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Shiny objects and made-up comments fuel PR controversy

This photo from a recent Vanity Fair article (2013) shows the glare from a building, that has resulted in a PR controversy.

By Lisa Faulkner-Dunne, Lisa Faulkner-Dunne and Associates Public Relations

It certainly seems like common sense, and basic ethics, to avoid making up names and  posting rash and inflammatory comments on your client’s digital media pages, or even worse, on their adversary’s or competitor’s  pages.

Yet this ridiculous junior high type behavior happens. In Dallas, a former NBC anchor-turned-PR-specialist (hired, no doubt because he had “good media contacts,”) recently disgraced himself, the law firm that hired him and a high profile client at the City of Dallas, by resorting to such tactics. The client, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund,  owns a high- rise glass building whose reflection is allegedly burning and ruining exhibits at the adjacent Nasher Sculpture Garden.  Much discussion has taken place including possible solutions, name- calling and fault-finding.

The PR guy made the equivalent of prank phone calls, only with higher stakes, as he posted arrogant puffery behind made-up names to make his client look better, and inflame discussion on a variety of blogs and comment strings.

When the house of cards tumbled, he resigned; saying the law firm and his client had no idea what he was doing. Hard to believe, hard to prove, and the client took a definite hit in the ensuing detailed coverage.

The Dallas Chapter of PRSA chastised the so-called PR specialist in a letter to the  editor, in carefully chosen words. But, my favorite letter to the editor came from long-time Dallas PR guru Martha Tiller, who warned that journalists are not trained public relations specialists-and may not have the same grasp of issues. I applaud her honesty.

Sad story of our city

I appreciate your coverage of this story. My heart aches for the Nasher, our police and firefighters, and the city. With all due respect to our media friends who get into public relations, real PR is so much more than trying to manage the news.

Alas, many of them simply do not have the background and training to give proper counsel. Neither do law firms.

Martha Tiller

The take-away?  Something I think we already know…Don’t make things up!

Author Bio:

Lisa Faulkner-Dunne’s has more than 25 years of experience in public relations including several years with the City of Dallas Mayor’s office. In 1992 she created her own agency, where clients have included a variety of retail and non- profit brands. They include Dunkin’ Donuts, Red Mango Frozen Yogurt, MADD, Parkland  Hospital Foundation, Richardson School District Foundation,  March of Dimes; Blockbuster, 7-Eleven, JCPenney, Olive Garden, and Southern Living Plant Collection. Through Citizen Paine PR she has handled projects for: Levi’s, Dockers, Duracell, Hilton Garden Inn, XM Radio, ENOVA, Lipton Tea, Polaroid, Cover Girl, Pampers, Hoover and Old Spice.

Lisa is a charter member and former director of PRCG (PR Consultants’ Group). She volunteers with Ronald McDonald House, and serves as publicity chair for several community organizations.

Lisa is a graduate of Leadership Dallas and is the recipient of numerous awards including a Women in Communications Matrix Award, two Silver Anvils from PRSA, and a Lifetime PTA Membership award. Lisa holds a B.A. from The University of Kentucky and an M.P.A from Southern Methodist University. She lives in Dallas with her husband and too many dogs.  She has never made up a name, ridiculous or otherwise, in order to garner more comments on a story.


Making the Most of the Photo Op

By Linda Little, Linda Little Public Relations

At a recent client event announcing the student winners of a national app challenge, I was reminded about the importance of providing good photo opportunities to the media.  There were the usual speeches and the check presentation in the high school’s technology classroom.  But with several TV stations and other media in attendance, we needed more than a photo of the group around an oversized check.  I pulled the client and the students over to a computer station where the students could show what they had created so far and interact with this business leader.  I knew it was the right move when all the media immediately started taking photos.

In this photo, everyone can be easily identified for the photo caption and it tells more of the story.

Photos are playing an increasing role these days in our PR efforts…not only to gain more coverage from our news releases and events but to increase visibility on blogs and photo-sharing sites.  Jill Ulicney, PR Newswire’s manager of photo products, answered questions in her #ConnectChat and provided some “tips for using photos for PR.”  Here are a few highlights:

What are the benefits of using photos with press releases?

PR Newswire’s Web analytics show that adding a photo to a release can increase views by up to 1.8x.  Distributing a photo with a press release results in broader reach than if the photo or release is sent alone.  Press releases with multimedia content are shared more often than plain text releases via social media.  Multimedia news releases have longer online life.  They generate visibility for an average of 20 days vs. 9.4 days for text-only release.

How many photos are ideal?

I always suggest using at least one.  Use your logo if you don’t have other images handy.  Research shows that sharing multiple photos in a Facebook album can result in a large increase in clicks.

What makes a good photo?

PR photos should be high-res, at least 300 dpi and nine inches on longest side.  Clear images with good lighting and composition are key.  Larger photos are preferred because an image can retain quality if it must be sized down, but quality is lost when enlarged.  Mobile device cameras are improving, but photos from digital SLRs are still preferred.

Also, action shots are more interesting to viewers.  Show the subject doing something instead of having them pose.  Posed large group shots don’t always read well and are less likely to grab attention.

Professional photographers are often the way to go.  They have experience getting the best shots and top-of-the line equipment.

Besides the photo itself, what else should PR pros consider?

It is important to remember photo captions to give context to your images.

What makes a good photo caption?

Major keywords should be at the start of the caption, which should not exceed 2,000 characters.  Photo captions should hit the five W’s – who, what, where, when and why – and can included the URL for the company site.

To read more tips,  go to


Nonprofit PR – You Can’t Afford Not To

By Barb Harris & Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management

There’s always been an appropriate tension between what nonprofit agencies spend on their mission and what they spend on administration. And certainly, that’s a ratio one should consider in evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of a charity. But, the tendency to adhere too rigidly to the “spend as little as you can on admin” often backfires.  As any for-profit business understands, sometimes you have to invest dollars in order to generate

more funds. That means expenditures in facilities, staff, capacity, advertising, and yes, public relations. While nonprofits don’t think in terms of “profits” per se, they do have to think about generating revenue to support their work.

PR can encompass publicity, messaging, crisis communications, and donor communications. An experienced PR consultant can provide targeted, knowledgeable advice about the market in which a nonprofit operates, especially outside its “headquarters” area. For example, the national Minneapolis-based organization, Feed My Starving Children, has generated 19 television placements this year alone in the Phoenix area where it has a distribution facility because our local PR assistance. Those placements have led directly to an increase in volunteers and added donations that more than cover the PR expenditure. Beyond that work, teamworks develops and produces a donor newsletter for a bi-state food bank in Missouri and Illinois that raises more than four times more donations than it costs, plus frees up the charity’s staff to focus on their day-to-day work.

We’ve all seen the toll an unexpected crisis can take on a charitable operation. A misstep by a member of an organization’s leadership team can sabotage donor confidence in the entire effort.  A botched opportunity to get an important message across leaves potential donations on the sidelines. Sound communications planning and execution can directly impact the effectiveness of a capital campaign to expand services. Do you really want an untested novice handling your public relations efforts?

It’s a significant, and perhaps overdue, perspective for nonprofits. Instead of saying they can’t afford to spend money on public relations, they really should be asking themselves if they can afford “not to.”  Gone are the days when the only option was a pricey PR firm (which likely would delegate nonprofit projects to an intern). Experienced PR consultants are readily available at hourly and project rates to provide the help you need, when you need it, without adding a lot of overhead. One way to find the experienced pro you need?  Check out, a network of independent, seasoned PR professionals throughout the country to find a member in your market.

Author Bio:

teamworks communication management is led by Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher – PR pros who each have 20+ years of communications experience, both at major public relations agencies and with our own consulting business. Our strengths lie in sound strategic planning and our ability to effectively develop and manage the execution of communication projects in markets throughout the United States using teams of local market experts.

With offices in Phoenix and St. Louis, teamworks has extensive experience in the retail, food & beverage, non-profit, and consumer products industries.  We develop and coordinate communication campaigns with elements that include communication strategy, message development, communication materials production, radio promotions, community engagement, media relations (traditional and social), and results reporting. We have provided solutions to national clients, including Make-A-Wish® America, Cold Stone Creamery, Relax The Back, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Barnes& On Tour. More info. here.


Toot Your Horn – Companies Should Promote their Cause Marketing

By Barb Harris & Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management

Corporate social responsibility isn’t a new concept. Many companies participate in charitable giving; some even do “cause marketing.” But do most do enough to let their customers know about their giving? Do they give their customers opportunities to join in supporting the chosen cause? Does their charitable giving program involve their employees? Are they getting enough “upside” to warrant maintaining or even expanding their giving?

Corporate giving, of course, starts with a donation to a worthwhile cause. But too many companies, large and small, fail to incorporate additional levels of participation that can directly impact their own bottom line. For example, companies can incorporate a local, regional or national communications campaign to interest existing customers in the cause and to attract new customers. Together, they can help the cause and be part of the change. PR events in markets around the country can direct customers to their stores, wherever they are located (think of the Macy’s Make-A-Wish Believe Campaign).  Sponsoring and promoting local charitable events, with appropriate PR support in traditional and social media, can play a vital role in attracting more customers and in making a further impact on the cause they support.

In a November 2011 article by Geoffrey Lean in The Telegraph, Sir Richard Branson was quoted talking about how he wants his companies to do more good. “If companies become a force for good, the people working for them will be that much more motivated and their brands will shine that much brighter amongst others.”

The same article also quotes a study by LeapCR, conducted across 10 of the world’s largest countries by GDP, which revealed that 93 percent of consumers say they would buy a product because of its association with a good cause.

At teamworks communication management we’ve noticed a definite trend toward smart and compassionate business and charitable partnerships that are a “win-win” for both parties. We’ve matched up new business ventures with charity partners for their grand openings; provided local market media support for national corporations and their chosen charities; and incorporated charitable components to retail store events and social media outreach.  We believe that doing good is good business. Don’t be afraid to let your existing and potential customers know how your business is impacting the causes and communities they care about.

Author Bio:

teamworks communication management is led by Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher – PR pros who each have 20+ years of communications experience, both at major public relations agencies and with our own consulting business. Our strengths lie in sound strategic planning and our ability to effectively develop and manage the execution of communication projects in markets throughout the United States using teams of local market experts.

With offices in Phoenix and St. Louis, teamworks has extensive experience in the retail, food & beverage, non-profit, and consumer products industries.  We develop and coordinate communication campaigns with elements that include communication strategy, message development, communication materials production, radio promotions, community engagement, media relations (traditional and social), and results reporting. We have provided solutions to national clients, including Make-A-Wish® America, Cold Stone Creamery, Relax The Back, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Barnes& On Tour. More info. here.


Media Relations Strategy: PR Does Not Stand for “Press Release”

By Ellie Rand, Public Relations Accounts Supervisor, Deveney Communication

As published in Bulldog Reporter Daily ‘Dog on June 25, 2013

PR does not stand for “press release.”

Although that fact may be obvious to us practitioners, many people assume media relations, including the writing and pitching of press releases, is the primary function of a public relations professional.

I understand the confusion. While other PR tactics, such as partnerships, internal communications and social media efforts, are often employed as part of a comprehensive campaign, the work we do with the news media is often the most compelling.

Media relations efforts can be offensive or defensive. Landing your fashion designer client’s new handbag in Vogue? Offense. Drafting a statement to address alleged sweatshop conditions where that handbag was made? Defense. Definitely defense.

Whether you’re charged with generating consumer coverage or asked to ride point on a developing crisis, you need to be confident in the area of media relations.

Developing confidence in media relations requires the same steps it takes to master most anything. Consider cooking. Or baseball. First you need passion. You need to love it enough to keep going when progress isn’t apparent. Acquire the right tools and equipment, and then learn how to use them. Practice constantly. Consult the experts and learn from mistakes. Once you have the basics down, when you can chop an onion with your eyes closed or field a grounder on a slick field, take risks. Deviate from the recipe. Steal home. Text an editor a short pitch idea they have already turned down, citing a recent event that increases its relevancy.

Here are 3 absolutes I employ in any media relations effort:

1.  Consume the Media Targets

Read the writers and editors you pitch. I mean really read. Not scroll. Understand what details interests that particular writer and then fold that element into your pitch. Attempting to generate a summer travel story for your hotel client? Identify a travel writer who has mentioned a wife or kids in his past articles and then craft the pitch to mention family travel deals and opportunities at the hotel.

Similarly, drop an email to a reporter whose story you enjoyed or to an editor whose blog was especially insightful. They will appreciate your interest in their work and that you took that time to contact them without asking for something.

If you are in a crisis situation, research the reporter who is launching the offensive. Does she know much about your industry? If not, provide helpful background that positions you and your clients as the experts. Does she routinely go back to the same sources? If so, contact those individuals and provide them with information that supports your messaging.

2.  Give the News Media What They Need, When They Need It

Research your media targets to identify existing segments or sections in which your client can easily fit. Watch the morning shows. Listen to the drive time business report. Know what slots the producers need to fill and craft your pitch to fit the opportunity.

In the “timing is everything” department, know that editorial calendars are a terrific resource in Media Relations planning. Editorial calendars, whose main purpose to facilitate ad sales, allow Media Relations specialists to know for certain what topics will be hot and when. I use editorial calendars as a foundation for most of my content and pitch plans.

Timing is also important on the defensive side of the ball. The first question to an inquiring investigative reporter should be about deadlines. If he plans to air something that afternoon, you may want to provide a simple statement that can buy you time while not appearing “duck and cover.”  However, if the piece is still a few days away, you may consider inviting the reporter to sit down with your client once you’ve developed your messaging and administered media training.

3.  Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up

When I started in PR, dialing a push button phone after mailing or faxing a press release was the most technologically advanced form of reaching a member of the news media. Email and text messaging allows us to distribute information much more comprehensively and efficiently. However, technology also enables everyone else to distribute their information much more comprehensively and efficiently. The result? Email inboxes so full that your pitch has likely entered the black hole. If so, pick up the phone.  Call the same day you hit “send.” Leave a message. If you’re lucky enough to speak with the editor, assume she has not read your email. Shorten and summarize. Pause for acknowledgement. Try again.

Follow Up is also important in crisis mode. Ensure the reporter received the statement. Clarify and confirm the quotes he intends to use. Ask the timing and tone of the piece while offering assistance to provide further sources that support your messaging.  While these efforts may not head off a negative story, they will build your credibility and help maintain a good relationship with that specific reporter.

Be familiar with the style and content of media outlets with whom you work. Provide useful and timely information that meets the needs of the media. Don’t assume the media received your pitch or other communications.  While these absolutes may be simple, adhering to them will help achieve Media Relations success while rounding out your Public Relations skill set.

Ellie is the Public Relations Accounts Supervisor at Deveney Communication in New Orleans, LA. She began her career in Media Relations as a Publicist with Simon & Schuster in New York City over 20 years ago, after serving as an editorial assistant to the late Hunter S. Thompson.  Ellie holds a Masters in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University and is a mom,  published essayist and show tune junkie.


Sticks and Stones: Grown-ups Behaving Badly Online

By Jen Evans, Principal, JL Evans Communications

Do you sometimes edit, or even erase, a drafted comment or post on a digital forum for fear of being verbally annihilated? Sometimes I stay silent on topics because I just can’t stand the pain that follows from the angry mob. I’m not defending any individual or organization that says or does something stupid, insensitive or just plain wrong. I AM asserting that we have a problem with online behavior in professional forums as well as individual ones. This is about grown-ups behaving badly.

As a PR professional, I know that online reputation managers struggle to find the balance between waving the flag for issues of importance versus ticking off their fan base. Large organizations and individuals with sizable fans/followers/advocates are  better equipped to handle criticism through social media channels, but they are not bullet-proof.  Below, a few recent cases you can easily source online.

Paula Deen, @paula_deen on Twitter, famous for her calorie-rich Southern cooking, recently lost her Food Network show contract after a deposition she made went public stemming from a court case where she is accused of making racial slurs among other things.

Guy Kawasaki, @guykawasaki on Twitter, has more than 4 million followers. In the midst of the Boston Marathon bombing, his scheduled posts kept coming – apparently including a positive post about the Marathon that clued in followers that he wasn’t paying attention to real time events.

These are examples of public figures.  And many will argue that they deserve the verbal bashing.  But what about the rants and insults that we see in friends’ posts directed at each other or even some other individual not present in the online discussion? Can we try a little harder to be kind in our social media conversations? It is possible to state your position without making generalizations or making someone else feel small because they have a different position. But what are some tools for change in our daily habits?

I like these 6 simple steps, curiously found on the guy-focused site Art of Manliness, because they are truly gender neutral.

1)    Remember there is a real person/people on the other side

2)    Don’t say it online if you wouldn’t say it to their face

3)    Use your real name

4)    Sit on it

5)    Don’t respond at all

6)    Say something positive

There are some wonderful resources and posts out there to help us all remember our manners. I listed just a few here. What are yours?

Author Bio:  Jennifer Evans, Principal of JL Evans Communications, is an inherently curious, “neurotically productive” community advocate who has invested more than 17 years in business and community to better understand why people and businesses make the investments they do and how to guide them to fruitful relationships. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @jlevans.


It’s that time of year: Finding your first job

By Margaret Nathan, Partner, Strategic Communication, Inc.

Every year starting in June, I start to get phone calls, email and the like, “Can you help, my daughter, son, neighbor’s child, niece, nephew, friend of a friend’s child get a job in PR or in some cases a job in other fields?”  I never say no.

My first question to these budding communication types and job seekers is, “What are you doing to find a job?”  They all say the same,  “I have my resume on every jobsite on the internet. I follow up with email and posts everyday, I just can’t understand, I’m not even getting an interview.”

This is like telling someone there isn’t a Santa Claus.  PEOPLE hire people. The Internet does not hire people.  You need to go to your parents and ask for their contacts, your college professors, your college placement center, your aunts and uncles, your college friends parents and find out who they know and get an introduction to “real” people who can actually hire you.

So why do I do this, and why should every adult in every field help a new fledgling group of college graduates find their first job?  Not because it’s fun, even though it is.  I love when they call and say, “I got a job.”  I’m in the PR business, but my college job-placed young adults have been in every field imaginable.  I do it for fun.  I love to connect people; it’s part of my DNA.  I was told by one of the managing editors at USA Today, “You are the original Facebook,” because I love to connect the dots for reporters too.

I realized this week; I have a huge group of young people in my circle of connections. I’m still connecting them, but they are also connecting me to their friends, their voices, their thinking.   The gift of helping people find their first job is a gift that keeps on giving.  Here’s a  link to a super great primer on cover letters from, just had to include, “5 Nontraditional Cover Letters That Worked.”


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