Get to know Eileen Coyne, Public Relations Director

Public relations is all about relationships—the people behind the stories. That’s why we’re offering this blog series all about our team members. This isn’t about our professional accomplishments but who we are as people. We hope you have as much fun reading along as we do interviewing each other.

1. What got you interested in public relations?

Journalism brought me to public relations. It was back in high school that I discovered that I wanted to be a reporter, when I landed a student work week at the local NBC affiliate. I helped to man the police blotter, cover a hostage standoff, and flew over house fires in a helicopter. I was sold on a career in the news and out of college, I was fortunate to get my start as a reporter in Washington, D.C. As it does for many, journalism introduced me to public relations. Working as a reporter with a story budget to fill, I quickly learned that these PR folks working so hard to get to know me and share their clients’ stories, could be key to a good story. After several years as a reporter, I jumped the fence to PR and haven’t looked back

2. Tell us about your favorite movie and what appeals most to you about it?

I always enjoy The Sound of Music. Unfortunately, now, in a house where Marvel movies and football reign, it’s not the most popular, but I try to watch it when it’s on. I enjoy the beautiful scenery and familiar songs that take me back to grade school. 

3. What was the last, best book you read and what about it spoke to you?

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand stands out to me. It is the remarkable biography of World War II POW and Olympian Louis Zamperini. Recently, I enjoyed sharing the young adult version with my 12-year-old and we talked about his amazing and inspiring stories together. 

4. Tell us about a meaningful hobby or “outside of work” commitment that is important to you?

Outside of work, I am a mother to three school-age boys. I enjoy watching their baseball and basketball games, their many various other endeavors, and organizing functions at their school including trivia nights and the annual Santa shop.

5. Share a fun fact about you.

I played piano at the White House. I won’t say who was in office back then, but let’s just say it was back in high school. It was a wonderful experience to accompany my high school choir during the holidays and something I will never forget.

Reputation is What Others Think You are

An important factor influencing an organization’s reputation is how it is represented in the media. With this in mind, Kimball Hughes PR recently ran an independent survey of business professionals to get their perspective on how media coverage of their organization reflected on their reputation and, ultimately, their brand.

What we found was broad dissatisfaction among respondents with how their brands are perceived and represented through the media.

Among two significant reputational goals — having a regular presence in news media and being clearly differentiated from their competition in those media — a clear majority of those surveyed (more than 60 percent) did not believe these goals were met.

If these findings are any indication, brands hoping to benefit from any post-COVID economic boom have significant work to do in working with the media.

Survey results:

My organization’s reputation, as it is communicated in the media, social media and other public venues, represents our stated mission, vision and values.

  • 9% Strongly agree
  • 45% Agree
  • 18% Neutral
  • 27% Disagree
  • 0% Strongly disagree

Senior leadership is regularly quoted in news and trend stories about our industry.

  • 0% Strongly agree
  • 18% Agree
  • 18% Neutral
  • 27% Disagree
  • 36% Strongly disagree

If I conducted a Google News search today of topics most important to my industry, I would find my organization quoted or written about in recent news from legitimate, third-party business or trade media outlets or sites.

  • 9% Strongly agree
  • 9% Agree
  • 18% Neutral
  • 9% Disagree
  • 54% Strongly disagree

Our brand reputation, as communicated by the media, adequately differentiates our organization from competitors in the markets we serve.

  • 0% Strongly agree
  • 18% Agree
  • 9% Neutral
  • 36% Disagree
  • 36% Strongly disagree

Worried about your brand’s reputation? Contact Kimball Hughes PR for a free, no obligation SWOT Analysis of your brand’s reputation within the media that provides top line, practical and actionable advice on what you can do to make improvements.

Get to know Hari Rajagopalan, PR Associate

Public relations is all about relationships—the people behind the stories. That’s why we’re offering this blog series all about our team members. This isn’t about our professional accomplishments but who we are as people. We hope you have as much fun reading along as we do interviewing each other.

  1. What got you interested in public relations?

I got interested in public relations in college while taking a class on crises. The class talked about some famous crises from the last few decades, like the Tylenol recall in the 80s or the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and I thought it was pretty interesting to see where these companies went wrong and what they did right in managing their reputation post-crisis.

  1. Tell us about your favorite movie and what appeals most to you about it?

My favorite movie is probably Ferris Buehler’s Day Off. I love comedies in general, and I really enjoyed watching the characters explore Chicago while crazy things happened around them. 

  1. What was the last, best book you read and what about it spoke to you?

I recently read Andre Agassi’s biography Open and really enjoyed that. Agassi’s story overcoming a number of personal and professional challenges to become one of the greatest tennis players of all time was exciting to follow.

  1. Tell us about a meaningful hobby or “outside of work” commitment that is important to you and why.

I play a lot of tennis and basketball outside of work. I’ve played both recreationally since I was young and sports in general have always been important to me because they’ve been a way for me to connect with friends and family.

  1. Share a fun fact about you.

I’m fluent in Spanish and can read Ancient Greek and Latin.

Getting to know Elena Tzivekis, PR Intern

Public relations is all about relationships—the people behind the stories. That’s why we’re starting a new blog series all about our team. This isn’t about our professional accomplishments but who we are as people. We hope you have as much fun reading along as we do interviewing each other.

  1. What college do you attend and when are you graduating?

I attend La Salle University, where I major in communications with a focus on public relations. I’m graduating in May 2021.

  1. What got you interested in public relations?

I have always liked the idea of working in a fast-paced, evolving industry. I think it’s interesting to go into work every day and have new and exciting projects to work on. With public relations, I love that I can use my writing and communication skills throughout my projects, with the end goal being that I can contribute to the success of an organization.  

  1. Tell us about your favorite movie and what appeals most to you about it?

One of my favorite movies of all time is Rocky. Besides the fact that this movie is filmed in the city I love, the 70s style cinematography along with the storyline of an underdog boxer surrounded by a support system warms my heart every time I watch! 

  1. What or who is your favorite artist and why?

Father John Misty is one of my favorite musical artists of all time. His music at times can be poetically whimsical, and at times even aggressive, yet relatable. I’ve realized there is a FJM song for just about every occasion. 

  1. Share a fun fact about you

I am currently working on starting a coffee blog in which I will be publishing my personal coffee-related recipes, as well as coffee shop reviews! 

Chef Polignano of the Ryland Inn brings his own flavor to one of the state’s premier restaurants

Fulfilling one of his culinary dreams, Chef Craig Polignano of Basking Ridge, New Jersey joins the Ryland Inn as its newest executive chef. Find out how he and one of the best eats in New Jersey are making Craig a top chef and the Ryland Inn a top restaurant, in this NJBIZ feature story.

Responding to Golden (State) opportunities

I was recScreen Shot 2016-07-20 at 2.16.36 PMently reminded that publicity is perhaps one of the most important tools for a non-profit organization. Athletes C.A.R.E., a student athlete organization focused on ending homelessness and hunger, received an unexpected shout out from Nick Young of the L.A. Lakers on a recent episode of Cupcake Wars: Celebrities.

This was an unplanned windfall for Athletes C.A.R.E., but absent a plan to respond and capitalize on the event, it would have ended as a one-time happening missed by many.

Fortunately, Athletes C.A.R.E. took advantage of its active social media presence. For non-profits, leveraging social media can mean a huge boost in messaging attention, and even fundraising.

The first step is to post about the event. Take to every platform where you have an active presence and let followers know your organization has been publicly recognized. In those posts, be sure to tag the relevant names and organizations. For Athletes C.A.R.E., this meant tagging Nick Young, the L.A Lakers, The Food Network and Cupcake Wars. By tagging the appropriate parties (and their social media accounts) you widen the reach of your post and expose your organization to broader audiences. Now not only will your followers see the post, but the followers of anyone you tag will see the post as well.

Additionally, you can reach out to your local newspaper and other local media outlets to alert them of events such as having Nick Young reference your non-profit on national television. Something at that level might warrant a local news story.

Finally, you can follow-up two or three more times via social media over the course of the following week, pointing out different aspects of the initial event to extend the message and the reach. However posting more than that will likely be unwelcome. And any additional social posts about the event should be broken up by other content on social media.

With limited budgets and personnel, publicity and social media are two of the strongest tools in a non-profit’s arsenal. The ability to capitalize on and expand your organization through opportunities such as the situation with Athletes C.A.R.E. will strengthen your organization and help spread your message.

This post is courtesy of Cassidy Taylor, Lafayette College class of 2017, Kimball’s summer 2016 intern.

You can run, but you can’t hide #TwitterFails

Twitter Fail!

Photo credit: Transferwise.com

Social media is to branding a successful business as cheese is to mozzarella sticks. We’ve known for quite some time that marketers need to look alive every second of the day (or even just six hours per week), on the Twitterverse. But when opportunity arises or crisis strikes, it’s all about tactical PR. A strong media presence requires time commitment, creativity, and responsiveness; dedicated and experienced PR support is the best way to meet these demands. Without a practiced PR team or agency, your company may fall victim to the #nightmares detailed below.

#Wheresthecheese

Speaking of mozzarella sticks, McDonald’s launched them as a new item on their menu recently. Customers quickly took to social media to vent their frustrations with their cheesy purchase turned “lactose-free.“ McDonald’s came out with their explanation/ apology via The Chicago Tribune, but not before some smart competitors took to social media to boast the cheesy goodness they offer.

PR Takeaways:

1) Keep a close eye on social media callouts, so you can respond to the problem before the hashtag becomes the new problem.

2) Seize the opportunity, or dare we say, “cheese the opportunity.” Use humor and offer incentives to keep the situation friendly. Your audience will get a good laugh and hopefully drop in for a bite to eat. Just be sure to put your money where your mouth is if you’re going to play this card.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s has discontinued this product in response to negative feedback.

“Fire your agency. Then fire everyone who hired them”

Twitter users across the country did not appreciate the response Red Lobster gave to their Super Bowl Sunday shout out from none other than Queen Bey herself in her newly released single, “Formation”. The somewhat controversial lyric referencing Red Lobster turned all eyes on the seafood chain restaurant. While clearly trying to maintain their family-friendly rep, Red Lobster landed themselves in hot water with the masses on Twitter who waited hours for a clever response.

PR Takeaways:

  • Always be ready. You only get one shot to impress a lot of people.
  • You need to impress all of those people while sticking true to your brand, so tread lightly, but not too lightly.

#RIPTwitter

The social media site fell victim to the power of its creation when rumors spread that they may change their news stream from reverse-chronological order to an algorithm based feed, similar to Facebook’s. Even a few celebrities got on board with #RIPTwitter to express their discontent, to which CEO Jack Dorsey had to step in and quell the chaos.

PR Takeaways:

  • It never hurts to have employees at all levels involved with social, even the CEO—his word over all when it comes to shutting down rumors.
  • Don’t stick to just one outlet. With Twitter’s user growth slowing, it’s important to maintain messaging across multiple media outlets, social, news or otherwise.

Whether you work for a fast food giant or an insurance company, it’s important to control your own message. A small business may not generate viral hashtags the way Red Lobster would, but you can never be too sure what will happen in the realm of social media. Stay alert, stay focused, and stay out there.

Ebola Strikes New York

Photo courtesy of the CDC.

Photo courtesy of the CDC.

It’s official. Ebola has scared the hell out of everyone. With Friday’s news story of a doctor in New York City being diagnosed and today’s “testing” of a 5-year-old boy for Ebola as well in the Big Apple, hysteria is sure to hit new heights.

However, as public relations professionals, our job is to offer wise council in times of crisis. We must anticipate how this latest news impacts our partners and determine how best to help them inform and better educate their audiences. A myriad of businesses can find themselves in the center of a media storm as Friday’s NYC media coverage demonstrated.

So the best advice for businesses is to start with facts.

For those businesses being asked about Ebola risks and protocols – and the public’s perception of your business’ Ebola risk – there are five steps to take quickly:

  1. Share the latest information from a recognized authority source (e.g., the CDC, the World Health Organization, your local or state department of health, etc.). Unless you are a medical professional well versed in infectious diseases, regardless of your business, you have no business advising on health issues. Leave that to the professionals and simply point people in the right direction.
  2. Examine your realistic exposure. NPR recently reported most American’s have a 1 in 13.3 million shot at contracting Ebola. In fact, NPR suggests studies show you’re more likely to die from a lightning strike or a bee sting than you are of catching Ebola. While many businesses are not likely to be at risk, the Manhattan case from Friday demonstrated how Uber, a Brooklyn bowling alley and NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority needed to address Ebola concerns on a moment’s notice. Therefore it’s helpful to have thought through your messaging and delivery method in advance.
  3. Reassure your audiences you are following coverage and authoritative information of U.S. Ebola cases so as not to be surprised by developments that could impact your business operations or vendor relationships.
  4. Consult with your public relations professional to ensure any crisis communications plan your organization has in place is updated and that your team is prepared to respond quickly.
  5. Update your audiences as appropriate.

A sixth but less urgent step is to revisit your crisis communications plans at the conclusion of this latest pubic health scare to fine tune your policies and procedures so you are better prepared next time. And trust me, there will be a next time.

Socially Irresponsible

Some small business owners don’t believe in using experts for social media engagement and content development. They see the practice as novel and unproven – until it isn’t.

Such is the case of The Union Street Guest House in Hudson, N.Y. This picturesque small town inn quickly discovered the demonstrative impact of social media when comments about a fines-for-reviews policy hit the inn’s Facebook page and Yelp, the popular online review site.

According to an ABC News story resulting from the social media dust-up, the inn claims its “policy” was posted to its website as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding from years ago and should have been taken down. The policy in essence stated bridal parties would be fined $500, taken from deposit monies, for each negative review the inn might receive connected to a particular wedding or event.

A Google search for the inn's name brings with it a wealth of negative online content that will impact the business' bottom line.

A Google search for the inn’s name brings with it a wealth of negative online content that will impact the business’ bottom line.

Unfortunately, a simple Google search of the inn’s name now produces both a link to the inn’s website, as well as countless social media and news articles referencing this not-so-amusing policy.

The result is a Search Engine Optimization nightmare for the inn coupled with a runaway train of negative comments on its Facebook page (more than 200 at this writing; although it appears the inn may now be deleting posts from its Facebook page).

Since this firestorm hit mainstream media, the inn's Facebook page has been inundated with negative posts.

Since this firestorm hit mainstream media, the inn’s Facebook page has been inundated with negative posts.

The news coverage and social media firestorm – with only a half-hearted response from management that appears to have since been deleted  – have created a massive public relations problem to overcome. This isn’t the type of crisis you wait out. And without a strategy for responding to and recovering from this communications nightmare, The Union Street Guest House is likely to see a steep decline in business, assuming it has the wherewithal to survive at all.

Small businesses are successful because they do what they do well. Where they often fail is when they try to do something outside of their expertise.

By consulting with a social media professional or brand content specialist, small businesses can avoid errors – even tongue-in-cheek responses – that might not seem substantial at the time, but with an extra set of trained eyes, can be seen for the potential disasters they are and thus avoided. Alternatively, bringing in the professionals after a crisis has erupted is not optimal, but it can mean the difference between staying in business or going under.

Most freelancers or public relations agencies can find equitable arrangements with small businesses that won’t break the bank, and can avoid or attempt to correct business-ending mistakes.

For a free consultation on how working with a public relations agency can help protect and promote your business, please contact me at rhughes@kimballpr.com.

Employee Travel: Preparing for Summer Travel

For Kimball Communications, summer is packed with conferences, workshops and events. Our employees attend conferences across the U.S., and since we cannot physically be together each day it’s important to have a plan before traveling. You, too, can keep everything running smoothly by following this simple, yet effective strategy.


Eelke de Blouw / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
  • Prepare ahead of time. Have an internal meeting to go over everyone’s travel plans. Be sure you know when and where everyone will be throughout the summer. Keep a calendar of employee’s travel arrangements and daily schedules.
  • Stay connected. Technology is key. Skype, voice call, text and email will keep everyone informed.
  • Be aware of time zones. Remember, there’s a good chance you will not be on the same time zone. Schedule calls with each other appropriately.
  • Delegate tasks. Make sure all your bases are covered. Assign timely tasks to colleagues. This will ensure deadlines are still met and will simplify things tremendously.
  • Reach out to clients. Ensure clients are aware when you’ll be out of the office. It’s important to let clients know there will always be someone they can reach out to if a problem or question arises.

How do you stay connected during travel? Follow #KPRontheroad to see where we’ve been, and where we’re going, this summer.

Photo credit: Eelke de Blouw / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)