Part I: Why You Need a Crisis PR Agency

Let’s take a moment to delve deep into the dark crevices of “what if.” Stay with me here. Take a moment to let your mind wander to worst case scenarios that could potentially happen at your place of business. Perhaps a rainmaker embroiled in a #MeToo accusation? A high profile employee takes to Twitter to trash a client? An unhappy donor threatening to expose shady bookkeeping practices to the media? It’s uncomfortable, I know. But if you take the time to really think about all of the potential crisis lurking just below the surface I bet you can come up with quite a list.

Now, in each of these scenarios, imagine what your next steps might be. Who are you calling? What are you saying? What are you not saying? How do you respond on social media? What’s your plan of action?

If at this point you’re sweating slightly, you’re not alone. Most organization don’t have a formal crisis response plan, precisely because it’s uncomfortable to think about. It requires planning for something that will hopefully never happen. It takes time that is not billable and planning involves immersing yourself in a dark place.

But here’s another thought to consider. The moment a crisis hits is not the time to start calling around to PR firms asking about their services and pricing. It’s not the time to reach out to your sister’s best friend’s husband who you think is in PR to see if he can help. It’s too late.

The time to prepare is now.

Once you have an identified agency partner on call, you can proceed with the confidence of knowing that the crisis team is already up to speed on your company, its executives, and other relevant players and details. It’s not necessary to take time to get anyone up to speed because it’s already happened. In this scenario the agency can immediately get to work on responding to the situation at hand.

Different crisis agencies work in different ways, but it most cases, if you’ve already contracted with an agency, you will likely have a response plan developed that can immediately begin to be implemented. In addition, it’s likely that your executives have had some version of response training such as media interview training. At this point it’s just a matter of reviewing and refining messages based on the situation.

Companies who have taken the time to arrange for crisis counsel in advance of a situation tend to fair much better in a crisis situation than those who have not. If you’re ready to discuss crisis preparation services for your company, get in touch with us here.

PART II: HOW TO PICK A CRISIS PR AGENCY THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

 

Part II: How to Pick a Crisis PR Agency That’s Right for You

If you’re in the market for a crisis PR firm, here are a few tips to take into consideration when making your selection:

In crisis, comfort with the team is king. Your agency partner must be a group of folks that you trust and are completely comfortable with. These are the folks who you will be sharing scenarios you hope never see the light of day, so you must feel confident they can manage and contain the situation, should it ever arise.

Meet the team members. Many times senior executives or dedicated new business development team members will sell the business and then step out of the picture once the deal is closed. During the selection process, make sure you meet the actual team members who will be assigned to your account. Find out how involved senior leadership will be and who your day-to-day contact is.

Ask about their experience. Find out what clients they’ve worked with who are in similar industries or have had similar situations. Ask how the situations were resolved and what the outcomes were. Ask how long the relationship with the clients lasted, and if it ended, why.

Understand how they bill. Crisis agencies generally bill in one of three ways: by the hour, on a monthly retainer basis (whether you use their services that month or not), or with one flat fee that covers a certain amount of hours. Decide what you’re comfortable with and ensure the agency is as well.

Be clear on the terms of service up front. Be sure you fully understand what the agency’s scope of work is before signing the contract. If you sign a crisis-only contract and another PR-related item pops up, is it covered? If your crisis takes you over the allotted amount of hours, how does billing change?  Make sure you understand the full scope.

Hiring the right crisis PR agency can be a challenge, but successful outcomes are based on thoughtful preparation. Being as prepared as possible in the agency identification phase will set your company up for success in the long run. If you’re ready to discuss crisis preparation services for your company, get in touch with us here.

 

Spotlight on: Jessica Sharp

How did you get into PR?

I went to Drexel, which has a five year co-op program where students go to school full-time for six months and then do an internship full-time for six months. My last internship was at Exelon Corporation in their external communications department. I worked closely with several of the company’s PR and advertising firms and what they were doing looked like a lot of fun. When I graduated I focused my job search on agencies and was fortunate enough to land a position at a small PR/advertising firm in Philly.

 

What’s the proudest moment of your career?

I’ve had so many! I think I’m most proud when we help a client to realize the power of PR. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many different clients and types of client contacts, some of whom didn’t believe they should hire a PR firm, or didn’t truly understand how PR fits into the overall marketing mix. When I see the lightbulb go on and they get it, it’s pretty great.

I’m also really proud of the company that Rebecca and I have built. It’s been almost 13 years since we started and it’s been amazing. There have been too many great moments to mention them all here.

 

How has the PR industry changed since you started?

The biggest change that I see is the shift from PR to integrated communications. PR can no longer stand alone and be successful. It has to be thoughtfully integrated with social media, content marketing, and digital. Not that long ago a big feature story in a top publication was enough to make a big impact. Today that’s not necessarily true. Coverage in traditional media is certainly still important, but it’s not the be all end all.

 

When you’re not at the office, what can we find you doing?

Right now I’m training for my first triathlon, so I’m doing a lot more running and biking than I normally do. Not so much swimming, which I need to work on.

 

What’s your favorite show to binge in Netflix?

Right now I’m watching the third season of Better Call Saul, which is really good.

 

What book are you currently reading?

I just finished Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman. I think I read the whole thing in two days, I couldn’t put it down.

 

What’s your favorite restaurant in the City?

I’m so lame. We used to go out all the time, and then we had kids, and now it’s exclusively sushi or pizza, which is pretty much the only thing they eat. That said, Pizzeria Stella is a go to, as is Morimoto, but that’s only on a night without kids.

 

What’s your dream vacation spot?

I love any vacation that involves an adventure or lots of activity – hiking, biking, sailing, climbing, etc. As long as it’s not too cold. I hate the cold (skiing is definitely out). We just got back from a week in Wyoming where we did horseback riding, hiking, biking, and yoga at the top of Jackson Hole Mountain, which was amazing.

 

And finally, tell us something about yourself that we’d never expect.

I play the violin. I started taking lessons with my kids about three years ago and they’ve since moved on to piano, but I stuck with it. I just started Suzuki Book 4, no big deal 😉

 

Maven Communications Welcomes Account Executive, Emily Charles

Maven Communications, a Philadelphia-based strategic communications agency, has announced the addition of Emily Charles as an Account Executive.

As an Account Executive at Maven, Emily works directly with clients to provide high-impact and strategic public relations and integrated communications services. Emily works with Maven’s clients in the arts and culture nonprofit, professional services, and real estate sectors.

Prior to joining Maven Communications, Emily was an Account Executive with Brian Communications. While at Brian, she specialized in content development, social media, and event planning for clients in the real estate, professional services, property restoration and disaster relief industries. With a focus on media relations, Emily has developed relationships with both national and local print, online, and business-to-business trade publications.

Emily received her Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in General Business from Temple University.

About Maven Communications, LLC
Maven Communications is a results-driven strategic communications agency that integrates high impact public relations, internal communications, content marketing, social media and crisis communications to help clients achieve their goals. Specializing in real estate, professional services and nonprofit companies, our measurement-focused approach delivers bottom line results for companies ranging from spunky startups to Fortune 50 companies.  For more information, please visit www.mavenagency.com.

 

 

Maven’s Summer Reading List

It’s almost summer! After our seemingly endless winter (in the Northeast at least), it’s finally warm.

Most of our team meetings start with a commentary about the current books we’re reading, so we thought we’d pull together our current favorites in the summer reading category.

As it turns out we’re most interested in scaring ourselves with a good thriller, or delving into the past with some good historical fiction. Who knew?

Enjoy Maven’s summer reading list below!

Kristen

The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen: This book will you keep you on your toes! You’ll think you have a working theory down, and then it’ll get blown to bits. Definitely a book where you’ll find yourself flipping back to look for clues.

The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn: This book is one of the few I’ve read that actually had me shocked at the ending. The author sets up the scene so well that you’ll feel you’re actually there in the rowhome setting. I had some serious heart palpations.

Brianna

Behind Closed Doors, by B.A. Paris:  I loved this book as a thriller I couldn’t put down! Perfect for roof deck reading on a sunny day.

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah: My all-time favorite book is a look into powerful females in France in World War II. A different take on a popular book and one I recommend over and over again.

Veronica

Killing Kennedy, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard: This is a great book for any avid Kennedy enthusiast. It shares insights with a different perspective than many other books on Kennedy.

Jessica

The Vanishing Year, by Kate Moretti: This thriller kept me guessing until the end. Once I finished it I had to go back and think through the whole story again. And it still gives me the creeps.

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, by Jack Mayer: World War II historical fiction are some of my favorite reads and this one was especially good. Hard to read at times, an amazing true story of a women who organized a rescue network that saved 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto.

Rebecca

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead: a new and eye opening perspective on a dark part of America’s history, as told through the travels of a girl cross crossing her way through free and slave states on the Underground Railroad. A must read for anyone interested in history and beautifully written prose.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo: a book to satisfy the obsessive compulsive in all of us. Learn how to minimize clutter for clearer mind, keep neat, and organize your life. My closet looked amazing for a full two months before my natural tendencies buried Kondo’s sage advice in chaos.

Emily Charles

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro: You won’t be able to put this book down! The novel unexpectedly weaves together the lives of two very different women and will have you thinking about both their stories long after you turn the last page.

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler: A story about forbidden love in the 1930s, Calling Me Home is absolutely heartbreaking, but a fantastic read. It’s always my go-to book recommendation!

Alexa

Marching Powder, by Rusty Young: A really fascinating true story about a British man, Thomas McFadden, who was incarcerated in Bolivia for cocaine trafficking. The author participated in an illegal tour of the jail, led by Thomas, to learn about his experiences in a very unusual prison. Definitely a good read for anyone waiting on season three of Narcos!

Emily Kanter

And if you’re looking for a good drink to accompany your book, here’s Emily’s recommendation: make yourself a Mexican Mule. You won’t be sorry you did.

 

Happy summer reading!

 

Old City District Taps Maven for Visibility Campaign

 

Maven is pleased to announce the addition of Old City District to the agency’s growing client roster.

Old City District was established in 1998 with the mission of working to improve Philadelphia’s historic district and establish it as a place for people to meet, work, shop, and live. Old City is home to a robust and growing business community, a burgeoning tech scene, and remains Philadelphia’s premier arts and design district. The neighborhood is also experiencing unprecedented residential growth.

Old City District has tapped Maven to launch a comprehensive media relations campaign to help attract residents and visitors to experience all Old City has to offer. 

 

About Maven Communications, LLC
Maven Communications is a strategic communications agency that integrates high impact public relations, internal communications, content marketing, social media and crisis communications to help clients achieve their goals. Specializing in real estate, professional services and nonprofit companies, our measurement-focused approach delivers bottom line results for companies ranging from spunky startups to Fortune 50 companies.  For more information, please visit www.mavenagency.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @mavenagency.

 

 

Say What You Wanna Say… Sort Of

My daughter loves the Sara Bareilles song “Brave.” The chorus goes like this: “Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.”

As she was singing it at the top of her lungs this morning, it got me thinking that, as a communicator, it’s my job to work with clients to help them say what they wanna say…but in a way that their target audience will understand and react to.

“Say what you wanna say, but use terms your audience understands.” Doesn’t quite have that same empowering vibe as the Bareilles version.

So, how do you determine what your audience wants to hear?

The first step is understanding what their concerns and drivers are. What keeps them up at night? What motivates them to take action? It’s important to get into their head. Here are a few effective ways to do this:

Focus groups – pretty straight forward. Get together a group of folks who fall into your target audience category and have a conversation focused on them. It’s important not to focus on your company or services. You already know what you offer, what you’re looking to uncover is how you can best talk about what you offer in the context of how it fits into their lives.

Individual interviews – same concept as the above, but on an individual basis. Again, you want to ask direct questions about goals, apprehensions, and drivers and listen to the words and phrases that he or she is using. This is not the time to talk about your product or service or their experience with it.

Online group observations – almost as effective and less costly are “sitting in” on group chats that include members of your target audience. Here you’re specifically looking for questions they’re posing to the group that will reveal the challenges they face or concerns they have.

Social media influencer observations – figure out who your target audience identifies as an influencer and observe the terms and messages he or she uses. If members of your target audience are following this person, it’s likely they consider them a trusted resource. Using the same phrasing and terms that he or she uses will likely resonate.

Google search terms – research the most utilized search terms and phrases people use to come across your product or solution category. It’s easy to get caught up using industry lingo when you speak it every day, but it’s important to realize that your target audience may not be using those same terms to search for the solution you offer.

Once you’ve got a good list of frequently used terms and phrases, as well as a solid understanding of what the concerns and drivers are of your target audience, you can now craft your company’s messaging. You can still say what you wanna say, just make sure you’re staying it in a way that will catch the attention of your target audiences.

 

Jessica Sharp is Principal of Maven Communications. Follow her @jessicagsharp.

 

Related Posts

Appreciating the Perspective

How to Develop an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

5 Reasons People Aren’t Reading Your Blog

 

Photo credit: Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

 

FreedomPay Taps Maven for National External Communications

 

PHILADELPHIA, PAMaven Communications, a Philadelphia-based integrated communications agency, is pleased to announce the addition of FreedomPay to the agency’s growing client roster.

FreedomPay, a global leader in secure commerce technology, has been helping merchants across multiple verticals securely embrace the latest payment options for more than two decades. Over the past year, the company has grown exponentially, increasing its presence in key markets across the U.S. and internationally in order to deliver secure payment-processing capabilities and insights to more customers across the globe.

Maven will provide all external communications services for FreedomPay, including public relations, thought leadership, blog content, and digital services.

Since the agency’s founding in 2006, Maven has provided high impact communications services to clients across a variety of industries, including technology, real estate, professional services and nonprofit/arts & culture organizations.

 

About Maven Communications, LLC
Maven Communications is a strategic communications agency that integrates high impact public relations, internal communications, content marketing, social media and crisis communications to help clients achieve their goals. Specializing in real estate, professional services and nonprofit companies, our measurement-focused approach delivers bottom line results for companies ranging from spunky startups to Fortune 50 companies.  For more information, please visit www.mavenagency.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @mavenagency.

 

How AI Benefits PR

AI has become a popular topic across multiple industries, including PR. I’ve read everything from the doomsday scenario where there are predictions that AI will demolish the PR industry completely, to champions who say it’ll make PR more relevant than ever. My feelings tend to fall in the champion camp. Here’s why I think this:

Right now PR professionals have access to a lot of data. But just because it’s available doesn’t always mean it’s useful. AI helps with datamining, which helps PR professionals determine what data is actually useful and what’s just noise.

Having the ability to sift through and make sense of large amounts of data quickly and easily means that PR professionals have more time to get back to the core of our profession: smart ideas.

And those ideas allow us to create campaigns that are tailored to target audience, who, because of AI, are becoming more and more specific. And we’ll be able to share messages with them that are micro targeted, providing content they want to receive, where and when they want to receive it.

In some ways we’re able to do this now through various analytic programs already available to us. But I believe we’re just at the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come.

Here is how I predict AI will benefit the PR industry within the next several years:

  • PR professionals will be able to help clients define and reach more specific goals
    • The success of any PR campaign should be based on whether it was able to achieve predetermined goals and objectives. Unfortunately, too often goals and objectives are too broad or generic to measure against. AI allows for more granular goals, with smaller, more niche audiences, which helps PR professionals create campaigns that are more specific and more measurable.
  • Quicker turnaround time for target audience analysis in campaign planning
    • One of the biggest time sucks in developing a PR campaign strategy is the deep dive into target audiences: where do they spend time online? What do they read? Who are their influencers? AI will be able to streamline this process, allowing more time to create smart campaigns specific to these audiences.
  • More feedback data throughout a campaign so that adjustments can be make quickly and accurately
    • We already have a lot of analytics available to us to quickly determine what campaign elements are resonating and which aren’t. I anticipate that AI will only increase the speed and accuracy of this information.
  • Higher communications expectations from audiences, which is a good thing!
    • I get annoyed when an ad pops up on my social newsfeed that is totally irrelevant to me (no, I am not interested in my daily horoscope). Shouldn’t they know me better than that? Well, they will. There is already little tolerance for communicators who aren’t talking to their audiences about what they want to hear, when and where they want to hear it. This intolerance will only increase, which means we as communicators need to get on the ball and dig into the data before we piss off our client’s audience.
  • PR will get much better at determining how big a crisis situation will be
    • AI allows PR professionals to analyze thousands of social media posts in a short amount of time. This, combined with other data rich factors, will allow predictions to be made about how bad a crisis will get with a high level of accuracy. This helps PR professionals to know which situations need more focus in diffusing.
  • Last but not least (and my biggest hope of all): AI will allow journalists more time to go back to more in-depth journalism
    • Already, The Associated Press is taking advantage of AI with machines that are writing full earnings reports — more than 3,500 each quarter for U.S. companies. It’s also working to generate AI-written articles for 10,000 minor league baseball games per year. It would be amazing if this resulted in more journalists being able to focus more on writing in-depth, meaningful pieces, working in conjunction with PR professionals who have some great stories to get out there.

For as great as AI is (and will be) for the PR industry, there are some things it just won’t do:

  • AI won’t do our work for us
    • It will make some aspects easier, but the PR profession will remain alive and well.

 

  • AI won’t replace personal relationships
    • Personal relationships with journalists still remains an important aspect of the PR industry (though not nearly as important as they once were). This also goes for personal relationships with clients. It’s true, AI now allows us to turn a conference call into a transcript and presentations into blog posts, but it can’t replace the living, breathing, thoughtful person who makes it all come together.

 

  • AI can’t find the “story” for us
    • Soon (but not yet), AI will have the ability to write press releases (I don’t think any PR professional is sad to hear that), but it’ll be a long time before AI can find deeper meaning and tell a story with the facts from a press release. For now that remains in the hands of PR professionals.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about AI and the PR industry. Please share them on our Twitter feed @mavenagency.

 

In conducting research for this blog posts, I came across these AI products/services relevant to the PR industry:

Keyhole – hashtag analytics

Lytics – customer data platform

Buzzsumo – find out what content is popular

Narrative Science – interprets data and transforms it into narratives

Automated Insights – interprets data and transforms it into narratives

AirPR – media measurement and attribution analytics

TrendKite –  PR measurement and analytics

 

Jessica Sharp is Principal of Maven Communications. Follow her on Twitter @jessicagsharp.

 

Related articles:

Social Media Analytics 101: Impressions and Engagement

PR Measurement Reporting: Know Your Audience

How to Measure Digital ROI

 

 

Get to know: Veronica Mikitka Reed

At Maven we have a lot of top notch PR practitioners and just plain interesting, so we thought we’d start highlighting them!

Today we put the spotlight on our employee of five years, Veronica Mikitka Reed, Media Maven, Phillies Fan, and secret rap lover (you read that correctly).

Jessica Sharp: It took me about 2 months to memorize how to spell your last name. What’s the origin?

Veronica Mikitka Reed: I’m proud to say that I’m the only Veronica Mikitka in the U.S.! It’s a Czechoslovakian name as both of my great-grandparents, the Bednarik’s and Mikitka’s, emigrated through Ellis Island. Every Mikitka in the U.S. is from the same lineage. When I married (Kevin Reed), I decided to keep Mikitka as part of my name because Veronica Reed is too common. I wasn’t ready to have a common name!

JS: At Maven you’re the go-to for media pitching. What’s the craziest request you’ve ever received from a reporter?

VMR: A reporter once reached out with a 15 minute deadline and asked to speak with one of our subject matter experts. I made it happen! In all nine years of media relations this was the shortest amount of time I was ever given to connect a client with a reporter.

JS: What’s your dream pitch?

VMR: The dream pitch has the trifecta of being topical, timely, and pulls at the heartstrings. I can usually get 2 out of the 3 and occasionally all 3 from our clients.

JS: What drew you to PR?

VMR: I was originally a mass communications major. I quickly realized I liked the writing part, not the video editing/production. I found PR had the writing elements I enjoyed, so I changed my concentration to PR and have loved it since!

JS: What’s your favorite out of work activity?

VMR: Singing – I’ve been singing my whole life. I currently sing with a local church group every other weekend (Our Lady of the Rosary in Coatesville) and an oldies band my dad is part of, The Changing Times. When people are listening, my favorite song to sing is “Ave Maria,” which stems back to when I learned it in the second grade in Latin. When people aren’t listening, I sing “What About Us” by Pink and anything by Carrie Underwood (even though my husband hates country music).

Veronica singing with The Changing Times at her wedding

JS: You’re a big Phillies and Penguins fan

VMR: Born and bred in the Lehigh Valley, I’ve been watching the Phillies as long as I can remember, but my love of the Phillies grew when I started dating my husband. Before moving to Philadelphia,  we  lived in the Lehigh Valley and he was an IronPigs, the Triple-A affiliate for the Phillies, partial season ticket holder. As we attended games together, we became invested in the young talent feeding into the Phillies.

Growing up I watched the Flyers, but wasn’t too invested in hockey.  That all changed when I started dating my husband. He played hockey in high school and was a lifelong Pittsburgh Penguins fan. The college he chose to attend just so happened to be in the same town as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ minor league affiliate. He was a partial season ticket holder, so every time I would visit he would take me to a game.  I quickly learned more about hockey and started watching and rooting for the Penguins.

These teams played such a role in our relationship that for our wedding we had custom-made rally towels instead of bubbles after our ceremony and our reception had a Phillies and Penguins theme. For example, the guest tables were named after some of our favorite Phillies and Penguins players.

 

Phillies and Penguin themed cupcakes at Veronica’s wedding with a bobblehead wedding topper.

 

JS: What don’t most people know about you?

VMR: I love rap/hip-hop music. I know every word to ”Low” by Flo Rida and pretty much every single  from 50 Cent, DMX, Nelly, and Usher.

JS: