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PRSA’s Media Training Bible with Brad Phillips

Recently, President of Phillips Media Relations and author of The Media Training Bible, Brad Phillips, joined the Richmond PRSA to instruct PR pros on preparing themselves and their spokespeople for media interviews.  Below I’ve outlined highlights from the class.


Three is the magic number

Brad recommends that speakers develop three main messages when going into an interview or preparing for a speech. Speakers should either focus on one main theme supported by three ideas, or three main concepts supported by interesting data and examples. There is no perfect answer as to why this is the best strategy, but our brains seem to like organizing information into bits of 3.  For example: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; red, yellow, and green); and small, medium, and large. When an audience is given too many points, they tend to lose interest.  On the flipside, too few points or messages can lead to redundancy.

The three-legged stool of messaging

Keeping the number 3 in mind, when constructing a solid message, a helpful visual is the three-legged support stool.  Imagine a three-legged stool, with each leg representing support for your message: stories, statistics and sound bites.  To put this into action, first, envision your message.  You want to put it into context, so you tell a story.  To support your story, you then cite statistics.  It’s important to keep in mind that numbers tend to not stick with an audience unless they are unexpected or shocking.  Lastly there are sound bites: what key piece of information do you want your audience to take away? Think of superlatives or extremes to give your audience to drive your point home. For example, “This is the biggest technology advancement in 50 years” – using an impressive superlative will keep your audience’s attention and hopefully stick with them after you’re done speaking.

Body Language do’s and don’ts

When giving a speech or being interviewed, it might be easy to focus only on the words you are saying and forget about your motions/actions..  As body language can make or break an interview or speech, Brad provided a few tips for proper body language.  First off, the use of gestures is a good thing.  Some people say the contrary, but as we are naturally expressive to some degree when we speak, we shouldn’t fight it when the spotlight is on us.  Fidgeting and quick movements are distracting, however, and should be avoided. Additionally, gestures actually improve listener comprehension, which many people don’t know.  If sitting while speaking, lean slightly forward to show engagement. This also makes it easier to gesture and be expressive while speaking.  Last, think about hand placement.  It can be easy to fidget and not know where to place your hands when you are nervous.  Get used to either resting your hands in your lap when sitting, or clasped in front of you if standing, or even keeping them by your sides when standing.

The power of tone

Maintaining a proper tone in speech is vital when all eyes are on you.  Though this may be obvious,  it can easily be forgotten when under pressure.  When speaking, think about a topic you are passionate about and speak as if you’re discussing that.  If asked a tough question, never sound defensive.  Instead, say something like, “Thank you for asking that question,” and move on with your point. Maintain an upbeat attitude even when being put on the spot or stumped.  It may be beneficial to practice having someone ask you tough questions and see how you react.

Brad’s tips on preparation for speeches and interviews, in conjunction with his website,, provide PR professionals with an arsenal to prepare themselves and their spokespeople for media success.

Wireside Recap: 2015 PRSA International Conference

I recently attended my first PRSA International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The event, which was packed with educational sessions and networking opportunities, drew about 2,000 PR professionals from across the country.  Although each session brought something unique to the table, I want to highlight one of my favorite speakers from the conference, and key takeaways from his session.krr

Being part of a high-tech PR firm, I was eager to attend one session in particular.  David McCulloch, Sr. Director, Corporate Communications, Cisco, spoke on the session, “The ‘Internet of Things’: Are You Ready for the Opportunities and Risks?”  He provided some interesting examples to demonstrate the IoT in action.

  • The Henn Na Hotel (which translates to “Weird Hotel” in Japan) will be the world’s first hotel fully staffed by robots. These robots come in different forms; some made to look and have mannerisms like humans; others, like animals or cartoons. These robots speak several different languages: English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. The robots perform duties such as checking guests in, carrying luggage, and cleaning rooms.
  • Physical sensor technology company Sensum uses sensors to detect the physiological changes of audience members during presentations. These sensors enable a company to determine whether audiences are surprised, excited, or bored. This diminishes the need for traditional pencil and paper surveys, providing the speaker with feedback with little to no effort from his or her audience. Additionally, this allows the speaker to garner genuine feedback that is not affected by hastily – or dishonestly – completed surveys. This also solves the common problem of surveys not being completed, period.
  • This past September, the Food and Drug Administration accepted an application to evaluate a new drug-sensor-app system that tracks when a pill has been taken. The drug under discussion is Abilify, an antipsychotic. The actual sensor will only be the size of a pencil tip. The app will come connected to a Band Aid-like sensor, worn on the body, which will know when a tiny chip hidden inside a pill is swallowed.  This way, if patients aren’t taking their pills, doctors will be alerted.
  • Target made headlines back in 2012, when the store found out about a high school girl’s pregnancy before her father did. The store was able to trace the teen’s buying patterns, and based on her recent purchases, began sending her coupons for baby products in the mail. Her disgruntled father, unaware of the pregnancy, stormed into Target and had it out with the manager. He later found out his daughter was, in fact, pregnant, and apologized to the manager.

McCulloch’s examples of the IoT in full-effect not only engaged his audience, but left some of us shocked – and possibly uneasy – about the evolution of technology and the ways businesses can utilize it to uncover personal details about consumers.

My first PRSA International Conference was an unforgettable experience. Not only was I provided with an opportunity to network with others in the field, I was also able to get a crash course in the do’s and don’ts of PR from some of the most prominent names in public relations.


Networking Tips for Young Professionals

This week I’m attending my very first PRSA International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  The conference offers a mix of educational sessions and an opportunity to meet PR professionals from across the word.  In preparation for the event, I thought I’d provide some tips to my fellow young professionals for getting the most out of this and future networking opportunities.

  • Have your elevator pitch down-pat. A great elevator pitch is crucial to engage others during a networking event. You’re going to meet a lot of people, and if you want to grab their attention, you better do it quickly.  A great boss or supervisor will take the extra step to ensure you have yours perfected before attending your first networking event (I know mine did).  Introduce yourself and give a brief background on your company, for example: networking hello tags
    • Where is it located? How many locations do you have?
    • What do you specialize in?
    • What types of clients do you have? (If applicable)
    • What are your primary job responsibilities?

Be sure not to ramble on too long about yourself, though – elevator pitches are supposed to be quick!

  • Put down your phone. If you don’t know anyone at an event, the worst thing you can do is to be antisocial and glued to a mobile device!  When I first started attending networking events in college, I would often turn to my phone instead of actively introducing myself to others.  As you grow as a professional, that urge will disappear.  You will realize after your first few networking opportunities that having your phone as a crutch is only going to hurt you.  If you have your elevator pitch perfected, you can go confidently into a room full of strangers and share you story.
  • Be proactive. You may have handed out countless business cards to hundreds of contacts at every event you’ve attended. The next step is to sit back, relax and wait for them to start reaching out to you.  Right?    The only way you can be sure opportunity knocks is to reach out and grab it yourself.  Instead of waiting on others to come to you, call or email new contacts to touch base and remind them of you.  Even a quick note saying “it was great meeting you” puts the ball in their court, prompting a conversation.
  •  Become a follower. In most cases, you hear “be a leader” – but this case is an exception.  Creating new connections is the easy part of networking.  Maintaining them is the hard part.  You didn’t meet all these new people for nothing!  Find the social profiles of the people you met.  Connect with them on LinkedIn.  Follow their company on Twitter.  ‘Like’ their company’s Facebook page.  Stalk them online (just kidding).  You get the picture.  Follow them in every professional capacity you can, and when applicable, like and share the content they are posting so they know you have a genuine interested in what they are saying.

I hope some of these tips were useful to you!  What networking tips do you have for young professionals?


Today on The Jetsons: Drones Delivering This Holiday?

I recently attended a PRSA talk titled, “Send in the Drones – Keeping Journalists out of Harm’s Way,” where Rose Mooney, executive director, Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership gave attendees a full debrief on the what, why and how of drones and their use in journalism. drone

Being a part of a high-tech PR agency, as well as a consumer, I was interested to learn more about this emerging technology and how its use cases seem to be evolving.  Originally designed for military use, the flying copters have made their way into other industries such as farming and will soon be landing into the hands of thousands, and maybe even millions, of Americans.  Drones are expected to be one of the hottest gifts this holiday season and top retailers are seeing far greater value in the gadget than being just another item (literally) flying off the shelves.  In case you haven’t heard, Walmart recently asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permission to test drones for making deliveries to customers in its parking lots and to customers’ homes.  After testing drones within facility walls, the major retailer wants to follow in Amazon’s footsteps with its drone efforts.

Earlier this year, the FAA began allowing Amazon to test drones for its new delivery system, Amazon Prime Air.  This was step one in turning Amazon’s new, futuristic delivery service into a reality.  Amazon Prime Air’s goal is “to safely get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles,” according to the Amazon website.  You can view a demo of Amazon Prime Air here.  Pretty cool, huh?

Of course, not everyone is completely on board with the idea of drones.  According to a recent Fortune article , FAA official Rich Swayze says that as many as one million drones could be sold during this year’s holiday season.  These UAVs (unmanned aircraft vehicles) have proven to be dangerous on several occasions in the past.  For example, pilots have reported drones flying too close to their aircrafts, and some drones have even obstructed firefighting efforts.  The FAA is moving quickly to regulate the use of drones.  Educational efforts are also underway by big box electronic retailers like Best Buy who have begun offering e-learning courses on proper use and safety regulations for recreational drones.

But the reservations of the FAA aren’t stopping Amazon.  CEO Jeff Bezos says that someday, drones will be “as common as seeing a mail truck.”  Furthermore, the company has requested that specific air space be designated for commercial drones so it can do quick deliveries.  Although this plan has been in the works for several years, it will take several more to actually be implemented.

In the meantime, we’ll look to the skies to watch this Jetson’s inspired world unfold.  Have you seen a drone in action?  If so, do you think they are the delivery force of the future?  And more importantly,  will you be adding a drone to your Christmas list?

Dear Taylor Swift, Thanks for the Social Media Marketing Lesson

Before social media, public relations was ironically not so great at actually relating to the public.  It was almost one-sided.  Brands had a corporate spokesperson pushing the company line, as they say, and maybe a newsletter and that was it.  Of course, those who didn’t agree with the brand could always protest or pen the occasional strongly worded letter to voice their opinions, but who has time for that today? buzz

Last month, Wireside attended an AMA luncheon at the University of Richmond where Natalia Dykyj, Director of Product Management, Cision, gave a brief presentation on how PR and marketing have changed from the “old-school” way of doing things through the influence of social media marketing.  In this post, I’ve outlined a few of Natalia’s key points, supplemented with some real-world examples of marketing success stories.

Today, the consumer wears the pants in the relationship and the brand can very easily, and often does, end up in the proverbial doghouse.  The power of social media (and an angry mob, albeit a virtual one) can greatly impact a brand’s choice – and fast.  A very recent example of this comes to mind.  Apple recently released a music streaming service so new users can stream music for the first three months of their trial period for free.  This seemed like a great idea, until music artists realized they wouldn’t be paid for their music to be streamed for the trial period.  Taylor Swift wrote an open letter to the company voicing her opinion on this, saying that it is unfair to not pay artists for their work and that maybe Apple shouldn’t get access to her next album.  Uh-oh. Less than a day later, Apple changed its policy, agreeing to pay artists during the trial period, and wrote Taylor a mea culpa letter begging for her forgiveness.  Of course this particular situation involves a celebrity and one of the most well known brands on the planet, but wouldn’t it be nice if all customer service issues were resolved this way?  To be fair, similar interactions can and do happen on a smaller scale.

Marketing:  Who’s Doing it Right?

 “Brands are lucky if audiences engage them in conversation,” Natalia said.

And she’s right.  If, as a brand, no one is engaging with you in some way, you probably need to change your marketing strategy.  So who is doing marketing right? Natalia’s first example was Target.  Target, she said, has not one, but two official Twitter feeds.  The official feed  is purely for messaging purposes.  This is where the company updates followers on what’s going on with Target, essentially pushing out its desired message to followers.  The second feed, however, is conversation-based.  This feed is where consumers can voice opinions and ask questions, and Target will talk back.  This is a great way to interact with brand followers, involve them and make them feel like they matter; that they have a voice.  It’s this kind of open brand participation that helps make loyal brand ambassadors.

Target’s Twitter success had me thinking: What brands have utilized two of the other biggest social media platforms of today, Facebook and Instagram, in a way that set them up for marketing success?  Inspiration came from my own personal Facebook and Instagram feeds: Humans of New York and Kayla Itsines.

Humans of New York

Humans of New York is a more unconventional brand in that it began as a photographer telling stories.  The photographer, Brandon Stanton, roams through New York City daily, stopping random people of all ages and asking them questions about their lives.  He then posts a simple snapshot of the person with a quote from the conversation and posts it to Facebook.  He has since expanded to Instagram and Twitter, and has even published a book.  By utilizing its Facebook audience (with over 13 million likes), Humans of New York has not only gained exposure for itself, but has also done good deeds for the community.

In February 2015, Brandon photographed a 13-year-old boy on the street, asking him who inspired him the most.  The boy said that person was his principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a small middle school in Brownsville, a lower income area of New York.  The reactions and sharing of the photo went viral, so Brandon started a fundraiser to help the school take its 8th grade class on a field trip to Harvard to inspire the students to set high goals for themselves.  In two weeks, $1.4 million was raised for the school.  With the use of Facebook, one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, a photographer was able to gain worldwide attention for his brand and help others while doing it.

Kayla Itsines

In recent years, Instagram has taken the world by storm.  The platform’s growing popularity means brands must find an effective strategy for promoting their product or service.  23-year-old Australian personal trainer/health and fitness expert Kayla Itsines has gained an immense following on Instagram, utilizing the platform in several ways.  Not only does she share personal pictures, she also posts before and after pictures of weight loss/fitness success stories of fans that have used her fitness guides on her page.  These pictures show real world results, serving as inspiration to others while also showing appreciation of her fans.  Kayla’s 3.2 million Instagram followers show that she is able to capture and grow her audience with the motivational nature and variety of her posts. I find myself skimming Kayla’s Instagram page daily, and I’m not even into fitness!

Do you have a social media marketing success story you’d like to share? Which social media platform has your brand had the most success with? How do you use it as an effective marketing tool?



Creating “Brand YOU”: Personal Branding Tips for Millennials

Last week, Wireside attended a luncheon hosted by the American Marketing Association at the University of Richmond, where guest speaker Sima Dahl, International speaker/trainer/coach for Sway Factory gave a presentation on personal branding.  The interactive presentation was full of advice relevant to each and every audience member – because after all, we are all the directors behind our own personal brand. mkt2

“Who do you know who…?”

In the professional world, networking is key.  Often, we hear people ask, “Who do you know who specializes in xyz?” Sima says we should strive to become that resource. If you aren’t the person someone is looking to connect with, then make it a point to know someone who is.  Building up your professional network will enable you to become the go-to for your colleagues, peers, etc.

LOVE LinkedIn

This one may take time.  While it’s easy to utilize platforms where you can share what you’re eating and who you’re with (think: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), it may be a little more difficult to appreciate LinkedIn, a platform used for growing one’s professional network.  Take a minute at least once a week to update your status on LinkedIn – whether it be sharing an article or writing about a cool networking event you attended, these statuses will get you on the radar of other professionals in your network.

You… According to You

Speaking of LinkedIn, your headline and work experience should make what you do and what your skills are completely apparent. For example, if your headline says “Program Manager,” that’s too vague.  What field are you in? What exactly do you do? Additionally, your work experience needs to be flushed out (but keep it relatively brief). Don’t just copy and paste bullet points directly from your resume.

Headshot Help

Sima stressed the importance of having a headshot. A headshot, she says, must be a close-up picture, professionally done and current.  She also gives tips on Facebook profile pictures: Don’t wear sunglasses, leave the kids out, and don’t make your profile picture a logo or object – you are a person, after all.

Hopefully you can utilize some of the tips I’ve highlighted to grow as a professional. Do you have any tips for personal branding? If so, we’d love to hear them!





My Fab Five: 5 PR Tools to Know and Love

With thousands of online tools to help us public relations professionals in our busy day-to-day lives, sometimes it seems like there’s just too many to choose from. Worry not! In this post, I’ve highlighted five great tools that help me in various aspects of my everyday work routine. Not only are they all user-friendly, they’re also free!


  • Hootsuite: Most of us are probably familiar with this one, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Hootsuite is a platform that was developed to organize tweets. Since then, it has developed into a resource for organizing multiple social media accounts in one place. There are a few ways I utilize Hootsuite:
    • To keep track of client Twitter feeds: On Hootsuite’s home page, we have 10 feeds laid out that we’re able to easily monitor; one for each client, one for our own tweets, and a few others for other topics we’re interested in. These live feeds make it simple to keep up with what’s important to the brands you represent.
    • To tweet: Instead of logging into Twitter, Hootsuite allows users to send tweets out directly from the platform for multiple Twitter accounts.
    • To schedule tweets: This is great, because you can get your social media posts out whenever you want, staggering them at different times and even days so you don’t send out too many at once, or can plan ahead for time out of the office, etc.
  • Talkwalker Alerts: Talkwalker alerts are similar to Google alerts. You can set up alerts as frequently as you like, in any language. I’ve found these alerts to be quicker and more reliable than Google alerts, although I use both together.
  • TheSkimm: Keeping up with the news is crucial. TheSkimm is a daily morning digest of top news stories. The newsletter is concise and written in a casual and often sarcastic tone, making reading the news a quick and sometimes even entertaining experience perfect for our jam-packed and stressful days.
  • HARO (Help A Reporter Out): HARO is a social networking tool for sources and reporters. This service is simple; sign up, and you receive 3 emails a day: one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. These emails contain queries from reporters across different outlets covering various beats. This is great for PR Pros, because if your client is knowledgeable about any of the topics, you can answer the reporter directly through the anonymous email address in the HARO email, and connect your client with the reporter.
  • MyTopTweet: This is another handy one for social media. Just go to and input your Twitter handle. The platform will automatically generate your top ten tweets that gained the most traction (favorites and retweets) with your followers. This can give you a sense of the content your audience is most interested in; a great metrics resource for the brands you represent.

These are just a few examples of what’s in my PR toolbox. What’s in yours?

Marketing Lessons from French Wine

Yesterday evening, the Wireside team attended the Richmond Ad Club’s annual Beaujolais Day wine event, thanks to the generous hosts, Big River Advertising.  Some of us were new to not only the event, but to the greater meaning of the day itself, and were surprised to learn that Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France, made popular by its “first harvest” tradition.  Unlike typical fermentation periods, Beaujolais nouveau ferments for only a few weeks before it’s bottled for sale on the third Thursday of November.  As France’s first mass export of the year, the wine’s first stop is Paris, where it is henceforth distributed to cities around the world and raises national wine consumption rates by staggering folds.Beaujolais Day Post Image

On a more scientific note, because of its young age, Beaujolais nouveau has a tangier and fruitier taste than the average red, almost resembling a white – not exactly what most have in mind for cold weather sipping.  Yet millions of people worldwide go to surprising ends, despite the cold, to get the first tastes of the first harvest.  Last year, according to BusinessInsider, Japan alone imported 7.9 million of the approximate 65 million bottles distributed, even though the wine has been often critiqued as “a very rude wine – very young and spirited,” and overproduced with little care for quality.

That’s what we call a major achievement in marketing and promotion.

Perhaps it’s a bandwagon effect, knowing millions of others around the world are sharing in this tradition at the same moment as yourself.  Maybe it’s an effect of novelty or the atypical: a red wine that tastes better chilled.  If you happen to be drinking outside as they do in some villages of France, it need not be sipped, but rather gulped, to keep the bodies warm and the parties going.  Perhaps it’s an effect of prestige: the fact that Beaujolais nouveau is the kick-off of French wine, which has a reigning reputation as some of the best in the world.  More than likely, it’s a combination of all these reasons.

You can’t blame a bunch of marketing, PR and ad folks for celebrating these social and behavioral effects as much as we celebrate the wine and tradition itself.  Mastering and understanding them are what keep us in business, and what keep us not just looking forward, but ahead of the curve.  And, as the ancient Greeks said, “In vino veritas” – in wine, there is truth.

And on that note, from our business to yours, we wish you, your colleagues and families a truly happy and warm start to the festive season!

Telling Your Story with Storify

The modern PR professional utilizes a wide variety of online platforms to get the word out about a client or cause.  From Facebook to Hootsuite, Twitter to LinkedIn, the volume, expanse and power of social sharing networks are virtually endless.

One up-and-coming and thus far significantly underrated platform, in my opinion, is Storify: a social sharing service that allows the user to tell a story using content pulled directly from the web.  Storify helps you collect the best posts, photos, links, and tweets about a certain topic, plug them into a webpage, and turn them into an easy-to-follow “social story.”


Not only is a Storify story easy to read, it is also aesthetically “easy on the eyes.”  Instead of readers becoming inundated with text-overload, they can watch videos, see multiple tweets, view screenshots, and access links, giving the story a greater depth.

Just to name a few of Storify’s many benefits:

  • Storify is free of charge, user-friendly, and you can sign up through Facebook or Twitter.
  • It allows users to scan for content across various social media sites straight from the Storify platform.  The user can then select desired content and embed it directly into a Storify presentation.
  • Other users are able to “like,” comment, share or embed a Storify story on a website.  This creates endless possibilities for distribution and conversation surrounding a story.
  • It’s a unique presentation tool.  Just log in, select your presentation, and scroll as you speak.
  • The web content used for Storify immediately notifies the original author, and essentially builds an instantaneous list of sources that may possibly view and share the story.

Whether you are promoting a brand/client/event, explaining a crisis, or developing a strategic plan, Storify’s many functions can aid execution and delivery:

Promotion:  One way PR pros can promote a brand, client or event via Storify is to “tell” the clients’ story by using links to existing material, such as press releases, videos, images, and screenshots (of their social media presence, perhaps).  On a single page, you can include a more impressive expanse of information than most other services offer.  For events, you can pull tweets from all over Twitter about the event and publish the story the day of to give status updates and provide information to attendees.

Crisis Explanation:  In college, I used Storify to give a presentation on Target’s late 2013 credit card security breach.  I was able to pull supporting information, such as screenshots, news coverage, articles, and videos into a single story, yielding a simple, efficient and thorough presentation that was easy to understand and visually appealing.

Breaking News:  Recently, news networks have begun utilizing Storify to compile coverage updates for breaking news.  They are able to pull tweets, posts and images from various websites and social networks onto one page, providing a constant, chronological flow of updates.  Instead of having to visit multiple media outlets for updates, one can simply visit a particular news channel’s Storify page, a one-stop-shop for finding out what they need to know from a variety of sources and outlets.

Although the uses I’ve highlighted are only the tip of the iceberg, I hope they have offered insight into Storify’s seemingly endless capabilities.  Because Storify allows users to utilize so many other social media sites and tools, a brand or organization can creatively employ Storify in a way that best suits its needs.