Tag Archives: media

You Don’t Know PR

After more than 12 years in the business of public relations, it still amazes me how little people know about it.

I got my start in PR simply by chance. I looked for months for my first job out of college with little luck. Then a guy I used to babysit for recommended me to someone he knew in the city and that’s how I got my start.

I began working in beauty and fashion public relations in 2001. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea for a variety of reasons (low pay, no benefits; think of a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ environment where this Jersey girl just didn’t quite fit in) but I made it a little over a year there before I knew it was time to make a change. Ahh, how much easier it was to quit your job and decide to ‘start fresh’ at 23 than at 36. What I did take away from that job was that there was always a way to get something done, no matter what obstacles stood in your way.

I spent three years at a PR agency where I felt I learned everything I needed to get my start. The hours were awful and the management was mixed, but the pay and advancement were awesome. I got to work with some cool media companies and really got my start at understanding the power of public relations and why having a team of professionals like myself was so important to a brand.

Moving on to the non-profit world, there weren’t as many fancy raises or title changes, but there was so much more satisfaction. Managing and creating a communications department (where one didn’t exist) and knowing that the work you did was directly impacting lives and the bottom dollar that helped your organization grow was an indescribable feeling. There was also this warm and fuzzy feeling you got collaborating with your co-workers.

When I got laid off from my favorite job ever (see above), I spent a handful of months unemployed before I singlehandedly started running the PR department at a large media agency. It was here, after nearly a decade in the business, that I finally accepted how completely clueless people were about public relations.

With the exception of my first PR job, I have spent my entire career explaining what I do and what public relations really is, even to those who have hired me. Granted, that’s I’m there for, but within the last 10 years, nearly every client or company has been in the dark about this craft. That’s what can make it a lonely job, especially if you’re the only one running PR. People don’t understand your plight and companies usually don’t know where to put you. In fact, many don’t even have a communications or public relations department to begin with. Who is talking to the press for you? Who is advising you on internal and external communications? Who is making sure your messaging is in line? I could go on forever. In this day and age, with all the social media, real-time blunders, amongst other no-brainers, PR should be a requirement, not a luxury.

It takes a special person to work in PR. You have to be storyteller; you have to have patience, understanding, a thick skin and the ability to turn nothing into something. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain that everything is not “PR worthy.” Translation: not every burp and fart is newsworthy. People aren’t interested in every executive move your company is making, nor do they care about internal “rebrands.” Companies will give you a million reasons why they think “this is a great story,” and when you advise them it won’t get much, if any coverage, they don’t follow suit. I finally started calling reporters I had solid relationships with and asking them why they weren’t interested in covering something I was forced to make a story out of. It’s turned out to be one of the best and most honest tactics I have used in my career.

Another thing that aggravates the hell out of me (and is probably my biggest pet peeve of all) is when the PR person is left in the dark. All public relations heads should be at the executive table. We don’t care about your bullshit office politics, we just want the information before it’s spreading all over the office and we’re clueless when the press starts calling because some joker leaked it. This is a huge blunder companies make – they don’t think their PR person is important or plays an integral enough role in the business, primarily because they are not a revenue generator. What they don’t realize is that we can help save your brand. When the CEO leaves unexpectedly, when someone dies, a huge client is lost or you’ve got a scandal on your hands, you need your PR person in the loop. I’ve never understood how executives can manage billions of dollars and thousands of people, yet have zero idea how to communicate externally.

Public relations practioners get little recognition. Many say it’s a thankless job and quite frankly, it can be. When you get a great press hit, win an award or execute a successful campaign, the people behind it are usually forgotten. The brand gets visibility, the company, the executive(s) behind it, and while internally you may get some positive feedback and hi-fives, no one on the outside world really knows how it got on the front page of The New York Times, and you know what, they don’t care.

So why I have been doing PR for so many years? I’m good at, I like people, I love to write and there’s this feeling I get when something I spearhead goes from my desk to being broadcast nationally on TV or in the news. I landed in PR by chance. I’m now a stay-at-home-mom who very occasionally consults and tries to keep up with the trends. In the meantime, I hope Olivia Pope and all the other ‘fixers’ and ‘problem solvers’ out there are continuing to pave the way for us PR heroes.

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Remembering Whitney as a Legend, Not an Addict

I was completely shocked when I heard Whitney Houston died this weekend. When I read the news online, I ran to tell my husband and his friends. I called my parents, my brother, and texted my friends. Everyone’s responses were the same. Shock and disbelief. We reacted as if we knew her in some strange way.

Yet now, just like in the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, everyone is saying she died of an overdose and looked terrible in the days leading up to her death, while other reports talk of how upbeat and vibrant she was. Does it really matter?

TMZ is reporting she had a beer and a glass of champagne prior to her death. Other outlets say Whitney was partying “heavily” with alcohol at pre-Grammy related events. You know what, if I was at the Grammy’s, I’d be drinking too. And who hasn’t had a cocktail while getting ready to go out? The media is trying to make a story out of events that anyone else might normally do.

I know, I know, they found prescription drugs in her room. And yes, I remember the Diane Sawyer interview where Whitney admitted to drug use and claimed “crack is whack!” OK, so maybe she needed some media training with that one.

Whether Whitney died of drugs, drowned in a bathtub, committed suicide, or died by reasons we are not privy to, the end result is still the same: she is no longer with us, but still one of the greatest artists of all time. Why tarnish her amazing musical legacy with presumptions? We all know she had issues, married bad boy Bobby Brown and did coke.

At the end of the day, Whitney is gone. A mother has lost a daughter, a daughter has lost a mother and countless fans are mourning her passing as we overplay her greatest hits.

I don’t care how Whitney died, I’m just sad she’s gone. She shaped some of my most cherished memories growing up. Whether I was reveling in a breakup with “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” or dancing senselessly with my girlfriends to “I’m Every Woman,” I will always remember Whitney as the icon she was.

Jurors Should Not Profit From Casey Anthony Trial

As Casey Anthony gets ready to leave prison in a few short days, I’m appalled that jurors are requesting money for their stories in such a horrific and emotionally disturbing case.

Guilty or not, Antony will soon walk free. She will entertain hundreds of book and movie deals, maybe a reality show. Who knows, they’ll probably even give her a talk show (who doesn’t have one nowadays?). I get that. While I don’t agree with it, I understand it. She was the one involved, the one being accused and likely the only one who knows what happened to Caylee. That’s entertainment for America. What I don’t agree with is jurors trying to sell their stories to the media for compensation.

Juror #6 retained representation and is granting interviews for a 5-figure deal after serving on the jury of Anthony’s trail. The letter from his rep was posted on TMZ. I’m sure he isn’t the only one.

I’m all about making a buck, but I draw the line at jurors selling their stories for a profit. It’s your civic duty to serve on a jury. While most people hate it, understandably so, I don’t think you should capitalize on the public’s growing appetite for sensationalism in the unsolved death of a two-year-old girl.

I appreciate that these 12 people gave up their time (and probably their sanity) to come to a “just” conclusion. That doesn’t mean they need to profit from the murder of an innocent little girl. Apparently Florida agrees with me too. A state representative and local attorney are currently drafting a bill that would keep jurors from profiting right away following a verdict. Support it!

 

Why I Went to Mexico During the Swine Flu Outbreak

So after much back and forth, I decided to head to Cabo for my fun filled girls vacation. And man, am I glad I did. To quickly refresh, I was struggling with the decision of leaving for Cabo San Lucas, located in Mexico, just days after the swine flu outbreak was splashed all over the media.

I definitely did my research before leaving. I called my primary care physician, who told me that since I was a healthy, young (don’t you love when they call you young after 30?) woman and there were no state restrictions on traveling to Mexico, it was OK to begin my Mexican fiesta.

I reached out to my old response director at the American Red Cross, who had since moved on to another emergency response job, and is well versed in pandemics and epidemics and really tells it like it is. He said it was really a decision that was up to me and if I was going to a resort, I would probably be fine. Resorts go out of their way preserve business, especially during something like this, and if I was planning to visit downtown areas, I just needed to make sure to use some antibacterial gel and wash my hands with soap and water.

One of my traveling companions was also a nurse, so I felt better when she said she talked to many of the doctors and other nurses in the hospital where she worked who gave her the go ahead to travel to Cabo. They said while this was an unknown flu strain, the regular flu kills something like 36,000 people a year and we weren’t even close to that (at that point). She also said she would bring along some masks just in case; the good kind, from the hospital ward.

There were also the people from Mexico, specifically Cabo, who reached out to me on my blog and told me that there was nothing to be concerned about out there. No known cases were reported and people were not walking around in masks at the beach, bars or in the streets. The sun and beach were awaiting my arrival!

And then there was the research I did on my own. As a person who worked with and for the media, I know how things can get blown out of proportion. I noticed that the first three days, this was a huge news item. Then, a Supreme Court Justice announced he was retiring and the swine flu suddenly became old news. I also looked on a map where Cabo was in relation to Mexico City, where the “outbreak” had first started. It was over 1,000 miles away; you’d have to take a plane or a boat to get from one area to the other and somehow, that made me feel like there was less risk.

After reviewing all these factors and debating in my head for nearly a week (and purchasing tons of Purell), I decided to keep my reservations and go as planned. A lot of people helped me make my decision and frankly, while I love and respect the media, it was because of them that I almost did not go.

I think there is a better chance of me getting the swine flu by traveling on the subway to a job interview then from my recent trip to a tropical paradise. It’s a personal decision that must be made by the person traveling.  I will say that Mexico’s tourism is definitely suffering from the negative media surrounding the swine flu, when frankly, in many areas, there does not seem to be much to be concerned about. While I probably wouldn’t recommend heading to the heart of Mexico City, if you have a trip planned, do your research and do what feels right for you. Don’t let scare tactics and endless news reports make the decision for you. Bon voyage!