The Never-Ending Question: What is PR?


By Julie Wright, President

Sometimes I wish I were a doctor, police officer or bartender so that when asked what I do for a living, my answer wouldn’t produce that awkward pause followed by, “So what is PR exactly?”

A LinkedIn poll found PR Manager to be the seventh most misunderstood position in the workforce. (Fun fact: The poll asked parents to explain what their son or daughter does for a living, and 42 percent of respondents said they couldn’t accurately describe the PR profession. I’m not sure my parents really know what I do, either).

Unexpected NumbersApparently, public relations is a tough concept for many people to grasp. In a way, it falls in the grey area of other practices, such as marketing, advertising and journalism.

Sometimes our tasks overlap and we may take care of a brand’s marketing. Many PR practitioners have writing abilities on par with the best journalists. Yet public relations has its own arena and should not be lumped together with other professions.

For the hundreds of people that are bound to ask you, “PR? What’s that?,” PRSSA developed this crowdsourced definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

For a more down-to-earth explanation, you might just say:

“I achieve media coverage for our client partners as well as maintain relationships for them.”

Similar to a marketing professional, we want to improve our clients’ images, yet PR has an entirely different approach. We invest our time in the relationships that make a difference and use these to best help the brand. In helping earn our clients media coverage, we create awareness and hopefully interest from potential customers, donors, investors and others. We’re able to preserve and heighten our clients’ reputations by communicating where their target audiences are.

Sometimes our goals are the same as an advertising campaign’s, but rather than paying to put our clients’ messages out, we earn people’s attention by being exciting, fresh, unique or relevant to their interests.

Sometimes our goals are the opposite of an ad campaign and we’re helping our clients manage unwanted attention. When things go wrong, contrary to popular belief and pulp fiction, we don’t cover things up, but instead attempt to explain the issue in a transparent and ethical way.

Today, we’re not just earning attention and managing reputations through media exposure and special events, but through clever, strategic social media and content creation programs.

Although PR is a very misunderstood profession, it’s an essential part of business for brands to survive and thrive.


Check out our related posts below:

An Ode to AP Style

Hashtag Flawless: The #CallMeCaitlyn Transformation is PR Gold


Can you pitch in one sentence?


By Chance Shay, Communications Strategist

It seems like we PR and marketing pros are always competing for attention: attention from bloggers and journalists, attention from partners and special interest groups, attention from customers.

As attention spans dwindle, the opportunity (i.e. time) to communicate effectively to these groups is dwindling as well. Long gone are the days when customers see an advertisement and make a purchase decision without texting friends for opinions, checking Yelp reviews, scanning recent coverage of the product and soliciting input from each of their social networks.

Same goes for the era when journalists had 4-5 days to write a single story (reversing the numbers would be more accurate today – 1 day for 4-5 stories). Professional communicators must adapt.

busy-press-media-reporters-journalistsOur job now is to explain why the person should care about whatever it is we want them to care about, as quickly and succinctly as possible. In today’s world of infinite access to limitless information, if you don’t pitch an article, product or concept in one sentence, you’re doing it wrong.

It might seem counter intuitive to the idea that all brands must tell a story, but it isn’t. You must tell your brand’s story in just one sentence. Make people care without wasting a breath or key stroke.

The smart folks at PR Daily put together the helpful list of tips below to make your short pitch even better. You can read the full article here and be sure to check out the screenshot of Wall Street Journal writer Christopher Mims’ recent tweet.

  1. Identify what you want and are offering. Is it an interview, in-person meeting, contributed article or slideshow? Don’t make them guess.
  1. Use hyperlinks. If you’re offering an interview with an executive or other leader, include a hyperlink to a bio of that expert. You don’t have to include everything upfront, but you do have to make it easy for the reporter to get more information if she or he is interested.
  1. Think like a reporter. What is going to interest the specific reporter you are targeting? If it’s a conversation about why a technology hasn’t taken off yet, say so. If it’s commentary about a recent news article, be clear and concise about the executive’s unique perspective on it.
  1. Consider Twitter. Check out Kristen Raymaakers recent post for tips.
  1. Cut—and then cut some more. What can the executive talk about? In one line, make it compelling and short, in both the body of the email and the subject line.


Dear Journalists, We Can Explain: Things PR Pros Want You to Know

letter to the editorBy Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist

If you’ve been in the media relations game long enough – on either side – you’ve seen many a blog, article, and social media post lamenting the mess-ups of PR professionals. There are different ones here and there, but most tend to center around incessant follow-ups, not understanding beats, mass emails and the dreaded… dun dun dun… follow-up phone call!

follow up callNow, don’t get me wrong, journalists – those things are annoying, misguided and a mark of poor (or no) research. So I assure you, I feel you. But I also assure you that for every off-base pitch or umpteenth follow-up you get, there are more carefully-crafted notes from PR pros trying very hard to make you happy. We read your media profiles, we catch up on months or even years of your articles, we make notes about your beats and interests in our media lists and we set ourselves reminders in our calendars to follow up a sane amount of times over a reasonable timeframe.

I asked my conscientious colleagues, some of whom have multiple decades of experience in the field, to share their top things they want journalists to know. Here’s what they had to say:

“PR people are accountable to their clients and/or employer and have a job to do. Part of our job is avoiding speculation and hypotheticals being printed in the media. Another is respecting confidentiality, which might include personnel issues, financial data or a legal matter. We want to provide timely and accurate information to reporters but do sometimes have to hold back. In most of my interactions, the media do understand that and are also just doing their job. We also spend time crafting our pitches to target a reporter’s beat and interests. We are not blasting off topic story ideas, and we welcome feedback from the media to help us improve. We know the media get a gazillion pitches per day, but we crave your feedback and value your time.” – Julie Wright, President


“I think a lot of journalists assume we want to insert ourselves or take over their process when we just want to be sure they’re getting everything they need. Journalists often want to talk to the client, but the client is busy running a business and doesn’t have the time to send images, headshots, product fact sheets, etc. Our job – and desire – is to make the journalist’s life easier. Journalists also tend to assume we just want our clients to spew talking points that mean nothing but sound great. The reality is, our clients are passionate about their product. They live and breathe it. We know the best interviews are when they convey that passion in an authentic way, and that’s what we try to help them do. The only difference is during crisis management when showing hot-running emotion – compassion being the exception – isn’t the most helpful for anyone involved.” – Chance Shay, Communications Strategist


“I think one thing everyone in the industry forgets is that a lot of PR people were once media and vice versa. So, many of us do ‘get’ what it’s like to be a journalist and what they need to make a story a good one. Also, most of us get the benefit of a good relationship and will often go out of our way to help a journalist. PR people can help with leads or connections that can prove useful and often have their finger on the pulse of what’s hip, new and trendy in a number of industries. Smart media professionals can use their PR contacts as solid resources for story ideas.” – Shae Geary, Senior Communications Strategist


“PR pros and journalists need each other. In the age of information overload, we can help journalists do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. And I promise, some of us do have interesting and intentional things to say! It’s really hard for me to see Tweets disparaging PR people when I just finished writing an entire article for a journalist because he was too busy to write it himself, or saying we can’t meet basic deadlines when I have a whole system in place to ensure I always do just that. I get it – when you see a cringe-worthy mistake, it can put a bad taste in your mouth. But most of us do put effort and care into what we send you.” – Molly Borchers, Senior Communications Strategist


“If we don’t hear otherwise from you, we’ll assume our pitches work for you on some level. If the approach doesn’t, but you’re interested in the news itself, let us know. I’ve received emails simply saying, ‘Hey, this is cool, but my deadline is always X day – can you send to me another day of the week next time?’ or ‘My lead time is a little longer than most monthlies – in the future, get the info to me four months in advance.’ It’s quick feedback that’s appreciated, and we’ll take heed. And if you’re not interested, let us know. We won’t follow up. But I’ve had media people on many occasions say, “Yes, I love this idea, I’ve just been swamped – thanks for reminding me” after circling back. We don’t want to annoy you. Oh, and unless the situation truly calls for it – I won’t call you. Promise.” – Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist

journalistBoth media and PR experts are under lots of pressure, day in and day out. There are deadlines to meet, pieces to write and people to please. So no sympathy needed, no snark involved – let’s just keep it copacetic and make great stories happen, together.

PR pros, what would you add to the list?

Journalists, what do you think? Do you find most PR pros you deal with are worthy of a bit of a break – or still don’t get it?


Revenue, Respect and Results: Savvy Reputation Management for Hotels

From Yelp to TripAdvisor and everywhere in between, today’s traveler loves their review sites. 80% read online reviews before making a booking decision, 79% say they trust online peer commentary as much as word-of-mouth recommendations, and 93% say they consider it influential in where they stay and play. Combine those stats with the fact that 62% say that seeing a hotel respond to reviews, whether good or bad, makes them more likely to book there versus a non-responsive location; and it’s clear that reputation management is not something modern hotels can afford to ignore. However, given the myriad of sites out there, it can be overwhelming to break into the game. Take a look at the below guidelines to ease the process and streamline a communications plan to stay on top of your digital presence… and increase revenue.

Where to begin?

As mentioned, there are tons and tons of travel review sites floating around the web. At least as you’re getting started, stick to Yelp and TripAdvisor, which are some of the most heavily trafficked. These “Big Two” are the first places travelers are likely to look when researching a trip (especially TripAdvisor), and are your best use of time in terms of establishing a solid rapport with past and potential guests.

When should I post?

I recommend checking your reviews at least once or twice a week – Monday and Thursday is a good schedule to stick to. This gives you the opportunity to catch post-weekend rushes, as well as tackle one-offs or those who are catching up mid-week. It’s also helpful to create a Word doc or something similar to track each review and your response. If you ever need to refer back to a specific review or can’t complete a full run of replies in one fell swoop, it’s a great resource to simplify the process and hold yourself accountable. Another fantastic tool is Revinate, which (among other things) can track TripAdvisor sentiment and send you daily or weekly alerts. Daily is ideal – it can signal a need for immediate response on a “day off.”

But there are so many reviews… do I have to respond to all of them?

Actually, no. The main purpose of reputation management is first and foremost to ensure that any negative reviews are acknowledged and handled as appropriate. The second is to take an active role in the direction of your business – which doesn’t mean responding to every single comment posted. Even reviewers don’t expect that.

An easy rule of thumb is responding to all negative reviews and about 30-40 percent of positive reviews. If someone takes the time to write a lengthy note of praise or say specific team members were particularly helpful, return the favor with a thank you (and be sure to pass the good news along to deserving staffers).

What if I get a nasty comment?

It’s not if, it’s when. Even five-star hotels with exquisite service will get bad reviews from time to time – you can’t make everyone happy. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Always acknowledge – Travelers will pay more attention to negative reviews and how they’re handled than positive ones
  • Know your common pain points – Many properties have issues that are a regular gripe for guests. Some things, like wifi speed in a remote location, you can’t do a whole lot about. However, if you can do something, take heed and make the steps to work on it. The repeat reviews will decrease, and guests will note that you take comments seriously.
  • Assess the situation – Some negative reviews are straightforward and not all that serious, surrounding complaints like, “I didn’t like the wine selection” or “the wifi was too slow.” In this case, a simple, “we’re so sorry to hear that you felt X was X, and we appreciate your feedback” will suffice. However, with something heavier, like “my room was filthy” or “I got food poisoning from the restaurant,” you’ll need to invest a little more time. Draft a simple response that shows you’re taking action, but take things offline from there – you don’t want a reputation management conversation going any further than that in front of other patrons. Privately message the guest with the appropriate contact information, and be sure staff promptly responds to their concerns – and makes things right. Often, you’ll see a review update praising a satisfactory response to an issue.
  • Stand up for yourself – It’s an unfortunate fact, but sometimes, people lie about or greatly over-exaggerate situations. If something doesn’t seem quite right, check with members of the hotel team who may be better in the loop for any further insight. If you know a comment isn’t true, it is absolutely acceptable to (politely) correct the guest.
  • Choose your words – You stand behind your hotel, so show it in your verbiage. Most of the time, I recommend saying things like, “we’re sorry you felt X didn’t happen.” This acknowledges the guest’s feelings, but doesn’t necessarily fold to their opinion. However, some things are undeniably frustrating and unacceptable, like being ignored while checking in or waiting an hour for food at dinner. In this case, switch things up to convey apologies and understanding.
  • Lose the canned responses – I am a fan of putting together a document of common issues and sample replies to look back on. However, I do not support using the exact same responses each time – it’s not authentic and an obvious corner-cutter. You’re already taking the time and effort to manage your responses. Do it well.

What about social media?

Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter can act as another mode of reputation management, and most brands already have a solid presence there. Be sure to monitor avenues like messages, comments, direct tweets, hashtags and @ mentions (although this should be built into any social strategy already) for feedback or questions from guests, and develop a procedural plan with your team to outline who responds to what, what timeframes should be followed and any other expectations. Platforms like HootSuite, Simply Measured and many more offer a range of options to simplify your social listening efforts. Departing slightly from the response algorithm for review sites, always respond to messages (like on Facebook) and engage with commentary as much as possible – it is social media, after all! But the same goes for any contentious or lengthy conversations – after the initial connection, take them offline.

It also doesn’t hurt to leverage guests’ travel plans for greater brand reach. is a great way to encourage travelers to discuss their upcoming stay with their networks without icky, back alley trades or an in-your-face sales pitch. The platform, which reports 15% of users will transition to become brand advocates, employs sleek landing pages and simple content to connect with guests without ever leaving a hotel’s website.

Reputation management is a crucial tool for staying on top of public perception and presenting a caring, engaged demeanor to guests in all stages of the sales funnel. With a bit of organization and a strategy behind your approach, you’ll be ruling the digital travel world in no time.


Falling for Sequoia & Kings Canyon: (W)right On Rocks Latest Press Trip

photo 4[2]

This month, (W)right On President Julie Wright and Communications Strategist Erica Schlesinger led a group of six writers on a whirlwind adventure of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks and Yosemite National Park. The media familiarization trip, or “fam,” was our second this year. Along with client partner Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, (W)right On’s hospitality public relations team executes spring and fall media fam trips to introduce writers from far and wide to the beauty of these national parks and lodgings like Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, John Muir Lodge in Kings Canyon and Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia.

JW and ES

The ladies of WOC’s hospitality PR team reached new heights at Sequoia’s Moro Rock

Media attendees included Cynthia Dial, a freelance writer who contributes to outlets including; Eddie Rivera, Living Section Editor at Pasadena Now; Anneli Rufus, Travel Editor at Oakland Magazine and Alameda Magazine and regular contributor to publications including the San Francisco Chronicle and Huffington Post; Dana Zucker, a writer at and owner/editor at and Mom’s Good Eats; TerriAnn van Gosliga, a writer at Tourist Meets Traveler and founder of the lifestyle blog Cookies and Clogs; and Sarah Pittard, a writer at and owner/editor at Between their main publications alone, the guests reach close to 5 million readers each month.

Group fam

Back row, left to right: Eddie Rivera, Kent Dial (husband of writer Cynthia Dial), Sarah Pittard, Julie Wright and Dana Zucker

Front row, left to right: Erica Schlesinger, Cynthia Dial, Frans van Gosliga (husband of writer TerriAnn van Gosliga), TerriAnn van Gosliga and Anneli Rufus

While past fams have drummed up great results in publications including VIA, Westways and city magazines as well as regional dailies and weeklies, this fall’s was uniquely successful in two specific ways – its social media engagement and the fact that WOC brought writers who lived not just out-of-state (Omaha, Nebraska), but out of the country (Toronto, Canada). The featured properties have accommodated a number of far-reaching writers on individual visits, but this was the first fam to host anyone not from “drive market” states like California, Nevada, Oregon and Arizona. It was a fantastic opportunity to expand reach and forge new connections. And, with a particularly social-savvy attendance base and the implementation of assigned hashtags, the fam secured 103 tweets, 112 retweets and 1,060 Instagram actions, to name a few key metrics. It was also amazing to see how many writers found a new side of themselves in the parks — take a look at how Anneli rediscovered her “Little Me,” Sarah got in touch with her inner nature rebel and Dana saw the beauty and tranquility she never knew she was missing.

From “roughing it minus the rough part” at the AAA Four Diamond Tenaya Lodge, relaxing in its LEED-certified Ascent Spa and dining in its upscale Embers Restaurant; to taking in the USA’s deepest canyon and getting a firsthand look at John Muir Lodge’s brand new look at Kings Canyon; to looking up, and up and up at the General Sherman tree – the largest living thing on earth – and marveling at the Sequoia stars… it was definitely a trip for all to remember.

Want to talk to Julie, Erica and the WOC team about achieving results like these for your properties? Connect at or visit to learn more.