March 26, 2019In Cannabis, Chapter Events, Crisis, Entrepreneur, Fast Five, Government, Media Relations, PRSA Member Feed, Public Affairs, Thought Leaders, Uncategorized on
Francy Wade owns Chatter Boss Communications, a boutique communications consultancy with clients in both the private, public and non-profit sectors. Some of her recent work been has been on behalf of new cannabis companies, including one of the state’s licensed dispensary pioneers, Cultivate. Her career is a convergence of public relations, research, politics and news experience. She recently sat down with Loring Barnes to chat about the unique experiences of launching Massachusetts into the new world of legalized marijuana.
Has serving clients in the marijuana sector in any way inhibited your PR consulting practice?
When I started Chatter Boss a little over a year ago, I had no idea how large the market was for what I was selling: High-touch, high-energy, low-process PR. I love to tell great stories to the right journalists and audiences and not get bogged down in process. I am so blessed that I’ve had an over abundance of clients retain me over over the past 15 months. Usually, my clients and prospects love to see the crazy mix of subject areas I work in. From higher education and education equity to healthcare, fashion technology and marijuana, it has been a wild ride.
I did, however, lose one piece of new business because of my work in the marijuana space. It was a controversial development project and the company CEO was staunchly against legal cannabis. I am absolutely respectful of people’s opinions and understood his perspective. But, before I walked away, I did want to make sure this individual knew I am the ultimate professional and one client’s point of view never impacts another’s.
Marijuana isn’t legal nationwide, which has resulted in a prohibition or high restriction of social media usage by dispensaries and cultivation facilities. It’s almost a throwback to our pre-social communications era. How have you helped your cannabis clients to maintain a brand voice as more of these licensed companies have had to launch while being handcuffed in their use of social media?
I like to use social media as a storyline with media pitching for my marijuana clients. In the days after legalization in Massachusetts, all of my clients’ social accounts were shut down. On the surface, it might seem debilitating, but not for me. Facebook, which owns Instagram, never gave an exact reason for the move and I thought that was a GREAT storyline for TV and digital media. Interestingly enough, just last week, Facebook announced it was easing its ban on marijuana content, which provided a great pitch point for some stories you’ll see appear very soon. I’m such a tease!
You’re a parent and travel in other business and community circles. And you aren’t a pot user. Do you find that when people know that as a PR professional, you are a communications counselor to cannabis companies like Cultivate and Sira, that conversations abruptly shift from scouts and soccer to the curiosities of marijuana, and how do you navigate this?
I do a lot of work in my children’s schools and I am even a catechist for the kindergarten students at my church. So when it comes up that I also happen to work in the marijuana space, people’s jaws hit the floor. I’ve been a goody-goody my whole life, so having a shock factor in my mid-thirties is kind of fun!
I started out my career as a journalist, so I pride myself on always seeing things from all sides. Before talking about any of my clients, I tend to allow people to tell me how they feel about the industry instead of voicing any opinions. It makes people feel at ease with the subject. If people do have a differing opinion, I tend to share some stories that opened my eyes to the benefits of cannabis as a medicine for veterans. Then let the conversation transfer to the trouble with the illicit market and how many jobs and how much revenue we will get from the legal industry.
What do you read to keep on top of cannabis business trends, innovators and subject experts? How would you advise someone to steer clear of disinformation?
I have to say, my clients are the best source of information for me. They have a way of explaining nuanced regulations and trends better than anyone. I feel lucky to work with such smart innovators like Sam Barber of Cultivate and Mike Dundas of Sira. I tend to use them to help journalists understand the stories they are writing, even if they aren’t going to be quoted. The way I see it, we are all building this industry together. Storytelling and the reporting being done will help us document this for the history books in the future, so it is critical we get this right.
I really like the reporting the Boston Globe has done and the way they have dedicated reporters to this beat exclusively. I had a meeting with some of their staff, including Linda Henry, last year and encouraged them to create and entire Cannabis section of the paper. Similar to the Travel or Arts. It is complex, not only as a political and social issue, but the industry involves banking, scientific and marketing aspects too. It needs to be treated as the unique behemoth subject that it is.
You’ve had your consultancy, Chatter Boss Communications, for just over a year, after working in respected PR agencies, political campaigns and television news. Did opportunity create the impetus to strike out on your own, or did you decide to take the plunge and hope that the clients would follow? How has life as a solo practitioner surprised or rewarded you, and how would you counsel others who are considering to follow suit to think through this decision?
I have three children, a 13-year-old stepdaughter, a 5-year-old son and 4-year-old son. When I started taking care of my daughter when she was a toddler, I realized how fast time flies. After having my oldest son, I made a very easy decision to not go back to an agency. Instead, I networked my way into having a few clients and projects that kept me in the game. After my second son, I was approached to more formally work with a political polling firm and got involved with the campaign to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana. When the campaign came to a close, I had a series of fun lunch meetings with former colleagues and friends who kept asking me if they could get me to tell their stories and I gave birth to my fourth child which is Chatter Boss.
I was meant to be an entrepreneur. It’s in my DNA. My dad owns his own business and he, like me, does some of his best work from places other than a desk and office. My mom, a teacher, stayed home with me until I was in high school, before going back to work and getting her masters. I am trying to take a page from both of my amazing parents and be the best mother and businesswoman I can be. None of this would be possible without my husband’s support. He is, by far, the most talented storyteller I’ve ever met. We don’t have a nanny or full-time help. We work as a team to make sure we are at the top of our parenting and professional games at all times.
I don’t think agency life is for everyone and I certainly don’t think the solo practitioner road is one that most people find attractive. It is uncertain, exhausting but ultimately exhilarating. I’ve been called naturally caffeinated, which is the highest compliment, and what I think has been the secret to my success in this most recent chapter of my communications career.
Meet Francy Wade on Thursday, April 4th (@chatterbosscomm) and hear about the landmines and victories on the cannabis industry’s journey in Massachusetts. She joins an A-lister panel of marijuana business experts and policy influencers. The lively discussion will be lead by Jess Bartlett (@BOSBIZJess), veteran cannabis and craft beer beat journalist for the Boston Business Journal. Click on this LINK to get your ticket. Special rates for students, young professionals and members.
September 8, 2018In Media Relations on
The local channels in Boston put together a total of 62.5 hours of news every weekday. Each station is averaging 35 stories per hour. That means on any given day you have 2,187 opportunities to get your client coverage that can be seen in millions of households in the Boston area. So why aren’t you? Chances are that you are making some of these big mistakes.
1. You are wasting my time
This is the cardinal sin of pitching television news. As a producer, I receive around 400 emails every day. Reporters are in the same boat and the assignment desk gets even more. 90 percent of them get deleted without ever being opened. Headlines like “Great event this weekend”, or worse “Interview Opportunity” get deleted immediately. When crafting your pitch, you need to think like a journalist. You have six seconds to win my attention and make me stick around for another paragraph. Within the first line I should know why my audience will care about this story. Once you have established that, you can fill in the where and when of the story.
2. You aren’t pitching the right person (at the right time)
You need to know what your story is worth. Generally, there are two types of stories that you will pitch.
VO (Voice-overs): These are the vast majority of stories your client will want you to pitch. They are quick, 20 second scripts that make up the bulk of a newscast. Charity functions, races, product launches, the latest and greatest study from your health care team are all likely voice-overs. Don’t bother a reporter with a VO, they will ignore it. Email a producer and pass along the information to the assignment desk. Be very brief. No one is going to read your release if it’s longer than a page (or even half a page). Also, timing is important. Packages are assigned at the start of the shift.
The producer generally spends the next two to three hours finding stories to fill the rest of the newscast. If you want to save the day, email (OR CALL) the desk and the producers with your pitch while the producers are stacking the show. For the 4/5/6pm that generally happens before noon. If you have an event happening at night, email before 4. If you want to crack the elusive morning show, stay up late and call at midnight. They don’t want to be awake at that hour any more than you do but a morning show needs fresh content more than any other time slot. NEVER call between 5-7 AM, 4-7 PM, or 9-11 PM. They are busy and will likely hang up on you if you ask “will you be covering our event today?”
Packages: If it isn’t a VO, it is a package. Reporters, producers and the assignment desk all pitch stories for packages in the assignment meeting. Get to know people’s names and emails. Keep a list and update it at least every six months. If you think you have a great emotional story then reach out directly to a reporter. Email or call their cell. Promise exclusivity (everyone wants to be only on) and do it at the right time. Most journalist spend the 30 minutes before the assignment meeting searching every source they have for a decent story. You can be a hero by sending the perfect story just in time. The morning meeting (for the noon/4/5/6 PM shows) is usually at 9 AM. The afternoon meeting for the late shows is between 2-3 PM depending on the stations. Don’t be afraid to ask the desk when those meetings take place. On that note, the assignment desk is one of the hardest working group of people. Be nice to them because they are usually the key to getting a reporter or photog at your event.
3. You are accepting defeat
How many times have you had stations confirm they were coming to an event only to back out at the last second? News happens and generally you are pretty low on our priority list, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to cover the story. We just simply don’t have the bodies. So, take some initiative. If no one shows up to your event, take some pictures, write up a brief synapsis and email it to the station (you should also have a one-page synapsis printed out and ready for every photog and reporter that shows up). If you can get me a picture or video, I am far more likely to run your story even if it is just a quick mention.
4. You aren’t thinking like a journalist
The bulk of pitches I receive describe the event/study/product, but they never really focus on why I should care. News judgement is driven by the question “Why should the audience care about this?” Answer that question immediately in your pitch. A charity walk is not the Xth annual “run to remember this person” or “cure this disease”. It is a gathering of survivors ready to share their story and motivate others to take action. When developing your pitch think about what the audience will care about. What will make someone sit on their couch for another five minutes without going to bed or heading to work? Once you have come up with the pitch, think about what elements you can offer the reporter or producers that will play well on TV. That could be emotional audio or great video. If your client has created some incredible life changing medicine but you can’t provide a compelling patient, your great package just became a 20 second VO.
I recently received a pitch from a PR firm. They wanted to bring someone on for an interview. The pitch was that the person would discuss all the ways that Boston is falling short when it comes to attracting major events. They weren’t thinking like a journalist. I am not going to bring someone on to tell the people of Boston all the ways that their city is failing and doesn’t measure up to other places. Frankly, your client is going to look like an arrogant jerk. This type of story may play on the radio or newspaper, but it isn’t going to work on TV (Print/Radio/TV pitches should be different). You are far too limited by time and format to make that story work in your client’s best interest.
5. You aren’t thinking about what you want from the coverage
Before you ever come up with a pitch you should have a clear understanding of what your clients wants out of the coverage. Are you looking to build awareness for your client, or call people to action? Who is the target audience? The coverage you receive often depends on the pitch you put together. Sending an email about an event the day it occurs might get you a VO recapping the event but won’t help you boost actual attendance. If you pitch one thing, but have expectations of completely different coverage, I am going to ignore you next time.
So, to wrap it all up. Keep it short. Pitch the right people, in the right way, at the right time. When you do pitch a TV station, know why you are doing it and what you can offer the station. These are straightforward ways to get your clients the coverage that they probably deserve.
Joe Chambers is an Emmy-nominated journalist with more than 10 years of experience working in television newsrooms across the country. He currently lives and works in Boston
August 26, 2018
When Dick Pirozzolo, APR, recently worked with Bob Salsberg, AP Boston correspondent, to arrange interviews with Governor Dukakis, and other policy thinkers on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in government, the story resonated with newspapers around the country, including The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.
Pirozzolo credits long-term relationships with journalists and having a timely issue for the media interest, something PRSA advocates when it comes to generating earned media.
The Pirozzolo Company client involved was Boston Global Forum, cofounded by Gov. Michael Dukakis and Vietnam media mogul Tuan Nguyen as a think tank focused on peaceful solutions to international conflicts such as: China’s contentious presence in the South China Sea, North Korea’s nuclear talks, and state-sponsored cyberthreats. Boston Global Forum publishes several newsletters and is always on the lookout for relevant articles and news with a foreign relations angle. Much of the content focuses on Asia.
Here four of the newspapers that covered the emerging role of Artificial Intelligence in government.
For more on how to successfully pitch The Boston Globe from the PRSA Boston meeting with the editors visit: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/globe-goes-all-digital-news-pr-still-relationship-dick-pirozzolo-apr/
April 21, 2018
Larry Edelman, The Boston Globe deputy managing editor, told independent PR agency heads that, while declining print subscriptions portend an all-digital newspaper, building good old-fashioned relationships still counts when it comes to news coverage in New England’s biggest newspaper.
At a recent meeting organized by the Boston Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, Edelman told some 30 small PR agency owners, “We have 95,000 paid digital subscribers, the highest among regional papers,” which is fast approaching half the total subscribers as “print subscriptions slowly decline.”
With classified advertising for autos, employment and real estate no longer able to support the operation, The Globe has had to increase the cost to the readers for providing them with information. “When we’re charging a lot for the product it really has to be good, and when readers log on they want to get the highest-quality journalism. The paper has to be sold on the merits of quality,” Edelman added.
Given changes in the way people access information, especially international and national news, The Globe has reduced its commitment to staffing bureaus in Washington, DC and overseas. “Our motto is to provide journalism you can’t get anywhere but The Globe.” For media relations pros, that means offering its reporters exclusive, newsworthy information about local businesses and organizations and their impact on the community.
At the meeting, run by public relations consultants Hank Shafran, Edelman emphasized, “It comes down to building individual relationships” for both PR pros and reporters as well. “Even though information is available online, reporters still have to get out of the office to cover stories in person and PR folks have to build relationships with reporters. News is a relationship business – a good batting average though is worse than a major league baseball player,” in terms of successful placements.
Edelman urged PR professionals to look beyond your own client for broader stories with greater impact. He pointed out, “A hotel company that was building properties in the outlaying parts of the city such as Allston and Brighten pitched a story about the business.” Rather than publishing a story about this one company, “The Globe did it as a trend piece, which made it a stronger and more interesting article.” Everybody won.
When asked about whom to contact, he recommended sending email pitches directly to reporters since they know more about the topic and editors have too many additional responsibilities to focus on content, though alerting both the reporters and their editors is acceptable.
Joshua Milne, who focuses on sports promotions and media relations, asked whether editorial visits during which company executives visit the editorial staff in the newsroom to provide background information, with no expectation of coverage are still viable.
Veteran business reporter Jon Chesto is known for taking a lot of editorial meetings. “He meets more people in a day than I meet in a month,” quipped Edelman. Notwithstanding, when publicists pitch stories they need to know the topic. Bray said, “It’s disrespectful to call a reporter and not know what your product is or what it does and then fill the void by using terms like ‘best-in-breed’ or ‘disruptive technology.’”
Bray chided PR people who call at 5 o’clock to pitch stories, and for trying to be creative, “Don’t write a story like ‘Once upon a time,’ just the facts please.”
Other changes at The Globe include The Express Desk, which was started last year and is staffed with 25 reporters and editors to deliver breaking news – “immediate news drives a lot of subscriptions,” Edelman said adding that Express Desk tracks readership and revises headlines if an interesting story isn’t drawing readership.
In addition to the Spotlight Team, the famous investigative reporting unit featured in the eponymous Oscar winning movie about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, Edelman, noted, “We created a subset of the Spotlight Team that, instead of spending months on a story is poised for quick investigations that might take only a week or two. One of its latest accomplishments was an investigative report on a recent Massachusetts State Police scandal over no-show traffic details.
Despite the modern newsroom in the heart of the financial district, the absence of the monster Web press, and a hugely successful formula for a digital newspaper of the future, Edelman said some things in Boston remain constant: “Who’s driving the most subscriptions? It’s still sports.”
Dick Pirozzolo, APR of Pirozzolo Company Public Relations is a Boston communication consultant whose credentials as a professional journalist include membership in The Society of Professional Journalists, The Foreign Press Association of New York and the National Press Club of Washington, DC.