Boston Comic Con 2017 Was a Crowd Pleaser

What event brought 55,000 fans to Boston in August? Boston Comic Con. From August 11–13, Boston Comic Con celebrated its 10th anniversary giving fans an opportunity to experience the best in comic artistry and pop culture. This year’s show “true to comic, committed to fans” was held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) for the first time in order to accommodate the ever-growing audience drawn to this extremely popular event.


Photo of Boston Comic Con 2017 show floor at BCEC

Boston Comic Con 2017 featured an incredible lineup of celebrity guests, comic creators, cosplayers and more than 100 events appealing to all ages.

Legendary comic creator Stan Lee drew more than 2,000 to his Q & A on Friday night, and continued to meet with thousands of fans throughout the weekend. Other celebrity guests who made waves on social media included John Barrowman of Arrow who witnessed an actual engagement by a Quincy, Mass. couple; new father Ian Somerhalder of Vampire Diaries; Karen Gillan and Matt Smith of Doctor Who; Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith of Jay and Silent Bob; Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Nell Campbell and Patricia Quinn of The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Eliza Dushku of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Karl Urban of Star Trek; Anthony Daniels of Star Wars, Alan Tudyk of Firefly and Star Wars; and Charlie Cox of Daredevil.

Another big hit at this year’s Boston Comic Con was the Cosplay Costume contests for adults and kids that featured original home-made costumes derived from the comic, sci-fi, horror, anime and fantasy worlds.

Boston Comic Con 2017 also connected to the local community through a series of events leading up to the show including a Treasure Hunt at famous Boston landmarks, cosplayer appearance at Game of Thrones Night at Fenway Park, Faneuil Hall Marketplace’s 5th annual Costume Contest and free movie screening with celebrity guest appearance of actors Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a visit by cosplayers to patients at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

One of the highlights of the Boston Comic Con 2017 show was the area featuring the New England Garrison of the 501st Legion, Alderaan Base of the Rebel Legion and the New England R2 Builders. The 501st display featured remote-controlled droids, the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, and costumed Star Wars characters. The 501st New England also collected $7,200 in donations to the National Alliance of Mental Health, Boston Chapter in memory of the late Carrie Fisher, the original Princess Leia.

Mark your calendars! Boston Comic Con 2018 will be held at the BCEC on August 10 – 12.

Senior Vice President, Ann Murphy, featured on NECN’s The Take with Sue O’Connell

WebRes_120403_ONeill_AnnMurphy-0085Would having a better gender balance in Congress mean less gridlock? Earlier this month, Ann Murphy, was featured on NECN’s The Take with Sue O’Connell on NECN to discuss the topic of whether electing more women to Congress would reduce legislative stalemate and lead the way to getting more women involved in politics. Ann was joined by Gail Jackson-Blount, president, Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.

Watch interview here!

The Marine Corps Marathon and Suicide Prevention

Every year, thousands of runners descend upon Washington, DC to test the limits of their endurance at the Marine Corps Marathon. According to its website, “the mission of the Marine Corps Marathon is to promote physical fitness, generate community goodwill and showcase the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps.” Due to the connection to the families of those who serve, veterans, and others, the Marine Corps Marathon holds a special place in the heart of the Arredondo Family Foundation.

The Arredondo Family Foundation was established by Carlos and Mélida Arredondo, who lost their son Alex, a U.S. Marine, in the war in Iraq and later lost their son Brian to suicide. Carlos and Mélida Arredondo became internationally famous in 2013 when Carlos helped save the life of Jeff Bauman in the immediate moments after the Boston Marathon tragedy. But their story – and the work they are doing to support the families of the fallen – began before the Marathon bombing. They have dedicated themselves to movements and causes that embolden people and give voices to those who cannot speak for themselves.

Based in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the Arredondo Family Foundation is committed to empowering military families. Their mission is to empower military families in the prevention of military related suicides and to provide assistance through education, financial relief and support services.

This past April, seven runners participated in the Boston Marathon to raise money for the Foundation’s work to train military families and friends to understand the mental health crisis and suicide prevention techniques among their active duty service members, veterans and military family members in order to reduce the number of military-related suicides; provide emergency fund assistance to military families who have experienced a suicide; and provide educational assistance to military siblings who seek a college education. Now the Foundation is seeking to do the same for this year’s Marine Corps Marathon.

This year’s Marine Corps Marathon will take place on October 22. The Foundation is also recruiting runners for the Marine Corps Marathon’s 10K race which takes place the same day. If you or anyone you know is interested in running in this race on behalf of the Arredondo Family Foundation, please contact Rachel Lavoie at (315) 569-7623.

“We appreciate so much those who support the work we do helping the families of the fallen who area dealing with mental health crises,” said Mélida Arredondo, the foundation’s executive director.  “The suicide rate in military families is higher than it is among the rest of the population, and we are doing everything in our power to promote effective prevention strategies. Those who run on our behalf are an important part of that work.”

Peter Goelz on the Benefits of Safety Stand-Downs

By: Peter Goelz, Senior Vice President

Following two deadly aviation accidents in the past month, the United States Marine Corps is considering a “stand-down” for all Marine fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.  A “stand-down” is a technique to focus intensely, on a short term basis, on an issue of real importance. The Marine Corps have used this technique in the past, as have other branches of the Armed Services particularly after accidents. In this case, the Marine Corps lost 15 service members (plus a Navy corpsman) when a KC-130T transport crashed in Mississippi, and then three more when an MV-22 Osprey crashed into the water off the coast of Australia as it attempted to land on the USS Green Bay, an amphibious transport dock. Top brass are considering now whether a system-wide review of safety and operational procedures is in order. Last year, the Marine Corps ordered safety stand-downs following crashes of F/A-18 fighters and after problems with their AV-8 Harrier jets.

The “stand-down” approach, while more common in aviation, has migrated to other fields as well. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has done an annual construction industry stand-down focusing on preventing falls on construction sites. Additionally, law enforcement, utility companies, and trucking companies are all utilizing variations of the “stand-down” as part of their efforts to increase safety and efficiency.

The approach to conducting a stand-down involves focusing system wide on a specific activity — usually safety or operations, and taking time out of the workday to talk top-to-bottom about the importance of the incident, to explore new approaches and, most importantly, to get feedback from employees on ways to improve. By initiating the stand-down event with top management at the forefront, a clear communication is sent: This is critical and we can do better together. A stand-down can last anywhere from a few hours to a day-long event.

O’Neill and Associates is experienced in planning and executing stand-downs for companies. As a SVP in the O’Neill and Associates Washington, DC office and former Managing Director of the National Transportation Safety Board, I have led our agency’s professionals to implement stand-downs on safety and operational issues for a number of organizations and helped create the positive messaging surrounding the event to enhance its impact. For more information on our Crisis Communications practice and safety stand-downs, email me at

Boston Comic Con Celebrated 10th Anniversary with a Treasure Hunt

On July 29th, Boston Comic Con celebrated its 10th anniversary by giving fans an opportunity to win exclusive fan experiences for the upcoming Boston Comic Con August 11th – 13th by participating in a Boston-themed Treasure Hunt. The first ever Boston Comic Con Treasure Hunt was a huge success with 53 teams and over 100 participants.

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The teams had to navigate a route through downtown Boston, hitting some of the city’s historic spots along the way. The clues were delivered via Boston Comic Con’s Twitter handle (@BostonComicCon) and at each location there was a Boston Comic Con representative distributing special badges to those who solved the riddles.

The five “secret” locations were the Swan Boats, Edgar Allen Poe statue, New England Aquarium, Paul Revere statue in the North End and the Sam Adams statue outside of Faneuil Hall.

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The Edgar Allen Poe statue in downtown Boston, one of the locations of the Boston Comic Con Treasure Hunt.

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The first place winner won a celebrity photo op and two deluxe exhibition passes, second place won two premium passes and the third place winner received four single day passes for any day.

Each year Boston Comic Con attracts more than 50,000 fans and features over 500 exhibits. It is New England’s largest comic book convention.

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The O’Neill and Associates Boston Comic Con team


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.