PR: Innovation in the Age of Convergence

By Jerry Thompson, EVP, Public Relations Director at MARC USA

[ This is a post from our 2017 Renaissance Awards event sponsor, MARC USA, one of the largest independent marketing communications agencies in the country with offices in Chicago, Miami and Pittsburgh. ]

In the wake of an emotional election process and a public dialog marked by incessant scandal-mongering, the public relations profession’s leading voices are wrestling with the concept of “fake news.” However, from this counselor’s view, fake news is old news – not because we so quickly these days move on to the next thing, but because it’s always been the practitioner’s role to advise for accuracy and authenticity in the client’s information and storytelling. In a world where publishers and media channels have been exposed for placing the revenue from clicks or commercial or political gain above accuracy and truth, it’s imperative that PR people use their unique storytelling sense and professional judgment to deliver credible content on behalf of our clients. And that we encourage critical thought so that messages, stories and opinion that violate standards of transparency and truth are seen for what they are: self-interested attempts to manipulate the public.

So what IS newsworthy in the PR profession? Let’s back into it with a review of what’s NOT news:  it’s not stakeholder segmentation, or aligning with “influencers” — whether they be industry analysts, bloggers or simply prolific publishers or social media mavens. It’s not behavioral science research methods, which have been used for decades to illuminate the influences on judgment and decision choices, such as how to get people to stop smoking. Traditional media relations by definition is not new, nor is sponsoring/promoting content in social and digital channels, or using analytics to measure and refine marketplace engagement — almost as it happens. And it’s certainly not content or content marketing – PR pros have always been in the business of earning attention with information packaged for easy, impactful consumption, and stories told creatively and compellingly enough to first earn media time or space, and then the audience’s attention.  

So here’s what I think IS news: designing communication and marketing programs that converge these evolving tools. We can use decision science to understand more fully and precisely how stakeholders perceive risk around a proposition – whether it’s a new product, a pipeline project, or a company’s leadership changing its strategy to capture new opportunities. With those insights, and the knowledge gained from segmenting and analyzing target groups, we can craft and deliver information and stories that enable people to understand and assess facts for themselves. And we will improve our ability to do that by accounting for the context that is their personal experiences, opinions, emotions and preferences, all of which will influence their judgment and behavior choices.  

This can be the foundation of strategic and measurable stakeholder engagement that is the essence of PR’s value. On it, we can build distribution programs across news, entertainment and social channels that enable our clients’ stories to find audiences, and those audiences to search for and find the clients’ stories and other information with which we want to connect them.

PR has always been the discipline asserting responsibility for helping clients establish and build trusted relationships, and ultimately align – as much as possible – the interests and value exchanged between an organization and its stakeholders. Today, we have advanced digital media and other methods with the potential to make us more effective business partners than ever. This where we can make real news, and continue advancing the value PR delivers in a world where fake news is just the latest of many challenges to the trust, transparency and authenticity on which great brands are built.

Jerry’s decades of diverse career experiences enable him to provide trusted counsel across a range of industries and brands, and includes work in both corporate communications and consumer marketing. As a client counselor and strategist for leading agencies Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum and MARC USA, Jerry has helped drive measurable communications across the evolving media channel spectrum on behalf of premium brands such as The Home Depot, Mitsubishi Nuclear, Peoples Gas, Rite Aid, Chevron, Delta Air Lines, Miller Brewing, Heinz 57, StarKist and Georgia-Pacific, among others. He launched Ketchum Energy, a global practice, helped MARC USA’s establish its Mental Models research methodology, and has deep public affairs, issues management and crisis response experience. Jerry is a multiple winner of PRSA’s Silver Anvil award.  

Renaissance Awards Q&A with The Motherhood

This week on the blog, we chatted with The Motherhood Inc., an agency that’s no stranger to our annual Renaissance Awards. Check out what they had to say about last year’s ceremony and what keeps them coming back for more.

Q: What award(s) did the agency win at the 2016 ceremony?

A: The Motherhood was proud and honored to receive the Agency of the Year and Best of Show awards (for a campaign with The Fred Rogers Company and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) at the 2016 Renaissance Awards. 


Q: Tell us a little about the agency. 

A: The Motherhood Inc., a social media marketing agency founded in 2006, was one of the first agencies nationwide to provide influencer marketing services to consumer brands. Our social media campaigns help drive engagement and increase sales, sparking deep loyalty among consumers, and our work generated more than 2 billion online impressions in the past year alone. 


Q: What did winning the Agency of the Year award mean to you?

A: We’re not the typical PR agency, and our work, especially with our focus on moms and women, is not traditional, either. To be recognized as Pittsburgh’s Agency of the Year is an honor we work every day to live up to. We find so much motivation and inspiration in the support of the brilliant Pittsburgh PR community, many of whom have hired us to execute and manage social media campaigns on behalf of their clients. It is because of our brand partners and nationwide network of influencers, with whom we have the privilege of creating award-winning, unique and exciting work, that we were able to accept the award in the first place, and for that we are also deeply grateful. 


Q: Tell us about your overall experience at the Renaissance Awards. Why do you keep participating?

A: The Renaissance Awards bring together the best of the best. As Pittsburghers, we work in an incredible hub of innovation, and having the opportunity to see the incredible work that’s transpiring regionally and nationally is priceless. Each year, we leave the Renaissance Awards feeling so proud to live and work in such a vibrant, innovative community. 


Q: What are the benefits of attending the Renaissance Awards for practitioners at any level in their career?

A: Come for the networking with our region’s top talent, stay for the pride you’ll feel when hearing about the top-notch work coming from this city we love, and leave feeling inspired to continue elevating your work and producing next year’s award-winning campaign.


Q: Any advice for aspiring PR pros?

A: Relationships matter! Despite the growing focus on marketing and influencer automation, we believe wholeheartedly that building and nurturing genuine relationships is the key to success. Nothing can replace the human connection.

We’ve seen the power of personal connection first-hand in that most of our team members were once clients of The Motherhood, and the relationships forged years ago evolved into the award-winning agency we have in place today. Our employees’ former agencies also remain some of our most valued clients, so we’ve really seen the full-circle impact of relationship building at all levels and in all roles.


We invite you to join us Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel, Station Square for a night of networking and fun as we recognize the accomplishments of our city’s brightest communicators.

Check-in registration and a cocktail hour will begin at 5:30 p.m., opening remarks begin at 6:45, and dinner and awards will begin at 7.

Register Today!

Renaissance Awards Q&A Spotlight: Patti Jo Lambert

The 2017 Renaissance Awards are right around the corner! We recently chatted with a former Renaissance Award winner, Patti Jo Lambert, to hear her perspective on the region’s most prestigious public relations awards ceremony. Check out what she had to say below!

Q: What award did you win?

A: Renaissance Communicator of the Year Not for Profit at the 2016 Renaissance Awards ceremony.


Q: Tell us a little about yourself/position/your organization.

A: I’m the director of the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, one of the largest Jeep-only events in the nation. It celebrates Butler, Pa. as the birthplace of the Jeep. The event attracts more than 15,000 Jeep enthusiasts the second weekend of June. I helped create it from the very beginning and work with a fantastic group of volunteers who help plan and manage it.

I love my role because it combines everything I’ve learned during my 20+ years in the PR industry. I oversee the entire event; manage 400 volunteers; develop and sell sponsorships; direct advertising, social and PR; coordinate with community leaders, select and create merchandise for our store; manage the web site and the list goes on…..!

If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would be directing a nationally recognized automotive event, I would have laughed. And that’s what is so amazing about public relations…you never know where your career will take you!


Q: What did winning the Not-for-Profit Communicator of the Year award mean to you?

A: I was a Renaissance Awards chair many years ago. I remember thinking at the time that it would be so amazing to receive one of PRSA’s individual awards at some point in my career. My expectations were exceeded! It’s always wonderful to be recognized for doing great work, but it’s even more meaningful when your industry peers are the ones who are recognizing you.


Q: Tell us about your overall experience at the Renaissance Awards. Why do you participate?

A: The awards are a great way to network because it’s the biggest night of the year for public relations in Pittsburgh. It’s also fun to learn about the successful projects that have been executed by our peers. PR pros in Pittsburgh are awesome!


Q: What are the benefits of attending the Renaissance Awards?

A: The Renaissance Awards are a great way to meet new people and re-establish connections with former colleagues. It’s also a great opportunity to see what other PR professionals in the city are working on. There’s always a chance to learn something new and be inspired by the successes of others.


Q: Any advice for aspiring PR pros?

A: Take advantage of all of the opportunities that come your way because at some point in your career you will benefit from them. Even some of the most mundane tasks can turn into key learnings if you approach them with a positive attitude and willingness to learn.


We invite you to join us Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel, Station Square for a night of networking and fun as we recognize the accomplishments of our city’s brightest communicators.

Check-in registration and a cocktail hour will begin at 5:30 p.m., opening remarks begin at 6:45, and dinner and awards will begin at 7.

Register Today!

Agencies Should Start Thinking More Like Consultants

 By Steve Radick

[ This article originally appeared on MediaPost, an integrated publishing and content company whose mission is to provide a complete array of resources for media, marketing and advertising professionals. ]

For the last five years, my account managers have called me Mr. Scopecreep. I’ve never been able to see a problem and not try to fix it, even if it’s outside my lane or scope of work. As a result, I tend to get involved in conversations or meetings I may not technically be getting paid for. While this used to be viewed negatively — I over-serviced my clients, I worked longer hours than I should, and I was responsible for more than a few bright red cells on profitability spreadsheets — I’m starting to think it may not be.

After nine years as a consultant and five more at ad agencies, I’ve realized maybe the problem lies in how agencies build scopes of work rather than how I’ve interpreted (or ignored) them. When I was a consultant, our clients bought our people. They were buying our consultants’ specialized expertise, unique experience, or both. The who was more important than the what. In the agency world, though, our clients tend to buy the stuff our people produce. The what is more important than the who.

Unfortunately, because much of what agencies produce has been commoditized, clients have squeezed agencies on costs. This has driven profit margins down and pitted agencies against one another in a “how low can you go?” game that doesn’t have a winner. Consultants, on the other hand, have stayed above this. Instead of selling stuff, they continued to sell the people who create the stuff. And that’s a lot more difficult to commoditize.

From Deloitte Digital to Accenture Interactive to IBM’s iX, big consultancies have taken advantage of the gap agencies created. They’re buying up agencies and integrating them into their management consulting practices, giving clients true business partners who also now offer cutting-edge creative marketing services, too.

If agencies want to compete, they have to start thinking more like consultants. Here’s how.

Sell your people, not what they create. If there’s one thing clients hate, it’s when an agency wows them with senior people and then passes the work to junior staffers without the same experience or expertise. Spend time talking with clients about who will work on their business and commit to keeping them on the business. Make sure clients understand the value your agency brings to the relationship isn’t what these people create, it’s having these people on your business.

Invest in your people. One of the complaints agencies have about marketing their people is there’s a lot of turnover and they need flexibility to switch out people as needed. You can’t market your people if you can’t hold onto your people! Consultants invest in everything from onboarding to training to tuition reimbursement. If agencies invested more in treating their people like primary assets instead of secondary parts, the clients would, too.

Be a partner, not a vendor. To manage razor-thin margins on what’s becoming more project-based work, agencies have gotten good at creating detailed, specific contracts. This keeps client requests focused and the agency from losing their shirt in the process. Unfortunately, it also means the agency doesn’t see the forest for the trees. This turns agencies into little more than vendors responsible for creating a deliverable. Consultants, on the other hand, strive to be strategic partners who focus on solving business problems and integrating the systems, processes, and people required to run the business.

If agencies started thinking more like consultants, they’d realize the real growth opportunities lies in partnering with clients to write the briefs instead of only executing against them.


Steve Radick is the Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about Steve here.

Join Us Jan. 26 for the 2017 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards

By Jordan Mitrik

PRSA Pittsburgh’s annual Renaissance Awards ceremony is one of my favorite events of the year. For one evening, the city’s top communication professionals gather to celebrate the most outstanding public relations and marketing work produced that year. They take a break from their busy schedules to honor campaigns, tactics and individual practitioners in the area that are changing the way we communicate and that are contributing to Pittsburgh’s identity as a hub for innovation.

The 2017 Renaissance Awards will be my first ceremony as a professional in the industry. I’ve actually attended the event for the past four years, but that story is for a different blog post. Each year, I become more impressed with the city’s communicators and the work they produce. I have left every ceremony excited for my future in public relations and inspired by the efforts made by the industry’s professionals.

This year’s ceremony has been revamped to bring us more in line with the awards criteria of other communications organizations as well as PRSA National. By adding new categories that reflect our evolving industry landscape, we’ve brought a more contemporary feel to the awards program and are looking forward to celebrating with you.

Please join us Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel, Station Square for a night of networking and fun as we recognize the accomplishments of our city’s brightest communicators.

Check-in registration and a cocktail hour will begin at 5:30 p.m., opening remarks begin at 6:45, and dinner and awards will begin at 7.

Opening and narrating our evening as the event emcee is Karamagi Rujumba, director of public communications & advocacy at the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

We are excited to also host a Networking Party after the ceremony concludes at Buckhead Saloon in Station Square. We have a reserved VIP area with access to a discounted cash bar from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Interested in learning more? Take a look at the 2016 awards ceremony video recap below to hear what other members of the Pittsburgh community have to say about our Renaissance Awards.

Register Today!

Jordan Mitrik currently works at Brunner, a top U.S. full-service Marketing/Advertising agency in Pittsburgh. He also serves as blog coordinator for PRSA Pittsburgh. Connect with Jordan: Twitter | LinkedIn | Website 

Q4 Highlights: PD Day, mentorship program and planning for 2017 

What a year it’s been. Before we turn the page to a new year, let’s take a look at some of the Chapter’s highlights from the last three months:

  • Distributed two e-newsletters, highlighting recent Chapter member accomplishments, programming announcements and tips to improving communication skills. To view the latest Chapter e-newsletter, click here.
  • Chapter President Steve Radick attended the PRSA 2016 International Conference in Indianapolis. He gave a presentation on “Building Value That Has Value Beyond Likes, Comments, and Clicks” as well as represented the Chapter at the annual Leadership Assembly. To learn more about the conference and what advances are being made within PRSA, click here
  • Hosted the Chapter’s annual Professional Development Day on Oct. 27 at The Rivers Club. This year’s PD Day focused on how communications professionals are using traditional and innovative tactics to reach their audiences. Read about what our keynote panel speakers shared here
  • Joined forces with the Waynesburg University PRSSA Chapter to initiate a student-professional mentor program. To date, we have 10 committed professionals acting as mentors to 10 PRSSA students from Waynesburg University. We’re looking forward to see how both parties will benefit from this partnership. 
  • Hosted our annual Holiday Party at Roland’s Seafood Grill & Iron Landing. Members of PRSA Pittsburgh came together to celebrate a successful 2016 and enjoyed appetizers and drinks to close out the year. 

Happy 2017 from PRSA Pittsburgh! We look forward to another great year with our outstanding members. 

If you have any suggestions for our Board, email us as info@prsa-pgh or find the Board Chairperson you wish to reach here.

Visit our blog for future updates and discussions on the latest industry trends!

6 Brand Storytelling and Marketing Lessons I Learned From The Moth

[ This article originally appeared on The Way, Sprinklr’s content hub. As one of PRSA Pittsburgh’s sponsors, each month Sprinklr will be delivering you with some insights into how you can use technology to make your marketing more efficient and effective. ]

Marketers are storytellers. If you don’t believe me, check LinkedIn. Brand Storyteller, Chief Storyteller, Data Storyteller – these are actual titles that people have. Is “storyteller” just an exaggerated buzzword used to aggrandize modern professionals? It does sound more stimulating than Marketing Director, I suppose, but there’s more to it than that.

I should know. I am a Storyteller.

No, seriously, I tell stories at events produced by The Moth and participate in a variety of other storytelling shows around New York City. These short stories are true tales from my own life told in front of live audiences. Some are a little funnier, some are little sadder, each is a little bit different.

Regardless, every time I tell a story, I learn more about what works and what doesn’t, what phrases seem to flow and which I stumble over, and most importantly, how to communicate my ideas efficiently and effectively.

I’ve sharpened the same skills over the past 12+ years as a marketer in the areas of merchandising, email marketing, and social media strategy. At Sprinklr, I help marketers across industries create valuable experiences for a world transformed by social media.

With that in mind, I want to share what I’ve learned on the storytelling stage that helps me in the marketing meeting.

Keep it Short, Sweetheart.

There’s a five-minute limit at Moth open mic StorySlams, so I need to keep my story tight. The more time I have to prepare, the more concise my story becomes. I eliminate repetitive phrases that don’t enhance a theme, and remove details that don’t support my primary or secondary message.

I don’t try to cover my entire freshman year of college, or even the first semester, or even that party I went to that one night. I describe the moment I spilled a drink on the girl I had a crush on at this party I went to during the first semester of my freshman year in college. Just that moment.

A marketer’s message must be just as simple, and accomplishing this requires the same steps: be prepared and eliminate repetitive or distracting details that don’t enhance your primary message. Don’t try to “boil the ocean” with your calls to action, and instead focus on what you want your customer to do right now.

Have a Beginning, Middle, End…and a Point.

Without a logical narrative structure, you don’t have a story. You have a bunch of words vaguely coalescing to form an anecdote. You need the sense of “I was there, and then this happened and now I’m here…and that’s important because…”

With marketing messages, the beginning is the “current state” – the not-quite-good-enough situation that your audience is in. Storytellers must then establish the “ideal state” – where your audience could be, where things are better. This is our goal: the Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road.

Then comes the journey – how we’re going to get there; the transition from our sepia-toned today, to a technicolor tomorrow.

This structure holds when marketers describe the improvements they saw when testing a new approach, or when they’re explaining to an internal audience how they’ve accomplished certain goals. They must cover the full journey from point A to point B.

Know Your Theme.

Every open mic StorySlam at The Moth has a theme that all stories must follow. Within this restriction lies opportunity. With a required theme, I must examine my story from a variety of angles and determine the best path to take, and hopefully find a way to reflect the theme in a unique and surprising way.

What is the theme of your marketing message? Of today’s social media content or next week’s email newsletter? How does that tie to the larger themes of your current campaigns, and your broad company goals?

You’re only fenced in if you look straight ahead. Look up! The sky’s the limit even if you are restricted to a small piece of earth.

Know Your Audience.

I don’t tell the same story in the backroom of a bar that I might tell on the stage of a nice theater. I surely won’t tell it the same way, or highlight the same parts. The pace may change, my tone of voice might shift.

Omni-channel marketers need to reach audiences where they are, in their preferred voice. Copy for a Facebook post is going to be different than a banner ad or a billboard.

If I talk to my audience flipping through a magazine as if they were scrolling through a Twitter feed, I’m likely missing them. Consumers are wary of marketing messages to begin with, so it’s crucial to present your story in the smartest possible way.

Know Yourself.

When I approach my storytelling, I try to stay aware of the types of stories I’m comfortable telling, how I perform in different sorts of venues and situations, and whether or not I’ll be comfortable improvising on the spot depending on how the audience is responding to me.

The truth is, you might not know what will work until you are performing. Maybe a line that you thought would get a lot of laughs falls flat, or perhaps a line that you improvised brings the house down.

In a marketing campaign, if you see that something isn’t working, you need to quickly make the necessary change. And if something lands with much more success than you anticipated, then it’s time to shift your approach and follow the momentum.

Find the Human, Find the Human, Find the Human.

Every time I get up to tell a story, the audience is full of human beings. No monsters, no supervillains, no zombies. People who want to feel something, not just be told something. They want to relate to me and hear something unique at the same time. Some of them probably had a bad day. Some of them won’t like my story. Ya know, human being stuff.

I love storytelling as a performance, but since I’m also a human being, I won’t nail it every time. I’ve always got something to learn. A phrase can be tweaked, a sentence polished, but eventually the words need to exit my mouth and enter the hearts and minds of those listening.

At that point, it’s not my story any more. It belongs to all of us.

To you, the reader of these words, I don’t know your business or what your customers need from you, but I can almost guarantee your customers are human beings too. Give them something worth hearing, ideally something worth feeling.

You won’t make it perfect every time, but that’s what testing is for, right? Tell your story, measure your results, be honest about what worked and what didn’t. Forgive yourself when you flop, and then get yourself a fresh sheet of paper, Word doc or PowerPoint deck and start again. Once upon a time. Anything can happen after that.


The author, Joe Charnitski, is the Director of Marketing Solutions at Sprinklr.

Renaissance Awards: Deadline EXTENDED, Categories Explained

 We know there are still many of you working hard to get Renaissance Award submissions completed, and definitely don’t want you to miss out.

Therefore, we are extending the deadline to 5 PM next Thursday, December 15.

Hosting the annual Renaissance Awards has been a long-standing tradition within PRSA Pittsburgh. Once a year, the brightest and most talented Pittsburgh communications professionals come together under one roof to honor the most innovative work of the year. It’s a night to celebrate, enjoy delicious food and, of course, network.

We are all well aware that our industry is constantly evolving. New trends are forcing professionals to adapt to change, and it’s how we respond to change that determines if we remain competitive.

As our public relations work shifts and adapts from year to year, so should our Renaissance Awards. For the 2017 ceremony, we have updated our award categories and judging criteria to bring us more in line with the awards criteria of other communications organizations as well as National PRSA. These updates will also allow you to better explain the work that you do and get the appropriate credit for your successes.

If you’re familiar with our awards program, you’ll notice that many former Campaign categories have now been streamlined to reflect the integration and convergence that’s occurring in the market today. No longer does PR exist in a silo. We are becoming more strategic and more integrated into the overall organization’s business and communications plans. Likewise, our tactics categories encompass a broader set of writing and multimedia skills that we all bring to bear every day. Between the new entry forms and the award category descriptions, we’ve tried to bring more of a contemporary feel to our awards program and give all of our members a stronger footing to compete for national awards.

In each of the categories, you’ll notice a few bullets. Note that you do NOT have to choose ONE of these bullets in your submission. These are provided as examples of the types of work that would be submitted in that category. For example, Media relations campaigns may encompass one or more of the following:

a) Local / regional media

b) Trade media

c) National media

If your award-worthy campaign only meets one of these levels, please submit! If your media relations work covers all three levels, also submit! Entries are judged based on research, planning, implementation and evaluation; therefore, the most innovative and effective submission, regardless of which level(s) you meet, will ultimately win the award.

The Tactic award categories have also seen some changes. We have combined old award categories and included new ones to better fit the type of work you have been implementing throughout the course of the year. Our revamped Tactics award categories include:

  •  Written Content
  •  Multimedia Content
  •  Promotional Content
  •  Measurement and Reporting
  •  Annual Report

Within the Tactic categories, we have also included some examples of the types of entries we are looking for.

Refer to our updated list to help you determine what category your entry belongs in.

If you have any questions, please contact our Awards Committee at or email our President directly,


We look forward to seeing you at the show on January 26!

PRSSA Post: 3 Tips on How to Stand Out in the World of Public Relations

 By Carlee Smith

I was fortunate enough to attend the PRSSA National Conference in Indianapolis, Ind., from Oct. 21 through Oct. 25. The experience that I gained from this conference is unexplainable, and I will carry what I learned with me for years to come.

It’s no surprise that public relations is a growing field. There are many aspiring public relations professionals who are seeking out jobs in every industry imaginable. So, with all of this competition, one might find oneself asking “how do I stand out?” or “how do I make myself different from everyone else?” Here are three tips on how to stand out in the world of public relations.

1. Follow the VTOM Model for Leadership. 

VTOM is an acronym that stands for Visualizer, Translator, Organizer and Motivator. Although this acronym is geared towards leaders, any public relations professional should keep this acronym in mind and use it to improve themselves both professionally and personally.

Visualizer: Professionals must have goals, objectives and a direction to go in. They must have an idea of what they want a company to look like in order to be active and help make positive changes for the organization.

Translator: Public relations leaders and professionals need to be able to listen to and understand other members of their team or coworkers in their organization.

Organizer: Exceptional communicators must be able to break down visions and ideas into organizations and groups of people to fit their goals. It is important to be able to separate ideas and visions and assign them to people whose goals fit them.

Motivator: Leaders need to understand the levers that will encourage members of an organization or workers in a company to take on and sustain tasks.

2. Understand that communicating is not the only primary function of a public relations professional.

The real skill of a public relations professional is to engage and solve real business problems. With that said, diversity and open-mindedness are key skills. Be an active reader, a good listener and have a thick skin. Having the ability to integrate and having great persuasive writing skills are also key.

3. Be authentic.

David Grossman, co-founder of The Grossman Group, said it best at his conference session: “authentic leaders get better results and have healthier lives.”


Carlee Smith is a junior communication major with a double track in public relations and digital media production at Slippery Rock University. She is involved in the university’s student-run PR firm and PRSSA Chapter, Rock PRoductions. She currently serves as the organization’s senior social media specialist and is in charge of reviewing social media posts before distribution to clients. You can connect with Carlee on LinkedIn or send her an email at  

Why Brands That Are Direct Are Powerful

By Meredith Klein

[ This article originally appeared on MediaPost, an integrated publishing and content company whose mission is to provide a complete array of resources for media, marketing and advertising professionals. ]

I recently returned from my honeymoon to France, Italy and Great Britain. In several of the cities we visited, I noticed United Colors of Benetton had “clothes for humans” splashed across their windows. The message was inclusive and inviting, a welcome change at a time when we are seemingly becoming more and more divided. With three simple words — “clothes for humans” — United Colors of Benetton stood out for its directness.

The campaign, which launched mid-summer, was uniquely intentional. Its straightforward messaging strategy resonated with me because I was in Europe just as the tumultuous U.S. presidential election ended. The months of divisive commentary, from all sides, was draining and this powerful message restored some of my faith in the world. I couldn’t help but think “clothes for humans” was a perfect summation of what consumers are looking for — positivity, sincerity. And that got me thinking; what made this campaign so exceptional and powerful?

  • It’s grounded in integrity Don’t believe me? Check out what Benetton’s agency 180 Amsterdam is calling their “manifesto” and tell me you don’t get choked up watching. It’s refreshing to see a brand take a stand for what it believes rather than producing a campaign that’s aligned with marketing best practices but devoid of much else.
  • It’s inclusive “Clothes for humans” is a great example of a brand consciously choosing everyone instead of just their target audience. Not many can appeal to the masses and do it well; Benetton did.
  • It’s genuine Watch the ad spots, seriously. You always hear about brands injecting themselves into the customer journey. United Colors of Benetton realized they didn’t have to do this — their clothes were already part of it.
  • It’s integrated I’m not just talking traditional messaging channels. Benetton is taking a leap into the content and publishing movement with the introduction of what The Drum described as the “‘magalogue,’ a publication that will contain 50% product and 50% quality content.” It’s a bold move.

Not every brand can do what United Colors of Benetton has done, I get that. But I hope other brands will be inspired by their directness to yield more powerful work. Benetton has always forged their own path, carved their own destiny and with “clothes for humans” may very well cultivate the future of retail.

Meredith Klein is vice president of PRSA Pittsburgh and public relations account supervisor at BRUNNER.