WordWrite Storytelling Blog

TMI: How often should I be launching digital campaigns?

Posted by Erin Hogan

AdobeStock_208453772 As marketing consultants, we get a lot of questions from clients about engaging with target markets. Who should we be targeting? How do we engage with them? When should we reach out? And in what format? On what channel? With what spend? But time and time again, one question seems to pop up more frequently than all the rest:

How much is too much when it comes digital marketing?

While there is no silver-bullet answer to this question, I will say those who ask are probably not doing enough to engage their audiences in the digital space.

That’s because many of the core tactics used by digital marketers (email, social, digital ads, etc.) hit the industry fast, and I mean FAST. The birth of Google in the late ‘90s sent shockwaves through the marketing world, completely altering the way businesses communicate with their audiences. Now, we’ve entered a world where inboxes are ripe with coupon codes and free shipping offers and voice commands on your phone can trigger a Facebook ad. Unsurprisingly, many marketing professionals are still trying to sort through the aftermath to find their niche.

However, even if the medium has changed, the way in which you rationalize your marketing efforts shouldn’t. Frequency of communications, much like the other questions I’ve outlined above, should always be based on audience preferences.

Here are three surefire ways to ensure your digital marketing cadence is on track.  

  1. Refer to your buyer persona and refine if necessary: For those who are unfamiliar with the term, our friends at HubSpot define a buyer persona as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. A good buyer persona often includes a mix of demographic information and user preferences to paint a picture of a company’s perfect prospect. Ideally, this would also include information about communication preferences.
    Over the years, we’ve found that while companies might have a general sense of what their target market is, the majority of their marketing decisions are based on educated guesses, rather than hard facts. This is where inconsistencies in message delivery creep in.
    The best buyer personas come from in-depth conversations with current customers. If you have questions about how often you should be connecting with your target market on social media or through email, just ask! There is no harm in sending a quick survey to your network so you can better understand their needs.
  1. Use data to drive your decision-making: Over the past few years, you’ve probably heard the term “big data” thrown around once or 12,000 times in marketing meetings. Though seemingly overused, the hype is most certainly real with this one. Even the simplest of digital platforms today will give you more data than you know what to do with. And while understanding human behavior is an artform, these tools can probably tell you what I plan to wear tomorrow, let alone how often you should be communicating with a prospect.
    Take a look at how your communications have performed in the past and use that to guide future thinking. For instance, say you’re sending six emails a month to a specific segment, but you’re seeing the most engagement on emails one and four, or you start seeing unsubscribes on email six. That could be a sign you’re sending blasts too frequently.
    On the flipside, perhaps you’re seeing a ton of engagement on your emails and are considering sending more. Try adding in another offer or two within your existing campaign schedule and see if there is any change then adjust up or level off from there.
  1. Follow the golden rule of marketing: One of the main reasons clients ask us about the frequency of communications is because they’re afraid of oversaturation. They feel if they send too many touchpoints they will turn potential customers off. In a way, they’re right. Inundating customers with an email every day and blasting ads to anyone and everyone can paint a negative image of a company. However, this is the exception rather than the norm in most cases. These tools, scary as they seem, are there to make your life easier, not hinder potential growth.That said, if you’ve followed the steps above and you’re still feeling apprehensive about how often you’re engaging with your audience, always rely on the golden rule as a fall back: Treat others how you would want to be treated.
    Chances are you’ve been the victim of information overload in the past and haven’t even noticed it. Or maybe you did, but it wasn’t enough to tip the scales one way or another. Either way, when in doubt, put yourself in the user’s shoes – nine times out of 10, your gut will guide you in the right direction

Get in touch with us today!




Want to talk digital? I’m here to listen. Shoot me an email at erin.hogan@wordwritepr.com and I’m happy to help.

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Topics: digital marketing, digital strategy, buyer persona, data mining

Three steps to unpacking your company Story

Posted by Hollie Geitner

If you’ve been following us awhile you know we are the agency of Story. WordWrite was the dream of our founder and CEO, Paul Furiga. He believed thoughtful and powerful storytelling had a place in the business world and he sought out to make it happen. As we define it, Story answers the questions why someone would want to do business with you, partner with you or work for you.
“Companies that understand the power of their Story can use that Story to attract and engage their best-fit clients,” explains Paul Furiga in his soon-to-be-released book, “Finding Your Capital S Story: Why your Story trumps your brand.”
Most businesses know their why. Today, it’s not uncommon for companies (in any industry) to host internal brainstorm sessions or bring in consultants to help them uncover why they exist. One could surmise this practice has become more popular since the bestselling book, “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek hit the market 10 years ago. But when it comes to sharing their why, many companies mistakenly focus on quippy taglines and bold marketing materials. 
What should they do instead? I’m glad you asked. Distilling down the why is the critical first step in business storytelling. The next, is compiling the elements of the Story. This is your big idea and now you have to unpack it. Here is a simple breakdown of how you can do that:

  1. Identify your character(s). Potential characters could be your customer, an employee, a business partner or your founder. These are the voices to your narrative and their experiences are woven together to make your story unique.
  2. Determine what represents your turning point. This might be a roadblock, a challenge or obstacle, a dream unrealized.
  3. Give people a reason to care. Is there a moral or educational lesson in the story? What emotion do you want your audience to feel? AdobeStock_108637469 STORY resizedHow can you make the story relevant to them?

The best way to get started is to write what you know and to keep your audience in mind at all times. Do you have customer success stories at hand? Were you a part of a special project or campaign? Are there compelling points in the organization’s history? These are all places to look when considering potential examples that can powerfully illustrate your why.

As you craft your Story, consider archetypes. What? Another great question. Archetypes define types of characters we might find in a story. Think of every Disney movie you’ve ever watched as a kid or with your children or grandchildren. There were heroes, outlaws, magicians, sages, jesters and explorers. That’s not to say there were clowns and court jesters in every story, or boot-strapped, gun-toting outlaws slaying evil to save a princess. It’s more of a conceptual idea. The fairy godmother as a magician and sage, a silly dwarf as a jester and a determined young woman who saves her own sister. For further illustration, consider the most compelling stories of all time – David and Goliath, Don Quixote or To Kill a Mockingbird. Now you can begin to see how the archetypes take shape.

When you think of your company why, what role do you play in the story? Are you a magician because your company invented a solution that seamlessly and invisibly solves a significant challenge for your clients? How about a sage? Are you the expert in your particular field that shares advice and best practices to help clients? A hero? Did you come to the rescue of a customer in crisis? 

With all of this advance work and preparation done, you have the clear, identifying elements of a great Story. Stop focusing solely on your tagline and think deeper. Ask the hard question – do your customers, employees and business partners understand why you are the best option for them? Beyond what you tell them in your marketing materials, have you actually given them examples and reasons to emotionally get behind you or invest in you?  If not, you’re at risk of losing them at any moment. In the 21st century, it takes more than fun campaigns to win hearts and minds, it takes powerful stories that evoke emotion and lead to action.

If you’d like to talk Story, we’re game. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you uncover, develop and share your great, untold Story. 

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Topics: story, storytelling

A communications failure with lessons for everyone

Posted by Hollie Geitner


Not everyone cares. I know, that sounds pretty harsh. But, recognizing this reality may be the key to a successful communications program. As a young PR professional, this was a lesson I learned the hard way.

In a previous job for a non-profit, I was responsible for organizing and promoting a large community event. I also had to raise money to cover its costs, which was no small task. Over time, the holiday tradition had taken on various forms and drew hundreds of thousands of people to downtown. Many businesses relied on it for their annual revenue, whether they were stores, restaurants or media entities that sold sponsorships and air time. Eventually, some big corporate sponsors became confused about who was responsible for putting it on and gave their money to media outlets instead of the non-profit that had owned the event for nearly 50 years. This meant we had less money, yet the same public expectations for a grand event. There was internal talk about cancelling it altogether.

One afternoon, I found a certificate tucked away in a file drawer. It was an official, government document. In a nutshell, I held proof that the event had been trademarked many years earlier and our non-profit owned it. This seemed like the answer to my dilemma – take back ownership so others couldn’t use it for their own financial gain. Essentially – save the event.  

I started with cease and desist letters from our attorney to the entities using the name and then sent much softer and kinder letters to area businesses, municipalities and other groups who held events with the same name. In it, we requested they pay a small fee to use the name. And, indicated we would donate all proceeds to a non-profit that helped children and families stay warm during the winter. This seemed like a good solution to a complicated problem.

As the letters were received, people got angry. This was change, and for some, it was a major one. Reporters and producers called wanting to do stories. I spoke to everyone who called and went on the record – answering all of their questions. My thinking: if I explained the situation logically to everyone I talked to, they’d surely see my side. I had nothing to hide and I was only doing this to save the beloved event.

The only problem? No one cared. Negative stories came out, we were called the Grinch and things got ugly. Thankfully, as with most things that involve change, it eventually died down and people reluctantly accepted the new reality. I, however, carried this with me for years. I failed and it hurt.

Here’s the good news, though – because of that experience, I learned the valuable lesson of preparation and message consistency.

In business, I can think of many situations that could mirror my own if not handled properly – corporate restructuring, benefits changes, product recalls, acquisitions, new brand, lawsuit, etc.  With any change, comes the responsibility of communicating it to everyone it impacts. Are you prepared? What is the ultimate goal you’re striving for? Do you know your key messages? Have you anticipated questions? What will you say to the ones you can’t or don’t want to answer? Will your audience understand the WHY behind the change?

Here are a few key takeaways to consider the next time you have a company change coming up: 

  1. Prepare everything in a detailed plan -- audience research, messages, questions/answers, roll-out cadence, timing, accountability. If this will be a major announcement, pull together a team several months in advance and meet regularly. Make sure your team members represent key functional areas within your organization. This is not a time to leave anyone out.
  2. Create a key message document. We use a “message pyramid.” This is a simple one-two-page document that organizes messages in a hierarchal fashion – overarching message at the top; three key main messages and details under each one. It is the roadmap used to prepare every communication item that goes out to the various audiences. It’s not a script that must be followed to a T; it’s more of a guide that ensures consistency across the board. Everyone works from the same core document. If it feels like you’re constantly repeating yourself or seeing the same messages everywhere, keep going – this is what consistency looks and feels like.
  3. Keep emotions in check. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of something, especially when it’s a project you’ve been involved with from start to finish. Ask for outside perspective from a colleague or trusted partner. What might seem logical to you, may not be received well by others. Remember my experience? Don’t do that.
  4. Get help from a communications consultant. When big change is happening, an external expert can provide perspective that you may not get from an internal audience close to the issue. A consultant can share their experiences from working with a variety of companies that may help you avoid common pitfalls. 

At WordWrite, we rely on our 3P process to help companies facing change or challenges. We create a plan, utilize a message pyramid and follow the industry-leading PESO model for sharing messages using the most appropriate platform for the target audience. If you’d like to know more about our process or companies we’ve helped, give us a shout.  

Get in touch with us today!



Hollie Geitner is Vice President, Culture and Brand Ambassador at WordWrite Communications. You can get in touch with her via email at hollie.geitner@wordwritepr.com or follow her on Twitter at @JustHollieG

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Topics: public relations, PESO, communication lessons, message pyramid, key message plan

Unleashing the power of the unknown through Story

Posted by Hollie Geitner




A famous novelist embroiled in political debate. The history of the color pink. Singer Dionne Warwick’s rise to fame. A famous biographer who forged celebrity letters. A giant nut grown on an exotic island. The adorable two-year-old whose neighborhood learned sign language, so they could communicate with her. Stories are all around us.

For 90 minutes each Sunday morning I settle in with my coffee and take in some of the most beautifully told stories from around the world. Sometimes I cry, other times I smile or feel anxious. But, without a doubt, I feel something after watching each and every segment.

CBS Sunday Morning is a newsmagazine style television program that focuses on feature stories, as opposed to the hard news the network delivers during the week. It has aired weekly for 40 years as the broadcast version of the magazine supplement that appeared in Sunday newspapers like the New York Times Magazine. If numbers are any indication – and they certainly are in television – the show is a great success. According to AdWeek the program average 6.22 million viewers each week, nearly 2 million more than the 4.36 million for NBC’s Today show (the No. 1 weekday morning show).

Originally anchored by Charles Kuralt, one of the show’s creators, the program has only had two other hosts — Charles Osgood and now, Jane Pauley. With the exception of Bob Schieffer and a few other substitute hosts, the show has maintained a consistency that sets it apart from every other news program. Add to this its dynamic roster of contributors — comedian Mo Rocca, writer, actor and political commentator Ben Stein, former foreign correspondent Martha Teichner and actress Nancy Giles — and I can’t think of a better way to start my week.

As prolific storytellers, the contributors go deep inside a topic, showing unique angles, sharing little-known facts and capturing viewers’ attention in ways few others can. On its surface, pink is simply a color — a blend of red and white — most associated with the female gender. Did you know it was once a sign of wealth and status in France — worn by men, women and children, and used to decorate homes?

According to Peter Guber, chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, a well-written and shared story can have a massive effect on an audience.

“It can inspire and enliven. It can move them to take action. And it can turn them into a raving fan. Never underestimate the power of your story. And never underestimate the intelligence of your audience. Play it truthfully and emotionally, create a dialogue, and you will see how the gift of story may just become the most powerful tool in your arsenal.”

Guber’s right - compelling stories move us. Think about the stories your older family members have shared with you. Each story is a moment or chapter in your family history that has shaped you in some way. Stories are memorable lessons, dreams and wishes come true, obstacles overcome and reasons for making a change. Stories aren’t just words on paper either. They are pictures and videos strung together, speeches delivered to a group or simply told one-on-one.

As you go about your day, week, month and year, pay attention to people, places and things that were once under your radar. The security guard you pass each day on your way into the office; the dirt path behind your neighborhood; the broken sign hanging outside of an abandoned old store; the box of letters passed down by your grandparents; or that charming little town only 45 minutes from you. Those are where some of the best stories can be found.

At WordWrite, we believe in the power of an authentic Story. Our true purpose and passion is to help companies uncover, develop and share their great untold stories. Without a story, there is little out there to help people decide whether they want to work with you, do business with you, be your neighbor or invest in you. Do you know your Story?

If you’re interested in learning more about how to find your Story, either get in touch with us below or join us for Agility PR Solutions’ free webinar on Wednesday, February 27 at noon. You can register here.  

Get in touch with us today!



Hollie Geitner is Vice President, Culture and Brand Ambassador at WordWrite Communications. You can get in touch with her via email at hollie.geitner@wordwritepr.com or follow her on Twitter at @JustHollieG

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Topics: media relations, story, public relations, storytelling, authenticity

Courageous marketing: Why I believe more companies should follow Gillette's lead

Posted by Hollie Geitner


As we head into Super Bowl LIII on February 3, some commercials are already making waves on social channels. Side note: Remember when you had to wait until the actual night of the big game to see commercials? Well, those days are long gone.

I decided to finally watch the Gillette ad (The Best Men Can Be) everyone has been talking about. If you haven’t heard about this one, maybe it’s because you’ve been busy dialing your rotary phone at home. For a laugh, check out this video of teenagers trying to figure out how to use one.

Back to Gillette … in all honesty, I hadn’t paid attention to what people were saying about their latest commercial and went in with an attitude of, “it’s an advertisement by a well-known brand that makes razors, what could be so bad?”

I suppose I wasn’t prepared for my emotional reaction that followed. No, I didn’t cry or pound my fists. I just had that “FINALLY” moment where I wanted to stand up and salute the person/team who came up with the message concept and who had the courage to put it out there. It’s not an easy or simple message to convey.

Perhaps you didn’t expect that reaction from me. Or, maybe you aren’t surprised at all. Here’s my break down on why the ad is so courageous and why we need more ads like it.

1, It’s timely and relevant.

The explanation of the campaign on Gillette’s website sums it up pretty well. As a general rule, before I make any assumptions about a company based on what others are saying, I head to their website and social channels to understand their side.

Here are a few highlights:

Thirty years ago, we launched our “The Best A Man Can Get” tagline. It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like oursgillette commercial, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.

In the #metoo era, in which dozens of men in prominent roles (actors, producers, politicians, newsmen, sports stars) have been accused of sexual misconduct, Gillette is brave. They’ve shown they aren’t afraid to step in and help make a change for the better because they feel it’s their duty.

For those who claim the video ad “de-masculinizes,” take a look back at some of the advertisements from only a few decades ago and how women were portrayed. Imagine how they must have felt. Such images of women and their messaging show the deep-rooted problem we have in society today, and why it’s time for companies like Gillette to do something different and meaningful. Sure, we’ve come a long way, but there is still much work to be done. Men play an integral role in this change.

2. It doesn’t aim to please everyone.

Gillette knew taking such a stand was risky from a PR standpoint, but they also weren’t doing it to please everyone – they were on a mission. Gary Coombe, president of P&G Global    Grooming, and quoted in the news release announcing the effort, has long been praised as a change maker and leader for his work in diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Real change is not possible without stepping outside of comfort zones and taking risks. Change makers seek out the difficult path and blaze the trail so others can follow. This is a good thing!

3. People buy your WHY.

A razor is a razor, right? Sure, you can add some bells and whistles, but at the end of the day, all people care about is whether or not it works, right? Wrong. As with any product or service, people have options. LOTS of options. Take a scan of the razor aisle at your nearest Target or Walmart. Want cheap? It’s there. Fancy? Yep, you got it. Sleek? Sure, you can have that too. In truth, buying decisions are based on an emotional response. According to Simon Sinek, the best leaders start with WHY – their purpose, cause or belief. Their WHY guides them when making or selling something. It’s that WHY that sets them apart from the rest of the pack. As a leader in the industry, Gillette understands this and it’s probably the very reason they can claim six of the top 10 razors on the market, based on sales.

I know some people will agree with me and perhaps many more won’t, but my goal was to point out why the video ad is smart marketing for Gillette. I believe now is the time for more companies to follow their lead. Maybe it’s not about parity in the workplace or raising young boys to be kind and empathetic men, but every company should understand and live their WHY. By doing so, they will attract the right customers – those who share their beliefs and values. As Gillette understands, no company can be all things to everyone, but they can be something very important to some.

Choose your own WHY and see where it leads. Those who follow are your people. They are your customers. They are the ones who matter.

Our StoryCrafting process uncovers a company’s capital “S” story and the reason behind why anyone would want to work for you, do business with you or partner with you. To understand why this is important, download “Tales Worth Telling: How the ageless power of stories delivers business success.”

(Image credit: Gillette)

Hollie Geitner is Vice President, Culture and Brand Ambassador at WordWrite Communications. You can get in touch with her via email at hollie.geitner@wordwritepr.com or follow her on Twitter at @JustHollieGHollie2015-5

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Topics: story, public relations, Importance of your Why, storytelling

Google Ads - Should I incorporate them in my marketing strategy?

Posted by Noah Fleming


You’ve probably searched for a product using Google Search and immediately saw a high-ranking result with a small label reading “Ad.” It’s there for a reason — someone paid the popular search for it. Taking advantage of these types of ads may be useful for your marketing strategy, but properly implementing them is a little more complicated than you might think.

Last year, Google rebranded its advertising platform from Adwords to Google Ads, as it combined advertising within its Search, Display, YouTube, Google Play and Google Maps products into one division of its advertising suite. Now, this doesn’t affect how you would advertise on the platform, but it does help resolve any confusion about which platform to use if you are thinking about incorporating Google ads in your strategy.

If you aren’t familiar with Google Search and Display advertising specifically, you might be asking the questions, “What do they look like? Where do they appear? How do they work? How much do they cost?”

Here is a brief summary explaining the difference between the two, courtesy of WordStream.

How do they work?

The Google Search network reaches someone who is looking for a specific good or service. As a business or advertiser, you will need to build a list of industry keywords and phrases relevant to your specific service offerings. 

The Google Display network reaches millions of websites including YouTube videos, mobile sites and apps.

You can choose where you want your ads to appear, whether on specific types of pages or websites that have partnered with Google. You can read more about placements here. The format types can be an image, video or rich media format.

How much do they cost?

The cost of Google Ads varies based on the competition around your specific keywords, industry, location, quality of your advertising campaigns and time of year. This blog can be a helpful guide to get started.

Both types of digital advertising use a pay-per-click system (PPC) in which there is a bidding process and an advertiser will determine how much they are willing to pay for someone to click on their ad depending on their goal.

Ads are then ranked based on a value called Ad Rank, which is determined by your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid and Quality Score (Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and ads). The higher your quality score (1 – 10 scale) and bid amount, the better your ad positioning and likelihood that it will show up in the network you are targeting.

Well, should I use them?

It’s important to keep in mind that the Google Ads space can be extremely competitive based on your industry which will drive up the costs on single keywords, phrases and website targets.

If you are strategic about your placements and willing to shift some of your marketing budget to do some A/B testing, you can incorporate this type of advertising to reach potential new leads or customers who are actively looking for the types of products or services you offer.

If you’d like to explore options for your digital marketing strategy, reach out to us for a free 30-minute consultation.

I need help with a digital marketing strategy!


noah 250x250 for website

Noah Fleming is digital and inbound marketing specialist at WordWrite. You can reach him at noah.fleming@wordwritepr.com.


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Topics: google advertising, digital marketing, digital strategy

Looking Back at 2018

Posted by Hollie Geitner

The final days of the year feel like finishing a really great book. You can’t wait to see it all come together, yet you’re a bit sad the story is ending. Then, you pick up a new book and the excitement starts all over again.

We’re feeling this way at WordWrite. So many awesome things happened in 2018. And, like any compelling story, we had a few twists and turns that kept us on our toes. It’s been exciting and fun as we’ve shared our clients’ great, untold stories, and shared our own as well. In true book-theme fashion, we’ve provided a “Cliff Notes” version of the 2018 WordWrite Story. Here are noteworthy highlights:


Just like we loved this 2018 story, we’re ecstatic about the one we’re beginning on January 1. We expect 2019 will be our best year yet – especially since we’re writing part of that story now. We’ll have LOTS of news to share in the coming weeks. As they say, it’s gonna be epic!

And most importantly, we want to acknowledge all the great organizations and people who made this story possible – our clients. In their honor, we made a contribution to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to help them be there for those in our community who need them most. Thank you! Here’s to a great 2019 of collaboration!

As we head into the New Year, we want to make sharing your story part of our journey. Click below to learn how we can connect you with your audience using the ageless power of story.

Get in touch with us today!

Hollie Geitner is Vice President, Client Services at WordWrite Communications. You can get in touch with her via email at hollie.geitner@wordwritepr.com or follow her on Twitter at @JustHollieGHollie_1931-1

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Topics: media relations, inbound marketing, social media, WordWrite Communications, crisis communications, awards, strategy, media coaching and training, content marketing, non-profit, brand journalism, partnership, content, inbound, Pittsburgh, holidays, new year, 2018, year in review, infographic

Uncovering compelling human interest stories to promote an event

Posted by Hollie Geitner

Time-honored traditions and events are part of the fabric of our lives. They warm the heart, soothe the soul and give us something to treasure and be grateful for, especially during the holidays.

As communicators, we look to harness those emotions in our writing and story pitching. So, this year, when planning to share the details for one of the season’s most anticipated events, the YMCA Turkey Trot, we asked questions – not just the “when” and the “where” questions. We dug deeper – what is the motivation for the event? Who does it benefit? Why has the event been so successful after all these years? Who makes it happen and why? Can we meet them?A photo of participants from this year's Turkey Trot.

After a series of discussions, a story emerged – one that spoke to the “why,” the “how” and for “whom.” The main character and hero of the story? Doug Williams. As a former addict who called Pittsburgh’s streets home, Doug understood what it’s like to go hungry for days at a time. He could recall the many times the path in front of him blurred or crumbled altogether as a result of poor life choices. After a stint in jail, Doug got his life back on track. Clean and sober, he realized his calling was to help others. Over the years, he was a cook and a caseworker for a variety of non-profits, eventually joining the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh helping with outreach and providing services to those in need. In 2017, donations raised from the Turkey Trot contributed to meals for 24 Pittsburgh area families that Doug provided.

His story, while not uncommon (homelessness, addiction and poverty continue to plague our communities) resonated with us because it’s authentic. It’s hopeful and it’s emotional. While we could share the logistics for the 28th annual event, we knew a human interest story would make the difference from it being just another yearly road race to burn calories (actually, the oldest footrace in the United States) to a race with the purpose of reducing food insecurity in Western Pennsylvania. Doug’s willingness to share his personal experience gave us this opportunity. And the result was extraordinary. Fifteen stories were published or aired over Thanksgiving week. Despite the blustery weather, the race was one of the most successful in the YMCA’s history.

A well-written human-interest story breaks through the clutter and routine details to focus on the true meaning and intent of a recurring event – even one that has been around since 1896 (the year of the very first Turkey Trot in Buffalo, NY).

Interested in learning how you can uncover your business' compelling human interest story? We can help.
Get in touch with us today!


Hollie Geitner is Vice President, Client Services at WordWrite Communications. You can get in touch with her via email at hollie.geitner@wordwritepr.com or follow her on Twitter at @JustHollieG.






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Topics: media relations, public relations, events, strategic communications, community, holidays, pitching

Acknowledging a Tragedy

Posted by Hollie Geitner

No matter where you live, if you watch national news, I’m sure you feel like we do – as if you are surrounded by the destruction of senseless acts of violence. Like the ground may suddenly collapse underneath your feet. Scared. Scared for what tomorrow will bring. Scared for what evil lurks behind every shadow. This weekend, our fears became reality.

Evil wasn’t just lurking, it was living right in our own neighborhood – Pittsburgh. Armed and full of hatred, the shooter took the lives of 11 people worshiping at Tree of Life Synagogue in nearby Squirrel Hill. These were our mothers, fathers, grandparents, neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues who started their day like most Saturdays. They had plans for that fall afternoon, for tomorrow and for next year. The shooter destroyed those plans. Their loved ones are left to pick up the pieces of this senseless tragedy. And, as a community, we’ll never understand how someone could hurt innocent, loving people.

In the hours, days and weeks after tragedies, it’s difficult to sort through the myriad of emotions and especially challenging to determine how to properly respond. We struggle to find the right words, the right time and the right way to share those words. While with the best of intentions, we question what is appropriate and necessary vs. what might be mistaken for being opportunistic or self-serving.

Stronger-Than-HateWe’ve seen individuals and businesses over the years address shootings, attacks or natural disasters and suffer significant and swift backlash for appearing insensitive or as if they were trying to capitalize on others’ misfortune. Conversely, we have seen “helpers” emerge, bringing comfort and assistance to others during the darkest of times. 

What is the best way to respond when a tragedy happens? Is there a right or wrong way? A simple Google search will reveal a plethora of individuals or companies who’ve landed on the wrong side of the fence when attempting to publicly share their thoughts on national tragedies. We will refrain from getting into those specifics and instead, provide some perspective and tips. In the end, it is you and only you who knows deep down what feels right, however don’t hesitate to seek counsel from your public relations or communications team. A second opinion is never a bad thing when you’re unsure of something.

Be present and acknowledge.

Whether it has happened in your backyard or thousands of miles away, if it is an event or situation dominating the news and social channels, it is something to which you should pay attention. Sometimes being oblivious is more harmful than saying or doing the “wrong thing.” You may not feel comfortable putting out something publicly, such as a social media post, but you can acknowledge what is happening by halting your business-as-usual activity. Turn off auto-posts on your social channels, delay sending out a monthly customer marketing email or pull commercials set to air in the days following. Not only is this a respectful way to approach a difficult situation, you are potentially avoiding the awkwardness of tweets or messages of self-promotion colliding with the news stories and somber tone.


There are many ways to help – from sharing messages of support, offering financial assistance or providing a free service, you can chose what method best fits you or your company. The key is to help for the greater good and not necessarily for the exposure. People are perceptive and will see through any effort that appears to be inauthentic or self-serving. Done well and with heart, any assistance will be appreciated and recognized in due time. Also, don't forget your employees are likely suffering or struggling to process a tragedy. Offer to provide counseling resources, allow flexibility with schedules, encourage a moment of silence or share ways they can help victims – through donations, prayers or personal resources. Employees will appreciate you’ve acknowledged the event and have done the due diligence to provide options for the most useful ways they can participate in helping others – one of the best ways to manage through grief or fear.   

Join the masses.

Instead of posting a tailored message, join in by sharing or engaging with other’s posts. You can do this by using a hashtag or modeling what you see other businesses doing that you feel is appropriate and useful. In times like these, sometimes it is best to join in, rather than seek attention with a clever image or poignant message. 

Avoid negative.

It’s become too easy for critical and negative people to pick apart what others say and do especially in the wake of a terrible event. Often, these same folks seek attention by turning tragedy into an opportunity to spread their own political or religious messages or to create unnecessary drama and stress. This is probably their way of dealing with the trauma themselves, but it serves no useful purpose. The best advice is to move away from negative conversations and messages. Ignore them.

Be empathetic. Be real.

Terrible things happen every day – in our communities, to those we work with and do business with, and across our nation and world. When we react with empathy and direct our focus to healing, we support the positive and push the negative and the fear down where it belongs.

Take your time.

Sometimes we feel a need to solve or fix a problem and we do so by inserting ourselves in ways that aren’t helpful. History has shown us that when a tragic event happens, the need for help extends well past the time media spotlights dim. There is no need to rush into something – take the time to assess and plan a meaningful effort.

Finally, others may suggest you promote what you’re doing – to get credit and to be hailed as a hero. While we pride ourselves on making our clients the heroes of their own stories, there is a time and a place for being proactive in telling that story. If it doesn’t feel appropriate, it likely isn’t. Do what feels right, do it with authenticity and do so without needing something in return. Be a comforter. Be a helper. The world needs more of both.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." –Fred Rogers






Click here for a list of resources and ways to help in Pittsburgh.

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Topics: community, authenticity, Pittsburgh, tragedy

What in-flight magazines can teach us about brand journalism

Posted by Dan Stefano

Airplane flying through skies.

The seatbelt sign is off. Your tray table is down. You’re settled in for a two-hour flight to Chicago. What’re you going to do once you land? 

You can pay the extra charge to connect to the airplane’s Wi-Fi and look up restaurants, museums, sporting events and anything else you can dream up. Or you can pick up the in-flight magazine (with real paper pages and everything!) and flip to an article on the Windy City.

It might describe the best tourist spots in the town, a few secret hideaways only a local would know about, the finest place to feast on a deep-dish pizza and even dole out a bit of history. By the time you hit the runway, you might as well be a denizen of the Midwest metropolis.

And all of this knowledge is tucked away in the seatback right in front of you, offering useful information while building the value of the air carrier taking you to your destination. It’s a great marketing tool. This magazine, after all, is a piece of brand journalism.

Yes, the term that’s all the rage in communications today – and the position that old newshounds are flocking to in droves – isn’t something all that new. Brand journalism may not have been dubbed so decades ago, but the general concept has been floating around for years. And there is plenty to learn about the practice from the decades-old model of in-flight magazines. 

The printed word lives … 30,000 feet in the air

Pan American World Airways, or Pan Am, was once the undisputed champion of commercial aviation. The long-defunct, pioneering carrier published the world’s first in-flight magazine, “Clipper Travel,” in 1952, naming it after the Boeing aircraft of the same name. Your best bet for finding a “Clipper” now is at an antique store, but more than 250 of its successors are still published today.

Those magazines don’t have any subscribers in the traditional sense, and though we live at a time when print media is losing the war to digital content, physical in-flight magazines still reach hundreds of millions of travelers each year – there’s one in every seatback, after all. That scope is even greater today, since, naturally, in-flight magazines have online editions.

Part of the reason they stay viable is they’re a prime spot for advertising, and why wouldn’t they be? According to travel media company Ink, 74 percent of travelers read a magazine on the plane. The most effective magazines aren’t simply selling goods, though there is ample room for that. Instead, they establish the carriers as experts in all aspects of their industry while entertaining and informing passengers.

Building a brand

Gripes about air travel are standard practice for fliers, but there remains an appeal to the journey. In mere hours, you can be transported to your favorite vacation destination or a city you’ve never visited. In-flight magazines take advantage of that exciting notion, with engaging, well-written articles about traveling, business, entertainment and lifestyle.

Take these examples:

  • In the September 2018 issue of “Delta Sky,” author Noami Tomky penned “Crossing the Pacific with a Pacifier,” a personal tale about how her traveling life has changed – and notably, hasn’t ended – since becoming a new mother. The piece reads almost like something you’d find on a blog about motherhood and speaks to plenty of parents who are in a similar situation. There’s absolutely no selling going on, beyond Delta Air Lines subtly branding itself as a carrier that understands its passengers.
  • The August issue of “Southwest Magazine” includes the feature “Why Franchises Can Work for Any Generation,” an informative business story with an appeal to a wide age range. Business stories are often part of in-flight magazines because a significant percentage of travelers are on work trips, and frequent fliers tend to have more personal wealth. Knowing your audience and catering your content to it is key to any form of marketing, let alone brand journalism.
  • United’s “Hemispheres” has a recurring feature, “Three Perfect Days.” In each edition, the authors give engrossing, first-person accounts of three-day trips to cities around the world. These range from far-flung world capitals, such as Beijing, to American cities you might not always consider a vacation destination, such as Houston. It’s hard to read one of these colorful diaries and not want to book another trip once you land. 

A well-rounded in-flight magazine isn’t the only marketing tool in an airline’s arsenal, but they’re useful in creating an identity for the carrier and conveying that to the passenger. Next time you’re on a flight, flip through those pages and look for some brand journalism inspiration – and good luck finding one with an unfinished crossword puzzle.

At WordWrite Communications, we believe a successful brand journalism strategy can help you tell your authentic business story. Learn more about why stories matter to your business by clicking here.

Dan Stefano is a brand journalist at WordWrite Communications. You can reach him at dan.stefano@wordwritepr.comIMG_4839 2018 550 square

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Topics: content marketing, content creation, strategic communications, brand journalism, writing, content

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