Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: Public Relations on a Limited Budget

By Malissa Carroll

Five tips to help your company or organization “do more with less” when executing your PR plan.

The benefits that organizations can reap when they dedicate the necessary time, effort, and resources into developing and implementing a comprehensive public relations plan will often outweigh any financial commitments associated with executing the plan. However, at a time when budget uncertainty continues to plague small and large businesses alike and organizations begin to look for new ways to “do more with less,” it serves us well to remember that, as public relations professionals, there are steps we can take to ensure that our work continues to have the greatest impact even when budgets have been stretched paper thin.

Know Your Audience
The importance of knowing your organization’s audience can seem obvious to the seasoned public relations professional. However, it is worth restating, as any PR efforts that do not target those audiences will almost certainly waste time and resources – neither of which PR professionals on a shoestring budget can afford. Understand the needs of your organization’s audiences and focus your efforts on channels that will drive those individuals to your business, such as garnering attention from niche publications focused on your specific industry.

Build Relationships
While especially important for PR professionals who work with members of the media, relationship building can extend beyond networking with local journalists and influencers. Establishing a strong presence on social media – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – is inexpensive and can be an invaluable way to engage with your audiences. Dedicate the time to regularly post content that demonstrates the value that your organization brings to others, not just an occasional news story.

Treat Content as King
Never underestimate the value that well-crafted, versatile content can add to your PR plan. For professionals on a limited budget, this content can easily be developed in-house, without hiring a professional copywriter. You can also review materials from previous campaigns to see if there is content that you can repurpose with minimal to no updating. Once your content has been finalized, share it across all platforms at your disposal to achieve maximum impact with your audiences.

Integrate Communications
Integrating communications can be an excellent way for PR professionals on a limited budget to extend the reach of their efforts. Did your organization recently invest in the production of a new print publication? Think about how you might be able to adapt pieces from that publication for your organization’s website or social media platforms. This practice will not only help extend the reach of your content, but also ensure that your organization is sharing a consistent message across all media.

Leverage Your PRSA Membership
As PRSA members, there are numerous resources that you can take advantage of to remain on the cutting-edge of the profession – many of which are available at no cost. Attend a networking event hosted by your local chapter to see how other PR professionals are maximizing their efforts on a limited budget. Register for a free webinar or read a recent white paper to learn new skills that you can bring in-house to reduce the costs associated with hiring outside agencies. Your PRSA membership comes with many benefits. Do not overlook them.

A strong public relations plan can bring immeasurable value to an organization’s brand and reputation. By adhering to the tips above and investing the necessary time and effort, you can not only demonstrate your ability to “do more with less,” but also ensure the success of your PR plan and, consequently, your organization.

Maryland Conference Attracts 150+ Pros

More than 150 communications professionals attended the 2017 PRSA Maryland Conference at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore on June 8, 2017.

PRSA Maryland Chapter President Claudia Ciolfi kicked off the day by welcoming guests and speakers and set the stage for a day-long of learning and networking with peers in the communications and public relations industries.

Spirited Discussion

Immediately following her address, attendees turned their attention to a spirited media panel discussion that explored how sometimes the media are the message when it comes to shaping the perception of Baltimore city. Panelists included Baltimore Sun Managing Editor Sam Davis, WBAL-TV I-Team Lead Investigative Reporter Jayne Miller, WMAR-TV News Anchor Kelly Swoope, and several representatives from Baltimore city community organizations.

The remainder of the morning consisted of breakout sessions that focused on

  • measurement;
  • podcasting;
  • visual content;
  • Facebook Live;
  • crisis communications;
  • influencers and advocates.

“The presenters have been amazing,” said an attendee. “The panel discussion this morning was invigorating.” Check out this Facebook Live video for more comments.

Just Getting Started

The lunch-time general session featured Jesse Holcomb from Pew Research Center, and Katie Paine, from Paine Publishing. They discussed the importance of properly and accurately measuring PR and communications and how to avoid falling prey to senseless metrics.

More breakout sessions included:

  • podcasting for today’s news environment;
  • partnering to build an effective virtual agency;
  • how to lead a creative team with passion, purpose and possibility.

“Great sessions and networking at #PRSAMD17 at Loyola U–particularly good info for new Independent Practitioners,” tweeted member Laura Wilcox.

#PRSAMD17 Awesome visual content workshop! Learned so much,” tweeted member Cathy Nyce.

Wrapping it Up

The final general session consisted of a panel discussion about the state’s public education campaign to help combat an epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse and overdoses.

PRSA Maryland thanks the generous sponsors who helped to make this conference one of the most successful events in the Chapter’s recent history:  Vitamin, Loyola University Maryland-Emerging Media, Capital Media, Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company, PRSA Mid-Atlantic District, Brand3, Jay L. Baker Photography, Erickson Living, Harrison Communications, and Image 360.

“I want to personally thank the Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, Dave Curley, Senior Vice President of Sandy Hillman Communications,” said Claudia. “Dave’s leadership, dedication and commitment to success enabled him and the members of his committee to plan and execute an industry conference full of innovation and inspiration.”

Pictures and Presentations

To see pictures from the event, click here. Attendees will be notified when conference presentations are available.

2018 Conference Committee

The committee for the 2018 conference is forming now. If you want to be part of next year’s event, please volunteer. Email your contact information to

Effective Crisis Management – Catastrophe or Opportunity?

Written by PRSA Maryland Communications Committee member Caitlin Wolf.

If I told you that a crisis is an opportunity for businesses to increase shareholder value, would you believe me?

Walking into PRSA’s “Introduction to Effective Crisis Response” seminar in Chicago on May 22, I viewed crisis management as an overwhelming, fast-paced communications task that meant hours of anxiety. Far from an opportunity. The workshop, led by Helio Fred Garcia and Adam Tiouririne of the Logos Institute, was an eye-opening experience that left my colleague and me confident that we could use crisis management to create a powerful competitive advantage for our clients.

Advantage? Yes. At a moment when all eyes are on your company, you have more control than you think. When done right, your ability to manage crises can have a positive impact on your brand’s bottom line. In fact, based on research by Knight and Pretty with the University of Oxford, companies that respond to crises well not only protect their stock price, but increase it, by an average of five percent. On top of its stock, a company’s reputation, operations, employee morale, demand for products and services, and strategic focus are protected when crises are handled well.

So, how can you go about managing crises the right way? Here are four key steps PR practitioners at any business should follow:

Know the patterns.
Bad things happen, even to good people and organizations. It’s what you do next that counts. Historically, there are approaches that always work and those that never work. Understand the patterns by studying crises and harvest the learnings—especially those occurring in your industry. How did the company respond? When did they respond? How was it received? Once you know this, understand you must intervene early enough to change the pattern.

Know what to ask.
When your CEO runs to you and asks, “What should we say?” you must begin by knowing which questions to ask. To regain the trust of your stakeholders, the most important question to ask is “What would reasonable people appropriately expect a reasonable organization to do in this situation?” Don’t be burdened by the thought that a common-sense solution won’t work.

Know what to say, and when.
Once you have the answer to your question, keep in mind that the single biggest predictor of reputational harm in a crisis is the perception that you don’t care. Craft responses to the “what reasonable people expect” question at the granular level for each stakeholder group. Communicate these responses in a timely way that shows you care.

Gain first mover advantage.
Whoever is first to define the crisis, the company’s motives, and their actions wins. Don’t let the media be the first to define these. Be prepared by establishing a crisis response plan. Craft well-structured standby statements ahead of time that address acknowledgement of potential crisis events, frame your organization’s values, your approach for addressing the event, the actions you plan to take, and next steps for your company and stakeholders.

Having a structured crisis management plan makes courage (and anxiety) less necessary. When done right, you will remain calm, regain the trust of your stakeholders; and, your stakeholders will likely reward you for demonstrating skill during a time of catastrophe.

Caitlin is PR Account Director for Planit.

Live from Loyola

Deserie Lawrence and Alissa Carr Live from Loyola. They shared tips and ideas to maximize the value of live video streaming to engage with your audience.

Posted by PRSA Maryland on Thursday, June 8, 2017

Lead Your Team with Passion, Purpose, and Possibility

2017 PRSA Maryland Conference breakout 2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Tracy Imm

Tracy Imm

Employee engagement is at an all-time low, according to the 2017 Gallup “State of the American Workplace” report. Less than 20 percent of employees believe their leadership:

  • has a clear direction for the organization
  • makes them enthusiastic for the future
  • communicates effectively

The impact of poor leadership includes lost productivity, high employee turnover, lost revenue, low customer satisfaction, and higher operating expenses. If you want to be a leader who turns the tide and becomes an active participant in creating an exceptional workplace, then this session is for you.

We will review how to take your team’s purpose, turn it into a brand, and create a culture where everyone thrives. We’ll cover the importance of developing your emotional intelligence, playing to everyone’s strengths and creating trust in the organization. In one hour Tracy Imm, ABC, APR will share her leadership wisdom and advice garnered over the years as a PR team leader.

Going Virtual – Your Agency that Is

Dorothy & Lisa at #BIM16

You can read all sorts of posts and how-to’s and why-to article on going virtual. Most are looking at how you assemble a team that works virtually for the same org (think same payroll, same brand). But what if you don’t want to expand your payroll, just your bandwidth?

That’s where the session “Partnering and Building an Effective Virtual Agency” picks up the conversation. I caught up co-presenter and virtual partner Lisa Coster, Coster Communications to ask her what makes her partnership with Dorothy Fuchs of Purple Dot Public Relations work. She pointed to 3 things:

  1. One advantage to using a virtual agency is being able to hand pick professionals who are truly experts in their field and being able to customize the team each and every time
  2. Building an effective virtual team means developing and expanding your list of experts and maintaining relationships with colleagues
  3. What Mad Men’s Roger Sterling said about securing accounts is the same for finding partners – find out everything you can about them before you meet and when you do meet, LISTEN!

Join Lisa and Dorothy for the how behind these pointers June 8 at 2:15 p.m. at #PRSAMD17.

What’s stopping you from registering for #PRSAMD17 today?

The Media Are the Message

Former tennis pro Andre Agassi once got paid to tell us that image is everything. While that’s clearly an overstatement, there’s no question that perceptions matter. A lot.

Which is why we’re kicking off #PRSAMD17 with an in-depth discussion about Baltimore’s image and how it impacts the city’s residents, businesses and institutions on a daily basis.

Since news coverage drives the impressions many people have of Baltimore, we’ve invited some of the region’s top journalists – Baltimore Sun Managing Editor Sam Davis, WBAL-TV Chief Investigative Reporter Jayne Miller and WMAR-TV anchor Kelly Swoope – to take part in the session, which we’ve dubbed The Media Are the Message.

Anyone who lives, works or plays in Baltimore – or represents organizations, neighborhoods or attractions located in the city – needs to hear this conversation. Moderated by Schaefer Center for Public Policy Chair Matt Gallagher, the session will address the complexities of balancing journalists’ responsibility to report the unvarnished truth with the risk of skewing public perception by filling the news hole with tales of tragedy and woe.

We’ve rounded out the panel with Mike Evitts, the vice president of communications for the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore; Annie Milli, the marketing director for Live Baltimore; and Johnette Richardson, the executive director of Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. Their insights and opinions will drive home the everyday challenges presented by negative perceptions of the city.

The conversation promises to be lively, informative and indispensable for anyone whose interests are aligned with Baltimore’s image. Join us June 8 at 8:00 a.m. at #PRSAMD17. What’s stopping you from registering for #PRSAMD17 today?

Vision tops all other senses

John Medina reminds us that when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of it three days later. Research has shown that when a relevant image is paired with the same information, people retained 65% of the content three days later. Knowing this, our industry has pushed us to rush into adding visuals to all of our digital PR and communications. How’s that working for us?

We caught up with #PRSAMD17 presenter Kellie Elmerraji – who’s leading the session Visual Content Workshop: Take Your PR Imagery to the Next Level with other team members from The Cyphers Agency – and asked her for a few thoughts about what’s working and what isn’t working. Topping her list of the biggest pet peeves about imagery on social media:

  • Image is not sized properly – if it doesn’t meet the minimum width requirements and white space is left on the side, it looks unpolished.
  • Image is cropped poorly – if the image has text on it and it gets cropped so that text is missing unless you click to see the full image, the user experience is greatly affected.
  • Image is low-resolution – if the image is blurry, especially on a platform that focuses on great photos like Instagram, it will not be well received and it’s a missed opportunity for the brand.

The good news is that Kellie and her team know how to avoid those pet peeves (check out their blogs) and have tips to share including: fundamentals of creating visuals, DIY visual content creation, optimal sizes for popular social media platforms and sharing visuals on mobile devices using (free) apps. Join them for more at their session at 10:15 a.m.

What’s stopping you from registering for #PRSAMD17 today?