Podcast: Zach Dundas: Portland Monthly Magazine

Podcast: Zach Dundas: Portland Monthly Magazine

The Man Behind the Machine that is Portland Monthly

“We don’t expect PR people to read our minds,” Zach Dundas, Editor in Chief of Portland Monthly, assures us during the course of our interview on PR Talk. From his corner office overlooking the city, we covered his role as the head of editorial for Portland’s beloved monthly magazine, how he’s written two books, and his insight for PR people.

As Editor in Chief, Zach is responsible for setting the overarching direction of the magazine and ensuring that the editorial team follows suit. Yet many of the writers on Zach’s team also hold the Editor title, empowering them to make editor-like decisions within their reporting and writing functions. This frees Zach up to ponder how Portland Monthly can morph along with the city’s ever-changing scene and priorities—a task that becomes more challenging as Portland grows. Zach is quick to add that he still likes to get his hands dirty with frequent article writing and reporting.

As we delve into the two books Zach’s written — “The Renegade Sportsman” and “The Great Detective— I uncover that Zach was in the throws of welcoming his second child to the world and had been recently promoted to Editor in Chief during the process of writing his last book. However, deadlines from his publisher and editor helped him see the project through.

“Deadlines are one of the secrets to creativity. Having to get something done is why a lot of things get done in the world,” Zach said. “What we do [at Portland Monthly] is driven by a deadline cycle. An under-rated factor in the creative industry is that there is a machine behind what people are creating.”

 

When to Pitch Portland Monthly

Speaking of deadlines, one of the hardest things to wrap my head around when doing long-lead PR is to think so far in advance. “If you want to see a story in print, it’s not out of the question to pitch something six months out,” Zach said. “But we can turn something around for the website in a day-ish.”

It’s always better to play it safe but new clients and projects don’t have these strict deadlines ingrained into their psyche like we PR people do. So if you can get in front of the team three to four months in advance of when the issue would publish, you’ll be OK.

If you’re really under the gun with a tight deadline you may be able to sneak something in after that time. Let’s take the June issue for example:

  • It confusingly hits the stands in late May (a week or so before the month starts)
  • It goes to the printer early May
  • The details within the stories are conceived and written in April
  • The drop-dead appears to be 6 weeks ahead but I’ve never been known for my computing skills. You do the math.

Keep in mind that the topical ideas for the entire year are mapped out 12 months or more ahead. See this blog post on Editorial Calendars for more insight.

 

How to Pitch Portland Monthly

Zach comforts us that Portland Monthly is always looking for stories. Pitching the right editor is part of the battle and you can’t uncover this by glancing over the masthead. You’ll need to pay attention to the magazine and web content to learn what each editor is covering. “The more closely you can tailor your pitch to each editor’s coverage focus, the better,” he says.

The most successful PR people have a “knack for telling the stories themselves and put thought into what they’re pulling together. The best pitches have elements of story and character,” Zach says.

This comment has me thinking about all the journalists we’ve interviewed on PR Talk who’ve been harping after us to shorten our pitches. “Concision is great but give us a sense of what the story is,” Zach says.

The point that PR people must customize, customize, customize has been driven home again. Not only are we tailoring our outreach efforts for each individual contact and outlet, we must also match our materials to how the medium delivers its news. A TV station that produces quick bites of news isn’t going to be able to digest a long pitch. Whereas a publication embarking on in-depth, long-form coverage might have the stamina for something meatier.

 

What to Pitch Portland Monthly 

You’ll have to pick up a copy of the magazine, peruse the digital content and sign up for a newsletter to discover this for yourself! But if you are reading this in late Spring 2018, when this episode was released, Zach advises that it’s not too early to start talking about next fall and winter.

About the guest: Zach Dundas

Zach Dundas grew up in Montana, published ‘zines, played in bands, and made his start in journalism at the Missoula Independent. After working as an editor and reporter for Portland’s Willamette Week from 1999 to 2005, he wrote for Monocle, Maxim, Good Magazine, and others. His first book, The Renegade Sportsman, was published by Riverhead Books in 2007, followed by The Great Detective in 2015. He is now editor-in-chief of Portland Monthly and a correspondent for Monocle.

Connect and follow Zach on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

Podcast: Dave Thompson: ODOT

Podcast: Dave Thompson: ODOT

Demystifying Crisis PR & the Infamous PIO Role

Learn more at CommCon on May 18th as Dave Thompson gives an inside look at the communications surrounding last summer’s devastating Eagle Creek Fire in the Gorge  

“Public relations for government,” Dave Thompson, APR says of his job as Public Information Officer (PIO) of Oregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT). But as we dig in, I discover the classic role of the PIO to be so much more. Having been at ODOT for over 16 years, he’s technically the Public Affairs Program Manager, overseeing the multitude of PIO’s throughout the state. But when he first started, he was the spokesperson you’d see on TV responding to an issue — a natural disaster, accident, weather, or more — affecting the roads. Today he trains and manages those people, but the job is still intense.

Next week, attendees of CommCon, the Oregon chapter of PRSA’s conference, will get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a PIO. Dave is moderating a session titled “Coordinating Consistent Communications in the Middle of Chaos.” The panel will delve into what happened during the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire that decimated the Gorge and will include speakers from the US Forest Service, Portland Fire & Rescue, and Multnomah County Communications Center. As one of the first PIO’s on the scene, Dave’s mission was to communicate effectively to the public the status of the crisis.

CommCon takes place May 18th from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel (1000 NE Multnomah Street), tickets are available here.

Working Together

The fact that the panel features communicators from multiple agencies points to a key aspect of the job that I didn’t think about. As a PIO responding to disasters affecting the public, you’re working arm-in-arm with multiple government agencies and NGO’s—aligning your messaging and deciding which group, and whom from that group, will serve what function in the Mt. Everest sized list of things to do in a crisis. For example, Dave’s team recently won an award from Travel Oregon for their expert communication management of the Eclipse this summer. As Dave recalls that time, he paints the picture of a busy communication headquarters with executives from different groups serving functions like:

  • Managing & assigning duties to the entire team (like an Editor)
  • Aligning messaging from all groups
  • Pulling together press releases & media communications incorporating that messaging
  • Media outreach & response
  • Press conference organization & delivery

If it sounds intense, it is. I envision such a headquarters like the inner-workings of a frantic newsroom, and Dave agreed to the comparison. When I asked how people without experience can get involved, he said “you can’t just walk into a situation like that unprepared.” He points to some training resources people can go to, but it seems that on-the-job training and planning ahead with all involved parties is the way to go.

Planning Ahead

The ODOT public affairs team gets roughly 30-40 calls per week from media that need to be promptly and accurately addressed. All contact seemingly involves a crisis of sorts but the way Dave explains it, with a lot of forward thinking and planning, maybe PR practitioners don’t have to relate to every tragedy as the crisis that it indeed is. Dave says that “absolutely” all crises can be planned for, with his team having contingency plans for everything — earthquakes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, major traffic accidents and more. Not only do all plans live in his computer, he and his team have print-outs and jump drives of plans, media contacts, press release templates, talking points and more, within arm’s reach — in their cars and at home — should a disaster occur and computers aren’t working or available.

Extending the Megaphone

No longer does Dave think of his job as strictly “customer service for the media.” The rise of social media has extended the megaphone — which used to be reserved for media — to the general public, therefore drastically changing the PIO’s function. But Dave’s thinking has also evolved, realizing that the people of Oregon are his customers because they must use the roads safely and efficiently. He treats every inquiry, whether it is FOX news or your grandma, with the same weight.

“The roads are the lifeblood of the economy, greasing the skids so that the economy can flow. Road maintenance is not just for semi-trucks, it’s so you can get to work, get to the store.”

A Varied Past

With a masters in computer science, going on to teach at USC, Dave’s career trajectory — from writing papers and teaching, to eventually working in broadcast for 20 years, to now working at ODOT — seems unlikely.

As a self-professed “nerd” working in computer science at USC, Dave found himself isolated, watching the world move without him. Working late at the office on Friday night he switched on the news. A hostage situation at the airport immediately sparked his adrenaline as he became fascinated with the story execution. The next day, he signed up for a new broadcasting class and the rest is history.

Today Dave is dedicated to teaching others.

“My personal mission in life is to make a difference. Nobody will remember it was me, but some part of life will be better because of something I did.”

Having joined PRSA in 2002, Dave has gone on to teach, learn, and become a chapter board member, expressing that you get out of it what you put into it. Dave has truly left a mark on the Portland community by his commitment to spreading knowledge and helping others.

About the guest: Dave Thompson

Dave is the Public Affairs Program Manager at the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). He leads a team of eight spokespeople spread across the state of Oregon. He is also a lecturer and media trainer for interviews, crisis management and crisis response. Prior to his career as a PIO, Dave was a reporter, producer, anchor and host at various TV and radio stations. He is also a former board member and president of the local Portland chapter of PRSA.

Connect and follow Dave on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

The Tale of Graduate Turned Account Coordinator

The Tale of Graduate Turned Account Coordinator

What I’ve Learned in my Three Months at Veracity

As I sit in the same coffee shop where I applied to be an account coordinator at Veracity, I think back to my excitement of embarking on a career in public relations. Having graduated University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in June ‘17, I set out to travel Europe that summer and then moved to the City of Roses in the fall. In the pursuit to find the PR agency of my dreams, I was looking for an agency that would launch my career by expanding my knowledge of the industry. I was lucky to find Veracity.

Going into the position, I never would have guessed how I’d be put to the test. Hitting the ground running, my once empty notebook now overflows with knowledge. Finding an entry-level position that both challenges you, yet embraces your opinions is rare. Veracity aligned with my beliefs and had a wide industry range of clients, all I was ecstatic to work with. Now at my three-month mark with Veracity, I beam with how much I have learned and continue to grow as PR professional.

Learn to Understand the Language

PR is built on the bedrock of communication. This isn’t the case for all industries. Speaking the language of the industries you’re working with will help when it comes to pitching ideas to media. If you speak the language and know what you are talking about, they’ll listen (shocking I know). Going off of this, when pitching to reporters it is necessary to research their “beat” and see if it is applicable to what you are pitching.

Be Willing and Open-Minded to Never Stop Learning
I legitimately learn something new every day whether it be Amy’s technique of how to land a pitch or creating the perfect media list. Through trial and error, I have learned to not make the same mistake twice. I take advantage of all learning opportunities, viewing constructive criticism as a chance to grow. Learning doesn’t end in college, it expands further into our careers as professionals. Be eager to learn, grow and contribute – but remember it’s okay to mess up.

Expect the Unexpected

I’m a go with the flow, take it as it comes, easy-going lady. I found this mentality to be a lifesaver in PR because we are paid to expect the unexpected and take whatever life (or the media!) throws at us. If you can’t change your mental course in a matter of seconds, think on your feet, or perform under pressure – PR might not be your beat. Having the flexibility to adapt to different situations and environments is key.

Pay Attention to the Details

PR is consistently fast-paced, but taking the time to slow down and focus on the details will be more effective and efficient in the long run. Not taking the time to proofread or pay attention to detail is unacceptable. Besides, if you can’t show effort and time in your work, why should anyone care? It’s definitely all about the details in the PR game.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

I’ve always been comfortable taking the lead, but initiating in unfamiliar territory is daunting. Yet I’ve learned the most during the moments that are outside of my comfort zone. Putting myself in these unfamiliar situations has only helped me grow stronger as a PR professional and as a person as well. While daunting, always taking the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone has been fundamental to my continued learning.  

Three-months deep and my biggest lesson so far is to take advantage of your career and the opportunity to learn more – don’t hold yourself back. I am lucky to have bosses who push me to greater lengths every day. To Amy and Mike, thank you for giving me this opportunity; happy to have launched my career at Veracity.

Account Executive at Veracity

Account Executive at Veracity

Veracity Seeks Account Executive to Handle Growing Agency Needs

Our growing agency is looking to add another member to our team. This experienced Account Executive — with 2-4 years of true public relations experience preferably in an agency setting — will serve as the primary contact for a handful of Veracity accounts. You will be supported by an Account Coordinator, with Veracity owners serving as strategists and problem-solvers on all accounts.

Veracity Account Executive duties could include, but wouldn’t be limited to, the following:

  • Identifying & placing press opportunities for clients.
  • Daily contact with clients & media relating to what you’re working on.
  • Collaboration & possibly management of east coast media pitcher.
  • Collaboration & possibly management of copywriter(s).
  • Collaboration & management of Account Coordinator on specific projects, such as research, media reports, social media maintenance, various writing opportunities and more.
  • Contribute to Veracity’s social media & blog.
  • Writing. Writing. Writing. Press pitches, articles, press releases, blog posts & more.
  • Editing. Editing. Editing. Everyone needs an editor. Please be ours!

Working at Veracity is fun. We grind it out with our heads down each day but that gives us more work-life balance in the end. Flexible work schedules and working locations are granted to team-players who get results and give it their all—no matter when or where they are working.

Benefits include generous vacation/PTO, FMLA, health benefits, competitive compensation and continuing education opportunities.

To apply: email your qualifications and writing samples (press release and blog post) to careers(at)veracityagency.com.

**Applications that do not include (or link to) a sample press release and blog post that you’ve written will not be considered. You must include both.**

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

 

Podcast: Kevin Getch: Engage Conference

Podcast: Kevin Getch: Engage Conference

Kevin Getch of SEMpdx Has Us “Engaged” Before the Annual Digital Marketing Conference Hits Portland

Each year as winter folds over into spring, many of our friends and colleagues, along with those in our office, are busy planning, organizing and corralling for Engage Conference (formerly called SearchFest). Scheduled for March 8th, the creme de la creme of the industry share knowledge, learn and network at the Pacific Northwest’s only digital marketing conference organized by a nonprofit (SEMpdx).

That’s why I took the opportunity to catch up with Kevin Getch, President of SEMpdx, before he got too busy with Engage commitments. Also the Founder and Director of Digital Strategy for his company Webforan agency specializing in search engine optimization (SEO) and UX driven web design — and familyman extraordinaire, this guy has a lot on his plate!

In the episode, Kevin talks about how Search Engine Marketing (what the SEM part of SEMpdx stands for) has everything to do with PR and why all types of marketing professionals should consider getting involved with SEMpdx. He also gives us a sneak peek into how Webfor approaches PR for its clients. It’s a far cry from writing press releases but it drives their clients’ websites up in the search engines — which is the name of the game in SEM….and possibly in PR too.

Symbiotic Relationship Between SEO & PR

Kevin explains how the two functions overlap. “So much of PR is what people are searching for online. What type of content is showing up in a search and is it positive? Good story placements and positive content will lessen anything negative that might come up in a search, such as a bad review.” He believes that bringing all of the marketing areas together, rather than keeping them siloed, creates the best results.

According to Kevin, a psychological component can be intertwined into search, which typically functions within a more technical capacity. The inherently non-technical PR mindset can help SEO teams intuit their jobs on a more advanced level.

“PR’s are doing aspects of SEO. Mentions of a brand, even if they aren’t linked, have a positive impact on SEO.”

How Webfor infuses PR into digital

Kevin founded Webfor in 2009 after coming to the realization that some in the industry, particularly where he was working at the time, weren’t looking out for their clients’ needs. Focusing on all aspects surrounding search, design, content strategy, paid search campaigns and more — Webfor ties PR into many campaigns. But with different angles that PR traditionalists may not be familiar with, such as:

  • “Reverse Engineering” the link profiles of their competitors. They look into the opportunities, such as thought leadership placements, their clients’ competitors are garnering and attempt to generate the same type of coverage for their own clients.
  • Running promoted Facebook posts to follow reporters and publishers at a targeted media outlet so that by the time they reach out their pitch is warm.
  • Creating great “on-site” content and reaching out proactively to external websites, sometimes media sites, to link to it.
  • Reviewing websites, sometimes media sites, they want their clients to be placed on and coming up with ways to get that done, such as writing editorial-focused articles which link back to their clients’ websites.

More about SEMpdx

SEMpdx was one of the first nonprofit professional trade associations created for the digital marketing industry. Looking for community and a way to expand their skills, a group of competitors banned together to start the organization. Mentioning that I’ve always thought it fascinating that competitors would join together in such a way, Kevin says the group is “the opposite of hiding secrets.”

More about Engage

As more and more marketers began to infuse search principles into their campaigns, SEMpdx broadened along with the industry. No longer applicable to only technical search professionals, the group decided to change the name of their hallmark event from SearchFest to Engage two years ago. With four tracks focusing on varying digital components (brand, SEO, Paid/PPC, mobile and more), the name Engage communicates more inclusivity.

While Engage has a lot to offer, Kevin is most excited about its prominent speaker line-up, featuring Purna Virji from Microsoft and Ian Lurie from Clearlink as keynotes. Event attendees have access to videos from all of the presentations to use later for training or to put themselves in two places at once since there are simultaneous sessions.

A new perk is that non SEMpdx members will receive a membership ($125 value) with the purchase of an Engage ticket. Membership includes discounts to monthly networking events featuring speakers from across the country, as well as discounts to other associations’ events and conferences, not to mention invaluable networking resources and a supportive community.

The “community speakers” are another new Engage feature. An open call for speakers went out into the community and members voted on who they’d like to hear presentations from. Yours truly, along with Christian Bullock (MKG Marketing), were selected! Again, you’re probably wondering why the search community would ask me, a PR person, to speak. Well, my presentation is titled “PR Your Way to the Top of Google” so maybe that is why. All I know is that it seems like every time I attend a search event I hear how important links from earned media sources are. Hopefully I’ll be able to give them actionable tips on how to actually get these links through PR.

If you see me or Kevin there, please reach out and say hi!

About the guest: Kevin Getch

Kevin Getch is President of SEMpdx, the nonprofit professional business association for digital marketers in Portland and producers of the Engage Conference. He is also the Founder and Director of Digital Strategy at Webfor, a full-service digital marketing agency providing search engine optimization, social media marketing, website and logo design.

Connect and follow Kevin on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

PR Talk is sponsored by monday

In such a fast-paced, multi-faceted work environment, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. monday is the collaboration tool trusted by businesses of all kinds to help cut down the clutter and streamline productivity. Learn more at monday.com and signup for a free trial. You’ll see in no time why so many teams around the world are choosing monday for their project management needs.

PR Talk listeners can use the coupon code BetterExecute for a 15% discount.

Veracity Again Named a Top Portland PR Firm

Veracity Again Named a Top Portland PR Firm

Best PR Firms in Portland - VeracityIt is always nice to be recognized as one of Portland’s Best PR Firms. It is even better to receive the accolade multiple times. We are happy to again be on this list compiled by Expertise.

Here is a little insight into how they go about choosing what PR agencies to feature on their hand-complied list:

 

Step 1: Survey the field

Find all the businesses that may qualify for a particular category in a geographic location. 153 PR Firms in Portland in this case.

 

Step 2: Rank businesses within that Industry

Rankings are based on 25 variables across the following five judgment criteria:

  1. Reputation
  2. Credibility
  3. Experience
  4. Availability
  5. Professionalism

Step 3: Hand-pick the best

Once they rank the businesses, their team manually reviews the top scoring results and provides a summary of the business.

Thank You!

We are honored to be included as a top Portland PR firm and, as we always say, 3rd party accreditation is one of the many benefits of good PR.