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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.


  • Gartner’s first DRaaS Magic Quadrant sees IBM, NTT, Sungard AS at summit

    Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), a commoditised offering whereby organisations can recover if their cloud service hits the skids, has had relatively slow uptake.  Yet the trend has garnered enough ground for Gartner to put together a Magic Quadrant on it – and the analyst house has seen fit to put IBM, NTT Communications, and Sungard Availability Services at the top of the pile. Read More

    Cloud Tech 04/29/15
  • A Tech Guide for Travelers & Expats

    I miss the Internet.  Is that weird?  Of all the things I thought I’d miss when I moved to Spain nearly two years ago, the Internet was nowhere on that list.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I moved here only to discover that the Internet is practically nonexistent here.  It’s like the early 90s.  No one shops online, people prefer phone calls over emails, and magazines see no point in having online versions, so of course they don’t know what a blog is. ARGH!  I’m of course speaking specifically about Spain, though I understand a lot of Europe follows suit, except the U.K.  What would I do without  I shudder to think.

    Travel tech_image

    My point is, tech is different across the pond and there are certain survival tools a girl from California has come to depend on for her sanity.  Here’s my tech survival kit for frequent travelers and expats:


    • Power adapter – These little gems work for any of your electronics. Don’t plug your portable blender in here though, they aren’t meant for anything with a motor.
      Stick to your phone, laptop, tablet, etc.  I have about a dozen of these floating around my house.
    • Tablets – Smaller, lighter and more portable than a laptop, it’s a great travel companion for travel guides, games for the kids, movies, maps, etc.  I carried an iPad on my last trip to Rome and it was a lifesaver.
    • Solar powered bags – If you’re outdoorsy, or plan to do a lot of walking on your next trip, this might come in handy.  It keeps your gadgets charged too!
    • GRID-IT – This is the best gift ever for the Type A frequent traveler.  Who doesn’t need all of their gadgets, tech accessories and cables organized into one tidy place?


    • VPN – This clever service miraculously tricks the Interwebs into thinking you’re not in a foreign country at all.  In my case, it looks like I’m logging on from New York, so I can still feed my Netflix addiction, for example, or shop at and  Enough said, right?
    • – This is Spain’s answer to Craigslist.  I know I just told you that Spain has an Internet deprivation problem.  This is an anomaly, trust me.
    • – When traveling or overcoming culture shock as an expat, many like to share and record their experiences through a blog.  This is my favorite platform.  It’s elegant, easy to use, and you can build websites quickly and easily too.


    • Kindle – If you don’t have a Kindle, the app is the next best thing.  I have it on my iPad and use it to download my favorite books, magazines and travel guides when wanderlust strikes.
    • iTunes Radio – Pandora doesn’t work over here and though iTunes Radio isn’t as good yet, it’s how I reconnect with good ol’ ‘merikah whenever I get homesick.  I never used to like country music, but now listening to the Taylor Swift channel in the shower makes me feel like I’m back in the States eating corn on the cob at summertime.  Spotify is pretty good too.
    • WhatsApp – This messaging app is all the rage among our friends in Europe and is catching on in the States from what I hear.  It’s a great way to keep those exorbitant mobile costs down while traveling.
    • XE Currency Converter – I’ve been here almost two years and still need to use this for converting euros to dollars and vice versa.
    • Google Translate – An invaluable tool while traveling anywhere you don’t speak the language. As a hint, stick to simple terms and phrases.  Anything more complicated doesn’t translate accurately, as the algorithm is incapable of deciphering idioms.  This little app made it possible for me to fake some Italian on my last trip to Rome.  It also helps me communicate with my little one’s daycare teachers, who speak Catalan.
    • Google Maps – This is an obvious one, but beware. The GPS avatar has an American accent and doesn’t exactly have an ear for languages.  If you want to crack up, listen to her pronunciation on your next trip to Spain.  I swear she’ll get you lost just because you can’t understand what the heck she’s saying.
    • Skype – For keeping in touch with far-flung friends and family, or the occasional international business call for free.
    • Kayak Flight Tracker – This is an important one, especially if your trip involves multiple flights and cities.  And of course, for when you suddenly become more interesting because of your new and exotic address and the visitors begin to fly in.
    • TripIt – A startup I actually used to work with and now owned by Concur, this handy tool helps you organize all of your flight itineraries, car rental and activity info, not to mention restaurant reservations and more, all in one place.  No more multiple emails and pesky printouts.  We’re saved!
    • The Weather Channel – I can’t go out or even get dressed without checking this one out first.
    • Instagram – Add some extra life to those shots on the road.  This is especially useful for someone who’s not exactly professional photography material, like me.
    • Wi-Fi Finder – Whether you’re offline or online, this app helps you find nearby hotspots anywhere in the world.  You can find it in both the Android Marketplace and iTunes App Store.

    And of course, a smartphone or phablet.  But that goes without saying.  What tech can’t you live without when away from home?

    Happy travels!

    The Enterprise of CES

    Why should enterprises care about CES? It’s a huge trade show peddling the latest in consumer tech, right? How true, not to mention the fun of a trip to Vegas! As usual, CES came through with humongous TVs, super thin smartphones, cars that drive themselves, a few weird things one couldn’t possibly imagine having any purpose, really loud music and of course booth babes. But CES also gives us a good idea of what to expect in tech over the next few years and enterprises can glean something from that.

    Here are five things that the enterprise world might find of interest, or at least amusing.

    Samsung UHD curved

    Cool TVs: The competition for the biggest, thinnest TV was on, but the 4K and curved TVs won the popularity contest. 4K TVs, also known as Ultra HD or UHD TVs, are the next generation of television picture quality, displaying four times the detail of HD, according to Trusted Reviews. CNET dismisses them as wasteful, claiming that the human eye can’t really detect such high definition.

    The curved TV is exactly what it sounds like. Why would anyone want one? Apparently when you’re watching one, the experience is more immersive. Either or both of these options could be interesting in a conference room and some manufacturers are offering them in desktop monitor sizes, according to Network World.

    Bendy phones: For companies that pay for their employees’ phones, or at least foot part of the bill, they will all breathe a sigh of relief when their teams start buying flexible phones, such as the LG G Flex 2, a bendable smartphone. Why? It’s obvious isn’t it? They’ll last longer, having the ability to resist scratches, being sat on, run over, etc.

    Motivational desks: Okay, maybe that’s exaggerating things a bit, but they at least promote getting up from one’s desk every once in a while. The Kinetic Desk by a company called Stirworks moves up and down at the touch of a control surface and can be programmed to rise and lower based on a preset schedule. This is meant to force us to get up and move around, according to Network World. I’m not sure a moving desk would make me want to stand up, stretch and take a few laps around my home office, but there you go.

    Super smart cameras: Ultra wide stitching cameras, such as the 360 Cam by Giroptic, are stationary cameras with multiple optical sensors and wide-angled, fixed-focal-length lenses that stitch together the images to remove distortions, an issue of previous versions. These devices have potential to be handy boardroom fixtures by adding a more inclusive experience for international clients or tele-conferencing employees, etc., who can choose to view multiple points, such as a PowerPoint presentation, or a particular person’s face.

    New payment systems: Square has been the darling of mobile payments for some time and ApplePay has received some hype, but this new product is really cool and could be a very useful tool for small businesses and large brick-and-mortar stores. Loop Pay is a wireless way of paying for products that goes beyond NFC. It uses the credit card machine strip readers to transfer card data via a small chip in a phone case. Plans are in the works to embed this low-cost chip into phones, according to Trusted Reviews.

    Did you go to CES? What stood out most for you that could benefit enterprises?

    WhatsApp, Doc?

    If living in Spain has taught me one thing these last eighteen months, it’s that sometimes things take a while to catch on over here in good ol’ Europe (that and MAN I love churros con chocolate during the chilly holiday season.)  At least as far as tech that has already launched and thrived or died out in the States goes.  So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that messaging apps are now all the rage over here and one in particular, called WhatsApp.  It’s almost too cute, right?

    You may remember the explosion of the messaging app back at SXSW 2011, I think it was. No? Come on! Ashton Kutcher was there! I myself was getting ready to launch a messaging app client at the time and was totally bummed out by the veritable barrage of similar apps that burst from the scene at the same time. Ugh, talk about your PR nightmare. We held our own for a good while, but in the end GroupMe was declared the winner when it was acquired by Skype and Beluga was acquired by Facebook (now Facebook Messenger). Anyway, my point is this happened in 2011/12, and then the remaining players slowly began to die out. And then something weird happened. One or two new apps emerged a few years later and caught on a bit. I guess not everyone liked using Skype or FB Messenger for free text messaging, videos and photos, etc. It was really annoying, because I thought, “HEY! My client did this and BETTER. What gives?” I chocked it up as one of those fickle consumer tech flukes, or maybe it was just a timing thing. Who knows?

    WhatsApp logo

    Fast forward eighteen months ago when I arrive in Mallorca, Spain and EVERYONE is using this cool new app, WhatsApp.  “You’ve gotta try it!” they all said. “You can text and share videos and pics for free!” they all said. You can see the attraction for the euro set, where mobile costs are through the friggin’ roof.  “Yeah, yeah,” I said. You see, having lived and worked in the Silicon Valley tech scene for ten years before moving out here, I had both been there and done that and stuck my nose up at the idea of downloading another cute little messaging app that was sure to fail just like the others had done.  But no. EVERYONE in Spain uses WhatsApp and it’s pretty popular throughout much of Europe, as I understand it.  Everyone we know in our little pueblo here is on it; everyone at my little girl’s daycare uses it; our entire family out here swears by it.  Right now I’m working with a graphic designer on developing a new ad for a client and how did he send me the proof?  On WhatsApp!  Well, what do ya know, maybe messaging apps can work, when people you actually know and want to communicate with are on them.  Huh.

    I have to say, I finally downloaded the app after several months of browbeating from the hubbies’ fam and local friends and I’m sold.  I save on text messaging costs using this app instead, I’m in the loop on what’s happening at my little girl’s daycare and even getting to know some of the parents!  That’s right, people.  I’m being semi-social and making friends!  If you knew me, you’d say “Shocker!”

    Why has this app succeeded where so many others have failed?  I don’t know.  Timing? Bigger marketing budgets?  To be honest, as far as my knowledge of the Spanish and their culture goes, I’d say the name has a lot to do with it.  It’s annoyingly cute and English, which they love to sporadically throw into their daily exchanges along with “that’s so ‘fashion!’” “cool” and so on.  It’s all adorable and kudos to WhatsApp. Whatever you guys are doing, it’s working.  At least in Spain and other parts of Europe.

    How Did Forbes & BusinessWeek Rank YOUR City?

    Over the past year or so, the great city of Richmond has made itself better known by earning placement on dozens of publications’ “best cities” lists, developed to inform readers on where the bests spots for food, culture, education or market opportunity are hidden across the globe.  For examples, see Parade’s Best and Worst Cities for Celebrating the 4th of July, The Huffington Post’s 8 ‘Under-the-Radar’ Foodies Cities worldwide, and’s Best American Riverfront Cities, where Richmond respectively ranked #1, #6 and #10.


    Maybe you’ve seen RVA’s skyline pop up on such a list or two, but what you may not know is how Richmond – geographically and culturally nestled somewhere between north and south, political and civic, urban and rural – has achieved a citywide rebrand in just a few short years.  Or better yet, what it has to offer against the larger American “meccas” in this competitive global economy.

    Allow us River City dwellers to proudly turn that key for you and unlock just a few of our headquartering city’s secrets, with the help of some of the biggest names in media and research:

    • According to, Richmond is the principal prospect for finding business or a partner to propel your company forward. As the capitol of the #1 State for Business, we tout “business-friendly government policies and strong incentive offerings,” and a thriving market for the technology industry.  9.8% of Virginia’s private sector workforce is tech-based, and job creation has experienced a surge with data center construction, expansion and management – which also means Wireside is aptly located for success in B2B, high-tech public relations.
    • And here is what makes those abovementioned points possible: according to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, Richmond is the happiest city in the country.  It makes good, practical sense; businesses thrive where people thrive.  While economic giant New York City landed city #1 for unhappiest, Richmond was “topping the table” for most content, “a ‘glass half-full’ town.”

    So ask yourself: How’s your business – half-empty or half-full?  Here’s a better question: How can Richmond help?



    Photo by and courtesy of Tim Wilson/Fine Art America.

    The Network is the New Network

    As a technology-focused PR firm, we try to stay current with infrastructure and popular trends. That’s not easy, with technology, services and consumer behavior constantly shifting. But I’ve found a key. It’s a little saying that captures what has been happening at the busy intersection of technological innovation, on the one hand, and media and entertainment consumption, on the other.

    Here it is: The network is the new network. TV2

    Let me explain. For anyone who has been paying attention to the evolution of television over the past decade or so, this is really no big mystery. The infrastructure that drives the delivery of today’s information and entertainment services – the technological network – is supplanting the original bundle of broadcast programming known as the TV network.

    The once all-powerful TV network has been losing ground for many years, as these points help illustrate:

    • In 1999, HBO broke new ground when The Sopranos became the first cable network series to be nominated for an Emmy Award for best drama, earning more nominations that year than any show – broadcast or cable.
    • Ten years later, in 2009, Comcast announced plans to acquire NBC Universal. Thus, a company founded simply to extend broadcast signals by way of amplified coaxial cable was taking over one of the old big-three networks.
    • Last year, Netflix became the first non-TV network to win an Emmy. Founded in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail service, Netflix began streaming video a decade later. Now it not only has 48 million subscribers but also produces award-winning content.

    My mantra oversimplifies, of course. The old networks ran (and continue to run) on technology, too. Nor has broadcast – or cable or satellite – TV faded away in the face of Internet alternatives. According to data from Comscore for Q3 2013, Americans spent far more (250%) time watching TV than they spent on multi-platform Internet use in Q3 2013. Online video, in particular, amounted to only 5 percent of the time spent with live and time-shifted TV.

    But pay attention to the trends. Comscore notes that consumption of digital media has tripled over the past three years. Tablet and smartphone usage has fueled that explosion. Once upon a time, executives at the NBC, ABC and CBS called all the shots. Now that power is shared with whoever can deliver whatever content consumers demand to whichever video display devices they prefer. The network is the new network.

    What Works – and Doesn’t Work – When Pitching Tech Journalists

    In more than a decade of technology journalism, I read – or scanned – hundreds of emails from PR agencies. Why was one pitch any more successful than another?

    A PR rep always had a better chance of connecting if the pitch aligned with my current tasks. So being aware of what was on my plate helped. In that sense, I agree with former New York Times technology writer David Pogue, who recently blogged: “Rule #1 for PR folks: Know your target.”

    Image courtesy of Stuart Miles_FreeDigitalPhotosThree Things to Avoid

    There’s another angle to Pogue’s know-your-target rule. He thinks that if PR reps did their homework, they would be aware of his pet peeves, which include buzzwords. But Pogue also contends that buzzwords are a “universal pet peeve” among tech writers, which points to a broader rule.

    Professional writers dislike bad writing. Most PR pros get that, and so they work hard to clarify their pitches and related press releases. But it never hurts to remind. What follows is a quick look at three elements of bad PR style: overused marketing lingo, unsupported superlatives and gratuitous adverbs

    • Buzzwords. Which words bug which writers will vary. A mass-market journalist may put a word like WiFi on the black list, as Pogue did in 2008. A trade journalist will be OK with the jargon – but will want to know which version of the IEEE 802.11 (WiFi) spec a vendor is promoting. The problem is imprecision. Take the classic “end-to-end solution.” Which ends? Where are they? And who owns them – vendor or service provider? As for solution, that word is ambiguous. Does the solution involve software, IP routers, optical transport – what is it precisely?
    • Superlatives. Whether by nature, training or learned experience, writers tend to be a skeptical crowd. Calling your end-to-end solution the “best” is the equivalent of a dare. You’re the first? Fastest? Most reliable? OK, prove it. Journalists may have little time to follow up, but if you want to win their trust, avoid goading them into second-guessing you. If you are breaking new ground, let the facts speak for themselves. 
    • Adverbs. So your end-to-end solution “seamlessly” or “successfully” integrates with something else. That’s not surprising. Could it have integrated in any other way, say “defectively”? Adverbs such as “extremely” or “significantly” beg the same question as superlatives: can you back that up or prove it, please? The list of empty and superfluous adverbs goes on. In a random sample of recent pitches and press releases, I stumbled upon the following: positively, highly, especially, readily, clearly and cleanly. Were any necessary? Don’t think so.

    Pitches and content marketing

    Journalists are a special case. An editor may be vexed by words that could win over a prospective customer. After all, getting a prospect’s attention traditionally has called for copy that builds enthusiasm and excitement – even hype. But that tradition is changing.

    Content marketing – a topic for another day – calls for the kind of precise, factual and clear language that passes high editorial standards. In that model, a compelling pitch to a business prospect resembles a persuasive pitch to a journalist.


  • NTT expands data center, cloud to US with acquisition

    Japanese NTT Communications has acquired Virtela Technology Services and a majority stake in RagingWire Data Centers as part of its worldwide data center and cloud push. Read More

    ITWorld 10/28/13