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More Than a Stepping Stone – the Mid-Size City Becomes a PR Career Destination

August 21, 2015

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Pittsburgh Skyline

Image used under Creative Commons license

This post originally appeared on the PRSA Pittsburgh blog.

Take a look at the social media feeds for the media in any mid-size city around the country and you’ll see a ton of listicles, articles, and hype videos talking up their hometown. Thanks to the seemingly endless demand for new content, hometown pride is stronger than ever before. And based on my newsfeed, Pittsburghers seem to love their lists more than most.

Despite their love for the ‘Burgh, many young PR and marketing pros unfortunately still look at the city as a second-tier stepping stone. That to really have a PR career, they have to move to New York or Chicago or LA. However, as I wrote back in February and Shannon Baker wrote in May, it’s well past time for the PR and marketing pros here to change the conversation around our beloved city and show the country that we’re more than a stepping stone to somewhere else.

That’s why I got so excited when I saw Josh Brewster’s PRWeek article about Kansas City in July. I saw a lot of Pittsburgh (and Cleveland and Charlotte and Nashville, etc.) in Josh’s article. I reached out to Josh recently to get his take on the evolution of the mid-size city and how other cities can learn from what Kansas City has done to retain their top PR talent.

Steve: In your PRWeek article, you mention that “the city has rallied to keep Millennials and Generation Xers in Kansas City.” Can you expand on that at all? What is the city doing to try to keep those individuals there in KC?

Josh: It’s been amazingly simple, really. As a community, we’ve come together to make this happen. And it’s not like there have been community task forces, or anything choreographed like that. It’s been grassroots, real stuff that young people and the young-at-heart can latch on to and support. The most outward facing examples are events geared toward Millenials and Gen-Xers, like the Fiery Stick Open (http://fierystick.com/). It’s a day long event in the heart of Downtown KC that features awesome music (Girl Talk), hole-in-one golf contest for $1 million dollars, good beer, bocce ball, great food…who doesn’t love that? It’s not too corporate. There are other examples too. Like the “Midnight Underground Circus” (https://midnightundergroundcircus.splashthat.com). It is funded by corporate sponsorships (the same companies that need young talent to stay here), but it keeps a grassroots vibe. Surprise concerts, funky live entertainment…all the good things in life.

And all of it is geared toward catering to the next generation…to remind them they are in the right place. Right here in KC.

Steve: Pittsburgh had a bit of a “lost generation” of people who grew up in the 80s and early 90s who fled the city (myself included) for better jobs and more opportunities elsewhere. These people are now starting to boomerang back to the city and have really started to make an impact here. Does KC have a similar “boomerang generation” and if so, how are they working with the Millennials and Gen Xers?

Josh: Oh man, we are speaking the same language here. Ditto for us in KC. I was born and raised in Kansas City.  I went to college in St. Louis, and returned home a year after I graduated. But so many of my friends (and others in general) headed to Chicago, Denver, stayed in St. Louis, moved out to LA, New York…all the usual suspects. Slowly but surely they are coming back. And you know what? They aren’t shy when they return. They are getting involved, and we are welcoming them back with open arms.

And it’s not just about geographical decisions. It’s a pride standpoint too. Some folks have lived here forever, and are now beginning to jump on the KC bandwagon. And that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s all the growth we’ve experienced downtown. Maybe it’s the Royals (hell yes). Something has lit a fire in everybody’s belly to take it up a notch. And we love it.

Steve: Beyond the lower cost of living, how has your firm and other KC firms made that mid-size city attractive to talent who may have their sights set on one of those big cities? How do you get a talented 25 year-old to turn down the opportunities in The Loop in Chicago for The Loop in KC?  

Josh: I’d be lying if I said I had a perfect solution to this. But we are trying our hardest to find and keep the very best here in KC…and specifically at our agency. We don’t always win that battle, but we make it a priority. Our angle is centered on “Impact.” In Kansas City, you can make an impact. We’re not Mayberry or anything like that. We are healthy-sized metro area – 2.75 million people. But there is something about this place that makes it feel much smaller.

We tout the philanthropic community as an incredible opportunity. It is such a welcoming opportunity, and Millenials absolutely love to have the chance to make a difference in the community…outside the office. In our opinion, it’s more difficult to break into that world in a super large metro.

We also focus on the size of our company – it’s midsized (like KC on a macro level). We have 55 folks working here. We’re all entrepreneurial, and we all have an extra gear to deliver for our clients. There’s a chance to blaze your own path in our company, and as a young up-and-comer in the Kansas City community. That’s a nice position to be in. So we sell that pretty hard.

Steve: You’ve lived in KC for a long time now and seen a lot of changes in the city and in the industry out there. What advice do you have to cities like Pittsburgh that are in the midst of a similar renaissance?  

Josh: I love this question. My advice is simple: Don’t apologize for being proud of your home city. We’re all in the same boat, whether it’s Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Austin, Nashville. We all have a sense of pride. In Kansas City, we’ve come together to make the most of that pride. Whether it’s the “KC” hats everybody wears, to the Charlie Hustle t-shirts (look them up, they are awesome) we all have, it’s a constant reminder that we are part of something awesome.

It’s that collective spirit that helps us build a new convention hotel in downtown, explore a new airport, build a world-class performing arts center, sell out Kauffman Stadium for Royals games, rejuvenate historic entertainment districts…all that good stuff.

So, the short answer is: Embrace that collective spirit, and create something awesome that a new generation can enjoy and experience.

Steve: For a client looking for a new PR or marketing agency, what are the benefits to looking outside the big cities for their next agency relationship?

Josh: I don’t think it matters where your agency is located. What matters is if they understand your key audience, the competitive landscape you are facing, and are willing to hustle on your behalf until the needle is moved. So many brands – big and small – default to big-city agencies. But I can honestly say, some of the best PR and Ad work is created in cities like Kansas City, Omaha, Pittsburgh and Nashville. They work hard, leave their ego at the door, and deliver for their clients.

We’d love to hear from other PR pros in mid-size cities across the country as well. What’s the PR scene like in Indianapolis? Columbus? Chattanooga? Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can improve apply our PR brains to change the perception of these cities among the generation that’s about to enter the workforce.

Josh Brewster is a Vice President at Trozzolo Communications Group based in Kansas City, Missouri. For more on Trozzolo, visit their website at http://www.trozzolo.com/

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Is Our PR Community Part of the New Pittsburgh or the Old One?

February 3, 2015

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This post originally appeared on PRSA Pittsburgh’s blog. 

Kayaks on the Allegheny

Creative Commons image from Flickr user Slackley

In this month’s Pittsburgh Magazine, there’s a story highlighting how millennials are literally and figuratively transforming my hometown.

Where there once existed the attitude that young people had to leave Pittsburgh to find a career, there’s now a sizable part of our city that feels is staying in Pittsburgh to create their career. And people around the country are taking notice.

From startup incubators to entrepreneurs to civil activists, Pittsburgh is attracting a demographic I grew used to being surrounded by over the last 12 years in both Washington D.C. and Chicago. People who care more about making an impact rather than getting a promotion. People who volunteer alongside competitors and clients to advance a cause they believe in. People who go to as many networking events, conferences, and happy hours as they could just to be a part of the energy around them.

When I moved back here in August, my friends and colleagues all asked if I’d miss that feeling, that energy. They said that atmosphere doesn’t exist here because if you’re talented and ambitious, you know better than to stay in Pittsburgh. They said I’d miss that vibe and that I’d wish I didn’t move. They said Pittsburgh is where you go if you can’t hack it in a bigger city or when you’re ready to slow down and take it easy.

I want to prove them wrong.

Pittsburgh and other mid-size cities get a bad rap in the PR and marketing industry. “You need to be in NYC to get access to the media,” they say. “The most creative work comes out of the big agencies because they can afford the talent,” they say. There’s a hell of a lot of talent outside of New York and Chicago that tends to get lost because, paradoxically, PR people generally do an awful job at promoting themselves. Even in our own city, it’s the startups in the East End, or the CMU engineers, or the foodie restaurants that are opening up who get all the attention for the “new Pittsburgh.” Where’s the PR, advertising, and marketing community in all of that?

I want to show them that we’ve got some cool things up our sleeves too.

And I think there’s a whole lot people here in the Pittsburgh PR community who feel the same way. Whether it’s the wonderful team that I have at my agency or the enthusiastic PRSA Pittsburgh Board members or the people I met last night at the PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards, I’ve seen that ambition and desire to make an impact, to be at the tip of the spear of something big. The potential is there.

This year, let’s show the rest of this city and the country what we’ve got here.

Let’s commit to never saying “because that’s how things have been done before.”

Let’s do a better job at educating the people in our organization about the value we bring.

Let’s collaborate and come together more often (virtually and physically) to learn from and push each other to do big things.

Let’s think bigger.

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This Guy Moves to Pittsburgh and You Won’t Believe What Happens Next

August 6, 2014

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If you follow me on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, you already know that I recently decided to become the Director of PR at Brunner in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I was with Cramer-Krasselt for more than two years and can’t thank everyone there enough for the opportunities I was given and for everything I learned there. But having three kids under the age of 4 will force you to change your perspective on a few things, and for me, one of those things was the distance between my family in Chicago and the rest of my family back in Pittsburgh.

I’ve already started diving into our client accounts and new business pitches so before I get too busy to blog here (more on that in my next post), I wanted to give my new colleagues a quick primer on the new guy who won’t shut up in their meetings. And because I keep hearing that no one will read anything unless it’s a listicle and the headline piques your curiosity, here are 19 things you need to know about me:

  1. I have three daughters – a four-year-old (Annabelle) and two 7 month old twins (Kendall and Callan)
  2. Edward Snowden and I share the same former employer
  3. I was once profiled as a “Corporate Rebel”
  4. The only movies I’ve cried at are Rudy and Hoosiers
  5. I started Booz Allen’s unofficial Yammer community and helped take it to more than 7,000 members before it became an official corporate tool
  6. I listen to way too much 90s rap and R&B
  7. My daughter Annabelle had a Twitter account and was featured on FedNewsRadio before she was even born
  8. I used to have a Top Secret security clearance
  9. I went to college in West Virginia, but am a Pitt fan
  10. For the last 11 years, I’ve lived in DC and Chicago, but I’ve still made it to at least one Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers game every single year
  11. I can’t stand onions, mayonnaise, or sour cream
  12. You can almost always find some sort of gummy candy in my desk
  13. My wife and I met when I was a freshman in college and she was a prospective student
  14. I use sports analogies about as often as Pedro Alvarez commits an error
  15. I’m a big proponent of asking for forgiveness rather than permission
  16. I think we’ve forgotten that good PR is ultimately about relationships with people not likes, clicks, or shares
  17. If I’m not saying these things enough to my team, call me on it
  18. I ask a lot of my team, but one thing I insist on is honesty and candor
  19. Someday, I’m going to try out for American Ninja Warrior

If you’re reading this and you’re one of my new colleagues at Brunner, drop me a line, follow me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn, or stop by my desk and let me know a little about you too!

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What Does Integrated Marketing Mean to the Future of the PR Professional?

April 4, 2014

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This article originally appeared in the April edition of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) magazine, Communication World. 

For years, marketing, advertising, and public relations folks fought over budgets, scopes of work, ownership, and talent. It was an inefficient, yet accepted dance at organizations of all shapes and sizes. There was paid media, and there was earned media — and for the most part, everyone understood their role.

If only things were still this easy. Today we have Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Managers, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) analysts, Digital Analysts, Community Managers, Content Marketing Specialists, and way too many social media ninjas, gurus, and rockstars. There’s paid media, earned media, owned media, shared media, and something called omni-channel media. The traditional buckets of marketing, advertising, and public relations seem so quaint now.

Customers don’t care about your org chart, your P&L, or which of their agencies are managing which channel. They just expect you to move seamlessly and consistently from channel to channel and device to device, whether that’s using paid, earned, or owned methods. And increasingly, the clients don’t care about these artificial lines of demarcation either. According to a recent Forbes survey, 68% of CMOs and marketing executives put integrated marketing communications ahead of “effective advertising” (65%), when they were asked what the most important thing is that they want from an agency.

Some of the biggest marketing and PR agencies are already adjusting their business models and organizational structures to better optimize their efforts in this new environment:

  • Edelman has recently created a position – Global Director of Paid Media – responsible for defining their approach to paid media and for integrating it into their accounts.
  • Earlier this year, FleishmanHillard restructured to be more channel-agnostic, integrating paid, owned, and earned media. In 2011, they placed $250 million worth of ads in paid media. In 2012, that number increased to more than $1.2 billion.
  • Weber Shandwick created MediaCo, a new unit focused on content marketing, native advertising, and digital media buying.
  • Cramer-Krasselt, my employer, while traditionally seen as an ad agency, actually uses an integrated structure that aligns PR, social media, advertising, paid media, CRM, search, and paid media under one P&L that allows us to create seamlessly integrated campaigns across all forms of media.

PR professionals know, of course, that their job is to build meaningful relationships with their stakeholders. However, doing so today means reaching them through paid, earned, owned, and shared media — understanding how all of these channels work, the content each requires, and how to piece it all together into an integrated plan. Clearly, PR is no longer about just getting “ink” in print or pixels. It’s about developing multi-channel relationships with a variety of stakeholders. It means learning more about paid media and how to incorporate those costs into budgets. It means integrating social ads, sponsored content, and syndicated content into strategies from the very beginning. It means the PR pros with experience in paid, owned AND earned media are going to become much more valuable.

If the traditional practitioner wants to remain relevant in this multi-channel environment, he or she is going to have to stop looking at only media hits and impressions, and  start thinking through the entire customer journey across all channels. For example –

  • That reporter at the New York Times just called and said he’s doing a story on your brand! Will he blog about it too? Will he share it with his 100K Twitter followers and Facebook fans? Is your brand willing to retweet his story? How can you use your owned channels to drive more traffic to that story?
  • The blog content you’re publishing is relevant, valuable, and engaging yet no one is reading it. What’s the right syndication partner to increase your audience size? Should you use paid search links to drive additional traffic? How will the increased traffic impact your bounce rate?
  • What’s the hashtag for that event you’re planning? Should you even have one? How will you create shareable moments during the event? Who’s serving as the digital emcee?
  • Your brand is doing a large paid media buy with one of your target publications. How does this impact your pitch to the editorial staff? How segregated are their advertising and editorial teams?

Building and maintaining stakeholder relationships today is very different than even a few years ago.  Thankfully, the tools used to manage them have evolved also. The reach and influence of some organizations’ owned channels rival that of some traditional publications. Some publications offer sponsored content hubs that mirror the look and feel of their editorial content. The social media newsfeed has become a mishmash of sponsored and organic content and they’re often indistinguishable from each other.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rasta Taxi

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rasta Taxi

Knowing when and how to pull these paid, earned, owned, and shared levers could make the PR pro a multi-channel quarterback because we best understand our stakeholders’ information needs, media consumption habits, and user journeys. As the lines between paid and earned media disappear, the PR pro has to be more proactive and get more involved across the entire marketing mix. Whether that’s being part of the creative team brainstorming the new commercial or working with paid media to create more effective media partnerships, one thing’s clear. The PR pro is going to have to figure out how to get more involved in other channels or risk being left out of the process entirely.

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