Summer Reflections: As Told By the Intern

August 9, 2013

Over my farewell lunch this week when Jeff asked me what I learned this summer, I couldn’t help but hesitate. Of course I paid attention to what I was learning – I thought about it each day on my train ride back to the ‘burbs. My pause, of course, was because I didn’t know what to say first, what to rattle off as my list of learned skills – many of which are intangible.

As I sit down to write this blog entry on the last day of my internship and I’ve had some time to reflect, the most important lessons and takeaways from this experience are crystal clear. The contrast between my pre-internship self and last-day-internship self is very evident.

Most significantly, throughout the course of my internship I started to develop a confidence that I never had before. I initially felt apprehensive about making a follow-up call for a pitch; I was nervous that I would get rushed off the phone or shut down completely. However, through my experiences, I learned it only gets easier with practice. In the beginning of the summer, I received responses to my follow-up calls that were along the lines of: “Yes, I got it. I’ll look at it later.” More recently, I’ve heard a different kind of response at the other end of the line: “The story will run next week. Thanks for sharing!” – definitely a confidence-booster in my book.

In addition to gaining more confidence through the practice of pitching, I’ve become more successful with pitching because Jeff instilled in me the importance of looking for a natural fit. When you have a good story and it is matched with the right reporter at the right publication, it is a natural fit. Doing your homework to find these natural fits and pitch accordingly inevitably makes your job and the reporter’s job a lot easier – not to mention, it saves a lot of time and effort otherwise wasted on sending lots of pitches that never get read.

One of the best feelings during this entire experience has been seeing my work come to life either in print or on the web. It is so fulfilling to see a story get published after the lengthy process of researching, crafting and pitching it to the media. I’m proud that I could tell a client to pick up a copy of the local newspaper so the story could be displayed on the fridge at home. Seeing the fruits of my labor in physical form provided another boost to my newfound confidence.

As you might expect, I have also become more familiar with the press and media outlets across the region. In just a couple of months’ time, I’ve established contacts at publications in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and South Jersey. In addition, I have a better understanding of specific publications and which ones to target for particular clients or types of news. I now know who to reach out to for a health feature, executive promotion news or to announce a community event. I can call a news desk and confidently ask to speak to someone who will recognize my name.

Jeff and Johanna have given me the responsibility to take on tasks and challenges. They trusted me to do things on my own while providing me with the guidance I needed to be successful. I feel as though I’ve grown up a lot this summer, and my time at Jubelirer Strategies has certainly contributed to that.

-Amy

If You Build It, They Will Come

August 6, 2013

With fewer and fewer reporters on staff and the influx of good story ideas fighting for limited editorial space, earning the interest of the media has never been more difficult. As a result, content marketing, which can be defined as the process of generating your own quality online content, has risen in popularity as an effective way to reach your or your firm’s target audiences. I will first describe what is driving the demand for content. Second, I will discuss how to build your own content. Third, I will go over a number of different types of content that you should consider developing. Finally, I will explain different ways to effectively distribute your content to your target audiences.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of journalism jobs has dropped 25 percent since 2000. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of journalism jobs is expected to decline further by another 6 percent. While traditional newspaper newsrooms may be on the decline, journalism is not, however, dead. Figuratively taking its place is the rise of marketing and public relations jobs, which are starting to function more like newsrooms.

The formula for a good content marketer is two-fold. It takes great content and effective outreach. Good content does not mean just spinning out press releases. Rather, it means understanding search engine optimization (SEO) strategies and how to use the panoply of social media channels to get your content in your target audiences’ email in-boxes or onto their computer screens. To be an effective content marketer so that you can build visibility, there are some important tenets to follow.

First, even though you aren’t a reporter it is still good to uphold journalistic principles. Even though anybody with a keyboard and an Internet connection can “report news,” if you can’t churn out quality content told in a compelling way that is backed up by research, you won’t be as valued by your firm or your audience. Second, it is critical to stay current with changes in technology so that you can maximize the reach of blogs and social media. Third, have a strong niche. You need to brand yourself as an expert or “go-to” on a topic or area of the law that will keep your audience interested and wanting more. And, finally, be flexible enough with your schedule so that you can develop new content and place it in real-time should breaking news impact your content area.

There are several different mediums in which to distribute your content, thereby giving you a number to choose from that you are comfortable with to share your content. You can be like your humble author here and contribute articles (on average between 700 and 1,000 words) for a publication read by an important target audience. This is a great way to demonstrate your strategic thinking and writing skills.

If articles are too formal or not invited, use your website to blog (shorter pieces generally between 400 and 600 words) on topics within your area of expertise. Conversely, if articles are too informal for your liking, why not develop a white paper and submit it to an academic or industry publication? If you’re more comfortable or seasoned in front of a microphone or camera than with a pen, producing vlogs (video blogs) for your website or others can showcase your expertise. Podcasts are a great tool to demonstrate your knowledge for audiences to listen to at work, their commute home or their travels. Another valuable tool, especially for professional service providers like lawyers, is webinars. Many CLEs are now offered as webinars. Many of you probably lead them. More of you likely have taken one or more.

Now that you have built content by writing articles, blogging, leading webinars or more, how can you leverage into greater visibility to advance your own career or bring in new business to your firm? The beauty of content marketing is the ability to repurpose your work in various formats. You can share every article you craft or blog you post on your website, social media channels and firm e-newsletters. Your vlog? There’s a firm YouTube channel waiting to be built. You can also send your content to traditional journalists so that they might reach out to you when they do have the need for experts to opine or comment on a story they are developing.

The benefits of content marketing are multifaceted. Perhaps the best benefit is the ability to reach your target audience directly. There’s no filter. It also maximizes your opportunity to develop or deepen prospect and client relationships because you are delivering relevant news or advice to them in the way that they want to receive such information. Rather than pushing your messages without permission, you’re pulling your audience in with valuable content and making them smarter about topics that matter to them. What does that mean? It means leads, stronger relationships and an increase in the all-important measure: the bottom line.

-Jeff

Pitch Perfect

July 23, 2013

How my weeks at Jubelirer Strategies have improved my pitching skills.

I have been taught some fundamentals of pitching in my PR and communications courses in school. Furthermore, my internship here has given me the opportunity to draft pitches and manage their outreach on behalf of clients with the help of Jeff and Johanna. Here are some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout my experience so far:

1. Timing is everything
You don’t want to send out a pitch at 2 p.m. on Tuesday to an editor whose deadline is 3 p.m. that same day. Before you pitch, it’s imperative to understand the station or publication’s newsroom. Reporters and journalists work under strict and pressing deadlines and you need to keep that in mind when determining the best time to reach out.

2. Know who you are pitching to
You wouldn’t want to pitch a story about a new medical treatment to a financial reporter. As you develop contacts in specific areas and industries, it will become easier to direct your pitch to the appropriate person. If a journalist has previously written or reported on the subject, it’s nice to reference that piece upfront. Not only should you understand the specific person to whom you are pitching, but you should also understand the outlet’s audience.

3. Have a clear subject line
It’s tough to capture the attention of someone who has a flooded inbox. Many editors and reporters quickly scroll through emails, so a concise and to-the-point subject line is essential. The subject line is what will initially get the reporter to open the email.

4. Proofread
Check your spelling and grammar- then have a colleague look over it. Reporters may disregard poorly written pitches in the same way professors reject sloppy assignments. Journalists and editors have trained eyes for spelling and grammar mistakes.

5. Follow-up
Sometimes emails get lost in cyberspace or simply go unopened and ignored. This is why it’s important to make follow-up calls. Follow- ups should be friendly and to the point. While it’s best to get someone on the phone, sometimes a voicemail is necessary. When leaving a message be sure to clearly state your name, organization and phone number at the beginning. If you do get someone on the phone, never start a follow up call with “Hi, did you get that press release?” It’s better to give a brief background and explain the importance and value of the story you are pitching.

-Amy

Heed the Warning Signs Before It's Too Late

July 9, 2013

Each of us is vulnerable to suffering a reputational crisis — some more than others. Regardless of the type of law you practice or the environment in which you work, crises are always lurking. But how do you know if and when you are prone? Simple. Pay attention to the warning signs and respond or plan appropriately.

Just as you should slow down on the road if you see a “Dangerous Curve Ahead” sign, you should look for the figurative danger signals at work. I will first explain what a warning sign is and then I will share how to look for your or your clients’ warning signs. Finally, I will go over a couple of recent items in the news and analyze where and how the warning signs were missed and thus caused significant reputational and operational disaster. I’ll explain how paying attention to the signs could have prevented the crises.

Warning signs are any self- or externally-caused situations that, if ignored, could lead to a crisis.

Identifying warning signs is critical to preventing crises. If any of the following warning signs pertain to you or your organization, take note and be prepared to act or respond before the situation escalates:

• An incident or matter at your office attracts unwanted media attention and chatter on the Internet.
• A situation jeopardizes public safety and/or came to the attention of law enforcement.
• Something causes a significant work delay or stoppage, whether through egregious management behavior or something that cannot be controlled (e.g., the weather).
• If you are publicly held and your share price is dropping suddenly.
• A large group of employees leave en masse.
• Litigation is pending.
• You become aware of a government or regulatory investigation.
• Significant turnover occurs in your company’s management ranks.
• You learn of rumors swirling around about your organization.

The good news is that there are strategies that enable you to look for and recognize warning signs before it is too late to prevent them from worsening. The most common tool is the vulnerability audit. It is vital for an unbiased and independent expert or team to assess the vulnerabilities of your firm or organization to uncover the areas of operational and communications weaknesses and to identify potential solutions. The audit will look at every department and ask what could cause significant disruptions or reputational damage.

Some typical audit questions include: If your business was unavailable starting tonight and you had no advance warning, where would everyone go to work and how would you conduct business remotely? How will you retrieve contact information for all important audiences, including employees, customers, clients and others, if all of your data is stolen or corrupted?

In addition to the interview process, an internal document audit is also undertaken. This entails reviewing your company’s crisis management plan, crisis communication plan, emergency response policies, HR policies and other policies that govern your organization.

An external communications audit is also important to execute. This includes reviewing news articles written about the organization, analyst reports, polls, peer media coverage, customer call logs, blogs, websites, chat rooms, listservs, activist activities, Google searches, lawsuits, public records, social media posts and the comments sections of news articles. Take a close look at what is being said about you, whether it is true or not. Remember, perception is reality if you ignore the warning signs.

By now, everybody is aware that celebrity chef Paula Deen acknowledged in a lawsuit deposition in May that she used an ugly racial epithet in the past. But was her internal public relations team aware much before the rest of us learned? Eventually, the public (through the National Enquirer) came to learn. It appears that Deen and whomever is responsible for her reputation did not heed the warning signs (a former employee’s lawsuit and Deen’s admission) in order to prepare for what they should have realized would soon become a media maelstrom. Whether it be a sincere apology or an explanation that somehow passed the smell test, Deen has failed miserably to date at repairing her severely damaged reputation and brand.

On June 5, six people were killed as a result of the collapse of two Center City buildings on Market Street under active demolition. This tragedy appeared to have been preventable. Reportedly, multiple phone calls and emails were logged in the city of Philadelphia’s 311 website a month before the collapse. And the demolition contractor has unpaid taxes and carries a criminal record, which may not have legally prevented him from obtaining the proper licenses and permits, but at least arguably should have caused all of those charged with oversight on the demolition to pause and at least consider his integrity to complete the job safely and abide by all proper standards.

What are the warning signs at your organization? Have you ever sat down with your colleagues to carefully assess your vulnerabilities? Be glad it’s not too late. Don’t let the warning signs at your firm, organization or clients go unheeded. Take care of them now so we don’t hear about them later.  

- Jeff

Paula Deen's Recipe for a PR Disaster

July 3, 2013

The Food Network, Wal-Mart, Target, QVC, Sears and Walgreens are just a few of the handful of companies to cut ties with celebrity chef Paula Deen. In an effort to control further damage, Deen made an appearance last week on the “Today” show (after being a no-show the week before) to publicly apologize and address the controversy surrounding her admitted use of racial slurs. However, her attempts to save her reputation actually made the situation worse. It’s hard to tell if the Southern chef can save her culinary empire.

In these situations, it is important for companies, brands and public figures to have a crisis communications strategy in place. After all, reputation is everything. It takes years to build and only seconds to destroy.

• Be prepared. This means creating a plan to react to any crisis, scandal or controversy that could reasonably come up. Not only can a plan ease the effect of a crisis, it has the potential to prevent a crisis from happening in the first place. Deen’s involvement in the lawsuit should have prompted her to hire a communications professional to protect her $17 million-dollar empire.
• Apologize sincerely and take responsibility. From Deen’s uncomfortable YouTube videos to skipping out on her initial “Today” show interview, Deen failed to deliver a simple, short and honest apology. During her interview with Matt Lauer, Deen played the victim by making references to “hurtful lies” and claiming “someone evil” is out to get her. She should have owned up to her mistakes and accepted responsibility. This would have shown that she truly understands the hurtful impact of her offensive words.
• Lie low. Deen needs to take some time to get out of the public eye. She should stay quiet for a few months and settle the lawsuit. She can think about the next step in her career and proactively try to restore her image.

-Amy

#Facebook

June 17, 2013

It was going to happen eventually – and now it finally has. Last Wednesday, Facebook introduced the ever so popular hashtag.

And with that, the symbol that was once known simply as a number sign or a pound sign, has slipped its way into yet another social network platform. Facebook users can now click on the # symbol, with the intent to initiate conversation and discussion.

Users can search trending topics such as #USOpen or #ThrowbackThursday, in the same way they already could on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Flickr. While the hashtag has already been used on Facebook for quite some time due to its popularity on other social media platforms, the symbol now – officially – has significance.

So what does this mean for Facebook users?

For companies and brands, it will be easier to find mentions and see what consumers are talking about. Facebook has always allowed brands to communicate with the public by driving conversation on their company pages, but now brands can more easily monitor those conversations by clicking on hashtags.

Brands can also use this as an opportunity to deliver creative messages. One example is Nike’s #MakeitCount campaign which is promoting active lifestyles and competition in sports. Additionally, people can use hashtags to spread awareness and drive change. Social media played a big role in challenging the donor policy that helped 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan receive new lungs.

However, hashtags can put some users in dangerous territory – making once seemingly “private” posts, a part of the greater, public conversation. The employees who regularly update statuses with #ihatemyjob may want to consider deleting old posts. Even though all public posts on Facebook have always been searchable by anyone, it wasn’t so easy to find them. But with the incorporation of the hashtag, users can dig up past discussion topics across the entire network with ease.

Facebook users can also stay up-to-date on current events and topics of discussion as they happen in real-time. This is the Company’s way of staying relevant and keeping up with Twitter.

-Amy

Stand Out From the Crowd to Be Heard

June 11, 2013

It is no secret that the world is seeing a decline in opportunities for media exposure through the traditional outlets of television, radio and newspapers. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 State of the News Media report, the newspaper industry is little more than half the size it once was and the number of nightly news viewers in the United States has shrunk by 52.6 percent since 1980. While this decline has coincided with a crop of new media outlets and platforms for communicating news (namely social media, smartphone apps, hyperlocal news websites and blogs), traditional outlets are still viable and valuable.

Reaching them, however, is not so simple. So how do you compete in an increasingly competitive environment to have your story covered?

Here’s the good news: With smarts, patience and some creative approaches, there is still opportunity. Along with the media landscape, the business of media relations is evolving. In order to be seen and heard, you must enhance and adapt your tactics. Here are five strategies to build into your repertoire to establish or improve your relationship with traditional media.

First, as rudimentary as it may seem, you must always know your outlet. Never pitch a story to an outlet with which you are unfamiliar. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the issues they focus on, topics they care about and the various deadlines they face. I’ve often spoken with reporters who roll their eyes and scoff about pitches they receive from individuals who have clearly never watched or listened to their show or picked up their publication and taken the time to read it.

Approach each pitch like a job interview — with preparedness. Tailor your pitch as you would customize any cover letter you send to a prospective employer so that you stand out in a crowd of carbon-copy pitches. Reporters and news planning editors will take notice and chances are they’ll appreciate your aptitude.

Second, be cognizant of the news cycle. The perfect event or story pitch at the wrong time is often useless. Conversely, a bad event or pitch at just the right time often gets picked up. The more time-sensitive a story is, the more you need to think about the news cycle and plan carefully who you talk to first.

For example, one of the oldest tricks of the trade is to release bad news after 5 p.m. on a Friday, figuring that almost every reporter and editor has gone home. Even the biggest newspapers only have a skeleton crew working nights and weekends. This trick doesn’t work well anymore with Twitter, blogs, satellite radio stations and 24/7 cable TV news fighting for eyes and ears.

It’s also a bad idea to announce your positive news (unless it is breaking news) after “normal” business hours. You’ll likely get voicemail and your emails could get overlooked in the pile of messages reporters face when they come in the next day. The best time to send news or pitch a story is in the middle of the morning or middle of the day.

A third strategy is to cultivate media relationships on a more personal level. Have casual, pitch-free meetings face-to-face rather than just communicating over the phone or through email. Connect with a reporter for the purpose of getting to know his or her interests, not solely when you have a story to pitch. If there are certain reporters you anticipate dealing with (or already do deal with) regularly, such as a legal reporter or a community affairs reporter, nurture those connections. Invite them out for coffee. If they are speaking on a panel at a professional event, take the time to approach them and introduce (or re-introduce) yourself. Investing this time and energy when you have no news will serve you well when you do.

Fourth, if you want the media to consider your news, then be an engaged consumer of their news. Email a reporter when you have thoughts or commentary on their articles/stories. I’m not suggesting virtual high-fives with messages like, “Great job, I liked your article.” While reinforcement is nice, substantive feedback is of greater value. What spoke to you in the article? Was there something that the piece missed? Do you have a different perspective on the topic? Have another idea for the reporter to consider down the road? Disagreeing respectfully is allowed. However, the goal here is to show your thoughtful consumption of their news, not to elevate your own opinions.

Lastly, keep in mind that getting coverage via a newscast or news article is not always possible. But that does not mean you cannot make your news heard. If a media outlet does not pick up your story, then write it yourself. Be proactive and generate your own content. This can take the form of a column, op-ed, letter or even an article, if the outlet accepts submissions. As newsrooms shrink, there are also more openings for outside experts — including lawyers — to contribute. Depending on the format of the news shows, subject-matter experts such as legal, medical and financial experts will have more opportunities to remark on the day’s news and provide their own commentary.

Some additional tips include knowing future trends in your industry before others so that you can help the media understand them, too; reviewing the editorial calendars that many weekly and most monthly outlets publish to take note of opportunities to bring relevant stories to them on topics they are planning to cover anyway; and, if your story has a hook to a recent trend or other big news event (for example, how your industry and its local ties are impacted by the congressional budget sequester), highlight this. Don’t assume that the parallel is as obvious to them as it is to you.

I am confident that by following these strategies, you will serve both your firm and your personal interests well. The results may not occur overnight, but the prognosis is bright.

-Jeff

"Jubelirer Strategies, this is Amy…”

May 31, 2013

When I interviewed at Jubelirer Strategies back in December, Jeff told me that no day would be the same. He also said that with his support and guidance, I would dive right into assignments and projects.

The first week has showed me that Jeff is true to his word.

Having spent four days at Jubelirer Strategies, I can tell you that no day has been the same. On my first day I became acquainted with the phone and computer systems. I researched some of the accounts I’ll be helping with this summer, drafted a media advisory and found media contacts. I dove right in on my second day when I joined Jeff and Johanna at a new client’s office to learn more about the organization and their values. I’m grateful that Jeff let me tag along because I can now contribute to projects with a strong understanding of what the client is all about.

What I really appreciate about interning at Jubelirer Strategies is that being the only intern and working only with Jeff and Johanna, I can fully immerse myself in the work. Many interns work part-time in conjunction with other interns and/or a number of account executives or associates. An intern might work on drafting a pitch one day but not be there the next day to take part in the actual delivery of the pitches.

I’m looking forward to seeing my work through to completion and getting a real hands-on experience here at Jubelirer Strategies. I can already sense that many opportunities, challenges and learning experiences lie ahead of me this summer.

-Amy

A Sincere Apology or Just a PR Ploy?

May 1, 2013

“Humans of New York,” also known as “HONY,” is a photographic census of New York City featuring the city’s inhabitants. With nearly one million collective followers on Facebook and Tumblr, HONY provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City. Brandon Stanton is the street photographer behind the project that has attracted millions of views.

The attention-grabbing project also captivated the interest of fashion label DKNY. The brand expressed their wish to purchase 300 of Stanton’s photos “to hang in their store windows ‘around the world.’” Stanton said he was offered $15,000 in exchange for his work — an offer he turned down because he believed it was too low.

Despite Stanton’s refusal, DKNY went ahead and used his photos anyway. A friend alerted him that his images were hung in a DKNY window display in Bangkok, Thailand.

Stanton posted on Facebook about the matter: “Several months ago, I was approached by a representative at DKNY who asked to purchase 300 of my photos to hang in their store windows ‘around the world.’ They offered me $15,000. A friend in the industry told me that $50 per photo was not nearly enough to receive from a company with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. So I asked for more money. They said ‘no.’” Stanton’s candid exposé on Facebook, attracted a lot of attention and the situation turned into a social media frenzy.

DKNY soon released a statement saying that the whole thing was a mix-up:
“For the Spring 2013 windows program, we licensed and paid for photos from established photography service providers. However, it appears that inadvertently the store in Bangkok used an internal mock up containing some of Mr. Stanton’s images that was intended to merely show the direction of the spring visual program. We apologize for this error and are working to ensure that only the approved artwork is used.”

In response to the outcome of this public falling-out, a PR representative from DKNY tweeted: “Dear @HumansofNY, this whole thing makes me really sad. U were even just a guest at our shows. This could have all been handled directly.”

Talk about a PR nightmare! It is commendable that DKNY responded to the charges so quickly, proving to be a good way to handle a PR crisis. They immediately corrected the error, issued an apology and agreed to make a $25,000 donation to the YMCA in Stanton’s name (at his request) to make up for the matter. DKNY also posted on Tumblr in more detail to describe what really happened and give people an insight on the unintentional mix-up. What more should DKNY have done? Was their apology sincere and was their donation sufficient?

-Alexa

The Importance of Having A Social Media Policy

April 29, 2013

In light of some recent events, it is fair to say that the U.S. State Department needs to review their social media policy. For the second time in six months, the U.S. State Department has gained some Twitter attention, and not in a good way.

On Tuesday, April 2, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo tweeted a link to a Daily Show segment about an Egyptian TV personality who had been arrested for criticizing President Mohamed Morsi. The tweet received negative feedback with responses from the Muslim Brotherhood Twitter account, as well as Morsi’s official Twitter account.

With this criticism, the embassy briefly shut down their Twitter account for several days. The account is now back up and running, but with the tweet deleted.

In response to this, the Muslim Brotherhood tweeted: “Another undiplomatic & unwise move by @USEmbassyCairo, taking sides in an ongoing investigation & disregarding Egyptian law & culture.”

A State Department spokesperson spoke about the incident saying, “We’ve had some glitches with the way the Twitter feed has been managed” … clearly!

In response to the poor management of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s social media presence, I will share a few tips on how to properly manage a Twitter account:

1. Always remember tweets are public record: even if a tweet has been deleted, it only takes one person to retweet or save your tweet to make it last forever.
2. Understand legal and policy issues: when using Twitter in a professional context, always check your organization’s social media policy if you are unsure if a tweet is “okay” to post. If your organization doesn’t have a social media policy, be sure to discuss the do’s and don’ts with the individual(s) in charge and/or suggest that you implement a policy.
3. Give credit where credit is due: always cite your sources.
4. A crisis is not always an opportunity: exploiting major issues to your benefit can be in poor taste, depending on the context.
5. Be authentic, but always professional.

If you adhere to these five guidelines, you greatly reduce the chances of your organization receiving negative publicity or feedback on Twitter.

-Amanda

This blog post is based off an article that originally appeared on PR Daily: http://www.prdaily.com/crisiscommunications/Articles/14210.aspx