COVID-19 PR Update with Marvin Stockwell [Podcast]

COVID-19 PR Update with Marvin Stockwell [Podcast]

The Power of the Pause

COVID-19 PR Round Two: Marvin Stockwell’s PR Update and Wisdom for Any Situation

Marvin Stockwell comes back to PR Talk to give us an update on COVID-19 PR. We spoke with him way back in March, which feels like ages ago because it was before we even knew how big of an impact COVID-19 was going to make.

Marvin’s update on what he and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have been doing since March further deepens the initial advice he gave when I somewhat surprised him by asking how to handle PR during the early days of the coronavirus. His suggestion then was to slow waaaay down and refrain from overreaching with pitches that aggressively tie into an epidemic when your story or client wouldn’t have an obvious reason to do so.

In round two, Marvin gives us more insight into the necessary pause taken by St. Jude and also outlines how they got back into the PR pitching game upon feeling more comfortable.

Asking and Answering an Important Question

To explain the purpose of the pause, Marvin uses an old PR maxim that can be posed during a crisis:

“What would a reasonable person expect a responsible organization to do in a situation like this?”

In customizing this question for the coronavirus, we can ask:

“How would a reasonable person expect a responsible organization to conduct itself during this pandemic and how can my organization be helpful and useful?”

St. Jude took a necessary pause to ask and answer these questions before moving forward blindly. 

 

The Advantage of PR’s Flexibility

While believing it was a great strategy, Marvin recognized how hard pausing was for a “swing for the fences PR guy like me,” who is used to making things happen. Even though it was just a few weeks, it felt like ages to him!

In all reality, “PR is the most flexible, nimble and agile sub-disciplines of marketing,” said Marvin, noting that this hallmark strength of PR puts us at an advantage over other marketing categories. For example, the advertising department may have spent bundles on creative for an ad campaign that is no longer relevant.

 

Getting Back in the Game

Once that comfort level was established, allowing St. Jude to be helpful to the conversation without overstating or conflating their expertise, it was go-time for Marvin and his PR team. He gives us some examples of how he was able to pitch stories that were related to the pandemic. 

Starting with a softer story to ease out of the gate, the PR team pitched a coloring book created by St. Jude that checked all of their boxes in terms of mission and purpose, while also meeting that helpful and useful note for kids, teens — and their parents — during the coronavirus. PR Talk parents can download the Coloring Book here

The next level PR work was releasing St. Jude Global COVID-19 Observatory and Resource Center for Childhood Cancer a global study on how the coronavirus affects children with cancer. 

The highest level of science PR work will be executed when the team gets to reveal what the data is telling experts.

 

Reflection During Social Crises

When I brought up the social justice uprising, asking how that affects our role as PR practitioners, Marvin responded with the PR framing question again:

“What would a reasonable person expect a responsible organization to do in a situation like this?”

Since I interviewed him right at the brink of the protests, I mentioned the discomfort that so many feel related to the magnitude of companies putting out statements, some sincere, some not. 

“The people who are getting it wrong are the ones that are so keen on rushing a statement out,” Marvin said in response. 

We think this wise advice is a great place to stop and reflect on our actions with the press, with our colleagues and with our clients. In this time when we are hit with two world pandemics, it’s important to think before acting and know that in the end we are just doing our jobs. 

While our jobs as PR professionals are sometimes hard and confusing, PR Talk covers the type of first-world problems that we are privileged to move through.

About the guest: Marvin Stockwell

Marvin Stockwell is the director of media relations at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the creator of his own passion project, Champions of the Lost Causes blog, podcast and soon to be book!

Listen to Marvin’s initial thoughts from March on how to manage COVID-19 PR, along with his general insight on the special nuances that Science PR can bring.

Marvin originally appeared on PR Talk in a compilation of interviews conducted at PRSA’s ICON 2020.

Connect and follow Marvin 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.

Job Seeking During COVID-19 with Mac Prichard [Podcast]

Job Seeking During COVID-19 with Mac Prichard [Podcast]

Job Seeking During COVID-19

It may not be the ideal time to look for a new job, but you may not have a choice. In this episode of the PR Talk podcast, we talk with the host of Find Your Dream Job Podcast Mac Prichard.

Are there even any jobs out there?

We went from record low unemployment to great depression levels almost overnight. However, some employers are still hiring. Mac points out that while he used to have 200 jobs in his weekly Mac’s List email, he now still has 75 or so. It is a big drop, but not zero.

 

So, what do you do?

The basics matter more than ever. You need to establish a job seeking goal and have a plan. Mac says that using a “spray and pray” approach is even less likely to land you the job you want (or even land you a job at all as that position you randomly applied for is someone else’s dream job and they have put in the effort).

Many positions are never even published and even if they are, they’re likely filled through a referral or personal connection. You need to continue (or start) building relationships via informational interviews and virtual networking.

 

How to network virtually 

Amy asked Mac for some tips to be a successful virtual networker. His key points included:

  • Use the networking tools you always have including the phone, email and social media.
  • Webinars can also be a good virtual networking tool. Connect via LinkedIn with the presenter ahead of time and come with questions to engage and set yourself apart from the crowd.
  • Join professional groups and attend virtual happy hours. Just like an in-person meet-up or happy hour, the more you engage, the more value you will get.

 

The furloughed worker side-hustle

When the conversation reached how to maximize periods of furlough, Mac said furloughs might present ideal times to start side-hustles. You can get a feel for if it will be a good move for your future career or full-time gig. In fact, Mac started his agency as a side-project.

 

A couple of final tips

Don’t forget to take the time to enjoy the things that are good in your life. Even if you need to get a new job now, Mac suggests limiting yourself to 35 hours per week of active job seeking. Otherwise, you will burn out and you need to pace yourself.

Mac left us with a great work-from-home tip. If you are fortunate enough to have a dedicated workspace, shut the door when you are not in there to conserve a sense of balance. If you don’t have a separate space, put your laptop in a drawer at the end of the day or over the weekend. Don’t just work non-stop so the days all blend together. You still need to strive for some work-life balance.

About the guest: Mac Prichard

Mac Prichard is the founder and president of Prichard Communications, which was founded in 2007. He has a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Iowa. His career experience includes working for both Earl Blumenauer and John Kitzhaber and founding a second company called Mac’s List.

Connect and follow Mac’s List 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.

Lauren Reed: The Coronavirus Pivot [Podcast]

Lauren Reed: The Coronavirus Pivot [Podcast]

How a Consumer-facing PR Agency Pivoted During Coronavirus

PR teams are at an advantage right now, putting our delicate messaging and story-telling skills to use. 

You may not think that now is the best time for a small PR agency to change direction, but that is exactly what REED Public Relations had to do. As stay home orders were given, so were requests to pause or cancel campaigns at Lauren’s firm. So in response, Lauren set up a free COVID-19 Hotline to help. In turn, even though her new office sits vacant, her firm had its best April ever.

Free PR Hotline

Did you read the New York Times article calling out a new PR pro for sending an inappropriate pitch? In addition to the chastising of one PR pro, the author also gave kudos to Lauren’s PR hotline.

The hotline was part of a pivot from the agency to provide value during a tough time. In addition to answering lots of PR related questions, hotline callers get a free consultation and mini-marketing plan.

As the country was entering the pandemic Lauren asked herself what industry could her firm really help? Based on their connections, experience and a huge need, she landed on senior living. By providing value from the hotline and free consultation, they are now helping several senior living facilities.

 

What should we be pitching right now?

Lauren says that now is not the time for your typical PR campaign. It is not the time for the hard sell, but that we should simply be available as a resource. Consumer accounts need to communicate how they are open for business and how they’ll keep everyone healthy. Pointing out that differentiating and branding doesn’t matter right now, the only thing that people want to know is how you are going to safely do business with them.

 

She tells PR pros that we can’t ignore the pandemic, but she also warns us not to over-capitalize through any pitching we might do that is tied to COVID-19. She adds that PR is actually positioned perfectly during times of crisis as we are used to taking delicate messaging and telling a storyputting us at an advantage.

Lauren ends her interview with her top discovery from the past couple of months:

“I knew I had a good team, a decent team…I didn’t know I had an all-star team until now.”

About the guest: Lauren Reed

Lauren Reed is the president and founder of Reed Public Relations in Nashville, TN. She is a professional with a passion for delivering top-notch results. Experienced creating and directing award-winning public relations campaigns that build and protect brands. Lauren is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Women Presidents’ Organization, president of PRSA Nashville and recipient of the PRSA Nashville 2011 Mercury Award, which recognizes the market’s top young PR professional.

Connect and follow Lauren and Reed PR 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.

Finding a Job During Coronavirus with Dan Lee [Podcast]

Finding a Job During Coronavirus with Dan Lee [Podcast]

Dan Lee On The Three P’s of Job Hunting

Dan’s career-growth advice applies to more than just active job-seekers.

You may remember Dan Lee with PR Talent from past PR talk episodes. In fact, I enjoy talking with him so much that I’ve actually had him on the podcast multiple times before the Coronavirus storm hit the world. So, of course, I immediately thought of him when I decided to pivot the podcast and talk about the things that are stressing us out during these highly unusual times. The loss of jobs tops the list of current stressors for many of us. 

Dan is a great resource to turn to during this time because his firm is unique. PR Talent specializes in filling communications and PR jobs for both agencies and corporations. But since he’s worked in the field, spending 16 years at Weber Shandwick, before starting PR Talent’s northwest operation, he has a keen understanding of what we do on a daily basis as communicators.

Sectors That Are Hiring & In-Demand Skills

Before getting into Dan’s job seeking tips, we quickly touched on the current state of the job market. Of course, it isn’t all puppies and kittens, with the majority of companies at least temporarily pausing their hiring, but Dan outlined the few sectors that are still hiring, such as education, technology, and legal. He also touched on key skills that companies need right now to give you the cutting-edge, including internal communications, crisis preparations and digital savviness.

 

The Three P’s of The Job Search

Dan used what he calls his “Three P’s” to provide a framework for discussing the job search process. The Three P’s are: being prepared, proactive and patient.

 

P #1: Be Prepared

If you’ve listened to Dan’s previous episodes on PR Talk you might already be prepared. Dan has talked before about getting your ducks in a row even when you don’t have the time — for instance, keeping an updated LinkedIn profile and continuously networking with at least one key group — in order to be prepared when the time to make a move comes. 

This is especially relevant to those who are hanging onto current jobs out of fear or desperation. It’s probably not advisable to move away from a current job right now. But with the extra time you’re saving on not commuting, you could examine what you want from your career and take preparedness steps to get there. Even if you have lost a job, now could be a good time to prepare by examining what lights your fire.

 

P #2: Be Proactive

This is not the time to “coast” if you are in a current job that you are feeling lukewarm about. While you need to get your work done to the best of your ability, you could still take advantage of this time and reach out to your networks, just to check-in and see how they are doing. This could go a long way in reminding people about you and possibly help you open the door for conversations about new opportunities when you are ready.

If you have lost your job, don’t just sit around eating bonbons or binging on Netflix all day. While indulging in some of that is fine, don’t use the current state of the economy as an excuse to do nothing. Treat your job search as you would a job. For example, actively network with past colleagues by setting up virtual “coffee dates” or “happy hours,” and put what you’re looking for out on the table while reconnecting. 

Dan suggests you network with him as well since he is a matchmaker for current and future job openings and current and future job seekers. This can apply even if you are currently happily employed. Harkening back to the first P, you should always be thinking about the future and voicing your long-term goals to people who can help you.

 

P #3: Be Patient

Lastly, Dan gives us some grace by reminding us to be patient. This means that you should take the time to enjoy walking outside as the weather gets nicer, practice self-care like meditation and reading, and generally understand that things take time. The best opportunities come to those who aren’t reaching for the next shiny object.

“Challenge brings opportunity,” Dan said, pointing out that now is an excellent time to manage our careers while taking stock of where we are and where we want to be. Again reminding me to pause, reflect and make necessary adjustments.

About the guest: Dan Lee

Dan Lee is a Managing Director at PR Talent and leads the firm’s recruiting efforts in the Northwest region. His career experience includes sports broadcasting, sports marketing, and 16 years with Weber Shandwick, where he was a vice president.

Connect and follow Dan 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.

COVID-19: Marvin Stockwell: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital [Podcast]

COVID-19: Marvin Stockwell: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital [Podcast]

Coronavirus PR Management & Insights into Science PR

A Special Episode with Marvin Stockwell, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Only another PR person would drop what they are doing to help other PR people during what must be a very busy time. That’s why I love our community of giving, helpful PR friends around the globe. Today I got on the phone with Marvin Stockwell, Director of Media Relations at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

You might remember him from my PRSA ICON episode where I recapped a few of the sessions in a series of mini interviews. In his portion, Marvin recounted his experience participating in Pitch Tank, the PR person’s version of Shark Tank, where he pitched three PR ideas to a panel of media judges to land on St. Jude’s new nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer as the winning PR idea.  

 

Managing Covid-19 PR

But before catching up with him on how his spectrometer pitching has been going, we handled the most important order of business for many PR people: management of coronavirus communications whether that is handling unwanted media inquiries around the topic or leveraging the illness as a proactive PR opportunity. 

After giving an update on what’s happening within his media markets with Covid-19, Marvin filled us in on how his team is approaching the epidemic and offers advice for PR professionals. For those of us who fall under the eager, maximizer category, Marvin’s advice may take you by surprise. You may have to operate out of your comfort zone and slooooow way down.

Science PR’s Special Nuances 

We then segwayed into the general topic of science PR. Along with being a hospital helping countless children and families, St. Jude is a research institution that pushes out tons of fascinating findings and data.

Marvin discussed the challenges of positioning scientific research, seemingly only meant for the trades, to mainstream consumer press offering key advice on how to go about it. We touched on how science can get lost behind the more compelling fundraising messaging, including how and why to get around this. We also learned how his team uncovers the wealth of information from his researchers and faculty, managing information-overload with a media relations department structured into “beats” the same way journalists are organized.

Overall, it appears that we truly are in the “long game” when it comes to science PR, with the discoveries of today possibly curing illnesses years, maybe decades, into the future. That’s why keeping our eye on news coming out of St. Jude years down the road will be facincating.

About the guest: Marvin Stockwell

As the director of media relations at St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital, Marvin Stockwell is at his best when making a case for causes he believes in and collaborating with others in his beloved hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Connect and follow Marvin 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.