Monday, December 20, 2010

Products that Perk Up the Holidays

Each year, millions of television viewers eagerly anticipate Oprah’s “Favorite Things,” Ellen’s “12 Days of Giveaways,” and Rachael Ray’s “Faves.”

How do these busy hosts learn about the year’s hottest new gadgets and gizmos? As you know, often from PR pros! Unlike paid television product placements, audience giveaways are a popular way to build excitement for products and brands, obtain valuable third-party endorsements and boost sales and exposure for companies. Here are some tips from my experiences in coordinating and preparing for TV audience giveaways:
  • Recon, Research and Report – Before you begin a pitch, thoroughly research the shows you are targeting and the giveaway segments they offer. Identify the right product placement coordinator or producer and begin a conversation by asking lots of questions to obtain details about their giveaway process.

  • Be Prepared – While coordinating a past giveaway of the Eureka Envirovac vacuum cleaner for “Ellen’s Earth Day” special, not only were more than 400 vacuums shipped to the studio in a week’s time, but a Eureka representative also was sent to California to oversee the display that was created. Make sure that a large quantity giveaway on very short notice would be possible for your client. Most shows require a large product donation, usually between 100 or 450 of whatever you want to give away. Many also allow you to visit the set to arrange your own display, but will need you to travel there on very short notice. Still others require product be sent to invididual audience members after the show if your product is too large to carry.

  • Secure a Spot – Aside from the product’s performance, giving producers a 100 percent product commitment in your pitch tends to put it ahead of the pack when it comes to selecting giveaway items. Negotiations with producers also are common, especially when it comes to incorporating product benefits and features on-air. Don’t be afraid to secure the best positioning or prominent product points – after all, you and your client know the product best.

  • Piggyback your Pitch – Piggybacking off your success in landing a placements in Every Day with Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart Living or O, the Oprah Magazine is a natural way to propose a giveaway to their corresponding shows. During a past holiday season, I coordinated a giveaway for a Snow Joe snow thrower on the “Rachael Ray” show in conjunction with the product’s appearance in the December magazine issue.

When the time is right and you have the perfect product to pitch, it all comes down to researching the right opportunity, preparing in advance and managing the process. Once you hear the roar of cheers and applause on TV as your product is rolled out, you’ll know that all of the preparation was well worth the effort.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Blank Slate: Considerations for a Strong Start

In my last post I talked about the who, what, when, where and why of PR writing. Once those questions have been answered, you should have a pretty good idea of how best to approach your writing project. Ideally, you may even have a lead and/or headline in mind. To put yourself in an even better position for a smooth writing process, consider the following:
  • Is there inherent news or do you need to create news? If the latter, consider gathering primary or secondary research to help substantiate your news. Media love statistics and numbers can help get your news noticed.

  • Will a straight-forward commercial approach work? To avoid turning off media with an overly commercial pitch, try tying your message to a current event or relevant trend and support it with compelling tips or insight that media will want to share with their audience.

  • Will a one-size-fits-all approach suffice? Or, are you better off customizing your writing and approach for different audiences?

Finally, don’t be afraid to have a little fun! To make your writing more memorable, look for opportunities to throw in some creative flair in the form of alliteration, pop culture references, famous sayings, catch phrases or quotes, even song lyrics – anything that might jump off the page and stick in the minds of the reader.

Starting anything from scratch is an adventure, and PR writing is no exception. But, over the years, I have found that just a few minutes of strategic forethought can save considerable time and money – not to mention one’s sanity – and make the writing process easier, more enjoyable and more effective. Good luck and happy writing!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action! Tips for a “Rockin’” Satellite Media Tour

Satellite Media Tours (SMTs) are a popular public relations tool for reaching broadcast media – and for good reason. A well-executed SMT can provide wide exposure for a client in a relatively short period of time. An SMT typically involves offering a celebrity, expert or company spokesperson for remote one-on-one interviews with television stations. The back-to-back interviews are conducted via satellite.

I recently helped coordinate an SMT for one of our home industry clients – starting with the initial concept and taking it through to successful completion. Here are a few things I learned along the way to make the most of an SMT:
  • Think Outside the Studio: Most SMTs are shot on a nondescript studio set – but who says that has to be the case? If the subject matter lends itself to a more interesting location, go for it! For our client Trex®, which manufactures wood-alternative decking and railing, we broadcasted live from a beautiful outdoor deck made of Trex materials – enabling us to showcase our client’s product in a more natural and interesting setting.
  • Switch the Pitch: What interests the media can vary from week to week. When our initial pitch to media wasn’t generating the response we wanted, we tried a few different angles until we found the one that created a high level of interest. Ask colleagues who aren’t so closely entrenched for ideas, and don’t overlook the expertise of your spokesperson, who may have an interesting perspective.
  • Pitch the Person, Not the Product: The key to a successful SMT is to remember that you are pitching a person – not a product. Play up the aspects of your spokesperson that make him or her unique. Is it his or her experience? Quirky sense of humor? Style? Our Trex spokesperson was a decking expert – who also played in a rock band. We were able to position his “rock n’ roll” approach to outdoor deck planning for a more quirky story.
  • Keep it Simple: Simplify key messages so your spokesperson can put them in his or her own words and incorporate them into a variety of answers – no matter what question is asked. Complicated key messages will make your spokesperson sound robotic and likely lead to shortened interviews.
  • Caffeinate: Conducting 5, 10 or even 15 interviews in a row can get repetitious for even the best spokesperson, and early morning start times don’t make it any easier. Keep your spokesperson fresh by scheduling breaks and offering plenty of coffee and encouragement!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Secret to Client/Agency Success

Earlier this month, LCWA marked its 25th anniversary. One reason for our longevity? We strive to create partnerships with our clients. When that happens, nearly every public relations program succeeds. An equal partnership that fosters mutual trust, respect and creativity produces the best work. Under this arrangement, there is an absence of fear and intimidation. The agency can freely make recommendations and even take some risks, which often produce better results.

How are such partnerships established? From the agency side, we must:

  • Get immersed in and excited about the client’s business and products. Fully understand marketing messages, target audiences and the best communications methods to employ. Learn industry jargon and corporate idiosyncrasies.

  • Keep agency top management involved and “on the account.”

  • Inform the client of all activities – successes and failures, and be honest in evaluating results.

  • Be proactive in bringing new ideas to the program.

  • Act as good stewards of the client’s budget.

And clients? They must:

  • Share information about marketing and other corporate goals, messages and target audiences.

  • Involve the agency in communication planning.

  • Invite the agency team to participate in sales meetings and attend industry trade shows.

  • Provide ready access to top management and key staff.

  • Have realistic expectations and set realistic deadlines.

  • Treat agency people as part of the team.

Yes, these guidelines are pretty straightforward. Yet, following them will go a long way toward rewarding, successful relationships.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to Enter the World of Online Contests

Online contests and sweepstakes are a great way to build excitement about your products, increase traffic to your website, boost sales and obtain valuable customer information. After coordinating several recent online contests for our client Eureka, I have amassed a few rules that should be followed when coordinating and conducting online contests:

  • Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Planning a contest can be fun, but because marketers are subject to numerous state and federal laws, there are many aspects that need careful consideration. Be sure to check with your legal team when drafting contest language, especially rules and regulations, to ensure that all guidelines are being followed. Don’t forget to secure permission from the winners to use their names and likenesses – and any other elements from the contest entries – that you may want to use in the future.
  • Know your goals. Consider the entry method when coordinating an online contest. When determining the structure of the contest, it’s important to first take a look at your goals. If the overall goal is to increase traffic to the site or spur sales, an easy entry and sweepstakes format may be best. On the other hand, asking for a tip or written essay will encourage engagement and could provide you with valuable insight and communications information.
  • Offer excitement-worthy prizes. It goes without saying that a great prize will generate excitement about the contest and the brand. Keep the value of the prize relative to the amount of effort needed to enter the contest. For example, a video contest that requires time, energy and creative skills should offer a larger prize than a sweepstakes. To offer an added incentive for entrants, offer a gift card or other monetary prize. Also, many people love to see their names publicized, so plan to post the winners’ names – and get extra attention by distributing media materials announcing the winners.
  • Incorporate the contest into other brand elements to get the word out. Use all of the tools at your disposal – from websites and consumer newsletters to press releases and social media channels to publicize the contest. Finding a way for entrants to share information about the contest through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail is a great way to build excitement and increase the number of entries. Last but not least, blogs are an effective way to spread the word – and on that note, check out the Eureka AirSpeed “Make the Switch” contest, now through Friday!

Online contests can be a great way to set your brand and product apart from the pack. Just make it fun and cover all of your bases!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

LCWA: 25 Years Strong

This month, we are celebrating our 25th anniversary. We were founded in November 1985 by Lou Williams, who set out to provide the strategic thinking and capabilities of a large agency with the personal approach and dedication of a smaller firm. I am happy to say that mission is still intact at LCWA.

During the past 25 years, the public relations agency landscape has changed dramatically because of mergers and acquisition. We are proud to have stayed independent, so that we can continue to be flexible and provide excellent service to our clients. Many of today's clients have been with us for more than a decade — and our roster still includes our very first client.

This quarter of a century also has brought remarkable change in how we communicate as people and professionals. Who would have guessed, back in the days of mail merges and typewriters, that social media would be such a big part of our lives just 25 years later?

LCWA has come a long way, and despite the obvious technological changes, the heart of what we do remains the same. Our team remains truly dedicated and invested in the companies we work with, from the newest clients to those that have been with us since the beginning. And our focus on providing excellent client service will remain, no matter what changes are in store for the next 25 years!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Honoring Milestones in Mentoring: A Celebration of Leaders

Recently, my colleagues and I were delighted to attend a very special evening put on by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Named for Chicago public relations legend, Betsy Plank, the Plank Center seeks to advance leadership values and skills in public relations and bridge the gap between education and practice.

As someone who was privileged to know Betsy late in her life and to share her passion for bringing a “real world” perspective to the teaching of public relations, I was happy to serve on the Host Committee for this very special event. Betsy’s ability to draw a crowd was evident that night, as many of the leading practitioners and educators gathered to honor some of the most worthy leaders and mentors in our profession. Proceeds from this event will be used to sponsor awards, scholarships, speaker programs, publications, workshops and symposia – continuing Betsy’s legacy for the next generation of communicators.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Blank Slate

PR writing is an art. Between giving clients what they want, impressing supervisors and of course -- delivering something newsworthy to media -- there’s a lot to think about and a lot of “masters” to serve along the way. As a result, getting started can be a challenge.

Just as a new painting starts with a blank canvas, most PR writing assignments begin with a blank page (or screen) just waiting to be filled. But, without a clear direction in mind before putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be – writers can end up confused, frustrated and wasting valuable time.

As a PR practitioner with more than 20 years of blank slates (mine and others’) under my belt, following are some tips I’ve picked up along the way for getting off on the right foot strategically and creatively when tackling pretty much any writing project.

Start with the 5Ws

We all know the 5Ws (who, what, when, where and why) of journalistic writing. However, what many PR writers don’t realize is that these same questions are the key to determining the strategic direction of any type of persuasive writing.

WHAT? What is the overall objective? What does the client want to accomplish? What is the news?

WHO? Who are you trying to reach? Also, who else will see your writing along the way (e.g., supervisors, clients, media, etc.)?

WHY? Why now? In other words, what do you want the target audience to do or think? What is the call-to-action?

WHERE? Where does your target audience go for news (magazines, newspapers, TV, online)? Having in mind the communication outlets you will be targeting can help determine what format your writing should take (e.g., press release, pitch, email, letter to the editor, etc.).

WHEN? Are there timing considerations that might impact the news or distribution strategy?

Once you've got a strong start -- there are many other issues to tackle. I'll address them in my next post!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Social Media Applications for B2B

Last month I talked about the growth of social media use in the B2B sector, and some simple steps marketers should consider when formulating a social media plan. Now – which social media tools are best to implement your plans? Here’s a hint – most don’t look much different from the social media tools you see and use every day.
  • Develop a LinkedIn account, and search for and join discussion groups in your market space. Monitor conversations and bring useful information to the discussion.
  • Create a Twitter account and follow relevant businesses, industry leaders, and/or industry competitors. Engage your followers by posting tweets and link to interesting articles, news coverage, stories about your services or products or upcoming events.
  • Establish a Facebook page so people may “fan” your company. Initiate conversations and provide pertinent information. Inform fans about your company’s involvement in community projects or organizations.
  • Start a blog and update it regularly with posts such as client case studies, product applications, industry news and trends, webinars and other content that’s relevant for your audiences.
  • Create a YouTube channel and post videos explaining how to use or repair products, or feature interviews with a top executive or customer.
Of course, keep in mind that social media is all about relationship building – developing these applications means nothing without meaningful interaction. Thus, it’s important to develop fresh and interesting content on a regular basis and share it in as many ways as you can.

Don’t miss out on these online opportunities to reach and engage with your target audiences, gain mindshare and reach potential clients!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

On-Screen Secrets: Achieving Video Success

Online video has become an important instrument in a marketer’s toolbox. With the rise of YouTube and user-generated content, companies are looking to stay relevant and find ways to infiltrate the video space.

I recently attended the “On-Screen Secrets: Achieving Video Success” webinar hosted by online video company Pixability and social media guru Peter Shankman. Here are some takeaways that many of us PR pros know, but they are great to keep top-of-mind:
  • Aways carry a good quality video or flip camera. It is important to always be ready for something eye catching while you’re walking down the street.
  • Keep your videos short and to the point. Most of the time, anything over 30 seconds will not keep your audience’s attention. If your video gets long, consider creating a series instead.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings when filming. You should control background noise and visuals, so the audience can focus on your story.
  • Play off the news. The most creative and successful videos tie to current events.
  • Post everything to YouTube. Even if you are going to host your video on your own site or Facebook page, you should always upload it to as well. YouTube is the second most used search engine!
  • Leave the end of the video hanging. A call-to-action with more information or a “finale” on your website or social media page is best, so those who are interested can find out more.
With all of the tools and advice available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. My advice? Watch, listen and learn from others.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Baby, I'm Back (With Baby!)

Thousands of women juggle families and full-time jobs every year, and now I’m one of them! Earlier this year, my husband and I welcomed a healthy baby girl into our family. I immersed myself in her care until it was time to put on my professional attire, board the commuter train and get back to the job I love.

And you know what? Going back to work – as daunting as it sounded at first – has gone great. Which brings me to a few of my “trade secrets” to a smooth and happy transition back to work:

  • Start Slow – Create a transition plan with your employer. I asked to be integrated into daily communications before my return, and then worked part time from home for the last two weeks of my leave. I also visited the office with the baby before I returned to work – allowing me to catch up with co-workers and show off my little girl before I had a to-do list to juggle. The result? I was “in the know” again and ready to go on my first day back.

  • Rehearse – The logistics of getting to work when you have a baby can be tough, with earlier mornings, less sleep and a limited wardrobe. I made it easier by “rehearsing” a couple of times before work resumed. I practiced everything: getting up, getting showered and dressed, driving to daycare and taking the train to the office. I found a few flaws in my plan and fixed them before my first day back in the office.

  • Stay Connected – Being the expert on my baby’s care was one role I was not willing to give up when I returned to work. I had lunchtime conference calls with daycare during my first week back to discuss my baby's progress, and I have my daycare provide notes on the baby’s day so I can review everything she did.

  • Embrace Support – Have a coworker who always wants a good baby story, or asks for a recent photo? Embrace the support and take five minutes to relate. Integrating your new role as a mom into your work life will make the transition easier and keep you smiling.

Lots of factors contribute to a smooth transition back to work: liking your job, getting much-needed sleep, knowing your baby is happy and finding that all important work/life balance are just a few. But there are many of us who have found success being happy, wonderful moms and successful professionals, too. Best of luck!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Using Social Media in B2B Communications

LCWA’s B2B clients are active in the social media arena, and for good reason. B2B marketers know that social media offers another way to engage with target audiences. In fact, a survey by the Association of National Advertisers and BtoB Magazine showed significant growth in the use of social marketing among B2B marketers, with 57% now using social media channels, up from just 15% in 2007. The most popular social media platforms used are LinkedIn (81%), Twitter (70%), Facebook (60%) and YouTube (49%).

Forrester Research predicts that B2B firms will spend $4.8 billion on interactive marketing in 2014, more than double the $2.3 billion estimated for 2009.  Bottom line: social media is important and here to stay, and if you aren’t engaged your company risks falling behind.

Despite this surge, experts note that more established online resources – search engines, online catalogs and websites – are still the key venues industrial audiences tap to seek suppliers, products and other work-related information. Continue to invest in these online resources while you begin to develop your B2B social media strategy.

Ready to get started in the social media realm and wondering where to begin?  The following are some tips to help any B2B company, regardless of industry, adopt a social media strategy.
  • Define your vision and establish objectives. Do you want to seek customer feedback, promote brand awareness, improve the company image, connect with a new target audience or another goal?
  • Choose a strategy that complements your existing marketing and online efforts. Your social media goals should support your overall marketing goals.
  • Explore the various social media tools to gain an understanding of how they work, and choose venues based on the time and resources available to you.
Forrester spells out these steps well in its POST (people, objectives, strategy, technology) social media methodology outlined here.

If you’re a B2B marketer, now may be just the right time to get started in the social media arena!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spokespersons 101: Selecting the Best "Face" for Your Brand

Public relations is all about creating third-party credibility – and one of the most effective ways to accomplish this goal is to work with a spokesperson.

Within the past few months, I've secured three different spokespeople on behalf of our home industry clients. Through these experiences, I’ve learned the following guidelines for picking the perfect personality to inspire trust and confidence among consumers:

  • Be budget minded. An “A-list” spokesperson can generate significant media coverage for a product or brand, but booking a big name often requires big bucks. If my budget is tight, I’ll research up-and-coming talent – perhaps someone who just landed his or her own show on the DIY Network or HGTV. This is often a win-win situation. We benefit from a dynamic spokesperson with reasonable fees, and they have the opportunity to raise their visibility.

  • Set expectations right away. When vetting potential spokespeople, it's important to be clear and specific about how you plan to use their name and likeness. If they participate in a satellite media tour, be sure to discuss if you also plan to post that footage to the client's website. If you’re going to quote them in a press release, determine if they'll also make themselves available for media interviews. By spelling out all of your needs in advance, you’ll get a better idea of what they’re willing to do within your budget limits – and you’ll avoid any surprises after the contract is already signed.

  • Consider your audience. When it comes to spokespeople, one size does not fit all... even with two projects for the same client. For a Pergo retailer event in Las Vegas, we hired professional poker player Daniel Negreanu – who we knew would be a huge draw for the largely male group. Then, when Pergo hosted a series of laminate seminars at Lowe's stores around the country, we secured home improvement personality Ron Hazelton – who is well-known and respected among do-it-yourselfers for his practical, hands-on advice.

  • Work with a trusted vendor. There are several vendors who specialize in identifying just the right spokesperson for your program or event, and these vendors often can help you to navigate the tricky process of working with agents, drawing up contracts and negotiating fees. While vendors can make things easier, remember that they will charge a mark-up for their own services – and they often have an exclusivity clause that requires that you work with them to sign any talent they research on your behalf.

  • Select a natural brand ambassador. In my opinion, the best spokespeople are those who already have knowledge of and experience with a particular product. If they possess a favorable opinion of the brand you’re asking them to promote, they “sell” it naturally to consumers – and their passion will be evident and contagious.
The bottom line is that an effective spokesperson is yet another tool in our PR arsenal, but there's much upfront work that must be done to ensure you have the best personality to represent your client.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Two for the Times

Two LCWA clients were featured in placements in today’s New York Times Home Section!

The Electrolux Ergorapido stick vacuum was highlighted as a great pick for college-bound students, including a great picture, quote from the company spokesperson and link to purchase.

In the same section, the Grohe Rainshower Collection of colorful shower heads was featured with a great picture and a mention of the pink version benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Congrats to the Electrolux and Grohe account teams for more great work!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Anybody Want Tix?

Our latest lunchtime adventure started with a simple Tweet offering tickets to a local show with: “OK, Chicago, I’ve got 10 tix – 5 pairs…meet my staff at the Bean @ 1 p.” So my co-worker Hunter and I set out for Millennium Park – just across the street from our office – to check it out. Participating taught us some dos and don’ts for this sort of crowd-gathering tactic. Here are several things to consider:
  • Don’t Be Late: The group was anxious, all keeping an eye out for the possible staffers. Just after the designated time, people got irritated and started discussing how they wanted to Tweet and thank the show for wasting their lunch break. Our learning: it’s best not to make participants wait because the meet up could backfire, resulting in negative attention.
  • Do Be Prepared: About 100 people gathered in hopes of getting tickets to the sold-out show. Twitter’s power to gather a crowd is undeniable. The word spread quickly, so ensure that you’re ready for a big turnout. Millennium Park security was on high alert – and for good reason. Also be sure that you alert the appropriate people if you’re going to stage this kind of stunt.
  • Don’t Encourage Running: We all debated how it would go down – a dance off, trivia challenge or the best sign? Suddenly, several young ladies took off their jackets to reveal matching t-shirts, creating pandemonium. Unfortunately for us, the tickets were simply awarded to the five people that pushed their way through and essentially tackled the staffers. Next time, I’d recommend a more creative way to quickly narrow down a large group and determine winners. This would make the process fair and avoid any ill will among the remaining participants.
  • Do Offer a Parting Gift: Luckily, we could fill out forms for standby tickets, hoping they’d need us as seat fillers for a different night – and they did! Offering this type of “second place” prize makes people feel like their time was not wasted and creates good feelings overall.
Overall, Twitter is a good place to get a crowd excited about an event, but just make certain that you’re prepared to handle any possible outcome!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Can Ethics in Public Relations Be Taught? You Bet It Can!

Now that the final exams are graded, I have a few moments for reflection about my experience teaching an “Ethics in Public Relations and Advertising” class at DePaul University last quarter.

Overall, there is a lack of ethics training for communicators to give them a foundation for ethical decision making. In fact, more than 70 percent of PR pros reported that they had not received any ethics training, or had seen just a cursory level, according to a survey by the Research Foundation of the Inernational Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

That’s why I’m excited to be a part of DePaul’s effort to infuse teaching on ethical decision making into every field of study. Here are some insights I’ve gained on what’s needed to tackle teaching a subject such as ethics.
  • Provide a framework for thinking through an ethical dilemma. Often, there is more than one “right” answer to an ethical question, although one choice may ultimately emerge as best course of action. Without a process for analyzing the stages of decision making and assigning appropriate weight to conflicting considerations, students and practitioners often resort to a confusing pattern of case-by-case decision making or a retreat to the legal standard as the only reliable guide.

  • Appeal to a higher ethical principle. By using a step-by-step process, we can determine whether there is an overarching ethical principle that provides a universal ground for decision making and provides a defensible way to choose between competing alternatives. A good working knowledge of the key theories of leading ethical thinkers across the ages enables students and practitioners alike to demonstrate that an ethical principle shaped their final decision.

  • Know and respect the ethical codes of the profession. The codes of our profession – Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), IABC, Word of Mouth Marketing Organization (WOMMA), American Advertising Federation (AAF), to name a few – provide a road map for students and professionals to follow. These codes provide a wealth of food for thought for anyone who is interested in the profession’s commitment to ethical practices.

At LCWA, we work hard everyday to make the right ethical decisions for our clients and our staff using these fundamental principles. We’re also committed to a process of continually learning and honing our approach to solving ethical dilemmas.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Two PR Team Additions

I’m pleased to announce the addition of two new members to our PR team!

Hunter Hackett joins LCWA as a senior account executive. He is a new addition to the Chicago PR scene, having recently relocated from Washington D.C., where he worked for a strategic communications firm. Hunter has a strong news background and started his career by working for CNN.

Lauren Platt is an account executive who joins us from a boutique Chicago agency. She has a wealth of experience working with media for home and housewares clients. Both joined LCWA in June and already are contributing great ideas and results for our clients.

Welcome, Hunter and Lauren!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Converging the Professional and the Personal in Social Media

How we brand ourselves online – both personally and professionally – is a topic I’ve been following for some time. There’s no longer a distinct separation between the two – both should show the same values and traits.

Although these aren’t the same social media guidelines I followed in college, I’m finding that there are benefits to this new way of socializing online. I still have fun with social media, but now my friend list has shifted from mostly classmates to colleagues, clients and industry peers. The best part about this is that I get to know all of these people in a completely new way -- I learn more about their personalities and what we have in common outside of work.

Now that I’m interacting on both a personal and professional level, I ask myself some basic questions to help keep my profiles in check:
  • Would I want my boss to see this? – Before I rant or rave about anything, I take a step back and ask myself if the status update, tweet or blog entry will bother anyone. I try to stick to more neutral topics so I can maintain a professional rapport and share content that helps further my image.
  • Who’s following me? – While I’m staying close to the middle of the road content-wise, I still need to be cognizant about who is paying attention to my profile. I try to share thoughts, links and multimedia that will be of interest to the bulk of people who are friends with me.
  • Is what I’m saying useful? – While social networks may have started out as a forum to just talk about ourselves, it’s evolved. I stick to the 80/20 share/self rule, which says to participate in the conversation 80% of the time, and use the other 20% to initiate dialogue. This way I keep audiences well-informed and interested in my updates.
  • Is it me? – Ultimately, social networks are a way to communicate your personality online. I make sure to show others who I am. I include my likes and dislikes to illustrate what makes me unique.
The bottom line is that even though social media is converging the social and the professional, with just a little extra thought it can be both useful and fun!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Networking Nets Results

The benefit of networking in the pursuit of new business is a topic dear to my heart. So, I was thrilled to lead the discussion on the subject at one of the recent “Brown Bags” we regularly conduct for staff during lunch on issues related to PR agency practices and business operations.

As an avid aficionado of alliteration, I had some fun expressing my personal definition of networking as (one aspect of) marketing, meetings, mingling, mailings, multi-faceted, (sometimes) maddening and mind (top of).

We talked about the many places and people ideal for networking in our industry, ranging from the obvious, such as professional groups like Publicity Club of Chicago, former clients and ad/marketing agencies, to the less evident sources of leads that can include social groups, suppliers and even the editorial media.

The brief “how to network” session covered serving on committees, connecting at events, using social media, just talking to folks and my favorite, sending notes (or in today’s world, e-mails). I read a few of my missives to illustrate how to make such communications meaningful, whether that’s forwarding a pertinent article to a contact, mentioning an upcoming event that may be of interest, citing some work we’ve done or informing them of a media opportunity ideal for them – no strings attached.

I closed with some personal anecdotes to illustrate the importance of never giving up (three years of e-mails netted one of our largest clients today), to be nice to everyone (a former job seeker we treated with respect called us 10 years later seeking a proposal) and to always think to network (we landed a nice project after a chance meeting in an elevator).

Networking can be fun – and profitable. That’s a winning daily double!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another Successful LCWA Media Tour

This week, we held our annual LCWA HomeMakers Media Tour in New York, bringing together some of our home-focused clients and the influential media that cover them. Representatives from Eureka, First Alert, La-Z-Boy and Pergo were on hand to showcase their latest and greatest products and services.

We met with editors representing more than 20 of the nation's top shelter media outlets during the open house at the Royalton Hotel, and already we are working on some great upcoming stories.

Here are some reasons that I think our LCWA Media Tour is consistently successful:

  • A One-Stop Shop – Our “one-stop shop” mentality is a benefit we offer to media all year long, since we can provide many different home products with just one phone call. Media enjoy that they can come to one place to learn about a wide variety of trends in the home arena. And the tour provides this same benefit – in person!
  • Focused Presentations – Having multiple clients in one place makes things efficient for editors. Media know that we will not waste their time. We always provide valuable and interesting information and product news.
  • Collaborative Discussions – Our clients love the opportunity to get to know their “peers” at other companies, to share their stories and to offer advice on conducting business in today’s ever-changing marketplace.
  • Fun Atmosphere – Most of all, we have a great time in New York City! This time out, the entire group enjoyed a delicious dinner at Quality Meats in Midtown – I highly recommend the ice cream cake for dessert – and some of us got to take in the Tony-nominated “Promises, Promises” after the event.
After months of work, it’s hard to believe the event is over – and the follow up begins!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Associations Using Research to Drive Fact-Based PR, Marketing

While working on content for a presentation that Senior Research Analyst Heidi Tarr and I will deliver June 22 at Chicago’s Navy Pier for the Association Forum of Chicagoland, it occurred to me that the people in associations who are responsible for communications, marketing and member services increasingly use the power of research tools to boost their effectiveness.

The LCWA Research Group does a lot of work for large professional associations. Because associations often operate with very tight budgets, it may seem counter-intuitive that they will spend dollars on research to underpin fact-based strategies, tactics and messaging for communication, marketing or member services. But research projects more than pay their way. The results lead to purposeful programs and a greatly increased likelihood that desired outcomes will be achieved.

Research can identify priority audiences – for current and perspective members or industry outreach – and then sharply focus programs and communications content that will appeal to them and provide a baseline for measuring progress. This can make all the difference for giving association members the information and services they want or for attracting and engaging prospective members.

Research findings can energize members and provide a focus for topical outreach programs too. It was an essential component of the award-winning program LCWA delivered for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) and its foundation, Nuts, Bolts, & Thingamajigs (NBT). The Publicity Club of Chicago awarded the program a 2010 Golden Trumpet in the Issues Management category. The media relations program was based on LCWA Research Group findings that identified the manufacturing labor shortage as an issue that intensely concerns its members. This platform offered great opportunities to educate consumers and businesses on the fact that U.S. manufacturers face a serious shortage of skilled workers. “We wouldn’t have even had an issue without the research,” said Pat Lee, FMA director of public relations.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Under the Table and Through the Flowers: Clever Ways to Promote Products at Events

Leave it to GROHE to make its faucets and showerheads even more beautiful! Thanks to a talented team of event planners, faucets and showerheads were the center of attention at a vibrant Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) party I recently attended.

GROHE did a great job of showcasing its products. Here are some tips I gathered on how to uniquely feature products at an event:
  • Blend in: The showcased products shouldn’t look like advertisements. Instead, try to blend them in with the event’s décor. For example, at the KBIS event, guests placed their food and drinks on double-layered glass coffee tables. Underneath the first layer of glass were faucets and showerheads, but guests had to look closely to spot them.
  • Let guests interact: Guests will be more interested in products if they are showcased in a way that invites interaction. GROHE displayed showerheads, bath and kitchen faucets that guests could sample and touch, allowing them to have actual experiences with the products instead of just viewing them as décor.
  • Think outside of the box: Be creative with where you place products. At GROHE’s party faucets were surrounded by votive candles as centerpieces, and vases on buffet tables were trimmed with colorful showerheads mixed in with the flowers.
  • Take it home: Have guests remember your product long after the event is over by handing out a catchy party favor. This can be a sample product, coupon to purchase the product, small “teaser” version of the product or complimentary item.
I hope these tips help you creatively show off products at your next event!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Awards for the LCWA Team

The Chicago chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) hosted a great awards ceremony last night, and we were honored to be awarded with the Skyline Award for the Electrolux Versatility "Magic Wand" press kit.

On May 7, the Electrolux and Fabricators and Manufacturers Association (FMA) teams had a great time at the Publicity Club of Chicago (PCC) Golden Trumpets Awards. And both teams will be receiving awards at the Bronze Quill awards presented by Chicago's chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) at a dinner in June.

Thanks to the PCC, PRSA and IABC organizations for another fun and full awards season, and the opportunity to celebrate the successes of all of our Chicago peers!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Two New Stars Join the LCWA Arts and Leisure Division

LCWA’s Arts and Leisure division is excited to welcome two new clients, Blair Thomas and Co., and Teatro Vista, Theatre with a View.

Blair Thomas & Co.
Blair Thomas is the founder of Redmoon Theater and without question, Chicago’s most acclaimed puppet master. LCWA looks forward to representing the upcoming summer run of Blair’s acclaimed one-man show Hard Headed Heart, a trio of eclectic short stories including:
  • The Puppet Show of Don Cristobal – A bawdy telling of the traditional trickster Cristobal’s wooing and marriage to the delectable Dona Rosita, performed with wooden hand puppets and a drum kit.

  • St. James Infirmary – Based on the New Orleans folk song, this show is performed with rod marionettes, a motorized paper scroll and a one-man pit band.

  • The Blackbird – Based on a poem by Wallace Stevens, The Blackbird is a shadow puppet show performed on a set of four rolling paper scrolls lit by lamplight.

Performances are July 8th through August 8th at the Richard Christiansen Theater at Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago. Tickets go on sale in the coming weeks at (773) 871-3000 or

Teatro Vista
We also are thrilled to work with Teatro Vista, Chicago’s largest, non-profit equity Latino theater company producing full-scale, Latino-oriented theatrical productions in English. You may have heard of Teatro Vista’s many hits last season, such as Our Lady of the Underpass, about the now-famous water stain shaped like the Virgin Mary on Chicago’s Fullerton Avenue underpass, and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, named best play of 2009 by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Time Out Chicago, produced in association with Victory Gardens Theater and now receiving its off-Broadway debut.

This fall, we will help Teatro Vista launch its 2010-2011 season with three exciting new works: 26 Miles, Quiara Alegria Hudes’ dramatic comedy about a mother/daughter road trip; Freedom, NY, a haunting allegory about Mexican and American border relations by Jennifer Barclay; and El Nogalar, Tanya Saracho’s update of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, set in modern-day Mexico.

LCWA’s Arts and Leisure division gives both of our new clients a standing ovation, and we’re sure you will too!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Working with Bloggers

As an agency, we continually work to learn and practice the best strategies and tactics for social media outreach. Through a recent webinar from Susan Getgood, co-founder of Blog With Integrity, we were reminded of some effective ways to work with bloggers.

With an infinite number of blogs on the Web and consumer conversation carrying more value than ever before, Getgood explained that public relations professionals need to make sure they have the right focus to successfully navigate the blogosphere.

Below are a few questions to ask yourself before beginning outreach:

  • Why do bloggers write? Bloggers do not write to promote products or to get free gifts. Instead, they write to share their passions and offer expertise on subjects of interest and value. Work to build strong social media relationships by putting the blogger, and not your product, at the center of the campaign.

  • Who is the best fit? As PR professionals, we always want to see many positive media placements for our clients. But, instead of trying to reach all of the “Mommy” or “Green Living” bloggers, the best campaigns target a few contacts rather than large lists. Thoughtfully research contacts who would be interested in your information or product, and creatively tailor pitches for each outlet.

  • What can I offer? For successful blogger outreach, concentrate on how you can help add value, not what you can gain. Ask yourself if there is any exclusive information you could share to benefit the community, or consider offering product giveaways to a writer and his or her followers.

Best of luck and happy socializing!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Insights into the Suburban Media Market

As a mid-size firm in Chicago, we are constantly challenging ourselves to enhance our knowledge and expertise of the Chicagoland area and Midwest region for our more than a dozen regional-focused clients. So when I had a chance to attend the Publicity Club of Chicago’s luncheon on “Solving the Suburban Media Market,” I jumped at the opportunity to hear from a panel comprised of four suburban Chicago editors.

From their candid discussion I gained insight into the content of their papers, the pros and challenges to the changing newspaper industry and how social media fits into their daily coverage. Here are my top three takeaways:

Best Way to Reach a Reporter
It’s a fact – reporters are extremely busy! E-mail messages with an attention-grabbing, noteworthy subject line continue to be the preferred method of communication. And, we of course always send news to a specific beat reporter relevant to the topic at hand. For television stories, the advised method was to call or e-mail the main assignment desk, or call the planning editor a week before an event is scheduled. As we know, it’s also a best practice to follow up with the planning editor on the day of the event.

Using Social Media as a Source
As we’ve experienced, reporters are increasingly tapping into social media – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. – as a first place to begin sourcing for a news story. These sites are mainly used for tips or up-to-the-minute trends and news alerts, but are never used as primary news sources. Since relationship building between reporters and sources is encouraged by newspapers, it was noted that policies are currently being developed to address the debate over whether reporters can “become fans” or “like” sources, products or companies. Right now, every staff member we heard from has policies in place requiring them to acknowledge they work for a paper when contacting a source through social media.

The Future of Print
Many newspaper reporters still continue to have specific beats, but the sources noted that today’s reporters tend to overlap beats and become generalists that cover several topics. Newspaper operations also are changing to compete with the sense of immediacy required for news. For example, photographers are routinely writing stories and reporters are now carrying cameras, and user-generated content continues to grow with the ability to source video and photography from crowds.

As information delivery continues to come from several different outlets 24/7, these editors strongly stressed the priority of local, local, local content. Therefore, our challenge is to always be learning about the interests and viewpoints of even the smallest communities in order to provide their local news source with relevant, timely and interesting information.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tricks of the Trade (Show)

Working with media at trade shows is ever-evolving, and I have been struck by the evolution of social media at recent shows. Social aspects are quickly outweighing the traditional methods of working with media.

Here are some ways to use social media during trade shows:

  • Tweet early… We have had great success using Twitter and Facebook to schedule several media appointments and generate excitement for new products in the weeks leading up to trade shows. The viral nature of Twitter has led us to establish and build relationships with new social media contacts.
  • ...and often. These networks proved useful during the show as well, when they offered a real-time venue for us to communicate with media, hunt down new contacts and encourage them to drop by the booth.
  • Stay on top of trends. Monitoring trade show hashtags can give insight on what is going on elsewhere at the show, providing great insight for our media, trade guests and clients.
  • Expect instant coverage. It is not uncommon for today’s media to tweet your comments on trends during the discussion, or videotape a demonstration of a new product and post it immediately. To accommodate, we are focusing on making products very visually appealing and easily accessible.
  • Old-fashioned follow-up is still essential. Gone are the days of waiting two weeks to see a story hit the press – we now see stories the same day we speak with media. However, diligently following up with both social and traditional media continues to open the door to giveaway opportunities, inclusion in additional stories and the creation of ongoing relationships.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cover Letters in a Casual, Digital World

As intern coordinator, I love spring and with it the influx of resumes and cover letters from summer intern candidates. Notice that I said “cover letter.” In this fast-paced, digital environment, some may consider the cover letter a relic of a bygone era. Not me.

When evaluating a seemingly endless flow of potential candidates, I look not only for resumes that stand out from the rest, but also for thoughtful, clever and personal cover letters that explain a person’s motivation and desired result. Regardless of how a cover letter gets in my hands, I look for the following and recommend that people seeking an agency internship take this to heart:
  • If you know someone who knows us, tell us. Networking is very important and effective. If you know someone we know, tell us first thing. It will get our attention.
  • Be clever and attention-grabbing. About 90 percent of incoming cover letters use that precious first line to tell us that they found our Web site or saw us on Monster. Give thought to your lead, especially when seeking a position in PR. Think outside the box and give us something that will make us perk up and take notice of you.
  • Explain your skills and attributes. There’s no need to reiterate what’s in your resume. Tell us something different that you feel really sets you apart.
  • Consider your audience. We are professionals who operate in a business environment. While informal communications have grown in acceptance, you should be as professional as possible when seeking a position. We still value properly written letters, including the date, greetings and salutations.
  • Choose a format. You can either write your cover letter in the body of the e-mail or attach it. But don’t do both. If attaching, keep the intro e-mail brief so that we can focus on the letter and the resume.
  • Proofread. We have an agency policy that all written work must be proofread by two sets of eyes. Use this same method of checks and balances in your resumes. Do not rely on spell check. We are human, and we make mistakes, but cover letters and resumes are no places for mistakes!

As you work on your letter, think about why you really want the job. If you can’t articulate why or think of much to say, you may wish to rethink your application. The best candidates are those who are as motivated to have the job as we are to hire them. Good luck!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

LCWA Wins Two PCC "Golden Trumpet" Awards

Looking at my posts during the last month, it’s clear that good things come to LCWA in twos! Two new clients, two clients on the “Today Show,” and now — two award winning campaigns. I'm proud to announce that two of our 2009 programs have won prestigious "Golden Trumpet" awards from the Publicity Club of Chicago!
  • The team for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) and its foundation, Nuts, Bolts, & Thingamajigs (NBT), won for a campaign in the Issues Management category titled, "Manufacturers Face Labor Shortage? Really!" This program used media relations to educate consumers and businesses on the fact that U.S. manufacturers face a dire shortage of skilled workers – a fact that is often overlooked in today’s economy. The campaign, which featured NBT spokesperson, actor John Ratzenberger, succeeded in spurring young people to think about careers in the vocational trades. As a segment on CNN stated, “Employers are looking for young people who use their brains, not brawn, to make and fix things with their hands.”

  • The Electrolux team won in the Media Kit category for the creative materials that launched the Versatility vacuum cleaner. Because the vacuum features an easy-to-use removable wand for above-the-floor cleaning, the team created a series of wand-related teaser mailings to pique the interest of media and online influencers. A bottle of bubbles and a magic wand sent to media in the weeks leading up to the launch generated inquiries on the product before the official introduction date, creating buzz and resulting in great coverage.
We always appreciate the validation of our peers that comes with winning industry awards, and I’m proud of the hard work put in by these teams. Of course these award-winning campaigns yielded an even more important prize: happy clients!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Richard Christiansen: A living legend gets a ‘theater of his own’

It was an unforgettable evening for LCWA Arts & Leisure client Victory Gardens Theater when more than 100 top actors, directors, funders, administrators and theater critics gathered to celebrate the official naming of Victory Gardens’ new studio as the Richard Christiansen Theater, honoring the Chicago Tribune chief critic emeritus.

Actors John Mahoney, Tim Kazurinsky and Tony Award-winner Deanna Dunagan, artistic directors Robert Falls, Barbara Gaines, Michael Halberstam and B.J. Jones, former Goodman Theatre artistic director Greg Mosher (currently producing "A View from the Bridge" on Broadway) and journalists Hedy Weiss, Janet Davies, Rick Kogan and Lawrence DeVine joined Christiansen’s colleagues and friends for this extraordinary event. Victory Gardens Artistic Director Dennis Zacek kicked off the program by crediting Christiansen in large part for the incredible growth of Chicago’s theater scene, as well as Victory Gardens’ continued success as Chicago’s top producer of new plays over the last 36 years.

Actor William “CSI” Petersen thanked Christiansen for being the first to make him believe he actually had a calling as an actor; likewise for playwright Rick Cleveland, whose first play was singled out for praise by Christiansen more than 20 years ago. Today, Cleveland is a
successful television writer on shows like "Nurse Jackie" and "Six Feet Under." And who knew comedian and director Harold “Ghostbusters” Ramis felt so lucky to get his start as a cub features reporter at the Chicago Daily News, with Richard Christiansen as his supportive editor and still mentor?

But it was current Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones who brought down the house with his tales of playing second fiddle to Christiansen when they were both reviewing plays for the paper. Still, Jones made it clear that his predecessor’s unique ability to always take in an opening night with an equally open mind continues to guide Jones’ approach to his own writing today.

And that was the evening’s take away for me -- subtle reminders like listen, don’t just talk all of the time. Be receptive. Approach each new project, just like a new play, with zero preconceptions. Don’t just criticize, place equal emphasis on finding things to praise. And conduct yourself with an air of quiet pride, every day.

That’s how Richard Christiansen has always comported himself. And that’s why Victory Gardens was happy to give him ‘a theater of his own.’ Click here to read Chris Jones’ account of this truly memorable evening, and here for complete information on Victory Gardens’ new Richard Christiansen Theater.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Two LCWA Clients Featured on “Today”

This week got off to a great start, as two LCWA clients were featured on the “Today Show” from the floor of the International Home and Housewares Show! MJSI’s HydroRight water-saving toilet converter and Eureka’s Pet Expert vacuum were both featured in this segment by contributor Lou Manfredini on the highlights of this year’s show.

Congratulations to our hard-working account teams for landing a great national placement!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Eye on Flooring Trends

While in Las Vegas for Surfaces and the “Go all in with Pergo” event referenced by Allison in her previous post, I had a chance to stroll the show floor. Since most of my work lies specifically in the laminate flooring category, I kept my eyes peeled for the newest trends that editors and consumers alike will be talking about this year.

With so many new eye-catching colors, textures and species in the sphere of laminate design, I was blown away at what exhibitors had to offer. Here’s a taste of what we may be seeing in the not-so-distant future:

  • Art Deco Style: This style that peaked in the 1930s is making its come back. The elegant, glamorous and modern characteristics that shape these décors are influenced by the sleek, polished woods of that period. Most notably, this can be found in the glossy piano finish that is looking to become a mainstay in the industry.

  • Organic Modern: Under the influence of the rapidly growing “green” movement, this style exudes a “forest meets concrete and steel” look. Inspired by nature and raw, unfinished materials, these décors are seen with a satin finish in colors like golden, amber and driftwood.

  • Fun and Spirited: Graphic, modern and bright colors – such as purples, cerise and yellows – are starting to trend in European décor and are beginning to make their way into flooring. Pergo designers believe this movement will really take hold in the commercial sector, as well as give a punch of color to residential children’s and bonus rooms in the future. Although it may cater to a smaller market, this will definitely be a style to watch.

  • Rich Colors: Opposite the aforementioned vivid color trend, rich browns, black and grays also continue to grow in popularity. Recently, gray hues have been found to saturate walls, furnishings and accessories in the latest home décor magazines. Designers expect that this new neutral tone will quickly be integrated into the category of flooring as well.

It’s hard to tell which designs will really take off with consumers’ interest this year, but it is clear that there is certainly no shortage of inspiration for a home makeover or weekend DIY project. I felt so fortunate to have had a firsthand peek, and I already look forward to seeing what designers will have in store next year!

Friday, March 12, 2010

LCWA Makes O'Dwyer's Listings

We are proud that LCWA has once again made the list of O'Dwyer-ranked independent PR firms! We landed at 49 on the overall list. We also remain one of the top six firms in Chicago and top three firms specializing in the home products categroy.

Congratulations to our Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) partners who also made the list: Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence, CooperKatz & Co., Ground Floor Media, VPE PR, Landis Communications and Buchanan PR.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

LCWA Welcomes Two New Clients

LCWA is thrilled to add two new clients to our roster!

MJSI, Inc. of Shorewood, Ill., is a leader in creating, manufacturing and marketing water-saving toilet products. We are currently launching the company’s HydroRight® product, a dual-flush converter. They have a great story for media, thanks to its ease of installation, affordability and incredible environmental benefits. MJSI is a great complement to our roster of home products clients.

We also have started working with Matthews International, a Pittsburgh-based manufacturer and marketer of memorialization products. Matthews is a leader in its industry with a 160-year history and many interesting stories to tell.

We welcome MJSI and Matthews International to the LCWA family and look forward to sharing information about our successes in the future!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Working with UCAN to Help Prevent Youth Violence

For the past four years, LCWA has been proud to provide PR service to UCAN, a community-based social service organization that focuses on healing trauma, educating children and families, and preventing violence.

This week we worked with UCAN to announce the alarming results of its annual “Teen Gun Survey.” According to the survey:
  • One in four teens (26%) know someone who has been shot.
  • More than one in three teens (35%) fear being shot someday.
  • One third of teens (34%) said they can get a gun if they really wanted one.
  • Four out of five teens (83%) agree that young people would benefit from more violence-prevention programs.
We planned and held a press conference at the UCAN headquarters in Chicago. During the conference, five teens detailed their own experiences with guns and asked adults to take action to help stop the violence. Supporting the teens at the event were U.S. Congressman Michael Quigley and Illinois State Senator Donne Trotter. The press conference generated great coverage in the media, with stories appearing in the Chicago Tribune, WLS-TV (ABC), WGBO-TV (Univision) and WGN-AM.

While I love all of the work we do at LCWA, I have to admit that getting attention for UCAN and its great programs to help prevent violence always has a special place in my heart. For more information about the “Teen Gun Survey” results, click here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Update on the New Arts & Leisure Division

Thanks to Lewis Lazare, Chicago Sun-Times marketing columnist, for blogging about my recent move to LCWA to start the Arts & Leisure division. Click here to read his coverage.

I am happy to report that the division is definitely up and running! We are currently promoting the grand opening of the new Theater Wit, Chicago’s newest live theater venue. Now in the final phase of construction in the former Bailiwick Arts Centre, at 1229 W. Belmont Avenue, the new Theater Wit will be a sleek, new three-theater performance space, and a fresh destination for arts and culture in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Theater Wit’s inaugural production in this new space will be Spin, a smart, modern-day comedy about marketing and celebrity by Chicago playwright Penny Penniston. It’s right up our alley, so mark your calendar fellow marketers -- previews start April 16, and opening night is April 21.

I’m also excited to represent Thodos Dance Chicago's New Dances series in June. This follows a successful partnership with the group for its Fall Concerts, which boasted the premiere of Ann Reinking’s Fosse Trilogy. That show sold out both the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
Another show on the horizon is the Chicago premiere of Lonnie Carter’s The Lost Boys of Sudan, March 19-April 25 at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times recently called Lonnie “part James Joyce, part John Coltrane, part Diddy.” She sure nailed that. We’re all looking forward to seeing what director Jim Corti and a fantastic cast and crew do with Lonnie’s uplifting new play about three teens’ extraordinary passage from Sudan’s Dinka tribe to, of all places, Fargo, North Dakota.

There is plenty to choose from on Chicago’s arts and leisure front this spring. For more information about the exciting performances on tap for these LCWA clients, check out their sites.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Happened in Vegas… (a.k.a. The Triumphs and Tribulations of Throwing A Successful Client Event)

We just returned from SURFACES 2010 where we executed a major event for Pergo and its retail partners. The good news is the event was a huge success! It also was a reminder that when it comes to special events, inevitably something will not go as planned. With that in mind, I thought this would be an apropos time to share some special event survival tips I’ve learned through the years:

Tip #1: Good is in the Details

When it comes to events, success or failure is a direct result of the details. Before going into any event situation, it is crucial to make sure that every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed... that every “what if” has been answered and that your “A Game” has a Plan B – just in case. The better prepared you are for the worst, the more likely you are to deliver the best!

Tip#2: Expect the Unexpected

While proper planning is crucial to a successful event, equally important is the ability to think on your feet when something goes wrong – and something will always go wrong. In the case of the Pergo event, we encountered just a few small hiccups, like too-short hotel extension cords and reserved tickets that could only be picked up by the credit card holder (who was back in Chicago). The secret to success is maintaining composure and reacting quickly, quietly and calmly when thrown an unexpected curve ball.

Tip #3: Where There’s A VIP, There’s A Way

When it comes to VIPs, “no” is rarely an option. So, when asked by our client to find tickets to a sold out concert in Las Vegas for one of their VIPs, we were literally faced with the impossible. Undeterred, we hit the concierge desk, got on the phone, and successfully tracked down the sought after tickets. Good client service means not taking “no” for an answer, finding new avenues and going the extra mile to deliver the best possible results.

Tip #4: Don’t Skimp Where it Counts

At any type of special event, there is typically one key thing the guests are coming to see or experience. It could be the food, the venue, a guest speaker or performer. Whatever it may be, do not underestimate the importance of this focal point of your event and, by all means, don’t hold back when it comes to delivering quality. Case in point was our choice of Daniel Negreanu to headline the “Go All In with Pergo” event. While he was at the pricier end of our options, this four-time World Series of Poker Champion brought just the right mix of celebrity and charisma and proved the perfect personality to bring the room and our theme to life while treating Pergo’s guests to an evening they won’t soon forget.

Tip #5: All’s Well That Ends Well

At the end of the day – or the end of the event – success or failure will be written on the faces of your client and their guests. If the end result is positive, odds are no one will remember the little glitches that may have happened along the way. So, don’t get hung up on minor mishaps. Instead, learn from mistakes, celebrate successes, and pat yourself on the back for surviving yet another eventful experience!