First PRSA-NCC Sponsor Spotlight Shines in Crystal Penn from the U.S. Navy Memorial

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 Crystal R. Penn, Director of Events, US Navy Memorial, for being the first to be spotlighted. Here is the skinny:

Q: Tell us more about the US Navy Memorial and your role there:
Answer: The US Navy Memorial has been open for over 25 years in the Penn Quarter section of downtown D.C. The Memorial is a museum dedicated to people in the Military. This year we are celebrating “Year of the Coast Guard.” Each year the exhibit changes to honor a different part of our military branches. The Memorial also host over 600 events yearly including retirements, cocktail receptions, luncheons, conferences and movie screenings to name a few.

Q: How long has US Navy Memorial been involved with PRSA-NCC?
Answer: The US Navy Memorial has partnered with PRSA-NCC for several years now. We host many of their meetings on site at our location in our movie theater that seats 242 people. We have also hosted some workshops and smaller meetings in our conference room that seats about 30 people.

Q: Is there anything you want to tell our members about the US Navy Memorial that we may not know?
Answer: Every summer the Memorial holds free concerts on the plaza every Tuesday after Memorial Day till Labor Day at 7:30 p.m. Different sections of the Navy Band come out and perform.

Q: What do you like best about working with PRSA-NCC so far?
Answer: I like the networking opportunity and getting a chance to meet new people and see what other companies in the area have to offer.

Q: How can our members learn more, get more information about what US Navy Memorial has to offer?
Answer: Members can learn more about the Navy Memorial by checking out our website at www.navymemorial.org. If anyone is interested in hosting an event they can contact me directly at (202) 380-0716 or cpenn@navymemorial.org.

Writing a Winning Proposal

When I’m asked to respond to a request for a proposal (RFP), I have mixed feelings. On the plus side, there’s a chance to win new business. On the negative side, I’m going to spend at least 20 hours meeting the potential client, conducting research, brainstorming, writing a proposal that essentially gives away my intellectual property when I have little information whether I can win the business–or even if there is business to win.

According to Richard Belle, president of Belle Communications, there’s good news and bad news in today’s competitive proposal world. The good news is that your firm probably has the qualifications to perform the work; and the bad news is so do most of your competitors.  Belle talked about how to write a winning proposal to 25 IPRA professional development lunch attendees at the May 1 event.

“Clients know this,” continued Belle. And in fact, he added, when judges first evaluate proposals, they typically put them into three piles: no, yes and maybe. Most proposals end up in the maybe pile. Why? Because most PR professionals write a “good” proposal that only demonstrate their competence.

“Good proposals,” said Belle, “show that you can perform the work; great proposals win the business.”

So how do you go from good to great? Here’s Belle’s advice:

  • Follow the RFP format. Most RFPs ask for specific elements. Belle suggests making absolutely sure that you respond to each RFP section.
  • Distinguish yourself from your competitors. Belle suggested taking your elevator speech and weaving it into your proposal. This might include information about cost, past accomplishments–basically why they should hire you over your competitors.
  • Know yourself, the client and your competitors. Belle said know yourself and your strengths, the client and what they are looking for, and your competitors and their strengths. Ask the client who you are competing against or conduct your own research and then write your proposal illustrating how you differ from your competitors.
  • Write an original proposal. Ok I’ll admit it–I cut and paste some sections of my proposals. Belle says this is obvious to those evaluating the submission. He suggests writing an original proposal each time that addresses exactly what the client is seeking.
  • Back up claims with facts. As PR professionals, we steer clear of making “claims.” This is critical in a proposal. If you say you will complete the work 2 weeks ahead of deadline according to Belle, you need to make sure you meet that deadline. In other words, don’t make unrealistic promises or ones you can’t keep.
  • Win or lose, request a debrief. While most of us request a debrief only when we lose a bid, Belle says you should request a debrief win or lose. He says it’s important to know why you won so you can be sure to focus on those points that helped you win the business.

Following these suggestions can help your firm go from writing good proposals to writing great proposals–and increases your odds of winning business.

Submitted by NCC board member Sheri L. Singer, president of Singer Communications a PR firm designed to save clients time and money while delivering stellar services. She is a charter member of IPRA, has served on the IPRA board for 10 years (chair in 2009). She also is the Education Chair of ASAE’s Communications Section Council.

Making Your Association the Go-To Resource

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Imagine there’s breaking news dominating the airwaves—and it’s regarding your industry sector. This is your moment to shine, to take to the cameras or the microphone and share your polished expertise and your messages. You are the go-to source on this subject!

Or are you? Is your phone is ringing off the hook, or is it silent?  Without adequate preparation, visible messaging, and established audience relationships, you may be ignored or simply overlooked. They may not know they should come directly to you.

Whether during a crisis or in “peace time,” it can be a challenge for association communicators to own their space as a visible, go-to resource for a variety of audiences. But it can be achieved with a strategic plan in place, and this four-pronged approach you can help in crafting or revamping your group’s communications strategies.

1. Want to own it, and grab it. Don’t wait for it.

  • A proactive, comprehensive battle plan is important to get your group or organization ahead of  the latest stories, but first, you have to know exactly who you want to be, whatit is you want to do and say and to whom you want to communicate it to.
  • Is your audience a combination of consumers, media, regulators and legislators? Where are they getting their information? Identify existing gatekeepers, including trade media and other groups.
  • Audit media coverage; social channels, congressional records and regulatory comments – wherever your organization should be – and figure out whois getting traction with your issue. Are allied organizations taking your share of voice? Are you losing it to the opposition?
  • Get your leadership and spokespeople onboard with your plan by sharing this audit, and manage expectations from the outset. Executive support goes a long way toward success.

2. Get your house in order.

  • Shore up your messaging. Strengthen your message points and anecdotes, make them compelling and make them consistent and optimized across all platforms.
  • Audit your information and your digital platforms. Is your content fresh, original, optimized and interesting? Do you provide something of unique value? And are you updating your platforms regularly and using them to guide conversations on an issue?
  • Review relationships with reporters and influencers. It is easier to engage them if you have proactively determined who they are, what they are looking for and how to be a resource to them.

 3. Take Action and Prepare to React.

  • Proactively seek opportunities by researching editorial calendars, developing pitch copy and regularly delivering to media contacts. (Without spamming them of course!) Fly-ins, “lobby days” on Capitol Hill and a “speaker’s bureau” positioning your experts also increases your visibility.
  • Be reactive and responsive to the news landscape. In breaking news, pitch your available experts for comment. Respond to stories with notes to reporters, letters to the editor and op-ed/column submissions. Follow and interact with reporters in social channels, establishing relationships and responding to their work with positivity and “added value.” Keep an eye out for relevant Help a Reporter Out or ProfNet source requests.

4. Measure and Retool.

  • Assess how your association is doing. Have your spokespeople been quoted in more media hits or been sought directly for comment or advice? Has your issue area in general received more attention, and has your group’s point of view been included?
  • Celebrate your successes. Executive leadership and the C-Suite should know that dedication to a plan has led to positive results with an opportunity for growth.
  • Fine-tune your program where it needs shoring up. You’ll continually need to retool your assets and your plan in order to stay the go-to resource.

Francie Israeli has more than a decade of PR experience.  As Senior Vice President of KellenAdams Public Affairs, a division of Kellen Communications, she is responsible for strategic development and implementation of advocacy, media and issue-driven communications campaigns on behalf of a number of association and nonprofit clients.  She also serves as chair-elect of the Americas Region Board of Directors of the WORLDCOM Public Relations Group.

 

Q&A with Katherine Hutt: Words of Wisdom to Help You Prepare A Session Proposal – Part II

Katherine Hutt

It’s that time! The call for sessions for the 2014 PRSA International Conference is now open. We spoke with Katherine Hutt, APR, Fellow PRSA, who provides valuable advice and suggestions from her perspective and experience. Read this before you submit that session entry!

Q: What are your top three suggestions for submitting a strong session proposal?

  1.  Pay attention to the guidelines set out by the Conference Committee. Tailor your proposal to fit within the structure suggested.
  2. Play off the conference theme if you can. The Conference Committee is looking for a program that flows, so topics that fit within the theme are going to get more attention, especially if there are similar proposals.
  3. Spend some time thinking about a clever or action-oriented name for your presentation.

Q: Do you have advice to share on how to pick a topic or issue that will be most relevant and compelling for this audience?

The most compelling topic is one that you know a lot about. Let’s face it, none of us has cornered the market on public relations, so be sure to highlight what you bring to the table on a particular topic. Take a look at your practice over the past 18-36 months. What is the most significant thing you’ve done? What presents a new or different approach to a widespread matter? What new tactics or techniques have you tried successfully?

Q: How do you identify the right panelists to participate in the session?

Sometimes this occurs naturally, especially if you’ve worked on a team, hired a great agency, or been in coalition with other groups. Look for a balance of roles, levels of leadership, speaking styles, PRSA involvement, etc. Frankly, if I had a choice between an APR and non-APR to be on my panel, I would ask the APR. Have the most senior person serve as the moderator; this can be the most senior person on the project or the most senior person within PRSA.

One thing I would avoid is a panel made up of a client and a vendor only. They tend to end up sounding like commercials for the vendor’s services, even if that was not the intent. A vendor can be a valuable contributor to a panel, but make sure there is balance.

Q: What do you believe is the true value of organizing and participating in a session at the International Conference?

I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of public speaking and mentoring, so that is my primary motivation. If I was considering running for national office or was looking for a major career move, I would certainly see the value in high-visibility opportunities such as this.

I would say the one reason not to do it is to hone your presentation skills. We’re all professional communicators, so if you are not at the top of your game, practice elsewhere before attempting to speak at PRSA. People will get up and walk out of a session if the speaker is poor, the topic is disorganized, or the presentation does not meet the description in the program. Don’t throw something together at the last minute, even if you are a good extemporaneous speaker. You are being judged by a jury of your peers! Give them something to rave about.

 

Katherine R. Hutt, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Director of Communications at the Council of Better Business Bureaus, where she serves as national spokesperson for the 100-year-old BBB brand. She had her own PR agency for 15 years, and previously worked for two non-profits. A PRSA member since 1985, she has been accredited since 1989 and a Fellow since 2004. She has held several national positions, including the PRSA Board of Ethics, and is a past NCC president, board member and committee chair. She has also served as president of Washington Women in Public Relations, and WWPR honored her as “PR Woman of the Year.” She has spoken at three previous PRSA National Conferences and recently has a proposal accepted to speak at this year’s ASAE conference.

Q&A with Judy Phair: Words of Wisdom to Help You Prepare a Session Proposal

JPhair2

It’s that time! The call for sessions for the 2014 PRSA International Conference is now open. We spoke with Judy Phair, APR, Fellow PRSA, who provides valuable advice and suggestions from her perspective and experience as a session reviewer, organizer and panelist. Read this before you submit that session entry!

Q: What are your top three suggestions for organizing a session?

A: First, you must connect your topic to the overall theme of the conference and decide the appropriate track that most closely matches your session; your proposed session must be relevant to the audience and fit within one or more of the tracks. Second, the focus of your proposed session must be current and relevant and apply to a broad audience (unless it’s targeted to a specific section, such as travel and tourism). The session proposal must be timely and valuable with a clear statement on the expected outcome from an attendee perspective. Lastly, choose the right panelists that are most appropriate for the subject matter—people who have relevant stories and experience to share.

Q: Can you share suggestions on how to put together a winning proposal?

A: Get to the point quickly, and keep it simple. You need to address why the topic is important and how it relates to the field today, and elaborate on the expected outcome or takeaway for attendees. Illustrate why professionals should care about this topic right up front.  Remember that the devil is in the details, so don’t forget to proofread before submitting. Also, make sure that you choose the right track that is most appropriate for your proposed session topic to make sure the proposal reaches the right reviewers.

Q: What do you believe is the true value of organizing and participating in a session at the International Conference?

A: There are many benefits to organizing and participating in a session, but most importantly, you are helping public relations professionals expand their skills and expertise, and advancing the profession. In addition, you are building on what you know and enhancing your own skills and expertise, and therefore, adding value to your clients and/or employer. I believe it is important to stay focused on growing your career by constantly building on your level of knowledge and expertise within the field and presenting at the PRSA International Conference is a great opportunity for all PR professionals. Best of luck to you!

 

Judy Phair is president of PhairAdvantage Communications, LLC, an independent consulting firm founded in 2002.  She is a seasoned public relations executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, branding, global public relations and marketing, media relations, fund raising, and legislative relations. Judy was 2005 President and CEO of PRSA and a recipient of PRSA’s highest individual award, the 2010 Gold Anvil Award.  It is considered PRSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is presented to an individual “whose work significantly advanced the profession and set high standards for those engaged in the practice of public relations.”  In late 2013, PRSA-NCC inducted Judy into its Hall of Fame.  Earlier, the Maryland Chapter of PRSA honored Judy with its Lifetime Achievement Award, and her work has been recognized with numerous other awards in public relations, publications, marketing, and crisis communications. Judy is a frequent speaker on public relations and marketing issues, with appearances in China, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Croatia as well as the United States. She also writes extensively in the field.

Plan B for 2014: Your Antidote to Reality’s Punch

Reality Punch

You say you don’t have time to plan ahead. You’re overloaded. Have too much to do to launch 2014. Let’s take a look at the results that can happen when an organization doesn’t consider all the options and plunges forward without a Plan B in case of disruption. Key excuses for neglecting to plan ahead1:

1. No time.

You remember the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Containment took twice as long as expected–4 million barrels of oil were released. The cost to BP by the end of 2010? $17.7 billion, a 29 percent drop in its stock price2 and a tremendous hit to the company’s reputation. Certainly the company had a basic operating plan—a working theory—about what needed to be done to achieve the desired results. But when the initial plan went dramatically off course, what then?

 2. Why plan when things change so fast?

If you don’t know where you are now–don’t have a baseline– how can you be fully aware of best strategy to pursue when tossed by threatening circumstances? In turbulent times it’s even more important to know True North, so you can rise with the tide, not drowned.

Certainly elements of the automotive industry have repositioned to blaze ahead until they hit a speed bump. Between Oct. 2009 and March 2010, Toyota recalled 8.5 million vehicles.  A dealer improperly installed all-weather floor mats from an SUV into a loaned Lexus sedan. As a result the vehicle’s accelerator stuck on the mat, causing a tragic, fatal accident. In addition to the loss of life, this incident cost Toyota well over $2 billion in repairs, recalls and lost sales.3

While nonprofits and agencies might not place themselves in the same situation as the auto industry, they can relate to the lingering impact of the 2013 Sequester on businesses in Washington area–pointing to the need for a Plan B to cushion against future challenges.

 3. We get paid for results, not planning.

This focus on doing—tactics— can provide the satisfaction that activity can bring without providing true results. When spending money to research long-term goals is seen as nonessential, how does an organization know whether it’s selecting the right path? What is the baseline—the starting point—from which progress is assessed? How do you know when a project is in need of a course correction?

4. We’re doing OK without a plan.

Without a contingency plan, how can you set a course if the company suffers a dramatic setback? What if you lose major funding? What if despite your financial checks and balances you find serious discrepancies? What if a leader dies or leaves unexpectedly?

In the Enron fiasco, top executives were selling their own stock while assuring employees that the company was not losing value. Employees lost their retirement nest eggs in addition to the severe financial setbacks for the company, their industry and the public they served.  Bankruptcy proceedings revealed losses of $13.1 billion for the parent company and $18.1 billion for the affiliates. Thousands of people in Houston, the energy hub, and elsewhere lost their jobs.4

If you think about the “horrible what ifs” that could make life miserable in the year ahead, taking time now makes more sense and it will prepare you and your team to roll over the unexpected reality punches ahead. You’ll have a path to center your communications program as you set a course for 2014.

1 Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations, pp. 266

2 Ibid. p. 344

3 Ibid.p. 344

4 “The Fall of Enron,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 16, 2001.

To read more:  Jeffrey Liker, “The Toyota Recall: What Have We Learned” The HBR Blog Network

(Feb 11, 2011), http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/02/toyotas-recall-crisis-full-of.html (accessed Aug 2, 2011)

PR and the Multimedia Journalist

National Public Radio’s gleaming new headquarters was the appropriate setting for the recent Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC) panel discussion, “Meet the Multimedia Journalists.”

Why? NPR gets nearly as many eyeballs on its rich website as it does ears to its signature programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

media_relationsFive top journalists, including an NPR reporter, told a crowd of over 150 PR professionals what it is like to work with them in a media world where filing a story fifteen minutes after it breaks may be too late, and where reporters are expected to Tweet, shoot video and…oh…write crisp copy with a great deal of accuracy.

The one foolproof method to avoid having your calls go to voicemail and your emails to spam folders is to be trustworthy, knowledgeable, responsive and realistic about what is – and what is not – news.

The speakers, Scott Hensley of the NPR Shots Blog, Jayne O’Donnell of USA Today, Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times, Greg Otto of the Washington Business Journal and James Politi of the Financial Times were frank in their description of their increasing responsibilities in the multimedia journalism universe.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Timing is everything: Reporters only have eight to fifteen minutes to get a breaking news story published, and will update it frequently throughout the day. If you have a source or information, help the reporter right away. The next day is too late.

Email (not phone) is the way: PR pros can and should be part of the solution for journalists who often perform two jobs at once. Send tailored, succinct individual emails and don’t beat around the bush. Reporters generally like talking with some PR reps on the phone (and it’s lamentable that others don’t) but their schedules frequently prevent it. Hensley noted that he gets 100-200 pitches a day and usually doesn’t answer the phone unless he knows the caller. He checks voicemail only about once a month.

Peg your pitch to current events: If you have a health care story, for instance, draw a direct connection to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Levey expects to be busy with the uneven rollout of the health exchanges for another six months, but reporters like O’Donnell may have room for other pitches.

Infographics? No thanks: The five panelists were unanimous on this point: they don’t want your art department’s beautiful infographics. Instead, they prefer raw data from which they can build their own charts, graphs and tables. That said, NPR’s Shots Blog might be able to tweet an infographic or post it on his Tumblr page.

National Peach Month is not news: The calendar is littered with commemoratives, and some, like Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Black History Month, have legs. But Politi and the others said stories need to stand on their own.

Be cautious with embargoes: Embargoes level the playing field and allow newsmakers to pitch large numbers of news organizations simultaneously. While our panelists are grudgingly accepting of their utility for articles in medical journals, reporters are wary of them because they inevitably get broken. Reporters like Otto recommend cutting a deal with a reporter on the embargo’s terms before you pitch to protect yourself and your organization.

Don’t Tweet a pitch: Use Twitter to research what reporters are reading and thinking about; you might discover a great conversation starter, and a winning pitch angle. Pitching over Twitter, however, is a no-no. Many reporters (not all) treat Twitter like their own personal whiteboard and don’t want it used to make transactions with PR pros.

What has your experience been working with journalists today versus a year or so ago? Leave a comment below or tweet me at @aaroncohenpr.

Aaron Cohen has over thirty years of communications experience and provides strategic counsel and tactical support to some of MSLGROUP’s largest clients. He is the incoming co-chairman of PRSA-NCC’s Professional Development Committee for which he moderates panel discussions on traditional media relations and social media. You can also find him on Twitter, where he’s @aaroncohenpr.

Colleen Johnson contributed to this post.

This first appeared on the MSL Group’s Beltway and Beyond blog. To see the original post please click here.