Q&A w/ Alicia Thomas

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  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...

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Navigating the Rough Waters of Crisis Communications

Posted by on 4:28 pm in Blog | 0 comments

  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...

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Now Hiring: Vice President

Posted by on 2:09 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Summary  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.    Responsibilities  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  Qualifications  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    Compensation  This is a six-figure opportunity dependent upon experience and profit sharing. 15-days PTO.   ...

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Q&A w/ Work For Your Beer

Posted by on 2:05 pm in Blog | 0 comments

  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...

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Q&A w/ Charlotte Lately

Posted by on 3:27 pm in Blog | 0 comments

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...

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Q&A w/ Queen City Weekend

Posted by on 4:18 pm in Blog | 0 comments

  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 Don’t forget to use our hashtag...

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Q&A w/ CLT Blogger Laura Leigh Elliott

Posted by on 5:36 pm in Blog | 0 comments

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...

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Q&A w/ WCNC’s Lifestyle Reporter

Posted by on 7:31 pm in Blog | 0 comments

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...

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Q&A w/ The Charlotte Observer’s Food Editor

Posted by on 7:32 pm in Blog | 0 comments

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...

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Q&A w/ CBJ’s Caroline Hudson

Posted by on 3:34 pm in Blog | 0 comments

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...

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