Philadelphia-based Buchanan Public Relations LLC is a full-service public relations firm that specializes in media relations, social media and crisis communications.

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June 20, 2017

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

By Amanda Mueller, 12:22 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 12, 2017

From a Past Intern…

By Staff, 12:59 pm

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

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

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

May 31, 2017

Career Study at Buchanan PR: How It Impacted Me

By Staff, 2:16 pm

– Gabby Guarnaccia

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Gabby Guarnaccia

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

May 24, 2017

5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Writing

By Staff, 12:22 pm

– Alex Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 16, 2017

Three Reasons Your PR Firm Should Make Friends

By Joe Cerrone, 10:27 am

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

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

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

Compare Style and Structure

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

Reveal Challenges and Solutions

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

Share Your Mission

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

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

May 1, 2017

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

By Anne Buchanan, 10:22 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to be paid subscribers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25, 2017

PR Lessons to Learn from United Airlines Crisis

By Jen Tedeschi, 12:17 pm

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

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

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

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

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

April 7, 2017

The Story of Buchanan Public Relations

By Staff, 11:48 am

Buchanan Public Relations works with well-known clients, top tier publications, and has over a dozen employees (plus two dogs!). But it wasn’t always this way, and the road was not always an easy one. President Anne Buchanan tells the story of how Buchanan Public Relations came to be — from a one-person company operating out of an empty bedroom, to a flourishing firm in a brand new office in the Philadelphia suburbs today.

March 30, 2017

Katie and Lacey Go to Work: A Day in the Life of BPR’s K9 Employees

By Staff, 2:51 pm

Ever wonder how ruff it is for Lacey and Katie to come to work everyday? Check out a day in their life.

March 28, 2017

So You Got An Interview

By Nicole Lasorda, 10:47 am

I handle the internship and co-op programs here, and, especially for summer, I get hundreds of resumes for only two open positions.

A few weeks ago, AC Lesley wrote a blog post about some major resume mistakes we see: Why We Passed on Your Resume (Sorry, Not Sorry). She did a great job emphasizing the importance placed on an applicant’s attention to detail.

Now that your resume looks great and you’ve scored an interview, what do you do? Here are a few interview tips to help you stand out from the crowd and snag that gig!

Let’s start with the pre-interview prep:

Do your research. I’m not just talking about reviewing the website to identify a few clients to mention during the interview. Really research the company. Check out work the agency has done on behalf of its clients (Google is an amazing tool) – previous work is a pretty good talking point to bring up during the interview. It shows you’ve done your research. Read the company blog (well, I guess you’ve got this one covered, since you’re here) – see what they’re talking about. You may even stumble upon a post or two that can give you great insight into how to get hired (just sayin’). Check out the company’s social channels – you can really grasp the company culture this way. Is it laid back or buttoned up? Is this a culture you feel would be a fit for you? You can also bring up some funny or impressive posts you saw.

Dress to impress. The saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” is well-known for a reason. You’re walking into an office, trying to knock out others for a position you really want – make sure you look the part. Ladies, make sure your hair and makeup are done and appropriate for the position. It’s in your best interest not to come in with a messy bun on top of your head and raccoon eyes from last night. Guys, make sure your hair is combed and if you have facial hair, see that it’s clean and trimmed. I know you’re thinking, “Umm, obviously,” but you’d be surprised.

Now for the clothes. I know you’re on a student’s salary (aka nothing), but you just need one nice interview outfit. It doesn’t have to be a full suit (unless you plan on going into finance or law), but a pair of black pants and a nice shirt or a professional dress will make solid additions to your wardrobe that you’ll use for years to come. Stores like H&M sell some nice, inexpensive pieces.

Buchanan PR is pretty laid back, but nothing speaks, “I don’t really want this job” more than showing up  for an interview in jeans.

All right, you look great and you’re dressed to kill. Here’s what to do when you arrive at the office:

Greet everyone with a smile. It’s pretty obvious you should always treat everyone you meet with respect, but this is extra important during an interview. If you’re rude to the person who answers the door, there’s a 99% chance you won’t get the position. Companies, especially those on the smaller side, will ask every person what they think of a potential candidate. If one says, “She was rude” or “He ignored me when I spoke,” you’ve pretty much guaranteed someone else will get the position. Also, your use of good manners will make your grandmother proud.

Ask questions, please. We’re PR people, we love to talk. If you don’t have any questions, it makes us think you’re uninterested in our company. Be sure you have at least three non-position-related questions – the kind that won’t get answered while the interviewer does his or her spiel (how many hours, what the position entails, pay, etc.). Remember all that research you did beforehand? Now’s a good time to start asking about that. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • How did you get started in PR?
  • What do you like most about working here?
  • What do you like least about working here?
  • How would this internship differ from others in the area?
  • What are the most important qualities you’re looking for in an intern?

You did it! You rocked the interview. Now what?

Send a thank you note to each person who interviewed you. This is something that can really set you apart from other candidates. Drop each person an email expressing your interest in the position and thanking them for taking the time to interview you. Bonus points if you can add in a personal item that you remember from the interview. Extra bonus points if you send a handwritten thank you note, too.

If there are two equal candidates and I’m trying to decide between the two, the one who sent the thank you note usually gets the position. But what if you realize the position isn’t for you? Send a thank you note, anyway, and let the interviewer know you feel it’s not a fit.

Finally, the PR world is very small. If someone reaches out to you to schedule an interview, always respond, even if it’s to say, “Thank you, but I’ve already found a position.” And if you don’t get the internship or job, be polite and thank the messenger for letting you know.  You never know when and where you’ll encounter that person again.  Plus, your grandma will be proud of you, again.

Though these tips were geared toward interns, they definitely apply to all interviewees.

So, now that I’ve gone through my tips, what about you? Do you have any suggestions? Also, interviewees, this is a two-way street, what advice do you have for interviewers?

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