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January 17, 2017

Will you accept this…pitch?

By John Reynolds, 11:29 am

As a male in a predominately female office, I’ve had to learn to adapt to the likes and dislikes of the female majority when it comes to pop culture. One of those things, which I have now grown to love, is The Bachelor. I began by checking out The Bachelorette last season with hesitation, but during this season of The Bachelor, you can find me at the center of any office discussion involving the latest drama from the recent episode (even if nobody agrees with my support of this season’s villain, Corinne). I even joined a fantasy league!

Corinne Olympios on The Bachelor. ABC/Rick Rowell

Despite my draft picks looking like bad decisions, I’m convinced I know what it takes to get far, possibly even to win. The more I thought about what it takes to get a rose, the more I started to see some parallels to pitching the media. While the tactics used may be drastically different, there are some common themes that both the women on the show and public relations professionals should follow to achieve their respective goals.

Grab their attention. One of the highlights of any season of The Bachelor is how the women exit the limo and make their first impression. These entrances can range from bringing a small present to riding in on a camel (as Lacey did this season). While these tend to be exaggerated and silly, the simple point is that they need to be memorable. The same thing can be said when you pitch the media. And ultimately, this boils down to your subject and your opening. Reporters get hundreds of pitches from PR professionals, so having a clever, yet intriguing, subject line is key to standing out. That’s not where it ends, though. Now that you’ve grabbed a reporter’s attention, you must keep it by discussing something interesting. Make a connection between your client and something in the news or the results of a recent study that’ll justify your outreach.

What’s in it for them? She had by far the most memorable entrance. She is the most attractive woman of the entire season. She’s a shoe-in to get a rose and make it to the end, right? Wrong. While this may buy a few weeks, if a contestant really wants to have a happy ending, she’s going to need more than just a pretty exterior. Any chance the contestants have with the bachelor, they need to show their personality and make a connection that will make him want more each week. When pitching, your subject and opening might be the most creative thing you’ve ever written, and you might have timed it perfectly with the news cycle, but if you don’t offer the reporter what he’s looking for, you will not be successful. Building a mass media list with no additional research – although faster and easier – will not be fruitful. If you take a few minutes to check what the reporters cover, and find what type of person they would be interested in interviewing, you will have greater success. Similarly, if you research properly, you may even be able to offer a source who can enhance the story by commenting on an angle the reporter didn’t realize she needed.

Honesty isn’t just recommended; it’s a requirement. Did she leave her boyfriend to come on the show? Is she a known cheater? Is she lying about her age or job? If a contestant is lying about something, it’s going to come out eventually, so it’s best for her not to do it. As soon as the bachelor finds out, she will be sent home. Are you lying about your clients’ backgrounds or fudging numbers to grab reporters’ attention and secure an interview? If you said yes to either of these, please stop. There is nothing worse than lying to the media about your client. A reporter will do his research and find out what you’re doing. Not only will this be a failed pitch, but you could also end up blacklisted by the reporter and any of his or her colleagues. Your client will probably not be too pleased if they find out, as well.

Timing is key. Each episode of The Bachelor contains a group date and sometimes a cocktail hour. Oftentimes, these will be the only chance the contestants have before the rose ceremony to talk with the bachelor. If they don’t make a move at the right time, they could go home. If a contestant grabs him too quickly or interrupts another woman too soon, it could be the kiss of death. If she doesn’t grab him at all, she risks being forgotten. There’s also the matter of timing the first kiss, but I won’t go into detail on that here. Likewise, timing your pitch could make or break it. Are you pitching on a Friday or a Tuesday? Is there a major event happening that could require all of the media’s attention, like with this past election? Are you pitching right before a holiday when reporters might be out of the office? These are all things to consider before you send your pitch, and they could be the deciding factors in securing coverage.

Do you have any other tips to get the media to accept your rose pitch? Let us know in the comments.

January 11, 2017

Award Season at Buchanan Public Relations

By Staff, 11:14 am

January 10, 2017

“Mindset of a Guardian, Heart of a Warrior:” Serving As Public Information Officer For a Major Police Department

By Staff, 10:23 am

– Anne Buchanan

Last month, the Philadelphia Chapter of PRSA bestowed its Integrity Award on Lieutenant John Stanford, Public Information Officer for the Philadelphia Police Department. The award annually recognizes an individual or team whose efforts mirror the core value of PRSA’s Code of Ethics and Professional Standards, including advocacy, honesty, loyalty and transparency.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lt. Stanford at the ceremony. He kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about what it’s like serving as the PR representative and public face of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Q. What is the role of the Public Information Officer of the Philadelphia Police Department? What’s a typical day like for you?

My job is to facilitate the sharing of information to all media outlets as well as the general public.

A typical day starts with a meeting with the executive command staff of the department, discussing previous day and overnight incidents and events. I then have a briefing with my staff, including our social media guru, to discuss the day ahead of us.

Throughout the day, I will receive approximately 100 emails, speak with various media outlets, and address a multitude of issues in addition to responding to unforeseen incidents that may arise.

Q. You were a police officer before you moved into this role. How did you prepare to become the Public Information Officer?

I started my career with the PPD as a police officer, before being promoted to Sergeant and Lieutenant. My experience in various assignments throughout my career provided me with a variety of information and experience leading up to this position as the public information officer.

I had some experience in public speaking. I also worked as a public relations representative while in college at Penn State as a member of an organization called Legal Affairs. Upon stepping into this role, I participated in several training courses to enhance my development as a PIO. Those prior experiences certainly set a foundation for me to expand upon in this field.


Anne Buchanan with Lieutenant John Stanford at the 2016 Philadelphia PRSA Pepperpot Awards

Q. I imagine you deal regularly with the media in your role. What’s that like? What is the hardest situation you’ve ever faced?

Dealing with the media can be challenging at times. While they can definitely provide assistance in our daily operations, they can also be very challenging due to the need for speed without regard for accuracy. One of the toughest challenges is meeting the needs and wants of media who are competing with one another to report incidents quickly.

Real-life policing is not like television policing, where an entire investigation is wrapped up in 45 minutes. Getting some media to understand that concept can be very difficult; you spend a lot of time correcting misinformation or dispelling rumors or presumptive information.

The hardest situation I’ve experienced was responding to the death of Sgt. Robert Wilson III. I had the fortunate blessing of working in the same district and knowing him. His death was tough to experience.

Q. You have an active Twitter account. Do you do all your own tweeting? How has social media changed the way the Police Department communicates?

I have an active Twitter account (@PPDJohnStanford) from which I tweet myself. I will often attend events, take photos and tweet them, or tweet information about various incidents.

Social media has allowed us an opportunity to reach and connect with an additional audience whom we may have never connected with in the past. Social media certainly affords us the opportunity to get information out to more people much quicker than traditional means, and it allows us to be creative in doing so.

Q. Police officers see some of the worst of humanity. How do you keep a positive attitude?

In this profession, you certainly see your share of the worst of humanity. Most of the time, police officers are encountering people on their worst days – but it doesn’t necessarily mean the people are less than human.

You also see some of the best of humanity while performing this job. Some of it comes from people dressed in the same uniform that you are wearing. While keeping a positive attitude can be difficult at times, you have to remember why you selected this profession – to help others, one of the greatest components of humanity.

Humanity simply means treating people like the human beings they are, with compassion, dignity, and respect. It’s the way you want to be treated, and the way you want your family members treated, regardless of the incident or circumstances.

Being empathic with the mindset of a guardian but the heart of a warrior is key to this profession. Difficult at times, but definitely doable.

Q. At a time when many police departments have encountered much criticism, the Philadelphia Police Department, by contrast, enjoys a favorable reputation here in Philadelphia. To what do you attribute that?

We certainly receive our share of criticism, some of it warranted and some of it not, but either way, you have to take it for what it’s worth and keep pressing forward. If it’s legitimate criticism, then you must acknowledge it, assess it and make necessary corrections or adjustments.

We will never please everyone, nor will every situation be perfect. The goal must be to create standards that fall in line with the best practices of the industry and make decisions that are guided by integrity, that are fair and honest and meet the needs of communities throughout this city.

We have the support of many communities here in Philadelphia, and we greatly appreciate it. We will continue to strive for support from those individuals who don’t quite love us.

Q. What do you wish the public knew or better understood about the Police Department or police officers?

I wish the public knew and understood how truly difficult this job can be at times. This is one of those professions that a person will never really understand until you do it. Descriptions and explanations of the job, ride-a-longs, mock trainings, movies, books, television shows – they may give a slight idea of certain aspects of the job, but it’s still not the same.

There are many great things about this profession and many great people who suit up each day to fulfill their obligation in protecting and serving. While there are a small few who don’t belong in this profession, that same fact is true for every profession known to mankind. We can’t paint all with the same broad brush.

I often compare this profession to sports, particularly football. It’s easy to examine the results or outcome of a play or the game and determine what should have occurred.  But unless you have played that sport, knowing what the training, preparation, and practice is like, as well as playing the game in real time speed, then you really never understand what it’s like to be a player on the field during game-time. And at the end of the day those players – our cops – are human; they feel, breathe, bleed, cry, live and die just like everyone else.

I long for the day that we as society stop seeing things from a police perspective versus a civilian perspective, black versus white, male versus female, rich versus poor, and start seeing things from a human perspective. That’s the day we become one as a society, and that’s what I want all people to know and understand.

January 5, 2017

Writing About Complex Subjects

By Jen Tedeschi, 10:58 am

As a PR practitioner, I have a few not-so-shocking confessions to make: I’m not a lawyer, nor am I an accountant. Additionally, I have never attended medical school, and I haven’t had a chance to get much experience in investing, either.

Yet it’s often my job to take writinghighly complex topics and break them down into succinct pieces for the mainstream media. This task can be quite daunting, especially when you aren’t expert in the subject matter.

If you find yourself feeling stuck when writing about a topic you don’t completely understand, fear not. Here are some tips for writing content on intricate subjects:

Use varying sources for your research. I know this tip may seem obvious, but it’s still important to address. The best way to learn about something new is to gather insights from a well-rounded group of sources. Don’t just limit yourself to different websites, either – it can be helpful to check out webinars, relevant message boards, social media accounts and, yes, even print books, as well.

Ask questions. If you still feel like you don’t have a grasp on the topic at hand, going to an expert in that field can provide more clarity than a Google search. However, make sure you do your research before approaching anybody with your questions. Whether it’s your friend, or your client, having some previous knowledge on the matter can help guide the conversation and get you to the answers you’re looking for.

Avoid going down the research rabbit hole. Although compiling thorough research is crucial when learning about a new subject, spending too much time looking up information can leave you feeling more confused than you were before. To avoid this, try drafting a short outline with points you wish to make, or set a time limit for yourself. That way, you’ll be able to quickly sift through all your resources without getting distracted by other, less-pertinent details.

Have any other tips for writing about an unfamiliar topic? Let us know in the comments.

January 3, 2017

BPR Best of 2016

By Staff, 4:42 pm

December 21, 2016

4 Ways to Take on the Holiday Season like a PRo

By Lesley Amy, 1:07 pm

The weather is cold, the stores are packed with shoppers, and you are well on your way to finalizing the dinner menu while figuring out what you’re going to get dear Aunt Nadine for the family gift exchange this year. ‘Tis the season, right?

But your client has an event this week, you have a presentation due right after Christmas, and two other accounts are having ongoing crises. What can you do to keep your holiday spirit alive and still tackle everything that needs to get done, both inside and outside of the office? Why, you call upon the power of Christmas, of course!

Whenlesley-dec-pic balancing work life and personal life things can get hectic, especially with the extra holiday events and shopping to be done. This is my first holiday season with a full-time job (instead of being a full-time student with two part-time jobs and a few days off in between), so I am learning how to balance my responsibilities throughout the week. Last year, I could get all my shopping done after a 10 a.m. class on a Tuesday to avoid the crazy crowds. This year, it’s a whole new ballgame and I’ve picked up a few helpful tips along the way. Here is how I’m keeping the spirit of the holidays alive while crushing my work and personal to-do lists:

1. Play Christmas music at your desk. If you are someone who loves playing music in the background while you work, it’s time to switch your usual station over to the holiday classics and jam out, seasonally! Music keeps me focused and energized, and helps elevate my mood. Whether I’m jonesing for some easy listening music, country, or classical, holiday songs are always fun and cheery and can pull you through drafting that statement or building that media list. Plus, you can never go wrong with a little Bing Crosby or Sinatra during your day.

2. Purchase gifts on your lunch break. Sometimes, the best thing to do when you are overwhelmed or cannot think straight is to step away from one to-do list and tackle another. Everyone needs a break here and there, so instead of stepping away from your desk to sit and do nothing but eat lunch, use your lunch break to get in a nice walk around the store and pick up those last-minute gifts. I’m sure your brain (and your holiday anxiety) will appreciate the time you saved during the day, so you can go home and relax at night.

3. Wrap your gifts while watching the nightly news. Just kidding! You don’t have much time to relax at night during the holidays because you are busy wrapping the gifts. But, you can keep PR in mind as you wrap the gifts by watching the news. Talk about multi-tasking! You are keeping up on everything going on, both locally and nationally, while actively listening to the news and accomplishing that dreaded wrapping process ahead of you. Once your wrapping is done, you’ll have a clear head to focus on work the next day instead of thinking about all the wrapping you’ll have waiting for you at home. And an extra 10 points to you for keeping your cat off the wrapping paper. Be careful of the bag of bows too; cats love bows, ribbon, and basically anything shiny.

4. Set your New Year’s resolutions. Setting your resolutions before the new year is a great way to set your mind forward and get your work priorities set while celebrating the season. Maybe you want to learn something new next year. Maybe you want to strengthen your writing, or ask more questions. Maybe your goal is to start projects earlier and turn them in faster. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve decided you need to prepare for the holiday season a lot earlier than you did this year to keep your work flow uninterrupted next season. But don’t worry, I’m sure Aunt Nadine will love those festive socks you got her. It’s the thought that counts, I promise.

Have any tips for accomplishing everything during the holidays? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

December 12, 2016

4 Things About Digital Health That Could Matter to Healthcare PR

By Staff, 2:43 pm

– Anne Buchanan and Megan Keohane

On Tuesday, November 29, 2016, agency president Anne Buchanan and I attended an event on mobile technology in healthcare, organized by the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (of which we are both members). Now, you may be wondering, “Why attend a healthcare industry event? Don’t you work in PR?” Well, while not a PR-related event, we do have clients in the healthcare and life sciences industries, and feel it is important to stay on top of new trends and innovations that could be of importance to our clients. You never know when you may learn something fascinating from an insider – something the broader public does not know about yet – and boom, news hook!

During this event specifically, we learned plenty of interesting facts and happenings in the healthcare space. Here are just a few:

1. By 2019, 30 percent of all web interaction will be by voice. Crazy, right? As of now, voice-activated Bluetooth and speaking into our television remotes are pretty much the norm. Technology like Siri and Alexa are becoming more and more standard, making it quicker and easier to look up an answer or play music. As connected technology and the Internet of Things increases in popularity, web interaction by voice will steadily climb as we rely on it to turn on our lights, adjust the thermostat setting and even check up on an elderly parent through remote camera access while at work – without ever lifting a finger.

2. Mobile technology is rapidly impacting healthcare, making things faster and easier and fostering more breakthroughs. When calling your doctor to schedule a standard appointment, the average time between the phone call and the visit is between 8-18 days. Now, with telemedicine, you can see a doctor within hours – right from your home. It is also streamlining the notoriously manual clinical trials process by providing more efficient screening/check-ins and reducing friction.

3. Wearables encourage better health habits. Since the explosion of Fitbits and other similar wearables, we’ve seen an increase in awareness of physical activity. When heart rate, steps counted and calories burned are visible right in front of us, it holds us accountable, ultimately encouraging an increased level of physical activity. The data collected from wearables may also strengthen telemedicine – quickly providing useful information to the doctor.

4. Connected technology can improve overall quality of life. Hypothetically, if there’s a loved one in your life who needs around-the-clock monitoring, connected technology could be a solution to keeping him or her in the comfort of their home while providing the necessary oversight and easy access to care. Cameras connected to wireless devices enable loved ones to be monitored through an app, while wearables collect information on his or her levels – all transferred to the appropriate person remotely, allowing the loved one to stay in his or her home without needing to move to a care facility. Monitoring fine motor skills using connected technology can also allow for the early detection of neurological diseases.

What other innovations or breakthroughs in digital health are trending now, or may be trending over the next few years? Let us know in the comments.

December 6, 2016

5 Ways to Develop a Pitch When You’re Out of Ideas

By Joe Cerrone, 3:55 pm

Public relations professwriting[1]ionals spend a large amount of time engaging in media relations—writing pitches, contacting reporters and hoping to land a top tier placement for clients. Developing pitches that perfectly fit into a client’s niche can be difficult and even the best of us run out of ideas from time to time. If you ever find yourself stuck in a pitching rut, here are five ways to restart the engine and replenish your creative juices.

Develop a Thematic Calendar

When first beginning to work with a client, it is a great idea to look ahead a few months, or more, to anticipate stories that may come down the pipeline. Recording the dates of international events, holidays and observations, firm anniversaries and other industry-related occurrences provides structure to a media relations campaign and will serve as a pleasant reminder of pitch topics throughout the year.

Create a Bank of Evergreen Topics

It is important to glean as much information as possible from introductory meetings with clients—learning all about their products, services, history, industry, competitors, goals and challenges. Instead of archiving this information, take the time to pick through it and identify ideas that might serve as strong, evergreen topics, writing down detailed pitch ideas and storing them in an accessible place. With a bank of non-time sensitive pitches, you will always have a backup when you need a pitch in a pinch.

Read Industry Publications

Getting into the mind of your clients requires you to read what they read. Regularly picking through trade publications, industry newsletters and company blogs will keep you up to date with the latest developments in the field, which are a treasure trove of pitch ideas. In fact, be sure to ask clients exactly which publications they tend to favor and if there are any journalists whose reporting they follow closely—this will ensure that you start on the right path from the very beginning.

Talk to Clients

Sometimes, the best way to refresh stale pitch ideas is to speak directly with clients. Arranging a call or an in-person meeting will allow you to hear what is on a client’s mind—what are they excited about, what is keeping them up at night—allowing you to better anticipate appropriate pitch opportunities.

Question Everything

If these steps come up empty, it might be time to go back to the drawing board and question everything from the bottom up. Working with a client over time allows us to increase our knowledge about their industry, but also solidifies assumptions that the population at large, and reporters, might not hold. Investigating previously covered issues from a new angle, exploring coverage of competitors in the field and asking basic questions again can unearth new insights and refresh a media campaign.

Media relations is one of the tried-and-true planks of public relations, but it’s important to take care that creativity doesn’t get lost in the process. Ensuring you have a vibrant, useful supply of pitch ideas will keep your media outreach fresh and timely.

What other ways do you use to develop fresh and creative pitch ideas?

November 15, 2016

Making Time for Yourself

By John Reynolds, 3:22 pm

Many of us in the PR industry have faced this issue at some point: you just finished up a few projects, and looking at your to-do list, you notice that you need final approval from your clients before moving forward on anything.johnny-nov-pic So, what do you do now? Oftentimes, we are so focused on our clients that we rarely take time for ourselves. Instead of clicking around social media or finding out if you would survive a zombie apocalypse on Buzzfeed, try some of these ways to pass the time while remaining productive.

Organize your desk. Don’t wait for “spring cleaning” to organize your desk. While a lot of what we do has moved to the virtual world, there are still some instances where we work with physical sheets of paper. Are you still saving that status report from June? Go through your files and clear out anything that is outdated. Even if you normally keep your desk in tip-top shape, you may discover some old papers you can get rid of to clear space. You’ll feel much better when your desk and files aren’t messy, both now and in the spring!

Watch a webinar. When you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s easy to get stuck in the same routines rather than taking the time to learn new and better ways to do things. Luckily, there are tons of webinars available online that you can watch at any time…for free. These can be especially helpful with some of the tasks on your daily to-do list. For example, getting lazy with building media lists is an easy habit to form, but a hard one to shake. However, watching a webinar could offer new ideas on how to build these lists, including more effective ways to find reporters’ contact information and identify the proper person to contact at an outlet. We may be professionals, but that doesn’t mean we know everything.

Plan ahead. Most of us PR professionals usually have very busy schedules, leaving very little room for any free time. As a result, it’s always more efficient to be one step ahead of the game so you can be fully prepared for any unforeseen challenge. Take a look at your calendar, review your status reports and browse your clients’ websites. Are any major events or projects coming down the pike? Come up with a plan now, so that when your to-do list is jam-packed, you’ll know exactly how to attack it.

Read the news. Whether it’s current national news, client-specific industry news or trend stories, it’s never a bad idea to keep yourself educated on what’s happening in the world. You may discover a new social media trend that you can capitalize on for a client, or uncover a unique pitch angle. Even if you don’t find something you can use for a client, you’re still taking the time to learn more about current events or your clients’ fields, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Write. You know what they say, “practice makes perfect.” While we get plenty of practice writing for our clients every day, we don’t always get the opportunity to write what’s on our mind. Whether it’s for a company blog, personal website or one of the many sites accepting contributors, you will only strengthen your writing abilities by continuing to write in ways other than for a client.

How do you remain productive in your free time? Let us know in the comments.

November 9, 2016

Making a Sleek PowerPoint

By Staff, 2:40 pm

– Laura Tabbut

You need a PowerPoint presentation as soon as possible, and there is no designer available. What do you do? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating a professional and sleek presentation that you can proudly present instantly.laura-nov-pic

Size. The widescreen ratios (16:9, 16:10) for a slide show will be beneficial, adding a lot of space for your presentation to breathe and offering a more appealing and dramatic effect than the standard size. Most screens today will easily fit this size and it won’t have those ugly black bars on the sides of your presentation.

Less is more. This is common knowledge when creating a presentation, but I’d like to reiterate it. Even if you have a lot to cover, find ways to break up the information into smaller pieces. It will look better and also allow the audience to stop reading the slides and actually listen to what you have to say.

Pacing. Just like in a book or a magazine, pace is important. If you can’t get away from filling a slide with information, make sure the next slide gives the viewer a break, either with a large image or white space. This keeps the presentation moving and fresh, because if every slide is full of text, the audience will become overwhelmed and bored.

Typographic hierarchy. This refers to the organization of the information using typography, which includes things like differentiating types of information and highlighting the most important details. Microsoft does a pretty good job of this with their built-in settings, but if you’re venturing out on your own, remember:

  • Keep it consistent. Whatever you come up with, you must carry that throughout the entire presentation.
  • Keep it simple. Try to only use two fonts maximum, one for the header and one for the body copy.

Imagery. There are so many presentations with blown-up and grainy images. Avoid this at all costs; it just looks bad. Google has Search Tools in images that allow you to filter images by size, which comes in handy so you’re not rooting through hundreds of images looking for one large enough. Imagery is so important to a presentation; try to spend a little time to curate what you want to use.

Color contrast. Make sure that the colors you select are easy on the eyes and easy to read. Try looking at your presentation on different screens, and if you can, on the projector on which it will be displayed. Many times, color looks okay on your screen, but then is washed out on a projector. If you can’t test, the best way to know if your colors are working is to imagine your slides in black and white. The values of the colors must differ enough for the text to stand out. For example, if you have bright orange and bright blue, these colors will not read well together.

Animations/Transitions. Try to avoid animations at all cost. Your audience will know when you’ve switched slides (especially if you have good pacing). If you want a nice slide transition, I recommend the fade transition. Slide animation comes across as cheesy and elementary. If you’re going to use it, keep it minimal and use it sparingly.

Happy presenting!

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