Crisis PR: A Winning Decision

Crises have never been as transparent and ubiquitous as in this millennium. It requires a skilled person to manage information during a crisis, as well as to predict and plan for a future one. Within three months of my internship with The Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries located in St. Louis, I created a crisis communications plan that has since been implemented throughout the organization.

If you find yourself working for an organization that does not yet have a crisis communication plan in place, consider being the person who develops one. Doing so is a definite challenge, but it brings with it several specific rewards – such as

  • Gain access to people at all levels and functions within the organization.

When I was tasked with developing this plan,  I began by generating a list of potential threats. I formed this list by talking to everyone throughout the organization, which was a great excuse to formally meet all the staff and interact with them on a personal level. From the janitor to the CEO, each will have a unique perspective and invaluable input that can change the course of a company in crisis.

  • Put yourself in a role that lets you educate employees and advance the company’s best interests.

One of the biggest challenges faced by public relations professionals is validating our projects and efforts. This is as true as ever in crisis communications (at least, until a crisis happens); employees may not understand why a crisis communication plan is important, and this will be your first hurdle in creating one that’s effective. You must be able to explain three things: why communication is important, the difference between the court of law and the court of public opinion, and how having a solid crisis communication plan in place will affect an organization’s bottom line. Once you get everyone on the same page, you’ll be in a position to move the company forward and gain genuine respect.

  • Be a change agent who strengthens the organization in a visible and concrete way.

No one wants to admit that there are weaknesses in their organization, and they most certainly do not want to discuss them. However, weaknesses exist in every organization and cannot be ignored. Talking to colleagues throughout the organization showed me that most had never thought about that “worst case scenario” in their respective functions. They expressed concern because there were potential incidents that they felt unprepared to handle. These are the things you must uncover and address in your plan, in order to strengthen the organization in a real and effective way that’s felt by employees at all levels and in all areas.

  • Learn to plan ahead and gain a crisis-ready mindset.

Crisis happens quickly and never as anticipated. When writing a crisis plan, you have a unique opportunity to visualize what the day of a crisis will be like. What are you most likely to overlook? What do you need to do so you gain a comfortable level of control? What will be the most stressful part of a specific crisis? What will be your first reaction? These questions are just the start of what it takes to really focus in on a crisis situation. Without ever being in a crisis, writing a plan and practicing it is the closest you will ever be to the real thing.

  • Add a unique and desirable skill set to your resume.

Get those hands dirty! While this tip may be worn out, it is something worth repeating. You have to make sure to challenge yourself during your internships and jobs. It teaches you a great deal about yourself and especially about your capabilities. Building a crisis communication plan will help you to develop a skill set that not everyone in public relations has, and it will teach you things that will undoubtedly come in handy down the road.

No matter the reason for your interest in crisis communication, remember that you have chosen one of the most intense aspects of our profession.  Do not be nervous; embrace the challenge and make the most out of it. Accepting this challenge gave me irreplaceable experience and helped me become invaluable to my organization. Next challenge, please!

Robert Fischer was adopted from Guatemala, raised in St. Louis and now resides in Los Angeles.  With a passion for localized talent, he graduated with a degree in public relations at the University of Central Missouri.  He works in the music industry, representing local bands, and hopes to expand to entertainment and fashion clients. Find out more about Robert by visiting

A New Competitive Advantage: Mentorships

Public relations is a field in which classroom knowledge can only take you so far and internships show you various aspects of the day-to-day grind at an agency or corporation. However, a mentor is what gives a new professional a competitive advantage in the industry.

Mentoring goes far beyond asking advice on how to write the perfect press release or pitch a reporter, but rather focuses on how to develop your career as a public relations professional and how to succeed in the industry.

When selecting a mentor, do not treat the relationship as an employment agency or your mentor as an HR advisor, but instead look at your mentor as a wise adviser who can offer valuable advice on decision-making, workplace politics, challenging situations and overall career guidance based on their own experiences.
Below are several tips for new professionals as they consider the importance of mentoring and how a mentor can be their competitive advantage.

Work-Life Integration
It’s no secret that a 9-to-5 schedule seldom exists in the PR world, but there are times when a new professional needs to unplug, unwind and have a life outside of work. When selecting a mentor, it is not a bad idea to choose a mentor who has mastered the balance of work-life integration. If you decide once your career is established that you would like to make life changes like get married or balance a family and a career, a mentor who has a similar experience is an invaluable asset.

Advancing Your Career
Mentoring is a vital resource for professional development. Having a mentor can help you define an effective strategy to help you stand out within your company. The industry has changed drastically with the rise of digital and social media, so finding a mentor who isn’t far removed from your experiences can provide solid career guidance in the context of the current PR landscape.

Birds of a Feather
In addition to finding someone you can emulate in your career, also make sure to look for someone with a similar or complementary personality and work style. You’ll click well with someone if you share hobbies and interests as well as overall professional goals, and this will help you establish a good relationship. You also want to seek a mentor you trust and know will keep things confidential. If you’re having a rough week and need to vent, it helps to have a mentor who will respectfully keep it between the two of you.


Time, Time, Time
As young professionals seek out advice, the key is time. Give yourself time to foster the relationship with your mentor. Good relationships don’t happen overnight. They take precious time to cultivate trust and respect. Respect their time as well, as most people don’t even have enough hours in the day to do everything they’d like.

Interested in starting a mentoring program in your local chapter? Or want to learn more about mentoring in PR? Check out the New Pros website ( for key resources and materials to spread the word.

Brandi Boatner and Kate Enos are the PRSA New Professionals Section mentorship chairs.

May Twitter Chat Highlights: How to Expand Your PR Skills

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the May #NPPRSA Twitter chat.

Specifically, we’d like to thank our special guest for the month Jason Mollica, president of JRM Comm.
Join us again on June 13 at 9 p.m. EST for the next #NPPRSA Twitter chat. The June chat will focus on big data & PR measurement.

Review highlights of the chat below. What did you learn from the May chat? How do you develop new skills and find challenges that will make you a better pro? What are your favorite blogs, books and podcasts to expand your PR knowledge?

May 2013 #NPPRSA Twitter Chat

This is a recap of our May #NPPRSA Twitter chat. We discussed ways to advance your PR skills as a professional with special guest, Jason Mollica.

Storified by PRSA New Professionals· Fri, May 10 2013 06:28:30

Q1: How are you taking time to advance your PR/marketing knowledge & skills? What do you do?

Q1: I'll listen to PR/social media podcasts, since I'm on the go. Also do webinars when I have time. #NPPRSAJason Mollica
A1: I am reading as much as I can. Anything from books on leadership to blog posts about social media. #NPPRSASarah Bell Huff
@PRSANewPros A1 I've been reaching out to more experienced professionals for advice, as well as reading as much as possible #NPPRSARyana
Q1: Never discount blogs.. and I'd add that even ones that aren't "popular" are good. You can always glean something! #NPPRSAJason Mollica

Q2: What are your favorite PR, marketing & social media blogs to learn from?

Q2: I read as much as I can… #PRBC (shameless plug), @dbreakenridge's blog is great, so is @ambercadabra's. #NPPRSAJason Mollica
A2: I really enjoy reading @hubspot's Inbound Marketing blog and @dmscott's blog. #NPPRSAEllie Boggs
A2: Ragan's PR Daily, Fast Company and Ad Age are a few of my favorites. #NPPRSASarah Bell Huff
I love individuals blogs. I read @briansolis @chiefmartec and @britopian daily! #NPPRSAAmy Bishop

Q3: How do you connect with more experienced professionals and learn from their experiences?

Q3: I always thank a fellow pro who follows me. Start connect there, then continue to build relationship. #NPPRSAJason Mollica
A3: Informational interviews are great for meeting professionals and learning about their journey and advice. #NPPRSASarah Bell Huff
A3: I've reached out within the #PRSSA & #PRSA network to learn from experienced pros. They love helping new pros/students! #NPPRSAEllie Boggs
Q3: @PRSA chapter events are also a great place to meet, network. #NPPRSAJason Mollica

Q4: In what ways do you try to learn from your peers? How do you work with them to expand your skills?

A4: I always enjoy talking to my peers that work in different areas of PR than me and learning from their experiences. #NPPRSASarah Bell Huff
Q4: Twitter chats like #PR20Chat #PRStudChat are great places to learn from pros and peers. #NPPRSAJason Mollica
A4: Ask them the success strategies behind their best practices and work with them directly through their challenges, #NPPRSABenjamin S Butler
A4. Working cross-functionally with marketing, legal on social media initiatives has provided me the best learning experiences. #NPPRSAKellie Hayden

Q5: How can you ensure you also continue to learn about other departments that work with PR? Like sales, IT, HR, etc?

Q5: Easy. Listen to the folks that lead those areas. Ask questions. Never say, "I don't need to know that." #NPPRSAJason Mollica
Q5. Think big picture, always! PR is only one part of a bigger strategy and goal. Ask questions about others' work. Be involved. #NPPRSAKellie Hayden
A5: Open communication and willingness to learn what makes them tick. Huge for crisis comm plan coordination and org as whole #NPPRSACarolina Mohrlock

Q6: What books have you been wanting to read to further your knowledge of the industry?

I've got @chuckhemann's book on my list to read. I just don't keep it to PR. Thinking bigger pic. #NPPRSAJason Mollica
A6: I really want to read A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling by @andrhia. I am fascinated by transmedia storytelling. #NPPRSASarah Bell Huff
I can't wait to read Youtility by @jaybaer when it's released this summer. #NPPRSAAmy Bishop
Q5: @JimJosephExp and @dmscott's books are terrific as well. #NPPRSAJason Mollica
A6: I read a few chapters of Engage! by @briansolis for a social media class last term. Now it's on my list to finish! #NPPRSAEllie Boggs

Amy Bishop works in digital PR and marketing for digitalrelevance, a content marketing and digital PR agency. She is the social media chair for the PRSA New Professionals Section. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

How to Ace the Writing Test and Land the Job

Thought you left formal writing tests in the college classroom? Think again. In the world of public relations, writing tests are a common hurdle in the job application and interview process. Especially if you’re working on the agency side, prospective employers will want to test your skills and make sure you can do more than string together a few sentences.

As someone who has weathered my share of writing tests, I’m happy to pass along a few tips that have helped me score high marks in this area.

Brush up on AP style.

Arguably the least exciting, but most inevitable, part of an agency writing test is the grammar exercise. This test can include such elementary tasks as revising incorrect sentences, choosing between commonly confused words like affect and effect, or accurately abbreviating dates. Though they sound simple, these exercises can be quite complicated. It’s always a good idea to grab your AP Stylebook and refresh your memory on these basics before you take your writing test.

Be comfortable with different types of PR writing.

An agency writing test might include a number of writing tasks: a press release, an email to a client, an essay on an aspirational brand or even a full-blown communications plan with objectives, tactics and key performance indicators (KPIs). Needless to say, each requires its own approach and style.

To prepare for whatever the writing test may throw at you, revisit your college textbooks. Talk with friends who work in similar PR roles about the types of writing they and their teammates regularly do. Search online for brand examples and case studies. Keep in mind that in this section, your writing does need to be strong technically – but you also need to showcase your strategic thinking and personal approach.

Practice, practice, practice.

You’ve heard this one before, but it’s true. You need to keep writing – every day if you can – to avoid becoming rusty. You can use just about any outlet to practice your writing. Create and maintain your own blog or contribute to a group blog like this one. Practice writing POVs on industry trends you notice. Give yourself writing assignments and produce mock pitches or crisis responses. Have an industry-wise friend or mentor read your samples to ensure you’re hitting all the PR checkpoints and producing clear, concise and brand-appropriate content.

What about you – how have you prepared for writing tests? What has been the most challenging task on a test? What have you learned from taking them?


Keri Cook is an assistant account executive with Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ consumer marketing practice in New York. She graduated from Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and writes on topics ranging from media relations to marketing trends, to corporate strategy and crisis communications. While completing her undergrad, Cook was named PRWeek’s 2012 Student of the Year.

LinkedIn: Your Secret Weapon

In my experience, LinkedIn is widely misunderstood and underutilized by public relations professionals. Most of us are familiar with this social platform as a job-seeking tool but fail to see it as the industry knowledge and networking resource that it is.

LinkedIn helps connect the young PR professional (or any PR professional, for that matter) with four critical audiences:


If all you know about your key media contacts is the information on your media list, it’s time to dig deeper. You’ll be surprised by what you can learn from an editor or producer’s LinkedIn profile. Not only can it shed light into that contact’s work background, but you might also discover common ground – a shared alma mater, for instance – that will help you forge a more meaningful connection.

Once you discover that connection, LinkedIn makes it simple to reach out to the contact and maintain a relationship through shared articles and status updates. LinkedIn is a prime way to keep tabs on which outlets and beats your fast-moving media targets cover.

Industry Experts

Using LinkedIn, you can grow your network and build a “dream team” of mentors. Seek out interesting people who are successful in your industry or work in areas that intrigue you. With a simple LinkedIn message, you can introduce yourself and invite them to coffee – and it’s much easier than randomly searching for industry veterans on Google and trying to track down their email addresses.

LinkedIn groups also afford you the opportunity to glean industry knowledge, strengthen connections and begin to establish yourself as a thought leader. For additional insights, you can subscribe to the brilliant feeds of influencers like Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington.

Prospective Clients

If you work in an agency, you know that new business is the lifeblood of your company. Use LinkedIn to pinpoint in-house practitioners who work in specific industries or companies that interest you. For example, if you’re fascinated by the food and beverage sector, research professionals in your city who work in food or beverage companies. Invite them to lunch to pick their brains, share experiences and solidify relationships. You never know when one of these contacts might casually mention that their brand is looking for new PR representation, which could reap major rewards for you and your career.

Potential Employers

Of course, LinkedIn is a must if you’re looking for a job – entry-level or otherwise. The site is crawling with recruiters and job postings. Make sure your profile is flawless and accurately portrays your personal brand and proactively reach out to employers that interest you.

If used correctly, LinkedIn can help you make more connections offline, land a job and do that job more successfully.

What other ways are you using LinkedIn? Share your own tips for maximizing your presence on LinkedIn!


Keri Cook is an assistant account executive with Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ consumer marketing practice in New York. She graduated from Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies