Category Archives: Public Relations Tips

12 must-read blogs for PR students

Another blog I should have mentioned! Conversations in Public Relations…

This morning, I spoke with George Mason University students in Serge Samoilenko’s class.  The topic was blogging.  Since many of them will be working communications, I compiled a list of blogs that I thought would help them learn more about PR, understand what it is like to work in PR, and maybe even make useful contacts.

One thing I emphasize for students (and professionals, as well) is to take full advantage of the comments feature to add to the discussion and cultivate relationships (and perhaps drive traffic to their own blogs).

I do follow many other excellent PR blogs but these were the ones that I thought might be most useful to undergrad students and soon-to-be PR professionals.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1. PRSay is the blog of the Public Relations Society of America, which of course is the foremost professional organization for PR professionals in the states.  It’s a high quality blog that delivers just what you would expect it to.

2. Beyond PR is PR Newswire’s blog and it is outstanding.  You can tell the people who write for this blog love to write.  But they are also on the cutting edge of any new PR development.  The practical public relations tips are invaluable.  One of my favorite blogs to read.

3. Fresh Ideas is the blog for BurrellesLuce.  I especially like the blog posts by local Debbie Friez.   This is another blog with practical public relations tips, as well as takeaways from area public relations professional development events .  I advised the students to get to know Debbie’s work through her posts on this blog and to seek her out at networking events, as she is highly connected and influential in DC’s PR community.

4. The Publicity Hound delivers good quality, practical public relations advice you can use in a succinct and uncomplicated way.  Joan Stewart‘s writing is fun to read, and I often find tips on public relations topics not covered widely elsewhere. In short, it’s interesting.

5. Levick Strategic Communications has expanded and rebranded their Insights blog from their former Bulletproof Blog, which was excellent.  I am just getting used to the new format, but is there ever a lot of good content here.  Levick Strategic Communications, as you may know, is one of the foremost crisis public relations firms.  Their blog is an education in crisis communications, and never fails to impress me.

6. Social Media Club DC had some starts and stops but it seems like their blog and programming are really on a roll now.  None of the students in this class had been to any SMC-DC events, so I strongly recommended that they subscribe and start connecting with this active group.

7. The Fletcher Prince Blog.  Like I wasn’t going to recommend my own blog! 🙂  620 blog posts, people. I’m just saying….

8. The blog for PRofessional Solutions, LLC (client) disseminates the wisdom of Kate Perrin and Melanie Jordan, who manage the DC area’s only public relations staffing firm.   They deal everyday with companies and job seekers, and they know their stuff.  Both women are excellent writers, and yes, I would say that even if they were not my clients! 🙂 These are also influential contacts to get to know and emulate.  I know I often think: “What would Kate or Melanie do/say now?” That’s how savvy they are.

9. Ami Neiberger-Miller writes The PR Toolkit for Nonprofits.  Ami started her professional career as a journalist and you can tell: she really is a wonderful and intelligent writer.   She has such a broad wealth of public relations experience and knowledge to draw on, and she is a committed blogger.  Of course, nonprofit PR is huge in DC.  Ami is another DC PR pro people should really get to know.

10. Amanda Miller Littlejohn is another DC area independent who also got her start as a journalist.  Amanda’s blog posts on Mopwater + Media Notes are thought-provoking and often inspiring, which is appropriate since she likes to help people build their personal brands.   This is an especially useful blog for students and young professionals to start reading on a regular basis, because Amanda also interviews public relations professionals about their jobs, and shares job openings.

11. Another local independent, Denise Graveline, has two excellent PR blogs.  I directed them to The Eloquent Woman for its unique focus on public speaking. What communicator would not benefit from public speaking tips and anecdotes?

12. And last but not least, I recommend the blog, Mr. Media Training.  I have never met the author, Brad Phillips, but I think his PR expertise makes his blog subscription-worthy.  One thing that impresses me about this prolific blogger is how he hops right on a news story or breaking development, so I enjoy those current events insights, as well.  I think it would be an excellent addition to any student’s (0r professional’s) daily reading to do list.


Honor, trust, and public relations

Penn State logo

Penn State logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was thinking about how one of the important purposes of marketing and public relations is to create and build trust among the people you want most to influence.

But, you can only amplify the possibility of trust when there is true merit behind it.  I have said this before, but no amount of public relations can cover up for a business or organization that does something truly wrong.

When you try to create trust in a product, brand, service, or person who does not deserve trust, that ceases to be marketing and public relations.  It becomes something else much less worthy.  Something akin to chicanery.

Last week, Richard Edelman addressed the Penn State trustees about their “Move Forward” plan.  The firm receives more than $200,000 a month in a retainer fee agreement for public relations services..

Edelman, as you may know, is the largest public relations firm in the world.  They also invented the Trust Barometer.  So they know a lot about trust and public relations.  I have admired much about their work.

He described what his firm intended to do to repair Penn State’s reputation as he presented the “Faces of Penn State” campaign.

“We have been playing defense for the last four or five months, since we’ve been engaged.  The Sandusky trial, the Freeh report, the NCAA sanctions — all of these have, you know, put us in a position of back foot. In a sense all we can do is be responsive in all those ways. Now is the time … to make the pivot.”

“The first Sandusky victim and those kinds of things are going to be a continuous stream.  The key point about reputation management is you cannot go into your tortoise shell and wait for things to change.”

I had three problems with the announcement.  First of all, I feel Penn State’s reputation should repair when it is merited, not by manipulation of the public’s perception by diverting focus away from the crimes to their academic programs.

Second, I think this kind of campaign is tremendously premature, and that there should be more focus on the real issues at hand.

Third, I was distressed by what appeared to be insensitivity to the gravity and pain of what transpired, and an inadequate acknowledgement of responsibility and contrition.  I believe a PR plan based on distraction may be perceived as a lack of  sensitivity for the gravity of these charges and the convictions.

Penn State doesn’t need the biggest PR agency in the world to tell people that they have a good academic program, because their academic program did not rupture their reputation. No one is going to forget that the President, Vice President and athletic director have been caught in lies with a “Faces” campaign.  Americans will see right through that ploy.

If Penn State wants to repair its damaged reputation with honor, they should admit their wrongdoing, make amends, and explain the steps they will take to reduce the risk of any other person being abused on their campus, or any wrongdoing from being reported.  That is what is going to make people start trusting Penn State again. The governance reporting mentioned was one part of that, but it was too small, and the other pieces — the offense plays they are referring to — are clearly taking precedence.  That’s just not honorable.

I do not hear a university that is contrite and feels responsible.  No one is going to be distracted by the fact that coaches and leaders at Penn State turned a blind eye to years of child abuse by the fact that one football player got a 4.0 in math.

Penn State is a football culture.  The trustees were completely focused on the upcoming football game and the reputation of their football team, and even did a “We are Penn State” cheer in the meeting.  Penn State paid its professors an average salary of $100,000/year and paid Coach Paterno more than $1,000,000/year.  But sticking blue ribbons for child abuse on football helmets does not say “We’re sorry, we acknowledge our fault, and it won’t happen again.”  Penn State trustee Al Clemens was talking about what “NCAA did to us,” as if the penalties were undeserved.   Sometimes I wonder if anybody at Penn State truly gets it.

One thing is certain: public opinion about Penn State has not swayed, not even in Pennsylvania.  In a poll of Pennsylvanians last month, the slight majority of respondents felt the NCAA penalties were fair or not severe enough, and 77% of the respondents agreed that athletic programs had taken too much precedence in university activities.  Eight Penn State football players, including two star performers, have transferred to other schools.

The second thing that is wrong with Edelman’s plan: it is too soon.  One trustee reiterated over and over, “Now is not the time to revisit the past.”  The past is now.  Graham Spanier was talking to the New Yorker two weeks ago, and claiming he knew nothing. Jerry Sandusky was convicted as sexually abusing ten boys on June 22.  That’s less than three months ago.  He hasn’t even been sentenced yet.  The Freeh report came out on July 12 and the NCAA sanctions were imposed on Penn State on July 23.  That’s less than two months ago.  There are other trials still pending against Penn State, as well as criminal charges of perjury against former university Athletic Director Timothy Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz.  Victim #1 filed suit on August 24 against Penn State for “purposeful, deliberate and shameful subordination of the safety of children to its economic self-interests, and to its interest in maintaining and perpetuating its reputation.”  None of this is past.  None of this is going away anytime soon.

At least they wisely acknowledged that it was too soon for paid advertising.  But their PR plan is too obvious a distraction ploy.  I believe it may be perceived as a lack of  sensitivity for the gravity of these charges and the convictions.

The third problem I have with this announcement is its tone and language.  I have a real problem with Mr. Edelman dismissively referring to the victims of child abuse and sexual abuse as “those kinds of things.”   He also referred to the October Child Sexual Abuse Conference organized and hosted by Penn State as a venue to tell the good things about Penn State, making it pretty clear the event is basically a public relations tactic.

There is just no excuse for this.   There was the only a passing, glancing reference to what transpired on their campus. No mention was made about dealing with the fallout from the upcoming sentencing and court cases.  If anything, the discussion and plans presented revolved around how to shape the “one-year-later” story they feel will be all over the media in November.  That’s just not right.

Many people refer to public relations in a negative way, and maybe it’s easier to understand that after announcements like this.  I hope Penn State and Edelman choose to take the high road, and handle their future communications with more sensitivity for what has transpired, and the lives that have been damaged.

To watch the Edelman portion of this presentation, please fast forward the video to 2:04:10

$10B PR industry is thriving, according to the Holmes Report

The Holmes Report has released its ranking of the top 250 public relations firms, worldwide, in order of fee income.  Here are some findings from the report.

Edelman, Weber-Shandwick and Fleishman Hillard are the top three public relations firms in the world.  All three are based in the U.S.  Edelman has more than 4,000 employees!

Nearly half of the firms on the list (45%) enjoyed double digit percentage growth in fees from 2010 to 2011.  Only 8% posted losses, and most were minor.  Five firms had triple digit percentage growth.  The PR firm with the greatest growth was Fortune PR in Indonesia with 314% growth.

Here’s what some DC-area headquartered PR firms raked in (ranking in parentheses)

  • APCO Worldwide (16)  $120,701,000
  • Levick Strategic Communications (99) $12,459,523
  • Widmeyer (118) $10,600,000
  • Spectrum Science (172) $5,800,000
  • Gibraltar Communications (182) $4,918,650

The basics of crisis PR planning (video)

Kathryn Falk, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Cox Communications in Virginia, talks with Jane Applegate of Cox Business Television about the importance of having a crisis communications plan.

Ouch, that hurts: Economist comment underscores negative perception of PR

The Economist published a commentary on Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Saturday.  While criticizing the Republican nominee, they also managed to bash the industry of public relations.

But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected.

Wow, really?

I’m not going to address their assessment of Mr. Romney’s character.  My problem is with The Economist equating PR with insincerity, lack of character, and “fawning.”  As a public relations practitioner, I have to say, that hurts.  And I don’t think it’s fair.

I’m not surprised, though.  The Economist published a scathing opinion piece about PR last year.  Probably not their first, now that I think of it, and probably not their last, either. I guess the $10 billion public relations industry is one they love to hate.

You would think that, given its editorial stance, The Economist does not sully its hands with public relations professionals.  Ah, but it does.  It employs both in-house communications professionals and public relations agencies, including Speed Communications in London, Edelman Public Relations in Hong Kong, and Cape Public Relations in Australia.  They spend many thousands of dollars on good ol’ PR, if you want to know the truth.  Together, these “PR men” — and women — work to  handle responsibilities, including

  • Overseeing media relations and blogger relations for The Economist.
  • Developing public relations strategies for The Economist magazine’s editorial content and for The Economist Group’s product and business launches.
  • Positioning reporters as subject matter experts.
  • Providing media training to journalists and executives.
  • Creating the in-house television and radio studio.
  • Monitoring the value of media coverage.

Hmm, I don’t see “fawning” mentioned among their many important responsibilities, however.  Now, editors, would you care to rephrase that comment?

10 ways to say thank you to your public relations interns

Inviting your summer interns back for the company holiday party is another nice way to say thank you to your interns.

We still have a bit of summer left, but it won’t be long before your public relations interns are packing up and heading back to college, or moving on to their first jobs.

Hopefully, your company has given them real-life experiences, coaching, and the hourly pay they are entitled to for bringing value to your firm.  If you handled the internship well, the interns will leave with a favorable impression of your company and will go on to be brand ambassadors.  But did your intern go the extra mile?  Are you especially glad you hired her or him?

If so, before the internship ends, now is the time to think about the ways you can say thank you to your public relations interns, while giving them a good start on their public relations careers.  Here are some suggestions for ways to thank and help your interns before their internship ends.

1. Schedule a meeting with the intern, about a week or two before their last day.  Give them notice of it now, so they can prepare.  You can explain that at this meeting you will discuss and assess their work, provide advice, review their work samples, and hear how their internship experience went for them.  I asked my interns to write a brief summary of their internship experience before this meeting for me.   This helps the intern organize work samples for her or his portfolio, and gives you information to tackle their recommendation letter.

2. Write a LinkedIn recommendation.  Your recommendation may be the first one they receive, so it is especially meaningful.  It should be brief and honest, but specific.  Think of three projects the intern worked on, and their contribution.  Mention a few personal qualities that make this intern desirable as an employee.

3. Write a letter of recommendation.  A letter of recommendation you provide on company letterhead is important for a few reasons.  First of all, not every employer is on LinkedIn (gasp!).  Also, it’s helpful to have a paper copy of a recommendation for the intern’s portfolio, and the letterhead and signature lend authenticity.  In addition, if the intern goes on to another internship, some applications require at least one letter of recommendation.

4. Offer to review their updated portfolio and resume.  At this point, the intern should have work samples, a fair idea of their contributions to the firm, and a letter of recommendation (before their last day).  They can now update their resume with their internship experience.  Review their updated resume and portfolio with them and explain how to make the most of these assets in a job interview.

5.  Schedule a farewell meeting with a top executive.  Before the intern leaves, speak to your top executive about having a brief meeting with you and the intern.  The executive should be informed about the contributions the intern made before the meeting.  You should also coach the intern on basic business protocol before the meeting.  This is an opportunity for the top executive to thank the intern and impart any quick words of advice, and the chance for the intern to also say thank you and collect a memory for a lifetime.  Don’t forget to bring a camera!

6. Connect through social media.  If you haven’t had this discussion, now may be a good time to explain the business etiquette of social media.  For example, interns and supervisors do not usually connect on Facebook.  However, you can safely encourage the intern to connect with you on LinkedIn, and you can offer to review their LinkedIn profile and make recommendations.  You can also encourage your intern to “Like” the company Facebook Page, subscribe to the company YouTube Channel, and follow the company blog and Twitter account.

7. Take some photos.  I mentioned taking a photo with the chief executive but make sure you also snap a few pictures (with your camera or the intern’s) of them sitting at their desk, posed with employees in the office, in front of the building, at their farewell lunch, working on a project, and even of work samples.  Email them the digital files.  These photos really come in handy for updating social media profiles and for use in job interviews, and they will become a treasured memento for the interns.

8. Ask the intern to write an article about their internship experience for the company blog.  The summary they wrote for you (in tip #1) and the photos (in tip #7) will make for a meaningful blog post that will make the whole company feel good, and will encourage quality interns to apply for your next internship offering.

9. Write a brief thank you note (handwritten) on your personal stationery or a card.  Yes, you will have already written the letter of recommendation on company letterhead.  But that is directed to a future employer.  You should also thank the intern personally.  This is another item that will become a memento for the intern.  If you give the intern this note a week in advance (say, at the end of the day on the Friday before their last week), it may also prompt him or her to write a thank you note to you, which is great business etiquette training.

10. Provide a parting gift.  What you give the intern as a parting present depends on your budget, their contribution, and how many interns you have.  If you have a small budget, you might gift them with some company imprinted items you have on hand, or a business card case.  But if the intern was really outstanding, and your company has the budget, one especially significant gift is to give them their first professional membership.  Professional associations usually discount their membership fees for young professionals.  So, if you would like to do this, you can discuss the options with your intern, have them complete the membership application, and then issue a check to the organization for their first year of membership.  Some suggestions: Washington Women in Public Relations ($40 for college students, $85 for regular membership) or the Public Relations Society of America ($155 for applicants with two or less years of experience).

What ways have you found to thank your public relations interns?

A public relations to-do list for the dog days of summer

summer-wallpaper7-1024x768Rosemarie Esposito wrote a terrific post last week on ways to keep yourself busy and productive during the notoriously slow summer months when you work in public relations.  Some of her recommendations included taking clients out to lunch, blogging, and organizing contact lists.  Check out her blog post to see all her suggestions.

I like her ideas and I would like to add a few more to your downtime to-do list:

  • Draft an editorial calendar for the rest of the year — for your blog posts, social media updates, YouTube videos, Pinterest boards.  Sure, you can’t plan everything in advance, but an editorial calendar will give you a terrific head start, if you aren’t using one already.
  • Create a Twitter list of media contacts that you hope to cultivate.
  • Write a LinkedIn recommendation for a vendor, intern, or volunteer committee colleague.
  • Record a YouTube video.  There’s no better time to record video than in the summer — when you’re feeling relaxed, looking great, and probably not congested with a head cold!
  • Take candid photographs around the office and create Facebook Page albums.
  • Write case studies to share on the client work section of your website.
  • Create a presentation related to your area of expertise — with a PowerPoint presentation that you can upload to SlideShare.  It’s nice to have a presentation in the wings in case you are asked to fill in last minute for a cancelled speaker — I’ve been asked to do this.
  • Plan your winter holiday communications — it’s never too early, and now is the best time when you’re not harried and overworked.  Some people get their holiday shopping done before Labor Day and some people plan their holiday events, video greetings, and mailed cards early.  Fletcher Prince can design your holiday print card or e-card, and we are known for our holiday greeting videos.
  • Submit an award nomination. Washington Women in Public Relations is accepting nominations for Washington PR Woman of the Year.
  • Get a head start on your company’s annual report.  We’re halfway through the year.  If you start on it now, and save the draft, it will be that much easier to complete at the end of the year.

Now, that should keep you busy for a while!  Whether you’re working or taking some time off, I hope you have a fun and relaxing summer!

P.S. Here’s an explanation why we call these days the “dog days.”


Some cost-saving examples of PR and marketing tactics from our latest client project

Simple promotional wristbands can be real attention-getters at a convention

Simple promotional wristbands can be real attention-getters at a convention

We have had such good results in our awareness campaign for the Bahrain Coordinating Committee in such a short time, that I just had to share these preliminary results with you, in case you would like to apply any of these approaches in your own marketing and public relations campaigns.  Their awareness campaign has been mounted with very little investment of funds, just lots of creativity and effort.  Hopefully, we will maintain the momentum we are building!

As you know, only a month ago, we launched the organization’s blog and website, using our favorite, affordable platform,  It’s basically an $18/year website. In only a month, the website and blog has received more than 2500 views. Even their brand new YouTube site is doing well, getting more than a hundred views for its videos less than 48 hours after the first videos were put online.  The cost for that YouTube channel? Zero dollars.

One of our recommendations was that the organization exhibit at the ADC Convention, the largest gathering of Arab Americans in the United States.  The Committee joined forces with Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain who created a wonderful display that received lots of attention.  The organization created folders of information, and distributed 540 of them to convention attendees.  Some of the media who dropped by the booth included BBC Arabic and Voice of America.

Our client making an impact at the ADC Convention

Giveaways are important at conventions, and we particularly wanted to increase awareness of the organization’s Twitter handle (@Connect_Bahrain), since that is such an important medium for communicating a movement like this.  We designed and ordered rubber wristbands that had the organization’s Twitter handle and the slogan, “Freedom in Bahrain.”  The exhibit volunteers gave out all 275 wrist bands (we gave out some to the press before the event), which cost the organization less than $150 including shipping, and 75 bags of  M&Ms tagged with their new logo and  Twitter handle, which cost about $40 to put together.

Well, it worked!  Over that weekend, their Twitter followers shot up from 420 to 641!  Their Facebook Page fans also increased 20%.

We’re very pleased to help this organization with their public relations efforts.  We have put out seven press releases in the past six weeks, some on PR Newswire, and all on Free Press  The paid distribution with PR Newswire ($89 each), of course, gets very good results.  We expected that.  But what we did not expect is that we would receive so many additional views for our online news releases on Free Press  ($1 per press release) — over 1,800 views thus far.

The feedback we are receiving from the client is that there is increased interest in the organization and its work, and that many conference attendees were curious and supportive.  This is all gratifying to hear.

So, I wanted to share with you how these inexpensive approaches can pay off, and perhaps, they might work for your company or nonprofit organization!  Please let us know in the comments if there are free or low-cost public relations and marketing tactics you have tried that worked well for you.

Follow Friday Twitter List of the Week: Washington Business Journal

Work in public relations?  Building your media contact list?  Follow my public Twitter list of Washington Business Journal contacts.


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Follow Friday Twitter List of the Week: WTOP-FM Radio Accounts


WTOP-FM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Work in public relations in Washington, DC? Need to build your media contact list? Follow my public Twitter List of WTOP-FM Radio reporters and announcers.

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Reporting on the @##$@ traffic on WTOP-FM in Washington DC now, 10a-1p ! LOL Join me for the fun


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Born in Philly. Trained in DC. @WTOP Assistant Editor/Reporter. @WMUCSports Promotions Director. My views are my own. News tip? Email me: Read the rest of this entry

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