Friday, September 11, 2020

LCWA Honored by PRSA Chicago and PCC

Like everything else, awards season looked quite different this year. But Chicago’s
community is creative and resilient, and we were proud to gather with our peers at two amazing virtual events. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Chicago conducted its annual Skyline event earlier this summer, and the Publicity Club of Chicago (PCC) held its Golden Trumpet Awards last night. Adding to the fun? Winning some awards for our great client work! We were lauded for three campaigns:

Thank you to these organizations for recognizing our efforts, and to our teams and client partners for striving for excellence every day!

Friday, August 28, 2020

‘Tis (Always) the Season for Pitching

We all know the goal for PR pros is to keep our clients top of mind with reporters and editors, but it’s not as simple as blasting a general pitch every couple of weeks to the same media list. Planning is vital to successful pitching – and a year-round seasonal pitching schedule is an essential component of a successful media relations program. Having a well thought out calendar of when to pitch, what to pitch and how to pitch is very effective, and will help set you and your client up as a go-to resource for editors.

Here are a few tips to help you launch a seasonal pitching program:

What to pitch
The goal is to have relevant and timely pitches strategically planned throughout the entire year. Magazine editorial calendars, typically found in the media kit or advertising section on the publisher’s website, list topics that will be covered in each issue and can act as a guide to crafting targeted pitches. Take note of any key focus points, like trade shows, product launches or events that will require media outreach. Finally, take a look at seasonal opportunities including other recognition months and days, holidays and important times of the year for your client’s brand or products.

When to pitch
Depending on the type of media outlet you’re pitching, your lead time could range from days to weeks to even months in advance. Make note of magazines editorial deadlines, then backtrack a few weeks on your own calendar. While lead times vary by publication and writer, as a general rule of thumb, our agency sticks to long lead times when pitching media. Here’s an example: 
  • Magazines: 5-6 months in advance
  • Regional magazines: 3-4 months in advance
  • Newspapers: 4-6 weeks in advance
  • Online: 2-4 weeks in advance
Whom to pitch
It’s important to prioritize media opportunities. If you work through all your valuable pitching opportunities for the year, you’re bound to see some overlap. Take into consideration your goals for media coverage for the year – whether it be national magazines, regional or local coverage – and prioritize media opportunities based on the best fit for your client’s news or product.

Seasonal pitching calendars can be a valuable roadmap to year-round media placements. Keep these tips in mind while building out your calendar and you’ll have great media opportunities and placements to share with your client in no time! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

DAP Platinum Patch Earns Feature in Better Homes & Gardens

Receiving inclusion for a client’s product in award programs or round-ups from key media outlets can greatly influence your efforts in driving awareness for a product, as well as sales. Back in January, our team worked to secure interest from Better Homes & Gardens in DAP Platinum Patch™ Advanced Exterior Filler. The home product was recently featured in the “On Our Radar” round-up of the national home improvement magazine’s Fall DIY issue, reaching millions of potential consumers. 
Better Homes & Gardens expressed many of Platinum Patch’s key benefits, as it noted, “Ideal for exterior repairs, this paintable patch requires no messy mixing. The weatherproof compound is strong like an epoxy but quick-setting like a putty. Two-hour drying time and water cleanup make it easy to fix almost any surface.” Our team is proud to have helped our client claim this national recognition with one of the most well-known magazines in the home arena.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Five Tips for Pitching Media during COVID-19

There is virtually no industry or business activity that has not been impacted by COVID-19 in some way, and media relations is no different. With the global news cycle focused on the pandemic, the COVID era is challenging and changing the way PR pros engage with journalists. Over the past several months, our team has had to continually adapt our outreach approaches to effectively and sensitively support our clients. 

Here are five tips we’ve found for cutting through COVID to keep clients and brands top-of-mind with media.
  1. Do your research. Even before our “new normal,” this was arguably the most important pitching tactic. With shrinking newsroom staffs, many reporters have transitioned to other beats and some sections are not being published as regularly as they once were. Before reaching out, be sure to double check what journalists are covering, even those you may know well. Follow newspapers closely to understand the extent and frequency of coverage and plan outreach according to the current cycle for that beat. 
  2. Check schedules. As newspapers and magazines adjust to stay afloat, many are publishing less frequently and/or cutting staff hours. Check in with your contacts to stay updated on their current work and publishing schedules. Some newspapers, for example, have reporters working every other week or only on select days.
  3. Keep emails concise. One thing that hasn’t changed is that most journalists prefer email because they are especially crunched for time. With heavier workloads and reduced resources, it’s now more important than ever to adhere to the best pitching practices frequently cited by journalists, such as straightforward subject lines and to-the-point emails with assets that are easy to access.
  4. Offer video interviews. With social distancing protocols, media are looking for experts who can interview via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. And, this applies to more than just broadcast studios. Many print publications are seeking video interviews as they increase their digital coverage. Be sure to media train interviewees on best practices when conducting a remote interview.
  5. Go local, think global. Locals outlets are especially challenged as they try to maintain advertising and subscription revenues. Local stories and experts are more likely to garner media interest across all types of media. Even better, if you can identify a local angle that connects to or exemplifies a national or global news story, especially COVID, you have a real opportunity to break through the clutter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Key Elements of a Crisis Communications Plan

Today's business landscape is littered with risks of crises and unexpected issues. Should a crisis arise, it’s vital to respond in an accurate, timely and thorough manner.The key to responding well in a crisis is preparation. While most organizations are aware that it’s critical to have a crisis communications plan in place, many often struggle with what to include in the plan.

A crisis communications plan should include several key details, such as protocol to follow and how to respond and communicate appropriately, but also should be kept as simple as possible so it’s easily understandable during a time of crisis. Following are some key elements to include:

  • In-Depth Overview: Introductory materials should outline why the plan was developed and detail best practices for how your organization will handle the situation and how messages are communicated.
  • Crisis Team: Identify and include complete contact information for each member of the crisis team. Then outline the responsibilities of each member. Determine who will collect information, who will field media calls, who will serve as the spokesperson, and who will handle internal communications.
  • Key Messages: Develop some overarching messages about the organization to convey should any crisis occur. These messages should guide your organization’s response to the crisis. Develop no more than three key messages and expand on each message with appropriate supporting facts and statistics.
  • Tactics and Targets: Once messages and talking points are created, establish a communications action plan for reaching key publics. List all possible internal and external target audiences as it’s essential to communicate with any audience that might be touched by the crisis, using a consistent message. Consider adding support materials such as communication checklists, media lists, company policies, fact sheets, news release templates and other important materials in appendices.
  • Outline of Crisis Scenarios: Every crisis plan should include examples of a crisis or incident that would trigger the need to respond. Examples of potential incidents include a natural disaster, lawsuit, cyberattack, violent crime, rumor, health issue or workplace harassment. A plan should include several hypothetical situations, a communication action to respond and key messages and talking points for all stakeholders.
  • Internal Procedures: Determine how employees will receive key messages and how they will be reached during a crisis. Identify who will monitor the crisis so that the course of action can be adjusted as events warrant, as well as to further refine message development and focus communications activities more precisely.

Once a communications plan is complete, be sure to share it with all key executives and crisis team members. Prepare both digital and hard copies so that it’s easy to access quickly if needed. Keep in mind that a crisis plan should change over time. It should be a living document that is tested, re-evaluated and updated as needed. Incorporate the date the document was last edited or in an index that lets reviewers know what section was updated and when.

Incorporating key elements into a quality communications plan ensures your company will be more prepared to effectively handle communications related issues that arise during a crisis and should be a key component of an organization’s overall disaster recovery plan. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Shifting Expertise from Office to Home During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic took its grip on the world in March, office workers suddenly changed to a new “work from home” structure. Our client Boise Paper, which has carved out a social media niche as an expert on “Office Life,” needed to adjust its content and pivot messaging to better appeal to a drastically different workforce.  To achieve this, we worked with them to adjust to timely topics and provide needed advice to workers via its blog and social channels. 
  • Working remotely won’t disappear post-pandemic, so the Boise Paper blog provides a perfect opportunity to provide valuable insight on how to be both productive and happy while working from home. Post topics included getting acquainted with Zoom meetings, how to maintain professional development remotely and ideas for how to build teammate rapport at a distance.
  • On Boise Paper’s social channels, we also shared remote working tips that followers could relate to. Additionally, we bridged the content to highlight community topics of interest during the pandemic. In particular, we drove awareness of Boise Paper’s partner the American Red Cross’s blood donation shortage. We also highlighted employee efforts band together to make masks for employees. The shift in content direction not only highlighted things of interest to followers, but also allowed Boise Paper to support its partners and communities from afar.
Check out Boise Paper’s social pages – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and blog for more career advice – whether you are working from an office or your home!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Global Partners Set the Tone for PR in ‘Era of Responsibility’

There’s no doubt that the public relations industry has faced new challenges during the global pandemic. Whether it be reduced marketing budgets, saturated media landscapes or decreased consumer engagement, PR pros have seized the opportunity to find creative communication solutions while strengthening brand authenticity. To stay up to date while navigating COVID-19 and heightened social activism, we’ve turned to the expertise of our Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) partners for global trends and insights:
  • As consumers spend more time online, managing clients’ web reputation has never been more important. According to our PRGN partner Toomas Kull of Cabinet Privé de Conseils, S.A. in Geneva, Switzerland, The Five Pillars of Online Reputation Management point to building cohesive messaging and transparency. Consumers crave authenticity, but it has to be backed up with integrity, and more importantly, with brand action. Adapt content to be timely and reflect a concern for what your audience cares about by listening, staying informed and staying engaged.
  • As states reopen, agencies will begin to revisit in-person event planning. According to Keri McIntosh of The Castle Group in Maui, Hawaii, event planning must place a substantial emphasis on public health and safety. Reinventing the Live Event Experience – Key Considerations for Meeting Planners includes taking significant, transparent precautions to ensure that vendors are vetted and credible, venues are compatible with social distancing and participants are informed. Most importantly, planners must integrate and document COVID-19 protocols into official emergency response planning.
  • In an exploration of Female leadership and PR: What have they in common?, PRGN partners’ Alessandra Malvermi of Sound Public Relations in Milan, Italy, discusses the value of having women in leadership roles within the industry. At a time when empathetic, complex communications are essential, the value of skills that are often owned by women must become central to communications strategy.
  • Going back to the basics might be exactly what your clients’ social feed needs. Canadian PRGN partner’s Ashleigh Cartier of Media Profile in Toronto claims that now It’s Time for a Social Media Marketing Reset. For starters, foster two-way conversations on social media platforms rather than one-way content pipelines. Focus on quality of content rather than quantity. Lastly, think of your social audience as a huge focus group. Listen to what they have to say!
  • Dawn Burke of Cullen Communications in Dublin, Ireland, provides relevant insight on How to communicate in our new era of responsibility. Now is not the time for brands to go silent, but rather to reflect on communication strategy, core values, community engagement and how to build or rebuild public trust. If done right, brands will come out of the pandemic stronger than when they entered it.
Balancing public safety, marketing and credibility to meet the emerging needs of consumers during COVID-19 has placed a larger responsibility on companies to steer conversations and set authentic, progressive standards. We’re proud to have a strong partners in our global network of independent agencies to collaborate with as we navigate newfound public relations challenges and opportunities.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Five Tips to Prepare for a Successful Zoom Interview

The media landscape has shifted significantly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Instead of in-studio or in-person interviews, virtual interviews using videoconferencing tools like Zoom have become the norm.

To prepare for success, below are five useful tips to make the most out of a virtual video interview:
  • Secure your setting – Pick a quiet, well-lit spot to do the interview without an elaborate backdrop so that you can be the focal point on the screen. Remove anything distracting behind you and keep it neutral.
  • Prepare your technology – Use a computer if possible, and put your camera at eye-height, using a computer stand or stack of books if needed. Ahead of time, test the lighting to ensure it is not too bright and test the sound. Don’t forget to clean your camera lens, too!
  • Think about appearance and body language – When it comes to what you wear, treat the video interview like an in-person interview and dress professionally. Also, be sure to have good posture but don’t be stiff – hold yourself up and be relaxed! Double check your Zoom username and picture as well to ensure that they are both interview appropriate.
  • Eliminate possible interruptions – If you are interviewing in a space with multiple people or pets, be sure to let everyone in the area know ahead of time that you will be in an interview while securing any distractions away from your interview space. Also, make sure all other windows on your computer are closed and turn off any notifications to prevent sounds during your interview.
  • Practice, practice, practice! – Consider doing a practice interview to test the technology beforehand so that when it’s interview time, you are prepared. Try to look directly at the video camera to maintain direct eye contact with your interviewer. One trick here is to center the face of the other person on your screen to be right below your camera.

Keeping these best practices in mind will help you make the most out of any video interview. Check out these recent Zoom interviews we secured on behalf of our clients the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) and Monte Nido & Affiliates:
  • HCPLive – Featuring Dr. Gregory Cosgrove, chief medical officer of the PFF
  • WFLD-TV (FOX, Chicago) – Featuring Melissa Spann, chief clinical officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates (pictured)

Thursday, July 9, 2020

It Might Be Time to Think Small(er)

The current challenges presented by the pandemic have resulted in enormous changes in the way we do business. Companies are reevaluating how they work, reconsidering processes, systems, office spaces, vendors and budgets. This transitional period might be an excellent time to take a closer look at your public relations agency to ensure you are maximizing your budgets and getting the level of services you need and deserve. In other words, it might be time to go small(er)!
A mid-sized, independent agency offers a number of advantages over large, international conglomerates. Some of these pluses include:
  • Senior involvement: At a firm the size of LCWA, you’re guaranteed involvement from senior staff. At larger firms, senior members tend to “preside” over an account, while at smaller, mid-sized firms, senior folks jump right in and help with the actual planning and implementation of programs. The experience, skill set and insights of senior managers could prove invaluable during these unprecedented times. 
  • Flexibility: A smaller, independent firm is also a nimble firm, quick to respond to changing market conditions. Without a cumbersome bureaucracy to slow it down, good things can be accomplished in a shorter period of time.
  • Focused attention: Regardless of your budget, chances are you will be a big fish at a smaller pond (shop). With a shorter client roster, your business will get the attention it deserves. What’s more, your team will have the time to know your business – and industry – inside and out.
  • Global reach: A smaller firm doesn’t necessarily mean a local firm. Many mid-sized agencies offer national services, and also are affiliated with other like-sized firms around the world. This network of agencies will provide your business with diverse resources if needed. LCWA, for example belongs to the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), and works closely with partner agencies throughout the country and around the world on an as-needed-basis.
As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, this might be a good time to consider an independent public relations agency. The advantages listed above might just make it the right decision at the right time.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Insomnia Awareness Night Drives Conversation and Awareness

Insomnia Awareness Night is held on the Monday nearest the summer solstice to drive conversation and awareness about chronic insomnia. On Monday, June 22, our team organized several online events for the observance, which is organized by our client the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) along with the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine (SBSM) and AmericanAlliance for Healthy Sleep (AAHS). Online activities included:
  • Facebook Live – We started the night off with a Facebook Live from 9:30 – 10 p.m. ET. Influencer Kelly Olexa acted as host for the event, interviewing AASM’s sleep expert Dr. Emerson Wickwire in a Q & A format on her page,
  • Twitter Chat – Next up was a Twitter Chat from 10 – 11 p.m. ET with Dr. Deirdre Conroy behind the AASM Twitter handle, Dr. Jade Wu as expert on the SBSM account and Kelly Olexa serving as moderator. In addition, the AAHS joined to provide patient perspectives on insomnia, along with many others who chimed in with questions and thoughts on the disease using #InsomniaNight.
  • Reddit AMA – The night wrapped up with an hour-long Reddit AMA. From 11 p.m. to midnight ET, clinical sleep specialist and AASM board of directors’ member Dr. Jennifer Martin hosted an AMA to answer a wide range of insomnia questions. The AMA received a “Moderator’s Choice Award,” meaning the conversation was of top interest to many Redditors.
In addition to the scheduled social media events, our team created content for all social channels, including Instagram story posts, to help inform audiences about insomnia throughout the night. Combined with our media outreach efforts, the Insomnia Awareness Night campaign was a success, garnering more than 136 million impressions and engaging many patients and healthcare providers.

To learn more about Insomnia Awareness Night and to find resources on healthy sleep, visit

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Monte Nido Brings Eating Disorder Recovery to Chicagoland

This spring, our team was tasked with driving media coverage for client, Monte Nido & Affiliates, which was entering the Chicagoland market for the first time with two new residential eating disorder facilities. Little did we know, the openings would occur just a
s focus shifted to a global health pandemic.

With our initial, pre-coronavirus pitching, we landed coverage in major outlets like Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, Daily Herald and WBIG-AM.

Then the coronavirus outbreak drastically changed not only our everyday lives, but the healthcare media landscape. The news cycle was focused on covering COVID-19 around the clock. We had to get creative and shift our pitching strategy. We dug in and did research, and learned about the unique impact that quarantine and stay-at-home orders were having on people with eating disorders, especially adolescents who had lost their regular routine of attending school and activities.

For the opening of Clementine Naperville in June, which offers programming for girls ages 11 to 17, we focused on the impact coronavirus was having on adolescents with eating disorders, and tied in the new resource that would soon be available in the area. This pitch resulted in coverage from WFLD-TV (Fox Chicago), Daily Herald, Glancer Magazine, Naperville Sun and in an upcoming issue of Chicago Parent.

In total, we generated 12 stories that led to almost 16 million impressions, far surpassing our original goal of 5-6 placements. This is a great reminder of why it’s so important for PR pros to make sure stories have a tie to current events when working with the media.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Urgent Care Strong During COVID-19

Every day continues to bring more coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, from breaking news of the latest developments to many stories of fear and uncertainty. However, amidst all the noise, it can be easy to miss out on some of the more positive news updates that are still occurring in light of the unprecedented situation.

During the past few months, the LCWA health team worked closely with our client the Urgent Care Association (UCA) to recognize the monumental efforts of urgent care centers on the front lines of the pandemic and the positive impact they are making in their communities across the country.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Reyes, Victory Medical

From communities uniting to aid with PPE shortages to urgent care staff going above and beyond to ensure the safety of their patients, our team set out to tell these inspiring stories through local media outreach. Below are a few pieces that we were able to generate from Austin to New York. 

Make-A-Mask Initiative Draws National Support for Austin Healthcare Workers

In response to significant PPE shortages, UCA member center Victory Medical took matters into their own hands. After calling upon their community to help sew handmade masks and starting a “Make-A-Mask” Facebook group that went viral soon after, thousands of donated masks from across the country were distributed to smaller private practices and urgent cares in Austin to augment the short supply. You can watch this coverage from Austin’s KXAN-TV (NBC) and KVUE-TV (ABC) to learn more.

Photo courtesy of Chrysa Charno, AcuteKids PediatricUrgent Care
Local University Pitches in to Create 3D Face Shields in New York
After UCA member Acute Kids Urgent Care in Webster, N.Y. found themselves desperate for PPE to keep young patients and their parents safe, they partnered with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to create face shields for the medical personnel. The team at RIT’s Center for Additive Manufacturing and Multifunctional Printing (AM Print Center) went to work creating 3D printed facemasks for the Acute Kids practice. You can watch this inspiring story via Rochester’s WHAM-TV (ABC).

UCA continues to advocate on behalf of all urgent care centers nationwide about the important role they play in the healthcare continuum. Together, they embody #UrgentCareStrong.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Striving for a More Diverse PR Community

During the last few weeks, LCWA has been focused on helping our clients communicate with their audiences around the racial inequality issues facing our country. At the same time, we’ve engaged in many discussions about how LCWA can contribute to this movement in a meaningful way. We believe in equality and inclusion. As an agency with little diversity, we know it’s important that we listen and learn. We are grateful for the guidance of our industry’s Black voices for creating this Call to Action, which provides recommended steps to improve diversity in PR and advertising. We’ve also been talking to our peer agencies in Public Relations Global Network and engaged with the PR Council for input and ideas.

We are committed to taking steps to improve Black representation within our industry, as well as our agency. We are starting an ongoing Diversity and Inclusion Committee to help us identify actionable, measurable ways we can make an impact. The committee will begin by focusing on two main areas:
  • Education. The topics of systemic racism and implicit bias are uncomfortable, but important. We will actively plan and seek ways for our leadership and staff to learn more on these topics.
  • Recruitment. We will explore ways to encourage more people of color to consider and enter our industry. We will also examine what we can do to our own recruitment and hiring processes to attract diverse talent.
We know that this is just part of the solution. Our team is committed to implementing real change in our industry for the long-term. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

LCWA Named Top Three in Home, Top Ten in Chicago

A valuable measure of our firm’s growth in the industry, we are proud to be a part of the O’Dwyer’s PR agency rankings. We were once again recognized for our category
specialization, as well as named a leader in the city we call home.

3 in Home and Housewares. A specialty of LCWA for 30 years and counting, we are proud to be among the top agencies focusing on the home and housewares category.

10 in Chicago. A testament to our valuable local connections and breadth of work, LCWA was ranked in the top 10 of independent PR firms in Chicago.

31 in Food and Beverages. Another passion of the team at LCWA, we love working in the food and beverage category.

41 in Healthcare. More important now than ever, we are proud to serve our various clients in the healthcare industry making an impact and raising awareness through times of newfound challenges.

We extend a warm congratulations to all of our peers also earning a spot on the O’Dwyers lists­ – especially our PRGN network partners at Landis Communications in San Francisco, Buchanan PR in Philadelphia, the Hoyt Organization in L.A., Bianchi Public Relations in Detroit and Novitas Communications in Denver. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

How to Make the Most of an Internship, Even During a Pandemic

Taking on an internship is a great opportunity to get a feel for a company or industry early in your career. Nothing can replace real-world experience! But when disruptions occur, such as our current global pandemic, flexibility will become your greatest asset. As an intern, it’s your job to be curious. Transitioning your internship from in-office to remote is a great opportunity to build skills and demonstrate your commitment to growth despite unpredictable events.

While you might not be in the office to ask questions or join team meetings, there are important strategies you can embrace to stay connected, inquisitive and engaged.

Stay Organized, Stay Engaged.
Working from home can be challenging when you haven’t done it before. Staying organized is the first step to staying on top of project deadlines and demonstrating the ability to manage time. Take 10 minutes each morning to map out your day; prioritize your tasks, establish goals and block off time for meetings or webinars. By staying organized, you will be more efficient and more engaged in day-to-day tasks.

Create and Stick-to a Routine.
Going from commuting every day to working in your living room is a significant transition. However, taking the time to get ready as if you still are going to the office is key. Go for a morning walk, make your coffee and put on a new outfit. Learning how to work on a nine to five schedule solo is just as important as clocking in. Sticking to a normal routine will help you stay refreshed and focused.

Build Virtual Relationships with Coworkers.
Just because you can’t chat with coworkers in person doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected. Using online tools, like Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business or Zoom, is a great way to maintain a sense of informal communication outside of email. As an intern, you are likely one of the newest staff members. Joining virtual staff events, like Zoom happy hours, are a fun way to get to know your coworkers and talk about things outside of work. For professional development, schedule a weekly touch-base meeting with your mentor or advisor. This is a great way to check-in on projects, goals and questions during your internship

Embrace Uncertainty.
Displaying flexibility and enthusiasm will keep you on track to successfully completing your internship. Embrace the opportunity to learn new skills remotely, especially in the digital age. Adapting to a new work environment with a positive attitude demonstrates commitment and dedication to your projects, clients and coworkers. After all, this is a new experience for everyone.

Yes, And...
While your workflow may be unpredictable as the economy fluctuates, let your team and mentor know you are ready to tackle new projects. Every new assignment is an opportunity to learn about a client, an opportunity to work with new staff members and to develop new skills. Saying “yes,” even if the assignment is out of your comfort zone, will help determine your strengths and weaknesses.

While navigating uncertain times during your internship, remind yourself that with the right attitude you can grow, learn and leave a lasting impression. Especially in public relations, adapting to crisis is part of the job. Embrace new challenges during your internship and stay enthusiastic about the opportunities that lie ahead. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Writing During COVID-19

Navigating the present coronavirus crisis means working through the unknown every single day. Part of our jobs as PR professionals is to anticipate the unexpected and prepare appropriate messaging for the given context, but how do we ensure our focus remains on problem solving and not selling during a crisis? How do we manage existing campaigns without being insensitive, and how do we respond to a negative situation appropriately, all while remaining ‘on-brand’?

These were all questions running through my mind before I had the pleasure of remotely attending a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) webinar featuring Ann Wylie of Wylie Communications on tips for PR writing during a crisis. Below are a few of my favorite takeaways on how to write effectively during COVID-19 (or any crisis):

Write with compassion.
Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are writing for. Make sure the tone is appropriate for the context of the occasion and audience and does not come off as insensitive. Think about it this way—it’s not about ME, it’s about WE. Read over your work and count the ratios of I/You, Me/We to ensure the focus is on the audience.

Write confidently.
During a crisis, it is especially important to communicate early and communicate often. Being proactive instead of reactive can help unify your message and show ownership and understanding of the situation. It’s okay to say you don’t know something instead of not addressing it at all – silence can be misinterpreted. Just make sure you have the credibility, authority and stakeholder permission to say what you’re saying.

Write clearly.
Everyone is stressed right now. Nobody has the time or attention span to read a dense article amidst the constant steam of COVID-19 news right now, especially those on the frontlines. A good rule of thumb in life and in writing is to simply get to the point. Cut through the clutter by streamlining sentences and paragraphs. Pro tip: The ‘sweet spot’ for sentence understanding is 14 words. Try Microsoft Word’s Readability Statistics feature for helpful info on the readability and clarity of your content.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, remember to be compassionate in your work. The most important thing in as communicators in a crisis is to be there to support your clients’ needs. We are all in this together!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Finding Unity Amidst Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented sentiment of unity within Chicago, across the country and around the globe. One member of our team, group manager Lindsey Lucenta, is making an impact in her neighborhood during this time of crisis, with a vision that far exceeds the scope and reach of the virus itself.

Q: How did you get involved with the Chicago mutual aid effort?
In mid-March, I reached out to offer my time by filling out an online form to volunteer with a newly started Chicago mutual aid network. There were over 400 people in my neighborhood, Logan Square, who also offered to lend a hand. Given this massive interest, we created the hyper-local Logan Square Mutual Aid. In less than two months, we are now part of a city-wide mutual aid effort, organized neighborhood by neighborhood. With a ‘neighbor-helping-neighbor’ mentality, we are building an infrastructure that encourages community members to play a role in fulfilling the essential needs created during the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent shelter-in-place orders.

Q: What is the goal of your chapter?
To help people who are struggling during COVID. We focus on helping the vulnerable – the elderly, the disabled, those with immuno-deficiencies. Given this wide-reaching scope, we have several teams which each focusing on specific community needs – including food, healthcare and social work, to name a few. Everything from helping individuals get groceries, to offering legal services to those who need assistance as tenants.

Q: What does your specific role look like?
I’m the food distribution coordinator. My role is to oversee local business outreach to secure donations, track inventory, train volunteers, and coordinate delivery of food boxes to individual and families. Primarily, we’re collecting food during the week, then distributing on the weekends. We recently secured a storage space with refrigerators and tables (a big win!), and a few Chicago alderman have donated PPE to ensure we follow safety protocol. As we grow, we plan to equip our space to handle larger donations and more food deliveries.

 Q: Who did you turn to for best practices on sanitation and facility health?
We’ve partnered with Food Not Bombs, an organization that works with the food service industry to collect what would otherwise be wasted food. However, as many restaurants have closed, their normal supply chain has been cut off. So we have been collaborating on best practices to secure large-scale or ongoing food donations from Chicago businesses and residents. I volunteered with them to learn their processes for sanitization, food packaging and delivery During the pandemic, constant cleaning of supplies and hand washing is essential. And, thanks to our collaboration, we were able to secure the aforementioned storage space.

Q: How have you seen the ‘neighbor-helping-neighbor’ concept come to life?
It’s really a concept of ‘solidarity, not charity,’ which is the cornerstone of the mutual aid movement. Some of the core values that we model our structure on are engagement, transparency and self-determination. For example, we have neighbors who are receiving groceries each week due to economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. Simultaneously, these same individuals also have cars or bikes and have volunteered their time and vehicles to deliver groceries. We have had hundreds of individuals who have offered to buy groceries for their neighbors out of their own pocket. We’re now obtaining the funds to pay them back, but the selflessness and graciousness has been so inspirational.

Q: What is the vision for Logan Square Mutual Aid looking past the pandemic?
I definitely see our organization evolving to meet community needs. Even after the virus is no longer an immediate threat, the economic effect is going to be residual. I am honored to be surrounded by so many intelligent, passionate people who are working together to build a grassroots, community-driven organization that directly serves our neighborhood.

Thank you for all you do, both for your community and LCWA! We’re excited to see our team making an impact.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Home Is Where the Heart Is: Tips for Effectively (and Sensitively) Courting Consumers in the COVID-19 Era

This article was first published on Furniture World

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has ignited increased interest among consumers in their homes. As most of us are spending much more time at home, we are seeing and experiencing our homes in news ways and finding ourselves with extra time to tackle improvements from DIY projects to major renovations. With that in mind, now is an ideal time to position relevant brands in front of a captive and eager audience with home-focused content.  

When it comes to brand marketing and public relations, however, it’s no longer business as usual. The consumer mindset has changed drastically, requiring brands to revisit messaging and re-think their communications strategies to adapt to the new and evolving environment in which we find ourselves living.  

In our work with many of today’s top home brands, we are helping them to navigate and adjust, as needed, to changes in the marketplace and in consumer lifestyles. Following are some insights and approaches that we have found to be effective for keeping home brands relevant and top-of-mind during this uncertain and unpredictable time: 

  • Position Brands for a New Way of Living – Focus on projects that help to make quarantine living more comfortable and enjoyable – everything from design and décor to organization, cleaning, safety and sanitation. Weave products into emerging lifestyle trends, such as segmenting home spaces in creative ways to accommodate working from home, inspiring new ways to cook or workout at home to keep things fresh and fun, and ideas for games or other activities to help keep family members entertained, occupied and safe.  

  • Instill Confidence – Share ideas for simple, cost-effective upgrades that add value to a home and that consumers can tackle confidently without needing a lot of expertise or assistance. When possible, provide video or step-by-step guidance to help DIYers approach projects knowledgeably and confidently. 

  • Pitch New Channels  Once a cumbersome and expensive endeavor, TV exposure is now easier to coordinate no matter where your spokesperson and influencers are located thanks to Zoom, Skype and other video conferencing services. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, local and national stations alike have turned to remote reporting so it’s still possible – and actually easier – to book segments (both live and taped) or conduct virtual media toursIt’s also a great time to explore online media outlets, as well as home-focused blogs and influencers you may not have previously targeted. 

  • Update Social Media Presence and Content  Consumers are spending much more time these days on their computers and mobile devices, making it crucial for brands to find ways to engage customers via social media and other online channels. Depending on the brand or service offering, aim to provide information that can help people stay healthy mentally, physically and financially. Maintain authenticity and review all content through a hyper-sensitive lens. 

  • Drive Online Sales Opportunities – During these times of social distancing, businesses and consumers are relying more than ever on e-commerce. Successful brands will be those that make it easy for consumers to find, select, purchase and receive products and services. Work with clients to optimize online ordering, offer virtual appointments and sales calls to replace on-site visits, and update websites to add home or curbside deliveriesDoing so may require an investment in new systems and technologies – but the dividends will be worth it in the long run. 

As we continue to traverse a rapidly changing landscape, brand communications and marketing efforts will require careful and continual refinement. Take time to audit key messaging for sensitivity and make updates as needed. Ensure that all key stakeholders are updated and aligned with any changes and communicating consistently and with one brand voice. 

While these are certainly challenging times for everyone, brands in the home arena are facing a unique opportunity to reach consumers and reinforce their relevance. By identifying the right messages and implementing smart, sensitive tactics, savvy marketers can positively position their brands and businesses for success in both the short- and long-term.