The Summer Party: A Fearey Group Tradition

We definitely work hard at The Fearey Group. But once in a while we like to play hard, too. Our annual summer party is definitely one of those times. Recently we celebrated another great year together by heading to Aqua Verde Cafe & Paddle Club for an afternoon of kayaking around Lake Union and enjoying the beauty of this great city.

Panorama view from Aqua Verde_edited

The view from Aqua Verde looks serene. But look out – here comes The Fearey Group, ready for action.

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Natasha and Diane are the first in their kayak. Looks like they’re in it to win it.    

Chris N and Aaron_edited

Truth be told, a lot of the photos with Aaron show him checking his phone or kicking back while Chris paddles. Here’s one where he’s actually paddling!                                                                                                                                                            Heather V thumbs up Rachel overboard_editedv3Woman overboard! Rachel found the water inviting and jumped in, getting a thumbs up from Heather.

1212Even on the water, we’re always thinking of our beloved Seahawks! #GoHawks!            

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After a long afternoon of kayaking, there’s nothing better than… dried apples?          

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Café Spotlight: Heather Fernandez & Assembly Hall

  • Location: Assembly Hall by Tom Douglas
  • Usual coffee order: Drip, dark roast, one raw sugar, splash of cream
  • Communications hero: C.J. Cregg from The West Wing (NBC) 

Simage1unlight is pouring through the wall of windows in front of us. Assembly Hall has calmed down after the lunch rush and Heather Fernandez and I have snagged prime seating by a stoic moose head. Over iced coffee and laughter, Heather tells me about her journey with public relations.

How did you come across The Fearey Group?

I had known Aaron for years and he had become a sort of mentor to me, helping to groom and point me in the right direction for my career growth. He told me several years ago that one day we’d be working together, and low and behold, six years later, we did. I started at The Fearey Group as a Senior Account Executive and six months later I was promoted to Account Supervisor. I have worked in-house, at a big agency, as a freelancer and now at a boutique PR firm. The culture of The Fearey Group, the legacy that Pat has built and the future that Aaron is paving, is exactly what I have been looking for in my career. Plus, we have dance parties.

What about the PR industry did you initially find attractive?

I have a passion for telling stories and connecting people. I love playing matchmaker when it comes to helping people find networks, avenues in which to tell their stories, partnerships to advance their missions… anything like that. So when you can make a job out of it, it’s a bonus. I get to hear about fascinating discoveries and learn about news before anyone else does. I get to listen to an inventor or an entrepreneur talk about their passion and be the one who helps them tell the world about it. It’s a dream! PR people can be an extension of their team and help make those dreams reality, and I think that’s really special.

Do you have any tips for people who are trying to effectively utilize social media?

It’s a really noisy world out there. There is a lot of clutter, a lot of voices, and social media often gets pinned with being a conduit to that noise. I hate to say have a strategy but align your social media with who you want to be, what you want your voice to be, who you want to talk to and who you want to engage. There are many tools, apps and dashboards that I think make it easier to organize your thoughts and connect with the right people. If you put social media to work for you it can be effective.

What do you want people to know about PR?

What’s really important about our industry is that it touches so many more avenues and aspects of an organization than people realize. There are opportunities for PR when it comes to social media, communications, corporate communications, executive messaging and training all the way down to business development, branding and corporate voice. Some of our ideas could be considered off the wall or crazy, but we are encouraged to bring that fearless thinking forward. Sometimes those “crazy” ideas end up being some of the most successful initiatives.

Managing Social Media in Health Care

Social media can no longer be dubbed “the next big thing.” Although the players may change, it’s here to stay. Managing social media for an organization can be, and is for many, a full-time job. Add the complexities of privacy laws, and the job gets even more challenging for health care communicators.IMG_3822

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is designed to protect the confidentiality of health care information. It was passed in 1996, not long before some of the first social media sites started to emerge.

With the tendency for people to “overshare” details of their personal lives on social media, it becomes tricky for social media managers to walk the line of not violating HIPPA while still being helpful to patients and other social media followers.

What are some of the golden rules when it comes to social media management in the health care industry? There are many, but remember this advice:

  • Patients can say whatever they want about themselves; however as a health care provider, you cannot. Develop a social media policy response plan that’s centered on HIPAA guidelines.
  • Think twice about retweeting from your followers. Even if someone says they had the greatest experience in your hospital, you can’t acknowledge someone is a patient even if they say they are. This can be tempting, especially for all those positive stories.
  • Respond to issues offline. People often share their experiences, especially negative ones, in public forums with an audience. When someone is upset, send them a direct message for follow up.

With a thoughtful approach, social media is a great way to communicate with your patients and online community.

Health News Watchdog Takes on News Releases

If you’re a close follower of health care reporting, you may already know about a website called Health News Review, which has published nearly 2,000 reviews of health news stories since 2006.

The site doesn’t review the whole range of health-related news stories – only those that include a “claim of efficacy” about a particular treatment, test, product or procedure. In one example, the website recently reviewed a FOX News story touting the benefits of “cancer-fighting spices” and found it to be “nonsense masquerading as news.” But another recently published review praised a Wall Street Journal story about a new study on the use of whole-brain radiation to treat cancer, which it said did “a good job of explaining the relevAmy croppedant treatments and placing the work in context.”

The site’s team of independent expert reviewers evaluate stories using a set of criteria that include:

  • Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?
  • Does it adequately explain the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?
  • Does it adequately explain the harms?

For nearly a decade, the website’s reviews have been closely followed by health care reporters and editors in the U.S. as well as abroad. But this year brought a new wrinkle when the site expanded its reviews to include news releases.

This new level of attention to news releases gives communications and PR professionals an additional reason to tune in to Health News Review, if they haven’t already.

The decision to turn the spotlight on news releases stems from the conviction that problems in health news stories can often be traced to the original news release. As the site’s founder and publisher, Gary Schwitzer, stated in a blog headline, “News releases can lead media like sheep – hiding key problems.”

Some PR and communications professionals might take issue with some of the statements and judgments on the site.

Certainly the reviews can be harsh. The first published review of a news release examined a release from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health and called it “misleading to the point of deception.”

Like it or not, PR pros need to be aware that news releases about health and the life sciences now face a new source of scrutiny. But those who take the time to read these reviews consistently can probably learn a lot from them.

Here at The Fearey Group, we constantly strive to get better at what we do, and that requires staying current on best practices and paying attention to thoughtful critique. From our vantage point, Health News Review has just become an even more valuable resource in that regard.

Disclosure: Amy worked for Health News Review from 2006 to 2008, when she was a graduate student in the Health Journalism M.A. program at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism & Mass Communication.

Café Spotlight: Chris Guizlo & Tougo Coffee

ICG - Tougo Coffee              It’s a cold, drizzly Wednesday in Seattle – construction is buzzing outside and pedestrians are rushing in and out of offices. We are tucked in a corner of the Washington State Convention Center, surrounded by windows displaying lush greenery and city streets.

The convention center is quiet, peaceful. Chris Guizlo however is in full swing, jumping from project to project, with a few seconds to stop for a caffeine break.

Chris has been an account executive with The Fearey Group since February 2014, where he has worked with clients such as Perkins + Will, Evergreen Home Loans, and the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, just to name a few. Indulging ourselves with Tougo Coffee, Chris lets me pick his brain and shares his experiences from the public relations world.

Q: What about the PR industry did you initially find attractive?

A: I liked being able to help other people tell their stories. Originally on the public affairs side, I liked being able to do the day-to-day political side of things — looking for opportunities to tweak messaging and effectively tell a story, whether it be for an issue or for a candidate and also how that translates into general PR. The things we do for our clients on a daily basis — not just media relations or content writing, but how we articulate that within their larger business goals.

Q: You have a strong background in the political world. Why switch to PR?

A: I was looking for something kind of different and out of the ordinary. When I was an undergrad in Washington D.C., I minored in political science and majored in public communications. During the school year and summers I interned on Capitol Hill with a public policy firm, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and briefly with a PR firm. When I pursued my grad degree, I focused on public communications with a specialty in public affairs. That led to a job with the American Heart Association in their media advocacy office where I was responsible for a portfolio of issues ranging from stroke care to nutrition. I handled the media relations work that our lobbyists were doing in those areas.

Q: What was the biggest transition for you stepping into an independent PR firm?

A: I honestly never really saw myself going to a PR firm. I just didn’t think it would be a good fit for me. I always thought I would be on the client side of things and the biggest transition was juggling between the different industries of each client. You really have to become an expert in each of those industries to be a good counselor to your client. I think also just attention to detail. It’s so essential because our product is tied to our name and then eventually it’s tied to our clients’ names.

Q: How does the Seattle market stand out?

A: I think [Seattle is] unique because we’re in a really cool growth period right now. And it’s not just in one industry – this is not the same town that it was even 15, 20 years ago. We have strong tech and aerospace, but it’s not the names that you necessarily suspect. In the aerospace industry, there are secondary companies (part suppliers and manufacturers) that are distributing all around the world which is really cool and really exciting. We have a huge life science and biotech industry that is really redefining the areas of global health – bringing drugs to market that could potentially change the course of medicine.

Q: How is The Fearey Group unique?

A: I think what I love about The Fearey Group is we all come from such dynamic and different backgrounds. We’ve got people who have done time as journalists in different sectors, from time in Washington D.C. to healthcare to politics. We have people who’ve worked at different agencies around the country who bring a wealth of knowledge and we have people like myself who come from the in-house side of things. The great thing is we are a team of very adept specialists who are agile and move with our clients to help spot what’s ahead before it’s even there. And we’re there at the table with our client. I think our ultimate goal and the way we are most useful is if we consider ourselves, and our client considers us, part of their team.

*Café Spotlight is our new series promoting open discussion of the public relations field while showcasing local cafes around Seattle.

Working In PR Feels Really Good This Week

DG blogpost-5.21.15We’re lucky to have great clients, and to have clients who do not only interesting things, but who have missions that matter. This week, Carrington College, a client whom we’re working on with others in our Public Relations Global Network, is attempting to break a record in the Guinness Book of World Records ™ for the most blood pressures taken within an eight hour period. While this in itself is exciting, their efforts also hope to raise awareness about the adverse effects of high blood pressure. The college has a community outreach program called Carrington Cares, and this is one of the many projects happening under its umbrella. But what I’ve noticed, what makes me feel really good about doing PR this week, is that Carrington Cares about its students too.

At a visit to the Spokane campus a couple of months ago, students had written about WHY they are pursuing a career in healthcare and posted their reasons to a wall in the lobby. I stood with our CEO, Aaron Blank, and read them while we waited for our client to arrive. Many students talked about changing their lives and the lives of their kids – by being a positive example, having a steady income and career.

When we learned that the college guides and supports students at a level generally unheard of (until recently, with Howard Schultz working to raise up his own employees, a story recently featured in The Atlantic), I realized that it’s true: Carrington Cares. I wished my alma mater had been so diligent.

So that is why working in PR feels really good this week.

I’ll close by saying: please stop by your local Carrington College campus to get your blood pressure checked today, Thursday, May 21st.  Learn more about your own health and why having a healthy blood pressure matters.

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And of course, there’s that world record to break. It’s a healthy number at 26,450, so if you are anywhere near one of their campuses, please do stop by to meet the people who may one day be working at your veterinarian or dentist’s office.

Written by: Diane Geurts

Facebook: The Gateway to News

Last week Facebook announced Instant Articles, the company’s first major partnership with publishers to bring news to the masses in a fast and seemingly beautiful way. This new feature, which will pilot with publishers such as The New York Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC and The Atlantic, will include interactive media, photography and visual aids to bring storytelling to life.

Facebook Instant

The evolution of media and how we consume it has always been fascinating to me. The one constant theme spanning the decades has been this: How fast and easy can I get my news?

The data doesn’t lie. Consumers are growing increasingly impatient and distracted when it comes to consuming media, on any platform. Publishers have had to move from paper to web and from web to mobile and now from mobile to pure social media.

This move on Facebook’s part is also an attempt to officially put their mark on the news media landscape. Many studies have proven that consumers are spending more and more time on social media and are sharing and receiving news through these platforms – in some cases exclusively. Up until know, your friends and curated social networks played the publisher, busying your News Feed with links to “relevant” stories (Read: all the cat videos you can stomach). Facebook’s algorithms also played a part in what you did and didn’t see on there.

Now, with Instant Articles, Facebook is working with publishers to deliver hyper-visual content at an ever faster rate. So far publishers are excited and eager to participate, citing that this provides them with an entirely new avenue in reaching their target audiences.

What does this mean for PR professionals? Well to start, we already know that content rich stories and those with strong visuals get the most viewership and help a journalist envision how the story will take shape. Given the visual nature of Facebook and how quickly a potential reader can scan through their newsfeed, pitches to outlets should continue to be strong in this area.

But what about Facebook controlling what readers see and consume? Time will tell. But if history shows us anything, storytellers, journalists and the like will have to adapt to Facebook’s ever-evolving ways.

Focus on Your Company

I just returned to Fearey Group headquarters in Seattle from my fourth annual trip to the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy (CAPRSA). CAPRSA is a place for PR agency leaders and executives to get together, to share knowledge and to support each other.

A couple key takeaways that I’m writing down on our blog to remind myself that we must focus on these items in the next year:

  1. Focus on ourselves. Most agencies tend to neglect their own marketing program. Starting this week, I will assign an account team to manage our Fearey Group public relations and marketing program. We do it for many clients–time to focus on ourselves. First up, a new website launch with a brand design makeover. Stay tuned for that.
  2. Competitors can be friends. This was the first time in my four years that someone from Seattle actually attended this must-attend agency leadership conference. And I was eager to find these folks there. Our competitors at DUO PR are now our friends. We’re going to lookout for each other in the coming months–and often get together to discuss key learnings. The goal is to compete but do it on friendly terms. Our client at the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association calls it “Coopetition”.
  3. Focus on Product Lines. Fearey Group is a full service communications firm. We have some great advantages–but clients often don’t get to experience these until they get to know us. We now have a Podcast and Video Suite. We do design and branding work. We’re really good at social media engagement and offer up a monthly Social Media Lunch together. We’re strategic yet we’re really fun. We have content to share and we know how to deliver. We need to share these product lines in specialized ways in the coming ways.
  4. Specialize. Fearey Group has done this over the past decade. And we will continue to do this… while we’re still a generalist shop, we have quite a bit of health and life science clients. So are targets in the next year, will continue to focus on this category.

The Top Ten Things College Didn’t Teach Me about PR

As a recent college graduate, it’s been a transition as I take my first steps into the world of public relations. With ablog post bachelor’s degree under my belt, I was fortunate enough to jump into the exciting, fast-paced environment of an independent PR firm. When I started my internship with The Fearey Group, I relied heavily on the skills I learned in college, only to realize that there were certain aspects of the field that I had not been prepared for.

So after my first month as a production assistant, I compiled a list of the top things college did not teach me about the PR industry:

  1. Pitching

The word “pitching” encompasses so many different things; from how to pitch stories to media outlets all the way to properly writing a pitch, there are many different elements to be aware of. Also, be aware that there is a pitching etiquette – certain days are better to pitch on than others, speak to reporters like you’re having a conversation with a friend – don’t read a script at them. Reach out to the media in a manner they like! Most prefer email, while others like Twitter or a phone call.

  1. The business behind public relations

Be prepared to keep a written log of everything you’re doing. Tasks always fall under the categories of billable or non-billable time. This usually is determined by the work you’re doing and who the client is. These classifications play a role in how much time you can spend on projects, which help when effectively utilizing your time.

  1. How to properly utilize social media

Twitter is your new best friend – use it as much as humanly possible. Aside from the typical status posts, use this outlet as a tool for creating and maintaining lasting relationships. Use it to keep updated on local industry news, or just news in general. Interact and engage with people – share stories, post thoughts, or display pictures of events taking place in your life.

  1. All the media monitoring

It’s important to know what media outlets are saying about your company and clients. Keep a log of articles, radio clips and TV clips throughout the year to refer to in the future. It’s also beneficial to research what’s going on in the company’s industry and what the competition is up to.

  1. Never eat lunch alone

Networking can be whatever you make it – a formal meeting or simply a lunch date. Join groups and organizations. Connect with people online or face-to-face. Interact with anyone and everyone – you’re not only establishing relationships but you’re also growing your personal brand.

  1. Become comfortable talking to people face-to-face and on the phone!

There’s no time to be timid or shy in public relations. You’re constantly speaking to clients, news outlets, and colleagues. If you’re someone that gets nervous speaking to others, don’t be afraid to practice what you’re going to say. Take a walk – rehearse how you think the conversation might go. You can even ask a coworker to practice with you – get feedback and become comfortable speaking about your topic.

  1. Media lists

When preparing to pitch a story, it’s important to create a media list. They have to be formatted properly and the information must be accurate. How can this information be found? I recommend calling publications to ask for appropriate contacts, or there are helpful programs that can be used, such as CisionPoint.

  1. Every detail counts

This goes beyond just the way you’re dressed. You need to be on point from the way you speak all the way to the quality of your work. Know your audience – this takes a lot of time and practice, but communication can vary based on the person you’re speaking with.  This leads to gaining trust in the workplace and amongst your clients. Focus on being error-free and polished, even down to your emails.

  1. Research, research, research

In order to give a business advice, you have to know what you’re talking about. Aside from conducting basic background research, be prepared to familiarize yourself with the industry the company is a part of. Know what their social media presence is, how they’ve been covered in the media, and who their audiences are.

  1. Learn from your colleagues

The people around you are your greatest asset. Everyone has different experiences in life and in their careers. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions or advice – even a fresh pair of eyes on a pitch or project can be extremely helpful. Also, watch how your colleagues handle stressful situations, communicate with others, and manage their time. You can learn something that you potentially hadn’t thought about before.

The world of public relations is constantly changing and adapting to match the evolving society we live in. Whether you’ve been in the field one month or ten years, everything is a learning process. Just remember, be passionate about your work and be willing to take risks. Don’t be afraid to be fearless.

1212: Finding the Meaning in Moving

What does it mean to occupy a room? Look around. How well do you know the lines, the angles, the surfaces? How great is the overlap between you and your surroundings? We all know what it’s like to move through a familiar room, taking steps and turns, reaching for a light switch, pulling a door closed with just the right amount of force. Our office is a part of me, it’s a part of our team. It’s the solar system in which we orbit every day, all of us comfortably knowing our own places and paths.

When The Fearey Group was founded in 1981 by my mentor Pat Fearey, female executives were practically nonexistent in the PR world when she started the business 35 years ago. For more than three decades she blazed a trail that forever changed the landscape of the industry — locally and globally. She is a person who is not content with the familiar ways. She has never been content to sit in the backseat of her own business. She is an innovator, and she knew that the enemy of innovation is comfort.

fearey_newkeysWe’ve been in the same office for 20+ years. In that time we’ve witnessed a complete sea change in the world of communications. Internet. Email. Mobile platforms. Social media. Streaming media. Virality. The Fearey Group has been at the front of every one, fearlessly embracing any and all possible ways to expand the reach of our clients’ message. We know what it means to sit still. We know what it means to move.

This past weekend we got the keys to our new office. It’s only up one floor from our old familiar home, but it might as well be a different world; we took out the walls.

It’s open and light and completely without the conventional privacy we’ve known for so long. While it might feel strange at first, we know it will benefit us as a team and force us to approach things differently. We will interact differently, we will orbit differently. We will get stronger.

The spirit of growth through change is a cornerstone of the Fearey way. Pat instilled it in everyone she inspired, and it’s the challenge I have embraced since she first inspired me. I’m ready for this new chapter. On Friday I put the shiny new key in the lock of Suite 1212 and opened the door. I went inside and smelled the soft, sweet smell of fresh paint and smiled. It’s beautiful, and it is time. I can’t wait for Pat to see it. I can’t wait to move this coming weekend. Stay tuned. It is a work in progress.