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 Annie Alley

This is What Thought Leadership Looks Like

In the wee hours of a recent Wednesday, we spotted a high-profile opportunity for behavioral healthcare provider Compass Health to publicly fulfill its mission of destigmatizing mental illness. By the following Sunday, our Everett, Wash.-based client was the feature editorial in its city’s most-read publication.

How does this type of thought leadership happen?

As the organization’s op-ed published in The Herald demonstrates, it happens over years, over months and overnight – first by doing the hard work that forms trust, expertise and credibility, and then by mapping messaging platforms, building relationships and seizing opportunities with agility and courage.

Substantive Thought Leadership Platforms

There’s no doubt that Compass Health knows its stuff. Northwest Washington’s behavioral healthcare leader celebrated its 115th anniversary this year, and its 750+ team members provide everything from mental health counseling to crisis services, affordable housing to summer camps and community training programs for around 22,000 adults and youth annually.

Since F+A began working with the nonprofit nearly two years ago, visibility of its exceptional work has increased significantly, including through regional and national media coverage, speaking at a TEDx conference, and building new social media channels to engage with its stakeholders.

Early on, our partnership with Compass Health focused on prioritizing and defining the areas where it must lead the way, including:

  • Serving as a go-to resource for the media and community members.
  • Demystifying and correcting misperceptions about behavioral and mental health, which also ties directly to the nonprofit’s mission statement.
  • Introducing and delivering on the latest innovative models within behavioral healthcare, including Mental Health First Aid, a global movement to improve mental health awareness and provide the skills to empower people to help their friends and neighbors.

Building Relationships with Media

Once we collectively defined Compass Health’s focus areas, we launched a series of deskside briefings for the organization’s engaging CEO, Tom Sebastian, to meet with key editors and reporters in the communities the organization serves – including Jon Bauer, editorial page editor of The Herald.

In addition to making a personal connection and learning how Compass Health can best serve as a source, we used the meetings to provide high-level context for the organization’s initiatives to build on when sharing newsworthy announcements.

Identifying and Seizing the Opportunity

That foundation allowed the op-ed to materialize in less than 24 hours:

  • At around 7 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, our media monitoring systems flagged a letter to the editor written by a Snohomish resident and published by The Herald. It criticized a recent syndicated parenting column that dramatically simplified complex issues around youth mental health conditions, perpetuated misinformation and misplaced blame on modern parenting. The letter suggested Compass Health as one of several local resources better-suited to provide accurate information on mental health solutions.
  • By 10:30 that morning, our client team – including Tom Sebastian, the CEO, and the chief development and communications officer – had signed off on our suggestion to submit an op-ed shedding light on the truth around youth mental health conditions and publicly thanking the concerned community member.
  • Within an hour, we’d connected with Jon Bauer, The Herald’s editor, who welcomed a submission from Compass Health.
  • By 5:30 that night, Compass Health’s leadership and communications team was circulating and reviewing the draft op-ed, which drew on thought leadership key messaging, corrected misperceptions and pointed readers to resources for Compass Health’s youth Mental Health First Aid training.

We finalized and submitted the piece the next day, garnering nearly immediate editorial acceptance. The editorial team held it for Sunday publication – the largest circulation of the week – and noted that it would discontinue publication of the syndicated parenting column that caused the original offense.

Meaningfully, Compass Health has received positive feedback from several community members, including the author of the letter to the editor, who wrote to thank the organization for speaking out and for its dedication to the community.

Altogether, the op-ed exemplifies how and what it means to be a thought leader – serving as a trusted source who speaks with authority, credibility and inspiration in service of stakeholders.

Read Compass Health’s op-ed in The Herald here, along with the letter to the editor (paywall).

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 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!

Ready to start your PR career?
This is What Thought Leadership Looks Like
The Quest for Relevance: Does Talkability Trump Truth?
Lessons from the NBA playoffs for your next marketing campaign