2/21 Meeting Recap: Managing Crises in PR


By: Benjamin Perez

This week, Sylvester Palacios, Jr., an account supervisor from Pierpont Communications, came and spoke to Texas PRSSA about managing crises in PR. Below is a detailed rundown of what he discussed.

First off, if you work in PR in some way, shape or form, you’re going to have to deal with crisis communication. As a PR professional at an entry-level position, you will primarily be doing a lot of the lower level ground work such as research, media monitoring, monitoring mentions on social media, drafting news releases and building media lists. This is the kind of work the higher ups count on to deal with crisis situations quickly. After a few years, your responsibilities will increase to a point where you may be in a position where you’re telling the CEO of a company what to say and what not to say.

In order to rise through the ranks within a PR firm, you have to be assertive. You must be able to get in those meetings between the CEO of a company and a PR professional and you have to listen in to the types of strategies are designed in these meetings. You have to volunteer to work on drafting a crisis communications plan and reaching out to reporters in order to provide any updates on an ongoing crisis situation. These things will help you learn more and will allow you to get your foot in the door. Second, you must also be trustworthy. You must make sure that you’re the type of person your clients can confide in you because the more you’re trusted, the more responsibilities and opportunities you’ll get/be able to handle.

There is no one size fits all for crisis plans, but there is a process that will help you develop a crisis plan. The four steps in this process are as follows:

  • Listen and Anticipate
  • Assess and Diagnose
  • Act and Adjust
  • Review and Recover

Listen and Anticipate:
As a PR professional, it helps to be in the know about what is going on within your company, with your clients and in the PR industry. It also helps to get out of the bubble. You have to be able to interact with employees and companies that you don’t normally interact with. You must be able to listen to the media to see what other sectors are doing along with community groups in the area. By doing this, you can possibly root out potential issues before they escalate.

Assess and Diagnose:
When you’re assessing a situation in order to diagnose a problem, it helps to ask questions. Questions such as “What do we know? What don’t we know? What are we doing now? What do we plan to do in the future? How might this affect our organization?” are the types of questions that we all need to be asking because these questions can help answer the why, the how and the what if. By asking these questions, you will be able to assess a situation and get all the needed information before hand in order to make an informed decision on how to act.

Next, as a PR professional, you want to be first to your story because you want to be able to shape the story. If the media or your competitors get to your story before you do, they will be able to shape it to where it’s advantageous to them and disadvantageous to you. You also want to respond quickly to a story because prompt actions often result in positive feedback. You don’t want to be seen as not taking your job seriously if you’re taking too long to act on a situation. However, before you act, you must be informed. If you’re just focused on reacting quickly to a story rather than taking the time to get informed on what’s going on, more than likely you will just cause more problems.

Lastly, no one person is ever responsible for solving a crisis all by themselves. Therefore, it is important to have a crisis management team assembled ahead of time so that you will be ready to act as soon as a crisis hits.

Act and Adjust Tips:

  • Immediate action plus long-term outlook equals a smart response.
  • Communication style should be straightforward and candid like a real human being.
  • Choose your spokesperson carefully and prepare them effectively
  • People first, always; don’t ever speculate.
  • When you can’t say, say what you can
  • To communicate unpopular positions, focus on the process in addition to the outcome.

When working with executives:

  • Be the source of crucial information.
  • Be the cool head in the room.
  • Your domain is anticipating reaction among external audiences to decisions/announcements (or lack of action); own it and share your perspective.
  • Some of the phrases you must use when talking with executives are “Help me understand how this affects so-and-so? If we were asked… how would we respond? One possibility is… how should we prepare for that?”
  • Don’t be afraid to take on the attorneys to balance legal liability with reputation damage (both of which have substantial cost).

How not to respond:

  • Operate at a business-as-usual pace.
  • Point fingers, outside or inside your organization.
  • Assume you can control every aspect of your response.
  • Talk to and make decision based only on those “in the bubble”.
  • Be defensive, in either manner of response or tone of messages/spokespersons.

Remember, crises are fluid. Things tend to change rapidly so you must be able to keep the pulse and constantly assess what’s going on.

Review and Recover:
Usually, crises are not as bad as you think. Make sure that you asses what went wrong and what went right. Remember, dealing with a crisis situation is a marathon, not a sprint. Next, take fuel out of the old story and start a new one. Take the good things that you did and use them to shape a new story that overshadows the bad one. Lastly, some acts of goodwill can go a long way because when a crisis hits, those you have helped in the past will be more forgiving of your mistakes.


2/7 Meeting Recap: The Power of Social Influencers



By: Denise Candelo


At this week’s meeting we had the incredible opportunity to get two PR industry experts come in to talk to us about the power of social influencers.


About the Speakers:

Rachel Shin and Paola Reyes, both University of Texas alumnae, are current account executives in the Austin office of the global communications and public relations agency Cohn & Wolfe.

Working primarily on healthcare and consumer products, the two have gotten to collaborate and work with social influencers like blogger Marianna Hewitt and celebrity make-up artist Allan Avenado. Sound familiar? Marianna runs the popular blog Life with Me and Allan’s clients include celebrities ranging from Gigi Hadid to Chrissy Teigen!


Why Influencers?

Why exactly are social influencers so powerful in this day and age of social media?

  • Cut through the noise of advertising
    They can cut through the noise because consumers view them as people that they can trust.
  • Show, don’t just tell
    They can show their followers how they view a product or service through their eyes.
  • Create authentic and unique content
    They have a greater air of authenticity because the product or service that they are promoting is uniquely specific to their “brand.”
  • Build relationships
    They have an established base of followers who they know how to reach and talk to.
  • Provide bang for your buck
    Influencers have risen to the top and they can, as a result, disseminate your message much further.
  • Convert consumers into advocates
    The influencer themselves is an advocate and because of their unique connection with their followers, they turn them into advocates of the product as well.


Selecting Influencers

How exactly do you go about selecting influencers? Follow the Three R’s!

  • Reach
    Consider who your target audience is and how they get their information. Does your potential influencer reach these people?
  • Relevance
    Think about what values your brand and client stand for. Is your potential influencer authentic in fitting with these values?
  • Resonance
    Does your influencer have the ability to make your brand’s message stick?


Content Creation

What type of content should your influencer be creating and what should it incorporate?

  • Key messages
  • Product images
  • Brand name and website
  • Disclaimers
  • But overall make it personal and relevant!

* Always make sure that your influencer has the power to create unique and authentic content that fits with the brand.


Leveraging Influencer Content on Social

How do you leverage the content that your influencer creates on their platforms on your brand’s social media?

  • Monitor
    Know when they’re going to be posting
    Keep track of the comments that come in
  • Engage
    If someone asks a question, jump in there and answer it
  • Share
    Share their posts on your social media and tag them
  • “Steal”
    Not actually stealing!
    Post the content they create that you have licenses to onto your platforms

    • This is how you can get their followers to come to your channel
  • Amplify
    Always try to grow awareness for their content and your brand


Best Practices

  • Have your client’s back at all times!
  • Trust the influencer
    They’re the expert on the subject matter so they’ll know how to talk to their audience.
  • Plan ahead of time
    Make sure you also have a plan b, because you never know what could go wrong.
  • Be upfront about expectations and timing
    It’s important for influencers to know when they can use content so that they can plan their posting schedules.
  • Compensate accordingly
    How you compensate your influencer varies according to their following and the platforms they use.
  • Keep track of impressions and metrics
    They can help you decide things for future campaigns and clients.
  • Build relationships, not just partnerships
    If you do, they’ll tell others that you’re a great company to work with.
  • Get creative!
    Make sure you post original and unique content.





1/24 Meeting Recap: Starting a New Semester!


By: Alexa Gonzaga

We were so excited to welcome 102 new and returning members to our first meeting of the spring semester! Below, find a recap of what we discussed at our meeting:

Member benefits
Being a PRSSA member comes with tons of perks. Not only do you get access to chapter-specific benefits such as top industry speakers, an internship database, agency tours, and socials, but you also get access to national PRSSA benefits such as a national job/internship database, career resource manual, exclusive scholarships and grants, and more.

What to expect this semester

  • T-shirts: We have new T-shirts this semester! We’ll keep you posted on when they come in.
  • Senior Series: New for this semester, we’ll be hosting three sessions designed especially for graduating seniors, covering topics such as post-grad internships, salary negotiations, and relocating for a job. Dates are TBD, but invite your friends — the Senior Series is open to ALL Moody College students!
  • Socials: We will be hosting a social with our sister organization Texas Tower PR, as well as a tri-chapter social with Texas State and St. Edward’s University. Stay tuned for dates, times, and locations!
  • Member of the Year: Our member of the year award is given to an outstanding member who participates often and shows dedication to PRSSA. The winner will receive a $75 Amazon gift card (as voted by you!) for their efforts. Stay active in PRSSA and the member of the year might just be you!


  • The PRSSA 2017 National Conference will be in Boston! Conference is a great way to build your network and attend workshops hosted by top industry pros. You’ll learn a lot and have fun while doing it! We encourage you to apply for the National PRSSA Grant and start saving your money — it’s never too early!
  • Exciting news: the 2018 National Conference will be right here in Austin! Current freshmen and sophomores will have the opportunity to network and learn from PR pros right in our own backyard.
  • Regional PRSSA conferences will be held at the University of Oklahoma from Feb. 24-25 and at Loyola University in New Orleans from Mar. 11-12. Email Nancy if you’re interested in going!

Becoming a member
Visit our “Become a Member” page for more info on how to join PRSSA. Dues are $75 and will last an entire year. The deadline to pay is Feb. 21 — afterwards, dues will increase to $85 until our final deadline on Feb. 24.

Dates to know

  • Jan. 26 – PRSA Austin January Happy Hour at the Black Finn Pub at the Domain. Email Nancy if you’re interested in going! You don’t have to be 21.
  • Feb. 2 – Application deadline for Texas Tower PR, our sister org and UT’s only student-run PR firm.
  • Feb. 7 – Our next meeting! The topic will be Social Influencers. We’ll also have a visit from CCS regarding the upcoming career fair.
  • Feb. 22Spring 2017 Communication Career Fair
  • February – Agency tour at HomeAway – date TBA

See you at our next meeting!



First Meeting of Spring 2017


After a successful fall, we are excited to kick off the new semester with our first meeting on Tuesday, January 24! Whether you’re a new or returning member, come to find out what we have planned for this spring. Membership is open to all majors. RSVP here!

11/29 Meeting Recap: The Scoop on Entertainment PR


By: Benjamin Perez

This week, SXSW representatives Jody Arlington and Brett Cannon spoke to Texas PRSSA about SXSW and entertainment PR. Below are the main questions that were asked during the meeting and the responses to each from Jody and Brett.

About the Speakers:

  • Jody Arlington is the publicist for the SXSW Film Festival. She has been involved with entertainment PR for over 20 years. Before settling into entertainment PR, she worked for Burson-Marsteller and FleishmanHillard. She has previously worked for Sundance Film Festival and AFI Docs. She has also represented films at SXSW, Tribeca Film Festival, and Sundance Film Festival.
  • Brett Cannon is the publicist for the SXSW Conference. He was previously the publicist for the SXSW Music Festival and the SXSW Eco Festival. He has also been involved with the SXSW Film Festival in the past. He started his own entertainment PR firm in college, which he later sold to Edelman before going to work for them. After a couple of years, he left Edelman to go work at SXSW.

What is SXSW?

SXSW is dedicated to helping creative people achieve their goals. SXSW is made up of several tracks, which include brands/marketing, tech, style/fashion, filmmaking, food, journalism, sports, music, comedy, etc.


How do you handle last minute problems/unexpected changes?

Crisis communications is communications, only faster. It’s also preparing for certain situations so when these situations do arise, you already have a sense of how to deal with them. When something unexpected does happen, you have to be honest with your media and with your audiences about what is going on. Usually, when communicating with the media/audiences, it’s best to just say nothing beyond what you’re required to say. At SXSW, they’ve dealt with a lot of different scenarios and a lot of crazy stuff in the past, so they have plenty of prior experiences to learn from.

What do Jody and Brett do when SXSW isn’t going on?

Immediately after the festival, all time is spent on thank you’s and evaluating the festival and what went right and what went wrong. Also, a lot of time is spent gathering and prepping all the photos/videos from the festival and distributing them to whoever needs them. For the film team specifically, the offseason is spent visiting film festivals in order to scout films and meet with press and various film studios.

What do Jody and Brett expect from their interns? How do they expect them to grow during the SXSW process?

The expectation is for interns to come in with a baseline understanding of communications. Interns must possess a great deal of curiosity and a willingness to work hard. They must also try to understand the endgame of everything they’re asked to do. For interns, understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing is important to doing it better. The hope is for interns to be more marketable when it comes to their skill sets/tools and to understand what they’re doing and why at the end of their experience.


SXSW has volunteer opportunities available for students that could provide valuable experience and would look great on a resume. All you’d have to do is be willing to give up your Spring Break for it.  Further information can be found at https://volunteer.sxsw.com


11/15 Meeting Recap: Pitching Perfect



By: McKaylah Austin

This week Matthew Young, an Account Supervisor from Cohn & Wolfe came and spoke to Texas PRSSA about pitching (Media Pitching from Start to Finish).

Distributing your Pitch
After you have your media list and pitch drafted, you should carefully proofread and distribute your pitches by individual email, mail merge and wire services. After sending the pitch out, you should wait and check for bounce backs or OOO replies, and note these in your media list.

How to Work with Media: Initial Outreach
When approaching the media, you should get to your point ASAP and keep your email pitch short and to the point. In the email you should emphasize what is unique about your pitch and say why it’s relevant. Also, don’t forget to leave your contact information!

Phone Outreach
Young advises to call in the early morning and early afternoon. Late afternoons = deadlines and can produce a cranky reporter. Before calling, research your target. Look at what stories they have posted recently, and follow their social channels. When on the phone, know what you would like to say. You should have a “script” in front of you, and it should only take about 2-3 precise sentences. If rejected, and it will happen, don’t take criticism personally. During the tail-end of the call, anticipate questions about the pitch and attempt to build a relationship.

You’ve Secured Interest, Now What?
Capture all relevant details! Ask about deadlines, the format of the interview (phone, email, in person), and the assets needed. Before you share this information with your client, draft a summary of the interview to share with your team for review. Next, you should share the meeting invitation with a client spokesperson and a reporter. Before the meeting, develop a media brief featuring interview logistics, key messaging, anticipated questions and recent coverage. Make sure to remember to check in with the reporter a day before the interview

Staffing Interviews
If you’re doing a phone interview, make sure to dial in 5 minutes early, and introduce the client spokesperson and reporter briefly. While listening, take detailed notes, and jump in if necessary to remind the client of questions and keep the conversation on track. Afterwards, share follow-up items with reporters ASAP, and then share a summary of the interview with the client and your team.

Monitoring for Coverage
Follow up with the reporter for a publishing date, and set Google alerts to make sure you’re alert! When the article/coverage comes out share it ASAP (always make sure to read the article before sending to make sure that the client will be satisfied, and include a summary of the article in email for them). ALWAYS share the coverage on a shared drive!

And then you have your pitch!