Jul 07 2014

New Team Member Spotlight: Adam Bowers

Published by under RLF Spotlight

RLF welcomes Adam Bowers back to the team as a communications manager. Adam joins RLF from Bliss Integrated Communication, a New York City-based public relations agency specializing in business-to-business communications. Prior to joining Bliss, Adam worked as an intern and a communications specialist here at RLF. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication, with an emphasis in public relations.

Tell us a little about your work experience and what attracted you to RLF.

After I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013, my soon-to-be wife wanted to move to New York City to try our hand at life in the big city. While we were there, we lived in the Upper East Side, and I worked at a B2B PR firm where I got quite a bit of media relations experience working on accounts in the financial and professional services spaces.

When a change in my wife’s job brought us back to NC, I reached out to RLF to see if there were any openings. Having worked here before, I knew what I was getting myself into – a fast-paced work environment with some of the best and brightest marketing professionals in the Triad. How could I not come back? (Especially with the well-stocked fridge full of Coca-Cola products!)

What’s your favorite way to spend your free time?

My wife and I recently got a soft-coated wheaten terrier puppy named Baloo, so he has started to consume most of my free time (beginning at 6:00 every morning when he starts whining to go outside). But he’s great!

When I’m not chasing Baloo around, I love playing disc golf, going to the movies and reading.

What was the last book you read?

I recently finished Half Magic by Edward Eager. It’s a children’s book that I read way back in fifth grade about four kids who find a magic coin that grants half of what they wish for. During the summer, I try to revisit a book or two from childhood to allow myself to feel like a kid on summer vacation with nothing to do again. My nostalgia levels always seem to run high in the summer months.

If you had a theme song, what would it be?

Given how much time I’ve been spending lately chasing my dog around the house, I’d have to go with “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men. In addition to being relevant to my life right now, I’m also a huge fan of late 90s and early 2000s pop music, so this has got to be the perfect fit. (Honorable mention: Gettin’ Jiggy With It).

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

C.S. Lewis. Hands down. I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time when I was ten, and I’ve re-read every book in the Chronicles of Narnia probably fifteen times since then. I’d love to pick his brain and try to understand how he managed to craft a series of books that kids love, but that also get better the older the reader gets.

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Jun 26 2014

The Dos and Don’ts of Media Relations: A Practical Guide to the Art of Pitching

Published by under Media Relations

Alyssa Bedrosian

As a young public relations professional, it’s vital to look to experienced practitioners for direction, advice and constructive criticism. Whether it’s a colleague, friend or industry leader, find someone you can talk to openly and honestly, and find the time to pick his or her brain and learn as much as you can.

When I began my career in PR, I scoured the Internet for the top PR books to help guide me through my first years in the industry. I came across This Is How You Pitch by Ed Zitron, founder of EZPR, and spent my first few weeks reading about tips, tricks and best practices for media relations efforts. While media relations is just one component of PR, crafting the perfect pitch is an essential part of working in the communications industry.

Zitron’s book is a clever, honest and accurate guide to media relations, agency life, and what it means to be a PR pro. If you are a recent college grad, or even if you’ve been working in PR for a few years, I recommend you find this book and read it as fast as you can.

Here are the top 5 lessons I learned from Zitron:

The pitch will never become obsolete.

Technology may change, but the pitch will always be central to what we do as PR practitioners. In the history of public relations course I took in college, this lesson rang true: people will always relate to each other through the stories they tell, even if those stories are through Snapchat and Instagram rather than traditional media outlets. According to Zitron: “Pitching is simply learning how words relate to people — what makes sense in a particular moment, what connects to a person and their own personal story versus what makes somebody walk away and wish you were dead.”

The game is won or lost before it begins.

Zitron says the best way to approach pitching is to begin with a “meticulous, personalized process” that involves a lot of research, knowing what your targeted reporters are interested in, and interacting with reporters on social media long before you have a story angle to pitch. I learned this lesson the hard way when a lack of preparation resulted in a pitch that seemed more like an awkward exchange with a stranger rather than a natural conversation with a friend. If you do your homework and get to know reporters, pitching will become more efficient, successful and enjoyable.

A good headline is key.

The headline in the subject line of the email should accurately reflect the pitch. Don’t put yourself in a situation where reporters think you misled them or wasted their time. Although I have never been accused of misleading a reporter, I have definitely learned which headlines attract a reporter and which ones don’t. Tailor your headline to each specific reporter, and make sure it is a straightforward, accurate representation of the story you are trying to tell.

The pitch should be mutually beneficial.

Roughly 95 percent of pitches end up in the garbage. With so many pitches thrown in the trash, you have to cut through the clutter by crafting a pitch that benefits both your client and the reporter. I’ve experienced this firsthand, with reporters asking, “Why should I care? How does this benefit me?” Keep in mind that the goal is to secure coverage for your client, while at the same time providing reporters with high quality, interesting material they can use as content. If you provide a reporter with a quality pitch that benefits them, chances are they will contact you the next time they need information for a story.

The work isn’t done after the initial pitch.

Following up is key, but don’t harass reporters. Give them some time to react, and then follow up once or twice. The majority of my media relations success has come from sending a quick follow-up email—because reporters are so inundated with emails, they often miss the initial pitch. If they still don’t bite, let it go. You can’t win them all, and it’s not worth it to ruin a relationship with a reporter because of excessive follow up.

When it comes to your media relations toolbox, the pitch is arguably the most important tool. While many other skills are necessary, the ability to share your client’s story in a way that attracts the interests of both journalist and reader is the key to success in this industry. Zitron puts it plainly: “While there is no formula, there is one skill you can learn that will dramatically increase your chances of succeeding in PR. That skill is pitching…Not everybody is good at it. But if you are, your career trajectory will be limitless.”

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Jun 13 2014

Summer Intern Spotlight: Jhanay Davis

Published by under RLF Spotlight

In the recent 2014 State of the Internship Report, almost 37 percent of college students voted public relations and marketing agencies their preferred place to hold an internship, making our industry the most popular among students.

At RLF, we take pride in making our internship program a robust learning experience for students interested in a career in communications. Because of the smaller size of our agency, interns get hands-on experience by joining meetings and brainstorming sessions, pitching local and national media outlets, and drafting social media posts.

Our final summer intern spotlight is on Jhanay.

Jhanay Davis

I’m Jhanay Davis, an Atlanta native and recent graduate of Bennett College with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies. I’ll be attending graduate school in the fall at American University in Washington, D.C., to study strategic communication.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

The world is full of exciting places and I would be thrilled if I ever had the chance to visit Fiji. It’s such a beautiful country in the South Pacific. I’ve always wanted to travel there and immerse myself in the nature, culture and, of course, the food.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I must admit that I have broken the record for winning the most Grammy awards for Best R&B Shower Performance.

What activities or organizations are you involved in?

I’m a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

If you had a theme song, what would it be?

I absolutely love music and it’s very difficult to pick one song that I could call my theme song, but I would have to say the one song that best represents me right now is called “I Can” by Nas. Unconventional, I know. But it just reminds me to stay focused on the things that I want to accomplish in life and to remain humble, as well as grateful.

If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

There are so many people in the world to choose from but I would have dinner with Aretha Franklin. I have always loved her music since I was kid and I would love to talk to her about her experiences.

 

To apply for an internship at RLF, please send cover letters, resumes and writing samples to interns@rlfcommunications.com.

 

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Jun 10 2014

Summer Intern Spotlight: Nick Ramsey

Published by under RLF Spotlight

Students often ask us how they can make the most of their internships. And the answer is simple: become engaged.

The best way to grow as a young professional in the communications industry is to use your time wisely and learn as much as you can before you enter the workforce. So, ask a lot of questions during your internship, join as many team meetings and brainstorming sessions as you can, organize one-on-one meetings with team members at your company, and take advantage of any opportunities that may arise, such as attending a media interview or special event.

Today, our summer intern spotlight is on Nick.

Nick Ramsey

I am a senior strategic communications major and entrepreneurship minor at Elon University. I am from Cheshire, Connecticut, but I enjoy North Carolina weather much more than the cold up North. When I’m not busy with school, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, playing golf and traveling. After graduation next May, I plan on pursuing a career in public relations and marketing.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

This past spring semester I studied abroad in London for four months, and it was a great experience. I have always enjoyed traveling, and have been lucky enough to travel all over the world with my family. However, the one place I have not yet had the chance to go is Australia. I would love to learn more about Australian culture while simultaneously enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

Do you have any hidden talents? 

I have always been interested in cars, and for some reason I have the useless ability to name the make, model and approximate year of just about every car I see on the road.

What activities or organizations are you involved in?

Elon University encourages students to join any of the hundreds of organizations and clubs on campus. I am a member of Elon’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and I really enjoy meeting with my peers to discuss what’s going on in the industry outside of the classroom setting. I am also a member of Elon’s club soccer team and Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Next year I hope to get involved in Live Oak Communications, Elon’s student-run public relations agency.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? 

This is a tough question because I like so many genres of music, but if I had to choose one song, I would probably choose ‘I Won’t Back Down’ by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

John F. Kennedy. I find Kennedy to be one of the most interesting and inspiring presidents and I would love to pick his brain on just about everything. I went to the same high school that JFK attended in the 1930s, so I would also like to ask him what sort of trouble he caused back in those days.

 

To apply for an internship at RLF, please send cover letters, resumes and writing samples to interns@rlfcommunications.com.

 

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Jun 06 2014

Summer Intern Spotlight: Alex Rossetti

Published by under RLF Spotlight

Every summer RLF holds Intern Bootcamp Day to share best industry practices and teach vital skills to incoming interns. Team members give presentations in key areas such as social media, advertising, branding and media relations, often sharing examples from our current clients, to help better prepare our interns for the projects they will be tackling during the summer and give them more insight into how we approach the work we do.

This summer, we are excited to welcome three new interns to the team: Alex Rossetti, Jhanay Davis and Nick Ramsey. Our first spotlight is on Alex.

Alex Rossetti

My name is Alex Rossetti and I am a rising senior at Elon University. I am majoring in strategic communications with double minors in business administration and psychology. I’m originally from Stamford, Connecticut, a large city about an hour outside out of New York City. Outside of my career in public relations, I am a highly competitive golfer and previously played for Elon’s varsity golf team.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would have to visit St. Andrews, Scotland. It has been my dream to play The Old Course since I was a child. One of my friends recently attended St. Andrews University for a year and loved the area. The people are supposedly very nice and the sight seeing is unreal. It’s definitely on my bucket list.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I have mastered the art of cookie making! There are roughly five crucial steps in baking mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies. I wish I could disclose my secrets, but I am under strict orders from my grandma to keep them on the down low.

What activities or organizations are you involved in?

I am the manager of the Elon women’s basketball team. I assist with practices and help run the players through drills. I have always been an active person and love being a part of a team. I also am an account executive with Live Oak Communications, Elon’s own student-run public relations agency. We work with commercial clients on public relations and advertising projects.

If you had a theme song, what would it be?

If I had a theme song, it would have to be “All the Small Things” by Blink-182. They have always been my favorite band because their songs are fun and energetic. It was the first song I learned how to play on the guitar.

If you could have dinner with anyone, dead of alive, who would it be?

It would be a dream come true to have dinner with Arnold Palmer. He was arguably the greatest golfer of all time. He treats his fans well and gives back to the community frequently. His successful business ventures are well documented and he was a great spokesperson for his sponsors during his playing days. Of course we would wash down our meal with a cold glass of iced tea lemonade.

Follow Alex online at www.alexrossetti.weebly.com.

 

To apply for an internship at RLF, please send cover letters, resumes and writing samples to interns@rlfcommunications.com.

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May 28 2014

New Client Spotlight: Brooks Pierce

By Alyssa Bedrosian

Since RLF’s founding in 2007, business-to-business communications has been a core strength of our agency. We have experience working with financial and professional services clients, and enjoy helping these clients achieve their business goals and share their stories.

We recently added law firm Brooks Pierce to our list of professional services clients. Brooks Pierce is a comprehensive business law firm advising businesses, individuals, government and nonprofit organizations, and prides itself on taking on clients and cases that involve very complex, often precedent-setting, legal issues. The firm’s expertise extends to every aspect of business law including antitrust, mergers and acquisitions, banking, corporate finance, environment, real estate, and litigation.

Brooks Pierce has offices in Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington, North Carolina, but represents clients across the United States and around the globe. And, like RLF, the firm is known for its commitment to clients and ethics, both on a professional and personal level.

We are very excited to be working with Brooks Pierce, using our expertise to raise the profile of the firm, its attorneys and their expertise.

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May 22 2014

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier: A Guide on Personal Branding for Recent Graduates

Published by under Branding

By Alexandra Obradovich

Over the past four years of college I have read plenty of assigned books. Yet, with graduation right around the corner, I can only recall one text that I expect to have a constant impact on my future career. The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier was initially written to help businesses bridge the distance between strategy and design, although the disciplines outlined in this book directly relate to personal branding and my immediate job search.

“A brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is,” is one of the first concepts introduced in the book. A brand is defined as a gut feeling about a product, service, person, or company and although people have power over their messaging they do not have control over how others will perceive their brand.

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier can help recent graduates determine how to leverage their skills and education by exercising five key disciplines required to form an influential brand.

Discipline 1: Differentiate

Before a recent graduate can build a successful brand he or she needs to be able to answer three questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Why does it matter?

Professionals with established brands already have (hopefully) compelling answers for all three questions. Answering these questions can help to uncover flaws in focus, self-image, and outsider perception. By effectively communicating strengths and skills, young professionals can develop a strong argument for why they should be hired. Important competitive advantages lie in understanding who you are, what you do, and why it matters.

Discipline 2: Collaborate

Brands don’t develop in isolation. Instead they are a direct result of interactions between people over a long period of time. Building a brand is a collaborative effort that requires contributions from an entire community. For recent graduates, that branding community is a direct result of their networking efforts, like utilizing university career services or reaching out to industry professionals. As Neumeier says: “It takes a village to build a brand.”

Discipline 3: Innovate

In The Brand Gap, Neumeier introduces an idea called the innovator’s mantra: When everyone zigs, zag. Young professionals need to “abandon the comforts of habit, reason, and the approval of peers, and strike out in new directions.” In order to stand out from a sea of applicants recent graduates must attract employers through innovative approaches. “And how do you know when an idea is innovative? When it scares the hell out of you.”

Discipline 4: Validate

Neumeier describes the old model of communication as a monologue. This model fails to recognize that real world communication is instead a dialogue. Neumeier stresses that to transform a brand, feedback is necessary. As a young professional it is important to request feedback about your performance from your boss at work, internship supervisor, or university professor. Feedback can be immediate and unambiguous, which lets your personal brands adapt and make necessary changes. 

Discipline 5: Cultivate

Within this disciple, Neumeier introduces the concept of a living brand. He states that a living brand is a dynamic experience. The most successful professionals are the ones that are continually adapting to changes in their industry, economy, and culture. Same goes for brands.

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May 15 2014

No Dumping on the Internet: 6 Tips for Effective Social Media Management

Published by under PRSA,Social Media

By Alyssa Bedrosian

In just a few years, social media has become vital to our personal and professional lives. From wedding hashtags to Instagram advertising campaigns, the impact of social media is felt in all aspects of society, and so it’s no surprise that it has changed how companies approach public relations. As this new media gives organizations new platforms for storytelling, PR pros are adapting to this dynamic communications tool that gives everyone a voice.

At RLF, we manage social media for several of our clients. While tweeting and pinning may seem like second nature to the millennial generation and younger, successful social media management requires strategy and measurement.

Although we have several professionals with experience in social media management, it’s always helpful to exchange best practices and lessons learned with other industry professionals. Earlier this week Jenifer Daniels, APR, shared some of her experiences as social media manager for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Tar Heel Chapter monthly meeting. Daniels is the creative resources specialist for the library, and has nearly 15 years experience in nonprofit and education communications.

After the library’s budget was cut by 50 percent a few years ago, Daniels used social media to actively listen to the concerns of patrons and share the library’s story. Here are some key points from the discussion:

Follow the Pareto Principle, which states that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the causes.

The 80/20 rule pushes us to focus on the 20 percent of tasks that really matter and are key to success. You can see dramatic improvements in social media engagement by focusing your efforts strategically, rather than trying to do anything and everything on social media.

As social media managers, 80 percent of our time should be spent as active listeners.

Find out what customers are saying about you and listen to what they want from your organization. The remaining 20 percent of your time can be used to share information with your followers.

Don’t chase followers.

You want hearts, not eyeballs. Organizations should seek followers who will actually engage in discussion, regularly visit an organization’s social media pages and share content.

Don’t lose customers to negativity.

Try to solve their problems as soon as possible, and take their recommendations into consideration.

No dumping on the Internet.

Don’t overindulge on social media just because you have the capacity and resources. Before you post, ask yourself these questions: What do my followers want to hear? Am I posting something of value, or am I just posting junk?

80 percent of posts should be helpful, interesting, funny or irreverent.

20 percent of posts should be original or self-promotional. Share messages that will resonate with your followers, but feel free to weave key messaging and positioning into these posts.

In a world that has been saturated by online content and social media overload, Daniels’ advice is short and sweet: Simplify your social media strategy through focusing your efforts, listening to followers and posting interesting content.

Daniels ended the conversation with one last social media tip: If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter.

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May 13 2014

RLF Communications and the N.C. Medical Society Take Another Gold Award for Annual Report

Published by under Awards

By David French

The North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) and RLF Communications have been presented a Gold award in the Annual Report category of the Hermes Creative Awards.

NCMS challenged RLF to produce a report to serve several purposes and audiences. Through a striking design and peer testimonials, we were able to accomplish the objectives of: reporting on the organization’s latest developments to members; educating non-members on the value of the Society; and acknowledging the organization’s long history in representing N.C. physicians and patients. The report is titled Past/Future: North Carolina Medical Society Community Report.

Hermes Creative Awards is an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of marketing materials and programs. Entries are judged not against one another, but against a set of standards developed by a panel of marketing communications professionals who act as judges. Judges may present an award, an honorable mention or no award to each entry. The awards program has been sponsored by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals for more than 25 years.

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Apr 10 2014

New Team Member Spotlight: Ross Pfenning

Published by under RLF Spotlight

RLF welcomes Ross Pfenning to the team as a communications specialist. Ross recently worked as a corporate marketing associate for CSOFT International in Beijing, China. He graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies.

To get to know Ross better, we asked him a few questions:

Tell us a little about your work experience and what attracted you to RLF.

After graduating from Davidson College, I decided to pack my bags and head east – well, west technically, but it’s all relative – to search for opportunities in China. Initially performing business development and marketing duties for an international consulting startup, I moved on to a large international translation and localization company headquartered in Beijing. There I performed a range of marketing and communications tasks, but was relied upon primarily for my writing and creative abilities, producing everything from white papers to blog posts to magazine ads. To be part of such a small marketing team for such a large company afforded me many opportunities to expand and further my skills, more so than a person of my age or experience level could expect to find in the U.S. at the time. Ultimately, living in China provided me a host of unique and eye-opening experiences, but the one I am most thankful for is the discovery of my passion for marketing-related work.

And that brings me to RLF. Upon returning to the U.S., I knew I wanted to be in an agency setting. RLF embodies precisely the type of organization I want to be a part of. With such experienced and knowledgeable people on staff, it is a place where I can both learn new skills and contribute my existing abilities to enhance the success of not only RLF, but also its clients. I am excited to be onboard and look forward to the opportunities ahead.

What’s your favorite way to spend your free time?

Breathing fresh air! Yes, after spending three years of my life coating my lungs in particulate matter and smog, I am incredibly grateful for North Carolina’s blue skies and clean air. I enjoy running, hiking up the Appalachian Trail, or just lazing on the beach. Give me a good book and a well-designed playlist and I’ll be happy for hours, though I might take periodic breaks to jump in the pool/lake/ocean – whichever body of water I happen to be near at the time.

What is the last book you read?

I am currently working on several books, one of which is “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising” by Luke Sullivan. As an aspiring copywriter with a passion for bringing creative ideas to life, I am very much enjoying the comical prose, peppered with cynicism. It is both enlightening and somewhat humbling to learn what masterpieces some of the earlier advertising minds were able to produce. However, finding original and compelling ways to reach my audience is a challenge I am delighted to take on.

If you had a theme song, what would it be?

“Kaleidoscope” by Tiësto, featuring Jónsi. If you haven’t heard it, you should. Okay, the song takes some patience as it has a pretty slow build, but the wait is entirely worth it and the anticipation only makes the ‘drop’ more spectacular. Jónsi, responsible for the vocals in the song, is also the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Sigur Rós. Hearing him sing in English is a bit of a treat because most of his stuff is either in Icelandic or some made-up, incoherent babble that simply sounds nice (but isn’t the kind of thing you can really sing along to). Tiësto’s contribution of cool synths and a steady dance beat takes the song to another level, delivering a unique combination of sounds both soothing and electrifying that packs everything I want into a single song.

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Nelson Mandela. As a South African citizen and resident for 10 years, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for all that Madiba did for the country in his lifetime. I am inspired by his determination to unite a nation and awed by his ability to forgive those who treated him so poorly. I would have loved the opportunity to sit with him for even a couple of hours just to get a sense of what such a selfless person must be like. He contributed to not only the development of South Africa, but that of the world as well.

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