May 12, 2019
By Ariana Revelas, PRSA Boston student correspondent – Bentley University
Dick Shaner, Jr. is senior vice president at Martin Davison Public Relations, an affiliate of The Martin Group, in Buffalo, N.Y.. Dick’s experience in public relations spans more than 35 years on both the corporate and agency side. Dick has been a member of PRSA since 1989 and is a past president of the Buffalo/Niagara Chapter.
As a student in PR, I have a passion and keen interest in learning about nonprofit PR. In my research about this topic, I asked Dick for an interview because of his experience in this field.
What kinds of services and expertise do you offer?
Founded in 2001, The Martin Group (TMG) is a leading integrated communications firm headquartered in downtown Buffalo with offices in Rochester and Albany, N.Y..
Established in 2015, Martin Davison Public Relations is a public relations firm in Upstate New York that offers advocacy, community relations, content marketing, crisis communications, event management, internal communications, and media relations.
The Martin Group is a recipient of the Buffalo Business First Fast Track Award multiple times and is recognized as one of WNY’s Top Private Companies.
Do you specialize in helping nonprofits or is this one of your passions in PR, or both?
Our agency considers nonprofits one of its eight key verticals based on our extensive experience in the area. We also invest two percent of our revenue, a significant amount of pro bono work, and countless hours of volunteer service to nonprofit organizations throughout the communities we serve.
Working with nonprofit organizations has been a passion of mine throughout my career, including a total of 17 years working with Catholic Charities of Buffalo on its annual Appeal. The 2018 Appeal was especially challenging—and rewarding—as we were able to achieve an ambitious $11 million goal during the clergy sex abuse crisis that rocked the Diocese of Buffalo. This was executed through numerous news releases, media advisories, and crafted pitch letters. We organized several media events and scheduled editorial board meetings, while focusing attention on social media channels as well. In addition, we encouraged online donations through Catholic Charities’ website, with an emphasis on how Catholic Charities serves non-Catholics and Catholics alike. Anyone can donate and also be served by the organization.
I also provide public relations services (both paid and pro bono) to Mental Health Advocates of Western New York (formerly the Mental Health Association of Erie County), and was recognized with their 2013 Advocacy Award. I am particularly proud of our efforts to help raise awareness for the Just Tell One Campaign, which focuses on the prevention and early intervention of mental health and substance abuse issues affecting youth and young adults in Western New York.
Can you touch on some strategies that you use in particular to assist charitable organizations?
Since 2013, I have dedicated hundreds of hours to promote various fundraising initiatives for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Western and Central New York Chapter (LLS). LLS is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding research, finding cures and ensuring access to treatments for blood cancer patients.
I have served on the executive leadership committee for the local LLS Light the Night Walk since 2013 and the planning committee for the annual Diamond Ball since 2014. Our agency’s pro bono public relations support for these events during this time has resulted in hundreds of articles, interviews and other media coverage. A lot of the strategy for this event is done on a national level because the event is held in many major cities. I worked on the earned media and publicity for the Buffalo event.
We focused heavily on ambassadors—those who survived leukemia and lymphoma and family members of survivors of blood cancer—by featuring their stories of survival. This was a very successful strategy. There has been a lot of focus on families and companies that walk on behalf of their employees as well. To try to get executives from Buffalo-based companies to participate, we recently created an executive challenge to raise significant amounts of money. These promotional and publicity efforts have helped LLS raise millions of dollars. In general, nonprofits are struggling right now with walks, runs, and similar events, and not raising as much money as prior years. The Light the Night event is showing continued growth.
What advice do you have for PR professionals looking to use their experience to help local charities?
Nonprofit organizations can use all the help they can get from PR and communications professionals because they typically have limited resources. They welcome PR professionals who want to assist with event management, social media, and PR. Getting involved as a volunteer, a committee or board member within a nonprofit is also a great way to:
- Develop a strong relationship with a nonprofit you support;
- Help the nonprofit while also connecting with business leaders and their boards of directors; and
- Create good exposure for yourself.
Additionally, I have always felt nonprofit organizations provide recent graduates and entry-level practitioners with a good “foot-in-the-door” to an entry-level career in public relations.
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 29, 2018
According to articles published in the Chicago Tribune and on Eater Chicago in September, Giant, a popular restaurant co-owned by chef Jason Vincent, was in the center of a public relations maelstrom after a campaign promoting a tasting event was found to be masking ethically questionable behavior. It was after social media influencer Adam Sokolowski blew the proverbial lid off of the cookie jar did the involvement of a local agency and well-respected national brand come to light.
Based on Sokolowski’s post on Instagram of his redacted invitation, both articles discuss how the agency handling the restaurant’s account (identified in the pieces as FCB) encouraged food writers and influencers to attend a tasting dubbed Three Moons, heralding a new menu created by Vincent. The invitation promoted the usage of “interesting preservation techniques and fresh and seasonal ingredients” and concluded with the firm’s intention to secure “content and real-time feedback through images and video”.
The remainder of Sokolowski’s post stated that after a bar bouncer overheard his conversation and warned him of the event being a “scam”, he contacted a friend that attended the first seating and they revealed the true nature of the event: the meal served was prepared three days prior and stored with Glad Press ‘n Seal wrap, and the subsequent recording of the reactions were to be incorporated into promotional material for Glad. Three Moons was merely a cover. It was wrapped up in the promotion for Glad. Eater describes how the guests were asked to sign a release and would able to receive compensation for doing so, as well as in the event Glad chose to include them in the promotional material.
Understandably, participants probably did not react well, and Sokolowski asserts in his post that while he chose not to attend the event once he learned of the deception, he did confront Vincent, “I was incredulous, but managed to promptly tell Jason Vincent that what he’s doing is unethical, potentially a violation of his license, and definitely a complete dereliction of hospitality. “
In the Tribune article, Vincent attempted to rationalize his actions, and FCB made a statement without overtly admitting any wrongdoing. This could be interpreted as simple damage control by both, but as the incident snowballed, the outcry and outrage over those tactics pose one obvious question while answering affirmatively whether grievous ethics violations were committed: on whom does the blame lie? Is it squarely on Jason Vincent and his staff? FCB? Glad Products? To put it simply, all three organizations involved in the execution of said campaign should be held accountable. In the most basic sense, they all shirked their ethical obligation to be truthful and transparent to those they were vetting. The crucial facts that the food was three days old and stored using Glad Press ‘n Seal were not to be revealed until the guests’ reactions were captured on camera. The invitation did not inform them of Glad’s connection, nor the extent of said connection, whatsoever. The entire ruse could be construed as unscrupulous at best, sneaky and underhanded at worst. Yet, if we were to simply point a finger at the agency and only hold them fully responsible, it now boomerangs back to that age-old issue of members of the media mistrusting public relations and related practitioners.
It is my belief that a brand or an agency that is willing to execute or participate in such a manner needs to take a step back and reevaluate their practices and priorities, including how much importance truly lies with that code of ethics. Any company that is searching for agency representation (as well as any agency considering representing a brand) should never be afraid to question the strategies being considered and how that fits into their mission and business model. If your instincts are telling you something is not proper, listen to them. If an entity is considering crossing such a clearly drawn line, creating an ethical quagmire and possibly completely alienating the very public they are marketing to, what kind of message does that send about their characters? How they conduct their business?
As with any industry that imparts a high standard of ethics and accountability in its daily practices, once those core values of trust and honesty are violated, all credibility is shot and the respect is gone. Once the media feels burned, public relations practitioners then have even more difficulty proving themselves and the companies they represent to be ethical and sound. When all is said and done, it’s their duty to be proactive; to look out for and attempt to prevent any situation that could shake that very foundation of ethics and escalate into a crisis, not assist in the exacerbation of it.
Learn more about this story:
Glad marketing stunt at Giant restaurant dinner for social media influencers leads to ethics controversy (Nick Kindelsperger and Joseph Hernandez, Chicago Tribune) http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct-food-giant-glad-press-n-seal-20180911-story.html
A Chicago Restaurant and Glad Wrap Fooled Diners by Serving Three-Day-Old Food
(Ashok Selvam, Eater Chicago)
Adam Sokolowski Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bnll6YPHfiC/?utm_source=ig_embed
BIO: Katy Kostakis is an Account Executive and Marketing Writer and Editor for Costas Provisions Corp., a foodservice distribution firm in Boston. A graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, she is also a blogger and freelance writer. Kostakis is an associate member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), as well as a volunteer with the Boston chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA). To view her work, please visit her website at katykostakis.com.
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/
August 12, 2018In PRSA Member Feed on
by Adam Ritchie
PR has earned its seat at the decision-making table. But another meeting happened before we got there, and we probably weren’t invited. Each time a PR team readies itself for a launch, the product has already been determined, developed and maybe even packaged before we’re brought in. Sometimes PR helps inform certain features, but we rarely make the first step toward the drafting table.
We can go beyond only promoting the products we’re handed and challenge ourselves to invent newsworthy products from the ground up. If we’re going to live or die based on their success, we owe it to ourselves to take a stronger hand in their creation.
Here’s why PR pros have an aptitude for invention, and where we’re already tapping into it.
We solve problems
In theory: We’ve listened. We’ve seen reviews, tweets and service logs. We know where a company and possibly the category is falling short. We’ve identified trends. We’ve spotted an opportunity to do something different.
In practice: Indie rock band The Lights Out was finishing an album, and we faced a tough launch. Consumers aren’t shopping in music stores like they once did, and they’re only discovering music online from artists who’ve already gathered thousands of followers. But many music fans are also beer fans, and they’re visiting craft beer stores almost every weekend. To support this album, we were going to create a new category of product, offer it somewhere we knew consumers would discover it, give them an unforgettable sensory experience, convince them to pay a premium and make news along the way. PR was going to invent the world’s first album on a beer can.
We’re innate salespeople
In theory: The same muscles we use when convincing potential clients we’re the best fit, getting media to greenlight a story and bringing cross-functional teams together on a project can be used to sell in a product concept or find the right manufacturing partner. Once the idea is planted and excitement is high, we know the best way to get everyone invested in making it a reality is by allowing individuals to own key elements and feel personally invested.
In practice: We took a rough cut of the album to Aeronaut Brewing Co. and asked them to brew a beer that would pair sounds with flavors. The idea “spread like wildfire” through their organization. They were former scientists, and they approached recipe development like a science project. Then we let go, trusting their ability to do what they did best: brew a great-tasting beer. The initial prototype was hazy, well-balanced and delicious.
We understand the power of a great visual
In theory: The way a product is presented to the world and what it says about the brand behind it is a PR obsession. PR doesn’t always get involved with packaging design, but when it does, even the wrapper can become newsworthy.
In practice: We worked with a skilled illustrator to merge the look and feel of the band and the brewery on a single label. The album was about parallel worlds and the beer was brewed using cold-steeped galaxy hops from Australia. The finished product looked like a gleaming silver and gold capsule straight out of a sci-fi movie. The label copy told the story of this beer fueling a drinker’s trip through the multiverse, with the music serving as the soundtrack to that journey.
We inspire conversations
In theory: We know what gets consumers talking. We’ve seen hashtags succeed and fail. We know what makes content shareable.
In practice: The call-to-action on the label instructed consumers to post a social media trigger to unlock the digital content. We installed a script on the band’s Twitter account that would listen for the trigger and respond immediately when it was posted. The consumer received a message from the band telling them what they were doing right now in a parallel universe, and giving them a link to the album. A download code would have served the purpose, but we wanted retrieval to be visible, social, fun and interactive.
We know how to run a campaign
In theory: This is what PR does best, and usually where our story begins. But we often focus on only one industry. We can push ourselves to create campaigns that cross industries and even continents.
In practice: We untethered ourselves from the usual suspects in music media, and tailored versions of the story for food, beverage, beer, pop culture, lifestyle, business, technology, design, science, packaging and visual arts outlets. Earned media ran as far away as Russia, Finland and Thailand. Competing releases from established artists, without a food/beverage component, suddenly appeared flat. Consumers ran to beer stores and shared images of themselves hoisting the album release beer in the air, and posted the trigger on social media to get the music. In the middle of one of the toughest media climates ever, we sold out of the product — twice.
When you see a new type of product or service earning a significant amount of exposure, work backwards and look for the fingerprints of PR. You’ll find them in items like My Special Aflac Duck created by Carol Cone on Purpose and the Fruit of the Loom Professionals Collection from Crispin Porter & Bogusky: brand-affirming products that tell daring stories. If existing communication and content distribution vehicles feel stale, develop new ones. PR pros have it in us to forge the silver bullets we need to run standout campaigns.
At launch time, your team will have an unparalleled level of passion for the work because they helped usher this product into the world. It’s their baby. After a career spent on everyone else’s products, nothing compares to the joy of promoting a product they helped create. That pride of ownership will be reflected in every interaction they initiate, and translate directly into results.
Adam Ritchie owns Adam Ritchie Brand Direction, an award-winning public relations agency which helps brands grow, communicate and do the right thing. His “Invention in PR” speaking tour is visiting PR programs at more than 40 universities this year. Follow him at @aritchbrand and #InventionInPR.
February 1, 2018
Media are already clamoring about their top choices and surprise predictions regarding this year’s Oscar nominees. But before the red carpet rolls out on March 8 for this iconic event, PR enthusiasts should be busy nominating themselves for the Oscars of the Communications industry, PRSA’s Silver Anvil Awards. The early entry deadline is Feb. 9. But don’t sweat it – the final late entry deadline is Feb. 23.
The Silver Anvils honor outstanding PR programs, offering entrants the opportunity to showcase excellence and put their top campaigns in front of influential industry professionals. This year’s program offers several new categories, expanding the opportunities to earn more awards! New Silver Anvil categories include:
- Outstanding Content Marketing Campaign;
- Best Use of Influencer Marketing to Expand Awareness;
- Most Effective Corporate Social Responsibility Campaign;
- Most Effective Campaign on a Budget ($5,000–$10,000); and,
- Most Effective Campaign on a Shoestring Budget ($5,000 or less).
While the 90th Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the Silver Anvils award reception will be held at a new location — the Edison Ballroom in the heart of New York City’s theater district.
Just like the Oscar lives on as a milestone victory long after the spotlight and applause, Silver Anvils have long-lasting value and prestige. Award-wining campaigns have been featured in textbooks, taught in classrooms and posted on prsa.org, inspiring professionals and students to learn from and to develop their own best-in-class programs.
Are you getting excited? Then read on! PRSA offers six ways to prepare your Silver Anvil nominations: http://anvils.prsa.org/silver-anvil-awards/tips from Pauline Draper-Watts, a long-standing Silver Anvil judge.
We should all be clamoring this month to be the Oscar darling of PR and submitting our digital entries before Jimmy Kimmel broadcasts live from New York with the golden statues. Who knows? Your campaign could be the next award-winning, red carpet winner.