• Making Measurement Matter: Aligning with Corporate Business Priorities

    In Career on

    One of the greatest opportunities and challenges of the corporate public relations practitioner is reconciling and aligning the company’s business strategy with the departmental goals. While we plan and budget for strategies that unquestionably build and preserve the brand – such as the role that earned media plays in netting share of voice among the competitors, helping to mitigate risks, and the messages and spokespersons that are earning the most influential news media coverage – it may be more challenging to directly and numerically connect these metrics to increasing the bottom line.

    Similarly, agency practitioners are challenged to fully understand and evolve with their clients’ strategic priorities of today and tomorrow, even when assignments may appear to be more tactical in nature. Once again, the true value of the public relations function can be seen when the results map back to – or as closely as possible to – corporate business goals.

    Achieving this alignment consistently takes a good deal of forethought, discipline, and potentially budget dollars.

    To get the process started for both the corporate and agency practitioner consider the following in the earliest stages of the planning process:

    1)     Determine what business priorities can be impacted the most with media relations. Corporations may have up to a half dozen strategic business priorities, but the media relations practitioner may better be able to influence one over the other. For example, improving and maintaining the quality of service provided by a company may not be the best business goal to align with, nor would developing a portfolio of competitive, profitable solutions and products. Media relations may be able to influence the public perception of these items, but the direct impact to these corporate goals will likely be difficult to numerically measure. It’s also time to learn the importance of diversity in the workplace.

    On the other hand, a media relations program could more directly impact a goal to recruit new talent with a high likelihood of success by linking back to specific earned media that are recognized as influencing the right cohort to look into joining your company’s sales force. Growing a participating customer base is another example that can be linked back to earned media assets that drive traffic to a web landing page that then drives requests for appointments. Additionally, data governance can help to strike a balance between data collection practices and privacy mandates.

    2)     Benchmark. The biggest key to determining attainment of corporate business goals is to benchmark. As an example, in order to show an increase in traffic to a website, the usual amount of traffic must be determined. Only by understanding how many potential clients ask to set up an appointment with a sales professional on any given day can an increase to that number can be established. Sometimes the benchmark may be regularly captured and is easily accessible. Other times, an effort to capture that benchmark must be built into the media relations plan. Establishing this need early in the process is paramount, especially if the benchmarking process will impact the campaign budget.

    If the media relations goal is indeed to influence public perception, then the baseline public perception must be understood before undertaking efforts to change it. Additionally, the measure itself should be vetted with key stakeholders to ensure it is of value and holds merit. Don’t forget to learn how to invent something and patent it.

    3)     Budget for regular measurement of the significant factors. Both on a project basis and for ongoing media relations work, sustainable measurement is necessary. Once media relations goals have been linked to corporate business goals, and the measurements necessary to determine whether or not these goals are being met have been decided, budget dollars – sometimes significant budget dollars – must be allocated. Choosing the right card reader machine for your business is essential.

    A significant amount of time has been devoted to helping media relations practitioners “earn a seat at the table.” Meaningful and valued numeric metrics directly aligned with corporate goals are a driving force behind media relations resourcing and programming and one of the best ways to earn that seat.

    Post Author

    Karen Lavariere-Sanchez is director of public relations at the life insurance and financial services company Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), specializing in multicultural, diversity, and research-driven media relations. She can be reached at

  • APR Appreciation

    Why “APR”?

    In Career on
    APR Appreciation

    This post was originally published on April 9, 2014 on PRSA’s PRSAY blog.

    I have… and always have had… my certificate displayed in a place of honor in every office that I have had throughout those years to remind me that I did something that I thought, for me, would be impossible.

    My students are often thrown off balance when I tell them, in my “Principles of Public Relations” (more…)

  • Lessons from PR Veterans: Steve Quigley

    In Career on

    For the past 14 years, Steve Quigley, an associate professor in Boston University’s College of Communication, has been teaching tomorrow’s PR professionals about their future chosen career.

    Quigley shared the ins and outs of his 25-year career path with PRSA Boston as well as some helpful lessons for young PR pros that he wished he knew when embarking on his professional trek.

    PRSA Boston: What was your first job in the industry? How did you end up in your current position?

    Steve Quigley: I was very lucky to be hired by Joan Schneider, founder of Schneider & Associates. Joan was – and still is – a great mentor and a great supporter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). I was similarly lucky to be hired by Boston University in 1999. Right place. Right time.

    PRSA Boston: What do you love most about being in PR?

    Steve Quigley: On a day-to-day level: The variety and the fact that we get paid to combine creativity, strategy, and tactics. On a fancy-schmancy level: The fact that every once in a while we actually get to create shared meaning that matters.

    PRSA Boston: What has been a memorable PR experience (good or bad/ embarrassing) that turned into the most valuable learning experience? Please explain. What did you learn from this experience?

    Steve Quigley: A long time ago, when I was with Schneider & Associates, we were in the final running for the McDonald’s New England account. The team decided to spend a Saturday morning working behind the counter at a local McDonald’s to experience the brand. At the time, my kids were quite young. When I got home, they wondered where I’d been. The rest went something like this:

    Me: Cooking Egg McMuffins

    Kids: Silence followed by look of awe. Then admiration.

    Kids: That’s what you do!?

    I could see the pride on their faces, followed by relief that at last they could tell their friends what their dad does for a living – with pride.

    The lessons? Only PR people understand what PR people do. And, doing something that makes your kids proud is important.

    PRSA Boston: What are some of the biggest changes within the industry that occurred throughout your career?

    Steve Quigley: The web. Search and social have added so much to our bag of tricks. Traditional PR is as important as ever. Add to that our exciting and emerging roles in search engine optimizing, content marketing, stakeholder engagement… It’s such an exciting and challenging time to be in the biz. Not for the faint of heart or those who don’t embrace change. Great time to be a communicator for a values-based, nimble, authentic organization.

    PRSA Boston: What do you think the future holds for the PR industry and its professionals?

    Steve Quigley: Enormous uncertainty and opportunity. PR professors have been going on about “two-way symmetrical communication” since Grunig. Many of us worried the model would never fit reality. I may be naive but I believe the opportunity for PR pros is to lead the way toward genuine and valuable two-way communication. Companies like Communispace are doing amazing work by focusing on listening and engaging. It’s not just theory – it can be a powerful strategic asset. But capitalizing on it requires something that’s in short supply – humility.

    The emerging role of community managers is incredibly exciting. Are you kidding? Imagine the power and significance of organizations that are (genuinely) treating the people we used to think of as “audience” as “community.” We talk to audiences. With community. For some, it’s just new words for the same thing. But some organizations are making a major philosophical/strategic shift in how they view/value stakeholders. Now that is exciting.

    PRSA Boston: What is the number-one recommendation you would give to new PR professionals?

    Steve Quigley: If you have kids, tell them you work at a fast food restaurant. (Kidding…mostly.)

    You are entering an important and challenging profession. You benefit from the leaders who came before you and you owe it to them and the next generation to be a leader, to care for the profession, and to leave it better than you found it.

    Post Author

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  • IPN Corner: Why Work as an Independent?

    In Career on

    Working for yourself in public relations isn’t for everyone. On any given day, you are in sales, marketing, and client service, often all at once, wearing many hats as the moment demands. Passing the buck is not an option, and such a career can bring to mind a different kind of workplace. Maybe you see a lemonade stand, with a money jar, handwritten LED signs , and an eager salesperson behind the table saying, “How about a refreshing glass?”

    The reality, of course, is quite different. Not every PR situation calls for lemonade. Not every client is driving by your place of business. And, setting a price usually requires a delicate negotiation over budget.

    So why would anyone want to work as an independent public relations professional?

    Here are my five reasons to consider going solo:

    1. Gain flexibility. You can work anytime you want. Clients, of course, are the ultimate measures of value, so be prepared to “flex” your schedule into evenings and weekends. In other words, you can work your 18 hours a day anytime you want.

    2. Set your income. You can charge what you want, or at least what the market will bear. Like many independents, I give my clients options. They can work with me on a consulting basis, by retainer, or à la carte. Just be sure to set aside funds to balance the flush and lean months.

    3. Creative freedom. You can let your creativity run wild without push back from colleagues who don’t understand your strategy.

    4. Pick your team. You get to choose your virtual team of professionals to service your clients. Like other independent PR people, I have my go-to team for graphic design, market research, event management, website development, and marketing programs. They bring domain knowledge and skills I don’t have.

    5. Pick your clients. You can build a business to fit your skills and personality – a huge luxury in PR. You pitch the business, you win the business, and you service the business. It’s all you.

    In my next post, I will talk about situations when it might be smart to hire an independent public relations professional. There will be times when partnering with an independent will give you bandwidth, expertise, access to talent, and results you can’t get without outside help.

    Post Author

    Blog-author_dentDan Dent is owner/principal of Dent Communications. He is a member of the Independent Practitioners Network (IPN) of PRSA’s Boston Chapter. He can be reached at

  • Corporate PR Relationship Building: I know someone who can help with that!

    In Career on

    In my first post, “What? No Clients!”, I described the client relationships that exist in the corporate public relations practice. Above and beyond that essential client relationship, the corporate practice involves a great deal of relationship building with colleagues, internal partners, and other service providers in the organization to create efficiencies and streamline workflow. New corporate practitioners are often surprised at the amount of time spent and work done outside of our department that is dedicated to skillfully navigating the internal relationship-building process.

    In fact, relationships throughout the corporate world are the tapestry to success. The corporate PR practitioner sometimes may need to synch up a client’s agenda with the company’s strategic priorities. To help navigate this complex and delicate process, trusted relationships across the enterprise with colleagues and executives in client organizations, creative services, legal, compliance, government relations, and other areas are critical.  They are the backbone to a PR practitioner’s ability to deliver quality output and to help with her agenda when needed, especially when needed fast. Who couldn’t use this kind of boost?

    So here are three tips to help corporate PR practitioners build essential relationships.

    1.      Demonstrate that you have others’ backs to strengthen that tapestry. Email an article of interest. Provide a heads up when information surfaces that may be of value. Go out of your way to do a helpful task for your internal client or stakeholder. But don’t make a big deal of it… just do it and trust that the boomerang will circle back when you need it. Perhaps the vice president in human resources with whom you’ve shared articles and contacts will complete the requested rush review of your company diversity and inclusion recognition announcement on time, or maybe earlier.
    1.      Carefully watch for tears in the tapestry. That’s what separates the pros from the beginners. Time-stretched practitioners may be tempted to send brusque emails or fail to nurture the relationships, even when they aren’t needed. We all can fall prey to the need to produce, but keeping watch and recognizing when a relationship needs some attention, or worse, has been inadvertently damaged, and then taking steps to repair it, helps to guarantee that it will be strong and enduring when you need it to be.
    1.      Don’t neglect to build a relationship with someone in the organization because you think he or she cannot provide the services that you may need. Be sure to understand the difference between position and influence. The executive vice president (EVP) may hold the position as a major thread in the tapestry (and the corresponding influence), but his or her executive assistant has a great deal of influence over whom and what the EVP pays attention to, the backing to the tapestry who holds the whole thing together. That influence is often extended to the EVP’s direct reports as well.

    Relationship building is always a good practice in any professional setting, but in the corporate PR practice, it could mean the difference between being a star or an average performer. And, as an added bonus, you often are in the unique position of being able to connect colleagues who don’t know how to accomplish a task with the right person for the job, further helping to cement those necessary relationships.

    Post Author

    Kkavariere-sanchez2011Karen Lavariere-Sanchez is director of public relations at the life insurance and financial services company Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), specializing in multicultural, diversity, and research-driven media relations. She can be reached at

  • Lessons from PR Veterans: Patrick Pollino, APR, Fellow PRSA

    In Career on

    Public relations has been an important part of Patrick Pollino’s life for a very long time – more than 40 years as a matter of fact. In 1970, he worked briefly with Pennsylvania Electric Company, where he experienced his first real crisis as a PR professional. Following his retirement in 2005 as corporate communications officer for global consulting firm Mercer, Pollino worked as an independent practitioner for two years.

    Itching to get back into an office, Pollino joined the Greater Boston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (GBCVB) as the visitor’s services representative where today he continues his work at the GBCVB’s Boston Common Visitors Information Center in the same role.

    Pollino shared with PRSA Boston the ins and outs of his journey in public relations and offered some helpful tips to young PR pros

    PRSA Boston: What was your first job in the industry?

    Patrick Pollino: I started out in January 1965 as a staff trainee in public relations at the now defunct electric and manufacturing company Western Electric.

    PRSA Boston: What do you love most about being in PR?

    Patrick Pollino: What I have loved most about being in the field of public relations is the variety of the communications challenges I have faced over the years. I have gotten to know many great professionals through my work as a colleague and as a client. There’s satisfaction that’s derived from knowing that your actions can make a difference in how the organization you work for is perceived by stakeholders both internally and externally.

    PRSA Boston: What has been a memorable PR experience (good or bad/embarrassing) that turned into the most valuable learning experience? Please explain. What did you learn from this experience?

    Patrick Pollino: I’ve had so many memorable experiences in public relations over the years – most of them, thankfully, positive – making it difficult to single out one in particular.

    That said, I would have to acknowledge the communications scenario stemming from an incident at the Three Mile Island (TMI) Nuclear Plant in the late 1970s as especially noteworthy, given that it along with communications accompanying a Tylenol tampering scare that came earlier both helped shape the conduct of crisis communications as we know it today. In the case of TMI, I was still what one might call a relatively young public relations practitioner facing his first real communications crisis. The firm I worked for at the time, Pennsylvania Electric Company, was a sister company of Metropolitan Edison, the operator for Three Mile Island.

    As reports began to surface that TMI encountered what some observers were describing as a possible nuclear meltdown, the public relations departments of the affected firms went into scramble mode. The challenge became one of trying to reassure a panicked public that the situation was under control and that the operator of the plant was forthright and honest in its communications with all who were concerned. With so much pressure being brought to bear to get information out quickly and accurately, resources were pressed to their limits.

    What the entire experience taught me was to make sure that information being disseminated under crisis conditions is accurate – get it out in a timely manner and be prepared to answer any questions that may come your way.

    PRSA Boston: What are some of the biggest changes within the industry that occurred throughout your career?

    Patrick Pollino: Some of the biggest changes that have occurred during my tenure in public relations have to do with the way practitioners go about solving problems strategically and the tools that are employed in doing so. As to the latter, there are many social media tools now available that were not part of the PR landscape when my career was drawing to a close. Meanwhile, the ability to measure the overall effectiveness of our work continues to be somewhat of a conundrum for our profession.

    PRSA Boston: What do you think the future holds for the PR industry and its professionals?

    Patrick Pollino: I believe that the future can be bright for the PR industry and its professionals, but only if they can keep up with the times in which we live. The profession continues to evolve, and there are others who feel that they can bring some of the same skills to bear on a communications problem as PR people traditionally have done – management consultants, for example, who would argue that they have a better understanding of what drives organizations.

    PRSA Boston: What is the number-one recommendation you would give to new PR professionals?

    Patrick Pollino: The number-one recommendation that I would give to new PR professionals is to learn as much as you can about the world in which we live, master the tools that are available to you that can help you do your jobs better, and remain intellectually curious.

    Post Author


    Elena del Peral is a communication major at Curry College.

    Know a PRSA Boston veteran who can provide some useful insights and tips to younger PR professionals in our PR industry veterans Q&A? Email Franceen Shaughnessy: