Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Business and Thanksgiving

Well, this is my last blog for November! I will be back with you on December 1st. I’m taking the next four days off as a way to be Thankful for all my hard work and that of my amazing staff! Plus, we are moving to a new office location in Washington, D.C. on Monday and it is a very exciting time for IME!

This said, on holidays it can be very hard to unplug from the PR business. We live in a 24/7 social media culture and non-stopping news media community. Unplugging, however, can actually boost productivity and no one expects you to work 24/7. So, if you are an entrepreneur- take tomorrow truly off!

In case you need help doing this, I have developed 3 ways to help you unplug this Thanksgiving holiday:

1. Leave your phone at home. What? I know, right! If you are going out shopping with your family, someone is bound to have their cell phone in case of a true emergency. Announce that you are leaving your phone at home and truly do this. I promise you that your business and clients will not fall off the face of the Earth as a result. And you will be surprised what a real conversation feels like without the distraction of all your cell phone and social media alerts.
2. Don’t sleep with your phone in the same room. This way emails and social media events are not the last thing you see when you go to sleep or the first thing you see when you wake up. Instead, you can just sit in silence and clear your head or engage in some mindful meditation.
3. Don’t watch the news. It may be tempting with all the events going on right now – especially surrounding the Mike Brown case. Instead, focus on holiday movies or the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. This will allow your brain a much needed rest from the news cycle most publicists work in the midst of.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving! I’ll be back with a new blog on the 1st of December,

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson - Too Little, Too Late?


What can I say about the events last night in Ferguson, Missouri? I've watched the news this morning and from a Homeland Security perspective- it was a disaster. With all the time and preparation going into giving people the right to protest and to protect the community- all I am left with is a big question mark as to what happened?!

So far, we have 61 people arrested and several cars and businesses burnt to the ground. Is this how we protest in the country? Is this how we navigate and implement security measures? Is this violence how we promote a message of peace and further movements to justice? No! It isn't what one says that matters in these types of situations. Instead, it is how one says it! If the police stood calm and had a great plan in place- like being stationed across the city and in front of different businesses- I truly believe less structures would be burned this morning. The same goes for the protestors. If they stood together in silence- like here in Washington, D.C.- more would have been spoken through the silence and stillness.

We have a lot to learn about communication within individual and security platforms. I'm sad today on so many levels and hope- going forward- we can learn from last night's events.

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, November 24, 2014

Homeland Security and Feguson.....

Pictures of Homeland Security officers are causing a stir and raising questions whether the Feds will be on the ground in Ferguson after the Grand Jury decision is announced. According to TacticalGear.com, Federal Protective Services has been spending money with them, providing proof of recent transactions for police gear by officers in town from Washington DC. As I write this blog, there has been an announcement that the verdict is in as to if a manslaughter charge is going up (or not) against the copy who fatally shot Michael Brown and the media is feeding the feeling of impeding chaos in the air. But is Homeland Security's presence really needed?

In my opinion, the answer is 'yes'! Anytime you have a group of people that have reason to be heated or outraged, the public's safety becomes an automated priority. I'm not saying that I agree or disagree with any decisions or actions on either side of the fence. My concern is for the city and the safety of both law enforcement and the citizens. This said, Homeland Security has to help provide a plan to local law enforcement because they can become a target regardless of the verdict! And the same goes for ordinary people who live, shop and work in the surrounding neighborhoods!

There is no doubt in my mind that today is going to continue to be an emotional day for many. There are several apparent and underlining issues feeding the heartbreak of the Ferguson community. The Department of Homeland Security may or may not be directly involved with boots on the ground service, but the do have an obligation to offer securities training and resources - if requested. For those of you who read my prior blog about the Vet who was fired for snapping a picture of the DHS's cars in a local hotel- you know that I am of the belief that we need to let these men and women do their jobs and keep us safe.

So, as we head into the evening seeking an answer as to what the decision is, I remain hopeful that the right thing will be done and that the peace will be kept.

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

Friday, November 21, 2014

Homeland Security and Immigration

I've been asked several times to comment on my thoughts via President Obama's recent media blitz regarding immigration. Listen, I have no answers other then this is not a black and white issue. Like anything, there are several layers and a "one size fits all" solution will only create, in my opinion, further issues down the road.

This said, from a Homeland Security standpoint- something has to be done that will ensure we are protecting our country from allowing terrorists (who fly into Mexico or Canada) from entering our country with great ease. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sent an open letter to the President on the issue. In it, Johnson says "I support and recommended to the President each of the reforms to the immigration system that he will announce today. These recommendations were in turn the result of candid and extended consultations between me and the leadership of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as well as outside stakeholders. Along the way, I listened to members of the workforce who implement and enforce the law to hear their views. In my own view, any significant change in policy requires the insight of those who administer the system. I believe we have done that here. The executive actions the President will announce will reform and improve the system in a number of respects. These executive actions are well within our legal authority to direct and implement."

I don't think that the immigration orders will open us up to any more terrorism. It could, but I doubt it. Why? We have problems in other areas. I believe a lack of funding and program sustainability will cause further issues- which in turn will be blamed on any executive order that the President implements. I agree with Jeh Johnson but I know what will look like a lack of ability from the DHS will result not because of immigration and border issues (although that is always a concern) but because we are not handling money issues and program issues properly now! Immigration amnesty or not, the DHS is running out of resources as this country is running out of money. Something has to change- but like I said, not all issues are black and white or cut and dry.

"So, Twyla... what is your point?"

As we head into the weekend, take time to consider your own business. Think about the issues you have at hand and growth vs. income. Can you blame all of your problems on one source? Or is it easy to blame challenges on one area because addressing the few roots that lay underneath may be harder because their are no obvious solutions?

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Homeland Security and Holiday Travel

Next week the Thanksgiving holiday falls upon us and many of you will be traveling. In honor of the busy travel week, I have decided to put together a few basic tips to stay safe and secure.
First, if you are flying- show up early and expect delays. If you plan your flight to close to a deadline for a party or check-in, you will be stressed out. If you allow yourself plenty of time to arrive to your destination, without the pressure of a deadline, you will be more focused and travel safer. This is a proven fact.

Second, have a backup plan should something happen- and extra cash to! I tell everyone to travel with their emergency fund divided into cash and a debit account. In the event that a terrorist attack or security issue should occur, banks could be down or frozen. People don’t like to travel with a lot of cash, but you should have at least a thousand dollars (if not two) on you in the event of an emergency. Keep the same amount in the bank as an ER fund too.

As far as that backup plan, know what you would do if you couldn’t reach your destination and were to get diverted or stuck somewhere. Explain the plan to your fellow travelers and those you are going to visit. Your friends and family should know where you are going to be at all times- even if an emergency were to happen.

The holiday season is a stressful and wonderful time wrapped up into a matter of weeks. Keep an eye out for potential issues and report them if you do catch wind of anything suspect and keep cash on hand along with a viable plan. If you follow these steps, you will have a better and more secure holiday travel season.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Vet-Gate & My Thoughts

Here's some Homeland Security news for you- Mark Paffrath- a Navy Vet- said he lost his job at Drury Hotel Plaza in Chesterfield, Mo., and was called a terrorist after uploading images of dozens of Homeland Security vehicles in the hotel garage. When did it become illegal to take photos of cars and trucks in a garage? Well, that is the question when you ask the media about his arrest.

Now, let me give you some background on Mr. Paffrath. He works at the Drury Hotel Plaza. During his duties, he spotted over a dozen of Homeland Security vehicles in the parking garage and was alarmed, claiming he had never spotted the vehicles there before- at least during his employment with the company. Given today's social media culture, he took photos of the vehicles and posted them to Facebook. Then the vet wrote his caption, which was "I wonder if it has anything to do with Ferguson? #Ferguson, #No justice, no peace." Paffrath took down the photos and video the next day after Drury General Manager Jeff Baker asked him to.

Paffrath was soon after fired by the director of security for Drury Hotels Company, LLC, because his posts almost cost the company a $150,000 contract with Homeland Security. Now, relook at the post he posted and the caption. He never did say where the photo was taken. He never gave a location. Yet, he was fired..... Paffrath, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy after three years of service, took to Facebook to protest his firing and then went to the media- now alerting to where the photos were taken.

Here's the thing- Mr. Paffrath probably didn't mean any harm when he posted the photos and the caption. But he could have very well compromised a Homeland Security strategy to keep the city of Ferguson safe and - being that he IS a vet- the should have known better. So, what is the lesson to be learned here? If you see the DHS in your neighborhood- let them do their job. They are there for a reason. Sure, if could be nothing- maybe just a planning meeting- but they are working regardless.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reporting Facebook Posts to the FBI- Why You Should!

Heather Coffman of Virginia was pushing ISIS propaganda via multiple Facebook accounts. The FBI obtained a warrant to search her account after reports of pro-ISIS comments on the social media platform. This information led the FBI to numerous falsified Facebook accounts supporting her ISIS views- which included marketing the terrorist group to her sister.

After meeting with FBI agents and an informant, Coffman was arrested earlier this week and is scheduled to appear in court this up and coming Monday. CNN’s reporter offers the play-by-play of the Coffman case (thus far) online. You can read it here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/17/justice/virginia-woman-isis-recruitment/

So, why am I covering this? Well, people like Coffman are the reason I wrote my Homeland Security book. It is hard enough for this country to fight and deal with international terrorism, but now- we are seeing men and women use social media to become domestic terrorists. After reading the CNN article, I’m not so sure that Ms. Coffman was directly related to ISIS or simply wanted to promote the group for shock value- maybe a little of both. Either way, her actions are deplorable!

This brings me to my next point – report controversial statements to Facebook or the FBI if you see them. The “see something, say something” rule banks on tips to help get people like Coffman- regardless of motive- away from inciting terrorist activity! We all spend so much time online sharing our opinions that we may fail to realize when someone is serious with their potentially harmful comments and posts. It is better to report something and be wrong then to not report it and be right.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

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