public relations

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?

By Mark Firmani

All that Glitters Is Not Gold: The Tough Side of PR

Working alongside our many successful clients, we get great satisfaction in seeing the contribution of our work. Being part of a productive, vibrant client/agency relationship is truly one of the reasons I enjoy our work so much.

But often we are called upon to help companies – and to a much lesser extent individuals – weather tough situations. We’ve worked on a lot of difficult issues in our 22 years: kids sickened by contaminated beef; companies brought down by the illegal or improper actions of its leadership; businesses caught in economic sea changes that force them to make difficult choices in their attempts to keep operations afloat.

In each of these instances, we’ve always told our clients that the fastest, safest and most direct way out of a crisis is to be abundantly transparent and completely honest. Generally speaking, as a culture we are willing to forgive (and forget) as long as people are straight up and honest. Conversely, organizations that try to gild the lily, attempt to slide by with half-truths or point fingers in other directions are in for rough sledding.

What I am saying is the work we do as professional communicators isn’t all upbeat and fun. In fact, some of the work we have to do is downright crappy.

Recently we helped a client through a tough situation, culminating in a horrible day; having to break the news to their staff that the company was closing their operations after being a vibrant part of the community for many years.

Through a set of unimportant circumstances, colleague Annie Alley and I were tapped to help hand out WARN notices to understandably shaken and often tearful employees. The company did everything they could to do right by their team members, with extended job placement assistance and generous severance, but it was a dark day for all involved. It was a humbling experience for us, but not nearly as impactful a day as it was for those on the other side of the table.

For those who are considering a career in communications, just remember what the Bard said: “All that glisters (cq) is not gold.” PR and communication work is not all happy stuff.

By Carley Fredrickson

Lessons from the NBA playoffs for your next marketing campaign

It’s the time of year when heroes are born while others’ dreams are shattered – the NBA finals are here! If you really think about it, the road to winning an NBA championship has surprising similarities to the process of creating and executing a successful marketing campaign:

  • Professional colleagues are like teammates. Good ones are there during the high times and low, offering a helping hand or words of encouragement when needed because “teamwork makes the dream work.”
  • Both tend to require a liquid refreshment for an extra boost to power you through the long days or long games… I’m talking about coffee and Gatorade, of course!
  • Both include setting strategies to achieve a goal.

As you watch the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers battle, keep a look out for other on-court lessons that translate to the marketing arena as well:

1. Set smaller milestones in order to reach your end goal

NBA: Whether you’re the Warriors or the Cavs, your end goal is winning the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy. It’s a long road to get there, so teams take the season one game at a time, setting game-by-game goals.

Marketing: Setting daily or weekly goals will indicate if your campaign is on the right track or if you should adjust your tactics. For example, if you’re running a sweepstakes but are not hitting your weekly milestones for entries received, including alternative methods of entry and finding new ways to communicate your message to your audience may help drive entries before the campaign ends and it’s too late to boost participation.

2. Know your opponent (or audience, as it were)

NBA: It’s critical to understand who you’re playing and what their tendencies, strengths and weaknesses are, which will shape your game strategy. Don’t leave Steph Curry open beyond the three-point line.

 Marketing: Once you understand your intended audience, you can craft messages that resonate and choose the best channels to reach them. Always, the feminine hygiene brand, has accomplished this with its #LikeAGirl campaign – in deference to its growing millennial audience, Always successfully appealed to a new generation of young women through messages of empowerment and the use of social media.

3. Engage your fans

NBA: Teams often hand out free swag to fans, instantly putting their brand in the hands of thousands of loyal fans. People love rally towels and free t-shirts.

Marketing: If your audience won’t come to you, go to them by deploying a team of brand ambassadors to put your brand or product directly in front of consumers. Take Red Bull for example – most of us have seen the Wings Team roll up to community events or college campuses distributing their infamous energy drink. They have successfully placed their product in the hands of both new and current consumers for years, always finding new ways to distribute their product through fun campaigns like #WingsAtWork, delivering cans of Red Bull to Vancouverites who need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

4. Play to your strengths and rise above your limitations

NBA: Who should take the final shot, Kevin Durant or Russel Westbrook? Both are pretty good options, but it’s important to recognize who has the “hot hand” or defensive mismatch and adjust accordingly.

Marketing: Knowing if there are any barriers to reaching your audience is important, as is figuring out if there are ways around them.  If you’re showcasing your brand at an event, it may seem as if you’re limited by scope and geography, but look for ways that you can reach non-event goers. Can you include this group by sharing your event experience in real-time on social media, or can you create an experience at the event that’s too good not to share?

Bud Light took this concept full court with its Up For Whatever campaign, giving 1,000 winners with large social networks a shared experience that money couldn’t buy. The brand didn’t necessarily need to curate content to share because it leveraged the social following of the winners who, without a doubt, shared their experience on various social media platforms. As a result, millions who didn’t attend the much-anticipated, exclusive event could still get a glimpse inside.

If you’re creating your own content to post, remember to make it shareable so that your followers are compelled to share it with their audience.

5. Execution is key

NBA: Ever heard of the saying, “million dollar move, 10 cent finish?” Well, if you make a Dwayne Wade-style move to the basketball but miss the bucket, or your coach draws up a game-winning play but you can’t execute it properly, then it’s ineffective.

Marketing: Executing your strategy determines the success of the campaign, so it’s important that each person on your team knows their role. You can’t just go through the motions of writing a news release and sending it to the media. Instead, actively engage reporters if they’re not biting at the news by making follow-up calls, or sharing compelling visuals in your pitch. Earning actual coverage — not just going through the motions — is the real game-winner.

Just like different opponents require different game plans, different campaigns require different approaches and strategies. Keeping these basic tips in mind will help you lay the groundwork for any marketing campaign (or basketball game).

Here’s to hoping your next marketing campaign is a slam dunk!

1 2
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
All that Glitters Is Not Gold: The Tough Side of PR
Lessons from the NBA playoffs for your next marketing campaign