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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?

June 3, 2015

On a Bicycle Built for Two

By Nancy Page, 10:11 am

What does a tandem bicycle have to do with public relations? Good communication.

My husband and I are avid cyclists. While we each own and frequently ride single bicycles, our favorite thing to do on weekends is to take our tandem out for a spin. We do the typical married couple thing – he’s the captain and I’m the stoker. And before you ask, yes, I do pedal. (Seriously, people, it’s time to think of some other witty remark to make to couples on a tandem.)

Bicycle Built for TwoFor those of you who have never had the pleasure of riding on a bicycle built for two, you need to understand something that may not be immediately evident. While we’re cruising down the highway I can’t see a single thing in front of me except my husband’s back. It’s a good thing I trust him! Obviously, he needs to talk to me or the ride could be my last. Picture hitting train tracks at 20 miles an hour without any notice. You can only hope to be holding on tight if it happens. Far better is fair warning from the guy up front. Bump coming! Or imagine a sudden downshift when you’re not expecting it. Whoops-a-daisy.

It all comes down to effective communication. Interestingly, given what I do for a living, I’ve noticed many similarities between best practices on a tandem and in the world of public relations.  Riders and clients alike appreciate it when you keep these points front and center:

  • Anticipation – keep your eyes on the road ahead and know what’s coming
  • Timeliness – warnings that come after the big bump are useless
  • Clarity – there’s a big difference between riding through a gentle swale and landing in a full-blown pothole
  • Steadiness – changes made on a last-second whim can be treacherous
  • Reliability – trust is the most important thing two people on a tandem share; clients and colleagues feel the same way
  • Integrity – make good decisions, and flaunt the rules of the road at your peril

The final observation I’d make about the similarity between riding a tandem and practicing public relations? In either case, be ready to go like a bat out of hell on the downhills and prepare yourself for the inevitable uphill challenge. Happy trails!

May 28, 2015

Spring Cleaning: Taking it to the Office

By Emily DiTomo, 4:16 pm

Each year around this time, I get the urge to purge my closets of old clothing, steam clean my carpets and scrub every surface in my home. As a Type-A PR practitioner, I often take this energy into my office, using a designated Friday afternoon to rid my desk of excess paper and computer of outdated files. Here are a few tips for making the office spring clean efficient, effective and – dare I say it – even fun:

  • Shredrowning in paper - helpd it and forget it. When it comes to spring cleaning around the office, there is no greater enemy than excess paper. Used Post-It notes, media clips from publications no longer in print and press kits dating back to the Bush administration are all keeping you from having a clean and orderly workspace. The answer? Take them to the office shredder. Be especially prudent to shred any documents that might contain sensitive client or confidential company information.
  • Death by email. It happens to all of us. We’re blindly typing away, responding to the 1,000th email of the day when, without warning, it flashes across our screen – that dire Microsoft Exchange message relaying the dreaded news: our mailbox is full. One of the best ways to avoid this catastrophe is to purge email on a regular basis. If that causes too much anxiety, how about earmarking one time a year to rid your Inbox of excess email? There are many ways to organize your electronic files for easy reference and fewer headaches. Find a system you like and stick with it – trust me, the payoff will be well worth it.
  • Carpets, desks and bookshelves, oh my! The averagedesktop contains 400 times more bacteria than a toilet  Yes, you read that statistic correctly! During spring cleaning, it’s important to remember that surfaces are just as important as paper and electronics when it comes to getting rid of dirt and grime. Run the vacuum, grab the glass cleaner and raid the office closet for the broom and dust pan. In no time, your office will be spic-and-span, and, just as importantly, you’ll be ready to start the season with vim and vigor.

Happy Spring!

May 14, 2015

How to Secure Media Coverage When There Are Fewer Journalists To Pitch

By Rachel Neppes, 1:05 pm
media pitching why won't journalists respond to my pitch

Source: SpinSucks.com

Anyone who practices public relations knows how competitive it has become to secure quality media coverage these days. This is the direct byproduct of a shrinking media landscape and the explosion of technology that is constantly inundating us with information from every direction.

But here’s another reason – more and more of the PR professionals vying for the same coverage are journalists themselves, some of them even Pulitzer Prize winners – among the most masterful communicators.

In his recent article, Washington Post Economic Policy Correspondent Jim Tankersley shared a startling statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: aside from a few major U.S. markets, like Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles, one out of every four reporting jobs vanished.

Meanwhile, total employment in PR has soared during the past decade. In 2004, the Labor Department reported that there were 166,210 public relations professionals in the U.S., whereas in 2014, that number grew to more than 208,000.

So how can today’s PR professionals make sure that their pitches resonate and break through, resulting in quality “ink” for the clients and companies they represent? Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Do your research: Even if you have a media contact database or research tool for finding journalists, use it only as a starting point when targeting your outreach. While it’s time-consuming, vetting your media contacts in advance is critical in order to avoid sending a misdirected or irrelevant pitch. Know who you’re pitching and what they cover beforehand.
  • Get to the point: Less is definitely more. You have just a few seconds to grab a reporter’s interest. When writing your next pitch, a good place to start is to approach it as if you are writing a 140-character tweet or an actual headline for the story that you’re proposing. This will force you to stay on point and keep your pitch as concise as possible.
  • Give the reporter time to respond: It is fine to follow-up after you’ve pitched a journalist, but give the idea time to resonate. As a general rule of thumb, it’s good to wait at least a couple of days before following up on your idea. And when you do follow up, have something new or interesting to say beyond – “I’m following up on a pitch I sent you about…”
  • Honor and respect the journalist’s decision to say no: Media relations is fraught with rejection. If your pitch gets turned down, don’t dwell on it. It won’t necessarily eliminate your possibility of ever working with that journalist again. You can always approach him or her again down the line with a more appealing story idea that may get accepted.
  • Focus on relationship building: When it comes to working with the media, relationship building is key. This is increasingly true as the journalism community keeps getting smaller. Get to know the reporters that you’re working with to find out what they need and how you can best help them. Remember, they have a job to do, just like you.
May 4, 2015

5 Tips for the Busy Career-Minded Millennial

By Megan Keohane, 2:35 pm

hashtagmillennialsI know, I know. I sensed the proverbial eye roll as soon as the word “millennial” was mentioned. Entitled, inexperienced, obsessed with selfies − millennials seem to be branded with this negative stigma. But, there are many young adults in the professional world working hard to advance their careers and make better lives for themselves. This post is for them.

I understand how overwhelming it can be to balance a full-time job (and maybe even a second job) while trying to “find your way” in the real world – buying/renting a house, considering marriage and kids, paying off student loan debt, etc. Sometimes, it can feel impossible. But, it’s not. As this Fast Company article describes, busy people often get more things accomplished.

Last week, BPR agency President Anne Buchanan – inspired by Arianna Huffington – explained the importance of countering a stress-filled life with taking care of our minds, bodies and souls. So, how do you take care of yourself in the midst of wanting/needing to accomplish everything else? Here are a few ways busy millennials can make it all happen:

  1. Plan Ahead

    This is something I still struggle with. But when I do plan ahead, I find that my day runs much more smoothly. Packing a lunch the night before, pulling out your outfit, making a life to-do list (e.g. call the doctor, pick up groceries, pay bills) and anticipating a block of “me time” can make a huge difference in how your day feels. When I don’t plan ahead, I find myself feeling panicked, more stressed and often less productive. Getting as many things in place ahead of time and having an understanding of what needs to be done can lighten a mood and make for a more productive day. That said…

  2. Remain Flexible

    Especially in PR, it can be tough to plan a firm work-life schedule when you don’t work a typical 9-5 job. So although you may know WHAT you have to accomplish, it helps to remain flexible about WHEN it will get done. For instance, you may plan to go for a run outside in the beautiful weather at 5:30 right after work. But then, you get pulled into a last minute event or meeting and that plan is shot. So what do you do? You can let a foul mood take over, or you can see that there are positive options. You may decide that you’ll run on the treadmill later, or even give yourself a pass and unwind with a glass of wine when you get home. Look forward to something different instead of harping on what can’t be changed.

  3. Celebrate the wins

    Signed a new client? Have a glass of bubbly. Placed your client in the New York Times? Take two minutes to do a happy dance. Cleared out your overflowing inbox? Pat yourself on the back. Every win – big or small – deserves to be celebrated. After all, these are the reasons we love our jobs, right? Sparking or maintaining a positive mood can make a huge difference in how effectively and efficiently other tasks get accomplished.

  4. Keep looking ahead

    This one is a biggie. Young adults often find themselves overworked and still unable to pay rent and bills. It can be a draining feeling to find you’re working as hard as you can, but still struggling to “make it.” Karma has a funny way of working out. If you keep being the best you can be, it will pay off. How many 20-somethings make six figures, live debt-free and only work 40 hours? It will get easier.

  5. Remain humble

    Especially as we advance in our careers, it can begin to feel like we know more than we really do. Remember that there is always something to learn and somebody to thank. You’ll be surprised and impressed with yourself when you see how much you can learn. And when you start feeling stuck, remember there is always someone who cares, is proud of you and more than happy to help. So even if it’s six weeks away and just for an hour, take time to see the family and friends who helped you become who you are today.

Any other tips for helping young adults navigate the ever-challenging work-life balance?

April 15, 2015

Thank You, Arianna Huffington

By Anne Buchanan, 10:03 am

I got eight hours of sleep last night.

And I have Arianna Huffington to thank for it.

Two nights ago, our entire team attended a World Affairs Council of Philadelphia event at which Arianna Huffington was the featured speaker. A political icon turned publisher – she’s co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Huffington Post – she certainly has plenty to say about world events, political affairs, pop culture and journalism.

Tweets arianna huffington world affairs council of philadelphia on redefining success

Instead, she delivered quite a different message, captured in her newest book Thrive (which we all left with a copy of).

Our current definition of success – measured by the salaries we receive and the size of the offices we inhabit – is killing us, she said. We are experiencing stress overload and burnout, and it’s hurting us and the ones we love.

Huffington said the pursuit of money and power is akin to constructing a stool with only two legs: At some point, it’s going to collapse, taking us down with it. What’s needed, she argued, is a third leg of the stool – one that is dedicated to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

She specifically recommended three antidotes to our stress-filled lives: more sleep, regular meditation and gratitude.

As is often the case when such wise words are delivered, they came to me in the midst of an extraordinarily stressful time.

So, when I arrived home last night, after four consecutive 12-hour days involving three major presentations, I decided to honor the weariness of my body and spirit. Instead of heading to the gym, I ate dinner, drank a glass of red wine, and headed up to bed.

Thank you, Arianna.

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