Following Up on Networking 101 Event


How often have you attended a networking event, career fair or social gathering only to encounter someone who immediately asks you about your job and upon your response, ends the conversation and walks away? UGH! This is such a frustrating occurrence and the 50+ students and professionals who attended our PPRA event – Networking 101 – on Tuesday, October 6, are grateful to keynote speaker Jennifer Robinson for alternative conversation starters. She emphasized the value of asking open-ended questions on topics such as pets, vacation plans, favorite sports teams or restaurants, hometown or current events. Conversations are more meaningful this way because you are more likely to remember your new friend’s story or response. These conversations also have a higher chance of expanding the conversation’s path.

Our open format PPRA event prompted guests to ask Jennifer typically hands-off networking questions such as, “How can I break free from someone that will not leave my side?” We learned that a trip to the restroom, beverage station or a walk across the room to greet a friend are all acceptable escape methods. However, it is important to be firm in your action by having a closing statement that reiterates you enjoyed speaking and mentions your next intended move, such as going to “x” across the room. Then you HAVE to go to “x” across the room to appear credible.

Before your next networking event, remember not to:
– Interrupt the conversation of a group you just joined
– Pitch your product, service or resume
– Ask for a meeting
– Attempt to give out 50 business cards
– Stay chained to your friends you arrived with

There will be time for pitching yourself or service and asking for a meeting after you know this new person better. Remember, the purpose of networking is to build value, show expertise, establish a referral base and increase your visibility factor.

To achieve your set purpose, revisit these “Do” items before your next networking opportunity:
– Arrive early
– Prepare ahead by reading about speakers, registered guests and company sponsors
– Bring business cards
– Connect with the event on social media prior, either by following a Twitter Hashtag or following the event posts or speakers
– Visualize your conversation starters and write them down to review beforehand

Post Event Follow Up
Your success at each event is directly related to your post-event follow up. We learned the best follow up happens when:
– You reach out within 24-72 hours
– You remind your target where you met
– You send something of value that they expressed interest in, related to a conversation you had (example, contact information for your freelance graphic designer)
– You include a personal touch in your note, such as commenting on a mutual interest

After our Networking 101 session, participants speed networked by rotating to seven different tables to meet 14 professionals from a broad cross section of the communications industry, including sports / entertainment, healthcare, hospitality, corporate, agency, nonprofit and academic / higher education.

Our event at the CBS Broadcast Center was full of energy and participants left enthused and optimistic about future networking occasions.

Networking Resources

Jennifer Robinson Book Recommendations
Give and Take by Adam Grant
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

LinkedIn Relationship Tools
15 Ways to Keep In Touch (top right on home page)
Relationship Tool (your connection’s profile has a Relationship Tab under their name with space to save a note about them)

Business Cards
Low Price Business Cards Through Vistaprint

Karen Toner is a PPRA member and marketing manager at KPMG.

Photo credit: Philip Gabriel Photography
For more event photos check out the Facebook album.

September President’s Message


Dear PPRA Members,

After a decade of involvement with PPRA, I am humbled and appreciative to now have the opportunity to serve as your president. I’ve ghost written and contributed to many leadership letters and columns throughout my career, but it’s always a little different when your name is at the bottom. As I noted in my inaugural address at our Annual Meeting in June, I take this new post seriously and therefore vow to work hard and strive to make you all proud with a capital “PR.”

In case you were not able to attend our Annual Meeting, here is a brief recap of the three initiatives I outlined for the 2015-2016 programming year:

  • Firm Founders Series – This brand-new program series will feature notable professionals who have started their own PR (or marketing) firms. This panel discussion series will cover the ins and outs of what it takes to make the leap and start your own firm.
  • Diversity & Collaboration – I’ve encouraged our Board to keep diversity at the forefront while planning all PPRA programs and events this year. Additionally, we will strategically partner and collaborate with numerous associations, businesses and organizations.
  • A Mighty Partnership – Pro bono starts with PR. As part of our Philly PRoactive efforts, this year we are providing meaningful opportunities for PPRA members to donate their time, talent and/or treasures in support of Mighty Writers, a local non-profit organization that helps Philadelphia kids (ages 7-17) learn how to think and write clearly.

Additionally, we are always looking for new, unique and affordable venues to host our programs and events. Do you or your clients have some space worth showing off? Please let us know!

In the meantime, I hope to see you at one of our many fall programs, as we wrap up the second half of our 70th anniversary year.

Best regards,

Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway
2015-2016 President
Philadelphia Public Relations Association


Continuing the Conversation: Restored U.S./Cuban Relations and More


Cuba, a country once referred to as the “Pearl of the Caribbean,” has a culture as vibrant as the colors of its 50s style cars and a passion as strong as its coffee. Recently, PPRA held a luncheon at Cuba Libre to discuss the restored relations between Cuba and the U.S. and what that means for both the communications and tourism industries. After devouring the delicious food made by chef Guillermo Pernot, a panel discussion was held with four speakers: Bill Lezzi, a former journalist of the Philadelphia Inquirer who has visited Cuba 65 times, Brian Said, Executive Director of Tourism, Chef Guillermo, who studied Cuban cuisine and has visited Cuba several times, and myself. Former PPRA president and Hall of Famer, Dan Circucci, served as the moderator. During the panel, a series of questions were asked involving the Castro regime, day-to-day life of Cubans, the impact of communism, food and what we believe will be the future of Cuba. It was a lively discussion followed by tasty desserts.

Although the panel discussion was insightful and in-depth, I want to dive a little deeper into the topics that were discussed. Rewind to three months ago. It was ten days after graduating from college, I found myself on plane bound for Havana, Cuba. I had no idea what to expect when I landed at the Jose Marti airport. I was accompanied by six college-aged students I barely knew. The only thing I knew about Cuba was what I learned in my 11th grade history class. I did not speak Spanish and had never eaten Cuban food. I did not know what the living conditions would be like or what I would be doing for six weeks. All I knew was that I was in for the adventure of a lifetime and, in the end, it proved to be nothing short of that.

First and foremost, Cuba is poor economically, but in every other way, it is very rich. Cubans do not have all of the luxuries that we do in America. They follow a ration system in which an individual receives 5 pounds of rice and beans and other miscellaneous food items per month. Several Cubans suffer from gastrointestinal issues due to unsafe drinking water. Prescriptions are hard to come by. Old strips of newspaper are used for toilet paper. I spent half of my time in Cuba showering with a bucket. It was a luxury to stay in a room with a flushing toilet. Yes, these living conditions are tough, but there are so many other aspects of Cuban life that exhibit a greater sense of wealth. Cuban families, friends and neighbors spend a great deal of time together. They do not go home at night and binge watch Netflix. While I lived in the town of Los Arabos, a group of guys would pick up a guitar and congos and spend the night playing music while everyone else danced. Often times, I witnessed the “abuelas” care for and cook dinner for the neighborhood kids.  At youth events, the kids did not bury their faces in iPhones. They were 100% present. Additionally, daily life is much more slow-paced than America. Cubans will sit and talk to someone after a meal for hours instead of racing to an afternoon of errands. In turn, they build genuine relationships and enjoy the moment.CUBA2Another thing to note, the internet is not accessible in many parts of the country. Up until recently, it was illegal for Cubans to have internet in their homes. Internet access could only be found at places such as universities. When I wanted to send an email to my parents while I was away, I had to find the nearest “Cuba Cell,” a communications center in which Cubans can go online or make phone calls. What seemed a simple enough plan slowly turned into an all-afternoon event. I waited in line outside of the building (in the 90 degree Cuban heat!) for over an hour only to wait in a line again to buy an internet card. This card is the key to getting online. It costs three pesos and gives the user 30 minutes of internet usage. Once my thirty minutes were up, the computer shut down, regardless of whether I was finished my conversation. This is what Cubans have to do every single time they want to check their emails or talk to family members who live abroad.

Lastly, don’t expect to see rum and cigars at American stores anytime soon. Throughout my trip, I spoke with members of Parliament who believe that it could be another two to three years until the embargo is lifted. There are still so many discussions and decisions to be made between these two countries. Not only that, but the current state of Cuba cannot support the influx of tourists expected to race into the country. There is not enough space to house everyone. More hotels and apartments need to be built first. In regards to the anticipated “American Invasion,” Cubans do not need nor do they want a Starbucks on every corner or a Rite Aid down the street.

A lot can be said about the restored relations between the U.S and Cuba. The country of Cuba and its intricate culture cannot fit into one panel discussion or this blog. So to summarize, I will leave you with this memory of mine. One day a teammate of mine asked our translator where he would live if he could chose to live anywhere in the world. His response was “If I could live anywhere in the world I would live in Cuba.”

View more photos of the event here.

Lauren Bentley is a recent graduate of Temple University with degrees in public relations and Advertising. She spent her summer doing service and mission work throughout Cuba while also enjoying the country’s beauty.  In her free time, Lauren enjoys reading on the beach, cooking, watching old episodes of Friends and doing community service.

Photo Credit: Lauren Bentley & Philip Gabriel Photography

Discount at Philly Bash for PPRA Members



Hundreds of locals will walk the red carpet, chat with Philly Happening TV, and party the night away in honor of the amazing Philadelphia community.

Since the beginning of the year, thousands of local people, places, events, and businesses have been nominated across 11 comprehensive Happening List categories ranging from “Food & Drink” to “Home Improvement” to “Everything Philly.” And Happening list excitement will reach a fever pitch on Monday, June 8, 2015 at the debut Philly Happening List Red Carpet Bash!

Good news! If you are a PPRA member you can receive a discount for this event. Click here to read more about the details of this event and to purchase your tickets. Enter “PPRA” in the promotional code box to receive your discount today!

Cathy Engel Menendez Becomes Inducted into PPRA Hall of Fame


Cathy Engel Menendez and PPRA President Lisette Bralow.

On May 20th Cathy Engel Menendez was welcomed into the PPRA Hall of Fame! PR professionals, friends and family joined the celebration of this milestone in her career. Cathy exudes passion and enthusiasm in all that she does. As Director of Communications for PECO, she is a trusted source to news media across the region.

Merrill Reese of CBS Radio and the Voice of the Philadelphia Eagles was the Master of Ceremonies.


Master of Ceremonies, CBS Radio’s Merrill Reese with Hall of Fame inductee, Cathy Engel Menendez.

Guest speakers included:

Craig L Adams, Presidnet and CEO of PECO
Danielle Cohn
Action News Wpvi TV 6-Abc‘s Kenneth Moton
@CBS Jim Donovan
FOX 29 Dennis Bianchi
NBC10 Philadelphia‘s Tracy Davidson

Visit the Facebook Album to view more photos from the event.

(Photos by Ed Savaria)