Posts Tagged 'SHIFT Communications'

Pressing the Press: Meet Andrea Salisbury, GateHouse News Media New England

By Matt Trocchio (@Trochman)

Although communication strategies for clients continue to evolve with the growth of social media and online publications, there is one area of news that continues to remain constant for audiences: the local news.  Are you treating these outlets like the key targets they are or as secondary thoughts?  Despite the fact that many consumers still turn to their daily papers and broadcast news for their updates, we in PR sometimes forget the power they wield.

The problem with this is that people sometimes don’t respect these outlets in their outreach efforts and the result can be sloppy pitches or poor relationship building.  As part of our ongoing “Pressing the Press” series we speak with GateHouse News Media New England’s Andrea Salisbury who is the Editor of the Dedham Transcript and the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.  Andrea shares with us her journey to focus on local New England news and how PR professionals can best work with her and other local outlets to give their clients some “home town love.”

How did you get started in journalism? 

That is a loaded question. The easy answer is I fell into journalism. My freshman year of college a professor encouraged me to “get published,” so I signed up for the newspaper and basically never left. After I abandoned the idea I would become a movie critic, I learned the true power of the press and how the written word informs and can change a community. After college I attended graduate school and, again, stumbled into a job on the copy desk of a daily newspaper designing sports pages. Five years later, my company decided I would make a good newspaper editor and gave me two papers to manage.

What drew you to the local news scene?

Community news is, in my opinion, where newspapers thrive. Everyone wants to read about their kid’s Little League game, school play or what’s happening in town government. Local news reporters hold town officials accountable and help to inform the public as to what is going on in their own backyard. As I said before, I fell into the local news scene, but I’ve fallen in love with it. I am there writing stories about breast cancer survivors, and crying along with them as they share intimate details. The local paper is there when the town celebrates the vote to build a new school. These moments that define a town are what attracts me to local news.

As editor of The Dedham Transcript, what are your main responsibilities?

Newspapers are a changing industry. In the two years that I’ve been the editor of the Dedham Transcript my role has shifted. I assign and edit stories for print and online, manage the daily Wicked Local website, design and proof the weekly print edition, take pictures, edit video and write stories. As a side note, I do this for two papers. I recently became the editor of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

How does it work to be a part of GateHouse News Media New England? Do you operate as a separate entity, or do you share information and act as one large outlet?

A little bit of both. GateHouse News Media is huge, there are hundreds of papers across the country, in my newsroom alone there are over 15 weekly papers printed. Editors tend to work within geographical regions when planning stories or assigning reporters to events. Basically, I work right next to editors of surrounding towns.

Can you tell me about one of your favorite stories that you had an opportunity to work on?         

This is an easy one, the Goosebusters. My assistant editor couldn’t get a photographer to accompany him on this story, so I got to tag along as the shooter for the day. Somehow he tracked down this family that had a very strange occupation, they were professional Goosebusters. Basically, the husband and wife team, along with their three border collies went from public parks to private businesses chasing away Canada geese. They have contracts with towns (including the Boston Common) and businesses to make the area uncomfortable for the geese. Twice a day this guy drives around with his dogs looking for geese. So, on this assignment, the family (including their two children), the dogs, my assistant editor and myself piled into the minivan and drove around looking for geese. It took 5 hours. But in the end, we had a fantastic local story, a fun video and hundreds of photos. This was perhaps one of the best days I’ve had “working.”

What do you look for in a good pitch from PR?

A good PR pitch is a local PR pitch. I get a call with a local family, a locally owned business, a local student and I am game for covering that story. On the other hand, if I get a call about a chain business doing something in my town with people from four towns away, I never pursue the story.

What are your main “pet peeves” when working with PR people?

I hate it when a PR person doesn’t know the newspaper they are calling. I get calls pitching a “local” story only to find out by local, they mean happening within a 30 mile radius. The best PR people do their homework, they know the town they are contacting and its deadlines. Calls on deadline days are almost never returned. The last pet peeve, press releases written in all caps, press releases not in Associated Press Style and press release photos that are too small for print, are just extra work on our end.

Anything else that you’d like PR peeps to know?

Keep it local. Newspaper editors are hungry for stories, we want to fill the paper, so make it easy for us. When you call a paper, make sure you know the community and make sure you have contact information right there.

Molding the Future

*This post comes to you from Senior Account Manager and rock star, Amanda Munroe (@ABMBoston)…

Mentor – noun \ˈmen-ˌtȯr, -tər\ a : a trusted counselor or guide b : tutor, coach

In Greek mythology, Mentor was the friend and trusted counselor of Odysseus (legendary king and hero of Homer’s Odyssey). Given their relationship, Mentor was assigned the enormous responsibility of raising Odysseus’s son when he was away fighting in Troy. Naturally, Mentor formed a near-paternal bond with the child, and, as a result, the personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning a “father-like teacher.”

Thankfully, in business, mentors aren’t necessarily called upon to raise someone’s child for 20 years (phew!). Yet, they serve a vital role and can help fuel personal and professional growth. In PR, mentors can help make sense of the insanity, share real-world experiences and lessons learned, and push you out of your comfort zone so you can become the PR pro you want to be.

When I started working at SHIFT more than six years ago, I was excited to start my first job at an agency. I had always considered myself a good writer, having majored in journalism, and thought my time management skills were top-notch, the result of always working two (or three) jobs in high school and college. I had no idea what I was in for. Within a month, I thought I made a terrible mistake and didn’t think I was cut out for the fast-paced and perfection-driven world of agency life. I was failing every day – making errors both small (missing internal deadlines) and monumental (sending a sensitive document to the wrong client). I was ready to call it quits.

But then I talked to a senior staff member and she changed everything. She told me to take a deep breath and said that everyone feels that way their first few months. She gave me real-world tips and tricks to help me manage my time and pay attention to detail. Once I mastered those, she pushed me to think bigger –let me know that speaking up in client meetings was the best way to impress a client and position myself as a rock star to my boss. When I was nervous about networking, she told me to get over it and reinforced how it would help me with my job. A couple of years later, when I was taking the job way too seriously, she reminded me that it was just PR – no lives would be lost if a client had more than a few edits to my press release. To this day, I still consider her a mentor and one of my closest friends.

I obviously stayed at SHIFT and worked my way up into a management position. Soon, I found myself being asked by other SHIFTers to be their mentor. Me? What words of wisdom did I possibly have, I wondered. But once I talked to the ACs and AEs looking for guidance, I realized they weren’t asking for pearls but, instead, the same thing I needed six years ago. They wanted to know how they could impress their managers and clients. How to break through a publication that never accepts a pitch or covers a certain company. How to get ahead when, sometimes, you feel like you can’t possibly do enough. It’s rewarding to give them advice and then see them come into my office, all smiles, when they’ve accomplished their goal. Because of them, I’ve pushed myself to do better in my own job too.

At SHIFT, we’ve recently revamped our Mentor Program and I’m excited to lead this task. The mentor/mentee relationship offers rewards for both and benefits the individuals, as well as the Company. When rolling out the new program, we encouraged mentees to look for mentors that are people they aspire to be like and trust, but aren’t going to just tell them what they want to hear. I know that worked wonders for me.

Do you have a mentor? How has the relationship impacted you?

The Walk of a Lifetime


 By Suzanne Aronowitz @suzaron

A few weekends ago I participated in the 2010 Susan G. Komen Boston 3-Day for the Cure.  What is that exactly?  Just a casual 60-mile stroll through Boston for breast cancer.  Casual it’s not, but now that it’s over and my feet have started to heal, I can say without any sarcasm that it was an amazing experience!  Picture thousands of walkers, volunteers and crew members dressed up in a variety of pink outfits joining together to fight for a common cause.  Side by side with my best friend, @sanndeni and I met some amazing people as we powered from suburb to suburb for three days until we reached UMass Boston where our friends and family greeted us with the best possible gift….flip flops!

Having participated in the Boston 3 Day back in 2007, I recognized a bunch of walkers from three years ago.  What’s amazing is that a lot of people take on this feat year after year.  Not only is the actual walk extremely challenging, but there are months of preparation as well.  In addition to the training time people put in (note to self: next time train!), each participant is required to raise $2,300.  It really is the people that make this experience worth it.  We spoke with one walker who finished chemotherapy just three weeks ago.  Another has been a cancer survivor for 35 years and does this walk every year so that her grandchildren don’t have to suffer the way she did.  By the end, every single step becomes painful, but it’s impossible to give up when you’re surrounded by such strength.

While the walkers are predominately female, there are a bunch of men who participate.  In addition to the famous Men With Heart crew, a staple at the  Boston 3 Day for the last seven years is George.  George lost both his wife and daughter to breast cancer.  We encountered George during the first day walking through Wellesley and he became one of our favorites to spot throughout the weekend.  George had a full length walking stick, an enormous backpack and was singing Hallelujah as he trucked along.  Whenever George made it to the next pit stop, meal or the end of the day finish line, he would yell “Honey, I’m home” at the top of his lungs.  George is just one example of the inspirational people we met who will literally walk the world to find a cure for Breast Cancer.

Will I participate again?  I’ve been asked this over and over during the last week.  Sure, tent life isn’t exactly a dream come true after 20 miles of walking.  Nor are porta potties for three days straight.  But the answer is yes, I definitely will.  It might take a year or so for me to get the courage to embark on this journey again, but it’s a cause I hold dear to my heart and if George can do it, so can I!

iPhone 4 Day: “Let Them Eat Donuts”

By Daisy Kong (@dayseye)

Yesterday morning, I joined our client, Mobclix, as they passed out dozens upon dozens of Krispy Kreme donuts to the incredibly long lines of Apple fans waiting eagerly for the iPhone 4. It started at an ungodly hour and it was cold (what can I say, it was a typical San Francisco summer day), but you could see and feel the excitement in the air. Don’t believe me? Just check out our footage of the lines, which basically wrapped around the entire block, to see for yourself:  

The Opportunity & The Tactic: Given the sheer volume of buzz and press coverage that iPhone day gets each year, SHIFT advised the Mobclix executive team to be on-site at SF’s Flagship Apple Store at the crack of dawn to serve a resource for press. 

The Result: By being at the right place at the right time, the team scored an interview with CNBC! 

[Mobclix co-founder, Krishna Subramanian, speaks to CNBC]

Phone Calls—So 10 Years Ago?

By Megan Lane

Boston, 1999:

As a PR intern at the New England Aquarium, I spent my days faxing press releases to the Aquarium’s media list.  Amid busy signals, failed transmissions and paper jams, the news finally gets out.

I follow up with phone calls and try to create relationships with that voice connection.  Some coverage appears (in print) in local papers.

My friends and I have a phone tree of sorts, and use it to figure out plans for that evening.

On the way home, I fire up my Walkman and listen to the day’s news on terrestrial radio.

Out on the town that night, there’s no danger of embarrassing, drunken communications because I don’t have a cell phone or ready access to an email account.  With no digital camera, we have to wait for prints to come back from the photo shop, rather than immediately upload them.

Sound like the dark ages?  In reality, it wasn’t that long ago. Technologically speaking, it seems like a lifetime, and the way we conduct our personal lives—as well as our business lives as PR folks—has changed significantly.

Boston, 2009:

As an account manager at SHIFT Communications, I now spend my days pitching tailored stories to reporters with whom I’ve developed relationships.  A thought can move from an idea to an interview to the Internet in a matter of hours, sometimes less.  I’m not even sure where the fax machine is in our office.

My friends and I keep in touch on Facebook, and that’s where the majority of our plans are made.

Throughout the day, I get my news from Twitter, and Sirius satellite radio.

Out on the town, I have to forcibly disconnect from my BlackBerry to keep from reading emails, texts and breaking news because everything’s at my fingertips.  You can’t be social if you’re obsessed with your phone.

So what’s the common thread here?  Technology is completely different than it was 10 years ago, as is the way we consume media and execute our jobs as savvy, creative, informed PR pros.  But the one thing that PR hinges upon—indeed, the one thing that business hinges upon—is relationships.  And this is where I like to party like it’s 1999, get on the phone and really make a connection with the person on the other end.  Emails, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all great tools for opening the door and getting a reporter’s attention, but it’s face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact that cements a relationship, and an opportunity.  It’s easy to overlook this basic tool in this age of instant high tech.

We’re beyond the days of “smile and dial” at least when it comes to banging out a blanket pitch to an untargeted media list (well, we are, at least).  But research, rehearsal, smiling and then dialing is the right way not only to pick up interest in your current story, but to find out what makes reporters tick as individuals.  Know your reporter’s work.  Have your pitch down cold.  Be friendly and confident.  And if you get hung up on, try again next time.  It really does pay

So when you’re pitching, as tempting as it is to point and click, try this instead: Think. Breathe. Smile. Dial. Succeed. It still works.

Gobble Gobble

post by Jany Xu

Thanksgiving maybe over and the Christmas spirit in the air, but let’s not leave this turkey holiday too quickly.  @ SHIFT, we celebrated with a gobble contest during our Thanksgiving potluck.  Click to see who’s the best gobbler and who took the turkey baser home.

…And THIRD place goes to…

Second place:

That’s right, girl.  You’re taking the turkey baser home this year!!! The 2008 SHIFT SF Gobble Contest winner is… <drum roll>

New Marketing Intern in San Fran!

Please give a warm welcome to our new Marketing Intern, Kristen Gianaras!  Kristen will be working with Jany and Parry, as well as providing some basic support to the agency and folks here on the Left Coast.

SF SHIFTers, stop by and say hi to Kristen at the front desk on the sixth floor.  You Bostonians, send some virtual lovin’!

Watch the video to learn a little bit more…