Thursday, January 20, 2011

From 'Failure' to 'Fabulous'

Great pride comes with this particular post as it proves how valuable both public opinion AND public relations can be when crisis reaches corporate walls., a recognized visionary superstore for artisans and their customers, was recently taken to task for allowing the sale of some distasteful (albeit completely inappropriate) greeting cards. The offending seller's merchandise not only mocked individuals with intellectual disabilities, but also condoned (and seemingly celebrated) rape, violence against women, and much more.

As word of this reached the eyes and ears of major support organizations, families and consumers in general, began to take some heat and major criticism for allowing this type of seller to use the site as a vehicle for merchandising his wares. Although several lawyers reached out to in an effort to have the seller removed, they were all initially rebuffed by which suggested that they were providing 'free speech' to their vendors.

This is a point that is very much appreciated--especially since staffers of Image Professors also moonlight as reporters and bloggers. However, what wasn't realizing was that courtesy of social media (a very important vehicle these days), the company would soon receive more than a barrage of emails and calls requesting, in fact, demanding that pull the seller immediately.

The pressure was on and as sales started to drop and views diminish, those responsible for the site immediately decided to review their legal policies. During this process, it was decided to modify them insure compliance and safety for ALL of its sellers and artisans--and in doing so--was forced to remove the offending seller from their website.

Important to note from a public relations standpoint:

(1) responded to all incoming feedback. They did not hide behind invisible Internet walls. They instead, responded to constituents immediately. Very good idea!

(2) As it became evident that their policies may not be in full compliance given constituent feedback, the company took a very important step. They reviewed their policies and in seeing discrepancies, remedied those discrepancies--again, immediately. Well done!

(3) Upon modifying those policies, they communicated those changes and reasons for those changes with their sellers/artisans--as well as the general public. An excellent public relations maneuver.

(4) They leveraged the Internet and social media forums to aggregate feedback/data and to also update external audiences at rapid fire pace. They didn't dilly-dally around, wait too long, or ignore the situation. They instead, organized their thoughts based upon feedback and took necessary steps to 'calm' their constituents while positively managing their brand.

All in all, an excellent case study for businesses in crisis.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Holiday Hubbub....

It may seem as if the Fall leaves have just begun to amass on the ground below, yet the countdown to the holiday season has already begun--as evidenced by the multiple aisles of decorations adorning the shelves at my local Home Depot.

Those decorations are my annual alert to begin pitching client inclusion in holiday gift guides. For longer lead publications (magazines with 6-month lead times), clients may already be too late, but for short leads (today-60 day lead times such as newspapers, radio, TV, online ezines, blogs, etc.), the timing is perfect for holiday-centric pitches.
A useful method for reaching even the most 'unreachable' media outlets such as the TODAY Show or Regis & Kathy Lee, is simply to put into the mail a sample of your client's gift idea with corresponding pitch. I've seen colleagues secure national broadcast attention for their clients simply by doing just this--including an edible resume! (
From now through mid-late November, focus on national, short lead media outlets. The entire month of November should be used to reach out to local newspapers and morning shows in an effort to highlight useful, locally-made gift items perfect for someone on their gift list. Locally-made stories are a favorite for provincial media. Don't forget to also have on hand high-quality images/photographs! Photo PR can be one of the greatest sales advantages to product-oriented clients during the holiday buying season. As the cliche' states, "a picture is worth a thousand words,' or hopefully, a thousand dollars.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Social what???

Having worked in the public relations (PR) industry for more than 15 years, I can honestly say that I today still love what I do. It's exciting, challenging, strategic, tactical and creative all at the same time. However, the last few years have really put a damper on my collegiate PR instruction. Traditional PR, while still a foundation, is undergoing a metamorphosis towards social media.

What IS social media? The simplest way to define it is so say that social media (sites, ezines, blogs, digital applications) use highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques to turn communication into 'interactive dialogue.' And this is the crux of the discussion---'interaction.'

Now, put aside the fact that I dislike this word. To this day, I consult my trusty Webster's Dictionary to make certain that I spell it correctly as it was THE word that lost me the regional spelling bee when I was a teenager. Alas, interaction is what makes new communications mediums so much more exciting. They stimulate not just one-to-one communication, but one to limitless numbers of communication and broadcasting capability.

As a PR consultant, I know well the advantages of social news and social media. You can instantly gain interest in a product, company, or campaign with the push of a button--which is invaluable to a company's bottom line. The key is to locate, dissect and initiate social media campaigns that have the greatest reach for a targeted demographic. For example, is the blogosphere more useful to your client than a traditional impression in the New York Times? Maybe. Would an appearance on MSNBC be more beneficial than an exclusive on It all depends on your client and their ultimate goals.

A highly regarded media company (Burrelles Luce) released, earlier this year, their list of the 2010 Top Media Outlets (the ones that influence the most readers/viewers). Maybe you too will find these lists interesting....

Top 5 English Language Blogs
1. The Huffington Post
2. Gidmodo
3. TechCrunch
4. Mashable
5. BoingBoing

Top 5 Newspapers
1. The Wall Street Journal
2. USA Today
3. The New York Times
4. The Los Angeles Times
5. The Washington Post
(Sidenote: As a New Englander, I was personally surprised to both the Boston Globe (#18) and the Boston Herald(#64), on this list)

Top 5 Magazines
1. AARP The Magazine (really?)
2. AARP Bulletin (are you kidding--the Top 2 spots!)
-- This information is useful as it proves out the demographic that is still reading magazines....
3. Reader's Digest
4. Better Homes and Gardens
5. National Geographic

Top Social Networks
1. Facebook

2. MySpace

3. YouTube
4. Tagged
5. Yahoo! Answers
(Note: Twitter came in at #6)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Out of the Darkness....

It has been far too long since our last post, but the main reason for that has been a refocus of our business. This Fall has already set the tone for Image Professors in that we are again working with entrepreneurial ventures, but continue to support both mom-backed businesses and of course, the area we're most fond of, non-profits.

Much is scheduled this coming week--including Autism Resources International's "It's Okay to Play" Event on September 29th in California.
In addition, as October is marked as not only Down Syndrome Awareness Month, but National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Image Professors team is also actively involved both in its home state of Massachusetts as well as in the midwest.
For the fifth year in a row, Image Professors is actively supporting the PR/communications efforts of the Massachsuetts Down Syndrome Congress' ( 14th Annual Buddy Walk--taking place on October 10th in Wakefield, MA. The event celebrates individuals with Down syndrome as well as their achievements and raises much needed funds for MDSC programs including the integral Parent's First Call and Educator's Forum.
Finally, Image Professors has recently secured an exciting opportunity to assist another wonderful startup as it emerges from 'stealth' mode in support of Cyber Security Awareness Month. The Chicago-based company has quickly caught the eye of many with its plans to bridge parents and children across social networks and a variety of other online environments. They are sure to make some noise (as will WE about them) --so parents especially will want to stay tuned. Happy Fall!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Social Media redefining PR strategy....

For those who haven't yet caught the social media bug, let us let you in on media is a MUST if you are to dent the mindsets of today's savvy consumer. To prove this point, check out your local community later this week on Friday, April 16th--officially deemed "Foursquare Day."
The social media application (easily downloaded and connected to other social media outlets like Facebook), helps businesses and consumers connect while mobile! Friends can find friends and locations around town, meet up on the fly, and leave tips and reviews of businesses/services/products for other consumers that may be en route to visit.
On Foursquare Day, many businesses across the country (and not just in the big cities, mind you...) are linking up with other businesses in an effort to encourage community support. Through couponing, freebies and 'best of' promotional offers delivered exclusively through social media channels, these businesses seek to increase visits to their locations which can be found via Foursquare.
For any business (small or large) that hasn't yet rallied its PR, marketing and communications troops around social media as a business-boosting avenue, let this post be a useful reminder that yes, social media is in fact an evolving trend and one that savvy businesses are today leveraging to get their message out and products and services sold.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


As an entrepreneur, our founder, Wendy Agudelo, has started several businesses in her life--including her PR consultancy, Image Professors. But, after having three children and being initiated into the world of mommyhood, Wendy has taken on yet another project, Period Packs, Inc.
Just this week, our team at Image Professors began efforts to market and build awareness of not only Period Packs, but the company's core goal, to turn the awkward and confusing elements surrounding menstruation into more positive, celebratory and educated ones.
This is a major grassroots undertaking. We're starting at ground zero--to educate the masses about new ways to approach and celebrate a young girls transition towards womanhood, and leveraging this particular time in her life to build important ties that will certainly assist when future embarassing discussions (i.e. sex, birth control, etc.) become more relevant.
Stay tuned as we begin to stir the seas and shift societal mindsets and preconceptions using several forms of communication--PR, social media/networking, direct mail and POS. More to come...!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Calling for a cause....

With the shaky economy causing many businesses to shrink their marketing staffs and pull back on all 'unnecessary' expenditures, one of the areas that we believe should never be short changed is community service and philanthropy.

The team at Image Professors has long-lived a vision of giving back--working with viable non-profits and local organizations seeking to gain a stronger foothold in the media. We have been fortunate enough for the last four years, to be the communications agency of record for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress. ( October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and in Boston, some amazing and inspirational things are taking place that we just couldn't resist sharing. The most prominent is a competitive swim by 31-year-old Karen Gaffney, an accomplished swimmer and athlete, with Down syndrome. All major media outlets waited on shore nearly an hour for this young woman to complete her swim, culminating in some amazing media coverage for Karen and the Down syndrome cause. We couldn't be more proud to highlight this pinnacle moment in our philanthropic service to a very valuable cause. A sampling from the Boston Globe is below with a link to photos and video.

PR Professionals take note: Pro bono PR results in amazing rewards that are worth more than their weight in gold (or cash!). Don't forget to incorporate a few pro bono clients into your roster for balance and perspective.

A long, cold swim for a cause

October 8, 2009 06:47 PM
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

Karen Gaffney, a tiny woman -- 4 feet 9 inches, 95 pounds – who limps and can't use her left leg at all when she swims, nevertheless churned five miles through the frigid, choppy waters of Boston Harbor today.

It was no picnic. But Gaffney did it to prove a point – that people with Down Syndrome have "tremendous capabilities."
"I did this swim to show people what people like me can do," Gaffney, 31, of Portland, Ore., said as she warmed up after the swim at a celebration attended by friends, supporters and advocates at the L Street Bathhouse.
Gaffney began swimming from the lighthouse at Little Brewster Island to the beach at the bathhouse, accompanied by two pace swimmers, a kayak, four other boats, and, at one point, the Coast Guard. The conditions were choppy, with the wind coming out of the west at 15 to 25 knots, said her father, Jim Gaffney, making for a tough swim.
After about 1 1/2 miles, the swimmers were pulled out, partly because the Coast Guard had safety concerns, said Kayley Randall, executive director of the Karen Gaffney Foundation. The swimmers got back in the water at Prospect Cove and swam another 3 1/2 miles to the beach at the bathhouse.
Jim Gaffney said his daughter has had problems with her left hip since she first began to walk as toddler. And she has never been able to run. But that hasn't stopped her from developing the upper body strength of a long-distance swimmer.
"The conditions were really difficult," said Elaine Kornbau Howley, one of the open-water swimmers who paced Karen Gaffney. "She's just a really inspiring person."
The swim was a fundraiser for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, whose executive director Maureen Gallagher, said, "We want our young people with Down Syndrome to have every opportunity for a full and productive life. And we know they can."
"It was really cold," Gaffney said. "The first maybe half an hour to 45 minutes it started getting really rough and then we kind of switched gears and shortened the route a little bit and made it a little easier."
How did she feel after her feat? "A little stiff, but I'm alive," Gaffney said.