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Barrett Adair

Wireside Takes San Francisco for RSA!

At the end of February, Wireside headed to San Francisco for the annual RSA Conference with clients NTT Ltd. Security Division and NTT Research. It was wonderful to see our clients, and do some team bonding – of course, we also kept busy staffing press briefings and managing social media for NTT!

The show floor was open Monday through Thursday, and we hosted reporters from eWeek, SDxCentral, and Enterprise Times, just to name a few, while checking out the exhibitors and snapping photos and videos for social media. We got to spend a lot of time at the Moscone Center with NTT Ltd.’s Security CEO, Matt Gyde, and NTT Research CEO, Kazuhiro Gomi.

Of course, when the floor closed each day there was plenty of fun to be had around the city! We had a nice dinner with NTT Ltd. Monday night at Foreign Cinema, and we had a Wireside team dinner the following evening at The Slanted Door, a restaurant overlooking the Bay Bridge.

On Wednesday, the party really started – NTT Ltd. hosted its Partner Happy Hour, a packed room of colleagues from partner companies who were all in town for RSA. It was such a hit they had to keep the bar open for an extra hour! Then Wireside and NTT headed to the Mayhem Afterparty, hosted by BugCrowd at the DNA Lounge, to close out a long night.

We ended our week on Thursday, grabbing drinks and pizza with friends and colleagues from NTT Research. We made it safely home to Richmond – and Andrea to Spain – and are back to business as usual, but it’s safe to say that after such a successful trip, we’re looking forward to 2021!

Barrett Adair

On the “Prowl” for Publicity? Try Out Prowly PR Software.

Good PR software can be a publicist’s best friend—apps like Cision and Meltwater make building media lists, tracking down a reporter’s email and sending out pitches a far easier task. But with each product seeking to differentiate itself with new, specific features, it’s sometimes hard to tell which will actually save you time and which are just flashy expenses.

Over the last week, I test drove Prowly, a fairly popular app. Prowly allows potential users to access the “Basic” version of the software (with some restrictions) for one week before committing to a purchase, with no payment information required for the trial. I did a lot of poking around myself, and hopped on the phone for a half-hour demo with a Prowly representative to learn my way around its features.

Prowly breaks its PR tools into three categories: Brand Journal, Audience, and Pitch. To start, Brand Journal is Prowly’s most unique feature. This is all about building a newsroom for a brand that can live on their website, and be edited and updated in Prowly. Prowly cites Vimeo, Cadbury, and Citibank as a few popular brands who have built their online newsroom using Prowly’s software. Users can upload press releases, blogs, media assets, and contacts, and organize information into separate pages within the newsroom, if they like.

Brand Journal seemed extremely user friendly to me, and could streamline the task of updating a newsroom with a press release, so that an outside agency or junior staffer could do it without needing access to the brand’s site. The major drawback seemed to be that Brand Journal doesn’t allow for much customization. Of course, you can add your brand’s logos and photos to the page, but the default layout means your brand’s website design can’t flow into its newsroom.

Next is Audience, Prowly’s name for an essential feature for all PR software: media contacts. Like most applications, Prowly allows you to search for and save contacts, and create customized lists to segment your contacts into. Prowly impressed me with a few specific Audience tools: first, the app pulls relevant results without any proper name; for example, a search for “San Francisco tech” pulls a list of every reporter in their database who fits those tags. Second, you can upload private contacts from a spreadsheet, making bulk uploads pretty much as simple as adding them from a search. Third, Prowly will automatically flag any email addresses that have bounced and allow you to filter them out of future outreach with just one click. And last, Prowly lets you save broad search terms (like our “San Francisco tech” example) and use them to create dynamic, self-updating lists. The downside? If you’re used to software that’s been around longer, like Cision or Meltwater, you may find their database to be a tad limited, especially when searching for trade reporters.

Finally, there’s Pitch, which is designed to send all mass mailings to your selected audience. As the name suggests, it’s designed to streamline pitching to reporters, but could also prove useful to send out newsletters, rather than relying on a separate email distribution service. Prowly offers standard analytics on all mailings—open rate, click rates, bounces—and also allows you to organize individual mailings into campaigns, so you can view all your work and overall performance for an entire campaign. Unfortunately, Prowly only offers unlimited emails on their most expensive plan, with the “Basic” and “Pro” packages including a monthly cap.

All features considered, Prowly seems like an excellent choice for a freelancer or small PR team, especially if you’re looking to purchase PR software for the first time. It’s simple to use, its features cover all your bases, and with a starting price around only $100 a month, it’s a reasonable expense for your business. But those managing a lot of clients and campaigns at once may find Prowly too limiting for their requirements. If you’re interested in testing it out, you can visit Prowly’s site to sign up for your own trial and see how it works for you.

Barrett Adair

Proactive Crisis Management in the #MeToo Era

Sometimes, the crises that can do the greatest harm to your company and its image are not the unknown and unexpected threats you can’t anticipate, but the “smoldering” issues that have long existed and that your team may be well aware of.

This is the subject Deborah Hileman, SCMP, and President and CEO of the Institute for Crisis Management addressed with a packed room of attendees at the Richmond PRSA May Luncheon: #MeToo and Other Smoldering Crisis – How Bad Behavior Impacts Companies. Hileman is a crisis communications expert who has seen firsthand the damage that’s caused when long-existing scandals within an organization finally bubble to the surface. Her advice? Identify the issue and stop it in its tracks, long before it has the chance to ruin your company.

Hileman addressing Richmond PRSA’s May Luncheon attendees. Photo by Richmond Chapter PRSA.

The #MeToo movement exposed quite a few C-level executives who had used their corporate power inappropriately and tried to get away with sexual harassment and predatory behavior toward members of their team, usually those in positions beneath theirs. Across all industries, many times over, we would hear the same story: the behavior would go on for years, they would victimize dozens of people, and all of it would be an open secret within the company. Now, even companies who have taken appropriate action against such executives have found it to be too little, too late to save their brands. Legal battles go on for years, and financial struggles continue even longer.

Hileman’s words on the matter invited the audience to consider: is anything like this happening within my organization, or those I represent? Is someone’s poor or predatory behavior being overlooked? If I don’t stop it now, does it stand to get much worse? And most importantly, how do I stop it?

Corporations often have tools already in place to catch these “smoldering” issues, they just need to be put to better use. During regular reviews, executives should prioritize an assessment of company culture and conduct along with job performance. They should also ensure that their human resources department is not only listening to employees’ concerns, but looking into situations that could turn into complaints. They need to have a very clear and enforced code of conduct for their company, so all staff know what appropriate boundaries are and when someone else has crossed them. Finally, they can’t be afraid to have frank conversations about behavior with even the most senior executives. No one wants to see a crisis irreparably damage their company, and they should know if something they’ve turned a blind eye to could be a much bigger threat than they expect.

As PR professionals, it’s our job to manage the public reputations of the organizations we represent, and it isn’t always easy – but it can be made much easier by being proactive and stopping a problem before it becomes a crisis.

Comedy and Communication – Using Humor to Your PR Advantage

Appropriate humor used effectively can bolster any business’s communication plan. That’s the assertion of David C. Winfield, professional stand-up comedian and CEO/Founder of Commonwealth Commercial Comedic Communications. David offers his services to myriad businesses, helping craft jokes that complement their communications plans. On behalf of the Richmond PRSA on Wednesday 6/28, David gave a keynote speech on how the hard-learned lessons of comedy he internalized after years on the stand-up circuit can be related to public relations.

David made it clear from the beginning that humor can be used in almost any professional setting because it exists on a spectrum. The key to implementing comedy into a communications plan is to determine what type of humor is appropriate given your business or client. Jokes don’t have to be offensive or vulgar, although offensive jokes shouldn’t be discounted outright. “Appropriate” does not always equal “clean.” Know your audience, know your brand, and then determine if people will respond well to more vulgar jokes, or sillier jokes, industry-specific jokes, etc. Humor is not inherently unprofessional, as some may believe. In fact, David believes employees perceived as funny by their peers are also viewed as more competent and confident.

So, which situations are optimized for humor? David points to three categories:

  1. Announcements, especially those that contain lists
  2. Speeches, pitches, and presentations
  3. Social media

Utilizing comedy helps to both gain and maintain an audience’s attention. That’s why David recommends using humor when giving a speech, or even in pitches to the media. Never allow your jokes to overshadow your core messaging, but punching up your pitch to that New York Times reporter may just set you apart from countless other pitches they receive each day. Jokes are the “sizzle” to your messaging’s “steak.”

The greatest opportunity for a business to optimize humor is on social media, because it is relatively new and, thus, less bound by tradition. For example, Wendy’s Twitter account has been lauded for its brutal responses to online critics, with Business Insider calling the tweets “hilarious.”

So now that we know it is possible to inject humor into public relations and communications, the question becomes, “How can I be funny?” In his speech, David pointed to three core elements of humor: Truth, Surprise, and Hostility.

Laughter is often a response to relating to a shared experience. That’s why many jokes are rooted in truth and then embellished with hyperbolic details. We’ve all waited in line at a bank or been on hold with customer service. Know the shared experiences of your target audience, and then introduce the second element of humor, the element of surprise. Start your joke with relatability, and then pull the rug out with an unexpected twist. For example, this great Steven Wright joke: “I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time,’ so I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.” Also, “A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.” The surprise of the joke then informs the joke’s hostility, which David defines as a “disturbance of the norm.” Nothing’s ever funny when everything happens exactly as expected.

My biggest takeaway from David’s speech was that, in the world of PR, we shouldn’t feel restrained by tradition or convention. Jokes and comedy are symbolic of a break from many of PR’s long held beliefs. However, breaking from convention should not be done without reason, without planning, or without an expert understanding of your messaging and your audience.

Trust your business, your team, and yourself to implement comedy effectively into your communications plan. And if at first your jokes don’t land, persevere. After all, dying’s easy. But comedy? Comedy is hard.

Book Report | Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies

Since burgeoning in the mid-2000s, social media have presented a conundrum for businesses and organizations hoping to maximize their brand’s value. On one hand, social media, when skillfully used, offer organizations the ability to reach, interact with, and utilize their consumer base in previously impossible ways. On the other hand, social technologies have a great democratizing power that shifts influence away from traditional marketing departments into the hands of consumers.

This is the problem explored in Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Forrester Research’s Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. Originally published in 2008 and revised in 2011, Li and Bernoff define the ‘groundswell’ as, “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Li and Bernoff 9).

But how, exactly, is the groundswell useful to companies? According to Li and Bernoff, the answer lies in each company’s objectives. Generally, the authors group these objectives into five categories, which form the backbone of the book itself: Listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.

Listening to the groundswell helps companies perform customer and market research, while talking allows companies to market themselves. Energizing the groundswell means identifying super-customers who will “supercharge the power of their word of mouth.” Supporting the groundswell means providing the tools and platforms for customer-to-customer help systems, while embracing the groundswell goes several steps further and involves incorporating customers into how a company functions and designs products.

Clearly, there are several layers of complexity to the groundswell that must be accounted for before any interactions with it can take place. But Li and Bernoff do a fantastic job of making the concept accessible. They translate the abstract landscape of social media into real business sense without losing the humanity behind the groundswell. Several real-world case studies punctuate their points, and prove the potency of the concept.

Social technologies have been so ingrained in our daily lives that, for an organization of any size, acting to maximize the benefits and minimize the potential negatives of the groundswell is no longer optional. To do so, the authors recommend beginning with a four-step planning process, “POST:”

  1. People: How will your customers engage with your organization?
  2. Objectives: What are your goals? Do you want to talk to the groundswell for research, energize sales, etc.?
  3. Strategy: How will your relationship with your customers change, and how will customers carry your message?
  4. Technology: Which social technologies will you use and what applications will you build to reach your customers?

The book is a masterclass in navigating the new (at the time) digital landscape of social media. However, Groundswell was last revised in 2011 in large part to explore the growing influence of a social media site exploding in popularity: Twitter. But, a lot has changed in the past 6 years. As noted in the book, Ashton Kutcher had 6 million followers on Twitter when Groundswell was published. He now has 18.1 million. McDonalds had a “big Twitter following” of around 75,000 people in 2011 (197). Today? 3.45 million. Experts are no longer discussing the viability of Twitter as a new social media/micro-blogging platform, but have instead started to wonder how long it can survive.

So, the question of whether Groundswell is relevant today is a valid one. Effusively, I believe it remains relevant because, while the digital landscape may change, mastering the groundswell, according to Li and Bernoff, relies on one tenet: Concentrate on relationships, not technologies. No matter which technologies are invented, evolve, transform, and die in the future, relationships will remain a constant.

The groundswell is our present and our future. Now that the world has been connected by social technologies, it is unlikely to ever be meaningfully disconnected. Li and Bernoff have a very interesting vision of the future groundswell, one that is “ubiquitous,” with complete – and nearly constant – connection. In the book’s final chapter, the authors make predictions on how the groundswell will evolve. Many of their predictions have proved true, like an increased reliance on mobile technology, and news feeds and alerts that are uniquely crafted based on the sites you have visited and the articles you have read. The technologies that already existed when this book was published in 2008, say the authors, will be markedly bolstered by increased participation in the future.

Wireside whole-heartedly recommends Groundswell to anyone working in marketing or PR. Though the book is aged, it has aged well, and will continue to inform our understanding of customer desires, input, interactions, and more as social and digital technologies continue to transform the world.

In Case You Missed the Memo on the Importance of Social Media in PR- Read This.

PRSA Richmond’s April luncheon speaker, Dr. Donald K. Wright, wanted to make one point very clear: Digital media is absolutely vital to modern public relations departments. Dr. Wright is the Harold Burson professor and chair in public relations at Boston University’s College of Communication. Every statistic, metric, and case study from his research, a 12-Year Longitudinal Analysis Tracking Social and Digital Media Use in Public Relations Practice, points to the simple fact that PR professionals must take new media very seriously, or else suffer the (often very public) consequences.

The Death of Traditional News

Dr. Wright began his talk by discussing the downfall of the newspaper industry, especially at the local level. Newspaper Death Watch keeps a comprehensive list of those papers that have closed in the past few years, but even once-daily papers that have managed to stay afloat have in many cases switched to a three-day-a-week model to save money.

While traditional news consumption has fallen off a cliff, though, digital media use by consumers is rapidly expanding. This trend, according to Dr. Wright, means PR agencies have been forced to adapt to the new media climate, or watch their clients’ visibility and outreach suffer. His research shows that the time PR practitioners spend working with emerging media like blogs, social media, etc. has increased each year since 2015. In 2015, 29% of his respondents spent more than 25% of their working hours with social and digital media. That percentage increased to 36% in 2017 (Wright and Hinson 21). 75% of 2017 respondents think that PR or Communications should have the responsibility of monitoring and managing emerging media communication (Wright and Hinson 22). Still not convinced that digital media is inescapable in the field of PR? According to Dr. Wright, only 1% of the PR practitioners surveyed don’t spend any of their working time with digital media (Wright and Hinson 21).

These trends matter, because digital media empowers customers, subscribers, audiences, etc. Consumers are now one tweet, Facebook post, or Yelp review away from causing viral backlash against an organization. But even absent a crisis, maintaining public relations through print and broadcast are no longer tenable in this era of real-time status updates. To improve sales, maintain a positive public reputation, and quickly disseminate news and information, PR departments must dedicate substantial resources to digital media. To highlight this point, Dr. Wright used a series of good, bad, and ugly case studies:

The Good

In 2015, McDonalds’ sales were reaching record lows. But, together with communications firm Golin, McDonalds was able to use new media to boost their sales by identifying the service a huge part of their consumer following craved: All day breakfast. During his talk, Dr. Wright said that Golin found more than 300,000 people had mentioned all-day breakfast on Twitter between 2007-2015. When they announced the debut of all day breakfast, it trended on Twitter and Facebook for more than five hours, and received more than 340 tweets per minute (Wright and Hinson 32)!

Dr. Wright’s statistics are clear: The announcement generated 245 media placements, 1,100 influencer brand engagements and 48 mentions in earned media stories. McDonald’s stock rose 25% in one quarter, and store sales recorded their strongest quarter in four years (Wright and Hinson 33)!

The Bad

For every all day breakfast, however, there is a viral video that severely damages consumer trust in a brand. Dominos experienced exactly this in 2009 when a video surfaced of two employees, among several more disgusting things, spitting on food before serving it to customers.

However, Dominos was able to combat the viralness of this video with a video of its own. President Patrick Doyle filmed his own YouTube video apologizing to his customers. Through directness, sincerity, and quickness, Dominos was able to avert a major hit.

The Ugly

And for every gross Dominos video, there is, well, are, several United Airlines fiascos. Back in 2008, digital media was used to strike at United when a passenger, Dave Carroll, had his guitar broken by the airline. He promptly posted a song on YouTube called “United Breaks Guitars.” Rather than replacing the $3,500 guitar, United watched as the video went viral, and they lost millions in reputation and business.

More recently, United suffered social media heat when they refused to allow two teenage passengers, who were using a United benefit that allows employees and their dependents to fly for free on a standby basis, to wear leggings on board. And somehow even more recently, United became a top global news story when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of their airplanes because United had overbooked the flight.

What United shows perhaps better than any other company is that new media makes organizations’ reputations instantly vulnerable. While Dominos was able to get in front of its problem with speed and sincerity, United failed to adequately communicate with its consumers. And when United CEO Oscar Munoz did communicate, he showed a noticeable lack of empathy.

What we at Wireside took away from Dr. Wright’s speech is that, ultimately, technology has consequences. As we exist in a time that is shifting away from traditional newspapers to the new media of Twitter, Facebook, and beyond, it is important to stay on top of the tools and systems that allow PR professionals to best share an organization’s message. As McDonald’s and United show, new media giveth, but new media also taketh away.

It’s PR, not ER. How to Triage a Crisis

PRSA Richmond’s Crisis Planning and Communications professional development session began – how else? – with a crisis. The session’s scheduled presenter, Padilla Owner Brian Ellis, was called away to help handle an unexpected client development, so in stepped Mike Mulvihill, Padilla’s executive VP, to help us explore the unpredictable world of crisis communications.

The New Media Landscape

We began by discussing the evolution of media and consumption. The past 20 years have been marked by a distinct shift towards a digital news landscape. Today, more news is being consumed online, and is often first reported by non-journalist citizens. On Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites heavily featuring user-generated content, anyone with a phone (and, by extension, a camera) can provide a first-hand account of breaking news. Citizen journalism is the new norm, and it is altering how organizations react in a crisis.

Now more than ever, speed is vital when a crisis arises. Mike described the media as a constantly eating beast and, with social media and new live technologies, an organization may be in the beast’s mouth before all the members of that organization are aware a crisis has occurred. An effective response is built on preparedness. Mike and Padilla recommend doing the following before a crisis breaks out:

Anticipate threats: Murphy’s Law dictates, roughly, that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. While your organization does not need to be as pessimistic as Murphy, highlighting your key vulnerabilities puts you in front of future crises. The owner of a pipeline needs to be prepared for that pipeline to leak. Chemical companies need to prepare for spills. Data storage providers should be prepared for their sensitive information to be hacked. Hopefully your organization will never need to utilize these plans, but when a crisis arises, you will surely be glad to have formulated – and practiced – your response.

Define your role: All the major players in an organization should have clearly defined roles in the event of a crisis. Who will be handling internal communications? What about external communications? Who is the designated spokesperson for the media? What about investors? While the list of roles goes on, assigning them before a crisis ensures an organization’s response can begin immediately after the crisis breaks.

Prepare your first three steps: After roles have been assigned, each individual should have a list of the first three things they will do in crisis-mode. Speed is vital in the first hour of the crisis, and having a checklist for each role will allow an organization to move quickly without getting muddled in extended deliberations. While working together as one unit is vital, a ‘first-three-steps’ plan of action for each person’s role allows for a cohesive autonomy and a speedy response.

Develop core messaging: Organizations needs to speak with one voice in crisis communications. Developing the core messages before a crisis occurs will keep everyone in any organization on the same page, and will help it to be proactive in combatting the confusion, lies, and misinformation that run rampant when a breaking news story first starts trending online.

A Heist at the Children’s Museum

Imagine you work on the executive board at the Ellisville Children’s Museum, which is consistently ranked as one of the “Top 10” in the nation with support from major corporations like Apple, Toyota, and Northrup Grumman. Your phone rings at 5:00 AM, you pick up, and a local reporter unleashes a barrage of questions. “We’ve received reports that the museum’s CEO and CFO have embezzled millions of dollars and have skipped town – can you confirm?” “Who’s in charge?” “Has the FBI been notified?”

This is the scenario my team was given during the workshop-portion of the development session, and we had one major obstacle: We weren’t given time to formulate an action plan before the crisis broke out. So, our first efforts were focused on discovery and containment. We decided to appoint one teammate, Paige, our lead spokesperson. By 10:00 AM, we had contacted the FBI and issued a statement to the press, on our website, and via social media. We did not offer much comment on the issue, citing the FBI’s ongoing investigation, but asked the media to contact Paige with inquiries.

Our team recalled the vitalness of internal communications during a crisis and, after deciding to maintain normal operating hours, convened our employees to inform them of the situation. In-person and via email, we asked them not to comment, and not speculate, to reporters.

As the ‘day’ wore on, the FBI confirmed that the money had been embezzled, and that the CEO and CFO not only worked to steal the money, but had been hiding a relationship as well. It became the “Crime of the Century” in the Ellisville Tribune. To reduce speculation, we decided to provide the press with hourly updates, confirming the money was stolen while reasserting the Children Museum’s commitment to community enrichment. We bolstered our credibility by hiring a third-party auditor to determine how the money was embezzled.

While our team responded well to the heist, we could have improved our performance by more clearly defining our roles. For example, Paige became our general spokesperson, but we should have appointed two— one to lead external communications and one to lead internal communications with our investors and employees. We also should have appointed someone to regularly canvas social media to gain perspective on the community’s reaction. More than anything, this exercise reinforced the importance of planning. A pre-planned response will always be more effective than one put together mid- crisis.

Crisis IQ

If you’re interested in improving your company’s own crisis preparedness, start by taking Padilla’s Crisis IQ quiz. According to Mike, 71% of those who take the quiz are not adequately prepared in the event of a crisis. Around 55% don’t have a crisis management plan, 66% do not practice their plan often enough (Padilla recommends once per year), and 85% ignore social media when drafting a plan.

It is, admittedly, highly unlikely that your CEO and CFO, after hiding a secret romance, will abscond with $10 million embezzled from your company. But your organization’s fortunes can falter at the drop of a hat. Having an organized, well-practiced crisis communications plan will ensure damage control begins before that hat hits the floor.

The Truth About Diversity and Inclusion in Public Relations

On February 22, the Richmond PRSA hosted Stephen Macias for a discussion on diversity and inclusion in communications. Macias founded his own PR firm, Macias Media Group LLC (MMG), in 2012 to connect clients to LGBT consumers. Since MMG was acquired by MWWPR in 2014, he has worked as the senior vice-president of MWWPR’s multi-cultural & LGBT national practice.

Drawing on firsthand client experiences, Macias asserts that companies no longer must choose between doing what is right and doing what is profitable. Intersectionality has become inextricably linked to crafting messaging that appeal to consumers and, to prove his point, Macias drew on a few good and bad examples of companies attempting to create diverse and inclusive messaging.

Defining Intersectionality

‘Intersectionality’ is an often-misunderstood word, says Macias. He showed us a video from Teaching Tolerance, an organization founded to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations, and support equitable school experiences for children of the United States. The video defines intersectionality as, “the reality that we all have multiple identities that intersect to make us who we are.” Today, PR firms must be conscious of intersectionality to adequately appeal to the human-ness of consumers. “By adopting an intersectional lens,” both Macias and Teaching Tolerance assert, “we have a better opportunity to understand the institutions that help and harm us based on who we are.”


In 2015 and 2016, Macias and MWWPR worked with their client, Focus Features, to help promote the Golden Globe nominated film Loving. By being aware of intersectionality, Macias and his team were able to connect the historical lessons of Loving with relevant issues of today, including LGBT marriage equality and current racial tensions. MWWPR secured an interview between Loving’s stars, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, and Raymond Braun, noted LGBT advocate and the former lead of YouTube’s social campaigns, programs, and LGBT marketing. Loving exemplified diversity and inclusion on screen, and by connecting the historical fight of the Lovings to LGBT and racial tensions still felt today, MWWPR helped foster a national discussion on the intersection of several marginalized identities.

Hilton and Frito-Lay

Macias’ assertion that companies no longer have to choose between ‘right’ and ‘profitable’ has been shown in two MWWPR campaigns. In 2014, Macias worked directly with Hilton Hotels on an LGBT-minded campaign centered around a Hilton-sponsored wedding for Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, two of the plaintiffs in the court case that struck down Prop 8’s ban on same-sex marriage in California.

In 2015, Frito-Lay partnered with the It Gets Better Project to support the fight against LGBT bullying. Along with MWWPR, Frito-Lay created rainbow-colored Doritos that could be purchased off of the It Gets Better Project website for a $10 donation. Macias said that, while Frito-Lay produced an initial supply expected to last two months, the rainbow Doritos sold out in 24 hours. Amazingly, the campaign garnered over 1.8 billion media impressions.

Macias firmly believes that, in PR, messaging must speak to the human experience and, today, the reality of human existence is one of intersectionality. Rather than hurting profits or marketability, Hilton and Frito-Lay’s experiences show that this type of communication works. It speaks not only to marginalized audiences, but to their allies as well. Embracing diversity and inclusion is profitable, and is the right thing to do.

Poor attempts at diverse messaging, such as Groupon’s offensive Super Bowl commercial that tried to capitalize on the social and economic struggles of Tibet, still occur. Professional sports, according to Macias, have been one of the last industries to champion diversity. However, for every demeaning Groupon commercial there is a positive Airbnb or Wells Fargo commercial. The NBA decided to move their 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans in response to North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom bill.” The move towards diverse, inclusive messaging continues to grow stronger. Clients and the audience desire it, and young talent expects it from potential employers, says Macias. Utilizing diversity and inclusion with clients and their consumer base is an absolute necessity in the modern world of public relations.

Working with Wireside: Campaign ROI, Spotlight on SDN

I’d like to highlight the launch of the SDN Consortium, which Wireside fully managed for the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL). This campaign, like many, began with a conversation with the executive leadership, where Wireside, having assessed the IOL’s assets and work in the SDN arena as well as industry trends, proactively made the recommendation to pursue a campaign on SDN that was not originally on the radar.

Appropriately assessing the value of the news, we recommended and pursued the media strategy to hold a virtual, domestic press conference for top tier tech trades and major industry analysts.  The goal was create industry awareness to support SDN Consortium Membership sales at $20,000 USD a piece.  This was not the industry’s first or the only SDN testing consortium so we played up the “best” angle.

Assets Wireside developed from scratch that required little to no edits by the client, included: campaign plan and timeline; press and analyst lists; key messages; press release; PitchEngine microsite; press conference save-the-date and official invitation; press conference script, run of show, and seed questions for QA; social media; and follow up correspondence with the media. We hosted a dry run and, afterwards, provided guidance for improvements in the verbal presentation and deck.

Media outreach via traditional and social means secured 20 RSVPs and 13 final attendees (we find 2:1 RSVP to attendee ratio is normal), along with an additional 8 journalists/analysts that requested materials.  Managing an embargo, we garnered 35 highly favorable feature stories, one mention and a very positive analyst report from a firm that is not on retainer with the client.  As of 8/18 the coverage garnered more than 8 million online impressions according to Cision; the Pitch Engine page garnered 7,576 impressions according to Pitch Engine; and the press release has been viewed 6,894 times according to Business Wire, who also reports a potential social media audience of nearly 350K from tweets, shares and retweets in the first week of press release publication.  Please see our clients in the news section, or just Google “SDN Consortium” and take your pick of the coverage secured by the Wireside team.

Wireside completed this campaign from start to finish in 10 weeks.  As a result of the Wireside launch, the client sold a membership straight away, a $20,000 value, and is currently in talks with others.  Taking into consideration the immediate membership sale, the advertising equivalency of the 35 feature stories, and the amount an analyst firm typically charges to author a report, the ROI on this campaign was very high.  In the words of the client contact, “We are all really excited about the extensive amount of coverage! Thanks to all the help from the Wireside team! This was a great success!”

The high degree of media and tech industry know how, customer service, attention to detail, nimbleness and flexibility, results and ROI described above are typical of Wireside.  If we can help you, please contact us!



Clay Risen Shares Candid Insights into NYT Op-Ed

Last week, the Richmond PRSA hosted a Q&A with Clay Risen, senior staff editor of The New York Times op-ed page. For over an hour, Risen walked us through the ins and outs of the op-ed department at The New York Times, which included his daily responsibilities and what it takes to successfully get an op-ed pitch in front of the staff.


If your client has ambitions of getting an op-ed featured in The New York Times, here a few tips to consider from the senior staff editor:

The generic New York Times op-ed email inbox isn’t the best place to land your pitch

According to Risen, the New York Times op-ed email inbox receives about 500 emails daily, all of which are reviewed by a clerk. Half of those emails are spam, while the other half are actually aimed at a specific person. Between the emails that inundate the generic op-ed inbox and the ones that reach Risen directly, he only reads about 40 pitches a day. Thus, it’s important to bypass the generic op-ed inbox and reach out to the editors directly.

Worn out opinions and misused historical references aren’t going to cut it

With Risen only reviewing 40 pitches a day, most of which are rejected, it’s imperative that your pitch stand out. As with any publication, you have to know what the editor is looking for. Risen stated that he’s looking for interesting ideas and perspectives, timeliness and diverse points of view from a variety of regions. More specifically, he explained that he would like to see op-eds that explore issues in one region that are relatable to everyone, no matter where they are located. On the other hand, you can guarantee that a pitch clothed in worn out opinions about the latest happenings in politics won’t get you very far.

Simply passing an idea along for an op-ed can be best

When it comes whether or not you should send an initial draft of an op-ed or just an idea, most of the time doing the latter can work in your favor. Considering that Risen is regularly swamped with emails, he stated that sending along a shorter pitch or passing along an idea is a great start when you don’t have a complete op-ed. You’ll be happy to know that Risen makes it a point to respond to all of the pitches that he carefully reviews by the end of the day. According to Risen, you can feel free to follow up once via email if you don’t hear back.

Making the editor’s job easier will always get you the win

Our very own, Andrea Maclean, submitted a question to Risen that he answered during the email/ audience portion of the Q&A. The question was about Risen’s likes and dislikes when it comes to working with PR professionals. Risen stated that he appreciates when a publicist clearly communicates what they have to offer from a client, which makes his job easier when it comes to finding the appropriate source for an op-ed. Furthermore, toward the top of his list of dislikes were generic pitches along with cliché phrases and casual language used in professional writing.

Overall, Risen’s responses to the Q&A provided everyone with a candid look into his world as the senior staff editor of the New York Times op-ed page. Certainly, you can apply these tips when pitching your next op-ed to this world class media outlet.