public relations

By Keri Barker

Ready to start your PR career?

Firmani + Associates, a progressive public relations and marketing firm located in Seattle, Washington, is offering a four-month, full-time paid internship beginning this November.

We’re looking for highly motivated and talented candidates who possess a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism or another communication field, excellent writing and editing skills, and the drive to succeed. Knowledge of social media concepts and experience with execution and implementation is preferred.

We serve a range of industries, with a focus on legal, technology, health care and professional services companies. Our dynamic team provides interns the opportunity to work alongside savvy public relations professionals spanning a range of ages and experience levels. We pride ourselves on offering a real-world learning experience and value someone who will step up and add to our team of creative minds. Our interns gain hands-on experience with account coordinator-level responsibilities such as writing press releases, researching market trends, pitching to media outlets and planning strategic social media campaigns.

We offer an internship stipend, transportation stipend, paid holidays, and a bevy of other perks.

To be considered for this position, please send a copy of your resume, three writing samples, and a cover letter describing yourself, your work history, GPA, and why you think you’d make a good fit to recruiter@firmani.com.

By Kelcie Goetsch

The Quest for Relevance: Does Talkability Trump Truth?

PR professionals work tirelessly to serve as trusted media informants to achieve client coverage from both traditional and digital news sources. While the ability to use these outlets to sway public influence and alter brand reputation often positions PR as a key player in brand management, industry professionals tend to find themselves fighting against the public stigma of serving as puppet masters, rather than storytellers.

Fake news, alternative facts, propaganda and click-bait are just a few common buzzwords used to refer to the media’s “spin” on stories; this amplified public distrust of the media has not only put the credibility of reporters into question, but also the trustworthiness of communications professionals. Although the 2016 election and the subsequent political landscape has brought issues of ethical reporting to the fore, PR professionals have long combatted a reputation of manipulating stories and staging events to gain falsified media attention for their clients.

Many say that the origins of the field (and its tarnished reputation) began pre-Civil War era with P.T. Barnum’s Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, an operation infamous for spreading lies and deception to the press to foster public intrigue. Barnum exploited the hot-button issue of slavery to sell tickets, publicizing an 80-year-old African American woman as the still-living 161-year-old enslaved nurse of George Washington — even going as far as to plant an anonymous letter in a Boston newspaper to stir up rumors around the act.

Thankfully, the majority of present-day PR professionals don’t pursue media coverage by means of deception; however, the value of brand trust is still hotly debated.

In a PR Week article published last summer, top agency executives stood divided when asked whether relevance or trust is more important for a brand. Matt Neale, co-CEO of Golin Agency, explains that brand relevance has an unfair advantage when compared to trustworthiness, because relevance is something marketers and communicators can directly impact. Neale argues relevance is the most critical metric for brand measurement: “It’s what attracts and keeps people paying attention, and what moves them to act,” Neale says. “And if a brand isn’t relevant, it’s being ignored.”

Neale’s hypothesis was put to the test in Golin Agency’s 2017 Global Relevance Review, the first ever study to reveal what drives relevance for brands in 13 markets across the globes – and [SPOILER], it’s not trustworthiness. While consumers around the world believe their ideal brand would be considered trustworthy, the findings reveal that zero percent of the most relevant brands studied actually met that desired standard of trust. “Our research indicates that despite people being continually let down by the perceived trustworthiness and truthfulness of brands, they continue to buy their products and services,” Neale says.

Before you shake your head and cue the groans, it’s important to note that not everyone agrees. While PR professionals understand the importance of hype and attention, the argument that brand relevance supersedes trust raises (at least) one issue: sustainability.

Anne Green, president and CEO of CooperKatz & Company, tells PR Week she credits the industry’s shift in focus to long-term sustainability for the change in perception that truth and transparency triumph all else. “The company everyone is talking about today can easily burn out tomorrow, and that burnout often ties back to trust… It creates a cognitive dissonance that festers over time.”

Green highlights Uber and United Airlines as examples of companies that have not necessarily seen profit loss in the wake of negative press, but are still creating distrustful customers who second-guess using their products and services — an effect that can have longer-term consequences. “They may be winning the relevance game. But the long game has a higher cost.”

We at F+A agree: We all know that relevance drives newsworthiness – but while deploying relevance tactics may garner media attention and talkability, obtaining five minutes of fame is not worth the trouble if it puts the reputation of your client, and your agency, in jeopardy. For this reason, PR professionals meticulously drum up communication strategies where truth and newsworthiness overlap, achieving the perfect combination of relevance and transparency for their clients.

When KIND Snacks rolled out its sugar-free Fruit Bites last August, the company cleverly used transparency as a vehicle to achieve relevance and make a statement. Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky knew that there was an opportunity to capitalize on the attention surrounding consumer distrust in fruit snack nutrition — especially with a recent IRI research study revealing that nine in 10 leading fruit snacks have added sugar as the first ingredient. KIND stacked 45,485 pounds of sugar in the middle of New York’s Times Square – the amount of sugar that U.S. children consume every five minutes – positioning the brand and its new offering as the solution to deceptively high-sugar alternatives.

“We have always been focused on bringing transparency to the industry and categories that we’ve been playing in,” Lubetzky tells Business Insider. “The stunt in Times Square is just a new way in which to do this.”

As PR professionals, it is our job to possess an unbeatable understanding of internal needs and external environments to tactfully position our clients as relevant and newsworthy without having to sacrifice brand trust. The success of KIND Snacks’ marketing tactic is a testament to just how sweet it is to nail that delicate balance — literally.

By Mija Maslar

A Newsie’s Inside Look at the PR Profession

Working in the broadcast newsroom trenches earlier this year alongside industry professionals, I quickly established an aptitude for pitching and writing news stories, monitoring media outlets, and championing social media, as well as deciding which stories are relevant, and which are not.

After graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in May, I took a hiatus from the news grind to focus my attention on building other industry-relevant skills. Thanks to my involvement in on-campus organizations, I’d gotten my feet wet as a strategic communicator, and I was eager to see how this other side operates.

When I landed this internship opportunity at Firmani + Associates in Seattle, I made my way up the West Coast, trading in the comfort of my home in the desert for a shot to flex my PR muscles in the Emerald City.

I’ve been told that there’s a notorious love-hate relationship between public relations professionals and reporters, but it’s no secret that the success of their jobs depends on symbiotic collaboration.  Just as there are no mountains without valleys, there’s often no news update without a story source, and no client coverage without a media contact. While they may seem like each other’s arch nemeses, their relationship is the bread and butter of the media circuit; with both professions having their perks – and often a lot in common. Here are several ways to overcome the misconceptions plaguing each profession, bridge the gap and reap the rewards of this partnership that, in the end, boasts a mutual benefit.

 

3 Tips for PR professionals working with Journalists

Always personalize that media pitch

  • It sure can be time-consuming; but letting a reporter know that you’ve done your research builds some serious industry clout for both you and your client. Don’t make them do all the heavy lifting – do some digging on their beat and what type of stories they cover. Ask yourself, have they done a story like yours? Does it even make sense to pitch that reporter? Landing critical client media coverage often hinges on pitching to the right contact. By holding up your end of the bargain, you can quickly earn your stripes and build a reliable network of media contacts.

There’s a delicate line between being persistent and being pushy

  • All PR professionals understand the importance of the good ol’ media follow-up – what journalist doesn’t appreciate a juicy story tip? However, even with the best intentions, reporters can find your efforts less helpful and more harmful if you don’t understand the art of the craft. Let the story marinate, don’t give them a follow-up call before they’ve had the time to make it past the first sentence of your pitch. Phone calls, emails and voicemails… Some journalists appreciate them – others don’t. Take the time to hone your media contact network to understand their preferences, and don’t let faulty follow-up etiquette overshadow a good client story.

Don’t take the inevitable “no” too personally.

  • In such a fast-paced industry, it’s great when journalists respond at all – after all, they have hundreds of emails to sift through daily. Don’t let being shut down shake your confidence. Nine times out of ten, rejections are related to timing restraints, subject matter, or the presence of other stories that take priority. And with daily deadlines approaching, journalists don’t have much time to sugar-coat their responses. Be proud of the coverage you do secure!

 

3 Tips for Journalists working with PR pros

Sometimes, a response can save both sides a lot of time.

  • PR pros know you’re busy sifting through those emails, but they have a job to do as well. Sometimes letting them know you’re not interested, or referring them to another reporter who might be, can earn you points on both sides. The ones who care will take note, relieving you of any irrelevant pitches clogging your inbox. Also – if you share what types of leads are important to you, you could be the first one they go to with their next relevant pitch.

Don’t assume PR professionals are blindly pitching you

  • PR professionals always (or always should) have a plan. They’re business-minded strategists, with a commitment to their clients that they wouldn’t dare compromise by firing aimlessly into the newsroom abyss. They have done their homework; they’ve put in hours of meticulous research to know exactly why they are pitching you and why their story is important to your audience. So, give these seasoned informants the same respect you give your colleagues, because they’re here for the same reason you are – to communicate captivating messages to the public.

Build relationships; they can keep you connected

  • PR agencies have a wide range of clients and the opportunities to do, learn and participate are much bigger than one meager story pitch. Think of PR pros as the gatekeepers to endless information and exclusive content regarding their clients. PR pros have unique on-the-ground opportunities – i.e. being a client’s brand ambassador at large corporate events and engaging with hundreds to thousands of people. With their fingers on the pulse of some of the most influential companies and executives, establishing a mutually beneficial relationship will be your greatest asset.

By Keri Barker

F+A Spotlight: Meet Our Talented Intern

Next month, our fantastic intern Emily Pate will be moving to Michigan to begin another adventure. Emily has been an incredible asset to client work and agency projects alike, and her vibrant energy makes her someone everyone loves to be around. We’ve truly enjoyed working with her and watching her grow professionally.

Meet our talented intern:

The first day on the Wonderland Trail, Emily covered 18 miles. She also injured her leg. She kept going, and finished her goal of spending a week on the trail, completing 80+ miles. Emily brings that kind of determination, love of challenge, and optimism to her internship here at F+A. Emily works on multiple client accounts and has become an indispensable part of F+A’s own social media outreach team.

 Emily’s love of writing and creative problem-solving led her into the world of PR and communications early on. She graduated from Seattle University with a BA in Strategic Communications and several internships under her belt. From writing blogs and co-producing podcasts for individuals with disabilities at Rooted in Rights, to working on communications and outreach for LPFM Seattle Radio, to managing social media at Evado PR, Emily refined her skills while earning her degree.

One of Emily’s overriding goals is to use her communication skills to solve real-world problems. That’s evidenced every day in her work here at F+A, and outside the agency as the Communications Director of Survivor Support Network (SSN), a non-profit group whose mission is to support students who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence. Emily’s favorite quote is by Angela Davis – “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I’m changing the things I cannot accept.” And she’s doing just that.

When Emily’s not working in her chosen profession, she’s drawing, traveling, enjoying time with friends and family, and planning her next hike. In fact, she’s preparing to tackle another long-distance trail after finishing this internship. We won’t say “break a leg” given her earlier injury, but we’re thrilled she’s headed back to one of her favorite areas and wish her a safe journey!

By Keri Barker

At F+A, Learning to Embrace the Constancy of Change

We used to enjoy the quaint brick facades and cement dragons adorning the old buildings here in South Lake Union.  Now trucks, bulldozers and hardhats are everywhere, razing those old buildings within a day or two—but the smell of rotting wood, damp foundation and crumbling brick is gone and the area feels more energetic and optimistic.

We used to make a quick trip across the alley to Paddy’s for an after-hours beverage and conversation.  Paddy’s doors are permanently locked now—but that quirky metal dog sculpture still greets passersby and we now enjoy after-hours wine-tastings and stories gathered around the big cement altar in the center of our office.

We used to be able to see the Blue Angels practice and watch the July 4th fireworks show from the office rooftop.   A large new building now blocks our view —but it’s beautiful and the sun reflecting off its window panels creates its own striking light show.

Change is constant.  It can be good, or not, depending on your point of view.  Here at F+A change always presents an opportunity to learn and grow.  We thrive on it.  Whether we’re welcoming a new employee, partner or client, we appreciate the reciprocal nature of the relationship.  We enjoy learning from the new party as much as we enjoy sharing our expertise with them.

Our internship program embodies that idea of constant change and mutual benefit.  The program offers interns the opportunity to work with every member of the agency and participate in almost every client account. Interns are encouraged to bring their own ideas to the table, participate in meetings, and add value to the agency and our clients while they learn, grow and refine their own skills.

Interns who thrive here enjoy problem solving, responsibility and autonomy.  They’re proactive and hold themselves accountable to clients and coworkers as well as their own high standards—marks of a true professional.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of talented interns over the years.  Completing the internship opens many doors—whether it’s at F+A, another agency, in-house or at a non-profit—our interns leave the program with skills and contacts they can use anywhere.  It’s always bittersweet when they finish the program and make their next career move, but we look forward to welcoming the next new intern.  Did I mention that change is constant?

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Ready to start your PR career?
The Quest for Relevance: Does Talkability Trump Truth?
A Newsie’s Inside Look at the PR Profession
F+A Spotlight: Meet Our Talented Intern
At F+A, Learning to Embrace the Constancy of Change