Blog Archives

For your calendar — upcoming PR and business networking holiday events

Tuesday, December 4

IPRA Holiday Luncheon

Maggiano’s, Tysons Galleria, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Network with independent public relations practitioners in the DC area over chicken parmigiana and ravioli at the annual IPRA holiday luncheon.

Tips: This event typically draws around 40-50 independents in their 40s to 60s who have known each other for several years, and attend the lunch annually, as well as a few sponsors and the occasional newcomer.  Men wear dark suits and Christmas ties, ladies wear festive suits, or holiday sweaters.  A collection is taken for charity, so bring a checkbook.  Good networking and terrific food, and almost no one checks their Blackberry at the table (refreshing).  Register for the event ($35/$45).

WWPR Chocolate Holiday Party

Co Co. Sala Lounge and Chocolate Boutique, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.  Join Washington Women in Public Relations for their Chocolate Holiday party in Washington, DC, featuring drinks, appetizers, and chocolate!

Tips: Both men and women attend these events, but they’re usually attended primarily by fashionably attired, well-heeled female PR pros in their 20s and 30s, as well as a few seasoned pros with great connections.  A mannerly bunch, and a friendly crowd to newbies.  Register for the event ($12/$25).

Wednesday, December 5

The One Party

Current, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.  Tonight is the local PR/Advertising industry’s biggest holiday bash, The One Party.  The multi-sponsored party typically draws about 200 people.

Tips: It’s loud and the drink lines are long, and no one ever dances, but it’s the event to see and be seen, and admission includes two drinks and sushi.  A mix of ages and backgrounds, this event skews  to the young and hip advertising/creative set.  Almost everyone behaves.  Bring cards, but this one’s mostly for the photo-ops.  Register for the event ($45/$55).

Monday, December 10

PRSA-NCC Holiday Party

Carmine’s, 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.  Join the National Capital Chapter of the PRSA for holiday networking, drinks and Italian hors d’oeuvres in Washington, DC.

Tips: Expect to network with a suited and mature crowd of about 50 PR professionals who know each other well.  There are typically chapter award giveaways, as well.  Better for chapter insiders.  Register for the event ($40/$55).

Wednesday, December 12

AWC-DC Holiday Tea

Willard Intercontinental, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Indulge in a Holiday Tea, including vanilla cranberry scones, tea sandwiches, and petits fours, in the Peacock Room with AWC-DC (Association for Women in Communications, DC Chapter) PRofessional Solutions, LLC CEO Kate Perrin will be the keynote speaker.

Tips: A powerhouse of influential and classy women at all stages in their careers in the most refined setting in Washington.  Dress to impress, and mute your mobile at this one.  Register for the event ($45/$55).

Washington Network Group Holiday Networking Reception

Lima Restaurant and Lounge, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.  Cash bar and complimentary appetizers.  Register for the event ($15/$30).

Wednesday, December 19

Social Media Club DC Holiday Happy Hour

Cause-The Philanthropub, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.  $10.  Millenial group.  Information and registration.

Check out these other business-related holiday events in the Washington, DC area

Saturday, December 1

Ad2DC Holiday Pub Crawl and Ugly Sweater Contest

Various locations, 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. Free; buy your own.  Millenial group.  More information and registration.

Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce 30th Anniversary Celebration

Sheraton Reston Hotel, 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. $175.  More information and registration.

Tuesday, December 4

Arlington Chamber of Commerce Holiday on Tap

World of Beer, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. $20.   Information and registration.

Loudoun Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Networking Social

O’Malley’s Pub/Holiday Inn, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. $15   Information and registration.

What’s Next DC Holiday Meetup

Public Bar in DC, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. $15.  Information and registration.

Wednesday, December 5

Washington DC Chamber of Commerce Holiday Business Networking Reception

Hay-Adams Hotel, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. ($40/$65).  More information and registration.

Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce Holiday Reception

Hilton McLean/Tyson’s Corner, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. ($50/$100).  More information and registration.

Tech the Halls Holiday Party (Multiple tech organization sponsors)

Opera Ultra Lounge in DC, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.  $25.  More information and registration.

Thursday, December 6

Prince William Chamber of Commerce Silent Night and Holiday Auction

Old Town Manassas Candy Factory, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.  More information and registration.

Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Holiday Mixer

Community Business Partnership, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.  Free.  More information and registration.

National Association of Women Business Owners, Greater DC Chapter, Holiday Party

Tysons Corner Marriott, 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. $75/$90.  More information and registration.

Alliance for Women in Media, National Capital Area Affiliate, Holiday Affair

NAB Broadcasters Hall of Fame in DC, 6 p.m. $20  More information and registration.

RefreshDC Holiday Happy Hour

Bread and Brew, Free.  7 p.m.  More information and registration.

Friday, December 7

TIVA-DC Holiday Party

Wisconsin Place Community Recreation Center, 7 pm – 10 pm, $25.  More information and registration.

Tuesday, December 11

George Mason University Business Roundtable Holiday Happy Hour

Pomodoro in Vienna, 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Free.  More information and registration.

Thursday, December 13

Greater Merrifield Business Association Holiday Luncheon and Auction

Courtyard by Marriott/Dunn Loring, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. $25. More information and registration.

SMPS DC Holiday Party (Society for Marketing Professionals, DC Chapter)

Bistro Bis at the Hotel George in DC, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 pm.  $75/$95.  More information and registration.

Women in Technology Holiday Party

Gannett Building, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. ($45/$65) More information and registration.

Saturday, December 15

Online News Association Holiday Party

Solly’s in DC.  7 p.m. $5.  More information and registration.

Tuesday, December 18

Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce VA Holiday Event

Sheraton Pentagon City, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.  Free.  More information and registration.

For more holiday events in the Washington, DC area, refer to my holiday event listing on my other blog, Cool Yule.

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012: 5 Ways to Improve Your Public Relations Capabilities

Photo by Jerry Silfwer

Would you like to improve your public relations capabilities in the new year?  Is that a goal for you?  Here are some free online resources for you to check out.

If you find these resources helpful, do us a favor and please tweet this post!

1. Write Better RFPs

Need to hire a public relations firm?  The next time you gear up to prepare a Request For Proposals (RFP), check out this free online resource, RFP Builder, with tools that walk you through the RFP process.

2. Power Up Your Press Releases

If you are using a service to distribute your press releases, you may be confounded about which one to select.  Download this Press Release Buyers Guide from Bulldog Reporter.

3. Refresh Your Basic PR Skills

Sharpen your public relations skills.  Download the free PRSA APR Study Guide.

4. Measure the Results of Your PR Efforts

Measure the results of your public relations efforts.  Here is a comprehensive Communications measurement guide.  Be sure to review the 2011 Barcelona Principles.

5. Master Social Media

You already use social media for networking and engagement.  Now learn how to use social media in your public relations effortsDownload this HubSpot ebook.

Review and refine your corporate social media policy regularly.  Here are more than 150 real-life social media policies to guide you.  Don’t forget the employee training component.  For more social media in the workplace guidelines, read these posts on the Fletcher Prince Blog.

Engage your supporters on Facebook.  Read these Facebook Pages guides and tips.  There are links here to guides for businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, police departments, the military, and more.

Make sure you taking full advantage of YouTube.  Download the free YouTube HandbookWe also have a YouTube tips section on the Fletcher Prince blog; that is another resource for you.

Want to use Google+ effectively?  Watch this video from Chris Brogan on using Google+ for business.

Network in college now for a career in PR later

Mary Fletcher Jones provides career advice to college students

It’s back to school time for many of you, and I know your future job options must be uppermost in your minds.

If you are considering a career in public relations, start networking now!

  • Become well acquainted with the staff at the public relations or public affairs department at your school.  If possible, obtain work or an internship there, or at minimum, work on a short-term volunteer project during a busy time for them.  If not, you can request an informational interview.  Keep tabs on how they promote your school.  Touch base at least once a month.
  • Involvement in the PRSSA is nice but even better: find the PRSA chapter near your school and attend an event once a month so you can network with established professionals who will be charmed by your initiative and will want to help you.  Most chapters offer signficant event fee discounts for students.  Bring your “business card” (you can them for free at VistaPrint) and practice networking.  Always ask for advice and leads, and listen more than you talk.
  • Ask your professors about their connections in public relations.  Do they know anyone who works at an agency or association?  See if they will help you obtain an informational interview, as well as leads for internships.
  • Don’t leave school without at least one letter of recommendation and at least one LinkedIn recommendation from a teacher for a public relations or communications related project you worked on, preferably a real-life one (not a classroom group project), such as an internship, paid project, or volunteer project.  Document your participation with a camera (you should always keep a digital camera with you), even if all you did was staff a registration desk for an event.  Blog about it.
  • Apply for summer internships early.  The best ones tend to be paid.  If you must take an unpaid internship with a nonprofit organization, try to make it part-time (e.g., 20 hours a week), so you can also work during the summer to earn money for college.  But don’t settle for a “distance” internship — you need to be in the workplace, learning and making connections.
  • Keep it classy.  Want to be remembered?  First impressions count, but so do second and third ones.  Be helpful, appreciative, and always say “thank you” to the many people who will help you along the way.  Keep your cell phone or Blackberry out of your hand during networking sessions, and polish your conversational and interpersonal skills.  And remember, a handwritten and mailed thank you note will always make you stand out.

To Thoth…or Not?

Getting an award for your communications work is a real feather in your cap, second in value to your business, I would think, only to landing a great client recommendation or testimonial.

Area communications organizations know this, and capitalize on this.  The annual awards programs are major revenue-builders, as the leadership will readily admit.  That’s one reason why there are so many categories!  More entries, more chances to win, and more revenues.

That’s not to say awards programs are not valuable endeavors, even to those communicators who don’t win awards.  I enjoy the awards programs because I like to see what kinds of approaches are being used by communicators — when that observation is provided for.

Locally, DC communicators have a variety of awards from which to select — PRSA-NCC has the Thoth Awards, The DC Ad Club offers the ADDYs, and IABC-DC has the Silver Inkwell Awards.

Honestly, I don’t know much about the IABC-DC awards.  I’m not a member.  But I do know about the PRSA-NCC and DC Ad Club award programs.  I have worked to promote both in past years.

But I have only entered one of these competitions.  Can you guess which one?

Nope.  Not that one.

Although I identify primarily with the public relations community in the DC area, the awards competition I care about enough to enter is the ADDYs.

Why?  Well, for several reasons.  I thought I would take a look at that today, because I think the Thoth Awards can learn a thing or two from the ADDYs.  If the Thoth Awards were structured more like the ADDYs, I would enter my work. Until then, I think I’ll just observe and clap politely 🙂

Reason #1: Significance of Award

The Thoth Award is a great award to have.  But the ADDY Award carries more prestige, for this reason: once you win the DC-based Thoth, that’s it.  You do not go on to win regional or national recognition for your work.  The ADDYs, by contrast, are a tiered competition. DC area winners go on to compete in the regionals.  Regional winners go on to compete for the national awards.  Winning a national award is a big deal. Winning a DC-based competition, not so much.

I believe the PRSA should implement a tiered competition, as does the American Advertising Federation.  The current system is more than a little confusing, and not tied to the local chapters at all.  It would make for a more meaningful and exciting competition, and would also promote national standards of excellence for the profession.

Reason #2: Impartiality of Judges

The primary reason why I have not entered the Thoth competition is because of the way the judges are selected.  I am not alleging that the judges are prejudiced one way or another, and I appreciate the volunteer service of past judges.  I’m sure they strive to be as impartial as possible.  The problem is, the way the judges are selected for Thoth does not ensure impartiality in the way that the ADDYs do, and impartiality is a critical aspect of any awards competition, particularly a local one.

In a nutshell,

Thoth Awards: Local judges.  No transparency.

ADDY Awards: Non-local judges.  Full transparency.

The judges for the ADDYs are selected for their expertise in each category.  Many are known nationally for their work, and no judges within the Washington metropolitan area are included on the judging panel.  An effort is made to create diversity among the judges.  And, while it is a volunteer gig, their expenses are reimbursed, which is important for out-of-area travel and makes the impartial nature of the judging process feasible.  Also the names and backgrounds of the judges are released beforehand.  Walking into it, you know your work is going to be assessed by some pretty incredible folks.  Even if you don’t win, that carries value for the entrant.  But importantly, they’re evaluating the work.  Not you.

The Thoth Awards, by contrast, are judged by members of the PRSA-NCC, usually the prominent ones.  There are only about 1200 of us.  If you’re active in PRSA-NCC, chances are, you will personally know the judges, and they will know you, to some degree.  Possibly a higher degree of acquaintance than name only, if you have created work worthy of an entry.  Not that you know who they are, because the identities are not made public.  But they know who you are.  And just that fact, I think, makes it really hard for them to be impartial judges of the work.  They’re just too close to it.  Also there doesn’t seem to be any established way of selecting judges.  I know people volunteer and I know people are asked.  But what criteria is used?  They appear to be hand-selected by whoever is in charge of Thoth that year.  There is no clear criteria for judge selection for the Thoth awards (at least, none that is publicly available or disclosed) the way there is for the ADDY Awards.

The anonymous nature of Thoth judges presents a problem for many entrants.  You know your work will be judged by your peers, but you don’t know if those peers actually have any expertise for your category.  You’re not assured, for example, that they have experience in, or even an understanding of, the category they are judging.

Honestly, you don’t even know if the judges are entering the competition themselves that year.  (Of course, I don’t think they should, and I don’t think Thoth committee members should enter the competition for the year they serve, either.)  None of that is clear to the entrant.

These factors make their assessment difficult to value, as an entrant.

Reason #3: Presentation of the Work

As I mentioned, communications organizations load competitions with plenty of categories because awards programs generate big revenues.  It gets a bit challenging, actually, when it comes time to actually distribute all those awards on awards night.

Because space and time are at a premium for awards ceremonies, the Thoth Awards tend not to display the work in a way that is meaningful to the awards ceremony attendees.  So you can attend the Thoth Awards, either as an entrant or just as a spectator, and walk away with a bunch of names that evening, but no real demonstration of why their work was considered excellent.  You don’t know why they won.  The learning piece is not there. The award winners are not even displayed on the PRSA-NCC website.

The ADDY Awards, in comparison, is a whole different affair.  Visit the DC Ad Club website and you will see the winners, not just for the most recent year, but for several recent years.  Think what a marketing benefit that is for the award-winner!

But more importantly, display of the winning entries (at the various levels) is an integral part of the ADDYs.  There is ample time to peruse the gallery of entrants, both before and after the awards ceremony.  And during the ceremony, care is given to display the entries, as time allots (for example, videos are shown, and screen grabs of websites and logos are displayed).

Not only does this make for a more interesting evening, but you actually learn something about what constitutes excellence in this area, and for that category.

Reason #4: Cost of Entry

The cost of entering the Thoth Awards has not prevented me from entering.  What has discouraged me from entering is the judging approach.  But I think it’s worth pointing out the Thoth Awards is a pricey endeavor, in comparison to other awards programs.

This would prevent some firms from competing to the same degree as other, more well-heeled firms.  I imagine if you were submitting 10 entries, cost could be a factor.  And there is a marked difference in entry fees between the ADDYs and the Thoth Awards that I can’t see as justified.

Last year, a DC Ad Club member could enter the ADDYs for $100 per entry.  That is the one time fee.  The local winners would not have to resubmit entry fees to compete at the regional and national levels. That is included, if you win.

And let’s face it, the time to assemble the entry costs money, too.  With the ADDYs, you do that just once.

Contrast this to the PRSA-NCC’s Thoth awards.  Not a tiered competition.  Not flying in and hosting judges, like the ADDYs does.  Not renting a space sufficiently large to display award winning entries, like the ADDYs also does.

But in excess of 50% more expensive, per cost per entry: $160, for PRSA-NCC members. How is that justified?

So, thinking about entering the national PRSA Bronze Anvil or Silver Anvil competitions?  You’ll have to enter those competitions separately, and pay separately, too.  In addition to the time you’ll spend preparing your entry, get ready to write a check for $300 per entry for the Silver Anvil, or $175 for the Bronze. But don’t forget to tack on $25 extra if you pay your entry fee by check!

And, tough luck, there are no regional categories for the Bronze Anvil or Silver Anvil Awards.  Nor are there Student Awards (with suitable discounts), as there are for the ADDYs.

Should You Thoth?  Or Not?

The truth is, the Thoth Awards are not the only game in town.  Communicators do have options.  As much as I support the PRSA-NCC in other ways,  I think the awards program requires serious restructuring, from the top down.

It’s time for the PRSA to emulate the American Advertising Federation, and for its chapters to do likewise.

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