Five Things I Learned as a Summer Intern at TPG

5 Things I Learned as an Intern at TPG
By Victoria Vessella, Summer 2014

If I had to summarize my four months as an intern in a word, I would describe myself as a “sponge”—I spent my days at The Perry Group constantly absorbing any new bit of information that came my way. With time and practice, I turned this information into skills that I plan to utilize in future endeavors. Although I gathered numerous skills, tips, and connections during my time as an intern, I was able to condense my summer of absorption into five areas.

First and foremost, I discovered the importance of having excellent written and oral communications skills. This point may seem obvious, but after observing how other members of the TPG team carefully choose everything they write and say, I came to understand that strong relationships and successful strategies are a result of thoughtful and purposeful communication.

Another skill that I cultivated during my internship was research. I learned that preliminary research is often required by the agency before implementing a tactic for a client. As the summer progressed, I became increasingly efficient at finding what I was searching for on the seemingly endless library of information that is the Internet.

After spending nearly four months at TPG, I observed the wide range of industries that PR agencies collaborate with. I found myself becoming an “instant expert” in several fields including technology, insurance, and fashion, just to name a few.

Although I have always had strong time management skills, working at TPG made me aware of the significance of planning ahead. I often found that tactics implemented by the agency are a springboard to another upcoming event, interview, etc. for the client. I also saw the value in following up with clients to see what tactics worked and what did not.

Lastly, I appreciated the opportunities I had this summer to expand my network. Whether it was in the office, on-site, or over the phone, I interacted with professionals from a variety of fields that I most likely would never have connected with had it not been for this internship.

Victoria Vessella is a Junior at Suffolk University in Boston, majoring in Communications. She is studying abroad in Europe for the Fall semester.10559902_10152648435801995_8516427633543790992_n[1]

Marking 5 years in business with 5 lessons learned

Marking 5 years in business with 5 lessons learned

Milestones on the path of life mark a good opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been, how we got here and where we are going. This year, The Perry Group is celebrating our fifth anniversary in business! It’s a milestone I had never really expected as part of my life’s bucket list. In fact, I never expected nor planned to run my own business. After nearly 20-years of working for others, many had urged me to hang out my own shingle, but the thought was terrifying! What if no one wanted to hire me? How would I pay the bills? Feed my family, and put a roof over their heads.

Turns out, life has a funny way of throwing things at you, and yet somehow everything you’ve experienced up to that point, has prepared you to navigate into the future. As I look back to January 2, 2009 – the day we opened for business, the world was a much different place. It was not a good time to start a new business. As you remember, just months before, the financial markets had crashed kicking off the beginning of worst recession since the Great Depression. It was that crash that created the circumstances that led to me to start The Perry Group.

People asked, ‘are you nuts, starting a business in this economy?’ Probably, I thought at the time, but what alternative did I have? No one was hiring full-time employees. But I figured if I could string together a few hours here, and a few hours there for a couple of different clients who might find some value in my experience it would be a start.

Fortunately for me, a Fortune 1000 company needed some media relations help– a strong point for me – and The Perry Group was off and running with a real client. Today that company remains our oldest client and has grown into our biggest client and they will always hold a special place.

So what have I learned in the five plus years since I opened The Perry Group?

First, believe in yourself and your ability. If you don’t, how can you expect anyone else will?

Second, hire the right people who are smart and that you get along well with to work with you. Siobhan and I have literally been working side by side together for more than five years. If we didn’t respect each other’s strengths and genuinely enjoy working together, we might not have survived some of the challenging days and weeks.

Third, always be there for your clients. This is a fine line, but clients that know they can depend upon you, will rely upon you.

Fourth, don’t overextend your business financially. During the economy of the last five years, being fiscally conservative was a prerequisite for our success.

And fifth, love what you do, it makes going to work so much easier, everyday!

We’ll have more “lists of five” in recognition of our five years in business from the rest of the team in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Press Release or News Release?

When I was a broadcast journalist 25 years ago, the term “press release” always bothered me. “Press” was and is an antiquated term harkening back to the days before broadcast journalism. Many PR pros still use the term, rather than the much more relevant “News Release” or “News Conference.” In today’s social media age….use of the word “Press” by PR Pros and organizations speaks volumes about your brand. Simply put, it’s old school. What do you think?

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills

Whether you are tweeting, blogging, writing a speech or writing a news release –the written words that come from your business represent you. Communications that contain poor grammar, scattered ideas, or are full of jargon, reflect on you no differently than if you were wearing swimming trunks to a black-tie affair.

It seems that over time the basic lessons from The Elements Style and the Little Brown Handbook seem to have been lost on many people.

What you say and how you say it are among the ways people evaluate you. Are you trustworthy? Intelligent? Should I do business with you? Buy your product? By the time someone has finished the first paragraph of something you have sent them, they have formed an opinion of you and your company.

Recently, The Perry Group hosted a series of webinars for communications experts with the New England Society of Healthcare Communicators to sharpen their writing skills. Here are some easy to remember tips that can help you too.

• The most important part of every communication your company sends out is the idea. Make sure you have one main idea and it is clear and compelling. Otherwise you are just a wordsmith.
• The best length for a news release is 250 words.
• Sixty-five to seventy characters is the best headline length if you want your press release to be picked up by Google News.
• Don’t fall victim to grammatical or mechanical mistakes – have a colleague proof it!
• Understand your audience.
• And finally, remember, to persuade your audience you must be compelling!

The Cobbler’s Children

Hello again!  It is often said that the “cobbler’s children have no shoes” and often PR agencies fall victim to that same syndrome. So, after a long absence, and a visit to the PRSA International Conference in Washington this week where we realized the soles of our shoes are worn thin, my colleague Siobhan Carroll and I have been motivated to begin writing regularly for “A Good Name.”  We’ll be posting our thoughts, tips and insights on reputation management, marketing and sometimes life in general.

At the conference, among the most interesting observations on the media today, came from Jim VandeHei, Editor of He notes there have been three big changes in the media in the last several years:

  • It is exponentially more diffuse
  • The age of niche media is here (to wit Politico)
  • And people are exceedingly fickle

What does it mean for PR and your company? Simple. Any PR program must have a laser-like focus that concentrates directly on your target audience. The days of scatter-shot PR hoping for a hit on television or a major newspaper mean nothing – if your audience isn’t paying attention to those outlets.

Preparing for H1N1

What would happen to your business if a majority of your employees were hit with the H1N1 (Swine) flu? Do you have a plan in place to keep your company up and running if half of your employees are out sick? Do your employees know they should stay home if they have flu-like symptoms? Have you cross-trained job responsibilities of key employees?
Lately, everywhere you turn people are talking about H1N1. The Harvard School of Public Health recently completed a national survey of businesses that looked at their preparedness for an H1N1 outbreak. Researchers found that only one-third of businesses surveyed believe they could sustain their business without severe operational problems if half their workforce were absent for two weeks due to H1N1. Only 20% believe they could avoid such problems for one month with half their employees out.
Clearly, the majority of businesses are not prepared.
Having a clear communications plan is essential.
Following are some quick steps organizations should be taking to prepare themselves for an H1N1 outbreak:
1. Update your company’s crisis plan.  This includes making sure that everyone on the crisis team is aware of their responsibilities.  Double check contact information for key team members as well as the 2nd and 3rd level team. Knowing how to find people can save valuable time when decisions and approvals need to be made.
2. Begin internal discussions among key crisis team members.  How are you going to monitor the situation? What are the action “triggers” if employees are diagnosed with suspected H1N1?  This is especially critical for those whose operations interact directly with the public – for example, the food service, retail and health-care industries.
3. Develop platforms (e.g. hotlines, dedicated websites) for communicating pandemic status and actions to employees, vendors, suppliers and customers, inside and outside the worksite in a consistent and timely way, including redundancies in the emergency contact system. Let everyone know ahead of time how to find this information.
In the past, employees have often felt that it was a badge of honor to come into work when they were sick. Now is a good time to clarify your company policy and consider having employees stay home if they have flu-like symptoms.
If your company needs guidance preparing a crisis communication plan, The Perry Group has the experience necessary to help.  Being prepared is half the battle.

What’s New for July?

In a bad economy, breaking through all of the negative news can be tough, but The Perry Group has recently secured some nice media placements on behalf of a client with some good economic news for Rhode Island!

Picerne Real Estate Group late last month announced that they have undertaken a $26 million renovation of their Rhode Island properties that will take place over the next two years. The editorial coverage has been great –we were able to secure stories in the Providence Journal, the Warwick Beacon, the East Providence Post and WJAR Channel 10!

Of course, the coverage didn’t just appear. Even when you have a great story to tell there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes – media alerts, press releases, e-mails and a lot of phone calls. All to ensure that the message is as widely disseminated as possible and that our clients are put in the best possible light.