#PPRAMemberMonday – Jimmy Contreras

#PPRAMember Monday_Contreras

Jimmy Contreras is the Public Relations Manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia. He has been a member of PPRA for several months.

Twitter: @jimmystyle

Facebook: @iamjimmystyle

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jimmystyle

Known for his no-nonsense approach, Jimmy has launched fashion, hospitality, destination brands and cultural institutions through comprehensive marketing and public relations, collaborative partnerships and social media. Jimmy has worn many hats in his professional life, from building homes in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, dressing women in beautiful dresses, opening his own namesake boutique, placing stories in the New York Times to chatting it up live on TV with Skinny Girl, Bethenny Frankel.

Jimmy was integral in introducing iconic brands to the Philadelphia market, including Wilhelmina, Timberland Company, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Anne Klein and Suitsupply. Jimmy has reinvigorated existing brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, Macy’s, Whipped Bake Shoppe, The Franklin Institute and Chestnut Hill Business Association with creative marketing tactics. Jimmy’s direct demeanor and energetic personality has made him extremely successful with placing stories in the local, regional and national landscape. 

Jimmy proudly serves as a board member of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, PHL Diversity and American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign.

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

JC: I work in-house for The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia.

PPRA: What is your favorite part of your job?

JC: Working for a legacy luxury brand and bringing it to life in our community with partnerships and collaborations.  

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

JC: Launched the Moët & Chandon Mini-Matic at our hotel property. The champagne vending machine is the only one of its kind in our city. Cheers! 

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

JC: Two things:

  1. Do not burn bridges. You will always need to cross a bridge to get to the other side.  
  2. Never make promises. If a PR Pro makes a promise – you need a new Pro!

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

JC: The Color Purple. My favorite book and movie. 

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

JC: Kelly Drive.

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

JC: Non-profit. I worked in the non-profit world right out of school and it really opened my eyes on how hard organizations work to make a positive impact in communities they serve.

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

JC: Beiler’s Doughnuts – not a pretzel or cheesesteak but it’s definitely Philly!

Between You and MEdia… with Stephanie Farr

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!

With 16 years under her belt as a journalist, a majority of which was spent in Philadelphia, the Inquirer’s Stephanie Farr has a natural sense of what makes a story uniquely Philly. Covering Philly Culture, Stephanie is inspired by the people she writes about and the people who read her work. Journalism was never Stephanie’s first choice in careers, but today, her favorite part of the job is meeting and learning about the incredible people of Philadelphia. Hear more about her process in the edited interview below. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Farr.


Stephanie Farr

How did you get started as a journalist? I’m probably one of the few journalists left who fell into the career. Quite simply, I needed a job and I could write.

I graduated with a dual degree in creative nonfiction writing and communications from the University of Pittsburgh. I had no idea what the hell to do with my degrees so I began freelancing for my local paper in Williamsport shortly after college. Within a month or two, I was hired for a full-time position – first as an obituary writer, then as a news reporter.


I never worked for my high school or college paper and I was never interested in doing so. I was required to take one journalism class in college as part of my writing degree and I absolutely hated it. The professor, a miserable copy editor with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, only reinforced my belief that journalism was dry, boring, and devoid of creativity.

It was only after joining the staff of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette and learning the kind of freedom I could have as a reporter that I fell in love with journalism.

Between you and me, what advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you?  For the love of all that is sweet and holy, please learn what reporter is the best one for your pitch. All of our beats – with descriptions – are listed clearly on our website.

One of my biggest questions when people pitch me a story is “What would get you to read this story if you didn’t care about the subject?” – and be honest with yourself. I know you’re beholden to clients, but I’m beholden to our readers – and I don’t want to bore them. The more unusual aspects or facts of a story you can provide, the more likely it is that I might be interested.

Also, if you believe you have a story that’s a perfect fit for me, pick up the phone and call me. I had this happen the other week and it was so refreshing I thanked the PR pro for doing it. I also worked harder to pursue the story than I otherwise might have done.

I get so many emails that even those pitches I may be interested can get pushed down in my inbox and quickly forgotten about. Phone is still the primary method of communication for me.

To get your email pitch to stand out, make sure it’s personalized to the reporter. And yes, we can tell when you’re just cutting and pasting different reporters’ names into the same email. That’s almost always an automatic delete for me.

How many pitches do you get a day from PR folks? So, so many. I’d guess anywhere from 50 to 100, and most of them are about things I would never cover.

How much follow up is too much on a pitch—with someone you don’t have a relationship with, and someone you do? This a major pet peeve for me and many other journalists right now. The “follow-up” and “just circling back around” emails – especially from PR pros I don’t know – are killing me and overloading my inbox.

If your first email pitch was not personalized to me (i.e., it appears to be a blanket pitch you’ve made to many reporters) and I am not interested in the subject, sending me a “follow-up” email will only enrage me. Sometimes, I’ve received as many as five “follow-up” emails from the same PR pro.

Now, if we know each other and/or I’ve expressed interest in your initial pitch, it’s OK to remind me of the story idea. Like I said, the amount of emails we receive on any given day is overwhelming and even the good ones can be forgotten.

Can you share a fun and interesting fact about yourself? I circumnavigated the world aboard a ship during my study abroad program, Semester at Sea. Our ports of call were Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Tanzania, India, Vietnam, South Korea, China and Japan. I caught a serious case of wanderlust during the voyage and I’ve been traveling ever since.

Favorite spot to think through a story? This is so boring, but it’s usually just at my desk. I once interviewed Salman Rushdie and asked his advice for aspiring writers. He said something like “Butt in chair.” He said the hardest part of writing for most people is forcing yourself to sit down, to put your butt in the chair, and begin. I’ve found that to be very true.

A memorable story that you’ve worked on: Most recently what made me glow was to see an artist with autism I profiled for my “We the People” series go from being relatively unknown when I first interviewed him to having his works sell for $25,000 by the end of last year. Kambel, his dad, and his brother expanded my idea of what I thought was humanly possible, and that is a great gift. When I walked into the gallery show opening in November and saw that the people of Philly had shown up for Kambel’s show – some because they’d read my articles on him –  I was moved to tears.

How to pitch Stephanie: sfarr@inquirer.com and 215.854.4225

#PPRAMember Monday – Linda Descano, CFA

#PPRAMember Monday_Descano

Linda Descano, CFA, is an EVP at Red Havas. She has been a member of PPRA for two years.

Twitter: @LindaDescano

Facebook: Linda Descano

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

In her work as an EVP with Red Havas, a global agency micronetwork that specializes in merged media, Linda provides strategic counsel on corporate comms, internal comms and executive visibility programs.    

Previously, she spent 20+ years at Citi, serving in various senior-level positions including president and CEO of Women & Co., an award-winning financial advisory program for women; and managing director and global head of content marketing and social media for Citi’s Global Consumer Bank.

She also serves as an adjunct professor and advisory council member for the Fox School of Business M.S. in Digital Innovation in Marketing program and on the board of directors of New York Women in Communications (and a past president).

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

LD: I work with global pharmaceutical, life sciences, financial services and consumer products companies, mostly on corporate communications, executive visibility, and internal communications programs.

PPRA: What is your favorite part of your job?

LD: I love the frenetic pace, that every day is different and that there is always an opportunity to learn something new — whether it’s about a new product, a new brand, a new company or a new category. For someone who thrives on change and continuous learning, it’s heaven! 

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

LD: What I’m most proud of is seeing those who used to work for me now starting their own businesses, securing senior positions in-house at a brand, or getting that sought-after promotion. 

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

LD: Put yourself in your client’s shoes: think about the environment your client is operating in, both internally and externally, when you are bringing ideas to the table so that you are crafting them in a way that enables your client to sell it inside and provides context for why this is relevant and resonant within their category landscape. 

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

LD: For me, it’s The Great Gatsby, which I faithfully read every year. 

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

LD: Philadelphia Magic Garden

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

LD: Well, I spent 20+ years in financial services before coming to the world of PR, so this is still very new to me and provides the opportunity to do what I love: tell stories.

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

LD: Hands down, a cannoli from Termini Brothers.

#PPRA Member Monday – Rachel Zatcoff

#PPRAMember Monday_Zatcoff

Rachel Zatcoff is the Media Relations Specialist at Vault Communications. She has been a member of PPRA for four years.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rachel_Jakub

Rachel is the Media Relations Specialist at Vault Communications, where she is responsible for supporting the agency’s clients with strategic communications, media outreach and maintaining relationships with media contacts at the local, regional and national levels. Rachel is currently the agency’s internship coordinator and enjoys mentoring young talent. In her career, she’s witnessed the World’s Largest Pierogi, had a client on the Rachael Ray Show and successfully mastered how to book local chefs on television stations around the country.

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

RZ: I service all of Vault’s clients, however, not all at once! We just wrapped a huge campaign for National Bagel Day on behalf of Thomas’ Bagels and at the moment, I’m working on a hot new business project.

PPRA: What is your favorite part of your job?

RZ: Working with the media! I love meeting new reporters, producers and journalists from local, regional and national outlets. My goal is to build relationships so that I can serve as a resource to their needs on behalf of my clients. 

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

RZ: I’m proud of everything I do, but most proud of mentoring younger talent in our internship program and our junior level staff. 

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

RZ: Positive persistence pays off. 

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

RZ: Either Serendipity or Center Stage (both movies!) 

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

RZ: Tough choice because I love the city so much. I love walking along the waterfront or around Old City.

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

RZ: I always dreamt of being a broadway actress or an anchor on television. I am a people-person and love being onstage!

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

RZ: It’s a cliche but a soft pretzel or a cheesesteak (wiz wit) from Jim’s South Street.

#PPRAMemberMonday – Jesse Cute

#PPRAMember Monday_Cute

Jesse Cute is Vice President, Field Marketing for Allied Global Marketing. He has been a member of PPRA for over twenty years.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/XuxoJesse

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesse-cute-06a543/

Jesse leads select account management and field operations in North America while also overseeing Philly clients and personnel.  Prior to Allied, Jesse ran the Philadelphia office of Terry Hines & Associates, which merged with Allied in 2011. He was also Public Relations Manager at WPHL-TV (then The WB affiliate) and the New Jersey State Aquarium (now Adventure Aquarium.)

During his tenure at Allied, Jesse has expanded the Philadelphia office’s integrated services into new categories including the performing arts, conventions, festivals, hospitality, lifestyle and more.  In his time off, Jesse can be found globetrotting (traveling, not playing basketball!), hanging with his papillon (Duma – named after the adorable 2005 film about a cheetah), or reliving his childhood watching reruns of ‘90s Nickelodeon. 

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

JC: We are regional representation for major motion picture studios like Disney and Warner Bros. Pictures, streaming services including Netflix and Hulu and TV networks such as National Geographic and The Food Network.  Our astounding local clients include the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Adventure Aquarium, Opera Philadelphia, Fashion District, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and more!

PPRA: What is your favorite part of your job?

JC: The people…everyone has a story to tell!

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

JC: Working with amazing talent from Jane Fonda to Ashley Judd… and of course, celebrating the ROCKY and CREED franchises.  I have loved watching young talent grow into major stars… Blake Lively, Vin Diesel, and our very own Bradley Cooper.

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

JC: Talk to people. Listen to people. Our work is more than transaction.  Breathe! 

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

JC: Notes on a Scandal (book AND movie!) 

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

JC: Lately, The Saloon and Rittenhouse Square

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

JC: Hotel Concierge or News Anchor?

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

JC: Pizza from Randazzo’s, Fries from Monk’s Cafe