Renee Cree is Public Relations Manager at Philadelphia College of Ostoeopathic Medicine. She has been a PPRA member on and off for 10 years.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/renee.cree

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/renee-cree-ab65492

PPRA: Renee, tell us a bit about your background and your current job.

RC: Born and raised in West Chester, home of “Jackass,” parts of “Marley and Me,” and QVC. I fell in love with writing at 12 years old and haven’t stopped since. I’ve become much more politically minded in the past–oh, year and a half or so. No particular reason. I currently reside in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia with a somewhat indifferent cat.

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

RC: PCOM recently announced that it received approval from its accrediting body to open an additional location in rural Georgia. We’re excited because it means we’ll be helping to infuse an area in need with competent and caring health professionals.

PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?

RC: Finding and telling great stories about PCOM and the people who work and study there.

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

RC: There’s a researcher at PCOM who works of the interesting hypothesis that Alzheimer’s could be triggered by infection. I’ve been working with him for the past several years to try and promote his work–it’s interesting but still very much goes against some of the conventional wisdom about Alzheimer’s–and we’re finally starting to see the needle move in terms of media attention. That to me is a great feeling, when all of the seeds you plant start to come to fruition.

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

RC: View everything–both successes and failures–as a learning opportunity.

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

RC: Two books: Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides, and Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly (museum, park, store, etc.)?

RC: Barcade–it has alcohol and old video games, what could be better?

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?

RC: Wiz witout.

PPRA: Our PPRA 2017-18 PRoactive partnership is with Tree House Books. What was your favorite childhood book and why?

RC: I devoured all the “American Girls” books (back when the dolls were based in different historical times). I loved learning about girls my age with different backgrounds and from different times.


Financial Mistakes to Avoid When You Have Money in the Bank

Image result for financial mistakes

By John J. Shimp, RidgePoint Financial Partners

John Shimp, CFP©, CRPC©, CFS©, CDFA™, APMA, CLTC is a Private Wealth Advisor and Managing Partner with RidgePoint Financial Partners™, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Langhorne and Limerick, PA. He offers fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for over 15 years.

Even people who are financially secure can fall into money traps that put their future at risk, or miss out on opportunities to further strengthen their financial position. Here are several common mistakes made by financially accomplished people — along with a few tips to counteract them.

Overspending. You’ve worked hard to get where you are. Don’t abandon the budgeting strategies that helped you come this far. Give your discretionary fund a boost if you must, but continue to keep an eye on what you spend each month. You can easily fall behind in your financial goals by consistently overspending in small amounts, which add up to large sums over time.

Not having an emergency fund. If you earn a healthy sum each month and have money set aside in investments, you may not think you need other savings. However, having a workplace plan (like a 401(k) or 403(b) plan) or an IRA is not an emergency fund. Withdrawing funds earmarked for retirement prematurely can incur costly tax penalties, and make you lose out on potential future earnings. Instead, store away three- to-six months’ worth of income in liquid savings to provide a cushion in the event of job loss, natural disaster, illness or another unexpected event.

Prioritizing saving for college over retirement. As the cost of a four-year degree in the U.S. continues to rise, it may be tempting to put your child’s tuition ahead of your own future. Yet, boosting your retirement savings should take priority. Your child has an array of options to finance college tuition, including job earnings, merit-based scholarships, and various loan options. When you retire, you simply won’t have access to these external sources of funding if your retirement savings come up short. If you are on track with your retirement savings and want to set aside funds for your budding student, be strategic and diligent about creating a plan to achieve both goals.

 Being underinsured. Take a critical look at what you own. How easily could you replace those items if an unexpected event occurs? Standard policies may not cover as much as you think, especially if you’ve recently upgraded your home or added to your art collection. Check in with your insurance agent and upgrade your coverage as needed. If you live in an area prone to severe weather, you may be able to add a rider for flood or storm damage. Bump up your life insurance if it makes sense and review your potential need for disability income and long-term care coverage.

Failing to diversify. You heard it a million times growing up — don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If your money is tied up in your home, or if your investments are over- or under-weighted in one sector of the market, you may be on risky ground. Work with your financial advisor to evaluate your level of diversification within the context of your goals. Annual or more frequent reviews are recommended to help ensure a productive portfolio that’s within your tolerance for risk.

Learn to work with the media – not fear them

By Kirk Dorn and Kurt Knaus

Business leaders and organization directors are typically adept at handling pressure. It’s part of the job description.

 But many of them break into a cold sweat when asked to conduct a media interview. Chatting with a reporter or talking into a camera is not in their comfort zone – whether they’re out there defending a negative situation or even just promoting a good cause.

 That’s why one service Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy offers our clients is media training. We want them to learn that talking to the media does not have to be an intimidating experience.

 Typically, our training sessions comprise small groups, between two and four people. But at this year’s annual conference of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) our Senior Director Kirk Dorn and Managing Director Kurt Knaus spoke to 400 attendees, mostly administrators of nursing home and assisted living centers.

 One big message: Most media encounters are non-threatening. In fact, they usually offer opportunities to promote your organization.

 We realize that many of the people attending our sessions want nothing to do with media if they can avoid it. So we aim to help them understand how beneficial a proactive media campaign can be in building their company’s reputation.

 Let us give you an example. Our client, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania has been doing excellent work for years on issues of affordable housing legislation. But not enough people knew it. We worked with them to create a statewide media campaign, and now they are rightly regarded as a go-to source for information.

 The training at this particular conference focused on facilities that are highly regulated and might attract media scrutiny. Certainly, a questionable report from the state citing issues at a nursing center will raise a reporter’s eyebrows. And that can lead to pointed questions.

That’s where an executive’s handling of a challenging interview becomes crucial. The difference between a fair story and a damaging one often lies in how an organization presents itself and its facts, the manner in which it answers questions and even the demeanor of the spokesperson. Sometimes you can even find a way to promote the great work your organization does while defending yourself against a negative narrative.

 Ceisler Media conducts media training for clients ranging from large corporations to small nonprofits. No matter their size, the first imperative is always the same: Preparation. You need to anticipate all the questions you’ll face and ready yourself for how to answer them. Ultimately, your success boils down to how well you’ve prepared.

 Because most of our training is for ongoing clients, we help develop their key messages and talking points and then practice with them after the initial training.

 Another big lesson we impart is the need for honesty. You use the best facts you have and assemble them into your best argument. Often, the smart strategy is to use a reporter’s tough questions as a springboard to present your facts.

Both of us worked many years in media and government communications before joining Ceisler Media. So we bring perspectives and experiences that cover virtually every situation our clients might encounter.

 One nursing center network CEO we work with was initially afraid to deal with the media. Turns out, he was a natural who performed brilliantly after some training. Now that CEO welcomes the chance to meet with reporters – when it makes strategic sense.

 At this recent media training session, like most, we ended by conducting mock interviews. We videotaped clients answering questions from “reporters,” and then let them watch and critique themselves. It was a rewarding experience – interrupted only by the opening of the martini bar.

 As productive a session as we put on, we knew we couldn’t compete with that.

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.

A ‘cheesesteak’ poutine to celebrate supposed Eagles fever? Just go away


Note to PR firms: If you don’t get Philly, don’t pretend you do.

By Danya Henninger, Billy Penn

Being a public relations professional is not easy. Especially not in the highly skeptical Philadelphia market. Especially if you lean on the tired trope of cheesesteaks.

In general, there are ways to do it right, and promote your clients while still maintaining integrity. Personal connections are key. At an event last week hosted by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, a panel of experienced food journalists all agreed that a customized note is always more effective than a mass-emailed pitch.

The best publicity pros craft customized messages and build rapport with writers and editors. They stay aware of the relevant landscape, and figure out ways their clients’ messages fit in — in ways useful to both the news outlet and their audience.

Mediocre agents send out generic statements, leaving the reporter to decide if they have any merit or relevance.

Then there’s the worst: Flacks who pretend they’re keyed into a certain scene, but give away their inauthenticity with obvious faux pas. These people aren’t just incompetent, they’re doing their profession a disservice.

Last week, an egregious example landed in the inboxes of Philly-area food scribes.

The email, sent by a Canadian-based firm to promote a Canadian-based chain, attempted to play off ostensible excitement surrounding the Eagles playoff run. Except, well, thanks to Carson Wentz’s season-ending injury and the last few games with Foles at the helm, things here in Philly are pretty subdued. People on the ground know that. Out of towners? Guess not.

Just for fun, here’s a line-by-line read of the silly pitch, which — spoiler — tries to sell you on cheesesteak-inspired poutine:

I wanted to connect with you regarding an opportunity that I believe may interest you that involves the local Smoke’s Poutinerie and the current Philadelphia Eagles playoff craze.

The Eagles are the No. 1 seed, sure, but we’re the underdogs going into this thing. Vegas has the line at -2.5 in favor of Atlanta, a historic diss for a top-ranked NFL team. Instead of a “craze” sweeping the city, it’s more like we’re holding our collective breath in fear of what could happen.


Philadelphia is a city on the top of the world as the beloved Eagles are primed to make a playoff push for the Super Bowl! Excitement is at an all-time high and fans and local businesses are coming up with crazy and unique creation to celebrate the occasion.

“All-time high”? A 6ABC article about “excitement” building in advance of the game couldn’t even come up with any exuberant quotes. “We’re hoping for the best,” one Birds fan told the station.

And then there’s the fact that no, in fact, most businesses around the city did not bother to come up with “crazy and unique creations” to celebrate the playoff push. A few are running specials during the game — some of which celebrate both teams! — but there weren’t enough to inspire a roundup from the Philly food blogs. A local PR pro who sent over some Eagles-related quotes from a restaurateur noted, “I had this queued up, but no one asked for them.”

One of these creations is the epic Limited Edition Philadelphia Eagles Poutine, made exclusively by the local Philly Smoke’s Poutinerie.

Did Smoke’s actually make an endorsement deal with the Eagles for this poutine? Doesn’t look like it. If not, it’s definitely no exclusive. And they might want to hope Jeffrey Lurie’s lawyers don’t get wind of how they’re co-opting the trademarked team name for promotion.

The classic dish of crispy golden fries, smouldering gravy, and mounds of delicious squeaky cheese curds has taken a wild turn in Philly as the honorary poutine has been released for all die-hard fans of the Eagles and delicious food lover across the city.

A “wild turn”? Wow, like the truly out there combos offered at locally-grown Shoo Fry, where you can get poutine in flavors like PB&J or scrapple? (And which, it should be said, is running a very spot-on promotion.)

The Philadelphia Eagles Poutine features the choice of chicken, steak, or veggie, topped with vibrant seared green pepper and onions, and finished off with white cheddar cheese sauce.

Oh, you’re going for a cheesesteak. But doing that wrong, too. Note to Canada (and everyone else outside of Philly): Green peppers are not part of that classic combo. Sorry not sorry.

Of note, Shoo Fry has a regular cheesesteak poutine on the menu. It’s got steak, fried onions, and your choice of American or Whiz.

There is no restaurant in Philly more weird, wild, and wacky, and the desire to spread the buzz and keep the party going through the playoffs with the Eagles.

Keep the party going? It’ll be a surprise to all of us if we make it past this weekend. And as for going on about being the weirdest, wildest and wackiest spot in town — that’s kind of like telling people you’re a genius. If you have to make a big deal about it, it’s probably not true.

We would like to offer you the opportunity to experience the latest in Eagles football fandom and get you some of the new Eagles Poutine to try!

If anyone can explain how chowing down on fries and curds is a football fandom experience, they deserve a medal.

You may perhaps be looking into a story about the Eagles creations that are popping up all over the city and this unique dish could be a great starting point.

A) Again, not a unique dish. B) Eagles creations did not pop up all over the city. C) The fawning attempt at pretending to be helpful — “you may be looking into a story” — is grating to begin with. Putting it at the very end of a pitch is insulting.

The overall takeaway is to not send pitches that make assumptions. If you know the landscape, great. If you don’t, don’t pretend that you do. It’ll backfire. Promise.

Anyway. Eat local. Go Eagles.








Dan McCunney is Public Affairs Manager at Citizens Bank. He has been a PPRA member for 2 years and serves on the Communications Committee.

Twitter: @djmccunney

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielmccunney

PPRA: Dan, tell us a bit about your background and your current job.

DM: I currently manage public affairs initiatives and support sponsorships for Citizens Bank in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. I came to Citizens from the nonprofit world, previously serving as the Director of Communications for the Delaware Museum of Natural History, working in Communications for the School District of Philadelphia, and prior to that working in PR for Please Touch Museum.

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

DM: Locally, I work closely with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philabundance, and many other community and nonprofit organizations. I also work with the Detroit Grand Prix, The Henry Ford Museum, the Pittsburgh Jazzfest, and Cleveland Metroparks. My territory covers six states in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?

DM: My favorite part of the job is any time I get to participate in a check presentation or volunteer event with nonprofits in the area. There are some amazing organizations in and around Philly that are doing really special things, and I’m just glad I get to be a small part of it.

Spending time at the ballpark is a pretty cool part of the job, too.

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

DM: We just wrapped up a campaign to distribute grants that were funded almost entirely from employee contributions to the Citizens Charitable Foundation. Over 4,000 of our employees across 15 different states voted to determine which organizations to support. I was responsible for coordinating many of the communication pieces and working with our internal and external comms teams to publicize the initiative.

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

DM: Try new things. Each job is different and you’ll find things you like or dislike at any job, but don’t be afraid to jump out of your comfort zone and take a shot at something new. One of my favorite jobs was working in the communications office at a nursing home and getting to spend time with people that had years and years of experience at all sorts of things, but especially at life.

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

DM: “A Few Good Men” is one of my favorites and I can watch it any time it comes on TV.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly (museum, park, store, etc.)?

DM: I live not far from Lemon Hill in Fairmount Park so I like to walk my dog over there. It has great views of the city skyline from the backside of the art museum, the river, and Boathouse Row.

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?

DM: Wiz without.

PPRA: Our PPRA 2017-18 PRoactive partnership is with Tree House Books. What was your favorite childhood book and why?

DM: My favorite childhood book was “Maniac Magee” because it took place in this area and at the time I read it, I was around the same age as the main character.