Public Relations Insights


How to Pitch Story Ideas to Dwell Magazine

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With a national circulation of approximately 325,000 trade professionals and design enthusiasts, Dwell magazine is now one of the most influential publications in the residential design and construction field. Landing content on its pages is a huge “get” for any marketer.

In a presentation during Dwell on Design in June in Los Angeles, editor in chief Amanda Dameron shared a number of insights on the best ways to approach her editorial colleagues with story ideas. Whatever the content you have in mind to pitch, it must inevitably help the Dwell staff answer a fundamental question asked of every potential feature article:

“How do we best tell a story that appeals to [design] professionals?”

Essentials: All five Dwell editors are open to receiving pitches and other correspondence. But, according to Amanda, when it comes to formal press communications, two are key: Send general-announcement press releases to senior editor Kelsey Keith ([email protected]), based at Dwell’s New York office. Direct new-product information to associate editor Diana Budds ([email protected]) at the headquarters office in San Francisco.

Projects: Scan any issue of Dwell and you will readily understand that the editors devote most of their time, interest and passion to whole-house projects. As a result, they are open to fielding suggestions from all quarters. To find first-rate project stories, Amanda’s team relies on:

  • word of mouth (“Know of a great project?”);
  • editorial outreach to favorite residential architects (“Let us know when your next project is breaking ground!”); and, believe it or not…
  • unsolicited, outside leads that arrive via letter or e-mail. As Amanda noted, even a direct and unadorned pitch — “I have a great home and want the editors at Dwell to know about it” — will likely grab the editors’ attention at least initially.

But if your pitch is to succeed, you must also get beyond your surface enthusiasms to detail what makes your project so special. What is the rationale for the house and its particular design? What were the design challenges and their solutions? What needs did the products and materials used on the project fulfill? What were the budget limitations and how were they finessed?

And, finally, no surprise here: Any project story you hope to place with Dwell must necessarily be exclusive to this publication.

Photographs: A project pitch should be accompanied by images of the exterior and interior, but “a couple is enough,” Amanda advised, adding that “you need not commission a high-priced professional” to do the picture-taking.

In the same spirit, she cautioned against making the home’s interior appear excessively groomed for the camera lens, pro or amateur. Dwell favors a “naturalistic point-of-view. We want real homes, so show us the space as it really is. Don’t hide all the household detritus for the shoot, but just enough to make the space comfortable — as you would if a good friend were coming over to visit.”

Following these few basic tips is no guarantee that your project or product is a slam-dunk to make the pages of Dwell. But Amanda made it clear that in their zeal to uncover compelling homes with compelling stories, Dwell editors stand ready to learn what in home design feeds your passions as well.

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Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV


Trade Show Marketing: Three Surefire Ways to Reach the Media

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Considering a new-product launch? Want to give it a running start?

You may not believe it any more, but trade shows were actually invented for this sort of activity. Our recent economic woes have taken much of the shine off product shows. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that tomorrow’s trade shows will — and must — look very different than their predecessors. But as a tool for reaching a critical mass of your core audience in a single time and place, the trade-show model still has a lot of life left in it.

Of course, not every industry player attends a given trade show in a given year. Even those who do may not find your booth. And even those who drop by may well forget most of what they saw once they return to their daily routines.

That is why a big part of your show-floor, product-launch strategy should include an aggressive outreach to all media in attendance: print, digital and – if available –broadcast. Your primary role at these events is to identify, package and convey your news to these folks, so they, in turn, are better able to deliver this news to their audiences; i.e., your customers and prospects. Except for word of mouth and referrals from friends, those audiences will likely find what the media have to say about your product the most convincing stimulus to action.

What are the most effective ways to connect with media attending a trade show? A mix of methods typically works best. Here are a few of the most important:

Hold a “presser”: If you have a major new product to unveil, a press conference early on Day 1 can be the best way to grab the media’s attention at a show. These events are often held before the show officially opens, so you have the media’s undivided attention — and they yours, because no customers are around. Having your CEO or some other senior exec lead the presentation is the best way to assure preliminary interest and a bias to attend, especially if your event is up against other press opportunities happening concurrently. Like all of us, managing our schedules, the media focus inevitably on the stature of the speaker as well as the relevance of the news.

Offer one-on-one interviews: The downside of a press conference — from the media’s point of view — is that every attending scribe is hearing exactly the same presentation. Sure, that’s great for your messaging, but remember: The media must set themselves apart from their competitors, too. So, reinforce your presser by offering top-tier media outlets one-on-one time with a senior company manager — well out of earshot from any rivals. Given an opportunity to ask his or her own questions in private, the editor can create his/her own slant on the story. The benefit for your brand and your new product may ultimately be stronger coverage in the form of a bigger story or one that more fully presents your product’s best selling points.

Always conduct booth tours: Not every editor will attend your press conference. Not everyone will make the time for a one-on-one meeting. Regardless, be sure to offer every media attendee an appointment for a personalized tour of your booth. This will allow you to present your new-product story in vivid detail, as well as to make certain the media carry away any press materials you have created for the occasion. (More on what those should look like at another time.)

Just as importantly, it will give you a prime chance to get to know each media member better, both professionally and personally: What sorts of topics and stories is the editor/blogger/producer pursuing? How might our new product fit into her plans? How might our company otherwise support that pursuit — both today and in the future?

In short: How can you help the media, not just how can the media help you?

Even if you have no new product to launch at a particular show, the booth tour is an excellent way to build and sustain relationships with the media. Forget the notion of “taking a show off” because “we have nothing new to say.” The media is always writing about something; always looking for ideas, projects and personalities; always open to substantive input when chronicling the story of the industries they cover.

In the end, building relationships with media members, one at a time, is the most effective way to make sure your company remains an integral part of that ongoing story.

Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV | Trade Marketing Insights


Social Media and Marketing Tips: Top 10 Blog Posts of 2012

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In 2012 everyone at O’Reilly-DePalma learned a lot, and had so many amazing conversations, both in real life and in the Twitter-verse. We realized the value of bringing the fun to conferences and trade shows, and navigated the sometimes confusing waters of SEO and social media. We looked at building clout in the industry and building Klout on Twitter. We even learned a couple of dance moves from a Rockette. (See: bringing the fun.)

We’re pleased to share this list of our ten most popular blog posts in 2012, and we hope these ideas and insights have been as useful to you as they have been to us:

This Just In: Social Media for Natural Disaster News: It’s not hard to imagine why this post was the #1 most read in 2012. Social media can be a lightning-fast way to share news and even quickly provide aid to families affected by disasters, whether natural or man made.

CES Loses Clout as New Products Launch Pad: We take a look at why industry trade shows have lost their impact and influence over the past few years, and also examine what some shows are doing right. (Hint: incorporating some fun into your booth is the way to go.)

eTail 2012 – 10 Things Building Products Marketers Need to Know: A nice girl from the building products industry shares ten amazing lessons on technology, social media, and online marketing that are relevant for almost any industry.

Building Relationships on Twitter with Stacy Garcia: We loved doing this interview with Stacy Garcia, the brains behind the popular KBTribeChat on Twitter. This post includes some really helpful insights into using social media to build a business.

A Klout Definition, As Best We Can: This post from 2011, in which we help untangle the real meaning of a Klout score, remained popular last year. Klout isn’t the ultimate measure of a person’s influence, but it can be a helpful evaluation tool.

Curation Nation - 10 Community Building Tips from #AtomicChat: Yes, Twitter conversations can help build your brand. We look at how to curate your social media content to effectively appeal to your target audience without wasting time or effort.

What Do Pandas and Penguins Have to Do with Your Marketing Strategy? Google updates its algorithms to keep over-optimized, spammy websites from rising to the top of search results. How do you make sure your websites are the cream of the crop under the new rules?

Brand Engagement Lessons from BlogHer 2012: Our overview of the highlights of brand engagement (featuring the Rockettes and pedicures) at BlogHer 2012. Creativity is key!

McDonald’s Redesign: Think Presentation and Environment Don’t Matter? OR-DP looks at the amazing effects a store redesign had on overall sales and even interest in new products at McDonalds.

Altitude Design Summer - New Model for Industry Conferences: You may have never heard of this conference, but if getting attention from influential design bloggers is your goal, this conference is the place to be.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll share our top ten Client News blog posts. Happy New Year, everyone!

Content Marketing Insights | Public Relations Insights | Social Marketing Insights | The OR-DP POV | Trade Marketing Insights


What Makes a Good Case Study?

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Everyone appreciates a good case study…

…especially manufacturers, looking for a credible way to depict the value propositions of their products in real-world settings through third-party testimonials;

…especially specifiers, builders and installers, looking to showcase their most attention-worthy projects and the professional skills that brought them to a successful conclusion;

…especially the media, always in need of compelling, newsworthy editorial that they may not have the time, the resources or the good fortune to uncover themselves;

…especially the readers of these case studies, trade and consumer, seeking innovative ideas to make their own lives easier, more productive and more fulfilling.

In many instances, these case studies — “project profiles” might be a more accurate term — are rendered briefly, sometimes with simple bullet points: a quick overview of the most salient details. It is enough to celebrate a high-profile project, allow for a quick bow by the key participants, while underlining critical role the highlighted product played in it.

But our changing media landscape now offers more opportunities for another type of case study, one that permits deeper storytelling and a genuine narrative arc. The editors who solicit — or are at least receptive — to this longer-form case study will likely insist that branding on behalf of a manufacturer or product be removed. But if one of their readers tells your product story through his on-the-job experiences, that is a more believable approach that is readily embraced by many editors.

So what are the core elements of a successful, B-to-B case study these days?

Compelling story line: If the project is large or prestigious, perhaps headed to LEED Platinum status or a high-profile design award, etc., that certainly helps. But a high profile is not essential to success. The best story lines involve problem-solving: What kinds of challenges did the individual at the center of the “action” encounter? How did the chosen product (yours) help him meet these challenges? Finally, what were the payoffs — preferably in tangible, measureable benefits — for all involved?

Credible players telling the story: Readers — and the editors who serve them — tend to place greater value on the words and experiences of other readers: people who do exactly what they do for a living. That’s why testimonial advertising is such a staple of business-to-business advertising. A professional reliving his successful saga for the edification of his like-minded brethren is compelling stuff, because it’s so easy readers to imagine themselves grappling with similar circumstances. “If that product/system/method helped that guy succeed, hey, maybe I should give it a shot, too.”

Captivating pictures enhancing the story: If you’re tempted to skimp in this area, don’t. Chances are, the editors already have had to themselves, which is why they need your help. Whether working in print or online, editors love good images because they bring readers closer to the action, while making stories more real and — best-case scenario — more comprehensible. Last, but far from least, excellent photography adds luster to any story, as well as to the media hosting or publishing it.

In short, excellent photography or illustration is the capstone of a well-conceived and well-written case study. It is an essential ingredient the media’s cultivation of loyal, enthusiastic audiences who believe and value what they are reading.

For more on the art of the case study, check out our three part series on a builders materials case study completed by O’Reilly-DePalma that garnered over 40 million impressions.

Content Marketing Insights | Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV | Trade Marketing Insights


Don’t let Marketing-Speak Drown Authentic Communication

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As marketers and communicators, we all bring a sophisticated and practiced eye to storytelling. When communicating with customers and media, we think and rethink both the message and the manner. This is as it should be. But during this cycle of refinement, we must remain vigilant that our marketing speak doesn’t drown authentic communication.

Authenticity. It sounds so simple. You know it when you hear it. Yet in business today, it can be so difficult to achieve. Is this because we’ve forgotten how effective an honest exchange can be? Is it because it is harder and riskier to drop the “should” and focus on the “is”?

Tony Radcliff, VP-offerings/marketing at Uponor

What drives authentic communication? A dialogue with your customers that involves active listening. Recently, I was privileged to participate in the biennial Uponor Convention: a two-day event that the company’s customers actually pay to attend, so they learn about how the manufacturer is engineering new solutions to help them be more competitive.

This year, Uponor management realized the meeting delivered an ideal opportunity for an authentic conversation.  As VP-offerings/marketing Tony Radcliff told attendees in the opening session:  “At Uponor – you ARE our friends. In the next few days together, honest exchanges can strengthen our bond and create a shared success. Our businesses are dependent upon each other as we move forward in this slowly, but surely improving economy…[W]e are hear to listen – to lay the foundation for an ongoing collaboration that hopefully erases the feeling that anyone here is in this alone.”

This brand promise embodies the relationship Uponor – and most other suppliers – seek with their customers. Radcliff’s next words offer the type of authentic communication that brings the brand promise to life:

“I don’t want to be presumptuous. There is a feeling in the Uponor organization that we haven’t been as attentive to our customer relationships and connections as we aspire to be. In fact, some of you folks in this room may have had some less-than-stellar experiences with Uponor during the past several years. We may well have some reparations to make. If so, we start today.”

Think we have total control over how our messages are perceived? Not so much any more. Consider the recent campaign waged by one teenage girl against Seventeen magazine. Sick to death of images of perfect, look-alike models, issue after issue, she took to Facebook to say “enough.” Her lone voice soon became a groundswell of thousands of Seventeen readers demanding that the magazine present a more authentic view of American teenage girls. After weeks of silence from the publisher – and news stories on nearly every network – the magazine did the only thing it could: engage in a meaningful conservation about content with its readers.

Owning an authentic message about your product – your “brand promise” – is an everyday job for everyone in an organization. Commitment to this dialogue makes responding in a crisis so much simpler and effective.

Luxury | Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV


10 Dead-Honest Reasons Reporters Delete Your Emails - Business Insider

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Why there is no such thing as “free PR.”

“It’s time consuming to pitch multiple people. It’s much easier to send one mass email and bcc everyone.

Don’t do this. If you want someone to spend time on you, spend time on them.

via 10 Dead-Honest Reasons Reporters Delete Your Emails - Business Insider.

Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV


Altitude Design Summit - New Model for Industry Conferences

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Altitude Design Conference logo

by Jessica Tolliver, Wendy Silverstein & Associates

Last week more than 500 design professionals gathered in Salt Lake City for the third annual Altitude Design Summit. Like many trade conferences, this one featured the usual panel presentations, keynote speakers, networking parties and roundtable discussions.

Packed conference room at Alt 2012

But Alt—as attendees affectionately call it—stands out from the usual fare in a number of ways. Talk in the hotel hallways revolved around things like trendy hairstyles and eyeglasses, gilt-edged business cards, and how cute the keynote speaker was. And more importantly: This new and relatively small conference generates a lot of buzz. Online chatter is still going strong one week after the conference ended, as both those who attended and those who wanted to but couldn’t—the conference has sold out the last two years—continue to share thoughts and ideas.

What is the Altitude Design Summit and what makes it unusual? Alt brings together design bloggers and the professionals (marketers, online services, traditional media…) who work with them. Simply put, a design blogger is somebody who blogs about design.  But a design blog can cover all kinds of things, including fashion, interior design, event planning, photography, travel and more. And while some bloggers make a living from their blogs, others use them as a marketing tool for their “real” jobs, like product design, graphic design, interior design, event planning, wedding photography and more.

And these bloggers—most of whom are women—can be enormously influential, setting trends and building buzz. They fall in a newly established and evolving grey area somewhere between traditional media and celebrities. And they’re a lot like that cool girl in high school who found out about the “hot new thing” before anybody else did—and then told all her friends about it.

What can a presence at Alt do for your brand? Consider Pinterest, which the Wall Street Journal recently called “the hottest start-up of late in Silicon Valley.” Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann attended Alt three years ago to discuss his idea for a new social-networking site where users could “pin” images onto virtual bulletin boards. The next year he was gearing up to launch the site and invited Alt attendees to be among the first to try out the (still) invite-only site.

This year, Silbermann attended the conference as a keynote speaker. Pinterest launched in early 2011, grew by 40 percent in the last six months, and just won $27 million in VC funding. Plus, companies like West Elm, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman and Real Simple are using Pinterest to market their own brands. (You should check it out, if you haven’t already.)

Plenty of big brands also consider Alt a worthwhile place to market their products and services. HP, Cottonelle, Sherwin-Williams, Method and HGTV are just a few examples of the large corporations that attended the conference to connect with bloggers this year. And growing and niche companies were there too.

Cottenelle influences the influencers

How to know if Alt is the right place to go to grow your brand? Follow that age-old marketing advice: Know your target. Do they turn to blogs for ideas, inspiration and recommendations? Is your product or service one that will interest a blogger? Does it feel like a genuinely good fit for her subject matter? If you answered yes, then Alt could be the place for you. Start planning your outfits now.

Mail Chimp at Alt 2012

Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV


How to Stage an Effective Media Tour: Part 2

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This entry is Part 2 of our look at the fundamentals of staging effective media tours. View Part 1 here.

“Thank you for orchestrating Uponor’s sixth annual media tour. As in years past, the strength and value of these editorial meetings continues to expand and deepen. Whether we’re launching new products or discussing key issues and industry trends, we find no stronger vehicle than these one-to-one conversations.

- Ingrid Mattsson, Director, Brand Management, Uponor North America

Fundamental #2: Have something to show. Visual aids are a must and typically take the form of a PowerPoint presentation. I can hear you suppressing a yawn, but a slide show has solid practical value in holding the editors’ attention, while making what you say more concrete and therefore more memorable—especially if your slide show is part of your leave-behind. (More on that in a bit.)

In creating the PowerPoint or whatever tools you prefer, don’t shortchange the visual imagery. The editors may not read along as you move from slide to slide. But strong pictorial elements, especially of product components, cutaways, schematics, graphs, tables, flow charts and the like will help make your words resonate. And your audience won’t fail to appreciate the care you have taken in crafting your presentation.

The only communications aid better than an image or an illustration is the thing itself. If possible, bring actual products or components, so that the editors can see and touch that special new finish or unique functionality first-hand. The hands-on approach will generate more interest, more questions and more enthusiasm for whatever you are presenting.

On my most recent media tour, the client highlighted his company’s proprietary method for making pipe connections, which can seem a rather mundane affair when left solely to verbal descriptions. Step-by-step graphics are better, but how about actually making a connection right there in front of the editors? That’s what my client did, and his rather quick and simple demo made a solidly positive impression on each group of editors. When one asked to do a connection himself, it was easily one of the highlights of that session. What better way to persuade an editor of the value of your product or system?

Fundamental #3: Have something to leave behind. While building relationships is the primary benefit of a media tour, clients understandably expect a more tangible payoff in the form of actual publicity. The surest way to make that happen is to create a press kit dedicated solely to the meeting or media tour. Also, be sure to bring enough copies so that all attendees can have one if they wish.

This kit should contain press materials relating to your presentation, including news releases and photography of new and recently introduced products. But you might also want to include relevant case studies, white papers, product brochures, as well as your PowerPoint presentation and a corporate backgrounder that the editors can keep on file for future reference. Anything that adds to their understanding of your company and its mission is of potential interest.

That may sound like information overload, which is why I strongly recommend making the kit electronic: Editors will accept paper kits, but they love the easy portability and “file-ability” of a disc and, best of all, a flash drive. Do not miss this opportunity to impress the press. The fastest way to an editor’s heart—and to the pages of his or her publication—is to make the job of using your materials easier.

Fundamental #4: Find converging interests. Generating more publicity for the brand is at the top of the wish lists of most marketers, regardless of the state of the economy or the market. Meanwhile, editors find themselves constantly scrambling for information and ideas to meet the relentless content requirements of their proliferating communications outlets, print and online.

One of the best ways to discover where exactly your mutual interests converge is through a face-to-face dialogue with the editors. Trade shows and other venues offer numerous occasions for such meetings, but except for a tour of your own factory, none matches the effectiveness of a “deskside” get-together for building relationships and identifying ways to meet editor interests and needs.


Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV


How to Stage an Effective Media Tour: Part 1

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Recently, I completed one of my favorite activities as a public relations professional: a three-day “media tour,” in which I accompanied one of our manufacturer-clients in a series of face-to-face meetings with the editor staffs of roughly a dozen trade magazines at their Chicago-area offices.

As a former trade-pub editor myself, I enjoy connecting with my old colleagues on their home turf in a relaxed and friendly setting. (Meeting with trade and consumer media in other major publishing centers for our building and architectural products field, such as New York, Washington and Des Moines, is a lot of fun, too.)

But the true beneficiaries—and properly so—are our clients and the editors themselves, who use these occasions to gain a better understanding of one another’s interests and needs on their way to forging deeper and more productive relationships.

Each media-tour meeting, which typically runs sixty to ninety minutes, merits its own approach, depending on the editor, the client and the season. But there are certain fundamentals for any get-together that will ensure success both during the meeting and in its aftermath. Pay close attention to these basics and, when all is said and done, you’ll have zero doubts about the value of the experience.

Fundamental #1: Have something to say. It’s not enough to just show up and plop down for a little coffee and chit-chat: This isn’t a chance encounter at a trade show. Editors are routinely cordial to their guests, but they will expect the meeting to have a specific intent, enabling them to learn things they don’t already know. Without a worthwhile agenda, you’ll likely have a hard time even getting on their schedules.

Previewing a new product is a great way to anchor a media tour: An editor’s main mission is to report on “what’s new,” so your audience will welcome an in-depth look at your latest offering. This approach is also a great way to generate a quick and tangible payoff on your meeting in the form of coverage of your new product in an upcoming issue.

But editors are also on the prowl for content that is more general and not-so-brand-centric in scope. They need “big ideas” they can readily translate into feature stories, in line with their published editorial calendars.

So, in addition to announcing your newest product and what makes it so special, put all those messages in the context of the industry zeitgeist: Why this particular product at this particular time for this particular audience? What needs does it meet? How does it fit in with the general direction of the market? How does it differ from what came before?

What’s more, those questions need not be confined to a new product. Editors will generally welcome your POV on the overall industry (or at least your product category): where it’s been, where it’s headed and why, and how you are adjusting your strategies in response.

This type of big-picture presentation will deliver compelling ideas around which editors can build their own trends stories. And when they finally get around to writing such a story, guess whom they are most likely to contact for further insights and information?

Check back tomorrow for three more fundamental elements of a successful media tour, as well as a gallery of images from a recent tour for Uponor.

Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV


What is a Case Study? Part 3 of 3: Help Journalists To Help You

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Once we had a solid case study that chronicled Loews Hotels and Resorts’ success using the American Standard Champion 4 toilet to solve the maintenance nightmare of 350 overflowing toilets each month, the pitch came together through serendipity, social media and the inimitable Peter Shankman.

As we were targeting and researching journalists who might find this story beneficial to their readers, we signed up for a Peter Shankman webinar featuring Barbara DeLollis of USA Today Hotel Check-In and the totally hilarious David Moye,  pop culture reporter for HuffPost Weird News (former AOL Weird News).

As the Shankman seminar was underway, O’Reilly/DePalma colleagues Joel Williams and Nora DePalma texted between Chicago and Atlanta:

DePalma: Loews case study?

Williams: Yup, on it.

Williams read some of DeLollis’ columns and emailed a succinct and engaging pitch:

“Being naïve to all things hotels, I’d think top hotel chains would be focused on spacious, well appointed rooms, Egyptian cotton sheets and such – not a toilet. Loews and Hyatt, however, think the flush is more powerful than the fluff.”

Three days later, DeLollis featured our client in her USA Today Hotel Check-In column.  DePalma followed up with some tweet love:


Which led to further mentions:

The Economist Business Travel Blog 2/11/2011
AOL Weird News 2/18/2011
Bayou Renaissance Man Blog 2/20/2011
Discovery Channel Online 2/25/2011
MSNBC 2/25/2011
eHotelier Global Hospitality News 2/21/2011
PM Plumbing & Mechanical  7/1/2011


John O’Reilly, Nora DePalma, Joel Williams

On Thursday, November 3, one of the largest Public Relations Society chapters in the US, PRSA GA, awarded O’Reilly/DePalma and American Standard Brands a Phoenix Award in Feature Writing for this public relations case history about case histories.

To find out how we can tell great stories about your products, email John or Nora.

<<What is a Case Study Part 1

<<What is a Case Study Part 2

Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV

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