Public Relations Professionals: Key Elements We All Need

Vanessa Johnson, Account Coordinator

Passion and personality: two words that are essential in the Public Relations field. So often we forget the importance of a smile, kind gesture and ability to put a grin on someone’s face. This is what PR is all about. The concept that as a professional we are not only determined to be efficient, but also to make our clients happy. Working in the PR world has taught me that the nice guy (or gal in this case) does not always finish last and that passion, positive personality and flexibility will take me far as a professional.

What differentiates a passionate person from an indifferent person is the willingness to push one’s self knowing the client will value the work ethic. As PR professionals, nothing is more rewarding than celebrating a client and their successes. The passionate person, however, will also feel disappointed when he/she knows the client could have had a better experience. Sometimes it is okay to be upset when we don’t make a deadline or we realize we could have gotten one more registrant for an event. These emotions push us to work harder the next time we need to get a reporter on site, a new registrant at an event or a new member to join a coalition. Passion is what drives us to make a client happy.

While passion provides the drive, a positive personality can bring out the best in any situation or obstacle presented. This positivity can be seen in something as simple as a smile or even a thank you letter. We might think a smile cannot be presented over the phone. However, tone, confidence and knowledge can make any cold call so much more than just a cold call. We can entice our listener to stay engaged and listen to what we have to say. There have been so many occasions where a smile has given me the opportunity to network and welcome another professional into a conversation at an event or in the field. No one wants to talk to a “negative Nancy”.

Sometimes, however, it is hard to remain positive. We may feel as though we are in over our heads and want to forfeit the day’s work altogether. This is where flexibility comes in to play. In the world of PR, the phrase “roll with the punches” cannot be better related to what we experience in any given day. While mastering professional duties with one client may seem manageable, taking on two or even three clients at the same time can no doubt seem daunting. The flexible individual takes these responsibilities in and realizes this is the opportunity to learn something new. It could be time management, organization or even the courage to ask for help when it is needed.  Mostly, the flexible professional is able to adapt to their surroundings and compose their behavior in a manner that is ready to take on more challenges by not freaking out. A flexible professional will indeed “roll with the punches”, but they will also learn in the meantime.

So, PR professionals, keep your heads up and those pearly whites showing and remember a positive attitude and smile can go a very long way. Take every day as it is comes and know that we can learn something new in the process. Try and think about how happy you are with your work and the effort you put in. But most importantly, in the words of Steve Jobs, “… the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

The Importance of Being Bilingual in Public Relations

Rosana Torres, Account Coordinator

Six thousand eight-hundred. That’s the rough number of languages spoken in the world today.

Third. That’s the place Spanish takes with a roaring 346 million-plus people speaking Spanish. In the U.S. alone there are 37.6 million Spanish-speakers, making it the second most spoken language.

Being bilingual is beneficial; I’ve never heard someone complain that fluently speaking two languages has hindered their way of life. In fact recent studies have demonstrated that a multilingual person is nimbler, quicker, better able to deal with ambiguities, resolve conflicts and even resist Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia longer.

I fully embrace my bilingualism and went as far as making sure I’d land a job that would allow me to resourcefully use my Spanish-speaking abilities to strategically deliver a message and gain a larger audience.

When I was researching which public relations/affairs agencies would be a right fit, I was shocked to learn that not many agencies were utilizing or even recruiting Spanish-speakers to broaden a client’s audience. There are more Spanish speakers than ever today, and the number will only continue to grow, until Spanish-speakers become the majority. Why not take advantage of this skill, when you can add an entirely different community to your reach?

When I was asked if I was interested in serving as part of the Ford Motor Co., California Communications Team with an emphasis on the Latino market with FSB Core Strategies, I found myself in a unique position that enabled me to live my public relations passion for both general market clients, and those looking to serve the Latino community as well.

Working primarily with Spanish-language media in Los Angeles; the capability to effortlessly communicate with others in more than one language is also an asset in the workplace and opens doors to a whole new world of public relations. I am lucky enough to partake in many events that showcase the power of bilingualism, where the measure of success is media coverage and relationships. How efficient is it to have a bilingual team that builds both general market and Latino media and influencer relationships? The ability to communicate with English and Spanish media outlets, doubles the coverage and reach for a client.

Finding Your Fit

Danielle Vaticano, Account Executive

As one of the lucky few who found a job right out of college, I was instantly enamored by my over-crowded Outlook calendar and drunk on self-importance from my new smart-phone pinging me with emails and calendar invites as I sat at lunch with my ‘professional’ friends and talked about the ‘business’. Within a few weeks I launched a quest to join every social and political organization in the tri-county region, intent on committing myself to leadership roles as soon as they could process my online application.

I bounced from meeting to meeting, and even went to a couple meetings about meetings, desperately hoping that I would feel moved by the topics and satiated by the work we were accomplishing in the community. I tried social organizations and professional organizations dedicated to my field, even exploring increased leadership positions at my church; I was determined to find my fit. Spoiler alert- It didn’t happen.

The trial and error went on for a few years and I became increasingly less optimistic I would ever make an impact on my community that I was proud of and actively enjoyed.

Earlier this year I agreed to fill in for my boss at a planning meeting for an event at a local chamber of commerce, intent on taking notes and reporting back to her so she would be prepared for the next meeting. Little did I know, the stars were about to align and I was on the path to finding an organization that welcomed my talents and celebrated my ideas and enthusiasm. Just one short year later, I am more involved with the chamber than ever, having found that working with an organization that promotes the health of the regional businesses community is actually a passion of mine. I am proud of the work the organization accomplishes and inspired by the community leaders that I have come to know and lean on as mentors.

While finding the best-fit organization for me was an arduous process, in the end, it was valuable in that I found what I was looking for and learned a few things along the way that could be useful for someone in my shoes, trying to find their own fit.

Give yourself a time frame. After a series of failed attempts to find what I was passionate about, I began giving myself a time frame for how long I planned to stay involved with a group to see if it was a good fit for me. In that time frame I committed fully to getting to know the membership and serving on committees, but stayed aware of my level of engagement and commitment to the issues. If at the end of my ‘time frame’ I didn’t find myself fully connected, I moved on.

Share your ideas. New members can offer a surge of fresh ideas for an organization and yours are just as important as your fellow committee member. Have the confidence to offer your suggestions when attending meetings and look for opportunities for your talents to be of use.

Show up. Committing yourself to an organization usually means that you are passionate about the issue and people you will be working with, making it easier for you to demonstrate your dedication. From volunteering for the shift that no one wants at an upcoming event to cold calling potential sponsors to raise money, when you show up and do the work, you may find that doors will open to opportunities in the organization that you never knew existed.

In the Field

Alex Burrola, Account Executive

There have been a few times when one could walk into either the Sacramento or Orange County office of FSB Core Strategies and find… no one. A deserted workplace. Not due to illness or holidays, but because in the business of public affairs, government relations and media, it’s often “in the field” that you do your most important work. Sometimes that means nearly your entire staff is out in the field working on behalf of clients and representing them, and the firm.

It is out there sitting in on meetings, participating in and contributing to discussion, visiting a site planned for development or preservation, talking with elected officials, constituents and stakeholders that the most valuable time is spent. That’s when you really connect with an issue and the people who are invested in it, and when you can really get a sense and grasp of the matter at hand.

Being out in the field is a choice that good public affairs firms make. Sure, some of this work might be accomplished “almost as well” with a few phone calls and the exchange of some emails. However, getting a third party report by email of how a public meeting went, for example, is a pale comparison to being there yourself and seeing how passionate your client’s supporters or opponents  are.  

When a client comes to a public affairs firm with a problem, many times there is a crisis already underway. Whatever the circumstance or issue, our advice – if you want to serve your client well and your firm well – don’t “phone it in” or “email it in.”  Be those boots on the ground and get out there in the field.

The Changing Campaign Landscape

Jeff Flint, President

I continue to think about the massive change going on before our very eyes in how we consume everything – goods and services; news and content – and think about how this will impact running political campaigns in the future…the near future.

I came across this article that I thought I would pass along – Are we moving from mass consumption to the wants of individuals? – as it makes the analogy of the transformation of consumer goods.

During the time of Henry Ford focus shifted [on supply consumer goods] from the elite to the masses. Today however, we are moving from mass consumption to a new era catering to the wants of the individual. People want control over what matters to them, voice their opinion and have social connections on their own terms.

This same transformation is occurring in how voters will want to educate themselves in the context of public affairs and political campaigns, and the campaigns of the near future will have to adapt. Some voters will want simple, quick information and be done. Some won’t care at all. Others will want a prolonged debate and conversation before you earn their support.

What won’t work, for more and more voters every election cycle, is top-down messaging. The 30-second TV ad, which has ruled the roost in political campaigns for decades, is fading. Now don’t get me wrong, that does not mean TV ads are out. I have no doubt that in 2014; especially for big statewide campaigns; 30 second spots will still be the primary voter contact tool. But their importance will diminish each successive election cycle.

Think of it this way. Do you really believe that the same consumer who expects to: custom design and order a car on the Internet, buy only the songs she wants instead of the whole album, watch her favorite TV shows when she wants on her smart phone, and tweet with her favorite movie star; is going to then passively sit back and be convinced to vote your way if only she sees 1000 Gross Rating Points of your consultant’s TV ad? If you believe this, there is a rude awakening in your future.

What does this mean? It means campaigns will need more content. On websites, on social media, and on all communications channels. Short videos people can view. Fact sheets and discussions. Online chats. You name it.  

It means the use of the heralded “Big Data” to know more about customers and voters so we can engage them in ways they want.

Some will succeed in this new world and others will fall by the wayside, same as it ever was. I love chatting with colleagues in the business about these trends and how they see the landscape changing. A few of my favorites that I know “get it” and are already geared up for the campaigns of the future include friends like Joe Rodota at Forward Observer and Patrick Ruffini at Engage. I highly recommend keeping an eye on folks like Joe and Patrick and others who know that the way we communicate in political campaigns is changing rapidly, and are working hard to stay ahead of that wave.

Less is More

Sarah Pollo, Senior Account Executive and Social Media Director

We all know the popular saying “less is more.” In the world of using social media to advance your brand, cause or marketing campaign, “less is more” is a powerful concept that too many overlook.  In fact, many individuals, companies, organizations and causes looking to expand their presence online think the more social mediums they have, the larger their social media foot print will be. This is not always true and can often cause the opposite effect.

If your aim is to increase your visibility in the social media realm, it is better to target a handful of platforms that are home to the best audience and tools for your needs. Then focus on covering those platforms and cover them well, with good and engaging content.  It is a common mistake to create an account on as many platforms as you can. With this strategy, you will likely find that you are spreading yourself too thin and losing sight of your original goal.

Each social media platform has unique characteristics in audience, in content, and in tools available to communicate.  It is important to know these well as you select your platforms.

If advertising and fan base is most important, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter will probably be your best bet. Facebook reports almost 2 billion users and continues to grow every day. The platform, among many other branding and marketing tools, allows users to create ads, establish goals- such as increasing page likes (fans) and promoting posts- target an audience using several defining characteristics including geography, age, education and  profession and also allows users to formulate an appropriate ad spend that best fits an established advertising budget. Ads can be tested for as little as $10 and increased as needed.

It is difficult to maintain daily or even weekly posts, interactions and general activity for your company, brand or campaign when you have ten or more platforms you have to update each time versus three to four mediums that best fit the goal you are trying to accomplish. And for every minute you spend struggling to create content for a social media platform whose user base and tools don’t fit your targets, you are not spending time on a platform that does.

A company selling home décor may, for instance, find Pinterest and Instagram more useful as they are highly visual social media platforms that skew more towards a female audience.  Alternatively, Twitter and YouTube can be better options for political campaigns that require distribution of constant, real-time campaign updates and exclusive releases of the latest television/radio advertising to potential voters, bloggers and other news outlets following the campaign.

FSB prepares and deploys different social media strategies for various client needs. If we are managing an initiative campaign, we assess which social media platforms can best facilitate getting the word out about the campaign, keep followers engaged about the issue, distribute campaign materials online and ultimately turn out the vote. If the goal for another client is the successful management and execution of a conference or event, the online strategy and social mediums may change. Clients asking for assistance in building brand awareness may further change the online strategy. Focusing on a smaller group of social platforms that best fit a client’s goals and engaging them consistently is better than trying to have a presence on as many platforms as possible. 

Less is more with social media. Find the platforms that work best in accomplishing a goal and engage them frequently.

Member Retention; A Focused Approach

Roy Rahn, Senior Account Supervisor and Director of Association Management

In the association business our client is the member, whether that member is an individual or a company. And, the downturn in the economy as well as the anti-business environment in California, have certainly heightened member expectations of  the value of membership, thereby challenging the association management company to implement strategies that are designed to enhance the retention of their most valuable asset – their members.

The successful companies face these challenges by employing a client–focused strategy that begins with the member recruitment process and ends in the delivery of sustainable and uncompromising service and value to their members. The vision lies in creating a strong relationship with both association staff and members to contribute to the success of that member’s core business.

The cornerstones of the approach are simple:

  • Constantly strive to nurture a long-term relationship with members and to anticipate their needs and the needs of the industry you represent. Do this by placing good leaders in leadership positions, empowering staff and, most importantly, listening to your members and understanding their requirements.
  • Research the member’s goals and use your knowledge of the members and the industry to identify what programs and services you must deliver to enhance and reach service delivery targets. This can often be accomplished by regular surveys and feedback from the membership aimed at gauging satisfaction and tracking their desires for future programs. And, be sure to stay current to where the industry is headed.
  • Critical to member renewal is responsiveness to members. Open and consistent communications is essential to success. Listen to the Board of Directors and meet regularly with their representatives. Most importantly, staff should reach out to members as often as possible on a personal basis.
  • Be committed to continuous improvement, and to customizing service delivery to best meet the member’s and industry business goals.
  • And, we build our success at FSB by placing equal value on both of our clients –members and association staff. Build a tradition of excellence by keeping one principle in mind – The most important element of success is the human element.

As a final thought and regardless of your business, make the building of successful client-focused relationships part of your corporate culture –make it a way of life for your leadership team. And remember, the better the partnership the stronger the chance for long-term member retention.

What Makes a Chamber of Commerce Valuable to You?

Jerry Amante, Senior Vice President and General Counsel

I confess that I am a Chamber enthusiast. I can’t remember a time in the last 30 years when I wasn’t a member of and active in a variety of business organizations and certainly, at any given time, a Chamber of Commerce or two. I have served on countless committees and on the boards for Chambers and their ancillary organizations at various times in my life. So, obviously, I come to this topic with a bias in favor of Chamber participation. That said, a well-structured Chamber that understands its role to add value to its members is a great tool for the serious enterprise and serious entrepreneurs.

So where does that value come from? Well, I suppose every Chamber Board member, leader, or member may have their own response, but I think it comes from serious interaction on public policy between the Chamber and the various levels of government that it and its members must encounter and work with every day. Our firm works directly with savvy Chambers to be that relevant tool for their members – so we understand that value. While it may be of some value to mix and mingle with other Chamber members at social functions, or the annual golf tournament and, while the occasional lunch and/or dinner program offers something more than the usual chicken in any one of the possible 24 universal preparation/ sauce combinations, the real value of a membership comes when your organization is engaged in the public policy issues that affect your company’s present and future and that matter to your bottom line.

Every day, government is writing laws, passing ordinances and resolutions, creating bureaucracies, making rules and passing regulations that will affect your company, its employees, your products and/or services, your profit and your future… and it is in your interest to be involved. And because we are often busy making widgets, it is wise for us to combine those efforts with other like-minded and busy business owners and managers. Smart Chambers, the most successful Chambers, the most relevant Chambers get that and get engaged in a serious way. Seek out those engaged Chamber groups and get active…it’s the best investment you can make and it is the work you and your colleagues will do in that involvement that makes a Chamber valuable…to your business and, ultimately, to you !

Making a Brand Shine in a Fast-Paced World

Rachel Smith, Director of Media Relations

In this Honey Boo Boo world of fast-paced media and split second attention spans, vying for brand attention can be challenging.

At FSB, we specialize in the ability to think outside the box to bring your product to life in an exciting and unique way. A recent example of this capability is the “Fusion Meets Fusion” event we developed for our client, Ford Motor Company, back in February.  


On September 18, Ford launched the North American 2013 Fusion with events throughout the country – and as any good PR professional knows, it’s crucial to maintain positive storytelling in order to have your message resonate with your publics.

Five months after the official launch of the 2013 Fusion, we reintroduced the vehicle on a grassroots level to key influencers in Sacramento – including government officials and media.

The result was a one of a kind event at local restaurant, Mulvaney’s, which we identified as a local business that shares Ford’s commitment to sustainability. This was an important piece of the puzzle, as the goal of this event was not only to generate buzz for the 2013 Fusion, but to highlight Ford’s commitment to maximizing the use of recycled, renewable and recyclable content in its vehicles. Some of the sustainable materials that Ford uses are even edible, like wheat straw and soy beans for reinforced plastics and seat cushions. Accordingly, we blended the idea of Fusion Cuisine along with the 2013 Fusion to create: “Fusion Meets Fusion.”

Sample Key Actions:

•    Event Production and Management: Identified date, location, and time. Oversaw specialized menu to include our “edible materials”, created invites, targeted specific attendees, arranged AV equipment, created specialized recycled nametags, coordinated display vehicles
•    Message Development: Created Executive talking points specific to target audience, drafted power point presentation, produced event collateral
•    Community Relations: Identified and partnered with local restaurant, engaged local community leaders, media, and prominent Ford dealers and marketing leads
•    Public Affairs/Influencer Engagement: Identified and engaged appropriate target legislators
•    Earned Media: Created pitch and backgrounders, successfully securing over a dozen placements
•    Social Media: Created specialized hash tag, engaged prominent social influencers in the area


This event introduced Ford Motor Company and the 2013 Fusion to nearly 40 new top-tier influencers. Attendees included a State Senator and Assembly Member from the Transportation and Housing Committee, a City Council member, and several representatives from statewide and local business associations and government agencies. Additional attendees were local reporters from television, print and online publications.

The event was covered by FOX40 and News10, and featured on several local food and lifestyle blogs. The extra plus here is that the unique nature of the event allowed our client to be featured in outlets that otherwise would never cover an automotive brand. In addition to traditional media outreach, there was a strong social media presence which included numerous tweets and Facebook posts from attendees.

A successful event indeed, but how does this relate to overall brand results? Well…

Sales of the 2013 Fusion are up nearly 18% over a year ago for the first half of 2013. Ford is on pace to sell 300,000 Fusions this year, making it one of Detroit’s most successful new sedans since the original Taurus set styling in midprice cars on its ear during the late 1980s. The success of the Fusion (and C-Max and the redesigned Ford Escape sport utility) have helped lift Ford’s share of retail sales up by nearly 2 percentage points on the west coast.  

Check out one of the media hits from our event!

Auto manufacturers adding edible ingredients to design mix
KXTV, Sacramento, CA

Will Information Technology, Social Media and The Internet Finally Let Us Run the Campaigns We Always Wanted?

Jeff Flint, President

Almost everyone I know that got into the field of political campaigns did so as an idealist.  We cared about the issues and the candidates, we believed passionately that we knew the answers to the great issues of our day, and our position or our candidate was part of that answer.

When we thought about the clash of ideas, the picture in our heads was much more Lincoln-Douglas debates from 1858 than what passes for political commentary on cable news today, where two or three “talking heads” shout talking points over each other.

The reality of nearly 40 million California residents and a million people in a State Senate district, for example, coupled with the busyness and distractions of modern life, quickly threw that idealism out the window.  Even “small towns” like my own home of Rocklin have 60,000 residents and over 30,000 voters, challenging the ability of a candidate for Mayor to meet every voter.

In the place of formats with 60 minute opening statements, 90 minute responses, and 30 minute rejoinders; campaigns turned to the 30 second TV spot and the campaign mailer where we were trained to put the number of words on the piece that matched the time it took for a voter to walk from their mailbox to their trashcan. This was not just a phenomenon of politics.  As the world got bigger, the ability of “everything” to keep up was challenged and “one-size-fits-all” became the norm.  Communication was top-down – broadcast from three networks and one or two newspapers.

Now, however, the incredible revolution in information technology and social media powered by the Internet has the world rapidly getting smaller again, and with that, the manner in which we communicate, inform ourselves, and win the wallets of consumers and the minds of voters is changing back. Social media, “big data”, and other technological advancements mean customers expect a two-way dialog and choices customized to their liking.  

These same tenets apply to voters as well. Each has a level of engagement they want in a campaign. And smart, modern campaigns can deliver on these expectations. Technology is allowing us to return to the days, and perhaps even idealism, of earning an Election Day win, one voter at a time, in a manner that at least allows the voter to be educated to the level they desire and that the campaign makes available.  

Will it be Lincoln-Douglas again?  No.  In some ways it may be better, because a single issue – slavery – dominated those debates, and perhaps voters wanting to hear a discussion of tax policy or foreign policy were left short-changed.  But are we entering an era where those voters who want to be smarter about the issues and candidates before them can get that?  I believe – and hope – we are.