PR Niblets

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jesus is the Reason for the Season … Is That Less Than 140 Characters?

Tag lines and catch phrases are a lazy marketers dream … especially at this time of year. Cheese ball phraseology that packages, amplifies or encapsulates something we are trying to promote has a better chance of survival during the holiday season.

Editors are primed to accept hokey pitches for end-of-year summary stories and future trend pieces and most of us are slap-happy from increased exposure to wassail, iambic pentameter and tubs of caramel and cheese popcorn from colleagues.

The business world is feeling frisky and Twitter has sharpened our ability to dispatch pithy niblets and wonder aloud in less than 140 characters. No longer the province of Ashton Kutcher and PR firms who want to make a buck on social media, it has changed the way information is meted out by rewarding brevity and forcing us to describe complex occurrences in taut, evocative snippets.

While tag lines stick in the noggin - and the end of December is a jolly time to have a little fun -it’s important to remember that what we say now will linger beyond the glow of the holidays. When our defenses are no longer down and we are forced to face the scrutiny of a long cold January, we’ll need more than a phrase that is fun to repeat to keep our clients and causes in the public domain.

If the holidays are a time for lush and vivid previews, the New Year will be the time to parade our boring old support data in front of the critics and hope to take home the grand jury prize. Customer wins, executive changes and new products will all be dragged into the sunlight and examined to see if there is more to them than a catch phrase you can sing along to.

So carry on chroniclers of celebrity shenanigans, writers of campaign slogans and tweeters of hot new restaurant tips, just don’t forget how to write longhand again before the turkey comas wear off.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Party Like It's Advertising Week

Like most PR women my age, I was introduced to the world of PR through the character of Samantha on the TV series Sex in the City. As a powerful publicist who went to the hottest parties and organized the coolest events, Samantha was my idol. I eventually came to my senses and realized I didn’t want to spend the first few years of my PR career stuffing swag bags (no offense) and decided business-to-business (B2B) PR was the way to go. B2B may seem less glamorous than consumer PR, but every now and then a killer event or party comes along that makes you remember why you LOVE this industry.

Last week was Advertising Week; everyone was buzzing about the AOL Opening Gala, the YouTube Battle of the Ad Bands, the Facebook Wrap Party, and so on. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated. Our team had been planning a client event for three months for the first day of "The Week" and I couldn't focus on any kind of celebration until the day was over. Like most events, it had come and gone in a flash and three months of planning, strategizing, coordinating, writing and pitching was over in what felt like a few seconds.

With the long (but good) day behind, I began to focus on the rest of what the week had to offer. How was I going to keep up with all the parties? Should I go to all of them? Which ones are worth staying till the very end? Who will I network with? Besides bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel, what's going to get me through the next day after a late night of partying? All of these questions started running through my mind. In the end, I remembered to "breathe twice" and before I knew it, The Week was over, and I walked away a different person with an Advertising Week under my belt and some new lessons learned:

  • For an industry that took a major hit this year, advertising is on its way to making a major comeback
  • Advertising is at the forefront when it comes to the evolution of "green" and innovation of technology
  • Spending time with clients outside of the office is a great way to develop lasting relationships
  • NYC is and always will be the Mecca of advertising
  • Bloggers can be like celebrities to some (i.e. Steve Hall of Adrants)
  • Don't be afraid to make new friends (but bring old friends with you to make networking easier)
  • If you are the Vlasic pickle guy, people will love you
  • It's OK to dance center stage
  • and finally...RELAX, it’s just Advertising Week and if you're at an agency you'll probably have (insert: CES, Internet Week, SIFMA, etc.) to look forward to in the near future
A wise PR Newswire exec told me, "The key to event planning is to work like a mad woman [or man] before the event so that the day of you are just sitting around and waiting for it to happen." And I have to agree, event planning (whether you’re Samantha Jones or Feintuch Communications) is a huge part of PR and it takes a well-oiled PR team to pull it off and keep on trucking.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

There Is No "Steph" In Team

After Henry Feintuch and I worked together for the first time 12 years ago, I went on to have several other PR gigs. Most of my time was spent working from a home office for my financial services PR consultancy. I represented companies based all around the world but worked mostly on my own.

In the beginning, I felt like a crazy cat lady. I was convinced that clients would assume I was at yoga or having my nails done if I didn’t answer the phone and I would keep the occasional telemarketer on the line because I needed human (if merely telephonic) contact.

In a word, I had turned into a wacko.

Over time, I became more relaxed about my situation and after comparing notes with my buddies at traditional day jobs, I learned I often did more in a day than they did in a week - even with a noon yoga break – because I didn’t have the distractions or the chatty colleagues that come with a communal work environment.

When we started Feintuch Communications in January I had a "lone wolf "work style that needed to be modified if I was going to make an effective team member. Used to taking total responsibility for both my successes and my failures, it was a completely foreign concept to have people to bounce ideas off of or share my work.

In June, my industry’s largest trade show came around. I had two major clients with big announcements and way more work than one woman could handle. I was forced to delegate editor and analyst calls that my colleagues would have had to pry out of my cold dead hands in the past. And, I even relied on them for some sensitive strategy decisions.

As far as I was concerned, the end was upon us. I was positive we were going to be fired by everyone as soon as the show closed …

On the contrary - and typical of having dedicated and talented colleagues - everything went swimmingly. Clients were happy, editors and analysts didn’t hang up on the Steph Johnson imposters who called them and the world continued to spin on its axis.

Steph Johnson ... a team player?

Baby steps, my friends … but at least I’m making progress!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ageism in Social Media

Social media is perceived to be a young person’s game, part of an arcane techno-geekdom attended by those who were raised with computers and the internet. There’s an implied temporal Mason-Dixon Line that lies somewhere in between Generation X and Generation Y, and if you’re south of that demarcation, common wisdom dictates that you kind of missed the boat.

But the facts don’t support this perception. Recent studies have shown middle-aged groups to be among the fastest growing segments in various social media channels.

In July, Nielsen released a report measuring Twitter’s growth by age group. The fastest growing group by far was the 25-54 segment. Most surprising, though, is that the 55+ group outpaced the under 24s (20% compared to 16%).

Also in July, an analytics company called iStrategy Lab examined the demographic statistics from Facebook ads. The number of overall users between the ages of 18 and 24 grew by an unimpressive 4.8% whereas the number of users over 55 grew by an astonishing 513.7%. In other words, young people may have hopped on the social media train first, but older generations are on the streetcar behind them.

In spite of the rapid adoption by older generations, there is still this perception (not shared by all but by enough to call it a trend) that older people are not privy to something; that the youth possess some mysterious quality: a certain quiddity that can’t be defined or emulated. By default, older generations defer to their more “with it” counterparts, resulting in the birth of an occupation predicated on ageism: the social media manager.

I concede that there is something to be said about the facility that comes with growing up with web-based technology, but the advantage is not as great as some might contend. Social media is young enough that no age group really has a distinct advantage over another, especially with how changeable the landscape still is.

As a person that straddles the line between Generation X and Generation Y, I’d like to send a message directly to any social media unsavvy middle-aged person (and older) reading this: We know less about social media than we think we do, but, more importantly, you know more than you think you do.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Innovating Our Way Out of Recession

The news media seems to be reporting many economic indices and anecdotal findings supporting the fact that the U.S. may already be out of its 2008-09 recession. The pace of job losses has stemmed; consumers are slowly beginning to spend (albeit with the help of taxpayer-funded clunker cash and other stimulus funds); the stock market has stopped its free-fall and has risen significantly since the beginning of the year; and even real estate housing starts are on the rebound. Consumer confidence is slowly on the rise.

The public relations and advertising industry also offer an interesting albeit unscientific indication of the direction in which the economy is headed. In the fourth quater of '08 and early into this year, many companies were restricting their budgets or cutting their "discretionary" marketing spend. New business opportunities were few and far between and those that surfaced were prepared to spend a fraction of typical marketing budgets.

But today in the third quarter, there is a renewed flurry of activity -- verified by reports from colleagues at small- to mid-sized firms throughout the country. Start-up enterprises hunting for marketing support are calling again and new business meetings are being planned. Most exciting are the various innovative companies and products that are coming forward. A few examples we've seen in the last few months:

Electric Bikes*- A company soon to market a new line of upscale electric bicycles for consumers hoping to park their cars and get some exercise (with power assist as needed).

DVD Vending Machines- A new brand of DVD and video game rental machines returning the excitement of discovery and impulse shopping as convenient and accessible as visiting your favorite local store.

Blood Pre-treatment to Spot Disease*- A company that has developed a pre-treatment for blood samples that can help close the undiagnosed "window period" for HIV and Hepatitis C.

Clean Coal (really)*- A process for liquifying and gassifying coal without the release of carbon dioxide or the need to capture and sequester it.

Making Static Media Interactive*- A company that has developed a closed circuit system for taking traditional media and making it fully interactive in order to better compete with the Internet.

Our young firm is managing a lead queue approaching three dozen organizations, many of which are innovative and offer disruptive solutions to the markets they are seeking to enter. Microsoft was born during a recession as were many other of today's successful companies. Which of the companies edging their way to market launch will be tomorrow's Google and potentially change our world, our environment and our lives?

We appear to be on the edge of an exciting turnaround as companies begin nudging each other aside as they innovate their way out of recession.

* Companies are currently fundraising; contact us if you have interest in learning more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Guest Post: Marketing Basics to Grow During a Recession

Original Post by Leigh George, Ph.D, Director of Strategy, Moiré Marketing Partners

We all know that it's smart to market during a recession and that firms that do market are better positioned when the economy turns around. If we all know this, why aren't firms flexing their marketing muscle now? Here are tips on how firms can position themselves for growth in the post-recession economy that bear repeating. They're not earth-shattering. But they are marketing basics that you can't afford to ignore.

  1. Incorporate social media into your business development efforts. Your clients, prospects and their suppliers are using it; you should strategically use it too. Leverage tools including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to connect with prospective clients and other professionals to build your network and demonstrate your expertise.
  2. Be a brand ambassador. Remember, you are the face of your company's brand. Use your interactions to communicate your firm's brand promise and support that continuously in your efforts.
  3. Network. Relationships matter. Social media is a great way to start a conversation with a client or prospect - but don't let it stop there. Offer to meet new and old colleagues at an upcoming industry or bar association meeting, civic event, non-profit activity or social mixer - or host your own hospitality function at your firm.
  4. Seize the podium. Apply to be a speaker at upcoming events. If you aren't accepted, attend anyway to get a better handle on what topics are creating buzz.
  5. Learn from other professionals. Invest in consultants to sharpen your brand. An outside perspective can help you assess the effectiveness of your business development efforts and offer insight into what strategies would work best for your personality type.
  6. Be active in your home and business communities. Dust off those memberships in the local chamber of commerce and non-profit organization. Get involved in industry related activities and slowly increase your profile.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Can you Digg it?

In one way or another, social media is changing our lives each day. It’s unavoidable. Some prefer to use it for networking, others find it a crucial tool for news consumption. But no matter how you use it, chances are it's changing the way you work and play.

However, not everyone is convinced that social media is the way to go when it comes to reading the news. At last month's PRSA T3 conference, one PR pro I was chatting with was extremely passionate about traditional media formats and was convinced that the next step for newspapers and magazines was a tailored print edition for each individual subscriber. I know what you're thinking, isn't that my Google reader? But for those who are reluctant to change, there is something familiar and comforting about sitting down with a cup of coffee and the Old Gray Lady each and every morning.

In a 2008 survey conducted by Pew Research Center, more people (35 percent) said that they rely mostly on the internet for news than citing newspapers sources. At T3, Beth Murphy, senior director of marketing & communications at Digg, an online news aggregator, started off her presentation with that statistic and then elaborated on the "democratization of online sources." There is a new realization that news is consumed in small bites thanks to news aggregators, micro-blogging and social networks. Currently, Digg receives more unique visitors than the WSJ and NYT combined.

So, why Digg? Those that don't have the luxury of reading every daily paper from cover to cover can indulge in the top stories that the majority believes to be headline news. calls Digg "a goldmine of great news stories, tutorials and practical tips." Others look at it as a universe of all things current. Digg can also make or break an author or site. The more people who Digg an article can cause an influx of traffic to a particular site or blog, thus building your credibility in a community or network and opening up new opportunities.

Want to start Digging? There are some great online resources that can help you including an FAQ, instructions for adding a Digg button on your site (or just tweet
@pdandreu), Digg the Blog, and more.

This ends another installment of adventures in social media. If you dig it, Digg it. But if you find it, that's a whole other story!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Father's Trading Technology Day?

Every June financial services executives are faced with the same question: What do I love more, my father or trading technology?

Not exactly a Buddhist Koan, but still a serious quandary …

Oddly, the SIFMA Technology Management Show, one of the financial technology industry's largest trade conferences, always happens right around Father's Day. How am I supposed to enjoy grilling petite filets with my dad when the 12 editors and analysts I've strong-armed into meeting with my clients the next week could mutiny at any moment and boycott my appointments for a cuter, more persistent PR practitioner or an event with better food?

This year, we hosted a joint event for one of our clients, Marketcetera, and the New York Stock Exchange at the Peninsula Hotel. Surely an 85 Dollar Bento box with lobster, steak and mini chocolate pot de crème’s should be good for a journalist or four?

Another client, Tervela, dazzled show-goers with their newest product, showcased topless (i.e. under museum-quality plexi-glass) so curious prospects, writers and analysts could see the bits and bobs inside. A civilized tactic compared to the kind of toplessness that often goes along with trade shows in male-dominated industries.

Although the show was smaller than usual given the fact that Wall Street hasn’t emerged yet from its smoking crater, it was still an excellent time to connect with colleagues, hear about new technologies and meet with the editors and analysts - all of whom kept their appointments :)

And, this year, as he has done for the last fifteen, my dad forgave my pre-occupation during our Father’s Day BBQ and accepted my early departure to get back to the office and prepare.

Editor’s note to SIFMA: don’t ever try moving the show up a month and scheduling it around Mother’s Day. They will not go as quietly!

Monday, June 22, 2009

My New Cult

They were everywhere. I saw them in banks, in cars, walking down the street, in meetings, at Starbucks, in elevators, at lunch, in bars, at conferences and at work. It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers: First, I noticed a few of them acting curiously. Before I knew it, the world had been overrun with shells of former people thumbing furiously at their BlackBerrys.

Although PR requires you to stay up to date, I never felt at a disadvantage. I did my job; I worked hard and excelled; but at the end of the day, I was able to disengage from work and put my personal life in a non-contiguous compartment. Initially, I was put off by these mindless creatures, this cultish Blackberrati (As you can see from today’s feature story in The New York Times, I’m not the only one: They were slaves to their electronic extensions, unable to extricate themselves from the ever expanding web of digital communication. I felt sorry for them. Then, I got one.

As part of my employment package at Feintuch Communications, I was supplied with a new BlackBerry (I opted for the Bold). In a matter of days I went from mild curiosity to rabid support, likely to sacrifice non-immediate family members if it were necessary to save my 9000, my preciousss.

This weekend, I was swallowed up by a vortex of texting, BlackBerry Messenger and App World. I lost track of time, like a Native American on a Peyote-induced vision quest, only to emerge on Sunday, realizing that I was texting, BBMing, Gchatting and emailing a childhood friend of mine all at the same time in order to work out the logistics of meeting up for lunch. When I realized what I was doing, I closed all my applications and, with the unsteady hand of withdrawal, called my friend up. We settled on a place in ten seconds tops.

My body is snatched. I already feel it. I am one of them. I am part of the Blackberrati. But while I already see the enormous potential this device has to support my professional development, I will do my best to remember that sometimes you need to pick up the phone to get the job done.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Black Ink is the New Black

My career path has spanned a wide range of journalism and communications endeavors -- on-air newscasting for several radio stations; the assignment desk at WCBS-TV in New York; several public relations firms; and even a stint as head of corporate communications for an international telecommunications manufacturer -- in total nearly 30 years.

I've been priviledged to launch and build several hundred companies, take many of them public and support several multi-national organizations. The body of work has spanned numerous industries from trucking to tech; for-profit and not-for-profit to highly unprofitable; and domestic and international.

Despite having worked for so many entrepreneurs and consulted for so many other organizations, nothing quite prepared me for the roller coaster of emotions and milestones related to the launch of my own business.

December 2008 was filled with lawyers, accountants and real estate agents (oh my!). Friends, colleagues, recruiters, clients and other insiders lined up with often conflicting advice.

On Jan. 2, 2009, our fearless team of four launched Feintuch Communications. Three days later, we incorporated. The first months were filled with serving our early clients -- 3rd Dimension, GAIN Capital, Marketcetera and Tervela -- while at the same time, moving, naming our entity, creating our corporate identity and brand, hiring staff, developing systems and creating a corporate culture. All this while trying to figure out the straightest line to black ink -- a formidable task in the heart of the greatest recession in decades.

My wife, Alice, a geriatric social worker and care manager for the Westchester County chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, went from second income status to primary breadwinner. We all tightened our belts to settle in for the long haul to give the new business as much runway as possible.

In April we launched our website and added new services. We disseminated our own launch press release and announcement cards went out. News articles began appearing. And slowly, things began to click. Referrals started coming our way from our ECP Global international network and our network of hundreds of friends and business colleagues from around the world. While we sadly observed many of our friends' firms contract and downsize, we slowly added accounts. Bluenog. Moire. AccelerOptics. The Linux Box. Hanger Network. RadMD.

Last Friday, half way through our sixth month, the lastest chapter started unfolding. Word from an advertising and marketing prospect that we were hired. More good news today from a life sciences company. And so now, as the clock strikes midnight on the east coast, and as I prepare to take my wife to dinner and Broadway to celebrate our 25th anniversary (June 17), the red ink dried up and turned black.

The adventure continues -- staff hiring, new business meetings, launching our new clients, hustling to satisfy our longer-term clients and preparing to speak at the PRSA International Conference in San Diego. To our clients, friends, supporters and families -- thank you. We hope to continue earning your trust... and black ink.

Monday, June 8, 2009

If My Mom Can Tweet, So Can You

When Twitter first came on the scene, I knew that I needed to learn how to tweet. It’s a new form of media and my work revolves around media, so it was a pretty obvious connection. I’ve been tweeting mostly to stay connected and send and receive news, not to talk about what I had for breakfast. Where I kept falling down in the social media/PR connection was explaining to clients why they should be tweeting. "Because everybody is doing it," was not the right answer. So last week I attended a "Twitter 101" workshop presented by Sandra Fathi, @sandrafathi for the Twitter-savvy.

What I took away from the workshop was invaluable and helped me view Twitter as a tool for the business world. What client wouldn’t want to have their company in a publication that reaches 20 million people globally? That’s one reason to tweet. Some other reasons we discussed during the workshop include: to generate awareness; to seek and create new media opportunities; to foster customer loyalty; to promote products and services; to network with customers; and to monitor trends and breaking news.

The problem is there are some turnoffs and misconceptions. I've heard everything from, “I’m so overwhelmed by email alone, I can’t do anything else” or “the churn rate is so high, it’s just a fad.” Those are completely reasonable worries, but there are solutions. If you can't find the time in your day, how are companies like Southwest, Dominoes, and more all jumping on the Twitter bandwagon? These companies have realized the impact of social media and are allocating either internal or external resources to manage the efforts. Their successes with social media are talked about constantly and have even attracted coverage in traditional
media. For those that say, "it's just a fad, Twitter will be forgotten about in a few months," they probably haven't taken the time to try it yet.

I believe everyone is looking for something at all times and when John or Mary is online Googling “thingamajig” and Company X is twittering about their shiny new thingamajigs – a connection is made and everyone gets what they want. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out but you do need the initiative to try it.

The bigger issue I noticed is that people are reluctant to change. In the business world, you have to embrace change or your company won’t grow. Technology is constantly evolving and the business world relies on new technology to survive. As a young PR pro, I know I’m light years away from the professionals that "back in the day" used to fax or snail mail press releases to journalists. And I give credit to those pros that today are trying their hand at Twitter or that have Facebook pages (even to their kids’ chagrin).

My mom is a partner at a family-owned real estate company in New Jersey, and despite the tumultuous market conditions, she is taking the initiative to try new online networking tools that most of the professionals in her industry aren’t. With the economy slowly making its way back into the black, it's people in the service industry, like my mom, that don’t sit and wait for business to pick up again, they get out and network either in-person or through social media outlets.

So for those that don’t know how to get started with social media or are too overwhelmed by the thought of it, I say, if my mom can tweet so can you! Take the first step and spread your social media wings. Once you get started, you can count on me to be a follower!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Know Your Mark

One of my friends, Kelly O'Brien, was named a "Top Tech Communicator" by PRSourceCode in 2007 for her acumen in pitching technical stories and exemplary work with journalists.

I was happy for her ...

While at the same time secretly worried that if accolades were given for excellent work there might also be a designation for the opposite and a horror show pitch written by a young Steph Johnson might be lurking in the public domain ready to catapult me into the limelight for “the worst pitch on the planet.”

Last week I had an exchange that made me think about this issue again. I used the phrase "editorial opportunity' in a pitch to editor Alan Z. who had just written a blog about why these two words are like nails on a chalkboard to journalists. I didn’t use the term six times like the schlameil he called out in his post, but it was still a transgression.

Every flack worth their salt knows you never start off a conversation by saying “I’m calling to follow up a press release,” and you better as heck know what the outlet covers before you try and pitch your client’s shiniest widget. Beyond that we now have an arsenal of fantastic tools to make sure we don’t try to sell ice to an Eskimo.

It is our responsibility to take advantage of this data…

Before engaging in a dialogue, PR professionals should follow blog posts, check out tweets, investigate Facebook pages and read multiple articles so we understand the pet topics, axes to grind and basic philosophies of our journalists and can develop some kind of rapport with them.

This is not to suggest that personal knowledge is a substitute for what is crucially important in today’s competitive media environment - a strong story based on solid fact with credible third party endorsements, talking end users and an angle that will compel the readership of a particular outlet. However - and as most club bouncers will tell you - building a relationship is important. It won’t necessarily get your ugly friend past the velvet rope, but it could at least help get her closer to the front door!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Queuing up For Business

In our fifth month of business, we finally gave birth.

Our "child" -- Quu (

The back story: When building the platform for Feintuch Communications, we decided we were going to go far broader than simply delivering smart PR. We were going to look at clients and prospects holistically and understand their full range of needs -- including advertising, search, marketing, business development, investor relations, funding, partnerships -- the works (See our April 6 post: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times). Then, if it made sense, we would offer a range of value-added services (plus PR). As an entrepreneurially oriented firm, we're prepared to roll-up our sleeves and work to create a lasting client relationship.

We met Quu in the fourth quarter of 2008. CEO Joe Harb had developed a great technology platform for the radio advertising industry but lacked cash, focus and an insider's seat. We took Quu on as our first incubated client, providing business and marketing counsel and introductions to radio, advertising and market research industry insiders. I was given a seat on Quu's advisory board. We created introductions to various entities with access to needed capital.

And as this vortex of activity accelerated in the past two months, Quu completed its beta test of its technology with Sandusy Radio in Seattle. We prepared a release (, contacted the media, and this Monday, we delivered.

Starting with a story in key trade Radio and Records written by Kevin Peterson ( and with numerous additional stories starting to emerge ( and and, Quu's phone has been ringing off the hook.

Meetings have been scheduled with radio and TV station groups, contracts have been sent out and requests for information have come in from around the country including Oregon, Florida, Chicago and as far away as Australia.

As Quu prepares to close its next funding round, we're preparing to go to work for the company full-time as its marketing, PR and business counsel. We are proud parents knowing we have helped deliver an exciting business opportunity for our client and proof of concept for our own strategic relations firm.

Monday, May 11, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Ninety-nine point nine percent of us at one point in our lives have felt pressure, whether at work or at home, to get something done on a deadline. What I’ve noticed in my professional career is that some people LOVE pressure – they feed off of it. There is nothing like a reporter calling at 4:45 pm on a Friday with a 5:00 pm deadline wanting a question answered or a fact checked. You have to drop EVERYTHING and make those 15 minutes count! That can be very exciting to some.

On the other hand, when a new business proposal is due and you are still sifting through the RFP the night before and you’re missing the gym class you really wanted to go to, the excitement turns into panic and ultimately stress. Some people work better when the pressure is on and can even turn panic into constructive behavior. For those that have a hard time managing stress, here’s a great article from last month’s Fitness Magazine that helped me -

Personally, I don’t like stress. I try to avoid feeling stressed out at all costs. I’ve seen how neurotic behavior leads to pre-panicking and that stresses me out even more! To manage this, I schedule tasks for each hour of my day leaving room for the mini-crises that might pop up. But with all of the pressure to fulfill media requests on deadline, finish press releases, research data, schedule interviews, write memos and think about my next blog post (and that’s just a typical Friday), I better practice what I preach!

P.S. – Sorry about not posting until now, I was trying to meet all of my deadlines!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Falling Down on the Job

Falling Down On The Job
The Friday before last I injured myself by being a multi-tasking New York executive. I was rushing back to the office from an appointment, dispensing strategic counsel from my blackberry on what I thought was a dire PR crisis-in-the-making and I managed to step into a pothole and twist my left ankle.
The first surprising thing that happened was seven people rushed to gather me and my scattered belongings up off the pavement and stuff us into a cab. So much for the lore of Genovese Syndrome – New Yorker’s aren’t all dispassionate!
The second surprising thing was the phone calls I started getting after I returned to work the next Monday. Clients were “shocked to hear that I was back on my feet,” and wanted to know “if I had received their fruit baskets.” Shocked at the velocity of the empathy, I asked someone why they were so surprised that I was back at my desk.
I learned that one of my colleagues had accidentally alerted them that I had fallen down a manhole instead of tripping into a pothole!
A much more dramatic scenario than my inelegant swan dive into the middle of 57th street, but I liked it. I was a star!
Being a professional communicator I marveled at the responses this minor dramatization had incurred. A little razzle dazzle can go a long way.
The declining state of the financial markets could become a precipitous death spiral exacerbated by eroding software architectures unable to scale….
A new Italian restaurant could evoke Batali after the Tuscan farmhouse, before the Pecorino Panzanella and right on the cusp of Babbo …
Joining a social networking site can reunite you with high school sweethearts, enhance your job prospects and walk your dog when you can’t get home from the office in time …
The moral of the story? Massaging the truth is okay as long as we make sure we never actually beat the cr#p out of it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Social 'Notworks'

First weekend back since my trip to Stuttgart, Germany and a meeting of our international PR partnership organization, ECP Global ( We met prospective partners from Sweden, The Netherlands and Spain. Interesting side trips to the Mercedes Benz Center of Excellence... medieval towns and gourmet meals.
While digging out from my workload, I was seeking inspiration for what to write about in PR Niblets. Make it serious and write about the challenges of growing our firm during a recession? Detail my foreign travels? Comment on alarming uptick in swine flu cases? How 'bout that Obama?
Inspiration arrived in an e-mail from my former colleague Christine Milligan Mulvehill, now living up in Beantown and working for Mullen PR. It appears that my upcoming birthday -- as revealed to 'insiders' by Plaxo Plus -- was the subject of a blog by Peppercom founder Steve Cody (

Steve writes about some of the useless information he is subjected to from Plaxo -- the poster child being my birthday announcement. He has a point. Social networking sites can be totally frivolous or an amazing networking, social or research tool. I'm amazed at how often some of my friends and colleagues "tweet" each day. There are days I have to scramble to find time to hit the bathroom... but there they are... several times an hour.. pointing out some interesting factoid about a disease... a celebrity ... or where they're going to lunch... what they ate... what was discussed... and how much they enjoyed lunch earlier.
Whether you LinkIn, Tweet, catch up with your peeps on MySpace or FaceBook or have Plaxo manage your address book, the 'social notworks' are all the rage. For me, I just want to find out Steve Cody's birthday so I can return the favor.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What's in a Name?

As a young PR pro, you don’t have much time to take the phone away from your ear during prime pitching hours let alone delve into the inner workings of the communications business. However, at the center of a start-up in a rocky economy, I’ve seen firsthand how crucial it is to build your brand no matter the environment. That said, brand building doesn’t start at the corporate level alone – you need to consider your personal brand, your company’s brand and of course, your clients’ brands.

With not as many connections as my lovable (and well-connected) colleagues, I decided to start by working on my own brand – ultimately leading to greater credibility in the PR world. So I Kannekt, Facebook, Twitter, and Link In with colleagues and clients, groups and associations, with aspirations to one day have my name associated with a brand that stands for quality, hard-work and dedication!

It’s really not as difficult as I first imagined. Have a reporter friend? Follow them on Twitter to catch their most recent articles. Have a colleague you worked with at a previous firm? Connect with them on LinkedIn, then offer to meet over a cup of coffee to see what they have brewing in their life. It’s amazing how only one hundred and forty characters can open doors and opportunities.

So even with all of the warnings out there to “think before you tweet,” my feelings are, relax! Before social media, time was spent in idle email chatter and passing news through word of mouth. We’ve just changed our medium a bit to be more Web 2.0 (that’s your sign to cringe)!

So whether you’re @cconte, Joining my network!, or sending a message to your best friend, you’re taking the initiative to build a brand and form relationships.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Practicing PR in Troubled Times … Using Communications to Stave Off the Death Spiral

As Henry mentioned in our first company blog post, we chose to launch our company smack dab in the middle of an economic tsunami. With several clients in the financial services sector, we are approaching communications (ours and theirs) with ample research and plenty of special consideration for the current climate.

The financial markets have never been more volatile. Banks, liquidity venues and broker dealers are all starting to look alike – and sell the same products and services. Mergers and bankruptcies happen every day and the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its lowest point since 1996 last month.

From a media standpoint, the bar for news has become a pole vault. Each time the North American economy underperforms, it sends spasms through the international markets, making it difficult to get clients in the headlines – unless they are getting indicted!

I am presently working on a whitepaper that examines how financial services firms can effectively practice PR during troubled times. Abandoning your communications campaign is never a good idea – but it’s even more damaging during a bad market. Perception is reality and a company must do everything it can to stay in front of its constituents.

Be thoughtful and proactive in your efforts, make sure you have realistic goals and decide in advance how you are going to measure success. Plan for the long haul and decide how to approach your tactics differently than you would during a boom time. Attend trade shows – but host a hospitality suite with a partner instead of renting out a lavish hotel lobby. Put out press releases - but space them out appropriately and rely heavily on the relationships of your PR counsel for coverage. Conduct analyst tours - but be strategic about who gets an in-person meeting with an expensive flight attached and who gets a phoner.

And, most important of all - don’t expect to see results immediately. It takes a while to steer the Queen Mary with an oar!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Best of Times...The Worst of Times

It’s April of 2009 and our new firm is just three months old. We launched in the midst of the economic tsunami that has taken hold of the U.S. and rapidly spread through world markets. Clever market timing for a new flavored professional services firm?

In fact, based on the reaction we’re receiving, our timing couldn’t be better.

We have entered an era of accelerated change – not just in our nation’s capital but throughout local and state governments, the financial sector, the automotive industry, the environmental and energy markets and more – indeed change is underway on a global basis and its impact on business is growing increasingly profound.

So, in forming a new breed of public relations firm, we didn’t want to simply recreate past business models. We decided to create a firm rooted in helping our clients grow their businesses, generate revenue and build their brands. To help accomplish that, we’ve surrounded ourselves with a network of partner firms and associates with whom we have been conducting business for decades. Top notch independent PR firms on every continent. Sharp copywriters and designers. Seasoned ad and marketing pros. Corporate finance executives. International trade law firms. Professionals focused on emerging companies and markets. The smartest minds in search engine marketing. And more.

We know we can’t do it all, but our extended network provides our clients with access to resources that can help them attain the velocity and support they need, through traditional marketing disciplines and beyond. For our new venture, and with a nod to Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”