“Keys of Hope” – Extended Stay America Donation Positively Impacts Cancer Patients

One of my favorite parts of working in pr is the opportunity to meet so many different people, learn about numerous subjects and help raise awareness about important programs.

A couple of years ago, our client, Extended Stay America wanted to connect and support a charity their 10,000+ employees across the country could feel proud to support. They surveyed their employee base and overwhelmingly American Cancer Society rose to the top. Not surprising as cancer affects and touches so many people’s lives. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find anyone these days who doesn’t know someone currently battling cancer. Whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague, acquaintance – this disease touches most people in some way, shape or form.

Rather than write a check, Extended Stay America wanted to find a way to make a more meaningful impact via its CSR initiative. One of the many reasons, I love them. They launched the Hotel Keys of Hope program, which donates free and reduced rooms to cancer patients who have to travel away from home for treatment. To date the program has donated 47,000+ room nights, impacting 6700+ cancer patients. The even better news is that the program has been renewed and ESA is donating even more rooms — 50,000!

What started as an idea, a “what if” during a brainstorm in November of 2014, blossomed into a full fledged event that came to life over a June weekend. Our team hosted 11 families who have stayed at ESA during their treatment for a Cancer Survivors weekend in NYC, taking over one of the properties in Secaucus, NJ. The weekend was an opportunity to celebrate these incredible people who immediately made a connection and lifelong friendship. From dinner and a movie to a special keynote from GMA’s Amy Robach to a Broadway show and celebration dinner, it was such an amazing honor to have been part of what I hope will become an annual event.

As a cherry on top, because we spent a few days really getting to know these families and their stories, we were able to pitch and land a significant news story on The TODAY Show as part of its “Hope to It” series. Love seeing an idea come to fruition, meeting amazing people and getting a national news story! Life and PR win.

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#LillyForTarget PR Dream, IT Nightmare

If you’re a Florida girl like me and live in the South, then the Lilly for Target designer collaboration aka “Pink Sunday” was as exciting as Christmas morning. Thousands of women (me included) set their alarms at 3am to snag clothing, accessories, children’s items and home decor from this one-of-a-kind designer collection.

From a PR perspective, the buzz generated from the announcement, lookbook and commercial, celebrity event and night before/day of in store and online collection launch was amazing. Since its announcement in January 2015, I’ve continued to see a steady stream of news surrounding the collaboration. The timeline was executed flawlessly with just enough time between the initial announcement to the sneak peak lookbook and commercial to the actual collection launch on April 19 to ensure the media covered each phase, while building excitement among the socialverse with loyal Lilly lovers and newbies alike.

The lookbook and commercial were amazing and over the top, featuring Chris Noth (Mr. Big from SATC), Bella Thorne, a Giraffe and a slew of other celebs. The celebrity launch party was also a huge success with stars like Shameless’ Emmy Rossum and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Ellie Kemper sharing photos and numerous posts via Instagram and major outlets like E News once again covering the partnership. #LillyForTarget has been the #1 trending hashtag on Twitter for nearly an entire day with more than 10,000 tweets and counting.

If there were ever a question that partnering with Target to create a designer line at an affordable price to reach middle America was not a great move for a brand, please Google #LillyForTarget and hit “news” — you’ll find tons of stories from CNN to Refinery 29 and everything in between. On Twitter, local TV stations were soliciting stories from local residents on their Lilly for Target experience. The media attention alone has brought new focus and potential customers to Lilly. If you didn’t know Lilly Pulitzer, you’re probably intimately familiar with the iconic resort brand with the amazingly colorful prints, post Lillypocalypse.

Even with the negative tweets and news stories covering the angry women who were not able to purchase Lilly for Target in stores or online, the sheer amount of conversation and news attention generated has elevated both brands once again. Unfortunately with a limited time collection, one can only expect website crashes, empty stores within minutes and crazy people in line starting at 4am. America wouldn’t have it any other way. I personally find it fascinating to participate and watch this unfold.

For those in IT at Target and the employees braving the store this morning, I’m sure they’re ready for a nap. I loved the fact that Target mobile President Jason Goldberger live tweeted in the middle of the night and answered consumers’ questions. The one pr fail is the fact that once the website and mobile sites crashed, Jason stopped communicating via Twitter. Target should have anticipated madness and therefore crafted messaging to address this and the angry customers. With a highly anticipated launch such as Lilly for Target one could imagine the madness that would ensure online and in stores. Although no amount of tweets or communication will change that, I have seen an enormous amount of tweets and also stories questioning Target for their “radio silence.” There could have been a better way to implement a communication strategy in the wake of site crashes and lack of inventory and own that story rather than be blamed without comment.

I’m interested to see if this designer collaboration is duplicated once again perhaps next summer. Until then, I’lll enjoy reading the stories and tweets generated from the “Lilly for Target Apocalypse” and waiting for my pieces to arrive in the mail.

Would love to hear from others regarding their thoughts on #LillyForTarget. If you’re in pr, what did you think about Target’s pre, during and post launch plan? Did you purchase any Lilly and what was your strategy? Do you think this cheapens the brand or do you find it exciting when designer brands create attainable collections?

XoXo,

Ivette

Approaching Wedding Planning like a PR Plan

I’m recently engaged and am now in wedding planning mode. A lot of people have said – “Don’t stress.” or “Planning a wedding is a huge task – take it easy, hire  a planner.” Maybe I’m just naive and have no clue what I’m getting into, but for me planning events is fun and part of what I do for a living. So my motto is to approach planning my wedding the way I would planning any type of event for a client. I will create a “PR Plan” of sorts to be my guide. I will be my own client and of course my fiance also will be considered a client too, although he is not as demanding a client as I am! 🙂

Using a PR plan as my guide makes things easy and clear. I have my goal: To have an amazing wedding! I have set measurable objectives including booking a ceremony and reception site by the end of July, finding a photographer by September and setting up a engagement shoot, and booking a band to play at the wedding. To meet these objectives I have set clear tactics and activities that go with each tactic.

Just like in a PR plan, I have a target audience AKA my guest list. These audiences are split into categories: family, friends, colleagues. I also have a budget I must adhere to and a strict timeline. All of the elements of a PR plan successfully translate into my “wedding plan.”

Ask me in a year how it all goes, but from where I’m standing my training in PR has come in handy as I embark on planning the most special event of my lifetime so far!

Do you use PR as a guide for other things in your life?

The “Other” Grad School: Life

There are many schools of thought on graduate school. Some people are all for it, others not so much. I’m in the camp that thinks graduate school is great, but without life and work experience it’s not as worthy. I’ve noticed a trend with a lot of students lately who finish their undergraduate degree and continue straight to grad school – no break, no real world or work experience. They have a lot of degrees, but when it comes to their experience they don’t have a lot to draw on professionally. I believe these students are missing out on the “other” grad school: Life.

I learned many lessons in college, but I’ve grown up in the real world. Although my passion and career is PR, I stumbled into this…it wasn’t my original plan. I went to school for broadcasting and mass media studies, worked as a producer and reporter for a few years and then decided I wanted to pursue PR. Everything I’ve learned about the industry has been by doing and by taking in what more experienced professionals have shared with me. What I’ve learned by working, networking and through the contacts I’ve made through social media is an education all its own.

There is so much to learn in the real world and so much information available online. Participating in discussions with peers, reading blogs, getting involved in FPRA and Junior League have all played a role in molding me into the person and professional I have become.

I have so much growing and learning left to do. Life is a continual education and your experiences shape and change you constantly. I believe in the importance and power of a college and graduate school education…but books can only take you so far. You need to open up your mind and take everything in…learn from life, from mentors, from every experience good or bad, planned or unexpected.