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Anne-a-Grams

September 3, 2015

Importance of Creating a Symbiotic Client/PR Agency Relationship

By Rachel Neppes, 9:00 am

While every public relations firm and client hopes for the best possible outcome from their partnership, even the best laid plans can get derailed.

partnershipPerhaps it’s a product launch that had been central to the PR strategy, which gets postponed indefinitely, or a major feature story on the company that gets cut from the publication without notice due to space constraints. Whatever the challenge may be, the ability to rise above it and move forward relies on a symbiotic relationship between the client and agency. So what defines a symbiotic relationship?

When we first engage with our clients, we do our best to help them understand not only what they can expect from us, but what their roles are, as well.

Being entrusted to manage a company’s public image and brand is an honor and responsibility that we take very seriously. It’s our job to be proactive, seek out every opportunity to tell our clients’ stories, and create compelling and engaging reasons for the media and public to share those stories. To do that, we rely on our clients for a few things.

  • Share information, company news and developments with us in a timely and consistent manner. This is essential. It’s our job to act on behalf of our clients as an embedded member of their organizations. The more we know, the better we are able to seize opportunities for them.
  • Be responsive to media opportunities, which often requires quick action since journalists are typically working under tight deadlines. Reliability and promptness when responding to media inquiries can make or break a relationship with a reporter and an opportunity for coverage.
  • Be accessible for approvals on press releases and other materials. If you’re not available, designate a second point of contact so we can keep things moving.
  • Provide honest and consistent feedback. We want to meet your goals so tell us when we’re off track.
  • Recognize that earned media coverage requires time and consistent pressure on the gas pedal. As much as we may all wish for instant gratification, we appreciate your patience.

Every PR program will encounter its fair share of challenges. It’s critical that PR agencies and clients work together synergistically in order to overcome setbacks and prevail.

August 26, 2015

Blowing Up a Deflated Balloon: A Millennial’s View on Entering the Workforce

By Katherine Kuntz, 9:55 am

The other night, I found myself recalling a vivid childhood memory of going to the circus. What really stuck out was not the show itself, but rather an event that followed. As the curtains began to close and the crowd prepared to leave, a young boy sitting next to me started to cry for more. In order to silence his screams, his mother handed him a lollipop and promised to get him a balloon on the way out.

deflated balloonBelonging to the generation of instant gratification, we were always bathed with parental praise and attention. We were rewarded for bad behavior merely to keep our mouths closed, and now living in a society both surrounded and reliant on technology, we are viewed as lazy, high-maintenance and self-entitled.

Not anymore. The truth is that the face paint has come off and the balloons have popped. The millennials are all grown up, and now considered the nation’s largest living generation, we enter the workforce with wide eyes and open arms.

I believe my generation has come to grips with the impending challenges of climbing the corporate ladder. We are no longer children waiting to collect our trophies. Thanks to the Great Recession, our economy hasn’t robustly grown in more than a decade, and with stiff competition in the job market, what I think we want most is to be trusted to do the hard work on our own and to demonstrate that we can.

While we may be seen as high-maintenance, we are also high-performers. We value experience over materialistic possessions. We look to build wholesome relationships, and most importantly, we strive to make our childhood aspirations a reality. Once kicking and screaming for our way, we are now taking that energy and applying it to achieve these sought out dreams. We are, in fact, blowing up a deflated balloon.

As I face these challenges entering the workforce, I’m actually motivated to work harder with fewer expectations. This next chapter is unknown, but I am embracing it with an open heart and open mind.

August 18, 2015

All for the love of the media list

By Amee Upadhyay, 10:00 am

Media List (mēdēə/ + list/)

Image credit: Augure.com

Image credit: Augure.com

Practical definition: A contact list of journalists and reporters (normally specific to a certain pitch or release)

Real-Life Definition: The task assigned to what I’m willing to wager is 100% of public relations interns

Here are four ways I can compare my time as an intern at Buchanan Public Relations to the media lists I’ve completed:

  • Despite valiant attempts to keep frustrations away from work, they’re inevitable regardless of whatever job you do. In PR, I have learned what some of these frustrations look like – for example, when finding the right media contact for a pitch or press release using a media list-building software tool. It especially makes my day when I’m looking for U.S. economics editors and the media list search pulls up the economics editor at The New York Times along with the sports editor at ESPN!
  • Still, despite the countless hassles and hard work, the task of completing a media list is always rewarding, particularly when the list that I’ve created leads to meaningful coverage for our clients. Every successful hit comes from an accurate and well-researched media list.
  • The media list, what some would consider a chore, has taught me the most about public relations. As I gear up to enter the workforce this May, I will be equipped with an important lesson:  you may fail, you may succeed, but so long as your foundation is strong, you will never be without opportunity.
  • Lastly, I’ve realized that the PR world is an ever-changing realm of journalists, bloggers, professionals and clients all searching for recognition. In the same way, no media list is ever stagnant. The lists I have created have grown to serve a multitude of other purposes. How creative you are at refurbishing past lists for different situations can determine how many hits you deliver for your clients. In today’s fast-moving world, it is essential to keep your eyes and ears out for new information and the people who are at the forefront of sharing it.

The media list, what some would consider a chore, has taught me the most about public relations. As I gear up to enter the workforce this May, I will be equipped with an important lesson:  you may fail, you may succeed, but so long as your foundation is strong, you will never be without opportunity.

August 10, 2015

Don’t Drop the Faberge Egg

By Blair Kahora Cardinal, 11:09 am

Relationships with reporters are like Faberge eggs. Faberge eggs stuffed with snowflakes and feelings, wrapped in rice paper, sitting on the wings of a butterfly, floating inside a bubble.

They’re fragile.

Last month, I was pitching a big client announcement. I called one of my long-time contacts at a major national publication.  He said, “I like this. If you can get me X, Y and Z, I’d like to write the story.” We worked feverishly over the next day to get him “X, Y and Z.” The reporter even emailed my client’s CEO directly with a question. Everything seemed to be on track.

The next morning, I emailed the reporter confirmation of all interviews. He replied back with “No. Cancel the interviews. This stuff does not relate to my current assignments.” Because we’ve worked together numerous times in the past, I called him immediately to see if I’d done something that might have triggered his sudden and unexpected shift. Why had he put the kybosh on the entire story? He had little explanation and said that he should not have led me on. I said, “It’s not like you didn’t show up for our first date. You left me standing alone at the altar.” While I never got a clear answer, because of our existing relationship we were able to have a discussion that I could relay back to the client.

faberge eggSometimes, situations go awry for no apparent reason. While it’s important to remember that reporter relationships are fragile—clearly!—over the years, I’ve pinpointed six tips that have helped me with the mammoth task of building an enduring rapport with dozens of reporters.

    • Match Their Style—I always laugh when I send a painstakingly crafted, multi-paragraph pitch that is met with a curt (but welcome!), “Ok, interview after 2?” All my subsequent correspondence is written to match the tone and tenor set by the reporter. “Ok, set for 2:30. Call guy at this number.” I gauge immediately whether the reporter is friendly and funny, short and straightforward, eccentric and unconventional, or polite and formal. It’s also important to figure out whether they like to correspond via email or phone. For example, I know that I can always reach one editor with the New York Times via phone at 7 a.m. and another Wall Street Journal reporter at 9 p.m. via email. Matching their style will build comfort and familiarity.
    • Put a Face with an Email—My colleagues and I regularly take trips up to NYC to attend media panels. Fellow PR pros based in NY always comment that we’re nuts to travel two hours for a 5-minute conversation with one reporter. However, we rarely make a personal introduction that does not result in a client interview and/or story. Never underestimate the power of meeting someone face-to-face.
    • Pop In Now and Again—Yes, reporters are incredibly busy. But it doesn’t hurt to ask if they have time to grab a cup of coffee from time to time. Whenever I’m up in NY for client meetings, I email a few reporters to see if they have time for a quick hello. Last time I was up, an editor came down to the lobby for a quick “bro hug,” and we shot the breeze for a few minutes. Even if they don’t have time, I’m still keeping myself on their radar.
    • Don’t Send Crap—The beauty of an ongoing relationship with a journalist is that he will likely open your emails and take your phone calls. However, this does not mean that you can pitch him irrelevant topics or complete crap. Just because you have a reporter’s ear, doesn’t mean that you can abuse it. If you start regularly sending him unusable pitches, you may begin to annoy him and lose the privilege of that relationship. Independently, if you do send a one-off pitch that’s not the right fit, he may make an introduction to an appropriate colleague.
    • Avoid Only Need-Based Contact—I’m sure we all take care to research a reporter prior to pitching her, but it’s important to observe and ask questions. If a reporter says that she needs to do the interview this week because she’ll be on vacation the next, your follow-up note should be, “Where are you going on vaca?” Down the line, if you see an article placing her vacation spot on the top 10 beaches in New Jersey, it’s nice to send a little “love note” with the article attached. This works for check-ins regarding things like her alma mater, hobbies and pet peeves.
    • Be Yourself—And most importantly, be yourself. Reporters are people. Don’t be a robot. They tend to respond more favorably to non-scripted relations where they’re able to view you as a person too.
July 31, 2015

PR Pop Quiz: When is a Product Launch Not a Product Launch?

By Anne Buchanan, 2:37 pm

This week’s launch of Microsoft’s long-anticipated Windows 10 has sent us down memory lane. In the last two years, we have been asked to help four or five companies either launch their new business or introduce a new product.

With the exceproduct-launch-featuredption of one (more on that in a minute), these “launches” truly didn’t deserve to be called that.

Yes, they technically met Webster’s definition of a launch (“the act of starting or setting in motion an activity or an enterprise.”) And, they certainly qualified as a launch in Business Land, where the bar for launching a new company was set alarmingly low during the Internet bubble. “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a start-up! What? No, no customers or revenue yet – but it’s a really great idea!”

But in the world of PR, where the commodity we offer in exchange for media coverage is the newsworthiness of the stories we share, the bar must be considerably higher than just a strong idea alone.

We’ve counseled countless clients over the years on the optimal time to introduce their new company or product to the market (and, sometimes, even if it should be introduced). Here are some tips to assess whether your company or product is ready for prime time:

Have some customers – preferably delighted ones. Nothing validates a new company or product for a reporter more than hearing that it already has customers. Clients don’t always want to hear this (they want media coverage to help attract customers, after all), but trust us on this one: your launch will be much more impactful if you can report customers, and, better yet, share some customer names and offer to put a reporter in touch with several of them.

The exception to this is the entrepreneur or brand that is already recognized and successful. When Yuengling’s Ice Cream announced it was (re)launching an ice cream company that had been dormant for 29 years, reporters were instantly intrigued to learn that another branch of the fabled beer family planned to revive a line of premium ice creams. That name recognition, coupled with a modest-budget media relations and social media campaign, fueled an early sell-out of product from grocery store shelves.

Work the kinks out before you go public. Take a lesson from the restaurant industry, which makes a practice of opening a new restaurant with a “soft launch” for friends and family. During that period, delays in the kitchen and wait staff fumbles can be identified and corrected, before the restaurant opens to the public.

Make sure your marketing materials are complete. One of the first things a reporter or prospect will do is visit your website. You want it – and any other collateral materials – to be up-to-date and complete. It’s often worth delaying a launch until the website reflects the new company or offering.

Be sure you can clearly explain the benefit that customers will enjoy from the new company or product. In order for you to announce something is “new,” be prepared to explain what’s different or better for customers. Sometimes a product upgrade is nothing more than a tweak – but if that tweak dramatically decreases the amount of time your customer needs to spend completing a sales form, that is probably meaningful to them.

Recognize that content sharing can be powerful without media coverage. A good PR counselor will be honest in helping you assess the chances of media coverage for your announcement. But even if your product upgrade isn’t worthy of a review in WSJ.D or Re/code, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t meaningful to your customers and can’t be shared with them through your blog, a white paper, social media and more.

So, when it comes to launching your new product or business to the media, taking the time and necessary steps required to do it the right way is definitely worth the wait.

July 21, 2015

In Defense of the “Crazy Cat Lady”

By Megan Keohane, 9:00 am

Most of you rePhoebe the cat at workading this know that Buchanan Public Relations is a dog-friendly office. And while everyone here appreciates canine cuddles, you may not know that about half of us are just as, if not more, obsessed with cats. In fact, I’ve brought my feline friend, Phoebe, into the office on several occasions (I mean, come on, how cute is she?).

And, we’re not alone. If you work in PR, you likely spend a fair amount of time on social media. So, you must know that cat memes are all the rage. And earlier this month, a study of 7,000 internet users performed by Computers in Human Behavior even revealed that watching cat videos might actually be good for you.

So, for your viewing pleasure, here are a few cats whose expressions describe some typical situations in PR – I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

1.  When you’ve been in a pitching rut and finally get an interview request

cute white brown cat

2.  What you feel like after sending a clip and your client says, “This is great!”

Cat getting jiggy

3.  When a reporter says, “I might be interested. Can you send more info?” and then disappears

Peek a boo cat

4.  Sending different announcements for a handful of clients in the same day

cat in disguises

5.  When you discover your work BFFs are just as weird as you

strange cat walk

6.  When you’re put on a new account, you are really excited about, and they want to make a big splash

ready for anything cat

7.  2:59 p.m. during summer Fridays

countdown to summer friday

 8.  Working with the coolest co-workers on the planet

cat bffs in summer sunglasses

July 8, 2015
June 26, 2015

A Beginner’s Guide to Office Feng Shui

By Rachel Neppes, 3:19 pm

It’s been an exciting week at Buchanan Public Relations – we’ve moved into our new office in Bryn Mawr. Actually, today is our first day in the new space.

feng-shui-office-desk-bagua-applicationSo as we’re all busy unpacking and getting settled in, it seemed appropriate to focus this blog post on office feng shui.

We all know the tremendous impact that our surrounding environments play on our wellbeing and state of mind. In the workplace, especially, where we spend so much of our time, don’t we owe it to ourselves to have a well-designed and organized workspace?

But feng shui is about more than just making sure your space is aesthetically pleasing and that things are in the right place; it’s designing and placing belongings in order to provoke a deeper psychological response.

With a clean slate and the smell of fresh paint and new carpet still lingering in the air, I, for one, plan to put some of these feng shui principles into action. Hopefully they’ll inspire you, too.

Placing your desk: Feng shui experts say that ideally your desk should be placed directly opposite from the front door of your office. If that’s not possible, place a small mirror on your desk to reflect the office’s entrance. The rationale? It’s a commanding position. This arrangement offers protection and symbolizes seeing opportunities that present themselves to you throughout your career.

Arranging your belongings on your desk: The first step is taking the time to keep your desk surface organized and decluttered. But beyond that, where you place your belongings can have a big impact on your mental outlook. Here are a few pointers.

  • Place a plant or a valuable item on the back left corner of your desk. It represents prosperity.
  • Put your business cards or nameplate in the center, back position on your desk. This position represents fame and reputation.
  • The right, center position is dedicated to creativity. Any piece of art or decoration that evokes creativity can be placed there. But, for instance, if you’re a writer, this is the ideal place to put a book or journal.

Lighting: The ideal office lighting, according to feng shui principles, should be soft. Take advantage of natural light wherever possible. Brightly lit lights can cause glare as well as promote irritability.

Artwork and imagery: Surround yourself with images and objects that inspire creativity and productivity. Add flowers, art and personal photos. Hang mottos and images that symbolize your aspirations. Choose furniture and accessories that represent prosperity, abundance and success.

Color choices: Different colors have different meanings. Choose splashes of color that represent your personality, the type of work you do and career goals. For instance, red and purple represent vitality, and are good choices for attracting new business. Yellow, on the other hand, evokes tranquility and positivity, making it an ideal color to offset a dark space or counteract a surrounding area that’s chaotic and loud.

If you’re looking for more feng shui office design tips, there are an abundance of resources on the Internet. Here are a couple of good ones I found.

Here’s to a healthy, happy and successful work life!

 

June 18, 2015

Squashing Stress at Work

By Jen Tedeschi, 10:12 am

stress worriesThere’s one challenge that all public relations practitioners face at some point: stress. It’s not surprising that being a PR executive was listed as the sixth most stressful job by Forbes in 2014. With its demanding deadlines, long hours and need to manage expectations of multiple clients, stress is something that naturally comes along with the profession.

I would be lying if I said I don’t secretly enjoy the pressure that comes with working in this industry. I would be bored without it, and I’m sure many of my fellow PR professionals would agree. However, how you handle that stress is extremely important. Becoming overwhelmed by it isn’t just bad for your productivity, but also for your health.

Next time you’re feeling anxious in the office, try incorporating these tips into your daily routine to help reduce stress and restore some tranquility.

  • Breathe. When we feel nervous or stressed, we tend to take shallow, quick breaths, which only exaggerates the problem. Instead, focus on taking deep breaths, completely filling your lungs. Bringing more oxygen into your body helps lower your heart rate and stabilize your blood pressure, allowing you to feel calmer.
  • Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance when you’re overwhelmed. While many of us are hesitant to tell our managers that our workloads are too heavy, having an impossible to-do list will only lead to mistakes and more stress. Asking for help shows that you care about the quality of your work and that you are able to set realistic expectations.
  • Organize your workspace. I always joke with my friends and family that you can tell how stressed I am at work by the condition of my desk. The crazier my schedule and deadlines are, the more unorganized my workspace becomes. However, clutter on your desk makes stress worse. Take a few minutes out of each day to keep your belongings and files organized. When I’m organized, I find myself feeling more relaxed and productive. 
  • Stay positive. Having negative, self-defeating thoughts distracts you from your work, drains your energy and increases your stress levels. If you can shift your mindset to a more positive outlook, it will be easier to tackle those tough situations. While this may be easier said than done, taking gradual steps to train your brain to think positively can make a huge difference. 
  • Take care of yourself. High amounts of stress can make you physically sick. Even when your to-do list is jam-packed, make sure you take the time to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and find some personal time for yourself. If you’re sick, go to the doctor. You won’t be able to produce quality work if you’re not well.

Keeping stress at bay requires awareness, commitment and the desire to make self-care a priority. But by taking the necessary steps to maintain a relaxed, focused and positive mindset, the results it yields will be well worth the effort.

What other tips do you have for managing stress at work?

June 11, 2015

The Importance of Disconnecting on Vacation

By Nicole Lasorda, 10:21 am

I just came back from vacation –  my first in five years to be exact (don’t ask, it’s a long story involving companies closing and new jobs). It was truly one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken, and it wasn’t just because it’s been so long – it was because I was completely focused on enjoying my time away, without worrying about what was happening at the office.

La Jolla Cove, San Diego, CaliforniaRecent studies reveal that only 25 percent of people use their paid vacation time, and a whopping 61 percent of those who take vacation do at least some work. That’s ridiculous! Vacation time is important for our mental, emotional and physical health.

I love my job, and I work hard, as I’m sure all of you do. But, it’s not healthy or productive to work 100 percent of the time. Having time to enjoy myself without the stress of worrying whether or not someone will reply to that email or if my coworker knows the answer to that question makes me a better employee, a better representative for my clients and a much happier person in general.

So, if you’re wondering how to get started disconnecting during your summer vacation, here are some of the things I did:

Plan it at a slow time. Because I work with many clients, I didn’t want to take my vacation at an especially busy time. So, I opted to plan my vacation around Memorial Day when most companies and reporters are pretty disconnected. It made my ability to disengage a little easier knowing most people would be checked out for the unofficial start of summer.

Put in a little extra work beforehand. I worked a few extra hours to ensure that all current work would be wrapped up and no one would have to jump into a project midstream. It made me a little insane trying to get ready for vacation, all while working longer hours, but in the end it was worth it.

Tell your clients. They’re human, too, and most understand the importance of vacation time. Let them know you’ll be gone, but that all work will be handled by a teammate – we don’t want them thinking no one will be paying attention to them, do we? My clients were all great about me taking vacation (because my clients are the best!), even if they did joke about not letting me go!

Create a “While I’m Gone” document. We’re in PR; nothing’s ever truly wrapped up, is it? Trying to stay one step ahead of the game, I created a document listing all of my clients and their current, or recently finalized projects. I met with my team members to discuss what was happening and where everything stood. There were a few items that popped up in my absence, but my teams (shout out their fabulousness!) were able to handle these instances without needing my input.

Disconnect. In order to disconnect, you have to disconnect! Sounds silly, right? Wrong. Ask your coworkers only to CC you on emails you’ll need when you come back. Turn off the emails on your phone – it’s easy to say, “I’ll just respond to this one,” but if they’re not coming at all, you can enjoy yourself. If necessary, put your phone on airplane mode. For example, it was my birthday while on vacation, and I knew a bunch of texts and Facebook notifications would pop through that day. So, I put my phone on airplane mode – that tiny button saved my battery, but didn’t kill the well wishes that would later come through!

While in San Diego (you were wondering the whole time, weren’t you?), I was able to relax, refresh and recharge. Now I’m off to plan my next disconnected vacation! How about you? Have any tips for going work-free on vacation?

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