The One Question You Should Ask Everyone You Meet

February 10th, 2016 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

At the risk of dating myself, who else remembers “The Sunscreen Song?” The track was put to wax by Baz Lurhmann during


the summer of 1999 and features lyrics taken from a hypothetical commencement speech penned by Chicago Tribune Columnist Mary Schmich. The tune features some great pieces of advice. Specifically, though, it features the following advice about advice:

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

I love that line. Dispensing advice is a way of fishing from the past, taking the best parts and reusing it. While this line and the majority of the song was written with the personal aspects of life in mind, I’ve found it applies to the professional aspects of life as well, especially when you work in PR.

I mean, it makes sense, right? PR is a soft science. Sure, the numbers are hard, but the data often leads to different interpretations and you can’t learn much about what we do from a textbook. The best way to learn is to take on advice from those you respect and those in places you aspire to reach. Whenever possible, I ask the business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs I meet to share with me the best advice they have ever received. You’d be surprised how much insight such a simple question can yield.

I recently kicked the question around to my B&O colleagues, as it relates to PR, and got some interesting responses. Hopefully, some of these can help you on your own journey.

  • “Lead by example. Worry about the details. Never rest on your laurels.” – Simon Jones
  • “Never make promises you can’t keep – especially to a reporter!” – Natalie Pridham
  • “Always put yourself in the shoes of the person of who will ultimately receive what you’re working on. It helps distinguish between what’s valuable and what’s unnecessary.”– Vanessa Krooss
  • “Don’t use ‘I’ in email. We’re a team!” – Sophie Sieck
  • “Leave your work at the office and go live your life. The work will always be waiting for you when you return.” – Drew Smith
  • “When messaging: don’t position just on speeds and feeds. Clients – above all else – worry about resolution of their business problem. Start there, and then explain how your offering helps their needs.” – Tris Clark
  • “When pitching by email, get straight to the point and state your news as fast as possible.” – Julia van Broek
  • “Take credit for the work you do! It’s totally fine to give yourself a pat on the back for doing a great job when the opportunity presents itself. Besides … if you or your team doesn’t take credit for doing a good job, your client may swoop in and take it from under you.” – Chris Navalta
  • “Try not to take things too personally. It’s easier said than done when you’re passionate about your job. But know things will ALWAYS GO WRONG in our industry. Rather than let it deflate and derail you, try and focus on what you can learn and take away from the experience so you are better armed to deal with the situation next time.” – Kris Reeves

And the best advice I’ve ever received? Remember cool songs written during the years before you were of legal age to vote. They might help you write a blog post one day!

(This post previously appeared on Above The Fold.)

8 Reasons Why PR Agency Pros Will Miss “Mad Men”

May 19th, 2015 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

Did you watch the series finale of Mad Men? It was exactly what you’d expect from the modern classic – emotional, compelling and wrought with existential crises. But perhaps most important, it delivered a fitting conclusion to the tale of Don Draper – arguably The Golden Age of Television’s most “difficult man.”

For those who work in agency life, the end of Mad Men allows for a different type of mourning, for we are no longer able to see elements of our profession represented during prime-time. Here are thoughts from me and several of my colleagues — all huge Mad Men aficionados and PR agency veterans — regarding what we appreciated most about the show as well as what we will miss:

  • “I will miss having a reference point for explaining what I do for a living to family members. My explanation usually goes a bit like, ‘Have you ever seen Mad Men? It’s sort of like that, but not at all.’” – Nicholas Porter
  • “I’ll miss seeing Don create campaigns on the fly. At his best, he’s a brilliant strategist who cuts through the clutter, drills into what the client wants and paints a vivid picture that sells the consumer on the client’s product. Heinz ketchup. Jaguar Cars. Coke. The stories he spun were inspirational. Now, on the other hand: Don at his worst? That’s a different story…” Michael O’Connell
  • “I will miss seeing the collaborative process on the small screen! Seeing individuals working together in one room to bring ideas to life was always my favorite part of the show.” – Jen Bonney
  • “I will miss watching Peggy Olsen’s career trajectory and her struggle to be taken seriously. It was inspiring.” – Gaby Berkman
  • “I will miss seeing the reality of agency life on television. Change is the only constant in this world and Mad Men exemplified that as each big idea or opportunity led to a new agency, and a new challenge for the core characters. The show demonstrated how smaller, more nimble agencies like Sterling Cooper Draper Price – and PAN – best serve clients by staying ahead of the curve.” – Shelly Runyon
  • “I will miss how the show used 1960s culture and historic events to tell modern stories that agency professionals and ‘civilians’ alike could relate to. I also loved Megan!” – Alyssa Miron
  • “I really enjoyed how spot on the series was when it came to 1960s pop culture references. It was a fun tour through history that felt more like “real life” than what we were taught in school or learned from our parents.  But the number one reason I will miss the show? Joan! – Nikki Festa
    • The show did a great job of capturing the décor and the attitude of the times.  My first agency job in was in a heavily smoking office working with a guy named “Sterling” who, in some ways, was a lot like Don Draper. I’ll miss the protypical agency characters. My favorite Mad Men scene: the picnic in an early episode where Don, Birdie and the kids have a picnic outside in a park. Instead of cleaning up the trash when they leave, they just pick up the blanket, dumping and leaving all the garbage all over the ground, and drive off. My second favorite scene: the birthday party/cookout with the kids wearing plastic bags on their heads and shooting guns at each other and not a single parent being concerned. I could relate to Mad Men—and that’s what I’ll miss most. It was like watching memories from my childhood – Tim Monroe

What will you miss the most about Mad Men? Feel free to share!

(A version of this post previously appeared on PRSpeak.)


Hitting the Deck: Untraditional Networking with 1000Pirates

November 13th, 2012 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

If you claim you don’t love pirates, my claim is that you have no soul.  :)

Entrepreneurs, start-up founders and tech gurus are certainly among the many who adore these swashbuckling heroes, and rightfully so, since they have plenty in common.

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending Boston’s 1000Pirates networking event. Yes, the event is as random as it sounds – a night where business folks are encouraged to forgo traditional networking in favor of donning pirate costumes and partying. A few days later, I recounted the experience and what I learned from it in a post for my agency’s blog. Today, I learned it was the most trafficked post our site received during the entire month of October. (I also got this nifty little block trophy and a gift card to Starbucks for the achievement!)

I’ve decided to share the post for you all here as well. Happy reading..ARRRGG!!!

Hitting the Deck: Untraditional Networking with 1000Pirates

Indie Film’s Not Dead, It Just Needed a (Social) Kick in the Ass

March 30th, 2012 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

When it came time to bring his passion project to the screen, indie film maker Dom Portalla wasn’t counting on a venture capitalist to swoop in and save the day. Instead, he turned to the crowdfunding platform IndieGogo to turn his latest vision into reality — an approach a large number of  independent directors are now taking.

I caught up with Dom to discuss his upcoming film “Nicky,” the role of social media in independent film and the the most rewarding aspects of his profession.

Name, rank and why we should care?
Dom Portalla — writer, director, cinematographer and editor for Door Eleven Productions. Fans of independent film should care because we at Door Eleven are fully committed to delivering the most interesting low-budget cinema to the Greater Boston area.

Dom Portalla of Door Eleven Productions

Can you tell us about your latest project, “Nicky?”
“Nicky” has been a passion project of mine and Ken Flott’s (actor/co-writer/producer) for the past several years.

Ken had been writing “Nicky” as a short story and posting it in increments on Myspace while we were making our first film, “Duality”, back in 2006. He came across an image on of a little boy wearing a tuxedo and standing outside of a women’s restroom. Don’t ask me how, but from the image, he immediately formulated a story of a man who lost his little brother in a kidnapping who was never able to get over it.

What really drew me to the story was the profound sense of sadness in the narration. We’ve all had terrible events happen in our lives which cause us to grieve, but one day you wake up and it’s just an idle Tuesday at the office – life goes on. For “Nicky’s” main character, though, this didn’t happen — his entire world sort of ended the day his brother disappeared and he seemingly became disconnected from everything but his own sense of guilt.

I’d find myself checking online more and more frequently to see what new chapters had been posted and even giving Ken the third degree on set to try and find out in advance what would happen next or what left turns the story would take. Years later, I took a stab at restructuring and adapting it as a short film and here we are.

Above: The image that inspired Portalla's upcoming film, "Nicky." Portalla developed a full-scale "crowdfunding" campaign which included a personalized video pitch from his production team as well as test-footage from the film.

Since starting your career in film, what role has social media played in bringing your art and ideas to life?
Social media has provided me the opportunity to connect with those seeking an alternative to mainstream cinema.  It has helped us develop and foster an audience which is crucial when you’re an obscure name in the process of establishing your niche.

It has been particularly useful at this stage in my career when seeking financing. Crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo allow filmmakers to independently raise funds by making a pitch and offering incentives to encourage donations. It is also a great way to include people in the process by involving them on the ground floor.

One thing I’ve always believed is that when it comes to the arts, particularly film, you vote with your wallet. That is why I have upwards of 1,000 DVDs as opposed to a crowded hard drive full of pirated flicks. I feel compelled to put my money where my mouth is. In the same breath, it’s also why I usually refuse to take my lady to see an obviously crappy romantic comedy in a theater. I know if I slap down that $20, they’ll make another equally abysmal film just like it next year and I’d rather not encourage that. Crowdfunding and social media invites everyone to be a part of the system. Don’t like what we’re selling? No harm, no foul. But if you see potential, you have the power to turn a pitch into a reality.

How do you see social technology shaping the future of the independent film community?
I think we are only beginning to see the tip of the iceberg with some of the things guys like Edward Burns and Kevin Smith have been doing. They’ve both recently made modestly budgeted films that became profitable without receiving real theatrical distribution or traditional promotion because they have tapped into a “direct-to-fan” market via social media. The same can even be said with dozens of different recording artists who are able to record and distribute their own music on their own terms without a record label fat-fingering its way into the creative process. Social technology allows us to cut out the middleman.

Now, with Edward Burns and Kevin Smith — one must realize these two already enjoy the luxury of an established audience who will follow them wherever they go. As 90s indie film superstars with tons of Facebook and Twitter followers,  it’s not as difficult to get the word out and create exposure for their projects. However, that is not to say that someone who creates compelling and innovative work can’t rise up from total obscurity and be the next big thing. That ability is purely due to social media.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the career path you have chosen?
Aside from the opportunity to collaborate with some exceptionally talented people and the friendships that I’ve made, watching my films play to a live audience is probably the most rewarding aspect of what I do.

Our last feature, “The Darkness Within”, was picked up by several festivals and I had the opportunity to see it play in different parts of the country which was an amazing thing for me. As a filmmaker, what you want more than anything is for people to see your work, otherwise you’re just working in a vacuum. Making movies with the potential to find viewership is what makes all the hard work worth it and it keeps me motivated to keep doing what I do.

9 New Media/PR Lessons from the Experts at Boston University

March 12th, 2012 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a Boston University College of Communication course titled, “New Media and Public Relations.”

Taught by the PR veteran/thought leader/dragon slayer, Todd Van Hoosear, the 300-level course aims to explore the effects of new media on the fundamental theories, models and practices of public relations. It also covers and uses the interactive tools that are currently redefining the practice of public relations.

Below, I’ve shared nine key take-aways from my audit of the course. These — along with several others — were shared during my live-Tweeting of the lecture. I think even the most seasoned professional can pick up something new, here:

  1. Filter bubbles = dangerous. Our info is being filtered by our friends as well as Google and FB. | #BUNewMedia
  2. Key elements of a successful viral video: brevity, humor and appealing subject matter. | #BUNewMedia
  3. You can’t guarantee a viral video. But, you can maximize its likelihood. | #BUNewMedia
  4. Videos are filmed with 1st, 2nd and 3rd screens in mind — TV, computer and mobile screen. | #BUNewMedia
  5. Pinterest and copyrighting – major concerns emerging as businesses incorporate service into marketing strategy. | #BUNewMedia
  6. Blog comment activity has plummeted in last two years. Convo has moved to social media platforms — where it’s owned by FB, etc. #BUNewMedia
  7. Blogs — really referred to as websites and news sites these days. “Blog” now really refers to content management systems. | #BUNewMedia
  8. Facebook “Like-gating” proven to be a negative engagement tactic. | #BUNewMedia
  9. PR is about telling stories. New official definition [from PRSA] does not get an A+. | #BUNewMedia


Note: Some Tweets listed above were slightly altered from their original form for the purpose of this blog post.

My 2011: A Photgraphic Retrospective

December 31st, 2011 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

I attended several professional development events in 2011 and an underlying theme in each was how the ability to tell stories using images is slowly becoming a crucial skill required of professional communicators.

With that in mind, here we are at the end of another incredible year.  Instead of providing a sentimental retrospective like last year, I instead chose to sum up 2011 with a collection of photos.  As always, this is not all-inclusive, but it is a pretty definitive – a collection of the people, moments and places that made 2011 special for me. Thank you all.

Life on the Cloud: Google Docs for Small Business

November 14th, 2011 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

Can a cloud improve your work day? Save time and resources, encourage productivity and cut overhead? What if it cost virtually nothing? Well, look no further – it’s likely time consider Google Docs.

A cloud-based office suite with data storage capabilities, Google Docs provides free word processing, spreadsheet and slideshow services equipped with menus, shortcuts and dialog boxes similar to Microsoft Office. Google Docs can store any type of file – even those not in Google Doc formats. It also provides 1 -GB of storage per user and allows real-time, collaborative editing capabilities. Perhaps most important, Google Docs allows users to access their files from any computer (or mobile device) – all that is required is an internet connection.

And of course, this is in addition to all the other great resources Google has to offer. Gmail provides easy-to-read threads that are a great for keeping track of conversations and important information. Its calendar capabilities practically mirror those of Microsoft Outlook and G-chat allows instant communication much like AIM. And let’s not forget about the Holy Grail – the company’s outstanding search capabilities.

No more self-emailing documents, wasting time exchanging edits and stalling progress on important projects. Google Docs is an extremely simple way for small business to limit costs and increase efficiency. Don’t be a Juggalo. Get onboard.

This article originally appeared on

True Till Death: How Metal and Hardcore Punk Shaped my Career in Public Relations

November 7th, 2011 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

The hardcore/metal scene is one formed upon community, friendship and progressive ideas. Yes, it has evolved over time, but for the most part, its ideals have remained the same: choosing to focus on integrity, morality and finding light within the dark.


The belief system referenced above also exist in public relations.  Sure, the structure, tools and players have also changed with time, but the message and goals have also remained the same.

Share stories with a positive message.  Value your relationships.  Respect your audience’s trust. Shine a light where needed.

It’s not exactly rocket science. The similarities exist because both communities have important stories to tell. I guess that is why I am a member of both.

Below, is a short documentary on Enjoy The Massacre – a Chicago-based metal/hardcore band whose talent is only surpassed by their passion for life and music. The documentary puts the finishing touches on my above-described ideas rather nicely.

An added bonus – fast-forward to 3:42 to hear about the time my band, The Auburn System, played a crack house in Detroit, Michigan while on tour with ETM in early 2008.

ATTN Gen-Y: This is NOT How You Get a Job (But Here is How You Do)

October 30th, 2011 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

I recently agreed to sit down for a professional discussion with the daughter of an acquaintance. A recent graduate seeking a job in professional communications, like many these days, she was having a hard time in a difficult job market. I was more than happy to help. I took a look at my calendar for the next few weeks and passed along my email address explaining I’d be happy to answer any questions she might have. The next day, I received the following email:

“Hello Nicholas,

NAME WITHHELD informed me I should contact you if I had any questions, in which I do. Just one major important one, are you able to find me a job? Haha.”

Take note, Gen-Y. This is not how you network.

I walked off my Alma mater’s commencement stage during the peak of The Great Recession – so, I know a thing or two about patience and determination as it relates to the job hunt.  It took me years to build my network, but it eventually paid off. Finding your dream position – or even a position at all – requires hard work, hours of research, and most important, respect.

The exchange  described above brought back a flood of memories revolving around the dozens of informational interviews I went on during my job-hunting days.

What’s an informational interview you ask?

An informational interview is a meeting between a job-seeker and a professional employed in your field of interest. The normal rules of a job interview apply – etiquette, proper dress and preparation are absolutely required. However, the purpose of the meeting is not to request employment, but to gather critical information that will help you better market yourself. Consider the meeting a fact-finding mission.

At a certain point, I narrowed down the questions that were most important to ask and provided the most perspective. I’ve included them below:

  • What kind of education, skills and background are necessary for a career in this field?
  • How did you start in the industry? What advice would you offer someone who is seeking employment in today’s market?
  • How do you suggest I build upon my existing resume? What entry-level jobs should I be seeking?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the industry today?
  • Are there any professional associations you recommend I join?
  • Would you be so kind as to recommend someone else who will sit down and answer some similar questions? If so, can I use your name when contacting them?

Along with a little professional courtesy (thank-you notes, etc.) the informational interview can help open doors you never knew existed.  Learn to master them and not only will your employment prospects improve, you can avoid embarrassing faux pas like the one described above.

Advice from the Pros: Four Key Tips for Pitching Bloggers

October 20th, 2011 by Nicholas Porter No comments »

I love networking events. As a PR pro, why wouldn’t I? : )

Last night I attended The Publicity Club of New England’sBlogger Relations for PR Pros” panel at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. It was a blast.

The panel was made up of a diverse group of individuals with varied backgrounds.   Some valuable advice was shared. Below are a few of my favorite nuggets from the night. Enjoy!

  • Only use embargoes as a Trojan to get coverage – then tell your client you’re brilliant” – Jason Keith, SMB blogger,