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.

Setting the Record Straight: How to Pitch Denise Nakano

nakano2Whether she is broadcasting from a breaking news scene or anchoring from the studio, viewers of NBC10 News are familiar with Denise Nakano.

Nakano joined NBC10 as a weekend morning anchor in 2003. Twelve years later, she is now one of the Philadelphia-markets most established broadcast journalists. She reports during the week and anchors NBC10 News on weekend evenings.

Prior to joining NBC10, Nakano was a general assignment reporter and substitute anchor at KCPQ in Seattle, Washington.

Recently, Nakano spoke to the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Adam Dvorin on her likes and dislikes when working with public relations people.

Have an idea? E-mail Nakano at or tweet her at @DeniseNakanoTV.

“The best story idea I ever received from a PR person is one that didn’t come to me through a mass email, but one where we worked together to tell a story.”

Question: What is the biggest thing you look at when considering a story idea?

Answer: Viewer impact is critical to any story we cover. I look to how many people the story will affect, why people should care, and how the viewer would benefit.

In many ways, we are the deliverers of a product. The more people can relate to a news story and benefit from it, the better job we’re doing.

Q: When you open your e-mail to look at a story pitch, how much time do you spend looking at it?

A: The first thing I look at is… does this appear to be a mass email or is it directly addressed to me. I don’t give it a second glance if I feel as if I’m on a long list getting the same pitch.  Even then, email story pitches rarely catch my eye.

Q: Would you consider a story idea from Twitter?  Facebook?  Phone only?

A; I find that I’ve considered more story ideas from Twitter than any of the above. Got a good story pitch? DM me!

Q. What would you advise a PR person avoid doing when pitching you?

A: I’d advise a PR person to avoid sending multiple pitches about the same client, over and over. For example, I frequently get emails about education related stories, but it always involves the same school.  Those go straight to the delete file.

Q. What are the best and worst times to reach out to you?

A: Best time to reach out is anytime by email. Or if the story is breaking, or involves a scoop, contact anytime! Worst time is during a reporter’s “crunch time”. It differs depending on a reporter’s shift, but you won’t get a favorable response reaching out when a reporter is on deadline.

Q: What is the best story idea you ever received from a PR person?

A: One that didn’t come to me through a mass email, but one where we worked together to tell a story.

Q: What other advice would you offer to PR pros?

A: Establish personal relationships with reporters and know each one will want something unique… an element that sets their story apart from the rest.

This post was written by Adam Dvorin. Adam is Media Director of Winning Strategies, a New Jersey-based communications firm.  He is a Membership Co-Chair of Philadelphia Public Relations Association.  He can be reached at @adamdvorin on Twitter.

The Marriage of PR and Employee Engagement – Industry Experts Weigh In


Public relations is defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” PR is telling the story of the organization and protecting its reputation on behalf of all stakeholders. Knowing that it’s an organization’s employees that give the company structure, substance, and culture – and not the other way around – it’s vital to engage your workforce in this process.

However, one must be engaged themselves as a PR professional first to be viewed as credible to his or her audience. When the PR employee is perceived as a genuine, ethical and trustworthy colleague, in both favorable and disastrous times the organization and its reputation both win.

In his book, WE, How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement, author Kevin Kruse defined employee engagement as, “the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplishing tasks important to the achievement of organizational goals.” Based on a 4-domain model, employee engagement is governed by four primary key drivers: communication, growth, recognition and trust.

A simple exercise mentioned in Kruse’s book is the “We Test.” The test is performed by asking employees to describe the way they refer to their workplace. Is the word “they” used when describing the organization or do employees refer to the organization in “we” terms? “You can tell a lot about an organization’s culture and whether workers are fully engaged in their jobs by how often they use the word “we” as opposed to “they,” “our” or even “I,” states Kruse.

With this in mind, how does PR help to build and enhance employee engagement?

PR needs to be the link in getting employees educated and excited to perform and exceed. “It’s a symbiotic relationship. You really can’t have one without the other,” said Georgina Gonzalez-Robiou, APR, director, marketing & public relations at Baptist Outpatient Services & Baptist Health Enterprises in Miami, Fla. She continued, “employees with a higher level of engagement are more likely to be active on behalf of the organization and serve as brand ambassadors.” Brand ambassadors can be your biggest advocates in the community, be it for charity walks, serving on boards, or representing the organization in various outreach events.

At St. Peter’s Health Partners in Albany, N.Y., engaging the employees as brand ambassadors was the key to a successful merger between two large health systems. “We wanted people in each of the legacy organizations to visibly see people (in a television branding campaign) they recognized as both leaders and co-workers who they truly respected and say to themselves, ‘I know that person, that person has bought into this – I am part of it too’,” said Elmer Streeter, director, corporate communications. The branding built trust and the campaign was centered on collaboration and inclusion. “We wanted the unofficial and official leaders of the system who live the mission to be a part of the campaign,” said Streeter.

Matt Cabrey, executive director, Select Greater Philadelphia, said, “PR not only sets the company tone and shapes the image and reputation for how audiences view the company, it has a direct influence on internal communications and the level of pride employees feel in their role and in the organization.”

Bill Cowen, professor and PR program director, Villanova University and president, Metrospective Communications LLC, said, “Whether through tangible rewards or being given a respected voice at the table, collective and creative employee engagement is more crucial than ever to talent cultivation and retention in PR. This is especially the case with the newer generation of professionals that wants to believe fully in the organization.”

However, keeping employees engaged comes with its challenges. For example, the BP oil spill disaster carried with it negligence on behalf of the rig workers, lack of compensation payouts and continuous internal strife. Were the BP employees kept up to date regarding the changing events? Who was taking the blame? When companies are in survival mode it’s even more important for them to engage their employees.

“Relegating employees to some lesser level of importance during a crisis is a mistake,” said John J. Moscatelli, APR, Fellow PRSA, owner, JJM Communications LLC, who teaches PR at Rowan Universtiy. He continued, “uninformed or ill-informed employees, those relying on rumors and speculation, tend to be distrustful of management, express a lack of confidence in the organization to their friends and neighbors, and, in a worst case, make the crisis even worse.” However, out of chaos comes order. The very definition of PR suggests the relationship itself between the organization and its audiences.

Joe Anthony, president of financial services & partner at Gregory FCA, said, “…thoughtfully deploying key employees in telling the company story and weaving their roles into the company narrative can make them feel more a part of the company culture and direction. We do that here at Gregory FCA and encourage our clients to do the same. It’s not just about “staying in front” of employees, it’s about keeping them working alongside of you. That’s why it’s so important to keep them feeling as if they are in the loop.” BP would have fared better if they had strived to achieve this from the beginning.

Often seen as the face of the organization, and an employee themselves, the PR professional must remember it’s important to keep both sides of PR and employee engagement well represented and all parties informed. And remember that it’s an ongoing process. It must start at the recruiting stage, continue through employment, and flow from top to bottom and bottom to top of the hierarchy chain.

As noted by Kruse, trust is a key driver. “Research shows that employees who feel more pride and trust towards their employer are more satisfied and expend more discretionary energy on their work, enabling them to advance key business objectives and achieve results,” said Cathy Engel Menendez, director, communications, PECO. And that after all, are what companies are in business to do. If PR is telling the story of the organization in a favorable light, what better way than to communicate that by using your biggest assets…your employees.

Meg Boyd is a corporate communications professional who is passionate about PR and employee engagement. She earned a master’s in strategic communication from Villanova University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Dayton. She is currently seeking opportunities. Contact Meg via email at or connect with her on LinkedIn.

(Image via)

Setting the Record Straight: How to Pitch…Molly Eichel


“Get to Know Me.  I’m Pretty Nice”

Readers of the Philadelphia Daily News should recognize Molly Eichel as the author of the four-times a week “Philly Gossip” column – a long running staple in the “People Paper.”

Eichel took over the column in 2013 and has been a writer at the Daily News since 2010.  Before that, she was on staff at the City Paper.

Each day, Eichel is tasked with writing six to eight quick newsy nuggets on items that involve well-known Philadelphians (a recent coup: being the first media member to interview WPVI-TV personality Adam Joseph about he and his partner becoming first-time parents).   Many of those ideas originate from smartly-pitched PR pitches.

Eichel recently took time to speak to the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Adam Dvorin about her likes/dislikes when working with PR people.

With your ideas, e-mail Eichel at

Q: What is the biggest thing you look at when considering a story idea?

A: The story needs to fit my beat. I have a pretty broad beat but I get so many off-beat pitches. As a PR person, show me you have a familiarity with what I do for a living and pitch directly to me, don’t just blanket a bunch of journalists and hope I’ll respond.

Q: When you open your e-mail to look at a story pitch, how much time do you spend looking at it?

A: It depends. If it’s a form press release, much less time than if someone takes the time to figure out how their story relates to my column.

Q:  Would you consider a story idea from Twitter?  Facebook?  Phone only?

A: Phone and e-mail. Pitching me on Twitter is a guaranteed way to get me to ignore you.

Q:  What would you advise a PR person avoid doing when pitching you?

A: Come into the pitch with no familiarity of what I do.  My name is very easy to Google.  Read a column.  Get a sense of my voice.  I don’t expect you to be a regular reader, but if you have no idea about what I do, it won’t help you.

Q:  When is the best and worst time to reach out to you with a column idea?

A: Deadline is 6 p.m. if you call me between 5 and 6 for something that’s not urgent, I’ll shuffle you off the phone or tell you to call back the next day. Reach out any time before that.

Q:  What is the best story idea you have ever received from a PR person?

A: One that comes to mind is a celebrity giving money to a local rehab center while he was in town filming a movie.

Q: What other advice would you offer to PR pros?

A: Get to know me! I’m pretty nice and if I know what you do and what you’re about, I can better tailor advice on future pitching.

This post was written by Adam Dvorin. Adam is Media Director of Winning Strategies, a New Jersey-based communications firm.  He is a Membership Co-Chair of Philadelphia Public Relations Association.  He can be reached at @adamdvorin on Twitter.

Honoring A True Star: Meredith Avakian-Hardaway


From left-to-right: Tracy Davidson, Larry Margasak, Brian Williams, Gerhart L. Klein, Claire Smith, Meredith Avakian-Hardaway, and John Oates. Photo Courtesy of Ryan S. Brandenburg, Temple University.


Life boils down to what you stand for, what you represent. The Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) represents its members, communication professionals who exhibit honesty, diversity, and cooperation. Meredith Avakian-Hardaway, President-elect of PPRA, represents all of these qualities and more. Meredith brings honesty, character and a healthy work-ethic to everything she does, from her role as director of communications and marketing for the Philadelphia Bar Association to her work promoting justice for Armenian refugees. For all of these reasons and more, Meredith received the Lew Klein Rising Star in the Media award on Friday, September 26, at the Lew Klein Awards Luncheon at Temple University.

The Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Awards honors media and communication professionals who excel in their fields and whose achievements bring honor to their profession. Meredith was honored alongside well-known media professionals Brian Williams and Tracy Davidson of NBC. John Oates, from the band Hall & Oates, Gerhart L. (Jerry) Klein, of Anne Klein Communications Group, retired Associated Press journalist, Larry Margasak and ESPN news editor, Claire Smith.

At the awards luncheon, a short video played. The video, which featured Meredith’s friends, family and colleagues, displayed just how many lives Meredith has impacted on a personal and professional level. From her husband, Marques Hardaway, to Chancellor William P. Fedullo of the Philadelphia Bar Association, we learned how Meredith’s honest and professional character positively affects the lives of every individual she encounters. In her eloquent acceptance speech, Meredith managed to thank all the right people and find the time to help aspiring PR professionals; telling the crowd to “reach down to lift someone up.”

“She exhibits the very best qualities of a public relations professional. A highly poised and effective communicator, she has a creativity, vitality and passion for her work and a true devotion to advancing her profession,” said Mark A. Tarasiewicz, PPRA Hall of Famer and Executive Director at the Philadelphia Bar Association.

“My first impression of Meredith Avakian-Hardaway was that she’s a truly put-together woman with high aspirations,” said Lisette Bralow, current PPRA President. “We met through PPRA and at every meeting Meredith projected a professional demeanor. Most importantly, if she accepted an assignment, there was never any question that it would be completed on time with great attention to detail. Working with Meredith has been a pleasure; she follows me as president and immediately saw the advantages of working together to create continuity so that programs wouldn’t stop at the end of a presidency.”

Meredith knows the secret to forging real connections with people in a short time; you have to make a personal gesture. For Gina Rubel, President and CEO of Furia Rubel Communications, it was a handwritten note of thanks.“I met Meredith when I presented to her public relations class, she immediately followed up with a written note of thanks and we have remained in contact ever since. She is not only a wonderful PR executive and role-model; she is also someone I am honored to call a friend.”

Meredith is that special sort of person always actively seeking out promising young people to mentor; “everyone should be so lucky as to have a mentor like Meredith, as I have for the past five years,” said Jessica Lawlor, Communications Manager at Visit Bucks County. “She excels at taking young professionals under her wing and getting them involved in organizations that will help them develop professionally and make valuable connections.”

“Meredith’s thumb print is all over today’s up-and-coming Philadelphia PR practitioners. Countless new professionals I meet consider Meredith an inspiration, if not a personal mentor. And they should. Meredith is a consummate communicator, an inspiring professional, a generous volunteer and a natural leader,” said Christopher Lukach, President at Anne Klein Communications Group.

Meredith continues to help and impress everyone she encounters, making no one more deserving than her to receive the Lew Klein Rising Star in the Media Award.

Congratulations, Meredith!

This post was written by PPRA member Faiz M. Mandviwalla. Faiz is a junior at Temple University studying public relations. He also interns at the Philadelphia Bar Association where he has the pleasure of working with Meredith. Connect with him on Twitter @faizmand. For a pre- Lew Klein Awards post he wrote visit Temple University’s  PRowl  blog here.