Posts Taged pr

3 Ways to Make the Most of December

make the most of december

2016 has been nothing if not eventful. Whether you felt this year dragged on forever or thought it went by in the blink of an eye, the end is quickly approaching.

When I was younger, my dad jokingly referred to tendencies to hibernate and indulge in holiday sweets as “cookie foot”. While December is a month full of festivities and bustle, it’s also easy to lose momentum and find yourself doing the bare minimum instead of transitioning to the New Year full steam ahead. Here are 3 ways to make the most of December for your clients and yourself.

1. Reflect

In the fast paced environment of PR it can be easy to quickly move on to the next task, the next project or the newest client. Take a moment (or several) to reflect on the last 11 months. 2016 has been a bit of a whirlwind in terms of current events. What were your key successes for clients this year? Did you have any major failures? Both of these questions are important for growth and goal-setting for the upcoming year. Which brings me to my next point….

2. Plan

With many projects wrapping up before the end of the year, December can feel like a waiting period. Take advantage of this time by getting a jumpstart on your 2017 planning. End of the year planning falls into two categories: planning for clients and personal professional planning.

Take the time to meet with clients and ask about their goals for the upcoming year. Suggest new projects or initiatives you’ve been holding back on for whatever reason.

In terms of personal professional growth, December is a great time to set new goals for yourself for the upcoming year. Set aside some time to evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses stood out during the following year.

You’ll thank yourself in January for taking the time to plan now.


3. Give back and Celebrate

Giving back is a surefire way to beat any holiday sluggishness. Give to your clients, to your co-workers, and to anyone else who needs it. Let your co-workers know you appreciated their help on a project or admired their poise in a difficult situation.  Don’t let good work go unrecognized.

I hope these ideas will help you avoid cookie foot, make the most of December and head into 2017 feeling energized and motivated.

What Public Relations is Teaching Me


Six months ago I confidentially strode across a stage and collected my diploma. While I now possess a piece of paper that claims I’ve learned, I definitely didn’t stop learning after graduating. After several months working for a public relations agency, here’s what PR is teaching me.

Relationships are Key

Public relations is an industry focused on relationships. These can take many forms, whether between PR professionals and businesses or with members of the media. In order to be successful at PR you have to constantly be putting yourself in other’s shoes and looking at concepts from a wide range of perspectives.

Make Use of Resources + Ask Questions

Resourcefulness is valuable, especially when it comes to problem solving and research. The internet doesn’t have every answer, but it has quite a few. PR is teaching me that using the information I have at my fingertips is crucial.

Using resources also encourages continued learning. Organizations like the PRSA are a great tool. At A.wordsmith we listen to one of their webinars per month. The PRSA webinars cover everything from Snapchat to crafting effective pitches.

As mentioned, resources are plentiful and useful, but they have their limits. I’ve learned the importance of asking questions. Use others’ experience and knowledge as a resource. Gathering as much information up front as possible saves time and energy down the road.

Read, read, read and READ

Most people will tell you that writing is a central skill in PR, and this is true. However, I’ve learned reading is essential as well.  Reading public relations news sites like Ragan’ PR Daily, or PR Week or Bulldog Reporter has helped me learn about the industry, current events and trends.

Public relations is about telling stories. One of the best ways to become a better storyteller is to read well-told stories. Whether its news articles, industry specific blogs or thought leadership interviews—reading quality writing helps you produce quality content.


Learn by Doing

Finally, PR has taught me that one of the best ways to learn is by doing. Looking over the past few months in a professional position, the points where I felt like I learned the most where when I was assigned a task I had never tried before. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to attempting things that stretch you. If you succeed, it’ll be an added boost of confidence. If you don’t get it right the first time, ask for feedback and adjust.  In trying new things you may surprise yourself and find you have a knack for something new.

Top 4 Takeaways from Art + Science of Storytelling across Platforms


I recently had the opportunity to attend a PRSA webinar presented by Geoff Livingston and Andrew Gilman called the Art and Science of Storytelling across Platforms. Given that a huge portion of a PR professional’s job is crafting stories for their clients, this topic was relevant and applicable. Here are my top takeaways from the webinar:

Emotion and fact are the building blocks for your story

“No facts without stories and no stories without facts” – this was one of the first messages the presenter pressed. This is a useful framework through which to filter story concepts. When building a story for a client, start with a headline. Ensure the headline is factual and straightforward—but also unique and with emotional interest. Gilman used an example of UPS and their “no left turns” story.  Their headline UPS values sustainability, is factual, but generic and did not differentiate UPS from their competitors. However, adding the interest element, UPS values sustainability—never takes left turns provides a differentiating factor and unique appeal.

Gilman also recommends crafting a story that can be localized to smaller markets. For instance in the UPS example, a PR professional could pitch to their local outlet and encourage them to follow UPS drivers and see the story for themselves.

Consider a communication wheel

Once the story has been built for the client, it’s time to consider your platform options. Gilman presented the option of creating a strategic communications wheel for your client. The wheel has the client at the center with all the forms of communicating their message as the spokes. Laying out all of the possibilities in a visual can show the breadth of opportunities available.


Pick your media venue

The primary media venue will determine your primary platform. Livingston recommends that the primary outlet reach the broadest audience possible. The type of content may determine your primary venue—e.g. if there’s video content you may use YouTube or Vimeo. Once you have your primary platform selected it’s crucial to have all secondary and tertiary outlets connect to it. Secondary outlets should appeal to a more specialized audience—they may provide more details or insider information that would attract a more enthusiastic group. Which secondary outlet platforms are best depends on the story, but they tend to be social media outlets and blogs.

Repeat your message—not your story

Do not copy and paste your message onto all your platforms. No one wants to read the same word-for-word content on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook—the content should be tweaked for each. Consider the key elements of your story, then consider the platform and audience. How can it be reshaped to fit a new platform? In-depth, lengthier content? Visual imagery? Interactive elements? Use these questions to make changes to the story as you spread your message across different media.

How to Leverage Big Data for PR and Marketing Communications

Big Data

Image courtesy of photoexplorer at

Big Data has become a vital tool for large and small businesses alike, with Big Data software able to help analyze the vast amounts of information to today’s organization. New, simplified tools like Amazon Mechanical Turk allow organizations and individuals to more easily collect data from around the world, providing the ability to predict future purchases, fight the spread of Zika or even find missing kids.

These solutions can also provide key insights that allow PR teams to tailor and deliver more relevant content to engage people and help them take action. Effective use of Big Data in PR can enable you to:

Big data mind

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at

  • Use data storytelling. Big Data allows you to identify trends and look for patterns, and the easiest way to get started with data storytelling can be by offering quirky, interesting insights – oftentimes one in which your organization has no particular stake in what the data shows.
  • Visualize your message. Using rich infographics that combine or visualize large data sets help explain a story in a clear, concise manner – helping you spread information about your product or service or share a story about data that affects your organization. Especially infographics are great tool to tell a story with data that impacts your organization. Our brains process visual data 60,000 times faster than text, making visualization one of the most effective ways to communicate.
  • Find insights about your stakeholders. Understanding where your customers or supporters spend their time and money can help you precisely tailor the message you send. Big Data also allows you to track how sentiment changes in response to your PR activities.
  • Identify influencers. Big Data tools can expedite the process of finding journalists and influencers in the media: Influencers can be identified in a number of ways, including participation velocity data, social graph data or reputation engines.
  • Deliver results through actionable insights during a crisis. A rapid response is critical for crisis management. In a natural disaster, for example, Big Data enables fast and accurate decision-making. Big Data allows you to track sentiment, intensity, authors and subjects of the conversations and media coverage to determine how serious the threat might be and the potential impact to your business.


Big Data tools and analytics can provide critical insights into who is driving conversations around a brand or issue, and into what content they are searching for online. Leveraging it effectively – and aligning it with specific business goals – will allow you to inform and propel your PR and marketing communications.

Streamline Your Writing: Five Tips

Steve Jobs once said: “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” Throughout your PR and writing career, you have heard more than once to tighten up your pitches, your white papers or your press releases. While it takes practice, the result is worth the effort.

Below are five tips to keep your writing clear and concise.

Avoid passive language.

Is the object of your sentence in the position where the subject should be? If so, it’s probably passive. For example, “The dog was walked by me” should read: “I walked the dog”.

Don’t rely on adverbs as descriptors.

Instead, use a descriptive adjective. Not only can adverbs dilute a sentence’s meaning, but they add unnecessary word count. Instead of writing, “He ate his dinner quickly,” say: “He devoured his dinner”.

Use words that resonate with your audience.

While it might be tempting to infuse your writing with large words or esoteric terminology, in most cases, this approach is not appropriate for your audience. Unless you are writing a technical piece or white paper, aim for a straightforward style.

Minimize prepositions.

Prepositions are used to connect nouns and pronouns to each other. Examples include: “of, for, to, by, at, from, on or into”. Instead of saying “The captain of the boat,” you can tighten the sentence by two words by saying: “the boat’s captain”.

Avoid redundant language.

Proofread your piece for words that can be eliminated because they don’t add meaning. For example, you can eliminate “exact” from the phrase, “exact same,” and “time” from the phrase, “present time”. Pay a visit to this site for 200 common redundancies.

Do you have tips or questions about writing more clearly and concisely? If so, we’re all ears. Share your comments and feedback below.

Direct Mail is Not Dead — Especially Among the 18-34 Crowd

French mailbox

Despite its reputation as a waning content marketing tool, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that direct mail is still very relevant. In fact, according to a recent study referenced by the SBA, nearly two-thirds of all consumers reported they had purchased something as a result of direct mail in the past year. Among 18-34 year olds who are inundated by spam emails, text messages and banner ads, the SBA suggests that direct mail might even offer a sense of old-school charm that stands out from the rest of the noise. Moreover, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports that almost 80 percent of consumers will “…act on direct mail immediately, compared to only 45 percent who say they deal with email straightaway.”

One thing is clear—direct mail is showing no signs of becoming obsolete.

While people could easily make the shift to conduct their entire lives online, many people still opt to keep a balanced mix of online and offline interactions. They find virtue in connecting with a brand through a smartly-worded piece of mail that offers them something they value. Product discounts, reminders and packages are among the most coveted items, while pamphlets and customer magazines fare the worst, according to the DMA.

So, what’s the best way for you to market your business using direct mail? It’s important to remember that personalization is key. What might work for a retail store might not work for the nonprofit next door—and certainly not for most large-scale businesses. However, Adobe’s Digital Marketing blog offers some basic, up-to-date tips that can benefit almost anyone starting a direct mail campaign.

Mickael Bentz, product marketing manager at Adobe, recommends the below:

  • Targeting and personalization are crucial. Remember, your goal is to resonate with individuals, not to simply reach the masses.
  • Use direct mail as part of an overall campaign, as opposed to your only tactic.
  • Use clear and compelling calls-to-action. Often, you will need to repeat your call-to-action several times, as most of us skim our mail.
  • Provide multiple ways for readers to respond.
  • On paper, more information is often better. Keep in mind that people spend more time with information on a piece of paper than they do on a screen.


What do you want direct mail to accomplish for your business? Contact us to discuss how to make this tactic a supportive part of your overall communications strategy.

Why Small Business Needs PR

Small business

For many small business owners, hiring a public relations agency might be the last thing on their minds. Maybe it’s the tight budget that puts PR and marketing efforts on the back burner – but what many of these small business owners don’t realize is how PR can be one of the most effective ways of communicating their value in the marketplace.

Traditionally, one may think PR is only focused on creating social media accounts, publicity events and press releases. Although PR does encompass those methods, it requires patience, strategy and consistency. Often public relations professionals hear, “We don’t need PR, we have a stable clientele.” Even if this is true, your business should be generating a consistent buzz in your industry that current or prospective clients want to hear about.

The power of PR

So there’s still the issue of cost, which for many small businesses the budget for marketing efforts is miniscule or nonexistent. That’s okay because PR helps you “get the most bang for your buck.” Unlike advertising, where you pay for ads on channels or outlets that your target audience may never see or notice, PR efforts like a press release distributed to the proper channels can receive cost-free exposure that is relevant to your client and customers. Editorial coverage is the best way for a company or person to be featured at no cost and creates awareness for your business.

Bill Gates

Ever thought about crisis management? An unprepared, misinformed, or ill-at-ease company spokesperson or employee can have the potential of doing damage to your business with their remarks to the media. Having a crisis management plan written by a PR professional can prepare your company or business for less than favorable situations that arise by creating clear and effective strategies for appropriate messaging to the public.

Credibility and control

One of the great things about PR is that is provides value and adds credibility through third-party validation. New clients are less likely to believe an advertisement that is designed to show off how great your business is, while an article presented by a trusted news source highlights the current happenings and or/quotes you as an expert source on a topic pertaining to your industry. You cannot put a dollar amount on the value of being featured in a local or national paper.

Unlike traditional advertising, PR allows you to tell compelling stories about your business through a third-party endorsement, enhancing credibility. For example, if your business serves the elderly, you can target media outlets that are tailored towards that specific population. You know you will be reaching your target audience effectively if research is done on the reporter, outlet and its demographic.

The bottom line is that PR efforts can greatly aid in helping your small business – whether it is generating that constant buzz in the industry or preparing you for a crisis. It’s worth the investment and creates measurable results in the long run.

Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising – How are They Different?

City Advertising

Rolling into my senior year of college, I have been asked the same question a number of times throughout my studies as an undergraduate. It has been asked by my family, friends, acquaintances, professors and anyone I’ve struck up a conversation with. It is the question I was hesitant to answer until two years ago.

“So, what are you studying?”

There are multiple answers to this question that I have come up with each time it has been asked thus far. Mass Communication, Public Relations (PR), Marketing and just simply Communications. All of these answers are different. What is my major? Mass Communication. What am I really studying? Public Relations. What do people usually answer when I say this? “Oh, so like, marketing and advertising, right?”

Well, not exactly.

The Difference

Anyone studying communications will know the difference between the three, but a large majority of people are still confused by what PR, marketing and advertising professionals really do.

It is common for most to lump public relations, marketing and advertising together. Although they are similar, they are not all the same. Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines Public Relations as: “A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” How does this differ from marketing and advertising?

The easiest way to look at it is that marketing is a large umbrella in which public relations and advertising fall under. Paid advertising and PR efforts such as social media are both marketing strategies. However, public relations centers on the public by planning and implementing an organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy, whereas marketing is more specific and looks to add value to customers, clients, and partners before looking to influence and educate the public.

According to, Advertising aims to “call the public’s attention to your business, usually for the purpose of selling products or services, through the use of various forms of media, such as print or broadcast notices.” You can remember it by thinking advertising is paid media and public relations is earned media. Many companies argue that they do not need public relations efforts because they are happy with their advertising agency’s efforts. Michael Levine, author of the book, Guerilla P.R notes: “Depending on how you measure and monitor, an article it is between 10 times and 100 times more valuable than an advertisement.” 

All three fields are unique and often work together but it is important to understand that they are different. For those seeking out a career in PR – don’t be afraid to correct people when they assume all three terms are married. If you’re interested in the profession, check out these blogs and click on the helpful chart included in this post.

PR, Marketing and Advertising Differences

6 ‘House of Cards’ Quotes That Apply to PR

'House of Cards' quotes

Because House of Cards debuts next week, and because I was up way too late watching my DVR’d Oscars last night, I would like to take this moment to share this incredible collection of PR best practices an ‘House of Cards’ quotes from Frank Underwood and the rest of the House of Cards crew compiled by Kina Leclair at Ragan’s PR Daily.

Please read these all aloud in your best President Underwood impersonation. I know I did.

“These days, when you’re talking to one person, you’re talking to a thousand.”

– Zoe Barnes in season one, episode four

In the digital age, everything should be considered on the record. Camera phones, social media mistakes and hackings are all too real, and have been the catalysts for many scandals that have surfaced in the past few years.

Be courteous to everyone. Don’t gossip. Think before you speak. Apologize if you make a mistake.

“Pay attention to the fine print.”

– Frank Underwood in season two, episode three

The devil is in the details. Read, re-read and read between the lines when you prep for media interviews, announcements or agreements. There is no such thing as a standard interview or a standard contract.

“I don’t mind that you improvise. I just wish you’d done it better.”

– Claire Underwood in season one, episode six

Fans with a passion for PR and “House of Cards” vividly remember Frank Underwood’s nationally televised, cringe-worthy interview about his education bill. It was scattered, unprepared, and needlessly pompous. Frank even started naming vowels from the alphabet to prove a point: “U think I O U A apology?” He blurts out the word “defecation.” The interview was a D for disaster and, let’s admit, an E for entertaining.

If you’re going to improvise, always have one fallback, key message. Find a way to go back to it, no matter how much you ramble on.

“I never make such big decisions so long after sunset and so far from dawn.”

– Frank Underwood in season one, episode one

Picture this: It’s late and you’re drafting a speech, a strategy or key messages for an interview. Before you hit the “send” button, make sure you get some shuteye and that proofread what you wrote with a clear head and a fresh cup of coffee.

“If you don’t like the way the table is set, then turn the table over.”

– Frank Underwood in season two, Episode two

If you don’t like the way something is going, change it.

The best thing to do when you don’t like the way a strategy or announcement is headed is to call for a brainstorm with trusted colleagues. Consider ideas you haven’t, even those that seem outrageous. Remove yourself from your current path and go back to the drawing board. It will force you to see what is working and what needs to go.

“If we never did anything we shouldn’t do, we would never feel good about the things that we should.”

– Frank Underwood in season two, episode four

As PR pros, we will make mistakes. We’re required to think on our feet so often and make quick decisions that sometimes our intuition and experience will fail us. When you make a mistake, it stays with you. You reflect on them, you evaluate how they could have been different, and you learn from them. But when you make a decision that was right on the money, you feel damn good about it.


Frank Underwood is more spin pro than PR professional. Thankfully, he’s also fictional. Image source: Ragan’s PR Daily

Learning from the Elite: Acceptance Speeches at the Golden Globes

Last night’s Golden Globes was not just about fashion, A-list celebrities (hello Matt Damon!) or box office hits. This year’s show was a communications lesson in acceptance speeches at the Golden Globes. It was also a reality check for the masses – to know that even those in the spotlight are not perfect public speakers. There is no denying that Sunday night’s show was highly entertaining, but it is important to take away the lessons learned when public speaking. Whether that be communicating to the media, your customers or your peers, we can learn a lot from these champagne-filled elite. According to executive communications coach Mary Civiello, here are three tips:

Always prepare.

Jacqueline Bisset was downright disoriented in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress. The 69-year-old British actress showed us how awful it can be when you fail to prepare. No excuses, even if you think your chances of reaching the stage are remote. Here’s how this translates to communications: Don’t assume you’ll have no role to play in an upcoming meeting. Be ready to be called on. Every meeting, including social events, merits some degree of prep work.

Recognize your spotlight

Jennifer Lawrence also seemed surprised to win the Best Supporting Actress award in the film category, for American Hustle. But unlike Bisset, she pulled herself together to give one of the acceptance speeches at the Golden Globes. The 23-year-old Lawrence graciously pointed out the more seasoned actors she was up against. As she named them, the cameras focused on Helen Mirren, who appeared sanguine, and then Jessica Lange, who looked sour. Lange could be compared to corporate presenters who look uninterested as a team partner speaks. They’re either bored and/or assume that no one is looking at them. Better to model Ms. Mirren. You are always on stage.

Make the most of your spotlight

Every year at award shows, stars get up, one after another, and struggle to remember everyone who has had something to do with bringing them into the world and making them famous–while few in the audience know or care about the people they mention. These “winners” can’t win. They inevitably forget someone important. They also miss opportunity. Better to do as Bono did: He and his band, U2, won a Globe for Ordinary Love, the song they wrote for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. In his speech, Bono worked on persuading people to want to see the movie.

Too many presenters waste time on the minor details—a sure snooze that typically comes at the start of a presentation when capturing attention is most critical. Instead, park that unless it’s sure to make me want to buy what you’re selling.

What other takeaways did you gain from this year’s Golden Globes? For me, I learned that Jennifer Lawrence can do no wrong with Dior. I also learned that being on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s bad side will never end in your favor (sorry Taylor Swift!). And last but not least… Matt Damon only gets better with age!


Cheers to the 2014 awards season!