Why I Joined PRSA-NCC’s Board of Directors

By: Leah McConnell, PRSA-NCC Board Member, Diversity Chair, Thoth Gala Co-Chair

Do you ever just stumble upon an opportunity, and a few years later you’re looking back and thinking “Wow, I’m so glad that happened to me.”? About three years ago, I was asked if I ever thought about serving on the PRSA-NCC board. My involvement in the chapter had only been as a committee member and committee chair, but I was ready to take on a new challenge. In 2015 my name was added to the list of candidates running for the 2016 Board of Directors. By the end of that year, I was appointed a member of the new board. I was eager to take on this role to help the chapter and D.C.’s PR community continue to thrive.

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There’s No ‘I’ in Team!

By Jade Dixon, PRSA-NCC Marcom Committee

I’m taking in information! I’m processing! I’m doing the math, I’m fixing the boyfriend, and keeping the baby from turning into a flaming monster! How do I do it? By rolling with the punches, baby! I eat thunder and crap lightning, OK? Because I’m Mr. Incredible! Not ‘Mr. So-So’ or ‘Mr. Mediocre Guy’! Mr. Incredible!”

If you have ever seen the “Incredibles 2” you definitely can relate to how Bob Parr, the main character who is both a father and super-hero, was feeling. As communications professionals, we also know the stress of juggling multiple tasks, alone, every day. We experience this at home, too. Each family member has a different personality, different powers, and different approaches to conflict—which sounds just like a public relations team. It’s all about how you work together and get the job done, despite the chaos.

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Six Secrets of Top Washington PR Agencies

By Christina Nyquist, PRSA-NCC Marketing Committee

Twitter: @cnyquist

Washington, D.C., is an exciting place to work. Public relations professionals in our area are charged with communicating about some of our world’s most critical issues, from new vaccines to public education initiatives. These stories can change lives—but often get lost in today’s busy media environment. That’s why organizations turn to public relations agencies to help make sure their message gets to the audiences who need it most.

But what makes a great PR firm? More importantly, what can we learn from some of D.C.’s top PR pros? Each year, the annual Thoth Awards recognize outstanding Washington communicators, and in 2018, PRSA-NCC has introduced a new team award for PR agencies. With two weeks left to submit entries, I checked in with past Thoth Award winners to learn how they craft effective campaigns that not only meet but elevate their clients’ goals. Here are six traits that stood out.

A Focus on Client Service

Great PR agencies keep the focus on their clients, taking care to be responsive and keep communication lines open. “Clients appreciate the attention they and their project are given,” says News Generation’s Kelsey Pospisil O’Planick. “Accessibility and undivided time are critical in a successful project and in nurturing a relationship with a client. Clients have told us they appreciate how seamless the process of working with us is, and that we are very upfront and transparent the entire time.”

A Thoughtful Approach

Organizations value agencies that steer them in the right direction. Sometimes, that may even mean being able to “say no” or suggest a new approach. “We are a media relations firm that strictly works to get clients earned coverage,” emphasizes Kelsey. “We love brainstorming with clients to help them pull out the most newsworthy elements of their story, because ultimately we want them to be happy and we want to keep journalists happy by offering them great content.”

Experience in the Field

D.C. is famous for the often nuanced and complicated issues organizations must address. When it comes to telling these niche stories, Hager Sharp’s Debra Silimeo says it’s important to look for firms that are familiar with the field. “Look for an agency that works deeply in your space or has the special expertise to meet your current need—whether it’s public health, education, social change, product marketing, or crisis help,” she advises. “Then find people you can trust and like to work with. You might not get to pick your family, but you can pick your consultants!”

A Forward-Thinking Outlook

Today more than ever, change is the one constant in the communications profession. Agencies need to stay on top of new storytelling platforms and a quickly evolving media landscape. Kelsey says News Generation stays ahead of the curve by tapping into the region’s resources. “We’re lucky to live in D.C. where we have a plethora of innovative and on-trend professional development opportunities. Groups like PRSA-NCC and Washington Women in Public Relations are invaluable to communicators who live and/or work in the D.C. area.”

Doing the Homework

Debra says it was Hager Sharp’s behind-the-scenes legwork that made the difference in winning the 2017 “Best of Show” award for its HPV Vaccine is Cancer Prevention campaign with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Research is the foundation for crafting effective campaigns,” she counsels. “Know your audiences. Bring a diverse group of staff expertise to the table to get the best ideas. And build in measurement along the way, so you know whether you are being effective.” The agency’s research showed that healthcare provider recommendation is the single biggest predictor of vaccination, so Debra explains, “We developed a campaign that began with a heavy focus on providers and strong peer-to-peer clinician engagement before expanding the audience to include parents of adolescents.”

Enthusiasm

Above all, leading PR professionals are driven by a love for what they do—and that shines through in the final product. I asked both Debra and Kelsey what excites them about going to work every day.

  • Debra: “PR is a great field where you can be constantly challenged by change and get joy and meaning from your work. Mix in a great team at Hager Sharp and clients who want to make a positive difference in the world, and voila! Wake up and seize the day!”
  • Kelsey: “The fact that every day I know I have the opportunity to both contribute and learn is huge to me. I’m fortunate to enjoy my co-workers and work for a company that values building a strong internal culture. And all of that translates into delivering strong projects for clients.”

There’s still time!

If your agency worked on a standout campaign this year, you still have two weeks to get your application in. Compile and submit your Thoth Awards entries here by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 1.

Thanks to Kelsey Pospisil O’Planick and Debra Silimeo for sharing their insight for this article. Kelsey is the director of marketing and operations at News Generation. Debra is executive vice president at Hager Sharp. You can read more about their award-winning campaigns with the Centers for Disease Control and the American Psychological Association here.

Why Marketing and PR Should Go for the Gut

By Aimee Stern, Chief Bravery Officer of Brave Now PR

I went to a media training workshop recently and the core message I walked away with was connect on an emotional level with the person interviewing you, and you’re golden.

I’ve been watching top tier advertising lately and the best of it makes me want to help, obtain, email, tweet or just pick up the phone and find out more. That’s because I’m listening and I’ve made, at the very least, an investment in taking more time to go further.

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What it Means to Win a Thoth

By Katherine Nicol, Senior Vice President, Hager Sharp

The Thoth Awards recognize the most outstanding public relations programs and components developed and produced in the Greater Washington area, highlighting the top accomplishments in PR. That’s pretty meaningful recognition. Adding the fact that Thoth Awards are judged by many of the ‘best of the best’ of our industry – well, that’s where the significance of a Thoth really hits home.

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Emotional Intelligence: Rising Up in the Face of Organizational Dis-Ease

By Heathere Evans

We are living in an era marked by epidemic dis-ease and misconduct in the workplace. More people every day are finding their courage in a unified outcry for a better way. As communicators, how can we help unhealthy organizations heal and detoxify our workplaces so they stay healthy? A starting point is emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

The term “emotional intelligence” was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, Peter Salovey of Yale and John D. Mayer of UNH. While some popular definitions focus on qualities like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence, this definition is misleading. EQ comprises skills in five areas that all require specialized communications skills, using our inner voice, outer voice or both:

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Client on a Roll? Help Them Slow It.

I’m talking about a spokesperson being on a roll during a press interview with relevant and tangible information being rapid-fire peppered at a reporter.  Most people in leadership and subject matter experts can talk for days on their given topics, right?

That, however, doesn’t mean that they should.  In fact, it’s often counterproductive and doesn’t allow for a natural back and forth in the interview process.  As public relations pros, we need to prepare spokespeople for media interviews.

I recently interviewed a CIO for a freelance article I was writing. While he was knowledgeable and well-spoken, he truly never stopped talking.  I was struggling to keep up and capture the good points he was making in quote form.

I even asked him to slow down and repeat a key point, which he then couldn’t remember.  Not only did he not slow down his pace of speech, he also kept shooting words out fire-hose style which only made the exchange more difficult and annoying.

Effective spokespersons are true story tellers who are adept at speaking in sound-byte form – leaving time for the reporter to take good notes and either follow up or move on to their next question.  All of this takes practice AND preparation – as well as timely reminders from PR folks like us.

Not every client wants or even needs full-scale media training. If you are the one prepping a spokesperson then you can showcase your added value by some quick, ad-hoc interview prep reminders prior to an interview so they are top of mind.

Agree to get the client on the line about 10 minutes before the interview and first do a quick review of talking points and pivots for possible tough questions.  Then set them at ease and get their media “game face” on by reminding them they need to be as human as possible to maximize this opportunity for good exposure.

Basic interview tips to share:

  • Talk much slower than normal – if it sounds unnatural or strange, you’re doing it right.
  • Try to speak in three sentence increments when answering questions.
  • It helps to repeat the question to buy time to formulate a strong and concise response.
  • REMINDER: dead air is ok and don’t feel obliged to keep talking just because there is silence.
  • Avoid language like, “First of all” or “As you know…”
  • Steer clear of industry jargon and acronyms.
  • DO NOT add a new thought if a reporter asks, “Is there anything else to add?” Either emphasize your most important point or you’re all done!

If you are on the phone staffing the interview, you want to remain on the sidelines as best you can. You can interject at the end if there is something you think needs clarifying or defining if some jargon creeps into the discussion.

Securing the interview is the hard part but prepping the source so they can shine in the process is crucial to actually generating positive coverage – the ultimate goal.

By Scott Frank, President, ARGO Communications and former Senior Director, Media Relations for the American Institute of Architects