CFM News

Conkling: Actions Speak Louder than Words in Crisis Response

Words matter in crisis response, but actions leave the longest lasting impression. President Obama recently came under scrutiny as some said he took too long to fit in a tour of flood-ravaged southern Louisiana in August. Meanwhile, Obama praised FEMA for stepping up disaster relief efforts in the last decade, a trend that has helped repair the agency's damaged reputation after Hurricane Katrina. 

Words matter in crisis response, but actions leave the longest lasting impression. President Obama recently came under scrutiny as some said he took too long to fit in a tour of flood-ravaged southern Louisiana in August. Meanwhile, Obama praised FEMA for stepping up disaster relief efforts in the last decade, a trend that has helped repair the agency's damaged reputation after Hurricane Katrina. 

"Actions speak louder than words in crisis response, and the actions that speak the loudest are ones that align and affirm an organization’s core values,” CFM President Gary Conkling told a group of Puget Sound water officials at a seminar Wednesday in Woodinville, Washington.

“Words spoken in a crisis response are important,” Conkling said, “but the actions behind those words are what leave the most lasting impression, especially with the people impacted by the crisis.”

CFM President Gary Conkling

CFM President Gary Conkling

He gave an example of a retaining wall failure at the construction site of a new water reservoir near a residential area. “One of the most powerful actions you can take is to knock on the doors of nearby neighbors to explain what happened, describe how you are fixing the problem and listening to their concerns,” Conkling said. “If a TV reporter team shows up later and interviews the neighbors, they can say they’ve already talked to you.”

“They may still have concerns, but that direct, one-on-one contact with the agency will be an important demonstration that the agency is on top of the problem,” he added. “That can be an important, maybe the most important part of the story."

Conkling also offered a number of other crisis response tips, including the following:

“No one wants to face a crisis,” Conkling said, “but if one does occur, worry less about how to control events and more about the quality of your response.”

“A crisis is a moment when you can demonstration your commitment to your values and mission,” he said. “It is an opportunity to build goodwill and loyalty that no amount of paid advertising could ever achieve.”

Audits Point to Smarter Communications

Are your communications engaging and effective or completely out of order? That's the big question CFM Research Partner Tom Eiland aims to answer with each communications audit he conducts. Eiland was recently commissioned to conduct an audit for the Central Kitsap School District in an effort to sharpen its communication strategies. 

Are your communications engaging and effective or completely out of order? That's the big question CFM Research Partner Tom Eiland aims to answer with each communications audit he conducts. Eiland was recently commissioned to conduct an audit for the Central Kitsap School District in an effort to sharpen its communication strategies. 

Direct communications are the most important avenue to learn about what’s happening in schools. Communications audits can reveal whether your communications strategies and tools are clicking.

“If school districts don’t communicate effectively, others will fill the vacuum of describing what’s happening – and you may not like what they say,” says CFM Research Partner Tom Eiland, who presented the value of communications audits to the annual conference of the Washington Schools Public Relations Association on April 29 in Leavenworth, Wash.

David Beil, communications director for the Central Kitsap School District, provided specific before and after examples of e-letters, social media and the district’s website following a CFM-led communications audit. Beil said post-audit communications relied on stronger imagery, less text, a sharper audience focus and more links. 

The audit was invaluable, he said, in convincing school administrators why changes were needed and that additional resources were warranted.

Audits involve an inventory of print and digital communications, a battery of research and an analysis of actual communications, Eiland explained.

Results from a communications audit can shape a communications plan, clarify who manages communications, prioritize audiences and organize communications tools, he said. “You can make decisions based on data, not hunches,” Eiland indicated. “You can refresh or reboot websites, e-letters and intranets with greater confidence they will deliver more value for the people you need to reach. They also can help earn the resources you need for success." 

Beil and Eiland emphasized communications audits identify how “people communicate and where they get information,” as well as “what information people want and need.”

“This is a disciplined approach to decide what communications tools work or how they can be made to work better,” Eiland said. “It is also a way to measure actual results."

A Little Bragging about a Successful Session

CFM has always been a lobby firm dedicated to achieving client results. There is no better example of our work than the recently completed 2016 Oregon legislative session.

Our team of five lobbyists, led by CFM Partner Dan Jarman, worked on challenging legislative projects ranging from funding major sporting events to health care to low-income housing. Their work mirrored CFM’s intentionally diversified client portfolio that takes our lobby team to every corner of the state Capitol in Salem.

Success doesn’t happen by accident. “In a short session, there is a lot to do and not very much time to do it,” Jarman says. “You have to conceive a good plan, maintain the discipline to execute it and have the stamina to withstand all the turmoil to succeed. Our team did.”

Success doesn’t always occur in a single session, particularly a short one. And just because you succeed doesn’t mean that success is permanent.  “It takes vigilance to notch a client victory,” Jarman adds. “It takes just as much or more vigilance to preserve that victory.”

The CFM team in Salem consists of Dale Penn II, Ellen Miller and Tess Milio. Case studies highlighting some of their successes during the 2016 session are featured on CFM's homepage.

Michael Skipper, the fifth member of CFM's state team, joined the firm's federal affairs team in Washington, D.C., after the session. He has become the latest member of the CFM staff to work as a lobbyist in both D.C. and Salem.

There has been little time for the state team to rest. After writing their 2016 session reports for clients, they are already at work on legislation for the 2017 session as well as initiatives that voters will decide in the November general election.

“The cycle never stops,” Jarman said. “We can’t either."

Skipper Joins CFM Federal Affairs Team

Michael Skipper will join the CFM Federal Affairs team after working with the firm’s state affairs team during the 2015 and 2016 Oregon legislative sessions and assisting on political campaigns in Corvallis and Sherwood.

A political science graduate of Oregon State University, Skipper will assume the role of CFM Federal Affairs Associate.

"Michael's broad understanding of the issues facing the Pacific Northwest, ability to handle complex assignments and record of accomplishment in Salem makes him a perfect fit for the CFM D.C. team,” says Joel Rubin, CFM Federal Affairs Partner. "Having someone who understands the legislative process at the state level will integrate nicely into our comprehensive service model.” 

Skipper assisted the CFM State Affairs team with client, legislator and committee relations, monitored relevant legislation and provided general support. He brings solid communication, research and organizational skills to his new post.

“I’m looking forward to working in Washington, D.C., which has been a goal of mine,” Skipper says. “I’m delighted to continue my association with CFM in this new position.”

Skipper already has a working familiarity with some of CFM’s federal clients, which the firm represents at both the federal and state levels.

For fun, Skipper enjoys hitting the links, traveling, reading and spending time with family and friends. He is an avid sports fan who can routinely be found at any Trail Blazer or Beaver football, basketball and baseball games.

Skipper can be reached at

Chuck Frost, the Conscience of CFM, Passes

Chuck Frost, who died late last month, is remembered as a mentor to CFM's principals and the conscience of the firm.

Chuck Frost, who died late last month, is remembered as a mentor to CFM's principals and the conscience of the firm.

Chuck Frost, who was a mentor to CFM’s principals and the conscience to the firm, died in Portland January 26 at age 79. A Celebration of Life for Chuck will be held February 13 in Beaverton.

CFM started as a spinout of Tektronix when Chuck was vice president of administration. “When we first brought up the idea, which involved voluntarily taking pink slips, Chuck thought we had gone daft,” said CFM co-founder Gary Conkling. “He gradually warmed up to the idea. Much later, he told us forming CFM was a smart idea.”

When he retired from Tektronix, Chuck joined CFM. He worked as part of CFM client teams, but his greatest value came in asking tough questions about how we did our work – and for whom.

“Chuck was one of the most principled men I ever met,” Conkling said. “While I worked for Tektronix, Chuck insisted that we identify a public interest for anything that we lobbied. If we couldn’t make a credible case, we didn’t lobby the issue. He brought that same integrity inside our firm.”

That principled approach to public policy led the late Senator Mark Hatfield to hire Chuck as a Senior Fellow in Washington, D.C., where he finished his career before returning to Oregon to retire.

Below is Chuck’s obituary, which includes the time and location of his Celebration of Life.

Charles Henry Frost

April 4, 1936 – January 26, 2016

Charles “Chuck” Frost lived in a log cabin, worked as a fruit-picker, became a student body president, attended college, did a stint at the Pentagon, fell in love with a stewardess, worked for Tektronix in its heyday and served as a senior fellow for the late Senator Mark Hatfield. He loved life, cherished the outdoors and was a mentor, role model and friend to generations of policymakers and public affairs professionals.

Born April 4, 1936 to Wilfrid Tuttle Frost and Hazel Emma (Stephens) Frost in Berkeley, California, Chuck passed away January 26, 2016 in Portland. He was married 56 years to his best friend, Marilyn Jean (Heckman) Frost, and is survived by Marilyn, his son Charles Stephen Frost, daughter Laura Kathryn Frost, grandchildren Dane and Athena, brother Gordon and nieces and nephews.

He spent his first six years living in a log cabin in Crater Lake National Park, where his father was a park ranger. That ignited his lifelong love of nature, which he passed along to his children and grandchildren.

His family moved to Medford, where Chuck’s first job was picking fruit in nearby orchards. The family later moved to Portland. Chuck went to Grant High School and was elected student body president in 1954.

Chuck attended Willamette University before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He was on active duty in the Pentagon from 1958-1960. While in Washington, D.C., he met the love of his life, Marilyn, who worked for Capitol Airlines.

After they married, the Frosts moved to Portland and Chuck began his 34-year career with Tektronix, which included roles as director of public affairs and vice president of administration. He was often the public face of the company, which at its peak was Oregon’s largest private employer. Chuck earned a reputation for professionalism and principled advocacy. He had a knack for making complex subjects understandable.

When he retired, Chuck joined CFM Strategic Communications, which began as a spinout from Tektronix. He participated in client teams, but his greatest contribution was asking tough questions and serving as the firm’s conscience.

Chuck was active in the community, serving on the boards of the Oregon Symphony, Oregon Independent Colleges Association, Tuality Hospital and Associated Oregon Industries. He was a member of the Portland City Club and the Public Affairs Council.

Chuck and Marilyn moved back to Washington, D.C., in 1995 when he became a Senior Fellow for Senator Hatfield, a role he filled until Hatfield retired in 1997.

The Frosts returned to Portland to enjoy their retirement.

A Celebration of Chuck’s life will be held Saturday, February 13, from 2-4 p.m. at the Claremont Clubhouse, 15800 NW Country Club Dr., Portland, OR 97229. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Nature Conservancy of Oregon.

Rubin Becomes CFM Partner

Joel Rubin, left, with Tigard Mayor John Cook, right, discusses federal items highlighted at a recent Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C. Rubin, who leads CFM’s federal affairs team, just became the firm’s newest partner.

Joel Rubin, left, with Tigard Mayor John Cook, right, discusses federal items highlighted at a recent Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C. Rubin, who leads CFM’s federal affairs team, just became the firm’s newest partner.

Joel Rubin, who joined CFM Strategic Communications nearly 10 years ago and now leads the firm’s federal affairs office in Washington, DC, has become its newest shareholder.

“I’m pleased my work for clients has translated into a solid practice area for CFM,” Rubin says.

Rubin grew up in the Washington, DC area, but worked for five years as Legislative Director to former Washington Congressman Brian Baird, which gave him a taste of the Pacific Northwest. “It was all new and I loved it,” Rubin says. “Maryland is my home, but the Pacific Northwest is my second home."

After he left Capitol Hill, Rubin worked as a lobbyist for a D.C.-based firm. When given the chance to join CFM and work with Pacific Northwest clients, he jumped at the opportunity. "The Northwest is blessed with folks who work well together and try to solve problems. I was excited to rejoin my friends and colleagues to continue the work I started for Congressman Baird."

Rubin’s areas of expertise include appropriations, transportation, energy, defense, tax, trade, grants and local government issues.

“Joel has broad experience, which he applies in innovative and creative ways,” says CFM Partner Dan Jarman who recruited Rubin in 2006. “Others may throw up their hands in a tough situation, Joel digs in and finds a path to success.”

A graduate of Frostburg State University, where he majored in accounting with a minor in political science, Rubin and his wife, Sarah, have two children. When not at the office or visiting clients, Rubin can be found on the diamond with his 2015 championship men's baseball team or a dive karaoke bar belting out some REO Speedwagon.

CFM now has five active partners. Co-founder and partner Dave Fiskum retired in 2015. Rubin officially became a CFM partner on January 1.

Jarman Leads Drive for Blazer License Plate

Oregon politicians, including Gov. Kate Brown, unveil the new Portland Trail Blazers license plate during a first quarter timeout against Atlanta Hawks at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, January 20, 2016. (Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)

Oregon politicians, including Gov. Kate Brown, unveil the new Portland Trail Blazers license plate during a first quarter timeout against Atlanta Hawks at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, January 20, 2016. (Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)

Governor Kate Brown and key legislators joined Portland Trail Blazer officials Wednesday night to unveil a new specialty license plate bearing the NBA team’s logo and the iconic “Rip City” nickname. CFM Partner Dan Jarman and his state affairs team made the license plate a reality during the 2015 Oregon legislative session.

Dan Jarman, CFM partner and member of the firm's state affairs practice. 

Dan Jarman, CFM partner and member of the firm's state affairs practice. 

“Lawmakers are reticent to approve specialty plates, but the Trail Blazers made a convincing case,” said Jarman, who attended the unveiling during a Blazer home game versus the Atlanta Hawks. “It didn’t hurt that Bill Schonely and Terry Porter came to Salem to testify and lobby for the bill.”

The new license plate will be available this spring and will cost $40. The proceeds from license plate sales will fund competitive grants that support Oregon youth initiatives statewide and will be distributed through the Trail Blazers Foundation.

Other states with professional sports franchises offer similar specialty license plates as a way fans can show their loyalty and contribute to worthy causes.

“When Oregon lawmakers realized these kinds of specialty license plates are common, they warmed to the idea of the Trail Blazer license plate,” Jarman said.

Gaining legislative approval of a new specialty license plate is no walk in the park. But Jarman has learned the path. He also represented the Oregon wine industry in the 2013 legislative session in its effort to create an Oregon Wine Country plate.

Regional Land-Use System Unravels

This November, Sherwood voters turned down a proposed annexation for a third time. The 104 acres of land were brought into the Portland metro urban growth boundary in 2002. 

This November, Sherwood voters turned down a proposed annexation for a third time. The 104 acres of land were brought into the Portland metro urban growth boundary in 2002. 

Portland's regional land-use policy may be unraveling by the unwillingness of local communities to carry it out, says CFM partner Norm Eder in an op-ed published on page A7 last week in the Portland Tribune.

"Today, the metro area is less the cohesive region planners envisioned," Eder wrote, "and more an ever-expanding network of smaller, often self-defined villages."

"And it's just another irony that many of those who reject the consequences of land-use decisions in their villages," he added, "are the most committed to the system's growth management principles."

Eder's comments came after Sherwood residents defeated for the third time a proposal to annex 104 acres, which were part of a larger parcel added to the Portland metro urban growth boundary in 2002. [CFM Strategic Communications managed the most recent unsuccessful annexation campaign.]

"Whether we're talking about land-use, transportation or economic development, our region faces an existential threat to its way of doing things," Eder said. "We continue onward pretending the ground under our feet has not shifted. We create plan, conduct public process and make decisions that it the letter of the law, but with less and less real meaning in the world as it really exists."

"Ultimately, the Sherwood vote matters," Eder concluded, "because it tells those of us who worry about the region's future that somethings gotta give and soon."

Norm Eder is part of CFM's public affairs team. Eder works extensively with and for local governments, tackling major projects. You can reach him at

Runquist Joins CFM, Deepens Firm's Writer's Bench

Justin Runquist, who has worked as a reporter for The Columbian, The Oregonian and The Spokesman-Review, has joined CFM Strategic Communications as the firm’s communications counsel.

Justin Runquist

Justin Runquist

A graduate of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University, Runquist deepens CFM's bench for storytelling, story pitching, content creation, presentations and social media.

"Justin brings a fresh eye and contemporary experience in the media to meet client needs," said Gary Conkling, CFM’s president and co-founder. "He knows how to tell a story, sniff out a good story angle and leverage digital resources.”

Runquist most recently worked for The Columbian, where he wrote about local government, business, education and the marijuana industry in Clark County. Prior to that, Runquist worked for The Oregonian, covering government, business, crime and education in Lake Oswego, Wilsonville, West Linn and other parts of the Portland metro area. 

Three years ago for The Oregonian, Runquist covered the Washington State Legislature during a historic session as gay marriage became legal in the Evergreen State.

Runquist joins the CFM communications team, but he will also provide support for the firm's state affairs and research practice areas.

"Working for CFM appealed to me because of its range of public affairs work for corporations, nonprofits and public agencies," Runquist said. "This will translate into more diverse experiences and challenging work."

Conkling said, "People with journalistic experience do well in the world of public affairs. They understand policy issues and political processes. They also know that timing is everything."

Runquist also will play a key role in CFM's content-forward marketing efforts. 

"This is a company that shows what it can do through its widely shared thought leadership and case studies,” he said. “Clients know what they get when they hire CFM."

Runquist's arrival coincides with the departure of Hannah Smith, who has worked at CFM for seven years after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications. Smith and her husband are departing soon for a dream experience of an extended stay in Southeast Asia.

Friends Tenderly Roast Retiring Fiskum

Photos by Tom Patterson.

Photos by Tom Patterson.

Lured from a putting green into the dining hall at Illahe Country Club, CFM Partner Emeritus Dave Fiskum was welcomed by a roomful of friends, coworkers and former clients who warm-heartedly roasted him after his retirement earlier this year.

The evening was filled with a mix of funny and tender stories about Fiskum's work as a lobbyist, his devotion to golf and his ongoing struggle with technology.

Former CFM staffer Elizabeth Remley, whose job included IT assistance, recalled Fiskum asking her how to "get rid of the blue dots" next to his emails. She said: "Just read them."

Former State Rep. Vicki Berger, who had worked with Fiskum to pass a huge local school bond measure, said she asked him for advice after she was elected to the legislature. "He explained to me how to play lobby golf."

Lynne Saxton, who now heads the Oregon Health Authority, described the search for a lobbyist for ChristieCare, the nonprofit she directed for many years. "Someone suggested Dave, then added that he golfed a lot," she said. Fiskum got the job anyway, but after two years Saxton said her nonprofit ran out of money to pay his fee. "Dave said that wasn't a problem and went on representing the organization for many years, helping thousands of children from around the state."

Former State Senator Neil Bryant noted Fiskum paid little attention to him when he was first elected, but suddenly wanted to become best friends when Republicans gained control of the Senate and he took the chairmanship of Senate Judiciary. In that role, Bryant pledged to write implementing legislation for the physician-assisted suicide measure approved by Oregon voters, but opposed by one of Fiskum's main clients.

"I created a work group to iron out details, but insisted that everyone on the work group had to agree to support the recommendations they come up with," Bryant said. "When I returned from a trip to the East Coast expecting to meet my wife at the airport, I was greeted instead by Fiskum who said, 'I have a problem.' I listened to his problem for the hour it took to drive me to Salem."

Amid the roasts were praise for Fiskum's unflagging loyalty to friends, clients and family and for his unwavering integrity. Roasters teased him about his passionate, arm-flailing monologues on issues, his Capitol hallway vents after a vote went against him and his habit of removing his glasses before making a profound comment.

"One thing for sure," said CFM President Gary Conkling, who has known Fiskum since they both attended Seattle Pacific University, "is you couldn't ask for a better business partner or a friend."

Dave Fiskum Golf

Fifty or so friends, plus Fiskum's wife and daughter, attended the reception and dinner that is part of CFM's 25th anniversary celebration this year.

"Dave played a large part in the creation and culture of the company," said CFM Partner Dan Jarman, who suggested the roast. "We know Dave didn't want a big deal made of his decision to retire, but we couldn't resist saying 'thank you' to him in some tangible and meaningful way, surrounded by his friends."

Admitting his surprise at being roasted, Fiskum said, "It was a great party and very gratifying to see a lot of my friends in one place at one time, to hear a lot of fun memories recounted, some at my expense."

"I enjoyed it, I have to say.  And, as you know, I have absolutely no regrets about my 25 years at CFM. It was a great run, made better with friends like you."

PBJ Cites CFM Blog

Oregon Insider's look ahead at a doozy of an election season in 2016 drew the attention of the Portland Business Journal, which ran a condensed version of the story and carried a direct link to the blog.

In a piece headlined "Whispers begin about Oregon's 2016 election candidates," Andy Giegerich cited Oregon Insider and CFM as a "leading voice in the policy realm" because its public affairs and lobbying client work in Salem, Washington, DC and Portland.

Oregon Insider noted that all but one statewide elected office in the state will be contested next year, including a potential primary battle for Oregon Senator Ron Wyden prompted by organized labor's opposition to Wyden's support for fast track authority to negotiate international trade agreements.

Governor Kate Brown must vie next year to keep her job for what would have been the final years of John Kitzhaber's fourth term. Kitzhaber resigned amid an influence-peddling scandal, which led to Brown's ascension as governor. Brown could face a challenge in the Democratic primary and is sure to have a Republican opponent, even though there is no clear, high-profile frontrunner.

There also will be open races for secretary of state and state treasurer and possibly for labor commissioner if incumbent Brad Avakian decides to run for another office. Treasurer Ted Wheeler is barred from seeking re-election to his current post and may seek another state or a high-profile local post.

The 2016 election will center on a wide-open presidential race, which could have repercussions in Oregon as candidates build grassroots organizations that also can tout down-ballot candidates.

"Except for Senator Jeff Merkley, just about everyone and everything could be on the ballot next year," says CFM Partner Dan Jarman. "It is shaping up as one of the most interesting elections in a long time."

Oregon is well known for ballot measures. While it is still early to know what all could be on the ballot, chances are it will add even more spice to already saucy election season.

Owning, Fixing and Talking About Your Crisis

It is hard to fix a crisis you don't own.

It is hard to fix a crisis you don't own.

"Failing to own a crisis is like walking away from an opportunity to show your character, resiliency and values," CFM President Gary Conkling advised a group of water agency officials. "You will be choosing a road other than the road to redemption."

Conkling was invited to be the keynote speaker at a meeting of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of American Waterworks Association. The meeting was centered on strategic communications by water agencies. The title of his talk was "Owning, Fixing and Talking About Your Crisis." "I honestly believe crisis response is that simple," Conkling said. "Unfortunately, it isn't that easy."

A leading crisis communications counselor, Conkling said it is hard to "fix a crisis you don't own." "An insufficient apology or an evasive explanation won't put a crisis to rest," he explained.

Owning a crisis involves acknowledging what happened, expressing an appropriate emotion, apologizing and providing relevant detail about why it happened and why it won't happen again, Conkling said. "Owning a crisis doesn't involve saying you have everything under control, telling people not to worry or urging people to trust you."

"By definition, a crisis means events are out of control," he said. "You can't stop people from worrying. Your words don't elicit trust. Only actions can do that." 

Fixing a crisis relies on taking "demonstrable steps that show you own the crisis and are willing to deal with the root cause of the crisis." 

Talking about your crisis response "is easier when you have something to say," Conkling said. 

Sometimes it is smart, he said, to talk with stakeholders or neighbors before a crisis occurs. "People respect you for telling them what could happen," Conkling said. "The absence of an incident actually reinforces your trustworthiness. They assume the potential problem you discussed with them is being managed well." 

"A crisis may uncover something you wished would have stayed hidden," he said. "But your crisis response can demonstrate your openness to owning a potential problem and addressing it responsibly."

Gary Conkling Crisis Communications

If you are interested in having Gary Conkling speak to your organization about Crisis Communications, you can contact him here. For more Crisis Communications advice from Gary Conkling, visit the CFM Crisis Ebook.

The Original Dan Keeney Back at CFM

Dan Keeney back at CFM

Dan Keeney, APR is back at CFM Strategic Communications after a 15-year hiatus during which he built his own independent public relations firm, DPK Public Relations, with a diverse set of clients. 

"We are extremely glad to have Dan working closely with CFM’s public relations and public affairs teams," says CFM President Gary Conkling. "We've talked a lot about finding another 'Dan Keeney,' but it is much better to have the original Dan Keeney back."

While Keeney was with CFM, he played a large role in helping the firm establish its public affairs and marketing PR credentials, as exemplified by numerous awards, including three Silver Anvils, the PR industry's "Oscar."

Keeney brings a creative eye and a strategic touch to PR projects. "I look for what's different because it’s the surest way to entice a reporter to cover a story," Keeney explains. "In an age when social media and word-of-mouth outpace the influence and reach of traditional media, I also believe in making it easy for clients to package their information in compelling ways to connect with the communities that matter to them directly. These are the same ideas and techniques we were developing at CFM when I came onboard nearly 20 years ago."

The eventual plan is to integrate Keeney's existing practice into CFM's. Meanwhile, the strategic alliance between CFM and DPK Public Relations enhances CFM’s capabilities to include vertical expertise in healthcare, energy, technology and financial services, while DPK PR’s clients gain access to CFM’s expertise in federal lobbying and public affairs.

"We are already including Dan in our proposals and projects," Conkling says. "Our goal is to have him be a full member of the CFM team."

Keeney advises clients on crisis communication and reputation management and assists them on marketing PR. One of his clients is Saint Arnold Brewing, the oldest craft brewer in Texas. He also provides strategic communications counsel, media relations and training for media interviews and public speaking.

CFM Turns 25


CFM turns 25 this year and we plan to celebrate. We have added some silver glamor to our logo, redesigned our website with a storytelling format and launched "25 Stories" that characterize our work and passion for the past quarter century.

Later in the year, we will uncork a special-label wine produced by Willamette Valley Vineyards and unveil some other surprises.

While the past 25 years have been a blast and gone by all too quickly, our 25th anniversary celebration is also about marking our next 25 years of serving clients.

"We are proud of our work in the past 25 years," says CFM President and co-founder Gary Conkling. "But it is just the beginning of what CFM can do. We have a new generation of professionals at CFM who are upholding our ideals for integrity and delivering quality client service that gets results."

CFM began as a friendly spinout from Tektronix, then Oregon's largest private employer. CFM has evolved into one of the Pacific Northwest's leading public affairs and strategic communications agencies. The firm offers five business lines – state lobbying, federal lobbying, public affairs, marketing public relations and market and public opinion research.

"From the start, our vision was to offer clients seamless, integrated solutions to their communications challenges," Conkling says. "Some clients take advantage of multiple CFM services, while others just use one of our services. But our staff is engaged in all of our services, so they assist clients with a panoramic view of what's possible to solve a problem."

"When we started CFM 25 years ago, some doubted we would survive. We had a few doubts ourselves," Conkling recalls. "What made the difference was a commitment to help clients tell their story in energetic, authentic and factual ways. We looked at every challenge as an opportunity and every communications channel as a promising avenue."

"I can't imagine not doing what we do everyday," Conkling adds. "We come to work everyday with a chance to make a difference for clients we believe in."

CFM Earns Press Coverage for Local Nonprofit


CFM helped local nonprofit Central City Concern show off its social entrepreneurship through an article this week in the Portland Business Journal that featured its innovative bed bug resistant bed.

Frustrated with the beds available in the market, CCC invented its own in 2010 to use in its newly built Madrona Studios for its homeless clients. CCC partnered with a Clackamas County manufacturer and used its knowledge from waging a mostly losing battle with bloodsucking parasites to create a durable, safe bed, which it called Central City Bed.

After receiving unsolicited inquiries from other nonprofits, CCC realized it had a going business on its hands. The bed has continued to impress and now is turning a small profit for CCC, which goes to support its job training programs.

Central City Concern also sells Central City Coffee as part of a growing effort to create revenue streams to support its integrated approach to helping homeless people get back on their feet with housing, health care and work.

CFM's Hannah Smith developed the story pitch to the Portland Business Journal emphasizing CCC's social entrepreneurship, contacted the publication and coordinated contacts with key CCC personnel. PBJ took the story and ran with it.

"Central City Bed is a great product," Smith said. "It reflects a smart approach to build awareness, support and revenue for the agency's important work."

The story about the bed appeared online, and a longer version is scheduled to appear in PBJ's weekly print edition.

Eder Documents Near-Perfect Waterfront Blues Festival


That crouching, ever-moving figure in kneepads on the Waterfront Blues Festival stage last week was none other than CFM Partner Norm Eder.

Eder, who builds sailboats and ukuleles in his spare time, is a skilled photographer who leads a volunteer, four-person team that documents all the performances and events at the Blues Festival at McCall Waterfront Park. This was Eder's 10th year as the event's documentary photographer.

"It has been amazing to watch the festival grow," Eder says. "Now, from the first chord, it runs likes a smooth machine."

This year's festival was blessed with near perfect weather conditions, which added to the sparkle of Eder's photographic record of the 3-day event that drew thousands to the waterfront, making it one of the biggest — and many say the best — blues festival in the country.

The event is the major annual fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank and generates more than $1 million to buy fresh food and pay for gas to deliver it to needy families.

One of the most remarkable performances, Eder says, was by the United for Music kids. This program matches developmentally challenged youngsters with local professional musicians who tutor them on singing, playing their instruments and stage style. Eder said their performance was "electric." 

"The group that tore up the stage this year," he added, was Los Lonely Boys. And Curtis Salgado, who filled in at the last minute for Gregg Allman who canceled for health reasons, gave one of his best Festival performances ever, Eder said.

The passion Eder brings to the event and the music is reflected in his photographs.

Penn Joins CFM State Affairs Team

Dale Penn II, who has worked with the Oregon legislature and state regulatory agencies for more than 10 years, will join CFM May 5 as a senior associate.

"Dale brings rich experience and broad contacts to benefit CFM clients," says CFM Partner Dan Jarman, who oversees the firm's state affairs practice. "He has worked on tough issues, building trusted relationships across party lines with his effective advocacy."

CFM employs a team approach to each Oregon legislative session. Team members work year-round to prepare clients for achieving results when the legislature meets. That can involve setting objectives, building coalitions and grassroots support and enlisting legislative champions. CFM also provides research and strategic communications support for clients.

Penn worked for the past six years for the Oregon Health Care Association, addressing complicated health care issues. Prior to that, Penn was an associate director for policy development and compliance officer for large, multi-state health care companies that stretched across 30 states.

A native Oregonian, Penn grew up in Salem and has strong ties to the community, established by serving in leadership positions and on local boards for civic organizations. He lives in Keizer and enjoys steelhead fishing, riding motorcycles and photography.

Penn's arrival coincides with the departure of Jessica Adamson who has joined Providence Health & Services as its new Oregon government affairs director. Providence is one of CFM's original clients and remains one of its largest.

Airbnb Launches Shared City Initiative

Airbnb has launched its "Shared Cities" initiative with Portland as its model city using an innovative storytelling press statement.

CEO Brian Chesky posted the engaging statement that talks about the historic role cities have played as "sharing platforms" and describing Airbnb's principles of being good neighbors, supporting local small businesses, fostering communities and cooperating with cities to "share with those in need."

The Shared City model in Portland, which was fashioned in collaboration with Mayor Charlie Hales, will include:

  • Enabling local hosts to donate money they earn to local causes, which Airbnb will match with a percentage of its fees;

  • Providing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available to all hosts;

  • Collecting and remitting tax revenues to the City; and

  • Offering disaster relief housing and response assistance in collaboration with Portland's Bureau of Emergency Management.

Fortune magazine, which broke the story nationally, said the Shared City is a "plan to leverage the Airbnb community to contribute economic, social, and environmental improvements to the city." 

"CFM appreciates the opportunity to work alongside Airbnb, a pioneer in the sharing economy that is continuing to blaze new trails," says CFM Partner Dan Jarman. 


CFM Supports Refugee Resettlement

When refugees from Sudan, Afghanistan or Myanmar get off a plane at Portland International Airport, someone from Catholic Charities is there to greet them. And Catholic Charities provides refugee families with a starter apartment to help them assimilate into their new home.

Refugee resettlement is just one of the services performed by the 70-year-old organization, and it is perhaps one of the least known.

Many people believe refugees come to the United States for economic reasons, but Catholic Charities says they come here most often because of persecution in their own countries, frequently because of their religious faith. "Refugees are survivors," the group says, "who have shown they have courage, initiative and creativity. When they are helped to adjust to their new circumstances and rebuild their lives in the United States, they become valued and contributing members of our society."

The resettlement program was featured at this year's Catholic Charities Celebration of Hope banquet, which drew more than 1,000 people to the Oregon Convention Center last weekend.

As a result of an inspiring presentation, which centered on the struggles of a Burmese family, CFM contributed $1,000, the amount needed to provide a starter apartment for one refugee family.

"Moving to a new country is traumatic enough, so we want to support Catholic Charities' effort to secure housing, furniture, bedding and other household supplies to ease that transition," said CFM President Gary Conkling. "Having the security of a home is a good beginning in a new community." 

Those interested in contributing to the refugee resettlement program or other programs can contact Catholic Charities at or 503.231.4866.

CFM Donates Books to Encourage Reading in Ethiopia

CFM has donated more than 80 books to a school located in Debark, Ethiopia. The donation will help encourage students to develop a love of reading.

Several CFM staff members selected books they or their children love to be part of the donation. “Some of the books I chose were my favorite books as a child, my son's favorites and adult authors I love that also write children's books,” said CFM Bookkeeper Beverly Melven. “Growing up poor, the library was my favorite place to be, and I'm thrilled that we are helping other children grow up with books as their friends.”

CFM purchased from Better World Books, a website that sells books to help fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world. For each book purchased through the site, Better World Books donates another book to an organization promoting literacy. The majority of books CFM purchased were also used, which helps books get to people in need rather than in landfills. Many of the books CFM purchased promote self-esteem for women and girls, environmental responsibility or feature people with disabilities.

The book drive was organized by Peace Corps Volunteer Mellissa Chisolm, who took to Facebook asking her friends and family to donate books. “Their school libraries are mostly filled with big, boring, reference books,” wrote Chisolm, “I would love to get some new exciting, easy, fun books to add to their collection.”

“I began by personally supporting the project because it seemed like such a simple way to make a difference,” said CFM Digital Strategist Hannah Smith. “I was so proud when CFM also decided to support the project in such a big way.”

Upon learning of CFM’s donation, Chisolm said: “I will be forever grateful to CFM for helping out the children in my town. It is wonderful knowing that there are people and companies that support literacy programs around the world. I am amazed at their generosity and feel extremely lucky for all of the support.”

Those interested in purchasing additional books for donation should contact Hannah Smith through the CFM website.