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The evolution of public relations and brand journalism is the new imperative for marketing


I cringe every time campaign season rolls around. The volume of ads, the pre and post hype that surround each debate. I get knots in my stomach not only because of what was said but inevitably I will hear someone say it’s all hype, spin, distortion and PR. For many on the outside of our industry and for some inside the newsrooms the impression of PR is that it lives in a journalistic underworld, a dark place where ethics and the pursuit of truth are nowhere to be found.

Having spent five years as a television journalist, the majority of my career has been in the PR profession alongside nonprofits, agency and corporate marketing communication teams. I can unequivocally say the PR profession is far from the dark side as it is filled with tremendous light and transparency. Those of us who have elected to be in the PR profession are trusted with an enormous responsibility that calls us to be passionate storytellers of an organizations mission and to tangibly help the brand voice and personality come alive. Our role often involves taking complex subject matters and translating it into meaningful and relatable messages for the media and the public. There is a growing convergence of true integrated collaboration with all the disciplines; communication, marketing, advertising and public relations and it’s exciting times to be in the PR profession

As trust in big corporations continues to fall, the appeal of telling stories that humanize a company has increased. People seek meaning in their lives and are looking for brands that can help fulfill that need. Visionary organizations market something that is much more than compelling that what they have to sell; products or services, features, pricing or benefits. They position a vision for something more meaningful that we can all can get behind. Visionary brands make a switch from selling the product or service to selling something more optimistic that will benefit us all and at the same time drives business success.

Sophisticated consumers have emerged—both young and old and the demand for content is 24/7. To engage audiences, organizations are realizing they need to create a culture of storytelling that curates rich editorial content that can be spread across paid, earned and owned media. Stories need to be timely, relevant and authentic in this new era. In a heartbeat, traditional and social media opens wide the opportunity to knock back any corporate spin, falsehood or lie. It starts with a clear intention of what success really means and a simple question, ‘how is the world a better place if the organization or brand succeeds?’ Is the vision compelling enough that others will get behind the idea or that those inside could stand together with pride and tell the world what they stand for?

Since I started my career in the broadcast news world I’m a bit biased when it comes to the impact of a well done video. It’s been said that facts tell, but stories sell and video seems to be one of the most effective tactics when it comes to storytelling.

It seems the entire digital ecosystem (paid, earned and owned media) is competing to deliver high quality video and the play button seems to be taking center stage as the most compelling call to action. There’s no shortage of evidence that video is the most engaging and is more widely shared as the consistent metric that increases click through rates and digital conversions. Simply put video storytelling is a driver of high engagement.

Storytelling and audience persuasion have always been core strengths of PR, and our role and the work we are doing has grown considerably in scope and the field is fast becoming an all encompassing practice. As technology makes integrated communication seamless and more powerful, the role of the skilled PR counselor will be even more critical to develop content strategies in conjunction with laser sharp execution on tactics that optimize timing, audiences, tools and channels.

It’s a privilege to steward a story and I’m humbled by the opportunities that have evolved over the last 20 years in the PR profession and am even more passionate about what the future holds. The progression of brand journalism is here to stay and is the new marketing imperative. The PR profession is aligned beautifully to bring a holistic view to the table and to lead strategy, development and execution on robust content marketing and asset creation. PR excels in finding the best ways to get those authentic brand stories out to your audiences and turn your story into a lasting narrative.

Laura Archbold is the owner of Encore Public Relations and co-owner at Red Couch Stories in Rochester, MN. You can reach her via Twitter@laarchbold or


The Role of Public Relations in Brand and Reputation Management


I have a story I tell college students when I am trying to illustrate the point of how far technology has come, just over the course of my own career, in helping public relations practitioners do their jobs.

I share with them that when I first started working in public relations in the mid-1990s, I would often stand in front of a fax machine for hours at a time, sending news releases to media outlets around the state.

At this point in the story, their eyes glaze over because most of them have never seen a fax machine.

Then, I tell them how our practices changed when we got email and started communicating with reporters that way. This often generates a raised eyebrow, because they can’t imagine a time when people didn’t have email.

Finally, I talk about social media and how it has changed not only the way that public relations professionals communicate with journalists, but also in the way that online communications opened the doors to enable us to take our messages directly to consumers and constituents. While we continue to work with traditional media outlets, and greatly value those relationships, we also have new vehicles, avenues and devices through which to speak directly to our intended audiences.

At this point in the story, the students often perk up a little bit, because now I am speaking their language.

As a profession, public relations has evolved significantly over the course of my 20-year career – most substantially in just the past five years. While media relations remains an important component of our work, it is but one tool in a very broad toolbox of communications strategies and tactics that we use to develop effective programs and campaigns for the organizations that we represent.

It is important to note that it’s not only the tools themselves that have changed. Indeed, we live in a fast-paced and “always-on” world in which a photo, a video or a story can be seen by thousands of people in a matter of seconds. While that may be a positive step when one is proactively promoting a brand or organization, it also creates challenge and anxiety when an organization is thrown into a negative spotlight.

It is incumbent upon public relations professionals to manage brands, issues and reputations using a wide variety of strategies and tactics. Whether online or offline, brand communicators must constantly monitor conversations and issues, and evaluate all of the ways that their marketing messages could be construed. As the traditional gatekeepers of organizational reputation, public relations practitioners must be deeply involved in the development of brand and message strategy as well as ongoing, day-to-day reputation management both online and off.

One doesn’t have to look far to find very recent examples of brands that have been thrust into the spotlight either through their own actions or the actions of others. With their reputations on the line, the manner in which they responded to these crises, and whether or not the response considered and incorporated all facets of their communications and marketing, will ultimately determine whether or not the brand’s image will recover.

It is not unusual for clients – and even communications professionals themselves – to view public relations as a “traditional” and “offline” discipline. However, public relations must be viewed and practiced as a fully integrated brand and reputation management function. This begins with strategic planning that underpins the brand’s core identity and messaging, followed by continuous brand monitoring and management across multiple marketing disciplines using a variety of online tools.

Companies must anticipate, plan and rehearse every imaginable scenario that could cause damage or undue attention, and they must ensure that multi-disciplinary teams are represented when communications plans and tools are developed. Public relations practitioners are key players at the table when those decisions are made.

Even if they still rely on the good old fax machine.


‘Tis the Season to start your media pitches (if you haven’t already!)


If you’re in the media relations business, you’re probably not waiting until trick-or-treaters finish collecting their sugary sweets to start pitching your holiday stories – at least you shouldn’t! It’s never too early to be thinking about how to position your brand, products, people, and programs for the holiday season. In fact, you need to act fast due to long-lead time for several media outlets.

So, grab some Halloween candy, set aside the turkey recipe and use some of these tips to help you get coverage during the holidays:

  • If you’ve missed the long-lead deadlines of holiday-themed magazines, consider the shorter turnaround times of newspapers, blogs, radio and TV and pitch them your creative holiday stories now.
  • Rather than pitching a self-serving promotional story of your brand or product for holiday gift giving guides, consider contributing information and expertise that brings value to readers, such as consumer tips shared by your company spokesperson or topical trends in an infographic.
  • Tap into the Spirit of the Season – whether your company is conducting a holiday food drive, adopting a family or spreading holiday cheer in other ways, make sure to share your feel-good cause-related marketing stories with your local media.
  • Remember to integrate your message throughout all platforms. Traditional media pitching may find you emailing a reporter, but send a reporter a Tweet, post a picture on Instagram, and ensure your stories can also be found on your own internal communications tools: website, Facebook and more.
  • Finally, remember to be creative, communicate clearly, follow-up and be responsive – most importantly, remember it’s the holidays. Be respectful of vacation days and travel schedule, which may have a significant impact on the timing of your story.

Good luck pitching your next story to the media and Happy Holidays – whether it’s Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve …!


Where do you see the future of PR heading?


Our future is coming together.

As a profession, public relations will redefine itself by casting off the label of “public relations.” Our future is in earning the mantle of strategic counselor and providing leaders with creative solutions to their problems. Clients don’t care what the marketing mix is—and neither should we.

The lines between digital, social media, advertising and public relations are more blurred (and unnecessary) than ever before. Most strategic communication efforts will not require every channel or discipline, but if we fail to consider each one, we run the risk of missed opportunities.

Coming together in this way creates a more desirable market overall. Actually, employment in the PR industry is expected to grow 12 percent by 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Two heads are better than one.

When we collaborate among each other and across disciplines, ideas improve. My background and experience are firmly rooted in public relations, but I learn through collaboration with my colleagues who are experts in design, copywriting, social media and content management.

So, which discipline owns visual storytelling? Better question: who cares?

Embrace the changes in our dynamic profession, explore less familiar territory and chart your best path to success.


How The Parking Lot Can Enhance a Marketing Program

By Amy Kossoff Smith, President Write Ideas, Inc.

I recently published an article on my firm’s site about how a “Parking Lot” approach to marketing discussions can be an incredible tool for adding calm and focus to a meeting.  We’ve used this tactic with great success at our PRConsultants Group conference. When you get 40+ PR professionals in a room, can you imagine how many ideas and topics are on the table?  The excitement for collaboration is measurable, and the topics to discuss on our agenda far exceed our few days together. We’ve used the Parking Lot there to keep the pace moving along and to log important topics for future discussion.

I’ve found myself gravitating toward this many times with clients in recent months, as a way to not only manage a marketing conversation, but in essence, to build a toolbox of tactics for future campaigns as well.  Basically, it’s a place to log, inventory, and save great ideas for later. It gives everyone comfort, because the idea isn’t dead due to a lack of resources or time. It’s simply “on deck.” Sounds promising, right? I love the parking lot for several reasons, but mostly, it’s a great way to get consensus about priorities in an organized and trackable way. What business doesn’t have a wish list of ideas?

It’s particularly useful when you’re publishing a newsletter.  We like to put together 10 ideas when there are room for 5 for a few reasons.  First, it lets the client choose, which is something we all like to do.  Also, it gives you a library of topics for the next round.  It’s the ultimate win-win.

Creative minds have a rapid-fire stream of ideas, and it’s not until you layer strategy on top of that explosiveness, that PR magic can take flight. A theme that has come up repeatedly in our campaigns is the importance of focus. When you’re busy launching a new concept or campaign, it’s easy to get carried away with ideas that are all over the map. Whether the idea is related to marketing, advertising, PR, social, etc., it’s often hard to let go once that idea is on the table.

For more on this topic, and some related articles on the topic, visit my post.

Author Bio:  Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder/Editor of PRCG Powerlines and Founder/President of Write Ideas, Inc., has 20+ years’ experience in retail PR & promotions.  She also publishes an online parenting magazine, The MomTini Lounge.  Featured on The Today Show and all local TV networks, in addition to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, she also publishes a national wire column.


I was invited to hear a story and was forever changed.

Nearly ten months ago a colleague called me about a film project for a small nonprofit that wanted to tell its story and was set to begin a capital campaign to raise awareness.

Our initial meeting with Cy’s Place founders Randy and Ree Erickson and Board member, Dr. Shakila Khan of Mayo Clinic lasted two and half hours and truly could have gone longer…the story was emotional and heart breaking but at the same time beautiful, full of light and hope.  Cy’s Place, a place that kids on the mend and their families can call home while undergoing transplant and stem cell procedures in Rochester, Minnesota was about to launch the Hand in Hand, capital campaign to raise awareness and support to build Minnesota’s first and second only in the country, pediatric transplant hospitality house for families. The estimated $14M project will be a 55,000 square feet home away from home that includes one- and two-bedroom apartments that will accommodate up to 20 families.

It was clear this was an important story not only to tell but to share. Red Couch Stories was engaged to produce a film that would help tell the story. It was very clear to our team that once the film was produced it needed to be shared. That’s where Encore Public Relations didn’t hesitate to step in and volunteer to spread the word.

The story begins with a courageous little boy

Cy’s Place is named after Silas (“Cy” Erickson), the son of Randy and Ree Erickson, a beautiful little boy who courageously and heroically battled cancer and passed away at age three in 2007. When Silas, became sick with cancer, the Erickson’s began walking down an unfamiliar road that filled them with enormous pain that left them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.

During Silas’ heroic battle with cancer, Randy and Ree had to leave their home and jobs in Williston, North Dakota, and spend much of the next eleven months in Rochester, Minnesota where Silas underwent extensive treatment at Mayo Clinic.

In the midst of the chaos and months of treatment, the Erickson’s learned so much. They became familiar with the ins-and-outs of Mayo Clinic—navigating the buildings where treatment, testing, and appointments took place—they learned what it feels like to sit in the hospital and watch as their child struggled for months and months.  They got to know the kind of help that families with a critically ill child in long-term treatment need and the kinds of needs that often go unmet. The Erickson’s experienced firsthand what it was like to need an affordable place to stay for an extended period of time. Through the great pain and loss, the Erickson’s could sense that they were not alone and felt love was  all around. “Through the kindness of others, many of our needs were bountifully addressed and even though there was great pain and sadness, we experienced great light and hope,” said Randy Erickson.

Reflecting back on all of the different people that stepped forward to help, the Erickson’s found a calling was placed deep in their hearts with a desire to help other children and families facing similar medical situations. In late 2011, the Erickson’s moved to Rochester where they found a walk out house that they could renovated into a guest apartment and Cy’s Place received it’s nonprofit status and began operation in early 2013. They’ve been welcoming families from all over the world and say referrals mostly come from word of mouth, churches and communities of faith.

Families with children facing transplants have many needs

For parents whose children are undergoing transplantation it often means uprooting everything; jobs and families as the average stay with a transplant is 100 days or more. Once in the community there are a lot of restrictions on what transplant patients can eat and the environment that is most ideal for them to recover and heal. There is also great monetary expense with having to find a home for an extended period of time.

 “When a child needs a transplant it often involves the entire family,” said Cy’s Place Board Member, Shakila Khan, M.D., Pediatric Hematology/Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant, Mayo Clinic. “Many patients stay in hotels, rent apartments or find other hospitality houses, but in general these are not geared for the specific needs of transplant children or their families. I can’t tell you how valuable Cy’s Place will be to the entire transplant community.”

 Abundant blessings big and small

The Erickson’s a couple of deep faith and belief, see Cy’s Place as a journey built on God’s provision, grace and love. “It’s really an overwhelming sense of joy that we could be a part of this big plan,” said Randy Erickson. “We know the plan probably started way before we even came here, that God had this in mind and sent us here for some reason with a little boy that would change our hearts forever.”

 Along the way the Erickson’s have encountered amazing goodness through the donation of the land, the amazing physician and provider support, board members and a host of community volunteers that have all stepped forward to help. Donations also began trickling in from near and far that seem to show up just when needed most. “We’re just two people. You can’t do much alone. Over the years we’ve continued to pray that God would bring people along the way that would help us with Cy’s Place,” said Ree Erickson. “ It’s just been one example after another of people coming forward, being gracious of their time, talent and treasure. Truly God’s hand is at work.”

A community gathers to hear and share the story

More than 200 people (patients, families, clergy, communities of faith, city, government and providers) gathered on June 18, 2015 for Cy’s Place Hand in Hand capital campaign kick off. It was an opportunity to hear the story and become engaged in the story.

What happened next is a great example of the power of an incredible story and how it has the ability to connect, engage and move others to action. Once the film was created, Encore Public Relations began to talk to media in hopes they would help tell and share the story. It was a beautiful partnership to witness. In less than 72 hours of releasing the film to the first media outlet, The Med City Beat there were over 6,000 views of the film on Med City Beat’s site with hundreds of likes and shares of the story. In short order all local media outlets were given the story to consider that resulted in more than 400,000 viewers, listeners and readers becoming aware of the story in less than three days time. The story is just beginning to surface and the metrics will continue to rise and it will be awesome to witness where Cy’s Place story will go from here.

As the wider community pulls together to make Cy’s Place a reality, organizers hope the end result will be a place where sick children and their families will have a place to stay and a network of love and support wrapped around them. “Over and over we are asked to provide hospitality, and to love each other. That’s the overall theme, and I think it paves the way for us to speak into people’s lives at a time when they desperately need hope,” said Ree Erickson. “When you are struggling through difficult times, people want to know if someone cares. Cy’s Place is an opportunity to love and provide light during the most difficult and dark days of someone life,” said Randy Erickson.

Laurie Archbold is the owner of Encore Public Relations and co-owner at Red Couch Stories in Rochester, MN. You can reach her via Twitter @laarchbold or through or


Bring Your Non-Profits Into Focus

Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management,

We live in an increasingly visual world, where electronic and social media is driving an ever greater need for more and higher quality photos and graphics. In our work with non-profit organizations, we’re seeing many of them scrambling to assemble high-resolution photo libraries that effectively represent their work. Tight budgets generally preclude these organizations from hiring professional photographers, so they rely on the contributions of staff members and volunteers to record their activities and events. The results run the gambit from wonderful candid shots that capture the spirit of their work to blurry shots of the back of peoples’ heads.What can these organizations do to make their photo generation consistently productive?

1.  Be Prepared.

Make a “shot list” ahead of time to ensure you capture the elements you want.

 2.  Keep Snapping

With digital, it costs you nothing and may be the difference between a good photo and a great one. Plus, it’s nice to have different angles for different uses. Photos are great for a quick social media update or news story, or for use in things like newsletters, brochures and event slideshows. Having lots of different options is always helpful.

3.  Be Creative.

You know what you need to capture in a photo, but how can you make it more interesting?

  • Take photos from varying angles and heights. Stand on a chair for a different perspective.
  • Facility spaces are always more interesting with people in them.
  • Capture faces that are filled with expression.
  • Look for active shots rather than a typical head shot.
  • Pay attention to what is in the background of your photo. Does it help tell a story or does it distract from your story? Does it give credit to a sponsor? Does it help define the setting?

4.  Don’t be shy!

Let people know you’ll be taking photos so you won’t feel hesitant to get up close for that personal shot.


  • Take photos of speaker/presenter – close up or from the side of the room, capturing the first few rows of audience.
  • Take photos of groups of people interacting with one another.
  • Make sure rooms are well lit. Try to use natural light as opposed to flash when possible.
  • Create unique photo opportunities – perhaps with signage, props.


  • Photograph a speaker/presenter from the back of the room – they’ll be too small and you’ll get a room full of the backs of heads.
  • Take photos of groups of people at a table such that the main focus is on their backs. Instead focus in on a few sitting next to one another.
  • Take photos of people without enough light or lit from behind.