March 2015 #NPPRSA Twitter Chat Highlights: Preparing for a Crisis

Twitter Chat 3-18 SquareWe’d like to thank everyone who participated in the March #NPPRSA Twitter chat as we discussed crisis communications–how to prepare and how to react.  We would especially like to thank Jonathan Bernstein, President of Bernstein Crisis Management.

Join us again on April 15 for our next #NPPRSA chat and stay up-to-date with PRSA New Professionals on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Review highlights of the chat below. What did you learn from the March chat? How can you prepare for your brand’s vulnerabilities before a crisis? What can you do to minimize damage once a crisis hits?


You can receive FREE New Professionals Section membership for PRSA throughout March!

Lauren Headshot 1.3MBLauren Rosenbaum is the PRSA New Professionals Social Media Co-Chair and Co-Founder of Soversity, a public relations and digital marketing company. You can connect with her on Google+LinkedIn or Twitter.

Inside Corporate Communications (for a PR Agency)

Keep Calm and Hire A PR AgencyAfter graduating college, I was torn between searching for jobs in-house or at an agency. I knew I wanted to work in corporate communications, but the advice I received from PR professionals, professors and classmates was to try the agency route first, since there are more entry-level opportunities. Given the economic climate and difficult job market, I took that advice, but through a twist of fate found myself in a role I never even knew existed: in-house corporate communications for a PR agency!

Every day is an adventure, and there are many new skills and lessons I’ve learned through my experience so far. There’s no such thing as a typical day, but my main tasks include supporting new business opportunities, helping teams craft industry award submissions, drafting internal and external communications materials, pitching trade media, event planning and managing website content and social media properties.

The best part about working in corporate communications for a PR agency is the ability to learn how both roles function. Everyday I watch my colleagues on the account side working hard to service clients while I’ve been able to support them through corporate communications. Even though we have different roles, many of our tasks are similar (e.g. research, media lists, event management) and as new PR professionals, we’ve all learned to master the art of multi-tasking and time management—key skills needed in PR!

So as you embark on (or even just consider) a career in corporate communications, here are three tips I’ve found to be helpful in this role:

  1.  Learn as much as possible about your organization and industry. Working in corporate communications, it is vital to know everything you can about the company: its products or services, its leaders, its mission, its employees, etc. Typically, the corporate communications team serves as a liaison between the organization and external audiences, with the head of the team taking on the role of company spokesperson. If reporters or potential clients contact our team looking for information on a campaign we ran in Paris, a global offering that just launched or a new client in New York, it’s our job to answer their questions or at least be able to refer them to someone who can help. Thus, the more you know about your company, the better equipped you’ll be to respond to inquiries. The best way to learn about what’s happening is to talk to your colleagues and find out what they’re working on, pay attention to emails and updates sent around the office and study the firm’s website, policies, case studies and credentials, anything that will provide background information to give you a deep understanding of your company’s business.
    The same goes for the industry. For example, in my role I need to know the ins and outs of what’s happening in public relations, the latest news from our competitors and new developments and trends that might impact our business. It’s important to become an expert in your field so you understand and can speak with accuracy and authority to internal and external audiences. As a bonus, you will be seen as a vital asset and go-to person for others within the company who may have questions on what you’ve learned!
  2. Develop excellent writing skills. Whatever tasks are thrown your way, it will most likely involve writing. From press releases to internal announcements to case studies, I spend most of my days writing and editing various communications materials. Being able to write well is one of the most important skills a PR professional should have (this is also applicable to other PR roles). Your writing will improve over time but definitely take advantage of every opportunity to practice. If a colleague needs an email or press release drafted, offer to take a stab at it. Once it’s finalized, ask to see the final version so you can compare it to your draft and see what changes were made. This will help you learn what you need to improve upon for next time.
  3. Network. Get to know as many people inside and outside the company as you can. Networking is an important tool we hear about time and time again, but it’s truly essential in the corporate communications role. Start building relationships from day one with your colleagues. I’ve been given the opportunity to support new business pitches, award submissions and media relations efforts across practices and across offices. With each project, I am introduced to someone new, and that person becomes a great resource for the future when a similar project or request arises. The same is true externally. I’ve built relationships with PR trade journalists in order gain visibility in the media. Most importantly, don’t just reach out to someone when you need something; show an interest in their job, and figure out how you can work together so you can both meet your goals.

Have you ever considered doing PR for a PR agency? What other questions would you ask?


Stephanie ManasStephanie Manas is a corporate communications specialist/senior account executive at Ogilvy Public Relations, providing business development and internal and external relations support to the global communications agency. Previously, she held positions in theatrical PR at Boneau/Bryan-Brown and book publicity at Penguin Group USA. Prior to that, Manas interned at FleishmanHillard, The Broadway League and 451 Marketing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and economics from Boston University. Manas is the co-chair of the marketing committee for PRSA-NY. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter. For more information on Manas, check out her recent Q&A in Syracuse University’s Newhouse PR blog.

October Twitter Chat Highlights: Content + PR

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the October #NPPRSA Twitter chat to discuss the convergence of content marketing and public relations.

Specifically, we’d like to thank special guest for the month, PR Daily, one of the industry’s top resources for public relations news, strategy and advice.  Join us in November for a special #NPPRSA chat to kick off National New Professionals Week. Chapters are invited to plan an event for local new pros, submit it to the PRSA New Professionals Week event listing and join in the fun November 11-15.

Review highlights of the chat below.

What did you learn from the October chat? How can content marketing enhance your public relations efforts? What are your favorite content marketing best practices?


Lauren Rosenbaum is the Public Relations Director at BrickPixel, a web design and marketing consultancy. She is the Co-Founder of Soversity, a public relations and digital marketing company. You can connect with her on Google+LinkedIn or Twitter.

If You Don’t Tell Your Organization’s Story, Someone Else Will

Typewriter with Once Upon a TimeIn an age when practically everyone carries the latest model of a mobile device, when breaking news is always a glance away and one company’s misstep can spread like wildfire across the country in a matter of only minutes, it is essential that organizations can effectively communicate their stories, before someone else does for them.

Find Real Stories

The foundation of telling your organization’s story well is to start with finding a story: a real story. Every organization has a story to tell. Even the smallest or seemingly mundane organization has some unique attribute hidden in its history, conception, product, obstacles or successes. As public relations professionals, our job is to unearth these stories and nuances that set organizations apart.

Often best captured by simple anecdotes that reflect organizational values, character and image, your story needs to emulate who you are and what sets you apart. If these stories do not automatically surface, it’s up to you to discover what those differentiations are and effectively communicate them to your audience through authentic communication.

It is important to note, that while a particular instance or fact may seem like an excellent beginning to your brand’s story, even the most interesting tale can stop you in your tracks if it is not consistent with your brand message or values. If you cannot directly link your story to your brand, the message will quickly become diluted and serve as a detriment because of inconsistencies and confusion about who you are and your values. If your story lacks brand consistency or clarity, it’s time to revisit the purpose of finding your story.

The most successful brand stories are not fabricated or over exaggerations of the truth. They are authentic, true and a direct reflection of what the brand values.

Use Real People

Perhaps the simplest way to find a good story that emanates your company’s core character is to find real people who have real stories to tell. Be authentic while creating and refining characters in your story whom your audience will champion. These stories could come from any of your stakeholders, including people from within your organization, one of your clients or even someone in your community. A plethora of compelling content is not necessary in order to communicate your story well. A few unique anecdotes can be more than enough to convey everything about your brand and company culture.

Once you have the story that captures the essence of who you are, what comes next? The mistake many organizations make is convoluting the clarity of their story by hiring an actor or appointing a spokesperson to tell it for them. Consider the purpose of why you originally chose to discover and tell your story; this solution produces the opposite effect.

Did your retired co-founder inherit the shop location of your now nationally recognized bakery chain from a famous pastry artist? Bring her back in for an interview. Make her and what her story means for your organization the focus of your next campaign.

People connect to real stories that evoke authentic emotion. The more willing you are to humanize your stories, the more you can relate to your audience and your audience can relate to you.

Be Authentic

Bottom line: there is trust in transparency.

In this day and age, nothing is hidden. No bad business decision, unethical practice or poor treatment of customers can be concealed. It is only a matter of time before the truth is revealed, and when it is, who would you rather have controlling the conversation: you, the public or even your competition? An honest apology or explanation of the truth can earn the respect of your audience and has the potential to deter ruthless scrutiny, even if that scrutiny is unfounded.

When crafting your story, be as open and honest with your audience as you can be, because openness is equal to trust. Actively disclosing information to your constituents about your company and its products or services is perhaps the most powerful means of establishing and building trust with your audience. Don’t forget to ask yourself the hard questions and answer them before others have the opportunity to answer them for you.

In the end, the key element to telling your organization’s story well is simple: the truth. The most powerful and meaningful brand stories are derived from honesty and openness. When you tell your story by using authenticity and real people to tell those stories, you will establish more than just trust with your stakeholders—you will create passionate brand advocates who believe in your brand and its mission.


Kristen SyndramKristen Syndram is a public relations graduate from Illinois State University and a public relations and communications professional in the central Illinois area. She has gained professional communications experience by working with both Fortune 50 companies as well as boutique agencies and specializes in public relations, media relations and social media. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter

The Press Release Isn’t Dead: Writing for the Digital Age

In an age where established corporations are challenged by Internet startups and consumers order dinner on their smartphones, every industry is learning to adapt to modern advances in digital technology. In fact, industries are finding ways to harness these developments and capitalize on them.

Public relations is naturally at the forefront of this ever-changing landscape. A discipline responsible for communicating with diverse audiences needs to be where those audiences are and speaking their language. This change applies not only to mass consumers, but also to information and content gatekeepers – another role that has been transformed, not nullified, by the Digital Age.

As traditional media shifts, traditional media relations is feeling some growing pains as well. One of the basic tactical issues PR has to deal with is whether the press release is dead or alive. After all, it’s true that PR has evolved far past the elements conventionally associated with it. Modern campaigns commonly involve social strategies and larger-than-life activations that blur with what’s historically been seen as marketing territory. So it’s only natural that we pause to question whether press release dissemination – sometimes scorned as a pesky push tactic – is still relevant.

The truth is, no matter what you call it or what form it takes as digital continues to evolve, the function of the press release is, and always will be, needed.

Think about it like this. Scores of additional media targets have cropped up as the digital space expands. There are all sorts of individuals you might want to reach, from social media influencers to bloggers, that are increasingly difficult to differentiate from traditional journalists. Everyday consumers have been elevated to the level of news editors, as social media and consumer reviews live in the same space as the journalistic pieces we’ve always thought of as “media.”

It’s a tricky landscape to navigate, but success ultimately boils down to your ability to hold an early, active and formative role in telling and shaping your own story (or likely your organization’s or client’s story). Of course there are many ways to do this, like driving traffic to your site’s media center, fostering a social dialogue or sparking word of mouth interest. These methods are all good things, but the tried-and-true strategy of directly targeting those individuals who are writing and talking about you is still as effective as ever.

A press release is an opportunity to tell your organization’s story with the added credibility of your own proactive authority and voice. There will always be a need to do this, even if the look and sound of it changes from a standard document to a video pitch.

But just because the press release is a timeless PR tool does not mean we can let our approach to it stagnate. The Digital Age has altered the basis of what makes an effective pitch.

To really grasp this, we need to think more like journalists than ever. Keep in mind that their reality is shifting a swell. The 24/7 news cycle is morphing into more of a speed-of-light operation, and journalists are now expected to develop content for traditional outlets, websites and social media. In short, they are the busiest they’ve ever been.

On top of this, easy access to digital information and dissemination has created a much higher volume of incoming pitches. After all, just about anyone can write a pitch and blast it to contacts with a few clicks of Mail Merge. Journalists are weeding through an unprecedented amount of information that’s being hurled their way.

These trends aren’t going anywhere, so we need to be mindful of them as we craft our press releases. The demand for substance is higher, as the digital shift has ushered in a keen focus on content curation and has removed all tolerance for self-promotional language that gives neither journalists nor consumers what they’re seeking. The information inflation highlights the need for credible communication, and that’s exactly what you and your press release are positioned to deliver.

Besides the basics of thinking like a journalist and answering the questions you anticipate them asking – yes, the five W’s and all – you can take several steps to implement new digital trends that will help your press release cut through the clutter.

  • Use a multimedia news release and include elements that can be repurposed for news websites and blogs. Provide infographics, videos and hi-res images that your media target can easily repost.
  • Always consider search engine optimization. Remember that press releases are often housed on corporate websites or widely distributed online. Include keywords and links to relevant resources.
  • Take advantage of online distribution sites, like Vocus’s PRWeb, to help your information reach mass consumers just as quickly as traditional gatekeepers.
  • Make your content simple to share via social media. Be sure your headline fits in the 140-character Twitter limit, and incorporate links that allow readers to automatically share the release on top social platforms.

The form of the press release might change, but the facts, stats and newsworthiness still need to be there. There will always be a need for stories, as long as you know how to drive your story home.

How about you? What’s your take on press releases in the Digital Age?


Keri CookKeri Cook works 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.