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Anne-a-Grams

February 9, 2016

The Curse of the Baby Face – It’s My Baby Face, And I’ll Cry if I Want To

By admin, 12:32 pm

— Blair Kahora Cardinal & Nicole Lasorda

Vogue recently posted a story, I Don’t Look My Age and It’s Starting to Get Awkward, and it struck a chord with us; so much so, that we were talking about it for a couple of days. Our conversations always started a little something like this:

Blair: In college, I went skiing with a big group of friends, and the sales person gave me the “16 and under” price. I was 21 years old. And yes, I took it.

Nicole: Oh yeah, well, I went prom dress shopping with my sister and the sales associate said, “So, let’s find you two some dresses. You guys are going to have the best prom ever!” I was 33.

Blair: Ok, then there was the time a TSA officer offered me an escort through the airport.  I was confused, and when I asked why I’d need one, she said, “We like to walk everyone under 13 to their gates.” I was 20.

Nicole: Well I was denied entry into a bar at 31 years old because the bouncer insisted my ID was fake.

Nicole Lasorda _ and Blair Kahora Cardinal

Nicole Lasorda – left; Blair Kahora Cardinal – right

We are both in our mid-to-late 30s and often get mistaken for early-to-mid 20s.

We’re no strangers to the chorus of “Appreciate it while you still can,” “You’ll love it when you’re older,” and our absolute favorite, “Wah, wah, wah! Must be a nice problem to have.”

The scenarios we described above are amusing, but when they trickle over into a professional backdrop, it’s not so funny. Ageism is one of those words most often associated with an older generation, but it also happens when you have a face that looks 10 to 15 years younger than it is. And no, it doesn’t help when you wear a sensible suit with heels, hide behind a pair of glasses, put on lipstick, get a “mom ‘do,” lower the tone of your voice, speak more slowly, sit up straight—you get the idea. Why? Because people can still see your face.

We’re Assistant Vice Presidents with added titles (Blair is also Director of Media Relations, Nicole is Co-Manager of Digital Strategy). We’ve got a serious amount of experience under our belts and run very successful campaigns for our clients. However, we often get looks of “You’re so young you couldn’t understand,” or worse.

We’re not going to give you tips on ways to appear older, because clearly we haven’t mastered that technique. Instead, we’re going to make some suggestions for everyone who actually looks their age:

  1. Some Jokes Aren’t Funny

Think twice before making a joke like, “Do you even know what a typewriter is?” or “I have socks older than you.” While said in jest, these backhanded comments serve only to undermine a person’s professional status. You’re not-so-secretly telling the person—and everyone else participating in the meeting—that you don’t think she’s experienced enough to lead your account.

  1. A Third-Party Enforcer

If a new business prospect or current client makes an ageist joke about one of your employees, we urge you to come to his rescue. Please correct the offender in a respectful and light-hearted manner. Maybe something like, “Well, Mary’s first job required her to fax pitches to newsrooms, something we haven’t done for about 12 years now!” You want them to know you brought your A team for show and tell anyway, right? We worry that if we do it ourselves with an “I look a lot younger than I am,” we will seem defensive or whiney, neither of which helps our cause.

  1. Communication is your Friend

If you (as a potential client) are genuinely concerned about whether or not a person is old enough to handle your account, we suggest you don’t announce it in the middle of the meeting. Try, instead, to discern how much experience the employee has through questions about the types of work she’s done. This will not only allow you discover an approximate age but also give you a chance to see how killer your new account rep really is. And remember, our agency brings the people best-suited for an account to a new business meeting, so there’s a reason we’re sitting across the table.

  1. We Lied

We said we were giving tips to those who look their age. But, for those of you like us, here’s a tip: Just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep rocking your game. By continuing to do your job well, you don’t need to look your age. In fact, when people lower their expectations it’s all the more opportunity for you to blow it out of the water.

We’re not complaining about our looks. Believe us, we know how lucky we are. We’ll take the junior discount to the senior discount any day. But we want to be taken seriously, just like everyone else. Put yourself in our totally fabulous shoes for a minute: what if every time you met a potential client she questioned your ability to do your job – not because you didn’t have a portfolio of great work to show, but simply because you looked too young to do it. Being undermined is definitely not a perk of the baby face.

February 2, 2016

Tables Turned: When the Media Trainer Becomes an Interview Source

By Anne Buchanan, 9:37 am

The big news on the East Coast last week was the blizzard. But at Buchanan Public Relations, we experienced another flurry of activity of a different nature – one that reminded me why we invest so much time in helping clients prepare for a media interview.

When it LA Times coverwas all over, I found myself quoted in a front page article in the Los Angeles Times.

But the process of getting from “Initial Media Inquiry” to “Published” was a circuitous one, full of good learning about preparation and reminders about the unpredictability of news.

Last Friday afternoon, just hours from the arrival of Winter Storm Jonas, I received a phone message from a reporter at the Los Angeles Times. She was working on a story about the Oscars diversity crisis confronting the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Would I be willing to share my thoughts on what the Academy should do?

I must confess, my first thought was mild dismay: I didn’t have time for this, nor did I feel particularly well qualified for the assignment.

But here’s Tip # 1 we share in Media Training: You’ve got to make media relations a priority if you want to succeed at it. Reporters will call at inconvenient times and are often on deadline. Make the time to respond – quickly, before they locate another source.

I called the reporter back. She was happy to hear from me and launched right into questions. Which is where I put Tip # 2 into practice. I asked if I could call her back in 20 minutes, if her deadline permitted. And, could she give me a sense of what she wanted from me so I could be as thoughtful as possible in responding?

(Tip # 2: Whenever possible, buy yourself a few minutes to ponder the question(s) and think about your response. Develop your Key Messages. Do your homework before the interview.)

When I called her back, our entire office had crowdsourced ideas and checked recent news coverage.

In my interview with her, I was able to employ the Key Messages we had developed. In an effort to be memorable, I advised the Academy to borrow a page from the business world’s playbook: Assemble a diverse task force to quickly make concrete recommendations to the Academy. The Academy was in crisis, I said, and it needed to take swift action, not just talk about the problem.

(During the interview, I suddenly remembered another tip we share with clients: Stand up when you’re giving a phone interview. It adds energy to your voice and literally helps you think on your feet. Up I lunged!)

All good. Reporter was happy. I was exhausted but pleased. We hung up and I returned to client work.

Thirty minutes later, another truism of Media Training manifested itself: Be prepared for the news to change – and for “your” story to get bumped.

The reporter emailed, apologizing that the original story had just been supplanted by the Academy’s announcement of massive changes: It would double female and minority membership in the Academy by 2020 and set “term limits” on members’ ability to vote.

But, the reporter wrote, she would still be interested in my take on the moves announced by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

It was impressive stuff.

I sat down to type my response. (Cue up Tip # 5: Being “interviewed” by email actually gives you a lot of control. But – Tip # 6 – make sure it’s compelling content. You typically get one shot at a written response.)

I considered the reporter’s appreciation of my earlier comments about the Academy’s crisis. I reflected on my original Key Message about action – not just talk – being needed. And I thought about what we counsel clients: Don’t just say something is good or bad; tell readers why it’s that way. Interpret the meaning behind the announcement.

A quick paragraph, summarizing my thoughts, was emailed to the reporter.

Late that night, after we had battened down the hatches and were listening to the storm howl outside, I checked my phone one last time. And there it was. An article in the Los Angeles Times about the Academy’s moves. (The next day, we learned it was on page 1 of the paper.) Near the end of the article were these two paragraphs.

Some of the academy’s older members are likely to be upset by the speed of the change, though public relations experts said the board had no choice but to act fast.

“When an organization is in the middle of a full-blown crisis, as the academy was, it must take swift and immediate action to stem reputational loss,” said Anne Buchanan of Buchanan Public Relations. “That’s what the academy did today. It translated its commitment to diversity into bold action. Equally impressive was the way it went about it. The academy is not only striving to invite more outsiders in; it is also attempting to reform itself from the inside out.”

I went to bed that night with newfound appreciation for clients who are new to working with the media – along with a fresh perspective on why media training is so crucial.

January 26, 2016

Weighing the Risks and Rewards of Using Social Media for News Sourcing

By admin, 9:00 am

Long gone are the days when rustling through a newspaper with ink-stained fingers was the only way to get the news. Throughout the 20th century, advancements such as radio and television drastically changed the way we created and consumed news. Then came the Internet during the past two decades, representing possibly the largest shift to date. Yet the technological forefront of communications is now being disrupted once again, with the rise of social media.

social mediaWhile often viewed as a millennial fad, the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms is spreading across all age groups and demographics, accounting for an increasing amount of news consumption. A 2015 study by the Media Insight Project found that 88 percent of millennials say they get some news from Facebook, with 57 percent of those respondents reporting they do so daily. Furthermore, 40 percent of all Americans say they sometimes get news from social media, including 60 percent of those aged 30-39 and 40 percent of 40-59 year-olds.

Although social media is infiltrating more and more of our daily lives, relying on it to get our news poses risks as well as rewards. Using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms for news sourcing places limitless information, literally, at our fingertips, but also challenges us to rethink the way we consume news and judge the value of what we read.

With that in mind, here are some of the pros and cons of using social media for news sourcing.

PROS:

Simplicity
One of the clearest advantages of getting the news from social media is its easy access. The accessibility of social networks across devices makes them easy to use on the go and one of the most convenient ways to read news.

Personalization
Instead of flipping through several newspapers or jumping between various websites, social media allows us to aggregate personalized news with the click of a button. By simply ‘liking’ or ‘following’ our favorite publications, reporters or trends, we can keep up-to-date on a variety of news coverage without any hassle.

Timeliness
Surely one of the most salient aspects of social media news sourcing is the timeliness of the coverage. Constantly updated Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds ensure that the news is actually “new” throughout the day.

Interaction
Engaging news issues on social media also allows us to interact with others within our networks. Sharing an article, liking someone else’s post or retweeting a link are great ways to start a conversation or to share information about topics we are interested in.

CONS:

Perspective
While social media allows us to develop our own personalized news feeds, this source is inherently limited. It can be very easy to isolate ourselves from news topics, opinions and perspectives we don’t like by simply choosing the ones that make us most comfortable. Therefore, it is important to avoid this short-sighted tendency and allow ourselves to encounter wider varieties of news on social platforms.

Abbreviation
It’s also vital to keep in mind that most news we encounter on social media is a stark abbreviation of the whole story. It is impossible to fit a profound explanation of a complex topic in 140 characters on Twitter or even in a Facebook post. This means the news encountered on these platforms requires further investigation and reading for us to be truly well-informed.

Interference
Although many of us use social media to get our news, that’s only one of the many functions of social media platforms. We tweet, post, Instagram and Snapchat to share our lives and experiences with others. So it’s important to recognize that using social media as a news source will include a lot of personal “interference” or “noise” that wouldn’t appear in more traditional news sources.

Reliability
Social media allows us to crowd source our news, gathering content from both professional and personal sources. While this approach has its advantages, it can also lead us to read and believe information that is either highly skewed or downright false. A critical perspective is required when judging the relevance, usefulness and accuracy of content found on social media platforms.

It is clear that when used properly, social media offers us a wealth of information that vastly improves our lives – in ways that previous generations never could have thought possible. Using social platforms to source news can bring great benefits to our lives, as long as we stop to consider both its advantages and limitations.

— Joe Cerrone, Intern

January 19, 2016
January 6, 2016

Confidence is Key

By admin, 9:00 am

Merriam-Webster’s definition of confidence is “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.”

Confidence is a quality in ourselves that is so important to have, yet few people are truly and completely confident.

confidenceThe often overused slogan, “fake it ‘til you make it” may be a cliché, but it’s true. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? We’ve all been there before, the first day at a new job or a first dance with a crush at the school formal. Questions start to race through your head: Do I belong here? Can I really do this job? What if I fail? It’s normal to have self-doubt, but in the real world, you can’t let these kind of worries preoccupy your mind and make you succumb to the belief that you aren’t good enough.

The public relations field is extremely demanding and fast-paced. Just ask any PR professional and they’ll tell you. A press release here, a media list there, having to meet multiple client demands and deadlines at any given notice. It’s not easy, but it’s never boring! But through all of the chaos, remaining as calm, collected and confident as possible is key.

Everyone thinks they can spot a confident person; their head is held high, they have a steady gaze, a firm handshake, and they walk into the room like they own it. But it’s quite possible that the super confident co-worker of yours also has moments when they’re shaking in their boots. Occasional anxiety here and there is normal and is actually a good thing—it keeps us on our toes.

Sometimes we all have to “fake it ‘til we make it,” but it’s ok. In fact, it’s human.

While it is important to believe in the people around you, it is more important to believe in yourself. You just might be surprised at the amazing things you can accomplish when you’re confident.

Practicing PR is all about grace under pressure, so keep your head held high and eyes on the prize.

— Megan Lydon, Intern

December 28, 2015
December 17, 2015

The Toddler: Crisis Management 101

By Blair Kahora Cardinal, 12:22 pm
Carmen

            Carmen aka Client

It’s 3 a.m., and I’m lying here in the dark, staring up at the ceiling. I’m sick and so exhausted that I’m not even sleepy anymore. My toddler, Carmen, half-sleeps across my neck, partially choking me, but I’m too afraid to wake him so I play opossum. It’s been a largely sleepless night for him so far, having awoken after only an hour and a half screaming for mommy.

Because this is uncharacteristic, I took him into bed with me to comfort him. But now, following hours of squirming in my arms, kicking my stomach, head-butting my face and crying his sad little tears, I can’t help but think to myself, “How did I let myself get here?” I’m better at crisis management than this.

  • What in tarnation? Why was Carmen having such a tumultuous night? Could it have been the enormous amount of beans he had for dinner giving him stomach pains? Was he on a sugar-high caused by the M&Ms I gave him as a reward for eating such a good dinner? Does he have another molar coming in? Is his double ear infection inflamed once again?Toddlers aren’t able to articulate the problem. So it’s up to parents to use the right tools to figure it out—asking what hurts, taking his temperature, altering situational factors to see if a change provides relief. In a crisis situation, it’s up to us, as public relations practitioners, to not only listen to what our clients are saying but to listen with our “Spidey senses’ on high alert. We need to ask the right questions to get to the crux of the situation and determine the best course forward.
  • That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. A toddler needs reassurance—to hear that he’s going to be ok, that mommy is here, and that it’s time to go “night-night.” He needs to hear this often, in full and with complete certainty.In a crisis situation, consistent and strong key messaging is critical right out of the gate. It must be developed quickly, internalized by all spokespeople and disseminated across the media (if appropriate). Any cracks will be revealed, often painfully, for your client.
  • Control, schmontrol. Just when I think Carmen has finally fallen asleep, he sits up straight and screams, “Mommy!” It’s an excruciating reminder that oftentimes a crisis situation is so volatile, shifts can be sudden and unexpected. And that as PR professionals, we need to be ready to re-assess the situation and recalibrate our course. Sometimes we work weekends or sleep only a few hours a night because a crisis requires our continuous attention. But, we’re in PR, and we thrive on trying to control the uncontrollable.
  • Time-sharing. How does a 30-pound toddler manage to take up 85 percent of a double bed, leaving me to dangle over the edge? When we deal with a crisis situation in public relations, we are often taking resources away from other client work. It’s a calculated task for agency leaders to figure out how to continue servicing the firm’s other clients at a normal capacity when the folks working the crisis likely lead other accounts.

I may be drawing these parallels because it’s 3 a.m. and I’m delirious, or I may be on to something.

December 8, 2015

The Rise of Infographics in Public Relations and Journalism

By Rachel Neppes, 11:39 am

In our digital world, everyone is facing information overload. This is especially true for overstretched journalists tasked with sifting through hundreds of pitches and news releases from us fellow public relations professionals on any given day to find the few nuggets of information they’re looking for to include in their stories.

what-is-an-infographic-croppedThis abundance of information and all of the communications channels we have access to nowadays
create a real quandary for both members the media and PR folks pitching their stories and vying for coverage.

So as PR professionals, how do we cut through the clutter and grab the attention of inundated journalists? One answer lies in the infographic. You know, those elaborate maps or colorful charts you’ve seen in USA Today or TIME.

The media loves infographics – here’s why. Infographics save busy writers, reporters and bloggers a lot of valuable time by giving them the key takeaways they need from a particular report or news release, without having to read through it in its entirety. And because they are visual, they’re more interesting to look at than just words on a screen or a page. In fact, even if a journalist interested in your story idea doesn’t have the time or editorial space to pursue it, I’ve seen instances where he or she will instead run the infographic that you’ve provided as a standalone piece.

By now, hopefully you’re sold on the idea that you should be using infographics in your media relations strategy, but how?

First, it’s important to realize that infographics are a relatively new idea in both PR and journalism, so there’s still a bit of trial and error that comes along with deciding when and how to use them. But here are a few strategies that I’ve found helpful.

  • Make sure that you have a legitimate data story to tell. If you’re working with pieces of data or survey findings that draw a clear conclusion, the infographic can definitely be a great way to highlight the key points that you want readers to know. But, if you’re compiling numbers into a graphic, which don’t really relate, the infographic will lack purpose and confuse your readers.
  • Understand your audience. If you’re using an infographic to convey a data story that you’re hoping will get picked up by media outlets, be careful that it doesn’t look like a self-promotional marketing piece. Avoid incorporating any marketing language about your company or product that will deter a journalist from using it. There’s a big difference between an infographic that you’d share with your fans on your Facebook business page and one that you would share with an editor at The New York Times.
  • Stay on point. This can be challenging, but it’s important to not to stuff too much information into one infographic. Stay on point to avoid cluttering up the infographic with redundant or unnecessary content.

Whether you are new to the idea of infographics or looking for ways to make your infographics more effective and compelling, one thing is certain, they are here to stay and every PR professional should be embracing them.

November 24, 2015

Four Things I’m Thankful for as a PR Professional

By Nicole Lasorda, 11:52 am

Give ThanksIt’s the time of year to be thankful. Everyone’s posting their “30 Days of Thankfulness” statuses on Facebook and people are getting ready to feast around the table with loved ones. In the spirit of the season, here are four PR-related items for which I’m thankful.

    •  Media databases – At Buchanan PR (and most reputable agencies) we don’t use our media database to create giant lists of reporters that we blindly pitch. But the media database does make it easier to find the details we need about a specific reporter or outlet: What’s that business editor’s email? Is that small, local paper still in circulation (sad, but true)? It just gives us back a few minutes, so we can do the important research to get the pitch right.
    • Great reporters – It’s no secret that reporters and PR people have a love-hate relationship. It’s also no secret that there are some not-so-great representatives on both sides. PR people love to complain about reporters who don’t respond or are rude to us, but you know what we love to do even more? Put great reporters on a pedestal! We love reporters who regularly cover our clients or ask us for information (obviously), but we also love those who take the time out of their insanely busy days to let us know that a story isn’t going to work for them at that moment. That quick email to acknowledge that we put the time and effort into a good pitch really makes us value that relationship.
    • Fabulous coworkers – We’ve got stressful jobs (don’t believe me? Check out the rankings!), and sometimes coming out from under the covers in the morning is the hardest thing we’ll do all day. But, it’s much easier when you know you’ll be with a great group of people who can guide you, give you a hand, pat you on the back, or even laugh with you when you do something stupid.
    •  Amazing clients – We don’t like to brag (okay, yes we do), but we have some of the best clients at Buchanan PR. Not only do they have great stories to tell, but they’re respectful of our time, they value our thoughts and they help us do our jobs better. And that makes all the difference.

As a PR professional, what are the things that you’re most thankful for this season?

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 10, 2015
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