PR+ 2014 – Our First Conference

Lipscomb University hosted its very first public relations conference, PR+ 2014, on April 22. The successful event took place in the Ezell Center and included breakfast, two panel discussions, lunch, and a keynote speaker. Coordinated by dGE PR’s Aerial Ellis, the event had a turnout of 85 attendees made of professionals and students from all over the region. The day was filled with learning about how PR is used across different fields as well as great networking.

 The first panel discussion revolved around the topic of evolution strategies for some of Nashville’s most iconic brands featuring rockstar panelists were Bob Higgins, CEO of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon; Michelle Lacewell, PR/Marketing director of Nashville Chamber of Commerce; Andrea Lindsey, senior VP at DVL PR & Advertising and David Reuter, VP of corporate communication at Nissan. dGE PR’s Perri duGard Owens was the moderator for the discussion and posed some great points for the guests to delve into. Each one had priceless input about gaining momentum for new brands and re-establishing relevance for existing brands.

 The next panel was focused on the future generation of PR. The young, vibrant, and distinguished speakers discussed ideas about the positive effects of cross-brand collaboration and what is next for the public relations industry in Nashville. The group was moderated by Meagan Rhodes from 12th and Broad and consisted of Jamal Hipps, CEO of MPYER Marketing & Advertising; Nicholas Holland, CEO of Populr.me; Marcia Masulla, co-creator of Nashville Fashion Week and senior marketing manager at Yelp Nashville; and Ryan Witherell, partner at Seigenthaler PR.

Lastly, the keynote speaker was stand-out Steve Buchanan who took the stage to talk about his hit TV show Nashville and how the PR industry related to his work with the Opry Entertainment group. The entire conference was highly interactive and received positive feedback from those who attended. Students from Kennesaw State, Austin Peay, and Belmont all mentioned how they enjoyed how the panelists were so accomplished, yet relatable. PR+ 2014 would not have been successful without the support of its sponsors PRSA, DVL, BWSC, Seigenthaler Public Relations, duGard Ellis Public Relations and Nissan along with its media sponsors Yelp and Google.

Why Being Called A Publicist is Not Enough


If I say I’m a doctor, there would be a general assumption that I have degrees in my area of study, hold a significant amount of professional expertise to maintain creditability, and possess a verifiable list of clients that can vouch for my work. That’s how it works for most professional titles.
I was bothered when I saw a Gawker.com post about “the most famous publicist” who blasted a press release about her dinner date with Cheers sitcom actor, John Ratzenberger, to the media. The random email with “MEDIA ALERT” leading its’ subject line included the restaurant’s location and a welcome for all media to come cover the event.

Needless to say, these are the type of antics that would be not approved by the Universal Accreditation Board for PR.

I hope that this whole thing was just a fluke and no one really makes the assumption that most publicists pull these stunts. It stinks like all kinds of wrong. Better yet, I hope that this improper, self-serving practice does not leak into the mindsets to future PR practitioners.

I’m not extremely fond using of the title of “publicist” but I do use it at times. It’s the easiest way to describe what you do as a PR practitioner. Publicist is the most commonly known title that most people will recognize and relate to. It’s also the most abused and misused job title in the PR.

I don’t question colleagues on their expertise or experience. If you say you’re in PR or you’re a “publicist,” I trust you. However, respect is another issue. If the reputation that proceeds you is an unstable one, then you’re watering down the game for the rest of us.

A title means nothing if you don’t respect the method by which it is earned.

Who Let the Nerd Sit at the Cool Table?

I was never the most popular or most liked kid in school.

But the one thing I always had going for myself was the ability to use my talents and gifts to gain the attention and respect of others. Most times I felt like a nerd amongst kids who were way cooler than me. Somehow as an accomplished and confident adult, I still feel that way.

The thing is I listen and observe most of time and talk only when I have something of substance to say. On the contrary, most of the cool kids were talkative, funny and “in your face” charming. My humble attributes were too often taken for being shy, withdrawn or overly serious.

There are so many perks in the public relations industry. You meet people with great connections, attend exclusive events, engage in endless networking and enjoy an abundance of complimentary favors. You find yourself surrounded by the perceived in-crowd.

Seems like you’ve finally become one of the cool kids but you’re inner nerd is still lingering. The one reason you aren’t as popular is because you have other things to think about. You’re distant because your mind is on business. You’re quiet because you’re silently and effortlessly strategizing how to beat everyone else at their own game. You’re focused because you’re thinking of your next master plan.

The good thing about PR is that most people think they need it because they’re always looking for a way to gain more exposure for what they do. And, no matter how socially awkward or intellectually complex you may seem, you possess the know-how of making other people popular.

So why don’t nerds make themselves popular?

Because nerds exist to make the cool kids look even cooler. Sometimes we can even make other nerds look cool.

Remember as a PR pro, the client is the star of the show. Will you ever get a little shine? Absolutely. The obscure knowledge of PR keeps you in demand. But most times you’ll be the nerd at the cool table. You’ll always have a reserved seat there because cool kids know that while they play the superstar role and ham the spotlight, you’re somewhere concentrating on the next move.

Bad Publicity is NEVER Good

This month has been pretty busy for the sports and entertainment industries. Events like the Grammy Awards, Oscars, Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Weekend are enough to keep a celeb on the red carpet and a PR pro on their trail. But with all the glitz and glamour of star-studded events, sometimes a PR crisis is waiting to happen. Actors, entertainers, athletes and personalities are under such close scrutiny in the public eye that anything they do or say can be held against them and their PR pro and could possibly put their careers on the line.

Understanding how to deal with a crisis is not an easy job. PR pros should have a crisis contingency plan but that doesn’t mean they should result to being a babysitter. It means that should a client face an arrest, argument, embarrassment, lawsuit, divorce and even death, a plan is in place to help them navigate the problem and save any instant damage to their career. Crisis management is often an overlooked PR strategy. Who sits and waits for a crisis to happen? No one. But they happen. No one is above a crisis or immune to one. And when the danger lurks, it must be dealt with.

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PR pros – fight the urge to make hasty decisions in a crisis. One snap comment, untrue statement or rash decision can ruin your credibility, upset the media and make your client resent you. Once you have proven you can handle a crisis in a methodical and graceful manner, you may become the Johnnie Cockran of PR.

Companies and celebs – be honest with your PR and legal counsel. They need to know the facts of your situation. Remember that most incidents involving the police, courts or emergency medical are public record. That means they can be readily accessed for fact-finding in media reports. If your family would be embarrassed or you’d be ashamed by your words or actions, then its probably not a wise move.

The cliche, any publicity is good publicity, is false. Contrary to what we may have assumed for decades, publicity means nothing if your name is as good as mud. Good crisis management makes a distinct difference between a few minutes of fame and a long-lived run of notoriety. Bad crisis management can lead to terrible publicity, severe ramifications and a long battle of image recovery.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to remember when communicating with the media as you approach a crisis: badpub2

DO be calm, alert and positive.

DON’T fill in silent pauses. Say what you have to say and stop! Get comfortable with silence.

DO be cooperative. Know what you will and won’t say.

DON’T ever say “No Comment.” Whenever possible explain why you can’t give them the information. For instance, “I cannot speak about that at the moment due to legal reasons.” No comment IS a comment.

DO have a one sentence message you want to communicate no matter what is asked. For example, “I am committed to my family, my career and my fans.”

DON’T start an argument with reporters. Look and sound calm and controlled. An argument makes you look hostile.

DO make your point in 20 seconds or less to avoid being taken out of context. An uncontrolled or long-winded response could contain conflicting statements and confuse the media.

DON’T say or do anything you don’t want reported. There’s no such thing as “off the record” when speaking to the media in a crisis. Any statement you make is likely to make the news. Avoid speculation, lying or talking about anything that’s not a known fact. It’s OK to say “I don’t know.”

DO stand still behind the microphone and use comfortable, meaningful gestures. Make friendly hand movements and facial expressions. It shows you’re not intimidated by the media nor have intentions of intimidating them.

DON’T keep talking as you’re walking away. Stop talking before you walk.

DO allow a PR professional or legal counsel to advise and coach you in ways that are most comfortable for you.

Test Drive My Job

Thanks to Twitter and Mopwater PR & Media Notes anyone interested in a career in public relations can test drive my job. Well not really. But courtesy of Amanda Miller Littlejohn, an award-winning writer, journalist and marketing/public relations pro in Washington, D.C. (and one of my Twitter friends), you can get a glimpse of what PR is like through the eyes of other practitioners.

Her column, Test Drive My Job, profiles marketing, PR, advertising and social media professionals at various stages of their careers. The column features an up close and personal look of some pretty neat folks who are in the driver’s seat.

Take my job for spin around the block and let me know what you think.testdrive

Think Like A Journalist

Last month on Journchat, Twitter’s hottest new sounding board for journalists, bloggers and PR folks, there was lots of talk about where PR falls into the shift in news coverage by journalists and who bears the most responsibility in deciding what news stories are most relevant.

Journalists have the utmost requirement to be objective in their approach to storytelling, leaving a reader to determine how they feel about a topic and to draw their own conclusion. And even though most people probably don’t know or could care less about the seven elements of a news story, everyone knows a topic must be worth talking about or else it’s not news. thinklike1

As more news goes online, PR folks have to gain a greater edge on how to get a story placed. Journalists have to take a stronger approach to how they tell a story. Ultimately, that means companies have to challenge themselves a bit if they want better news coverage.

Identify the niche of your brand. Figure out what makes it stand out. Without any assumptions or false hope, be honest about where you are and why a journalist might take interest in your company.

If you were a journalist, would you write about your company? As a reader, what is it about your organization that others would find interesting? What unique facts about your business could a PR person use to publicize your business?

Try this. Write your own story about your business. No fluff – just tell the facts about you and your company in a creative way. Spend some time with it and question its level of newsworthiness. This will help you develop better expectations for your PR strategy and strengthen your ability to gain news coverage.

*** Learn more about Journchat, Monday nights on Twitter, at http://journchat.info