Grace Lavigne

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    • Member Type(s): Content Publisher
      Media - Print Journalist
      Media - Web-only/Blogger
      Media - Other
    • Title:Reporter
    • Organization:American Metal Market
    • Area of Expertise:Writing, Editing, Social Media
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    Dear Gracie: A Farewell

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 3:18 PM [Dear Gracie]
    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    I'll be starting a new job next week, so Dear Gracie will be discontinued -- but only for right now. After a brief hiatus, this column will return under a new title with a new author.

    I started writing this advice column in the summer of 2011, in an effort to spotlight some of the talented experts in ProfNet's network. In the beginning, I was answering readers' questions about general topics, like real estate, the environment and more. But as weeks went by and I got more feedback from readers and more questions from advice seekers, the column started to center on PR and media issues in particular.

    With exactly 60 entries to date, it's been an incredibly important writing journey for me. It has truly been a pleasure getting to know Dear Gracie's contributors, readers and advice seekers. Thank you to those who had the time and interest to read the column, and to those who put their confidence in me to find the answers to their questions. A particular thanks to each expert who provided their knowledge and made Dear Gracie a success.

    Now without further ado, here are the all-time most popular Dear Gracie posts:

    How to Write Catchy Headlines

    Nine Non-PR Skills Every PR Person Needs

    The Great Serial/Oxford Comma Debate

    Commas/Periods Inside or Outside of Quotation Marks?

    Tips for How to Appear on Camera

    Six Secrets to Successful Nonprofit PR

    When Clients Want to Distribute Non-News

    #Hashtags 101

    Branding vs. Advertising vs. Marketing vs. PR

    Press Kit Tips for Better Media Exposure

    Th-th-th-th-that's all folks!

    Gracie

     

    ProfNet, a service of PR Newswire, has helped journalists and experts connect since 1992. Writers can search the ProfNet Connect database of more than 50,000 profiles; send a ProfNet query by email to thousands of subscribers around the globe; or get timely experts and story ideas by email.

    input by kevin dooley

    Dear Gracie: Five Instagram Tips for PR Pros

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 9:49 AM [Dear Gracie]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you've been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to grace.lavigne@prnewswire.com

    Dear Gracie,

    Instagram has been around for a couple of years, but seems to have exploded in popularity recently. How can PR pros use Instagram to increase publicity for clients?

    Improving Images

     

    **********

    Dear Improving Images:

    Four ProfNet experts provide a snapshot:

    Instagram is a social network where users can share photos and comment or like their friends' photos, explains Jeff Peters, social media specialist at The Halo Group.

    It offers users a simple, easy way to take and edit photographs, and then post them across all major social media portals, says Seth Grugle, digital and social media specialist for Much and House Public Relations. It borrows the #hashtag concept from Twitter and aggregates friends like Facebook.

    "One of the most interesting aspects of Instagram is that it's not really a 'site,' but lives almost purely on mobile," notes Peters.

    "While it's possible for just about any brand to use Instagram, the platform itself is most appealing to brands and industries that are more visually oriented," Peters explains. "Instagram helps create a visual connection between a brand and a consumer or potential customer."

    For example, a fashion line could post photos of inspirational clothing patterns, a car manufacturer could post photos of challenging roadways, or a celebrity could post behind-the-scene shots that grant followers access to sights and scenes they'd never get to see otherwise, says Grugle.

    PR professionals should seriously consider using the social network to complement client announcements and press releases, just as they do with Twitter and Facebook, says Jennifer DeAngelis, a PR account executive with InkHouse.

    "If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, then the visual imagery projected through Instagram translates well beyond a 140-character maximum," says Grugle.

     

    Tips and Suggestions for PR Pros Using Instagram:

    1. Check Out Instagram's Business Page, suggests Peters. Instagram for Businesses provides information on how to get started, examples of successful approaches, advertising and marketing opportunities, and more.

    2. Consider Your Audience. "Are your brand's fans using Instagram?" asks Kevin Dugan, veteran marketer with The Empower Group. "If your audience isn't on Instagram, do you need to be?"

    "Don't just use Instagram to use it or because it's positioned as 'hot,'" agrees Peters. "Make sure that you're giving your audience content that they want to see and interact with."

    3. Post Appropriate Content. "Understand why you want to use Instagram, how you're going to use it, what you want to get out of it and how your audience uses it," says Peters.

    "Don't forget that, while pictures are great, substance is critical," stresses Dugan. "What are you trying to convey?"

    4. Don't Just Post -- Interact, says Peters. Some of the most popular brands on Instagram use behind-the-scene photos, photo hunts or contests. For example, fashion retailer Free People integrates Instagram directly into their product pages.

    5. Get Creative, says Dugan. "Optimize the content for the format and break out of traditional molds." Here are a few examples of unique approaches:

    Instagram is also often mistakenly overlooked for various types of announcements that a company might make, such as a new product, a new hire, an upcoming event or a recent award, says DeAngelis in her post How We Can Use Instagram in Public Relations.

     

    Gracie

    ProfNet, a service of PR Newswire, has helped journalists and experts connect since 1992. Writers can search the ProfNet Connect database of more than 50,000 profiles; send a ProfNet query by email to thousands of subscribers around the globe; or get timely experts and story ideas by email.

    image via Flickr user kevin dooley

    Dear Gracie: PR Pros on Their Most Important Career Lessons

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 4:31 PM [Dear Gracie]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you've been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to grace.lavigne@prnewswire.com

    Dear Gracie,

    I'm a student working at my first PR internship this summer. What's the best advice a long-time PR professional can give me? What's the most important lesson they've learned throughout their career in this industry?

    Advice for an Amateur

     

    *************

    Dear Advice for an Amateur:

    1. Go the Extra Mile. Film producer Samuel Goldwyn once said: "The harder I work, the luckier I get." That is, the harder you work, the more ideas and chances you make for yourself.

    PR is strategic, but it is also about making that extra phone call, sending that extra email or following up that one extra time, says Doug Drotman of Drotman Communications. Expose yourself to opportunities.

    2. Set Realistic Expectations. Thomas Lee, founding partner and head of public relations at 451 Marketing, was representing a local radio station that had arranged for the musician Uncle Kracker to perform live. He made a few calls and got every major outlet in the area to guarantee they would cover the event. He told his client "every media outlet will be there," and of course the client was thrilled.

    This is what most seasoned publicists would consider a cardinal sin, says Lee. Because despite guarantees, not a single media outlet showed up to cover the concert. The lesson learned was that, as a publicist, you ultimately can't control the media. There are so many variables that can keep a media outlet from attending an event, publishing an article or running a broadcast piece -- breaking news, traffic, adverse weather, advertisers, editors who need more space, etc. -- that nothing is ever a certainty.

    "Always under promise and over deliver," agrees Shannon Blood, account manager at Off Madison Ave.

    3. Stay Cool Under Pressure. "Grace under pressure can make all the difference," says Karyn Martin, vice president of 451 Marketing. "When a situation isn't going as planned, your reaction can make or break it with your client." Put others at ease by rising above the situation -- and you'll be at a real advantage in the PR industry.

    4. Remember the Details. "My most important PR lesson can be summed up in one word: 'parking,'" says Zipporah Dvash, assistant vice president of public affairs and development for SUNY Downstate Medical Center and University Hospital of Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital. In a dense urban area like New York City, reporters will not only evaluate the merits of your pitch, but also on whether they can get their crew to your location. "Every pitch of mine includes 'we will arrange parking,'" she says.

    5. Always Represent. Tradeshows are frequently in Las Vegas, but remember that you're there on your client's dime and always representing them, says Jeremy Pepper, a long-time PR consultant and blogger. "You can go out and drink, but you better be on time for the events and never hungover.

    6. Be Proactive. As a journalist, you can only report -- you can only be reactive -- but as a PR professional, you can make things happen -- you can be proactive, explains Dan Collins, senior director of media relations at Mercy Medical Center.

    He learned this lesson on his first PR job, when a local musician was brutally mugged and her five-figure violin stolen. Collins set up an effort to offer a reward for the stolen violin, and also to get her medical expenses covered. This attracted press coverage, and in turn, it also attracted the criminals, who came forward to try and claim the reward, and ended up getting caught.

    "PR and journalism are truly two sides of the same coin," says Collins. But the ability to be proactive is the power of PR.

    7. Be Sincere. "Be genuine and you will be believable," says Chris Leogrande, director of media relations at Utica College. "This has served me so well in my relationships with reporters. If I can't answer their questions, I tell them why I can't." For example:

    • Press at this point could endanger our funding.
    • We have a policy not to release personal information on employees.
    • I don't know the answer to that but I will try to find out.

    "Never, ever lie to a reporter. No matter what," says Lewis Goldberg in his post "PR Lessons Learned." "You will be found out and you will personally lose credibility and hurt your client deeply."

    8. Win Trust. "Far too many relationships become ones based on a vendor-supplier dynamic rather than a trusted partner relationship," says Bill McLaughlin, PR and social media pro with Lois Paul and Partners, in his post "Client-PR Agency Relationships: It's a Matter of Trust." Here are some ways to build a relationship with a foundation of trust:

    • Give clients a reality check. It is crucial at the outset that clients understand their assets, strengths and weaknesses, desires and goals, etc.
    • Avoid investment expectations. "The agency needs to deliver results, but the client also needs to pay for the cost of those results."
    • Provide financial transparency. Once a budget is agreed upon, make sure the client is aware of how activities are tracking to the budget.
    • Nip issues in the bud. Don't hesitate to talk about expectations or problems. The sooner those conversations take place, the better.

    A trusted relationship should also include respect and privacy, adds Brooks. "No matter the context of your work, and no matter what reporters ask or think they know, some conversations and information should be kept out of public view." Keep your word.

    9. Remain Tactful. "Know the right time to speak up and the time to be quiet," says Rachel Hutman, communications pro with Clearpoint Agency. It's a fine line, and something you learn as you go, she says.

    Additionally, remember that in times of crisis it's important to say something to the media, says John Brooks, director media relations and news at North Park University in Chicago. "Reporters will find someone who will comment, and you probably won't like what these 'spokespersons' have to say." Always return phone calls to reporters in a timely fashion and have a written statement to share, even if it contains little information.

    10. Pick Your Battles. "The client is always right, even when they aren't," says Susan Tellem, partner of Tellem Grody PR. "It's critical that public relations pros offer their best advice when clients ask and even when they don't."

    Tell clients what you think and why, Tellem continues. "If the client doesn't agree for whatever reason, tell them: 'You're the client. While I do not agree, I will help you achieve what you want to do to the best of my ability (as long as it is not illegal or immoral)."

    11. Collaborate. Work as a true partner with your internal stakeholders or clients, says Rachel DiCaro Metscher, corporate communications director of Hobsons. A good collaborator will clearly identify needs, provide a solution that works, make sure the work gets done and follow up. "The ability to work well with each person is vital to the success of their project and mine," she says.

    "Set goals as a team," adds McLaughlin. "Begin with realistic goals that include some quick return possibilities so that everyone can see immediate traction for the program."

    12. Beware of the Status Quo. "The status quo is the enemy," says Lou Hoffman, CEO of The Hoffman Agency. "It's easy to fall into the trap of doing something the same way because that's how it's always been done." There's always room for fresh thinking.

    13. "Pitch Sensibly. "Send a pitch because it's the right story for the right media person," says John Goodman of John Goodman PR. "Dumb pitches to appease a client will come back to bite you with the media."

    14. Read a Lot. "You cannot be well-read enough in the PR business," says Atlanta publicist Dan Beeson. "Sample as many literary genres as humanly possibly."

    15. Have fun. "While PR is a job, taking the joy of life into your job will make you way more effective," says Goldberg. "If you just see what we do as a slog to get through, you will not be doing anyone any favors." Enjoy your life and your job and your work will reflect this.

    Gracie

    ProfNet, a service of PR Newswire, has helped journalists and experts connect since 1992. Writers can search the ProfNet Connect database of more than 50,000 profiles; send a ProfNet query by email to thousands of subscribers around the globe; or get timely experts and story ideas by email.

    Dear Gracie: How to Land Speaking Gigs

    Wednesday, August 8, 2012, 8:49 AM [Dear Gracie]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of over 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you've been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to grace.lavigne@prnewswire.com

    Dear Gracie,

    I'm a seasoned industry expert, but do not have any significant experience as a speaker. How do I get my name on the radar of conferences, trade shows, workshops, etc.? Is this a good way to supplement income? What can I expect?

    Seeking Speeches 

    ********

    Dear Seeking Speeches:

    Five ProfNet experts share some advice:

    Dan Collins, senior director of media relations at Mercy Medical Center, suggests four ways to break into speaking:

    1) Have a Notable Political, Religious or Athletic Career.

    • Political: Federal workers at the White House level, or former Secretaries of State are always in demand.
    • Religious: a la Billy Graham
    • Athletic: Always a slam dunk!

    2) Write a Book. Preferably published by a well-known company like Random House or HarperCollins.

    3) Be Very Funny. Take notes from Bill Crosby.

    4) Appear on a Top-Rated Reality Show. This might be a tough one -- but remember the uproar last year when Rutgers University paid Snooki from "Jersey Shore" $32,000 to speak? Compare that to the $30,000 they paid Nobel Prize-winning author and feminist Toni Morrison to speak at their commencement ceremony.

     

    General tips on landing speaking gigs:

    1) Be Visible. The expert's personal or company website needs to show that they are available to speak, explains Lorrie Thomas Ross, CEO of Web Marketing Therapy who is also a speaking trainer and paid speaker herself. People who want to speak have to let organizations know they are available to talk and can add value to events.

    2) Network. Experts should attend the events they'd like to speak at, and let friends and colleagues know they're available too, says Lauren Fleming, publishing specialist at Emerson Consulting Group and author of Business Review USA's article "Want to Let People Know You're an Expert? Start Speaking!"

    3) Team Up. If someone in the field is already an experienced speaker, you could offer to open for them, says Fleming. That experienced speaker already has a fan base which can be used to build credibility by association.

    4) Create a Demo. Invite colleagues and friends to a private room and tape a speech, suggests Alan Weiss, president of Summit Consulting Group, author of "Million Dollar Speaking" and member of the Speaking Hall of Fame. There should be two cameras: one on the speaker and one on the audience. Or consider making a YouTube video, adds Fleming.

    5) Offer Free Speeches. It pays to give free speeches -- for the practice, testimonials and video clips, says Thomas Ross.

    6) Start Small. Check out the local Chamber of Commerce, industry networking groups, Rotary Clubs, etc., says Fleming. Any meeting with about five to 20 people in attendance who will show up to the meeting regardless of the speaker.

    7) Pitch Trade Associations. Form a distinct portfolio of expertise -- whether that's through books, articles, teleconferences, interviews, etc. -- to pitch trade executives, says Weiss.

    8) ProfNet Speaker Service. If you're a ProfNet member, you can monitor query feeds for Speaker Service opportunities.

     

    What to know about fees for speaking engagements, according to Weiss:

    • Typical Rates. The top non-celebrity speakers earn $25,000 or so for a keynote (typically 60-90 minutes), but most excellent speakers earn $10,000, and most speakers earn only about $3,500 per speech or even less.
    • Reimbursements. Because speaking engagements are labor intensive, expenses are generally reimbursed. Speakers can request first-class airfare, for example.

     

    To pitch a speaker, create a "sales package with sizzle," says Susan Tellem, partner at Tellem Grody Public Relations. This should include six key components:

    1) Introduction. Provide a brief description of the speaker and what makes him or her so dynamic.

    2) List of Topics. Briefly summarize the subjects the speaker can discuss. Topics should cater to different audiences: consumers and the public, executives and administrators, industry professionals, etc.

    3) Press Kit. A full electronic press kit.

    4) Speaker Sheet. Condense the bio information, fees and suggested topics onto a single page.

    5) Testimonials. If the speaker has previous experience, provide audience or group testimonials.

    6) Media Clips. Provide prior press coverage of the speaker with links or PDFs, including any broadcast appearances.

     

    Now break a leg!

    Gracie

     

    ProfNet, a service of PR Newswire, has helped journalists and experts connect since 1992. Writers can search the ProfNet Connect database of more than 50,000 profiles; send a ProfNet query by email to thousands of subscribers around the globe; or get timely experts and story ideas by email.

    image via Flickr user hiddedevries

    Dear Gracie: Clearing the Hurdles of Sports PR

    Thursday, July 26, 2012, 8:22 AM [Dear Gracie]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of over 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you've been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to grace.lavigne@prnewswire.com

     

    Dear Gracie,

    I recently acquired a professional athlete as a client, although I have no experience in sports PR specifically. Any advice? Unique challenges?

    Athletic Amateur

     

    Dear Athletic Amateur:

    Three ProfNet experts with sports PR experience weigh in:

     

    What to Know About Sports PR

    1. Professional vs. Fan: “If you choose to get involved in sports PR, understand that the fan element must be removed from the equation,” says Christopher Navalta, senior account executive for Graham and Associates, who also has prior experience managing NBA players and teams, as well as minor league baseball players and teams.
    2. Long Hours: And while you don't have to have a passion for sports to work in sports PR, you probably won't like it if you don't, warns Adam Siepiola, assistant athletic director for media and external relations at Adelphi University, a Division II institution in New York. Sports PR includes long hours at games, and the ability to know what you're watching and writing about. "As a collegiate PR professional, we are required to travel with our teams regularly and to be at all home games," says Siepiola. "Your work day really starts after the game."
    3. Unstructured Work: "Every day is different," says Navalta. "Managing a team is obviously more structured than managing an athlete, but if you're the type of person who enjoys every day being different, then this is the perfect fit." From head injuries in the NFL to ethics violations in the NCAA, the sports industry faces many challenges that require the assistance of PR professionals, agrees Amy Littleton, senior vice president of KemperLesnik, a PR, events and sports marketing agency in Chicago.
    4. No Riches: "Sports PR doesn't pay very much," says Littleton. "You have to do it for the love of the game." It's long hours, average pay, weekends spent working and no real time off until June, warns Siepiola. "But the good outweighs the bad!"
    5. Untapped Stories: "There is so much more beyond just the final score," says Siepiola. "For example, we had a four-time All-American women’s lacrosse player who has been dealing with diabetes since she was 6; she overcame that to become one of the best in the country!"

    Potential Challenges

    1. Competition and Clutter: "There are so many sports and events competing for the attention of consumers, that it is often difficult to break through," says Littleton. "This is exacerbated by the fact that ESPN holds a lot of power when it comes to sports news and coverage." You have to find compelling, human-interest stories -- anything that goes beyond wins and losses -- to get coverage sometimes, says Siepiola.
    2. Changing Minds: Because professional athletes are paid millions of dollars, they are considered one-man institutions. Unlike working in a PR agency, where there is plenty of structure, working with athletes can be challenging, depending on who you’re working with, because athletes have the ability to change their minds constantly when it comes to their brand, says Navalta.
    3. Brand Direction: “Like any business, the sports industry is about building a brand,” says Navalta. “I’ve run into a lot of athletes and coaches who have wanted to build their own brand, but really never had any direction or foresight on what they wanted to do with it.”
    4. Damage Control: We frequently see professional athletes in trouble with the law, says Navalta. These athletes obviously do not have a lot of the necessary structure to build and maintain a brand because they’re around the wrong people. “If sports leagues want to avoid having the reputation of having athletes who are always getting into trouble, they need a better PR plan.” Plus, damage control is always time consuming. Avoid athletes or teams with histories of bad PR, unless you're the kind of person who thrives on helping underdogs.
    5. Uncensored Social Media Chatting: Social media is a great place to grow a personal brand, says Siepiola. But since it's also a place to vent and talk with friends, social media can be risky business. A PR professional can educate and monitor this type of social media usage. At some point, an issue will come up, so have a crisis management plan in place, warns Siepiola.

    Perks

    • Sports PR pros get to watch games up close for free and do a lot of traveling, says Navalta.
    • "Getting inside the ropes, courtside or into locker rooms to get up close and personal with players and see behind the scenes at events is pretty awesome," says Littleton.
    • "I vividly remember a time this past spring -- an April afternoon at around 2 p.m. -- when I was out at our softball field watching and keeping statistics for a game," says Siepiola. "It was in the mid-70s and sunny, and I remember thinking: 'I get paid to do this -- how cool is that?!"
    • Siepiola also says that he's travelled to places he probably never would have been to otherwise.

    Gracie

    ProfNet, a service of PR Newswire, has helped journalists and experts connect since 1992. Writers can search the ProfNet Connect database of more than 50,000 profiles; send a ProfNet query by email to thousands of subscribers around the globe; or get timely experts and story ideas by email.

    picture by Flickr user *sean


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