PR Niblets

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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ciao New York City!

We’ve all heard of culture shock – the emotional difficulties that come hand in hand with immersing oneself into another culture.  But over the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing something known as reverse culture shock – the emotional difficulties of returning home from abroad, and in my case - returning home from the greatest city in the world, Florence, Italy.

Just as studying abroad demanded many lifestyle changes, so has returning home.  Without even realizing it, I had developed new habits, new values and a new way of thinking during my four months abroad.  And just as I had gotten used to the slow, peaceful Italian lifestyle, I was thrown into this whole new-to-me culture of New York City.  I finally have cell phone service 24/7, everyone speaks English, I can use the dollar again as opposed to the euro, grocery stores are five times the size of those in Florence and Starbucks - oh how I’ve missed you!

Everything, I mean everything, overwhelmed me upon arriving in NYC.  There are people everywhere and they are always in a rush.  I’m seeing cars, taxis, subways and buses instead of mopeds.  Honestly, I hated the city at first.  The lifestyle here is a complete 180 degree flip from being in Florence.  I could not walk to all of my destinations within 20 minutes, Gusta Pizza isn’t readily available, my Instagram game has severely suffered and the luxury of extremely cheap and delicious wine is not right outside my doorstep.  Naturally I slumped into a post-abroad depression.  But just recently I began to notice this city’s beauty and exquisiteness and suddenly I began to fall in love with a new city all over again. 

The local caf├ęs and restaurants, the high-energy nightlife, the talented street performers, the amazing views from rooftops, the many parks and the mere spectacle of being in one of the largest cities in the world has unexpectedly and completely intrigued me.  There’s something new and amazing around every corner and I plan to take it all in during the 12 weeks I have in this city.  With a list of things to do, restaurants to hit, bars to explore and shopping that needs to be done – I’m ready for all you have to offer - New York City.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Going Global: Google Style

As you may have known from our previous blog posts, we kind of love to talk about social media. So of course we were thrilled to be the first hosts for a monthly series of webinars organized by our friends and global public relations partners, PR World Alliance, where we discussed optimizing LinkedIn company and brand pages.

While we may have been talking about LinkedIn, we also ended up getting a crash course in the social world of Google. As we were expecting a number of attendees from countries all over, we decided to use Google Hangouts on Air, an easy and free service that allows anyone with a webcam and microphone to become a virtual radio/TV host and anyone with a computer screen to tune in. Streamed from our headquarters in New York on February 19, we were joined by attendees from countries including Turkey, Italy, Canada, Sweden, France and Greece.

The page for our scheduled hangout came with its own private message board where the invited users could leave notes and messages. Leading up to the webinar, we used this as a way for us to leave tips for attendees or for them to tell us they were participating. Once the presentation began, we kept this open dialogue running by regularly checking in and asking attendees to post questions to the page. This allowed us as hosts to interact with the viewers and also let each attendee interact with each other. Rather than a one-sided conversation, the webinar became a social dialogue where each attendee could share his or her own tips and tricks. The U.S. was responding to Sweden, French was responding to English… no form of communication was off limits.

Throughout the webinar we discussed some of our favorite tips and best practices for LinkedIn. We walked through the required steps of creating an active company page such as selecting administrators, encouraging employees to link their current positions and outlining a rich company overview. We shared insight on what makes good content and how adding multimedia elements strongly drive engagement. We also introduced the webinar attendees to some of our recommended social media management tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer, which allow an administrator to schedule and queue posts; and Bitly, which shortens links and provides additional click though analytics.

In the end, even though Feintuch Communications was in front of the camera, each attendee had their own voice and role in the event. A big thanks to PRWA for letting us share this presentation and to all those who attended and shared their questions and advice!

You can view an archived cast of our first webinar and join our global conversation through the PRWA LinkedIn group.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Free Advice -- Worth What you Pay for It

This guest blog is written by Peter Walker, FNIPR, FCIPR, Chartered Public Relations Practitioner.
Mr. Walker is senior partner in PIELLE Consulting, Feintuch Communications' UK-based partner in the PR World Alliance. The blog post originally ran in PRO PR Magazine (Croatia) in Croatian and is soon to be published in Nigeria and Ghana.

Yesterday my doctor complained to me that she was worried at the number of patients who now came to see her armed with their own diagnosis of their ailment together with a list of treatments they wanted her to give them. It’s the internet she said, easy to access, free, just type in a set of symptoms and there you are, a menu of illnesses and a set of treatments. Instead of being respected for my six years specialist education and training, Wikipedia and websites are making me redundant in the eyes of my patients.

It was tempting to tell her that she had just joined the real world of professional advisors and the world where, thanks to Google, everyone is an expert and firmly believes they can do most jobs as well as a properly trained and experienced expert. Just ask any experienced public relations manager. It isn’t helped by those, among the ranks of every profession, who take a great delight in suggesting that flair creativity and personal genius is all you really need. Education, training and expertise born of experience is as nothing. It is particularly true in the world of the media what price a properly trained journalist with clear editorial standards in a world of the ‘citizen journalist’ When the immediacy or Twitter, Instagram and any number similar web based platforms are taken seriously and become the basis for Government policy and legislation it is about time someone sounded a warning. Are these really the expressions of the majority or, as is more likely, are they are the vehicles of self promoters, pressure groups, big business interests, and a host of vested interests?

During the so called ‘Arab Spring,’ the world was awash with Tweets, mobile phone videos and pictures. No-one questioned their provenance or suggested they were part of a propaganda war; only later did the truth emerge. Far from demonstrating that the youth of the Middle East were using the internet to shape a democratic future -- in reality the vast majority of the social media traffic was coming from vested interests promoting revolution from outside the countries where uprisings were being fermented. Professional journalists trained to answer to editors, check sources and certify the information might just have
provided a more balanced picture. Instead spurred by what they saw a commercial competition they joined in the battle as herd instincts took over to confuse and confound the watching, reading world. 

Contrast that position with the protests in Turkey in August 2013 when that Government proposed building over a park in Istanbul. Trust in the national and some international media fell to about 20 per cent and social media became the most relied on sources of reliable information. The circulation of newspapers dropped and with the drop came the loss of advertising revenue.

Only Government and Government agency advertising kept some of them afloat. The difference here was that under 20 per cent of the social media traffic came from outside the country and then it was clearly coming from expatriate Turks in the UK, Germany, and the rest of the world. A salutary reminder perhaps that professional advice and comment still has a real and important value.

Reflecting with some amusement on my Doctor’s despair, Linked-In this morning reminded me not to be smug. There, as the first entry in the PR community section I read on my phone, was an appeal by the managing director of a small electrical business for advice on where he could get low-cost public relations. He explained his was a small business and by inference couldn’t afford a real professional consultancy.

For a while I was tempted to suggest that he got a management handbook out, started out by defining the firm’s commercial, social and corporate objectives, and then thought carefully about just what he wanted a public relations programme to achieve for him, his business and as a contribution to the future he had defined. Then to think hard about what sort of budget he could afford to invest in the firm's future. Do that and he could have had a sensible conversation with a professional advisor about the art of the possible and advice on whether his aspirations for public relations were actually achievable.

We don’t know and probably won’t ever know whether what he wanted was just a few moments of photo-op glory in a trade paper, on local radio or TV on a slow news day and with a bizarre or creative enough idea a national newspaper might pick it up. Vanity has a value but for the professional advisor clear management based objectives are a better guide to shaping, managing and measuring the effectiveness of the programme. Did footfall into the store increase, have the reps on the road found that the company name and product is familiar to buyers – has making the sale become easier as a result of the planned and sustained public relations activity. Has recruitment and job applications increased, is staff retention high? In short have the objectives you defined and were then factored into the public relations programme been met?

It doesn’t take a fortune and it does not need a genius. It does require a manager who knows his business, has clear plans for its future, has defined his objectives and his budgets.

The next step and it is a difficult one is finding the advisor, the firm with whom you are comfortable professionally and whose advice you believe you can trust. There is no alternative to taking the time to research and then setting up and structuring the interview. If you believe that a beauty parade of companies each given up to an hour to convince you is the best way to select the people into whose hands you are entrusting the reputation of your organisation then go ahead.

But the smaller the budget the more time you should invest in interviewing the small number of likely candidate firms or individuals your research should have identified. A series of discussions rather than ‘pitches’ from a  professional advisor on how they would plan a properly planned and professionally managed public relations programme that responds to your commercial objectives and  can contribute to sustaining the present and realising the future is probably the best way to go.

When NASA was upgrading its computer systems some while ago they froze. Nothing the assembled array of computer engineers could do to restart the programmes on whose effectiveness the lives of astronauts -- let alone the prestige of the USA relied. In some desperation about the heritage programmes thought to be the cause, they sent for a long retired NASA computer engineer and flew him in from the wilds of Nebraska to take his advice.

On arrival he spent about three hours checking the programmes and coding asked for a small rubber ended hammer and walked over to the bank of servers and after ten minutes careful inspection he took the hammer in his left hand he gave a gentle but firm tap on the casing of one of the servers walked back to the desk asked for the system to be rebooted.

No surprise the upgrades started to load. Having seen them installed and satisfactorily operating, the question of his fee was broached. $350,000 was the reply, no surprise there was a clear objection at what one manager saw as a preposterous rate for just 4 hours work and 7 hours travelling time in a private aircraft sent by NASA.

"All you did was tap the casing and any fool could have done that and it could have been done for free.” Yes said the retired engineer but this fool spent 10 years in college and 30 years at NASA learning just where on the casing to tap.

There is plenty of free advice out there, most of it, worth what you pay for it. Any professional, even my doctor, can do more with an informed and well-briefed client, customer or patient. But every manager should be clear about their objectives and keep value rather than cost in mind when looking for a professional advisor particularly when the reputation of the organisation is involved.
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A former President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Peter Walker is a Freeman of the City of London. After a period in advertising, management consultancy, UK and European Government then as Secretary to the Board Pubic Policy Committee of one of the UK’s largest multi-national groups, he joined Pielle as one of the founder partners in 1980 and is a board member of the Public Relations World Alliance. An expert in international risk and issue management, Corporate Responsibility, community relations and governance his advice is sort on national and international public affairs and public relations programmes  that protect and promote business, brand ,individuals organisations and governments.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Social Media Grad School: Our Favorite Tools

The following is part of a series about understanding social media

Now that you’ve graduated social media 101 on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, we’d like to share some of our favorite tools to take you from beginner to social media extraordinaire.

Bitly – Let’s start with one of the most simple social media tools available out there. Bitly at its most basic is a link shortening service. This type of service is particularly helpful when sharing content on Twitter as it reduces the number of characters in your link. This means you have more characters to use for your own commentary. Other common link shortening services include and TinyURL. Anyone can use Bitly without signing up for an account. However, a Bitly account allows for better social tracking as you can view how many people clicked through to your link.

Hootsuite – Hootsuite is one of the most popular social media management tools available today. Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts across a number of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. Posts can be scheduled with a specific time or in a bulk, automated queue (the latter feature is only available with a paid plan). Hootsuite also has an extensive dashboard to monitor your social accounts. You can set up feeds to watch Twitter mentions, trending topics, Facebook posts… anything your social media heart desires.

Buffer – Buffer is very similar to HootSuite in that it allows you to schedule posts across various social media platforms but in a much simpler format. While Buffer does allow time-specific scheduling for posts, it also allows you to set up a queue of content to be posted throughout the day at pre-selected times. Buffer accounts are available for free or on a paid, premium basis. One downside to a free account: you can only add up to ten posts in your queue.

Topsy – Topsy is a great tool for discovering the social reach of a link. While Bitly analytics show how many people engaged with your link, Topsy shows how many people have shared a link. Perhaps the most helpful element of Topsy is that it searches beyond proprietary sharing. Even if someone copies and pastes the link into their own tweet rather than retweeting yours, Topsy will find it.

What are your favorite social media tools? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter or even pen your own guest blog.

Monday, September 29, 2014

LinkedIn 101: Business Goes Social

The following is part of a series about understanding social media

Now that we have a solid grasp on using Facebook and Twitter, it’s time that we tackle the lesser known platform of LinkedIn. While LinkedIn has become an important tool in terms of individual professional development, it is often underutilized when it comes to brands. What sets LinkedIn apart from giant social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is its emphasis on business. This makes LinkedIn a prime tool for B2B brands. Let’s jump right in.

Employees as Brand Advocates - One of the best benefits of LinkedIn for a company is that you already have a built in audience: your employees. When employees update their profile and list your company as their place of employment, they are automatically connected. This improves the quality of your page immediately by listing the number of active employees on LinkedIn and making your page appear more complete.

In addition to simply appearing on your page, employees can be useful in advocating for your brand. Sharing content that your employees believe in and support increases the likelihood of them engaging with the company page. When employees share updates or information from their company, it demonstrates value in what your brand is saying as well as provides you with further reach.

Thought Leadership – As LinkedIn is typically seen as a more professional social media platform, it provides an opportunity to truly engage with peers in your field. This is where it is most important to refrain from too much self-promotional material and follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of content should be value driven while 20% ties back to your company. This is an easy rule of thumb that helps demonstrate thought leadership in your industry instead of self-serving promotion.

Multimedia – As we learned in Facebook 101, including multimedia-rich content increases chances of engagement. This is just as true with LinkedIn. Including links, images and videos in your page updates significantly drive engagement. In fact, according to LinkedIn, including a link can drive twice the engagement than a post without one, images result in a 98% comment rate than posts without, and links to videos typically see a 75% higher share rate. You can’t argue with those numbers.
Cross-promotion – While Facebook and Twitter may be more consumer-facing than LinkedIn, if you’re creating content of value, it will be applicable to various audiences on different platforms. If you have a following on one or more existing platforms, leverage that to introduce audiences to your LinkedIn page so they can engage with your company in a holistic and all-inclusive way. In the same vein, use your LinkedIn page to promote and drive traffic to existing company pages such as a branded blog.

Have any thoughts, comments or questions? Connect with us!