Five Reasons to Consider  a PR Consultant .. or Can You Afford NOT to?

Five Reasons to Consider a PR Consultant .. or Can You Afford NOT to?

Watch the local TV news any night of the week. You may an uncomfortable corporate executive fumbling through a 10-second sound bite that makes you cringe. “That could be ME,” you think.

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Be prepared for interviews – a PR consultant offers his or her expertise

A Philadelphia investigative reporter did a segment on a company that was being cited by the state for equipment problems. During a sound bite, the reporter questioned the CEO and president why he didn’t know about the problems. The man wondered out loud to the reporter while the camera was rolling why the reporter referred to him as the CEO and president. The reporter replied that he had done his homework. The CEO looked ridiculous for seemingly trying to ‘hide’ the fact that he is indeed the CEO and president and is ultimately responsible for what happens at the company.

This scene is a reason a company – especially a small or medium-sized business – needs a public relations consultant. Large companies have resources to retain in-house PR or communications directors; smaller companies often don’t have that luxury.

  1. A PR consultant who is familiar with your business and who has media experience will guide you through protecting your brand and keeping messaging and responses focused.
  2. A good PR consultant will listen to you and your company’s needs and be able to translate those needs into messages that the customer/consumer/client can relate to.
  3. When you are revamping your web site, ramping-up social media and collateral materials, the PR consultant is a fresh set of eyes to write, edit, interpret and offer expertise on how your content and communications will be perceived outside your company.
  4. Since media can be your friend, the PR consultant can reach out to his or her contacts with an appropriate pitch geared to the media audience and then prepare you to take on that media interview with confidence.
  5. To prepare for times when negative news is focused on your company, the PR consultant will act as your company spokesperson or prepare you or your delegates to speak in a straight-forward manner aimed at tackling the crisis and looking forward to repairing the company image.

Can your company afford to be caught unprepared? The PR consultant is a human insurance policy watching over your image and brand which is what makes you successful.

View from the Lake – Updated

View from the Lake – Updated

Our annual sojourn to Lake Winnipesaukee is underway. It occurs to me I have

Sunset from Tuftonboro

Sunset from Tuftonboro

amassed many stories and listened to others’ tell their experiences about this magical place – my happy place.

Since the author of the splendid piece – who I gave credit to in the earlier version of this post – does not want his story told, I update this post today to share a few words about bucolic Lake Winnipesaukee.

Everyone should have a place in this world where they feel true happiness; whether it’s relaxing with a beverage on your back patio or on a white, sand beach somewhere – happiness is a fleeting commodity.

Author; from Abenaki Tower with view of Lake Winnipesaukee

Author; from Abenaki Tower with view of Lake Winnipesaukee

Now that we’ve been home for three weeks, my perspective is every so clear: life will be better, happier, more content with long stays living by (or near) the lake.

During our two weeks this year, I enjoyed a vacation schedule with some work continuing. My husband and I have home offices; even though we were by the lake, we created a ‘home’ office in our vacation house which included a table, chairs, our computers and solid internet connection. During times when we had to get some work done, the view was spectacular. Work time motored along. We were rewarded for our efforts by being able to step into the boat and onto the lake.

The Post boys jumping from the amazing rock off Moultonborough, NH

The Post boys jumping from the amazing rock off Moultonborough, NH.

My gym time – normally two or three mornings a week – was not interrupted on vacation. I joined the local gym in Wolfeboro for two weeks (at $25 -it was a huge bargain) and kept to my routine. That routine was supplemented  by the short walk up to Abenaki Tower with a view that hugs your mind and soul.

Breskin, Kardon and Friedman families in NH - courtesy Sean Kardon

Breskin, Kardon and Friedman families in NH – courtesy Sean Kardon

While making the move to New Hampshire will be a process; the goal will be to choose a home and site that will fill our hearts and minds with the love we feel for each other as well as for the place known as the Lakes Region. This adventure will be about discovering the community; getting to know the people and further exploring the lake and splendid nature that stretches for miles and miles.

What really happened for us during this vacation was the realization that we can indeed make the move to the Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro region. After enjoying wonderful moments this time with our friends, the Posts from Connecticut and our family from Pelham, NY, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, we know that home for us is wherever we are together. So why not be in a place where we can enjoy nature, people, family and friends? While we may or may not be finished with working full-time when we find a home and settle six months a year in New Hampshire, one thing is for sure the feelings of happiness and joy that fill our days and nights when we’re there – will hug us until we can breathe no more. The timeline is evolving – but the goal is clear: New Hampshire will be home for at least six months out of the year.

What’s In It For Me?

What’s in it for me? That is the question your clients and customers ask every time you push out a new product or service. Your content details the ABCs of that new product or service; and you want customers and clients to know YOU are the best at delivering the goods. But – what is in it for the customer or client? Why should they choose your business over other businesses?

Part of public relations is being able to express to the client what the public wants; what will the public ask about your product or service? What do they need from your product or service? This is a difficult task since every client wants their PR person to help sell your products and services without question.

Often, a PR person will help you to see the customer or client’s perspective. Your PR person is a consumer and often has an educated view as a public consumer. Recently,  a client had an industrial accident on site. The business owner said, “We don’t need to say anything because the accident involved our sub-contractor.” If the PR person did NOT point out that the public will indeed see the accident as involving this particular business, he or she would be seriously wrong. there were media inquires and the response was “the police are investigating.” In the end, the client realized they should have had a better response prepared for the media calls that came in. Fortunately, there was no lasting media attention to the incident. The results could have been much different.

When it comes to allowing your PR person to explain the views of consumers – listen and learn. That person offers you the up-close-and-personal view of your product or service that can help better mold your message. Your message can focus on benefits to the consumer or client which can help your business image come across as more consumer-focused instead of only being focused on profits. 

Your Company Story – Expert PR Advice

You’ve got the best product or service out there, right? So you say. But how do you get your audience and customers to believe your message?

One of the most difficult challenges to public relations is straddling the needs of the client and the needs and wants of their customers. It’s the PR person’s job to relay a message that ‘sings’ to the audience even whWhatisNewsen the client may not be completely on board with that message. For example, the client wants the message to express how expert their services are; the longevity in the business and how they will take care of the customer like no other similar company. The customers sees many other options in the marketplace so how does THIS company stand out above the rest? It’s all in the storytelling.

The PR person should consult with you to develop potential news ‘hooks’ that can be told in a clear, concise and compelling way in order to attract the interest of customers via your web or social media content, news releases or through customized pitches to the media. A savvy PR person who has strong media connections and knows how to reach out to reporters, producers and editors is uniquely qualified to provide this service for a client.

A PR company that blasts the same release, pitch or storyline to a long media list will likely not get the results the client is hoping for. A media pitch can take hours to mold and shape. The client has to assist by providing the facts, quotes and other details needed; it is the PR person who shapes those details into a pitch (and compelling subject line) that will at least get the media person to open the e-mailed pitch. The client who believes he or she can do all this will be disappointed in the results and frustrated by the amount of time taken away from daily business. A PR person is a step removed from the client’s daily business and can more or less objectively present the pitch to media contacts.

Why not call each media person? Reality is: people seldom answer their phones these days. When they do, they are pressed for time. If they are not interested in your pitch, the phone call may leave a bad impression.

The best PR people:

  • Listen to the client’s story
  • Ask questions about the business, challenges, hopes and dreams of the clinet
  • Find the message that will translate first to the media – then to the public

Trust your expert PR person to understand and tell your story in your content as well as in media pitches. That person is working for you for a reason; he or she can translate your story about your product or service to people with a compelling story that in turn can mean more business for you.

 

 

 

Best Seat in the House

Best Seat in the House

Did you ever spot something on the street you’ve never seen before and completely ‘get it?’ Walking along the Collingswood Classic Car Car Show which was part 20140524_092750of the mile-long “36th Annual May Fair” in Collingswood on Memorial Day weekend led me to a mint condition, 1967 Cadillac DeVille owned by Joe Carbone of Medford, NJ. My first thought was, “This is a Sunday-go-to-church car.” I could picture an elderly woman wearing her flowered dress with perfect strand of pearls, a pillbox hat and white gloves driving this car to church. Turns out, I wasn’t far off.

Joe Carbone and I started chatting when I told him my thought on his 20140524_092852beautiful car. I’ve never been attracted to a Cadillac of any year or vintage, but something drew me to talk to Joe. When I told him my first thought on the car. He told me I was almost exactly right. Turns out a man owned the car for 14 years and he only took the car out on Sundays – if the weather was just right. Joe went on to explain how the perfect vinyl roof on the Caddy stayed in perfect condition through the years because the car of course, was garage-kept. The owner event kept a cotton cover on the car.

Joe also told me about how the owner felt the car was “the best seat in the house.” He would drink his cup of coffee in that vehicle – still parked in the garage – every Sunday morning. When his wife went looking for her husband on Sunday mornings, she would open the kitchen door to the garage and there he was, enjoying his quiet-time with this Cadillac.

As we listened to Joe’s stories, he allowed me to sit in the driver’s seat. If you have ever been to a car show you learn quickly the mantra is “Look but don’t touch.” To be permitted to sit in the vehicle is truly an honor. The thin steering wheel, AM/FM radio with push-buttons, power windows and air conditioning were certainly signs of a luxurious car in 1967.

Joe Carbone went on to to show us20140524_093050 the massive trunk of the car and explain how the spare tire is original and he found the trunk just as we saw it on this day in Collingswood. Joe had to install an electric garage-door opener after purchasing the car 12 years ago since there wasn’t enough garage length for both the car and Joe when pulling the door down.

Joe purchased the car from the original owner’s widow. You can only imagine how selling her husband’s prized possession must have been an emotional decision. Joe explained that the woman’s mailman – yes, the mailman – told her 12 years ago that the car was worth about $14,000. Joe gave her $8500 cash and this prized car has been in Joe’s possession ever since.

Joe appreciated that my husband and I admired the car so much. Actually, it’s 20140524_095644not the Caddy – but the stories behind the car. The vehicle today is Joe’s “best seat in the house;” though Joe quipped that his wife told him, “You’re not going to sit in that car and have coffee on Sundays.” Joe Carbone is happy keeping the Caddy in mint condition and owning the memories of Sundays past.

Finding My Rudder

Finding My Rudder

A major event that I produced is now past. Everything went well; the event was well received; kudos’ were exchanged and I move forward. Except I need to adjust myself.

It’s been just over six Imagemonths since Dad died; nine months since his surgery and about a year since he found out the cancer was back. Grief is an unknown for most people. We do not know how we’ll deal with the sadness and loss. For me, every day brings a moment of memory. Some days are better than others. Tears flow now as I write this.

My amazing cohort in the planning of the major event that just passed spent some time on the phone with me advising me that basically, I need an attitude adjustment. During the stressful weeks leading to the event, some of my actions and reactions were off the charts; we all have intense moments. What she described to me gave me extreme pause and the knowledge that I have been rudderless.

My new normal is without dad. Baseball season reminds me of that every day. He was who I talked with about the Phillies’ pitching; a great Chase Utley play to first and whether Ryan Howard can make it through the season without major injury. The day before the event, we orchestrated a photo-op at a school. To take the aerial photograph above the scene created by children, Ladder 24 came to the scene. The firefighters assisted me into the bucket of the extension ladder and from 90 feet above, I snapped the shots.

Dad was a retired firefighter. Ladder 24 is the last fire truck he stood in front of in May 2013. My mom, dad, husband and son were Imagedriving back from a Sunday lunch and I knew we needed to stop at the firehouse. The firefighters on duty knew me and welcomed us into the house for a short and meaningful visit. Dad was in his element; talking about firefighting days, sharing stories with the men on duty. The photo I have of mom and dad at the firehouse that day and in front of Ladder 24 mean a lot – especially now.

My son was grateful to see his Pop-Pop in his element; the camaraderie of a firehouse is like family. I grew up knowing this. Dad’s easy-going, happy ways made him always popular among his colleagues. That is why I have felt rudderless. I know I’m turning the corner; I feel as though if I could just talk with him for a minute, I’d get my bearings again.

Time will pass; I will make the needed adjustments in my attitude; I’ll breathe and wait while situations play out. Dad would want me to do that. I can hear him now.

Plastic Water Bottle Conundrum

Plastic Water Bottle Conundrum

My mom always says, “If everyone gives one dollar to a cause, the world will be a better place.” My twist on that is: if every person stops using one plastic water bottle a day, there will be much less waste in the world.

As our team completes planning for the Cherry Hill Earth Festival April 26 at Croft Farm in Cherry Hill, NJ, one of our biggest challenges  and details to express to people is: please use a reusable drink bottle and please do not use or sell plastic water bottles at the festival.

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Cherry Hill Earth Festival 2013

My hope is that more and more people will start thinking about buying and using those cases upon cases of plastic water bottles. For now, it seems many people take the path of least resistance. They tell themselves what many of the bottling companies hope you’ll believe: that the plastic in the cases of plastic water bottles sold in stores every day are made from recycled plastic that can be recycled and reused. The problem is, that a used plastic bottle that goes back into the recycling stream then uses more energy to be recycled again. Eventually, plastics of different grades (#1, #2, etc.) eventually phase-separate, much like oil and water – and are rendered almost useless when it comes to re-use. The science of all this is more than I want to get into here; you can do the research and take a look at the many facts that are out there.

Using a stainless steel water bottle is the easiest answer. You can fill the bottle with your beverage of choice; it can go in the dishwasher or be hand-washed time and time again; and you have ZERO waste in the recycling stream from drinking your beverage on-the-go. Plastic water bottles to me are like plastic shopping bags: why create waste – recyclable or not- when you can simply use a product made to be reused over and over again?

At our Earth Festival, we have requested that every one of the organizations displaying at the festival and our volunteers and partners, not use plastic water bottles and certainly not sell them. We’ll have to do the rounds throughout festival day and carefully and gently make the few who have those bottles in hand, aware that nixing those plastic bottles is yet another way to conserve resources and energy in our world.

The perplexing question is, why don’t MORE people get it? Why do we have to explain the ‘plastic water ban’ for the EARTH Festival? It’s an easy thing to adopt in your life every day. Simply stop using those plastic bottles. Mother Earth will thank you.

Eye-to-Eye; Face-to-Face in 2014

Eye-to-Eye; Face-to-Face in 2014

What’s next for 2014? How about a little civility? Our world is so connected; so digital; so electronic; we lose sight of the human connections that make our lives complete.

It is so incredibly easy to write an e-mail and hit ‘send;’ or text someone a question, that we often never make that human connection. Remember the days when you’d phone someone and ask, “How are you doing?” It seems no one really cares how the other person is doing these days. Each of us is so tied up with whatever the deadline of the moment is that we are just happy to get a reply email from the person we reached within a day or so.

What could be happening is that we forget how to talk to each other. When we are in the same room together eye-to-eye and face-to-face, we have no patience; we react too quickly we fail to listen.

I saw a TV spot from Values.com that expresses the need for civility. While the message is that a little kindness goes a long way, what we also need to do is get in the room with people more often and just listen. Civil_Jan2014Have a conversation that goes back and forth; try not to interrupt while the other person – or people – are trying to make their points. Share your thoughts; ask questions when you don’t understand and for heaven’s sake, be civil.

When you can have an actual conversation with a person or a group of people and leave the room with a smile and some satisfaction that something got accomplished, you have renewed the human connections needed to get from one day to the next.

Among the goals you set for 2014, consider making a phone call to a business associate, friend or family member at least once a week – just to ask, “how are you doing?” Show appreciation; say “thank you;” and when someone thanks YOU – reply with, “you’re welcome.” Better yet – try “my pleasure.” And say it with a smile.

‘Away’ is Somewhere – in Waterfront South

“We’re working with the children,” said Nancy Axelrod, Center for Environmental Transformation board member.  When you walk the blocks surrounding Sacred Heart Church and school and Center for Environmental CfETCamden_56Transformation in Camden’s Waterfront South neighborhood, you wonder whether an impact is felt despite all the best efforts of Father Michael Doyle, church members and volunteers.

Our toilets flush and the waste goes ‘away’ – to Camden. Waterfront South is home to several thousand residents and the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, the trash-to-steam plant, and other industries that spew particulates and bring trucks and tractor trailers chugging through the neighborhood.

Nancy Axelrod and center president Mark Doorley led  nine of us on a walking tour of a part of Waterfront South where the church, center and the non-profit housing company Heart of Camden have led programs to bring CfETCamden_15not just development and improvements, but hope in the lives of the men, women and children who have called Waterfront South home for generations.

You see the gardens where fresh fruits and vegetables grow through the summer  and in the greenhouse across from Sacred Heart and the outdoor brick oven where children learn cooking skills. Colorful murals, brightly decorated facades on row homes and newly planted trees in a park are signs of progress. Rain gardens have CfETCamden_20been planted to help prevent flooding, though carelessly discarded plastic bottles and trash are caught in the wildflowers meant to absorb flooding rains. A vacant home being renovated by a non-profit group is on its second incarnation since evil factions broke into the home tearing out all of the improved wires and pipes.

While we walked along South Broadway, you could imagine decades ago, how people would walk on the avenue to shop, stop at the bank, walk to church. Now, on a Saturday morning, there are few people on the streets; nearly every block or so, a prostitute stakes out his or her spot. The Heart of Camden homes that have been renovated and purchased shine like diamonds, but there aren’t nearly enough of those homes to make up for the derelict buildings, not to mention the brownfields and Superfund sites preventing real progress.

Yet, a community theatre, an arts center, a cafe and center for writers along CfETCamden_30with a new gym where children can safely play, exercise and grow are signs of hope and change. As Nancy said, it’s the children who can be the future of Waterfront South. They will learn to have pride and hope in their neighborhood and work for social justice thanks to the many people who understand and work in this village.

Rules for Everyone: Be Polite (and a bit crazy)

Rules for Everyone: Be Polite (and a bit crazy)

Why is it there seems to be different rules for different people? Every toddler is taught from the time he or she can talk to say “please” and “thank you.” We’re taught as we grow up to respect our elders; do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and so on.

Today it seems that there are days when the rules apply to everyone else except for the person blocking the line. We were on our way to the Upper Chesapeake for a day of boating and needed to get gas in the boat. That involves choosing a gas station where you can easily maneuver the SUV and trailer. It’s really no big deal until you get behind someone who clearly is paying no attention to everyone else in a busy place. It’s not easy to back up a vehicle and boat on a trailer in a crowded parking area.

reddit.com

reddit.com

We arrived at the Wawa Food Market and gas station just off I-295 in Swedesboro, NJ. We chose a pump on the right to easily put fuel in the boat. There was one car in front of us. I jumped out to go inside the store for a moment. When I returned, Our vehicle hadn’t been moved and the car in front was still there – without a driver. My husband said he noticed the driver was missing as I went into the store. The gas station attendant told me the driver had been gone even before we pulled up and that this happens all the time: people pull their cars to the pump; ask for gas and run into the store. The attendant said people usually get back just as their gas purchase is finished.

We waited for another minute or two. Then I decided, “Why am I sitting here waiting for this inconsiderate person? I’m going to do something.” I went into the store and in the booming voice I know I have politely exclaimed: “Whoever has the blue Ford Escape at the gas pump; will you PLEASE move your car?” At a glance, it seemed there were at least 40 pairs of eyes on me thinking: “WHO is this CRAZY lady?” (I yelled “thank you” as I bolted out the door.)

I got  back into our vehicle and about 30 seconds behind me, Ford Escape man approached with his coffee and bag of whatever. He acknowledged us with a “gees, I’m sorry” look and a wave and was gone in a few seconds.

So the next time you are pulling into a line of cars at the pump, remember: you WILL take longer than you think; you WILL inconvenience other people and YES, they do mind. Thank you – have a nice day.