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:

Question:

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

Answer:

John quickly shared his email address with us all: Wilson@cbs3.com 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.

Question:

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?

Answer:

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!

Question:

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.

Answer:

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!”

Question:

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

Answer:

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.

Question:

How would you describe your sports coverage?

Answer:

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.

Question:

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?

Answer:

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.

Question:

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

Answer:

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

Question:

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

Answer:

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.

Question:

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?

Answer:

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.

Question:

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?

Answer:

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?

Answer:

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

Question:

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

Answer:

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. 

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Careers 101: The Headliner of Philly PR Student Networking

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Register for Careers 101 here.

Careers 101 is a networking and career advice event hosted by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, aimed at helping public relations and communications students connect with professionals in their field. Maybe you are wondering: ‘so what?’ That could describe most networking events anywhere. What makes Careers 101 so special? Well, I could tell you that it is because of the hard work put on by the students and professionals that planned it, or the amazing quality of the panelists and networkers each year, or the amazing sponsors, such as The Creative Group, who make it all possible; but really it’s all that and more.

11 years ago, Careers 101 began as a small event at U Arts, and has since matured into a Philly PR staple for students and young professionals alike. This year, Careers 101 will be at the PECO Energy Hall on 23rd and Market Street, but in the past it has been held at Temple and Drexel Universities as well. At the event, students can look forward to meeting Philadelphia’s very best PR professionals, from the recently graduated to the not so recently graduated. This year, the panel will consist entirely of past PPRA Fast Track award winners. The Fast Track award is given to one individual each year who have made an impact on the profession early in their career and continues to be a trailblazer – so you can be firm in the belief that these panelists have only the very best to offer you. And if you’re feeling nervous – don’t.

Last year was my first time at Careers 101, and even though I’d helped to plan and host the event, I was still nervous as I walked in the doors of the building. Because I had helped to plan it, I was nervous that no one would show up or that people wouldn’t like it. And because I was (and still am) a student, I was nervous about mingling with professionals in the field that I want to become a professional in. But as it turned out, I had nothing to be nervous about. Why? Because all the older, super experienced PR professionals were once in yours and my own shoes: a PR student or newbie looking for some contacts to understand the industry. After the panel ended I picked out the first person I wanted to talk to, reminded myself that they were a student once too, and introduced myself. In fact, after about five seconds I blanked on the entire English language. Instead of any number of negative reactions I was envisioning, my conversation partner laughed, clapped me on the arm, and asked me what I thought of the panel. This opened up the dam, so to speak, and we had a great conversation and agreed to have lunch soon.

Attending Careers 101 helped me decide where I want to work after graduation, and gave me the resources to get there. I met some awesome people and created lasting connections, I heard some top-notch advice from PR’s best, and I even got free tips on my resume and a professional headshot! The Careers 101 of this year will afford you all of the same benefits, benefits that will only multiply as you attend more events, which is why you can expect to see me there again this year.

Faiz Mandviwalla is a senior at Temple University majoring in Strategic Communication with concentrations in Public Relations and International Communication. Faiz is an Assistant Firm Director for PRowl Public Relations, recently completed an internship with Bellevue Communications Group, and is an active member of PPRA’s College Relations Committee and the Temple PRSSA chapter. Follow Faiz on Twitter @faizmand and on LinkedIn 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.

4 Musts for Any Agency Offering Social Media

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Lots of small and medium sized businesses are spending a lot of time on social media because they understand its potential. They typically fall into three categories: doing well at it and content to keep it going, doing well at it but ready to outsource it, and don’t know what they’re doing and want real help.

In many cases, it may make sense for these people to outsource their social media needs to the same agencies handling their public relations and other marketing needs. As a PR professional, you already know what’s going on within the client’s business, what their overall goals are, and how to get them in front of their ideal audience.

I’ve seen PR agencies and marketing agencies do some things right and some things wrong when providing social media services to clients. I’m here to share my insights so you can add social media to your service offerings without the risk of failing your client or spending all of your time on social.

Know what’s on the menu.
Before you offer social media services to your clients, you should know the different ways that you can “slice” social media. Some clients might want full social media management that covers content creation, audience engagement, inbox monitoring/customer service and ad buys. But you may choose not to offer the whole enchilada. You may decide it only makes sense to provide prewritten social media posts that the client can schedule to accompany a public relations campaign you’re managing more fully for them.

If you break it down, you can offer clients:

Content calendar: This can mean different things to different people, so be sure to define it for within your own agency and be clear about its meaning to clients. It might mean a simple list of weekly themes they should follow, a yearly calendar that outlines several campaigns, or a day-by-day list of pre-written tweets, posts and updates.

Scheduling: This is simply the scheduling of social media posts to be sent at a predetermined time from within a tool such as Hootsuite. If the client insists on approving the prewritten content each week, you may want the client to handle scheduling so that any delays in approval do not affect your ability to schedule the updates to go out on time.

Engagement/Audience growth: This is the daily maintenance of the client’s platforms and real-time interaction with audiences. This includes following those who follow the client’s competitors to grow their own following and reposting and liking content from other users to get their attention. Related to this is customer service or inbox monitoring wherein you keep an eye on the social media messaging inboxes to keep track of any concerns customers have with your client’s business. You might answer these customer concerns if you’re equipped to do so or to quickly notify the client of messages that require their attention.

Ad buys: Do you want responsibility to creating ad campaigns to reach new followers, drive traffic to the client’s website, or boost posts on Facebook? How about sponsoring tweets on Twitter or posts on Instagram? This might include the creation of graphics that won’t get rejected by Facebook and reporting the results to the client.

Reporting: Whatever social media services you offer, you’ll want a system for reporting analytics so they can track progress on social media. Social media managers do reporting in different ways. Hootsuite has built-in analytics tools, Facebook has pretty advanced analytics in its Page management system, and even Twitter lets you track the reach of your tweets. There are plenty of others tools you can use. Some clients will only care about their number of followers going up while others will want to know what messages are outperforming others.

Get an ally in the client’s office.
Inevitably, there will be “fires.” You’ve seen it time and again with media placements and other PR elements: the client’s name was misspelled or there was a word missing from their quote and they want you to fix it RIGHT NOW! Well, it happens with social media too. The client might notice a word misspelled or a missing period and want the tweet or post edited or deleted right this very second. Now, you’re busy. While PR pros pride themselves on being well-caffeinated and quick to respond, it just isn’t always possible. The best thing to do to prevent client frustrations in this situation is to ask them up front to appoint someone on their own team that you can train to be responsive in an “emergency.” Then teach them the basics of editing or deleting. You might even make it super clear by giving them a handy tipsheet they can keep nearby that tells them if a post on a platform is able to be edited or must be deleted, etc.

Keep PR & social media on the same page.
If you can’t have the account executive that’s already handling the client’s PR do their social media (some of your account execs won’t be comfortable in that role or have the bandwidth to take it on), make sure that the person managing their social media has really easy access to the account exec handling PR. This is especially important when your clients have had your agency handle their PR for a long time and are just now handing over social media. Your account exec likely already knows what’s going on inside the client’s company or knows how to get that info out of the client. The person in charge of their social media needs that information too. While social media can consist largely of news aggregation and other forms of content that aren’t breaking news about the company, their social media will feel naked without such updates from within the company.

Feel free to give the client homework.
Don’t feel like because you’re taking money from the client to manage their social media that it should be entirely off their plate(s). You might ask that clients email you articles you can share from their feeds, share updates from the company page to their personal pages, or upload images in real-time from major events they’re participating in (or texting those images to you so you can upload them).

There’s a lot to consider when you’re thinking of or starting to offer social media services to clients. This really is just a brief list of the things I’ve seen other agencies mess up.

Rosella LaFevre is a marketing consultant helping solo entrepreneurs, small businesses and C-level executives with marketing strategy, public relations/thought leadership and social media. She’s also a business and marketing coach helping entrepreneurs do more good and make more money. If you want an outsider to consult on your agency’s approach to social media for clients, schedule a consultation here.

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The Do’s of Corporate Blogging

CB imageIf your company has decided to cut corporate blogging out of its content marketing strategy, you might want to reconsider. Allowing companies to reveal a bit more about the brains and personalities behind the brand, blogging offers businesses the advantage to initiate unique conversations with customers, unlike traditional marketing channels.

“A company blog is a venue for clients and lovers of the brand to feel personally connected to the company. It’s an opportunity for consumers to be heard by a company or brand and to be kept in the loop on their own terms – ultimately forming a two-way, insider relationship that benefits both parties,” said Digital Strategy and Marketing Director, Clara Swanson of GillespieHall.

The “2014 Hubspot State of Inbound” report mentions, “companies that blog are 13x more likely to generate a positive marketing ROI.” So what are you waiting for? Follow these corporate blogging do’s and start reaping all of the benefits that blogging has to offer to your business.

The Do’s

Establish your brand’s voice and personality
Before a company moves forward with posting on any social media outlet, they must first establish their brand voice. Choosing your brand’s voice is a very critical step because it goes hand-in-hand with your brand’s personality, and how you will execute the content you plan to share. First, think about the type of business and industry you are in and the most commonly used lingo within this market. Ask yourself, how does your audience interact with one another and how do they like to be approached and spoken to?

Perform keyword research
Just as bees seek quality pollen, your readers seek superior content. Tagging your blog posts with the most effective keywords helps to guide readers to useful and relevant information. “Corporate blogging is an opportunity to connect with your target market on a personal level and establish a place in the market. Blogs are also critical for search – keeping your company fresh in search results, and appearing in a wider range of search results relevant to your product or service,” said Swanson. A definite way to ensure that your content is reaching your desired target audience is to create effective search engine optimized content. Try using Keyword Tool, it helps you generate over 750 keywords from Google autocomplete. Also, embed links into your blog posts that steers readers to previously published content. If you’re looking to maximize your PR efforts through search engine optimized content, check out this previously published post on PPRA’s blog, “How Search Engine Optimization Benefits the Field of Public Relations.”

Update regularly.
It has happened to us all. We surf the web and come across blogs that are completely outdated or are not regularly updated. What kind of impression does this blog leave you with? Think of your content as a store’s inventory. Don’t just offer your readers last season’s trends, fill them in on what’s hip now and keep them in-the-know with consistent blog content. “Not investing in regular blogging is a major lost opportunity in any industry. Blogging, approached strategically, can bring amazing benefits to any company willing to invest in the process. The key, though, is the quality of the blog content and the commitment to producing valuable content on a regular basis,” said Swanson. The first step to corporate blogging strategically is to create an editorial calendar that includes your blogging and posting schedule, as well as brainstormed topics and special events you can incorporate your content around.

Feature guest posts from all staff members
Allowing staff of all levels to regularly contribute to the company’s blog acquaints your customers with the thought leaders that are the force that drives the brand they love. It provides diversity to the reader because they can now receive insights from employees of different departments. Each employee has something valuable to offer to the blog. Make sure to answer consumer questions or leave them with thought-provoking conclusions.

This post was written by PPRA member Renee’ Velez. Renee’ currently serves on PPRA’s Communications Committee as the Blog Chair. She loves all things social media and is currently seeking opportunities in the PR industry. Follow Renee’ on Twitter @rvelez88. Special thanks to the GillespieHall team for the insightful feedback on corporate blogging.