“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.


#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?



Back In The Saddle…For Now

No promises, but we’ll see how long I can keep up my blog after a few years of silence. Last time I posted I was planning a wedding…WOW how things have changed. Since then I got married and started a new pr job at Zimmerman (both July 2011), moved to South Florida for my hubby’s Radiation Therapy specialty (kept my job at Z), got pregnant, moved back, got promoted to VP of PR, had a baby and am currently on maternity leave, returning to work in April. Phew that about covers the last 3+ years.

So not really sure what this blog will transform into…may be a combo of pr, mommy, life posts and who knows how long I’ll keep it up this time, but I’m giving it a go. These days I spend my time hanging with my little one, a bouncing baby boy who gets cuter every day. Motherhood has agreed with me. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m really enjoying being a mommy. In April I will tackle “having it all” by going back to work and making the most of Mommy Me, Wife Me and Work Me. Should be interesting and I’ll try to chronicle my adventure on this blog. If only as a way to look back months or years from now to see how I juggled it all. 😉

This blog will also serve as a place for me to leave some Words of Wisdom for Westley…



Communicating at Conference: An opportunity to reach your desired audiences

I love public speaking. There’s something exciting about sharing your knowledge and stories with a room full of people, connecting with them, making them laugh, answering questions.

For communication professionals, especially for us agency folks, speaking engagements are an amazing opportunity to reach a large audience and showcase our work and capabilities. I find annual conferences to be a time where everyone in an organization is eager to learn the latest and greatest in industry trends and return to work invigorated with new ideas to implement immediately. Well that’s how I feel every August when I return from the annual Florida Public Relations Association conference.

Because I’m such a fan of FPRA’s annual conference, I’ve looked for opportunities to attend other conferences as a speaker and share PR and communication best practices, case studies, etc. to members of other industries.

This summer, Kidd Group will be presenting at the FMEA-FMPA Annual Conference in Palm Beach. With more than a decade of experience working with utilities across Florida, we will be sharing some of our most successful case studies as well as affordable resources available to utilities to help meet their communication needs. Additionally, we will have the opportunity to hold a smaller breakout session covering media training and social media best practices.

As I start thinking about some of the conference presentations on the horizon for 2011, I’d like to share some tips for presenting:

  • Research and plan ahead – Not all audiences are created equal. Learn about the conference where you’ll be presenting, its audience and what that particular industry has been faced with from challenges to successes. Knowing your audience and the industry will ensure you create a presentation that is relevant and engaging.
  • Create an interactive presentation – There’s nothing worse than a text heavy PowerPoint that mirrors what you’re saying at all times. I don’t like reading presentations word for word. Instead, I like to make my presentations more interactive adding pictures and videos that will spark questions and conversations from the audience and will keep the presentation moving forward. Less is more – consider bullet points instead of full sentences and get the audience participating with stories, videos and other visual examples.
  • Have fun and be yourself! – After all, no one likes a presenter who’s not enjoying his/her own presentation. Keep in mind, conference attendees are spending time away from work to learn new things that will be useful to them and their staff. Make sure you’re providing real life examples and ideas that can be implemented immediately. Be yourself – being comfortable in your shoes goes a long way in connecting with the audience. Keep the audience engaged, ask questions and above all have fun. If you’re having a great time, chances are so is the audience.

Do you have any presentation tips to add? I’d love to know!

PR Pros: Should our new title be Relationship Managers?

While attending the amazing Florida Public Relations Association annual conference, I participated in a strategic thinking and planning session with Peter H. Hollister, principal and counsel at Hollister, Trubow & Associates.

We discussed the importance of training our brains to think more strategically and explored strategic plans as dynamic, living documents with no ending. I took a lot from this session, but the most interesting concept discussed was the idea of public relations professionals actually being referred to as relationship managers.

When you think about it, that’s exactly the role we play. We manage relationships internally and externally, between an organization and its audiences. We are in charge of ensuring those relationships are positive, proactive and continue to grow and prosper. I also like the term “relationship manager” because it touches on the psychology behind PR and the fact that at times we may also be therapists, listening to our audiences and working with them to make sure their needs are met and all parties involved understand each other and can benefit from their relationships.

I once led a branding session for a client and before we were able to move forward with the session, each participant went around the table and shared their internal issues. They needed to vent and I was there to serve as therapist and mediator. Although it took a while to get their feelings out and get on the same page, it actually resulted in a very successful branding session and everyone left feeling like they were heard and were part of the process. In essence, I served as a therapist (listener) and helped manage the relationship between this group, which in turn resulted in a concise brand direction that everyone was behind.

Adopting the concept of relationship managers is also a great way of getting away from the stigma of Public Relations professionals being “spin doctors” or “liars.” Relationship management doesn’t have a negative connotation and it’s new enough that it can allow us as an industry to define and nurture it.

What are your thoughts on public relations vs. relationship management? Do you prefer one over the other or does it even matter?

Pay It Forward

As I’m gearing up for a business trip out of town, I just said goodbye to the last of my summer interns. As she thanked me for the opportunity to work with me and build her portfolio, I started thinking about the important role we play as mentors to our interns.

I honestly can say that I wouldn’t be at this point in my career today without the support and knowledge I gained from my mentors. From my parents to high school teachers to college internship supervisors to supervisors, friends and colleagues – there are so many people who have shaped me and cheered for me, I couldn’t name them all for fear of leaving someone out.

The lessons you learn from your mentors and from internship experiences and entry level jobs are priceless and they truly make a difference in the professional you become. I have been incredibly lucky and am grateful for the vast network of friends, colleagues and professional peers who challenge me everyday. Now I’m in a position to shape the lives of others and I really believe in the importance of paying it forward.

I’ve had many interns in the last few years and each one has taught me something. I hope I have left them with some valuable lessons. My goal is always to share my knowledge about the industry, helping gain the real-world skills and the confidence that will help them land a job post-graduation. Aside from interns, I also have a mentee who is a PR student at FSU and that has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I was able to help her with her application to the College of Communication and was able to celebrate with her when she was accepted. These experiences make me a better professional and make me appreciate all of the successes I’ve enjoyed and the people who have helped me along the way.

As humans, we should never stop growing and learning and finding people to inspire us. There will always be those who are more successful or have more experience, but wherever you are in your career, think about serving as a mentor or friend to a younger person who may be in school or just starting their career. We’ve all been there and we should never forget it!

Hayward out…too little, too late?

It’s been 99 days since the explosion of Deepwater Horizon. Today, BP confirmed that Tony Hayward will step down as CEO on October 1, to be replaced by managing director Robert Dudley.

The oil spill catastrophe has severely impacted marine life and wildlife, put fishermen in the Gulf out of work and has caused turmoil within the tourism industry in the region.  BP also has suffered – stock prices have taken a tumble and the company’s reputation is pretty much in the toilet.

BP is estimating the well’s permanent closure will happen sometime between August and October, but the damage has already been done to the environment and to the company.

In a move that seems obvious and calculated, BP is claiming it has come to a “mutual agreement” with Hayward to step down from his position. Well at least Hayward can now have his life back – but for BP is it too little, too late?

This fiasco has been going on for months and it is a classic example of crisis communication at its worst. There have been allegations of lies, negative stories every hour about warnings that were ignored, altered photos and so many fruitless attempts at capping the spill that most people are even skeptical about this final attempt. I’m curious to see what happens by October.

Hayward has never been a great spokesperson, always pointing the finger at other issues and never really positioning BP as fully taking responsibility, but will a new CEO repair the damage that’s already been done? I’m not a huge Hayward fan, but the complete blame can’t singlehandedly fall on his shoulders. There are a lot of players involved and throwing the CEO under the bus and hiding him in Russia (he’ll be working for a TNK-BP) is not exactly going to make everything peachy keen.

The company has announced a net loss of $16.97 billion during the second quarter of 2010 and the oil spill so far has put them out $32.2 billion and they’re still spending money. I don’t envy Dudley and what he’s walking into. I’m not sure what he can do at this point to restore the tarnished BP image. He has said his top priority is to seal the oil well for good (25th times the charm?) and cleaning up the Gulf. Good luck!

I’m interested to see what if anything changes with this new leadership. At the end of the day, most people really have no idea who is conducting the BP train, but they do have a visceral reaction to the BP logo and name. BP, the brand, has been damaged – neither Hayward, being in or out, or Dudley can change that because people associate the name and likeness with oil, disaster, dead animals and polluted beaches. Short of a re-brand and launch of a completely new company, I don’t know how BP can come back this – new CEO or not. Only time will tell.