A New Year, and a New Approach

By Sultana F. Ali, APR, PRSA-NCC President

s-aliAs 2015 wound to a close, I found myself logging the year’s pitfalls as well as accomplishments in my mind. We closed the year at PRSA-NCC successfully under the leadership of Mitch Marovitz, having the highest membership survey response in many years, laying the groundwork for a robust pro-bono PR effort in our community, growing our membership, and reaching our financial goals. And, we celebrated with a fabulous holiday party where I enjoyed meeting many of you in person.

Now, it’s time to look ahead to this year and the excitement and opportunity it brings. For PRSA-NCC, that will mean expanded programming, opportunities for mentorship, a recharged thought leadership platform, outreach to our community, and renewed vigor for strong board governance. As members, you have an opportunity to engage with your chapter as your leaders strive to serve you with the best professional development programs and events PRSA has to offer.

The New Year is also a time to consider what this year will mean for us as individuals in our careers. As PR professionals, we strive to remain aware of the ever-changing industries we work in and stay at the top of our game. In searching for these kinds of guidelines, I came upon an Inc. magazine article, “8 Career Moves to Master in 2016,” and one of these pointers was to update your reading ritual because “diversity of thought is the key to creativity.” By reading a wide range of material through your social media feeds and other subscriptions, you are consistently armed with strategies and tactics at your fingertips.

Another item to add to your list of goals is to register for and attend PRSA professional development workshops. We have events nearly every week in our chapter and many of them provide specific training techniques – from enhancing digital strategies to crisis communications to smart media pitching. At our workshops, you’ll learn from the best and brightest in the metropolitan DC area and walk away having met someone new and more empowered in your skills as a PR professional.

To these tips, I’ll add a simple word: connection. Have you ever encountered a PR conundrum, not known where to turn, and reached out to a colleague in PRSA? Having friends in PR to reach out to when faced with quandaries is a tremendous benefit of PRSA. Make this your year to engage and connect with a PR colleague, to volunteer for one of our many committees, or make a commitment to follow-up with someone you met at a PRSA-NCC event.

If you are a new member or looking for ways to leverage your membership, you’ll see our chapter leaders with a marked badge at our events; introduce yourself and they will help you to connect. Make sure to attend our Membership Rally on March 8 (new date) and you will have opportunities to meet committee leaders and engage more fully with your chapter.

Make 2016 your best year yet, and let us know how we can help you reach your PR goals for 2016!

From the Outgoing President: A Letter to Membership

Dear PRSA-NCC Member,

It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since I became your president. It’s just gone by so fast. It has been a good year, though.

I’m happy to report we met the objectives I set forth at the beginning of the year:

  • Thanks to the great work of our committee chairs and members, and great member engagement, we hosted 52 events, affording members great and fun-filled networking opportunities and informative professional development sessions from industry leaders covering such topics as measurement, big data, writing, international communications, accreditation and making the change from tactician to strategist, among many others
  • We advanced our thought leadership effort by completing an operational plan which will go into effect next year
  • We remain the Society’s largest chapter and improved our already sound financial position, reaching our reserve requirement

mmorovitzAnd, because we achieved our reserve requirement, we are free now to reinvigorate our pro bono committee, which has developed a process to identify worthy organizations that we can help with public relations assistance.

Our vice presidents, Jenn Schleman, Lauren Lawson Zilai and Susan Apgood were extremely busy this year. They, and the rest of the executive committee, Sultana Ali, Robert Udowitz, Lisa Kiefer, and Rebecca Andersen, spent untold hours on projects that will affect chapter operations for years to come. They were always available and their counsel was invaluable to me.

  • Jenn and her team negotiated a new contract with our chapter manager, now our Chapter Executive Director, Sherri Core, and her company, Core Association Services
  • Lauren and her team planned, coordinated, conducted and analyzed the results of this year’s biannual chapter survey. The fact that we had the highest response rate in decades is testament to the quality of their work
  • And, Susan and her team researched, drafted, coordinated and secured approval for the 2016-2018 Chapter Strategic Plan. This document is a foundational statement of purpose that will guide chapter efforts for the next three years

I also want to thank the 2015 Board of Directors. It was only through their leadership, time and talent that we were able to identify, create, plan, coordinate, promote and execute world-class programs for you, our members. This group of senior professionals worked well together and gave freely of their time to insure meaningful programs were in place for us all to enjoy, learn from and be inspired by. Thank you all!

Our committee chairs and their committee members give new meaning to the words “leadership,” “dedication” and “volunteerism.” Our 18 committees were extremely creative in implementing those programs by providing high quality services and activities for you, our members. I could write forever about the work of each committee but that would just take up way too much space; I’m happy to meet with you at any time, however, to discuss their work. In many ways, our financial position is testament to the quality of their work and the value you, our members, place on their activities.

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

And, of course, I would be totally remiss if I didn’t thank our great and dedicated sponsors. Without their help, we would not be able to provide the number and quality of events for you. Their support, monetary and in-kind, allows us to bring events to you at a reasonable price. So, speaking on behalf of the entire chapter, thank you!

And last, but certainly not least, to our members: You are the lifeblood of our organization. Without you, we have no purpose. Thanks for letting us know how we can best serve your professional needs…and for letting us do that. I know the 2016 board is anxious to dig into the results of our membership survey to devise new programs and fine tune existing ones to meet your needs as the nature of our profession continually changes.

As you can see, I have been fortunate to work with a superb group of leaders in our industry. Their ability to work together to create and deliver meaningful programs for you is awe inspiring. I look forward to working with our 2016 President, Sultana Ali, and the 2016 Board and know you will enjoy getting to know them and work with them as well.

Thank you for the privilege of being your 2015 president.


Mitchell Marovitz, PhD, APR
PRSA-NCC President 2015

Hall of Fame Inductee Calls PR Leaders to Seek Diversity; Offers Advice to Career Minded Professionals

Debra Silimeo, executive vice president of Hager Sharp, was inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame, along with two others during the Thoth Awards Gala, Wednesday, September 16.

Below are some excerpts from her acceptance speech.

It’s humbling to be part of this prestigious group of PR professionals. Thank you PRSA, Hall Of Fame committee, and all of the people who have been part of my village throughout my journey.Silimeo Photo

You can’t put a news story on the air, pass legislation, or build a successful PR firm without a strong team. I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing people…talented journalists, passionate public policy advocates, really cool clients, and of course – the mission driven rock stars at Hager Sharp!

I learned a lot about defying stereotypes and giving back from one of my real life role models and mentors – the late Susan Hager. She founded Hager Sharp in 1973 – when very few women ran businesses- with the specific mission of working with clients who want to make the world a better place. She lived the mission, and she always found time to help other women succeed.

As communicators we’re always trying to engage an increasingly diverse population. So we need that same diversity of thought and creativity at the table. By diversity, I mean gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

That’s not just the right thing to do – it’s good business. In order to reach people where they live, you need to GET where they live.

So tonight I’d like to call on our PR leaders…please take a look at your teams – especially your leadership teams. If you don’t have a diverse team – find the right people. I mean, look around, there’s a lot of talent right here in this room.

If you don’t have woman or person of color on your board of directors…that’s a problem and you should fix it – and you will benefit from it.

It’s great to work in a field where you can be constantly challenged by change, and get JOY and meaning from your work.

If you’re going to spend the better part of your life working, it should be something that gives you  JOY …and that makes a positive difference.

They asked me to share some advice for young professionals – so here are some other things that I believe matter:

  • Stay curious. Stay on top of the constant changes in our industry // and on the issues that affect your client’s world. Keep your clients larger goals in mind.
  • If you do that, you can be a strategist, not just an order taker.
  • Learn the business of PR – this will make you a better manager and help you get that seat at the leadership table.
  • Be ethical. Your reputation is far more important that your job title.
  • Don’t chase all the shiny new objects. Understand them, but at the end of the day, our business is really about people and relationships.
  • Respect your power. I’ve had chance to work with a lot of powerful people. I don’t mean just presidents & members of congress – I mean all of the staff people behind the scenes – the great people at HS – and ALL of YOU in this room, YOU have power.
  • You have: Power to inform people, persuade them, motivate them to eat healthy, get educated, give back, make the world better. Use your power wisely.

And always say thank you. Thank you. Very much.

Prepare Thy Self: 5 Ways to Make Yourself a Better Media Trainer

Peter Piazza of Live Wire Media Relations, photo credit: Jay Morris

Peter Piazza of Live Wire Media Relations, photo credit: Jay Morris

By Nicole Duarte

To help your clients prepare for anything, you must first prepare yourself. In an April 9 reprise of a popular Independent Public Relations Alliance media training seminar, Peter Piazza and Angela Olson of Live Wire Media Relations, LLC outlined five ways PR practitioners can improve their training sessions.

  1. See what the reporter will see

It’s an often-skipped step, but research can make or break your training session. Before you meet with your clients, do a public record search to uncover any potential landmines. An ugly court case, embarrassing social media post, or past professional controversy may be just the ace a reporter will play to shake up the conversation or get the upper hand over your trainees.

  1. Shock and awe

Manufacture the anxiety clients will face in a tough interview to give them a chance to work through it. Managing anxiety and scrutiny is a skill like any other, and proficiency comes with practice. Trainers should use the first moments of their media training sessions to try to rattle interviewees, make them defensive or angry, and try to provoke them into saying something provocative or contentious. Hot lights, a live video camera, and some record of a prior embarrassing moment are all tools to unsettle your interviewees. Once you see them at their worst, you will be better able to help them get back – and stay – on message.

  1. Speak the truth

Your clients are relying on your expertise. Insist they hear it. Many staff media trainers pull their punches, hoping to keep the peace or avoid ruffling feathers, but it’s better if your client is embarrassed for a moment in your presence than humiliated on the Internet indefinitely. Be diplomatic, but don’t avoid telling your trainees if they have any distracting nervous habits, speak too fast, overuse jargon, come across as arrogant or defensive, or display any other behaviors that would make them look foolish or unprofessional.

  1. Play if Forward

Most media trainers do some form of practice or role-playing that simulates real interview conditions. However, media trainers need to apply their own news judgement to these conversations. Help your trainees refine their message points by asking tough questions and then pushing for clarity until you hear the quote the reporter should use. Questions like, “Why should anyone care,” “So what,” and “Prove it,” should elicit quote-worthy answers that move the story forward, and if they don’t, keep pushing.

  1. Add Value

Editors insert themselves to play up drama and tension. Reporters have a point of view and may be biased based on their sources. Both are outside your control. The best way to avoid surprises in how your clients’ quotes appear — or don’t appear — is to anticipate the reporter’s story and craft your message points to add value. Statistics and anecdotes can add context and color. Think about how your issue affects the heads, hearts, and wallets of the audience members, and illustrate your message points with examples and metaphors to which the audience can relate.

Just as organizations rely on their directors to lead with their expertise in their industries, your trainees will rely on your expertise to guide them through the news media landscape. You need to help your clients strategize how they might help reporters write better stories. Keep in mind how journalists do their job to think through how you can you help them do it faster and better. Your clients may be expert sources, but it is your chops and preparation that will ensure their expertise gets recognized.

For more information, see this refresher from Live Wire:  http://livewiredc.com/2013/08/a-quick-refresher-on-the-art-of-media-relations/ or check out the PRSA recap of the last Live Wire event: https://theprsanccblog.com/2013/10/30/teaching-old-dogs-new-tricks/

Nicole Duarte is Senior Communications Manager at the Center for Community Change.
Connect with her on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nicoleaduarte

PRSA-NCC Sponsor Spotlight: News Generation by Kelsey Pospisil

Tell us more about your company and your role there?

News Generation is an issue-driven media relations agency specializing in using broadcast media to earn coverage for associations, non-profits, government agencies, and clients of PR firms. My role on the team is client & media relations associate. I love getting to experience many different aspects of the business and work closely with all of my fellow team members.

How long has News Generation been involved with PRSA-NCC?

We have been involved with PRSA-NCC in one way or another for 12 years – and counting! Susan Matthews Apgood started News Generation in 1997, and has been very involved with the PRSA-NCC by sponsoring the chapter as well as chairing committees such as Thoth, Professional Development and Sponsorship.

News Generation Sponsor Spotlight

News Generation Team

Is there anything you want to tell our members about News Generation that we may not know?

We LOVE Georgetown Cupcakes….literally…love them. Any excuse to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or Tuesday…you can expect to see us carrying a pink box into the office. Don’t believe me? Just look how happy Susan is in the picture!

What do you like best about working with PRSA-NCC so far?

PRSA-NCC offers a wonderful opportunity to grow both professionally and personally. As a sponsor, we are able to help support the great programming of PRSA-NCC. As members, myself and my co-workers are able learn and gain professional development from that programming. It’s the best of both worlds.

How can our members learn more, get more information about what News Generation has to offer?

The best place to go for more about how you can earn broadcast coverage by partnering with us is www.newsgeneration.com. We also have a news site that reporters go to for great stories where we host all of our clients’ content. Check it out at www.broadcastnewsresource.com.

September Sponsor Spotlight: Phil Rabin, Editor of the Capitol Communicator

Every month or so, we are going to highlight a chapter sponsor so you can learn more about them, and possibly connect with them as they have done so much to support our chapter. We want to thank Phil Rabin, Editor of the Capitol Communicator, for participating in the second spotlight. Here are the details:

Question: Tell us more about the Capitol Communicator and your role there.

Answer: I’m editor of Capitol Communicator, which is an online resource for communicators in the D.C-area and the Mid-Atlantic that’s working to bring together the spectrum of communications professionals by providing news; trends; education; profiles; and opportunities for networking, career enhancement, business exchange and showcasing great work. We focus on building a community that encompasses public relations, advertising, marketing, media, creative, video, photography, printing, digital and the multitude of other professions that support this region’s multi-billion-dollar communications industry.

Question: How long has Capitol Communicator been involved with PRSA-NCC?

Answer: We’ve been involved for years, officially and unofficially, providing coverage of PRSA-NCC events in Capitol Communicator, and working on events that include PRSA-NCC and other organizations – such as The One Party, a holiday party that is held in December. And, for a number of years, I was a member of PRSA-NCC.

Question: Is there anything you want to tell our members about the Capitol Communicator that we may not know?

Answer: There are two things I think that are really interesting from a communications standpoint: First, our still photos have had more than 1.1 million views and the head of the D.C. office of a national PR firm regularly viewed our photos. When I asked why, the individual said it provided a good sense of what was going on outside that person’s agency. Second, we’re seeing significant spikes in views of our still pictures every time we post an “up close and personal” profile of a communicator in the mid-Atlantic. In fact, we had more than 14,500 views of our photos in a single day because, apparently, as the head of that PR firm told me, people want to see other people and what they are doing. BTW, the picture with the fourth-highest number of views is Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate and president of Weber Shandwick Mid-Atlantic (Washington, Baltimore and Atlanta).

Question: What do you like best about working with PRSA-NCC so far?

Answer: I’m impressed by the commitment that the leadership and members make to the organization and, as a result, the scope of activities that PRSA-NCC offers its members and the larger communications community. It’s really quite impressive.

Question: How can our members learn more, get more information about what Capitol Communicator has to offer?

Answer: PRSA-NCC members and all communicators should go to our website, www.capitolcommunicator.com, to check out what’s happening in the mid-Atlantic that impacts communicators – and to check out our popular “up close and personal” profiles. And, they can also sign up to get our free weekly email updates at http://www.capitolcommunicator.com/signup.aspx?email. Finally, if they have news they think would be of interest to other communicators, let me know. I can be reached at phil.rabin@capitolcommunicator.com.

Event Recap: “Creating PR Magic…on a Shoestring Budget”

by Danielle Moore, News Generation, Inc.

It is all too common that public relations professionals are expected to create magic publicity on next-to-nothing budgets. With the extensive amount of non-profit organizations and small businesses in the Washington D.C. area, lots of PR pros are affected by small budgets.

On Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 8:00 a.m., the PRSA-NCC Professional Development committee hosted “Creating PR Magic…on a Shoestring Budget” at the U.S. Navy Memorial. Panelists included: Jeff Ghannam, communications director at the Wildlife Habitat Council; Dionne Clemons, division director of communications and community engagement at the United Planning Organization; Alicia Mitchell, senior vice president for communications at the American Hospital Association (AHA); and Lindsay Nichols, senior director of marketing and communications at GuideStar USA, Inc. Karen Addis, senior vice president at Van Eperen & Company introduced the panelists and moderated the conversation.

After some brief housekeeping announcements, all four panelists gave presentations on their best practices for public relations on a “shoestring” budget. Their combined experience working with small organizations and limited resources allowed them to share great insight to an audience full of non-profit, small business and private sector PR folks.

“Creating PR Magic…on a Shoestring Budget” panelists; Aug. 13, 2014, at U.S. Navy Memorial

Jeff Ghannam offered his advice with “10 Things in 10 Minutes.” He emphasized the importance of having a “roadmap” or focused communications and marketing plan as a reference point for company operations. Ghannam also encouraged building mutually beneficial partnerships with:

  • Staff who need to understand your brand and who value internal communications;
  • Stakeholders and coalitions who are always looking for companies to engage with;
  • Boards, committees, local units, and members who often need media training and can serve as a resource;
  • Customers who have the ability to spread the word about your work; and
  • Meeting attendees, sponsors and exhibitors who you should provide the tools (like social media) to talk positively about your brand.

Ghannam closed by stressing the importance of negotiation, developing meaningful networks, and the vitality of SEO.

The second panelist Dionne Clemons works to maximize her limited resources at her small grassroots organization every day. She presented on “How to De-Structure Your Department” and highlighted seven ways to save money:

  • Assess your budget – see what you have to work with
  • Conduct an audit – see what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past
  • Use your organization’s strategic plan and fiscal year calendar to help you financially plan – create your own communications plan based on your organization’s strategic plan
  • Be selective in the big projects you want to work on – decide on 5-7 solid projects for the fiscal year that align with your strategic plan and will help you work toward organizational goals
  • Create a master organizational cycle calendar – align your organization’s normal events with “pseudo-events” on the national calendar
  • Put systems in place – set up policies that guide you on how to deal with different situations
  • Spread the love – organize more ways for team members to get involved in projects they’re interested in

Clemons continually emphasized the importance of being critical when deciding how your budget is distributed among different categories. She encouraged audience members to cut out any excess expenses and consider reallocating the distribution of their budgets.

“Creating PR Magic...on a Shoestring Budget” panelists; Aug. 13, 2014, at U.S. Navy Memorial

“Creating PR Magic…on a Shoestring Budget” panelists; Aug. 13, 2014, at U.S. Navy Memorial

Panelist Alicia Mitchell works for a much larger organization, but she shared examples of her successful PR initiatives that can easily translate to small organizations with less resources and a tighter budget. Mitchell focused on three platforms of promotion including:

  • Instagram campaigns – During National Hospital Week, the American Hospital Association encouraged Instagrammers to use the hashtag #myhospital to shoot short videos on how their local hospital helps the community. Mitchell’s team got more than 50 videos from across 34 different states and promoted them through social media.
  • Infographics – She encouraged the audience to invest in outsourcing a graphic designer or learning how to perfect their own graphic design skills because images help to tell a visual story.
  • Radio for audience targeting – Mitchell referenced the effectiveness of earning broadcast coverage. She talked about how using radio was especially useful in publicizing the accolades of the AHA’s medical centers’ palliative care. She urged PR professionals to consider radio outreach.

Mitchell closed with an easy acronym to remember:

M – makeover an existing PR project to make it better;
A – adopt social media because it gets others involved;
G – grassroots approaches allow you to tailor your reports or projects locally;
I – infographics help you tell a story and get people interested; and
C – the company you surround yourself with matters

Measuring ROI can be a challenge. Self-proclaimed “data geek” Lindsay Nichols broke down ways PR professionals can make it much easier. Nichols spoke about how she bases her measurement practices off of the Barcelona Principles and recommended that the audience check out ROI measurement blogger Katie Paine. Before diving in to measurement, dive in to your goals, said Nichols. She emphasized developing hypotheses about what you think will result from your projects and conducting a SWOT analysis before you begin. Once you’re ready to measure, she suggested eight cost-effective “DIY ROI Measurement Methods” for PR pros on a tight budget:

  • Pattern analysis
  • Surveys
  • Online pulse polls (ex: LinkedIn)
  • Content audits
  • Interviews
  • Roundtables, lunch, focus groups
  • In-depth interviews
  • Secondary research

Nichols said qualitative, quantitative and competitive intelligence measurements should be taken consistently every month for specifics and every year for a bigger picture. She uses platforms Vocus, Simply Measured, Social Mention, Twitter Counter, Google Analytics, Excel, Igloo, LinkedIn and more to track her data on a monthly and annual basis. Nichols was sure to emphasize the two things she always measures: the share of conversation index and the brand equity index. “Metrics prove you’re making a difference,” said Nichols. “It’s what you do with it that matters.”

As Karen Addis opened up the question and answer period, audience members presented thoughtful questions asking for advice on how to stay focused, how to show the c-suite your department’s worth, how to monetize and how to adapt to diversity in the media through introducing foreign languages.