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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11th Annual Careers 101

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Pictured: Speakers Robert Johnson, Sarah Fergus, Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway, Danielle Cohn and Moderator Matt Cabrey.

 

Last week, PPRA hosted the 11th annual Careers 101 panel discussion and networking event at PECO Energy Hall. This year, the panel featured four previous PPRA Fast-Track Award winners who each made an impact in the field early in their careers and continue to be trailblazers in the profession. At the event you could have your professional headshot taken by Jenn Carroll Photography, and also have your resume critiqued by members of PPRA.

Careers 101 was sponsored by The Creative Group (TCG), a leader among marketing and creative staffing agencies. TCG specialize’s in connecting talented, creative professionals with companies looking to hire interactive. design, marketing, advertising and public relations talent.

The night began with light refreshments and networking. It’s always great to see new faces and reconnect with old friends and colleagues in the same room – something that you can expect upon attending a PPRA event.

Matt Cabrey, Executive Director of Select Greater Philadelphia, kicked off the panel by introducing the line-up, comprised of Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Philadelphia Bar Association and current president of PPRA; Danielle Cohn, Senior Director of Entrepreneurial Engagement at Comcast
NBCUniversal; Sarah Fergus, Manager of Marketing Communications for the Philadelphia Flyers; and Robert Johnson, Marketing Manager at Einstein Healthcare Network.

With Cabrey’s energetic lead, the panel hit on topics including interviews and follow-ups,FullSizeRender (6) networking, professional development and fostering relationships. While the theme of the night encompassed the industries of public relations and marketing, the panel provided global insight for any student or young professional looking to further their careers. There was something for attendees at all levels to take away.

In response to an inquiry on interviewing, Avakian-Hardaway discussed her experience interviewing for her first job at DuPont. For her interview, she came prepared, she communicated and she engaged. She advised bringing with you a carefully curated portfolio and be respectful when answering and asking questions. You can take a pulse of your interviewer and, if they’re inviting, you should engage by asking questions that expresses interest, such as asking about a certain picture or object that you see in the office.

“The older you get, the more you find your passions,” shared Danielle Cohn, whose experience ranges from marketing and communications to entrepreneurism and innovation. She also recommended that one must “understand the importance of surrounding yourself with people different from you.”

Sarah Fergus reminded us that timing is everything. While professional development is all about networking and bettering yourself, it can also come down to having the right conversation at the right time. That’s how she landed her job with the Flyers, and while the hours can be grueling, she truly loves what she does every day.

“If you bank on one or two job opportunities, you’re not grinding enough.” That’s what Robert Johnson strongly advised, urging the audience to continue working hard every single day to achieve what they want in life. And once you get it? Work harder.

The night ended with a “nugget of wisdom” from each of the panelists:

  • “Do not be afraid to work for something you want.” – Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway
  • “Grab happenstance by the horns.” – Danielle Cohn
  • “Push harder today than you pushed yesterday.” – Robert Johnson
  • “Find something to hang your hat on.” – Sarah Fergus
  • “Value and nurture your relationships.” – Matt Cabrey

Overall, the major theme of the night surrounds knowing that with PPRA, we all have a network that supports each other.

Tyler Cameron is a public relations professional in Philadelphia and graduate of Temple University, where he studied strategic communication and business and from which he graduated in the spring of 2015. As a former intern at Slice Communications responsible for securing a number of impressive  media placements for a variety of clients, he is now officially on the team as a Public Relations Account Manager. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and on Twitter and Instagram @tdfcameron.

2016: My (Leap) Year of Firsts

There is no doubt the first month of 2016 both started and ended with a splash for me.  Literally.  After reading I Dare Me, Lu Ann Cahn’s witty and wonderful book of candor and inspiration, I informed her how moved I was by her story and she invited me to join her exactly where her book began – at the Polar Bear Plunge in Atlantic City, NJ.

First, let me explain the premise of her book. Though a survivor and highly successful and well-known investigative reporter with a loving family and fruitful life, Lu Ann was feeling stuck and her daughter Alexa convinced her to do a daily first – something new every day – for an entire year.  These “firsts” turned into a blog and then a book, which is continuing to impact lives one page at a time.

Back to the plunge. As a native of the Jersey Shore, I treasured the ocean year-round.  However, the thought of dipping so much as a toe in the water during the winter months seemed treacherous, let alone the thought of completely submerging my entire body.  Though for the first time in my life, this plunge somehow seemed like something I just needed to do…and I did…we did. This started my “year of firsts.”

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Throughout January I engaged family, friends and co-workers to help me come up with new ideas to add to my list of “firsts.”  The ideas were only accepted and added to the list if they were beneficial to my mind, body, soul and/or career and did not conflict with my core values (ie: faith, morals, beliefs, etc.). Therefore, I had to reject the dare to only drink Mountain Dew for a day and the dare to kick my feet up on my boss’ desk.  Some firsts can lead to lasts.

Here are some of the highlights from my first month of “firsts”:

  • Day 11 – Pay for the person behind me in line.
  • Day 12 – Substantively compliment three strangers.
  • Day 14 – Blow bubbles to greet speakers.
  • Day 17 – Give relationship advice to a stranger.
  • Day 21 – Attend a judicial swearing-in ceremony.
  • Day 24 – Swing at the playground in the snow.
  • Day 25 – Meet three moms and give them flowers.
  • Day 27 – Attend a Turning Points for Children meeting.

On January 31, I ended my first month of “firsts” back where I started – in the water. I worked through fear of claustrophobia to successfully complete a 90-minute sensory deprivation float.  (If you have no idea what I am talking about, Google it.)  It was as reinvigorating as the plunge was, though thankfully it was much, much warmer.

This whole experience of doing something new every day has given me a fresh appreciation for life.  It has allowed me to communicate and bond with strangers in meaningful ways, remember the fun and importance of playtime and step out of my comfort zone on a frequent basis.

In PR, we need the skills of having the courage to go up to strangers and the compassion to connect with people from all different backgrounds.  Our toolbox of skill sets can be as vast as the diversity of clients and industries that we represent.

In sharing all of this with you, I encourage you to challenge and dare yourself to complete significant “firsts” that will stretch you and allow you to grow both personally and professionally.

Lastly, I kindly ask that you share suggestions and/or opportunities for “firsts” with me. Tickets to a new show or exhibit? Client opening a new restaurant? Access to a behind-the-scenes tour? Looking forward to sharing many more “firsts” with PPRA.

Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway is president of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association and director of communications and marketing at the Philadelphia Bar Association.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @MZApoetry.

Technology & Social Media: How They’re Revolutionizing the PR Game

As an intern and a college student, I try to be a sponge and soak up as much IMGknowledge as I can. After three years of general education classes and longing for some real world experience, I finally got to dive into public relations and marketing in school as well as in my summer internship at AWeber. With a fresh pair of eyes and a spot on the marketing team at a modern, technology driven company, I’ve been able to see what PR practices are being utilized and what seems to be becoming the new industry standard. What I’ve come to learn is that social media, other technologies, and the internet in general are rapidly changing the game.

For starters, everything is online now. This can be seen as a blessing or a curse. It’s a blessing because businesses are able to have a huge reach in areas that they could have never dreamed of before. Someone 2,000 miles away could be reading this blog post right now and that is a truly amazing thing. At the same time, however, this means that everyone and their mother can put anything they want on the internet. More content means more competition. It’s harder to get the media to accept your pitch when they’re getting 500 emails a day from other agencies and businesses.

This brings me to my next point. Creativity and innovation are key in today’s world where everyone has access to almost every article that’s ever been written with one quick Google search. Most stories have already been written. That’s why it’s important to put an 180 degree angle on whatever story you’re pitching in order to get reporters and journalists to bite at it. Run of the mill stories and articles won’t get picked up unless they are buzz-worthy and offer a new, fresh perspective.

Because of the growth of the internet, it’s important to make your online presence loud and clear. The more media outlets and social media networks you’re on, you’ll have a better chance of reaching more publics and growing you or your client’s business. As a young adult and YouTube vlogger enveloped in the online world, I see too many companies with botched social media accounts. Some seem to be made with little effort and others seem to just not fully understand what they are doing. Too many businesses don’t think with the mind’s of consumers.

Social media does need to make sense in the context of your business, but it’s also equally (if not more) important that it looks good and grabs people’s attention. For example, if you run a jewelry company, you can’t just post pictures on your Instagram account of every necklace you’ve ever made. Yes, people want to see the products you’re offering, but you need to be creative and switch it up in order to make sure you’re getting loyal followers who actually look forward to seeing the content you post each day. Post pictures of your jewelry paired with cute clothing or grouped with other accessories. Posting a funny or inspirational quote that your demographic can relate to is also a good way to change up your content. Additionally, the timing of each post is just as important to get optimum reach. Look at accounts with 100k followers for inspiration. They’re obviously doing something right.

Keeping social media in mind, a lot of newer companies are capitalizing on the fame of bloggers and Instagrammers by getting their products in the hands of these social media celebrities. By offering a free wardrobe full of new clothes to a fashion blogger along with a nice commission, these companies are making the right move. These days, people go gaga for their favorite Instagrammers and want to use/buy everything they see them use. The fact that these sponsored posts don’t feel like traditional advertisements really helps because it feels like raw, original content rather than an annoying, pushy commercial or billboard.

Although PR is still a relatively new concept and term in the business world, it’s changing and growing rapidly. Newspaper clippings are no longer the go-to measurement for success, a strong online presence has become standard, and social media has completely changed the relevance of traditional advertising. The bottom line is that nothing is ever set in stone. Tactics change constantly and it’s up to every PR professional to stay on their toes while searching for the next new way to drive awareness to their company.

Julia McNamee is the Marketing Intern at AWeber. She’s also a Corporate Communication major at Penn State, a part-time freelance makeup artist, and a YouTube vlogger. Check her out on YouTube. (www.youtube.com/jaayforever).

4 Musts for Any Agency Offering Social Media

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Lots of small and medium sized businesses are spending a lot of time on social media because they understand its potential. They typically fall into three categories: doing well at it and content to keep it going, doing well at it but ready to outsource it, and don’t know what they’re doing and want real help.

In many cases, it may make sense for these people to outsource their social media needs to the same agencies handling their public relations and other marketing needs. As a PR professional, you already know what’s going on within the client’s business, what their overall goals are, and how to get them in front of their ideal audience.

I’ve seen PR agencies and marketing agencies do some things right and some things wrong when providing social media services to clients. I’m here to share my insights so you can add social media to your service offerings without the risk of failing your client or spending all of your time on social.

Know what’s on the menu.
Before you offer social media services to your clients, you should know the different ways that you can “slice” social media. Some clients might want full social media management that covers content creation, audience engagement, inbox monitoring/customer service and ad buys. But you may choose not to offer the whole enchilada. You may decide it only makes sense to provide prewritten social media posts that the client can schedule to accompany a public relations campaign you’re managing more fully for them.

If you break it down, you can offer clients:

Content calendar: This can mean different things to different people, so be sure to define it for within your own agency and be clear about its meaning to clients. It might mean a simple list of weekly themes they should follow, a yearly calendar that outlines several campaigns, or a day-by-day list of pre-written tweets, posts and updates.

Scheduling: This is simply the scheduling of social media posts to be sent at a predetermined time from within a tool such as Hootsuite. If the client insists on approving the prewritten content each week, you may want the client to handle scheduling so that any delays in approval do not affect your ability to schedule the updates to go out on time.

Engagement/Audience growth: This is the daily maintenance of the client’s platforms and real-time interaction with audiences. This includes following those who follow the client’s competitors to grow their own following and reposting and liking content from other users to get their attention. Related to this is customer service or inbox monitoring wherein you keep an eye on the social media messaging inboxes to keep track of any concerns customers have with your client’s business. You might answer these customer concerns if you’re equipped to do so or to quickly notify the client of messages that require their attention.

Ad buys: Do you want responsibility to creating ad campaigns to reach new followers, drive traffic to the client’s website, or boost posts on Facebook? How about sponsoring tweets on Twitter or posts on Instagram? This might include the creation of graphics that won’t get rejected by Facebook and reporting the results to the client.

Reporting: Whatever social media services you offer, you’ll want a system for reporting analytics so they can track progress on social media. Social media managers do reporting in different ways. Hootsuite has built-in analytics tools, Facebook has pretty advanced analytics in its Page management system, and even Twitter lets you track the reach of your tweets. There are plenty of others tools you can use. Some clients will only care about their number of followers going up while others will want to know what messages are outperforming others.

Get an ally in the client’s office.
Inevitably, there will be “fires.” You’ve seen it time and again with media placements and other PR elements: the client’s name was misspelled or there was a word missing from their quote and they want you to fix it RIGHT NOW! Well, it happens with social media too. The client might notice a word misspelled or a missing period and want the tweet or post edited or deleted right this very second. Now, you’re busy. While PR pros pride themselves on being well-caffeinated and quick to respond, it just isn’t always possible. The best thing to do to prevent client frustrations in this situation is to ask them up front to appoint someone on their own team that you can train to be responsive in an “emergency.” Then teach them the basics of editing or deleting. You might even make it super clear by giving them a handy tipsheet they can keep nearby that tells them if a post on a platform is able to be edited or must be deleted, etc.

Keep PR & social media on the same page.
If you can’t have the account executive that’s already handling the client’s PR do their social media (some of your account execs won’t be comfortable in that role or have the bandwidth to take it on), make sure that the person managing their social media has really easy access to the account exec handling PR. This is especially important when your clients have had your agency handle their PR for a long time and are just now handing over social media. Your account exec likely already knows what’s going on inside the client’s company or knows how to get that info out of the client. The person in charge of their social media needs that information too. While social media can consist largely of news aggregation and other forms of content that aren’t breaking news about the company, their social media will feel naked without such updates from within the company.

Feel free to give the client homework.
Don’t feel like because you’re taking money from the client to manage their social media that it should be entirely off their plate(s). You might ask that clients email you articles you can share from their feeds, share updates from the company page to their personal pages, or upload images in real-time from major events they’re participating in (or texting those images to you so you can upload them).

There’s a lot to consider when you’re thinking of or starting to offer social media services to clients. This really is just a brief list of the things I’ve seen other agencies mess up.

Rosella LaFevre is a marketing consultant helping solo entrepreneurs, small businesses and C-level executives with marketing strategy, public relations/thought leadership and social media. She’s also a business and marketing coach helping entrepreneurs do more good and make more money. If you want an outsider to consult on your agency’s approach to social media for clients, schedule a consultation here.

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