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Event Recap: Obtaining and Enhancing a Career in Corporate Communications

On February 24, IABC NJ, together with Rutgers University and the Rutgers PRSSA chapter, hosted a panel session on “Obtaining & Enhancing a Career in Communications.” Bob Varettoni, Director, Corporate Communications at Verizon; Sandy Charet, CEO of Charet & Associates; and Deidre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, participated on a panel to offer advice for PR students and professionals.

Each panelist had about 10 to 15 minutes to discuss the most important career advice based on their own professional experiences. Here are the highlights of our panel session, as posted on Deidre’s website.

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By Bob Varettoni

Observing George Washington’s birthday today, I can’t tell a lie:

When my colleagues on the IABC-NJ Board, Kristin Federico Nestor and Jeryl Turner, first suggested a professional development event called “Obtaining and Enhancing a Career in Communications,” I thought a more honest title might be “Finding a Unicorn and Teaching It to Fly.”

After all, great comms jobs are hard to find and harder to excel at. And the ever-changing nature of what a career in communications looks like these days is not for the faint of heart.

But Kristin and Jeryl are fearless — and well-connected. They’ve lined up two of the industry’s best to lead an informal panel at the Rutgers University School of Communications & Information in New Brunswick on Wednesday evening, Feb. 24.

When it comes to “obtaining a career in communications,” there’s no better expert than Sandy Charet, who has been recruiting for the PR and corporate communications industry for over 20 years. As president of Charet & Associates, based in Bergen County, she has led her firm to grow along with the changes and developments in the communications industry. She regularly places top talent in fields such as digital content, integrated marketing, social media, employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.

When it comes to “enhancing a career in communications,” there’s no better expert than Deidre Breakenridge. If you were at IABC-NJ’s spring social last May, you know she’s an entrepreneur and the CEO of Pure Performance Communications. A 25+ year veteran in PR and marketing, Deidre is the author of five Prentice Hall and Financial Times Press books. Based in New Jersey, she speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of PR, marketing, branding and social media.

As keynote speaker at our chapter’s spring social, Deidre asked, “Are You the Modern Day Communicator?” She stressed that the future of communications is now, and emphasized how as communicators we must drive that future. Sandy has also been a friend to our chapter. At a career development seminar this past July, she encouraged the audience to work with purpose and passion, pointing out how job candidates are often more concerned about salary and title. She closed with a favorite quote from Confucius: “If you choose the job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I’ll have the pleasure of joining Sandy and Deidre on the panel at Rutgers on Feb. 24. I plan to provide the perspective of someone who has been lucky enough to have spent a long career in communications. I’ll likely mention the value of professional development, and the value of organizations such as, well, IABC-NJ.

With constantly updated skills and a supportive professional network, you may find that building a career in communications really isn’t unicorn-impossible. It does take some work, though. It might be right up there in difficulty with finding true love and making it last.

But I know that’s possible too. After all, I was reminded of this just yesterday, on Valentine’s Day.

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Cutting through all the clutter is no easy feat in today’s connected world. If you want to reach your target audience, you’ve got to be strategic and maximize every opportunity. Eric Wright and Mike Bako of DS Simon Media recently shared valuable insights on the art and science of selecting the right spokesperson to represent your brand.

Authenticity is key.
Your spokesperson needs to have relevance and a connection to your campaign that goes beyond money. They also need to be comfortable with your product or brand.

Negotiate important details during contracting.
Make sure you and your spokesperson are on the same page when it comes to your media strategy.

  • Will your spokesperson be able to travel to a particular location?

  • Do they have any time, health, or other restrictions that could limit their availability for certain activities (i.e., media tours or meet-and-greet sessions)?

  • Are there ways to leverage the spokesperson’s availability to support internal communication initiatives for employees?

Practice makes perfect.
Always test your spokesperson to make sure they are camera ready. Provide talking points and have your spokesperson practice them until they sound natural. Take the opportunity to tailor the messages for local media markets. Also, spend time rehearsing sound bites for trade and print stories.

Be strategic when pitching to producers.
Highlight the visuals you can provide to maximize the appeal of the story, like the location, costumes, or props. Emphasize any personal connection your spokesperson has to the local market.

If you anticipate producers will want to talk to your spokesperson about other topics during the interview, discuss this prior and ask them to set aside 30-45 seconds of the interview for your messaging.

Take advantage of seasonal tie-ins and current events.
Consider when your campaign will run and how you can tie-in themes or current events to maximize relevance. Just make sure your spokesperson has a strong connection.

Capitalize on your spokesperson’s signature.
Is your spokesperson known for having a unique way of dressing or communicating? Do they have a compelling personal story to tell? If so, incorporate these elements into your campaign in a creative way.

Be ready to handle crisis situations.
Always have a backup plan in case negative coverage appears about your spokesperson.

  • Think about shifting your story to other elements of the campaign.

  • When necessary, pitch an alternative spokesperson. This is especially important when your spokesperson is synonymous with your brand (i.e., Progressive Insurance, Subway).

Leverage your media results on social media channels.
Share media clips to expand the reach of your campaign. This action will support future efforts by providing “proof of concept” to producers and highlighting the appeal of your spokesperson.

Thank and promote media outlets that ran stories about your brand. They’ll appreciate your sense of reciprocity.

Link to presentation: IABC FINAL Spokesperson Selection Presentation.

You can reach our presenters.

Our thanks to IABC member, Suzanne Grogan for writing this event summary.

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Once a child begins to talk, they are “coached” to be polite, look the questioner in the eyes and speak clearly and loudly. Somehow as we grow older, this most natural of activities can become something that we dread.
Katie Karlovitz, an IABC web-caster and principal of On Speaking Terms, recently provided a wealth of knowledge on preparing yourself for public speaking (large and small groups) and interviews.

1. Know your audience. Ask questions to calibrate your message. Who exactly is out there?

  • How many are there?
  • What generation (age range) are they?
  • What’s the gender ratio?
  • What’s the average educational level?
  • Are they here because they want to be?
  • Her mantra is: It’s not about you; it’s about your message. 


2. Be prepared.

The better prepared you are, the better your delivery will be. Don’t fake the preparation or look at your notes for the first time on the way to the event. When you’ve done your homework, you’ll have the power of stage energy.  Without it, stage fright. It’s entirely up to you.

Don’t forget to ask about the room you’ll be presenting in. One of the biggest wild cards for speakers is the room and the audiovisual setup. Leave nothing to chance.  Ask to see photos of it so you know what to expect.

3. Have a secret.

Everyone has something already going for them that they can use to help them when speaking in public. When you know what yours is, you can anchor the heart of your message in that quality. For example, you’re good with facts and see how they fit into the overall picture; you can tell an entertaining story to get your points across; you look and dress well – you are healthy and it shows or you’re confident in your work or subject matter.

4. Men and women communicate differently.

We need to be aware of those differences and communicate accordingly.

5. Write for the spoken word, not the written one. They are similar yet entirely different.

Less is more.

One final note, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken!” – Oscar Wilde.

Karlovitz slides IABC-NJ – FINAL.

Look for Katie’s soon-to-be published book, Blaze Away; Dynamic Presenting & Speaking Skills for Everyone that details her coaching technique, and is highlighted by client stories of remarkable results.





On Speaking Terms with Katie Karlovitz

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Join IABC NJ and Katie Karlovitz, founder of “On Speaking Terms” who will be compressing her four week IABC webinar series on Professional Communications Skills into an interactive workshop.

The program covers the basics of live presenting including on-camera technique and podcasting along with styling choices and nutritional support for the speaker.

To help tailor the presentation, please fill out this questionnaire and return to katie@onspeakingterms.com no later than Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

Join the event.

Join IABC today to take advantage of member only rates!

About Katie

At the heart of it all, I love to coach and to encourage people to speak up and be heard. My technique stems from lessons learned as a professional actress, director and narrator. They are classic lessons made contemporary for modern audiences. My upcoming book, Blaze Away; Dynamic Presenting & Speaking Skills for Everyone outlines the technique, highlighted by client stories of remarkable results.

Please join Katie and peek behind the curtain on a sometimes-scary subject.

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Students can attend the entire session on Sunday October 18 for $20

Hear the latest thinking from communications leaders

If you’re a student interested in a communication-related field, you’re in luck. The IABC Heritage Region Conference, held this year from October 18 – 20 in Baltimore, is offering a special discount for student attendees.
Attending the conference will give you access to communication leaders, thinkers and doers who can challenge, stretch and motivate you to make the most of current and upcoming opportunities in the communications field.

Network with communication professionals from across the region

The conference attracts a diverse group of top-tier professionals in a variety of communications professions. You’ll be able to make meaningful contacts by utilizing the opportunity to network with professionals and connect with peers.

Challenge yourself

The IABC Heritage Regional Conference is a high-level forum designed for communications, public relations and marketing practitioners of all levels. Spur your creativity and generate innovative ideas with some of the leading thinkers and communications leaders in the region. This year’s conference promises great opportunities through keynotes and interactive sessions that will engage your communications muscle, refine your practice, and help you shape your career.

Student discounts apply throughout the conference

Students are encouraged to stay for the full conference, Oct. 18-20, for a discounted fee. The full conference provides students with a wide-array of communication topics to explore alongside communication professionals from around the Midwest and East Coast.

For more information, visit the conference website section on for students. or contact Marie Kilbane Seckers, IABC Heritage Region’s student relations chair.

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By Bob Varettoni

Have you read the recently published Go Set a Watchman? One of my favorite writers, Harper Lee (see here), had originally submitted this novel for 
publication in 1957.

Her editor, Tay Hohoff, was enamored by the childhood flashbacks in the novel, and she recognized Ms. Lee’s obvious talent. But Ms. Hohoff also recognized a weak plot, and she encouraged the extensive re-write that eventually became To Kill a Mockingbird.

The two novels offer the same voice, many of the same characters and the same writing style (take that, Truman Capote), but they are vastly different in their appeal and impact.

Every writer needs an editor, and every great writer craves constructive criticism.

That’s why I’m excited our IABC-New Jersey chapter is sponsoring a writing workshop by none other than Ann Wylie on Sept. 21, 2015, on the Fairleigh Dickinson University campus.

Ann, who would no doubt delete the “none other than” in the previous sentence, is the author of more than a dozen learning tools that help people improve their communications skills, including RevUpReadership.com, a toolbox for writers. She also helps communicators find new inspiration. Her bio itself is an interesting read, including the highlight that “Ann’s popular writing workshops take her from Atlanta to Amsterdam, from Boston to Brussels, from Hollywood to Helsinki, and from Portland to Paris.”

And, on Sept. 21, she’ll bring her writing workshop to Madison, N.J.

Sign-up information and details are posted on Eventbrite, and we are offering tickets for this full-day workshop at below-market prices (especially for IABC members). It promises to be a great kickoff to another great season of professional development events sponsored by IABC-New Jersey.

The best part? This is the kind of professional development program that can benefit everyone.

Even the next Harper Lee.

Bob Varettoni is VP-Finance for IABC-New Jersey.

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A proposed marriage, where one partner might be on the fence or even openly hostile to the prospect, can be a lot like a merger or acquisition – a topic explored by a panel during an April 8 professional development program presented by IABC New Jersey. The program, “Mergers and Acquisitions: Strategic Communications Planning,” presented by IABC NJ on April 8, at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

An audience of communications professionals and students from FDU’s corporate communications program were entertained and informed by a panel of three M&A experts, who also engaged in a lively Q&A session following their presentations.

It’s important to remember there’s a difference between a wedding and a marriage, said panel moderator Kristina DiPalo, founder and principal, Elysian Communications LLC. Similarly, a merger or acquisition culminates like a wedding but the culture and relationships involved in the new union must continue to be cultivated, as in a marriage. She identified four stages of a merger or acquisition:

  • Launch Preparation – the 60 days before the countdown.

  • Countdown to Close – the final 30 days before closing.

  • Working as One – the first 60 days following closing.

  • Operating as One Culture – the 60 to 180 days following closing.

“Don’t over-focus on Day 1,” DiPalo said. “Each stage is equally important. Sometimes, companies ease up on the gas too soon after a merger or acquisition. That’s the period to lean in, to communicate more to maintain continuity.”

A merger or acquisition, she continued, “is one of the few times you have the complete attention of senior leaders, so take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen your communications functions. Communicate through a range of media … and experiment with social media. Find as many opportunities to be transparent and build trust.”

Panelist Stacy Quinn, director of internal communications, Black Rock, said it’s essential to give employees the opportunity to be part of the conversation by engaging them in two-way communications through a variety of media, including:

  • An online Q&A site

  • Various events and gatherings

  • “Rounding,” where senior leaders make the rounds by walking through work areas and talking with employees about their concerns and listening to their feedback

  • A candid senior leader blog

“Be sure to provide timely answers,” Quinn said. “And leverage the feedback to improve the transition.”

In addition, she suggested the newly combined organization  think about its employees into distinct audiences and identify the transition’s likely emotional impact on them – from rank-and-file employees who might lose their jobs and their understandable apprehension to longtime employees who, fearing dramatic change, might need help moving on.

Panelist Stuart Katz, president and executive producer, Elm City Communications, offered some key steps on “how to avoid a migraine,” including:

  • Manage expectations related to speed, quality and cost

  • Determine the approval process for communications – and get it in writing

  • Use technology to simplify the process. Wistia, for example, is useful software to garner feedback for a video before its release when preparing, for example, to communicate a merger or acquistion. [more needed here perhaps … such as, a pre-merger video, or a Day One video]

By exercising transparency, Katz said, “Employees will understand the thought and rigor used to drive the transition.”

In summing up her thoughts, DiPalo said, “Ultimately, employees and customers are not only the most affected, they’re the ones who will decide if the merger or acquisition is a success or failure.”


Click here to view Kristina DiPalo’s presentation

Click here to view Stacy Quinn’s presentation

Click here to view Stuart Katz’s presentation



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Are you a “know-it-all”? Have strong opinions? Known as the “resident expert”? These were some of the questions raised during IABC New Jersey’s Feb. 3 professional development program on developing thought leadership’s role in an organization’s communications.

When we think of thought leaders – Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, even Taylor Swift – those who impact society may come to mind. These individuals are all thought leaders to some extent, but let’s focus on thought leadership as a business strategy.

There are a lot of definitions out there. People use jargon to declare themselves thought leaders because they wrote a book or have an occasional speaking gig. So, what exactly is a thought leader?

Joel Kurtzman, a Senior Fellow at the non-partisan think tank Milken Institute, created the term “thought leader” and defined it as, the difference between content marketing and thought leadership is that you’re not just trying to further knowledge – you’re trying to further a discussion that leads to action.

Program moderator Jeanine Moss, founder and president of Turning Point Solutions, provided practical advice and a better understanding of how to position yourself or your organization as a thought leader, the impact, importance and benefits. The reasons for doing so are varied and can include:

  • Awareness of expertise – more inquiries about it

  • Higher and faster close rates – better demonstrate your expertise

  • Higher fees – differentiate your expertise

  • Generating revenue from new prospects and existing customers

  • Building reputation/brand as insightful, innovative thinking

  • Talent retention, attraction and development

  • Business growth

David Polinchock, Director of AT&T Big Data team, brought the story to life and introduced the audience to his successful path to becoming a thought leader. He showed how thought leadership is about engagement, interaction, influence and, most importantly, understanding your audience and what’s in it for them (WIIFM).

Todd Grossman, CEO-America of talkwalker, discussed successful thought leaders and how they maintain their prominence. Practical advice included what can and should be measured, and examples of how to get buy-in and support from the C-Suite.

The Q&A portion of the evening covered practical steps towards become a thought leader – doing it right and getting best outcomes; measurement specifics, and the caveat that consistency, collaboration and flexibility are just some points to keep in mind.

Our next event on Social Media Trends and Best Practices will be held March 5 at Rutgers University. Look for your e-invitation.

Resources: http://bloomgroup.com/ –Thought leadership marketing and http://amecorg.com/ –International association for the measurement and evaluation of communications.

You can find our panelists in cyberspace:

Jeanine Moss –@MarvelousIdeas

Todd Grossman –@toddgrossman

David Polinchock – @polinchock; http://blog.polinchock.com

Click here to view Todd Grossman’s presentation

Click here to view Jeanine Moss’s presentation

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