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July 20, 2017

Own Your Story: 4 Key Lessons from Public Relations

By Joe Cerrone, 10:47 am

There’s no such thing as a normal day for public relations professionals. From drafting press releases and pitching the media to managing social media accounts and responding to crises, our work varies according to client needs and many factors beyond our control.Image result for megaphone

At first glance, many of our day-to-day activities may seem unrelated, such as advising clients during a crisis and developing entertaining graphics to share on social media. Yet, there is a thread that ties together all the work we do, glue that binds the various aspects of our profession—helping others own their stories and tell them.

First and foremost, owning your story means getting in the field. We often counsel prospective new clients considering a public relations program that sitting on the sidelines means sacrificing the opportunity to speak for yourself. While tactics and strategies may differ on issues such as which mediums to use and how to engage with each audience, they are all designed to allow you to take control of your own story.

Just as crucial as agreeing to get in the game is determining a strategy—which means understanding yourself and developing a message. This phase of the process is naturally self-reflective and allows you to deeply assess your company’s mission and decide how you wish to be perceived. All that follows —content creation, interviews, social media—flows from first determining for yourself what your story is.

There are many challenges that firms face throughout this process, but it is important to take risks and meet your audience where they are. For example, many companies have trepidation about launching a social media presence, but if your customer base is active on social media it’s important to speak to them there. Moving outside of your comfort zone to amplify your message is vital in owning it where it counts.

Fully developing and actively owning your story takes time, but it’s important to always push forward. Don’t become discouraged if a particular strategy or effort is less fruitful than expected—take both successes and disappointments in stride and be sure to learn from them.

Although presented in the context of businesses, these lessons can be applied at the individual level as well. Each of us has a story to tell—one that explains who we are, what we value and how we view the world around us. From personal and professional interactions to social media activity—we can all benefit from these key PR lessons.

Own your story.

July 11, 2017

Snapchat Vs. Instagram Stories – Which Is Better For Your Business?

By Megan Keohane, 11:34 am

Full disclosure: I began writing this post about how Instagram Stories are better for businesses than Snapchat based on the level of engagement they can elicit from consumers. Then halfway through my draft, Snapchat released its most recent update, allowing users to include website links in snaps. Game. Changer.

Given how quickly these platforms are changing, let’s do a side-by-side comparison – as of this writing – of how these two social networks stack up from a marketing and business perspective. Here are some of the key differences between the two.

Snapchat:

  • Before July 5, 2017, the only way users could link followers directly to a website was through paid ads. Now, any Snapchat user can add a link directly into snaps, increasing organic traffic.
  • The general feeling of Snapchat is more “raw” – users tend to feel that it’s the most instant and genuine.
  • Users can create custom Geofilters to use for a set location and amount of time. This can certainly aid in brand visibility, especially when used in conjunction with an event or special occasion.
  • Snapchat stories are ordered by the most recent ones. Thus, if your brand is posting often, your stories are more likely to be shown at the top, gaining more visibility.
  • Snapchat is more challenging in terms of building a following. Followers have to be sought, and the Snapchat account usually has to be promoted through other social accounts in order for users to seek it out.
  • Consider the audience. Snapchat has a higher ratio of millennial users.

Instagram:

  • You can add URL links to stories – but only if the account is verified.
  • Users can be tagged in stories.
  • In contrast to Snapchat’s more raw and casual feel, Instagram stories tend to be better curated and more stylized.
  • Building an Instagram following is a bit simpler through standard posts, hashtags and targeted campaigns. More followers = more views.
  • Similarly, Instagram users with more followers will have stories that appear sooner than those with fewer followers. Unlike Snapchat, Instagram stories are not ordered by most recent.
  • Users can add a location tag at the exact place the photo or video is taken – which can come in handy when promoting events.
  • While Snapchat has a higher ratio of millennial users, Instagram has more users overall – most recently hitting 700 million monthly users.

As far as which one is right – it really depends. Many businesses feel more comfortable with Instagram. But, if your target audience is 18-22, Snapchat is where it’s at.

Which one do you prefer?

June 28, 2017

PR 101: 4 Public Relations Tips Every Brand Needs to Remember

By Nicole Lasorda, 11:38 am

As PR people, it’s in our nature to be hyper-sensitive to the issues and possible outcomes in every situation (I’m pretty sure this is why my friends think I’m a pessimist). We take each scenario and run through all the positive and negative implications, thinking about ways to either capitalize on or minimize the impact after the announcement.

This skill is critical for a good public relations representative. Oftentimes, companies and individuals don’t consult their communications teams before moving forward with an idea, even though this should be the first step! Today it’s all about being first, so people and companies all move quickly to be the first to get their “creative” idea or “funny” joke to the public, but forget to get a second opinion or consider the consequences.

So, for those who either don’t have a communications team or are simply looking for a few pointers, here are four things that PR people always remember (and help our clients remember, too):

1. Nothing is truly “off the record” – Just because you tell the reporter something is off the record or your microphone is turned off, don’t think that means what you say can’t come back to haunt you later. The information will always be in the back of the reporter’s mind, so you need to be comfortable with anything you say.

2. If your company is going to take a position on a controversial subject, be prepared to lose customers – There will always be a group of people who disagree with what you say. So even if you think you’re on the “good” side, you’re going to alienate those on the “bad” side and vice versa. It’s important to remember that if your company takes a political, cultural or religious stance, you will need to be ready for the blowback.

3. If you’re going to share controversial personal opinions, be prepared for backlash, including potential job loss – The celebrity and sports worlds are rife with examples of personal opinions that have tarnished reputations. However, this doesn’t mean only high-profile figures can be affected by controversial statements. So, learn a lesson from the unfortunate souls who’ve lost jobs, endorsements and credibility after speaking their minds.

4. Your company doesn’t need to speak during somber holidays – Memorial Day isn’t the kick off to summer and 9/11 isn’t a time for your company to market itself (yes, this does happen). No one will ever question why a company didn’t mention the anniversary of a somber event, but they will remember your attempt to capitalize on it as distasteful.

Even if you’re a one-woman-shop, it’s important to have someone in the communications field on your side – and I’m not just saying that because it’s what I do. You need a professional who can help you understand the intricacies of brand awareness – both good and bad. But, if that’s not in your budget right now, these four tips will help you get on the right track.

PR people – what are your thoughts? Did I miss anything?

June 20, 2017

PR in Court: How to Protect your Firm During Client Lawsuits

By Amanda Mueller, 12:22 pm

You may want to think twice before sending that email to your crisis client. Recently, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that a company’s correspondence with its public relations firm with regard to legal advice is not protected under attorney-client privilege, which may leave your agency open to legal problems of its own.

In BouSamra v. Excela Health, the court ruled that emails regarding the development of a public statement, and the decision to cite names, between communications firm Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock and Excela Health were not protected in regards to suits filed by two doctors who had been accused of performing unnecessary procedures.

The courts may use two different types of legal tests to determine if communications with a media firm are protected. The first is the necessity test. Courts will evaluate the case and determine whether or not correspondence with a public relations firm is necessary to provide legal advice or an adequate defense. The second test is the functional equivalence test. This guideline helps the court decide whether the public relations firm is fulfilling a role that an internal employee might otherwise perform. If the court finds that the firm performed the function of a necessary employee, then the communications may be privileged.

So how can PR firms protect themselves? Because laws differ from state to state, there is no single strategy that will guarantee safety. However, there are a few steps that media relations consultants can take to decrease their chances of becoming involved in a lawsuit.

1. CC your client’s attorneys on all emails. By involving your client’s attorney in all communication, you can ensure that client-attorney privilege is activated simply by involving both parties. If your client sends you an email of sensitive nature but does not include the attorney, add the attorney to the email chain. It is better to be safe than sorry.

2. Enter the client relationship through the law firm instead of the client. If a law firm directly engages PR representation for the case instead of the client initiating the relationship, it may be more likely that the court will consider communications with a PR firm a necessary component to legal advice and defense. This is a good example of the necessity test.

3. Hire personal representation, and include them on all correspondence. If all else fails and you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation pertaining to a client’s legal issues, you will have a first line of defense and someone who can help guide you through the legal maze.

None of these options are full-proof, but today’s PR firms need to be proactive about their legal protections and rights. Since there is no pre-existing legislation in place that dictates proper legal proceedings when it comes to electronic correspondence between PR firms and their clients, if firms do not advocate for themselves, then who will protect them in the court of law when clients face an ethical dilemma?

 

June 12, 2017

From a Past Intern…

By Staff, 12:59 pm

Katie Dillon, a rising-senior at The George Washington University, was a member of the Buchanan internship program last summer. Katie is pursuing a double major in Women’s Studies and Journalism. We recently received this nice letter from her, which mentions how much of a help our program was as she begins a new internship in New York.

I hope you are both doing well and that the rest of the team at Buchanan is too. I actually recently moved to New York City for the summer and I just started my internship at Cognito Media, a financial and tech PR firm, in downtown Manhattan. I just wanted to reach out and say thank you for giving me such an amazing experience last summer. I’m only about a week into this new role but I’ve already done so many things that I was only first exposed to last summer at BPR. If it weren’t for everyone being so kind and teaching me all the basics (from media lists to pitches) I wouldn’t feel as confident as I do right now in this new environment. I love seeing all of your updates on Facebook and I miss being in a pet friendly workplace surrounded by cute dogs and cats all day! Again, thank you so much again for giving me the opportunity to work for such a great company last summer and I wish you all the best – tell everyone hello from me!

Katie (left) with her friend at a Taylor Swift Concert.

May 31, 2017

Career Study at Buchanan PR: How It Impacted Me

By Staff, 2:16 pm

– Gabby Guarnaccia

High school is one of the most important times in a person’s life. It is full of learning new things, discovering yourself and experiencing new opportunities. As a senior this year, I have been pushed to try as many new experiences and opportunities as I can before I head off for college. This includes being encouraged to participate in a program at my high school called Career Study. That’s how I ended up here, at Buchanan Public Relations.

At my school, a privilege that comes with being a senior is that we can get out of school early if we do an internship known as Career Study. Most seniors take advantage of this as it is a unique offer that allows for a change in the routine we have come to repeat since the first day of Kindergarten. Instead of rising before the sun does and rushing to make it to homeroom, I get to spend time in the “real world,” as teachers often call it, and learn what it is like to work in the field I intend to study. It is interesting to see what my classmates chose to do and what different paths the people I have walked the halls with every day will now head down.

When I told people where I was going to do my Career Study, I was often asked what made me choose Buchanan PR. I told everyone that after doing my research, I learned about Buchanan PR’s excellent reputation, extremely friendly culture and its intriguing client list.

I sent an email to the address I found on the website, not expecting an answer back but figured it was worth a shot. I already had another internship opportunity I could rely on if I didn’t hear back, but felt like I just needed to try something different. Luckily, VP Nicole replied rather quickly, and here I am today!

As I begin my final week at Buchanan PR, I have learned many lessons that will help me for years to come in both school and my career. I am thankful to walk away with another experience to add to my resumé, but there is much more to it than that. After this, I am confident in my decision to pursue the field that I am. During my college search, I switched majors a few times before making the final decision. Now, I have peace that I made the right choice. Learning the key facts and foundation for the PR industry before studying it will benefit me in so many ways. I am confident that I will walk into class and not feel lost because of what I have learned during this experience. I will be able to understand when the professor mentions a media list or a pitch and be more confident in my studies and career, and that is all thanks to Buchanan Public Relations.

 

About Gabby Guarnaccia

I am finishing up my senior year at Perkiomen Valley High School. I was a dancer for about ten years, played volleyball for 8 years, and even tried my hand at boxing. I love reality TV, social media, pop culture and fashion. After graduation, I plan to have an amazing last summer with all my friends before leaving for New York City to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. My intended major is Advertising & Marketing Communications. I hope to be able to study abroad in London, and after college, I’d like to either stay in New York City or move to another big city. I would absolutely love to work at a pop culture network such as E! or a magazine, but I will be open to any opportunity that comes my way.

May 24, 2017

5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Writing

By Staff, 12:22 pm

– Alex Harris

Writing, like public relations, is a craft. One that constantly changes, improves and develops. Many still think that more words are better. Perhaps this stems from school days when teachers would assign word/page minimums. However, I’d be willing to bet that almost everyone would rather read a clear, concise article that gets straight to the point.

For years, I’ve used words without realizing they are “bad,” or, rather, weak and ineffective. Turns out many of these words fly under the radar, but eliminating them often makes all the difference.

As a rule of thumb, overused words should be replaced with specific, lesser-used words. Overused words lose their power due to semantics and general everyday use, i.e., context.

Types of language that come off as weak writing may surprise you, but staying away from these common words is sure to give your writing a facelift.

1. Avoid boring words. Some weak words include good, bad, was/is/are, thing and stuff. Other words like interesting, big, many, awesome and great should be avoided, as well. How big is big? Almost anything can be described as “interesting” or “great.” Words like compelling, intriguing and awe-inspiring, for example, are effective alternatives.

2. … Except with dialogue: With every rule comes an exception. Using strong verbs to show dialogue can detract from the dialogue itself. Some of these include: whispered, exclaimed, yelled, murmured. While these words have their place, we as readers are so accustomed to the word ‘said’ that anything else might distract from the larger point.

3. Active instead of passive. We commonly use passive voice when we speak. For example, “The papers will be written by her.” Instead, “She will write the papers,” gets straight to the point without weak passive language. A simple trick is to start sentences with the subject before the action/verb. Avoid terms like have been, will be, was, etc.

4. Only use “-ing” verbs as needed. Many editors recommend removing -ing verbs. This suggestion stems from the common use of general verbs (e.g., was/is/are) in conjunction with -ing verbs. For example, “Johnny was running fast” is less powerful than “Johnny sprinted.” While -ing verbs are necessary, replacing them with specific verbs when possible makes a significant difference.

5. Minimize adverbs. Stephen King states in his memoir, On Writing, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” When you think about it, sentences should demonstrate what adverbs tell. For example, “the day was very warm” sounds stronger as “the day scorched on,” or “the sun beat down.”

While these tips provide some guidelines, writing is an art, not a science. The best way to tell if writing sounds weak or strong is by reading it out loud, keeping an eye out for weaker language.

May 16, 2017

Three Reasons Your PR Firm Should Make Friends

By Joe Cerrone, 10:27 am

It’s easy to see business as a zero-sum game, dominated by competition between firms to secure limited resources and the best clients. However, one of the most beneficial things you can do to inject new ideas and a fresh perspective into your business is to interact with other professionals in the field – basically, you should make some friends.

As a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network, Buchanan Public Relations has always appreciated the value in sharing best practices with others in the industry. In addition to President Anne Buchanan’s frequent participation in
local networking events and international gatherings, last month a contingent representing all levels of the staff at Buchanan PR paid a visit to Abel Communications in Baltimore for a day of idea sharing and mutually-beneficial brainstorming. As a similarly-sized firm in a different market, this was a great opportunity to showcase our strengths and work together to solve some of our shared challenges.

While much was learned during our day-long visit, here are three of the most salient benefits from making friends with another PR firm.

Compare Style and Structure

Heading down to Baltimore, we knew that the overall staff size and company profile of Abel Communications were very similar to our own. But once we arrived, we were able to dig past these external similarities to identify several ways in which our companies are structured differently. From small administrative tasks such as how to report to clients all the way to the structure of Abel’s in-house video and creative teams, we gained fantastic insight and valuable lessons by sharing how we each run our offices in a different way.

Reveal Challenges and Solutions

While all businesses face challenges, those encountered by small public relations firms tend to be very similar. Issues surrounding pitching new business, onboarding staff members and managing the day-to-day running of a company (including timekeeping systems and the internal technology suite) all demand time and attention. Sharing best practices and identifying how Buchanan PR and Abel address similar problems with different solutions allowed us to engage in creative problem solving and view these issues from a new and insightful perspective.

Share Your Mission

In addition to the tangible benefits of sharing our different areas of expertise and educating each other on our business practices, the opportunity to engage with other professionals who share our overarching mission was refreshing. Discussing our favorite projects and innovative ways to tell our clients’ stories allowed us to see the goal posts at the end of the field and remember the importance of the work we do.

These are only three of the many benefits Buchanan PR has gained from interacting with other public relations firms. Whether in PR or not, what other business lessons have you learned from “making friends” in your industry?

May 1, 2017

PR Pros, It’s Time to Pay Up: #SubscribeToTruth

By Anne Buchanan, 10:22 am

For those of us in the profession of public relations, the rise of fake news and the attacks on legitimate media outlets have been deeply disturbing.

The Code of Ethics developed by our industry’s leading professional association, PRSA, calls out honesty as one of six, key professional values that its members uphold:

We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.

PRSA recently went a step further and issued this strongly worded statement condemning alternative facts.

This increasingly hostile environment for journalists comes on top of an already financially-challenged reality for many news outlets.

The stressed state of the journalism industry has pushed me to think about my moral and ethical duty as a public relations professional: What can and should I be doing to support truthfulness and excellent journalism?

Journalists go places we can’t (or won’t) go. Their mission is to report the truth. Inconveniently for them, Truth doesn’t always show up and sit down to be interviewed. Truth often skips news conferences. Truth frequently remains in the shadows, or hangs out in far-off, dangerous places. In fact, Truth is sometimes held hostage, or wounded, even killed.

Journalism hunts Truth down – sometimes aggressively, sometimes patiently – and ushers it into the light. The work of journalists brings Truth to our doorstep, our mobile device, our radio.

I used to believe it was enough to honor that process by simply being a prodigious consumer of the news.

Then I became convinced that I needed to become a vocal activist for journalism and a defender of the Fourth Estate.

I still do both. But now, I think there is something more that is required of public relations professionals (actually, by all of us, but most certainly those of us in the field of PR).

We must actively participate in the underwriting of the free and independent press we claim to support.

We need to be paid subscribers.

It’s no longer enough just to consume it. We need to pay for it.

It’s awfully easy to rely on Google alerts and social media to believe we are “up” on the news (that’s a whole, other blog post right there). But what does that type of news “consumption” do to advance strong journalism?

If we truly believe the powerful words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, then we owe it to ourselves, our profession, our employees, our clients, and our fellow Americans to do everything in our power to protect the principles they stand for.

And that, for me, means paying for access to great journalism, and paying to keep fine journalists searching for and reporting truth.

A free press carries a high price tag. We as PR professionals should lead by example in demonstrating how much we value it – and what we’re willing to pay to ensure its survival. #SubscribeToTruth

This post originally appeared on the Public Relations Global Network’s blog.

April 25, 2017

PR Lessons to Learn from United Airlines Crisis

By Jen Tedeschi, 12:17 pm

As most of you already know, United Airlines recently suffered a self-made disaster that left us PR pros with nightmares. What started as damning footage surfacing of a man being violently dragged off a flight, snowballed into a highly-publicized crisis that, ultimately, could have been avoided. In fact, I wrote a blog post a few months ago about why honesty is the best policy when it comes to crisis communications, and United’s situation is a perfect example.

Now that the dust is beginning to settle, it’s important for all companies to use this dilemma as a lesson on what to do, and what not to do, when facing a PR crisis. Here are a few takeaways from United’s debacle:

  • Say you’re sorry, and mean it. One of United’s biggest mistakes during this crisis was initially deflecting any responsibility for the incident. From the company’s first statement, to the CEO’s “apology” and letter to employees, United’s attempt to distance itself from the issue ended up causing more backlash. Owning up to a mistake will help the audience remember no one is perfect and make it easier for them to forgive you.
  • Get your message out quickly. When United’s CEO finally released a heartfelt apology, more than a day had passed since the news first broke. That long delay gave reporters control over the story and increased the sense of outrage and distrust among customers. Responding to a crisis right away will help you gain control of the narrative before it’s too late.
  • Show what you’ve learned from the incident. Since the news broke about this crisis, United has stayed relatively silent about what it will do to prevent similar situations moving forward. Creating an action plan to resolve these issues in the future shows that you truly care about your customers’ well-being.

Although it’s impossible to avoid mistakes completely, having a good communications plan can make it easier for your brand to bounce back from a crisis and not follow in United’s footsteps.

What other tips do you have for responding to a PR crisis?

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