Category Archives: Orlando

AP Style, The Mother Tongue of Journalism

A couple of recent experiences here at CBR reminded us about the importance that journalism training plays – or should play – in public relations careers.

The first was a post on noting changes in the 2013 Associated Press Stylebook. That brought back a vivid memory for me from my days as a freshman journalism major.

On day one, our wizened journalism department dean gave us one assignment — memorize the AP stylebook. He was the first of many instructors and editors to refer to the stylebook as the journalist’s bible. Of course, that would be bible with a lower-case “b”. The word Bible is capitalized only when making reference to Scriptures in the Old Testament or the New Testament — it says so right there on page 31 of  the AP Stylebook (2011 edition).

The newest stylebook edition, published May 29, 2013, tells us, among other things, that it’s now okay to use numerals for all references to distance and dimension, e.g. a 3-mile stretch of road, a 9-pound hammer.

So why should the public relations industry care about such minutiae?

The answer is as simple and fundamental as anything we do. In order to communicate our clients’ key messages effectively, we must connect with our target audience. Just as we must learn the ins and outs of effective social media communications, we also must learn to speak the native language of the newsroom, and that’s AP style.

Reporters and editors often look for any excuse to spike (trash) a news release, and finding a glaring AP style mistake provides an easy one.

The second thing that got us thinking about the symbiotic relationship between journalism and public relations was our realization that some college public relations programs do not require a journalism course as part of their core curricula.

We’re back to basics on this one, too. Despite the ever-changing media landscape, there is a set of standards and ethics at the core of the journalism profession that defines news and drives day-to-day operations at every television news station and newspaper. Public relations professionals must have a working knowledge of those core standards and ethics.

As Florida’s premier media relations firm, we understand that public relations professionals — new and old — benefit from knowing as much as possible about the journalism side of the equation. Providing newsrooms with what they are looking for — timely, newsworthy, relevant, quirky items — written in their language improves our chances of getting our clients’ stories told.

It’s an integral part of our job here at CBR and one we do well.

Robert Perez is vice president at CBR.

A Tribute to the Amway Arena

The Amway Arena in downtown Orlando had many names. Orlando Arena. TD Waterhouse Centre. O-rena. But what was once the home of the Orlando Magic will be no more Sunday. In 2010, the then 21-year-old Amway Arena was replaced with the new, state-of-the-art Amway Center. Now, the old facility is set to be imploded to make way for a 68-acre mixed-use development called Creative Village. I asked a few CBR staffers to share their memories of the arena, and here’s what they had to say:

  • “I went to my first-ever concert (Jimmy Buffett!) for my 13th birthday at the O-Rena. I’ll never forget singing at the top of my lungs to favorite songs and the packed house. Concert goers were bouncing beach balls around the crowd and smells from the concession stands wafted in – nachos, popcorn, pretzels. I was fortunate enough to see Buffett three more times at the old arena – some of my best memories.” – Martha
  • “Sitting courtside with my son in the Orlando Sentinel publisher’s seats, then immediately adjacent to the Magic bench, when a Magic player came up and asked him to “watch” the talcum cone (players use it before going onto court). Same game, advising my young son about the possibility of “colorful language” coming from the players and coaches, then watching his face when it actually happened.” – John
  • “I remember going into the yet-to-be-completed arena to pick out the location of our Magic season ticket seats for CBR. I was pushing the stroller of my baby girl, Christiana, who is now a high school chemistry teacher. I brought my mom to the opening night event, which was Bill Cosby.” – Lori

I also hold fond memories of the arena. After all, it’s where my high school graduation was held. Then it was known as the TD Waterhouse. My parents, grandparents, sisters, uncles and aunts were all there to support me, but all I can remember thinking about was not falling as I crossed the stage to accept my diploma. But on a more serious note, my graduation at the arena marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and one that I was excited to venture on.

Tell us, what memories do you have of the Amway Arena?

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.

Ringing in the New Year at CBR

CBR staffers have a little extra pep in our step. Why, you might ask? Well, let’s just say Santa was really good to us. Not only is CBR the public relations agency of record for two more national accounts, but our role is expanding with a NYSE-traded national account we’ve been privileged to serve for nearly two decades. And the year has barely begun!

Now, we don’t like to brag, but we just had to share. 2012 is starting off right for us and we hope for all of you. Despite continued economic uncertainties, we are optimistic that 2012 is going to be a stellar year for the industry and for our wonderful clients. Cheers!

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.

Landing a Job in Public Relations: It Takes More Than an Internship

Someone once told me that, to get a job in public relations, you need to have an internship. But to get an internship, you must have experience. It’s a Catch-22. So, how did I overcome it, and how can you? Let me tell you…

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of speaking with some PR students from Rollins College at the annual professional networking roundtable hosted by Communiqué, a student chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA).

(Pop Quiz: Do you know which university CBR CEO Lori C. Booker graduated from? You guessed it! Rollins. Lori was the first person to graduate from Rollins with a degree in PR.)

There are a few nuggets of information I want to share with you and ones that I hope the students walked away with Tuesday. I think you’ll find some of these apply to the PR professional as well as the student.

  • Get involved. Orlando is unique in that the area has two, strong public relations organizations – FPRA Orlando and PRSA Orlando. There are a wealth of resources right at your fingertips – whether a student or PR pro looking for a job. My point to you is to get involved and then get involved at a higher level. Yes, it’s great to be a member, and it does look good on a resume, but I guarantee you will find more benefit in actually getting involved on a board or committee. Don’t have time? Offer to write a press release for your church or a school organization. It’s only a couple hours of your time and will be something to put in your portfolio. I think this especially applies to those who may have already graduated but have not found a job yet. Volunteering will help keep your skills up and show a potential employer dedication and commitment to your profession.
  • Be passionate.  Love what you do because if you don’t, it will reflect in your work. If you’re passionate about your job, clients will feel it and so will reporters. I have heard reporters say that if a PR pro comes to them with a story idea that they are genuinely passionate about, the reporter is more likely to listen and write a story.
  • Enjoy college. Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to hit the books, but it does mean don’t stress about the little things (i.e. getting your G.P.A. up from a 3.8 to a 3.9.). Grades are important, but potential employers will be looking for more than just your G.P.A. Enough said.

So, how did I get the experience needed to get an internship to get a job? I got involved with the PRSA student chapter at the University of Florida, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It truly was an honor to sit next to some of my fellow PR pros and speak with the students about their future careers. If you want to learn more about a possible internship or job with CBR, visit our Careers page.

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.

The Other Side to Orlando

Oct. 15-18, Orlando will welcome the largest gathering of public relations professionals in the world at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) 2011 International Conference. Now, I know when most people think of Orlando, thoughts of roller coasters and  character meet-and-greets dance in their head. But there’s another great side to Orlando, and I’d like to share with you  what mostly only locals know.

A few miles east of the theme parks down Interstate 4 is Downtown Orlando (client). And what better way to kick back and relax than in the DTO.

After a long day at the conference, I’m sure you will have worked up an appetite, and you won’t want to miss some of the fine food Downtown has to offer. From Irish pubs to upscale restaurants, there’s a wide variety to appease any appetite. Hungry yet?

Under the bright city lights is when you really can feel the pulse of Downtown. Historic Church Street and Wall Street Plaza are home to a number of great spots, but there also are other top entertainment spots, including dueling pianos, a comedy club and theaters, to fit any mood. And, with Halloween fast approaching, check out Downtown’s Ghost Tour for some real spooky encounters. There’s even a Haunted Pub Tour. Think you can handle a drink with the paranormal? I’m already starting to feel the chills. Let’s move on…

Photo Credit: Orlando Downtown Development Board

Unlike many downtowns, don’t worry about parking here. Covered and surface lots are easy to find and conveniently located just a few steps from Downtown’s hottest spots. There’s even a parking app called Orlando parkIN’. (Download it in the iTunes or Android store.)

If you’re here before or after the conference, the DTO is just as fun during the day as it is at night. Check out the Lake Eola Farmer’s Market on Sunday or get your tickets to Sugarland’s concert on Oct. 20 and experience the state-of-the-art Amway Center. Maybe you’d like to indulge your senses at A Taste of Thornton Park or explore your creative side at the Third Thursday Gallery Hop, also Oct. 20. It’s OK. You can do that, too.

Want some laughs? Check out SAK Comedy Lab. Tired yet? There’s much more to do!

In the center of Downtown is the iconic Lake Eola Fountain at Lake Eola Park. Did you know you can rent swan-shaped paddle boats? The fountain recently underwent a major renovation and now, when the sun goes down, the majestic fountain lights up and music can be heard throughout the park.

Photo Credit: Orlando Downtown Development Board

What’s more, you can get a great view of Lake Eola and all of Downtown with a skyline tour. This takes you up 16 stories to the top of The Plaza and provides a 360-degree, bird’s-eye view.

It’s all right here in the DTO.

I could go on and on. There’s just so much to see and do. But, let me leave you with this: You won’t experience Orlando unless you go to the DTO.

Christina Morton is an account executive specializing in social media at CBR.

Get off the sidelines

Local media mentioned a statistic today that has me riled. Instead of getting the help they need, those asking for a handout are being tossed in jail. At last count, more than 230 panhandlers were arrested in just one Central Florida community during the past six months. It’s a vicious cycle of jailing people in need instead of helping them get back on their feet.

It’s also a matter of compassion and community.

Many panhandlers (though admittedly not all) are homeless or on the brink of living on the streets and are simply trying to come up with a few dollars to provide for their families and put shelter over their heads for the night. Homelessness is at epidemic levels in Central Florida. In Seminole County alone, the most affluent county in Central Florida, nearly 1,800 students are homeless, forced to live in cars, hotels or worse while trying to stay focused on their studies. That’s unacceptable, and the number continues to grow. Supporting our fellow citizens vs. simply tossing them behind bars is not only the right thing to do toward encouraging self sufficiency, it also costs taxpayers substantially less.

According to the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, it costs $925 per homeless arrest for processing, $90 per night and $250-$300 for court cost/fines. And that’s just the beginning. According to Seminole Behavioral Healthcare (client), a local mental-health organization, caring for an individual with a potentially life-threatening mental illness costs as much as $150,000 a year in a state hospital and $50,000 in a jail. In contrast, providing care through a crisis stabilization unit like the one run by Seminole Behavioral and others costs $28,000 a year.

Want to help? Get involved. Volunteer at a local shelter or organization, or through your place of worship. Collect canned goods for local food pantries (check out SCPS’ Families in Transition’s website for sites in Seminole). Write a check or donate a gift card for groceries and clothing. DON’T simply pass by the woman or man holding a sign asking for help. Central Florida organizations are working hard to find a permanent solution to homelessness, through communitywide efforts such as the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and Seminole County’s new Community Conversation on Homelessness.

Get involved.

John Babinchak II is vice president at CBR.

Remembering 9/11 as an employer, consultant . . . and as a mother

Last night, I watched several television news anchors try to describe what it was like to be live on the air when the second plane hit the World Trade Center. They each sifted through their memories with the facial expressions of victims recalling a crime. They described how their minds fought to process the events as they unfolded and how there was no frame of reference to tie it all together and make words come out – words which didn’t reflect their inner turmoil and dawning terror. Handling media and public relations for clients in Orlando and beyond,  I’ve stood countless times before news cameras. I know what it’s like to suddenly have your words fail on live television or radio. But I doubt I will ever feel the weight these journalists felt trying to make sense of something so outside the realm of our then reality.

Like most people, my eyes were glued to the television that morning, horrifically mesmerized by the repetitive images. The skyscraper burning. People leaping for their lives. Another plane strikes the towers. Then something else hit:  the realization that I needed to respond to the roles in my life:  employer, consultant, mother.

I gathered CBR’s employees around the conference room table. People of various faiths joined hands and our agency vice president led us in prayer for the victims, for our country and for our families. We had never prayed together before, and I glanced around the table to make sure everyone was comfortable with this.  We were all in unchartered waters that day. Prayer did help. We caught our breath and talked next steps.

First, we reached out via email to our fellow IPREX partners around the world. If this was the beginning of a war, how many of my colleagues would be impacted? If I sent the staff home, was it more dangerous on the streets? Reasonably assuming that Maitland, Florida, was probably not on the top ten list of targets, we then offered our assistance to our 60 fellow firms on six continents. We offered to handle forwarded phone calls and emails, draft press releases, serve as a check-in office for their employees, to assist in any way we can. We thought about our friends at Makovsky & Company, our IPREX partner with offices in Manhattan. We prayed for a client with offices in the second tower.

Then we thought about ourselves.

Calls to spouses and children lit up the outgoing phone lines. I jumped in my car and dashed off to my daughter’s high school across town while my husband sped to our twins’ preschool, only to be met at the door by a team of heavily armed police officers in flak jackets. Yes, the war had touched down in our small hometown. Attacks by unknown forces required that Maitland’s finest immediately protect the building where our children attended preschool:  the Jewish Community Center.

I found the halls and classrooms at Trinity Preparatory School to be eerily empty and quiet. I tried to calm myself as I searched for my 13-year-old daughter. Nearly out of breath, I finally found all of the students and faculty in a packed auditorium with the headmaster, alone on stage talking in a calming voice. Frantically trying to locate Christi in the crowd, my eyes set upon a slightly built small boy, probably a sixth grader, wearing a silk white yarmulke. On the other side of the auditorium was an older child wearing a white, cotton turban. The school represented a cross-section of the diversity of our community.

The lone voice of reason from the stage was saying things like, “What happens today, right now, defines our school. We don’t know who was responsible, but we know it was not the people in this auditorium. We are Trinity Prep. We are this school, this community. Do not make rash accusations and speak from hate or we are no better than the people who hurt our country today. We are better than that.  We are still the people we were yesterday. We must join together and remember who we are and stand together as our nation and our school deals with this tragedy.”

The scene was eerily familiar. It reminded me of that poignant scene in the old Charlie Brown Christmas show, with Linus standing under a single spotlight on an empty stage reading from the book of Luke. It was that quiet. That moving.

Until I noticed that the same little boy’s shoulders had begun to shake as he sobbed. Sniffles erupted throughout the auditorium. Teachers tried to hide their own tears as they forced assuring smiles to the students who looked to them for strength.

And there was Christi, who seemed to sense that I was nearby. She turned to the back of the auditorium and all was right with her world, and mine, for one brief moment that only a look between mother and daughter can bring.

Lori C. Booker, APR, is founder and CEO of CBR and is a respected media commentator.

Orlando internship to new hire

CBR Public Relations offers paid internships for college credit and I should know – I was a summer intern at CBR in 2009. Obviously, I’m not writing this as a current intern, but as a full-time employee. So, how can you make the transition from intern to hire? Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Put a smile on your face. OK, I know this sounds cliché. But employers want to know you have a good attitude, show enthusiasm for your new position and most importantly, show a willingness to learn. If you’re constantly looking at the clock, making comments about how long the day has been or complaining about not getting the “fun” assignments, you might as well keep your desk as plain as it was when you arrived. Throughout your internship maintain a positive outlook and use the time as a learning opportunity.
  2. Showcase your strengths. The public relations industry is constantly evolving and as professionals, we tend to take on new responsibilities as the client needs them. Tell your new employer how proficient you are in design programs or how much you enjoy – well, you fill in the blank. This could be your opportunity to bring something new to the company and most importantly, to the client.
  3. Be professional. You are now representing the company you work for. As an intern, you will be asked to join client meetings, listen to conference calls and actively participate in staff meetings, but you might also be given some not so glamorous assignments. Treat each task as a learning opportunity and a chance to show your employer how well you handle yourself in any situation. Believe me – it will pay off in the end.

While these are only a few tips to help put you ahead, they don’t necessarily guarantee a full-time position. There are a million factors that come into play and you should be prepared for any of them – good or bad. My advice would be to make each day count. Show your new employer how well you complement his or her company. It might count for more than you realize at the time.

If you would like more information about CBR Public Relations’ internship program, please visit our website or send your resume and two writing samples to

Brittany Hobbs, Business Development, CBR Public Relations

CBR wins Statewide award for PR excellence

CBR Public Relations is proud to announce its most recent honor – the 2011 Award of Distinction in Public Affairs, presented this week at the FPRA Golden Image Awards in Naples. The FPRA Golden Image Awards is a statewide competition recognizing outstanding public relations programs throughout the state.

The honor is the second for this particular grassroots campaign. CBR received an Image Award earlier this year from FPRA’s Orlando-area chapter.

CBR salutes its team of professionals for continuing to raise the bar and exceeding clients’ expectations. For more information about CBR, please visit our website or check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

Achieving my APR: No Visa Required

This January, I decided to take a step forward in my career as a public relations professional. After reading up on the process and having a moment of panic over the intimidating journey before me, I took a baby step and went to a seminar about how to achieve Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). Surrounded by other Orlando professionals who had accomplished this distinction, my competitive side kicked in and I resolved to forge ahead.

Becoming an APR is a true mark of professionalism in the public relations field. The designation has been earned by just 5,000 PR professionals nationwide since it began in 1964 – less than three percent of the total PR professionals in America. Following months of studying and a two-part examination process, I’m happy to report that as of June, CBR boasts two APRs.

The APR credential is overseen by the Universal Accreditation Board, a group operated by the Public Relations Society of America. Candidates must successfully complete two phases – an oral presentation of a personal case study to a group of accredited peers and a very lengthy written test – before the UAB will grant accreditation.

What exactly does having the letters “APR” after my name mean (besides that I passed)? According to PRSA, these top professionals have a “fundamental knowledge” of communications theories and strategies, they are well-versed in strategic planning and implementing PR programs, and have a “commitment to professional excellence and ethical conduct.” For our clients, it shows not only that I will think strategically and put together measurable, successful public relations programs for them, but that I have clearly demonstrated this ability to the leaders in my profession.

Or, if you ask my parents, it means that I’m now “certifiable.”

Martha A. Gaston, APR, is an account executive with CBR.