Between You and MEdia… with Alfred Lubrano

As PR professionals, we all know the importance of building meaningful relationships with members of the media – reporters, producers, assignment editors, etc. But how does that happen, and where do you start? 

In this new section of the PPRA blog, PPRA members will share insight, tips and tricks, and fun facts learned from members of the media through informal interviews. You won’t have to wait for our “Media Mingle” or “Editors Panel” to get your tough questions answered and connect with the media. Our goal with this blog section is to continue engagement with our media counterparts in an informative and fun manner. So, between you and me – enjoy!


Director of Communications at Philabundance, Stefanie Arck-Baynes, spoke with Alfred Lubrano, poverty beat writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and shared why a press release just won’t do when pitching him. The following has been edited for clarity and brevity. Photo courtesy: The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Many clients and organizations have “the one” – the one outlet, the one reporter, or the one column in which they want to be featured. Securing that often equals success. At Philabundance, where I‘m the Director of Communications, it’s often the poverty section of The Inquirer, which has been covered by Alfred Lubrano for eight years. 

Al L v2 PPRA

Between you and me, what has been your favorite piece“I wrote about a former pharmacist who began living in her Mercedes. She was not drug addicted and didn’t have any mental health issues; it’s a story of what could happen to anybody and it showed that poverty isn’t just a them condition”.

The piece not only got 147,000 clicks, but lead to donations and a gofundme site which helped the woman get back on her feet.

Al’s advice to PR professionals for pitching: Don’t forget about your industry outlets and newsletters. About one third of the stories he writes come from pitches, but mostly he generates ideas through reading other outlets covering his beat and newsletters, such as Food Research and Action Center and the People’s Emergency Center.

And don’t forget that you need to offer a person impacted by the story and someone who understands what they’re agreeing to – “That’s the hardest part; you’re asking them extraordinarily personal questions. then you have to ask to use their name — we can’t say a woman in Philadelphia, we need their name, neighborhood, age and photograph,” said Al. 

What about press releases? He’s generally not interested in grant/donation press releases from companies that pat themselves on the back for a donation. Lead with the good the donation is doing and focus on the outcome. And don’t forget someone who has been or will be helped by this.

Fun Fact: He recently learned about K-pop from his 15-year-old daughter. “I get more of a kick out of her than anything.” 

How to contact Al: Email at alubrano@inquirer.com

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#PPRAMemberMonday: Michelle Sonsino

#PPRAMember Monday_Sonsino

Michelle Sonsino is the Director of Communications and Marketing for Germantown Friends School. She has been a PPRA member for 7 years and currently serves as our Vice President for Membership.

Twitter:
Personal @pumpoclock
Professional @GFSchool

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-sonsino-5659379

Facebook:
Personal @michelle.sonsinolewis
Professional @GermantownFriendsSchool

Michelle has over 15 years of diverse communications experience that spans public relations, internal communications, community relations, B2B and B2C marketing, grant writing, and crisis communications. 

Michelle currently serves as the Director of Communications and Marketing at Germantown Friends School, a role she loves because of the creative and thoughtful faculty and students, and the programmatic focus on social justice and equity. Prior to her work at GFS, Michelle served as the Director of Development at Career Wardrobe, where she currently serves on the organization’s Advisory Board. She has also held roles at the City of Philadelphia, Chubb Insurance, Aramark, and Women’s Way. Michelle interned for Philly.com when the site was in its infancy, and continued on as a part-time employee for two years.

Michelle volunteers with Saved Me animal rescue and has two sweet dogs, Crouton and Gretel. Michelle lives in Bella Vista with her husband and son, Max.

I appreciate being a part of the PPRA community for a few reasons. First, every event has directly advanced my work. From media panels to Pitch Perfect events, I have found direct success from building new relationships, gaining feedback from peers, and opening my eyes to new marketing concepts. I have also found the mentorship opportunities to be greatly beneficial, both learning from experts and advising those new to the field. Throughout my entire career, mentorship has been very important to me, from my first boss out of college to my current supervisor to the many people I have met at PPRA, I am grateful for their professional guidance and support, as well as meaningful friendships.”

PPRA: Who are your clients and what projects are you working on right now?

MS: I support many teams at GFS, including the leadership, admissions, fundraising, academics, athletics, auxiliary programming, community relations, and more! We also work with neighbors and non-profit partners.

PPRA: What is the favorite part of your job?

MS: Every day is different and there is always a new story to tell. The relationship between the school and the community is also heartwarming to me, particularly as someone who worked in nonprofits for many years. We partner with the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, John B. Kelly School, and many more! Students are able to learn from many different perspectives. I have the privilege of learning something new every day as well!

PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?

MS: I worked with a group of students to publicize their walkout efforts and we made it into the Wall Street Journal’s online site (well, for half a day), and many other outlets. I was beyond proud of their work to encourage, and demand, gun reform. They recognize their power to change the future, and I was thrilled to help get their message out.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

MS: Be kind and honest, and enjoy your amazing job! It can be stressful, but how lucky are we to be able to share stories near and far?!

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

MS: All the President’s Men. I watched it in high school and I think it sparked my interest in journalism.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

MS: Dilworth Park, particularly when the fountain is on. This joyful site brings together people from all over Philadelphia and the world.

PPRA: If you weren’t in PR, what profession do you see yourself in and why?

MS: An adoption or foster care social worker. Adoption has played such an important part in my life and I would love to learn how to support others who are interested in building a family in different ways.

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

MS: John’s Water Ice

Temple’s Public Relations Student Society of America Celebrates 50 Years

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Temple’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is celebrating 50 years of dedication to mentorship, leadership and networking. To commemorate this occasion, the members of PRSSA implemented several projects throughout the semester, the largest and most extensive being the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, “Being A Full Service PRo.”

On March 22 and 23, students and communications professionals from up and down the East Coast came to network, listen to industry experts and celebrate Temple PRSSA’s 50th. Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia, opened the conference and spoke on the importance of public relations. The lunchtime keynote panel, PR the Age of the #MeToo Movement, was a powerful discussion about public relations practioners’ role in the #MeToo Movement. During the conference, attendees donated more than 150 children’s books to Mighty Writers, a local Philadelphia non-profit supporting children’s literacy. The conference received media coverage from 6ABC, PR trade publication Bulldog Reporter and other notable outlets.

Outside of the regional conference, Temple PRSSA celebrated the 50th anniversary through mentorship and networking events aligning with PRSSA’s mission. Temple PRSSA’s mentorship program pairs mentors and mentees together to help students learn from each other. This semester, mentorship pairs took parts in several events such as a game night where mentorship pairs were able to learn more about each other.

Throughout the semester, students have networked with Temple PRSSA and PRowl PR alums by reaching out to them and writing a spotlight blog on their career path. Alumni have also participated in alumni takeovers on PRSSA’s Instagram account.

The organization also hosted several social events such as a behind-the-scenes session with the Philadelphia Union’s communications team followed by the game at Talen Energy Stadium; agency tours at SEER Interactive, Maven Communications, Tierney, Sage Communications and Garfield Group; and a speed networking event.

All Temple PRSSA members have the opportunity to join committees as part of their experience with Temple PRSSA and supporting the overall mission and efforts of the chapter. The fundraising committee planned several successful campaigns including a chocolate covered strawberry sale for Valentine’s Day and a t-shirt sale. The community service committee volunteered with the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and partnered with Cradles to Crayons, a local non-profit, while the digital and public relations committees helped support the chapter’s efforts in celebrating the 50th anniversary. Each committee enhances member’s skills and develop their leadership knowledge.

Where Journalists Are Marketing and Marketers are Selling Journalism

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By Adam Dvorin, Winning Strategies

You could say the tone of the day was set in the very first 10 minutes.

Here we were — a collection of communications professionals sitting in a conference room at CBS as part of a daylong tour of national media outlets organized by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association.

We were listening to Adam Sechrist, a booker at CBSN, describing his target market as young, technologically-savvy, news consumers.

“There were 3.8 million cord cutters in 2018 — and we want to be their national news provider of choice,” Sechrist said. “Our audience tends to skew a little younger — under 34. And they want their news a little more direct, without as much opinion as cable news stations.”

If you didn’t know — and many of us did not — CBSN is a streaming news channel that one can watch without needing a cable subscription. The news presentation is a bit more traditional — information without the bombastic tone that caused one Philadelphia TV anchor to remark that cable news had become a “Hollywood Squares of Hate” during a recent panel on which I served.

Mostly, CBSN isn’t trying to win audience share from a competitor. The network saw a whole new market — in this case, cord cutters — and raced to create a product that catered to this community.

Listening to Sechrist talk, I was struck by how much he sounded like a marketer — or at least a journalist with strong marketing sensibilities. And, as our group snapped photos and prepared to travel to our next stop, I couldn’t help but think that we, as as media relations professionals, need to strategize in a similar manner if we want our clients to earn as much coverage as possible.

Audience targeting increasingly matters in this post-mass media world. If you want to secure earned media coverage, then pitches need to be more customized and individualized than ever before. That much is crystal clear.

For example, later in the day, we paid a visit to Bloomberg and heard New York bureau chief Lauren Berry explain that she considers “business leaders in New York” to be her target reader. If a story resonates at Goldman Sachs, it likely has a home on one of Bloomberg’s platforms — TV, radio, traditional wire or the professional-based wire that few outside the financial industry ever get to see.

Usually when PPRA members come to New York, we hear advice that doesn’t sound that much different than what we might hear at our regular media panels. Spell the contact’s name correctly. Know about the outlet you’re pitching — don’t offer a cooking segment to NBC Nightly News, for instance. Journalists venting a set of time-tested PR pet peeves.

But this time, I saw a noticeable shift in the tenor of our talks with media decision makers. We were going to a higher level! We heard about journalists making editorial decisions more strategically considering their outlet’s target reader, listener or viewer much more than before.

One of our hosts — The New York Times — even strategized an entire array of audio products to meet this shifting consumer demand.

Samantha Henig, the editorial director of audio at The Times, transitioned from printed word editorial positions to start a division that now boasts one of the most popular shows in all of podcasting, The Daily.

Henig wrote the business plan, hired a 25-person production team and began overseeing the team that puts out The Daily and other Times podcasts.

Indeed, in a world where new podcasts pop up seemingly overnight, The Daily stands apart because of its intricate production, concise show length of 25 minutes or less (“the time of most people’s commutes,” says Henig) and involvement of Times reporters.

The Daily, explained New York Times Chief Marketing Officer David Rubin, fits into the Times’ overall branding premise of “Truth.”

The “Truth” campaign, says the Medium, has helped the New York Times surpass two million digital subscriptions (and inspired a clothing products that have been worn by celebrities such as Justin Timberlake).

Rubin, who previously worked for Unilever and joked about “being the man who unleashed Axe body spray on the world,” felt an image-centric campaign would work effectively for a media company in a way that a price-based campaign would not (example: 12 weeks of news for $25!).

So far, of course, he is correct — something that underscores the irony of a marketer positioning journalism as a consumer commodity. Meanwhile, journalists themselves are analyzing their audiences and using marketing sensibilities to develop news products that resonate with their targets.

Journalists often speak of the division between church and state. And, while that still exists, PPRA’s day in New York might suggest that marketing pros and journalists are thinking more similarly these days — something that is not likely to change anytime soon.

Adam Dvorin is Media Relations Director of New Jersey-based Winning Strategies Communications and the immediate past president of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association.

Your Blog Could Easily Be an OpEd: Repurposing Strong Content Yields Additional Results

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David Griffith’s opinion article introduces Mindset, a highly-anticipated workforce development program.

By SPRYTE Communications

Doesn’t it seem like everyone has a Blog these days? If not, we should because by now we know that content rules. Content is also what drives thought leadership earned media strategies.

Many Blogs are well-written and present provocative, timely ideas. These Blogs can be repurposed as OpEds and placed in print media including newspapers, online
e-publications and trade magazines.

SPRYTE client David Griffith, Executive Director of Episcopal Community Services, regularly blogs on his LinkedIn Blog Site Muddy Boots.

A blog Griffith posted in January was repurposed and placed in a recent edition of the Philadelphia Business Journal.

It is the first OpEd in an ongoing series, “Poverty: Finding Solutions in The Business Community.” Griffith’s opinion article also introduces a highly-anticipated brand new Episcopal Community Services workforce development program, MindSet, “based on the most current brain science available that provides coaching and financial assistance to help individuals navigate the system and access opportunity that many of us take for granted.”

As the first cohort of MindSet reaches the mid-point of the first phase of the program, Griffith will continue to use his voice as a blogger and social services thought leader to encourage the business community to create the jobs that pull individuals out of poverty. The readers of the Philadelphia Business Journal are an excellent audience for his platform.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.