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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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 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.


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Photo credit: Jason Rosewell on Unsplash


To Participate in B2B Social Media or Not To Participate

B2B social media parallels B2B traditional media relations.

Yet, public relations professionals working with business-to-business clients have been told, by clients, over the years that social media just doesn’t work for their business because social media only reaches consumers. But, if you take a moment to think about that statement, is it not true that customers in b-to-b are consumers too? They are consumers looking for an experience with the brands they use in their profession or business.

For B2B social media, there are a few aspects that need to be considered because of the difference from B2C but, that’s no different than traditional B2B versus B2C media relations.

When considering B2B social media, one must realize that such a company won’t receive as many followers as a consumer facing company. Along the same vein as trade publications, there aren’t as many readers as there are for consumer publications. What clients need to realize is that their target audience, no matter the size, is receiving the message. To make the most of the participating audience, social media relies on a fundamental public relations concept – to know the audience. This helps ensure that the content being delivered is relevant to the participating audience. [Hint: to do this, look through all followers and categorize those who are media, customers, competitors, etc.] This is important with B2B social media because not only do you have the opportunity to reach your customers, but it is also a great opportunity to reach journalists in a different way.

Joining in on the conversation can be worth it even with the smaller audience. A companies’ presence can be beneficial for both the customers and the industry media. This medium, unlike tradition outlets, allows the company to share individualized information with their customers in order to help them make an informed decision. Social media can also allow a company to become a thought leader, position the company, and provide solutions or ideas regarding industry trends. However, when a company decides not to participate in the conversation the industry will proceed without them. This leaves a company defenseless from conversations taking place about their brand.

Social media, like many aspects of communication, is a tactic that works together to supplement traditional public relations, marketing, and media strategy. Social media will continue to challenge the B2B sector, but like any medium, acceptance and proper implementation will continue to progress with time.

Related articles: 

Social Media Analytics 101: Impressions and Engagement

PR Measurement Reporting: Know Your Audience

How to Measure Digital ROI

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 or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @mavenagency.


How to Stay Connected During a Digital Detox

In today’s digital world we are more connected than ever before. Having a world of information available at our fingertips at all times is incredibly useful, especially for PR pros who need to stay on top of trends before they even happen. With that in mind, craving news and information 24/7 makes you dependent on your devices, ultimately impacting your mental well-being and disconnecting you from the real world.

While it is important for PR pros to stay in the know, it is even more important to take a digital detox every so often to stay in touch with reality. This can be a daunting task, considering the constant desire to know what’s happening at all times. Here are some ideas to help develop a healthy digital work-life balance while never missing a beat:

Limit yourself

It’s inevitable that you’ll have to check social media and digital news sources during a day in the office. To stay on top of your work, determine how much time you’ll need to gather relevant information and spread out your usage throughout the day. Let’s say you need 30 minutes in the morning to check your preferred news sources, an hour before lunch to sort through media coverage for clients, and an hour before the day is over to schedule social media posts. Even outside of work, give yourself a set amount of time to check your personal social channels to avoid aimlessly scrolling through your timeline. These limits may vary on a day-to-day basis, but keeping yourself on a strict schedule will help you stay focused on what matters and eliminate the clutter.

Mute any and all distractions

One of the wonders of social media is you can choose what you want to see. Instead of unfollowing or getting rid of accounts you want to avoid during your detox, temporarily mute or block any getting in the way of productivity. This way, all of your timelines and feeds will remain related to any information or trends you need to be aware of.

Turn off notifications

I know hearing your phone ring or buzz every five minutes can feel rewarding, but that gratification comes with a toll. Notifications keep us compulsively checking our phones in need of the most recent update, regardless of where we are or what we are doing. Think of how many times you’ve been in a meeting or at lunch with friends where you’ve incessantly checked your phone for notifications. By turning them off, you’ll be less distracted and more focused on what’s actually going on around you.

Start a conversation

During your detox, take advantage of one of the best resources available to you – people. Spend more time talking to your coworkers, colleagues, friends, the doorman of your building or anyone who can give you some fresh insight into what’s going on in the world. One of the most important components of public relations is creating meaningful relationships. Social media does bring people together, but in-person interactions will always be the best way to make connections and gain new perspective.

Whether we like it or not, social media and digital technology are an important part of our lives and careers. Take advantage of the information available to you online and stay connected through social channels, but know when and how to take a step back.

PPRA “Channel Chat” Program Recap

Prior to a major Nor’easter hitting Philadelphia, six broadcast journalists sat on a Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) panel to discuss the ever-changing media landscape and how to best share your client’s news. Find the panelists below:

  • Jim Donovan, Co-Anchor, CBS3
  • Berlinda Garnett, Producer, Fox 29
  • Tanya Husar, Managing Editor, 6ABC
  • Annette John-Hall, Keystone Crossroads Reporter at WHYY-FM
  • Andrew Kramer, General Assignment Reporter, KYW Newsradio
  • Melissa Signs, Assignment Editor, NBC10
  • Moderated by Susan Buehler, Chief Communications Officer at PJM Interconnection

With a room full of PR people eager to hear about what it takes to get your event covered on air, the panelists did not disappoint with insider knowledge, whether it was about the best time to call or story topics to pitch.

Some key takeaways from the panel are below:

  • Integrate social and traditional media – If you pitch the media and they can’t get your event on air, that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. News desks receive around 500 emails a day, so cutting through the clutter can be hard. Provide the reporter with the event hashtag and if it’s newsworthy, they can share on their own social platforms, which typically have a large reach.
  • Know your audience – With any pitch, you need to know your audience. Something you’re pitching to Good Day Philadelphia should be different than WHYY. Getting to know reporters and what their stations cover is very important.
  • Be Ready for Air! When you pitch the media, be ready for the reporter to say ‘yes!’ This means knowing your client’s schedule and when they’re available, understanding the topic you’re pitching, and be able to share why it’s news. Many reporters mentioned how often they ask for more information and the person who pitched them didn’t have answers.
  • Create Your Own Content – It’s always tough when reporters cannot make your event but sometimes, breaking news and weather win for coverage. A great shared takeaway was that NBC10 and Fox29 both accept video from your events. Make sure your video is clear, an iPhone is fine, and send the file via DropBox on the day of your event to make it easy for the reporters to download and use.

Thanks to all the media professionals who were on the panel for sharing information that will help us as PR professionals do our job better!

Social Media Analytics 101: All About Audience

Welcome back to Maven’s blog learning series, Social Media Analytics 101. If this is your first visit to our blog, check out “lesson #1” in the series, Impressions and Engagement, to learn where to access social analytics. This next post will explore another useful tool in fine-tuning your social media strategy—audience.

Why You Should Analyze Your Social Audience

Social media is an amazing tool for getting a brand’s message to target consumers. A key first step of social analysis is determining just who the audience is, and more specifically, who the audience is for each platform.

Once you determine audience, you can then focus on creating content that appeals to that demographic. Different demographics use social media platforms differently, and there is a ton of research from places like the Pew Research Center that break down these differences. A social analysis might tell you that LinkedIn won’t generate many followers/consumers for an apparel company aimed at Gen Z, but it can be a place where you can highlight company culture in your hip, urban office.

Audience Demographics

Once you assess your goals for a page, you can then track how they are being met. If you want to raise awareness, let’s say for a mommy-and-me class, you can track how your audience is growing among women of childbearing age. One of my favorite social analytic tools is the breakdown of audience demographics. You can get extremely detailed information about the people who like or follow your page.

  • Twitter: Audience insights are found under the “Audiences” tab on the analytics dashboard. Twitter provides one of the more robust breakdowns—interests, occupation, consumer buying styles, political party affiliation, and household income are all some of the audience aspects it tracks. It also tracks the usual demographics, such as age and location. An interesting thing about Twitter analytics is that you can add comparison audiences, enabling you to compare your audience’s interests with those of all users on Twitter.
  • Facebook: Demographic data is found on the “Insights” page, under “People” on the left-hand analytics menu. “People” breaks down fans, followers, people reached, and people engaged. It shows you men vs. women and their age categories, as well as countries, cities, and languages.
  • LinkedIn: Audience demographics on LinkedIn can be tracked among both visitors and followers, each with its own tab under “Analytics.” You can see what industry people work in, their job function, and even seniority.
  • Instagram: Instagram provides a lot less data than the other platform, but you can still get important information such as gender and age range. A useful insight is that you can see what days and times your audience is on Instagram, which can help you schedule posts so they can be seen by the most people.

You can also use this information to see which demographics your page is popular with, even outside of your target demographic. This can be extremely helpful for determining audience when launching a new brand, or in creating new content. Say your LinkedIn page has a lot of entry-level followers—you can curate content that highlights company culture, which in turn helps to attract talent. If it has a lot of senior-level followers, you can publish blogs from executives to position them as thought-leaders in their industry.

Demographics are also key for ads. Once you understand your audience for a page, as much as down to their interests, you can then tailor your ads to match those interests and then also target the ad to people that share that interest. Ads that cater to the things your audience actually likes will do far better, and will increase impressions for your page as people will be more likely to engage with and share the ad.

Tracking Audience Growth

One of the most important tools in audience analytics is tracking growth over time. Social media is so valuable because it has the potential for your content to be seen by a very large audience—81% of people used social media daily in 2017—and to be able to track audience growth in real time.

  • Twitter: Twitter tracks how many new followers you get each month.
  • Facebook: On the “Followers” tab under “Insights,” you can track net followers, how many people are viewing your page broken down by demographics like age and city, and where they are coming from when viewing the page (i.e. coming from your website).
  • LinkedIn: Under “Followers” in “Analytics,” you can track how much your audience is growing over time by comparing the increase to previous date ranges. Right below is a great perk of LinkedIn Analytics—you can compare your audience growth with that of your competitors.
  • Instagram: Instagram tracks how much your followers increase or decrease over week-long periods, as well as the change in how many accounts you reach. This information is found in “Insights.

If you notice your page is doing well among teenage boys, and you want to grow that audience, you can go one step further and create a follower campaign for that very demographic. Follower campaigns are similar in structure and execution to ads, but they focus on people who are outside of your current follower base that meet certain demographic requirements that you set. This makes it both easy to grow your audience in general, as well as grow it among your target audience.

Analyzing a social media audience can seem daunting at first, but the more you play around with it and familiarize yourself with the different metrics, the more insights you can glean from it.

Alternatives for Writing Your Next Standard Press Release

The press release has essentially remained the same since 1906 when Ivy Lee wrote and distributed the first release about a Pennsylvania Railroad train that was derailed near Gap, PA. The standard format includes a headline, opening sentence, body, conclusion, boilerplate and ### to signify you reached the end. The press release has become a common language between public relations professional and journalists, so many feel “if it’s not broke, don’t fit it,” and I agree.

However, while the press release is a useful vehicle to package and deliver news, there are a few less conventional ways to get the job done and still garner results for your clients. Here are a few to try:

Just send a pitch:

  • If your news is not something that needs to be distributed widely over the wire, consider drafting a pitch with the information you want to share and sending it to a targeted list of reporters. This way you can be more precise about who you are pitching and see what reporter may want the story, eliminating the need for a release (and the sometimes lengthy approval process).

Create an image or infographic:

  • A picture is worth a thousand words, right? If the news you are sharing can be conveyed in a visual way, consider creating an image or infographic to show the story you are trying to tell. As outlets rely more heavily on digital, reporters like receiving images and visuals. If you don’t have an internal design team, not to worry, there are plenty of free sites (like Canva), where you can design your own images.

Draft contributed content in the form of a bylined article or op-ed:

  • If the story is part of a larger industry trend, consider pitching it as an op-ed or a byline article. While it may take longer for your story to reach the press, chances are you will have many more words to get your point across and share your insights as a thoughtful piece.

Publish to your website or blog:

  • There are always instances where a story falls flat. In those cases, try packaging the news and posting it to your website or blog. You never know when a reporter will be poking around for content or sources for his or her next story.

It’s likely that we never move past press releases being the norm, but it’s nice to know you have other options, because the standard release isn’t always the right fit.

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