Coffee and Conversations with CBS3’s Margaret Cronan

Public Relations Professionals filled Studio B at CBS3 on April 14, 2016 for Coffee and Conversations with Margaret Cronan. We were all joined by Assistant News Director, John Wilson. PPRA President Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway and Margaret kicked off the morning on a fun note … showing off their similar footwear — medical boots!

Meredith and Margaret at CBS PPRA Event

PPRA President Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway posing with CBS3 Margaret Cronan. Photo By: Cari Feiler Bender

Margaret started the program by talking about the changes at the station. She first showed a new, lively promo video and immediately created an engaging atmosphere. They are relaunching their station brand and the video, which opened in black and white but transitioned into vibrant color, showed just how lively and warm their newscasts are.

So what is the plan at CBS3 now? They are looking for and presenting meaningful stories other stations don’t have while also telling the news of the day in a more meaningful way. Our region doesn’t want just murder, fire, weather and traffic. We want more and CBS3 believes we deserve a better newscast. To explain this further, Margaret gave an example. Recently, their 11 p.m. news kicked off with a story that a year ago wouldn’t have been their lead story. She showed a clip of a story about a case of animal abuse against horses and the amazing teamwork it took to help the Last Chance Rescue Farm take care of these horses.

A sample of how CBS3 is making changes was how the station handled the terror attacks in Paris. While the other channels were running their regular programming, CBS3 interrupted the Dr. Phil show and brought Ukee and Jessica on the set to report the breaking news. CBS National broke the story at 5 p.m. but Margaret felt it was important for us to be informed right away, before 5 p.m.

John Wilson opened his portion of the program by talking about a new segment called Good Question. This airs on the 11 p.m. news and the segments are not posted online – intentionally. Viewers can only watch this segment on television, and cannot find it at another time online. Good Question can be a serious, timely topic like the taxes in April or a more humorous topic like having a linguistics expert from PENN explain where the Philadelphia slang word JAWN comes from. John’s tip: If you want to get a client on Good Question, pitch your client as the expert who can answer the proposed question.

Another light feature that has become very popular are the reports by Vittoria (Tori) Woodall who is as energetic as she is well-received. She began with a segment called Taste with Tori which focuses on the story behind the restaurant. She is now also doing more feature stories such as: what’s it like to actually be inside the crane that is part of the part of the construction site of the new Comcast Tower?

This led to the question and answer portion of the morning. I’d like to present this you all as it happened during the event:

Question:

Who should we be pitching and when does CBS3 use entertainment stories?

Answer:

John quickly shared his email address with us all: Wilson@cbs3.com and said you can never over communicate! Don’t forget morning producer Steve Lindsay. He is filling live air for two hours.

For entertainment, this is a real opportunity for Tori. Maybe she can jump on stage with performers! But remember, there has to be a deeper feature for Tori to share.

John also mentioned that you could pitch a story to him but then in their meetings they’ll decide the best reporter to cover it.  They all share story ideas during their meetings.

Question:

The Last Chance Rescue Farm story that was given as an example in the beginning of the event took place in Quakertown, PA. Do you have a wider demographic because of viewership?

Answer:

They do, always have. John said that if they realize that many of their stories are in the city, it’s time to get out of the city!

Question:

We don’t want to overstep any boundaries with reporters and producers at the station. Let’s say we’re working with someone/pitching them, but they don’t really know if the story will work for them. What if we also think the story could be really good for, as an example, Stephanie Stahl. Can we pitch her as well? We don’t want to pitch two people and chance offending anyone.

Answer:

In our meetings, we don’t really know where the pitches come from. Chances are you’re not always going to get a yes; we’re looking for something unique. John said he has never heard from someone at work rolling their eyes saying, “Oh My God, I’ve heard from this person again!”

Question:

What’s the biggest headache you have from people like us?

Answer:

That’s a better question for the assignment desk but, we’re still news people and we’re trying to tell stories and do the news. The focus at the station isn’t your client’s happiness. It’s ratings and viewer happiness, etc. That’s positive PR. John went on to talk a little on PR practices that frustrate them. His example was the need for quick turnaround during a crisis. They need to hear back immediately especially when something is time sensitive. It doesn’t matter how you respond; email, text, call phone… just give us something, he says.

Question:

How would you describe your sports coverage?

Answer:

We are putting an emphasis back on sports again. We are the only station who sent a camera out to Seattle with St. Joe’s. There’s the sports side of sports, but the people side too. CBS3 is particularly interested in the people side of sports. Maybe we’ll highlight a story during Lunch with Leslie instead of standard sports highlights on the 5 p.m. news.

Question:

You receive 600 emails and more a day so how do we really get you to open the email? How do you feel about phone calls?

Answer:

Email is better because you can catch up quicker than voicemail. When sending a pitch, John can tell what’s national or local. Frankly – it’s in the subject. “Possible Good Question” is a good subject. Adding Philadelphia to the subject line is good to get him to open the email.

Question:

I find it interesting that KYW Newsradio and CBS3 are partnering. Are you doing more of this?

Answer:

Yes, it goes both ways. Both news rooms are mirror images of each other. Someone from KYW Newsradio is in the CBS morning meeting!

Question:

There were more opportunity for sponsored content on Talk Philly at noon. Probably 80% was sponsored content. Why did it stop?

Answer:

We wanted to get back to the news; it was just too fluffy.  When John is questioning if it’s news or fluff, his criteria is if a story is a waste of time. He wants the story to be meaningful. If his brain switches from work to interest, its news. Unfortunately, there is no homerun formula. Sometimes you hit it and sometimes you don’t.

Question:

Health reporters seem adverse to a health awareness angle unless it’s during the specialty month. Next week is osteopathic medicine week so would next week be a good pitching opportunity to do a story on a correlating procedure?

Answer:

John responded that he wants to know how new and radical the procedure might be. Is there something new or different here? Is there a new trend or is it affected by a new insurance law? Make awareness week the chance to talk about newsworthiness or trends etc.

Question:

Thinking about your Grammy promo piece, how can we help you tie into the national trends and national stories with a local story? How do we know other trends that are coming that we can help you with?

Answer:

Some of the stories, we should just know. For example, the Masters are known, the Superbowl is known. We should follow the headlines. Here’s an example that may not have been a homerun but was. James Corden was doing a prime time special on carpool karaoke. So what makes it newsworthy to us? We did a local carpool karaoke story with Tori. It was right around the time that the Pope was in town so we got the big people who were here!

Follow Up Question:

Would you ever tweet out that you’re looking for something?

Answer:

Nah, we’re more about building that relationship with the assignment desk.

Question:

What’s the mood in the room to the arts coverage?

Answer:

Let’s get Tori access to your arts stories but there’s got to be a story there as well. For example, maybe the lead in the nutcracker has some amazing story on her life and how she got there.

All in all, it was an amazing morning. I’ll leave you with the words that Margaret left us with: She would love for us to call her and tell her there’s a huge story breaking down the street but she also now wants us to remember as we work for our clients that CBS3 is doing something different now. She wants us to think while we’re in our meetings, “You know, CBS3 will do this because they’re doing something different now. They aren’t doing all hard edge stuff.”

Hope Horwitz is the Vice President of Sharla Feldscher Public Relations and a long-time PPRA member. 

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Careers 101: The Headliner of Philly PR Student Networking

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Register for Careers 101 here.

Careers 101 is a networking and career advice event hosted by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, aimed at helping public relations and communications students connect with professionals in their field. Maybe you are wondering: ‘so what?’ That could describe most networking events anywhere. What makes Careers 101 so special? Well, I could tell you that it is because of the hard work put on by the students and professionals that planned it, or the amazing quality of the panelists and networkers each year, or the amazing sponsors, such as The Creative Group, who make it all possible; but really it’s all that and more.

11 years ago, Careers 101 began as a small event at U Arts, and has since matured into a Philly PR staple for students and young professionals alike. This year, Careers 101 will be at the PECO Energy Hall on 23rd and Market Street, but in the past it has been held at Temple and Drexel Universities as well. At the event, students can look forward to meeting Philadelphia’s very best PR professionals, from the recently graduated to the not so recently graduated. This year, the panel will consist entirely of past PPRA Fast Track award winners. The Fast Track award is given to one individual each year who have made an impact on the profession early in their career and continues to be a trailblazer – so you can be firm in the belief that these panelists have only the very best to offer you. And if you’re feeling nervous – don’t.

Last year was my first time at Careers 101, and even though I’d helped to plan and host the event, I was still nervous as I walked in the doors of the building. Because I had helped to plan it, I was nervous that no one would show up or that people wouldn’t like it. And because I was (and still am) a student, I was nervous about mingling with professionals in the field that I want to become a professional in. But as it turned out, I had nothing to be nervous about. Why? Because all the older, super experienced PR professionals were once in yours and my own shoes: a PR student or newbie looking for some contacts to understand the industry. After the panel ended I picked out the first person I wanted to talk to, reminded myself that they were a student once too, and introduced myself. In fact, after about five seconds I blanked on the entire English language. Instead of any number of negative reactions I was envisioning, my conversation partner laughed, clapped me on the arm, and asked me what I thought of the panel. This opened up the dam, so to speak, and we had a great conversation and agreed to have lunch soon.

Attending Careers 101 helped me decide where I want to work after graduation, and gave me the resources to get there. I met some awesome people and created lasting connections, I heard some top-notch advice from PR’s best, and I even got free tips on my resume and a professional headshot! The Careers 101 of this year will afford you all of the same benefits, benefits that will only multiply as you attend more events, which is why you can expect to see me there again this year.

Faiz Mandviwalla is a senior at Temple University majoring in Strategic Communication with concentrations in Public Relations and International Communication. Faiz is an Assistant Firm Director for PRowl Public Relations, recently completed an internship with Bellevue Communications Group, and is an active member of PPRA’s College Relations Committee and the Temple PRSSA chapter. Follow Faiz on Twitter @faizmand and on LinkedIn here.

#PPRAMemberMonday: Tyler Cameron

Meet Tyler Cameron, PR Account Coordinator at Slice Communications who joined PPRA a year ago. Tyler is a public relations professional at Slice Communications, a premier Philadelphia agency comprised of fully dedicated public relations and social media teams. Tyler provides clients with actionable content and data-oriented approaches that help them to expand awareness and grow their audience.
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Twitter: @tdfcameron
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tdfcameron1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tylercameron

PPRA: Tyler, tell us a little bit about your PR background.
TC: Prior to joining Slice, I studied strategic communication and business at Temple University and graduated in the Spring of 2015. I served as the Vice President of Temple University’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. In this position, I oversaw the organization and orchestrated chapter programming. I organized and executed multiple panels and events with industry professionals, students, alumni, and Temple University professors.

I was a former intern at Slice Communications responsible for securing a number of impressive media placements for a variety of clients. My other experience includes coordinating social media efforts for a Philadelphia startup and executing guerilla marketing initiatives for music streaming service, Spotify.

PPRA: Who are your clients, and what projects are you working on right now? 
TC: I work with clients in various industries, including healthcare technology, architecture, education and financial services. Recently, I announced the launch of a new healthcare platform created by CloudMine, a startup in Philadelphia. I’ve also been working on promoting various projects that BLT Architects is working on throughout the city, including East Market and the Logan Hotel, in addition to establishing thought leadership for the firm’s principals in various national trade publications.

PPRA: What’s your favorite part about your job?
TC: My favorite part about my job is the team in which I work alongside every single day. The familial culture that has been implemented at Slice allows me to come to work excited every day. We constantly bounce ideas off of each other and support each other in various endeavors. It’s not often that you experience a work environment comprised of your friends.

PPRA: What’s your latest and greatest accomplishment your job?

TC: In February, I was published as a contributor in Hotel Business Review, a premier online weekly resource for hotel industry professionals on HotelExecutive.com. As something that is often reserved for C-suites, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute an article as a young professional. The piece focused on implementing social media strategies into hospitality marketing and highlighted tactics such as creating “Instagrammable” experiences and utilizing popular Instagram influencers. I am very proud of the article, which you can read here: http://hotelexecutive.com/business_review/4607/integrating-instagram-into-hotel-marketing-strategies.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?
TC: Always keep learning. Make sure that you’re constantly educating yourself on everything you can get your hands on, even if its outside the scope of your position. Take the opportunities that come your way because you don’t know how they’ll pay off in the short or long-term.

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?
TC: I actually really hate reading books or watching movies more than once or twice. I prefer to watch or read something I’ve never experienced before. I feel like I’m missing out on something else if I spend my time doing something I’ve already done. Although, one movie that I thoroughly enjoy is Prisoners with Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. And of course the Harry Potter series.

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?
TC: Provolone, wit.

So You’ve Landed Your First Job in PR. What’s Next?

As new entrants to the field of PR, we sometimes find it surprising to realize that we actually did it. After years of late night study sessions, internships and perfected resumes, we’ve finally landed our first job. Now the time comes to ask, “what’s next?”

Compiled here is the advice of four young professionals and a peek into their experiences over the course of their first year in the field.

Learn As Much As You Can

It is so important to be eager to learn. Don’t shy away from asking questions or expressing interest in something new. Whether you’ve done it before or not, jump into new projects. You gain experience and can demonstrate your willingness and ability to learn on the go.

Keep Your Cool & Speak Up

There is always a lot going on. In the first year, it can be a bit overwhelming until you get into a groove. Try your best to stay organized and on top of your deadlines. But if you think you have too much on your plate, say something!

Maintain Work-Life Balance

It’s easy to get caught up in work, so be sure to check yourself to make sure you have balance.

Be Curious

Ask questions and learn from your superiors. Also, do your part to stay on top of major media outlets, trending topics and best practices in the industry. Having an understanding of industry trends and current events can help guide client recommendations and business decisions.

Take Notes

Take active notes in meetings, during presentations and on client status calls. You’ll never regret writing down too much, but you’ll thank yourself when you need to remember something important.

Prioritize

Learning to prioritize can be difficult, so don’t be afraid to ask your superiors for help. Once you are able to iron out that practice, it becomes a lot more manageable to get work done. 

Get Involved

Philadelphia has a lot to offer, from major events to professional organizations, there’s no shortage of opportunity. PPRA, for instance, is a wonderful resource for professional development, networking and much more.

Build Your Reputation

Be visible within your office and start to build a reputation for yourself. A little extra time can go a long way, so be willing to offer a helping hand and jump in when you can.

Have Fun

Have fun and befriend your coworkers. You spend a majority of your time with them, so it’s important to enjoy and get to know the people you work with!

One Final Piece of Advice

Your first year in the field is all about setting the foundation for your career, so make the most of it.

Author: Kellsey Turner is a PPRA member and an Assistant Account Executive at Vault Communications. Follow her on Twitter @KellseyTurner and connect with her on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellseyturner.

Contributions by: Amy Bonsal, Marketing & Communications Specialist at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children; Rachel Christie, Assistant Account Executive at Brian Communications; Colleen Lynch, Assistant Account Executive at Vault Communications.

What a 3rd grade teacher can teach us about getting free media coverage

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In many ways, Stephen Flemming is your quintessential elementary school teacher. He knew since he was a child that he wanted to educate children. But teaching the youth of Philadelphia isn’t the only thing this teacher excels in.

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You see, Flemming is not just an educator, he’s also a media magnet. Being a teacher inside the Philadelphia School District, he has first-hand knowledge about the district’s drama that us Philly folks see in the news every other day. What’s more, this third grade teacher has strong opinions about the condition of the district and what it means for Philly’s children. So, he takes to Twitter, his blog, and public forums to sound off.

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The result is that news media flock to him. Below is a Q&A with Mr. Flemming on how to get free media attention.

Q: How did u start getting noticed by reporters?

A: Around 2010 I began submitting my opinions to the Philadelphia Daily News’s daily views and opinions section. I wanted to express how I felt in response to a political figure speaking negatively about public school teachers. The person’s comments bothered me so badly, it came through loud and clear in my submission and the paper published it.
Tip #1: Have something worthwhile to say!

Q: Why do you think they continue to come to you?

A: I think the news media continues to come to me for a couple reasons. As a teacher for the Philadelphia School District, I’m on the “inside.” But on top of that, I’m not afraid to talk and give my name. This is a big deal with reporters. People are reluctant to give their names for fear of losing their jobs or the potential scrutiny that may come as a result. But journalists won’t pursue stories with sources who don’t want to talk.
Tip #2: Closed mouths don’t get press!

Q: What role does social play in your ability to get media coverage?

A: I use Twitter and my blog to unleash my thoughts on what’s happening inside the Philadelphia public school system. A key piece of advice is to use trending hashtags that are associated with your topic. In my case, it’s #phled. Hashtags have faithful followers (many of whom are reporters) who will read, react, and retweet. As far as my personal account goes, there are quite a few reporters who follow me on Twitter and most of my interview requests come through DMs. I don’t know of any journalists who subscribe to my blog, but some will tweet my posts so I do know they’re reading and following.
Tip #3: Use social media to show your thought leadership

Q: What’s your “hook”?

A: When I post something on social media, I don’t think about it. I just speak the truth. Reporters are looking for “real” and I think the public wants it just like that as well. I speak from experience and I never talk on behalf of other teachers; just myself. Also, I have no shame in calling Philadelphia’s public school district out on Twitter. Keep it real, tack on a hashtag at the end, and you’re sure to get someone’s attention.
Tip #4: Keep it real

Mr. Flemming’s four tips work. See for yourself. Here are just some of his media mentions from 2015.

Billy Penn – Sixteen Young Teachers and Leaders Shaping Education in Philly
Technical.ly Philly – How Schools Across the Philadelphia School District are Building a Tech Culture
Philly.com – Teachers Express Anger at SRC Decision to Impose Contract Terms
Philadelphia Metro – Street Talk: The Reality of Budget Cuts in City Schools
NBC 10 – Judge Grants Injunction for Philly Teachers

A version of this blog post originally appeared on The PR Maverick blog. To view it, click here.

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber and a freelance PR consultant. Visit her website, The PR Maverick, and follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR.