DCC Receives LGBT Business Enterprise Certification

DCC Receives LGBT Business Enterprise Certification

We are proud to announce that Dale Curtis Communications is now certified by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) as an LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE®)! 

The NGLCC is the nation’s certifying body for LGBT owned and operated businesses. Co-founders Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell wanted to showcase that LGBT people are business owners, employers, taxpayers, and corporate citizens, too. We are a vibrant, essential part of America’s small business engine.

With this certification, DCC joins a growing group of more than 800 certified LGBTBE’s across the United States, and one of only a few certified PR firms in the public affairs arena.

Although DCC has not done any paid client work in the LGBTQ space, Dale has been a proud and active supporter of groups including the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC); Human Rights Campaign; Metropolitan Community Church of Washington DC; Q Street; SMYAL; Victory Fund; and the Walk & 5K to End HIV.

Team DCC loves to put our PR skills and experience to work for great causes, and this certification will help us grow and evolve our role in the market. It's also a wonderful way to celebrate the end of Pride Month!

If you are interested in learning more about the certification process, visit the NGLCC's Get Certified page.



It’s not a surprise that an internship at Dale Curtis Communications will teach you basic, tactical knowledge about communications and public relations work.

In my year at DCC, I learned how to write and format a press release. I learned how to create and maintain media lists, compile and summarize news clips, and pitch stories to media outlets. I learned how to format e-newsletters in MailChimp, draft and schedule social media, perform website updates, and copyedit communications materials. 


But my internship at DCC gave me something much more important: confidence.

I began my internship at DCC with no experience in public relations. It was my first summer internship in Washington, DC, and even though I was a rising senior at Georgetown University with previous internship and work experience, I was nervous to begin this particular job. The team at DCC is small, and if I made a mistake, it would not go unnoticed.

During my first week, however, I quickly discovered that I had nothing to worry about.

On my first day, Team DCC encouraged me to speak up at our all-hands meeting. Also on my first day, my colleagues asked me to sit in on client phone calls and introduced me to the client over the phone. They gave me clear tasks and goals and offered nothing but support and help on that first day. I knew immediately that I would be nurtured at this small PR firm.

And I was not wrong.

This sort of work environment encourages better and stronger work from its employees. Knowing I could ask questions or make a mistake here and there without feeling pressured or anxious was empowering to me. Being encouraged to give my thoughts, opinions and ideas allowed me to forge a voice for myself and grow confident in my ability to contribute to the firm’s goals. I never, ever felt like a lowly intern doing grunt work at DCC; I felt like a full-fledged member of the team.

By the end of my year at DCC, I was being asked for ideas on strategies and tactical plans. I was coming up with marketing tactics for the firm itself and had a lead role in DCC’s social media accounts. I grew confident enough in myself and my role at DCC that I could confidently begin my own projects and know I’d be supported along the way.

Going forward into my career, not only will I have polished communication skills – I will have greater confidence in myself and know that I am a valuable member of whatever team I end up working with in the future.

I know that my voice and my ideas matter.

And I owe that all to Dale Curtis Communications.

DCC Makes The 2017 O'Dwyer's List

DCC Makes The 2017 O'Dwyer's List

DCC is excited to announce that we are now ranked on the 2017 O'Dwyer's List of Top PR Firms in America! We’re ranked #120 in the nation, #16 in DC, and #53 in the nation among firms with a specialty in high-tech clients. Check out the complete lists here .

Advocacy and PR in the Age of Trump

Advocacy and PR in the Age of Trump

We are just over two months into the Trump administration, and lobbyists and PR professionals all over Washington are still trying to get their bearings.  

Will we see decisive, disruptive action this year on major items like health insurance, corporate taxes, immigration, and infrastructure? Will battles over appropriations and the debt limit come to the fore? Might a foreign policy crisis or even a constitutional crisis crowd out all other discussions?

No matter which issues dominate the public debate in any given week, smart government relations professionals know that it’s best to take a long-term approach, and lobbying isn’t the only way to advance your agenda.

According to the Public Affairs Council, public affairs is an art in which “lobbyists, grassroots advocacy specialists, policy experts, political involvement specialists and communications professionals coordinate their activities to achieve advocacy success.”

Put another way, lobbying goes hand-in-hand with strategic communications, policy analysis, and grassroots advocacy, and the total package is worth more than the sum of its parts.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, National Journal’s Michael D. Gottlieb recently called this “building a Washington brand.”

“Just like consumer and employer brands,” he wrote, “a Washington brand captures how the audience perceives a company. … Do these policymakers respect a given company? Do they care what that company thinks, and actually listen? Is that company their first call when they have a question? As it relates to DC, a strong brand offers an upper hand in influencing policy outcomes.”

Here at Dale Curtis Communications, we work closely with client-side executives – and often with a large cast of characters that may include attorneys, lobbyists, marketing and branding experts, activists, and others – to develop and implement smart, strategic, integrated communications programs that enhance their Washington brands. 

A few of the tactics we have used and might recommend for your organization’s Washington brand building are:

  • Developing compelling, plain-English messaging and materials such as fact sheets, issue briefs, research reports, videos, and PowerPoint presentations to educate your target audience;
  • Applying beautiful graphic design to impress your audience with effective branding, visual aids, and easy-to-navigate websites; 
  • Managing and growing social media accounts to grab the attention of stakeholders on the sites they frequent most;
  • Convening events that complement the print and electronic outreach with face-to-face relationship building; and
  • Reaching out to reporters and editors at outlets large and small, providing interviews and ghost-written articles to help educate key audiences on your policy agenda.

Our case studies offer a bit more insight into how we have applied these strategies and tactics to achieve success in specific policy battles.     

If your organization is struggling to clarify its Washington brand and have greater impact in its advocacy communications, please give us a call. We’re here to help.

The Year in Review, and The Year to Come

The Year in Review, and The Year to Come

Well, it certainly was an eventful year, wasn’t it? I’ll skip the political and social commentary, but I think most people would agree that the past year has left us a bit perplexed.

Here at the worldwide headquarters of Dale Curtis Communications, our biggest change was the move from 1250 24th Street NW (which will soon become the office of “former” President Barack Obama) to 1111 19th Street NW, in the heart of downtown DC. We’ve loved our new offices – a sublet in the suite of Results for Development (R4D). It has great light, all-new workstations and amenities, and access to many lunch and shopping spots.

Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for their clients and causes), R4D is growing rapidly and needs its space back, so DCC faces another move by April 1. 

In the human resources department, we welcomed Breyana Franklin as an Associate, with strong experience in PR and journalism and an uncanny ability to stay cool under pressure. The other new face was our Intern, Emma Gross, a senior in Economics and Journalism at Georgetown University, who seems adept at every project we give her.

The rest of the team remained the same: Director of Operations and “House Mother” Marsha Smith; Senior Account Supervisor and utility player Peter Morscheck; and our “go-to” partners Deborah Sauri of iSpy Creative; Paul Farrell of National Capital Video; Steve Clawson of Validus Public Relations; and Andrew Gagliano.   

The entire team has risen to the many challenges of 2016 – juggling multiple demanding projects and delivering solid results for our clients – all while keeping the business moving full steam ahead.

We were pleased to take on several new assignments, including media and content support for a rapidly growing association in the broadband industry; a writing and thought leadership program for a global association CEO; websites for advocacy groups and professional firms; and commencement addresses for corporate CEOs. In general, our work involves strategy, messaging, materials in all formats, media, online, video, and events.

Clients this year included InterDigital, a leading wireless R&D company; IPC, an association uniting the global electronics industry; NENA-The 9-1-1 Association and especially its Friends of 9-1-1 program; the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA); Chavez Schools for Public Policy; the Bipartisan Policy Center; the Alliance of U.S. Startups and Inventors for Jobs (USIJ); LyondellBasell, a top global chemical company; and SAP, the software giant.  

In other new and noteworthy developments in our business: 

  • We expanded our video capabilities, including partnerships with great vendors and delivery of several effective video pieces; 
  • We joined the Public Affairs Council, the leading nonpartisan, nonpolitical association for public affairs professionals worldwide, which provides a wealth of best practices and contacts.
  •  We sponsored the 10th Annual Book Festival at For Love of Children (FLOC).
  • And we were active in a variety of organizations, including Q Street and the Public Relations Society of America, National Capital Chapter

In 2017, we anticipate additional growth and development in our business, and a lot of challenging but fun assignments for great companies and causes. My personal resolutions include more discipline about time management, more networking, more writing and video-ing, and an always-open mind to new innovations and talent. 

From all of us to all of you, we wish you health, peace and prosperity in the New Year! 



Expert Insight on Graphic Design from DCC’s Go-To Designer

Expert Insight on Graphic Design from DCC’s Go-To Designer

Deborah Sauri has been a graphic designer working in the Washington, DC market and elsewhere for more than 20 years. Through her work at design and public relations firms, and now with her own independent business, iSpy Creative, Deborah has built an impressive portfolio of branding and marketing materials for a range of clients, including the 495 Express Lanes, IBM, and Shell Oil. Dale and Deborah have worked together on dozens of assignments for more than a decade.

Given all that experience, we decided to ask Deborah to share some insights into her profession, and why graphic design matters so much for all organizations.

You've been a graphic designer for over two decades. How did you get to where you are today?

My Japanese mother always wanted me to be a doctor, but it took one chemistry class for me to realize that career wasn’t for me. After my first year as a pre-med student, I told my parents I was going to try art. I can still remember how disappointed my mother was at the news, but my father encouraged me to follow my passion, and I made the switch. 

I knew after my first year as a Communications Arts & Design major that this was what I wanted to do. Right before graduation, I received job offers from an international, award-winning design firm and a well-known PR firm in DC. The PR firm had better pay, but my gut said to go with the design firm, and it was the best move I made for my career. After four years, I left that position with a strong portfolio and awards from major design magazines, which then led to some amazing career experiences. Soon I was in France, making design presentations for the TotalFina annual report. Then I was asked to establish an in-house design division for Dittus Communications, a rapidly growing DC PR firm, where I was able to travel the country and art-direct ad campaigns for clients such as Household Bank and Shell Oil Company. That’s also where I met Dale.

What’s the importance of having well-done graphic design for a company or organization?

Whether you realize it or not, you are surrounded by products that designers created. The mobile phones we use everyday, the chairs we sit in, the label on the bottle we’re drinking from, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive… Design is everywhere.

Within seconds of receiving a business card or a piece of marketing material, people will form an impression of that company. The logo, the paper, the colors, the shapes will all have an impact. Anyone interested in your company will likely go to your web site, and they may not be aware of it, but they’ll be making judgments based on the look and feel. How consistent is the brand? Is the site easy to navigate? In other words, how intentional and successful is the design in achieving the purpose?

All of our decisions are influenced by good design. Organizations that place a priority on design are going to be more credible and outshine their competitors. 

How has the internet and the shift to digital affected your work?

In terms of design trends, it seems we’re going back to “less is more” which has to do with our digital lifestyles. We want information, and we want it fast, which is why websites now are more streamlined and minimal, with content in one continuous scroll. Creating responsive content that’s accessible and simple to use enhances user satisfaction.

Within the industry, it is becoming easier for unskilled amateurs to try their hand at design with the use of templates and tutorials on sites like YouTube. Because of this, people expect graphics to be created faster and cheaper which often hamstrings quality and ultimately affects results.

On the other hand, graphic designers have more opportunities and flexibility. Today, companies can work with graphic designers anywhere in the world because the internet allows for the quick exchange of files and video chats. I can interact with clients from anyplace as long as I have an internet connection.

What is your approach to the design process, from meeting with a potential client to delivering the final product?

It is critical that I understand the client’s business before any design conception. No matter the subject, I ask a lot of questions about objectives and the demographics that will interact with the design.

When brainstorming ideas, I always start with pencil and paper. I never go to the computer first. It’s too limiting. Creative brainstorming should be unencumbered and fast. Once the ideas are down, then they can be worked out further electronically.

What are some of the biggest challenges you encounter in your work?

Design evolves constantly, and quickly. Because I have my own firm now, I try to surround myself with inspiring designers and projects. I make it a point to stay attuned to the fast-changing trends and preferences among different generations and cultural backgrounds. I attend design conferences and keep in touch with other designers to stay ahead of the curve.

Of what product or client are you most proud?

I wouldn’t have started my business had it not been for a dear friend who asked me to do a logo design for her company that was building the 495 Express Lanes on the Washington Beltway. Not only did it push me to take the risk to become a business owner, but it was also a very big and exciting project. I love that logo because of its simplicity, yet it took almost a year of hard work and many meetings to complete the design. Now I’ll go to a gas station to fill up my car, and the logo will be on an ad at the pump, and I think to myself, “My kids would think it’s pretty cool that Mom did that.” 

Sample design via  iSpy Creative

Sample design via iSpy Creative

We're Thankful for Clients and Friends

We're Thankful for Clients and Friends

The DCC team, from L to R: Emma Gross, Breyana Franklin, Peter Morscheck, and Marsha Smith

The DCC team, from L to R: Emma Gross, Breyana Franklin, Peter Morscheck, and Marsha Smith

Like most holidays, Thanksgiving should be practiced every day. And not just because it’s the right thing to do; scientists have even documented a variety of powerful health benefits from adopting an attitude of gratitude.

In that spirit, Team DCC recently hosted its annual Clients and Friends Appreciation Party. The timing of this party – right before Thanksgiving – is part of the message. In a season of giving thanks, we invited our clients, colleagues, and friends to my home to enjoy some delicious food and drink, and to express our deep appreciation for their business and support.

We’re also grateful for the opportunity to support our clients’ causes, including developing a more skilled workforce, improving emergency communications, inspiring bipartisanship in public policy-making, and closing the digital divide in rural America.

Thanks to our friend Judith Hernandez for providing the delicious catering and bountiful leftovers! 

I also want to thank the members of the extended DCC team – especially our Director of Operations, Marsha Smith, and my fiancé, Lamar Braithwaite, but also Peter Morscheck, Breyana Franklin, and Emma Gross – for their efforts in planning this party.

So one more time: Thank you to all of our clients, colleagues, friends and family for everything you have done over the last seven years to support our endeavors. We wouldn’t be here without you, and we look forward to serving you further in the years ahead.

Check out Dale's thank you message from the party below.

Georgetown Law Dean Offers Pointers for Small Business Owners

Georgetown Law Dean Offers Pointers for Small Business Owners

One of the many wonderful things about building a career in Washington, DC, is the opportunity to work with nationally and internationally recognized experts in so many fields. 

Everett Bellamy is one of those experts. As a lawyer in practice and dean at Georgetown University Law Center from 1980 to 2010, he has taught a course on small business law and entrepreneurship for 27 years. During that time, he has had a hand in creating and supporting many small businesses and startups, including Bellamy Fernandez + Arnold, an all-minority and women-owned company that provides government relations and legal consulting services.

Given our obvious interest in small business, we talked with Everett about his thoughts on starting and running a company in today’s business climate. I especially appreciated his closing advice, which applies to my decision to start DCC: "If you have a passion for something, take that chance. Plan carefully, but go do it."

You are an expert in small business and entrepreneurship. How did you develop this specialty?

Being a dean at a school like Georgetown makes you somewhat of a public figure, particularly since I’m African-American. As a result, I was often contacted by people asking for advice, mainly about how to get into law school, but I also got a lot of questions from small business owners looking for legal counsel. This wasn’t easy at the time, since law schools for decades focused on larger corporations and had given very little attention to small businesses. As more and more people began opening businesses in the 1980s and 1990s and came to me for advice, I thought, “We don’t teach this and we should.” So I developed my own course, and I’ve adjusted it over the years.

What were the major trends in this field over the last 30 years? 

One of the major trends that I’ve seen over the last 30 years is technology. It’s not only made it possible for anyone with great ideas to create a business, but it drove down the cost. You can use a laptop or a smartphone to do amazing things with your business, which reduces the need to hire people that you can’t afford.

Also, to find a company that offers its employees a pension now is a rarity. Those days are over, so people began to think, “What’s going to happen to me as I age? I need to start planning for myself.” This gave people incentive to take that bold step and start a business.

What is the current situation for small business owners and startups? Positives? Negatives? 

The current climate is positive for small business owners and start-ups in terms of resources on the federal, state and local levels, with the Small Business Administration and other similar government support programs. I think there’s a lot of support now that wasn’t there 30 years ago.

One trend has been this whole crowdfunding development, that is, funding a venture by raising money from a large number of people, which can now be done over the Internet. Congress passed a bill in 2012 to encourage crowdfunding, and the Securities and Exchange Commission now regulates it. But the fear there is fraud. How can we keep fraud to a minimum online, when anyone can raise money for a seemingly legitimate company but run off with the funds without a trace?

However, it’s still hard to get start-up capital or a business loan. Most often, you’re going to still have to put your personal assets on the line when you try and get a loan. Banks are risk-averse because of the recession, so you almost have to prove you don’t need the money in order to get it.

You have a lot of experience with minority-owned start-ups. Could you discuss the particular challenges these businesses face in the current business climate?

Statistics show that the net worth of minorities is much less than the net worth of white people. This makes it much harder to get money and start a business when you attempt to raise capital.

There are programs offered by the federal, state and local governments that make funds available to minority-owned companies. But to be considered you have to have achieved a certain amount of success in terms of customers, revenues, and growth, and you have to demonstrate your ability to compete on a contract if you’re going to bid on it. There’s a great amount of opportunity there, but still a lot of challenges in minority-owned startups.

What is the most important advice you give to entrepreneurs?

Stick to your business plan carefully. Ask yourself or a focus group: Is there a need for what it is you’re going to offer? Would someone buy it? And at what price? Think it through carefully.

Expect the unexpected. Things aren’t going to happen according to your timeline and it’s going to cost more than you originally projected. You need to plan for worst-case scenarios so you’re prepared for when the inevitable happens.

Finally, you have to put things in writing. You don’t need a 40-page business plan, but you need to put something in writing to articulate what it is you want to achieve. Put agreements in writing; handshakes don’t count.

Any final thoughts?

If you have a passion for something, take that chance. Plan carefully, but go do it.

NOTE: This interview was edited for length.

10 Lessons From the Convergence of PR, Advertising, and Marketing

10 Lessons From the Convergence of PR, Advertising, and Marketing

The nature of public relations is changing as clients are increasingly demanding more complex marketing and advocacy campaigns that draw on specialties as diverse as polling, media buys, web design, and integrated social media.

The result is that the lines that separated such previously distinct fields as public relations, advertising, and marketing are disappearing.

With the increasing convergence of these fields, today’s practitioners must be nimble and cross-functional to be effective.

The Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter recently hosted a panel discussion at the National Press Club on just this convergence, and the implications it holds for the future of communications.

A key theme throughout was that, much like globalization, this convergence is happening whether you like it or not. So the way to thrive is to adapt to new skills and mindsets and help lead the change before you become a victim of it.

The panel included insights by:

  • Cary Hatch, CEO of MDB Communications;
  • Carrie Schum, EVP at Porter Novelli;
  • Bob Farrace, Director of Public Affairs at the Marketing Design Group; and
  • Mark Hamrick, Senior Economic Analyst and Washington Bureau Chief at Bankrate.com.

The group collectively shared the following 10 observations and insights:

1.     “FOMO” can lead to inappropriate decisions.

Many PR practitioners today are so overwhelmed by the pace of change in social media that they suffer from FOMO (the “Fear of Missing Out”) – say, on an opportunity to score big with a well-placed tweet or clever Snapchat video that goes viral.

Thus, many PR firms (particularly digital agencies) are quick to try to harness the power of new technologies or platforms on behalf of their clients, even when it might not be the most efficient use of a budget.

The answer to this lies in:

2.     Integration.

Many PR firms market themselves as “integrated” and “full-service” without first adopting the necessary culture to support those claims.

Rather, “integration” is a mindset, not a service offering – it’s something you do as a firm, not something you sell.

But another key to success is to “stay within your lane.” Clients want to hire the best, no matter where it is found. Thus, firms need to be honest with themselves and play to their strengths by identifying and marketing their core competencies rather than trumpeting their ability to “do it all.”

3.     There is an arms race for talent.

All of the panelists agreed that attracting high-end creative talent in DC is difficult.

For traditional PR agencies, the best digital practitioners and designers are so rare locally that they “may as well be unicorns.”

Thus, investment in human talent and technology remains a constant challenge.

4.     There has been no better time in history to work in communications.

For all the challenges of the new digital landscape and explosion in social media channels over the last few years, the ease of reaching consumers and the velocity of change keep things exciting.

Twenty years ago, the only major distribution channels for advertisers were television, radio, newspapers and magazines. In addition, there was little or no pressure to report on exact viewership numbers or return on investment.

Today, robust analytics allow firms to show clients exactly how many viewers watched a video, visited a website, or liked an Instagram photo.

5.     Words matter.

How you talk about aspects of your PR campaign internally influence your results. For instance, is that element a platform, a concept, a theme, a tagline, or an insight?

Without consistent framing – setting a consistent vocabulary internally — you  cannot properly express your value proposition to clients.

6.     You must offer functional excellence.

This should go without saying, but while clients may buy the “sizzle” — the biggest, splashiest pitch presentation in the room — it’s the “steak” (the execution) that keeps the account for the long term.

7.     It’s up to the PR and marketing practitioners to demonstrate marketing’s ROI.

CEOs often expect their marketing people to be business people first, and marketers second. Marketers often need help in explaining how their work translates into business value.

Research has thus become a key component for marketing campaigns, as it offers metrics to support the expense of an effort.

8.     Hiring has changed.

One speaker told a story about Marty Baron, the current editor of The Washington Post. Asked how hiring prospective reporters today is different than 20 years ago, he noted that you used to hire for potential and train new reporters on the job.

Today, he hires new reporters primarily for their existing skillsets in hopes that they will help raise his organization’s game.

Likewise, in the PR arena, speakers noted that, since communications skills are a given, they are more likely to hire employees with the additional insights that academic backgrounds in history, English, or IT could bring rather than those with academic backgrounds in communications per se. The same goes with recruiting the mid-level hire, where key talent is just as likely to hail from Accenture, Deloitte, or IBM as from large PR agencies like Ogilvy or Edelman.

9.     Freelancers are key.

Often today, the best creative talent prefers to remain as freelancers so that they can charge top dollar for campaigns they want to work on and enjoy greater flexibility.

At Porter Novelli, for instance, “having 39 1099s on our payroll is not unusual.”

10.  Expectation-setting is key.

One speaker related how important it is to set expectations of success with clients from the outset.

In the example she used, a public relations team’s campaign led to fewer website visits in a 90-day period than the marketing team’s direct email campaign.

While this initially made the public relations team’s efforts look less effective, the difference was in the make-up of the distinct audiences: those reached by the email campaign were overwhelmingly existing customers, while those reached by the PR campaign were overwhelmingly new customers who had never before visited the client’s site. Thus, the PR team’s efforts resulted in an expanded overall audience.

By properly setting expectations and success metrics with the client from the outset, the PR team could have avoided confusion and the need for an initially defensive posture following the campaign’s completion.