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October 18, 2017

Uncovering the Truth

By John Reynolds, 11:00 am

There are three sides to every story: Side A, side B, and the truth.

But it seems we’ve lost a couple of those sides recently, as every story is a battle between side A and “fake news.” Originally, “fake news” sort of made sense. With more media outlets than ever, from small blogs to national papers, it’s not uncommon to find yourself stumbling upon a made-up news story. However, this term rapidly evolved into a response given if you don’t agree with what is being reported or someone else’s views.

Debate used to be one of the things that made this country great. Two sides are allowed to have differing opinions and discuss them openly. Despite this, in the age of “fake news,” we don’t get to have civil discourse anymore. Often, you see people so entrenched in their views, they throw the term “fake news” out to dismiss the other side’s viewpoint, ending any form of back-and-forth.

How can we resolve this issue?

While everyone can have his or her own preferred news source, we all must understand media bias and how to form our own opinions. It is crucial that people not limit news consumption to one outlet. Instead, we must read a variety of sources with differing biases and form our own opinion on a subject, not just accept what is presented to us as fact.

Let’s use a recent news story as an example. Mike Ditka, former NFL player and head coach, was interviewed during a Monday Night Football pregame show about the national anthem protests by some NFL players. Ditka is known for being a very opinioned person, and he didn’t hold back on his thoughts during this interview, making headlines immediately. Here’s a sampling of the headlines reporting on that interview:

Fox NewsMike Ditka: ‘If You Don’t Respect Our Country, Then You Shouldn’t Be in This Country Playing Football’

NBC NewsMike Ditka on NFL Protests: There’s Been No Oppression in U.S. in Last 100 Years

No matter what your viewpoint, these differing headlines show that depending on what outlet you’re reading, you’re most likely not getting the full story. Fox News, which is known for its right-leaning views, chose to focus on Ditka’s opinion that people kneeling shouldn’t be playing football in the U.S. On the other hand, NBC News, which President Trump is currently attacking as a “fake news” outlet on Twitter, focused on Ditka’s claim that there has been no oppression in the U.S. in the past century. There was no right or wrong way to report on Ditka’s views, but if you only read one source, you clearly would not have gotten the full story.

It’s important to be educated about current events, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you only focus on one side of the story. The only way to combat “fake news” is by not letting the media dictate your opinion. So, please, continue reading the news. But from now on, include outlets you regularly disagree with. The next time you hear the term “fake news” tossed around, you’ll be able to discern for yourself the difference between it and the truth.

October 10, 2017

5 PR Takeaways from Equifax’s Cybersecurity Nightmare

By Lauren Force, 11:02 am

A crisis can strike at any moment. Last month, credit reporting company Equifax experienced a catastrophic one after revealing that a data breach may have compromised up to 143 million U.S. consumers’ data—an attack former CEO Richard Smith had known about since late-July. With the rising number of data breaches surfacing in the media lately, it has become crucial that companies better prepare themselves in the event of a cyberattack.

(Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

“Equifax will not be defined by this incident, but rather by how we respond,” Smith said in a statement. Without further ado, let’s take a look at how Equifax responded, and what PR professionals can do to avoid similar mishaps in the future.

Transparency and timing are imperative.

Throughout any crisis, it’s essential that you keep the public up to date on new information in the case, and outline exactly what steps are being taken to resolve the issue. Equifax’s now-former CEO waited more than a month to make the hack known to the public. In some circumstances, it may make sense for companies to wait and gather all the facts before responding, but with 143 million consumers’ data at stake, a five week wait period was a poor tactic on Equifax’s part.

Surround yourself with a few key personnel.

Time and time again, we see large companies surround themselves with multiple agencies, communications staff, and legal teams. But in the times of a crisis, this isn’t always the best approach. Sometimes, too many decision makers can cause major delays in the response timeline, resulting in a barrage of negative media attention.

Set up customer service lines and response pages immediately.

Make sure you have proper response pages installed on your website ahead of a crisis, as well as customer service lines ready to inform every single victim involved. Equifax did not have nearly enough personnel to handle a crisis the size of the one it faced. Instead of notifying affected customers, Equifax directed them to a data breach website where they were asked to enter private information to find out for themselves. To further the confusion, Equifax tweeted out the wrong website URL, further eroding customers’ confidence in the company.

Be clear in your response.

Don’t flip-flop in your response strategy, especially if you wait as long as Smith did to make his initial announcement. Equifax made several deceptive claims throughout the incident. For example, the company offered customers a free year of credit monitoring, on the condition that they agree not to pursue legal action. But, after receiving backlash on social media, the company back-tracked and allowed customers the option to sue—if they sent a notice within 30 days. Confusing your customers and using ambiguous language or hidden clauses will only culminate in disaster.

Show empathy for the victims.

Last, and most important, show that you genuinely care about the victims involved, and keep them at the focus of the crisis. This can make an incredible difference in whether your messaging succeeds or fails. And of course, please don’t tweet “Happy Friday,” as one Equifax employee did, amid a full-blown PR nightmare.

How do you think Equifax and Richard Smith handled the crisis? Let us know in the comments below.

 

October 4, 2017

Employee Feature: October

By Staff, 10:42 am

Name: John Reynolds

Title: Account Executive

Date Started at Buchanan PR: November 2015

Favorite Part of Working in Public Relations: I love everything about media relations. There is a lot of strategy involved. I spend time researching reporters – everything from what they cover to what interests them –  to make sure I’m confident my pitch is relevant for them. And while you get plenty of negative responses, there’s an adrenaline rush when you succeed in securing an opportunity. The final prize is reading a story in which your client is quoted, and knowing you got exposure for your client while helping the reporter do his or her job.

Tip for Other Public Relations Professionals: Remember, reporters are people too. You want to avoid sounding like a robot when you speak with the media. This doesn’t mean you should act like a reporter is your best friend, but if there’s a way to add some personality to your pitching, you should absolutely do it.

Most Memorable Moment at Buchanan PR: My most memorable moment at Buchanan is actually a full day – August 3, 2016. Account Supervisor Meg and I had two major events that day. In the morning, we announced the launch of three companies, clients InClinica, SkinJect, and Velocity Fund. Hours later, we rushed to Center City, where we worked an event for our client, the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, as they were awarding then-Vice President Joe Biden the 2016 Atlas Award. It’s hard to forget a day that you spend working with the Secret Service.

Pet Peeve: Slow walkers.

Guilty Pleasure: I’m obsessed with the TV show Survivor. Yes, that show is still on. I’ve tried out numerous times, and will continue auditioning until I get cast. I also re-watch old seasons regularly, even though I know the results and know who gets voted out in every episode.

Favorite After Work Activity: I go to CrossFit every day after work, to both work out and coach.

September 20, 2017

Back to Work

By Angie Baturka, 10:28 am

What does a stay-at-home mom of 23 years do when her youngest children (twins) go to college? She gets a job!

Why? Partly, to help pay for the college expenses, but mostly, to keep busy and apply my skills  to something other than raising kids. How difficult was this transition? With shaking knees, I jumped into job hunting and to my surprise, discovered that the network I had built while raising my children and the volunteer activities I was involved in were relevant and valued. Now, I’m working in a dream job at a great company, Buchanan Public Relations.

I’m happy to report there are a few universal life skills that advances in technology, millennial attitudes and a “business casual” mindset have not rendered obsolete. These include the importance of being committed to the task at hand, the continued relevance of interpersonal skills and the application of common sense.

When you commit to something, give it your all and if you say you will do something, make sure you meet your commitments. Period. Non-negotiable. Being hardworking and reliable are just good goals to live by. You’ll earn the respect of others around you and feel great about yourself in the process.

Interpersonal skills and connectedness are still paramount to success. People like to feel connected to one another, whether in a family or work situation. To foster that sense of community you must have good interpersonal and communication skills. Many of our employees here at Buchanan are young and they bring a vibe of electricity to the office. I love coming to work and hearing about what is going on in their lives—weekend activities, pets, children, concerts, travel, and restaurants are all interesting topics to those of us who are more settled into our daily lives. I also love the creative energy that working in the public relations field provides.

There is no substitute for “common sense.” Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone; learn from your mistakes; laugh; don’t take yourself too seriously; be kind; smile more; talk less; and the one I am still working on—LISTEN. If you know our president, Anne Buchanan, she possesses the most endearing quality in a person—she is the best listener imaginable. When you are engaged in a conversation with Anne, she makes you think you are fascinating. I suspect some of this quality comes from Anne’s natural sense of curiosity and desire to learn;  the other part of her listening skill comes from a deep empathy for people.

For other women considering a transition into the workforce after a long hiatus for whatever reason, I say jump in! You can do it and have many more marketable skills than you realize. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!

 

 

 

 

 

September 12, 2017

Why You Should Get Involved in your Local PR Community

By Amanda Mueller, 11:48 am

If you’re anything like those of us here at Buchanan PR, your day is already jam-packed writing pitches, coordinating interviews, and producing content for your clients. There is hardly time in the day to fit in anything extra, much less take on an outside position with your local PR organization.

However, if you can carve out a little bit of extra time every week to become involved with public relations organizations in your city, you’ll find the benefits are well-worth the extra obligation. Whether you attend a monthly happy hour or you decide to undertake a committee position in your local PRSA chapter, there are many reasons why community involvement is beneficial on a personal and agency level.

Business Communication Duplicate model

Personal Networking

Through your involvement, you’ll meet fellow PR professionals in the area and learn about other agencies and branches of public relations that you might not encounter otherwise. These connections open the door for mentee/mentor relationships, business collaborations, peer review, and even new business acquisitions.

It provides a platform to promote your agency.

Many PR organizations have community blogs, features and membership spotlights that provide an outlet to promote your agency’s messaging, content, and clients. If your blog post is featured on an organization’s website, you could double or even triple the amount of people who access your content compared to posting independently on your agency blog. Your involvement in committees and organizations lets you serve as a brand ambassador for your agency, as well.

It keeps your agency connected.

Oftentimes, we get so caught up in our clients’ needs and day-to-day deadlines that we lose the opportunity to network with other agencies in our area. PR colleagues are a valuable resource when it comes to refining agency processes, navigating the latest industry trends, and even receiving critique or guidance on that difficult pitch you’ve been handling this month. Often, these organizations will provide personal access to journalists, as well.

What’s your favorite way to stay involved with the public relations community? Let us know in the comments below.

August 30, 2017

7 Tips for Business Travel

By Megan Keohane, 3:44 pm

I’m lucky to have a career that takes me to different places all over the country from time to time (the most random places having been Boise, ID, and a small town in eastern Oregon just last month). The way I see it, I have it made. I don’t have to travel weekly and spend too much time away from home, but getting to do it every so often makes it feel special. I love getting to experience new places and enjoy a change in scenery.

However, regardless of how often one might travel for work, it can present a set of challenges. This summer has been full of more trips than usual, and I’ve learned a few hacks along the way to make each trip productive, seamless and enjoyable. Here they are.

1. The most obvious tip is to pack light. Business trips are usually jam packed with little time to spare, so it helps when you don’t have to spend extra time waiting at baggage claim. Try to stick to a carry-on bag with the essentials: one business outfit per day (as a woman, I like dresses, since they take up less room in my bag), one or two outfits that can double as sleep clothes or a workout outfit, one casual outfit and toiletries.

2. Track expenses carefully. If your client or company is reimbursing you for mileage, accommodations, flights, rental cars, meals, etc., keep every receipt in a separate folder and file an expense report immediately upon return to the office. I’m always mindful, too, of how much is being spent. If a client is reimbursing for meals, I won’t order a steak dinner – I’ll take a club sandwich, instead.

3. Bring a little bit of home with you. Whenever I go away, I like to bring my favorite, most comfortable sleep shirt. It makes me feel relaxed, at ease and more at home after a long day.

4. Find some “me time.” Traveling for work can be stressful, especially with a busy schedule. If possible, squeeze in 30 minutes of time for yourself. This could be waking up 30 minutes earlier to go for a run, ordering room service at the end of a long day or relaxing in the jacuzzi tub. No matter what it is, it’s important to find a little sliver of time when you can turn your brain off and recharge.

5. Explore something new. No matter where you go, I guarantee there’s something there you haven’t seen or tried before. If your schedule allows, plan to see or do at least one thing you haven’t yet experienced. And if you’re traveling solo, even better. Don’t be afraid to do things alone. I was lucky to travel with a co-worker to Oregon, and we made sure we found a piece of the Oregon Trail to explore. Next month, however, I’m traveling solo to Orlando for work over a weekend. You can bet I’ll be taking a trip to at least one Disney park and taking advantage of those single rider lines.

6. Have something to look forward to when you return home. Not every trip allows for free time to explore, and jam-packed days can become overwhelming. I traveled solo for an event last month and worked three back-to-back-to-back 16-hour days. I knew I wasn’t going to have free time (but I did follow tip #4 and ordered room service for a late dinner one night!), so instead, I planned a vacation day for the day after I got home. When things got hectic while I was away, it was refreshing to look forward to some downtime upon my return.

7. Remember why you’re there. Although most of these tips highlight how to make the most of a business trip, it is a business trip after all. Remember that the event, meeting or conference is your number one priority. Be prepared, be energized and don’t forget to pack your A game!

Any other tips for optimizing business travel? Tell us in the comments!

August 15, 2017

Workplace Diversity Issues Are Making Headlines – Can Internships Solve the Problem?

By Staff, 11:54 am

– Alex Harris

Workforce diversity and inclusion issues can no longer be dismissed, as some of the most successful companies in the world are being put to the test. The Google engineer who was fired for his controversial memo, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s sexism allegations, and Facebook’s troubling workforce demographics come to mind.

Numerous research reports from sources like McKinsey & Company, the Institute for Public Relations and The Korn Ferry Institute have revealed that diversity increases company success for reasons such as improved innovation and creativity, differing approaches, and an enhanced ability to reach varied customer audiences, among others.

Although many companies implement traditional methods of preventing prejudice and unconscious bias in the workplace, research has shown that these often do not work—or worse, have the opposite effect. Diverse hiring methods warrant a higher priority—especially within leadership roles and the STEM industries where minority populations are consistently underrepresented.

Companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are starting to tap into a diverse population through internship and student programs. Many companies have programs like these in place, and have attested to their success. Leaders in diversity and inclusion initiatives are betting on internship and student programs, as well. Here are some reasons why:

1. Diversity starts from the bottom up. Several research studies have shown that 50 to 60 percent of interns turn into full-time hires. Through hiring diversified interns and creating training programs, businesses can create successful pipelines that accurately represent all demographics from the start, creating a funnel that leads to a diverse workforce.

2. Internship and school programs create interest across the board. Training programs and general internship programs aimed at schools can get the word out and drive interest in industries where certain demographics are underrepresented.

3. Jobseekers are paying attention. The Institute for Public Relations found that 47 percent of millennials consider the diversity and inclusion of a workplace an important factor when job searching. Jobseekers will notice a company’s efforts to embrace a diverse and inclusive culture, and in turn are more likely to see themselves in those positions or industries down the line.

While moving the needle on diversity from the bottom up is effective, this method is by no means comprehensive. Leadership roles and board positions, in particular, are still primarily homogeneous, which begs for other strategies aimed at higher-level talent. However, diversity among interns and lower level employees will have a ripple effect, and are a good place to start.

What are some ways you think businesses can drive change when it comes to diversity in the workplace?

August 9, 2017

Four Things That Can Separate PR Pros from Spammers

By John Reynolds, 11:08 am

In a recent vlog, the BPR staff recorded video letters for journalists, which addressed a variety of things from letting them know we’re paid subscribers to thanking them for responding to our pitches. In my video letter, I said that I’m not a spammer. If you’ve been working in public relations long enough, I’m sure you’ve pitched a reporter only to receive a reply with a message along the lines of “unsubscribe” or “remove me from this list.” After carefully researching the journalists who I think would be perfect for my topic, nothing bothers me more than getting one of these emails.

I don’t know how other PR professionals pitch reporters. However, what I do know is the amount of research I (and my colleagues here) do to find journalists that I’m confident will find my pitch interesting and a fit for their beat. In fact, I once replied to a reporter who told me to remove her from my list because my pitch wasn’t appropriate. I explained why I contacted her, and she eventually apologized and said to keep her in mind in the future. While I don’t expect every pitch I send to have all the reporters begging me for an interview, I am confident each one is at least related to what the reporters write about.

So, how can you be confident you’re not spamming journalists? Below are four things public relations professionals can do to separate their pitches from spam.

1. Pitch appropriate contacts. The first, and most important, thing PR pros can do to separate themselves from spammers is to pitch the appropriate contact. If you’re pitching your insurance client to a reporter who covers construction, you won’t be successful. Similarly, if you don’t take the time to research the person you’re pitching, you could end up contacting a publisher or managing editor, when there’s a reporter at that outlet who covers your topic exactly. It seems simple, but after speaking with numerous reporters, you’d be shocked at how many people fail at this part.

2. Don’t rely on databases. A database is a great tool for researching reporters and pulling contact information. However, it can also be a crutch. Relying solely on a database can leave you with a woefully inaccurate list. How? While these systems do list a reporter’s coverage area, they are not always correct. It’s possible it says a reporter covers business when in fact she is an environmental reporter. Or maybe it lists her at The Wall Street Journal when she moved to Reuters three months ago. I’ve even come across contacts who are no longer reporters, or worse, are deceased. One tip to prevent this is to check out the reporter on social media ― oftentimes she will list her beat on her Twitter bio or on LinkedIn. To reiterate, media databases are great tools that can help you build a solid base list, but you need to double check the results to be sure your list is accurate and suitable.

3. Follow up appropriately. You’ve sent your pitch, it’s been a couple hours, and you have no responses. What should you do? Relax. You do not need to call the reporter and confirm he received your message. The reporter may be on a tight deadline and your unexpected call will be an annoying interruption. Does this mean you should never follow up? Of course not. If it’s a time-sensitive story or topic, sooner is appropriate, but I’ve come to learn that for most pitches at least a week tends to work the best before following up. Writing a new pitch on the topic is also not necessary. Simply, re-send your original email. A reporter’s time is valuable, so why make him read two long emails? Keep it short and get right to the point, and if you’ve piqued his interest, he’ll take another look.

4. Read a reporter’s stories. Last, but certainly not least, always read a reporter’s stories. You can learn so much from the way a reporter writes and covers a certain topic. Say you’re pitching a story about private equity investments. You’ve found a contact from your database and checked out her Twitter bio, which mentions investing, so you send your email. Well, what you failed to do was read her stories to see she only covers hedge funds. While this is just one simple example, it shows the value of reading a reporter’s stories. Now, I know it’s not possible to read every story for each reporter you want to contact. However, what is possible is skimming their recent stories and headlines, to ensure your pitch aligns with their beat.

So, PR pros, are you a spammer? What else can you do to keep your pitch out of the spam folder?

 

August 3, 2017

My Media Addiction

By Blair Kahora Cardinal, 11:08 am

I always tell interns and junior staff that their first media hit is a gateway. We all remember that first time a journalist responded to our pitch. That first time a camera showed up at our event. That first time a story ran, and our expert was quoted. The high that follows is exceptional, and for those of us who enjoy media relations, it’s addictive.

The first media impression I earned was with The Philadelphia Tribune. I called the reporter and asked her to come to my organization’s event. When she showed up and later published a story, I was hooked.

I thought I’d share a few thoughts with those who can relate to what it’s like to be a media relations specialist:

1. One hit is a relief, but it’s never enough—When I’m pitching a difficult story, I usually let out a sigh of relief after receiving a response from a journalist saying, “I’ll run a short blurb” or “Yes, let’s set up a time to talk.” But then, I start thinking, “Well if this reporter is interested, I bet there are others who will be too.” Then I fall down a rabbit hole until I realize it’s 3 a.m. and no one is going to respond to my emails.

2. Stronger hits to maintain the media buzz—Once I started getting comfortable with pitching early in my career, I developed new and loftier goals. While local outlets are always vital, I wanted to see if I could get the attention of reporters with big dailies…national newspapers…radio!…television!! Alas, some media outlets will always remain a pipe dream, but I will never stop trying.

3. Lay awake at night thinking about the pitch—At bedtime, I’m often still thinking about how I could have written a pitch differently. Or, maybe I’ll read an article as I’m dozing off and think, “I need to contact this guy tomorrow.”

4. Avoid withdrawal by pitching every day—Working at an agency typically affords me a lot of meaty material from numerous clients. If a day passes, and I don’t send out a pitch, I start to sweat. On my desk, I actually have a hard-copy list of pitch topics that my team members and I are currently working.  I keep the list at my fingertips so that I’m actively thinking about pitching every day.

5. Admit you’re a first-timer—This is more a piece of advice for newbies. Don’t be afraid to admit to a journalist that you’re new here. It can be a critical tool in winning over the heart (and patience) of that reporter. You’re trying your best to get them what they want, and they may appreciate your earnestness and take pity on your inexperience. And most important, ask a more experienced colleague to walk you through the process step-by-step. There are nuances you don’t know that you don’t know.

Do any other communications professionals out there have a similar addiction to media relations?

July 26, 2017

The Importance of Staying Informed

By Staff, 1:12 pm

– Maggie Rugolo

With headlines alternating daily between terrorist attacks and political turmoil, reading the news can be painful. It would be much easier to simply put the paper down and live in a blissful bubble of denial and oblivion.

As public relations professionals, we do not have the liberty of denial. We are forced to face the headlines head on and for that we are grateful. Because, yes, while the world can seem unbearable at times, being informed about what is happening makes us better people and professionals.

Being informed allows you to become part of something bigger and connect with the rest of the world. Horrible events are no longer private and are harder to overlook when they are splashed across newspapers. When we read about another person’s grief, their problems become personal to us. For example, terrible headlines about terrorist attacks across the world are often quickly followed by the outpouring of support. Complete strangers are linked by their knowledge of what is happening, and then work together to make a difference and start fixing the problem. By staying informed, you become a part of the solution.

It’s also important to read more than one news site.  In order to be truly educated, it is necessary to read publications from both sides of the political spectrum for example. By reading different publications, we can learn from the various perspectives being offered on a single situation. Reading articles that challenge our views helps us understand other people’s opinions and beliefs. Once we gain this understanding we can better work with clients and reporters who may not share our views.

Staying on top of topics trending in the news helps us draft pitches that will pique a reporter’s interest Staying informed helps us become better public relations professionals.

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