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:


Who should we be pitching and when does CBS3 use entertainment stories?


John quickly shared his email address with us all: 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.


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?


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!


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.


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!”


What’s the biggest headache you have from people like us?


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.


How would you describe your sports coverage?


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.


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?


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.


I find it interesting that KYW Newsradio and CBS3 are partnering. Are you doing more of this?


Yes, it goes both ways. Both news rooms are mirror images of each other. Someone from KYW Newsradio is in the CBS morning meeting!


There were more opportunity for sponsored content on Talk Philly at noon. Probably 80% was sponsored content. Why did it stop?


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.


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?


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.


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?


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?


Nah, we’re more about building that relationship with the assignment desk.


What’s the mood in the room to the arts coverage?


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. 

#PPRAMemberMonday: Darren Behuniak

Today we are featuring Darren Behuniak, President of Behuniak Presence Strategies, Inc., and Founder of GetMeHealthee, LLC. Darren is a dynamic, entrepreneurial-minded marketing communications and public relations executive with over 11 years of experience in corporate and start-up environments.



PPRA: Darren, tell us a bit about your background and your current job.

DB: I am the president of Behuniak Presence Strategies, Inc., a strategic communications firm specializing in digital marketing strategy, lead generation, PR, and sales alignment. Focus is on small to mid-sized businesses.

I also am the founder of GetMeHealthee, LLC, a healthcare start-up company/website featuring a retail health clinic search engine and a blog with information about food, nutrition, exercise, healthcare cost savings, and health apps written by experts.

PPRA: What projects are you working on right now? 

DB: In my role as a communications specialist working with small and mid-sized businesses, I have the privilege of working with various types of business-to-business and direct-to-consumer primarily in the healthcare and technology markets.

PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?

DB: I love working with and helping people, first and foremost. Whether I’m working with a start-up to gain traction, a mid-sized business reach their tipping point, or a marketing team at a large company that needs fresh ideas, everything starts with people, individuals, and relationships. It may sound tacky, but I take great joy and pride in helping others succeed.

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

DB: I have a unique model – for better or worse. After a decade of the corporate grind, I decided to go out on my own and pursue some entrepreneurial endeavors. My goal was to help people through my communications firm, but also launch my start-up, GetMeHealthee, and treat it as a client. I’m proud that after two years of hard work, GetMeHealthee is a living, breathing entity. And I’m still able to work with the clients I truly want to support – all while maintaining a (relatively) steady work/life balance. That is truly my latest, greatest accomplishment.

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

DB: Learn BUSINESS. How to run one. How to start one. Spend time to teach yourself how to read a balance sheet, understand contracts, sell yourself, budget money and time, make decisions about opportunity costs, everything.

At the end of the day, corporate executives, non-profit heads, and agency owners alike want to work with people who understand how to make money and how to make [expletive] happen. Learning about business can give you a leg up on your peers and competition – and who knows, you may even use the knowledge to run your own company.

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

DB: “Old-school” movie would have to be “Jaws.” Unbelievable cast, acting, and story. And even with all of the new 3D, CGI, etc., that shark still looks more real than anything. And that was 1975.

New movie would be “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Director Wes Anderson is a nut, but the superb writing, fast pace, catchy score, and awesome performance by Ralph Fiennes never gets old.

Book would either be “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” or “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work,” both by Chip and Dean Heath. They provide thought-provoking concepts and tangible examples to help you in every course of life.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

DB: As a transplant, let it be known that I LOVE Philly. Every aspect. But given the task to choose one favorite spot, I’d have to go with 30th Street Station. I love the old architecture, and the main schedule board that still flips the time. Clearly I’m amused easily.

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?

DB: May be weird – with onions, American and Provolone, mayo, and ketchup.

Hooked on Snapchat – Maybe You Will Be, Too

Hello, my name is Adam. And I am a middle-aged Snapchatter. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Snapchat is a social medium platform that skews young. More for the Selena Gomez crowd; not for a child of the ‘80s, like me. To that, I say “don’t judge me”!

After all, I became convinced that Snapchat was the ‘real deal’ after watching cheerleaders Snap with one another during a Temple University gymnastics meet. And I learned how to post my own Snaps from a college student, the patient Amber Hamlett of Stockton University, who was able to show me a few easy steps to take at PPRA’s Careers 101.

Check me out at AdamDvorin. Depending on the day, you can see my office, my view from the train, my prized collection of baseball-caps and my Siberian Husky, Deuce (DOOOOOCCCCCCEEEEE!)


Better yet, get on board the Snapchat bandwagon yourself. You’ll enjoy the experience.

My friend, Ai Zhang, Hamlett’s public relations professor at Stockton, was also key in me embracing Snapchat as a storytelling platform. She made sure I followed some of the big national Snapchat influencers – Gary Vaynerchuk and Carlos Gil are two notables on my feed.

At the same time, I saw how Ai tells her own stories on Snapchat – I have since learned that she (like me) is a big proponent of mass transit, has adorable children, shops at Costco and likes to take walks in her South Philadelphia neighborhood.

And I saw how others were using it – one I really like is U.S. Senator Cory Booker singing in the car while campaigning for Hilary Clinton or praising interns and elevator operators when back in Washington, D.C. Or the NBA, taking me courtside during Golden State Warrior games.

Why do I like Snapchat – and why should professional brands consider it as a story telling platform?

Some reasons:

  • It is portable. If you have a cell phone, you can be a Snapchatter.
  • It is visual. Whether you are taking a picture or shooting a short video, you are showing the story to whomever is viewing.
  • It is authentic. Want to take followers behind the scenes of your restaurant, hospital, factor…whatever? Snapchat is a great vehicle to do so.
  • It is easy. Press a button. Write a captain. Add a filter. Volia. You have written the latest update to Your Story.

And maybe, that really is why Snapchat is such a great social media platform. Because we all have stories to tell – whether we are young or old; individual or sophisticated brand.

There is still room for you on this bandwagon. What are you waiting for? Snap to it!

Adam Dvorin is Media Director of Winning Strategies and Vice President of Membership at PPRA. And yes, he actually snapped a photo of himself writing this blog. He needs to stop, already.

#PPRAMemberMonday: Cathy Engel Menendez, APR

Today we are featuring Cathy Engel Menendez, APR, Director of Communications at PECO. Cathy has been a PPRA member for 23 years and was PPRA’s 2015 Hall of Fame Recipient. Cathy will be participating as a speaker in “The State of the Industry… in Philadelphia – the DNC, Philly branding, and more” Presented by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society, and Public Relations Society of America Philadelphia Chapter, held tomorrow, Tuesday, April 19th.  Join us for an educational and interactive conference on the state of the public relations industry by registering Here. Learn from leading communications professionals who represent top companies across the Philadelphia region, including Comcast, PECO, Di Bruno Bros., Duane Morris, and more.


Twitter: @Pecoconnect

PPRA: Cathy, tell us a bit about your background and your current job.

CEM: I serve as PECO’s spokesperson and am responsible for the company’s strategic communications, advertising and crisis communications efforts, and internal communications / employee engagement efforts.

PPRA: What projects are you working on right now?

CEM: Positioning PECO’s efforts to advance smart energy and deliver innovation to provide safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy and energy services to our customers and communities we serve.  Cornerstone to this is our work to leverage technology and interact with our customers in many new, innovative ways to evolve their energy experience.

PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?

CEM: No day is ever the same.  Being part of a company that provides an essential service means you are involved in everything — day and night.  From the Papal Visit, to the DNC, and everything in between — PECO is there!

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

CEM: 2015 was an exceptional year for me — I passed the APR exam (on the first try) and was inducted into PPRA’s Hall of Fame, those events surrounded by professional successes and advancement are truly memorable.

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

CEM: Be resilient.  It isn’t about how many times you struggle or fail, it really is all about how many times you get back up.  Keep getting back up!

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

CEM: Although I feel like I should provide the name of a classic novel or film, honesty must prevail . . .I love the movie An American President.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

CEM: Boathouse Row.  My brother rowed and I spent a great deal of time there as a child, it is very special to me.  Very close second would be the Linc — Owls and Eagles, doesn’t get any better!

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?

CEM: Whiz wit — its the ONLY way!

11th Annual Careers 101


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.