Friday, April 16, 2010

April 21 PRSA Program

When the Sonics were dragged out of Seattle back in 2008, it left a void in the hearts of those die hard Seattle sports fans. True, we still had our M's and our Hawks, but Seattle residents were caught off guard with the scandalous intentions of one Oklahoma City business group and were eager to prove their worth as a supportive, loyal and (sometimes) rowdy group.

It wasn't long until that void was filled with the Seattle Sounders FC playing their first MLS season in 2009. With Seattle's already established fan loyalty for local sports franchises and strong soccer fan base, it was no surprise that the Sounders FC sold more season tickets that year than any other MLS club in the league’s 13-year existence.

2009 was a fantastic opening season for the Sounders who went on to win the U.S. Open Cup tournament and made it to the conference semifinals. The Sounders were well on their way to marking a brand on the city of Seattle and it's residents. But how did they do it in one short season? Seattle Sounders FC's Gary Wright, senior vice president and Stephanie Gray, business operations and marketing director, can tell you how.

The Seattle Sounders is a brand that the entire region can claim as its own. Learn how the PR and Marketing teams contributed to that success during the April 21 PRSA Program - Sounders Magic: Making of a Brand. We’ll hear from Gary Wright and Stephanie Gray about the tactics and strategies used for their success. Wright served 33 years with the Seattle Seahawks and spearheaded the launch of the Seattle Sounders last year. Gray joined him in marketing the brand, and the rest is history.

As a member of the PRSA Programs committee, I'm excited to see this event take place next Wednesday, 7:30 to 9am at the Washington Athletic Club. As a loyal and rowdy Sounders fan, I am pumped to learn more about my favorite MLS team. And, as a PR professional looking to break into the world of sports marketing, I'm looking forward to acting as a sponge and soaking up all the wisdom provided by Wright and Gray.

Anyone else?! What about next Wednesday's event are you looking forward to?

Be sure to spread the word and register for the event at Cost is $32 for PRSA members and students, $45 for non members; breakfast included.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Steps to Surviving a Crisis and Maintaining a Positive Reputation

Between personnel strikes, plane crashes and chemical spills, Boeing Commercial Airplanes has experienced their fair share of crisis, making Peter Conte and Jim Proulx, very experienced in crisis communication planning.

Peter Conte and Jim Proulx, leaders of Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ communications and media teams, broke down the 12 steps to preparing for a crisis and creating a reaction plan during July’s PRSA Program.

“The best way to respond is to be prepared,” said Peter, manager of the Boeing Everett site’s communication team.

The first two steps of being prepared are to know what a crisis is and then to define what a crisis is for your organization or what it would take to be considered a crisis situation. It is important to understand and examine what events could cause media or public interest for your organization.

The third step in plan preparation would be to set communication objectives. What do you want your crisis plan to achieve? Jim and Peter provided some great examples such as “alleviate employees’ and community members’ concerns.”

Peter said the fourth step, identifying your audiences, is important because “what and how you communicate could change depending on the audience.” What is said to your external audiences may need to be different than what is said to your internal audiences.

Step five has to do with the roles and responsibilities of certain members of the organization. What should others be doing in response to the crisis and who will be the spokesperson?

Steps six and seven deal with the notification and communication processes. It is important to determine how you should be notified of a crisis, and in turn, who you should notify. Often time, the media may be the first to notify you of a crisis situation.

“The media want the most information when you have the least,” said Jim, manager of a communications team leading Media Relations for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. He said it is perfectly acceptable to tell the media you will get right back to them once you have all the necessary facts. Once you know all there is to know, it is crucial your response follows a step-by-step procedure based on the established roles and responsibilities.

Step eight, identify the spokesperson, is crucial because you need to know who is going to be the person speaking on behalf of the organization during a time of crisis. Will it be the Government Affairs or Human Resources leader? Jim and Peter also mentioned that it is important to consider the ‘surprise’ spokesperson. The cashier at Starbucks, for example, make sure they know what to say and have the correct contact information to pass on to the media.

The next step during a crisis would be to determine the key messages and plan for the release of the information. What do you want to be said about your organization and who do you want to say it to? Peter and Jim suggest prioritizing your media contacts. Don’t reach out to whoever contacted you first, seek out those who reach your target audience.

Step eleven suggests using tools to improve your responses. Your plan should include tools such as phone lists and incident information sheets.

The final step includes checking and improving your plan. A real crisis presents an opportunity to improve your plan and learn lessons. A crisis plan should constantly be updated and ready for use.

Jim and Peter provided many great examples of crisis preparation and with these steps, any organization should be able to create a crisis plan that can be implemented during their own time of need. After all, a crisis plan should be created during peacetime, so you are ready for war, said Jim.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lessons from Microsoft in Using Podcasts

It’s no surprise that our colleagues in Redmond are tapping new media in smart and engaging ways for employees. At the June PRSA breakfast program, Microsoft New Media Business Manager Paolo Tosolini shared how the software giant has turned to podcasting to mobilize its workforce and provide updates on key issues, products and services.
Tosolini became enamored with podcasts several years ago as he commuted to work each day and realized he could use the time to listen to downloaded content on his iPod. He soon became the number one advocate for the communications vehicle at Microsoft.
While the company’s sales team was the first to share information via video and audio files, it’s now permeated throughout the organization. Finance, HR, virtually every workgroup at the company now produces content. In the past two years, employees have created nearly 8,000 podcasts. During the past 12 months, there’ve been 200,000 file downloads.
Making content production easy for employees has been a key to success. Employees use flip cams for quick video segments. A recording studio is available for executives who want to produce slightly more polished pieces. Microsoft even uses a special voicemail box to collect messages that can be posted.
An editorial team manages the main podcast page using a platform called Academy Mobile. Special “channels” provide podcasts geared to specific departments and work groups. Filters are also used to help sort different podcasts by subject, by the workgroup that produced it, etc. Content creators select a series of tags before they post their podcasts.
Tosolini shared several examples of podcasts that illustrate how video can be used in creative, fun and quirky ways. The video segments can help sell the personality of a product, make company executives more accessible to employees and build greater connections among the workforce.
Other companies have also used podcasts successfully with their employees for several years, including Deloitte, IBM and Delta Airlines.
More about Paolo Tosolini’s work is available on YouTube, Seattle Social Media and other sites (see links below).

Posted by VP of Administration Neil Neroutsos
6/23/09, 4:45 p.m.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Raise your profile with an award winning PR campaign

The PRSA Puget Sound May Program couldn't have been planned at a better time-- giving potential Totem Award Winners a huge head start on the awards application process and arming them with helpful tips to give them the edge.

If you missed this program, don't despair. While you might have missed some great tips from our May panelists, fellow PRSA leader Cathy Hinrichsen of C&C Communications has shared her Top 10 Tips for Creating an Award-Winning Campaign.

1. Do your homework! Find out as much as you can about the awards program.
  • Get lists of past winners. Most competitions have lists of winners online now.
  • Look at previous entries; try to get copies of the entry summaries. Some of these are online too.
  • Talk to colleagues who have entered.
  • Find out as much as you can about the judging criteria. Try to get a copy of the judging scoresheet if you can. (Many competitions are reluctant to release this, but they should not be. You have the right to know on what criteria you will be judged.)
  • Decide if this is the right competition for you based on the criteria. For example, if results count for 35 percent of the score, and you don’t have results yet, wait till next year.
  • Read articles about how to win awards. PRSA, IABC and PR Week all have articles available online.
  • Go to the awards ceremony and spend time looking at the entries. DON’T blow it off just because you didn’t win.
  • Serve as a judge. This is the BEST way to get a handle on what makes a winning entry.
2. Choose the right category and the right competition. For example, if your only results are media coverage, Totems and Silver Anvil are not the right competitions for you.

3. Make sure the person preparing your entry has a clear understanding of public relations and of your program. Don’t consider this a subordinate task.
  • Understand the elements of public relations planning -- ESPECIALLY objectives: measurable behavioral change among your target audience.
  • Understand your program’s value and be able to explain it. Answer the question “So what?”
4. Gather materials as the year progresses. For example, don’t try to compile a clip report an hour before the deadline; be sure to get a screen shot of your Web site BEFORE the company gets bought out and the site no longer exists; and so on.

5. Plan ahead. Allot at least 5-10 hours for each entry, depending on the complexity (some can take up to 40 or even more). Think about the details BEFORE the last minute. Gather the entry binder supplies early; start filling out the entry form as you begin writing the entry.

6. Take a step back and look at your entry as an outsider:
- the project - your company - our area - the industry
Get outside feedback. Ask someone not involved with the project to review the entry at the early stage.

  • Restrict your summary length to the page limit, or all that work is wasted – you'll be disqualified.
  • Note when you must submit multiple copies of the summary, entry form or even – gasp – the binder.
8. Make it as easy as possible on the judges. Remember, the judges are your audience now.
  • Start your entry summary with a one-sentence or one-paragraph description of the program purpose and results.
  • Study what criteria the judges will use to judge your entry. Set up your entry summary to follow these criteria, and name your sub-heads to follow.
  • Point out what’s significant and different. Did you exceed expectations? SAY SO!
  • Provide more than what they ask for – details, documentation – but keep it clear and simple.
  • Always provide the big picture; explain the context and relevance.
  • Explain your challenges. If you succeeded against strong odds, your chances of winning are better.
  • Organize your binder in an orderly, logical manner. Label EVERYTHING – collateral doesn’t talk.
9. Make sure your entry looks like you put time and care into it. It should be flawless. Proof it carefully.

10. If you don't win this year, learn from your mistakes and try again next year.

Be sure to check out the information on the Puget Sound PRSA Totem Awards site, including:
PRSA Totem Award entries are generally due in November or early December. Watch your Newsflash for details but, as Cathy advises, it's never too soon to start working on your entry!

Other awards programs:
Add other awards programs in the comments section-- and please feel free to share your top tips for award-winning campaigns!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reinventing Ourselves

“The Career Re-Invention Workshop: Making the Leap to Your Post-Journalism Career”

University of Washington, Seattle, 9:00am-12:00

The Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) named the program “the Career Re-invention Workshop.”, one of the event’s sponsors, provided door prizes that reminded attendees that our “calling is calling.” Whatever the tag line, the morning was full of sage advice for professionals transitioning from one world to another in a turbulent economy. Especially designed for journalists seeking new career opportunities, the workshop was useful for everyone trying to reimagine themselves.

I was glad to be there.

The nine speakers on two moderated panels told candid stories of their own transitions. They shared vivid accounts of being humbled and let us glimpse the stresses of bleeding their savings while trying to follow their passions. Such directness gave their take-home messages gravitas.

Among others: Be positive. See the challenges of lay-offs and industry implosions as opportunities. Keep learning, always. Volunteer. Own the process. Define who you are by the skills and successes you have, not by the jobs you’ve done or the titles you’ve held. Promote yourself.

Great SABJ care went into organizing the morning sessions. The first panel, moderated by Paul Hollie, Vice-President for Public Relations at Safeco (right), included four speakers:

  • Alex Fryer, Media Relations Manager for the Office of Mayor Greg Nickels;
  • Justin Carder, Vice President for Business Development at Instivate;
  • Hugo Kugiya, former national reporter for Newsday and the Associated Press, and currently a freelance journalist; and
  • Gary Washburn, former sports reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The panelists (left) described in detail their own experiences of moving out of one successful and satisfying career and into—or toward, for those whose transitions are not yet complete—another.

The second session provided us with an inside view from the other side of the hiring desk—straight talk from recruiters and hiring managers about what they are looking for in competitive job candidates.

Moderated by Raina Wagner from the Seattle Times, this panel included:

  • Scott Battishill, Senior Vice President of DDB;
  • Jack Evans, Director of Public Relations for Legal and Policy Issues at Microsoft;
  • Natasha Jones, Deputy Communications Director for the Office of the King County Executive;
  • Susan Long-Walsh, principal of her own recruiting firm; and
  • Rhonda Woods, Human Resources Recruiter for Seattle University.
The speakers shared lots of practical tips on effective resume-writing and self-branding, on traditional interview strategies and on ways to harness new social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to build one’s professional presence.

Following the public panel sessions, three recruiters met with individuals to review and critique their current resumes.

I attended this morning’s workshop because the SABJ had reached out to invite members from the PRSA Puget Sound Chapter. I very much appreciate that courtesy, and am grateful for the chance to participate in such an excellent program. It was balanced, authoritative, encouraging, and practical. More than that, the planning team from SABJ made us all feel welcome and valued, sharing in the duress and promise of the stressed economy. It was a community-building event, and the informal conversations with speakers and audience members during the breaks and following the formal sessions only enriched our shared sense of having been present for something very good.

Only a little sheepishly, I must add too that I came away with one of the cool door prizes.

Rich Murphy, PhD, APR

Member, Board of Directors

PRSA Puget Sound

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Listen: 20 Tips and Tricks

Open Boat Advertising's Bruce Bulloch allows us to revisit the March meeting's 20 Tips & Tricks from top Puget Sound area communicators via podcast.

Thank you, Bruce, for helping us capture the great information provided to our members!

Review other PRSA Puget Sound program podcasts here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

After the event: April kitchen table discussion on sustainability

"As a society, we've always assumed that growth is both in inevitable and positive: 'bigger is better,' 'you grow or you die.' When our economies sour, as they inevitable do, we simply look for new technologies, new resources, and new consumers. In America we have always been able to go west whenever we needed more breathing space or more virgin groves of trees to cut or more prairies to till. Now, we hunt new export markets and new Third World resources for raw materials. Free trade is replacing the microchip as our new savior. But Third World resources are close to exhaustion, and many world economies, burdened by debt, are no longer viable dumping grounds for our manufactured goods."
-Yvon Chouinard in Patagonia: The Next Hundred Years.

So what is sustainability and how are companies communicating sustainable practices?

PRSA members, students and guests gathered this morning at The Seattle Times for a kitchen table discussion about this challenging topic.

Sheryl Wiser of Cascade Harvest moderated a panel including: Marty McDonald, the founder and Creative Director of egg; Hilary Bromberg, egg strategic director; Bryan Cohen, founding partner of Colehour+Cohen; and Elisa Murray, director of communications for Global Partnerships.

Left to right: Elisa Murray, Marty McDonald, Hilary Bromberg, Bryan Cohen

In an effort to define sustainability, panelists explained how communicators need to understand the idea of a product or service's life cycle. They encouraged professionals to consider how business can create prosperity that won't come at an expense to future generations.

"Sustainability is defined," McDonald said, "But unattainable."

McDonald emphasized that companies are 'course correcting' with a willingness to put effort into doing business in a less unsustainable state. He asked audience members to consider Patagonia's 100-year business plan and think about what companies can do to ensure that people seven generations from now can maintain the same quality of life that they have today.

Unfortunately, companies today communicate with undefined terms (e.g. local, green, natural, eco-friendly, etc...) to promote brands that may not deliver.

"[Companies] put out these good words and people, by association, will come to see your company as a good company," McDonald said.

In reality, people are confused by the terms that are out there.

There's a confluence of things in people heads, Murray explained. People combine and confuse the ideals of social responsibility, health, simple living and control, and we find that there is a conscious consumer continuum of what people understand.

"It is our mission as communicators to close that gap," Cohen said.

The best businesses are:

1. Inclusive- Companies that address the social, economic and environmental "triple bottom line".

2. Hold values company-wide- Companies that are committed to their values from the top down and the bottom up.

3. Engage in a dialogue about progress- Companies that let consumers know where they've been, where they are and where they're headed.

4. Walking the walk- Rather than throwing out words, successful businesses integrate sustainable values into the decisions they make.

5. Understand their higher calling- Companies that know what the social and environmental impact of their product or service is and are aware of the true cost of that impact.

The discussion of sustainability (environmental+social+economic) is not a fad. As communicators, the panelists encouraged due diligence and effective research.

How do you figure out what you don't know and what you can't answer and then address those weaknesses? This is our responsibility as professionals.

Elisa Murray & Sheryl Wiser

PRSA Board Member, Bev Holland, speaks to event attendees

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Media Relations in the Shrinking World of Media

We had another packed house at the PRSA Puget Sound South Sound group today. Communicators at varying levels of new media adoption joined a lively group of speakers to hear about the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly changing media landscape.

Our speakers?

- Hunter George, Pierce County Communications Director (formerly with The News Tribune)

- Breanne Coats, Associate Editor, Business Examiner

- Aaron Blank, Vice President of Media Relations, The Fearey Group

Rather than recap the event, I'll share a couple of random links based on today's discussion:

Aaron Blank's blog

Exit 133

A Twitter primer — in way more than 140 characters

Learn how to get video on your boss's radar

Shrinking world update

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tips & tricks from the region's top communicators

If you could teach communications professionals one tip for successful PR campaigns what would it be?

On Wednesday, March 18, PRSA Puget Sound invited four of the region's most innovative practioners to answer that question in a panel presentation called "20 Tips and Tricks:"

--David Blandford, the director of public relations for Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau

--Aaron Blank, vice president of media relations at The Fearey Group

--Suzanne Hartman, APR, director of communication and public affairs at Seattle City Light
--Brian Seitz, group marketing manager at Microsoft

Nearly 50 audience members learned tips about:
  • Research and ROI from Hartman
  • Accessibility and engagement from Seitz
  • What to include in a social media newsroom from Blank
  • How to align a story for impact from Blandford.
Together, the speakers covered some of the most important components in successful campaigns.

“Media is not everything.” Blandford explained as he described engaging internal and external communication gatekeepers.

Blank agreed by commenting on how online grassroots efforts can get an organization’s message out. “Social media is trial by error,” he described. Building online communities is a tool that can be used as a resource for your clients.

“How will you measure success?” Hartman asked the audience to question their efforts in the context of both personal and professional goal achievement. There are so many tools available today. PR professionals must understand which ones drive each individual business.

During the question and answer session, engaged audience members gained specific examples and tactics.

Today professionals learned and exchanged skills in successful campaign planning and execution. What’s your best tip?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Listen to the February Podcast!

As promised, our good friend, Bruce Bulloch at Open Boat Advertising has once again provided the PRSA Puget Sound with a great podcast of our February program on multicultural communications featuring:
* Steve Sneed, the Managing Artistic Director of Cultural Programs at Seattle Center
* Lauri Jordana, founder and principal of Conexión Marketing
* Chris Nishiwaki, Communications Director for Sound Mental Health.


And be sure to join us at the March Program in Seattle to learn 20 Tips and Tricks from Top Puget Sound Communicators!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More on the multicultural program

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008, American minorities, now roughly one-third of the U.S. population, will become the majority in 2042. Furthermore, by 2030, nearly one in five U.S. residents is expected to be 65 and older. On February 18, PRSA Puget Sound addressed the changes in culture and ethnic identity at its monthly meeting event titled: “Building relationships in a new multi-cultural world.”

Three panelists spoke to the value of multicultural outreach (L-R)
  • Steve Sneed, the Managing Artistic Director of Cultural Programs at Seattle Center
  • Lauri Jordana, founder and principal of Conexión Marketing
  • Chris Nishiwaki, Communications Director for Sound Mental Health.

What are ‘cultural communities’?
Throughout the event, panelists referred to diverse ethnic, racial and generational audiences as cultural communities. This term helps professionals understand that the multicultural discussion is not just about racial demographics, but reaches out to the diverse populations of:
  • Women
  • Youth
  • Seniors
  • People with disabilities,
  • Veterans
  • Religious sectors and
  • Many other groups that should be represented in multicultural campaigns.
Panelists urged participants to learn multicultural terminology. As communicators, it will be necessary to make sure that everyone understands what we mean when we say ‘diversity’.

Everything we’ve been taught as PR professionals applies to communities of culture.
  • Practitioners must build relationships by establishing trust.
  • When working with cultural communities, organizations and entities that want to collaborate must be willing to offer honest and open conversation.
  • Panelists encouraged participants to create and hold focus groups to listen to what people are saying; allowing the community to lead campaign efforts.
Language is important.
“So often we see companies who have put together a piece by cutting corners,” Lauri Jordana said. “They’ll know.”

Be willing to invest in professional translation to assure that your message is conveyed accurately and powerfully. There are several professional organizations that offer this service in Seattle.

Multicultural campaigns are not about ethnicity and the media outlet; they’re about the demographic and the media outlet.

Professionals must understand the demographics of a target audience and how those demographics use specific media.

“Fundamentally, the communities of color are no different from the rest of the population,” Chris Nishiwaki said. “There are publications that celebrate diverse audiences every day of the year. If you’re pitching to the ethnic press, every day is awareness month.”

Diversity comes from within. Look inward at your own personnel.

“Are your personnel representative of your clients or the audience you’re trying to reach?” Chris Nishiwaki asked. Organizations need to recognize diversity as more than just an afterthought. It should be a piece of the overall strategy.

By 2050, the minority population-everyone except for non-Hispanic, single-race whites- is projected to be 235.7 million out of a total U.S. population of 439 million. Will you be reaching them?

Blog post and photos courtesy of PRSA Puget Sound Chapter Programs Committee member, Sarah Zaenger. Check out her blog, My Experiential Learning.

Special thanks to Programs Committee member, Sheryl Wiser, pictured above with speaker, Lauri Jordana, for developing such a great program!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Communicating in a multicultural world

This morning's PRSA program on diversity challenged attendees. "Look around the room," one of the speakers said. "Let's be frank. How many people who are here would identify themselves as persons of color?"

His question was met with silence.

Which was just one indicator that such programs are needed for the Puget Sound Chapter of PRSA.

"Building Relationships in a New Multi-Cultural World" brought together African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American speakers to help communications professionals think in new ways about how to reach ethnically and racially diverse audiences.

Steve Sneed, the managing artistic director for cultural programs at Seattle Center, urged attendees to reach out, to establish trust with partners and prospective clients from other communities and language groups.

Lauri Jordana, principal at Conexion Marketing, insisted that diversity shouldn't be an afterthought. It should be a sustained commitment by professionals to reach, serve, and partner with their audiences.

Chris Nishiwaki, communications director for Sound Mental Health, reminded the audience that what they'd learned in Communications 101 applies to all communities, not just their own:

  • Build relationships;
  • Don't assume that audiences are homogenous;
  • Make multi-cultural connections every day of the year.

Program moderator, Sheryl Wiser, added that "diversity" also means more than racial, ethnic, or language difference. It includes age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and the many other differences that divide and isolate us from one another.

The themes of this morning's program deserve our careful consideration. If you were unable to attend, a podcast of the discussion will be available here soon. If you were there, it's worth listening in again.

PRSA's mission is to develop a profession that serves clients with the very best counsel and expertise. Toward that goal, we could do nothing better than to extend ourselves to build a multicultural community reflecting the richly diverse world in which we live.

Rich Murphy, PhD, APR
PRSA Puget Sound Board member

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Struggling to gain traction in this tough economy?

If you missed the PRSA Puget Sound January Program, it's not too late to learn what you missed. Thanks to a podcast by Bruce Bulloch from Open Boat Advertising, you can still hear the expert tips from our January speakers, Judy Cushman and Mark Tranter.

Take a few minutes to listen to this podcast for a frank discussion on:

* The Puget Sound PR employment environment
* Handling an impending lay-off
* How PR professionals unintentionally sabotage themselves in the interview process
* Back to the basics rules to give you an edge in a highly competitive job market
* Why you should constantly network to give yourself an edge in competitive times.

As President of Seattle-based Judith Cushman & Associates, Judy Cushman leads national search efforts ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to agencies and smaller companies. With more than 25 years in the field, she approaches each search strategically with up-front, in-depth analysis of the company, the position and the candidate profile. Ms. Cushman is a frequent workshop leader, speaking to communications groups across the country about trends affecting the profession.

Mark Tranter is a partner in CFO Selections, providing finance and accounting executive search and interim consulting services to a wide range of organizations in the West. Prior to joining CFO selections, he co-founded Human Capital Advisors to provide companies with top executive talent and help thousands of successful executives around the country with their career progression.

This may be the best 20 minutes you've spent recently!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thawing the Seattle freeze: Network through PRSA

Be sure to check out PRSA Programs Committee Member Sarah Zaenger's blog post regarding this morning's PRSA meeting.

If you're new to PR, or new to the Seattle PR scene, joining PRSA may be just what you need to break the ice.

If you're serious about making new connections and establishing a good reputation among peers, contact our volunteer coordinator, Janelle Guthrie, APR, and volunteer to help out!

Contact: or find her on our Linked In or Facebook groups.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

More tips on networking

The AP today reports jobless claims are rising more than expected but new PRSA National Chair Michael Cherenson assures us in a recent interview that PR is more recession-proof than ever.

But don't sabotage yourself. Communitelligence offers its top 10 networking mistakes today, gathered from contacts who "feel they've been used, abused and otherwise mistreated by recently downsized professionals."

Aside from these tips, senior Puget Sound PRSA professionals have also offered these bits of wisdom:
  • Know when it's appropriate to network for job opportunities. One of the biggest reasons some senior professionals don't attend PRSA events is because they felt like people were always hitting them up for jobs. PRSA events are a great place to network, but save the informational interview for a mutually agreed-upon time.
  • Present yourself professionally at informational interviews. Your contact may not have an immediate opening but may have one pending. Be prepared to be interviewed for a potential position when arrive.
  • Be gracious. Stand out from the crowd by sending a thank you note and recognizing your contact for their time. I like to pop a little $5 coffee card or something in the note to reinforce my gratitude.

Good luck and for more tips, don't miss the January 21 PRSA Program at The Seattle Times featuring more tips and tricks for weathering a tough economy.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year--Happy Job Hunting

In this tough economy, if you're not even a little bit worried about your financial future... I want to know your secret!

Even if you have nothing to worry about, you can't go wrong by securing your position.

Join us on January 21 at The Seattle Times Auditorium for a frank discussion on:
  • The Puget Sound PR employment environment
  • Handling an impending lay-off
  • How PR professionals unintentionally sabotage themselves in the interviewing process
  • Common sense rules to give you an edge in a highly competitive job market

As President of Seattle-based Judith Cushman & Associates, Judy Cushman leads national search efforts ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to agencies and smaller companies. With more than 25 years in the field, she approaches each search strategically with up-front, in-depth analysis of the company, the position and the candidate profile. Ms. Cushman is a frequent workshop leader, speaking to communications groups across the country about trends affecting the profession.

Mark Tranter is a partner in CFO Selections, providing finance and accounting executive search and interim consulting services to a wide range of organizations in the West. Prior to joining CFO selections, he co-founded Human Capital Advisors to provide companies with top executive talent and help thousands of successful executives around the country with their career progression.


Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009


7:30 a.m. (meet and greet); 8 to 9 a.m. (program)


Seattle Times Auditorium, 1120 John Street, Seattle, 98109


$24 for PRSA members; $30 for non-PRSA members; $5 for PRSSA members


Register Online or call 206-623-8632

In the meantime, share your tips with your colleagues here!

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's nice to be important but more important to be nice...

Growing up, my mom impressed upon me how important good manners and courtesy are-- no matter where you are in life.

But if you're like me, you can always use a refresher course. That's why I loved the summer edition of the "Communications Cocktail" from Frause reminding us that "Courtesy Rules!"

Who better than public relations professionals to set the bar on courtesy and gracious living?

Among other refreshing tidbits, Bob Frause shares some helpful Web sites to help you brush up on your table etiquette:
  • What's Cooking In America
  • Dining Etiquette for the Fast Food Generation
  • Eating Etiquette

  • I learned one of my favorite personal etiquette tips from Attorney General Rob McKenna who has attended just few Rotary lunches and charity auction dinners. Who hasn't been at a table where someone selects the wrong bread plate and by the time the bread basket makes it around the table there's an odd man out with a roll in one hand and a bread plate across the table? Rob taught me an easy way to always remember where the bread plate and drinking glass go.

    Simply touch your index fingers to your thumbs on each hand and leave the rest of the fingers straight. Your right hand will form a "d" to remind you your drinking glass goes to the right of your place setting. Your left hand will form a "b" to remind you your bread plate is on the left. Now you can always start your table off in the right direction!

    Don't say I never taught you anything...

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Changing face of the newsroom

    A reporter friend and I were chatting about the increasing pressures on traditional print journalists in a rapidly changing media environment the other day. Reporters are blogging and shooting video--all while filing their daily stories for the print edition and worrying whether they'll be included in the next round of staff reductions.

    To learn how this impacts us, media relations professionals might be interested in this recent study by Pew Research on the changing face of the newsroom.

    The study covers six main areas:
    Cutbacks--examining the depth of staff reductions and how larger and smaller newspapers have been affected;
    Changing Content--looking at what topics are losing space and resources, which are growing and which are holding steady;
    The Changing Newsroom--charting the transformation of newsroom skills, demands and culture; The Influence of the Web--studying the enormous impact newspaper websites are having on newsrooms and on daily newspaper journalism;
    Citizen In the Newsroom-- exploring the growing influence and impact of journalism produced by non-professional journalists; and
    The Future--weighing the implications of smaller newsrooms, greater innovation, more financial pressures and the struggle to monetize the web.


    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Easy ways to improve employee communications

    Following up on last month's program on employee communications, Ragan Communication has an intriguing story today on easy ways to improve internal communication--without asking permission.
    #1: Focus on the why
    #2: Hold informal focus groups
    #3: Create experiences for employees
    #4: Stop hiring writers
    #5: Give management options
    #6: Lighten up

    Saturday, June 21, 2008

    Cultivating Employee Evangelists

    Recruiting and retaining a qualified and effective workforce can be challenging within the limitations of any sector. But many executives overlook their greatest asset in this effort - their employees. Employees who feel appreciated will naturally talk about their employer and the jobs they enjoy to their families, friends and colleagues. Internal communications plays a vital role in fostering this positive employee satisfaction.

    On June 19, Sarah Lane (Internal Communications manager for the Office of the Attorney General) and I shared easy and inexpensive tips from our office's internal communications efforts to help communicators from any size organization make solid connections across their staff.

    Key takeaways from our presentation:
    • Help employees embrace change by:
      -- Listening to your employees
      -- Demonstrating commitment to them
      -- Engaging top leadership
    • Recognize employee achievement:
      -- Set high standards
      -- Reward excellence
    • Keep employees informed & maintain high morale:
      -- Develop connections
      -- Encourage innovation
      -- Demonstrate respect

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Trends and Tips in Travel PR

    The travel industry is one of America's largest with $740 billion in direct expenditures by travelers domestic and international (Travel Industry of America). At our May 22 program, Richmond Public Relations CEO Louis Richmond led a three-person panel of travel experts through a discussion of hot trends and helpful tips.

    Carol Pucci, Travelwise writer for The Seattle Times, says: Keep it simple. Stay focused on our region. Don't get overly cute with packaging.

    Ashley Southwick, publicist for Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door, agrees--reminding PR pros to follow the age-old rule: Know who you're pitching.

    Fancy packaging and gift items are nice--especially wine, she says, but they won't get you in Rick's guidebook unless you belong in the guidebook.

    Nicole Meoli, editor of AAA Journey magazine and freelance travel writer,says never underestimate the power of the telephone. In this era of e-mail overload, Nicole prefers a quick personal call with well-researched pitch.

    Close to home, ecotourism, learning tours and family trips are the top trends for these panelists. With rising gas prices and shrinking down time, it's really no surprise.

    Tell us about your favorite getaways!

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Looking for a few good new hires?

    While visiting WSU for the 2008 Murrow Symposium this year, I had the opportunity to preview the project five WSU seniors entered in the 2008 PRSA Bateman Competition.This just in:

    PULLMAN, Wash. -- The Public Relations Society of America awarded Honorable Mention to five Washington State University students who competed in a four-month long national public relations competition.

    Senior public relations students Justin Dotterweich, Jessica Fitts, Jana Lindsey, Alana Morgan and Kirby Pratt participated in the 2008 Bateman Case Study competition. Stacey Hust, assistant professor in communication, advised the team. The team competed against more than 70 teams that represented some of the best public relations programs in the country. (read more...)

    Congratulations everyone!

    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    Honoring Edward R. Murrow's Legacy with WSU PRSSA

    To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful--Edward R. Murrow

    I've just returned from Washington State University where I participated in the 2008 Edward R. Murrow Symposium. It's my first trip back to Pullman for the symposium and I'm filled with renewed optimism for our field and renewed passion for communications.

    There's nothing more inspiring than spending several days with dedicated educators, highly respected colleagues and intelligent and ambitious students.

    Thank you to everyone who made my trip so special--especially the WSU PRSSA chapter (right), WSU's PRSSA faculty advisor Stacey Hust, Professor Bruce Pinkleton and Professor Erika Weintraub Austin, interim director of the Murrow School of Communications--soon to be the Murrow College.

    If you missed it, you're in luck. You can check out the 2008 Murrow Award Winner, 60 Minutes creator and former executive producer Don Hewitt, on TVW.

    TVW also captured two of the panels:
    Enjoy and Go Cougs!

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    Using social media to boost your PR outreach

    The rapidly evolving world of social media offers new opportunities for public relations professionals willing to test-drive the technology.

    Nathan Kaiser, CEO of nPost, and Frank X. Shaw, who leads the Microsoft team at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, shared tips for reaching key audiences through channels other than the mainstream media during PRSA Puget Sound’s morning presentation, “Innovations in New Media,” March 27 in Seattle.

    They said the value of social media such as blogs vs. the tried and true classics, such as newsprint and TV, depends on your audience. A young guy who tells all his online friends about his cool new shoes may be more influential than, say, an article in the business section announcing Nike’s latest product line.

    But when Sarah Lacy, the author of a Business Week cover article and a book about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, interviewed him during a conference of techies, the crowd turned ugly. Lacy’s casual interview style didn’t jive well with the South by Southwest Interactive audience. Among the spectators were a number of bloggers who used Twitter to broadcast their opinions about the interview while it was happening.

    Our PRSA presenters offered many pearls of wisdom, which I’ve broken down into the following bits:

    · Be present online, as well as in the room. If you know that bloggers will attend an event, assign someone from your organization to monitor online conversations. Your speaker might even benefit by having a laptop in front of him or her. You can then decide whether to change the direction of the presentation. Or even better, create a mechanism for your online audience to interact and suggest topics that interest them.
    · Establish relationships. Get to know bloggers as well as you do the reporter at your local newspaper. Check out Twitter, Technorati and TechCrunch to find out who is covering your organization, product or service.
    · For every project, try something new that not’s critical to your success. If it works, add that tactic to your toolbox. And remember that while it’s always more interesting to focus on what’s cutting edge, you shouldn’t throw away proven strategies.
    · Measure your success. At the minimum, you need to know where your story was picked up. Google News and Google Blogsearch can send alerts to your e-mail account when news occurs. Choose a few keywords, like your company’s name, and receive headlines with links the moment the stories are posted or in a daily digest. You should also pay attention to content: Are your key messages coming across? Track comments and reactions, too: What conversations did the report spark? Services like Compete and Alexa offer analytical tools, while TechMeme can help you identify the most important technology-related stories of the day.
    · Be responsive. If a blogger is critical of your organization or service, thank him or her for the comment and say what you’re doing to fix the problem. If you resolve the issue, a critic may become your biggest fan. If a story sparks a flurry of negative reader comments, step back and give folks some time to cool down before you reply. Include a link to your Web site to assure your key messages consistently reach the people who care most about the issue.
    Courtesy of Guest Blogger Kristin Alexander, Seattle Media Relations Manager, Washington State Attorney General's Office.

    Sunday, February 10, 2008

    Jumpstarting your passion for PR

    If you haven't had the opportunity to enjoy the PRSA Jumpstart, you are truly missing out.

    On Saturday, roughly 60 new PR professionals, students and career changers gathered at Seattle University to take advantage of some of the most cost-effective PR professional development and networking in our area--some traveling more than nine hours to make it to the event since the passes were closed due to weather. (Go Cougs!)

    As 2008 president, I was honored to provide opening remarks, making the connection between strategic communications planning and plotting your career path. Here's a condensed version based on the RACE method of communications planning.

    Research: Do your homework. As you chart your career, one of the most important steps is research.

    • Determine your problem statement and research the factors behind it. I want a job at a big agency but I don’t have any experience.

    • Just as you would conduct a situational—or SWOT—analysis before undertaking a new communications campaign, you need to consider the following throughout your career:

    • What are your strengths? You’re a great writer, you have tremendous creative ability?

    • What are your weaknesses? You lack attention to detail? You don’t have as much experience as you’d like?

    • What opportunities do you have? You are familiar and comfortable with the new PR technologies?

    • What threats do you face? You don’t have any real life experience?

    • Who are your key audiences? HR managers? Small firm president? Communications director at a government agency? Exec director at a non-profit?

    • What are they interested in? Hiring a capable, credible staffer.

    • What time constraints do they face? They might be doing two jobs until the new hire is on board. They might be taking time away from a high-profile client to interview you.

    • Put yourself in their shoes. Why are you the best candidate for the job? Why should you win that great, high-profile assignment? Why should you be promoted?

    • Be specific, have examples, provide hard data but also keep it simple and concise—Bring clips, quantify how many clips you have, document how many volunteer hours you’ve put in on PR projects, grades, references

    Action: Set forth your plan of ACTION

    • Set your goals—Your broad dream of what you want to accomplish. To get a job at Microsoft. To win a promotion to account manager or deputy communications director.

    • Establish objectives—Who is your audience? What do you want them to do? By when? By how much? Demonstrate to communications director that I’ve completed XX number of projects over and above my day-to-day expectations and should be promoted by my next review.

    • Devise strategies to achieve your objectives. Strategies are focused on broad areas. Then you’ll employ various day-to-day tactics under each strategy to win that great job, promotion or raise. Look for projects above and beyond my day-to-day work and offer to do them to demonstrate initiative. Complete every assignment given to me early or in an excellent manner, exceeding expectations. Be creative. Don’t make your boss have to constantly assign things to you—start learning what needs to be done and do it. WELL. Demonstrate my passion for the Red Cross by volunteering on projects even if they don’t have an opening for me right now.

    Communicate: Put your plan into action.

    • Think about the day-to-day tactics and timelines you’ll need to meet to back up the strategies you are pursuing. Keep a check list or to-do list of all your job duties and a timeline of when your supervisor asked you to complete them—Be accountable. Make a list of projects your group wants to complete that you can volunteer to help complete. Ask your boss if you can go forth and do them. If you don’t have a job, make a list all the same with tactics like, update resume, research Microsoft’s latest initiatives, schedule informational interviews, attend PRSA meetings and network.

    Evaluate: Are you meeting your objectives? Do you need to adjust? This is where you go back to your research and objectives and check in with your key audiences to see how your strategies and tactics are working.

    • Maybe you’re volunteering for extra projects but you’re letting your day-to-day work slide. Someone has to monitor the clipping service, answer the phones, etc.

    • Maybe you’re volunteering for the extra projects and setting an expectation you haven’t been able to meet. Don’t be all talk and no action!

    • Maybe you’re knocking it out of the park – and you’ll be promoted early!!

    • Maybe you’ll have to take a little detour in your job search? Always keep your options open-everything you learn in PR can be applied in the future.

    • Checking in with your key audience – supervisor, potential hiring manager, etc—is never a bad idea, in moderation. If you don’t have anything new to provide to a hiring manager, don’t just keep bothering them every week. Pestering drives people crazy, but persistence and perseverance demonstrate passion, focus and drive.

    Congratulations to everyone who attended this year's Jumpstart and a tremenous THANK YOU to all the speakers and committee members who created yet another top-notch Jumpstart.

    Please help me out by posting additional resources in the comments!

    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    Local Independent featured in PRSA Tactics

    For those of you (like me), who sometimes have trouble finding time to read PRSA Tactics, I wanted to make sure you didn't miss "Small shops, big business: Independent practitioners share ideas, gain respect," in the January 2008 issue, featuring our own Joseph Jimenez, APR.

    This article captures the best nuggets from a PRSA panel featuring Jimenez and three other members of the Independent Practitioners Alliance.

    Moderated by Tactics editor in chief John Elsasser, the panel discussed challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.

    Jimenez is a well-known expert on risk communication in Puget Sound circles, presenting a great program on the issue to the South Sound group in 2007 and to the Olympia Communicators Group in 2006. You can check out the presentation on the Olympia Communicators Web site.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008

    Political PR: It's not just for pundits

    On Jan. 8, as the presidential candidates duked it in New Hampshire in the first official primary of the 2008 presidential primary season, members of the PRSA Puget Sound Chapter were treated to a unique inside look at the political season--and why PR professionals should pay attention.
    In a program most would have to catch on TV, PRSA members experienced firsthand a stimulating discussion, featuring two of the state's top political advisors, Republican strategist Randy Pepple and Democratic strategist Cathy Allen, moderated by one of Seattle TV's most respected political journalists, Robert Mak, host of KING 5's Up Front.

    What's the main difference between campaign PR and corporate PR? What's the difference between developing a campaign for a product or corporation -- and developing a political campaign? Time. Money. Audience.
    Both Randy and Cathy agreed that the pressure and timeline of a political campaign requires PR professionals to develop hard-hitting, impactful and short-term strategies to reach a broader audience on a much smaller budget than your typical corporate campaign.

    The intensity of the campaign forces strategists to go for the shock value-- meaning more negative than positive.

    In a traditional PR campaign, Allen budgets roughly two years' time to impact public opinion, in a political campaign, she says advisors have nine months or less to make an impression.

    Strategies have to be flexible enough to change over night, Pepple said.

    Working on a statewide campaign is like PR Bootcamp-- if you can't react quickly, you are done. If you're ready to really test your media relations and crisis communications skills and you have a favorite candidate, this is the year, Pepple and Allen agreed.

    Campaigns are always looking for knowledgeable PR professionals to jump into the trenches and help out. It's a great way to prove yourself and develop a reputation.

    Even if you're more of an independent, not interested in delving into the world of political campaigns, Cathy, Randy and Robert agreed, people look to public relations leaders to have some basic knowledge of how the 2008 elections are shaping up and what it means.

    Here's a little nugget you can drop: This is the first time since 1952 that no sitting president or vice president is on the ticket. It's all up for grabs!

    There was so much more ... but it's too long for a blog post! Wish you were there...

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    Happy New Year

    Welcome to 2008-- and the 51st year of PRSA in the Puget Sound. We had an incredible year last year and look forward to more great programming and fun networking this year.

    Have you decided to make career development and networking one of your New Year's resolutions? Volunteering with PRSA is a great way to achieve your goals.

    If you'd like to be more involved this year, please contact one of the following board liaisons:

    If you have questions about any of these opportunities, please contact Erika Schmidt, APR, past president and leadership development liaison at or me at

    Here's to a great 2008! Cheers,

    Janelle Guthrie, APR-- 2008 Puget Sound Chapter President

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    50 Years in PR

    Happy Holidays!

    If you weren't lucky enough to attend the 50th Anniversary Gala, you can still enjoy this incredible video tribute, chronicling our chapter's first 50 years and looking into the future.

    Kudos to
    • Erik Elvejord, editor and PRSA Board Treasurer;
    • Paul Lasley recording and narration; and
    • Julie Hunt, The Edge Creative, production.
    And a special thank you to outgoing PRSA president David Blandford for having the vision and determination not to miss a single opportunity to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in PR.

    Tuesday, August 28, 2007

    Do's and Don'ts for Times Op-Ed Writers

    For those of you who weren't able to join us for our sold out "Spotlight on Seattle Times" program last week, I thought I'd provide some Do's and Don'ts for Seattle Times Op-Ed Writers, provided by Jim Vesely, editorial page editor at The Seattle Times.

    Special thanks to Jim and Managing Editor David Boardman for their insight (and humor). Additional thanks to Corey Digiacinto for helping us arrange this great event!


    1. DO have an opinion and state it forcefully. Many opinion pieces submitted are explanations of an issue rather than an argument about an issue.

    2. DO present the case from the top down. It’s usually better to begin with the premise rather than assembling the facts and presenting a conclusion at the end.

    3. DO read The Seattle Times before submitting an article. You should know some of the basics: space available, the general tone and format of op-eds. If The Times ran a piece on the same subject last week, have a good reason an editor should revisit the topic.

    4. DO be timely. Editorial pages prefer essays about the events of the current season.

    5. DO be patient. Typically, an author will say…”I’ve worked on this piece for the past month. Can you get it in the paper tomorrow?” It’s better to call or email us before you assume we will use a piece.

    6. DO be willing to submit charts, grafs or photos. That often helps explain the piece and enhances the visual presentation.

    7. DO write tight. Ideally, an op-ed is between 700-800 words, although up to 1,000 words is possible for the right topic. A tightly-written essay of 750 words often has greater impact because it is more often read.

    8. DON’T use footnotes or cite references. Nobody cares about them. Attribution to other authors can be done in the body of the text.

    9. DON’T demand review of editing or headlines. “Titles” on articles submitted rarely pass muster with our copy desk. Most editors are willing to discuss editing changes for brevity or clarity but are seldom patient with nitpicks.

    10. DON’T submit the same article to competing newspapers at the same time. Editors hate to see the same piece printed in a nearby newspaper. As a general rule, ride one horse at a time.

    11. DON’T use specialized jargon, especially in articles about education, health, transportation, the environment, war, peace or family vacations. Keep the language simple, but don’t ever talk down to the reader.