Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Will They Ever Serve Again? – Managing the Chipotle Crisis

By Rose Strong

With the rush of the holiday season upon us, it’s highly likely we’re going have at least one meal this month from a fast food chain restaurant.

However, if you’ve been paying attention to the news, you may have heard about a recent outbreak of norovirus at Chipotle. A food-borne illness struck more than 140 people near Boston College; all had eaten at the restaurant in the Cleveland Circle neighborhood.

The fast food chain that has marketed itself as the healthier option, with non-GMO and organic ingredients sourced from local farms, has been struggling lately as several hundred customers across the country have contracted food-borne illness.

Food-borne illness can happen anywhere: a restaurant, a school cafeteria, even your own home. It can happen at any point along the supply chain, from the location where food is grown and harvested to where it is stored, processed, packaged, transported, unloaded, displayed, purchased, and cooked - and even after cooking. A simple, human error in any part of that chain can cause people to fall ill.

On the West Coast, Chipotle voluntarily closed 43 stores in November due to E. coli infections, after 17 stores were cited. The restaurant chain also has had an outbreak in Pennsylvania and several other eastern states.

How does a restaurant or food company bounce back after an outbreak of food poisoning? Some do and some don’t. Much depends on how they manage the crisis.

For the food service industry, there are four phases to responding to a crisis, according to the industry publication, Food Safety magazine. Prevention, preparation, management, and recovery are all a part of preventing food safety issues, and communicating effectively with all stakeholders if a crisis does occur.

1.    Prevention: Employing a good food safety culture, including staying current on risk factors
2.    Preparation: Proactively planning for a problem and monitoring public discussion of risk
3.    Management: Implementing the plan using multiple messages and media
4.    Recovery: Reassessing risk exposure and telling the story of changes

Clear, transparent, timely communication with all audiences is an essential part of every crisis plan for any type of business. Does your business have a crisis communications plan? If not, your first resolution for 2016 should be to draft one.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2 Social Media Tools You Need to Start Using in 2016

By Megan Quinn

Managing social media is a time-consuming process. Let’s say you have four, five or more social media channels to manage. Even the best multi-taskers can have trouble managing multiple social media profiles. And if you’re a solo business owner or start-up, finding time to manage your company profiles and run the business itself can be difficult.

Below are two social media tools we recommend using to make your life easier. Business owners, I’m talking to you.

Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to worry about posting one Instagram message that could also be linked, for example, to your Facebook business page? Check out IFTTT, which stands for “If This…Then That.” This Jack-of-all trades tool is great for social media marketers because it can post, email, and do all sorts of things with almost all major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr and even Slack.

Each posting combination is called a “recipe.” For example, if you post a picture to Instagram and then want to post it as a pin on Pinterest, this is a recipe. One other easy trick with IFTTT is that you can add your social media profiles using recipes already created by other people. While customization is key, sometimes the perfect recipes are already set up so there’s less work for you.

If you have trouble finding copyright-free images for your blog posts, check out Canva. Social media has become increasing visual over time and people have shorter attention spans than goldfish these days according to an article from Time Magazine. If paragraphs of text can be broken up by images, it’s easier to keep your readers’ eyes on your blog post.

Canva is perfect for creating images that you need right away and on a tight budget. You can create many images for free and design them to your liking, but the tool also includes additional budget-friendly options, so if something else catches your eye, paying a couple bucks isn’t so bad.

Even if you aren’t great with design, Canva has easy-to-follow instructions and will set you up with a tutorial when you sign up. Choose from templates, symbols, backgrounds or headers and then edit them to your preferences. Once your new design skills kick in, you’ll be able to create an attention-grabbing social media or blog image in just minutes.

If restructuring can help your social media profiles improve, why not give it a try? Don’t streamline processes just because you can. Test out new tools* and make sure they work for you, while keeping the quality of your content high.

*These brands did not pay us in any way to promote them.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Easiest Marketing Tactic You Can Implement Right Now, For Free


By Sarah Larson

When clients rely on us to create and implement their integrated marketing and public relations plans, the strategy and tactics are often long and detailed, supported by data, and taking months and sometimes years to implement.

However, there is one recommendation that we typically have to make to every client, and it also holds true for most other businesses, maybe even yours.

The easiest, fastest marketing tool you can implement right now, with no cost to you, is also one of the most overlooked – your email signature.

Every initial email you send for business should include a full, branded signature. It should populate automatically, so you don’t have to remember (and then eventually forget) to add it manually. And it should include all the information your business contacts need to identify and reach you.

That information should include:
  • Your name
  • Your title
  • Company name
  • Company address
  • Company main line phone
  • Your direct phone line, if applicable
  • Your mobile number, if it’s used for business
  • Your email address – yes, even though the signature is FOR your email
  • Link to company website and blog, if applicable
  • Links to relevant social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn
  • Any legal disclosure your company or industry requires
For subsequent messages in a thread or long conversation, the signature can be truncated to include just basic information or can be left off all together. With so much business being done almost exclusively by email, no one wants to have to scroll through the same long information more than once. Some companies create two signatures, one for the initial email and a second abbreviated version for subsequent responses.

It sounds simple, and it is. But as with many things in life, sometimes the simplest ones are the most overlooked. The number of emails that we receive every day with no signatures at all – and therefore no easy contact information – is still surprisingly high, even though most business professionals would say, if asked, that email signatures are important.

Adding a signature to email isn’t just a good marketing tool. It is a courtesy to the message recipient. It saves them the time and trouble of having to find your contact information elsewhere. And making business interaction easier and more efficient is always a good thing.

Monday, November 02, 2015

5 Reasons Your Business Should (Still) Be on Twitter


By Sarah Larson

If you follow financial or tech news, you know that Twitter has had a rough go of it lately.

In the two years since its Nov. 7, 2013 IPO, Twitter’s stock price has fallen and it recently announced it would cut more than 300 jobs as it struggles to find a way to make money. Meanwhile, other younger, prettier social media platforms (e.g., Snapchat, Instagram) have gained ground on Twitter and the two other best-known networks, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Those may be good reasons for you to examine your tech stock portfolio, but it does not mean that your business’ social media strategy should boot the birdie out the door. At least not yet.

If your organization is investing in content marketing, Twitter still should be part of that mix. Here are five reasons why.

Twitter is public. That means anyone who goes to the Twitter app or site can see the photos, status updates, and links that have been shared. Not so on Facebook, where users must create their own profiles before they can see the profiles of others, or LinkedIn, where access to profiles and newsfeeds is very limited if you don’t have an account.

Twitter shows your content to all of your followers. Businesses that use Facebook to connect with customers often are frustrated by the filtering algorithm Facebook uses to decide which posts those customers see. They may have 5,000 “likes,” but they are ecstatic if even 1 out of 10 of those people ever see a given photo, video, or status update. That does not happen on Twitter. Unlike Facebook and some other social media platforms, Twitter does not filter your content in any way. Anyone who is using Twitter and has elected to make your content part of their feed will receive all of your content.

Twitter is easily searchable. The use of hashtags to categorize content ensures that people looking for that type of information will be able to find it. A Twitter user may not follow you directly, but if you’ve posted about #finance or #leadership, #healthcare or #IP, people looking for information related to that topic will be able to find it with a simple hashtag search or follow stream. (For a real-time demonstration of how this works, try following the hashtag of any major sports team’s name during one of its games.)

Twitter is a favorite of journalists. If you are looking to get to know journalists who cover your industry, Twitter can be a powerful research vehicle. Journalists interact there, they look for sources there, and they monitor and contribute to developments in real-time there. Watch for the stories they tweet. Check out their interests. See what hashtags they are using and, if you have relevant observations or content to share, reply to them and use the same hashtag.

Twitter is great for repeated sharing of content. There are 347,222 tweets sent every minute of every hour. That’s 500 million tweets a day. That means that users’ news feeds move quickly and continuously. That enables you to share the same content repeatedly over time, increasing the number of views on each piece of content in your content marketing initiative. Just be sure to space the shares out over time. Scheduling apps and services can help you plan accordingly.

While social media continues to evolve, its use in content marketing changes as well, and PR and marketing professionals need to be prepared to change strategy. For now, though, keeping Twitter in your marketing mix still makes good sense.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Is Your Law Firm Making These Social Media Mistakes?

By Megan Quinn

Social media in general and its various platforms in particular are not always easy for lawyers to fully understand, much less embrace. Social media engagement also is something that must be maintained over time to be successful. Unfortunately, too many attorneys and other professionals refuse to invest the time and energy needed in order to use social media as a successful public outreach tool, and so end up doing it poorly.

Other industries that adopted social media sooner have invested that time and energy into social media plans. They’ve practiced and learned from their mistakes, making them better marketers in the process. Getting the most out of social media requires the three Ps: practice, patience, and perseverance. It requires calculation and investment. It also requires a willingness to overcome preconceived notions about social media. Below are five mistakes attorneys often make regarding social media.
  1. Thinking that simply being on social media equals engagement with target audiences. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter allow you to engage with your audiences, but this can be tricky because it requires actual two-way participation. Social media is not like a billboard or a newspaper ad. You can’t just push, push, push out your own content and messaging. It has got to be a real conversation.
  2. Deserting a social media account when you’re not the getting results you expected. Great outcomes from social media marketing take careful planning and lots of time. Earning the users’ trust is key, and that can take months, if not years. Posting consistently about current industry happenings, commenting on others’ posts and being part of the conversation can help establish your credibility.
  3. Not knowing the difference between social media platforms. For example, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn each have different posting and image standards so it’s important to research each platform before diving in. Put in the time and effort to understand each platform and tailor your posts according to each network’s best practices are the best ways to boost the results of your social media marketing. 
  4. Not tracking and measuring metrics. This can be the most difficult task for attorneys to accomplish for several reasons. First, because many want to be able to draw a straight line between a social media post and a new client, and that often just can’t be done. Second, breaking down metrics is time-consuming and requires an in-depth understanding of each platform in order to determine whether what you are doing is working.
  5. Not driving your social traffic to your website. Social media offers an opportunity for law firms to engage online with all target audiences and, by doing so, to be seen as a valuable resource. When a potential client or referral source has a legal issue, guess who they will be calling first? The firm that comes to mind first. That's where content marketing comes in. Sharing links to your firm’s blog posts about trends in the industry or to news items should point back to the firm's website. This will help you establish a following and keep you top of mind for the day when they do need your services.
The only way to truly know if your social media marketing plan is working is to define SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. What are your goals for your social media marketing plan? What tools or approaches have worked for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fall Foliage and Pink Ribbons: It Must be October

By Rose Strong


My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid 1970s. It was a time when people didn’t talk about cancer, let alone the specificity of breast cancer, despite President Nixon signing the National Cancer Act in 1971. It was truly a taboo subject, spoken about in hushed tones, and there was little knowledge of the disease or treatment other than to “slash, cut and poison,” to quote Dr. Susan Love, breast cancer specialist, patient advocate and author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and once again we are in the midst of both the fall foliage season here in North America and pinkwashing month.

We should be aware of breast cancer. Breast cancer awareness campaigns have been going on for years and unless you have your head under a rock, at this point, I can’t imagine anyone being unaware of what a pink ribbon means. Today, shouldn’t we be making some real progress toward a cure for the disease instead of just making people aware of it? As the Breast Cancer Fund says, “Pink ribbons are everywhere, but when 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, how much more awareness do we need?”

Many of the companies you see in your local food market, pharmacy, big box store and even home improvement warehouse have products that display pink ribbons to give to specific charities. But are those companies truly giving, and, if so, just how much of your hard-earned dollars are going to the breast cancer charities on the label? Are the charities worthwhile and using the money to fight cancer or pay their administrative fees? These are all questions to consider along with others as Allison Takeda stresses in her article for Everydayhealth.com, where she shows us the top 10 “pinked out products” over the years.

Breast Cancer Action, a gritty, to-the-point, group that strives to mix awareness with strident action and justice for those with or at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, has taken on the American Cancer Society this year. It was brought to BCAction.org’s attention that some of the products that are in their ‘Look Good/Feel Good’ program bags given to women having treatment for the disease may have ingredients that cause cancer or impede the process of the medical treatment those women are receiving to fight their breast cancer.

Who’s Doing the Watching?

How do you find out about the charities accepting donations for breast cancer research and advocacy? Here are two sites that help sort out the good, the bad and the ugly:
  • Check out Guidestar.com, a comprehensive website that allows you to research any charity or other nonprofit before you donate. The site gives information on how to choose a charity and give to one that uses your money judiciously and offers direct reviews from those who have donated to or been involved with the charity.
  • ThinkBeforeYouPink.org is a project of Breast Cancer Action started in response to the onslaught of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness.
I’d enjoy hearing your stories of charitable giving. Do you give at work? Ever just drop change in a bucket or do you research the charity of your choice before you give? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Eye-Opening Facts About the Workplace Impacts of Shut-Eye


By Rose Strong

Do you roll out from under the covers in the morning looking forward to the end of the day when you can crawl back into bed? Perhaps you find yourself drifting off while typing an email at work. Or maybe you’re one of those people asking for more hours in the day while trying to hold back a yawn.

You, my friend, are not alone. The United States is crawling with people who lack the proper amount of snooze time or a seriously good night’s sleep.

I don’t think you need a scientist to tell you many of us need more sleep, but, eye-opening studies on sleep and sleep disorders do abound. My eyelids get heavy during the day from losing a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row. My coworkers regularly need that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon to recharge them ‘til quitting time.

Seems our collective lack of sleep does more than just make us yawn and want a mid-afternoon nap at work. It is destructive to our health and happiness, as well as our pocketbooks.

According to a recent Washington Post article, corporate America is noticing its employees are not sleeping well. The C-suites are discovering that the lack of sleep is affecting not only employee moods, but also work accuracy and productivity. As a result, some employers have started working in sleep as a part of ‘get fit’ programs they offer to their employees – a great wellness tactic, as poor quality sleep is now linked to some major health problems such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

An article in Lehigh Valley Business by Cedar Crest College professor, Micah Sadigh, Ph.D. gives more than a few statistics based on a recent Journal of Science study that indicates that the kinds of sleep we get make a tremendous difference in how we think and problem solve.

There are many differences between non-rapid eye movement sleep – the time before deep sleep when we don’t dream and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep where we have reached the stage of deep slumber and we dream and truly rest. Making sure we achieve REM is important to our mental, psychological and physical well-being.

In trying to keep your regular sleep patterns (circadian rhythms) in good working order, here’s a helpful check list of tips for getting a good night’s rest:
  1. Set a regular bedtime and stick to it. Get in bed at the same time, Every. Single. Night. I know it’s hard to do. Weekends bring great temptations to think we’ll make up for lost sleep, but sticking to a set time for bed will help keep you on track to sleep well.
  2. Wake up at the same time every day. If you get a good, quality night’s sleep, it’s been found that you should wake up without an alarm clock. However, until you get that pattern down, keep your wake up time the same, even on weekends.
  3. If you need to nap, be smart about it and do it for less than an hour, midday. Napping can be refreshing and helpful, but if it affects your sleep at night consider eliminating naps.
  4. Turn off the TV and put the electronic devices away at least one hour before you put your head down on the pillow. Backlit devices and the television tend to suppress the production of the hormone melatonin which helps to bring on sleep.
  5. Sleep in a dark, cool room. A darker room is conducive to better sleep, so cover digital displays on clocks, turn off nightlights, use room darkening drapes and be sure the temperature is no higher than 65°. 
  6. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and ingesting too many liquids before bed. All three can be a hindrance to quality sleep. A glass of wine or scotch on the rocks may help you to fall asleep faster, but it can cause you to wake up after a few hours and leave you tossing and turning the rest of the night. Caffeine’s effects can last as long as 10 to 12 hours after ingestion, so it might be helpful to limit it after lunch. Of course, drinking too much of any liquid can make trekking back and forth to the bathroom several times a night a true sleep disturbance.
Looking for that magical way to relax and bring on sleep on quickly? The article, A Life Hack For Sleep: The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise Will Supposedly Put You To Sleep In Just 60 Seconds by Lizette Borrelli for MedicalDaily.com has a breathing exercise that might be just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Should Lawyers Take the Time to Blog? Here’s One Example

By Sarah Larson

“Content marketing” is an important ingredient in the communications plans that we create to help our clients get noticed, but oftentimes, getting them to actually create the content is tough.

Lawyers are busy, usually with work for which they can bill a client. Taking the time to write a blog post on a new development in their practice area or an article to submit to a journal often falls way down on their list of priorities.

We tell them how important blogging and other writing is, but, as with most things, it’s much more effective when you are able to show people a truth instead of just telling them. One recent experience with a client did just that, demonstrating the value of high-quality, original content to any communications plan.

Willig, Williams & Davidson, a labor and employment law firm based in Philadelphia, rotates different lawyers throughout the firm to write articles about developments in their practice area every couple months. Those articles are then posted on the firm’s website and shared with the firm’s audience through an electronic newsletter.

The attorneys at this firm have spent decades practicing labor, employment and workers’ compensation law. They know their stuff, and are a great resource for anyone looking for information or commentary when labor and employment issues affect public policy or make news headlines.

One of the partners, Wendy Pongracz, wrote an article for the website exploring the effects of a Pennsylvania court decision upholding same-sex marriage on employees benefits. The article, “Same-Sex Marriage in Pennsylvania: An Employee Benefits Perspective,” was published on the firm’s website in June 2014.

In September 2015, Evan Jones, a business reporter at the Reading Eagle newspaper (subscription required) wrote a news series looking at the impacts of the Whitewood v. Wolf court decision on Pennsylvania workplaces in the ensuing year. While doing his research, he came across Pongracz’s article and then cited her and the firm in the resulting news piece, “Gay marriage brings new rules at work.”


That news series then was picked up and published by Bloomberg Business.

And just like that, an article that an attorney had written more than a year previously garnered the firm the attention it deserved in both a regional and a national publication as a knowledgeable source of insight into employment law.

Content like this is what we call “evergreen,” meaning it will remain relevant for a long period of time. From a public relations and marketing perspective, publishing this kind of valuable information on a law firm’s website or blog is key to demonstrating the firm’s leadership in its area of practice.

So what are you going to blog about today that will demonstrate your leadership in your own area of focus?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Snapchat – Evolution of a Social Media Platform

By Kim Tarasiewicz

Social media platforms come and go, but the ones that remain strong have two things in common: they evolve along with their users’ needs and they reach several target audiences, not just one. Snapchat is a platform that began as a one-to-one messaging app (originally known for use in sexting) but now has evolved into a platform for group chatting – with an average age demographic of 13 to 34. Snapchat is used daily by more than 100 million users, and businesses large and small are taking advantage of reaching those users more and more often.

Snapchat allows you to take pictures or videos, edit them with text, emoji, colors or filters and then send them to a large group all at once. The photos or videos stay live on the Internet for only a short time and are erased from the user’s feed after one view, though viewers can take a screen shot of the message. Snapchat then notifies users when a viewer takes a screenshot so the sender is able to tell if the message has been saved by someone.

Small businesses use Snapchat to get users to follow their company. Many companies are using the platform to give a behind-the-scenes look into their business or as a teaser to get users to follow them. One company sent a “snap” with a video. At the end of the video you could screenshot a coupon to use at the store. This, of course, is supposed to bring customers into the store. Snapchat currently doesn’t provide a detailed tracking report, so businesses must rely on “opens” or “views” to track engagement. Since Snapchat lets you know when someone takes a screenshot, that function operates as a de facto tracking device to judge the success of your coupon.

Some larger businesses are beginning to see the attraction of Snapchat as well. Burberry announced it will premiere its fall line live on Snapchat. You can see the new fashions as they go down the runway, but then the photos will disappear after 24 hours, which coincides with its next show. This creates another teaser marketing plan from the company leading into another show and gaining interest for the brand.

While some smaller companies use the platform on a small level to reach a young, smaller audience, large corporations are beginning to use the advertising side of Snapchat. The ad costs are pricey at $750,000 per day, and there isn’t a way to directly target the advertising to a specific group. Because of this, companies need to rely on their followers to open the “snaps,” so creativity is a must when creating a message.

The NFL recently made a deal to sponsor content to Snapchat users along with their advertising. The partnership allows the NFL to send out live “snaps,” which they are calling a Live Story from the games, and allows users to post their own “snaps” while at the games. This type of interaction will give the NFL many chances to build brand awareness and gain followers. The first Live Story they did during the draft reached 15 million users – not a bad number for first time out. The NFL feels that number will grow during the season as more users become aware of the service.

Snapchat seems to be a social media platform that is still evolving, but also one that is here to stay. It will be interesting to see how followers react to seeing advertising within their messages. If you use Snapchat, we would love to hear what portion of the app you use most.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Press Release Mistake You Need to Stop Making

By Sarah Larson

Years ago, a press release was written and then carefully formatted on a sheet of letter paper, usually official stationary of the company or group sending the release. It had headers and footers and logos and salutations. It often was printed and either faxed or - gasp - mailed.

It was no surprise, then, that when email took over prominence as the main form of business communications, many organizations continued to follow the same procedures and then, instead of printing or faxing, simply emailed the document as an attachment.

If your organization still is sending out press releases this way, there are good reasons you should stop. As a matter of course, Furia Rubel sends press releases to media contacts in the body of an email, not as a separate, attached document. Here's why:

  • Spam. Adding an attachment to your email increases the likelihood of your message getting held up in a spam filter.
  • Not efficient. Forcing someone to open an attachment makes it more difficult for a busy journalist to quickly evaluate the news you're sharing. Many will just ignore it, rather than spend the time to open an attachment.
  • Restrictive format. In that same vein, attaching a document in a certain format requires the recipient to have that program in order to open it. Not everyone has Word or PowerPoint, nor wants to have to install a program just to view your document.
  • Not mobile friendly. Many of the journalists you are trying to reach will be reading your message on a mobile device. Having to download an attachment takes longer and requires better mobile signal service, especially if you load the release with space-hogging images and logos.

As you can see by the complaint posted on Facebook (above) by a journalist friend, these might seem like little things, but they annoy journalists - mostly because they make their work lives harder - and an annoyed journalist is far more likely to skip over your message completely.

Sending a press release as text copied into the body of an email is an easy best practice that you can implement right now, to increase your organization's chances of catching the interest of the right people.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

3 Things J.K. Rowling Taught us About Marketing

By Megan Quinn

You may have heard of books and movies about a boy who finds out he is a wizard and a celebrity in the wizarding world after surviving an attack on his family by a dark sorcerer. Did I give too much away? The author of the seven-book Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has become quite the marketer since the success of her books, with a fan base that extends further than most books. Here are three things we can learn about marketing from Rowling’s success.

Loyal to readers

Rowling adores her fans and appreciates their input and better yet…she responds to them. She loves to give her fans mysteries to solve and plenty of clues to help solve them, much like a massive online scavenger hunt. And the fans have learned to keep a watchful eye for any tidbit of new information from the world of Harry Potter that she so generously shares. She even launched a fan website called Pottermore in 2009 as a place for her readers to keep the online discussions going, leading to a steady stream of viewers and readership.

Content marketing

“Muggles” (non-magical folks) go crazy any time Rowling releases new content. And most of her new stories can be read for free. Her readers have fallen in love with the fictional world of Harry Potter and love any companion pieces from the wizarding world. One way to keep interested readers coming back is to give them more and more rich content from the same vein, not only in the form of books, but also in the form of free content.

This can take many forms. Free short stories on a website or on Amazon. Blogs, Tumblr posts, Facebook updates, podcasts, or even tweets. Anything that expands and enriches already established content with a loyal following can serve as unique material for content marketing.

Growing a community of readers

Rowling is an extremely gracious author when it comes to her vast community of fans. She is thankful for the loyalty of her fans and doesn’t hesitate to tell them how much she appreciates them. It also helps that she is a maternal figure to actors Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) for example.

Rowling’s community of fans offers a sense of belonging and friendship to those who share common interests. If more and more people enjoy a book while feeling like they belong “in the community,” they will recommend the content to others and anticipate the next publication, creating a self-sustaining cycle of demand.

It’s important not to become complacent and keep the writing streak going strong. After all, the point of content marketing is to grow your business and ultimately create a few conversions. The larger your audience, eventually, the larger your business will grow.

Rowling may have been successful from her fictional works, but non-fiction can be just as effective. We each have the ability to grow an online presence, but consistency and rewarding fan loyalty is key. Start an informative blog about something that interests you and start reaping the benefits of online readership.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Using Technology for Corporate Recruiting

By Kim Tarasiewicz

How many of you were recruited for a job right out of college? Did you attend the sessions where you “dressed for success,” met with corporate representatives, and then typed out or, heaven forbid, hand-wrote a thank you letter? As my son begins life on campus as a freshman at Temple University, I am amazed at how much technology has changed the face of college life and also job recruiting.

This generation of college students is the most tech-savvy group by far; a Mashable infographic shows that 73 percent of students say they cannot study without the use of technology. As the class of 2019 makes its way through college, technology will impact the process of gaining employment even more, and those organizations that want to hire the best of the bunch will have to keep up with those advances, as well.

Just networking and putting out an advertisement on LinkedIn might not be enough for companies to connect with the right hire. Technology companies are launching new applications to help college students find the right job, and you better believe this technology-driven group will know how to use those apps.

Companies like Symplicity have partnered with college career centers to give businesses that are hiring access to highly qualified job candidates. Job seekers can download an app and keep all of their resources and searches stored in one place - yet another reason that any company developing a new website needs to have a mobile site as well if they want to remain competitive.

College students today are aware of how competitive the job market is. To remain competitive as that market evolves, they must partner with their career center early on to match skills with opportunities. As is the case at Temple, on-campus interviews are still important, but much of the process and tracking is done online with your student account.

For talent managers, keeping up with the technology college students are using can be tough, but recruiters should be aware of how potential hires are using QR codes to upload resumes, using calendars to schedule interviews, and checking websites such as Glassdoor to rate interviews and compare corporate hiring processes. Recruiters themselves can access apps to evaluate candidates, keep track of job fairs, and access a database of job seekers.

So to those hiring students fresh out of college, start updating your corporate technology now to keep abreast of the latest resources and hire the best. And to the class of 2019, good luck in your college endeavors and here’s hoping that each of you can connect on the right job with the right company four years from now.



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

3 Reasons Why a Twitter Rant is Rarely Helpful to Your Business

By Megan Quinn

In recent news, Tinder spoke out on Twitter against Vanity Fair about an article on the online dating app written by journalist Nancy Jo Sales. Tinder went on a 31-tweet rant after they clearly disapproved of the article’s viewpoint of how Tinder has negatively impacted dating in our modern age. But does venting online solve anything? Sure, speaking out on social media got people engaged and talking about Tinder and Vanity Fair, but not necessarily in the best ways for Tinder. 

After Tinder’s online tirade, many people surprisingly spoke up in defense of Sales and Vanity Fair. I’m sure that this wasn’t the kind of response that Tinder had anticipated. While Tinder also had many supporters posting pictures of successful married Tinder couples, they later released a statement explaining their Twitter outburst:

“We have a passionate team that truly believes in Tinder. While reading a recent Vanity Fair article about today’s dating culture, we were saddened to see that the article didn’t touch upon the positive experiences that the majority of our users encounter daily,” Tinder said in the statement. “Our intention was to highlight the many statistics and amazing stories that are sometimes left unpublished, and, in doing so, we overreacted.”

Tinder’s rant may have seemed unwarranted at first, but it actually may have been a calculated PR move. In fact, BuzzFeed journalist Claudia Koerner said she was contacted by a PR rep from Tinder and was told to be on the lookout for a response.
From a professional viewpoint, Tinder would have been safer with just releasing a factual statement in response to the Vanity Fair article. Below are three reasons why Tinder should not have blasted their thoughts publicly on social media.

1.       It’s annoying and whiny – Tinder came off looking unprofessional and immature about the situation and the criticism. Twitter user @meowseo compared the reaction to their “immature ex-boyfriend.”

2.       People can screenshot – Once something is on the Internet, it never dies and topics can resurface at any time. This incident is something that the Tinder management team will remember and have to revisit for years to come.

3.       Things can get heated – Emotions can quickly pour out and things can be said in the heat of the moment that will have to be resolved later. It seems like the Tinder rant was emotionally charged by someone involved with their social media team. 

It’s important to stop and think before starting a social media rant that may hurt your business later. We rarely recommend taking an emotional approach to this kind of situation. Tinder may have been worried that the Vanity Fair article would hurt their business, but in responding, they ended up making themselves look far worse in the process.

Monday, August 10, 2015

8 Interview Tips to Help Create Fresh Content

By Rose Strong

Do you regularly write blog posts, articles or press releases? Are you often researching and seeking ways to tell a story or better explain a topic? To make your content fresh, you need information that is different from all the other stuff out there on the Internet and in the media biosphere. Sometimes the perfect quotes or information from interviewing a specific person can help you create a blog post, article or press release that gets noticed.

Have you ever wanted to interview in the style of Terry Gross, on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air? Gross has a way of getting her guests to say things to her that other interviewers never seem to be able to emulate. Well, that takes practice, and lots of it, but even without years of practice, you can still aim to create original content by using interview tactics that make your subject feel free to talk and give you interesting information.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years from my own experience and from others to conduct effective interviews. Note that some of these tactics work best with willing subjects; interviewing “hostile witnesses” is a whole different ballgame.
  1. Be prepared! 
  2. Do your research before ever speaking to the person who can give you direct quotes and information. Set up a list of questions and know your topic, because if you don’t, it will show.

  3. Start with small talk. 
  4. Don’t just dive in with the topic you’re researching. Some people are a bit unnerved by an interview and find the process to be somewhat difficult. Start by asking where they’re from, where did they go to college, what was their first job - something that can be soft and manageable for them to just chat about. Typically, people like talking about themselves, so a soft start helps builds trust, and people who trust, talk.

  5. It’s not a game of 20-Questions, so take it slow.
  6. You want to entice your interviewee to tell you things, not hammer them with question after question to get to the good stuff. A good interview takes patience, not force. Design your questions to elicit information in small blurbs by dissecting the topic into small portions, if possible. Be prepared to give your subject time to answer.

  7. Ask open-ended questions. 
  8. These are the ones that don’t allow for only a yes or no answer. It’s best to allow the person you’re interviewing to speak freely and answer with more than a one-word answer.

  9. Don’t get stuck in a box.
  10. Allow your interview subject to talk, and if you don’t stick to your prepared questions; it’s okay. You may find out something you didn’t expect, making your story take a different turn or giving you material for another story or blog post.  

  11. Maintain control of the interview.
  12. I know, this seems completely opposite of what I just said, but you do have to maintain some semblance of control, if for nothing else than the sake of time and efficiency. Keeping an interview on track may take some practice, especially if you are interviewing someone who enjoys talking or simply says what comes into their heads.

  13. Listen, listen, listen and listen some more.
  14. Give your subject space in between questions and listen up. Allow a bit of silence. A few seconds in between is good and allows your interviewee that chance to think. Don’t interrupt, and don’t interject your own experiences or ideas. It’s not about you.

  15. Make this your final question:
  16. In my years of doing research for articles, blog posts and press releases, there is one question with which I typically end each interview: “Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is important for people to know?” After you’ve gone through your prepared questions and veered off onto other paths and come back again, this question gives the interviewee a chance to state, or restate, the most important points.
Interviewing someone can be a smooth process if you follow just a few of the hints above. You won’t be perfect, and sometimes you’ll walk away thinking you should have asked this or should have asked that. It happens. That’s what a follow-up email or phone call is for, and most subjects won’t mind or find it a bother. It lets them know you’re doing your best to be thorough and get to the heart of the matter.

Monday, July 27, 2015

6 Things Google Analytics Can Tell You About Your Marketing

By Kim Tarasiewicz

At Furia Rubel, we build many of our clients' websites and also provide hosting on a dedicated server. Part of our website services involve checking Google Analytics to see how those sites are performing. An analytics program can provide a bird's eye view of how many visitors are using your site each month, among other things. By defining your parameters in detail, you can even see how many visitors go to a certain page each day, month or quarter. When used properly, Google Analytics can provide crucial information on your customers/clients that can be used in the marketing process throughout the year.

Several of the key metrics we look for when compiling data to share with clients are outlined below. Depending on your marketing and advertising needs, different reports may be more or less important to your business. You will need access to your company's analytics account associated with your website to view your reports.

The traffic report shows the number of visitors to your site, this number should increase or at least remain consistent if your site is performing well. When using analytics properly, you should be able to increase the number of visitors to your site by reviewing behavior on your site and making edits to pages as needed. For example, by checking the "Organic Search Traffic page", you will see the number of visitors that used a search engine and which keywords they used to find the site. You can then incorporate additional related keywords into the site which should increase traffic.

The channel report image above provides a perfect overview to HOW visitors arrived at the site. This area can be used to develop or tweak your marketing plan. If your business determines that they want to increase their social media leads to the website, you can review the current social media number which in this case is very low (0.27%) and after running a social media campaign, check back to see if your percentages have increased, hopefully giving your campaign validation.

Referral traffic is important to evaluate as it shows which outside websites are sending online traffic to your company's website. This could be in the form of a news story that links to your website as part of the story, or it could be a partner company that has a link to your website on their site for referral traffic. It is important to follow-up on these resources, grow your network connections, and promote your company, in order to increase online visitors.


The device overview report will show you from what type of device your clients are accessing your website. On the report example above, 88.49% of these website users are using a desktop computer, perhaps visiting the site as they work. As the number of people accessing your site from a mobile device increase, you should consider building a mobile, responsive version of your website to provide those mobile visitors with content that is optimized to display on small screens.

Reviewing the pages report will show you which pages have the most traffic and have created the most interest. This will give you an idea of what your readers are looking for and allow you to add additional material such as blogs or media stories around that subject, with the goal of increasing traffic to your site.

If your marketing plan is to target certain geographic areas, you may want to review the location report to see what country or which state your viewers are coming from. This report can be narrowed down by clicking on the country, then the state which will eventually show the local towns visitors are in when viewing your site.

Google Analytics can be customized by day and date, locations, new and returning visitors etc. and can be an ideal tool to use in measuring your marketing tactics. Before your team sits down to create next year's goals and plan, do a little research in analytics and give your team cutting edge information to increase opportunities for a successful year.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Keeping It S.I.P.S.

By Megan Quinn

What do you do for a living?

If you answered by naming your company or your title or your general field, you just missed out on a golden business opportunity – to create interest in what you do and open the door for further interest.

That was the main takeaway from a recent conference, LMA Metro Philadelphia’s Half-Day Educational Conference, presented by the HUB City View. The July 16 conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about legal marketing from local and visiting marketing experts and it was interesting to switch over to the marketing side for a day and shift my mind out of the PR gear.

The breakout session 2 program, “Wildfire: Creating Interest in Your Practice With Everyone You Meet,” really struck a chord with me. It was presented by Steve Hughes, president of Missouri-based company Hit Your Stride, LLC. The main theme was, how can we brainstorm new ways to market our profession or help our clients to do the same when networking?

For example, when asked at a cocktail party or event, “What do you do for a living?” it’s easy to just state your profession or company name outright. “I’m a lawyer,” “I work in public relations,” or “I work at Furia Rubel Communications in Doylestown.”

That’s all well and good, but there’s no hint of mystery to it. If we aren’t proactive about coming up with new ways to explain our jobs in a fun, interesting way, does that make us sound disinterested in what we do?

For tax attorneys, Hughes recommends saying this: “I’m Uncle Sam’s biggest nightmare” or “I help add to the national debt.” For estate planning attorneys, try “I work with dead people” or real estate attorneys can say “I play with dirt all day and get paid for it.”

The point is to make our explanations S.I.P.S. (short, intriguing, pithy and simple). If we can succeed in doing this, we can engage our audience in a way that presents opportunities for follow-up questions. Don’t give it all away at once; leave them guessing!

I often have a hard time explaining my job to friends and family, as I wrote about in a previous blog post, so this is a way to explore how we view our clients and their impact on the world. So, what do I do? For my job, I came up with, “I help law firms and banks look human.”

How would you explain your profession to others?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Vacation for Executives, Entrepreneurs and Employees is a Must

By Gina F. Rubel

The furthest thing from most entrepreneurs’ minds is vacation. When launching and growing a business, the primary focus is on executing the business plan and, with any luck, generating profits. The same holds true for executive leaders; most don’t take on senior roles with the thought of vacation in mind. Instead, most executives are focused on their tasks at hand which often include fiscal and human relations oversight, business management and corporate growth.

Keeping these things in mind, it is important to remember that, just like at home with children and their parents, employees often take cues from leadership and emulate the leaders’ behavior (especially if they are trying to climb the corporate ladder).

Vacation options vary based on your areas of business, the reliability of others to handle your work in your absence, and your personal preferences for down time. For some solopreneurs, that may mean taking a week’s vacation and shutting down the office. For others, it means two weeks away from the office and leaving others in charge. There is no steadfast rule; however, down time is important for the overall health of all individuals and certainly for the overall health of a business.

Smart scheduling strategies (such as planning down time during less active months) and efficiently working ahead of time (wrapping up matters and meeting all deadlines that will occur during your vacation time) can help. For solos, if you don’t already have office help, consider hiring a short term call answering service or virtual assistant. In the alternative, set up your voicemail to inform callers that you are unreachable until a certain date and will follow up with them upon your return to the office. And as Murphy’s Law often has it, there is always the possibility of a business or client crisis arising during your absence. In that case, make sure that you have a plan in place, such as a way for you to be reached or someone who can manage the crisis in your absence. Such challenges should not prevent one from taking time off; time off is vital to recharge and avoid burnout, which will sabotage your business and personal success in the long run.

For small offices, the options are wider, and often come down to the way your business functions day to day. Using a team approach to handle client matters helps spread the knowledge and the responsibility, so if one person is out of the office, the rest of the team can pick up the slack. In that way, clients’ needs are always met. An auto reply email is also helpful in managing expectations when you are away from the office and ensuring that clients or customers always have another alternative contact person.

While I do tend to work long hours, as many professionals do, I have become more mindful of the impact that kind of stress has on the rest of my life and on my family. I also know that the Furia Rubel team members are taking their cues from what I do. Before I went on vacation this summer, our Vice President of Public Relations, Sarah Larson, encouraged me NOT to check emails (I laughed) while I was away and gave me this simple and appreciated anecdote:

“Vacation might not sound like a novel stress management tool, but at a time when an estimated 4 in 10 U.S. workers do not take their paid vacation days because of pressure to appear more invested in their work, having a CEO who shows by example that vacation time brings benefit not just to the employee but also to the workplace is important.” (And if you know Sarah, you know that she said it just that way.)

Sarah then sent me a link to a U.S. Travel Association report, which found that “The average American with paid time off (PTO) used 16 of 20.9 vacation days in 2013, down from an average of 20.3 days off from 1976 to 2000.” It added that 169 million days of permanently forfeited U.S. vacation time equated to $52.4 billion in lost benefits.

As one who wants my employees to take advantage of the benefits, I did find this statistic alarming.

As a result, I encourage all business executives to disconnect from work when practical and possible. For me, that means I vanish with my family for two weeks each year, and I'll take sporadic days off throughout the rest of the year when needed.

While away, I do check email daily when I have service, so that I’m not buried when I return to the office. However, I don’t “respond” to emails unless it is an urgent matter that I cannot otherwise delegate. If it is something that can be handled by someone other than me, then I rely on the expertise of our team. I communicate what I need before I leave, everyone has their marching orders, and the members of our well-seasoned marketing and public relations teams don’t contact me during vacation unless there’s a true emergency.

Undistracted vacation with my family allows me to be the mother and wife that I love to be. It allows me to experience the world and to return to work with renewed vigor and passion. I expect the same for every member of our Furia Rubel team. I encourage everyone to take time off from work and have witnessed greater productivity and deeper personal engagement as a result.

If you want to read more about the benefits of encouraging employees to take vacation, then read Inc. magazine’s article: Four Reasons Why You Need to Encourage Employees to Use Vacation.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Rainbow Flag: Logo, Symbol or Both?

By Rose Strong


June was Gay Pride month, and how appropriate for the Museum of Modern Art to add the rainbow flag to its collection in the same month that same-sex marriage was legalized across the nation. Rainbows have been everywhere these past couple weeks, along with the hoot and holler of pride after the landmark decision was handed down by the U.S Supreme Court.

Whether you agree or disagree with the SCOTUS decision regarding same-sex marriage, you can’t go through a day right now without seeing a rainbow flag flying on social media, in storefront windows and above some buildings throughout major metropolitan cities. In fact, Facebook set up a filter for profile photos and Instagram and Twitter have had a plethora of brands posting photos with their products and the flag and supportive commentary. In addition, there are the bumper stickers, T-shirts and even landmarks lit up in rainbow colors in the wake of the SCOTUS decision.

In the wake of all the hype, have you ever wondered how the rainbow flag came to symbolize gay pride?

Prior to the rainbow flag, a pink triangle often was used, which was originally a symbol created by the Nazis to indicate one as a sexual deviant or homosexual in concentration camps. (Sadly, even after the Nazi defeat and concentration camp liberation, LGBT people were imprisoned for more than two decades longer because of the laws imposed upon them.) The pink triangle was co-opted by the LGBT movement throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but many argued that the symbol had disturbing implications and understandably wanted to do away with it.

So the triangle was scrapped and replaced by a flag in simple, bright rainbow colors as a symbol of LGBT pride. It was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978. He began the process just before the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, inspired by the increased number of American flags being flown to mark the country’s 200th birthday. Baker, an artist and drag queen, told the Museum of Modern Art in an interview:

“And I thought, a flag is different than any other form of art. It’s not a painting, it’s not just cloth, it is not just a logo—it functions in so many different ways. I thought that we needed that kind of symbol, that we needed as a people something that everyone instantly understands. [The rainbow flag] doesn’t say the word “Gay,” and it doesn’t say “the United States” on the American flag but everyone knows visually what they mean. And that influence really came to me when I decided that we should have a flag, that a flag fit us as a symbol, that we are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power, so it’s very appropriate.”

When Baker rationalized it, without knowing, he pretty much did what any branding agency would be doing in the process of developing reasoning behind the creation of a particular logo or brand. In fact, at Furia Rubel Communications, we often develop brands (a.k.a. symbols) for our clients. We brainstorm about what would be the best logo or symbol to capture the attention of the target audience, and we conduct strategic planning, focus groups, surveys and research to shape the image that will best speak about the client or cause that we represent.

Baker made his first flag with about 30 volunteers, after being asked for one by his friend, the late Harvey Milk, a San Francisco Board of Supervisors member and the first openly gay politician in a large U.S. city, who wanted it for a march he was coordinating. The original flag had eight colors: hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo and violet. Each color has a specific meaning. In creating the flag for retail purchase, Baker was told the color dye needed to create the hot pink was too expensive, so it was removed.

Other symbols throughout LGBT history have been adopted to educate the public and stir pride in the LGBT population – a population whose individuals often have had self-esteem ripped from them from schoolmates, families and even strangers, over the course of their lives. Today, many of these symbols may be seen at gay pride festivals, in LGBT publications and on social media, but some may be unfamiliar to the general public. Even to gay men and lesbians, some of these symbols require explanation.

Was there a symbol you didn’t know, but were curious about?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Using Technology to Enjoy a Little More Sunshine This Summer

By Kim Tarasiewicz

As we move into summer, everyone wants more free time to enjoy the wonderful weather and outdoors. And believe it or not, technology can help with that. While technology can keep us connected when we might wish to be off the grid, it also allows us time to work when we are able and not miss important calls, meetings or emails.

At Furia Rubel, we savor our vacation time as much as the next person and we have found some tech tools to save time and be more efficient – and in my case, provide more of my beloved beach time.

Here are some favorites:

IFTTT is an app that lets you combine all of your favorite online technologies. The acronym means “If this, then that” and it allows you to create your own recipes such as “If I post a picture to Instagram, then add it to my Dropbox.” Imagine the time you can save not having to log into each separate application. Even better, you can sign up for a free account and connect your services.

Workflow (for iPhones) and Llama (for Androids) both allow you to connect applications and then combine actions to create automatic tasks. For example, you can set your phone to automatically be on silent when your calendar has you scheduled in a meeting. Or on a personal level, every time you order pizza with an app, it automatically sets a reminder time to pick it up.

Gmail labs are special settings that add helpful features to your Gmail. By going into the “settings” icon at the top right of your Gmail and clicking on "labs," you can manage your email more efficiently. As Gmail states in the disclaimer at the top, these tweaks aren’t permanent, but they are fun to experiment with. "Canned responses" is a great tool for all those times you use the same wording in an email. You can create several and use when needed. And of course the “unsend” feature recently was introduced into the Gmail mix, so when you accidentally hit the send button before attaching your document, you don’t have to send another email with the apology and a big “Oops.”

Carrot is a task application that rewards you when you complete items on your list, but will chastise you when they are not finished on time. As Carrot says, “Greetings lazy human. Slackers make me upset.” It is a fun way to get things done during the day. And if you like an app that interacts with you, it has an alarm, fitness, weather and calorie counter version too.

So get out and enjoy summer this year and experiment with some new technologies and applications. You may find a few that can increase your productivity, making everyone happy. In what other ways do you save time and work and live more efficiently?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Does Your Headshot Make You Look Competent, Likeable or Influential?

By Megan Quinn

I recently tested out my professional headshot through a web service called “Photofeeler.” This photo comparison website has been gaining traction lately as a tool used by professionals - and even for Tinder or Facebook users - to see if their photos are attracting the right audiences for business, dating or social purposes.

This website allows users to upload profile photos for those three categories, and receive feedback on the effectiveness of each photo. Users can vote on the photos of other participants to gain virtual credits to use in turn for their own photo comparison analysis. A brilliant, endless feedback cycle!

I chose a headshot that is on our company’s website and my personal LinkedIn profile for the “business” section without hesitation (and when I had time) proceeded to vote and earn 40 credits. Votes are cast on a 0-3 scale of whether the photo communicates a sense that the person is “competent,” “likable,” and “influential.”

The rankings are a comparison between your photo's score and all the rest that have been tested on the Photofeeler site given as a percentile. So, for instance, a score of 71% means your photo did better than 71% of photos tested on their site.

I guess I can give the influential category some leeway since I am at the start of my career in public relations. Even though I may not have received the kind of numbers I was hoping for in that section, overall, the voting style is very classy.

After casting a vote, you may also submit constructive feedback on a user’s photo. There are no write-in comments, instead there are options to choose from such as “a little too blurry,” or “would like it better with a different background,” to say politely. Some users commented that my photo is great and for this I have Allure West Studios to thank!

The biggest takeaway from this experience has been realizing how much a person’s photo can count as a first impression. Since many of us probably have our photos online, it’s important to remember that our photos should be sending the right messages. For example, a professional traveler isn’t going to be wearing a suit in an office setting for their headshot. There really isn’t a cut and dry method!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Making Amends: Retaining Customers When You Have to Say You’re Sorry

By Rose Strong

Being in business, no matter what product or service you offer, you’re bound to make a mistake with a client or customer at some point. Whether you are a waitperson in a diner, a haberdasher selling top-of-the-line handmade suits, or a consultant offering professional services, there is a chance to make an error - and to have to fix it. When that happens, how you try to make amends makes a big difference.

Of course, each situation is unique, but here are a few recommendations:

  1. Tell your boss. If you’ve made a mistake that could be detrimental to a client relationship, the first person you should tell is your supervisor. It’s bound to come out and keeping the boss in the loop is probably very wise.
  2. Don’t blame others; don’t make excuses. Even if all the explanations are true or others were at fault, neither your boss nor your client cares. The focus should be on fixing the mistake, not explaining it away.
  3. Be transparent about the error. Admit it clearly and outright as soon as you know it has happened. Even if the client doesn’t know about it, call them and tell them – or work with your supervisor to tell them together. Honesty goes a long way to maintaining trust.
  4. Come up with a solution. When you come clean about the mistake, let your boss know you have a possible solution. It makes the sting a bit less painful knowing you’ve taken responsibility on managing the mistake and saving the client relationship. This article on Forbes.com explains that fixing isn’t always enough, but it’s a start.
  5. Apologize to the client and anyone else affected. Although this seems like a no-brainer, too many businesses never actually apologize for an error. When you do apologize, do so sincerely. A genuine expression of regret may be all your customer is seeking.

Part of life is to know that you’re going to make mistakes. Being prepared and having a game plan to handle tricky situations before they happen is part of crisis management, whether the crisis is huge or small. As this article from 99u.com explains, delivering authenticity in your apology to your clients is the key to de-escalating the situation and keeping a mistake from becoming a full-blown crisis.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Pope is coming – and Ad Space Will Be at a Premium

By Kim Tarasiewicz

As a non-Catholic, I am still fascinated by Pope Francis and interested in his visit to the city of Philadelphia in September. The numbers are staggering, with 15,000 visitors attending the conference and 10,000 volunteer greeters and representatives expected in the city during the week-long World Meeting of Families. Even more incredible is that more than 1.5 million people are expected to stand on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Pope’s Sunday Mass.

Our media connections have alerted us that advertising space in and around the city will be at a premium during the Pope’s visit. Can you imagine your ad on a SEPTA bus tail or transit sign during that time? Or better yet, how about a digital billboard on one of the major routes into the city? But you also have to look at what you are selling – with visitors from 150 nations, are you really getting the most for the extra money you would be spending to advertise during that time period? If you are someone like Coke or Pepsi, probably, but local businesses might be better waiting until after the hoopla and spending their budgets to reach a more local audience.

In a way, this seems like a perfect example of old-fashioned advertising opportunities for local businesses. Shops and event planners are joining forces to name special food items for the Pope’s visit, such as the #PopeinPhilly milkshake the Potbelly Sandwich Shop created in partnership with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia who recently visited the city to plan for the event. The city will be buzzing with souvenirs on street corners and in shops and local establishments running sales with some type of reference to the pontiff’s visit.

Area colleges and universities are asking students to volunteer and, of course, will use photos and stories about their students in their public relations and social media outreach during the month. But on the advertising side of business, those same schools will be competing for advertising space within the city and surrounding suburbs. Late summer and fall are busy recruiting times before enrollment applications are due, and the schools may end up paying premium prices this year. For larger schools in the area, the extra advertising money spent may attract “out-of-town” students that wouldn’t normally have seen those schools as an option.

Whether you are Catholic or not, you have to be impressed by the amount of planning and organization necessary to run this type of event. The media coverage, the advertising and the social media buzz around this is already massive, as the event planners are sending out press releases almost daily. So join in the fun, buy an “I love the Pope” mug and enjoy a history-making event for Philadelphia.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The $1.99 Way to Increase Concentration at Work

By Sarah Larson

Open-office floorplans have their pros and cons, and learning to function well within one is an important productivity factor for most businesses.

Introduced decades ago as an alternative to offices and, later, cubicles, open-office floorplans are now the norm in most workplaces. According to Forbes, nearly 7 out of 10 American employees now work in open-concept offices. While the economists and organizational psychologists debate the open-office's impact on attention span, productivity, and creative thinking, however, those of us who work in them every day have to figure out how to make the space work for them.

Which brings me to the Best iTunes Purchase of All-Time. Let me introduce you to White Noise.

Anyone with a brain that whirrs at a million miles an hour knows that that can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. Whether you have actual, diagnosable Attention Deficit Disorder or are just surrounded by distractions, finding ways to shut out the world so you can focus on the task at hand is crucial to increasing productivity and boosting creativity.

Different people and different office cultures develop their own coping mechanisms and routines. Quick daily meetings to set group priorities and keeping chatting to a minimum for at least a couple hours at a time can help, but when every phone conversation can be heard from every corner of a room, sometimes you need more.

White Noise offers "more" - and then some.

I actually downloaded White Noise at the suggestion of a friend when I was on a weekend trip away from home. Used to sleeping with a fan on in the background, I had spent a nearly sleepless night staring at the ceiling listening to the water from the shower in the room next door, people passing in the hallway, and the incessant tick tick ticking of my own heartbeat. Every "fan" app I tried failed miserably.

Then, I found White Noise. The next night, the heavens opened, and the angels sang me to sleep. Well, not exactly. But the uncannily realistic sound of ocean waves lapping through my earbuds did lull me into dreamland.

More than that, however, I found a variety of auditory adventures amongst the app's catalog of more than 40 "perfectly looped" sounds. "Amazon Jungle" includes twittering birds and insects, "Boat Swaying in Water" features the creaking of a sailboat, and flames crackle and spark in "Camp Fire." "Cat Purring," "Crickets Chirping" and "Frogs at Night" sound exactly as you would expect them to, while "Beach Waves Crashing" sounds different than "Ocean Waves Crashing," and there are no less than six variations of rain sounds.

My favorite to listen to at work when I need to focus, especially on writing, editing, or strategizing, is "Rain Storm." Something about the patter of the raindrops and the crack of the thunder just works for me.

So now, when I need to concentrate, I let my co-workers know "I will be listening to the rain for the next two hours because I need to get some work done." They know not to distract me unless it is urgent, and I am able to tune out nearly everything around me and just write, or edit, or craft media strategy - and that is well worth the $1.99.

Do you have any tips or tricks to increasing focus and concentration at work? We would love to hear them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Making Deadline: a Tribute to a Hometown Newspaperman

By Rose Strong

Several weeks ago, we said goodbye to a dear friend, Joseph Wingert, who passed away after a lengthy illness. Joe was the publisher of our local weekly newspaper, the Bucks County Herald.

At a time when I was discovering my chops as a writer, the publishing industry was beginning to feel the grip of the Internet take hold. I had no idea back in May 2003 when I pitched my first story idea to Joe’s wife Bridget Wingert, editor-in-chief of the Herald, how strong a grip this little independent newspaper eventually would have on my life.

When you met Joe Wingert for the first time, you typically received a strong handshake, a pat on the back and a warm welcome. After that, it was an embrace and an even warmer greeting. When he became more familiar with you, he gave you a big hug and a kiss. However, any time you came face-to-face with Joe Wingert, he would look you in the eye and with that enormous mustachioed smile and those big, bright, blue eyes and he’d become immersed in conversation with you as if you were the only person in the room.

As I got to know Bridget and Joe, I learned Bridget had been an editor for years at previous Bucks County weekly newspapers. When a corporation took over those local weekly newspapers in the quaint towns throughout Bucks County, Bridget decided to start her own and along with her came Joe who, despite his well-earned retirement, took on the job of publisher with gusto.

Inspiring young journalists

Heading back to school as an adult some years ago, I enrolled at Cedar Crest College, a small, liberal arts school in Allentown, Pa., and one of only a handful of women’s colleges left. At The Crestiad, our college newspaper, I wrote a column and helped publish the paper.

In a conversation after class one day, my professor and I discussed that I was writing for the Herald, a paper founded and run by a woman whose husband not only supported the business, but was its publisher. My professor thought that was quite empowering and a great example to an all-woman class. She asked if Bridget and Joe would consider coming up and speaking with the class. I asked and they cheerfully obliged.

Bridget spoke about her past editorial roles and then discussed the founding of the Bucks County Herald. Joe interjected here and there, making jokes or discussing the process of publishing a paper, the industry and his part at the Herald. One thing I recall Joe joking about was how deadline day was the all-important day of the week at the Herald. It was when they put the paper to bed, as they say. “Lord knows, whatever you do, don’t die on deadline day, nobody’s coming to your funeral,” said Joe with a laugh, pointing over to Bridget and winking to the class. It was a delightful evening that I would recall with poignancy years later.

Learning the newspaper business

Several years before the Great Recession hit, small businesses were being hit in the pocketbooks and my life partner (now my wife) was laid off from her job as an auctioneer after more than 20 years. Though she knew nothing about Excel spreadsheets, human resources, ad copy, setting up a newspaper or weekly deadlines, she did know sales. Joe Wingert found a position for her and she’s been full-time at the Herald ever since.

Over time, her position of Gal Friday evolved into Assistant to the Publisher, and she has learned computer skills, the newspaper business, and office management. Joanne and Joe became very close in the past decade, chatting about business, life, and illness (Joanne is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, so they had lots to share).

An extended family

Joanne and I have long considered Bridget and Joe family. We know their sons and daughters and Joanne has worked with numerous Wingert grandchildren over the years as they interned through the summers and has had fun watching them all grow and mature into young men and women of whom their grandparents can be proud.

In 2012, when same-sex marriage became legal in Maine, Joanne and I got married - after nearly 26 years together. We filled out the forms and were married in a snowstorm with just my sister, brother-in-law, our officiant, her husband and our standard poodle, Looloo, in attendance. But when we came home to Bucks County, Joe and Bridget Wingert would not let the momentous occasion pass by unremarked. They threw us a party at their home to celebrate our union. They had invitations made up, and told us to invite family and my coworkers, as well as the entire staff of the Herald. It was simply the most caring gift they could have given us.

At our own celebration in 2013, the DJ asked all the couples to head for the dance floor. After they danced for a bit, he asked those who had been together for one to five years to sit down, then those who had been together six to 10 years, and so on, until the last couple left dancing was Joe and Bridget Wingert. Bridget refused to say how long they had been married and Joe wouldn’t utter a word. He was a very, very smart man! I see them as inspiration for a long, loving marriage.

Making deadline

Joe Wingert passed away during the early morning hours on Wednesday, April 22, 2015. It was officially deadline day for the Herald. He leaves behind a legacy that Bridget is carrying on, and I am so proud to be a small part of the Bucks County Herald’s story.

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