A Preview: Learn the Business Case for Good CSR

Guest blog by my colleague, Jason Spenger, previewing an extraordinary panel of CAPRSA members at this year's spring conference. 

By: Jason Sprenger, APR  President- Game Changer Communications


More and more organizations are making a concerted effort to incorporate social responsibility into their corporate culture, and these good deeds are being richly rewarded.  Studies have shown that consumers have very high expectations that the companies they do business with will be a good corporate citizen.  And 42% of professionals surveyed recently reported that an organization’s participation in charitable activities is at least somewhat of a factor in their decision to work there.  Remarkably enough, good CSR isn’t just a coincidence!


In Key West, we’ll have a panel to talk about the business case for accepting the mantle of social responsibility with grace and enthusiasm.  Abbie Fink, vice president and general manager of HMA Public Relations, will moderate a panel of PR and CSR heavyweights:

·         Aaron Blank, president and CEO at The Fearey Group in Seattle

·         Nancy Page, executive vice president at Buchanan Public Relations in Ardmore, PA

·         Esther Buchsbaum, chef de la direction and managing partner at Energi PR in Toronto and Montreal


By the end of the session, among other things, you’ll be able to:

·         Formulate a CSR program that directly reflects your firm’s culture

·         Describe your agency’s commitment to CSR

·         Explain to clients and prospects that CSR is about doing what's right simply because it is the right thing to do, and not just because it’s good for business

·         Devise strategies for taking the high road in difficult and divisive situations


This session will be Monday, May 5 at 3:30 p.m.  Join us there!




Jason J. Sprenger, APR


Game Changer Communications, LLC

Email: jsprenger@gamechangercommunications.com

Mobile: 612-327-1886

Website: www.gamechangercommunications.com


The Truth About Mergers and Acquisitions - with Chuck Tanowitz

 In a world full of inauthentic networking, overly practiced elevator speeches, and colleagues rattling off talking points, the candidness with which members of PRSA's Counselors Academy speak about business ownership/management is quite refreshing. 

Chuck Tanowitz, Vice President HB Agency, took an hour out of his day last week to candidly discuss his upcoming CAPRSA Spring Conference presentation "Taking the Leap: Growth Through M&A. The Why's, When's, How's, and What's".  Any interview that starts with a friendly "on the record/off the record" clarification generally provides some wonderfully juicy tidbits of information, and this one did not disappoint. 

 In short:  If you have ever thought about growth and/or exit strategies for your small to mid-sized agency, then you do not want miss this.  (If you haven't, then stop reading right here and register for the conference immediately.) 

In more detail:  Every agency owner faces the question: do we grow on our own or join with another group? The decision is different for everyone, but this is the story of how two Boston agencies (Fresh Ground and HB Agency) became one. How they met, the pitfalls they faced and how they're growing. The opportunity had major positives and negatives for both.  

Great press releases and videos were created during there merger, but there is definitely more to the story. On Monday, May 5th you can hear what Chuck has learned in the months before and after the merger. 

  • Moving from idea to reality- the benchmarks for when the time is right
  • Starting the right conversations and establishing trust 
  • Opening your books with another agency
  • The weight of responsibility to employees
  • The delicate task of merging office cultures
  • Getting existing clients on-board with changes
  • Impacts of transitioning from owner to employee- personal, professional, & emotional
  • Having time to refocus on public relations and let go of business operations


Chuck credits his CAPRSA colleagues for motivating him to honestly present what he's learned throughout this process, and for giving him important #KEYS for leading a thriving, healthy organization over the past few years. 


Mr. Chuck Tanowitz
Vice President, HB Agency
Newton, MA
(617) 575-9643
Twitter Handle: ctanowitz
Chuck Tanowitz is vice president of PR and editorial services with HB Agency, an integrated marketing agency based in Newton, Mass. He co-founded Fresh Ground, Inc., a PR and social media shop that was acquired by HB in September 2013.






The Sheer Value of CAPRSA, from a Reformed Skeptic

When I attended my first CAPRSA conference last year, I was a bit skeptical about what I'd gain from the conference. My resting state tends more towards the optimistic, but I can relate to Jon Goldberg's perspective here. With his permission, the text below is from a very eloquently crafted Facebook message he recently posted.

Jon Goldberg, Chief Reputation Architect at Reputation Architects, was one of the most genuinely engaging, insightful, and humorous people that shared their time with me last year. He's certainly one of the many reasons I am looking so forward to returning to the conference this year.

by Jon Goldberg

As anyone who knows me well will readily attest, skepticism is my resting state. So when a couple of longtime colleagues tried to coax me into joining something called “Counselors Academy” five years ago, right after Reputation Architects came into being, I found it easy to rationalize why putting clients aside for a few days to attend a conference with other PR firm leaders was almost certainly going to be a waste of time and money. I’ve never been much of a joiner, for one thing. I was a member of PRSA in my callow youth, but when I departed the warm bosom of Corporate America for stints with three big agencies I stopped renewing. I did without for more than 20 years and didn’t miss a thing.

Then, having left the rather more chilly bosom of a big holding company agency, things changed. I discovered that I really missed having a network of peers to turn to who were facing the same challenges I was. People I could trust enough to kick big ideas around with, or turn to for the occasional sanity check (and lord knows, my sanity is frequently in question). Who shared the joys and angst of entrepreneurship and would respond to my cranky rants about overdue receivables and managing millennials with a knowing nod and pearl of wisdom instead of “talk to the hand.”

So off I went to Asheville, NC, for my first Counselors Academy spring conference. I promised myself I would keep an open mind. If it turned out to be a bust, so be it. I just wouldn’t go back. Boy, was I in for a shock. I came. . .I saw. . . and I went home three days later with the dates for the 2010 meeting in Vegas already etched in my calendar. I tell people all the time that going to the conference is by far the most powerful investment I make in Reputation Architects each year bar none. This May in Key West will be my fifth time back. Call it Goldberg’s inviolable rite of spring. As rites of spring go, it’s way more inspirational, not to mention more fun, than washing windows or edging the gladiolus bed.

The sheer value of Counselors Academy lies in three things. First, there’s superb content focused on enabling us to lead better, more profitable businesses and help our people grow professionally. Second is unmatched access to a wealth of free legal, financial, HR and business advice from folks like PR legal maven Michael Lasky and agency management guru Darryl Salerno. And third is the people. I’ve never met a group of professionals so eager to embrace a new member and give up all their business secrets — and not just the clever strategies that worked for them that they like to preen about. They’ll just as quickly lay bare the things they royally screwed up along the way so that others can avoid making the same mistakes. My first year, longtime member Eric Morgenstern summed up the Counselors mindset in a way that really stuck with me. The odds of any of us in Counselors Academy competing directly with one another are slim to none, he said, so why not do everything we can to help all of us succeed. The cost of entry? Around a thousand bucks, give or take (sign up before April 5 and save $100). The chance to meet and develop relationships with 150 people who live by that mindset and run the most successful small and mid-sized agencies in the land? Priceless.

If you lead an agency or are a senior counselor in one, I urge you to join us May 4 to 6 in Key West and make Counselors Academy your new rite of spring. Your clients and gladiolus beds will be there when you get back. Trust me, you and they will be better off for it.

 Jon Goldberg, Chief Reputation Architect, Reputation Architects

 website: http://www.reputationarchitects.com/

For more information on the May conference or to register, visit our website. And join us on Twitter @CAPRSA #CAPRSA #theKEYS. Hope to see you there!


A Preview of "True Confessions" in Key West

I am so excited to be hosting all these guest bloggers from #CAPRSA this month!

Jason J. Sprenger, APR, President of Game Changer Communications, LLC gives us a little preview of Debra Bethard-Caplick's "True Confessions" panel at the upcoming CAPRSA conference in Key West, Florida.

Reading this preview is making me mark this down as a "MUST ATTEND" on my itinerary. As an independent contractor, I struggle with some of these same issues on a regular basis. 

For more information on the May conference or to register, visit our website. And join us on Twitter @CAPRSA #CAPRSA #theKEYS. Hope to see you there!

by Jason Sprenger, APR

It should come as no surprise to us that more and more public relations professionals and journalists are making the switch, whether voluntary or not, to the world of the PR consultant entrepreneur. This trend mirrors a bigger one; the number of part-time “involuntary” self-employed Americans has risen from 33% to 41% between 2007 and 2009, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that virtually all of that increase was from people who couldn’t find regular employment. But are these people prepared?


According to Debra Bethard-Caplick, who will moderate a discussion called “True Confessions” at the upcoming Counselors Academy Conference, many independent PR consultants are thrust into their roles without all the skills or prior agency experience they need to be effective. They want to appear professional, and instill confidence in their clients that they know what they’re doing, but they have good questions that need good answers. Where can these professionals learn what they need to know? Counselors Academy, of course!


Caplick’s breakfast roundtable session on Monday will enable like-minded practitioners to ask the questions they wouldn’t dare ask anywhere else.  For example, how much information is too much to put into a new business pitch? How do you fire a client? How do you find and land new clients? How do you create a 1099 for a contractor? What’s the one question you should be asking that you haven’t yet? With these and more discussion topics up for lively discussion, it promises to be a popular session for the entrepreneurial PR professional.


Debra Bethard-Caplick, MBA, APR, is a founding partner in Quicksilver Edge Communications, a virtual PR agency specializing in healthcare, nonprofit, and social media strategic communications. QSE provides clients with senior-level expertise at all stages of the agency-client relationship. She teaches PR writing at DePaul University and is the voice of APRwriter.com, a blog on writing and the foibles of the public relations profession, and an advocate for the unemployed older professional.


Jason J. Sprenger, APR, President Game Changer Communications, LLC

Email: jsprenger@gamechangercommunications.com

Website: www.gamechangercommunications.com


Award-Winning PR Executive Deborah Weinstein Introduces Colleague George Rosenberg's CAPRSA Presentation

When I attended my first PRSA Couneslors Academy Conference last year, I connected with a staggering number of incredibly accomplished and genuinely helpful and kind-hearted public relations executives.  It seemed almost inconceivable that such a talented group of top-level professionals would be so welcoming to a "newbie". 

Two of the people who selflessly shared their time mentoring and advising me were Deborah Weinstein, President and Co-Founder of the award-winning Strategic Objectives and George Rosenberg, Founder and Principal of the Rosenberg Group.   As luck would have it, George was actually designated as my "buddy" for the conference.  Talk about beginner's luck!

I am honored to host Deborah as a guest blogger this week, as she provides an introduction to George's  conference presentation on Monday, May 5th.  For more CAPRSA Conference information visit the website (or follow on Facebook and Twitter). 

George Rosenberg: Seven Danger Signs of the Agency Management Trap -­ 
and HOW to Escape 

Monday, May 5 at 8:00 – 9:15 am 
A longtime attendee, supporter and friend of Counselors Academy, George Rosenberg, 
APR, brings a lifetime of PR agency and business-building experience to his breakout 
session “Seven Danger Signs of the Agency Management Trap -­ 
and How to Escape,” at CAprsa The Keys to Agency Business on May 5, in Key West. 
Founder and Principal of The Rosenberg Group Inc., www.georgerosenberg.com, 
George Rosenberg is an experienced counselor, strategist, and business advisor who 
provides consulting and coaching services to public relations and integrated 
communications firms across North America. 
George has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the public relations world, including 
President and CEO of Cohn & Wolfe and a variety of account and management positions at 
Burson Marsteller. He founded The Rosenberg Group in 2002 to help PR agency leaders 
better focus on visioning, strategic planning, and how to manage firm growth, leadership, 
human resources, and operational issues. He also coaches key agency members on how to 
improve leadership and develop better management skills. 
George works with numerous Counselors Academy member firms, start-ups, virtual firms, 
and sole practitioners who want to grow their practice. 

Read more from Deborah about #CAPRSA in her latest post for Strategic Objectives: Rites of Spring Why PR Agency Leaders NEED Counselor's Academy. 

Upcoming PRSA Counselor's Academy - May 4-6 Key West, FL

Welcome to my shameless plug for the upcoming PRSA Counselor's Academy Spring Conference scheduled for May 4-6 in Key West, Florida.

I attended the conference for the first time last year, and it was a truly extraordinary experience. I'll be posting more about my "newbie" experience in the next few weeks. It truly was one of the top professional experiences of my career.  More about that later...

The theme this year is The Keys to Agency Management. (Clever little play on words, eh?) 

As managers, we rely on research and instinct daily.  I'll quickly employ a little of both to help persuade you to join us this year. 

Research tells me that May in the Keys registers average highs around 85 degrees and average lows around 70 degrees. With 13 glorious hours of daylight. 

Instinct tells me this conference will be attended by an array of brilliantly fascinating people who can toss back a few margaritas as adeptly as they can redirect a haywire press conference.  

Yet again, the conference schedule is full of amazingly talented and inspirational speakers. The networking will be top-notch.  And did I mention: May? Key West? 85 degrees?

Read more details and register on the conference website

We'll be posting speaker interview and blogs for the next 10 weeks. Please stay tuned via this website, Facebook and Twitter (@caprsa and #CAPRSA). Spread the word. Knowledge (and Cinco de Mayo parties) are always best when shared. 

Do yourself a favor and don't wait 10 weeks to register. Go ahead. In the words of the great Tom Haverford (fellow South Carolina native and public relations mastermind):  "Treat Yo Self".    Best Conference of the Year.


Walking Out with More than the Photos

12 Career & Life Improvements from 1 "Photography" Workshop

During the workshop, my brain was firing left and right with ideas for improved branding efforts, fresh blogs, and enriched social media. The photos I took in the quick-fire photo assignments improved drastically with each lesson on unique angles, areas of contrast, tonalities, and shadows.

...Re-reading Creative Braise notes several weeks later, I had an “Aha!” moment.

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5 Lessons I Learned in 20 Days Without Social Media

The rules:  No social media of any kind ( Apps deleted from phone.)  Client e-mails only. No internet. Phone calls and texts allowed. 

Personal accounts, volunteer commitments, and client site monitoring had me feeling like I was drowning in social media apps and digital connectivity.  I had a 12-day vacation planned to breathe the crisp, calming air of the Pacific Northwest. Perfect time to unplug and observe.  8 days back at home, and I'm ready to share a bit of what I've learned. 

What I learned...

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Building a Personal Brand Quickly & Inexpensive

I focus on helping clients capitalize on what makes them unusual or exceptional - beyond their competitors. Extraordinary - this sums up my  philosophy behind effective marketing and communications.  And so began my personal branding exercise - a path to show just how simple making yourself extraordinary can be.

All I needed was a little moxie, 3 weeks, and $275.

Read More