O’Neill and Associates Interns Volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank

On July 13th, our OA interns traveled to the Greater Boston Food Bank to spend the afternoon sorting food to be distributed across the region. Working in conjunction with other volunteers, the group helped sort 8,500 pounds of food, which will assist approximately 7,000 individuals.

One in ten members of our community is at risk of hunger. Hunger is experienced not only by those in poverty, but also by our working and middle class neighbors–in Eastern Massachusetts, 47% of those at risk do not qualify for government food assistance in the state (SNAP).

Since 1974, the Greater Boston Food Bank has been supporting individuals and families by supplying food pantries, soup kitchens, meal programs, senior centers and more with healthy food. Their work could not be done without the help of volunteers on a daily basis, who assist with many facets of the organization.

Our interns started their day with an orientation session led by a GBFB staff member, where they learned about the daily operations of the Boston warehouse, and the people the food bank serves.

After receiving a lesson on how to carefully inspect the quality of food donations, the team got to work sorting through hundreds of non-perishable goods and toiletries. The GBFB places great importance on the condition of donated goods, and the interns were eager to help with the tedious task of checking containers for openings and monitoring expiration dates.

Working together we assembled boxes of food and toiletries that were then sealed and ready for distribution. The food and toiletries will help stock 500 food pantries, soup kitchen, schools, and shelters in Eastern Massachusetts.

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Three Questions with Christopher Tracy, Senior Director


Proposal Boston Sky Line

Christopher Tracy, Senior Director

What are you seeing right now in real estate development in Greater Boston?

It’s pretty clear that there’s tremendous growth taking place. You see it every day with more people and new structures. We can now add Amazon to the growing list of companies calling Boston home. Amazon expects to bring 900 new jobs to Fort Point channel, where GE is relocating its world headquarters. And according to census reports in May, Boston has seen an 8.4 percent rise in population since 2010 and is now the 22nd largest city in the United States. In the City of Boston and surrounding municipalities, housing and planning agencies are continuing to work with developers to approve residential housing proposals and increase the housing stock, which will hopefully soften housing prices.

What strategies does O’Neill and Associates employ to support real estate development clients?

We use a multi-pronged approach to help clients successfully navigate the arduous processes of permitting approvals to expedite their ability to get shovels in the ground. When I say multi-pronged, I mean that we combine our grassroots community outreach strategies with our experience, relationships, and understanding of relevant government agencies involved in permitting and use, along with public relations and social-digital media tools to close gaps and meet any audience in any venue. It used to be that you reached people at an address. Today, you need to reach people digitally. O’Neill and Associates is uniquely qualified as a development partner because we can capably guide clients through these often confusing approval processes. We have an experienced team from the public sector with first-hand knowledge of the goals that cities and towns hope to achieve when considering smart growth opportunities.

What excites you most/do you enjoy most about your sector?

Boston is absolutely booming and thriving with energy, opportunity and community right now. When this building boom is complete, it will be the largest in Boston’s history, bypassing the infilling of the Back Bay and the construction of the high spine corridor. The City has never been cleaner, more active and exciting. I like being a part of this chapter. O’Neill and Associates and our clients are making an impact by increasing housing, including affordable units, enhancing vibrancy and activity in communities and improving neighborhoods in and around Boston. I have the ability to help clients make a tangible impact on the city and its future.

CEO’s Corner: June 2017

Uncertainty seems to be the only one thing that’s certain today. It’s a situation that’s relatively recent for those of us living in the United States, but it has been a way of life for those in Northern Ireland for over forty years. Now, with the Brexit vote and more recent events, this notion of uncertainty is top-of-mind once again in Ireland.

On June 23, 2016, voters in the United Kingdom went to the polls to cast a historic vote: should the UK leave the European Union? The decision: a leave vote. But the vote did not prescribe the policies of exit and many were left with questions that over a year later still remain unanswered. One such question:  what will happen in Ireland?

The peace in Northern Ireland remains fragile to this day. During the 1970s and 1980s, my father, Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. advocated strongly for Irish peace alongside Senator Daniel Moynihan of New York, Governor Hugh Carey of New York and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Together these influential Irish-American, Catholic politicians, dubbed the Four Horsemen, condemned the violence taking place in Ireland and condemned the financial backing of the IRA by U.S. citizens. Thanks to the commitment of these men there was a significant shift toward a peaceful resolution and ultimately a historic ceasefire in 1994. Slowly the border barriers between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland broke down and people began to pass freely.

Today, many fear that peace may be threatened by the impending consequences of Brexit and the recent actions of British Prime Minister Theresa May. While the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein remain the two prominent parties in Northern Ireland, both groups have seen a generational shift which has changed both parties’ earlier platforms. Over the last thirty years both parties have become more tempered in their beliefs allowing for a further push towards peace on the island.

With the recent deal between May and the DUP, new tensions are emerging between the two parties. The vote last year to leave the EU and the recent UK snap election that demonstrated the lack of support for Prime Minister May forced an impasse. In an attempt to keep majority support in Parliament, May went to Northern Ireland’s DUP and established a “confidence and supply” deal. In it, the DUP pledged to throw its support behind the Conservatives in exchange for €1.1 billion in extra funding. As an active part of Parliament and a significant influencer in Northern Ireland, this did not sit well with Sinn Fein, which had already faced conflict with the DUP having been on opposite sides of the Brexit vote. While plans for the €1.1 billion are not yet public, one can only hope that this significant increase in funding is going toward areas such as education to better prepare citizens for the economic shift that will certainly occur following the EU and UK split.

I am confident that common sense will prevail in Ireland. No one wishes to return to a time of violence, unrest, division, and restrictive borders. While there will likely be constraints on trade and travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, it is doubtful that a physical border will be reinstated.

It is essential for those spearheading the EU and UK talks to remain level-headed and reasonable when discussing this sensitive issue. In this time of uncertainty all we can be sure of is Ireland is one island and peace must remain.

Grassroots Social Media and Digital Engagement

A Q&A with Shakeir Gregory, Senior Account Executive Digital and Social Engagement, on how social and digital platforms are used to support clients’ initiatives

How do you assess a client’s social media capabilities?

I think correct and comprehensive utilization of a platform is most important. Is the client’s content compelling? Are they on message? Are they using the platform the way it’s meant to be used? And are they using it regularly? I think those are core factors that determine whether somebody is doing social media well. Posts should occur regularly—most people would say daily, multiple times daily, but the rules vary depending on the client’s resources and objectives. If target audiences are not seeing your content, then you’re not using the platform correctly. You need to post things that are relevant to both what you do as an organization and that are meaningful to your audience.

One advantage I think about when it comes to social media is that it is instantly measurable and can be easily recalibrated. If audiences are not liking or commenting on your content, or you have a lot of followers but little response to your call to action, then what’s going wrong? It probably is that your audience does not feel compelled to engage with your content. Social media fosters two way communication as with an everyday conversation, so what do you have to offer as a company, nonprofit or a membership organization like a union that will move your audiences to act? What are your objectives for your audiences and what can you communicate to achieve those objectives?

What objectives might an organization have in its social media strategy?

Let’s take a union as an example. Internally, a union might want to foster better communication among its membership or better explain union benefits, contract details or to activate members around a legislative issue. Externally, a union may want to rally the general public around a cause that is important to workers such as pushing back on things like privatization and the destabilization of programs that protect union workers and their interests. And, you want to call out worker exploitation wherever it’s seen. Social media’s two-way communication and mobile reach is the union’s modern day organizing and activation tool. Most people today in every age group are reachable in some way shape or form online. Even at the oldest age group 65+ use some form of social media.

What steps are often successful as an organization tries to increase its social media presence?

One of the biggest first steps is to look at what platform is being used and whether it effectively intersects with the target audience. For example, if I’m doing a campaign to raise awareness on the cost of credit card debt and the rising burden it is placing on young people across our country, who am I going to talk to? Probably people below the age of 25. What social media platform do people below 25 use? They are Reddit, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. They may also have a Facebook, but is that their preferred platform for content? All of these answers are measurable. These metrics are attainable so you have to choose your outlets first and foremost when making a calculated decision about who you’ll be talking to.

And then it’s a matter of format. What messages are going to be most compelling to your target audience and is your message properly formatted for the medium you’ve chosen? For example, if you have a multi-paragraph long statement to share, Snapchat may not be the right place to distribute it. If you have a chart it may not be the best idea to post that to Pinterest. So it really just boils down to these three things: Who are you talking to? Where are they? What should you be saying to them and how?

Teamsters Labor Union: An O’Neill and Associates Case Study

For the Teamsters we were engaged to help rally membership and raise awareness of right to work legislation that was being considered in the NH legislature and heavily advocated for by the governor. The Teamsters realized was that their membership wasn’t fully engaged, and so we looked at their membership’s age range and noticed that it skewed older. They had a larger audience on Facebook and not as much on Twitter. Therefore we made sure we were doing everything we could to activate their members via Facebook, including using paid advertisements, publishing videos, placing content that was visually appealing with pull quotes, and complementing this with a traditional earned media PR strategy. If members skew older, they probably still subscribe to and read their local paper whether that is online or in print. We made sure to share that PR content online and extend the lifetime of that content through regular posting on Facebook. This might sound simple and straightforward, but every campaign has a lot of variables to consider.

Ultimately members were commenting on posts and saying “I was definitely against this right to work legislation– I might have been aware of it but I started seeing some of your posts” or “My spouse shared it.” Really the goal of a grassroots movement is getting to that word of mouth stage where people are so aware of what the issue is that they start to form an opinion on it, they start talking about it, and they take action. The goal is to get an audience to see it numerous times and get them thinking about the cause for which you’re advocating.

A Look Ahead at What Congress is Addressing This Summer

By: AmyClaire Brusch, Vice President

Even as Congress remains divided on many important issues that will dominate the news this summer (health care, budget, homeland security…), there are also areas in which Republicans and Democrats are working together as their constituents expect. The average American only has time for short snippets of news a day which is dominated by these divisive, if important issues. We all know that the level of political discourse has grown more heated, as displayed in the recent violent attack on Members of Congress practicing for a charity ball game. But below the surface, aired on CSPAN for those who may have more time, House and Senate committees have held several hearings and legislative markups this month that are surprisingly devoid of partisan divide.

One such measure passed both houses of Congress with broad support and was signed into law on June 23rd.  The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will give the Department of Veterans Affairs more resources to help restructure the department to better serve the needs of our nation’s veterans. All Americans have been upset by the long waits veterans face for health care and the inability to swiftly respond to the need for other services. The public has pressured Congress and recent administrations to better support veterans and public officials have answered the call. There is still more to do for veterans, but the enactment of this bill in the midst of a negative political climate gives one hope that Congress and the administration will continue to make progress on improving VA service.

Another issue that also affects people in every state and of every demographic is access to broadband services. From education and communication to telemedicine and economic development, broadband access is essential to meeting the needs of 21st century Americans. Both the House and Senate have held hearings this month examining the challenges to full nationwide broadband access. Listening to the Senators and Representatives, one was struck by the number of bipartisan bills they referenced to achieve this goal and it was hard to know their political affiliation from their comments and questions.

Similarly, both the House and Senate have been considering reauthorization legislation of the Federal Aviation Administration. There are some controversial issues in these bills, but they do not fall into partisan categories. Instead, there are Republicans and Democrats on both sides of drone policy, privatization of air traffic control, and financing issues to name a few. As I monitored these hearings and then the markups for clients, it was heartening to see a robust debate that lacked partisan edge.

These are just three of the issues Congress is addressing in a bipartisan way this summer. While they may not be as dramatic as the scene of unity on the baseball field, they are a more significant sign that the legislative body is still working. There will be more vigorous debates on top line issues, as there should be. That debate will dominate the national news. For a look deep into the process, sneak a peak at CSPAN every so often to remind yourself that public officials haven’t completely lost their ability to work together.

Abiomed Heart Recovery Patients Visited Capitol Hill to Advocate for Life Saving Cardiovascular Technology

abiomed logo 2

Massachusetts is a global center for biopharma innovation. Life science and healthcare technology companies leverage the region’s talented workforce, world-class hospitals and research institutions to create advanced medical devices and discover new drugs. It’s important for these companies to make sure Congress fully understands how these advances are improving patient treatment and care. In June, medical device manufacturer Abiomed worked with the O’Neill and Associates federal relations team to host a patient advocacy event in Washington, DC.  Abiomed patients from around the country, now Heart Recovery Advocates, convened on Capitol Hill to help raise awareness of the burgeoning field of heart recovery.

Abiomed, headquartered in Danvers, Massachusetts, manufactures the world’s smallest heart pump, a line of devices called Impella. The company’s products are the only FDA-approved devices for heart recovery. The groundbreaking technology not only drastically increases the chance of survival for heart attack patients, but also improves their quality of life by helping them keep their native heart tissue.

On June 8th, nineteen patients who benefitted from treatment with Abiomed’s Impella heart pumps traveled from all over the United States sharing their stories of survival with their representatives in Congress.  These patient advocates explained how Impella has helped their lives, as well as the importance of supporting the field of heart recovery. Each patient advocate represented living proof that progress is being made in treating the number one cause of death in the United States: heart failure and coronary artery disease (CAD).

“It is important for companies to step back and let their good work speak for itself,” said O’Neill and Associates CEO Tom O’Neill. “It’s easy to get bogged down in policy minutia, particularly in a highly-regulated industry like healthcare.   Abiomed personalizes policy for Congress when it provides a platform for their patients to tell their stories in the first person. Those stories are tremendously powerful.”

The fly-in was a packed two-day event.  It began with an advocacy training session, in which O’Neill and Associates team members AmyClaire Brusch and Anthony DeMaio worked with Abiomed’s staff to prepare the patient advocates for their meetings on Capitol Hill. Equipped with their personal stories, talking points on heart failure and CAD, and, most importantly, confidence, the patient advocate teams fanned out across the halls of Congress. The lunch hour featured a briefing on advancements in heart recovery hosted by the House Medical Technology Caucus. The Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), addressed congressional staffers, patients, and industry representatives attending the briefing. Following afternoon meetings in congressional offices, Abiomed joined other medical technology companies to showcase their devices at an event sponsored by the Advanced Medical Technology Association, an industry trade group. The event’s brief speaking program featured AdvaMed CEO Scott Whitaker and a particularly compelling story from one of Abiomed’s patient advocates.  It was a fitting way to close out a long day on Capitol Hill.

As awareness of the Impella technology continues to grow, more and more lives around the world will be helped by Abiomed. Last year, Abiomed reached a major milestone having treated enough patients to fill Fenway Park. Their next marker, Gillette Stadium, is approaching on the horizon. For O’Neill and Associates’ teams in Boston and Washington, it is a privilege to help Abiomed and its thousands of patients tell their stories.


Demystifying the Facebook algorithm: A guide to reaching your audience

In the span of an internet minute, the content your organization shares online competes for the attention of millions of users—and for the assistance of the Facebook algorithm.

To provide an individual experience to each of its users, Facebook employs a complex algorithm, formerly known as EdgeRank, that ensures the content displayed in your news feed is interesting to you, specifically. Facebook wants to put engaging and entertaining content in your timeline. The company’s goal? To increase the time you spend on its website—and to up its share of the internet minute. While the algorithm and the tactics Facebook uses may change, that fundamental motivation is here to stay.

For companies and organizations, this means that simply posting content cannot guarantee reach. Having 5,000 likes on your page does not mean those 5,000 people are regularly seeing your posts in their News Feeds.

While the intricacies of the algorithm remain a mystery to those outside Facebook, we know the algorithm at its most simple follows three main tenets—affinity, weight, and time decay. Affinity determines how relevant certain content is to you based on your previous activity, while weight and time decay prioritize posts based on post type (photos, videos, text posts) and relevancy (how old is your content?).

So, how do you compete for space on the news feeds of your audience? Following the algorithm, it is essential to generate original content that is relevant to the people who like your page. It must be easy to absorb, encourage user engagement through likes, shares and comments, and should be timely. For example, natively uploaded videos (which keep users on Facebook rather than redirecting them to other sites like YouTube) are much more likely to show up on your audience news feeds, as are photos that encourage user engagement and discussion in the comments section.

Engaging with hot-button issues, current news in your industry, or local trends are all ways to increase your exposure on the site.

If the message and content you send through Facebook is not going to be important or interesting in the eyes of your audience, you cannot expect reach or engagement.

Proposed Changes to Recreational Marijuana Law Moves from Committee

The Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy ‎reported a bill out of committee on Wednesday that makes substantial changes to the recreational marijuana law passed by referendum last year and establishes a new regulatory structure for marijuana in the Commonwealth.

Some of the key changes proposed in the new bill are:

  • The creation of a 5 member Cannabis Control Commission, ‎responsible for oversight of both the recreational and medical marijuana programs (medical marijuana is currently under the purview of the Department of Public Health). The ballot question created a new office under the Office of the State Treasurer.
  • A 28% tax on recreational sales, up from a 12% tax provided for in the existing law (medical marijuana continues to not be taxed).
  • A different mechanism for local control, cities and towns will no longer have a local referendum on banning recreational marijuana facilities, those decisions could instead be made by local elected and appointed officials.

The House is expected to take up the committee legislation shortly. State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, responsible for regulating the recreational program under the current law voiced particular concerns with the commission structure.

Members of the Senate and the Senate Chair of the Marijuana Committee, Senator Patricia Jehlen, have indicated that they are not in favor of the legislation as reported out of committee. Legislative leadership hopes to get a bill to Governor Baker by the end of the month.

A copy of the committee legislation can be found here: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H3751

The 6th Annual Gala of The Family Pantry of Cape Cod

This Sunday Shelly and I will host the 6th Annual Gala to celebrate The Family Pantry of Cape Cod. This organization is one close to my heart as my father, Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr., was the first to host this event in the early 1990s. For years my parents hosted a party at their home in Harwich Port to support The Family Pantry and the incredible work the pantry does and to help those in need throughout Cape Cod. They invited friends and neighbors and would raise between $3,000 and $5,000 each year. After my father passed away, I took over this responsibility and brought the event to my own home. Six years ago, Shelly and I recognized that our simple annual house party would not be enough to help the Pantry sufficiently address the growing needs of the community. So in 2011 we moved the event to the Wychmere Beach Club and extended the invitation beyond Harwich to individuals from all over the Cape and beyond. Since then we have raised around $1.5 million to help feed and clothe the more than 9,000 people the Pantry supports annually. This year’s event is expected to bring together around 375 people and will honor longtime supporters Albert and Marion Gausz and TJX Corporation. Entertainment will be provided by Northshore Acapella and Fred Boyle on piano.

The Family Pantry is the largest food pantry on Cape Cod. Unfortunately, the need for its services continues to grow. Fundraising and donations are essential in order to fulfill their mission of providing food and clothing to those in need. We are proud to host this event each year and look forward to celebrating The Family Pantry this weekend.

By Tom O’Neill

Rectrix Aviation Celebrates 20,000th charter flight at Worcester Regional Airport

By: Hugh Drummond 

How do you celebrate a major aviation milestone? With a water cannon salute and Bruins legend Bobby Orr of course.

On Monday, June 5, Rectrix Commercial Aviation Services marked its 20,000th charter flight at a ceremony at Worcester Regional Airport (ORH). With Bobby Orr onboard, a Rectrix charter jet was saluted with water sprayed by airport fire trucks as it taxied to the company’s Aerodrome. Congressman Jim McGovern, Worcester Airport Director Andy Davis, State Representative John Mahoney, Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus and Worcester Chamber President Tim Murray, joined Boston Bruin legend Bobby Orr and Rectrix CEO Richard Cawley, along with Rectrix employees and airport staff, to recognize this important achievement for the company.

Rectrix was founded in 2005 and its charter division began in 2010. The company reached its 20,000th charter flight milestone in just seven years – a big accomplishment in the charter space. Today Rectrix is the largest private jet operator based in Massachusetts. Its charter flights, state-of-the-art terminals and top-rated maintenance facilities are recognized in the industry for their exceptional customer service and safety.

“I am thrilled to be here with Rectrix to mark this important moment in their company history—it is a proud moment for both Rectrix and the City of Worcester,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “Worcester Regional Airport is a vital stimulus for the Central Massachusetts economy and we value Rectrix’s commitment to fostering business and job growth in Worcester.”

“We are committed to being a partner to Massport and Worcester and look forward to seeing continued success at ORH in the coming years as the airport’s new CAT III instrument landing system comes into operation,” said Rectrix CEO Richard Cawley.