#PPRAMemberMonday: Kerry O’Connor

Today we are featuring Kerry O’Connor, Senior Communications Manager at Einstein Healthcare Network. Kerry has been a PPRA member for nine years and has been working in the PR field for 18 years. As an avid writer Kerry has a passion for telling stories.

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Twitter:@PenandLens
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kerry-o-connor

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

KO: Since graduating from La Salle in 1998, I’ve been working in Public Relations. It’s a career born out of necessity. As a credentialed but broke journalist and photographer just out of college, I started working in PR as a way to keep the lights on between newspaper assignments.

In PR, I’ve worked for organizations like Communities In Schools of Philadelphia and Magee Rehab, to name a few of the many, before coming to Einstein Healthcare Network. As a writer, I’ve written for everything: Inquirer, Northeast Times, Irish Edition, Weekly Press. I even had a piece in Tattoo magazine once. (Never saw that coming.)

PR or writing…I just like to tell stories.

PPRA: Who are your clients and what projects are you working on right now?

KO: At Einstein Healthcare Network, I work for a variety of service-lines and network initiatives, like our 150th anniversary campaign this year. But, the bulk of my work is for MossRehab, Einstein’s physical and cognitive rehabilitation facility, which I really enjoy. There’s always new technology and new methods that truly help people with disabilities.

I’m working on some fun stuff right now, including our #BornAtEinstein campaign–a crowd-sourcing initiative to collect pictures and stories of people who had their kids or who were born at an Einstein hospital over our 150 year history: BornAtEnstein.com. I’m also putting together MossRehab’s sponsorship of the GlobalAbilities wheelchair racing team for the Broad Street Run and spearheading MossRehab’s involvement with They Will Surf Again in June–a one day surfing event for persons with disabilities.

PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?

KO: My favorite part about my job here at Einsten is that I work for a place that is open to me not just writing/pitching about what is going on, but to creating community partnerships and programs. (Then I get to pitch them, so It’s a win-win.)

They Will Surf Again is a great example. I surf, so I volunteered. When I came to Einstein/MossRehab, I thought it was the kind of thing MossRehab could be involved in and my leadership in PR and the leadership at MossRehab said “Go for it!” This June will be our fourth year. We’ve sent down over 150 volunteers so far and we’ve gotten lots of great publicity. This year our art therapy program is working with the Philadelphia Museum of Art to create graphics for a surfboard to be used at the event. All because leadership was/is willing to hear ideas. You can’ take that for granted.

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

KO: The #BornAtEinstein campaign that is running till the end of this year. We’re asking Philadlephians to take the time to find baby pictures and share them, along with their often-times very personal stories about their experience at Einstein and people are sharing them. We have over 500 submissions so far, ranging from people who were born at an Einstein hospital in the 20s to babies that were born a few days ago.

The Hospital Association of Pennsylvania is highlighting the campaign at their annual PR conference in April.

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

KO: Never take the first no as the last no when trying to do something new. A few adjustments–and a little tenacity–may be all it takes.

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

KO: Movies: Casablanca, Jaws, Goodfellas…and my guilty pleasure, Captain Ron. Books: I love Hemingway. I’ve read his novels and short stories a ton of times.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?

KO: The Blue Horizon on Broad Street. When I started writing sports features, I covered a lot of boxing matches there. It’s closed now.

But, if I’m honest, my favorite all-time Philly spot is probably XIX Nineteen. Had my first date with my wife there. Proposed there. Now we have a three year-old son. That place is the epi-center for my happiness.

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?

KO: Being a Boston native, I was exposed late in life to the wonders of the cheesesteak. My favorite, by far, is a cheesesteak from Donkey’s Place in Camden. (They only make it with American cheese, on a round roll and you can get grilled onions, which I do.)

When I lived in Manayunk, I loved Delassandro’s. But, I gotta say, a heart-attack wit’ (provolone, american, whiz in a hollowed-out roll) from Pat’s is pretty spectacular.

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Fox29 Anchor Dawn Timmeney Brings National Attention

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FOX29 Anchor Dawn Timmeney recently was mentioned on the national TV news trade Web site, TV Spy. Just not for the typical reasons the site mentions TV news — like a job switch or a ratings boost.

Timmeney was anchoring the news on a recent night, when her phone rang, on-air. Turns out, she made an honest mistake that many of us make – she didn’t realize her cell phone ringer was erroneously turned to “on”.

The story did not stop there. The caller – Timmeney’s 14-year-old daughter Oona – wrote an apology note to the station’s news director, so her mom would not get into trouble.

The note read: “Dear Mr. Driscoll: I’m so sorry I called my mom during the news. I was just calling to say goodnight because I haven’t seen her all week.”

Adds the Fox29 Web site: “In the end, Dawn’s boss thought the note was the sweetest thing, and Dawn looks forward to silencing her phone in the future!”

Link to TV Spy Story Here.

2016: My (Leap) Year of Firsts

There is no doubt the first month of 2016 both started and ended with a splash for me.  Literally.  After reading I Dare Me, Lu Ann Cahn’s witty and wonderful book of candor and inspiration, I informed her how moved I was by her story and she invited me to join her exactly where her book began – at the Polar Bear Plunge in Atlantic City, NJ.

First, let me explain the premise of her book. Though a survivor and highly successful and well-known investigative reporter with a loving family and fruitful life, Lu Ann was feeling stuck and her daughter Alexa convinced her to do a daily first – something new every day – for an entire year.  These “firsts” turned into a blog and then a book, which is continuing to impact lives one page at a time.

Back to the plunge. As a native of the Jersey Shore, I treasured the ocean year-round.  However, the thought of dipping so much as a toe in the water during the winter months seemed treacherous, let alone the thought of completely submerging my entire body.  Though for the first time in my life, this plunge somehow seemed like something I just needed to do…and I did…we did. This started my “year of firsts.”

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Throughout January I engaged family, friends and co-workers to help me come up with new ideas to add to my list of “firsts.”  The ideas were only accepted and added to the list if they were beneficial to my mind, body, soul and/or career and did not conflict with my core values (ie: faith, morals, beliefs, etc.). Therefore, I had to reject the dare to only drink Mountain Dew for a day and the dare to kick my feet up on my boss’ desk.  Some firsts can lead to lasts.

Here are some of the highlights from my first month of “firsts”:

  • Day 11 – Pay for the person behind me in line.
  • Day 12 – Substantively compliment three strangers.
  • Day 14 – Blow bubbles to greet speakers.
  • Day 17 – Give relationship advice to a stranger.
  • Day 21 – Attend a judicial swearing-in ceremony.
  • Day 24 – Swing at the playground in the snow.
  • Day 25 – Meet three moms and give them flowers.
  • Day 27 – Attend a Turning Points for Children meeting.

On January 31, I ended my first month of “firsts” back where I started – in the water. I worked through fear of claustrophobia to successfully complete a 90-minute sensory deprivation float.  (If you have no idea what I am talking about, Google it.)  It was as reinvigorating as the plunge was, though thankfully it was much, much warmer.

This whole experience of doing something new every day has given me a fresh appreciation for life.  It has allowed me to communicate and bond with strangers in meaningful ways, remember the fun and importance of playtime and step out of my comfort zone on a frequent basis.

In PR, we need the skills of having the courage to go up to strangers and the compassion to connect with people from all different backgrounds.  Our toolbox of skill sets can be as vast as the diversity of clients and industries that we represent.

In sharing all of this with you, I encourage you to challenge and dare yourself to complete significant “firsts” that will stretch you and allow you to grow both personally and professionally.

Lastly, I kindly ask that you share suggestions and/or opportunities for “firsts” with me. Tickets to a new show or exhibit? Client opening a new restaurant? Access to a behind-the-scenes tour? Looking forward to sharing many more “firsts” with PPRA.

Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway is president of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association and director of communications and marketing at the Philadelphia Bar Association.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @MZApoetry.

Four Ways That Being In Public Relations Is Like Being a Backup Singer

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When I first watched the 2013 documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” I was captivated by the storytelling, the history, and the music that made it an Oscar-winning film. I also felt some personal connection to the characters, and I couldn’t help but see their relevance as metaphors for the public relations profession, at least as I know it.

In my experience, being a PR professional has been all about working outside of the spotlight to make others look good. Rather than a Flavor Flav-type hype man, if the client is the “star,” then in many cases I’m the “backup singer,” adding detail, accentuation, and the necessary ideas to flesh out a plan or initiative and make it feel complete. In that spirit, here are four ways that being in PR is like being a backup singer.

1. You work to make the star shine brighter

There’s no doubt that public relations takes talent to perform well, but you’re always applying your skills to draw the attention to the main attraction, whether that’s an individual, a business, or a product. It’s a role we play mostly anonymously. Some PR folks do become rock stars in and of themselves, like Richard Edelman or Peter Shankman to their Luther Vandross/Sheryl Crow counterparts, but it’s clear that they’ve succeeded on the merits of their core work ethic in addition to their talent.

2. You understand what can be accomplished as part of a team

There are great independent practitioners out there, but nobody works in a complete silo, especially those of us at agencies. When you have colleagues that you can bounce ideas off of, share insights with, and talk through problems with, it’s possible to work at a different level than you can alone. As recounted in this Washington Post article on the movie, a festival-screening participant addressed director Morgan Neville, saying; “Most of us work collaboratively, for bosses, in positions we’re proud of and which are key to the successful running of an operation, creative or otherwise.” I believe this is true no matter how talented you are.

3. It’s the depth and details that sell the story

What would “Young Americans” be without the backup singers? Would “Walk on the Wild Side” even be considered a classic if not for the “do do do’s”? Let alone the wailing of Merry Clayton in “Gimme Shelter”? The details and the hooks brought out by the backup singers add richness to the story of the song, and are often what sell it to the listener. In much the same way, PR professionals find the information that substantially transforms an ordinary pitch, press release, or piece of marketing content into something much more valuable.

4. Success is defined by the love of the art

As Merry Clayton says in the film, “there’s no guarantees in entertainment,” and the same is true in public relations. We can’t guarantee a media placement. We can’t guarantee the messaging will be relayed verbatim, or even accurately. We can’t guarantee an article run date. But we can guarantee putting in the time and critical thinking and creativity to make sure a client’s goals are achieved to the best degree possible. Every one of the best public relations practitioners I’ve worked with has had many times where things didn’t work out as planned, but they’ve continued to persevere in the industry because of their integrity and their work ethic. What keeps a true PR pro going is the inspiration of helping to get a story told, just as delivering the music drives the singers in the film.

Public relations has its ups and downs, just like any job. We work not to garner accolades, but to provide a foundation for communications and often guide the direction for clients. It’s a presence that is felt and is vital, yet when executed properly is hardly noticed. By filling in the details, public relations ensures that the background is developed, providing complete harmony instead of an awkward silence.

Adam Leiter is a PR professional with ab+c Creative Intelligence, responsible for the strategic development and implementation of communications programs for clients in a variety of industries. Working with a team of communications professionals to earn media opportunities for accounts including B2B, B2C, non-profit, and civic engagement programs, he seamlessly weaves in social media strategies, digital services, and creative development to ensure an integrated marketing program on behalf of clients.

*This post was previously featured on LinkedIn.

 

Ready. Set. Collaborate – Five Ways PR is a Team Sport

Word PR.Working in public relations is as exhilarating as it is demanding. I can say with assurance that no two days are alike and that a career in this field promises to keep you on your toes at every turn. Most would agree that PR is for those who prefer to create their own destinies, blaze their own trails. There’s plenty of opportunity for this in our field, and that’s why we love it, right?

Sure, but as much as PR allows us the creative freedom to come up with ideas that’ll knock the socks off of our key audiences, PR is very much a team sport. Here are the top five ways.

Teaming up with customer service
In nearly all organizations, there is a segment of the team dedicated to one audience and one audience only: the customer. Since, ultimately, it’s the job of the PR person to attract more of them, you better believe that the customer service team is a key player in the success of the PR team. No need to be a mind reader when your fellow team members are talking to the customers day in and day out; getting to know their needs, their wants, their pain points and so much more. So what do you do? Turn that information into fuel for awesome PR campaigns and strategies.

Collaborating with designers
Once you’re ready to implement a campaign idea, it’s likely that you’ll want some creative assets to go along with it. In the visual storytelling age in which we now find ourselves, having a talented graphic designer on your side is priceless. Whether it’s creating an image to add to your press release or turning facts and figures into a beautiful infographic that can be shared across the web, a graphic designer can add tremendous value to the success of a PR team.

Tapping the stats guy (or gal)
Speaking of stats, nowadays we have more and more companies with a dedicated team member (or an entire team) who simply does data all day long. This is great news for the PR team because we all know journalists love data. Everything from customer trends and company growth to website traffic and Google Analytics; the data guys and gals are on it. Another reason you want to stick by the data miners is to help show and tell the value of PR and how it’s impacting the bottom line. For more on this subject, check out the previous blog post Communicating the Value of PR: Stop Dodging, Start Measuring.

Working with in-house experts
As PR people, we’re usually fielding media requests and coordinating interviews for others. Whether you’re on an in-house PR team or on the agency side, collaboration with your internal experts and thought leaders is a must. Successful teamwork requires more than just setting up time with reporters. It means collaborating on story ideas and PR opportunities that match the person’s expertise and that align with the organization’s goals and key messages.

Cooperating with journalists
Finally, we sync up with journalists to bring value to our respective audiences. Media pitching an idea and working with a reporter to bring a story to life requires input that meets the needs of both sides. On the one hand, reporters have a story to tell. On the other, PR pros have key messages to deliver to their target audiences. The happy medium is a story that adds value and brings something new to the audience.

What are some of the other ways you see PR as being a team sport? Would love to read about them in the comments section!

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a certified news junkie and an aspiring world traveler. Check out Andrea’s back story here then follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carterandrea/.