Category Archives: Public Relations

Register Now – PRSA Houston’s Holiday Party “Mingle Bells”

Register now for PRSA Houston’s Holiday party, Mingle Bells, Ringside at Sullivan’s Steakhouse on Monday, December 5, 6-8 PM

PRSA members will enjoy one complimentary admission, valet parking access, Sullivan’s savory holiday fare, two drinks, and festive music. Non-members may attend for a nominal fee. Register NOW! Space is limited!

On top of that, we will raffle some bell-ringing prizes every 30 minutes, with proceeds benefiting the PR Foundation of Houston. Prizes include:

  • One lucky winner will have the chance to drive around in style with a complimentary weekend use of a luxurious Jaguar—compliments of Jaguar – Houston Central.
  • Want to win a happy hour party at a hot, new place on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday for you and 30 of your BFFs, including complimentary appetizers and two glasses of wine each? – compliments of the newly opened Phoenicia Specialty Foods and MKT Bar.
  • Who wouldn’t want Whataburger for a Year? Enjoy a tasty Whataburger sandwich each week for a year – compliments of Whataburger, Inc. 
  • A $150 gift certificate to be used at Del Frisco’s or Sullivan’s – compliments of Arthur Mooradian, GM.
  • Beautiful Jewelry made with hand-blown glass beads – designed especially for PRSA, this jewelry is the work of Charlotte Holden, jewelry artist.
  • Been putting off getting professional photos taken? You have a chance to win an individual or family portrait sitting, clothing consultation and 8×10 color or black and white signature portrait valued at $650 – compliments of Alexander’s Fine Portraits.
  • Houston’s own St. Arnold’s Brewery has provided a gift basket, which includes a selection of their unique beer, root beer, brewery tour passes, glassware and other Saint Arnold goodness. Who wouldn’t want a basket of goodies to add some fun to your time off during the holiday season?  
  • Attend a wine tasting for four generously donated by Water2Wine Houston. The winery is an actual wine-making operation, where all wines are fermented on site. You will have access to more than 100 wines from 13 countries and everything open for tasting, your taste buds can travel around the world without ever leaving the winery.
  • Goodies for your culinary cheer – a basket full of yummy treats from Goya Foods.
  • Pick up a holiday gift basket filled with all sorts of sweet treats, valued at $50  – compliments of Lombardo Luscious Treats.
  • Start the New Year off with a health kick for the whole family with a 6 month household membership – compliments of YMCA of Greater Houston.
  • Mini home makeover – Spend a $250 gift certificate on some lovely home furnishings – compliments of Finger’s Furniture.

So, let’s get our “Mingle” on together on December 5 – see you there!

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A Smattering of PR Tips

Is it too soon to follow up with that reporter? Is this a good day/time to do so? How do I make sure she reads my press release?  Bottom line, how do I get my story in and on the news?

These questions and many more are addressed in the “Best PR Tip You Ever Got,” from 69 public relations pros from around the country. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” “Write a personal thank you note.” “…personal and tailored pitches get more media attention and coverage.” There’s even a tip from a PRSA Houston Board Member Leslie Friedman (see #23).

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Is Public Relations Entering the Apocalypse or Golden Age?

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who owns a successful creative services agency that focuses primarily on strategy and branding. We were talking about how business was and he told me that business was good, steady and he was definitely keeping busy. However, he noted that many organizations seemed to be standing on the sidelines and taking a wait-and-see approach when it came to signing retainers or initiating large scale projects. My friend chalked it up to the uncertainty around the debt ceiling and the potential impact it would have on the economy.

A couple of days later, I read with great interest, Ken Makovsky, APR, Fellow PRSA piece in Public Relations Strategist titled the 7 Reasons Why the Golden Age of Public Relations Is Within Reach. The dichotomy of the conversation with my friend and this article got me thinking: Are we, as communicators, entering the golden age or perhaps the apocalypse?

I actually think what some organizations are experiencing is communications paralysis. Think about it, 20 years ago a company might send out a press release, do some B2C or B2B marketing (i.e. flyers, brochures, tchotchkes, etc.), have a commercial on TV, the radio or both and, maybe, just maybe, they were thinking about investing in a new-fangled website.

In today’s consumer-friendly, technology environment, I could be a stay-at-home-dad with a side business selling monogrammed baby bibs and have all of those things and so much more. Honestly, all the channels at a communicator’s disposal now can be overwhelming…which is exactly why communications professionals who can think strategically, see the golden opportunity before them and harness its formative powers, do not see this era as the apocalypse.

But, I’m just one guy. So, I conducted a quick, informal survey with 20 senior-level, creative service agency professionals, and the overall sentiment reflected my friend’s assertion that business fundamentally is going well right now and, in most cases, agencies are busier than they have been in the last couple of years. I also learned agency clients are demanding more in-depth research to better target customers and justify their communications investment.

This bodes well for those seasoned communicators who can harness this paradigm shift and draw a line from communications/brand strategy to the bottom line of a business. It is also exciting for the conversationalist youngsters who are free from the conventions of traditional communications and willing to explore a changing communications landscape.

— Ed Davis, PRSA Houston president-elect, director of Media & Public Relations at the United Way of Greater Houston.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup’s PR Problem

Watching television a few days ago, and saw an ad featuring a rather agreeable-looking farmer with his daughter, moseying through a corn field, discussing the benefits of something I’d never heard of before, called corn sugar. High Fructose Corn Syrup, now that I’ve heard of. Cane sugar, also on my radar. But corn sugar? “This must be a new, healthy kind of sugar made from corn!” I took to The Google to search for this magical new sweetener to see what was up with it (they must have a mega budget to advertise during prime time television).
Guess what: Corn sugar is just High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS for short) with a fancy, new name.
There have been numerous studies done on the effects of HFCS, and so far, the results have been mixed. Corn growers, manufacturers, and the Corn Refiners Association insist that HFCS reacts exactly the same way table sugar does in the body, yet some research suggests that there is a direct correlation between obesity and the use of HFCS in soft drinks and shelf-stable, grab-and-go snacks. Princeton University released a study earlier this year, stating that sweeteners are “not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.”


I’m not a scientist or a doctor, and don’t pretend to understand how different types of sugars react in the body, but what interests me here, as HFCS gets rebranded as corn sugar, is how we, the public, even though we know better, can be influenced by a good marketing campaign. Instinctively and intuitively, my brain drew the conclusion that corn sugar was somehow natural and virtually unprocessed, but just by the nature of what it is (sugar… made from corn), there must be heavy process involved.
Upon doing a little more digging, I discovered that Big Corn has been courting mommy bloggers in an effort to spread their message. We know that mothers do the majority of the grocery shopping and are often the ones educating children on the values of eating apples instead of Dunkaroos. Some mommy bloggers have engaged in the conversation with CRA and have been convinced. It’s caused a stir in the blogger community, and popular blogger Jessica Gottlieb has spoken out on the subject, asking mothers “to collectively say ‘no thank you’ to processed foods.”

Food PR has taken center stage over the last several months. KFC released that crazy, attention-getting sandwich, artist Sally Davies let a Happy Meal sit out for 180 days, and photos of what mechanically separated chicken looks like before it’s molded into those strange loaves have all made front page headlines. Now High Fructose Corn Syrup’s producers are on the offensive, proactively working to reverse the mindset that it is one of the major causes of obesity, whether it is or not.
PR pros, I ask you: What would YOU do if Corn Refiners of America was your client, and your task was to rebrand HFCS as “natural”?

Esther Steinfeld is public relations manager for Blinds.com <http://www.blinds.com/>, a major online provider of custom window treatments.  In 2010, Blinds.com was named the No. 1 e-commerce company in Houston by the Houston Business Journal.

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Want more success working with the Houston Chronicle?

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Sage Advice

Did you miss PRSA Houston’s April luncheon? Don’t worry. With this video, we captured a few of the sages giving career advice. Thanks, Ed Davis (PRSA Houston board member and director of communications at the United Way of Greater Houston).

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Mentoring, Professional Development, Public Relations, Uncategorized

What do newspapers and cereal have in common? The breakfast table?

As the economy recovers and PR job openings increase, don’t pass up positions that require industry-specific experience even if you don’t have it. Let HR or the hiring manager disqualify you.

But first let them know this. PR skills are a communications professional’s most important asset, not knowledge of a given industry. Expertise in PR is transferable to a variety of industries. As an outsider, you may be in a better position to render an objective opinion on the strategy and tactics of a PR program by leveraging knowledge of other business models.

We’ve all heard managers say that they have been around their industries so long that they have lost the “big picture.” PR practitioners are big picture people. Share your knowledge of what other industries do. Don’t hide it. Draw parallels.

Companies that place a premium on talent will invest in educating new hires. If companies are not willing to do that, then perhaps they are not the best employers.

Recently, an out-of-work colleague was disqualified for a PR coordinator position because he did not have industry experience. He landed a PR management position at another company after that. Good for him. Bad for the entity that passed him up.

Don’t let this get lost in the discussion either: Several high-profile companies have hired CEOs and top managers from industries totally unrelated to their own. The Times Mirror hired CEO Mark Willes from General Mills.

What do newspapers and cereal have in common? The breakfast table?

Likewise IBM lured CEO Louis Gerstner from RJR Nabisco. Eastman Kodak enticed CEO George Fisher from Motorola. AT&T hired CEO Michael Armstrong from Hughes Electronics.

If companies can do that for CEOs—alpha leaders who make (not necessarily earn) millions of dollars a year— what is stopping them from doing that for PR practitioners?

Recently, we had a local example. A few months ago the Port of Houston Authority hired energy executive Alec Dreyer as its executive director. Dreyer was formerly CEO at Horizon Wind Energy.

Insist that companies wanting industry experience consider your resume and skills first. The worst that can happen is that they don’t listen and you don’t get the job. But you’re better off trying than doing nothing at all.

— Mike Wysatta, PRSA Houston board member

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Finding Mr. Miyagi

Believe it or not, the movie The Karate Kid has influenced what most of us expect from mentoring relationships.

Mr. Miyagi takes young Daniel LaRusso, the underweight outsider bullied in his new school, under his wing. With patience and commitment, Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel about succeeding in martial arts and life.

Wax on. Wax off.

By the end of the movie, Daniel’s life has been transformed.

In the real world, mentoring takes many forms and it doesn’t always conform to popular preconceptions. The current landscape of our profession requires us to stay on our toes. Knowledge sharing enriches us all. Developing mentoring relationships can be a rewarding experience for the protégé (I hate the word “mentee”) as well as the mentor.

Mentoring is simply when someone helps someone else learn something. The image many of us have of seasoned pros forming lifelong bonds with fresh-faced college graduates, helping them navigate the peaks and valleys of their careers is a limited view of what mentoring has to offer. A mentor is also not responsible for helping a protégé find a new job.

In the real world, mutually beneficial relationships can develop between peers, or around a specific topic or issue that one professional faces in his or her career. Throughout your career, expect your mentoring needs to change.

At the April luncheon, the PRSA Houston chapter will offer a different type of program and provide a venue for informal mentoring.

Rather than our typical speaker presentation, we will facilitate conversations at the luncheon tables with several of Houston’s PR sages. This format provides a unique opportunity for attendees to tap into the minds of some of Houston best-known PR professionals — leaders of their fields in a variety of industries.

Around the table, PRSA Houston members and guests will also have opportunities to exchange ideas and information around shared interests that will undoubtedly promote peer-to-peer mentoring and help expand professional networks like few other events could.

While the idea of finding your Mr. Miyagi may seem as unrealistic as mastering the “crane kick,” open your mind to the many possibilities mentoring has to offer and you’re sure to reap the benefits.

Stephanie Dedeaux, APR is an independent public relations consultant and 2010 PRSA Houston chapter president.

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PR Day 2009 Co-Chairs Explain How You Get What You Give

“When Lisa and I were asked to co-chair PR Day 2009, I resisted. Over the years I had served in many roles—from committee chair to chapter president to assembly delegate—so I felt I had done my part for PRSA Houston. Add to that the fact that I am co-owner of a small business, which takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to run. But I finally agreed, and I’m so glad I did. For one thing, we were able to recruit a great committee – made up of both newcomers and long-time members of PRSA. In addition, we had wonderful support from the board and Paula Ruth, our chapter administrator. As we began our monthly meetings, it became clear that we have incredibly talented and committed people in PRSA. We got a lot done and had fun at the same time. I encourage every PRSA Houston member to chair or serve on a committee. It was a terrific experience for me – one that I will never forget!”

Margot Dimond, APR
Principal
DoubleDimond Public Relations, LLC
Co-Chair of PR Day 2009

“Fairly new to PRSA, I was a bit surprised yet honored to be asked to take on the important role of PR Day 2009 co-chair with my business partner (who happens to be my mother) Margot Dimond. I had served on the PR Day committee the previous year and picked up a lot watching Jennifer Evans’ strong leadership, but actually taking the reins as co-chair would be taking things to a whole new level. Like Margot, I was also a bit concerned about juggling PR Day along with the needs of our clients. I soon realized that with a very active committee made up of both experienced PR pros and those new to the industry, a timeline and persistence, we were able to put together an amazing PR Day 2009! And I have to say I gained so much both personally and professionally from this experience—not only the obvious—that I met so many incredible people and made so many friends—but I also learned so much from our committee members whose countless contributions led to a successful event.”

Lisa Dimond Vasquez
Principal
DoubleDimond Public Relations, LLC
Co-Chair of PR Day 2009

Interested in chairing PR Day 2010? Visit the PRSA Houston job bank for more information.

PR Day 2009 co-chairs Margot Dimond, APR (seated) and Lisa Dimond Vasquez of DoubleDimond Public Relations

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Lead sentence stretches from Houston to Sugar Land

Public Relations Tactics newspaper published a January article, “Outlook 2010: PR trends,” that predicts that press releases will be packaged like news stories. I reviewed a few releases on Business Wire today to see if this trend is taking hold.

I don’t see it but I’m not a trend spotter either. I am no Bianca Bartz.

What I did see is a bunch of wordy, insignificant, self-flattering announcements that any editor would toss in one to five seconds. I say five seconds because it took me that long to speed read a 73-word lead sentence in a press release issued by a multibillion corporation in our state.

The lead reads, “As government and healthcare leaders invest billions of dollars in healthcare information technologies (IT) to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare for their citizens, hospital datacenters may not be ready for the demand that more patients and digital information will create, according to a survey of hospital IT executives at small and medium hospitals in the U.S., U.K., Canada, China, France and Germany conducted by the HIMSS Analytics, sponsored by (name withheld).”

For fun, read that as an announcer would. I am a jogger with good aerobic functions, including lung capacity, and I recited it all on my second try after sucking in several cubic feet of air. (Yes, I know that sentence lengths for the eye are longer than for the ear, so no blog responses on that, please.)

Newspapers articles are written at an eighth-grade reading level and so are press releases as a general rule. The supersized lead has a Flesch-Kincaid Grade level score of 14.

It scored 19 on the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease test. The lower the score, the harder to read. The Harvard Law Review has a readability score in the low 30s.

The lead sentence registered a Gunning Fog index measure of 16.25, just under 17, a university graduate level. An eighth-grader wouldn’t make it past the first couple of lines without tweeting, “OMG, this smarticle hype is an endlessbummer.”

Granted, writing on technical subjects aimed at college graduates can exceed an eight-grade level. But certainly, that lead—long enough to reach from Houston to Sugar Land if put in 36-point type—doesn’t effectively isolate the kernel of the message.

The stripped-down version is hospital datacenters are not prepared for the coming influx of more patients and digital information, indicates a company-sponsored survey.

My blog was written for high school sophomores if you cut out the datacenter lead sentence that I quoted. That one sentence increases the reading difficulty one grade level. LOL.

— Mike Wysatta, PRSA Houston Board Member

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