Interviewing Clients: A Necessary Art by Lorraine Gimblett

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Interviewing potential clients should go beyond the obvious questions of their goals, business objectives and budget – and determine whether the work and the relationship are a good fit for the present and in years to come.

You wouldn’t go into a blind date without looking up your date on Facebook – seeing if you have any mutual contacts or interests – and the same goes for your working relationships. Check out a potential client’s website, blog and social media pages to get a feel for the company vibe to see if you think the work and personalities will be complementary. Is it a good feeling you’re getting? Is their photography hip and on point? Are their photos taken in bad lighting or with a shaky hand?

We try to get to know the people who we may take on as clients so we can build trust, bond and understand their personalities and communications styles, because harmony goes a long way in an agency-client relationship. Over the last 12 years Food Shelter has interviewed many potential clients – and while they were getting to know us just as much as we were getting to know them – there’s always the determination of whether or not we would move forward. And while we can’t give you the skills to read people, make connections, or charm someone with your wit or experience, we can give a few questions that should be asked to gauge what the scope of work, and feel, of your relationship might be.

Here are four essential questions to ask when interviewing clients.

1.     What do you want your organization to look like in one year, two year or five years?

2.     How are decisions made and who makes them?

3.     What do you like about what other firms do, and what do you wish they would do differently?

4.     What do you and don’t you need?

All of these questions help get to the core of their goals with PR and to help the agency identify and solve for their pain points. They’re necessary questions in identifying how to help grow their brand and utilize the tools needed to get results.

But often, client relationships end up spanning years and blossom into real friendships. It’s good to know who you’re working with, their expectations, and communication style before you sign the contract. We choose our clients just as much as they choose us. We’re proud be the agency of record for the P.J.W. Restaurant Group over the last 8 years. When we were first introduced by a mutual industry friend, the restaurant group had no marketing person at all. And it was the level of trust that our referral came with that helped us make recommendations about internal operations and play an exciting role in the growth of their company. Plus, we also like to text each other podcast recommendations, so we’ve got a good balance of communication between work and fun, and look forward to the growth of the P.J.W. Restaurant Group to come.

Don’t be afraid to ask more personal questions and get a feel for the individuals you’ll be working with. Experience has shown us that combining facts and fun lead to the most fruitful working relationships.

We’re happy to represent a group of clients who we’re proud to not only do good, results driven work for – but share a few laughs and drinks with from time to time, too.

Quit Labeling: What ‘Titles’ Really Mean in a PR firm … According to Someone Else* by Lorraine Gimblett

You’ve been hired as Account Executive at a PR Firm. The job description explained the responsibilities include pitch creation, execution of daily client goals, content creation and overseeing campaigns.

Day 1: Printer is jammed and as AE, there is the expectation to fix it. 2 hours and one toner-doused ruined outfit later, ‘Advanced Computer Technician’ can be added to the skills section on the resume.

Day 2: Who is going to get in a cab and messenger highly perishable caviar packages to every morning show in NYC? Voila! Add ‘Highly-seasoned navigator’ to that growing list of skills.

What’s in a job title, anyway? It can be argued, most titles have little to no meaning or confined to one descriptor. In a smaller, boutique firm, everyone’s roles flow into the other and professionals are expected to wear many hats regardless of ‘titles’. In a larger firm, titles only serve as a daily reminder of rank with little to no regard for actual skill.

We wanted to share the most recent industry titles, descriptions and what their job entails versus what we secretly know they actually do. It begs the question: In a world where Highway Environmental Hygienist means Road Sweeper, have job titles have lost their meaning and are they going the way of the corner office, fax machines and dinosaurs?

President/Founder/CEO- Provides leadership to externally position the company at the industry forefront. Develops strategic plans to advance the company's mission and objectives and to promote revenue, profitability and growth as an organization. Oversee company operations to insure production efficiency, quality, service, and cost-effective management of resources.

Reality - Face of the company and is responsible for everything that ever happens (or doesn’t) ever. Shoulders and head are always VERY heavy – and not from a golf swing or too much sun.

VP -  Manages overall administration of PR programs for assigned clients, including staff administration, PR planning, financial management, budgeting, professional systems development, staff training and professional development.

Reality: The right hand man everyone needs time from and/or goes to.  A very important agency figurehead and function. Usually the President’s scapegoat whenever possible. Is able to shake blame off very quickly and passes bucks so fast it makes they eyes hurt.

Senior Account Executive - Manages multiple accounts with multiple elements and multiple teams. Focuses more on day to day client work and reporting those results to upper management. Rarely asked to be involved in any new business or macro-level initiatives.

Reality: Cleans up everything people below them didn’t get right. Traffics the ever-shifting unexpected snafus account work brings, gets barraged daily by supervisors, is apprised of the details the higher ups are never aware of and brings meaning to the word middle inmiddle management. Biceps are huge due to the heavy lifting; feet are fast from all the tap dancing; and the large hands prove useful for the juggling.

Account Executive- Responsible for the content output and promotional initiatives within an organization. Promotes and enhances profiles of clients through blogs, press releases and  pitches. Creates all status/clip reports and agendas.  

Reality: One supposed step closer to not having to deal with intense media outreach every single day.  One supposed title away to not having clip report nightmares every single night. Ears are usually very sensitive from all the barking and yelling – both from peers and press.

Assistant Account Executive- Responsible for performing research, developing media lists, handling schedules for higher ups, edits releases before it supposedly goes back up the change and then to the client. Works side by side with account executives to enhance client image, but rarely has the opportunity for face time with them much less give opinions or ideas.

Reality: Being handed over the less creative duties that have to get done. Lots of clip and media reports, frustrating back and forth confirmation mails about meeting dates, gift bag stuffing and RSVP event calls. The first of many checks to write in the world of paying your dues.  The first rung in the very tall ladder.

Intern-  Responsible for juggling multiple projects simultaneously, such as planning marketing events, writing press releases, and creating media kits and digital campaigns. Interns should also spend time with upper management learning about clients and developing skills to pave the way for either their future at the agency or at the very least credit at respective colleges.

Reality: Spending half the day trying to decipher instructions from the Senior Account Executive without asking too many questions, trying to track down that one media contact from that one blog, who wrote one article that one time in 2005. Oh, and maintaining and completing all the work that the aforementioned, have not (or don’t want) to complete.


Do your opinions match ours? We'd love to hear from you. We are always looking for talented rockstars to join our team! Send us your resume and tell us why you want to join our team.

[email protected]


* At FSPR there are no titles on business cards. We believe titles are about as useful as a bicycle is to a fish and not because we are small. It’s because we think it builds a more rounded professional and every voice or idea, no matter how large or small, counts. The Co-founders still pitch media, what would be considered an Assistant AE attends new business meetings and interns have an all access pass to see the back page of decks. 

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 Morgan Obidowski

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 Morgan Obidowski

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.