Q&A with Lisa Borders ‘79, CEO of LMB Group, LLC

Major at Duke: French

In this interview with DukeJournos, Lisa Borders ’79, CEO of LMB Group, LLC, Former President/CEO of Time’s Up, and Former President of the WNBA, discusses her experience working as a senior executive and elected official as well as strategies she used at the forefront of organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Q: Having held positions as President and CEO of Time’s Up! and President of the WNBA, you are no stranger to mass communications. How did you harness the power of the press to spread your organizations’ various missions?

A: Each of the executive roles I have had recently required that I be the ‘public face’ of the organization. This responsibility was an opportunity to drive the perception of our work and the reality of our vision. I used three (3) principles to guide my engagement with the press, i.e. accessibility, transparency and consistency. I recognized that journalists were/are partners in our efforts and that they had a job to do. Therefore, I made myself available when they had questions and offered robust information when it was available. If ‘full responses’ were not available, I would volunteer when the info would be forthcoming. My approach was to be fair and helpful with all outlets.

Q: When serving as President of the Atlanta City Council, was your approach to addressing and working with the press different or similar to when you were heading Time’s Up! and the WNBA? Why or why not? Were there any unique challenges?

A: I served in office from 2004-2010 and was elected city-wide, meaning I was elected by residents across Atlanta as the legislative branch’s Presiding Officer and Vice Mayor. My approach with the press was very similar to my subsequent roles except that I often deferred to my colleagues on Council so that they could speak directly to their constituents from the larger ‘mass media’ platform. It should be noted that they were elected from individual, geographically-defined districts. This inclusive approach was helpful in building solid and sustainable relationships across the Council membership.  Atlanta has the largest City Council in the State of Georgia and results for the citizenry were first and foremost. Yet, the example of a functional and fruitful Council in the Capitol was important, as well. That said, when Council members asked for advice on how to work with the media, I was always willing to share my ‘guiding principles’ (accessibility, transparency, consistency) and help with their messaging and/or timing.

Q: What do you think is the biggest strength and the biggest shortfall of how journalism is consumed in the U.S. today, now that social media (like Facebook and Instagram) is a major platform for receiving and spreading news?

A: The biggest strength of new platforms is the democratization of content creation and the distribution of same. There is diversity of perspectives which helps drive relevance and resonance of the messages being shared. The concept of ‘speed’ can be either positive or negative; it is positive when constructive messaging or warnings are shared but it can be deadly when the information is not accurate. Hence, the greatest shortfall of social media is inaccuracy; there is no apparent  method – let alone systemic protocol – to verify and/or validate information. False  and potentially harmful information is disseminated with the same lightening speed as accurate information and there is no efficient or effective way to change a narrative after it has ‘gone viral’.