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.

The Value of PR

Bill Gates may understand the importance of public relations when it comes to running a successful business, but not everyone shares the mogul’s point of view. For many PR pros, it can be difficult to even explain what public relations is to those outside of the industry, so it’s no surprise that our clients (or sometimes even our employers) don’t quite get the value of what we do.

Unlike other professions, those who work in PR don’t always have a clear way to show ROI. You can show a client hundreds of clips, online interactions and community engagement materials, but what are they worth? Advertising value equivalencies don’t quite cut it. Simply stating the number of brochures or newsletters distributed isn’t enough. So, what do we do? How do we prove the value of our work when most results in PR are qualitative rather than quantitative?

There are no fool-proof answers to these questions, but there are a few steps we can take to help measure the success of our PR-related efforts.

  1. Make sure your goals are clear from the beginning, then do a simple evaluation of whether each goal was met. What do you want people to know? What do you want them do? How many media placements do you want to secure?
  2. Look at the quality and quantity of media placements. Consider circulation, tone and message inclusion for each media mention. It is also important to demonstrate trends – show how the company/client is being perceived by the media.
  3. Include social media analytics in the mix. Benchmark your number of followers, reach and engagement before starting a new campaign, then compare the statistics once that campaign is complete (or at another key point).
  4. Add questions about PR tactics to an existing survey, or create a new one for your client that focuses on audience change. Many companies already have a survey that measures consumer behavior. You should be sure that some of the questions and answer options in these surveys are based on the tactics of your PR campaign. For example: When asking a customer why they chose a certain product, include earned media stories (like a feature in a magazine) as a potential answer.

For a more detailed look at measuring the success of PR efforts, check out this report from Ketchum. 

This post was written by PPRA Blog Chair Lauren Cox. Lauren is a Public Relations Specialist in the Office of the CIty Representative, where she works on the City’s major events like the Wawa Welcome America! Festival and the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Building a Targeted Social Strategy

Social media for business is no longer a hot new trend, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to it anymore. Whether you’re building a brand new strategy or looking to tweak something old, here are five things to consider when building a successful plan.

Know Your Audience:  Identify your external audience and understand their motivations. Ask yourself questions like: Who do I want to reach and how do I want him/her to act as a result of engaging with my brand on social media? Which social channels are my audiences already on? What conversations are they currently having about my brand?  Use the answers to inform all future steps in the planning process.

Choose Channels Wisely: Just because millions of people are on Pinterest and your boss/client thinks you should be too, that doesn’t mean it’s part of a smart strategy. Be honest with your team members – or even yourself! – about what you could accomplish on each network. If you can’t find a solid reason, leave that platform as something to play with off the clock.

Move from Measurement to Insights: Find opportunities to make your social data more than just numbers on a page, but real insights that will shape your business. Don’t just track total engagement.  Instead, look at what kind of content gets the most engagement and how you can duplicate those results.  These kinds of actionable findings will set you up for future success with every new report.

Anticipate Necessary Tools and Resources: From agency fees and billable hours to management system subscriptions, the social media tab can add up pretty quickly. Make a list of what you would want in a perfect dream world. Now pick the top three non-negotiable items to achieve your objectives. Press hard on these points, then add back in ideas if you have extra funds available.

Leave Room For Flexibility:  It’s key to have an overarching social vision and goals to drive your activities. However, you should also build mini plans per quarter to allow room for modifications.  You never know when you might need to switch out a campaign or amp up monitoring during a crisis. Not to mention, you can better adjust your tactics based on the insights you gather each month.

What are some of your top tips for building a social strategy?  Share them in the comments section below.

This post was written by PPRA member Christine Guerrini. Christine is a marketing specialist for social media with ARAMARK’s Higher Education line of business. In this role, she is responsible for the support of training and analysis of national social media programs. Christine also has previous experience in public relations agency settings, working with a diverse client roster from Verizon Wireless and IBM’s ACM ICPC to the Salvation Army. Connect with Christine on Twitter (@CMGuerrini) or at