Bill Meierling

Bill Meierling
Vice President of Public Affairs


What are some ideas you have to revolutionize the PR industry?

“I think cause is more important than anything today. That’s cause of all types – whether it’s being on board with a product that helps make the planet a better place or providing laptops to kids in Nicaragua or helping reinvest finances in communities. That’s where public relations and brand marketers have an opportunity to make change and add value in a shared value creation model that’s going to revolutionize PR. Now, why does that revolutionize PR? PR is normally the transaction of reaching out to journalists or members of the media or to provide a corporate message.  I think it revolutionizes PR because it helps builds awareness. It helps change peoples’ concept of things.  If people aren’t involved in frequent news consumption, then it’s important to meet them where they are and touch them with as much information as possible.”

What is multicultural marketing and why is it important?

“All marketing is multicultural. Multicultural marketing is about understanding your goals in terms of understanding the person or group you’re trying to reach and then reaching them with information that’s relevant and timely. It’s not necessarily about race or ethnicity. It’s about your individual, personal story and how that story can be impacted or engaged by a brand, product or message. Multicultural marketing is important because there’s no such thing as general market communication. Any organization that says that their audience is all people does not have a sound strategy. You need to know who you need to reach with what, where and when.”

What’s the best place you’ve traveled to for work?

“I’ll give you two answers. My favorite fun place to travel to for work was Cape Town, South Africa. It’s far and away my favorite city in the world for the food and people. It’s beautiful; the people are friendly-go there. The most interesting was the time I spent in the Republic in Equatorial Guinea. I was brought there in the mid 2000’s to help train them and help prop up the information ministry within the country. They hadn’t done outreach before; they hadn’t turned outward and told their story. Over decades of doing that, lies became truth. Falsehoods became really misconstrued problems, challenges and ideas. They had never done anything to rectify [misconceptions about their country]. It was just an incredible opportunity to build something from the ground up and to work in a developing nation with the people and the government that was really interested in growing, changing and telling their story.”

What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career?

“I love state government affairs and politics. I love the work that I’m doing with ALEC. I believe in the public sector and private sector working together – whether that’s citizens or legislators working with businesses to create a better country. It’s an incredible opportunity to help an organization find and redefine itself and be able to share that with people.  It’s been the work of my life coming to ALEC and helping to turn it outward. The commitment to limited government and free markets and federalism has remained consistent throughout the organization’s history, but it wasn’t effective at telling its story or sharing the rationale and reason for advancing limited government and free markets. Quite frankly, we believe that individuals, taxpayers and hardworking folks will do better and benefit more when they keep more of their hard-earned money and make more decisions about their lives for themselves. We work at the intersection of business and state policy to help advance those goals. That’s not a position that’s changed in the organization’s history, but it’s not a story that we’re telling. Getting [the story] out there featuring the different executives and our policy experts and legislators who believe in those things and getting that message out there has just been a really exciting time in my two years with ALEC.“

If you were going to write a book about public relations, what would it be called?

Manufactured Crisis and the Art of Selling Stories. It’s part sensational and part realistic. It’s part tongue-in-cheek and part grounded in reality. Public relations, marketing, brand messaging is about the art of storytelling. But the art of storytelling has to be an art that’s based on emotion. There needs to be a victor and a loser. There needs to be something at stake. There needs to be a challenge. These are all emotional words that pull people in one director or another.  It primes them for some sort of action. I feel that today, and this is where it gets a bit tongue-in-cheek, our news media and print broadcast are focused on the manufacture of crisis. We’re headlining Hollywood style to talk about ’Team Coverage of the Snow’. The art of storytelling and emotion in PR, marketing and issue advocacy is really important, but we can often times take it too far to where we’re manufacturing crisis out of things that just aren’t. That’s where there’s more art and nuance to it than science. But PR practitioners and the journalists that work with them, or seek information from them, need to hold that public trust and need to understand that it’s our duty to communicate based on fact. It’s based on what is real and what is proven versus what is popular and what generates clicks. It’s a balance.”