The Power of Data for Storytelling

datapicData journalism is the fastest growing area of reporting, transforming the way journalists do their jobs and the way companies communicate their stories. In this new environment, companies must learn how to better articulate their narratives, understand the difference between good and bad data, and uncover the most compelling data from their experiences serving customers and growing their businesses.

The Power of Data for Storytelling brings to Philadelphia four of the nation’s top data journalists to share their views on how they report, visualize, and use data to tell their stories.

Join moderator Greg Matusky as he interviews:

  • Steve Lohr, Author and Technology Reporter, New York Times
  • Frank Bi, Data Journalist, Forbes
  • Paul Cheung, Director of Interactive and Digital News Production, Associated Press
  • Erika Owens, Program Manager, Knight-Mozilla Opennews



This is a free event hosted by Gregory FCA.
Date and Time: June 4, 2015 – 5-7PM
Location: 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Register now, here!

(Image via)

Preparing for the Pope: 1 million visitors, 7,000 members of the media


This fall, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the globe will flock to our city for the World Meeting of Families. It’s estimated that over 1 million visitors will make the journey to Philadelphia for the week-long celebration. The festivities will have a powerful effect on the area; hotels are already booked, businesses will be booming and the economic impact will be huge. At the latest PPRA luncheon, PR for a Mega Event: Preparing for the Pope, some of the public relations professionals who are helping to ensure the World Meeting of Families runs smoothly spoke on what they have been doing and the excitement and challenges they’ve faced.

Representatives from the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Philadelphia, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Brian Communications and the Mayor’s Office came together to address a crowd eager to learn about the process of planning for a series of events as large as the World Meeting of Families.

Big PR Challenges for the Papal Visit 

Social media
It is anticipated that social media for the World Meeting of Families will be up and running in 10 to 20 languages. This is a huge undertaking, but the communications partners working to set it all up are well prepared. A big social media center will be working at all hours of the day working to monitor, engage and keep things going smoothly.

24/7 deadlines
This exciting series of events is drawing an international crowd, which means international press. These members of the media will be working with deadlines far outside our time zone and it is important that they are able to meet those deadlines. In order to help facilitate this, there will be a 24/7 media center running from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

There will be between five and seven thousand members of the media in Philadelphia for this week in September. It is realistically not possible to give every journalist, reporter and the like a credential for every event taking place. The professionals behind the media organization are hard at work to find a balance that makes everyone feel involved and keeps everyone informed. Part of this effort includes live streaming of events that can be viewed in the 24/7 media center.

Pope Francis giving a public mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is just one example of an event during the week that will need some serious security measures. The Mayor’s Office is in close contact with police from all over the world, coordinating and organizing the best possible ways to keep the Pope and all the attendees safe and secure. It’s a good thing that Philadelphia is exceptional at hosting large events and will have plenty of test events to try out new security tactics.

Controlling the message
The last time the Pope visited the United States social media was not nearly as prevalent as it is in today’s society. The communications professionals teaming up for the World Meeting of Families are working hard to craft great messaging to put out to all audiences. Social media makes it difficult for the messages to be controlled. Those pushing out information on social media can, in reality, say whatever they want and create their own (potentially false, potentially negative) messaging.  The social media center, set up in the Convention Center alongside the media center, will be crucial in monitoring posts and ensuring the proper messages are being shared on all channels.

The great debate in the realm of public relations is how to effectively measure the success of a story placement, event, campaign, etc. The World Meeting of Families team is ready to take on the task of measuring the success of individual events throughout the week and the celebration as a whole. It’s incredibly important to capture this data because it’s a once in a lifetime happening and the chance won’t come around again.

It’s clear that the folks handling the Papal visit to Philadelphia are leaving no stone unturned. Keep an eye out for more developments as the World Meeting of Families approaches and get ready for the execution of an amazing series of events.

London Faust is an Account Representative at Bellevue Communications Group, a public relations firm specializing in media relations, crisis communications and issue management. She is forever #TempleMade, class of 2014. Follow her personal ramblings on Twitter at @londonfaust or her professional doings at @BellevuePRPhl.

Careers 101: From a Young Professional’s Perspective


As a senior preparing to graduate from Temple University, a member of PRSSA’s Temple Chapter, an intern at the Philadelphia Bar Association, and a member of PPRA serving on its College Relations Committee, this year’s 10th Annual Careers 101 event will forever be memorable.

After reading my intern supervisor and PPRA’s President-Elect Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway’s pre-Careers 101 blog post, I got an idea of what Careers 101 could offer and it turned out just as great as I envisioned.

Commemorating PPRA’s 70th anniversary the 10th Annual Careers 101 event was one for the books. Students and young professionals got to hear insights from the following PPRA past presidents:

  • Moderator: David Brown, Managing Director, The Marketing Collaborative & Executive Director of the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children.
  • Bill Cowen, President, Metrospective Communications LLC & Professor/PR Program Director, Villanova University.
  • Bonnie Grant, Executive Director, Greater Philadelphia Life Sciences Congress.
  • Cathy Engel Menendez, Communications Director, PECO.
  • Lisa Simon, President, Simon Public Relations Group, Inc.
  • Mark Tarasiewicz, Executive Director, Philadelphia Bar Association.

There was definitely much to be heard from the panelists and moderator, so much so that #Careers101 was trending on Twitter from all of the attendee tweets. Attendees also had the opportunity to have their resumes critiqued, their headshots taken and 10 lucky winners won shadow days and informational interviews with local PPRA leaders. Careers101Tweet

The event was held at The Liacouras Center on Temple University’s Main Campus, but Temple certainly was not the only school represented at the event. Students from La Salle, Stockton, Penn State Abington, Drexel, Villanova, Rowan and Monmouth universities were all present. This definitely made the event that much more rewarding. It is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to network with students from other universities that share the same passion for PR as you.

The panel kicked off with a pop quiz about current events. This started the conversation on a great foot, directly relating to a major topic the panelists couldn’t stress enough. “You should know the local media and consume it every day,” said Lisa Simon. Mark Tarasiewicz said, “If you’re not well-read, Houston we have a problem!”

As a PR professional, it is our job to be “in the know” at all times, simple but vital advice. Knowing what’s going on locally and nationally is beneficial in so many ways. Not only does it give you topics to talk about while at networking events, it will also set you apart. If you can comment on important issues that are happening, professionals will recognize that. It shows that you care and it’s helping you learn and grow as a young professional.

“If you ever take your career seriously it should reflect on your social media. Add an element of advanced maturity to your social feed,” added Mark Tarasiewicz. This definitely hit home for me and probably most of the students and young professionals in the audience. Your social media can reflect your maturity level.  Being the generation that grew up with social media, it is easy to forget how much of an impact it can have. Bill Cowen also stressed the importance of maturity and emotional intelligence, which as a young adult can often be our weakness as we are taking our first steps into adulthood. “Emotional intelligence will serve you better than anything … become a storyteller!” said Bill Cowen.

The inevitable questions, “What do you want to do when you graduate? Where do you want to work?” Careers 101 helped ease those questions for me and hopefully a lot of other students. You may not know exactly what your calling is but as David Brown said, “Early in the industry, try everything.” All of the panelists expressed the importance of putting yourself out there. “Figure out what you are really good at, what gets you really excited. Credentials they matter, but performance is what will really define your career,” said Lisa Simon. Bonnie Grant added, “I want to see how you solve problems, that you can be a part of solutions.”

“If you’re resilient, you’ll be indispensable.” – Cathy Engel Menendez.


All of the panelists gave amazing advice and provided me the reassurance I needed as I am about to graduate and embark into my adult life. Joining PPRA and having the opportunity to be on the College Relations Committee and help put together Careers 101 was beyond beneficial for me. As I am approaching graduation and meeting more and more PR professionals, it seems as if the [PR] world is getting smaller, especially in the Philadelphia area. Networking is extremely important and Careers 101 was a great platform for any student or young professional interested in PR.

Your Career is no joke and it’s time to start it!

Cara McArdle is a senior at Temple University majoring in Strategic Communication, concentrating in Public Relations and International Communication. She also interns at the Philadelphia Bar Association, is a PPRA member serving on its College Relations Committee and a member of PRSSA’s Temple Chapter. Follow Cara @CARAmel_appless on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn at

PPRA Members Move Earth at the Lutheran Settlement House

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Dvorin and Engel Menendez, third and fourth from the left; in front of Engel Menendez is her son, Cole; Bershad, far right.

PPRA members, Catherine Engel Menendez, Adam Dvorin, and Robert Bershad, along with family and friends recently volunteered at The Lutheran Settlement House (LSH).

Volunteer efforts involved the regrading of a plot of land that the Lutheran Settlement House will soon turn into a park. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers the plot of land that was once uneven and not conducive for planting, now has a smooth, slight grade that is ideal for seeding and growing.

Volunteers used shovels, wheelbarrows, and rakes to move and tamp down two large piles of soil into a nearby park plot. They also prepared flower beds. The effort, which took about three hours, saved the LSH $6,000 in labor costs.

PPRA participated through the PPRA Community Service Committee, chaired by Robert Bershad. The activity was planned in collaboration with LSH’s activities coordinator and urban farmer, Jesse Bilger.

“PPRA put in a great volunteer effort that went far beyond what I expected. Many hands make light work and that’s never been more true than when PPRA moved earth for the Lutheran Settlement House,” said Bilger.

The urban farm where volunteers worked spans across land that was at one time four row home lots. The farm produces thirty kinds of vegetables that are all donated to LSH’s senior center meal program.


The Lutheran Settlement House, located in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, empowers “individuals, families, and communities to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through an integrated program of social, educational, and advocacy services.” Their programs include a senior center, transitional housing and counseling, teen after school activities, adult literacy classes, and a food pantry.

Are you interested in participating in one of our upcoming volunteer opportunities? Join us on Saturday, May 2, from 12 pm to 3 pm, as we assist the Norris Square Neighborhood Project (NSNP) with their spring cleaning efforts.

The NSNP “promotes positive change through youth education, community leadership, green spaces, the arts and the celebration of Latino culture.” Let’s work together to clear out-of-date children’s after-school games and activities from the basement of their headquarters, which is located at 2141 N. Howard Street. This activity includes lifting and carrying assorted items of varying weight and a flight of stairs.

Please RSVP to the PPRA Office at We look forward to seeing you there!

Planning and Planting Flower Show Coverage

RCP_150228_0424Spring comes early for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society… sometimes when it’s still winter.

For the PHS Communications/Public Relations team, spring arrives with the opening of the Philadelphia Flower Show, the nonprofit organization’s signature event and major fundraiser, which this year ran from Feb. 28 to March 8 in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It’s a “false” spring, created through a greenhouse process that “forces” trees, shrubs and flowers to bloom weeks or months before their natural peak.  And while spring is normally the beginning of the life cycle, for us it’s the culmination of months of planning and execution.

It’s also a beautiful thing to see – and was successful on many levels this year.

Selecting a theme
The theme of the Flower Show is chosen at least one year in advance by a panel of PHS leaders and consultants, with input from members and visitors. In recent years the themes have moved from place-based exhibitions (Parisian parks, London streetscapes, Hawaiian gardens) to broader concepts inspired by great art or, this year, great movies. These recent themes have required more explanation of how a painting or a film would be interpreted through a landscape or floral design.

To make the 2015 theme, “Celebrate the Movies,” easily understood and appealing, PHS formed a partnership with Disney and Disney•Pixar.  Every generation has a connection to the classic characters, live action films, or recent animated projects from the world’s best-known studios. Each of the Flower Show’s major exhibitors chose a film from the Disney canon and used it for inspiration. All the language that referred to those exhibits, as well as use of studio logos, would be reviewed and approved by Disney before it was shared with the media or used in any promotion.

At the same time, references to other films would appear throughout the show to broaden the appeal to movie fans. Famous posters were designed in dried flowers; sets from favorite films were recreated in miniature with natural materials; iconic actors were honored with namesake roses in the Entrance Garden, an Art Deco movie palace of flowers and lights.

Pitching the show
The goal of attracting a quarter-million guests to the Flower Show requires a multi-level communications strategy. About 60 percent of the ticket buyers come from the Greater Philadelphia region, so there is a strong concentration on local media in the months leading up to the event. But to attract the other 40 percent from beyond this area, we look to long-lead regional and national media outlets.

The targets are travel, arts, and garden media, as well as mainstream digital and print outlets with national audiences.  The early pitching focused on the combination of the Flower Show’s history and standing (nation’s oldest and largest) and its 21st century twists (movie tie-ins, new events and attractions).  The pitches emphasized the visual elements of the show and included artists’ renderings of exhibitors’ plans and photos from previous shows that evoked the look of the new theme.  Special media events included a press conference in New York City coordinated by Visit Philadelphia.

The social media campaign for the show included regular blogs focusing on participants and new attractions. A series of videos shared on social platforms and the Flower Show website also explored ways visitors could take concepts from the show designers and incorporate them in their own homes and gardens.

The major press conference for the Flower Show occurs a month before the opening and moves to a different location each year, depending on the theme. This year, with the support of Allied Integrated Marketing, the event was held at the Ritz East/Landmark Theatres in Old City on Jan. 29. The takeover of the theater included “Celebrate the Movies” posters in all the exterior and interior light boxes, floral arrangements by  show designers, iconic film costumes,  “paparazzi,” and a red carpet leading from the entrance through the lobby. The press conference was held in one of the auditoriums, where the speakers spotlighted the new elements of the show and its impact on the region’s economy.  Entries in a short-film competition, “What Is Beauty?”, coordinated by PHS and the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, were projected on the screen as the media and guests entered. The Flower Show sizzle reel was shown at the conclusion. The event was covered by all the major local broadcast and print outlets, and strengthened the wave of advance ticket sales.

Countdown to opening
In the week leading up to the opening of the Flower Show, members of the media are invited to document the construction of the exhibits. Reporters and cameras were on the show floor each day of the set-up.

On the evening before the Members Preview, 50 area writers and producers attended a Media Preview Tour of the exhibits and had the opportunity to ask questions of the President of PHS and the Chief of Shows & Events. Social media influencers were also hosted on a special tour of the show on opening day.

The media and social media efforts this year resulted in strong coverage of the show and a major rise in attendance.

National coverage included advance stories and videos by USA Today and the Associated Press. Good Morning America aired live hits from the show on the morning of the Members Preview. New York Times Style section photographer Bill Cunningham covered the Preview Party. Stories and slideshows appeared in print or digital editions of the Washington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, Parade, BizBash, and Canada’s Globe and Mail. Hundreds of stories also appeared in local print and broadcast reports.

All the coverage translated into a total of 250,000 visitors over the course of the nine-day event, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Attendance during the final weekend broke all  Flower Show records. But most gratifying was the increase in young audiences; the show sold three times as many family packages and twice as many student tickets as the year before.

This post was written by PHS Director of Communications, Alan Jaffe. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1827, dedicated to creating beauty and building community through gardening, greening and learning. With more than 64,000 members throughout the world, PHS offers programs and events for gardeners of all levels, and works with volunteers, organizations, agencies and businesses to create and maintain vibrant green spaces. For information, visit

Photo Credit: Rob Cardillo Photography