Announcing PRSA Pittsburgh’s Second Annual Women in Business Event, Carving Your Niche

Unfortunately Carving Your Niche has been cancelled.  We look forward to meeting you at a future PRSA Pittsburgh event.

Thank you for your understanding!


While Pittsburgh is in the midst of a revitalization so, too, is our PR community.  It’s growing by leaps and bounds.  And with dozens of organizations and events happening all the time, why Carving Your Niche?  Simple: we wanted to create collaboration between peers, to start a conversation and to build connections with one another.  And what better way to do that than to host an evening featuring some of the top businesswomen in Pittsburgh?

I’d like to invite you to join us at SLATE, a newly opened event space produced by Shayla Hawkins Events, on Thursday, July 27 beginning at 5:30 p.m.  Grab a drink, grab a seat and get ready to be inspired.  Each of our presenters will share her experience, insights and tips for Carving Your Niche in any industry.  2017 speakers include:

  • Andi Perelman, Manager of New Media, Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Kelley Skoloda, Chief InfluencHer and Angel Investor, KS Consulting and Capital
  • Betsy Benson, Publisher, Pittsburgh Magazine

But how will we know if Carving Your Niche has been successful?  Well, if one person leaves feeling empowered to take the next step in their career then we’ll know we did our job.  And if folks feel like they’ve found their niche?  Even better.

Whether you’re an executive leader, a senior manager or an emerging professional, this is the event for you.  Member tickets are $45 and non-member tickets are $60.  Register here

We look forward to seeing you next month!

FAQ: Am I Qualified to Go for My Accreditation (APR)?

By Ben Butler, APR

[ This is the third post in the APR Journey Series exploring the Accreditation in Public Relations credential and the journey to getting it. Check out the introductory post here. ]

Beyond the process itself, the most frequently asked question in the Accreditation in Public Relations Process is: “Am I qualified to go for my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)?”

PRSA and the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) — the governing bodies managing APR — recommend a minimum of five years of professional communications experience. The process itself also tests historical knowledge of public relations, of the various niches of public relations, business acumen and vettes your hallmark career case study.

Curious if your credentials have prepared you for the Accreditation journey? Here are a couple of baseline questions to begin asking:

Question 1: Do You Have a Track Record Being a Strategist?

In my mind, the five-year mark can be a helpful baseline, but doesn’t necessarily qualify or disqualify you. It really comes down to your experience being a strategist, rather than a tactician.

That being said, you could have 20 years of experience, but no strategic experience. Or you could have four years of experience (one year shy of the recommendation), but a lively career of strategic experience.

Your strategic experience will be put to the test through the entire process, but is really focused upon in Step 2 of the process, the Panel Review. Here, you present your best case study to a panel of APRs. This case study should exemplify the Four-Step Process, showcasing Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation.

If you weren’t integral in a strategic communications plan, I’d recommend pursuing one before going through the process.

Question 2: Do You Wield Well-Rounded Knowledge About the Core Areas of Our Profession?

In all honesty, it’s unlikely you’ll have rounded out experience covering every niche of the profession.

What’s important, however, is that you have a full understanding of the 12 core functions of public relations: trusted counsel, internal communication, media relations, community relations, external communication, research, planning, implementing, evaluating, publicity/special events, issues management and crisis communication.

If you can’t speak knowledgeably about those 12 core functions, and apply the concepts to critical thinking, you’ll need to gain this to be successful.

These concepts will be tested in the Panel Review and extensively in the online examination.

So Far So Good? There’s More to Consider

On a baseline level, answering the above questions can help determine if you’re ready or not. If you’ve checked off those boxes, I’d say you can feel fairly confident.

There are still some considerations to explore before committing fully though. I’d recommend checking out the following resources:

Need help evaluating your credentials? Get in touch with me — I’m happy to be your sherpa.


Ben Butler, APR, is the client services director for Top Hat, an award-winning marketing communications firm in Pittsburgh, and the Accreditation Director for PRSA Pittsburgh. In his past life he served as a public relations guy for a motorsports complex, director of inbound partnerships for an inbound marketing agency and head of communications for a software startup. He’s been named a Top Under 40 Communicator and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR)—a distinction held by less than 20-percent of all practitioners.

From Student to Professional: Make the Move and Join PRSA

By Jordan Mitrik

Dear PRSSA graduates:

Congratulations! You’ve successfully earned a college degree and are ready to enter the professional world.

What’s first on your post-grad to-do list? Aside from taking a huge sigh of relief, we suggest you join PRSA as an associate member. Here’s why:

We’ve got a Young Professionals section dedicated just for you.

PRSA provides benefits and opportunities to all levels of professionals, including recent grads. Our Young Professionals Section is dedicated to making the transition from student to professional as smooth as possible. Through events, workshops, agency tours, blog posts and other initiatives led by our board members, you can learn how to launch your career in no time.

You’ll have the opportunity to network and find a mentor.

Trying to navigate your career path your first year can be challenging. Don’t go through it alone. When you join PRSA, you will be immediately introduced to a number of seasoned professionals who are willing to help you find your place in the industry.

Having a mentor is an investment of your time that is almost guaranteed to pay off tenfold in your early years as a professional. Look to see who is already around you or who you can reach out to for advice. Take the initiative and schedule a coffee date with a professional and see how you can both benefit from this new found relationship.

You can continue to learn about the industry you’ve developed a passion for.

Now that college is over, it’s up to you to gain new skills and continue to enhance your education about the industry.

PRSA offers programs that help sharpen your skills and expand your public relations toolkit. With a PRSA membership, you will receive the latest industry information directly to your inbox, have access to members-only webinars and learn from industry leaders by reading PRSA’s award-winning newspaper Tactics. Our professional development events and workshops are also great resources to stay up-to-date on trends and build critical knowledge.

There’s no better time like the present to enhance your career and professional development. Take that next step and join PRSA – we even have a special deal for recent graduates! Check out our rates here. If you have any questions about membership, contact our 2017 Membership Chair Meredith Amoroso.

Jordan Mitrik is a junior content creator at BRUNNER, a top U.S. full-service Marketing/Advertising agency in Pittsburgh. He also serves as web content manager for PRSA Pittsburgh. Connect with Jordan on LinkedIn.

Using Social Media to Drive Sales and Deliver Better Customer Experiences

[ 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. ]

When social media came onto the scene, not everyone gave it the credit that it deserved, but some rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Good companies quickly realized what it meant for them – that they needed to engage customers in a personalized way on all social platforms. Better companies figured out what it meant for customers – that they expected brands to deliver these personalized experiences more efficiently than before. The best companies did all that and more – they used social to drive more human, intuitive, and seamless customer experiences at scale, and they rewrote the rule book.

Here are a few ways that big brands are using social to improve customer experience and increase sales.

Use Proactive Customer Care as an Upsell Opportunity

Customer care used to be siloed and reactive. Customers would buy a product, and brands wouldn’t interact with them until they placed a formal customer service complaint or bought something new.

But the best customer care today is quite the opposite – it involves listening to, and engaging with customers across all of the social channels.

Take, for example, a large consumer athletics company – within minutes of a runner complaining on Facebook about her shoes, the care team is alerted. The team can see that the customer is preparing for a marathon, and that she’s been a loyal shopper and advocate for quite some time.

They take this information, look at social chatter around the race, and learn that there’s rain on the forecast. When they engage the customer, not only can they offer solutions to her shoe problem, they can also offer discounts and suggestions about gear for running races in the rain. These suggestions lead to the customer purchasing additional gear worth 3x the original shoes.

What starts as a negative situation becomes a value-add experience for the customer, who will likely amplify her brand love on social and post pictures in her new gear on race day.

Leverage Advocates to Speak on Your Behalf

Brands once had control over what was said about them. Now, people prefer to hear what their peers have to say. Customers would rather turn to advocates for authentic and genuine information than be served ads.

This departure from traditional methods has an upside – the reach can be far greater. With 116 million followers on Instagram, Selena Gomez has over 40x more followers than People Magazine, and nearly 60x more than Us Weekly. The potential of using an influencer like Ms. Gomez isn’t lost on brands, but they do struggle with how to select influencers and cultivate relationships.

Some are turning to technology to identify and engage with brand advocates that are loved by customers. A large consumer company, for example, follows individuals who are vocal and influential among their customers. They monitor customer sentiment around these individuals to see which are the most loved.

They build relationships with those individuals and start marketing together. This allows them to reach more customers than they could on their own, in a way that feels less promotional to consumers than traditional advertising.

Unite Siloed Teams to Engage Authentically in Real Time

Gone are the days when posting ads was all you had to do to drive sales. Pushing brand content out into the digital world and leaving it there doesn’t cut it anymore.

Consumers increasingly expect to have in-the-moment, two-way conversations with brands on their preferred social channels. Smart companies track social mentions, and engage with customers in a personalized way.

A telecommunication company abandoned clunky manual processes, and brought down response times from weeks to minutes. It streamlined technology to eliminate over a dozen different systems and now coordinates across functional teams and local partners in multiple geographies through one unified platform. As a result, disparate teams have a unified view of their customers and are able to engage with them authentically in real time.

Automate and Integrate Advertising to Increase Agility

Consumers see more online advertising than ever before, but the old CMO adage, “I know 50% of my ads work…just not which 50%” prevails.

In response, many companies are learning that it’s not about large campaigns based on volume, but many shorter, smaller, more relevant initiatives shaped by real-time customer feedback.

A leading technology company with a 10 million dollar advertising spend on Black Friday uses a Social Command Center to gain insights, identify key audience segments, and hone real-time bidding to maximize business results. They have integrated advertising technology that automatically kills low performing ads, and targets look-alike audiences when ads are successful.

It’s the difference between serving 100 people a day-long buffet, and giving four groups of 25 their favorite lunch. The outcome is that companies spend more efficiently on advertising, because customers are only served ads that they’re interested in seeing.

Use Automated Technology to Localize Social Presence at Scale

Another big challenge for companies with a large sales force and distributed partners lies in simultaneously scaling a social strategy, and keeping content both personalized and relevant to local audiences.

Ultimately, irrelevant content won’t be effective. But getting approval for every outbound post can leave local agents in social media limbo – unable to get anything done in a timely manner.

As a solution, some companies have launched social portals with content that agents can quickly localize, thereby reserving valuable time with customers. Others in highly regulated industries like insurance and finance closely monitor activity with automated rules and workflows to ensure agents do not overstate product attributes, and adhere to industry regulations to avoid company liability or a crisis.

Thus customer engagement can happen in real time, employees see increased efficiency in content creation and distribution, and brands can be sure that only approved language and assets end up online.

Create End-to-End Shopping Experiences on Social

Many customers do product research before stepping into a store, and compare prices on the shelf with what they see on their mobile devices. Consumers are increasingly turning to social channels to shop and companies have begun to realize that being in the “right time and place” means bringing the store to the customer.

A large retail brand supports the entire customer journey on social. Their ads to new customers include social buy buttons. Products can be purchased without the customer leaving the platform, and delivery dates can be tracked in app as well. Any customer care needs can be addressed through the same platform, and customers can be alerted about upcoming sales.

This type of end-to-end social shopping experience decreases friction in the buyer journey, making the customer’s life much easier.

These are just a few examples of how big companies are using social media to drive business objectives. But there’s an abundance of stories of companies providing incredible customer experiences waiting to be told.

Getting to a place where you’ve mastered putting your customers first through social will allow you to be prepared for the next big thing. When it comes, you can roll up your sleeves, get to work, and keep the foundation of your company – your customers – happy.

If you’re not quite there yet, begin by reviewing your social customer journey, and reconsider your strategy with unrelenting emphasis on the customer. Everyone else will follow suit – because they’ll have to.


The author, Dennis Chen, is VP of Strategy and Transformation at Sprinklr based in Singapore. He has held leadership roles at BCG, IBM and Cisco across Asia Pacific, United States, and Europe.

Grow in Your Career: Tactics May Issue Recap

By Bre Stephens

While one chapter is ending for many college students, another begins as they leap into the world of PR. Whether you’re a recent grad or a seasoned PR pro, the May issue of Tactics is packed with tips and tricks for taking your career to the next level.

Dig into this month’s issue to learn how to kickstart your career, flourish as a young professional and make a name for yourselfwhile standing out from the rest.

You’re Hired: 8 Secrets to Help You in the Job Application Process

  • Want to know how to differentiate yourself from the crowd during your job hunt? Danny Rubin, author of “Wait, How Do I Write This Email?”, offers eight tips for making yourself memorable, such as tapping into the power of storytelling. “Learn to tell your own story and doors will open.”

Life After College: How to Attract Potential Employers

  • One of the toughest challenges new grads face is standing out from their competition. Ron Culp, Fellow PRSA, says that sharpening your literacy skills, crafting an impactful personal statement and boasting your extracurricular work will help with the transition from student to professional.

4 Ways to Continue Growing in Your Career

  • Hanna Porterfield, senior account executive, Development Counsellors International, discusses how PR pros can continue to thrive in the early stages of their careers. One tip? Cultivate your writing skills by launching a personal blog.

Standing Out: What Recruiters Look For in Job Candidates

  • What does your online presence say about you and your career? Stephen Dupont, APR, vice president of public relations and branded content for Pocket Hercules, explains the importance of having a strong digital footprint to attract recruiters and land the job.

News Team: Newsroom Lessons That Benefit Young PR Professionals

  • Bill Atkinson, partner in 212 Communications, shares the best way for PR pros to successfully work with the press: think like them.

Read the latest issue of Tactics here.

Bre is an assistant account executive at Havas PR. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Summer Events, Survey Results and New Plans for PRSSA

On Tuesday, April 25, our PRSA Pittsburgh Board met for a monthly meeting. We provided updates on our 2017 strategic plans and our President gave a short presentation on leadership succession, which doesn’t sound that exciting but it was! As we continue to flesh out the leadership succession plan and vote it into action, we’ll have a clearer idea of how board members come into being and how they can become executive members, president-elect, president and immediate past president, should they choose.

We also discussed the results from our latest PRSA Membership survey. Some of you may have provided your input on how we can improve our Chapter. We’re continuing to review the survey results and will make tweaks to our communications, programming and membership benefits as needed.

We voted to approve Robert Morris University’s PRSSA Chapter. Congratulations, RMU! We also discussed how we can provide additional support and resources to our local PRSSA chapters, as well as how they might support the needs of PRSA Pittsburgh through volunteering.

After much conversation about public service, diversity, sponsorship and senior practitioner updates, we also reviewed our upcoming events. Next month, we’re teaming up with IABC to host a comedy event. In July, we’ll host our Women in Business event. We’re also working on a headshot happy hour, where we’ll provide professional headshots for a small fee and donation.

Also coming up is the annual game night with Ad2 Pittsburgh, a membership happy hour, Professional Development Day and the Renaissance Awards. We’re still finalizing dates for many of our events. Visit our Events page for more details and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates!

How to Drive and Define Value from Your Social Ad Campaigns

[ 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. ]

There are many components to a successful social marketing operation. You have to stay on top of strategies, calendars, distribution, analytics, and budgets. With all of these moving parts, it’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of the goal.

You might forget to stop and ask, “What is this all for? Are we really driving the results that we need from this program?”

If so, you’re not alone. Defining and driving value from campaigns is one of the biggest obstacles that prevents marketers from taking their social advertising to the next level.

That’s why we’re sharing three strategies you need to keep your social marketing program on track and moving towards those key objectives.

Refine Ad Targeting Tactics

In order to target the right people at the right time, you need to understand your customers. This means knowing where they’re talking about your brand, what they’re saying, and what they want to hear from you. And you need to do this all in real-time.

Then you can build audience segments and deliver personalized messaging to them exactly when they need to see it. The only way to accomplish this is to set up channel and platform pixels that track consumer behaviors. You also have to connect your customer relationship management software with your data management platform.

Even with these systems in place, you still want to be sure you’re making the most of your budget. That’s why it’s important to run A/B tests for each audience segment and find out which messaging your customers respond to most. You can automate this process by uploading your conversion files to your ad-buying platform. This will tell you help you see which ads are driving the highest conversions. Then you can push forward with what’s working and cut or optimize what isn’t.

Break Down Data Silos

It’s hard to assign a common value to your social ad operation when each department is looking for different results. Sales is focused on ROI, advertising is focused on paid ads, and marketing is focused on organic social growth. The key is to find ways to work together and boost each other’s strategies, rather than shut each other out.

This starts with establishing clear modes for communication and breaking down data silos. Make sure that everyone has the tools they need to share information in real-time and stay on the same page. Say your social team interacts with a customer who’s set to have a call with your sales team. Your sales representative should be aware of any prior brand interactions so they can have the most informative and productive conversation possible.

Set up an integrated platform to keep all data funneling through the same place. This platform should allow you to run multiple campaigns for overlapping audience segments and view key metrics in real-time to keep everyone on track towards their goals.

Clearly Distribute Responsibilities

Social media never sleeps, but marketers do. Trying to keep a constant watch on your social platforms can cause burnout. Yet you know that important conversations, trends, and opportunities can emerge at any time.

The solution is to distribute social advertising responsibilities throughout your organization. Train your team members, community managers, and customer service representatives to execute campaigns and engage consumers in real-time. If they see an opening to launch an ad, boost a post, or respond to comments, they should have the guidelines and clearance they need to do it. You won’t have to miss a beat.

Keep Your Eyes on the Goal

You need to be able to drive value from your social ad program. Otherwise you’ll end up wasting time and money. It doesn’t matter how many analytics spreadsheets you create or content calendars you build. If you can’t define your value, you can’t run a successful social advertising operation.

Many marketers struggle with this. There are a lot of pieces at play and stakeholders with their hands in the game. It can be tough to step back and take a bird’s eye view of your strategy. By optimizing your targeting, breaking down siloes, clearly defining roles, and using an integrated platform, you can ensure that you’re staying on track and pushing forward.

For more ways to take your social advertising to the next level, download our comprehensive guide.


The author, Uyen Nguyen, is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Sprinklr. 

An Inside Look at the APR Process: Start to Finish

By Ben Butler, APR

[ This is the second post in the APR Journey Series exploring the Accreditation in Public Relations credential and the journey to getting it. Check out the introductory post here. ] 

If you stumbled upon this post curious about the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), here’s a quick primer. APR is the communication industry’s only post-graduate certification. It’s a designation that tests and proves one’s knowledge of the core tenants of our profession, especially a business-objective-centered and ethical approach.

So, you’ve read up on APR and you’re interested. What do you do next? Here’s an inside look at the process from the beginning until the “end.”

Step 0: Evaluate Your Credentials

Before you enter the process, it’s important to evaluate your credentials. The biggest question to ask yourself is, “Do I have a track record of being a strategist?”

The APR designation is designed to evaluate a professional’s ability to think like a strategist. It also evaluates a professional’s experience showcasing that strategic thinking.

  • Pro Tip: The Panel Review (Step 2) requires a case study demonstrating the Four-Step Process. If you don’t have a solid, real-world Four-Step Process case study that you led or were integral in, I’d recommend waiting until you do.
  • Pro Tip: PRSA recommends a minimum of five years of experience. I’d say, However, if you’re a young professional with an exceptional portfolio of strategic case studies you can still qualify.

Step 1: Application

First step is … You guessed it. An application. The application will ask for a detailed background of your professional experience.

Once you fill that in, you’ll send it to the Accreditation Department at PRSA Headquarters. You’ll receive a letter within a few weeks with the status of your application. If you’re approved, you can continue forward.

Step 2: Panel Presentation

The Panel Presentation is your opportunity to showcase your experience. You’ll present a case study exemplifying the Four-Step Process (Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation) to a panel of local APRs. This case study should clearly demonstrate thorough research, strategy and results.

This is meant to be a conversational session, so there are no powerpoints allowed. You will, however, be able to share a handout or other case study collateral examples.

After presenting, the APR panel will ask followup questions on both your case study and experience in general.

  • Pro Tip: My mentors in the APR realm recommended holding off on setting up the Panel Presentation until I was ready to sit and rock the computer exam (Step 3). This advice was a game changer for me. Not only was I able to take the exam immediately after the Panel results, but I felt even more polished for my panel review.

Step 3: Computer Examination

If you pass your panel review, you’ll be ready for the final step: the computer examination.

This examination is meant to cover your knowledge on the history, theory, principles and methods of public relations.

Step 4: Lifelong Education

If you’ve made it past the exam, then you’ve made it. The journey, however, isn’t over. The core of being an APR is a dedication to lifelong learning. To keep your APR status, you’ll have to demonstrate your commitment through maintenance.

Are you ready? If you have any questions or are ready to get rocking, get in touch with me. I’m happy to be your sherpa.


Ben Butler, APR, is the client services director for Top Hat, an award-winning marketing communications firm in Pittsburgh, and the Accreditation Director for PRSA Pittsburgh. In his past life he served as a public relations guy for a motorsports complex, director of inbound partnerships for an inbound marketing agency and head of communications for a software startup. He’s been named a Top Under 40 Communicator and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR)—a distinction held by less than 20-percent of all practitioners.

Your PR Business: Tactics April Issue Recap

By Bre Stephens

The April issue of Tactics focuses on making the most of your PR business—covering topics such as launching your own independent PR firm, making the transition from an agency to a solo career and connecting with other indie PR pros across the country.

Here are some articles from this month’s issue that provide insight into navigating the waters of starting an independent PR business, and engaging audiences through emerging platforms and traditional communications—while learning what workplace aspect millennials view as a priority.

Reality Check: Why Live Video, VR and AR Have a Bright Future

  • Cathy Hackl, APR, chief communications and content officer of Future Lighthouse and Nicole Henderson, owner of Selsi Enterprises, Live video, discuss how content creators can tap into the growing power of live video, virtual reality and augmented reality to communicate a brand’s story.

Secrets for Successful Subheads

  • Written by Amy Wylie, this article explains the magic of an effective subhead that will compel audiences to read more.

The PR Tools That Work for These Independent Pros

  • Tim O’Brien, APR, owner of O’Brien Communications, shares the insights of independent PR pros, who explain their go-to communications tools for staying on top of their game.

Game Plan: Should You Start Your Own Business?

  • In this article, Stephen Dupont, APR, vice president of public relations and branded content for Pocket Hercules, compiles the best tips and tricks from entrepreneurs who took a leap to start their own businesses.

Millennials Sound Off on Diversity in the Workplace

  • Dean Essner, the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications, examines how millennials place importance on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.


Read the latest issue of Tactics here.

Bre is an assistant account executive at Havas PR. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Using Immersive Storytelling to Stimulate the Senses

By Annamarie Robinson

We all know what it’s like to tell an amazing story, and not get the reaction that we were hoping for. The situation could have been hilarious to us and the people who were present at the time, but it somehow lost its luster when you shared it with other people. Why is that?

Please allow me to introduce you to my new favorite storytelling approach – immersive storytelling.

Immersive storytelling transforms visual experiences using virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 video. This gives the viewer the chance to feel like they’re actually a part of what they’re watching, which could be pretty useful for industry professionals.

Here at the WVU Reed College of Media we’ve been exploring immersive storytelling and decided to share what we were learning with other professionals in the region. Recently we hosted a workshop with nationally-renowned experts in digital storytelling for our friends at PRSA Pittsburgh and WV PRSA.  To find out six tips from this workshop, keep reading!     

1. Immersive storytelling opens up new opportunities, but isn’t for every story.

Not all stories require an immersive experience. You have to be very picky with the stories that you choose to tell because virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 videos take more time to produce. Our experts from RYOT told us that most of their videos highlight an issue of importance that people would not be able to actually experience. However, due to the memory-like feeling that immersive storytelling evokes in the brain, it makes it easier for people to “walk in someone else’s shoes” for a while (which will hopefully induce an empathetic response and a need to act).

2. Producing 360 is not out of your reach.

While some PR pros work in agencies with tons of money and resources, others work in smaller companies with limited time and budgets. A lot of these professionals use this as an excuse for not being able to tell immersive stories, and completely give up on the idea. Keep on pushing! Anyone can have access the tools that make telling these stories possible. Immersive storytelling equipment can range from $16,000 to only $200, and according to our experts, shooting on your iPhone is sufficient

3. Telling tales in immersive means taking people there.

The great thing about immersive stories is the fact that they remove the “you had to be there feeling.” Virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 videos allow viewers to travel to a whole different place without requiring them to actually leave their comfort zone. However, according to Ben Roffee, RYOT’s digital director, to ensure that your videos evoke this type of response, it’s important to keep them short. It only takes about 2 seconds to capture someone’s attention, so a five-minute video will suffice. Also, remember that people connect to people, so make sure that there is a human touch to your videos.

4. Opportunities from advocacy to education, and public health to tourism.

Immersive storytelling is all about taking your audience to a new place and giving them an experience. For that reason, it can be used for just about anything. Averie Timm, RYOT’s managing editor, used her platform for advocacy at the Women’s March on Washington. I have even seen 360 videos promoting tourism in South Africa. Eventually virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 videos may even be used to allow students to virtually attend courses in classrooms that are on the other side of the world. 

5. Insights and analytics help mine meaning from the mess.

As with anything that you publish, it is imperative to pay attention to your analytics. They provide vital insights about your audience and how they are responding to the content that you have delivered. Sometimes analytics serve to specifically help to contain a crisis. According to Alex McPherson, FleishmanHillard’s Director of Insights and Analytics, you must do thorough research to ensure that you are able to provide an adequate recommendation to your client or company. That research will require way more than just a Google search. There are tons of free tools such as Buzzsumo that are useful in helping to dissect your online data if you’re on a budget.

6. If you’re interested in VR, now is the time to get started.  

Since immersive storytelling is relatively new, it is still easy to enter the playing field. Everyone is on the same level, so now is the best time to become an innovator! The tools are in reach, and there is opportunity all around you. For women, this is especially important because video production is often considered to be a “boy’s club.” With the help of people like Jenn Duong, who co-founded Sh//ft, an organization promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in future technologies—anything is possible!

Telling stories through virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 video may seem intimidating at first, but we all have to start somewhere. There are resources and opportunities all around you and now that you’re in the loop, it’s time to start creating! 

If you’d like to learn from one of our local experts, David Smith is happy to answer questions about 360/VR, and/or hear any ideas for potential clients interested in partnering with WVU’s Reed College of Media.

Annamarie Robinson is the public relations director for West Virginia University’s chapter of PRSSA. Robinson is a senior at WVU and will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, Strategic Communications degree in May 2017.