come with small-town living—a skill that would pay off after she relocated to the big city. “Like all small towns, everyone knows each other well, so it was a big change when I arrived at the University of Maryland College Park (UMPC) to study journalism. The school was very close to Washington, D.C., where there was even more to see and do. I didn’t realize it at the time, but D.C. is very much like Eighty-Four in one way: everyone knows each other. It’s like that game Six Degrees of Separation, except in D.C. it’s more like Two Degrees of Separation.”

While in D.C., Amy interned with the American Federation of Teachers, which led to a full-time role with RJR Nabisco. This position gave her the chance to work with respected experts from corporations, public policy, and education, eventually preparing her to pursue another role with Weber Shandwick. Reminiscing about her professional and social life in D.C., Amy elaborated, “I enjoyed the fast pace of agency life back then, and stayed with Weber for about 10 years, working my way up to Senior Vice President.” While the job led to other positions in publishing, the music industry, and a global professional society, she pointed out that, “it was those early years that were the most transformative for me because of the professional mentors I had, and the networks I was able to cultivate and grow.”

While Amy thoroughly enjoyed the daily D.C. grind, she took a temporary hiatus from full-time work a few years ago to tend to family matters. After some time away, she soon found herself looking to get back into a full-time public relations role. Since she still planned on keeping up with some of her family responsibilities after resuming work, she needed a remote position with flexibility and leadership that understands life’s unpredictable challenges.

Choosing Clear Strategy Partners

Over the years, Amy came to realize that what she valued in both employers and clients could often be boiled down to one thing: reciprocal loyalty. While she jokes that it “sounds a bit gangster” to single out loyalty as one of the most important qualities in the professional world, she sees great value in it.

She expressed that reciprocal loyalty creates a virtuous circle, leading to long-lasting, healthy, mutually beneficial client-firm relationships. Even before joining CSP last November, Amy noticed that CSP had a loyal client base, furthering her interest in working with the firm: “Having worked at a large PR agency and then going in-house and hiring PR agencies, I’ve come to value what those politicos early in my career taught me: loyalty matters. Clients and co-workers all need to trust that you are in it for the long haul and have their backs, no matter what or when. CSP’s impressive roster has many longtime client partners, which speaks volumes.”

In addition to being attracted to CSP’s long and positive track record with clients, a role with the firm also came with the flexibility and benefits that would allow Amy to live a full life outside of work. She also realized that she would be joining team members who also had diverse work histories and myriad unique skills.

At CSP, Amy takes advantage of the flexibility that comes with a role at our firm and has found a good work-life balance. She enjoys working from home in Maryland and appreciates the proximity to people, places, and things that she loves when she signs off at the end of the workday. Outside of work, she spends as much time as possible outdoors. From trail running with her dog to mountain biking and gardening, she stays active throughout the week. When she needs a break, you’ll find her with her nose in a book: “I just finished Jonathan Eig’s autobiography on Muhammad Ali, and I just started Charles Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.”

Written by Timon Kaple
Digital Writer/Strategist
Clear Strategy Partners

Maura Seikaly

Clear Strategy Partners Culture Series Spotlight

When we prepare for and embark on a professional career, we can’t know the twists and turns it might take or how instances of good fortune and bad luck might cause monumental shifts in the following days. The best we can do is seek out valuable mentors and teachers and surround ourselves with good people. Ultimately, we hope to find a job that challenges us, makes us better people, and helps us enjoy life.

Clear Strategy Partners (CSP) offers its team members challenging learning opportunities, a network of supportive and reliable co-workers, strong leadership, and the chance to carve out a work-life balance that makes sense for each employee. This is made possible through trust, honesty, and an intentional communication strategy known as radical candor. As part of our ongoing Clear Strategy Partners Culture Series, here’s a look at life at CSP through the eyes of one our Senior Account Managers, Maura Seikaly.

Testing the Waters

While interning for an event planning company in New York City as a college senior, Maura Seikaly realized she might be onto something. She treated the opportunity as a serious educational experience and a time to figure out her trajectory into a professional career. In a short time, she learned two valuable things about herself that influenced the next steps in her career: “In only two months, I realized that I did not want to work crazy, unstructured hours – that I needed a set schedule. It also became apparent that I was a creative thinker who could help others bring projects to life. After that, learning to become a project manager just made sense to me.”

After graduating from Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA, Maura took her first job in London, England. She honed her skills at the consumer PR firm and developed an appreciation for working with clients who endeavored to make the world a better place through a good cause over those with a product to sell. While she fell in love with London and became accustomed to the cultural and social amenities of big city life, her work visa was expiring. She made plans to return to the U.S. and pursue another role.

Maura settled in Washington, D.C., which offered vast career opportunities along with exciting social and leisure activities with closer proximity to her family. She took a job with a DC-based communications firm with the hopes of expanding her skill set and refining her blossoming PR abilities.

After about 11 months, however, a wind of change came through the company, and Maura needed to transition into a new role. She quickly found CSP and began full-time remote work.

CSP's Organizational Culture

Maura immediately settled into her new role at CSP and found her unique stride. This is partly because she sees the company culture, leadership, job expectations, and benefits at CSP to suit her needs.

From the start, she enjoyed working with both CSP’s clients and her fellow teammates. She pointed out how rare this combination is in her experience: “I’ve worked for a lot of agencies where you get one or the other, but not both. At CSP, the firm is certainly people-first. Everyone is transparent and understanding of the unpredictable nature of life and what we all have going on outside of work.”

Moreover, Maura points out three salient characteristics of company culture and interpersonal communications at CSP that stand out to her: transparency and radical candor. Both of which, in her opinion, have a significant impact of the day-to-day at the firm and help keep things moving forward.

Regarding transparency, Maura noted how important this is to her, especially working in a fully remote position: “It is very clear what is expected of us. In turn, we are clear of our objectives with our clients. This limits misunderstandings and sets everyone up for success.”

Team members at CSP practice radical candor, or speaking the truth and having those difficult conversations. Most importantly, this spirit of communication comes from a place of genuine care for your co-worker. In Maura’s experience, this level and type of honesty helps the company progress. “I see this as constructive criticism, in a way. We have two reviews with leadership where we can discuss what we are doing well and what we can improve on. It’s never negative or makes you feel down, but really helps you improve and move forward.”

A byproduct of transparency and radical candor at CSP is trust. While all of us believe that trust is an excellent thing to have among co-workers, not all leaders and their employees are able or willing to embrace it. For Maura and her teammates at CSP, they thrive on it: “CSP encourages me and makes space for me to do my best while maintaining a healthy relationship to work. This really comes down to trust.” CSP employees feel an authentic sense of autonomy that leads to a more creative, productive, and healthier work-life balance.

With some extra breathing room, both physically and professionally, Maura can do better work: “I know that my teammates at CSP are there when I need them but, otherwise, the firm makes space for me to do my thing, which is really validating. It has helped me gain confidence in my work and has, in turn, improved what I can provide my clients.”

Ultimately, transparency, radical candor, and the resulting trusting relationships help CSP team members follow through on collaborative, meaningful work valued by our employees and our clients.

Better Life, Better Work

In addition to allowing Maura to offer her clients valuable work that meets her high standards, the freedom and personal flexibility also positively impact her life. Of course, those two things are not mutually exclusive. The personal freedom that comes with a company culture and structure like that found at CSP is, by design, intended to create a beneficial cycle, a work-life balance that can make us live happier lives which, in turn, helps us better serve our clients.

But for someone who’s been a busy PR professional in demanding roles with clients who know her to be steadfast and reliable, it’s hard to imagine Maura having time for much outside of her career. The healthy balance comes from establishing a routine at home alongside her husband and their two dogs.

Instead of scrambling to shower, selecting an outfit, and commuting to her job, Maura wakes up and quickly finds herself sitting on her back porch with coffee and a granola bar, gearing up to start the day. Before starting work, she can spend time waking up in the sunshine and hanging out with her dogs as they patrol for squirrels instead of sitting in traffic or hopping on a packed subway car. After sufficient caffeination, she can pick up around the house, turn on her Roomba vacuum (which she insists is the greatest invention in recent history), and make her way to her desk to begin work for the day.

After work, she often takes advantage of the deck on the back of her home, only steps away from her desk, that overlooks a park. She might enjoy a cocktail, her husband a cigar, and they’ll unwind. Maybe they’ll watch some streaming science fiction shows and make plans for future outings: “We spend a lot of time with family,” she said. “We try to have dinner with my in-laws at least once a week and attend my nieces’ various activities like sports games, birthday parties, and things like that.”

Maura has carved out an excellent life-work balance that works for her and her family. A big piece of that, of course, is the flexibility and benefits that CSP makes available to her. Looking ahead, she enthusiastically talks about upcoming projects at CSP and is excited about the company’s growth: “We have a lot of potential for expanding current clients and gaining new ones. This means potentially broader work and new colleagues, which I find very exciting.”

Written by Timon Kaple
Digital Writer/Strategist
Clear Strategy Partners

Make Space For Your Employees, Not Self-Care Regimens

Many of us were waiting for pandemic-related stress and anxiety to subside by now, mid-2022, but things don’t feel quite back to normal. The daily news of the war in Ukraine, domestic terrorism, inflation and skyrocketing gas prices (to name a few) weigh heavy in our minds.

While talk about self-care practices in the office and at home became commonplace shortly after the start of the pandemic, it’s become clear that many companies’ approaches to personal care over the last couple of years have been largely unhelpful and sometimes quite invasive of personal privacy. Yes, we’re feeling the stress over the news and the ongoing pandemic, but it’s time for employers to provide their teams with the tools they need to practice personal care without overstepping boundaries or prescribing a regimen.

Actions speak louder than words and companies need to provide good health benefits, manageable workloads, and enough time off for their teams to feel some flexibility and freedom. Moreover, company culture needs to align with values that make space for healthy practices and communication among everyone in the workplace. This includes showing empathy and being welcoming of our own and others’ mistakes while avoiding toxic positivity.

Make Space for Time Away

When those moments of exhaustion or under-inspiration hit us at work, it’s not always at the most convenient times. It’s common to feel a little burnout at the end of the week, but this feeling isn’t confined to Friday at 5:00. Maybe it’s a Tuesday, late morning, when we feel like any tasks we attempt aren’t quite up to our normal standards. At that point, maybe it’s time to step away, do something else, reset, and try again tomorrow.

As the CEO of Clear Strategy Partners, I know when I need to take personal days and I encourage our employees to do the same. It’s important for me to be able to do that for myself and, when I founded this company, I wanted to make sure our employees felt like they had the flexibility to do the same.

The benefits that we offer at Clear Strategy Partners reflect the fact that we value having the opportunity to check out and take time off when we need it. We employ a small team of intelligent and responsible professionals, and I don’t worry about them taking advantage of the flexibility that comes with working a fully remote full-time job with excellent benefits. I know that at the end of the day, our employees can better support the company and their teammates when they’re healthier and happier. Having time off is an essential component here and allows our employees to do whatever they need to do to recharge.

Make Room for Trial and Error, Avoid Toxic Positivity

Whether it’s part of their daily practice or just during highly stressful periods, sometimes employers practice toxic positivity. This is showing extreme positivity in both words and actions that ultimately cover up real problems that need attention and resolution.

Toxic positivity makes others feel unwelcome to share feelings, ideas, or pressing matters that may lack the same level of cheer or encouraging sentiments. When employers push their toxic positivity on others at work, problems go unaddressed, fester, and cause irreparable damage to company culture, productivity, and employee well-being. Experts argue that, instead of trying to keep the mood light and carefree with an idealist facade of positivity, employers listen to feedback, embrace empathy, and be ready to have difficult conversations.

At Clear Strategy Partners, we hold meetings twice a week with the whole team as well as one-on-one or small group meetings by request. In addition to holding each other accountable and fostering our growing company culture of collaborative work, these meetings give anyone the chance to bring any issues to our attention in a judgment-free zone. We also practice radical candor, where we speak truth that is sometimes difficult, but do so with knowledge that our goal is to find the best path forward for all those involved. This requires a trust relationship built with every decision and internal action.

Companies need to lean into problem-solving and make room for trial and error. Instead of passing blame to others when something inevitably goes awry, we should be solution-seekers who understand the peaks and valleys of creative and meaningful progress.

An Insider’s Look at Clear Strategy Partners

As part of an ongoing series, I’ll be including feature stories and articles that highlight the unique contributions and perspectives of members of the Clear Strategy Partners team. We’ll learn more about who they are, what they do, and how they feel about company culture, problem-solving, seeking and receiving feedback, and more.

My hope is that by offering you some insight into how we work, our values, and what we enjoy about life, you’ll have a better understanding why Clear Strategy Partners is such a valuable part of our clients’ teams.
CEO, Clear Strategy Partners
Working with a great group of communications professionals to translate challenging topics for our clients’ audiences. We get to figure out this puzzle every day and it is rewarding to be part of a firm that cares about finding communications solutions that are honest and compelling.

Is CEO Activism a Must?

How to navigate the new normal for executive leaders

The modern-day executive still balances budgets, increases organizational value and drives operational excellence. However, today’s leaders also experience growing pressure to build personal brands as social activists for good without making a misstep that could hurt the bottom line.  

The Power of the CEO Voice

Prominent CEOs like Tim Cook at Apple or Elon Musk at Tesla often come to mind when thinking about executive influence. These leaders have an enormous platform to make statements about a range of issues. 


In a 2018 Harvard Business Review article, researchers examined the power of social statements on buying habits. As part of an experiment, they conducted a national poll and provided participants with information about some of Tim Cook’s social stances. They found that “people in the group exposed to Cook’s activism… expressed significantly higher intent to buy Apple products in the near future.” 


That sounds great, but there are only a handful of CEOs with this kind of profile. It begs the question, what about the rest of us not in charge of one of the largest companies in the world? 

The CEO Brand Matters Regardless of Organizational Size

In a spring update to its annual trust barometer, Edelman notes that 77 percent of survey respondents said their employer is the most trusted organization in their life. This places a heavy burden on CEOs at every organization to properly manage this trust, including taking stands on critical social issues. 


2019 Gartner study notes that “87% of employees said businesses should take a public position on societal issues relevant to their business. Seventy-four percent said businesses should take a position on issues even when they aren’t directly relevant to their business.” 


The truth is that we all want to follow leaders who help us feel our work matters and our company is doing the right thing for society. This is true whether your organization is at the top of the Fortune 100 or a small business. Choosing which issues to engage in is key. 

Three Factors to Consider Before Taking a Social Position

Fortune and Deloitte regularly conduct a CEO survey. In the 2021 summer edition, researchers asked CEOs about their considerations before taking active stances on social issues. The top three factors are questions all leaders should consider.

  1. Does this stance align with my organization’s strategy, purpose and values?

    Even though the CEO or executive director of an organization is likely to be the standard-bearer for the decision, it’s critical to ask first if this “fits” our company or nonprofit. If it does not align with the value we offer to society, we are not likely to have the same influence in advocating a specific position.
  1. How will my employees feel about this decision?

    This is more than just appeasing employees. Employees are placing a lot of trust in executive leaders. Understanding our workforce and the things they care about is one of our jobs.
  1. Can I meaningfully influence the issue or topic?

    No one has time to tilt at windmills with little chance of success. If I am Elon Musk, I am actively casting a new vision for a sustainable future. As a small business owner, it may be a local referendum for fair wages. Each has its place, and both are meaningful.

Making Sure You Are Heard

Executives actively considering their role as thought leaders and influencers for good need to understand that you build this brand over time. To effectively communicate a vision, there must be consistency and visibility for your positions. I suggest that CEOs dip their toes in the water and regularly begin to comment or post thought-leadership articles about carefully considered topics for social good. There are two core reasons for this approach.

  1. Authenticity starts with an established track record.

    People trust leaders who regularly support social positions and display knowledge, understanding and passion for the cause. This is not a one-off proposition. Find the channel today where you are comfortable establishing your track record. Examples include internal communications platforms, media interviews and social media, such as LinkedIn or a curated Twitter feed. Consult with your communications team to determine the best choice for you.
  1. You need an audience to be heard.

    As I mentioned, there are only a handful of Tim Cooks out there. Most of us have to build our audience through regular communications internally, within our industries, online and through media outreach. As your audience grows, so does your influence.
Every executive’s personal brand reflects on the companies and nonprofit organizations they lead. Executives who recognize this responsibility and find the right voice for that brand help their careers and the viability of their organization. Authentically building that brand takes time, but leaders can make a difference for their workplace and society as a whole by approaching these opportunities thoughtfully.
CEO, Clear Strategy Partners
Working with a great group of communications professionals to translate challenging topics for our clients’ audiences. We get to figure out this puzzle every day and it is rewarding to be part of a firm that cares about finding communications solutions that are honest and compelling.

Trust In Establishment Media Makes a Comeback

The media establishment has been taking a beating over the past several years. They are an easy target for a full range of political, activist and advocacy groups. And at times, certain members of the media don’t help their cause. However, I always explain to my clients that most reporters, editors and producers are just trying to get it right. As a former reporter, I believe the media plays an essential role in our society, and a damaged “Fourth Estate” is bad for everyone.

Fortunately, it looks like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. A recent report by the Pew Research Center suggests Americans are once again regaining trust in traditional media outlets.

The Loss of Trust: How Did We Get Here?

It would be easy to assume that the loss of trust in traditional media occurred over the last four to five years. And while there was a brief trust dip during the 2016 election season, positive numbers quickly bounced back. Edelman’s annual survey shows that trust in the media rose year over year until 2020. Other organizations like Gallup show similar results.

Then came the pandemic, and with it, a trust nosedive for traditional media. In January of this year, a reporter for Axios noted, “For the first time ever, fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media.” The pandemic was a significant period of fear and searching for answers. As I have mentioned before, fear has a funny way of negatively affecting decision-making for humans. For example, as a form of protection, many people tend to narrow their circle of trust. This reality, combined with the fact that no one knew who to believe during the pandemic, reinforced the idea that the media was not to be trusted.

The Media Makes a Comeback

By March of this year, there was a glimmer of hope for traditional media. Pew put out a new survey and found that “more Americans now see the media’s influence growing compared with a year ago.” Interestingly, this is a bipartisan view. Pew notes that “this shift in views of the media’s influence in the country occurred among members of both political parties – and in the same direction.” Another notable stat is that Black and Hispanic Americans are the most optimistic supporters of traditional media.

The obvious question for the media is why? What caused this attitudinal change? I would argue that the positive change results from actions the media took and a break from controversial events.

Journalist Soul Searching

It only makes sense that leaders do a little soul searching when an industry sustains a significant hit in trust. Traditional journalists are actively doing so, especially when it comes to the importance of remaining a neutral party on issues of the day.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism put out a report at the beginning of this year predicting trends for 2021. One of the key findings in the wide-ranging survey of journalists was that impartiality in reporting matters more now than ever. Nearly 90% of the news executives polled agree with this point.

However, there is also a nuanced challenge for reporters. As the survey notes, “Does a traditional approach of dispassionately airing all the arguments and leaving it up to people to make their own judgment still stand? Or does this risk giving undue weight to extreme positions and help amplify lies? Should journalists take a clear moral stand in their reporting of, for example, the killing of George Floyd, the ‘climate emergency,’ or the attempted subverting of a presidential election?”

Time Heals Many Wounds

Though a cliché in many ways, time plays a factor in healing old wounds. As some psychologists suggest, memories simply fade away when not accessed. This is especially true for negative memories that none of us are keen to remember. As a result, the distrust that occurred during the pandemic fades as we begin to think less about the dark days of the global health crisis. We reopen that circle of trust and once again turn toward traditional media sources for relevant news.

Four Tips to Reach Traditional Media

This renewed trust should also encourage public relations professionals to place a stronger focus on media relations outreach. When doing so, don’t forget:

  1. The pitch still has to matter. If your pitch is too long, isn’t aligned with the outlet’s focus or doesn’t meet a need for the reporter, it’s not likely you will succeed. Remember that fewer reporters are being asked to do far more today, so quickly get to the point and be thoughtful in a few words.

  2. Make this a partnership. Reporters are people too. Help them out with data, information and contacts even when you are not trying to land a story for your organization. This won’t be forgotten and will form an honest relationship benefitting everyone involved.

  3. Pay attention to newsroom timelines. When do they publish or post? What time is the outlet’s regular internal coverage meeting? Who is the decision-maker at the news outlet? Syncing up your pitches with this knowledge ensures the right person hears your pitch at the right time.

  4. Follow up, follow up, follow up. Again, reporters are people just like you and me. That means they also receive a million emails a day. Don’t be scared to follow up multiple times. They may be short on time, and the squeaky wheel still gets the grease.
CEO, Clear Strategy Partners
Working with a great group of communications professionals to translate challenging topics for our clients’ audiences. We get to figure out this puzzle every day and it is rewarding to be part of a firm that cares about finding communications solutions that are honest and compelling.