PR Niblets

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

5 Ways to Rock Trade shows and Conferences

Trade shows, conferences and industry events present unique opportunities for PR professionals for several reasons. You have the opportunity to learn more about your client’s sector and the major players in their market, join a panel or two and hear some insights from key figures in the industry and meet the media you’ve been diligently working with. The best part of it all is being able to see your clients interact with their customers and demonstrate their news products.

Our trade show guru, Doug Wright, shares his thoughts on the five best practices to tackling a trade show or conference successfully:
  1. Listen and learn. Take note of the questions asked at your client’s booth, as well as the answers. This will educate you and help you become more conversant in your future presentations to editors.
  2. Organization is key. Keep your head in the game for the duration of the show. Keep track of all press appointments and make sure they meet your client and see their most important offerings at the show. 
  3. Stay motivated. While it is a long time to be on your feet and your body starts to complain (foot and back pain), keep in mind that everybody is in the same boat and that the show is not only important to your client, but very expensive. Time is literally money to the tune of thousands of dollars per hour. The client will be watching and evaluating what worked at this show, as well as what did not. You do not want to be one of those things that did not work because of a lackluster performance.
  4. Nurture your relationship. Have fun with your client at the show—on the floor and off. A great part of trade shows is the ability to build a relationship with your client. While work obviously comes first, take this time to learn more about your client and have them learn about you. Nobody wants to work with an automaton.
  5. Be focused. Perform due diligence in show related activity. There is a lot going on and you need to own your part. There will not be a lot of sympathy given to those who miss a key step in the trade show effort because they got busy and forgot.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tip Tuesday: Be Ahead of the Game

“Whether you’re in consumer, tech or B2B public relations, you should read a noteworthy news publication every day, like The Wall Street Journal, even though it may appear to be ‘off subject.’ As PR professionals, we tend to focus too much on our clients’ niche or sector, but you shouldn’t fall into that trap.  You’ll be a more successful and well-rounded communications professional if you have a comprehensive understanding of the larger business environment in which your client operates. To be successful in this industry, you must always be ahead of the game.” – Richard Anderson

Monday, March 28, 2016

Executive Series: Henry Feintuch

Henry Feintuch was born a writer. Growing up, he’s always loved writing and had a strong interest in the news. When he was in the Boy Scouts, he was the editor of the newsletter for his local chapter. One Halloween, he even dressed up as a reporter and carried around a typewriter. As a news junkie, the move into broadcast journalism and, ultimately, PR was natural. With 30+ years in the industry, Henry sat down with us and shared his thoughts on the changes and what it means going forward.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in PR? 

The Internet. I started as a broadcast journalist so I spent time at four different radio stations and Channel 2 News in New York before I shifted my career path. Since then, the biggest change was the availability of the Internet. It changed everything—the introduction of email, the ability to publish content directly to a targeted audience, the ease and accessibility of worldwide information and instant and mass communications. 

This significance wasn’t confined only to PR but the implications in the industry was evident—less efficiency, less time to think, more work. If an email is sent, immediate responses are seemingly expected. Taking longer than 30 minutes to respond makes you seem aloof and unengaged. The definition of being a service provider has changed but not necessarily for the better. The compression of time and lack of thinking leads to less strategic and more knee jerk responses. 

What is the most challenging thing about PR? 

Client expectations and reality. Managing client expectations and educating clients about what is possible through PR is challenging. Some clients have their own ideas of results and the ROI PR should deliver. So it is essential to get everyone on the same page; otherwise the relationship won’t last and we can’t succeed regardless of the output. 

At the onset of the relationship, partner with the client even as we strive to manage both our roles in their program. Ensure you both understand the current assets you have and what results those assets can deliver. You can tell a client “no” if you know what they are asking for is wrong or not in their best interest. Keep them focused on the business outcomes they are looking to achieve, instead of simply generating buzz and media coverage.

Both are important but those are not the end game for me. The outcome should not only be the article in the WSJ but to increase product sales or enhance their reputation as an industry leader. Fundamentally, this goes back to their overall objectives and the best strategies and tactics we can employ to accomplish them. 

Is there anything happening in the industry that you find interesting?

Social Media. The social media hype is well out of proportion to the role that social media plays in client accounts. Social media is a channel for having a two-way conversation with an audience. If the audience can be reached by social, then it’s an appropriate tactic. But it’s not always the case. 

A social media program is more effective with media relations or thought leadership campaigns and should be valued alongside other valuable tactics instead of being the primary channel. It’s another way to communicate to an audience, no different to running an event, a press release, etc. Companies think they need these platforms so the medium or channel is saturated because everyone is doing it. The reality is that you need to see if it’s an appropriate channel to reach your audience. 

What is important about writing and how can professionals improve their skills?

Writing is an art. You can be a great creative writer, but if you can’t write to convey the message of your campaign, you’ll never succeed.

Writing is a key tool that communications professionals use to educate the market and capture the attention of their audiences. Through writing, we convey the voice of a company or brand, its goals, aspirations and/or point of view. 

You need to be flexible in your style of writing so you can produce copy that is appropriate for each intended use. There are two ways to improve your writing: by reading and by writing.

When you immerse yourself in reading different forms of writing (e.g., news, books, blogs, etc.), it influences the way you think and can help you become more creative. Similarly, the more you write, the better you write. By putting this skill into practice, you can essentially improve your writing over time.

How do you generate news and build buzz for clients?

By listening. Early on in my career, a seasoned professional told me, “Don’t just speak to hear yourself heard. Go into a meeting and listen and take notes.” 

Meetings with clients, reporters, customers, etc., provide an opportunity to ask questions. If PR people were less concerned about being authorities and more concerned with listening and asking the right questions, we’d get to the heart of their need faster. Being a great listener and great reporter have helped me immensely over the years. 

I don’t like to build buzz for clients. I don’t even like the word buzz. I like to solve my clients’ business problems and realize their business goals. In fact, if part of what they need is buzz, publicity, word-of-mouth, then we will develop that but I look at that in a more holistic fashion. Clients won’t get the best from us if the goal is to just build buzz. 

The approach, when we want to generate excitement in the marketplace, will vary from client to client and situation to situation. Building buzz means so many different things, based on who we are targeting, the industry and what we are trying to accomplish. 

What publication do you read on a daily basis? 

The New York Times. Every day. I like the writing style of The New York Times, the editorial mix, the journalistic standards that are imposed and the resources available to staff to report from all around the world. They do a great job at giving a well-rounded view of the world. I also get news from difference sources—news radio, television, online—but it’s very important to read a paper of record in order to stay current with the world, opinion and things that are happening outside of your sphere. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Visit to Coney Island in Tribute to My Mentor

Life's travels often take us in unexpected directions.  Growing up in Coney Island to immigrant parents was my only frame of reference.  I had no clue that one of the part-time jobs I would secure at age 16 would imprint my life so heavily.... but then Lou Powsner was no ordinary employer.

Lou was the owner of a small haberdashery store -- Powsner's Mens Shop -- but stopping there wouldn't scratch the surface. Over the 10 years of my employment there, and decades of friendship, he would  serve as a role model for what salesmanship meant and as inspiration for a career in journalism and later public relations. Lou died on April 6, 2014 at age 93.

New York City decided to honor Lou for his contributions to Coney Island, Brooklyn and New York City by naming the street corner near the former clothing store in his memory. The ceremony was held on Saturday, September 25, 2015. Lou's family honored me by asking me to speak at the event, together with speakers including former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, N.Y.C. Councilman Mark Treyger and N.Y.S. Assemblyman William Colton.  

My comments (apologies for the length) and some images taken by my son Alex appear below.

"Good morning everyone.  My name is Henry Feintuch. And for the first 25 years of my life starting in the early 1950s, I was a Coney Islander… initially living on West 30th between Mermaid and Neptune Ave. in a three-story walk-up. Then, as my family “moved up,” we were able to afford an apartment in the fairly new Coney Island Houses. I attended P.S. 188 and then was part of the first class at P.S. 288… followed by Mark Twain in the SPE…. and later Lincoln H.S. and Brooklyn College.

My folks were holocaust survivors; they migrated to America in 1950 with my brother Steven. My father, David, owned “Dave’s Barber Shop” at 2516 Mermaid Ave. across from Gittler’s deli. It was the era when Sam Horwitz owned the Mermaid Movie Theatre and Jay and Aaron Turoff owned a local hardware store nearby; Yankel had a live poultry store; Frank Giordano owned Frisica Pharmacy; and Al Sinrod and Morty Pearl owned competing men’s stores.  Sam Horwitz, by the way, later went on to become a beloved Democratic district leader and city councilman representing Coney Island; Jay became NYC’s taxi commissioner and later resigned in disgrace in a major scandal involving the TLC.

Coney Island was very diverse in the 50’s and 60’s…. before diverse was a buzzword.  Whites… black… Puerto Ricans… Italians… Christians… Jews…. In the 70s, Russian Jews and Vietnamese joined the mosaic here and in Brighton Beach.  Coney Island was a tough neighborhood… but we all got along.

Sidewalk plaque
It was against this backdrop in 1968 or 1969 that my late parents introduced me to Lou Powsner for a possible part-time job while I attended Lincoln. Lou hired me on the spot, and, because of that fateful happenstance, my young adulthood, career and values were forever shaped.

Working for Lou Powsner provided daily lessons in retail merchandising and salesmanship. If you came in for a pair of socks or Jockey shorts, you would be hard pressed to walk out without a sales pitch – often successful – for a shirt, tie and a three pack of t-shirts.  Life lesson #1:  clerks take orders; sales people sell.

And selling is what Lou did. Following in his father Simon’s footsteps, he sold Stetson hats to older Jewish clientele; Kangol hats and Devil Jeans to minority youngsters in the community; knit polos to Italian customers; and every other manner of clothing and accessory from suits and jackets to spats, suspenders and cufflinks to old, middle aged and young consumers alike.

Air Force honor guard at ceremony
If you walked into Lou’s store, you might have questioned the laws of physics and gravity with boxes stacked impossibly high from floor to ceiling. And yet, when someone came in for a double XL knit shirt that was in the right window 2 years ago, he knew that where it was located. Within a minute, he was up on an eight foot ladder juggling boxes and pulling out the garment in four colors. He was always right. And you wound up buying the shirt in two colors. Plus socks.  And underwear. And a handkerchief.

After a few years, I became Lou’s colleague and foil. We joked that we WERE running a father and son men’s store – where he wasn’t my father… and I wasn’t his son. But in many ways, we were nearly just that.

The OTHER things I learned working for Lou are likely the reason we’re all here today. He didn’t just run a “father and son” men’s clothing store – a sign on the building proclaimed “Welcome to Lou Powsner’s Little City Hall.” He held court six days a week as local residents, merchants, teachers, clergy, police, elected officials and others streamed in or called to discuss issues of the day and seek Lou’s help or guidance… or… simply to argue with him. Life lesson #2:  If you say you’re going to do it (or the sign says it), you’d better deliver.  Lou always did.

Dedication ceremony program
For many years, Lou was the president of the Coney Island Board of Trade. But trying to help the merchants of Coney Island to organize and improve Mermaid Ave. wasn’t enough for Lou. He wanted more clout and a greater voice. So he helped to form an organization of similar groups on Main Streets all over Brooklyn. Lou served as president of the new Joint Council of Kings County Boards of Trade. The calls came all day – answered by Lou in a jingle like voice that often boomed “Thank you for listening to the melodious tones of Louis Powsner.” The ring was so incessant one might of thought he was running a bookie joint. He wasn’t; he was following an internal calling to do good for others.

His causes were both local and far and wide – some popular; many less so: He fought against numerous sales tax hikes; tried to kill the Kings Plaza Mall before it put local main street merchants out of business; he lobbied for brighter street lights in Coney to protect residents and local merchants; he tried to bring casinos to Coney Island; he labored to revive the fading amusement section; he took on Fred Trump when Fred reneged on a deal to create set-aside low income units in Coney’s Trump Village; he took on big business and box stores; and city government giveaways to large merchants at the expense of mom and pop stores.
Marty Markowitz speaking

He called mayors and borough presidents and congressmen and assemblyman and councilman with a long list of needs and cries for help – never for himself but for fellow merchants and community residents. Despite the often unpleasant nature of the calls, government officials took his calls or called him back. This merchant of Coney knew how to shake things up.  Life lesson #3:  It’s not about size... it’s about speaking out consistently and strongly for something you believe in.

And Lou had another bully pulpit – he wrote a weekly column for the Kings Courier and Brooklyn Graphic and other local Brooklyn papers. Each week, he’d sit at a shirt counter and pound away for hours straight on an old manual typewriter. Sometimes he wrote sports columns; other times he wrote about a family vacation with his wife Irene and children, Farrell and Bonnie.  And then there were the columns that shook City Hall.
What Lou didn’t accomplish on the phone or during in-person meetings, he’d pursue by newspaper. He’d finish his column (typed in triplicate using carbon paper) and I would walk to the corner mailbox to send it on to the newspapers. When the columns hit, his irate subjects would call the store to rip him. All in a day’s work at Lou Powsner’s Little City Hall.   Life lesson #4:  Never underestimate the power of a strong writer and citizen journalist.

And I didn’t. By the time I went to Brooklyn College, my major had become television and radio… I became news director at Brooklyn College Radio and my career as a fledgling journalist was cast.

I continued working for Lou, part-time while at B.C., until one day he announced he was running for office.  Lou waged a Don Quixote-like uphill campaign, which he called the people’s campaign, for NYC councilman-at-large. He ran in the Democratic primary in a field of six candidates including the then Democratic boss Stanley Steingut’s son, Robert “Bobby Steingut.”  I took a leave of absence from school to help manage the campaign.

Lou's daughter, Bonnie Snow
Objectively, we had no chance of winning in a field of five better-known and better-funded candidates. For a half year, family, friends and merchants pounded the pavement, put campaign signs on our cars and pushed Lou’s view of the issues of the day out for all to see.  He came in fourth out of a field of six (Steingut won and would later be indicted and then cleared of campaign improprieties). Lou never regretted the campaign run but that ended his formal stint with politics. Life lesson #5:  Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams.

I finally graduated from Brooklyn College, and went to work on the air at WTTM Radio in Trenton and WMTR and WDHA-FM radio in Morristown, New Jersey. Lou was very proud. Then I landed a job at Channel 2 News in New York. Lou beamed again at my success. Between jobs, there was always roo

m for me at 1712 Mermaid Avenue where I could earn a few dollars to put gas in my car.

Then I finally settled down into a public relations career, now in my fourth decade. Lou and I always retained our love and respect for each other.

For me, the life lessons I learned in salesmanship, retail merchandising, civics, community activism, politics and ethics were all earned from the College of Louis W. Powsner. After all, here was a former soldier, husband, father and small town haberdasher who demonstrated the power that one man could have on his neighbors, community, city and beyond.
The sign in place and a community remembers

Family and guests proudly displaying new street sign

This stretch of Mermaid Avenue was always Lou Powsner’s Place to me. Now, it all comes full circle and we all get to share it together and keep his memory and spirit alive.

Thank you."

Monday, September 21, 2015

How PR and Marketing Writers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai Differ from U.S. practitioners (and why their new mantra includes snackable text, big-picture meaning, headline dominance, and image enhanced) by Don Bates

Editor's note:  This article is written by Don Bates, APR, and Fellow PRSA. It  appeared first in O’ (Aug. 14, 2015) and O’Dwyer’s Newsletter.

Actually, practitioners from these cities, and the countries in which they’re located, don’t differ that much from their U.S. counterparts when it comes to PR and marketing writing essentials.

Yes, they generally have more difficulty writing English because it’s not their first language (or a parallel language as in Singapore). And, yes, they generally have more difficulty writing in America’s preferred, common-sense PR and marketing style because they haven’t grown up in our “Mad Men” culture.

But despite these challenges, Asian PR and marketing writers have the same professional interest in meeting the needs of employers and clients with simple, clear, direct messages that communicate as strategically and effectively as possible.

They, too, want to write better with the goal of strengthening their organizations’ brand, reputation, sales and influence. They, too, want to know what’s new and how to harness it as part of their PR and marketing skills, knowledge and leadership.

How do I know so much?

During almost three weeks this summer, I taught PR and marketing writing to groups of Asian practitioners as a consultant instructor for Singapore-based Clariden Global.

Clariden runs executive business education seminars and conferences at sites that include Singapore, London, Australia, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Shanghai and the UAE. Instructors hail from Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Columbia, U. of Michigan, London Business School, and now New York University where I teach in the graduate PR and corporate communication program. 

           My particular workshops were in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In two full days at each site, I covered the essentials of writing more productively in today’s increasingly social-media-dominated communication landscape. But I didn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. We also looked at traditional media, which is still a great source of high-profile media news, feature and editorial coverage that reaches high-level influencers in business, government and not-for-profit endeavors.

However, I focused mostly on what I refer to as the “New Writing Formulary” for PR and marketing scribes – a formulary that also works as well for business writing.  I encouraged participants to become “new era” writers, to throw off the constraints of self-absorbed content and long-form misdirection. In brief, I introduced the participants to a set of “New Rules” for writing more effectively in today’s global marketplace.

The rules begin with a clear understanding of key concepts. For example: form follows function; out of sight, out of mind; write from the outside in; take headlines more seriously than ever; and take charge of the writing function for your own survival. The “New Rules” build on traditional writing practice, but go further by isolating what counts most these days and drilling down to essentials, e.g., compressed text (as in squeezed to life), live quotes (as opposed to dead, the prevailing norm), and story enhancement (adding people to the picture). We also addressed the most prevalent grammar challenges such as adjectivitis, adverbialism, jargon, hyperbole, verbosity, pronoun confusion, and prepositional paralysis.

Following is a summary of the “New Rules” that all PR and marketing writers should follow when communicating with today’s audiences in both new and old media. The rules are intended to make writers think differently, more intently and more strategically about what and how they write. The rules borrow heavily from content marketing style and purposes. Meaningful brevity is the soul of what they entail.

  • Write “snackable” content (i.e., shorter and sweeter than in the past, and easier to read, understand and act upon).
  • Focus on the “big picture” meaning (what’s the all-important news for the audience, not for your employer or client?).
  • Create social-media style headlines (intriguing, enticing, engaging language). Take a look at and for examples.
  • Use super-condensed leads (incisive, sharply defined, credibly expressed).
  • Integrate outside content that enhances credibility (e.g., facts from a trusted third party that amplifies your message and mission).
  • Link to other content (e.g., advisories, commentaries and guidelines, but judiciously).
  • Aim for concrete action, FYA (for your action) not FYI alone.
  • Enhance with images (photos, logos, charts, illustrations, which have several times the draw of imageless text).
  • Disseminate via multiple media (both online and off and the many touch points in social media)
  • Develop templates to reflect and make the new rules easier to apply (I shared my 7-step pitch template as one example).
Bottom line, the “New Formulary” mirrors what social media pundits like Guy Kawasaki have been saying for a long while, but that I have defined more tangibly. During a New York Times interview, Kawasaki was asked, “What should business schools teach more of, or less of?” He replied, “They should teach students how to communicate in five-sentence e-mails and with 10-slide PowerPoint presentations. If they just taught every student that, American business would be much better off.” 

To the follow-up question – “Why?” – he added, “Because no one wants to read ‘War and Peace’ e-mails. Who has the time? Ditto with 60 Power Point slides for a one-hour meeting.”

Bob Dylan famously sang, “The times they are a changing.” They always are, of course, but never so much as now for PR and marketing writing. For one thing – especially since the Internet began to capture a huge chunk of our collective time and attention – short and sweet has never been as sweet as a rule for PR and marketing writers.  PR and marketing word-workers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai understand this as well as U.S. practitioners. Most important, they are just as eager to put new approaches into action for their employers and clients, starting with the idea of making writing more powerful as a tool for informing, persuading and influencing target audiences. They know that snackable content, big picture meaning, and headline acuity are driving a more efficient and effective writing style.

# # #

Don Bates, APR, Fellow PRSA, is a writing instructor at New York University, and founding director of the Master’s degree program in strategic public relations at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. Don also conducts writing workshops and works in PR agency management and M&A for Gould+Partners. Email:

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Home-run for PRSA-NY

Nothing screams perfect summer nights more than a ball game at Yankee Stadium.  With perfect weather, a buffet of burgers, hot dogs, and popcorn and great seats right along the first-base line, PRSA-NY’s annual summer social held this year on July 22 was a huge success.  But the hot dog buffet wasn’t even the most exciting part of the night.  Lucky PRSA-NY members had the exclusive opportunity to attend a briefing and meet Jason Zillo, the executive director of media for the New York Yankees.
PRSA-NY recognized on the scoreboard
The entire press room went silent as Mr. Zillo took the stand because in a room full of public relations professionals, this guy is truly a PR superstar.  Mr. Zillo shared some personal insight into the beginning of his PR career, how he ended up working with the Yankees and what rising PR professionals should know.

So how exactly did this seasoned PR veteran get to where he is today?  After graduating from Ohio University in the mid ‘90s, he held two internships with the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons before joining the Yankees as an intern in 1996.  He worked extremely hard for 11 years in the communications department before he was named to his current position in 2007.  There were (and still are) early mornings, late nights and work on the weekends.  It’s nonstop work, but very rewarding.

Without giving away too many of the Yankee’s trade secrets, Mr. Zillo gave some great insight on what it’s like to work in sports PR.
  • Media training is not only a PR best practice but essential to ensuring that every player knows how to interact with the media at all times (e.g., national crises, game wins, game losses, etc..) and that they have a cohesive message that is in-line with the brand
  •   There is a big difference in proactive vs. reactive media outreach, but they’re both important.  The Yankees communications team is constantly bombarded with media requests and sometimes it can be challenging to pitch media interesting and impactful stories that mean more than just the latest athlete gossip.
Jason Zillo takes the stand
On the other hand, he also gave us the cold, hard truth about the reality of getting to and being in the position he is in today.  “With just $140 in my bank account,” Mr. Zillo said jokingly, he made his way down to the Orlando Magic for the first of his two unpaid internships with sports franchises.  He knew no one, had nowhere to live and was about to make no money but he had a passion for the industry.  Even to this day, he loves what he does and never looks at the clock.

His best advice to those of us starting out was that internships are essential.  He made it clear that he wouldn’t consider anyone that hasn’t interned for him in the past.

Mr. Zillo took the stage for about an hour but it seemed he only scraped the top of his responsibilities
as director of media.  He is a busy, busy man and PRSA-NY appreciates and thanks Mr. Zillo for taking the time out of his schedule to give us a look into the sports PR world.  And to round out the night, the Yankees defeated the Orioles 4-3!  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Public Relations Through the Eyes of an Intern

Since beginning my summer internship here at the end of May, I have learned more about the public relations industry than in my three years as a public relations student.  I’m not saying that my university has not prepared me well for this industry, but there are so many aspects in this field that I simply could not have learned in a classroom setting.  

Fully immersing oneself is the best way to learn.  Observing client meetings, drafting client documents, watching my drafts go through rounds of copyediting, building media databases, and other tasks, have all contributed to a much-needed agency experience.  I thought I knew most of the responsibilities that public relations professionals do on a day-to-day basis – but boy was I wrong.

“People-skills” are a huge characteristic that every PR person needs.  Public relations is not a strictly desk and computer job.  We are constantly interacting with clients and media and the professional language is something I can only learn through experience and practice.  Learning how to professionally communicate is not something that a professor can teach you, but rather, it’s something that I have started to pick up while observing my coworkers and have begun practicing on a daily basis.

Public relations is strategic.  You can’t just randomly throw anything at the media and hope for successful coverage.  There is a date and time and place for every press release, media blast, launch announcement, proactive campaign, etc.  We are always trying to succeed for our clients and, therefore, a lot of planning, editing, and strategizing goes on behind the scenes to make sure everything is perfect.

Although, I can’t say that everything I’ve done since the start of my internship has been perfect.  It’s actually been anything but that.  I’ve made mistakes and have experienced times when I am extremely confused, but isn’t learning the point of an internship?  I have built upon my mess-ups, incorporated feedback given and applied these things to my later work.  

Ask questions.  This is easily the most important thing that I have learned.  I’ve quickly come to the realization that I don’t know everything there is to public relations and there is still so much to learn.  So as I’m entering the home stretch of my internship, I need  to learn as much as possible from my colleagues before I actually enter the “real world” upon graduation from Penn State University next May.