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Old Friends, New Faces: A Lesson In Networking

Note: In this guest column, career expert, author, Dallas Morning News columnist and friend of PRCG Tami Cannizzaro shares her thoughts on visiting our recent conference in Dallas. It’s also a great piece on networking! We enjoyed it so much we thought we’d share it here.

By Tami Cannizzaro

“OMG! You look awesome!”  “So great to see you!”  “How in the world are things going?”  “We have SO MUCH to talk about!”

The room was buzzing with everyone talking, and shrieking as another person entered.  The beautiful hors d’oeuvres went untouched; no time to eat when we had so much to say.

It was a business meeting, the kick-off event that would set the tone for the rest of the week. Colleagues who had become friends, getting together to catch up.

There’s nothing like it, is there? The camaraderie, the excitement, the “Is that what you really look like?”

Say what?!

Yes, despite years of doing business together, this was the first time some of us had ever met in person. The event could have been titled, “Old friends, new faces”.

I was particularly interested in attending since it would be the first time I would meet my publicist, live, in person. 

Yet it didn’t really matter if we met or not. We already knew each other.  Over the years we have logged countless hours on the phone. We’ve texted and Skyped and emailed and Facebook’d and Tweeted. Our business relationship is as rock-solid as if we had originally met in person.

So how did we ever find each other, several states away? Through networking, of course.

Much is said about the importance of networking in the business world.  I talk a lot about it during presentations on career transition or when I’m working with college students. Who you know – your network – will be instrumental in both your business life and your personal life.

You never know who you know that knows someone.

My story is a classic example of networking at its best. It happened organically, which is usually the case.  I was talking to another person in my network about a project I was working on when she suggested I contact her colleague, who had experience in the same area.

Introductions were made, we had a phone conversation and before you know it we had a business deal.

Similarly, job opportunities can happen through networking.  It’s not always what you know but who you know.

Networking is so important to me that I purposely set aside time to send short notes to people, forward job leads, or to simply say hi.  Even if it’s just a quick acknowledgement on social media, at least they know I’m there.

It amazes me that others don’t understand the power of networking. Recently I had someone tell me that they don’t use LinkedIn or Facebook.  The reason? They don’t have time.

Whoa. That makes my head hurt.

Both are great networking tools, with different purposes that make it easy to connect with others.  LinkedIn should be a no-brainer for everyone of working age.  It’s your online showcase that tells your professional story to business colleagues.  Recruiters search LinkedIn too, looking for qualified candidates.

FaceBook is clearly more social yet can be effective at building your network. Friends have other friends that might be able to help you professionally.  Just be sure to take it off-line when you need to chat about a job.

Many people tell me that social media is a time-suck and that’s why they don’t use it.  I say that’s an excuse; one that is only going to hurt them in the end.

Networking is part of your job, requiring some time and effort, as well as a bit of strategy. Build it into your work plan, set aside time, and do it.

Or you can sit back and wait until you really need a recommendation or, heaven forbid, a new job.  That strategy – or lack of networking – may bite you in the butt.


PRCG Conference Roundup 2015: Dallas, Texas

By Amy Kossoff Smith, Write Ideas, Inc., and Founder/Editor PRCG Powerlines

Boots and lots of brainstorming were on the ground in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, this year for the PRConsultants Group Annual Conference. More than 40 of the network’s markets attended for professional development, networking, and of course, some great Tex-Mex food. Themed, “Not the same old bull,” there was a healthy dose of humor and Southwestern fun as we held our annual crash course in PR education together.

Here are highlights from this year’s conference:

  • Day One, after a team brainstorm (get ready to be wowed in 2015 by some new programs and initiatives now percolating at PRCG’s Virtual Think Tank), the group headed to the Fort Worth Stockyards to hear how social media/PR fuels ticket sales at this bull-riding town. Then, Dr. Adam Richards, TCU professor and author, discussed “Theories of Persuasion,” and challenged our group to consider how messages are received when crafting PR campaigns.
  • Day Two, it started off “social” as Zoetica Media’s Kami Huyse presented “From Flirting to Commitment: How to Build Relationships with Online Influencers.” Huyse discussed the importance of building a community or joining one. Examples include Facebook groups & pages, #Hashtags, and specialty conferences. She reinforced how important it is to create experiences for bloggers that are meaningful to their focus and presented some unique ways to measure PR success from a community perspective.
  • Then, several PRCG member firms presented case studies in “Community Engagement” to illustrate how unique tactics and innovative approaches can fuel a non-profit or cause-related campaign.

o   teamworks communication management’s Barb Harris & Sharon Kreher presented a great way to consolidate a multi-faceted client platform into a coordinated campaign.

o   Nic Creative’s Nicole Candler suggested to work the connections in your community to engage networks to match a cause with achieving goals.

  • Continuing the non-profit agenda, the group learned new PR strategies from a panel of Dallas-based non-profit leaders. Some interesting highlights about these organizations follow…

o   Genesis Women’s Shelter – Domestic violence is “equal opportunity” and knows no boundaries of race or economy. Every 12 seconds, a woman is battered. Our speaker discussed strategies for marketing to multiple audiences – victims, gatekeepers (people who know victims), and donors.

o   American Heart Association – We heard about the organization’s successes and ongoing goals to decrease death from heart disease and to increase healthy living habits. Further, being involved with a cause is good for business. The AHA’s campaign, “Life is Why,” gets people to explore why being healthy is relevant.

o   Dallas Arboretum – It was interesting to learn how they use segmented marketing through education and entertainment for adults & children using tactics such as photography, outdoor concerts, painting outdoors, how to plant a rose garden to attract visitors.

o   Duck Team 6 Street Dog Rescue – Arf! Their mission is “to reduce street dog population through capture, placement, and outreach.” They work with other dog rescue groups to find and place animals that are otherwise at risk. Their PR efforts use digital/video tactics to share unique stories of their rescued dogs and community outreach such as free vaccination clinics and feeding people in need, including dog food so underprivileged individuals don’t have to share their food with the dogs.

  • A Conference highlight, Tech Tools with PRCG’s Julie Dennehy (Dennehy PR) and Toni Antonetti (PR Chicago), showcased 2015 trends including wearable tech, geolocation, photo/video enhancement, etc. Dennehy and Antonetti developed a Pinterest board to broadcast lots of these unique ways to use technology to increase efficiency and creativity, many at a reasonable or even zero cost.

Day Three

  • Rena Pederson, former Dallas Morning News VP and author, talked to our group about considering our legacy. She shared highlights from high profile interviews she has conducted and been the subject of. Pederson has interviewed Fidel Castro, Margaret Thatcher, Lucille Ball, and Julia Child. She shared some profound thoughts, too many to list here, but I’ll share my favorite for PR/marketing folks who love to talk, “While you’re here, and when you go home, imagine you’re only an ear. You can’t talk, but have to listen. Pay attention to the people around you.”
  • Dave Lieber, Dallas Morning News Columnist, storyteller, and a.k.a. “Yankee Cowboy,” said that we live in a bullet point/powerpoint world, but that it’s STORIES that really fire the brains. He illustrated this theory of show and tell with creative, amusing, and heartwarming stories from his own career and personal track.

And it’s a wrap! This post went way beyond my usual or recommended word count, but even with quick highlights, you can see how much is happening at PRConsultants Group! Here’s to a great 2015 for our firms, our clients, and the world of PR.

A very special thanks to our conference co-chairs Lisa Faulkner-Dunne and Jen Evans and their entire committee for the incredible line-up this year. Also, a shout out to our Conference Sponsors (BusinessWire, StatePoint Media, and Spoken Here, who not only supported our program, but went out of their way to discuss ways their products can amplify our PR programs nationwide.

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, she also publishes a national wire column.  For the purposes of this post, she did not ride a bull, but enjoyed taking pictures of fellow PRC friends braving the bull!  And…she hasn’t yet met a Tex-Mex salsa she didn’t love!


Public Relations Pros Adapt in a Soft Economy

By Jennifer Evans

I live and work in Houston, Texas. Houston is known for many things, but the oil & gas industry remains a driving business here. Consequently, we see indicators of economic dips due to oil prices before other U.S. markets. While I don’t want to discourage anyone unduly, we are seeing some of those signs in the U.S. and in Texas right now. Public Relations practitioners – internal as well as agency leaders – should pay attention and prepare to help clients/employers adapt. After all, part of the job is therapy, right? Here are a few handy tips to help you help your clients.

1)      Be prepared to have the conversation – Expect your client to raise the subject of budget reduction at some point this year. Don’t be offended. Great people and teams lose their jobs every day. Put on your game face, your big girl or boy pants and have suggestions ready.

2)      Evaluate the budget – Examine the client’s budget with them and make recommendations of small or large items that can be postponed or eliminated. This is a great time to consider shifting from a print newsletter to an e-news format, for example. Zoetica Media’s Kami Huyse offers some excellent tips to measure social media efforts. What needs to change?

3)      Invest in new, modest pursuits – Instinct may initially drive you to cut the new, cool stuff. DON’T. Find a way to help your client try some of those new things. Here’s an excellent read in PR Daily on new trends – give you any ideas?

4)      Put the microscope on events – Social events are necessary for business development, and fundraisers are necessary for non-profits. That said, this is an excellent time to look at ROI on these events and make tweaks. Help your client do a reboot of a renewing event by making the calls to action tighter and the budget leaner. Adjust the timing. Check out Katie Delahaye Paine’s blog for some excellent case studies.

5)      Staff smart(er) – OK, this is sensitive territory. Is there a staff adjustment from your own support package or from the client’s team that should be made? If you are billing your client every month for personnel, you owe it to yourself and your client to evaluate. If the client has a mandate to cut from their own staff resources, help them manage the pain and make the best decision.

6)      No free lunch – One of my clients held a recurring weekly meeting as a brown-bag lunch for almost a year – and no one complained. Help your client eliminate schmooze costs from the budget. Lunch for 10 people at $10 each once a week = $5,200 annually. That’s money any business can repurpose. Since we’re still talking about New Year’s resolutions, it’s an excellent time to change the meeting time and offer some budget-friendly, healthy snacks and water.

Be the chameleon now, and avoid pain later!

Jennifer Evans owns a Public Relations agency in Houston, Texas. She can be found at, @jlevans on Twitter and jenniferlevanspr on LinkedIn.


Stop Saying You’re Too Old, Please.

By Melissa Libby

I bet we’ve all heard, and maybe said, statements like “We need a 20-something to handle this,” or “I’ll ask my children how this works,” or “I’m too old for <insert social media channel here>.” Although usually spoken in jest, these are harmful words for senior PR practitioners to use. Keep it up and your next line may be “I need a job.”

Staying on top of technology is not that hard. In fact, it’s simple. We’ve done it all our lives! Some may remember the advent of television. Not that difficult to learn how to turn it on, change channels, and watch a show, right? Others may recall their first fax machine. Besides the slimy paper, it was a great advancement for disseminating information and PR people embraced it. How about personal computers? How did we live without them?

Let’s not “age out” of our business by refusing to learn about Instagram or proclaiming Facebook “useless.” Our clients need our continued curiosity and optimism for the future of communications. Our co-workers, employees and media contacts (of all ages!) are proficient in these tools and, in many cases, prefer them. Any PR person who decides he is “too old” for new communication avenues is putting himself on a dangerous path to obsolescence.

This is an exciting time to be a PR practitioner – don’t miss out!

Melissa Libby owns a restaurant PR agency based in Atlanta. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@MelissaL), Instagram (@melissalibbyatl) and others!


At the Heart of Public Relations is a Powerful Story

It’s a privilege to be invited to listen to someone tell their story. It’s an even greater honor to be trusted to be a steward of their story, and to help find ways to share it where it most needs to be heard.

When we listen to someone’s story it’s an opportunity to widen perspective, learn and grow. If a story has made an impact on our heart, we will be forever changed and be moved to action. We know that by working together we are able to effect change and improve our world. Stories have the ability to take us on journeys related to challenges, pain and uncertainty but also lead us to places where our spirits can soar as we celebrate unrelenting tenacity, positive outlooks and laser sharp focus that triumphs over adversity and leads to change that can make a difference.

Pretty altruistic, absolutely! I am passionate about the pr profession because I’ve seen first hand how the power of stories can impact brands, reputations and lives. As a former broadcast journalist, my foundation is the discipline and practice of storytelling. I’ve been fortunate to have a career in television news, PR agency, non-profit and corporate communication environments. I can look back now and see the strong impact of telling stories that matter.

Telling a story is the most historical and fundamental communication method that has been around since the beginning of time, yet today it remains one of the most powerful and effective ways to connect and motivate others to action. Our 24/7 information worlds, has pushed us into ferocious consumers of content. Businesses and organizations are forced to wrestle with increasing demands for high production levels of content amid shrinking staff, resources and budgets. With more social tools and digital communication continuing to rise, there’s a great need to rise above the noise and create authentic, rich content that is not only integrated and cohesive, but content that is real, true and fosters meaningful connections.

Solid brand stories earn and build trust with your audiences. When brand stories are authentic and not self-serving, it reaches your target audience with an experience that emotionally makes a connection well before a purchasing or engagement decision is ever made. Telling your integrated brand story effectively is a long-term investment that builds authentic connections over time that leads to loyal brand ambassadors that will share your story.

About the Author:


Laura Archbold, is founder of Encore Public Relations an integrated content strategy firm and co-founder of Red Couch Stories a creative editorial production company in Rochester, Minnesota. She’s been privileged to tell and share stories for more than 23 years and is an invited member of Public Relations Consultants Group (PRCG) and the National Association for Professional Women.


A little girl – and her parents – reach out to a big world


A rare, progressive and fatal disease. A little more than a year ago, this was the diagnosis given to 2-year-old Katherine Belle in Kentucky. It was a devastating and isolating realization for KB’s parents – if only for a little while.

While KB’s diagnosis has been a pendulum of answers and questions; more questions than answers. We know that KB has a rare disease, but we also know she’s not alone.

Her father is an attorney and her mother has a growing list of professional experience as a blogger, photographer, social media explorer and, most recently, Rare Disease Hunter. Together they have started a blog Hope For Katherine Belle and a Facebook page detailing their journey to find a cure for KB. Their sites receive considerable attention (not just because KB is cute) because they are using social media tactics to reach out to a big world to find a cure for their little girl.

For KB’s cause or any other organization, it is critical to engage others.

They rally. Those of us who surround KB and her family struggled with ways to comfort them and help find a solution. We felt equally helpless after each diagnosis. But, KB’s parents, in a time of despair, help redirect the energy to projects that would make a change and even find a cure. At first the supporters began by sharing KB’s story with others. They posted their #hopeforKB message on their on social media networks. Photos of messages in the sand, on chalkboards and displayed in lights were posted by friends across the nation. From KB’s parents high school classmates to world-wide celebrities like Cee Lo Green and Courtney Cox, the hashtag trend elevated KB’s message to a national audience but also provided a great boost to KB’s family and the tribe of followers.

They call. Since then, the tribe has been called to other actions beyond sharing and spreading – things that will have a tangible impact. They’ve been asked to contact their U.S. representatives encouraging them to fund the National Institute of Health’s research programs, to spread the word about Rare Disease Day and, to help provide for medical expenses not covered by insurance.

They shared. KB’s parents told a hard and honesty story. I don’t know how they have been able to see through their tears to do it. I could barely see though mine to read the Dad’s raw and beautiful account of relaying the doctor’s call to his wife.

On the advice of friends – and probably therapists – KB’s parents continue to publish the joys, journey and other pivotal moments since their daughter’s first diagnosis. By sharing their story, they have shown that KB’s disease is not as isolated as they thought. Their social media outreach has linked them with dozens of other parents in the world facing other rare diseases. Through these connections, KB’s parents have learned about research programs, connected with medical specialists, and received a great deal of emotional support.

Their outreach has resulted in an article in The New York Times and their efforts have gained attention from Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. More importantly, it has linked them to professional medical experts and linked them to testing and treatment options that may bring them closer to a cure. Most importantly, it’s connected them with other families also seeking a cure for rare disease.

As a parent, I imagine that KB’s Mom and Dad would prefer to not have this story to tell and share with the world. But they do. The world is amazingly big, but approachably small for a rare little girl in Kentucky.

Nicole Candler, APR is owner of Nic Creative Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. She is a member of the Kentucky Commission on Women where she met KB’s remarkable mother, Glenda McCoy.


Snark Gone Bad Can Lead to Workplace Abuse

By Dawn Stranne, President, Dawn Stranne & Associates

Happy Snark Free Day! Today, our group of public relations professionals from every corner of America asks everyone to take some time to think about the power of words and to be snark free, just for a day.

Snark gone bad can cross over the ugly line into bullying at the office. For most of us, we probably experience or dish out a little snark at work now and then. But for those who have been bullied, snark is probably where the bully began the torture.

While Snark Free Day doesn’t address that level of abuse, it is important to those of us who make a living in communications to be aware of such workplace abuse issues.

How is snark different than bullying? Bullying is a pattern that systematically beats down an employee. Make no mistake, morale and productivity can suffer in an atmosphere of bullying or snark.

A 2010 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) found that 35% of the U.S. workforce (an est. 53.5 million Americans) reported being bullied at work and an additional 15% witnessed it.

Surprisingly, there is not a single federal or state anti-bullying law for the workplace in America. Two months ago, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2053 requiring managers to undergo training on preventing abusive conduct at work. California’s new law is a start, but it is far short of the proposed Healthy Workplace Bill, which has been introduced in many states and defines an abusive work environment, gives employers reason to terminate or sanction offenders, allows the target to sue the bully as an individual, and seeks restoration of lost wages and benefits.

The Healthy Workplace Bill calls for action when mistreatment is so severe that it impairs a worker’s health. No bullying case is trivial when a person suffers cardiovascular disease or some other stress-related health complication that prevents them from being a productive worker.

Some think that Federal Employment Discrimination laws would cover bullying. But, they only cover a hostile work environment if the recipient of the mistreatment is a member of a protected status group based on gender, race, disability, etc.

Others say that workplace abuse is best dealt with by employers. According to the WBI, when employers are told about incidents of bullying, nearly half do nothing, while 18% worsen the situation by retaliating against the individual(s) who reported it.

So, what can we do now?
1) Watch for snark gone bad and speak up for conflict-free work zones.
2) Review corporate statements of vision, mission and values—see if they promote a healthy work environment and are upheld.
3) See if a Healthy Workplace Bill has been introduced in your state.

If you know someone who has been bullied in the workplace, offer your support and suggest they consider professional help. Until there are laws against workplace bullies, they will need to look for a new job. Your words of encouragement can mean the difference between a tragedy and survival to someone who has been bullied.

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