#PPRA Member Monday: Lauren Woodard

Lauren A. Woodard is the Public Relations Manager on the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus. She has been a member of PPRA for nearly five years.

Twitter Handle: @lauren609

Facebook Handle: https://www.facebook.com/lauren.woodard.526/

LinkedIn Page: www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-woodard-a1436391

A graduate of Penn State University with a degree in English, Publishing, and Creative Writing, Lauren has held positions at the Kimmel Center since 2014. Beginning as a Public Relations Intern, she worked in the Marketing Department in various roles, before transitioning back to Public Relations. She was appointed Public Relations Manager in 2018. Her Public Relations Manager responsibilities include overseeing media communications for programmatic Campus news, managing a team for show-based initiatives, and driving institutional PR efforts, including education, Plaza activation, community events, and more. Lauren assists in conceptualization of photo/video creation, social media marketing efforts, copyediting marketing content, creation of institutional messaging, and event management. She has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Delaware County Daily Times. Lauren currently serves as Treasurer as part of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s 2020-21 Board. Lauren previously interned in Communications at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, worked for Penn State University’s College of Information Sciences & Technology, and managed a Marble Slab Creamery franchise. Lauren’s free time passions include kayaking, trash-to-treasure pickin’, Broadway musicals, salty foods, and ranch dressing.

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

As a nonprofit performing arts organization that relies heavily on ticket sales for support, this pandemic has significantly affected the livelihood of the Kimmel Cultural Campus. Unfortunately, a large portion of our staff were furloughed in June 2020. I was fortunate to return to the Kimmel on partial furlough in late November; however, I am not working on my traditional PR duties, e.g. pitching, writing press releases, copyediting, event management, etc.. Instead, I am utilizing video producing skills and content creation skills (that were honed from my time in PR) to create a series of ‘virtual field trip’ videos for our Education department! It is a great example of how my PR training is being used to create video content that will be shown to students of various ages across the Greater Philadelphia area – keeping the arts and education going during a time when zoom is the norm. Shoutout to the Kimmel’s education department who have offered edu. programs in over 60 classrooms (virtually) since September (thanks to donors’ help) – keeping our mission of reaching students in the Greater Philadelphia region going.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The Kimmel, though we’re going through a tough time, is really populated by people who care about the arts and bringing arts to Philly. That is motivating and inspiring. (In my new COVID-19 role as a visitor to the Education department, I’m enjoying spending time with colleagues who I wouldn’t normally get to interact with and work with so closely. And it’s really fun to see the reactions and work of kids in the education programs – to see what they’re learning, how they process information, and how they are inspired by what they’re taught.)

What was your latest & greatest accomplishment at your job?

Though my job has shifted due to COVID-19, I am enjoying creating content for Philly’s students. If kids view our ‘virtual field trips’ and feel inspired, feel seen, feel represented, I’ll be happy.

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

Be willing to try new things and ask for help. I don’t think that asking for help, clarification, another explanation is a show of weakness at all.

What book or movie could you read/watch again and again?

I do love watching “You’ve Got Mail” over and over again. For books, I don’t generally re-read things, but I do love mysteries/thrillers – anything by Tana French (an Irish writer who created the fictional Dublin murder squad); Liane Moriarty (if you liked “Big Little Lies” – read her other books!!!); and Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling who has created a mystery series that is A-plus)

What is your favorite spot in Philly (museum, park, store, etc.)? 

Hmmmm during COVID-19, I think we’ve all been pushed to pay better attention to the small businesses around us. If anyone’s looking for some super fun, Philly-centric gifts, check out Open House on S. 13th Street.

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

I’d like to think that I’d be a writer in some fashion; I always loved non-fiction/New Yorker type writing exercises and opportunities to tell real stories (which I guess is sort of what we do in PR, just not so flourish-y!). I really fell in love (through my job at the Kimmel as PR Manager) with event planning, so I think a career in that would definitely be fulfilling – making people’s dreams and hopes for an event come to life.

Favorite Philly Food? 

Cheesesteak whiz wit. Bassett’s ice cream (in a dish). Chickie’s and Pete’s crab fries. Ooooh and Pietro’s rigatoni alla vodka.

#PPRA Member Monday: Denise Spillane

Denise Spillanean , award-winning integrated marketer, has served as VP, Marketing and Communications at StayWell/Krames since 2018.

Denise Spillane is an award-winning integrated marketer, possessing 20+ years of experience serving diverse healthcare-focused businesses ranging from global Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profit, community-based healthcare providers. Board certified in health care management from the American College of Healthcare Executives, Denise holds a level 5 certification from the Pragmatic Marketing Institute. She received her MBA from Widener University and holds a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing from Emerson College. She is proud to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for One House at a Time and the Beds for Kids program.

PPRA: Who are your clients and/or what are you working on right now?
DS: I’ve served as VP, Marketing and Communications at StayWell/Krames, a 40-year-old provider of patient acquisition, education, and experience technology and solutions, since 2018. We were acquired by WebMD and rebranded in 2020, so now my team and I are focused on building out our new brand.

PPRA: What is your favorite part of your job?
DS: The pace & the people! It’s energizing to compete in a market like healthcare, which is constantly evolving and adapting due to internal and external forces. Our competitive set is diverse and never resting, which keeps us on our toes. And, then I think of healthcare clients, and their resilience and heroism fuels me to deliver for them. And it doesn’t hurt that I have the privilege of leading a very talented and scrappy team of marketing, design, and communications pros who have me laughing and learning all day.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?
DS: Every day – but especially in times like these – hold yourself accountable for the energy that you bring into a room. It’s an intense time for everyone right now, and, people will remember how you made them and others feel for far, far longer than they will recall your latest professional achievement.

PPRA: What is your favorite spot in Philly (museum, park, store, etc.)?
DS: Race Street Pier will also have my heart, since that’s where my husband & I shot our engagement photos. Lately, we are spending a lot of time at the newly opened Columbus Square Dog Park with our labradoodle puppy, Quincy.

PPRA: If you weren’t in PR, what profession do you see yourself in and why?
DS:
If I weren’t in this field, I could see myself in the field of sociology or social research. I am fascinated by different subcultures and the impact on language, symbols, fashion, and more.

PPRA: Favorite Philly food?
DS: Oh, the ever-polarizing Irish potato candy. Growing up outside of Boston with strong Irish roots, I had never heard of this tasty treat before moving to Philly in 2007. Now, every March, I’m on a hunt to find the best ones.

Between You and MEdia…with Jenna Meissner

In this edition of Between You and MEdia, we chat with Jenna Meissner, PHL17 Morning News’ Traffic Anchor.

Years in the industry? 5 years

How did you get started as a journalist? I studied broadcast journalism at Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication. I interned at PHL17 in May 2015 and the rest is history.

Who/what inspired you to pursue journalism and what keeps you inspired? As a young girl, I watched the local news with my mom every night before dinner time. I remember watching the reporters and thinking it would be really cool to do that one day. The people I’ve met over the years and their stories keep me inspired. There’s so many amazing things happening right here in the community and I’m honored to give these voices a platform.

What’s your favorite aspect of your job? I’ve always been a people person. I love the interaction that comes with being on set and talking with my coworkers. PHL17 Morning News is definitely not your traditional newscast. We’ll tell you the stories you need to know, but we have SO much fun doing so. I love going to work and knowing I’m definitely going to laugh today.

What’s your favorite story that you’ve worked? As traffic anchor, I rarely get to leave the studio so anytime I’m able to get out into the field is exciting. I really enjoy our “PHL17 Down The Shore” segments throughout the summer where I get to highlight local businesses and activities down at the Jersey shore. I also enjoyed my “Community Heroes” series where I highlighted first responders making a difference in their community.

How do you work with PR professionals? We are constantly looking for guests for our show. Whether it be booking a chef for our outdoor grill set or setting up an interview to discuss an upcoming fundraiser, I rely on PR professionals to find the best of the best meaning strong interviewees and visuals.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you? Graphics always catch my attention. If there’s an attached image, video, etc. I’m more likely to look at that than read a long email. The shorter the email with the most important information, the better.

How do you step away from the 24 hour newscycle? What do you do outside of work? Outside of work, I spend a lot of time with my growing family. I have one niece and three nephews I try to see every week. I’m recently engaged so planning a wedding has taken up a lot of my free time (send help!!!!)

Can you share a fun and interesting fact about yourself? I was a professional dancer trained in ballet, tap, jazz and modern for 20 years of my life.

#PPRAMemberMonday – Gail Ramsey

Gail Ramsey is an Assistant Professor of Media and Communications at Chestnut Hill College. She has been a member of PPRA since 2016.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gail.whiteramsey

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gailwhiteramsey (under construction)

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

After a successful career assisting lawyer with evidence presentations at trial, Gail began a career in academia. The influence of media on trials is Gail’s most passionate area of academic interest and study. It is the stuff she teaches and writes about. Specialty: Litigation Public Relations 

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

GR: At the college, I oversee the public relations concentration.  I challenge my students in public relations courses to advocate for causes they care about like, social justice, rights, equality, etc. I share with my students that public relations skills can help them change the world. Next semester, we may explore messages surrounding the death penalty.

PPRA: What is the favorite part of your job?

GR: On the job, before I became a professor, I worked with families caught between tragedy and pursuits of justice.  It was nice to help families unfamiliar with how to navigate the press on high-profile cases become more comfortable with sharing their stories.

As a professor, seeing students so engaged in their studies bring me joy.  It is common to have perfect attendance, students arriving early, and students discussing things after the class has ended.

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

GR: This may be a simple latest and greatest accomplishment, but I would say in the sudden pivot to remote instruction in the spring, all my students in every class finished strong. 

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

GR: I am not big on giving advice, but I would share that when advocating on behalf of the many different genres of clients we work with, research and relationships are crucial to storytelling. 

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

GR: Many books and movies. 

Books:  “A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage” by Mark Twain and “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway.

Enjoyed: “Good Self, Bad Self” by Judy Smith. I enjoy Most things Olivia Pope-esque 

Movies: “Up Close and Personal” (Jon Avnet) 1996

“The Birds” (Alfred Hitchcock) 1963

“The Greatest Showman” (Michael Gracey) 2017 

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

GR:  I love many of the eateries near the college in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, and looking forward to gathering again post-pandemic to all the fabulous spots.

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

GR: That’s an easy one. Between teaching and caregiving, I daydream about writing romance and mystery on exotic beach locales.  I am a storyteller and so finding ways to create worlds, characters and motives is my next chapter. 

PPRA: Favorite Philly Food?

GR: Soft mustard Pretzels!

Top 4 Considerations for Creating Visually Engaging Virtual Content

I think it’s safe to say that, in the last six months, we’ve all been on more Zoom calls, Teams meetings and webinars than we can count!  For marketing and communications professionals, the most urgent question right now is: How do you get your message to breakthrough in a time when screen fatigue is at an all-time high?

Though there is no replacement for in-person interaction, there are ways to do it well if you are willing to rethink your approach.  Since March, I’ve witnessed and participated in a paradigm shift within the events and meetings industry and what we’ve learned is applicable to anyone trying to reach a target audience in this environment.  Here, I share my top takeaways to date.

 #1:  Deploy Content in a Television Broadcast Style

Increasingly, we are seeing this approach to virtual events and video content.  I am a huge fan of this trend as it creates a lot of space for innovation and creativity.  In my experience, you can achieve this look and feel with these best practices.

  • Instead of your executives or speakers using a Zoom background or their living room as a backdrop, consider using a studio (many local A/V providers have setup studios for client use) or creating a temporary studio setting at your office or at a speaker’s home.
  • When planning out your broadcast or virtual event, try to break the content down into digestible segments with a clear start and end. Research tells us that the average human attention span is just eight seconds (!), so changing up what’s on screen often keeps viewers engaged. 
  • A mix of live and pre-recorded content can allow for transitions and set changes from segment to segment.
  • I cannot stress this one enough: Plan for rehearsal time. Executives and speakers who are normally great at the podium during a live event may not be used to speaking into a camera or on a set without no audience.  Budget in time (and space rental costs, if applicable) for a couple of run throughs, particularly if the actual program is going to be done live.

#2:  Get Your Technical Needs Straightened Out

Working with a quality A/V provider is the best tip I can give here, as they can take your vision and make it happen from a technical standpoint without you having to understand the nuts and bolts.  That said, some high-level considerations crowd sourced from my friends in audio-visual and production include:

  • Ensure that proper static lighting is used to ensure all presenters are properly lit with no dark spots or shadows.
  • If using a custom backdrop, beware of vinyl, as it may cause a reflection from the lighting. Keep it simple so as not to overload the viewer.
  • Do not rely on the microphone on the camera to capture your audio. Lavalier microphones will provide better quality.
  • Be sure to discuss the minimum bandwidth needed for your broadcast to ensure no break-up or latency.
  • Start with mapping out the experience you want attendees or viewers to have while tuning in and let that lead you to the right tech solutions.  For example, think about the level of interactivity you want with the audience, if any.  Platforms such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Zoom, Run the World and ON24 all have varying capabilities.

#3: Be Thoughtful About Your Backdrop

Ultimately, you want to make sure that what you are putting out to your audience looks polished, professional, reflects your brand and translates well from set to screen. That means providing a backdrop for live speakers or panelists that is unobtrusive, easy on the eyes and allows the audience to focus on the message you are trying to get across.

  • Stay away from recording in rooms that have windows or doors that let sunlight in. Natural light is great for in person meetings, but for live or recorded content, rely on professional studio lighting.
  • Drape is often a go-to for providing a professional looking backdrop.  It can be setup in an office or home just as easily as a studio setting.
  • The goal of the recording or broadcast and/or your company’s brand may dictate the best color drape or backdrop to use. For example, for a healthcare company or charity, light beige or white can convey softness and caring while an important corporate announcement may call for black, navy blue or presidential blue, which convey seriousness and professionalism.
  • To add depth and dimension to your backdrop, consider up-lighting it. A nicely painted wall, with artwork and tastefully styled shelves can also help give the background some depth.
  • Greenery such as potted trees and plants can help add some life to your set. Consider faux greenery for a no muss, no fuss solution.

#4: Stage Your Speakers Properly

Whether you need to stream a fireside chat, a panel or a single speaker, you’ll want the seating to be the at the correct scale for on screen presenters and provide the right tone for remote viewers.

  • Allow for proper distancing with multiple speakers in the same space.
  • Use neutral or traditional colors for seating such as tan, gray, blue and brown.
  • Stay away from black and white furniture – the presenter or panelists’ clothing may blend in too much with black furniture and white seating may look blown out on screen.
  • Consider the material used in the seating.  Shiny leather, for example, may not read well on camera. Chairs in a matte fabric or vinyl will keep the focus where it should be – on the people sitting in them!
  • Refrain from using glass tops on coffee and end tables as the lighting on set will likely reflect off of them. Instead use tables with a flat finish.
  • Make sure the seating is the right size and height for your presenters. For taller people, choose chairs that sit a bit higher off the ground. For a petite presenter, choose seating with a smaller profile that won’t swallow them up.
  • Have speakers being fed in from multiple locations?  National suppliers who have warehouses throughout the country, including CORT Events, can provide the same on-brand set pieces to speakers in different locations around the country for a uniform look.
  • To provide a higher comfort level for speakers on a panel or to allow for less distancing between them, consider placing freestanding clear dividers between chairs or barstools. 

Just as with an in-person press conference, activation or event, the challenge remains the same: creating engaging content that will capture the attention of your target audience and provide the desired marketing and communications outcomes. Luckily, there are many resources available to communications professionals to make that happen.  

Kellie Mayrides,CMP holds a B.A. from Elon University in Communications/Journalism and a Marketing Certificate from the Wharton School of Executive Education. Kellie is a Certified Meeting Professional with 17 years of experience in event marketing and design.  She has worked at CORT Events since 2017 and since the start of the pandemic, has been helping clients pivot from live events to top notch virtual meetings and broadcasts. She can be contacted at kellie.mayrides@cort.com