5 Unconventional Reasons Why Hire a Public Relations Firm

Different sized companies, private or public, have varying needs when it comes to corporate communications. Whether it is to help message a crisis, improve shareholder value or build brand awareness, engaging a public relations firm may often seem like a no brainer.

It’s also important for any organization to look beyond the obvious to assess opportunities or even threats that may impact business goals. Think of it like a self-tune up that asks the fundamental questions, “What if …” and “What can we be doing better?”

Most small and middle market companies do not have their own communications departments able to perform self-assessments. Using an outside firm may be a good alternative, which also can provide a unique, objective perspective on existing strategies.

As organizations plan for 2023 and beyond, it may be worthwhile to consider these five unconventional reasons for engaging a corporate pr agency:

  • Perception doesn’t match up with company’s values. Media and investor audits, as well as customer and employee surveys, can be very helpful in gauging sentiment. Using a pr agency as facilitator is ideal for determining unbiased feedback that can be translated into effective communications programs.
  • Can’t tell the bigger story. Today’s CEOs, CFOs and CMOs must navigate myriad landscapes that have their own unique sets of challenges. Clearly defining target audiences from Main Street to Wall Street will help ensure message delivery. However, knowing what to say, when and how to say it will move the proverbial needle.
  • Too busy. Organizations have great ideas but don’t always have the bandwidth to successfully implement communications campaigns. While finding a good firm may take some extra time, consider one that can do the “heavy lifting” and free up internal marketing and investor relations resources.
  • Don’t hear the word “no” very often. While a communications firm should be an advocate and supporter of a company’s vison, it is important that the pr firm does not drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. A heathy debate on strategy and tactics will always yield better results.
  • You got this. Like most corporations, good public relations firms, too, should always be learning. We need to be aware of new technologies and strategies, as well as stay up to speed on latest marketing and communications platforms that are constantly evolving. Select a firm that can add both tangible and intangible value to any company, brand or organization beyond its internal capabilities.

Establishing or enhancing share of voice can be a monumental task for any sized organization in today’s crowded, very noisy marketplace. All that’s needed is the right public relations firm with the savvy to develop a cogent strategic approach, mixed in with good ole’ fashioned “out of the box” thinking.

George Medici, gmedici@pondel.com

PondelWilkinson Profiles: Janet Simmons

Every company has that one person who is the “glue” that keeps everyone and everything running smoothly. Janet Simmons is that person at PondelWilkinson. Entering her 15th year at the firm, we asked the Los Angeles native some questions about her professional and personal life as part of our ongoing Q&A series. 

What was your first job?

It was with Bell Industries, working at their manufacturing facility in Burbank. I started out on the plant floor and ended up in the front office, working with the CEO and CFO on corporate communications and administrative matters. Stayed there for 34 years.  

Janet Simmons with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

How long have you been in the industry?

The last 15 years of my career have been with PondelWilkinson. I joined the firm right after I left Bell Industries, which ironically was one of PondelWilkinson’s first investor relations clients. I already knew and loved everyone at the firm, so the transition was seamless. 

If you had to pick one word to describe what you do, what would it be?

Variety. I cover everything … from administrative duties to preparing quarterly analytical reports for clients, issuing press releases, updating websites and more. 

What is your favorite part about your job? 

I would have to say it’s interacting with people. I enjoy working with everyone at PondelWilkinson and with our clients. Even though we are working remotely these days, we always find time to stay connected and enjoy a laugh or two. 

What is your least favorite part about your job?

That’s a tough one. I really enjoy all that I do here, but I’m not a big fan of tight deadlines. I know it’s part of the job, but short turnarounds can be very stressful at times. 

What do you like to do for fun?

I love gardening, hiking and going out with friends.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?

My husband and I recently went on a “Jeep safari” in Moab, Utah. While navigating the Hells Revenge trail, we started to climb a super-steep Lion’s Back, when I jumped out of the moving car and walked back down the hill. I don’t know about being the weirdest, but it definitely wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did. 

What’s something that recently made you smile?

The other day I noticed a squirrel in my backyard trying to get my attention. He was looking at me through my kitchen window, as if to say, “Hey, the bowl is empty, are you going to fill it?” I literally laughed out loud because the squirrel was so animated. Needless to say, I filled the bowl with food, smiling the entire time. 

What’s next on your bucket list?

Washington, D.C. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?

That would have to be from my dad, who often said, “Better to be early than late.” Simple advice, but something I live by in everything I do. 

— Shannon Clemons, sclemons@pondel.com

PondelWilkinson Profiles: Laurie Berman 

PondelWilkinson’s investor relations teams play an important role helping publicly traded companies position themselves to Wall Street. We caught up with Laurie Berman, the firm’s managing director, who shared more about her IR work, personal life and some of the factors that have influenced her career.  

What was your first job?  

My very first job was at a snack bar in a roller-skating rink. Professionally, my first job out of college was working at Institutional Investor magazine in their sponsored conference division.

Laurie Berman, PondelWilkinson’s managing director, pictured with her loving dog, Mishka, as they enjoy the Los Angeles sun.

How long have you been in the industry?  

I’ve been practicing investor relations for almost 30 years (I guess I started when I was still in diapers).

If you had to pick one word to describe what you do, what would it be?  

Fast-paced (that’s one word, right?).

What is your favorite part about your job?  

I love storytelling. It’s so important to be able to find the right words to describe a company and its strategy.

What is your least favorite part about your job?  

Deadlines. Although I work great under pressure, it’s sometimes tough to juggle multiple deadlines at the same time. I’m proud to say I’ve never missed an important one.

What do you like to do for fun?  

I love sports (the spectator kind).  Right now I’m very into football and I am a rabid fan for my NY Giants.  Baseball is also a love of mine, but I switched my allegiance from the NY Mets to the Los Angeles Dodgers when I moved to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago.  I still do root pretty hard the New York teams of my childhood.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?  

I allowed a very persistent relative to convince me to go on a date with someone I briefly dated five years before (it didn’t work out at the time). We’ve now been married for almost 26 years, and that relative was a flower girl at my wedding (she was in her 50s at the time).

What’s something that recently made you smile?  

A few months ago, we rescued an 8-year-old dog with vision problems. She makes me smile all of the time because she’s such a goofball.

What’s next on your bucket list?  

Aside from winning the lottery? I’d love to take an extended vacation through Europe.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?  

Not so much advice, but something I try to take to heart. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

— Shannon Clemons, sclemons@pondel.com

Hitting The Ground Running: An Intern’s Perspective

When I first interviewed for PondelWilkinson’s internship program earlier this summer, I was told that it would be a hands-on and immersive experience. I nodded politely and expressed my interest. I laid out what I had done at school, which I thought made me capable. While I was not completely wrong in my “qualifications,” I learned fast that the real world cannot be taught.

On one of my first days, I was tasked with writing a pitch letter for a client’s new product launch. Easy enough, I did this in class, I thought to myself. So, I found my old professor’s template and went ahead to write an email pitch. I polished it up and sent it along to my supervisor expecting minor feedback. I was not expecting the entire letter to be edited and rewritten. Oh, this is not like school.

As the internship went on, I was tasked with more pitch letters, calls to reporters, and updates for clients. I was not getting the perfect latte ready or organizing file cabinets (although the internship was virtual so that would have been hard to do). I was acting as an associate on client accounts, working behind the scenes.

One element that took some time adjusting was the virtual format. While there are many positives for working remotely, including the flexibility of making my own schedule, there are downsides as well, particularly learning each other’s “schedule” when there is no real office. I am happy to report that the teamwork aspect was not lost. I also got to work alongside my fellow intern where we helped each other on projects and still felt connected, even if she lives in Pennsylvania and I in Maine.

Below are a few tips for new interns on what I found to be successful when transitioning from class to an internship:

Organization. In school I always had a planner where I would write down what I had to do, and then cross it off as it got done. This worked well for my internship, too. I would write down client activities planned for the week and then begin by checking them off once completed. This made me feel productive and helped keep what I was doing organized. What differs from school is there might be urgent items that come in at random times. While school and class have a schedule, the business world does not. What I think I might do during the day could completely change. You must stay on your toes but keep organized while doing so.

Communication. I admit it. I am the student who annoys the professor with emails to make sure I am doing the right thing. I have learned that communication looks a little different in the workplace. A lot of the time management responsibility is left up to me. I must take ownership and trust myself and my work. The good news is there are no grades, and things can always be changed and edited. Communication is still important, but its purpose is to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Work hard, play hard. This is the mantra at my university. Students are expected to produce high quality work, but also relish their college experience. I think this phrase can still be applied to an internship but tweaked just a little. Working hard does not change. I always want to put my best foot forward and exceed expectations. To play hard in an internship, however, means taking a step back and enjoying the experience. I have been able to work with some cool clients who are doing eye-opening things, and also become friends with Lauren O’Neill who was not just “the other intern.”

While an internship is certainly not like school, there are qualities that can be applied to both. I have learned so much more about public relations, even if I have had great classes about it. George was not lying when he said this internship would be immersive, and I am so glad it has been.

Rachel Peterson


Rachel Peterson interned remotely at PondelWilkinson for the firm’s 2022 summer program. She is a student at Wake Forest University studying communication, integrated strategies, and film. When she’s not working or studying, Rachel enjoys going to the beach, watching the sunset, and dancing. After graduation, she hopes to put her skills to use in Vancouver or New York.

How I Thrived as a Liberal Arts Major Interning in the Business Sphere

In my three years as an undergraduate, I have never once taken a business course. So, you can imagine how I felt when, during my first week as an intern at PondelWilkinson, the conversation at the weekly staff meeting quickly turned to non-deal roadshows and corporate access. 

I have been studying as an English major, and I felt that my only skill was being able to edit papers and read quickly. I immediately doubted my abilities and thought I had made the wrong choice. 

But I was wrong. 

One of my first tasks was writing a pitch letter for an AI robotics company revolutionizing the culinary industry. After all the journalism classes I had taken, I thought I had this down. I knew about the catchy introduction, and the importance of making the story seem timely and relevant. The difference was this pitch letter would not be sitting on my computer in an endless list of documents. It would be sent to actual reporters.  

I quickly realized that writing the email was not something that could be done with the snap of my fingers. I needed to fully understand the client and spent a lot of time looking at press releases and news coverage. I also had to research reporters and their outlet perspectives, which helped ensure my pitch letter was reaching the right audience.

Suffice to say, my pitch generated media interest that resulted in a client Q&A published in an industry trade outlet. But it didn’t stop there. There were press releases, client strategy calls, social media programs and even SEO work, among many other of my day-to-day activities. Throughout it all, PondelWilkinson provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate the skills I acquired as a liberal arts major that were applied to corporate communications in the real world.

After constantly going through college, hearing “What are you going to do with an English degree,” I finally feel confident in my decision as PondelWilkinson provided me with the opportunity to do real and meaningful work.

Lauren O’Neill

Lauren O’Neill recently completed her internship at PondelWilkinson and is a rising senior at Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College majoring in writing and communications. 

How PR Can Support Micro Cap and Small Cap Companies

How-PR-Can-Support-MicroCap-and-SmallCap-Companies-Roger-Pondel-and-Shelly-Kraft-article-MCR-Q2-2022

Continuing the Legacy of Cecilia Wilkinson

We recently had the pleasure to meet with Andrea Gomez, a graduate student at USC and recipient of this year’s Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship.

USC Graduate Student Andrea Gomez is the latest recipient of the Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship.

For the past 15 years, the Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to a first-year graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism with an interest in corporate/investor relations and reputation management.

“I can’t thank you enough for your generosity!” said Gomez, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public relations and advertising. “The financial support has allowed me to attend USC without being burdened by financial stress. The Cecilia Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship has helped pay for a large amount of my tuition.”

Gomez shows strong passions in graphic design, marketing and civic engagement. She developed her unique concentration in working for service-driven organizations and is inspired to start a nonprofit organization for foster children one day.

“My dream has always been to work in a nonprofit, advocacy or social justice sector,” added Gomez. “Following and developing my passions led to my career in public relations. Corporate communications is a field that is quickly evolving. I’m so excited to enter this profession that will challenge me and push me to grow.”

Gomez also maintains high grades and already has begun making substantial connections with her professors who have founded nonprofit organizations. It is nerve-racking to enter a new world of education, but Gomez shows great talent, strength and aspiration to become the next front runner in the public relations realm.

“With their passion, purpose and skills, these students truly embody the hope and possibility of the future,” said Willow Bay, dean at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journal about PondelWilkinson’s memorial scholarship. “Your generosity has made a difference for our students today and tomorrow, and I am truly grateful for your enduring support and partnership.”

Best of luck, Andrea!

Aimee Wong, awang@pondel.com

Cutting Through the Clutter in 2022: 5 Tips for Better Listening

Another year into the pandemic demonstrated yet again that more people are online.

According to Statista, 3.6 billion people worldwide were using social media last year, a number projected to increase to almost 4.41 billion in 2025. In the U.S., 82 percent of the populace have a social profile, up from 2 percent last year.

It’s also very crowded on social. About 500 million tweets are posted each day on Twitter. That’s about 200 billion tweets a year. And every day, 400+ hours of content are added to YouTube, which already has well over a billion videos.

The numbers are staggering. A recent blog post from SocialPilot titled “367 Social Media Statistics You Must Know in 2022” puts important social media usage trends into perspective.

Are brands and companies really listening to what people think and want?

All this may seem overwhelming for any brand or organization looking to develop an online social presence. A common mistake we find is that these companies usually do not do the necessary preliminary research: listening.

There’s a difference between social monitoring and social listening, although they work hand-in-hand. Data is pulled and analyzed to better understand a target audience so that effective messaging is used to help a company or brand stand out from what has become what seems like an infinite-amount of social posting.

But how does an organization get started? It’s not that complicated, really. There are lots of options. Here are a few suggestions:

Surveys. Any organization can use polling to glean key trends relevant to a company or brand. Surveys vary in cost depending on size, scope and the audience of respondents, whether they are consumers or CEOs. Asking insightful questions will produce even better results.

Media audits. Knowing a specific reporter won’t necessarily get a story published, but having good relationships with journalists may be used to get unbiased insight into a company, brand or trend. Obviously, this takes time but something to consider when developing press contacts. 

Investor perceptions audits. If a company is publicly traded, perception studies are a great way to learn what Wall Street really thinks about an equity. Interviews with shareholders and financial analysts, along with a review of press coverage and social media can yield valuable insights that create stronger narratives that can help address concerns and enhance valuations.

Google. There are other search engines, but all roads still lead to Google. Heck, it’s the Internet. There is an infinite amount of data that can be searched, categorized and indexed on practically any topic or subject matter. That said, it’s the Web, so proceed with caution.

Social media. To follow or be followed, that is the question. Perhaps in the context of this blog it may be the former. Social platforms are where brands engage with key audiences. A lot can be learned by just “sitting back” and listening to learn more about what people are saying about current issues. There are lots of social media tracking and monitoring software programs on the market. Be advised, however, that while many people are on social media, take into consideration silent majorities that may alter broad consensus.

There are many other tactics for obtaining important feedback. The key is to be creative, and most undertakings can be done under the proverbial radar with minimal cost. Adopting listening campaigns before the launch of any major marketing or communications campaign is a great first step to align proper messaging with goals and objectives.

And it’s not just for larger campaigns and initiatives, but for day-to-day communications as well.. Know thy customer, otherwise communicating may be an exercise in futility, especially in the super noisy world of social media. Better connect with consumers, investors, businesses, customers and partners by knowing what they want and what’s important to them, so that more on-point messaging can be crafted and implemented.

Studies suggest how effective talking points can increase positive responses. Better messaging means better results. A little listing can go a long away in 2022 and certainly beyond.

George Medici, gmedici@pondel.com

Interning from My Bedroom: Lessons Learned While Working Virtually

By Maisey McGinnis

Pre-pandemic, I always pictured what my first internship experience might look like: commuting to a fancy office building in downtown Los Angeles or Century City, sitting around a big conference room table at company staff meetings, and maybe even attending a lunch or two with local reporters, investors or clients. My vision never included working from the comfort of my apartment, sometimes even from my bed.

Instead of commuting during the morning rush hour, I get to sleep in a little longer. The big conference room idea now is me at my desk joining meetings via Zoom. And although I do sit in on meetings with reporters, investors and clients, it is always behind a phone or computer screen.

My experience working remotely will likely continue, at least for the time being. Interning from my bedroom during the last seven months has not come without its challenges, so I thought I would share a few lessons learned:

PondelWilkinson’s Maisey McGinnis at home with her dog Crosby.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you need to clarify three or four times.

For me, the most nerve-wracking part about working remotely was being on my own without anyone at my side to guide or direct me. In my previous in-person jobs, I always had a boss or co-worker in the same room or close by that I could easily ask questions if I was confused or unsure of something. Working virtually eliminates that, so having clear communication becomes even more important. Asking questions – and lots of them – has been crucial in my understanding of what I need to do and how I need to do it. Virtual communication, whether that be phone calls, emails or texts, can often cloud meaning and intent, so making sure you fully understand what you are doing before you start is the key to avoiding unnecessary work.    

2. Check your email often. More often than you think you will need to.

Working virtually takes away from the natural connection people have with each other in person. A co-worker can no longer come to your office or desk and ask if you got their email. Even as an intern, I receive and send what seems like hundreds of emails a day (a few dozen is more likely). With all the work activity, it is easy to glance over and forget to reply to an important email, check the spam folder or hit send on a draft. When email (aside from the occasional Zoom meeting or phone call) is the primary method of communication with co-workers and clients, I don’t think we can check it enough. Refreshing the inbox every 10 minutes or so seems to work well for me.

3. Try to take a lunch break away from the computer.

Since the start of the pandemic, I have invested in several pairs of blue light glasses. Whether they actually make a difference is still unclear (no pun intended), but the amount of daily screen time from remote classes, remote work and general phone usage was concerning enough for me to take action. One of the most important lessons I have learned throughout this experience is the importance of taking lunch – or a break – away from the computer and the blue light. This may include eating lunch on my balcony or taking my dog Crosby on a walk. Breaking away from the computer has been a huge part of maintaining my well-being while working and attending school remotely.

4. Don’t put off your work just because you can.

Since I am not in the office, I can work on various projects at my leisure unless they have specific deadlines. I can start at 8 a.m. on Monday and noon on Tuesday depending on what I need to accomplish for the day. This flexibility is great when running an errand or attending to an appointment. The flexibility, however, also can have a negative impact, especially when I put off updating a calendar or media list and realize it’s 7 p.m. Not having the office space to distinguish between work and home blurs the lines for knowing when to be working. Just because we can do our work at unconventional hours doesn’t always mean we should. Maintaining a work-life balance has been one of the harder lessons learned.

Despite my initial expectations, I have learned more than I could have ever anticipated and believe my experience at PondelWilkinson is allowing me to grow professionally in my public relations and investor relations career. Interning from my bedroom may not seem like the most glamorous experience, but I guarantee I have learned just as much, if not more than I would have in one of the fancy office buildings I originally pictured. 

Maisey McGinnis is currently interning remotely at PondelWilkinson. She is a student at the University of Southern California studying communications, public relations and advertising. When she’s not working or studying, Maisey enjoys hiking, traveling, reading a good book, and taking her Maltese, Crosby, on walks at the park. After graduation, she hopes to put her new found skills to use in Los Angeles or New York.

Protecting Your Brand in an Age of Social Justice

PondelWilkinson’s CEO Roger Pondel was among the speakers of a panel discussion hosted by the Association For Corporate Growth – Silicon Valley that provided keen insight on the impact of social justice movements on corporate brands and reputations. Click to watch the full discussion below.