the bubble
Chicago’s #1 Pizza and #1 Soccer Club Join Forces
Bubble, Celebrity, Uncategorized

The Major League Soccer season in the U.S. is off and kicking, and so is a new partnership between hometown team the Chicago Fire and HC client Giordano’s Famous Stuffed Pizza. Giordano’s is now the official pizza of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. (HC announced a partnership between Giordano’s and the Chicago Cubs in February.) HC made the Fire announcement at a pizza party for Chicago Fire Department firefighters in River North, just one block from HC’s office on Hubbard. A big thank you to Capt. Helmold and Engine 42! The event was attended by Giordano’s CEO Yorgo Koutsogiorgas and leaders of the Fire, including team owner Andrew Hauptman, COO Atul Khosla, head coach Frank Yallop and players Mike Magee (League MVP, Forward), Sean Johnson (Member of U.S. Men’s National Team, Goalkeeper), Jeff Larentowicz (Captain, Midfielder), and Harrison Shipp (Forward). Even Sparky, the Chicago Fire’s Dalmatian mascot, came to deliver pizzas to the firefighters. I snagged a photo with Sean Johnson, who just may play in the World Cup this summer. Exciting stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


HC Resolutions for 2014
Bubble, Inside the Bubble

It’s a new year, and who doesn’t love a fresh start? The time-honored tradition of setting New Year’s Resolutions is alive and well at 61 W. Hubbard, Suite 300 – aka Henson Consulting. As the ultimate accountability check, our team has shared its personal resolutions below for all to see, honing in on the goals that most clearly represent the team’s renewed focus for 2014. Learn a little more about each of us, by taking a peek at our plans. With triathlons and marathons on the docket for several HCers, it’s clear we don’t slouch around here!

Kathleen: My resolution this year is to spend more time in the moment and stress less. I like to say “It always gets done,” and I want to enjoy the little moments in my day that make my life so interesting and certainly never dull.

Steve: Get a gym membership, and actually go!!

Carol: Stop sweating the small stuff/things I have no control over… does me no good to worry!

Amie: My goal is to be more healthy in 2014 in three ways – financially, physically and spiritually.

Anitra: Get a sitter for my little girls Elsa and Cecilia once a month to make date night with the hubby a serious priority!

Anna: Express gratitude daily for life’s little blessings.

Amanda: I’ve never been a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions. Typically when there is something in my life that I want to change, I try and take action right away.

Stephanie: Sit around less, do more! Taking time for myself is important, but I’ll feel better in the long run if I watch less TV and actively DO more around the house or pursue other interests.

Kelsey: Completing a triathlon – my friends just pressured me into signing up for one.

Caitlin N: Simplify – and in doing so, buy less and give more.

Jen: Take in and enjoy every moment of becoming a new mom in June.

Julie: Stop sweating the small stuff.

Katie C: My resolution is to explore more Chicago neighborhoods and get out of my little Lakeview bubble.

Victoria: My resolution is to conquer the stack of books sitting on my shelf and read more for fun!

Julia: My New Year’s Resolution is to cross something off my bucket list, such as learning how to scuba dive or doing a triathlon.

Charlotte: I would like to spend more time in the kitchen this year. I’m hoping to become a more confident and adventurous cook, and master lots of delicious (and healthy!) recipes. With my wedding only six months away, the healthy part is imperative.

Katie O: My resolution is to run a half marathon in 2014.

Caitlin M: I plan to run in at least 2 races, and one will be a half marathon!


Say Cheese, Please!
Bubble, Event Planning, PR Insight

Working with an event photographer to capture the spirit of an occasion, and to reflect a client’s brand properly, is something we do quite regularly at Henson Consulting. As the media landscape becomes increasingly image-driven, HC uses photos in many ways post-event: in email follow up with VIP guests and contacts, on Facebook and in Twitter, in new marketing collateral, in outreach to the media to secure coverage, and more.

HC recently captured the scene of an NBA viewing party. Giordano’s Famous Stuffed Pizza – HC client beloved for its Chicago-style stuffed crust deep-dish pizza – hosted the gathering, bringing together Chicago Bulls fans eager to see Derrick Rose return to the court in the 2013-2014 season opener. Rose, who was sidelined by injury last season, is a spokesperson and equity investor of Giordano’s.

There’s nothing better than opening your photographer’s Dropbox delivery at sun-up the following day to find that you have exactly what you need to leverage the event’s success. Here are seven tips to ensure that you get the goods:

  1. Arrive early: It sounds obvious, but it’s critical. Plan a brief pre-event meeting with the photographer to make sure you’re on the same page, regarding the goals of the night. (This is particularly important if you’ve never worked together.) Capture the food, décor and event hosts first – none of these will ever look better than they do at the beginning of the event.
  2. Pare down: Free up your hands, even if that means finding a creative spot to stash your belongings, so that all you have on you is your cell, a clipboard, a spreadsheet of open columns and a pen. (You’ll find your cell phone will actually balance quite nicely on a normal sized clip board.)
  3. Grab those VIPs: Make sure to get photos of event VIPs as they arrive. Don’t delay. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that they’ll get wrapped up in an important conversation that you won’t want to interrupt. Plus, these folks are used to being photographed, so they’ll be expecting a close up.
  4. Take note: Your spreadsheet is your best friend – your cheat sheet for filling in the blanks later. Be as descriptive as possible. In column A, jot down the number of the photo taken. In column B, insert the names of those photographed. (Be sure to have them spell their name for you – even names that you would presume are spelled traditionally.) In column C, write notes, such as “Woman in red dress” or “Man in bowtie.”
  5. Style the photo: Everyone photographed wants to look great, and you and your photographer are the only ones who can ensure this happens. You’re the mirror they’d check themselves out in, if they could! Offer to hold a bulky purse. Snag the napkin that man is clenching in his hand. Encourage them to get closer together in the frame. Then lighten the mood with casual conversation, so they feel relaxed and smile warmly and naturally. And, cocktails and nametags are never classy in event photos so try and avoid whenever you can!
  6. Work in branding: Don’t forget to pay your respects to the brand that brought you all together! Your team has decked out the venue with beautiful posters, tabletops and props, so make it a top priority to work the brand into your shots in a way that’s not flagrant, but rather subtle, classy or fun, establishing your client as the behind-the-scenes orchestrator of the event’s magic – which is the truth, after all!
  7. Edit as you go: How grateful we all should be for digital cameras and the immediacy of the review process. After every subject is photographed, steal 30 seconds with your photographer. Have him or her scroll through the images and together choose the best one of the bunch. Is it 6234 or 6235? Make a note on your sheet, so you can find it quickly later.

Above all, have fun with your role. More than any other person in attendance, you have a great excuse to mix and mingle. Introduce yourself to that contact at XYZ Magazine. Spend a few minutes shooting the breeze with that hot scenester. Then be sure to follow up post-event with… what else? A photo of them looking fabulous!


More than a game. Really.
Bubble, Celebrity, Philanthropy, PR Insight

When you are a high school athlete, you’re always told that the skills you pick up on the court or field will help you later in life. Sportsmanship is something that develops naturally when you and your fellow players are working as a team to get that ball over the net, through the hoop or executing a basket toss that sends the smallest girl on your cheerleading squad flying high in the air. Athletics take trust, cooperation and focus – and a lot of character.

For all the time I spent in organized athletics, today sports are something that I more-or-less consume as entertainment – at home on the couch or, if I manage to plan a little bit in advance, in the stands at the United Center or Wrigley. Sometimes I forget that, for the star athletes among us in this great city, sports are more than just a high-profile paycheck. They’re a common denominator. A conversation starter. And source of tremendous hope to all.

Through my work for HC client Ronald McDonald House Charities, I’m constantly reminded that the professional athletes of the Windy City’s teams are not just red, blue and black jerseys and sports column fodder. They’re fathers and mothers, and philanthropists and activists, and making a real difference matters deeply to them. Despite the fact that they’re constantly shuttling across the country and city, recovering from injury, taking care of their families, and dealing with the extraordinary pressures of over-enthused fans and critical reporters, they honestly make it a priority to give back.

There’s something about picturing a child in the hospital that doesn’t sit well with most people. Babies, toddlers and kids should be playing and smiling, not attached to monitors and ventilators. Not prepping for surgery. The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana serves these children by serving their families – giving them a comfortable, clean, safe and free place to sleep, rest and shower, minutes from their hospitalized child.

The past two weeks have brought some phenomenal athletes into the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s, to spend quality time with these families: Carlos Boozer and Nazr Mohammed of the Chicago Bulls and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks. The energy that their presences brought to the families staying at the House was contagious, and their kindness and empathy shone brilliantly through their gentle, egoless manners.

Athletes are put on a pedestal so often for the records they break, plays that they make and championship rings that they wear. On behalf of RMHC-CNI, and as a mommy myself, I’d like to say a big thank you to the stars among us who create hope and happiness in the hearts of families that need those things more than anything else.


Messaging Mastery
PR Insight

When my husband and I bought a condo in 2007 in Lincoln Square, we felt proud to be investing in Chicago history by selecting a renovated property, instead of new construction. The building, spruced up with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, dated back to the mid-1940’s. This is the oldest thing that I own. The next oldest thing in my possession would probably be heirloom jewelry from my Nana.

That’s why I was utterly floored to learn that the cello played by musician Narek Hakhnazaryan, recent performer at Chicago’s Harris Theater, was built in 1698 – before America was even a dream. Hakhnazaryan – Gold Medal winner of the 2011 XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition – at all times carries with him 315 years of history, quite literally shouldering the responsibility of keeping alive centuries-old music and a rare, exquisite craft. As my colleague Caitlin and I took in his contribution to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s “Horizons” last week (which we promoted for the Harris), it was undeniable. Hakhnazaryan is a master.

At HC, we get the rare privilege to work with masters every day – experts of every field under the sun. Top restaurateurs, fashion stylists, prominent athletes, business executives, government officials and wildly talented performing artists and musicians, such as Hakhnazaryan. Their training in their chosen field often dates back to childhood, and their success is always the result of unwavering focus and commitment.

As PR professionals, our job is to communicate this mastery to the public in a way that produces results for our clients: increases foot traffic to their restaurants, builds buzz about their brands, boosts sales, educates the public, sells tickets. Doing this often requires a crash course in the unfamiliar. When seeking to message mastery, here are my tips for getting in lock-step with your clients:

  • Learn the lingo: Every field has a unique vernacular, an A-to-Zed dictionary of terms and ideas that true “insiders” speak. In order to communicate on behalf of our clients with authenticity, PR professionals must master these words and phrases – their definitions as well as their usages.
  • Ask questions: When getting smart on new topics, put on your reporter hat. Frame your questions with an earnest thirst for true understanding. This will help in two ways – it ensures that you get the information that reporters will want, and it better prepares your clients for media interviews. Warning: Leave your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker on the shelf. Don’t give your clients the third degree. They need to know that you support their goals and decisions. Skepticism makes trust impossible.
  • Don’t fear mistakes: When wrapping your brain around a new subject, and getting a solid grasp of all moving parts, you cannot fear looking the fool. What is truly foolish is pretending that you understand, when you don’t. That will get you in a whole heap of trouble. As you nod “yes” when you should raise your hand and request more info, the client will fail to speak in detail and you’ll return to your desk to type up that press release only to find that your notebook is filled with holes.
  • Tell stories: In the end, we’re judged by our ability to effectively bridge the divide between masters and the masses. To effectively tell our clients’ stories, a good place to start is a solid bio. Whether you take a chronological approach (a good method for stars of business) or a thematic style (to show areas of expertise and passion), remember – weave a narrative that you’d want to read.
  • Truly soak it in: Big lessons can be learned from those who do what they do well. Don’t fail to see the mentors right before your eyes. Note times when they persevered when the odds were against them. Pay attention to pivotal moments in their life’s arch, when they took a chance. And above all enjoy the beauty of what they create. At the end of the day, most masters do what they do in order to reach others with their art. You have an all-access pass. Go for the ride!


Nostalgia’s Favorite Time of Year: Tips for Pitching During the Holiday Season
PR Insight

By Anitra Schulte, Henson Consulting

Anitra Schulte

Frosty department store windows. Sparkling evergreen trees. Freshly baked gingerbread men. A fat man in red, and a jolly ‘ole laugh. We’re all susceptible to the nostalgia in the air this time of year. (I can hear the jingle bells ringing from your Pandora radio—turn it up.)

Even the most cynical reporter or producer has a soft spot for “soft news” this time of year. Chalk it up to the fact that we’ve all been kids…or have kids. Or maybe (return, cynicism), it’s all in the ratings and newsstand sales. But sentimental pitches that might otherwise never see the light of day get special attention around the holidays.

Well, if the media’s feeling extra generous, you don’t have to tell me twice to serve up the goods. The trick is getting your six-geese-a-laying in a row, to pull at those heart strings in a way that pays off for your clients.

Here are a few things to consider, when crafting a little holiday magic during holiday pitching:

  • Feel-good free-for-all: “Good news” stories are a hard sell, 11 months out of the year. When the cosmos open for a brief four-week period, be ready. Have you been pitching a story about a special family, whose endured uncommonly difficult circumstances, without a single bite? Find out how they’re spending the holidays—it might lead you to a fresh angle that’s just what the media is looking for.
  • Stockings, gumdrops, and the like: Some might call it pandering…I call it opportunistic creativity. The bottom line: The media is looking to paint a picture for its viewers and readers—to tell a story that brings home what the holidays are all about. When drafting your pitch, use traditional words and phrases like props on a Christmas pageant stage. It’s just not the holidays without the tinsel. To quote a famous lady (Lucy Van Pelt, A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965), “You know, Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls!”
  • Season’s greetings: The holidays present a perfect opportunity to let the people around you know how much they mean to you. And I’m not talking about your friends and family—they already know you love them. Send a special holiday greeting card to the reporters and producers you’ve gotten know well. It’s an informal way of growing important relationships, and creating good will for all…

…and to all a goodnight.
Anitra Schulte leads a variety of accounts at Henson Consulting, including Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, Giordano’s Pizza, the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. You can reach her at anitra@HensonConsulting.com.

Originally posted at http://www.prnewsonline.com/prinsiders/Nostalgias-Favorite-Time-of-Year-Tips-for-Pitching-During-the-Holiday-Season_17629.html


White After Labor Day: And other rules meant to be broken
PR Insight

Few rules have permeated the public consciousness quite like “Don’t wear white after Labor Day.” Remember, this was once a VERY serious idea. (I vividly recall this being the case in the 1980’s, when far worse crimes against fashion were being committed). However, this rule has fallen from its place of preeminence and now has all-but become synonymous with silly things that hampered previous generations. (I’m imagining my mother carefully, needlessly relegating her white pumps and stockings to the upper echelons of her walk-in closet…)

But before you get too high-and-mighty thinking you’re above such stodgy thinking, take a good look at the PR plan you recently designed for your client. We PR pros also cling to certain strategies when it’s quite possible that their time has passed. These tactics earned their reputation as “musts” for good reason and are still worthwhile tools in our kits. However, some PR rules are beggin’ to be broken. I encourage you to wear a pair of white jeans while reading these:

Rule #1: A press release is a critical component to media outreach.

Why break it? The pitch is what’s important. It’s the brief, punchy, tailored call-to-action that grabs journalists’ eyes and shows that you’ve thought through their needs. A press releases is a formality that isn’t needed when pitching seasonal angles and packaging a segment concept.

Rule #2: Every announcement kicks off with a press conference.

Why break it? Fewer TV crews in the media scape means less of a chance that a camera will come out to your event. Before building an announcement around a podium and speaking program, and tiring yourself setting up dozens of chairs that won’t be used, think of ways to make it easier on the media by providing a customized opp – bring your spokesperson into the studio, or do a memorable stunt that can’t be missed.

Rule #3: The page 1 daily story is the ultimate score.

Why break it? We should all know it by now, but it bears repeating: Most people don’t get their information from print these days. (As a former newspaper reporter, I’m sniffling a bit just thinking about it.) Print is still the ultimate endorsement, but it’s quite possible that you’ll move the needle much further for your client with a TV placement or social media contest.

Rule #4: Give the media the information they need in a strictly business fashion.

Why break it? Sometimes the best way to stand out is to do something special. One time, after sending pitch-after-pitch to national TV morning shows with no response, my team tried a new approach. The customized product mailers we created, with goodies sent to targeted producers, elicited glowing notes of thanks and opened doors that were previously not even cracking.

Rule #5: Metrics are everything.

Why break it? It’s our responsibility to deliver the goods to our clients, and while 9-digit impression tallies are never going to be frowned upon, we can add value in so many other ways – and set ourselves up for success in the process. Diversify what you offer your clients beyond media relations and pursue quality over quantity. Try issuing a consumer survey to see if your messages are getting through.


A Tale of Two Stories
PR Insight

It was the most fulfilling of days, and the most thrilling of days: June 26, 2012. It was the day that all the news in Chicago revolved around two stories – the grand opening of the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House in the morning, and the U.S. premier of the world-treasured Paris Opera Ballet at Harris Theater in Chicago in the evening. From sunrise to sunset, Henson Consulting worked behind the scenes to ensure that millions across America felt the impact of both.

The most of fulfilling of days began at 4 a.m., as the sun rose in Streeterville over at the new 86-room Ronald McDonald House. A beacon of hope just blocks from the new Lurie Children’s Hospital, the 14-story House was built from the ground up to provide a “home away from home” for thousands of families who come to Chicago each year for the best care for their children.

The TV crews arrived one after the other – first CBS, then NBC, then WGN – for their morning show live spots. We hustled behind the scenes to prep the spokespeople for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana for their close ups. Then the masses started to arrive – from families to corporate and governmental VIPs to even more media. We gave tours of the gorgeous house, complete with two transplant floors, a volunteer kitchen and a rooftop garden, then started directing traffic to the ribbon cutting ceremony across the street. As the TV cameras set up their sticks (tripods) and got into position to capture the remarks, our “aha” moment hit. Nothing feels as good as securing widespread coverage for such a worthy cause. By the time Illinois Governor Pat Quinn took the stage, alongside RMHC-CNI CEO Doug Porter and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, HC was floating. Slice went the ribbon, and the House opened. And the day had just begun.

The most thrilling of days began as the clock struct 12, noon that is. As little Max – the beloved fedora wearing champion of RMHC-CNI – counted down the opening of the new Ronald McDonald House from 10 to 1, HC began counting down the hours remaining until the start of the Gala celebrating the first-ever visit to the Windy City of the globe’s most celebrated and storied ballet company. Just six hours remained. Final pitches and phone calls were made and at 4 p.m., exactly 12 hours after the start of the Ronald McDonald House event, HC’s Paris Opera Ballet team donned their black tie best and headed to the modern performance space at 205 E. Randolph in Chicago – Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park

Champagne, glitz and glamour poured through the halls and staircases of the Harris Theater, as Chicago’s finest gathered to see first-rate ballet first-hand. Reporters claimed their press seats and made last-minute requests, and TV crews paraded through with shoulder mounted cameras to capture a piece of the magic. By the time Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the stage, alongside Harris Theater Director Michael Tiknis and Paris Opera Ballet’s stellar dancers, HC was spinning, spotting every revolution to retain the gravity of the landmark cultural moment in our city’s history.

It was an unforgettable day for our firm. One so action packed and intense that it’s only just now hitting us – we were not only part of history that day, but we helped make it happen.


Clearing the cobwebs
Inside the Bubble

Just last week, I returned to Henson Consulting after a lovely maternity leave. The time at home was a blessing and a gift, and I wouldn’t have traded that special time with my little girl Elsa Louise for the world. But when I was up to my elbows in bottles and swaddling blankies, there were some things that I really, really missed about my beloved day job. And some of these things came as a big surprise! So, while snuggles with my new angel are second to none, here are the top three things that I missed about PR while I was learning the motherhood ropes:

Fast Feedback

I didn’t realize how reliant I was on constant feedback until spending 24/7 looking into the beautiful eyes of a baby who can’t tell me what a great job I’m doing as a mommy. In PR, you’re in constant communication with clients and colleagues, and you always know where you stand. Between the lines of emails, and in tone-of-voice conveyed in conference calls, you get cues when redirection is necessary and you get positive reinforcement when you’re on the right track. Though my daughter’s smiles warm my heart like nothing else, I’m not too proud to admit that I need to hear, or read, that I’m meeting expectations in order to truly believe it.

Creative Outlet

There are many ways to mix and match baby onesies and ruffle-bottom leggings, but there are otherwise a fair amount of limitations on how creative you can get with an infant. Their needs are pretty basic — food, sleep, comfort, love and a clean diaper. So I was relieved to find, in my first few meetings back on the job, that I hadn’t lost my mojo. You flex different muscles when getting creative for your clients. Brainstorming taglines, collaborating on logo designs, drafting press releases and creating strategic plans cleared corners of my mind that had been sprouting cobwebs. Maybe I shouldn’t sell myself short in the creativity department at home. I’m sure Elsa would like a few custom lullabies!

Plugging In

I seldom tuned into media in the days and weeks after my daughter was born. My newspaper would stay on my stoop from sunrise to sunset, while I tended to Elsa’s round-the-clock needs. I had no idea if it was day or night, so it’s safe to say I also wasn’t abreast of the latest political and cultural happenings. This all changed the day I returned to work. I snapped up my paper on the way to the train. I checked in on what folks were chatting about on Twitter. I listened in to idle chatter in Starbucks. My ear, formerly tuned only to the baby monitor, is now tuning back into the world around me. It’s good to be back.


Balancing Act
Inside the Bubble

Putting all of my heart into both work and home life is instinctual for me, but finding balance between the two can be tricky. Being a PR professional often requires you to be “on” day and night, yet it’s vitally important not to forget that those who mean the very most to you – your spouse, family and close friends – also crave and need your attention. When work emails and crisis calls come rolling in, at the same time that you’re sitting down to a meal lovingly prepared especially for you, navigating the waters can be difficult. With a lot of grace and patience from your inner circle, and an understanding company, however, it really is possible to juggle.

As a new mom halfway through maternity leave at HC, I’m contemplating what re-entering the work force will look like for me now that my baby girl also depends on me to meet her needs. Being her rock has become my top priority. Talk about a game changer! Luckily for me, HC is run by a CEO who has five young children of her own, who understands precisely what I’m looking to balance. As my return date nears, bringing me back into close relationship with the fabulous HC team and clients that I’ve missed dearly, I’m so grateful for the support that I know is waiting for me there.