Message to Leaders Who Put the Cry in Crisis: Lead by Example by Joanne Jordan

Hey bosses: Stop being babies. 

Hey bosses: Stop being babies. 

Navigating the lightening quick paths of the (social) media landscape is hard enough on a good day. On a bad day, PR peeps (Food Shelter included) live in a real-time hell where the fallout ranges from mildly hurtful to irrevocably damaging, in seconds flat.

Scary yes, but even worse are the well-paid figureheads who cry, blame others or make any excuse they can instead of owning the problem. Many of them have great teams who probably went to great lengths to build a strategic plan, yet when it’s time to face the music, the figurehead thinks whining will soften the hearts of Twitter’s angriest. This is an unacceptable approach to crisis control.

In light of the recent United shitshow, we here at FS Public Relations thought it would be fun to stroll down a memory lane of PR fails and offer alternatives to their frightening lack of leadership, at a time when their employees or brands needed them most.

Following, in no particular order, are our top five crybaby buck-passers we wish we could have sent speaking points – the first of which would have been to take ownership of the problem and deal with it like the professional they are so handsomely paid to supposedly be. Don’t agree? Totally cool with it. Give us a valid point showcasing why we’re wrong, how they didn’t destroy their brand or how “all PR is good PR.” Unlike the following five, we eat constructive criticism for breakfast. (Kidding, we use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.)

1) Tony “I want My Life Back” Hayward. Really? The first problem is you said this to an actual media person. Yes, you were tired. Yes, it was awful. Yes, you had additional, tertiary issues to figure out. Here’s what we would have done (aside from muzzling you). First, we would have boiled it down in a one-page memo outlining the loss of life (11), how many species were at risk environmentally (400) and supplied the contact info for the head of the EPA, who you would tell everyone you were working closely with. Next, we would have gotten someone in graphics to develop the logo for the nonprofit you were initiating to set up scholarships in the names of the surviving families. Finally, we would advise you to get the entire board together for a call, maybe your favorite analyst/head numbers guy and in a second memo we would bullet point for you how this immense tragedy is impacting everyone and how [insert name of numbers person] is going to explain what this means short and long term for BP stock impact. With this plan, you may have been able to not get canned and BP’s share price may have only come down 45% instead of the 55%.

2) Ryan ‘I was robbed so disregard the fact I was a drunk degenerate who destroys property for fun’ Lochte. We understand the knee jerk impulse to lie. But it’s always a bad move. First we’d suggest, not lying. Then, donate a couple of thousand to MADD, pay fully for the damage, admit the drinking was a celebratory stress reliever but it was a huge judgment lapse and apologize. As your publicists, we would have booked you on morning and national talk shows to discuss the dangers of drinking, the stress athletes are under and the fact that although these may sound like excuses, they are sincere. And don’t forget to mention how relieved you are that only property, and not people were damaged and that you hope your fans and supporters don’t use this one moment as a reflection of who you really are.

3) Heather ‘blame the broken system and not my greedy ass’ Bresch. As the only company that makes a life saving allergy treatment, we’re sure you were blocked every step of the way to make it affordable. As your PR firm, we would have advised you to not use this as an excuse in the first place. Instead, how about cutting into the 400% markup to showcase to shareholders and industry peers how decreasing profit margins can be an investment in your brand. Let us turn you into the hero instead of the villain with a huge Epi-Cares campaign focusing on strong, positive brand longevity. We could even send out a release on how much time, money and effort you are giving to help save the bees in the world. And in the end, you may not have been hit with a racketeering suit.

4) John ‘I’m going to blame the 5,000 plus employees under me and not me’ Stumpf. The cry heard ‘round the fiscal world and what did we learn? Taking ownership of mistakes while leading actually shows the strength and wisdom for which you were hired in the first place. Using smaller, less powerful shields against a barrage of bullets is never going to be a popular strategy with the public.  Let us build you a plan chock full of positive spin and messages you could pivot on in record speed and above all, show some accountability immediately. Yes, you’d probably still lose your cushy CEO job and the stock would still tank, but maybe not so epically.

5) Sean ‘everything that literally comes out of his mouth and we have too many instances to choose from’ Spicer. Well, we really have no advice here. Another good quality of leadership is to know when you’ve lost and it’s time to throw in the towel and walk away.


The “Mom” Stigma: When Running a Business and a Family is Viewed as a Weakness by Gwen Wandalowski

Image Source: BMG Today

Image Source: BMG Today

In 2007, Huffington Post’s Blog explored the “Mommy Stigma” and its place in the business world. Fast-forward nearly a decade later and we’re breaking down what still is, and isn’t according to the original post. Things haven’t changed that much – but why?

The scenario: A woman (who we find out also happens to be a mother) quits her job to launch her own company and become a full-time entrepreneur.

Enter a male supporter: “I always thought you’d make a great entrepreneur. I can’t wait to hear what you’re starting.”

She says: “I’m launching a new online community and resource for professional moms, called Work It, Mom!”

He says: “Oh…I never thought you’d do some mommy thing.”

We won’t lie. We’re guilty of stigmatizing the word “Mom” ourselves.

In researching speaking opportunities for a client with a female CEO who happens to be a mother of five (a stellar example of work-life balance that she confidently speaks to) our firm encountered the Marketing2Moms Conference. For an established client, “Marketing2Moms” isn’t necessarily something you’re jumping to present; no matter how many children the CEO may have or her experience speaking as a mother in the business world. To be honest, the “2” didn’t help either.

After digging a little deeper we were pleasantly surprised (yes, surprised) to realize the conference fell into the confines agreed upon between our client and ourselves AND a number of impressive female business leaders were set to speak this year alone. Despite the fact that our firm counts three mothers among our ranks, our initial instincts told us “no.” 

Let’s be real: there would never be a Marketing2Dads conference. Society needs to point out that you’re also a mom which is in turn viewed as a sign of weakness. If you’re NOT a mom then people wonder why. That overarching stigma is tough, we know.

So, there you have it. We’ve all done it. When (if ever) will “Mom” become a norm in the business world? We don’t foresee ourselves ever asking that same question for Dad. 

FSPR Personal Brand by Gwen Wandalowski

Personal and professional branding has always been a thing, right?

From the time we learn to talk we begin to build upon what makes us, us. A solid foundation is the key to settling on your own personal brand and that all comes full circle in the workplace as we strive to define ourselves, our company or both. Enter Food Shelter and how we got to where we’re going (so far).

We’ve aligned the story of our own personal brand with 7 things Forbes deems necessary to build an awesome personal brand. Here’s the list and how we’re weaving our way through it:

1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand – Co-founders Joanne and Lorraine met two decades ago when both were at a New York City-based boutique firm. Both understood the nature of their clients, how best to counsel them and achieve positive results.

2. Audit your online presence – The thought of Googling yourself is nothing short of daunting but we’ve heard it multiple times and multiple ways: it’s a must.

3. Secure a personal website – Aaand you’re on it! launched 10 years ago to aid in our messaging and updates with us. 

4. Find ways to produce value – Content creation in line with the FSPR brand is definitely an ongoing venture. This blog post (we hope) is a pretty strong start. Keep an eye out for more.

5. Be purposeful in what you share – We realize that what we put out there whether it be via social media, our work, or our words adds up. That culmination is important to us and we only strive for quality. BUT at the end of the day, we’re all human. 

6. Associate with other strong brands – No brainer. We wouldn’t be where we are right now without our awesome clients, connections, friends and families (also brands, right?). We like to think we’re a pretty well-rounded bunch.

7. Reinvent – We’re constantly working to expand our knowledge and find what works best for our clients and our team. Are we a PR jack-of-all-trades firm? We just might be…Stay tuned.

If you like where our brand’s going (and we hope you do) give us a follow on our social media: If anything, you’ll be up-to-date with what we’re eating and drinking. Trust us – it’s good.

A Case Study in Class and Business Savvy: Victory Brewing Company Keeps Golden Monkey Flowing to Consumers Indefinitely by Jonathan Hudson

The buzzwords of the burgeoning 2016 craft brewing industry mid-market are “unite”, “complement” and “evolve”.

It’s no secret the industry has dramatically changed over the course of our client’s, Victory Brewing Company, 20-year history. Much like in life, the middle is getting squeezed.

Never one to follow, Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet set a 2016 trend by thoughtfully, and very strategically, creating a new way of operating a successful craft brewery. One in which they continue to make their great beer, employ the people who make the products and the culture so special and grow their beloved brand. In exchange, they get to collaborate, share ideas and move confidently and boldly into the future with like-minded craft brewers and industry folks with the same goals. (Namely, Phin and Sara DeMink of Southern Tier Brewing Company and John Coleman of Artisanal Brewing Ventures).

Personally, we like the idea of embracing change, fueling growth and collaborating with others.

As Victory celebrates their 20th anniversary and marches confidently into the next two decades we at FS raise our pint glasses in celebration and admiration. To Victory! Clearly you’ve been doing things right for the past 20 years and we look forward to what’s next.


Can’t We All Just Get Along? Better Understanding the Journo/PR Exec Bitchfest by Morgan Obidowski

From accusations of smug journalists, to the assertion both parties should meet in the middle, to the ever popular bad pitch round up, the hack vs. flack argument while not new, is currently hot. Yes, there is no shortage of less than stellar PR professionals who need to embrace a better understanding of the English language. To counter that thought, for every crappy spinster there’s a vast supply of equally lazy writers who don’t fact check or do their job well. The unfortunate or fortunate (dependent on the spin) reality is PR people need journalists and journalists need PR people. Imagine a world without communicative, resourceful middle persons who respect a deadline to arrange quotes, calls and interviews with a much needed CEO or source.   

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of consideration, and respect of journalists in most PR firms and vice versa.  Bit of obvious intel: things fall apart in execution, not giving enough guidance to junior staff or when people with no training or basic talent, write stuff. Note to press: it’s a tricky skill to learn – how to sincerely approach press with a valid idea, yet not waste time with the added pressure of pleasing a supervisor who in turn wants to please a client who or may not be fully versed in the nuance of the end result. 

On the other hand, there are writers who under perform, rest on laurels and are responsible for a multitude of sins: laziness, sloppy writing, idea stealing from ‘those people’ outwardly lambasted and loathed on social media outlets. Those with inside knowledge can see when large stories with seemingly endless sources, which on the surface look fair and impartial, are handled through a single call to a PR firm.

Bottom line: younger PR peeps need to be more considerate, do their research and slow down to write correct, cohesive sentences. Seasoned PR peeps need to stop and teach the youngins how to do it better, faster and strategically and not just throw them into the deep end and hope for the best. Writers need to understand the value of good PR and not color us all with the same sweeping brush stroke. 

One final end note: one never knows who will end where or who will need whom in the battle of co-existence, so be considerate, kind and well, less bitchy. 

Successful Events = Stronger Media Relationships, Positive Brand Building and Happy Clients by Morgan Obidowski

Ever felt disconnected in a world where gigantic data-mined media lists (which are often not relevant at best or blatantly wrong at worst no matter what software is used thank you very much) texts and online mails reign supreme? The simple truth is, despite communicating ideas, needs and information being pivotal in our jobs, shaking someone’s actual hand or seeing an actual face has become as rare as finding a farm fresh ripe tomato in the Northeast in December.

While the media landscape evolves and changes, we must to but we should not abandon everything. Enter the refreshing, yet crucial, media event. Not only does it assist with bridging what has become a modern day technological gap between client, PR agency and the media it provides an opportunity to get multiple points across in more than 140 character or (gasp) face to face maybe even over a beer, cup of coffee or glass of wine.

A few weeks ago, Victory Brewing Company (an already stellar and well-recognized local and national brand) casually gathered a group media for opening of Victory at Magnolia in Kennett. The event was a success not because just free booze and food was around – that’s a commodity for food and beer writers and trust us, it takes way more than that. 

More than 20 media were in attendance. Yes, we got coverage for the opening, but we could have done that with an alert and a photo. For us, it provided a few hours of breaking bread and getting to know important, key media in a less frenzied way. It will make us better resources (media happy), waste less time overall for us by building relationships as opposed to sending blanketed blind releases we will have to follow up with to the wrong outlet anyway (we are happy) which, in turn means we will have more time to provide even better service to our client (client happy). 

See how all this comes full circle?  It may sound trite or obvious, but events done well and in moderation, work in spades for all involved. Recently wrapped up a great one? Pat yourself on the back and share it with us, we’d love to hear about it.

Q&A with's Tim Reardon by Morgan Obidowski’s Tim Reardon chats with FS about experiences with PR peeps, how he keeps up with the many things to do in Philly, and what events he’s looking forward to most at Philly Beer Week 2015! 

Q: Describe a typical day

A: Scan through my mails, drink about 2 cups of coffee and eat tons of fruit. After that, I’ll plan what the day will consist of (blog posting wise). The down side, there’s never, ever a slow day in the office, the up side its great being able to inform local Philadelphians and visitors what to check out.

Q:  Interactions with PR professionals – awesome or annoying?

A: I have very positive experiences with PR professionals (so far). I met many a friend through working with them, as well as experiencing some really great events I wouldn’t of been able to check out if it wasn’t for them so they play a crucial role in filtering me information. 

Q:  Since you write about a variety of events, what’s the secret to staying in the loop?

A: Connections. You can never have enough. Building relationships with people in the media is always a plus. I’ve been here for a year and three months and in that short time cultivated many invaluable friendships. I’ve also met many great people who have proven to be important resources through constantly networking and going to events.

Q: How many events do you attend a week?

A: It ranges and it’s random. Most weeks, one or two. Some weeks there’s a ton, and other weeks can be quiet.  

Q: What’s most challenging about the job?

A: Keeping up with every mail in my inbox is number one on the list. Also, making sure everything is covered so the reader in the end can l enjoy in my posts or learn something new. Sometimes I miss an event, but I’ll usually add it right away.  

Q: What pitches capture your attention or any insight on how to stand out?

A: Anything timely item that has to do with what I write about and is pertinent, will always be considered. I really do go through all every single mail and read every pitch sent.  

Q: How many mails do you receive from us?

A: Again, random but at least 10. It really depends on what’s going on. Since a lot of my events focus on beer and food, I’ll get slammed with mails during holidays including Thanksgiving or more recently Philly Beer Week. 

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to PR professionals looking to forge a relationship or work with you, what would it be?

A: Short and to the point - all the details in the mail are a major plus. Who, what, where, when, why, and if there’s a picture attached – even better, but please send photo credit- takes one more things off my plate.  

Q:  Last question, are there any 2015 Philadelphia Beer Week events that stand out this year?

A: This is the best time of the year!  As always, Opening Tap is one not to miss.  I’m looking forward to the Deschutes pop-up beer garden in Headhouse Square - they make some amazing brews. There really isn’t one bad event to go to though, just plan out the week, play it by beer and have a great time. Cheers! 

Navigating The Media: Traditional Influencers vs. Non-Traditional Influencers by Morgan Obidowski

Picture from: Lighthouse Insight

Influencers have a new meaning for the PR industry. While it’s hardly a new idea, PR pros are placing a greater emphasis on influencers in the digital age.

In our industry, we are always seeking out influential people to advocate on behalf of our clients, and due to today’s consumption of media, influencers have evolved. Today, PR pros can expect to find themselves in a constant mix of traditional and non-traditional influencers.  

Since the landscape of influencers is growing, Food Shelter wants to help you navigate how to best work with and what you need to know about current influencers:

Despite the similarities of traditional media and social media influencers, its important to recognize the differences between the two to help make decisions on who makes the most sense for your client.  

· Anyone can be an influencer today. If you want to write about a topic, you just do it. The great thing about having access to so many different digital age influencers is it allows you to grow relationships with the best people for their specific markets and industries.

· Information is less centralized then it used to be. Due to the spread of content across the Internet, PR professionals have to dig deeper to find contacts. Luckily, there are powerful tools to make it easier to spot influencers on the web.

· Not all influencers have a journalistic background. Digital age influencers won’t always understand the traditional interactions shared between the PR professional and the media. 

Traditional influencers and digital age influencers are pretty similar, and here’s why:

· We still need to find their niche – finding and following an influential blogger’s beat is just as important as a finding the beat of a journalist in the New York Times.

· They are opinion leaders and trendsetters. Influencers are the people who are always up to date on what’s current and are deemed as a credible and reliable source of information.

· Traditional influencers such as journalists and digital age influencers have the ability to reach mass amounts of people, and hold a great deal of power on how your client can be perceived.  

At the end of the day finding the right influencers in the digital age takes the same diligence and practice as traditional media, yet working with digital age influencers calls for PR professionals to be ready to enter new territory.