We recently sat down with Charlotte guru Alicia Thomas! She shared with us how her creative process works, and we ended with her thoughts on self-care. Read on to be inspired and to know who to ask about next weekend’s plans.
Tell us what you do:
By night, I am the co-founder of Work For Your Beer (WFYB) with Melanie Fox (who we recently interviewed too, here) and by day I am the Sponsored Content Editor for the Charlotte Observer and its subsidiaries – CharlotteFive, Carolina Bride, and South Park Magazine. As the Sponsored Content Editor, I take a company’s business objectives and turn them into original and engaging content that get their message across without looking like a traditional ads, and still providing value to the reader.
Sounds very creative! How do you tap into those ideas?
At Penn State I studied journalism, and since I graduated I’ve primarily worked in marketing roles — and my day job with The Observer is a perfect blend of the two. I get to write, but I also get to be creative about marketing other businesses to our readers.
The same is true of my side hustle. I’m responsible for all of our content on social media, in our Brewsletter, on our blog and on our website — but beyond that I’m also heading up our partnership efforts so we can work with other cool businesses and get our company in front of an audience that likes what we do and wants to know more.
Luckily, in both my roles, I am surrounded by supportive teams that are very collaborative. When I am stuck or searching for new ideas, they are always willing to help me work through it.
I think it is essential to surround yourself with people who have different skill sets than you, and not to worry about being the smartest person in the room. On both of my teams, we are about collaboration over competition and believe you can learn so much from others’ perspectives, talents and experiences. Learning from others has helped me grow immensely in my career.
When you are working with so many different companies and outlets, how do you collaborate?
We have learned we don’t need to recreate the wheel. Early on, right after Mel and I launched WFYB, we were hosting our own classes — but we soon realized that there were already so many great organizations out there teaching these classes that we didn’t need to add to that. We just needed to be a resource to educate people on their options, so they could get out to all the awesome events that already exist.
And then at CharlotteFive, we’ve occasionally worked with Offline who provides excellent content about events happening in Charlotte. We didn’t feel the need to duplicate their calendar, so a partnership was formed instead.
That’s awesome! What recommendations do you have for companies who want to use sponsored content?
I think one important thing people often forget about is high-quality photography. People are so visual these days, and we are sharing a lot of what we do on Instagram where a great picture can make or break it.
But my biggest recommendation is not to be spammy. The point of using sponsored content over an ad is to engage the customer in an engaging story that they’re going to want to read regardless of whether it is sponsored or not. For example, you’d be much more likely to open an article titled “10 Items Under $50 to Spruce Up Your Home at Target” than something that just says “Spend All Your Money at Target,” right?
When I meet with companies to develop their content, I challenge us to figure out what our readers actually care about, rather than focusing on getting their company’s name in the article a certain amount of times. The goal of the sponsored content pieces I write is to sound like you’re having a conversation with a friend, not like you’re listening to a TV commercial. A lot of times, I think about what I would care about if I were engaging with that company, and I start there.
With two full-time jobs and working around 90 hours a week, what keeps you going and how do you make time for yourself?
At WFYB, one major thing that keeps me going is the feedback we get from our audience. When I get an email saying that someone started working out again because we made it accessible for them or that they were new to the city and found their friend group through the classes, that is really inspiring and heartwarming. It makes us want to keep going knowing we are positively impacting people’s lives.
In general, I always recommend finding an organization system that works for you and sticking to it. I live and breathe by my color-coded calendars (both my Google Calendar and my paper planner). Not only do I keep all my meetings and work reminders on there, but I also schedule time with my fiancé, my friends and for myself to recharge. And most importantly, I honor my personal appointments the same way I would a work meeting. (And here comes her quote to remember…) Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.
And lastly, (most of us) aren’t brain surgeons. So, if a meeting falls through or something gets done later, the world is not going to end, and people are going to understand; don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one task at a time.
From your experience of starting WFYB to growing in your career, what is your advice to others?
If you have an idea in your head, just go for it. Try it and figure out what you need to fix as you go. With WFYB, we didn’t realize that we were a directory until a year and a half in! If we had known that at the beginning, some things might have been easier, but we wouldn’t have learned as much as we did have gone through that process.
And just talk to people! When creating anything, you want feedback from your audience to understand what they truly want and what you can do better. Also, don’t limit it to just your industry. What has been wildly helpful to me and our business is talking to people in all sectors and learning what their goals are and figuring out how we can work together in a mutually beneficial way. As I said earlier, it’s not always the best to be the smartest person in the room — keep learning from those around you.
Crisis often presents itself in unexpected ways, at unexpected times, in unexpected places.
Before joining the team here at PivotPR, I had the opportunity to serve as Brand Communications Manager for the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC). In addition to being an incredible place to call my office, the USNWC provided many opportunities to put my PR and communications skills into practice. One day I would be pitching story ideas to outdoor industry publications, and the next I would be giving media interviews to promote an upcoming trail race or climbing competition.
It also presented a swift and unexpected entry into the world of crisis communications. During the summer of 2016, we received notice of a young lady who had passed away from a rare form of meningitis contracted by a waterborne pathogen known as Naegleria fowleri. The young lady had recently visited the USNWC where she participated in water-based activities, which is how we became associated with the unfolding story. It did not take long for media interest to develop, considering this waterborne pathogen is colloquially referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba”. Whether or not her visit to the USNWC was ultimately connected to her passing, we found ourselves at the center of a media firestorm on a local, national, and international level virtually overnight.
Information began surfacing quickly from various sources including the Centers for Disease Control, the Mecklenburg County Health Department, and others. While we were in constant contact with these organizations, media outlets were eager to acquire and disseminate as much information as quickly as possible. Our goal was always to maintain the public’s trust through open dialogue and clear communication. We leveraged a straightforward communications approach which, in hindsight, can be summarized in one very simple word: ACT.
Authenticity – Every brand has its own voice, and we were no exception. We knew how we had created our voice through public dialogue over the years, and we felt it was essential to maintain that amid these circumstances. This was no conversation about one of our races or festivals, but it was a conversation between the same organization and many of the same audiences. We were not interested in shifting our voice to meet the scenario, but instead addressing the scenario with the authentic voice our community had already come to recognize.
Consistency – In the midst of receiving pressure from various media outlets to provide rapid and immediate responses, we felt the best way to maintain a consistent dialogue was through written statements that we would publish promptly on our website, then distribute through the appropriate channels. This meant the concerned community member would have the same access, at the same time, to the same updates as the national media outlets.
Transparency – We continually received updated facts and information, and we were eager to provide them to the people they would impact: our guests and our community. We were intentional about taking the necessary time to collect the most complete and accurate details before drafting a public statement, while remaining transparent with the public by addressing their questions and concerns with the most pertinent information.
No company or organization can predict every possible crisis they may encounter. Unexpected circumstances can always arise, but having a clearly defined voice and strategic communications approach can provide an essential foundation when it’s time to act.
Pivot PR, a dynamic and rapidly growing public relations agency in Charlotte, N.C., is seeking a highly motivated public relations professional to serve as its Vice President. This role requires deep communication acumen, leadership, project management skills and creativity. As a virtual agency, the Vice President will have the freedom and new-age mentality to thrive with top-tier brands like Dunkin’ Donuts, AvidXchange, MillBridge, Getzner, SMD, Parry’s Pizzeria and Mercedes Cotchery, all within a traditional agency framework.
- Serve as the main point-of-contact for all major accounts
- Manage and develop the Pivot PR team to ensure client success and professional growth by employees
- Create customized and strategic public relations plans
- Execute communication tactics including:
- Content Creation: media materials, blogs, social media, web copy, white papers, case studies, technical articles and award nominations
- Media/Influencer Relations: build lists, develop creative pitches, outreach, coordinate and monitor
- Community Relations: identify and develop synergistic partnerships that create community-based programs which serve both parties
- Events: coordinate and execute client events such as grand openings, press conferences, ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings, etc.
- Social Media: develop social media strategies and oversee team execution
- Crisis Communications: develop crisis communication plans and execute should a situation occur
- Project manage and organize campaigns by setting agendas, timelines, following-up, recording billable hours, and creating detailed monthly reports
- Assist with new business meetings and proposals
- A bachelor’s degree in journalism, public relations, mass communications or marketing
- At least eight years of relevant marketing or public relations experience including
- At least three years of agency experience
- Strong AP-style writing skills; must provide writing samples and perform writing test
This is a six-figure opportunity dependent upon experience and profit sharing. 15-days PTO.
We often interview traditional media folks or even social media influencers, but for this Q&A we wanted to demonstrate how a partnership with a local “beer fitness” group can be beneficial to an organization’s PR efforts too. Community relations at its best! I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Work For Your Beer co-founder Melanie Fox. Take a look…
Q: Good morning, Melanie! Can you tell us a little about what your group does?
A: Of course! Work For Your Beer is the directory for all beer fitness events, which means we provide information about beer yoga classes, run clubs, bootcamps, bike-and-brew events, and all other exercise-related beer activities going on around Charlotte. Our goal is to grow the “beer fitness” community by providing people with a resource to help them work out, drink beer, and make friends!
Q: That’s brilliant! How did you come up with the idea?
A: My co-founder, Alicia Thomas, and I saw the need for this resource after going to a couple of beer yoga classes in town. We loved the concept but found it very difficult to keep track of the new breweries, what type of events they hosted, and when the events took place. Alicia even started an Excel spreadsheet to keep them all straight! Then I shot her a text one day exclaiming, “Business idea! Why don’t we create our own community where people who want this information can easily access it?!” We launched back in December of 2016, and the community has been growing like crazy ever since.
Q: Can you tell our readers how you execute these events?
A: Most people think that we organize the events, but that’s not entirely how we work. A brewery will approach us with a new class they are running, and then we list the class on our website and help promote it to our audience of active beer-lovers. We also help connect local fitness instructors into breweries to start teaching more classes. When we launched there were only about 40 events happening each week in Charlotte, and now there are now over 100 classes every week!
Q: You’ve created a business out of this, right? Through your partnerships?
A: Absolutely! We partner with local breweries, gyms, and other companies we adore. For example, we’re working closely with Skipper, which is an on-demand dog walking service in both Charlotte and Austin. In partnership with them, we introduced dog walks into the beer fitness scene. People love it, and so do the dogs! We also work with OrthoCarolina, who provides a health-authoritative voice to help educate our audience. We love partnering with brands that we are passionate about because it gives an additional layer of authenticity when we share that content with our audience.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: I’m pumped about our new technology and expansion plans! Pretty soon you’ll be able to filter classes, not only by location and date, but also by cost, parking, beverage type, and more. We’ll also have different tiers of partnerships for our hosts with a backend system for them to update their own content to make sure everything is as up-to-date as possible. We are planning to expand into the other major markets in the Carolinas very soon!
A huge thank you to Melanie for sitting down with me. I hope you learned something from this post, whether you’d like to participate in an upcoming class or even partner with Work For Your Beer for your business.
We recently interviewed the founder of one of our city’s newest publications, Charlotte Lately. Take a look at what Courtney Schramm had to say about what makes her publication so different and how YOU can work with her.
What brought you to Charlotte and inspired you to start Charlotte Lately?
My husband and I moved out here with a job offer straight out of college. I quickly fell in love with the area but saw a need for a quality platform showcasing Charlotte. I wasn’t looking to compete with having the latest news story or restaurant opening but wanted to learn more about the businesses and people that already make up the city.
How did you decide on your platform?
I had been working in commercial photography and quickly saw how positively people were responding to well thought out imagery. My goal was to use photography to share the mission of good people and businesses, allowing them to be competitive on virtual outlets. Instagram was a natural place to start building the brand. In the last two years, it has grown to have a 30,000-person local reach, of what I think is the cream of the crop in Charlotte. People then go to our website to sign up for our community networking events or to subscribe to our new print publication.
What types of stories can we expect to see with your print publication?
Our audience responds very well to what we do and has solidified my drive to want to be a little bit better at showcasing stories that aren’t well represented now. I really enjoy uncovering people who might be unextraordinary to other news stations or outlets but have a great lesson to share to connect our community.
We are not limiting the content of our print publication. When you are trying to create a publication of the city, you must be okay having a medley of stories. Our city has so many different types of people, businesses, experiences and passions so we’re trying to do a bit of everything. Our biggest audience is in the 25-34 age range, with 45-56 being a close second, so you will see a wide variety of stories that allow people of all ages and demographics to connect. It is a very exciting time to get involved with Charlotte Lately.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
I have found that the higher I reach for advice the more I get it. I am thankful for all the connections I’ve made through Charlotte Lately. A byproduct for me of meeting so many people is feeling compassion for all the doers in our city. People work so hard. I believe your network and relationships with people are your biggest assets.
Something I keep in mind that a mentor recently told me is, “You ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money,” — now that’s not always the case but it sure keeps my “why” in check.
How do you handle advertisers and pitched stories?
We love receiving stories and ideas from readers, PR firms or anyone when they know what we are looking for and have a good story. We sift through and take the best fit.
As for advertisers and partnerships, we turned down a lot in the first two years because we wanted to build trust in our audience so that when we did make the choice to partner, our audience knew it was a brand that we believed in.
When we do allow advertisers, we go so far as to take all the imagery for their media. Showcasing businesses with quality imagery should be a bare minimum for advertising campaigns. Be careful where you are putting your money. Looking good should be a standard for the virtual world we live in.
I feel that any time I partner with someone, paid or not, I’m giving that business or person an opportunity to invest in a platform more focused on people in Charlotte that isn’t just about what is next. It is rewarding to see and I’m happy to play even just a small part in connecting our community. Just since the beginning of 2018, we have seen more traction and growth then all of 2017. We’re excited for what is ahead.
A huge thank you to Courtney for sharing her story and giving us such useful insight. You can check out the first issue of Charlotte Lately here.
I recently had coffee with WBTV’s local content producer, Maggie Solomon, to discuss her brainchild, Queen City Weekend.
Q: Queen City Weekend is refreshingly different. How did it come about?
A: I was a television reporter in Panama City, Fla., and realized that I really valued storytelling as opposed to breaking news. I happened to run across this opportunity, applied, and the next thing you know I got the job and was heading to Charlotte!
Q: For those who don’t know, tell us a little about what Queen City Weekend really is.
A: All our stories are very video-driven. We value telling the story from the Queen City’s perspective, not the reporters’. You’ll notice everything we do is more documentary style.
Our goal is for you to be able to go and find something you can do on any given weekend, whether you’re new to Charlotte or have been here for several years. It’s unique. It has been quite a ride and I’ve had a blast building it.
Q: What’s one of your favorite stories you’ve covered so far?
A: Southern Grace Distillery in Mount Pleasant. The facility itself is actually an old prison! I enjoy finding unique things within driving distance of Charlotte, not just within the city limits.
Q: Is Queen City Weekend just about the weekend?
A: Every day is someone’s weekend, but we do post a rundown of what’s going on each weekend. We have a calendar of events for folks to post to as well.
Q: Are your stories sponsored or do they go through “editorial?”
A: We have a good mix. It really depends on the story and how much exposure our clients are looking for. Your readers are welcome to ping me for a media kit if they’d like. There are some additional options like WBTV’s Morning Break, depending on how the story is structured.
Q: Do you have any advice for PR or marketing folks that would like to work with you?
A: Don’t be afraid to pitch me! What’s the worst that can happen, right? We love how-tos and upcoming events and attractions.
You can connect with Maggie and Queen City Weekend through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or email Maggie directly at email@example.com. Don’t forget to use our hashtag #queencitywknd!
Laura Leigh Elliott, the smiling face behind life and style blog, Louella Reese, let us in on how she is able to do what she loves full-time, the dos and don’ts of working with bloggers, and what she sees for the future. Check out our conversation below.
How did you get started as a blogger and when did it turn full-time?
Out of college I was as pharmaceutical representative; I was reading the same script in every office, wearing a uniform and my creative side was dying. During some down time, I came across a blogger on Pinterest and a few hours later, after reading ALL of her posts, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have a plan or any kind of consistency when I started, but the more I blogged, the more I fell in love with it. That was four years ago and about a year ago I was able to make it my full-time job.
Once I began making the same money blogging part-time that I was in my other full-time job, I felt comfortable making the jump and knew I could succeed even more if I was doing it full-time. Also, the flexible schedule allows me to spend more time with my husband and do the things I truly enjoy.
What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
The hardest part for me was reaching out to companies, pitching myself and not being afraid to ask for money. I had to look at it as a business, not just a passion project, get out of my own head and grow my confidence. I have come a very long way since the beginning and enjoy helping others find that voice inside themselves too.
Another hard aspect is letting whoever you are working with know just how much work goes into a blog post about their product. Sometimes I might have to get supplemental items for the shoot, schedule a photographer or work a clothing item in with my current wardrobe, which can take additional time and effort. Many times, companies don’t think about compensating you for this time, so you have to explain what all is involved.
Where do you see blogging world going in the future?
I think it is around for the long haul. However, I do think that bloggers are evolving into influencers and are focusing in on one or two outlets, instead of having a blog and every form of social media. Long-form blogging is time consuming to write and sometimes for readers to keep up with, so more influencers are using social media as their main outlet.
I also see more brands, marketers and PR firms going to influencers instead of celebrities. Not only will they get more bang for their buck, but they will also see influencers as better able to relate to the people they want to touch, compared to celebrities. There are so many brands and companies out there that this will only continue to grow.
What entices you to work with a brand, company, PR firm, etc.?
There are a few factors that come into play when I am choosing what to say “yes” to. I get a good vibe right off the bat if I feel like whoever I am working with knows me, has done their research and truly cares. A lot of time people will address emails to my blog name thinking it is my name, which it isn’t, and that shows they probably haven’t read the blog at all. Not doing your research sets a bad tone from the beginning; I expect them to get to know me the same way they would expect me to get to know their company.
Before saying yes, I ensure it is a product or service that fits in with the rest of my brand and will be something of value to those following me. I ask for a lot of feedback from my followers using their comments, polls and Instagram stories, so I am pretty in tune with what they want to see and what keeps them coming back.
I also appreciate being able to meet the people I am working with. A lot of what I do is based on relationships and being able to put a face to a name and developing that rapport can make the experience for both sides more positive and enjoyable. This also helps to facilitate the conversation about what they are looking for by working with me so that I can provide the best service. I like to know if they have a very specific vision for the post or if I have most of the creative control.
Lastly, when I have a positive – or negative – experience, those stories usually end up being shared with my larger blogger community as well when we get together. All the girls in this world of influencers are very supportive of each other, like to work together and want to steer each other in the right direction. So even if you are working with one influencer, that experience can trickle down to others you might want to work with in the future.
What are you looking forward to as you go into year two of working on Louella Reese full-time?
I enjoy – and have seen great traffic – from my localized posts on things to do in Charlotte, such as my personal top five restaurants. I would love to incorporate more posts about weekend getaways, travel tips and top restaurants from Charlotte and other cities around the South.
I would also love to have my own clothing line or even just a few pieces under the Louella Reese name. When I was deciding on the name for my blog, I made sure that it was long lasting and one that meant a lot to me no matter where this adventure went. (Side note: “Louella Reese” is a blend of her family nickname, her grandmother’s name and her beloved dog’s name – so sweet!)
I recently sat down with one of our favorite early morning lifestyle reporters, Hannah Welker at WCNC. She is a hoot! Take a gander below. This may give you just the information you need to work with Hannah, landing yourself on Charlotte’s NBC affiliate.
Q: Hi, Hannah! Tell us about your role at WCNC.
A: I’ve been with WCNC for two years in June. Oh my gosh it has gone so fast. Let me tell you a little secret – I think I have the best job at the station because I get to do all the fun stories and show off the positive activities and events going on in Charlotte. I am the feature/lifestyle reporter so it’s a great way to see the city and meet some amazing people, and then turn around and show my segments to our viewers. I love to share my experiences and let people wake up with something positive.
Q: How do you book your shows? How is the decision made as to what you’re covering each morning?
A: It’s a collaborative effort. It’s on me to seek things out and book the shows but I also have an amazing assignment editor and executive producer who are sending things my way as well. You’d be surprised how hard it is to get people out of bed at 5 in the morning!
Q: How is the digital world changing what you do?
A: We constantly have meetings about how important social media is. Your presence online is just as important, if not more important than what you’re doing on TV. How many times are you watching your TV while on your phone, while also looking at your tablet? It’s a lot of competition so we’ve got to be on those other screens as well. It’s only going to get more digital. Look at late night talk shows – not everyone stays up to watch Jimmy Fallon but so many others catch him on social. I need to do the same because not everyone is up with me at 6 in the morning.
Q: What would you like to share with PR professionals?
A: 1) Answer your phone. I am so serious when I say that! Give me your cell phone number. We are on a strict timeline, so I am more likely to work with someone I can count on, is excited and responsive. One person I really enjoy working with is Steven Cole from Center City Partners. He’s always on top of things, has great ideas and/or connects me with others. 2) Make sure it’s visual and not too promotional! Remember: we are not here to promote your product or service; we are covering fun and interesting stories.
Q: Tell us something about you NOT work related!
A: I was a college gymnast! I competed at the University of Illinois. Go ILLINI! I always loved performing, so those skills helped me transition into broadcasting after I was done with gymnastics. As you can imagine, I LOVE the Olympics both summer and winter, so I’ve been glued to my TV.
You can find Hannah on Twitter at @hannahwelker, Instagram at hannahwelker or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our latest Q&A participant should need no introduction as she is a seasoned newspaper veteran who has served as a journalist since 1978, and as a food editor since 1989. As an award winner, cookbook author and James Beard committee member (among many other things), Kathleen Purvis has seen a thing or two in the food world and we were so thankful to be able to sit down with her recently. We talked about food inspiring hard discussions; her latest venture; and her advice for you. Take a look into her world:
Q: Of course, we first must ask, why food?
A: I started out as a hard-news journalist. I was a police reporter, national wire editor, general assignment reporter, and when I arrived in Charlotte in 1985, a page designer. However, coming from a family that cooked a lot, I always found myself intrigued by the food section and I wanted to learn more. At the time, many women were veering away from writing the food section because they didn’t want to get pigeonholed as just a women’s page writer, but I found that there was some good news to be found there. If you write about anything through the lens of food you can tell some really good stories. I started writing those stories, forced my way into the food section and looked at it with a wider lens of news and culture as well.
Q: Your recent article, which used cornbread as a catalyst to talk about race in the south, won an award. What inspires you to dig deep into these stories past just the food?
A: People want to emotionally engage with stories. And often, the ones that engage people are also the ones that start arguments and inspire intense feelings about the subject. To get to those takes a lot more analytical thinking and many times you must write about things other people are afraid to write about.
I was told, “not to go there,” on the cornbread story because it would cause an argument and tension. Yet, I’ve found that if we can start the discussion with something a little less threatening, like putting sugar in cornbread, then it can ease that tension and then we can talk about something deeper and more important. On the surface, writing about the difference in cornbread recipes seems funny but people really have intense feelings about their food. Sharing your food differences and similarities with someone can lead you to become comfortable talking about more profound issues.
Q: What is the latest venture you are working on and what have you learned from it?
A: I’ve been working on a travel/food book focused on touring southern craft distilleries. One of the things I found interesting was that this kind of travel hits Millennials and Baby Boomers, but it doesn’t hit the Gen Xers. The Gen Xers have stuff to do on the weekends – they are settling in, buying a home, having kids and don’t have the time to travel to do new experiences. But the other groups do. However, they go out for completely different reasons. The Millennials want to tell a story on their social media feed to all their followers. The Baby Boomers want an excuse for an experience, to see their friends, to experience something new and fun. I’ve visited 54 distilleries in 15 months and this finding was one I didn’t expect, but have truly enjoyed exploring.
Q: With the rise of social media and digital, what are some of the main changes you have seen?
A: Food sections used to be almost all recipes — that was the backbone. However, not long after I started, people were still interested in recipes, but they wanted to know how to do the more intricate parts of the recipes, not just the ingredients and the amounts. There was a heyday of learning to cook with whole, local ingredients, using specific techniques.
No one goes to the newspapers for recipes anymore. They look to Google, Pinterest and all the other websites. It amazes me that there are still two main players that have strong recipe sections — The New York Times and the Washington post. They grabbed what was left of the recipe coverage niche, did it well and now it really doesn’t exist for the rest of us. We had to follow the audience and change what we wrote about. I became very aware of my audience. For instance, the print readers are going to skew older, while my newsletter (sign up for Stir It Up here!) reaches a much wider audience. This plays into what information goes where.
We have also become more deliberate on how we handle photos, SEO keywords, the delivery, timing and so much more. With information being put out instantaneously, we must be ready at any time to deliver and act on a quick turnaround.
Q: What can chefs, restaurants and PR pros do to help you out?
A: Pictures. I want high-resolution photos (jpeg format) with permission to run them right from the start. Waiting around or having to run out to get a picture can totally blow your lead time on a breaking story, which is so important these days.
Whatever I’m are working on, I’m always ready for a breaking story to come in, to drop everything and get it out. Breaking news is breaking news, but I can’t rely on it, I can’t plan for it, and I never know when it’s coming. I have an idea of what might be coming down the line and I’ve been watching, but I can’t predict when it is going to bloom. I also understand that representatives are very strategic on who they are going to give it to first, whether it is me or another outlet in town. They have to think about who is most likely to use something well, who has the audience for it and which one is likely to pay off for the coverage they want. I never feel like I’m being played, I understand. I just hope that I can continually prove that if you help me out, I can do a good job for you.
I also want them to know that I approach everything like a true journalist. I am very skeptical. If you give me a story I am usually going to follow up with questions and ask you to prove it. My role is always journalism, no restaurant consulting, no pay-for-play and I rarely accept free meals. For me, it always comes down to the basic rules of ethical journalism. We always look at what the readers want, what they need to know and what they are going to get out of me writing about this restaurant or following this story.
Q: What is your best advice as we venture into the new year?
A: Be ready for constant change. If I’ve seen anything over my 40 years in the business, it’s that things are always changing. “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
I also encourage you to read widely beyond the area you are focused on for anything to have context.
Kathleen can be found on Twitter @kathleenpurvis, on Instagram @kathleenpurvis and at the The Charlotte Observer.
We recently sat down with Charlotte Business Journal’s (CBJ) newest reporter, Caroline Hudson, who covers banking, finance and technology. We wanted to get to know her a little better and understand how best to work with her. That is our job, right?!
Q: Hi, Caroline! Tell us a bit about yourself! How’s the new gig going? What attracted you to the CBJ?
A: I’m originally from Greensboro but I was in Greenville, N.C., for the past 2.5 years where I did more general assignment work with a daily publication writing about everything and anything. I’m enjoying my time at CBJ where now I can focus and home in on one particular beat.
My predecessor really set the stage for me, and I’m so glad she did. I’m walking into great relationships and have spent a lot of time my first few weeks cultivating those by networking with people and looking for potential sources. I generally do a story or two a day, but I’m so grateful that my bosses gave me that time to really get to know and understand the landscape.
One thing that attracted me to CBJ was the tenure of its reporters, mostly all being there for several years. Tenure really says a lot about an organization and, in particular, a newsroom.
Q: How do you think your time will be spent within your beats?
A: Definitely a focus on banking and financial services, but also touching fintech, technology and startups. There’s so much going on here!
Q: Any tips for PR professionals who would like to work with you?
A: Yes. Don’t be afraid to talk to me. A lot of people in the industry are trained to be on guard around reporters, which I understand and makes sense, but the vast majority of journalists aren’t out to get you or looking for dirt. So, if I ask you a simple question, I’m truly just looking for the answer to that question.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that I receive a lot of quotes that are heavily edited. Readers are smart and know what canned copy looks like. Keep in mind the reader wants to have a conversation (via a quote) without actually having to have a conversation.
Q: How is social media impacting your job?
A: Social is a very important part of what I do. I’m now focusing on building a base on Twitter — and other channels — but social media is a great source for story ideas. It’s such a relaxed and comfortable form of communication. Story pitches from PR professionals still usually come via email. We also break a lot of news on social since it’s in real time.
Q: What’s your mantra on photos?
A: We try to take our own since we have a great photographer on staff, but sometimes the schedule just doesn’t permit so it’s nice when companies do have something on hand, as a backup, to illustrate the story if need be.
A huge thanks to Caroline Hudson. She can be found on Twitter @CBJHudson or email at email@example.com.
At Pivot PR we geek out over public relations (PR) and during this month of Thanksgiving, I am sharing why we are thankful for this stellar segment of marketing. And just so you don’t think we’re absolutely cuckoo, I’ve included some quotes from all-star business folks. They seem pretty thankful for PR too.
Thank-point #1: Lasting Memories
Which sticks out most in your mind? The store-bought pumpkin pie or the time spent with grandma every year making the pumpkin pie? Exactly. Along those same lines, how long does the 30- to 60-second paid advertising spot stick in your brain? Memories can’t be fabricated or paid for. They must be organic and that’s exactly what public relations is. Whether it’s media relations, community relations or influencer relations that’s behind the scenes of the article, event or social media post that creates a lasting memory with you, it’s all thanks to public relations.
As Barbara Corcoran, sharkette on The Shark Tank, stated at an Inc. conference, “If you’re not being quoted in the press, you’re losing market share by losing limelight.”
Thank-point #2: Dinner-Table Conversation
Do you sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table and discuss the banner ad that was served up to you 5x while you were reading an article, or do you talk about the article you saw maybe even just one time? (You might argue that you will poke fun at an ad but how many of you can remember WHICH product the ad is actually marketing?)
Forbes magazine wrote, “Data from influencer marketing platform MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement.” An influencer could be a traditional journalist or perhaps a blogger or average person like you or me who has built an impressive following by covering a topic (e.g., food) as a hobby. Thing is, you believe them, don’t you?! Public relations efforts reach these folks and you pay more attention and believe what they say more than you do ads. Do you believe what paid ads (i.e., a brand) tell you?
And lastly, think about the buyer process with B2C or B2B customers: consumers are savvy these days and start their buying process by researching way before they contact you or step in your store, restaurant, etc. With public relations, you have blogs, media stories, social media content, reviews and more that consumers can consume – and that can tip the scales for them to decide on YOUR company! Not to mention the benefits in Google by way of constant content.
“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Richard Branson
Thank-point #3: Big Things Come in Small Packages
With gift-buying holidays around the corner, let’s use that as our analogy here. Sure; you could spend thousands of dollars on a gift but will it have meaning? Will it be memorable? Will it make the recipient happy and feel loved? Or could you make something uber thoughtful from scratch or spend half the cost of the super expensive gift but tailor it to the recipient’s interests and have it be the gift that they never forget? Advertising costs can be through the roof and to point #2, will it even achieve your objectives? Don’t get me wrong; advertising has its place and is important to the paid-earned-owned triangle but you can’t rely ONLY on advertising (especially not on old-school, traditional advertising). On the other hand, consider a public relations tactic like blogging. According to InsideView, B2B businesses that blog achieve 67% more monthly leads than those that do not. Bottom line: PR is the big thing that comes with an extremely small price tag.
“If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I’d spend it on PR!” – Bill Gates
We’re counting our blessings for more than just PR of course, including our family, friends, clients and fellow marketers and business owners in town. I’m also thankful you got to the end of this blog. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
We recently caught up with Ashley Mahoney, multimedia journalist for The Charlotte Post. She shared with us her thoughts on what sets the Post apart, how she turned a family tragedy into a way to help others, and the importance of knowing who you are pitching to.
What is unique about The Charlotte Post? What sets you apart from other outlets in Charlotte?
We are unique because we are covering almost exclusively what is going on in Charlotte. There is a lot going on outside of Charlotte, but we aren’t the Washington Post or the Seattle Post; we are the Charlotte Post. For example, in sports, you are not going to find the scores from every NFL game that happened that weekend, but you will find stories about most of the area teams. We have also started covering futbol (soccer, Queen City Football Chronicle) more extensively, which is unique.
We like to provide news from the perspective of those who historically haven’t been acknowledged by many of the major outlets; we have been “The Voice of the Black Community Since 1906.”
How do you reach people outside of the weekly paper?
We have recently started two podcasts; Sports Charlotte is all about Charlotte sports and the other is more political, called The Stump. It’s been a great way to reach more people who want to be informed about what is going on, but may not pick up a paper or go to an event. For example, with our recent interviews with the mayoral candidates, people didn’t have to buy a ticket or show up at a specific time to hear from them. They could tune in any time, while they were driving, while they were walking their dog and trust us to ask the questions they wanted the answers to.
Are there any big projects you are currently working on?
Yes! My mom died of cancer in August. We started a cancer awareness series called Racing Against Cancer. We wanted to raise awareness about cancer, while providing support and information. We have discussed what cancer is, what the treatment options are, how it impacts you financially, different ways to deal with the news and more. It is targeted at not just the patient, but also all those people who are fighting alongside them and who need to be educated.
We have been able to disseminate the information in a way people can more easily digest on their own time, when they are not terrified sitting in a doctor’s office. I am not a doctor, I am not on the Fortune 500 list, I am just a journalist in Charlotte. However, I can write about these things and help make it easier for people going through it.
What is your best advice for PR firms looking to reach you?
The relationship is key. As cliché as that sounds, it really is about the individual and their knowledge of who we are at the Post. You can tell when someone sends you the exact same email that’s been sent to hundreds of other people. When the sender knows who we are, what our mission is, what I write about, it makes it a lot easier. After I develop that relationship, I also begin to go back to that person, call them up and ask what’s going on or if they have anything I would be interested in.
Any big don’ts that turn you off?
Some big don’ts would be people asking me to print a press release directly. Nope, cardinal sin number one. Also, asking to see a story before it goes to print or changing a direct quote when we have it recorded. This is what you’ve signed up for and you must trust us to do our jobs. Of course, if there is a true issue we will go back and fix it.
Thanks to Ashley for giving us a glimpse into her life at The Charlotte Post.
You may or you may not be familiar with Charlotte Center City Partners (CCCP). Because we are a public relations (PR) agency with clients in Uptown, it’s crucial for us to have relationships with people like Steven Cole, Director of Communications. So, we caught up with him recently to hear what he had to say about CCCP and best practices for PR and communications professionals.
For those who aren’t familiar, tell us a little about CCCP.
We are a 501(c)(4) that collaborates with and convenes organizations, government and non-profits to make center city and South End a more livable, workable and playable place. Creating one central hub of employment and culture is great for the city because the infrastructure is already in place. We perform functions ranging from economic development, strategic planning and quite a few events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade and Charlotte City festivals. We also manage the 7th Street Market and Charlotte B-cycle.
Is your background in communications?
I practiced PR in the army for 8 years. I spent time with the Honor Guard doing media relations in Afghanistan and working jointly with the international agency, Fleishman Hilliard. Some of my most recent work was in Los Angeles in the film and TV industry where I did some fun and interesting things like product placement and brand management with entertainment media.
What skills and experiences have you taken from the army and applied to your role at CCCP?
Time management, which I know most PR/marketing pros can appreciate! Also, something that’s more similar than I thought is the importance of organizational thinking — always relying on and reminding yourself of the organization’s mission to help keep you on track.
You have a newsletter, right? What’s its purpose and how can marketing folks work with you?
Absolutely; it’s weekly, and you can sign up through charlottecentercity.org or our Facebook page here. The format can differ slightly depending on what’s going on but we typically have a feature article written by someone on staff, then we’ll also repost articles from other sources highlighting different events and economic development interests. I encourage anyone within our constituency to send me relevant story ideas or events for consideration. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s your biggest PR pet peeve?
I guess I wouldn’t call it a pet peeve, but people often think all you need is a relationship with a journalist to get quality coverage. Relationships are great, but you must have quality content first.
Any advice for PR folks in Charlotte?
Build a diverse team of subject matter experts. That way, you’re not relying on one individual for all interviews and/or content.
Tell us about your position as digital editor at QC Exclusive and how it is different from being a writer. What is your day to day like?
I do a little bit of everything now! QC Exclusive is really small. There are seven of us who are full-time and only part of that is editorial. The rest is sales. Magazines are a little different than any other media form because they take longer to come out. We curate articles for the magazine
As an editor, even though the official title is digital editor, I do a lot of the print stuff too: writing, editing, curating, helping with scheduling and then also assisting on photo shoots, as well as the website and all of the social media. I mean we all kind of have our hands in everything to a certain extent. When I was writing I was just writing and now it is a little bit of everything. And I still do the writing process too: setting up interviews, doing the interviews, transcribing the interviews, writing the piece — which is awesome, it’s all really fun. Our owner and editor is like an artist and is very passionate about the magazine. He does the layout. I think you can tell when you look at the magazine that the form and pictures matter to him a lot.
How does QC Exclusive balance what goes in print and what goes online?
Magazines are a little different than any other media form because they take longer to come out. We curate articles for the magazine that we know will look really good in print visually and that are a good story. But then it also must be something that isn’t super timely, because if it is and we miss it, then it doesn’t make sense to put it in the magazine. So, something that’s very timely we will put online.
Sometimes there is a really cool story or something super popular in Charlotte, but there just isn’t a good way to photograph it. So many times, those work better for the website as well. And then everything that is in print, we stagger on the website about a week after the magazine comes out.
Looking at what goes in the magazine and online, what does the split look like between earned and paid opportunities?
Well, it depends. We have advertisers who, for example, will get editorial if it makes sense for the magazine. But we also don’t take advertisers who we would never put in the magazine to begin with. We are definitely picky.
And that’s one of the challenges with print right now; a lot of people don’t want just an ad anymore, understandably. I always tell people, ads are great for your brand but that’s not what is interesting about your business. We do stories on clients, but we don’t sell those (except for an advertorial section, which we just started doing again in the last couple months). The end of the magazine is a sponsored content section. But other that, story-wise, it is pretty much true editorial.
As for you, what do you look for in your stories? What attracts you personally?
I really like people stories. A lot of times, even if that’s not the focus of the piece, say it is a restaurant opening and the focus may be more the actual restaurant itself, I enjoy getting to hear about the person who opened it. I really like that side of it. Sometimes it’s the main angle in an article and sometimes it isn’t, but I like digging that out either way. I’ve been in Charlotte for under 2 ½ years so pretty much everything going on in this city is still interesting to me. A lot of it is stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of or done, which makes it fun for me personally.
I also love writing for a magazine and have always been more drawn to that than newspaper-style journalism. The form is a little more restrictive in terms of the type of writing you can do and more creative at the same time.
What is your advice for those reaching out to you for a story?
I think if someone addresses you personally where you can tell that it’s not spam, that’s awesome. We just get so many emails; sometimes when it’s a mass one, it’s not that I won’t read it, I just won’t read it first. And then I would say anybody who clearly understands the brand. For example, you were pitching a person and their story and that made sense for what we do. When you get e-mails where the person either doesn’t understand or didn’t take the time to figure out what we would put in the magazine or online, then the only real answer is “we don’t do that.”
However, Charlotte is a small enough city that when you can work with a circle of people, it’s very useful. You all might know something that we just don’t know about yet and that’s awesome for us!
Big Fish in a Little Pond
Katie, formerly a U.S. News & World Report economy reporter, moved to Charlotte, N.C., in 2015 and was hired on as the retail reporter. Her role has since expanded to cover breaking business news (e.g., HB2 issue, shooting protests) and sports business. She feels that she can make a big splash in a mid-sized city like Charlotte whereas her impact might be more like a drop in the ocean in Washington, D.C. She enjoys working alongside the award-winning staff at The Charlotte Observer – many of whom have won Pulitzers for their journalism.
What Gets Katie Out of Bed
When asked which stories she gets most excited to write, she very quickly stated it is when she can hold public officials or executives accountable – particularly if the story pertains to where the city’s/community’s/company’s money is going. She noted that it’s also fun to write the short, quick stories, such as a new restaurant with a cult following or a business that conjures up nostalgia for her readers.
I was also able to elicit some information from Katie that can serve as pointers for any of you who do, or will be, pitching her in the future. What falls in the won’t-cover box? Executive role changes and awards. Mainly it’s because we all must ask ourselves the, “Who cares?” question, and when it comes to that type of “news,” the only folks who do care are within the four walls of your company. Katie, as do all journalists, works in a shrinking newsroom and time is money. She must dedicate her time to stories that truly interest readers – the stories that make readers pick up the newspaper or click the digital edition open every day. Also – don’t write her a novella of a pitch. Short, sweet and to the point is best. She’s even drawn in sometimes by one or two lines that offer her a teaser of a story – and especially something exclusive or breaking. Lastly, if she feels like a certain topic has been fully covered by CharlotteFive or other local outlets, she might very well decide to not cover as the story has been told to the local community and she will free up time to tell a different story.
Here for You
I asked Katie what she wants our readers to know about her and/or The Charlotte Observer. I promise I’m not just saying this because she will read this as well but I thought she gave an impressive answer – simple in words but grand in its meaning. She wants all of you to understand how accessible she and her colleagues are. A quick google search on Katie and you’ll find her email address and Twitter handle. She invites you to send her tips, comments, etc. at any time. I can attest to her accessibility! She is always responsive when my team and I send her pitches (maybe I can also give oursevles a pat on the back for writing good pitches?), and she responded immediately to my invite to participate in our Q&A series.
She also expressed that she doesn’t have an agenda. She doesn’t insert her own opinions into her writing. She puts the onus on herself to tell you what you don’t know. It makes sense why “holding public officials/executives accountable,” is what excites her. She sees it as her job to uncover the story and tell it to you so you are fully aware of what’s going on in your city. No matter what you do, how old you are, Katie wants to hear from you.
Thanks again, Katie, for letting all of us get to know you better, and for keeping Charlotteans abreast of what’s going on in the Queen City
We’ve all been told to network so we understand the benefits but, whether you’re starting out your career or are 5, 10, 15 years in, you may feel out of your comfort zone at networking events. Some of you may even say these types of events aren’t worth your time. We want to open your mind to a slightly different approach this summer while you have “longer days” and maybe a slightly lessened workload. Follow our tips below to make the most of your time and make hay while the sun shines. Then, let us know how it went!
Ask the Right Questions
Many times we miss out on an opportunity to make a great connection because we are asking the wrong questions. Ditch the same old, “What do you do?” and open with:
- What are you reading these days? | The book someone has on their nightstand can tell you about them. It could give you a mutual jumping off point to discuss a book you both enjoyed or allow the other person to share some of their interests with you. It can also give you a great follow-up point: “Hey, I read that book you recommended and really learned a lot.” Our top summer suggestions include one oldie but goodie, and two new PR must-reads.
- Have you been to [insert Charlotte’s newest hot spot here] yet? | Charlotte is full of new restaurants, bars, activities (Top Golf, anyone?) and venues. As an industry with their finger on the pulse of the QC, there is a good chance whoever you are talking to has been to the new hot spot or is dying to go.
- Do you have a “wow-project” that you are involved with? | When you do want to delve into work, this question will allow you to dig a little deeper than just getting a generic job title and a company.
Sometimes the traditional model where you show up, get a drink ticket, listen to a speaker, pass your business card around to a few people and leave just isn’t what you’re looking for. We’ve pulled together a few other “networking” events to help you shake things up this summer:
- InstabeerupCLT | A casual monthly event hosted at a variety of locations that serve beer. As CharlotteFive said, “No sponsors. No agenda. No registration. You just show up and drink beer and hang out with people. It’s all very human.” Just follow #instabeerupclt on social media to find out when and where. Hint: It’s usually the last Thursday of the month.
- Take a class | An event doesn’t have to have networking in the title to be a place to meet new connections. Enhance your public speaking and presentation skills with a Public Speaking Masterclass at SkillPop or by joining the local Toastmasters Chapter. Step outside of your comfort zone cand give yourself you a casual atmosphere to learn about those you are learning with.
- Volunteer | Put your extra time to do some good! To double up on the benefits, look for opportunities with PRSA or a bevy of other communications professionals’ organizations. They are always looking for folks to help on the committees for communications, membership, accreditation, new professionals and awards. To get a feel for all of the organizations out there, join us at the Alphabet Bash in August to network with professionals from across the city, and support a local charity while you’re at
And Lastly, Just Reach Out!
If a group setting isn’t your jam, another way to get your toes wet is to reach out individually to someone in the community who you would like to get to know better; whether they are a colleague, a member of the media or someone at another company you admire, all you have to do is ask. Cleary state your intentions (no selling, no pressuring, just connecting), and suggest a casual place to meet such as a coffee shop or a brewery, depending on your connection with the person. If you want a little more backup, bring a friend who is also interested in the industry to break the ice and keep the conversation flowing. And hey, if they say no, give us a shout, we’ll grab a beer with you anytime!
Q: Tell me about your path to digital editor, as well as arts editor, at Charlotte Magazine.
It’s interesting. I moved here 4 years ago as a freelancer. Then I became the freelance web editor in the summer of 2013 and then a couple months later (because of my arts writing background), they said, “Hey, our freelance arts editor position is coming open, would you want to take that?” So, for the last 4 years, until a few months ago, I’d made a full-time role out of being a freelance digital editor and being a freelance arts editor. Then, earlier this year, they asked if I wanted to come on staff and do what I’m doing but from the office and put a ring on it—along with some new duties. So pretty much my day to day is to manage all the web editorial projects; assign stories to freelancers on the digital side; manage our digital outlets; to help translate the product from print to web and to try to amplify the things that work in print—while also living this life as an arts writer.
I also maintain a career as a freelance arts journalist and critic for a few national publications. One is called Hi-Fructose Magazine, another New Noise Magazine, and a few others. Most people do this in reverse, but I was a national arts critic before I was a local one. I was a local arts journalist in newspapers and online for a number of years, too.
Q: The big question is, out of all the hats you wear, which is your favorite?
I am very lucky in that I can’t really pick. I really enjoy working with people. I really enjoy getting up every morning and seeing what’s happening in Charlotte and beyond. Charlotte magazine has been around for almost 50 years now. For the magazine, I consider part of my job as looking at things we’ve done in the past and trying to recontextualize or marry what we do to the digital sphere. Sometimes that’s assigning stories and trying to figure out how to tackle something. And there’s sorting through a lot of pitches. I enjoy all of it. Being an arts writer is a lot of fun but I think it’s hard for me to break all of these things apart because they are all tethered in a way. But I am very lucky to be able to do them all together.
Q: Why the arts?
As a kid, from the moment I gripped a pencil to high school, I wanted to be a comic book artist. Then at one point I gravitated to this magazine called Wizard: The Guide to Comics. It’s no longer in business because comics journalism isn’t easy, but I always enjoyed writing and eventually discovered that I could be immersed in all of these worlds in a different way. I was one of those kids who from an early age was a “generalist.” We would have called it being “annoying” at the time. I was into marching band, theatre, art club, all these different areas of the arts. I wasn’t great at any of it — mediocre, really — but I loved this idea of process. I felt like I had a knack for sharing the arts with folks in a conversational way.
Q: What is your recommendation for folks who like arts but don’t really know where to start – for the novice?
When we talk about the arts, on a practical level, we’re really talking about a handful of disparate industries. They intersect, but from person to person, theatre could be a major love while paintings just don’t interest you. If you have an interest in visual arts, go to the free Uptown crawl. It is the third Thursday of every month and they have a trolley that goes in between each museum or gallery on the line-up. If you’ve always wanted to check out certain spots in Uptown, that’s a good entry point. Galleries are open all the time and free any way, but if you’re hesitant on any museum, look on their schedule to see what days are discounted or free. Otherwise, look for the galleries or programs in the pockets of Charlotte: Jerald Melberg Gallery in Cotswold, Goodyear Arts soon in North End, Gallery Twenty-Two in Plaza Midwood.
For theater, I would say it depends on what you are in to. We have these big musicals, national touring productions, that run at Belk Theater. But Blumenthal also rents out its smaller theaters to local productions and troupes. Tom Gabbard, president of Blumenthal, once told me he sees Blumenthal as just as necessary as Theatre of Charlotte, Three Bones, CTC — to have an ecosystem that’s thriving you have to have it on every level and you must have localized theatre. XOXO’s experimental works and Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte say so much about the talent here.
Q: Switching gears slightly, because of your print and digital side, what are your thoughts on print form as far as dying and going away?
Considering I primarily work for print publications, it’s safe to say I very much believe in its power. There is a lot of strength in print, and we need to lean on those strengths. I think what people are finding now is that you have to make a lot more cutthroat decisions about what goes where, where to allocate resources. You also must understand which stories are worth giving which treatment. It’s a precious thing. When we put something into print whether it’s fun or extremely serious, we are deciding about what we think is important for you to have in your hands this month in Charlotte. Vital stories happen in print and online, but the products have—and I’m sorry for using this word—a synergistic relationship. We are always analyzing what works where.
Sure, print is not in the same place as it was when I was reading Wizard Magazine as a kid, but there is just something about reading it in your hands that is different and part of our job is to make it worth it for you. Like a book, you keep coming back to them and hold on to them. And I think we have that mindset sometimes – what are the things that are going to make me want to revisit it?
As a side note – Andy mentioned: “To really write about art, you should pay for it sometimes and know what it’s like to hand someone money and ask, ‘can I have this experience?’ You have to know what it’s like to sacrifice part of your income in order to experience culture. I won’t go as Andy Smith, the arts journalist. I’ll just go as me, the geek who likes art.”
Q: What is one thing that you want people to know about you?
What I’m trying to do every day is contribute to an entity that is trying to tell Charlotte’s story. For the arts, it’s daily conversations with people who are accomplishing things with an enormous amount of obstacles, like the rest of us. Sometimes it works; sometimes it’s amazing. Everyone deserves that opportunity to express. And the journey of discovering what’s here continues to excite me.
And I want people to tell me about what excites them. What am I not covering? What am I not doing a good job of? There is always room to grow. There are always things to write about that we aren’t. Whether through email or social media, tell me about what excites you and what I’m missing. And I’d love to talk to anyone about that.
Want to be featured in our journalist / influencer Q&A series? Contact us
This blog will apply to all of you because either (1) you eat and want to know the best places around town; (2) you want to influence the Charlotte food community and/or (3) you want to reach a target audience. For #3, this blog is a tease for next month’s blog, which will be a deep dive on influencer relations. Stay tuned!
Some of you are already familiar with the term, “influencer,” and are leveraging key influencers in your industry. If not, Dictionary.com defines an influencer as “a person who has the power to influence many people, as through social media or traditional media.” As PR practitioners in 2017, we work with influencers as much as we do with traditional journalists. They are an extremely valuable resource to our/your PR efforts!
Within the food world, we call it “infoodence” – get it, get it? Given our work with Craft Tasting Room & Growler Shop, Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, Evoke, the Moo & Brew Festival and the N.C. Brewers Celebration, just to name a few, we’ve become friends with the foodies in town.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of our foodie influencer friends, Jessica Moore (@finickylady on IG), so you all could get to know her a bit better. If you want to know ALL the best bites, spots and dives in town, click follow on IG right now.
1. Tell me about yourself.
I’m from North Carolina and was born in Hickory – the foothills. I was raised by my dad and he loved to cook; that’s where my love for food started and I became open to trying new things. I was his little taste-tester in the kitchen as a kid. We lived with my grandparents for a while because he was a single dad going to school, raising me and working all at the same time so I learned a lot of my values from him … by seeing how hard he worked.
We moved to Charlotte when I was nine (so I’ve been here for 25 years; my whole life almost). I’ve always had a full-time job and actually worked two jobs for a while. I even had two jobs my senior year of high school; I guess I just like to work! I’ve always enjoyed having my own money and buying what I wanted to. My grandmother was a big influence in my life too – she told me to always be sure I could take care of myself and not depend on anyone else to get what I wanted. My motto is: have a high work ethic, be kind to people and do what you love! I’m very happy in my job now; it gives me the extra free time for opportunities like new menu tastings and fun food events.
2. What’s your full-time gig?
I work for Maersk Inc in labor relations. My title is Assistant Manager of Operations.
3. Tell me about your path to being a foodie influencer.
I always enjoyed being in the kitchen, chopping veggies and plating things. I was the sous chef (by the time I was able to handle knives of course) to my dad, a self-taught chef. Even to this day I serve as his assistant for Sunday dinners.
I started taking pictures of food, probably back when technology advanced and the iPhone came out. I loved seeing how pretty food could look on the internet. When I started cooking, I was so proud of what I made that I wanted to show it off. It escalated to going out to dinner where the food was also well-plated and pretty. I wanted to share it and recommend it to friends and to strangers even. If I show you something beautiful, my hope is that you will want to try it too, and then tell me about it. I didn’t go to school for writing or anything. My writing is just a compilation of my thoughts put out there to the public eye.
4. Do you remember going to your first event?
A friend tagged me in an Instagram post right when Eat Work Play (EWP) was brand new and they were looking for brand ambassadors. It was a flyer looking for writers. That was when I realized – I do this on my own time ANYWAYS, so I applied. It was a platform that could get me out there and invites that I would’ve never known about. I was chosen with about 10 other people from a pool of more than 50 back in October 2015. I honestly didn’t think I even had a chance. So, the EWP invitations were some of my first. I still talk to Davon and Jacob and go to some events but I’m trying to be more of a freelancer now. We are all still friends; I owe it to them.
My goal in 2017 is to be more in the public eye and to step outside of my comfort zone, by not always doing food. I recently was involved in a nearby retail store’s marketing efforts so maybe I’ll add fashion to my list. My niche will always be food but doing something different is never a bad thing!
5. What are your thoughts on the food community?
It’s not a competitive community here and I feel that might be a rare thing. When it comes to food, food always brings people together. I love being asked where I would go for dinner. My first question to you will always be, “What side of town?” because I need some kind of direction or I’ll end up giving you a list of 25 places. Even people at my office job ask me, “What’s new?” and “Where should I take my wife on date night?” I would really like to be the guru of Charlotte restaurants. I wish I could have a different iPhone and have people just text me all the time and ask, “Hey I have a friend coming in town, where should I go for dinner?” I really enjoy being a resource in the food community, at my full-time gig and even in my personal life. I like helping others; it makes me feel good.
6. Tell me about how you came up with Finickylady.
I was invited to join Gmail (way back when, haha) and I was trying to come up with a good nickname. In short, it all started with conversations on where to go for lunch. For example, I knew I didn’t want salad or steak or a burger. Or, that I was in the mood for a wrap but I didn’t want it cold, it had to be a warm one. I always have particulars in my mind about things I want, whereas most people might not really care too much. I typically want to figure out exactly what I’m in the mood for. Since my colleagues didn’t mind, it ended up being me who decided. That’s how finickylady stuck; they knew they could count on me to narrow down the lunch choices.
7. What’s been your favorite event you’ve been invited to and why?
I went to a spring menu luncheon recently and there were about 30 people there and they gave us six courses in 45 minutes — I was blown away. It was so fast! They even had the chefs come out and talk about each course while we were all taking photos. Packing all of that into a lunch-hour was impressive. Really, it just comes down to how the event is organized. I don’t ever have high expectations. I’m just thankful to be invited but when events aren’t done well, it makes it hard to have an enjoyable experience to then talk about it later in a positive way.
8. Do you need anything beyond the basics (e.g., décor, personalized items)?
If you decide that what you have is worth presenting to people for free, I’m just happy to be there because you asked me. I don’t need a nameplate, decorations or anything fancy. I just need a drink to go along with whatever I’m eating. Seamless and smooth is all I need. I focus on the food and would rather not be distracted by things that don’t really matter. My friends can always tell from my IG posts when I wasn’t highly impressed by a particular restaurant or event because I won’t be as enthusiastic with my words. I will still make a “Thank You” post because that’s the right thing to do. I was treated to something and it’s important to show appreciation.
Here at Pivot PR, one of our favorite questions to ask is, “Why?”
Why? Because we want to be sure we’re strategizing and executing a plan that makes sense for your organization. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all PR plan. When the purpose of a decision isn’t validated, these consequences may include:
- Going down the wrong path, completely missing the original objective and/or target audience
- Missing out on the opportunity to do something else that would have yielded better results
- And, the result of the two consequences above are of course — wasting time and money (and we know neither of these are ever in excess!)
That’s the benefit to working with this PR agency. We bring decades of experience, and with that comes the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t – within a multitude of industries, hundreds of scenarios, and for varying size businesses (locally and nationally). We serve as PR counselors, not just doers.
The benefit to you? We’ll ensure your PR plan (and associated tactics) align with your business objectives and that the answer to “why” always ties back to them. We’ve seen so many instances where your colleagues, managers and/or executives might be unknowingly taking you off track, coming up with ideas or plans where the answer doesn’t connect back to the original objective. We’re here to help you keep the train on the tracks. Call us conductors if you’d like!
Because, remember PR doesn’t stand for press release, so if you ask for one our first question will be, “Why?” There are plenty of other tricks in our PR bag, so we’ll want to make sure we’re pulling the right lever(s) to get the results you want.
Ready to develop a strategic PR plan that delivers results? Drop us a line and we’ll start asking, “Why?”
Pivot PR is seeking a highly motivated marketing professional. The PR Manager position requires deep communications acumen, keen project management skills and creativity. Developing PR strategies and executing communication tactics will be critical.
- Research and develop customized and strategic public relations plans based on analysis of clients’ business goals
- Execute communication tactics such as writing, media list building, media pitching, community relations, monitoring, event promotion, crisis planning, media training, inbound marketing, social media, etc.
- Monitor and execute billable time for clients
- Develop detailed monthly client reports including work completed, goals attained and future forecasting
- Attend client meetings
- At least a four-year degree in journalism, public relations, mass communications or marketing
- At least two years of relevant agency experience
- Strong writing experience; must provide writing samples and perform writing test
- Must be proficient in Microsoft Office suite
- Must be proficient in AP style
- Should be a self-starter, able to work independently and proactively, but also able to collaborate and work well in a team setting
- Additional considerations for experience in web development, design, video production and/or advertising
Compensation & Benefits
Base salary with additional profit sharing schedule based on experience. Account Manager will also receive two (2) weeks of PTO and a flexible full-time work schedule working virtually. Candidate must be available during most regular business hours.
If you meet these requirements please woo us at email@example.com. This should likely include a detailed description as to why you’re the right fit and of course your resume.
President Drew Porcello was listed 1 of, “12 already successful PR agency executives to watch in 2017” in Charlotte Agenda.
Expertise has ranked Pivot PR as one of the top 20 public relations agencies in Charlotte. See link here.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Eat Work Play (one of Charlotte’s fastest-growing millennial-focused online publications) or its co-founder, Davon Bailey (one of Charlotte’s top young professionals under 30). We recently sat down with Davon to learn more about Eat Work Play (EWP) and his vision for the burgeoning platform.
Hi Davon! What brought you to Charlotte?
I moved to Charlotte in 2013 after graduating from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. I interned at Bank of America as a compliance analyst, which turned into a full-time job.
Nice. How long were you with Bank of America?
Three years, but I recently took time off to pursue EWP full-time. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but it was so worth it. I’m able to give EWP more of my time, passion and attention. Since then, it’s really taken off.
What’s your vision for EWP?
When I moved to Charlotte, I didn’t have family or friends in the city; I didn’t know anyone. All my friends on Facebook were in Maryland, and I mainly used LinkedIn for professional purposes. And, I couldn’t meet people. I wanted to find out about the best restaurants and events in Charlotte. I needed a way to connect with people, so I created EWP. Originally, it was a group chat of about 10 people—this was at the beginning of the summer when I moved here. By the end of the summer, there were more than 300 people in the group chat. Fast forward two years later, and more than 60,000 people use EWP to find out about the best restaurants and events in Charlotte.
Wow. Did you ever imagine it would grow to be that big?
I’ve always had the goal of bringing EWP to other cities, so I’ve had my eyes on reaching millions of people. Right now, I’m taking baby steps and following my plan. Eventually, we will launch in other cities.
How do you see yourself competing with other media outlets?
We see ourselves as Charlotteans’ brother or sister. We’re your friends. We’re not journalists and don’t claim to be journalists. Other outlets observe what’s going on in the city, but we’re actually in the city. We’re a part of the young professionals, and we exist to bring people together. Every day, we’re finding ways to bring people together.
How do you decide what to feature on your website and in your newsletter?
I always ask — “Is it a jaw-dropper? Is it something I would recommend to my friends? Would I go to it?” Our whole concept is to drop “fun bombs” throughout Charlotte. If it’s fun and exciting, and we think people are going to enjoy it, we feature it.
If someone wants to pitch you a story idea, what are you interested in?
If it’s a fun bomb and something that would make you run and tell your friends, we’ll cover it. We cover anything from fashion to events to food. I like connecting young professionals outside of the work environment (that’s the work part). We’re all professionals but we can all hangout and have fun.
How can people get connected through EWP?
Join our Meetup group. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Subscribe to our newsletter and sign up for our perks.
Thank you, Davon, for sitting down with us. If you’re interested in contacting Davon, please feel free to email him.
When you think of “creatives” in the world of marketing, you probably conjure up thoughts of people within the walls of ad agencies in metropolitan cities who have titles like art director, creative director, copywriter and graphic designer. But public relations is an art as well, and it requires a heavy dose of creativity. Without the creative juices flowing, you’ll have, well, a standard press release. In our minds, that’s just one tool in the toolbox but certainly not a solution. Meeting our clients’ goals is a combination of strategic planning and creativity, layered on top of the basic tenets of public relations. Let’s go through some client examples so you can see what I mean.
TV, TV & More TV
Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) just opened its 50th store in Charlotte and we needed to get the word out for the grand opening event and day-long food/drink specials. Getting guests in-studio is not easy
and no station is going to have a DD representative in to talk about a grand opening. But, the morning shows love cooking segments. DD has recipes that incorporate popular menu items. So, we came up with the idea to pitch our local culinary celebrity friend, Heidi Billotto, for this segment: Pumpkin Pancakes and Pie with a Treat Inside: Dunkin’ Donuts’ Coffee & Donuts IN the Recipes. We landed WBTV Morning News and FOX’s Good Day Charlotte. Plus, Heidi was able to include the new DD location in her WCNC Charlotte Today Restaurant Round-Up segment. She promoted the grand opening celebration and deals during each segment. (We also got FOX TV to live broadcast for two hours from the event with a different pitch angle.) No press release issued.
The entire Pivot PR team enjoys grabbing a cup of coffee with journalists, influencers and folks from the community on a regular basis. Earlier this year we sat down with the editor of Business NC magazine. During the conversation, we were able to pique his interest when describing AvidXchange, provider of accounts payable and payment automation. The end result: a six-page feature in the September edition. No press release issued.
Potential Clients Galore
Public relations is not just about earned media. Pearl. Dentistry Reimagined (Pearl) just opened their second location and we decided to take a
grassroots approach. Knowing that Pearl’s success has been driven by Uptown workers who can pop in before, during or after work, we targeted 25 mid-sized businesses circling the new location. So that Pearl would be memorable and to create a warm entry to each offices’ gatekeeper, we hand-delivered their invitation to Pearl’s launch party attached to a gift basket that had cake pops that looked like pearls, pearl/clam-designed cookies and Pearl swag. Excited by the basket, each business emailed the invitation to dozens (and in some cases hundreds) of their employees. Read: awareness, more awareness and credibility (because it’s friend-to-friend). Our goal was to have 100 RSVPs. We ended up with 113, and all attendees were extremely warm leads. The awareness alone to the hyper-targeted audience was priceless. But, just in my conversations, I also had many people tell me that they were going to book an appointment. No press release issued.
Are you looking for a way to break out of your press release-only approach? Ready for results like these? Contact us and we’ll get those creative juices flowing for your organization.
Check out our latest interview with The PR Executive. We had a great discussion about how we position ourselves as an agency and what makes us so different.
What a refreshing break from crime, traffic and weather WBTV’s new show will offer Charlotteans. Morning Break will bring more lifestyle-focused stories to the morning news line-up, with segments ranging from cooking to life hacks. The first show is set to air on Labor Day, and since we were curious to learn more, we caught up with WBTV’s News Director, Dennis Milligan.
How did your team decide to launch the new show?
An opportunity presented itself when we learned “Flip My Food with Chef Jeff” and “Fix It & Finish It,” which run from 9-10 a.m., were going away. We had a few choices. Find syndicated programming. Purchase paid programming. Or, come up with something local. We talked about doing more news, but we already have 55.5 hours of news per week on our station. I think that’s enough news. And, since Charlotte has a lot of news, we wanted to try something different. Local TV stations have to start coming up with local ideas for programming because we don’t know how the network affiliate relationship will change in the next 5-10 years. We decided to take a little more local control over our business and our ability to serve our viewers. The show is not a news show; it’s a lifestyle talk show.
Where did the name come from?
The idea is to encourage our viewers to take a break, and that’s why it’s part of our name. We want people to sit down with us at 9 a.m. and take a break from whatever is facing them that day.
What’s the set-up?
Kristen Miranda, Chris Larson and LaMonte Odums will host the show at a table on our main set. We want our viewers to feel like they’re sitting at a kitchen table having breakfast with their friends.
What will be on the show?
A sampling of our show includes:
- Try This, Chris! – Chris Larson will try different things around town, from dancing lessons to cooking to doing your job for the day.
- Let’s Get Digital – Trending stories, what’s big on social media, and what people are talking about
- In the Kitchen – Cooking segment with local chefs
- Home Cooks – People invite Kristen Miranda into their homes to cook one of their favorite recipes with them.
- Wellness Wednesday – Health, fitness and nutrition
- Life Hacks – Taking everyday tasks and making them easier
- Pinterest Project – Finding popular Pinterest pins and trying them ourselves
- Let’s Go Wild – Zoo-like animals from a variety of local attractions
- Talk of the Town – Good places to eat, new places in town and cool things to do
- Throwback Thursday – Sharing pieces of Charlotte’s history
What’s the best way for PR folks to pitch story ideas for Morning Break?
I encourage folks to email Molly Kelleher, executive producer of the Mornings and this show, or Crandall Sims, producer of Morning Break.
Do you ever get involved with the programming?
I attend our morning and afternoon editorial meetings, but the producers and executive producers handle the ebb and flow of the news throughout the day. For this show, I sit in on the rehearsals and weekly update meetings. By the nature of my job as a news director, I handle quite a few things that have nothing to do with daily news, such as research and personnel.
Anything else you would like people to know?
The more community-focused the story idea, the better. We want to show the viewer how to improve their life. Everyone is trying to sell a product or service, but on the receiving end, the good or service should make someone’s life better.
Thank you, Dennis, for sitting down with us and sharing more about Morning Break!
You’ve worked hours writing your corporate e-newsletter creating snappy blurbs to catch your audience’s attention. Once it hits your readers’ inboxes, you breathe a sigh of relief. As you wait to see who opens the newsletter, you may wonder if you’re truly connecting with your customers. While email marketing may be a piece of your strategy, there’s a better way to approach digital communications to foster a relationship between your organization and its stakeholders. It’s called brand journalism, and you’ve likely heard of it if you follow the latest trends. But it’s more than a trend, it’s a way to turn customers into loyalists.
In 2004, McDonald’s former chief marketing officer, Larry Light, shifted their corporate communications strategy to brand journalism, defining it as a way to chronicle “what happens to a brand in the world.” Light noted an important turning point in digital communications, moving away from putting the focus on the company’s products and accolades to placing the audience at the center—not just the company. In the “selfie” era, your audience might not care about your latest award or newest product; they desire captivating stories to satisfy their own interests.
So, how do you get started? Below I’ve outlined a few steps to utilize brand journalism in your corporate communications.
#1: Creep your peeps.
To create consumable content, you need to have a good understanding of who your “peeps” are and what they find interesting. What type of stories will your audience find compelling? What information are they seeking? You can explore your audience’s interests through surveys and focus groups to see what type of content attracts your readers. You might even create a buyer persona that compiles demographic information, attitudes and behaviors. And, if you don’t have a buyer persona, Pivot PR can certainly help you create one (insert shameless plug) to establish a foundation for your program.
#2: Summon your inner Walter Cronkite.
Once you know what type of content your audience appreciates, put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Think of how renowned journalists, like Cronkite, told (or tell) gripping stories. Think through the riveting stories that might live behind your company’s walls. Research and report on human interest stories while avoiding content that puts the focus on the organization.
#3: Share. Share. Share.
Once you know your readers and a content plan, think through the channels you will use to reach your audience. Some organizations like Duke Energy and Coca-Cola maintain their own news websites that operate like a media outlet. If you don’t have the ability to create a news site, think through the different digital tools you currently use such as e-newsletters, blogs and social media. Take an integrated approach to sharing your stories through these outlets.
#4: Test and learn.
As you start to share these stories, be sure to measure how well they perform. The number of page views the story receives and the number of times it’s shared on social media will help you understand what’s performing the best and resonating with your readers. Engage with those who comment on your stories, and be sure to take note of the sentiment of the comments to help adjust your writing style or subject in the future.
We know that “PR” is still a bit confusing to most because we often get asked, “What exactly is PR?” So we thought, what better way to explain than to give you a real life example. June 3 marked National Donut Day and our client, Dunkin’ Donuts, tasked us with making a big splash in Charlotte to build positive brand awareness and generate restaurant foot traffic to the 50 (approx.) stores in the metro area. Challenge accepted! We developed an integrated public relations campaign comprised of these key components: partnerships, media relations, event marketing and social media.
To show our commitment to the Charlotte market and surprise and delight Charlotteans, we partnered with WFNZ to host a live radio remote at the WFNZ Coca-Cola Doghouse. As the radio DJs encouraged folks to swing by, Cuppy and Sprinkles greeted commuters while we surprised unexpected drivers with free donuts and coffee. Not only did we see happy faces galore from donut-eating commuters, but we also had tons of folks snapping pictures and we even snagged on-air TV coverage from a local station. The event also served as a great lever to make Dunkin’ stand out from other donut shops in print/online coverage.
Localize, localize. Sure – the donut deal appeals to everyone (who doesn’t love a free donut?) but we knew we had to make the news local to our market to gain earned media coverage. How? Local spokesperson and local event (see above). From there, we followed a traditional media relations approach and pitched in-studio interviews, landing a spot with WBTV. We also secured coverage through targeted pitching to outlets, including The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Five, Charlotte Agenda and Charlotte Restaurant Traffic. Our mascot Sprinkles even recounted the day in the Charlotte Five newsletter.
A sold-out Charlotte Knights Friday night game was the perfect way to connect Dunkin’s fun-loving brand with an audience of more than 10,000. The partnership kept Dunkin’ Donuts top of mind throughout the game starting with a pre-game interview and first pitch thrown out by a franchisee. With a huge inflatable coffee cup in the concourse and the mascots all over the stadium, attendees couldn’t escape the brand. After they experienced a game full of Dunkin’-themed activities, including a t-shirt toss, gift card giveaway and coupons (to drive them in store of course!), they received free coffee tumblers to keep them running on Dunkin’.
Tying it all together with social media, we leveraged Dunkin’s own channels, @DunkinNC and @DunkinSC Twitter, to share updates throughout the day and engage with donut day revelers. Local media outlets, including Creative Loafing, shared the local donut deal. And, our friend and Charlotte Knights announcer, Mike Pacheco shared a selfie with Cuppy and Sprinkles during the Game.
So, what were the results? Targeted, quality earned media placements. Positive brand awareness. Foot traffic in stores. A social media reach of more than 96,000 users. Check, check and check!
*Since sharing this case study with our Charlotte network, we’ve received the following feedback:
“Fun newsletter! June 3 was actually my birthday, and I experienced all of your PR campaign for Dunkin Donuts. I passed the Dog House on the way into work (though I was taking a left from Mint onto Morehead so wasn’t in the right direction to get my sweets); I read about the promotion in the Charlotte Agenda; and I received a tumbler when walking out of the Knights game. Great work! I hope your client is happy.”
“I witnessed the awesome PR behind this. Great job!”
“What a great and fun campaign. Nice work!”
Before great content management systems like WordPress and intuitive search engines like Google, you needed an “SEO guy” who could manipulate website code, meta tag, and keyword spam in the hope that your website could be found on a high Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Back then it was very expensive and quite technical, not to mention a bit unethical. Luckily that’s not the case anymore.
Now, if you’re looking for quality organic search results, you can take a page from the PR playbook. Why? Because PR professionals specialize in three of the most important things you need for SEO: quality content that helps earn a digital footprint that ultimately results in online credibility. Below is an explanation of each.
Quality content: PR professionals are inherently great writers who produce quality website and social media copy, press releases, blogs, case studies, white papers, etc. These are all tools to help organizations be found and shared online. Without the right content, it’s pretty hard to communicate, right? It’s fundamental.
Digital footprint: It’s more important now than ever for PR professionals to develop relationship, but not with just traditional media outlets like your local newspaper, but also social media influencers, bloggers and editors with online new sites. Leveraging those relationships will result in online coverage helping you create a digital footprint well beyond just your website and company social channels.
Online credibility: If you do the above, your SEO will increase because very complex and ever-changing search engine algorithms are now smart enough to recognize who’s “legit.”
You see, that’s the beauty of PR. You don’t have to pay exorbitant amounts of money on organic SEO or even advertising. And, everyone including Google gives you credit for it!
Looking to learn more about SEO? Check out Google’s SEO starter guide here for more on the technical side. Looking to learn more about how you can leverage PR for SEO purposes? We’d love the opportunity to speak with you about it.
How did you end up in Charlotte?
Charlotte has always been on my short list for places to live and work, so when I saw a business reporting opportunity here, I had to check it out. Prior to this, I covered retail and real estate for two McClatchy-owned daily newspapers, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Tell us more about your new role with CBJ.
I liked working for dailies, but I also enjoy working for a weekly. I’m very concentrated in real estate coverage at CBJ. At a small daily, you can be pulled in to cover anything and, as I learned, I am not a crime reporter. Everyone at CBJ has different reporting backgrounds and areas of concentration. I’ve enjoyed the collaborative environment. I also like working in uptown, where I can walk to a lot of interviews and meetings.
What’s your advice for public relations professionals working with you on a story?
Open communication and trust are really important in these relationships. It seems a day doesn’t go by when I’m not working with or receiving pitches from PR professionals. I appreciate when people in PR communicate clearly and transparently. Press releases can be helpful in letting us know what’s happening in Charlotte, as long as it’s newsworthy is newsworthy for our market and audience.
Has a communications professional ever pitched to you on social media?
I mainly receive pitches via email. I haven’t had a phone call pitch in a while. It doesn’t seem like too many people send pitches through Twitter, but since I receive so many email pitches, it would stand out — at least until everyone started doing that. I sometimes use social media for story ideas. I follow developers, real estate brokerage firms and a few Charlotte public relations professionals on Twitter.
Is real estate a subject that has more breaking news?
Charlotte is a very competitive and active market. We have a lot of media outlets covering real estate and development, especially now. Accuracy and breaking news are obviously very important. CBJ is a weekly print paper, but we break news daily online through our website, morning and afternoon emails, blogs, and on social media. We are technically a weekly, but it’s really only in terms of the print edition. Many people are going online to get their news. While we have a popular weekly paper, we are a daily online news outlet, and we want to be first and accurate in reporting business-related news.
What interests you about commercial and residential real estate?
I like to look at the bigger picture and think about the trends driving Charlotte development. I love to talk about office space, but residential real estate is also fascinating. I think it’s interesting how millennials and empty-nesters seem to be driving the trends in real estate right now. Millennials don’t necessarily have the funds for a down payment on a house, while empty-nesters are looking to downsize. It’s a good trend to keep an eye on, especially as millennials start aging. It will be interesting to see what happens in 5 to 10 years from now.
A huge thank you to Ashley for speaking with us! If you’d like to pitch to her, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @CBJFahey.
Q: Hi Michele! Tell us about Charlotte Parent.
A: Charlotte Parent magazine is made for parents who are local, engaged and involved. We’re a free and local publication and our monthly magazine, website, newsletters and social media networks are created to help make life easier for parents navigating life in the Queen City. We are a one-stop parenting resource, with a daily calendar of events, locally generated blogs, directories and so much more
Q: What does the staff look like?
A: We are small but mighty! We have a calendar editor, seven bloggers, an art director, digital media director, three salespeople and our publisher.
Q: How long have you been here? What did your journey look like?
A: I’ve been here for six years in January. I started when my oldest son was an infant, serendipitous that, as he’s grown, I’ve been able to share what I’ve learned as a parent along the way. I started as an associate editor, moved to web editor and am now the editor. When thinking about editorial content, I always make sure to stop and think about what I want to know as a parent.
Q: There are a lot of different types of parents and kids. How do you reach them all?
A: Our biggest demographic is toddlers to age 10. Of course we don’t exclude tweens and teens and we love babies too! We actually have special issues focused on them.
Q: What kind of information do you like to provide?
A: We have a Growing Up column, health and development content, event listings, best bets and how-to tips. We also keep in mind that many of our readers aren’t from here and they need a resource to get to know our city. We serve the greater Charlotte area, not just the city. Regardless of parenting style, we’re going to help provide as much useful information as we can.
Q: Do you get a lot of opinions/engagement from parents?
A: It really depends on the topic. It’s interesting to see what triggers a conversation, which usually happens on our social media channels. A recent example was regarding a “silent lunch,” meaning children don’t talk during lunch when music is playing. The thought behind it is, when they’re conversing they’re not eating! That received a number of comments.
Q: Tell us about your interaction with people pitching you.
A: We get product pitches all the time and, since we don’t have a new product section, I need to find a larger story within which the product may fit. We wouldn’t typically profile a business, but if you can tie your product or service to something the parenting community is going to care about — perhaps through tips or a how-to — there maybe be an opportunity there for quotes or perhaps a listing. An example of that is a recent article we did highlighting eight family-friendly restaurants in Charlotte
You can reach Michele at email@example.com and subscribe to Charlotte Parent’s free newsletter here.
Hannah Chronis, managing editor of Carolina Weekly Newspapers, was kind enough to sit down with me to discuss her South Charlotte newspapers; how she earned the top editorial spot; and her thoughts on the industry in general.
Q: Hi Hannah! Tell us a little about Carolina Weekly Newspaper.
A: Our goal is to serve our readers by providing thorough and effective coverage of hyper-local community and civic news. So at our three weekly publications — South Charlotte Weekly, Union County Weekly and Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly — and our monthly publication Pineville Pilot, we’re getting back to the basics.
Q: How did you get the gig?
A: I actually started as the sports reporter here. Mind you, I didn’t have a ton of experience in sports, but if you’re passionate about newspapers, community journalism and you’re a good writer you can figure it out. I might have had some help from my husband to make sure my sports lingo and analogies were on par. I did that for 1.5 years and then we had a change in management, which led to a change in our organizational structure. They chose me for the managing editor position.
Q: That is awesome! And you’re managing ALL four publications? That seems like a lot.
A: Yes; it’s a lot of work but it’s necessary. Given the nature of the business, and with our audience in mind, we have to be hyper-local to make sure that the news is as relevant as possible. It wouldn’t work doing just one South Charlotte paper. We have been talking about possibly tweaking our territories a bit though.
Q: Tell us about your digital strategy.
A: Daily newspapers are struggling, but weekly community publications are still going strong. People still like to pick it up and cut out pictures of their kids and post them to the refrigerator. We understand we need to expand our digital presence because everyone consumes their news differently. It’s a challenge for a small staff like ours, but we’re heading in the right direction. We just unveiled a new website this month that we think will help tremendously. You’ll find things there that you won’t in print. We’d love to hire a full-time person to focus on all things digital and do more with our social channels and potentially start an email newsletter.
Q: Do you work with quite a few PR folks?
A: You’d be shocked how often I get pitched news that isn’t relevant to our readers. There are a handful of folks that cold call and follow up a bit too aggressively as well. I get 30-40 emails a day that aren’t relevant.
With that being said, I really value the way you and I have been able to work together. The great thing about the way you run your business is, if I reach out to you you’ll be sure to get back to me quickly with what I need, and you have a good feel for what we’re looking for. What you do is so important to us. We wouldn’t be able to put out a quality paper if it wasn’t for PR agencies. I love getting press releases with all the information needed to write a quality business brief with a photo. That makes my job easier.
A huge thank you to Hannah for speaking with me! If you’d like to contact her she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to mention her Pivot PR Q&A.
For those of you who subscribe to Charlotte Agenda, you know the staff does a series called “Cribs” where they go to local businesses and explore their work space. In addition to some good information about the companies they also include interesting photos that showcase what’s in the refrigerator and any unusual people or things in the office. We liked the idea so much that we decided to check out Charlotte Agenda “Cribs” style. Take that, Ted!
About Charlotte Agenda:
- Why they exist:
Charlotte Agenda exists to make Charlotte the smartest, most human city in the world.
- What they are:
User’s guide to Charlotte.
- What they do:
They publish 5-10 stories a day on a website and send a handcrafted newsletter early each morning around 7 a.m. (sign up). They also do original reporting straight to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. How large are we as of 4/6/2016?
- Monthly Unique Visitors: 250,000+
- Monthly Pageviews: 1,000,000+
- Daily Newsletter Subscribers: 13,500+ (55%+ open rate)
- Instagram Following: 40,000+
- Organic Facebook Reach: 600,000+
Pivot PR Observations:
They are located off of Cedar Street just behind Panthers Stadium. –discrete except for their portable drinking hole outside the front door.
The first thing you see when you walk into the office is a nice lounge area where team meetings, chats with guests and in-house events are held.
The plan is to display this sign proudly on the wall, but right now it makes for a heck of a coaster.
Apparently they had a polaroid camera in the office and visitors got their picture taken. We at Pivot PR were not as fortunate as these folks. Our recommendation is to bring it back!
Pivot PR VP Trish McGuire grilling Editor-in-Chief Andrew Dunn. You see, PR and media folks can get along.
We visited late afternoon. Must be nice to work at Charlotte Agenda because 3 out of 5 were out (maybe they knew we were coming.)
Apparently they recently had a party which depleted their stock in beer. Not too bad if you ask me!
I recently sat down with editor-in-chief Scott Jensen to learn more about his media company, Charlotte Stories.
Q: Hi Scott! Tell us a little about Charlotte Stories.
A: We’re a daily newsletter that focuses on local news. We’ve got 13,000 email subscribers, several social media outlets specific to Charlotte areas (Charlotte, Lake
Norman, Concord, Rock Hill, Huntersville and Gastonia) and we average nearly 25,000 views on our website a day. Our audience is comprised primarily of late 20s and 30s business professionals in Charlotte, but we’re expanding that. We want to be more diverse and reach other groups such as the refugee, music and African-American communities.
Q: Interesting. How did you get into the business?
A: It all started years ago when I was building Facebook pages that were branded for different cities. I had 60+ at one point, then I started Global Flare, similar to BuzzFeed but for local news. It was a lot to juggle and realized I really should start focusing on Charlotte. I started looking at domain names and found Charlotte Stories and I knew that was the perfect name.
Q: What makes Charlotte Stories different from its competitors?
A: There is a lot, but generally speaking some of the others do more features and we cover more hard news. We’re also more inclusive to several types of news, and surrounding areas, where competitors feel more narrower and blog-ish. We also put more of an emphasis on video, and I’d like to do more events.
We really take into account what people want and what is trending. We make a conscious effort to understand our audience and bring them interesting and different news they wouldn’t find elsewhere.
Q: What was the biggest story you broke?
A: Do you remember the post Super Bowl interview with Cam Newton and how a Bronco player was whispering in his ear behind the curtain? That was us — 3.3 million views in under two days! I knew there was a story behind that story and that Charlotte needed to hear it, so I started doing some research online and found a video of what another Panthers player had posted via Twitter.
Q: Do you work with many PR folks on the “earned” side? What about advertising?
A: We love to work with PR folks and encourage them to pitch us fun and different types of stories. We’ve got a handful of advertisers now but we’re looking to add the right partners. Everyone has their own unique needs and, if interested, I’d encourage them to reach out to me directly.
Q: Tell our readers something interesting about yourself.
A: I’m a licensed real estate agent and I earned my undergraduate degree in pastoral ministries.
Q: Where do you see Charlotte Stories in three years?
A: I’d like to take over news in Charlotte! I want to rebrand our city and help it find its identity.
You can contact Scott at email@example.com. Introduce yourself and tell him Drew at Pivot PR sent you!
Editor of Business North Carolina, David Mildenberg, was kind enough to sit down with Trisha and me to discuss the Charlotte-based magazine, the journalist-marketer relationship and how he sees the news industry evolving. Since you’re in Charlotte and may have some interest in landing your organization in Business North Carolina, we thought you’d be interested in our Q&A below…
Q: Hey David! Tell us about Business North Carolina.
A: Nobody else does what we do. Our job is to explore what’s happening in our state, focusing on people and companies from small towns to big cities. That sets us apart from the magazines that cover business from a national or international perspective. And it separates us from local newspapers and business journals. Our job is to produce quality, in-depth journalism; dig into stories behind the news; then deliver what we uncover in a manner that, though at times may be provocative, is always fair, accurate and thorough. Unlike some business magazines, we do not speak for any special-interest group or espouse a specific viewpoint. Our job is to reflect reality and, in doing so, entertain and enlighten our readers. On the business side, we are owned by a holding company based in Southern Pines that operates The Pilot newspaper there and monthly magazines in Greensboro, Wilmington and Southern Pines.
Q: Exactly. I certainly think you do a great job in going deeper and giving your readers the whole story.
A: That’s certainly our model. We try to go deeper than everyone else. We also think it’s very important to put context around and understand the history of something to truly make it interesting. There are a lot of folks who care about, and are passionate about North Carolina.
Q: Your readers primarily consume your stories via print, correct? Talk to us about your print/online strategy.
A: It’s true; thankfully, many do read print still. Some even prefer it over squinting at a phone or screen. Of course you can find our stories on our website and we just started DevelopCLT.com, a weekly newsletter about the Charlotte area’s commercial real estate industry. We want to write blogs and stories that provide a broader view of issues and the people active in CRE. That industry is really misunderstood. It’s such a large and important part of what’s going on in our state. I hope your readers will sign up for the free newsletter.
Q: How do you keep your finger on the pulse of so much news happening in the state?
A: We read as much as possible, but we also travel quite a bit meeting with interesting folks all around the state. The issues in Raleigh and Greenville, where individuals may be more interested in politics and have ties to Virginia, are so much different than what’s going on in cities like Greensboro and Charlotte.
Q: What does your staff look like?
A: We really have an amazing editorial team. We’ve got two great editors in Allison Williams and Cathy Martin and a veteran art and production director, Moira Johnson, who has been part of BNC for many years. We also rely on freelancers around the state, mostly notably Ed Martin, an award-winning journalist who has focused on the issues of our state for years.
Q: Tell us about your interaction with marketing and PR folks.
A: I sure have had a lot in my past! We’re really looking for great ideas. It’s important to understand the mission of our publication and present great hooks. I don’t believe in the antagonistic attitude where some editors won’t even take calls. There’s a place for both of us, and, there are fewer journalists these days which is all the more reason to work with communication folks.
A huge thank you to David for speaking with us! You can find Business North Carolina’s media kit here and you’re welcome to pitch him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently had a chance to sit down with co-host Corey Inscoe of The Good News Is, a weekly podcast with a similar mission to CharlotteFive (C5) where Corey is an editor. C5’s mission is to get you Charlotte-smart with fast, fun, interesting and useful news about the city.
Q: Corey! Thank you for sitting down with me. We’ve been working with you at C5 for awhile now, but tell me more about The Good News Is and how it complements the newsletter.
A: Absolutely. The Good News Is podcast is powered by OrthoCarolina and is technically an Observer product – not just a product of C5 – but it does live on our website and have a similar mission to C5.
Each week, Sarah and I hope listeners come away from the 20-30 minute podcast feeling like they know more about Charlotte than before they listened. It’s a mix of news, upcoming events, food & drink, trends, etc. And we bring in a guest each week to dive deep on one subject. So far our guests have talked about everything from breweries and development to the Panthers and a group of guys who survived a rock fall.
Q: That sounds really cool. There’s nothing quite like it in Charlotte, right? How do you differentiate yourself? What other topics are you covering? Who is your audience?
A: More Charlotte podcasts have started popping up recently but the vast majority focus on a very specific topic: dating, beer, sports, etc. We take a more general approach talking about anything and everything going on in the city, from the Panthers to all of the apartments being built. And we want to be timely. We want to talk about what’s happening in Charlotte that week, whether it’s something like the City Council’s LGBT ordinance vote or the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl. We want to talk about things that matter to Charlotte.
Our audience is anyone who lives in or around Charlotte and cares about the area. We want to offer a little something for everyone.
Q: Tell me more about your co-host and the type of interviews you do.
A: Sarah Crosland is amazing. She’s the executive editor of the Observer’s magazine division, but she’s also an expert on Charlotte, especially its dining and food & drink scene. She is so well connected in Charlotte, which helps us land great guests, and she has a deep knowledge of the city. She’s also just really smart, funny, interesting and fun to talk to. Same goes for our producer, Richard Brooke, who has done a great job shaping the podcast and helping us get some amazing guests. We have a great team. Recording the podcast is definitely one of the most fun things I do all week.
As for the interviews, we just want to talk to interesting people. CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams (a great get by Richard) was one of my favorite guests because (1) she’s an impressive woman in a male-dominated field and (2) I learned so much about the conference, the tournament and their connection with the city. We usually try to get a timely guest – like Rich and Bennett the week before the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl – but really we just want interesting people who can teach us something about the city.
Q: How can Charlotteans get involved? Are you open to pitch ideas? We’re sharing your answers with Charlotte marketing and communication professionals so I want to make sure they know how to engage.
A: Absolutely. You can email us at email@example.com. We’re on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: @TheGoodNewsCLT. You can reach us at any of those places if you have ideas for show topics or guests. We’re always looking for new ideas. I’m also on Twitter @CoreyInscoe if you want to reach out to me specifically.
Q: Staying true to C5 form, here’s my fifth and final question. What else would you like us to know about C5 and The Good News?
A: Since we’ve mostly been talking about the podcast, I’ll start with that. I’d love for people to give the podcast a listen and if they like it, share it with a friend. And give us feedback. We have a lot of fun doing it and we’d love to know what you think.
As for C5, same thing; if you like it, share it with a friend. Our goal at C5 is to make you Charlotte-smart: more knowledgeable about the city and people in it. And we want to have fun. We’re always looking for new and interesting stories. Charlotte has so much to offer — it’s growing, it’s being shaped by passionate, smart people, and there’s no shortage of things to do and discover every single day. I truly feel lucky to be in a position to write and talk about the city right now.
You can listen to The Good News Is on SoundCloud or subscribe to it on iTunes orStitcher. You can follow the podcast on Twitter and Instagram (@TheGoodNewsCLT) or on Facebook. You may reach them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Someone in your company pops up and says you need to host a press conference this year. Now what? Don’t fret; I’ve outlined below the essentials of a successful press conference. I beg of you to ask yourself one question before even starting. Is the news worthy of a press conference? Is what you’re announcing really an announcement? And will you be offering something that the media can only get at that time (e.g., an important speaker or visual)? If the answer is “yes,” then you’re ready to start planning. If not, perhaps consider strategic media pitching of the news instead.
PREPARATION IS KEY
- The Invite: You need a brief, engaging piece (a media advisory) that states: what, who, when, where and why. Be sure you just tease the information and leave the reporter wanting more. Giving away too much information will of course eliminate the need for the journalist to leave their office!
- More “Meat” to the Story: Do you need to create a full press kit or will a press release suffice? You’ll at least want to draft a press release that contains the pertinent details; provide this (and any photos) to journalists after the press conference has concluded.
- The Visual Story: Be sure you have backdrops, signage and props that tell “the story” without any words or captions necessary. Remember: a press conference is an event and an event is visual. Giant scissors for a ribbon cutting? Branded hardhats for a ground-breaking? Check and check.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
- Day of the Week: On Mondays, journalists are busy catching up on the weekend’s top news stories (and maybe they aren’t in the office on Sunday for a reminder from you). On Friday afternoons, they’re usually wrapping up for the week and planning weekend stories.
- Tick Tock: Consider deadlines for morning, midday and evening news. If you hold a press conference at 4 p.m., journalists are going to be really pressed given their deadlines for the 5 or 5:30 p.m. news. A morning or midday press conference will give journalists time to write/package the story that day, getting you MORE coverage.
- Location, Location, Location: Your location should serve as a visual extension of your announcement. Does your location link to/represent your announcement? Make sure there’s good lighting and ample space for both speakers and media personnel plus their equipment.
REIGN IN THE RAMBLERS
- Keep it Short. A journalist’s time is valuable. They want to get the story and get out. A mere 2-3 minutes per speaker is ideal.
- Narrow it Down. It’s not necessary to have the entire C-suite speak on one topic (although they may want to). Instead, stick to 1-2 executives who represent the organization well and (if possible) one dignitary or community leader.
- Talking Points. Be sure your speakers aren’t only equipped with their speeches during the press conference, but also prepared to answer questions from the media afterwards.
It may not always be possible to control every detail of a press conference, but it’s important to control the elements you can to make up for the uncertainties. Still feeling overwhelmed? Not a problem. You’ve got experts right at your fingertips. Pivot PR is here to make your next press conference a success.
As we enter the holiday season, I thought now would be a great time to address “corporate” giving. Many organizations have the best intentions to support their community, but not always sure how to make the biggest impact. I’m providing three tips that your business may consider when choosing a charity to make the process as easy as shopping for your family and friends.
1. Give to Those Who Matter to You
You wouldn’t normally give a gift to someone across town that you don’t know, right? Take into consideration what you and your employees care about and if the organization’s mission aligns well with your business. You’ll feel better about it and be more engaged with what you’re doing.
2. It’s Not How Much You Spend
Like me, I’m sure when you’re shopping you take actual cost into consideration, but what’s more important is making sure it’s something they value. By donating things like your time, expertise, connections and passion you may be able to make a bigger contribution than you think. It’s not always about a large financial contribution or sponsorship from you alone.
3. Tell the Rest of the Family
When I give mom that bracelet she always wanted I make sure my dad and brother know about it! Many businesses do not like to highlight their community relation efforts for fear of bragging. Nonsense! By showing that your organization is a good community steward, and getting others involved, you are also bringing awareness to the charity, which will only encourage others to give; win-win!
BONUS: Here is an opportunity for you and your executives to put these tips to good use. I will be participating in the Queen City Corporate Challenge, and if this is a good opportunity for you company, I would be honored if you joined me. Please let me know if you’re interested.
Hospitality House of Charlotte is a unique organization that provides the comforts of home for families of seriously ill loved ones by offering affordable accommodations in the heart of Charlotte’s medical community. Learn more about the Queen City Corporate Challenge here: http://www.firstgiving.com/29382/2016-queen-city-corporate-challenge.
I recently had a chance to sit down with my long-time friend and former colleague Katie McKiever, who is now the Social Media Manager at WBTV (the local CBS affiliate). We all think about anchors and reporters at news stations but do you also consider those behind the scenes as well? What about the marketing and communication staff? I wanted to take a peek behind the curtain to see how Katie and her colleagues help WBTV be “on your side.” Spoiler alert: she offers some great pitching tips too (so be sure to make it to the end).
Q: Katie! It’s been years since we last sat in a newsroom together as Business Wire employees. Your role here is much different from what it was back then; tell me about it.
A: I love this job! As the social media manager I’m a part of the digital department, but I support three distinct areas–marketing, digital and TV.
Q: I think our readers understand TV and digital, but explain how you support marketing.
A: We ourselves are a brand. Of course our viewers are looking for the news that we cover, but we’ve got to make sure to do a good job of bringing awareness to WBTV too — whether that’s promoting one of our shows or anchors. It’s an interesting side to the job that most don’t necessarily think of.
Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other Charlotte TV stations from a social perspective?
A: Of course they’re doing social too, but what I think sets us apart is our voice. There may be similarities in the channels we use (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest) but it’s how we speak to and resonate with our audience.
Q: Are you in charge of all employee channels or just the WBTV News and @KatieMcKiever?
A: Our anchors, reporters and everyone else handle their own social accounts, but I’m here for guidance, coaching, providing updated information on how to use things like Twitter Polls, the appropriate timing to post, etc. I help them to be more strategic.
Q: Can people pitch you directly or does it have to go through others in the newsroom first?
A: Yes. Definitely pitch me! Sometimes I get information that I know won’t be a good fit for TV, but I know it will be well received from our social media followers and website audience. I get pitched all the time and I can send it to the right producers that might end up running with it on TV. Just depends on the news. Sometimes it’s right for social, sometimes our website and sometimes TV. I’ve developed a good feel for where things should be placed.
Q: Tell me the value of digital and how it has grown.
A: We can include so much more content on our website and social channels than we ever could on TV. Because we’re a TV station first, our digital platforms are sometimes considered secondary, but we have a large digital audience that continues to grow. The great thing about digital is that a lot of it is trackable. We have hard numbers and analytics behind every platform. It’s nice how our website and social channels feed off of each other; a good chunk of our website traffic comes from our social media.
Q: I see you recently created a hashtag #WBTVandME. Tell me more about it.
A: We created #WBTVandME as a way to connect with the community. People can use that hashtag when they’re out and about, especially at events, when they want to share something visual with us. Not only does it serve as a platform for us to share, but people can use it to pitch us as well! We may pick it up on our website or in a newscast too. It’s a great way for people to connect with us and vice versa.
Q: Do you ever do just social posts or does it have to tie to a digital story?
A: Sometimes we’ll post things just on social, but for the most part we’ll lead them back to a digital story.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the average PR, marketing or small business owner in Charlotte?
A: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to ask people for pictures. Please send at least one picture with your pitch especially if it’s a pitch to a digital/social reporter. Even if it’s just a logo or an event flier, I’ll take it. The more pictures the merrier! We do not like to post stories on our social media channels or our website without a photo and/or video. So send me as much as possible. Don’t forget to include your social handles on things like news releases. Get creative with your subject lines. Use a compelling quote! Grab my attention and make me want more. There’s a fine line between teasing a reporter and getting their attention or just being silly.
Q: What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: I love all the Charlotte-centric information and how much everyone here loves Charlotte and this community. Sometimes I think the media gets a bad reputation, but I think WBTV does a great job of knowing when to draw the line and when not to get too flashy or sensationalize things. There’s a magic to television that’s still really fun. I catch myself watching in awe all the time.
A big thanks to Katie for talking with me. We encourage you to connect with her and WBTV on the following social channels:
WBTV Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wbtvnews3
WBTV Twitter: @WBTV_News
WBTV Instagram: @WVTV_News
To many, media relations is as perplexing as complex algorithms. Some are so skeptical, they view practitioners as snake oil salespeople. To demystify the practice, let’s walk through some common misperceptions. To first ground us, let’s start with a definition. Per Wikipedia, “Media relations involves working with media for the purpose of informing the public of an organization’s mission, policies and practices in a positive, consistent and credible manner.” Now on to what media relations does not equal …
Media Relations ≠Public Relations
The Public Relations Society of America describes public relations as “… a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Public relations is comprised of several areas, such as the following: community relations, employee relations, event promotion, investor relations and public affairs. Content creation, sponsorships and speaking engagements can also fall in the realm of public relations. The bottom line: public relations is not just media relations. It’s much more.
Media Relations ≠ Advertising
By pitching a story idea to the media, practitioners are able to secure earned media. The earned media could be a print or online article, TV or radio interview/segment or a blog post. This earned media is not an advertisement. An advertisement is paid for by the company or brand and guaranteed. The beauty of media relations is the third party credibility conveyed to your company. Ask yourself: do you put more stock in flashy advertisements or an article you read from a credible news source? However, coverage secured via media relations is not guaranteed as it is at the discretion of the reporter and/or editor regarding if, when and how the news is covered.
Media Relations ≠Free
This is where folks get confused. Per my section above, earned media isn’t paid media. In fact, don’t ever offer journalists money. But, the myriad tactics required to secure earned media aren’t free. Sound media relations requires strategic thinking, creative ideas, outreach and follow-up – all of this takes time. Lots of time. And time in media relations is how practitioners earn a living. Also, there are many tactics such as media tours, mailings, spokesperson out-of-pocket costs, media events, etc. that may be costly. In short, you don’t pay for the placement itself but the work that goes into securing the placement. With the exorbitant cost of advertising, you almost always come out ahead with media relations (and the credibility factor is honestly priceless).
Media Relations ≠ Press Release
A press release is one vehicle to inform the media of company news (e.g., a new product, an event, an opening, etc.). However, a well-crafted media relations strategy should include a pitch angle to accompany the press release that gives the journalist you are pitching context and/or the “so what” to the news and/or information that places your company’s news within a larger story. Some of my best media placements have been secured without a press release at all, but rather a crafty [email] pitch letter. Side note: Creating a press release when there isn’t news or simply posting a press release on a wire site (unless you’re just doing it for web reasons) will not earn your company quality news placements.
Now that you understand the “equation” of media relations (media relations = awareness and credibility for your brand or company), I hope you reach out to the team here at Pivot PR when you need some strategic media relations support!
A recent survey by the Consumer Executive Board (CEB) of 1,900 corporate decision makers found that buyers are, at a minimum, 57 percent of the way through the buying process before they contact a potential supplier. Some respondents reported being as much as 70 percent complete with the decision-making process before reaching out to a vendor. What does this mean for you? If your company is one that continues to solely pump out case studies and product literature, you’re missing your opportunity to actually influence and/or connect with your buyer. Yes – we live in a culture of “selfie” photos and can even subconsciously become focused on ourselves, our products and our business. To survive, you must be buyer-centric versus company-centric. (To really make my point, let me ask you this — do you unfollow the person that exclusively posts selfies?)
There are multiple guides, books and webinars out there that detail how to map the buyer journey and then align content and communications channels with that journey. There isn’t enough room in this blog to detail the full process. But, I hope this post can serve as a catalyst for you to explore your content strategy. Here’s your gut check. I’ve included below a couple of examples of the type of content that would be appropriate for each phase of the buyer journey. Keep in mind that the vehicles can cross over between phases; this is just a loose guide. Do you have any content listed in the awareness and consideration phases below? If your answer is “no” or “sort of,” please take action ASAP. If you’re already well on your way but are struggling with content ideas, check out Buzzsumo to see what content is trending for a topic or domain.
- White paper
- Editorial article
- Email newsletter
- White paper (solution comparison)
- Vendor/product comparison
- Case study
- Trial/software download
- Product literature
It’s okay to have some “selfies”; just be sure to insert some group, community or lifestyle photos too. The good news is that there are plenty of resources out there to guide you through this process. And, even better news, your friends at Pivot PR do somersaults of excitement over this entire process – from buyer persona creation and buyer journey mapping all the way down to creating the content. Always feel free to reach out for our help.
Based on our experiences in the corporate world, we’ve found that the fire drills and hustle and bustle that keep you crazed during the year tend to slow down in the summer. After you take a vacation or two, be sure to use the time to clean house and get things in order so that you’re ready to go full force again in the fall.
1. Message Strategy: If someone asked you for your elevator pitch in an actual elevator, would you have the perfect 15-second answer? Would your co-worker have the same response? What about your website copy, marketing collateral or sales presentations? Are those pieces littered with industry jargon? Can you explain why you are really different or do you sound just like all of your competitors? One of the first things we do with our clients is to conduct deep-dive interactive sessions to develop buyer personas and the corresponding message strategy. This exercise forces an organization to rethink its positioning, key messages, supporting points and the right answers for those tough questions.
2. Editorial & Content Calendars: Have you pulled the latest editorial calendars of your most targeted media outlets? Whether it’s a long-lead trade or consumer publication, be sure to plan ahead or you’ll miss out! Also, don’t forget about that list of awards you’ve been meaning to expand (or the award to which you’ve been wanting to apply). Once completed with this work, create your annual content calendar to align with your media opportunities.
3. Media List Refresh: Is your media list all-inclusive and up-to-date? Doubt it. If you aren’t subscribing to a media database, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and take the time to research online and/or pick up the phone and cross-check your contacts. Keep in mind: news rooms have a revolving door. If you updated a list a month ago even, it’s probably already outdated.
4. Monitoring: We at Pivot recommend regularly monitoring industry news so you can stay up-to-date on topics that matter the most. You can use Muck Rack to see previous articles written by journalists for free.
5. Crisis Planning: Although some organizations are more susceptible to crisis than others, every business has the potential for a crisis situation. Be sure to think through the most common scenarios and plan your communications thoroughly both internally and externally. Crisis communications is absolutely the last place you want to wing.
Of course you know you should be doing all of the above, but the question is are you really going to? If you need experts who can take all of this work off of your hands, Pivot PR is here to help!
As most of you have probably noticed, we at Pivot PR have turned the tables on journalists and interviewed several highly influential media figures in Charlotte over the past year. We’ve spoken to folks in television, print, radio and online (including bloggers). Heck, we even interviewed the mayor! Why? Because relationships matter. And, the media landscape is changing so quickly, media list services like Cision can’t stay up-to-date.
So my question to you is, do you have a media list? Meaning, even if you crafted the perfect press release or pitch letter, or had an amazing story to tell, would you know who to send it to? It’s more difficult than one would think. Quick, who’s the leading beat reporter for your industry at The Charlotte Observer? Do you know the producer for WBTV’s 6 a.m. weekday show? How about the editor-in-chief for the hottest daily newsletter or blog in town?
If you’re not sure, don’t fret. We can help you target the right people to gain positive media coverage, ultimately driving awareness and new customers to your business. Keep in mind: creating media materials that don’t get coverage is a waste of your time, and bombarding the wrong journalists with your news will just get you blacklisted.
ShopTalk is The Charlotte Observer’s weekly small business section designed to educate and connect the Charlotte community. The print version is published every Wednesday, and in conjunction with its blog, can be found online here. To learn more here’s a Q&A we did with reporter Jonathan McFadden…
Thanks for meeting with us, Jonathan! Tell us more about your role with The Obsever, specfically ShopTalk. I am the reporter, I do a lot of writing, video and help to maintain the blog. I also help out by contributing to daily business stories. I’ve been at The Charlotte Observer for eight months now and I’m really enjoying it.
To you, what’s the main purpose of ShopTalk? I would say the purpose is to provide tools, give advice, and show what others are doing – either to replicate or to avoid.
I noticed you do conferences and after hours events. Can you elaborate? Yes. We’re responsible for all the planning of those, which keep us busy. We’re in charge of finding the venue, conducting rehearsals, moderating, and interviewing panelists beforehand to provide takeaways to attendees.
What should folks keep in mind while pitching you? I get a crazy amount of pitches a day. It’s hard to give specific criteria to use because I usually find something good in each pitch. Definitely make sure each pitch is personable and compelling. We get a ton of stuff outside of Charlotte, which we don’t want, so it doesn’t hurt to put Charlotte in the subject line. Also, don’t get frustrated if we don’t run with your story right away. You could very well be on my radar and we might do something down the line when it makes more sense or I could tie it to a bigger story.
What kind of stories to you personally enjoy doing? I love the rags to riches or struggle stories — ones that are born out of frustration are particularly interesting to me.
Define small business. SBA says 500 employees or less, but sometimes we make exceptions. Be ready to disclose revenue and, yes, we usually share that information because it’s relevant. It’s an indicator of your success and provides a metric to our readers.
What about the ShopTalk Blog? It’s great because print is once a week, so a daily blog allows us to cover many more stories than we could otherwise.
What issues would you like to write more about? I’m Interested in getting more into public policy issues for small business. There’s a lot happening in the state house regarding taxes. Hopefully we can tap into that a bit more in the future. The state of entrepreneurship is also of interest to me as there are behind the scenes things to consider. For example, getting capital is difficult here. I know people are working to change that.
Is there collaboration between ShopTalk and business beat reporters? I have a meeting every Monday morning with my editor, but everyone has their own sub-beats under the “business” umbrella. All-in-all there is a lot of communication with each other and we help each other out. It could be as simple as passing something along you know is appropriate for your colleague. With a really big story, there are times where everybody pitches in and helps out with it.
How do you conduct your research? My main sources are trade association reports, industry experts and online research; we also have a researcher on staff. Sometimes I use social media and the Better Business Bureau is helpful. I cast a wide net. It’s important to substantiate legitimacy of our sources.
What else should our readers know or do? Tell your story. I’ll get it out of you, but it’s helpful that when you know you’ve got something compelling, tell it! Don’t bury it. I understand there can be things you don’t want out there, a tragedy or something horrible that has happened to you, but others can learn from it! I want the story behind the story. If you’re working with a public relations agency, make sure they drive it home too. Don’t use industry jargon. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter! @JmcfaddenObsBiz
A special thanks to Ted Williams for this article in Charlotte Agenda….
As a digital media guy, I was invited to a special “media event” before the Ritz opened the Punch Room Room (outstanding spot, by the way). I looked around the room on the 18th floor and noticed a bunch of people that didn’t look like traditional media people. I was the nerdiest one there (I constantly tuck in my shirt and wear a Brooks Brothers non-iron).
I thought Heidi (amazing lady that runs the Ritz’s Sales and Marketing team) made a mistake along with her PR agency by not inviting media folks.
Then it hit me. How does the Ritz Punch Room audience consume media? In nerd talk, what media influences this target audience’s discretionary spending? It’s Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. I’m not cool enough to snapchat, but I cyber stalked many of the attendees on Instagram. Sure enough, they had large, engaged followings.
Communications is getting it’s face ripped off. The change is intense. The opportunity is intense.
This doesn’t mean that traditional media awareness and coverage is ineffective. You’ll rarely find a person who believes more in the power of print or long form video than I. But, it does mean that communications will become a priority for senior management teams.
In my opinion, Charlotte PR firms are pivoting and will continue to pivot. Don’t be fooled, this is a huge market because business owners, GMs and marketing directors need partners to help them navigate the new media world and find their authentic voice (sounds like cheesy marketing speak, but it’s true).
Leader: Drew Porcello, President/CEO
Key Clients: Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, AvidXchange, Le Meridien
Stats: <10 employees | LinkedIn | Site
Special thanks to Abby Miressi, who wrote a great piece on Pivot PR found here.
Thanks for meeting with us, Rick! So you’ve been with Charlotte magazine since 1995. Tell us about your journey to publisher. At that point we were more or less a new magazine. We had just purchased the name Charlotte magazine and that was pretty much it – we started over from scratch. Essentially, I was the guy that did the stuff that needed to be done. I went from editorial assistant to assistant editor to associate editor all before first issue. I was on the editorial side for 18 years—15 as editor—before moving to publisher in January 2013.
Do you like editorial or publishing better? They are very different and I enjoy them both. It’s pretty rare to go into the business side with that much experience in editorial. The role is usually filled from the sales side. When the opportunity was presented to me, I asked a colleague at another city magazine (who had gone from editor to publisher) and he said, “It’s all one hat. Just think about the long term vision of the magazine.”
What is your long term vision for the magazine? We will continue to find ways to grow and connect with our audience, and continue to do what we do, but do it even better. It’s important for us to have a direct relationship with our audience and cultivate it through storytelling. From an advertising perspective, we’re selling exclusive access to our audience, and it’s exciting because some of those opportunities don’t even exist yet. Just think about what we’re doing now that didn’t even exist five years ago. The important thing for us to always keep in mind is why we’re doing it in the first place.
How have things changed given the technology and social media aspect of publishing? We’re doing a whole lot more, and we’re doing it faster. Even three years ago all you could really do was buy an ad. Now you can sponsor an event, sponsor our newsletter, advertise on our website, create a social campaign, etc. There are a lot of different ways to connect with people. All are content-based but each has to be rooted in connecting with our audience so we ensure we’re serving the reader.
We were an early adopter of Twitter. Events have become popular. Our Best of the Best (BOB Awards) event has grown by 100 people each year over the past several years – 750 came last year. The Charlottean of the Year Award (which debuted in December 2014) came out of editorial. We did it because we saw a need to recognize the people that are making our city better, and we thought the city magazine should be the one to do it. We solicited nominations from the community and from community leaders then our editorial board made the final decision.
Tell us a little more about earned media opportunities available? I’ll be honest, when I was editor, a PR person said to me once, “You’re the hardest publication in the state to get into.” I took that as compliment. We work so hard to service our readers. We’re a monthly so there’s not a lot of space, and it’s not all that often a press release finds its way in our magazine. However, for example, if we’re doing a story on hamburgers and we receive a press release about a new restaurant specializing in burgers, it makes us aware and that restaurant may get included.
Securing placement in our magazine really takes an understanding of what we’re trying to do, who we’re trying to reach and the exact type of story we’re looking for. It’s helpful if someone external provides a different angle to an existing trend we’re covering. That’s because we really try to do stories that nobody else is doing and we don’t typically cover something that’s already been covered.
Understanding you’re a long lead magazine, how far out are you planning? Our April issue is going to print now and it was fully assigned 3-4 weeks ago. A lot of our features and longer pieces are over four months out. Our covers, at least the concepts, have been decided over a year in advance.
What about your blogs? Is there an opportunity to cover things you wouldn’t in print? Do they provide an opportunity to cover stories faster? Yes; our blogs are becoming more of the place where we can get out in front of things and be the first with news. Our bloggers get direct pitches. They are looking for content more often, but we make sure they’re quality. We try to take the time to interview folks and come up with interesting and unique angles. Those blog posts are the ones that get the most traffic.
Do you feel like you have competition? That depends on if you ask account reps or editorial staff! When you think about it, we’re really just competing for people’s time. We do things that no one else is doing, or in a very different manner, so we’re not worried as much about what our competition might do. We just do what we do.
Your mantra is connecting with readers so if you had one thing to tell them what would it be? We’re trying to create a great magazine experience. You will find things in our pages you won’t find anywhere else – online, social and print. Our stories are as good as or better than anything you’ll read in the country. That’s why they get picked up and shared nationally through publications like the New York Times and BuzzFeed.
We recently had a chance to sit down with Kevin Pitts, publisher of the Charlotte Business Journal. The focus was to get a better understanding of their awards programs: Advanced Manufacturing, 40 Under 40, Women in Business, Business Person of the Year, CIO of the Year, CFO of the Year and Healthiest Employer of the Year.
Thank you for meeting with us, Kevin. What is the CBJ’s goal when doing awards?
We want to be the provider of the most credible recognition. We want business people to think, “Of all the awards I qualify for in Charlotte, this is the one I want!” We also want to paint a picture of what success looks like, and share best practices.
I noticed that different programs require different selection processes. Tell us the reasoning for that.
You’re correct. All have different models. For example, 40 Under 40 and Women In Business are nomination driven. We crowd source nominations, then our newsroom will pull together all of that information and research, boil down and select the winners.
We do partner with a third party research company for programs like Best Places to Work. They develop a workplace engagement survey each year that measures employment engagement, then it goes through a modeling process, gives a score and ranks and indexes versus the best-of-best throughout the country. It’s not just local- that way we know where we compare on a national level.
The Advanced Manufacturing Awards are handled by an industry-specific judging panel in the area, who really focus on what the nominees have done to advance manufacturing in our region.
Lastly, we may partner with industry associations to help us make our selections for programs like CIO and CFO of The Year.
Tell us what’s most important when nominating someone. Also, what about the number of nominations a person receives?
It really comes down to the quality of the nomination. The thing we look at first and foremost is business accomplishments and contributions they’ve made to the business community. That’s it — that’s king — the main focus of all programs. It’s not a matter of how long the nomination is, how many nominations or how influential the nominator is. Your nomination should explain very clearly which business accomplishments are germane to the particular awards program. Don’t get me wrong, multiple nominations are fine, but make sure it adds context and a different perspective. If each brings something different to the table, then that’s great.
Can you give us some Do’s and Don’ts?
Skip the fluff! Any accomplishments that can be quantified, such as sales and growth, really strengthen the individual’s case. Also, you’ll typically need to be in Charlotte for a reasonable period of time- at least 2-3 years. Remember, business accomplishments are what this truly boils down to. The community involvement piece is important, but don’t forget about industry associations, and how the nominee works to advance their industry. There’s a lot of wonderful people out there but, it’s not a popularity contest.
Does Size of the organization matter?
Irrelevant. If you look at our class each year you’ll see a good mix. I love to see nominations from entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Any final thoughts?
I like a good party! Every company has a personality. When it comes to marketing, I’ll over simplify it by saying print is about reputation management, digital is transactional and events are about who you are and engaging with others. These types of events and recognitions humanize companies and their people.
As you know, Mayor Daniel (Dan) Clodfelter was appointed Mayor of Charlotte back in April. Since he has had some time to settle into his role, we thought it’d be a great time to pick his brain a little and learn more about him. Here’s what Mayor Clodfelter had to say…
What are the key areas you’re concentrating on to better Charlotte? How did you choose them?
At present, I’m interested in three broad themes. One focuses on how we can continue to diversify our local economy and build a strong infrastructure to support entrepreneurial enterprises in our City, especially for businesses that emphasize innovative products and services. A second theme centers on strengthening regional partnerships with surrounding cities and counties, with a view toward developing ways to address challenges on a regional basis even when the State government is unable to do so on a statewide basis. A third area involves my longstanding interest in building and supporting strong neighborhoods that are resistant to social and physical decay and that can serve as the focal points for delivery of city services and programs. I believe all three of these are critical for Charlotte to be and to remain a resilient and adaptable City in the decades ahead of us.
What is one thing you want Charlotteans to know about you?
I think I became a “Charlottean” many years ago as a student at Davidson College and long before I finally settled here. I love the sense of pride that people have for this city and how they back it up with an incredible willingness to roll up their sleeves and go to work whenever there is a challenge or an opportunity confronting the community.
How do you balance your role as an attorney with that of the mayor?
Balancing my law practice with the role of mayor has its challenging moments, but I’ve found a system that works well. Certain days are blocked off entirely for the city, and other days I devote entirely to the law practice. I continue to believe there is value in having people serve in elected office who also maintain a work life that is not dependent on political involvement. I find that combination helps me keep a more balanced perspective on “things political.”
You’re coming up on six months as Charlotte mayor. What have you learned about working with the local media?
There are many more influencers on media and reporting than when I served on city council in the 1990s. Deadlines are tighter, the 24 hour news cycle never stops, and social media plays a major role now in shaping stories and news reports. I encourage reporters to grab me when I am out and about at different events, or if I’m already scheduled to attend some occasion or speak to some group. That may be the easiest way to catch me. Of course, they can always contact my office to request an interview, and I will do my best to make myself available to them.
If marketing/communications professionals would like you to attend their event, what do they need to do?
Please make initial contact with Peggy Huffman (email@example.com), who handles scheduling for the Mayor’s office. When sending an email, I recommend attaching background or a press kit on your company/organization so that I can fully understand your mission, goals, etc. While I wish I could participate in all of your events, unfortunately my schedule won’t always allow it. It’s best to submit your event request with as much advance notice as possible to increase the likelihood of my being able to participate. Mondays and Tuesdays are typically the best days for my schedule. If I’m unable to attend, we may have the opportunity to send someone else to represent the Mayor’s office.
We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t ask. Do you intend on running in 2015?
At this time I haven’t made a definite decision as to whether or not I will run for election in 2015. I’m mainly focused on doing the job at hand, working with the City Council to articulate its collective vision for the City, and the community’s vision for itself. I’m trying to keep a sense of how the Council and community feel about the work I’m doing, and I’ll settle on a decision at a time a little closer to the filing period.
We would like to give a special thanks to Ashley Simmons, the press secretary for the office of the mayor, for facilitating our Q&A with Mayor Clodfelter.
Join us as we kick off TWO new things in Charlotte. #1: a brand new special interest group – CAMAComm and #2: a unique all-in-one trio in South End. Enjoy some craft beer and tasty bar bites while getting to know other communication professionals, share best practices (and war stories), and just have fun!
Why? Because it’s new. You’re a trend setter. You want to be “in the know.”
November 12, 2014
Craft Tasting Room & Growler Shop
What is CAMAComm?
Presented by Pivot PR, CAMAComm is American Marketing Association’s newest small group series targeting marketers in the communications field who specialize in marketing communications, communications and/or public relations. We’re the ones that create and execute a strategy utilizing written and verbal communications for a brand or company (or at an agency). We serve as the “voice,” ensuring all communications — from websites and social media to collateral and media materials — align with overall brand/company strategy. If this sounds like you, please join us.
On our agency’s one year anniversary, I’m very proud to introduce you to our next brainchild, Charlotte Media Exchange (CMX). Powered by Pivot PR, CMX is a communications platform designed for marketing professionals, subject matter experts and media to connect on hyperlocal stories in Charlotte.
You are interested in getting your company more media exposure, right? Well, here’s your chance! If you’d like to position yourself or your colleagues as experts available for interview, or receive inquiries from the local media, sign up below. It’s free!
If you’re a Pivot PR client you’ll find yourself already listed and we’ll be monitoring for you. CMX is yet another perk of working with us. But, for those of you who are not clients be sure to set, “My Alerts” so you’ll receive all appropriate media opportunities via email, based on your preferences.
There is nothing else like this in Charlotte. With your help I believe CMX has the potential to change how media relations is done in this town. Enjoy. And, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in making CMX even better!