Home » Chapter Chat » June 2019

President’s Report

Martha GastonDoes anyone else feel like spring was a blink-and-you-missed-it season? It sometimes seems like weeks pass slowly while months go quickly leaving little time to mark off all of those meant-to-dos and goals half achieved.

PRSA Philadelphia has been busy since January, and I am proud of all our Chapter accomplished during the first half of the year. These achievements include holding monthly programs and launching our redesigned website and email distribution service to allow us to better keep you updated with all that’s going on in our chapter and beyond.

These are great milestones, but I am especially proud that we, in partnership with PPRA, recently announced a joint Diversity and Inclusion Commitment that includes a pledge to make our events and programming more accessible, diverse and reflective of all our members. I specifically want to thank Renee Cree, our Diversity and Inclusion Chair, for her dedication to working with her PPRA counterpart, Meredith Avakian, to finalize the checklist and get it ratified by the presidents of both organizations. I hope you’ll read the story below in this issue to find out more about our D&I commitment.

While summer is typically a time to slow down (if we are lucky!), this year, PRSA Philly will hold programs for professionals, senior pros and students throughout the summer. I hope that you will plan to join us, especially for our program on the “Unexpected Philadelphia” on June 26 at The Continental Mid-town, where we’ll learn about the latest in tourism marketing and some “hidden gems” to explore in our own backyard.

Looking forward to the second half of the year, the PRSA Philadelphia Board of Directors remains energized and committed to you and our chapter, and we would love to hear your continued suggestions and feedback about how we’re doing. As always, feel free to reach me at president@philly.org.

I hope everyone has a wonderful summer!

Martha A. Gaston, APR

Welcome New Members

Please join us in welcoming our newest chapter members!

Jessica Burns
Evoke PR& Influence

LIndsay Cox
Communications Manager

Tiffany Chrystaline DuBois

Carnell Dudley 
Public Affairs Outreach Coordinator
Philadelphia Gas Works

Paul Richards 
Director of Communications
Division of Finance, University of Pennsylvania

Meet the Media: Natalie Pompilio, Freelance Journalist

By Mellany Armstrong, Associate Director of Communications, Moore College of Art & Design and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member.  PHOTO CREDIT: Tricia Pompilio (@triciaphotography)

The PRSA Communications Committee talked with Natalie Pompilio, a freelance journalist. Read on to find out why she thought someone was playing a joke on her when she was set to interview Kathleen Turner.

What is it that you do?
I’ve been a professional journalist for 25 years. I spent the first half of my career in daily newsrooms, writing on every topic imaginable. I’ve been freelancing full-time since roughly 2007 – I did return to a newsroom part-time for a few years while still keeping my solo business going – and while it can be difficult and frustrating, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Freelancing means I don’t have to work on holidays, I create my own daily schedule, I work remotely – sometimes very remotely, like in China – and on topics beyond a daily newspaper’s purview.

When it comes to work, about half of my assignments are my own ideas that I’ve pitched to publications. The other half are given to me by the publications.

So far in 2019, I’ve written about European Jews who took shelter in Shanghai during WWII for The Daily Beast; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s local appearance in the midst of cries for impeachment for The Washington Post; a priest who is an unlikely advocate for safe drug injection sites for St. Joseph University’s alumni magazine; the use of biosimilar medications for oncology patients for OncLive.com; and choosing the right assisted living option for Brain & Life, the official magazine of the American Academy of Neurology. I have strong relationships with The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Associated Press and Haverford College’s alumni publication.

For the last three years, I’ve had a steady gig writing about entertainment for my hometown newspaper, The Star-Ledger, based in Newark, NJ. It’s fun work and it’s given me endless celebrity stories for my friends as I’ve had the opportunity to interview stars including Mel Brooks, who wanted to talk about my heritage as his late wife, Anne Bancroft, was of Italian descent; Danny DeVito, who joked that he’d get in big trouble with friends if I published one of the stories he told me – I didn’t include it in my article; Kenny Rogers, who said he was getting off the road because he was old and laughed when I told him to tell that to Tony Bennett; and Kathleen Turner, who called me directly and I thought someone was playing a joke on me because her voice is really that deep. I confessed that to her, prompting her to shout to other people around her, “She thought I was a man!”

Give me a rundown of what a typical day is like for you as a freelance writer.
Of course, there’s no typical day in this business. I’m always juggling multiple assignments with different deadlines. I’m a list maker, so every weekday morning I put together an accounting of all the things I must get done in what the world would think of as normal work hours, roughly between 9 AM and 6 PM. Besides writing and reporting, I’m constantly pitching stories and if one publication turns down an idea, I’ll try another.

Because I have to produce a lot of copy, I also work on weekends and at nights. I’ve done multiple interviews on car trips – while my husband has been driving. (My conversation with Alan Cumming was the best because he was on speaker phone and my husband and I kept shooting each other “What did he just say?” looks because his accent is no joke. I also do a lot of writing in the car, again when I’m not driving.

Is social media important in what you do?
I confess: I’m not the best user of social media. While I have a website and I keep it roughly up to date, I very rarely tweet and I haven’t posted on Instagram in five years. I do share stories via Facebook and I have used Facebook to solicit ideas and sources.

How much of a role do PR professionals play in your work and how?
I always appreciate good PR folks and how hard they work to set up interviews and make my job easier. My sister, a photographer, and I collaborated on the book “Walking Philadelphia: 30 Walking Tours Exploring Art, Architecture, History and Little-Known Gems,” which was published in 2017, and in the acknowledgements I give specific thanks to two local PR mavens who always make my job easier and are a pleasure to deal with. I get a lot of PR pitches by email – mostly related to my work with The Star-Ledger – and I try to respond to most of them. What I often have to stress is that while I may love an idea, I’m not going to write it unless I get the go-ahead from a publication.

I also want it know that if I say I’m going to pitch an idea, I’m going to pitch that idea. I don’t make money unless I write so it’s in my interest to tell stories. There is no need to bombard me with emails.

That said, if I know I won’t be able to find a home for certain ideas, I will politely pass on them. It’s nothing personal against the PR folks. It’s me trying to use my time well.

What advice do you have for PR professionals when dealing with the media?
Keep your pitches short and to the point. You’ll get more with honey than vinegar. Deliver what you promise – I pitched a story based on what a PR person told me, got the go-ahead from a publication – and found from reporting that the actual information was far less special and significant. I still wrote the article but the editor was not happy with me for over-promising. It made me look bad and, when that PR person has pitched me since, I’ve been more likely to ignore it.

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing for money?
I’m crafty – not in the way the Beastie Boys’ sang about, but in the sense that if you gave me a glue gun, I could build you a house. Many years ago I took one of Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic workshops and I’ve been covering the walls in my backyard, my neighborhood and in friends’ yards ever since.

My latest mosaic project – on a neighbor’s wall on Montrose Street between South 5th and South 6th streets – has become a real neighborhood bonding project. I’ve incorporated 2×2 tiles made from photos sent in by different neighbors so we have people, animals, special places, plants, etc. on display. It’s been amazing to meet new people and make new connections. We’re currently planning our official mosaic “unveiling” for late June. You can follow the mosaic’s process here.

Philly PR Organizations Partner on Formal Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion

The Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA Philadelphia) are pledging their commitment to diversity and inclusion formally, publicly and together. The organizations believe cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment is a long-term commitment to the future of the public relations profession.

Diversity is a broad concept that includes race, ethnicity, gender, religion/beliefs, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, marital status, veteran status, parental status, socioeconomic status, professional background and other unique attributes.

“As a leading professional organization, PRSA Philadelphia has the responsibility to make sure that we reflect our diverse membership and create opportunities for all to be involved,” said Martha A. Gaston, APR, PRSA Philadelphia President. “We are pleased to partner with PPRA on this important Diversity and Inclusion Commitment to the public relations and communications community in the Philadelphia region.”

“Being more inclusive is something that is important to the Philadelphia Public Relations Association and our members,” said Nina Scimenes, PPRA President. “We are proud to have worked hand-in-hand with PRSA to solidify this commitment and put it into action through the programs and services we offer.”

Inclusion is the harnessing of diversity so everyone is valued and has the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in the profession.

The board members of both PRSA Philadelphia and PPRA will pursue diverse and inclusive environments for programs and special events.

As of June 1, each organization commits to the following goals when planning programs and special events, executing membership recruitment and retention campaigns, creating communications materials and beyond:

  • Venues – Securing space that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, accessible via public transportation and is welcoming to all people.
  • Speakers – When securing speakers for programs or special events – especially for roundtable or panel discussions featuring multiple people – be sure to keep in mind a healthy balance of diversity.
  • Menus – Will take dietary restrictions into consideration when planning event menus and will provide attendees an opportunity to make a special request when registering for an event or program.
  • Communications – When creating messaging on behalf of the organization – from social media posts to newsletters to news releases – be mindful of using language and images that are culturally sensitive and appropriate.

Moving forward, each association will continuously strive to be as inclusive as possible by weaving diversity into the fabric of its day-to-day operations.