PRSA-NCC New Member Welcome Lunch

by Jirasith Sindhusake

As a new face in Public Relations, I came across PRSA as a full-time PR intern and dual-enrolled graduate student. With my intentions focused on professional development and networking opportunities, PRSA became the clear answer to attaining my goals. Despite being apprehensive about joining because of my busy schedule, I joined the National Capital Chapter (NCC) in April and became as involved in the organization as my schedule would allow. I am now part of a network of professionals who have been nothing but helpful in helping me achieve my goals.

 [Photo credit: Got Credit - www.gotcredit.com]

[Photo credit: Got Credit]

At this year’s PRSA New Member Welcome Lunch, new members of the National Capital Chapter were invited to the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Northwest, D.C. to discover ways to get involved and maximize their PRSA membership. As new members trickled in, the beginning of the lunch was a friendly gathering of individuals getting food and networking with other professionals. It might have been the excitement of seeing new faces, or the enthusiasm of discovering ways to get involved; despite the reason, everyone in attendance was ecstatic to meet other individuals who are new to the National Capital Chapter of PRSA.

After a good amount of networking and stuffing ourselves full of sandwiches, we took our seats to hear from sponsors and chapter leaders. The lunch started with a few words from Chapter President, Mitch Marovitz, who began the program by introducing chapter leaders for the new members to meet. Among those chapter leaders were Lauren Lawson, Vice President; Danny Selnick, Board Member; Katelynn Wiggins, New Professionals Co-chair; Farah Latif, Special Events Committee Chair; and Adara Ney, University Relations Chair.

After brief introductions, the chapter leaders and committee chairs sat with the new members and provided overviews of what the chapter and respective committees offer and ways to get involved. This continued until every committee chair and chapter leader met with each new member tables to share insights. To conclude the lunch, members had the opportunity to participate in a final Q&A session and thank everyone who contributed their time to the New Members Lunch, an overall successful event.

 

Learn more about the PRSA-NCC New Professonals Committee

Brevity, Clarity and Thoughtfulness: Position Your Media Training for Success

By Lauren Wiggins, New Generation, Inc.

Moderator and Panel

Moderator Susan Apgood and Panelists Ed Barks and Carol Buckland

What is the biggest problem Ed Barks of Barks Communications and Carol Buckland of The Communication Center have with media training? It’s not always long-term.

On Wednesday, July 22nd, PR professionals from around the D.C. area came together, with a range of questions, to learn how to make their media training better. The biggest piece of advice given to listeners: keep it ongoing.

Media training begins internally. There are key parts of your message and it is important that they are communicated effectively. Both Barks and Buckland agree, relationships with journalists are important. However, it’s also important to remember that they are business relationships. Journalists can, and will, ask the tough questions. It’s all about how you are prepared.

President and CEO of News Generation, Susan Apgood, moderated the discussion. Though the questions were diverse, the takeaway can be summarized into a few key ideas -much like the panelists’ advice that your message should be.

Buckland provides us with three types of news stories: those that confirm conventional wisdom, those that contradict conventional wisdom, and those that create conventional wisdom. If public perception of your organization is negative, stories that contradict convention wisdom are crucial. However, if your organization is new in the public eye, stories that create conventional wisdom are a PR professional’s greatest opportunity.

Barks told us there are also three categories of questions: the questions you expect to get every time, the questions you want to get, and the questions you never want to hear from a reporter.

Moderator Susan Apgood and Panelists Ed Barks and Carol Buckland

Moderator Susan Apgood and Panelists Ed Barks and Carol Buckland

So how can you prepare your spokesperson for the tough questions when time isn’t of the essence? Buckland says that in order to get prepared you can create answers for questions with similar themes. She brought up the example of the FAA after 9/11. Officials were asked numerous questions such as, “Would you get on an airplane?” or “Would you allow your mother to?” But, the underlying theme was simple: is it safe the fly?

Low stakes situations create the most confidence for when the stakes get high. Sometimes your spokesperson will need to defend your message and they need to be prepared. By being able to respond and handle tough questions in a low stakes situation, your spokesperson will be more confident handling the more challenging questions. Carol Buckland suggests simple changes such as having a new person chair weekly meetings or recording your spokesperson speaking and providing constructive feedback.

One audience member brought up how soundbites and answers to questions have gotten shorter over time and Buckland and Barks agreed. With increases in technology and access to information, attention spans have gotten shorter. Therefore, a shorter, concise message is easiest to remember. However, Barks tell us that the parts of a message that are typically ignored are imperative. Your message needs context and it needs call to action.

In terms of ground rules of media training, no matter what you say, everything is on the record. The minute your spokesperson walks out the door they are representing your organization, and everything they say or do can be captured. Awareness is not only key, it’s critical. Much of the emphasis of the panel relied on the fact that preparation, message development, and media training are all the responsibility of the communications expert.

This panel emphasized the importance of an ongoing media training plan. It’s not just a one day workshop, it’s a continuous learning experience. It is the responsibility of the communications expert to ensure that not only the spokesperson, but the organization, is comfortable with the message and prepared to handle media. Preparation, familiarity with the message, and comfort with answering questions and dealing with media are all of utmost importance to ensuring that a media training plan is not only effective but sustainable.

Why Trade Media Coverage is Top Tier Coverage

By Bridgette Borst

Moderator Aaron Cohen and Panelists Panelists Virgil Dickson, Aaron Mehta, Kevin Bogardus, and John Gilroy (Photo Credit: David Ward)

Moderator Aaron Cohen and Panelists Panelists Virgil Dickson, Aaron Mehta, Kevin Bogardus, and John Gilroy (Photo Credit: David Ward)

Why is trade media coverage top tier? PR Pros from around the nation’s capital packed their list of questions and piled into PRSA-NCC’s most recent workshop to hear it straight from top trade media journalists: Virgil Dickson, of Modern Healthcare, Aaron Mehta from Defense News, Energy and Environment Publishing’s Kevin Bogardus, and John Gilroy, from Federal News Radio.

Aaron Cohen of Aaron Cohen PR moderated the panel discussion. Here’s the scoop on how YOU can convince your boss or client that trade media coverage is top tier coverage –

  • The niche audience of trade media publications cares more passionately about the story than the average reader at a major national outlet.
  • Trade media keeps professionals informed about their particular field and they are passionate about these issues, ideas and/or products.
  • Trade media are more likely to seek out public relations practitioners as sources for stories, unlike mainstream journalists.
  • Trade media have time (and space) to “go deep” on a story.
  • Most often, mainstream media stories start with or are inspired by, stories first published in trade publications.
  • Trade media stories are more effective in getting your message in front of the right people because the stories are likely read by everyone that matters in your field.

One panelist summed it up by asking the attendees, “Do you want a more right, informed piece– or a watered down piece designed for a wider audience?”

The journalists continued to dish out “tricks of the trade” to help public relations practitioners get in the door and strengthen their pitches.

Federal News Radio’s John Gilroy offered this tip, “Find out what reporters are going to conferences that you’re already attending and then try to set up twenty minute face-to-face meetings with them.”

“Trade journalists are more subject matter experts so be prepared for tougher, more technical questions,” said Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare. Dickson added, “I like to go on Twitter to find out what’s trending.”

The attendees brought lots of questions with them that ranged from current best practices to how trade journalists use Twitter, how to write a great subject line, daily deadlines, and more. Not only did the panelists talk about what works in trade media and why it is top tier media coverage, but they also shared feedback that’s applicable to mainstream media pitching.

“I don’t like press releases – they’re overused, just send us a quick email,” said Aaron Mehta, Defense News.

“If you’re going to call or email me, don’t make it look like a blanket outreach. Pretend that you’ve read something that I’ve written. Please tailor it to me, don’t waste pixels and one last thing – I am a hundred times more likely to read your email if I recognize your name,” said Kevin Bogardus, Energy and Environment Publishing, the publisher of Greenwire.

All of the panelists stressed the importance of having personal relationships with media, and no matter how pitch perfect your story idea is, having a personal relationship with a reporter still matters most in this business.

“Generally, if you put something like, ‘Think you might be interested in this’ or ‘I saw your story about…’ in the subject line, then I will at least open your email,” said Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare.

The Q & A style workshop proved to be a popular event because it spanned all of the major industry trades and provided public relations practitioners of different industries with valuable insights. Bottom line, attendees learned that yes, 10,000 readers are better than three million when all 10,000 readers care about your ideas or products.

6 Tips for Working with Today’s News Media

By Angel White

Washington Post Media Blogger Erik Wemple and IPRA Membership Committee Member Robert Deigh of RDC Communications. Photo credit: Sabrina McGowan

Washington Post Media Blogger Erik Wemple and IPRA Membership Committee Member Robert Deigh of RDC Communications.
Photo credit: Sabrina McGowan

Washington, D.C. is considered the news capital of the world and a great place from which to observe big changes in the media industry, so it should come as no surprise that our hometown paper follows the changes closely – reporting on big players and rising stars alike. In a May 7 Independent Public Relations Alliance program, Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple discussed ways that PR professionals should be engaging with reporters and focusing on the new reality:

 

  • PR people are a growing part of the press industry. News organizations are becoming similar to corporate America by creating their own PR departments. Often, you have to go through a PR person in order to speak to anyone at the news outlet. The result is the media has become more regulated by the people we are trying to talk to which can result in frustration for reporters.
  • Beats are fragmentary and boundaries are disappearing. Reporters are expected to cover a lot more news these days trying to feed multiple platforms. So, don’t give up if one reporter isn’t interested in your story – share it with another reporter.
  • Deadlines are obsolete. Reporters are working in a 24-hour news cycle, always writing and always on deadline. This reality changes how and when we approach reporters.

Here are Erik’s six tips for creating the strongest relationships with reporters:

  1. Pick up the phone. PR professionals tend to overlook the value of making calls to reporters in order not to interfere with deadlines. Ignore the adage of “don’t call a reporter on deadline” – if you have a reason to communicate with a reporter then do it and be direct.
  1. Write letters. Another effective but underutilized tool is the handwritten letter. Yes, snail mail still exists and reporters pay attention to it.
  1. Use Twitter. PR professionals should be using this tool to message reporters on Twitter – a simple “Have you seen this?” can be an effective way of reaching reporters you know and those you want to know. Reporters also monitor their mentions on Twitter more than email and voicemail.
  1. Pay attention to bloggers. In the past, journalism standards didn’t always apply to news blogs. But, today’s news blogs are held to the same journalism standards as other media. PR professionals should work with bloggers in the same way they work with traditional reporters.
  1. Maintain trust. Don’t ask a reporter to do something considered un-journalistic. It’s expected that they will talk to your competition for a story, so don’t ask them not to. That will only erode their trust in you and make you look defensive.
  1. Engage early. There’s no excuse for a reporter not getting the facts straight, but there are also areas of judgment, interpretation and nuance that go into writing a story. These are areas where you need to engage the reporter early – it will be too late to do so after the story is filed.

The state of the news media today is being driven by the rise of social media and the consolidation of traditional media outlets that affects the way in which we regard reporters. PR professionals who understand these changes will ensure they have the most beneficial relationships with reporters.

 

Angel White is a May 2015 graduate of George Mason University where she received her bachelor of arts degree in communications​. She is a former vice president of the Public Relations Student Society of America at GMU. Connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/angeldwhite.

Public Relations’ Biggest Image Crisis – The Industry Itself

Digna Joseph, Communications Consultant

Digna Joseph, Communications Consultant

By Digna Joseph

Two years ago, while pursuing my Masters, I was assisting a professor for an Introduction to Communication course, where the topic of Public Relations inevitably came up. At this point, the professor, who interestingly had been a Journalism major, informed the class of mostly freshmen students that the public relations industry was really just a bunch of unethical people, hacks to be precise, spinning stuff to make their clients look good.  As someone in the public relations field, to say I had to bite my tongue, would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, the reality is this professor’s view of the public relations industry is hardly an unpopular one. Multiple studies have shown that many in the public believe the industry and its practitioners to be unethical. The perception is that it is a less than respectable career field. Many consider public relations practitioners to be manipulators – that is, individuals who use their skills to come up with clever strategies, aimed at convincing individuals that what is wrong, is actually right. Some believe that the true work of a public relations practitioner is to distort reality, withhold information from the public and promote questionable industries and organizations, as well as bail them out of negative situations.

While some of these negative perceptions are not completely untrue, such as, it is the job of a public relations practitioner to assist an organization or firm in a crisis situation, it does not mean the work being done is unethical or meant to deliberately lie or mislead the public. However, these negative perceptions and opinions of the industry continue to persist, possibly making the biggest image crisis in P.R., the industry itself. So how can the industry turn things around?

There are a few steps that while they may not completely change the public’s view, at the least, it might make some regard the industry as more ethical than previously believed. Such as, establishing an industry approved and recognized Code of Ethics.  Yes, I am aware that the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) have both established industry codes. However, particularly in the case of the PRSA’s Code of Ethics, the language and tone of the Code is very passive and lacks authority and “bite.” It reads more like a suggestion of what practitioners should do rather than a stern declaration of “this is what should be done, no questions”. A Code of Ethics with a firmer voice and tone is necessary.

This leads me to a second and very important step that should be taken, if the practitioners want the public’s negative view of the industry to change. That is, a strict outline of specific consequences, should any of the rules of the Code be violated, must be established. With no standard for punishment, many understandably deem the Code meaningless.

Another important step is for more transparency and visibility from the industry. Public opinion and studies have shown that many still do not really understand or know what public relations practitioners do beyond media relations efforts. A greater depth of knowledge and understanding might alter some of the negative opinions.

Finally, there should be a greater promotion and visibility of all the nonprofit work done by the industry. Many individuals are aware of the promotional work for for-profit organizations, businesses, etc. but forget or are simply unaware of just how many NGO’s and nonprofit organizations the industry is just as heavily involved with and just how crucial  the work they do for these organizations, is.

However, even with all that said, I question if the negative perception and opinion of the P.R. industry can ever really be changed. Especially, when the reality is the industry will likely always represent some companies and organizations deemed unethical, and crisis management will always be a key component of the work practitioners do. But maybe the problem is not so much the industry per se, but how it is often categorized.

I have found it interesting that while Advertising, for example, has its detractors, it does not seem to be met with nearly the same disdain and criticism as public relations. And I wonder if part of the problem is because P.R. is often categorized into the School of Communication, and often lumped in alongside Journalism, versus Advertising which is often categorized as a Business function. Consider how many former journalists who successfully transition from journalism to working in public relations. More importantly, the defining difference often outlined between Advertising and P.R. is that the former involves paid media, versus the latter which utilizes earned media.

In other words, there may be more of an “acceptance” of Advertising’s negative qualities because as with any business function, individuals view its bottom line as making profit. After all, the advertiser’s job is to convince the public to buy its product. Now do not misunderstand me, I am aware that it is considered unethical for advertisers to tell bold faced lies about their products and the advertising industry does recognize and punish for this. However, many in the public seem to willingly accept that advertisers may often employ obvious subtle manipulations, to get individuals to buy their product.

Public Relations however, is often considered a storytelling function of sorts. The public relations practitioners’ job is seen as promoting and telling their clients’ story and getting as much coverage for that story. Thus, perhaps there is a greater expectation and demand for complete truth. One key aspect of public relations is media coverage and for many, the media is supposed to be a bastion of truth and honesty. Thus, the rationale is that if something is covered in a paper or television news report, it should be honest and truthful. And perhaps it is this blurred line of public relations, intertwined with the media that increases the public’s ethical expectations for the field, and simultaneously increases their negative perception of it.

*Digna Joseph was a Hill+Knowlton Corporate Communications International Fellow and is now back home doing PR in her native St. Lucia

Press Release Writing: 12 Tips To Attract the Attention of Journalists

052115Writing a press release may seem like a chore, but it’s really a great tool to use to share information about your organization, association or company. But it’s important to be succinct and clear – journalists spend on average, less than one minute reviewing your press release before hitting the delete button or deciding to get more information or use it.

Tip #1: Use a clear, eye-catching headline. A well-written attention-grabbing headline that shares the most important and newsworthy nugget of information in your press release is key. It’s important though not to be too clever. Being obtuse, silly or anything that renders your news unclear, will get your press release deleted.

Tip #2: Sub-headlines can be helpful. I’ve always been a fan of using a sub-headline, usually in italics below the main headline, to offer additional insight or include source information.

Tip #3: Think carefully about your subject line for your email. In a study last year on journalists and press releases, 79 percent of journalists said subject lines greatly influence whether they open an email with a press release or not.

Tip #4: Get to the point right away. Your first sentence should really summarize in a nutshell the main news you are sharing. This is no time for you to set a stage and build up to your announcement at the end of the paragraph (or even worse, a few paragraphs down). Just spill the beans, please.

Tip: 5: Use Associated Press style. At least give a deferential nod to AP style. Journalists know it and use it. Easy things to fix – state abbreviations in your dateline. There are plenty of AP style tips online.

Tip #6: Use numbers. Statistics, data and numbers bolster your cause and provide context and amplitude. Even if your press release is discussing an interesting situation or observation that is anecdotal but that you think may be a bigger problem, you can sometimes find data in other sources that you can cite in a press release. The point is to give a sense of scope and to verify what you are sharing.

Tip #7: Offer infographics, photos or video if you can. These additional assets can help time-stressed reporters and bloggers access your information and are especially useful if you are reaching out to smaller markets. It’s usually best to have these materials up on your website and link to them in the press release. Do not send them as attachments.

Tip #8: Avoid using a lot of acronyms and internal language. This is where I often see nonprofits struggle, especially if the press release must be “approved” by a committee of people who don’t all work with the media on a daily basis. Internal jargon does not belong in a press release. If you are making statements like, “we had to include this sentence to keep so and so happy,” and not “we had to include this sentence to make the press release more interesting to reporters” – then your release may be set up to struggle at getting attention.

Tip #9: Include a relevant quote written in an informed, conversational tone. While some journalists have remarked that they find canned quotes on press releases to be a pain and never use them, I’ve also seen a lot of journalists use them for sake of expediency. It’s fine to include a quote in your press release. Frame it about the topic, say something interesting, and do not be purely self-promotional.

Tip #10: Don’t regurgitate your boilerplate again at the bottom of the release if you don’t have to – you are just adding to length. If you have a standard news release boilerplate containing information about your organization, association or small business, and you include some of that information in your release copy, then don’t feel the need to regurgitate all of that information again in the boilerplate. You are just adding to length.

Tip #11: Keep it brief. One page is great. Two pages maximum.

Tip #12: Include contact information. Make sure that you include clearly labeled media contact information with a name, phone number and email address for someone who can (and will) respond promptly to any media inquiries or needs.

Bonus tip: Deliver your release pasted into the body copy of an email. This may not be a writing tip, but it is very important. Do not send your release as an attachment. And don’t send only a hyperlink to your press release in an email with a headline and no body copy – this forces a journalist to click and go see the press release on your website. Over the years, I have had clients tell me that releases should be sent as attachments, or only sent as hyperlinks so journalists can “see their branding.” You need for journalists to see your news in your press release and decide to do a story or to keep you on their list of people with interesting story ideas who can make my life as a harried journalist easier. They won’t see your news at all if you send your press release as an attachment or a lonely hyperlink. After they read your news, you can worry about your branding (which should be more about authenticity and less about stunning people with logos).

 

Photo credit: Image courtesy of Kristen Nador and licensed under a Creative Commons license.

 

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. Ami is also a member of IPRA and serves on its marketing committee. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

Q&A with Kelsey Pospisil

Author: Cara Richards, Marketing Coordinator, IDEA; PRSA-NCC Membership Committee Member

How to Get Involved with Our Local Chapter

Last month, you heard from Kate about how networking through PRSA-NCC led to her current job. Joining and becoming an active member of the D.C.-metro-area chapter opens up all kinds of opportunities. This month, I spoke to Kelsey Pospisil, Co-Chair of the New Professionals Committee, about her experience with the chapter. Kelsey shares what she wishes she had known when first joining and her secret to becoming a successful PRSA-NCC member.

Kelsey Pospisil

Above: Kelsey Pospisil, Co-Chair of PRSA-NCC New Professionals Committee

Q: How long have you been a PRSA member? PRSA-NCC?
KP:
I joined PRSA-NCC right when I joined PRSA, which was almost two years ago. Membership and engagement with the chapter has enriched my life greatly – personally and professionally.

Q: Since joining PRSA-NCC what types of events have you attended? How have you gotten involved?
KP:
One of the best things about PRSA-NCC is that there are events for everyone. I’ve gone to a lot of Professional Development and Membership events. Also, I am one of the co-chairs of the New Professionals committee, which has been incredibly rewarding. We host networking happy hours, professional development events, sporting games, etc. There are so many new professionals eager to get more involved in the industry and PRSA-NCC.

Q: What kind of benefits have you seen from being a part of the local PRSA chapter?
KP:
Meeting great people is hands down the best benefit. The takeaways I learn at every event are fantastic, but the people are what make PRSA-NCC what is it. Genuine, helpful, generous people make up PRSA-NCC, and that is by far the greatest benefit to my career and personal life.

Q: Is there anything you wish someone would have told you when you joined PRSA-NCC? 
KP: I wish someone would have told me to try not to be so shy in the beginning. It’s very easy to have the thought in your head, “Oh everyone already knows each other, so I’ll be out of place.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, people know each other, but PRSA-NCC members are welcoming and eager to make you feel comfortable – I’ve learned that firsthand.

Q: What advice do you have for new DC-area professionals entering the industry?

KP: Be confident enough in yourself to know you’re good at what you do, and that there are a lot of people who want to help you grow in your career. PRSA-NCC is a great outlet to meet those people. But I think the most important advice is not only to join PRSA-NCC, but to get involved as well. It’s easy to join a committee, and they’d welcome you with open arms!

 

If you’d like to get involved with the PRSA-NCC New Professionals committee, please email Kelsey at kpospisil@newsgeneration.com