It seems that bad news is everywhere today.  Turn on your TV, switch on your radio, pick up a paper stories of disasters, tragedies and sadness inundate us at every turn.  For some, it’s overwhelming.  For others, it’s an opportunity to reach out and help their fellow man with acts of kindness and charity.  
But can tragedy and disaster be a means to garnering good PR?  The simple answer is yes…and no.  It’s a complex issue and one that both businesses and newsrooms have been tackling for years.  The events in Oklahoma City, Boston and Newtown are devastating and yet, many organizations have jumped on these events to promote their particular ideology, product or service; and not all of them have been successful in their efforts.
Be Aware:
Recently I had a phone conversation with a local television news producer who complained that too often businesses simply don’t understand how to pitch a story dealing with tragic events.  For instance, in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City tornado, his newsroom received a release trumpeting the fact that a local business was sending donated items in relief for the victims.  On the surface, it sounded like a good feel-good angle.  It was local, it dealt specifically with the big news of the day and it had excellent visuals.  However, after speaking with the business owner it became apparent that the only thing the owner wanted to talk about was the business, NOT the charity.
The producer vented his frustration noting that the story the business wanted to pitch wasn’t about their relief efforts but the business, which was not the point of the original pitch.  The producer admits that the business story, was a good story and one worthy of looking at as a package down the road, but not appropriate for the immediate tornado follow up.  
In this case, the timing was completely wrong.  Had the business owner waited, even a week, the story may have been better received.  What it came across as, though, was a business trying to capitalize on the suffering of others, even if that wasn’t the business’ intent.
More importantly, though, the big mistake this particular business made, as well as many others, is that they misrepresented their story.  Remember, one of the most important tools you have in your PR toolbox is your relationship with newsrooms and journalists.  When you misrepresent a story by pitching one story in a release, and then try to change it during the interview, you ruin that relationship.
Be Up Front:
Had the business in question simply stated in their pitch that they had a product or service that could be of great help during times of disasters, and made certain that everyone knew that was the point of their pitch and their story, there would have been no confusion, and the producers and reporters could have made a better, more informed decision.
In the end, the story never ran, and both parties left feeling slighted, which is unfortunate.
This isn’t to say that small businesses shouldn’t promote their acts of charity.  It’s important to let the community know that you are out there and working for the improvement of your neighborhood.  But be aware that it’s all in how you pitch the story and your ultimate motives for making the story pitch.
Ask yourself, is this story simply about my business donating money, or food or hands in a time of need?  Or am I promoting something else other than just my charitable efforts?  If you can’t answer that question with a “yes, it’s JUST about the charity” then wait to pitch the story another time.
Simply put, stories about charity in a time of need are just that, stories about charity, nothing else.  The last thing you want to do is come off as trying to pitch a commercial for your business when others are suffering.  Here are three very simple rules to keep in mind when considering pitching a story in the immediate aftermath of a tragic event.
1.  Is my story completely relevant to the events at hand?  If not, do not make the pitch.  Newsrooms have enough to deal with during times of crisis.
2.  How is my timing?  Don’t jump on the story the same day, or even the same week in some instances.  During the Boston Marathon bombing, the story wasn’t really over for another few days.  Newsrooms had no time to deal with the follow up stories until the primary story was fully over.  Timing in these situations is crucial and tricky, but you lose nothing by waiting a day or even two, to make sure the story has moved into the recovery phase and to make sure all of your ducks are in a row.
3.  Be clear.  Make sure you pitch the exact story you want the newsroom to cover.  Don’t hide another story under the guise of a charity story.  Pitch only the charity story and mean it.  If you think you have another story that they would be interested in, make a mention of it later if you get a chance to talk to a reporter, but make it clear that the story they are covering is only the charity story.  You can follow up later with an email to go into further detail about your other story, but don’t try to intermingle the two when all you pitched was your charitable efforts.

PR during a disaster or tragic event is tricky.  It can blow up in your face and you can come off looking like a real heel if it’s not done right.  However, when done with pure kindness in mind, it can also be a great boon to your brand and your business.  Ultimately, when in doubt, be charitable and don’t worry about the press coverage.  If you’re doing it for the right reasons, the rewards, and the press coverage will find you.

Circle Fresh Farms needs your help!  They are currently involved in a contest to see which local small business will receive $10,000 to help their business grow.  The contest is sponsored by “On Deck Capital” and will be giving the ten-thousand dollar award to the top vote getter in their Facebook contest.

Right now, Circle Fresh Farms is in the top five, but they need your vote to qualify for the grand prize.  All you have to do is go to the Facebook page link here, and vote for Circle Fresh Farms.  You can also go to the Circle Fresh Farms website for a link to the contest page.

You can also help by posting this blog to your Facebook and Twitter account and encouraging your friends to vote for this amazing Colorado Company.  The more votes they get, the closer they are to the $10,000 grand prize which means they can expand their network and continue to provide locally grown, quality produce for families along the Front Range.

Circle Fresh Farms also supports local farmers by working with a network of farms to grow their vegetables, all of which are currently sold at metro area Whole Foods.

CFF is changing the produce industry, from using less land, less water while still growing the highest quality vegetables available in Colorado.

So help us get the word out and support this great local business!

Not everyone can go viral like “Grumpy Cat”

You’ve seen them.  Those short little videos that end up in your Facebook newsfeed, on your Twitter or that pop up in your emails daily.  From the Harlem Shake to Grumpy Cat, viral videos have become a staple of workday surfing and something called “friendsharing”.

They have millions of views and have elevated ordinary folks into stardom (think “the Bieb” and the guy who did “Gangnam Style“).  It’s tempting to think that just about anyone can create a viral video, and in theory, anyone can.  But in reality, creating a video that racks up millions of hits is, particularly for your business, is very, very, VERY hard.

An Essential Element:

The irony is, your business NEEDS to utilize video, especially on your social media platforms, in order to gain followers, friends and potential customers.

It’s just a simple fact of social media:  You need visuals and video to raise your profile online.

This is where the viral video curse comes into play.  Too often businesses believe they can create a viral video that will instantly make their company an internet hit.  The problem is, it’s nearly impossible to consciously create a video that goes viral.

However, you CAN create a video that attracts viewers, hits your target demographic and effectively promotes your business.

Don’t Try Too Hard:

The internet graveyard is littered with examples of companies that tried too hard to create a viral video, or reach a particular demographic.  Pepsi comes to mind, Coors tried it with their “Code Blue” campaign and Cheetos struck out with their recent “Orange Underground” effort. (click link to see example).  So, even the big boys find it nearly impossible to do.

For your business, however, the first thing to do is remove the idea of creating a viral video in the first place.  Instead, focus on creating a video that is interesting and actually says something about your business.

Let’s start with the basics of creating an online video for your company:

1.  Keep it short – Anything over a minute is less likely to be viewed by the general public.  Don’t use two minutes to say what you can say in :45 seconds.
2.  Don’t TRY to be funny – Humor is subjective.  What’s funny to you might be offensive to someone else.  You don’t want to anger potential customers.
3.  Have a clear message – Don’t let your efforts at humor or viral fame get in the way of telling your viewers what you want to say about your business.
4.  Reflect your personality – If you’re a fun, whimsical restaurant, you probably don’t want your video to be stuffy or stiff.  Show your businesses’ personality in your video.
5.  Don’t scrimp on the details – The worst thing you can do is have awful lighting, bad sound and subpar editing.  It doesn’t have to look like George Lucas directed it, but it also shouldn’t look like a middle school art project.

Two other items you should keep in mind.  For those who are Denver natives, you’ll remember the old Jake Jabs American Furniture Warehouse ads.  I bring this up because one of the staples of viral videos is the use of cute cats, puppies and other assorted animals to attract interest.

You can attempt to use animals in your videos, but remember a few things if this is the way you choose to go.  First, animals are very hard to work with.  Second, using cute animals might look like you’re trying too hard to go viral.  Third, a cute animal might take away from the message you’re trying to deliver.

One last thing.  When you make your video think in terms of volume.  In other words, don’t make just one video, make several.  A single video can be posted and get a ton of hits, but in a short time, people move on and it is forgotten.  If you have seven or even ten short videos, you can constantly post the videos to your Facebook and Twitter feeds and keep people interested and looking forward to new videos.  You don’t have to try and tell a story, just make your videos interesting and informative and you’ll be fine; just have a lot of them.

Again, producing a viral video is nearly impossible because the best ones happen by accident.  Instead make your videos fun (not necessarily funny), watchable, have a message and keep it short and you’ll be able to post videos that will be effective enough to catch the attention of potential customers while allowing your current customers a chance to share something that will draw more attention to your business.  And that is just as valuable to your business than any viral video will ever be.

November 20, 2012 was a Blue Ribbon day for Lu Stasko and her Prima Research LLC, business partners: Jud Cary, Greg Beveridge and Christopher Price. After four years of waiting, investing, and anticipating, the team received its first patent – U.S. Patent 8,315,598. The simple description of the patent is “wireless technology,” but the official title of the patent is: Systems and Methods for Gathering Information about discrete wireless terminals

We are all very grateful for this wonderful accomplishment and are thankful for everyone who helped us along our journey!  The issuing of this patent is made Thanksgiving extra special this year.

Our journey actually started back in 2002 under the company name  The initial idea for our patent came from Mark Longacre, who shared his idea with Lu and asked her if she thought if it was worth a patent.  Lu not only agreed but also assembled the team that successfully filed for the first patent. The idea made it through the two rounds of examination before the patent office informed us that the National Cash Register company (NCR) received the patent on the technology just six weeks before we did.  Deflated but not defeated, we marched on.

The first call to action was to sell the assets – which included the very recognizable four letter domain name,  Our business strategist, Christopher Price, managed to strike a wonderful deal with Benchmark Venture Capital, which in turn, sold the name to Microsoft – we are assuming for a lot higher price then we got in the initial sale!

Once all assets were sold, we reorganized under the new name Prima Research, LLC in 2009.  This time our patent idea made it through all examinations and was issued.  The patent is a little challenging to describe but, we thought it would be nice to let you all in on what made November 20th our Blue Ribbon Day:

The present invention is broadly directed to systems and methods for gathering information about wireless transceiver devices in a defined boundary region. To this end, the disclosure is more particularly directed to gathering movement information (e.g., via detection and location) about two-way end-user wireless terminals within three-dimensional boundaries of defined local space (“DLS”) to allow for selective control of the terminals and other subsystems, as desired. Additionally, the data collected can be used to improve accuracy and precision regarding the prediction of behavior characteristics and tendencies of populations based on a sampling of observed terminals.

Happy Holidays to you and your families.  And remember the next time you think your idea is worth a patent – go for it!

For several months, I’ve been spearheading an effort to help merchants in Lower Highland more effectively market themselves and the neighborhood. After many meetings to share ideas and strategize, we’ve decided to create the LoHi Merchant Group. Rather than organizing under an existing neighborhood organization (such as Highland United Neighbors Inc.) we’ve decided to stay independent to specifically focus on promoting the services and products offered in LoHi.

Though our group is new, we’ve already made strides in furthering LoHi’s reputation as a unique destination. Several merchants in our group have banded together and joined VISIT DENVER, which markets the city to tourists, meeting planners and even potential new residents. As part of the membership, the merchants will be featured on the organization’s website, in the Official Visitors Guide and in brochures displayed at the Visitor Information Center downtown and at Denver International Airport.

We’ve also established committees to tackle such tasks as developing a website for our group and exploring the possibility of starting a shuttle service that would run from downtown to LoHi. Though we have some goals we want to accomplish, our group is still very much a work in progress. At our next meeting we’ll decide what amount to assess for annual dues to help cover expenses.

We meet on the last Monday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Our next meeting is Monday, March 26th at 5:30 p.m. at the Lumber Baron Inn, 2555 W. 37th Avenue. If you’re interested in finding out more, please join us. You can also contact me for more information via email or at 303-477-9902.

As 2012 began, I spent some time reflecting on ways we can bring even more value to our clients. Networking, making connections, and interacting with media can present some of the biggest challenges to professionals and organizations.
With this in mind, I am excited to announce three new services that Stasko Agency will offer this year:
Networking Strategy Sessions:
Participants in this two hour session will learn the art of networking, and why it is so important in personal and professional life.
From the socially comfortable to the very shy, participants will come away feeling more confident about building relationships with people who can be potential clients or business resources. Topics include what to say and do at social events, whom to speak with, and how to use time wisely. Anyone interested in expanding their business or social networks will benefit from this session. Networking is also a great tool for anyone who is job hunting or changing careers.
Rates for this service are based on an hourly fee. 
Resource Builder:
With this new service I will leverage the media and business contacts I have cultivated for years, and facilitate valuable connections for my clients.
We will start with an intake session to determine if there are quality connections in my resource bank. When I locate resources that might assist you in reaching your goals and objectives, I will set up an introductory meeting and will attend with you to better explain why I feel these two people will be a good match. There is always a specific reason why I think people should meet each another, even if it’s not obvious from the start.
Rates for this service vary by project.
Media Training:
My clients often comment that interacting with the media can be intimidating. Our media training sessions will help ease your jitters and guide you through communicating your messages confidently and effectively to the media.
We partner with Scoop PR principal Erika Gonzalez to provide this media training, which includes a primer on how the media works, offers strategies for creating clear and compelling messages, and gives hands-on practice through mock interviews.
A veteran journalist, Erika worked as a reporter for the Denver Business Journal, Boulder Daily Camera and Rocky Mountain News, where she served as a staff writer for more than a decade. She was also a chief spokesperson for the Colorado Lottery, where she was interviewed regularly by a variety of local and national media outlets.
Our media training services are available on either an hourly or project fee basis depending on the number of participants seeking training.
For more information contact me at 303-477-9902 or email

Photo courtesy:

Congratulations to Cellar Wine Bar, which just celebrated its first anniversary. To mark the occasion, we helped the LoHi lounge throw a festive summer party that also served as a fundraiser for the Urban Green Development Sustainable Scholarship Foundation. The foundation is raising money to fund one full-ride scholarship for a North High School student interested in pursuing a career in green and renewable industries.

Cellar Wine Bar owners Brian Delgado and Sandra Lopez donated $1 from every glass of wine sold during the party to the foundation. The cause is especially close the couple’s heart, since they met and fell in love as students at North High. The pair, who married in August 2005, chose to open their business in Highland because of their connection to the neighborhood. As successful entrepreneurs, they serve as role models for current North High students. The anniversary celebration provided the opportunity for Brian and Sandra (pictured below left) to thank the community for its support, while providing a hand up for future generations.

The event drew a big crowd and guests included new North High principal Nicole Veltze, Shapes Salon Owner Richelle Bishop-Gonzales, Denver Public Schools board member Arturo Jimenez, Wine Spectator writer Jayne Russell and Metromix/9News reporter Heidi McGuire.

Thanks to all who joined us for the festivities. If you haven’t already, please check out Cellar Wine Bar, located at the corner of 15th and Umatilla. The bar offers 35 different types of wines by the glass as well as sake, beer, cocktails and Spanish-influenced appetizers, including beef and potato empanadas. A patio is the works, which should provide the perfect spot to while away the remaining summer days.

As many of you know, the best part of my job is that I wake up every day never knowing “who” I am going to meet or “what” wonderful and exciting experience will come my way on any given day. Last Wednesday was one of those days. I had the opportunity to meet one of the most inspirational men I have ever met – Augie Nieto.

In 2005, Augie was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, as it’s more commonly known. The disease has taken a huge toll on Augie physically, but has done little to diminish his spirit. Over the last five years, Augie has raised nearly $27 million for ALS research through his fund-raising campaign, “Augie’s Quest.” Augie and his wife Lynne have partnered with the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s ALS Division to raise awareness through public appearances, speaking engagements, media interviews, and public service announcements. He was here last week to share his story with the Young President’s Organization, which held its Global Leadership Summit in Denver.

Augie was able to talk with me via a computer he controlled with his feet and eyes. He has a wonderful sense of humor and an amazing will to help others. While visiting with Augie – I was moved to tears – – literally – – I can’t express what a beautiful experience it was! Below is a photo I will treasure for a lifetime.

I was privileged to help promote Augie’s appearance and the upcoming ALS fundraiser, The 5th Annual A Gift of Time Mile High Bash, which takes place at Invesco Field on March 19th. Radio host Stephanie Riggs interviewed Lynne about Augie’s work and the fundraiser on her show, Divine Calling, which airs on KRKS 94.7 FM. 850KOA Health Reporter Robbyn Hart also conducted an interview with Lynne, which should air in the coming weeks.

I hope you’ll consider supporting the Nietos’ efforts by attending the Mile High Bash. The event includes cocktails, a silent auction, dinner, a live auction and entertainment. Tickets are $150. More information can be found here.

And please take a moment to watch this footage from the Today Show to learn more about Augie’s story. I am certain it will move you as it did me.

Little Man Ice Cream owner Paul Tamburello found a unique way to drive sales of frozen treats on the coldest day of the year. On Tuesday – when the high was a one below zero – he offered $1 pints of ice cream (two per family) for those brave enough to weather the cold. The deal not only resonated with bargain-hunting ice-cream lovers, but also caught the attention of 9News
and 7News, which both ran stories on Little Man’s offer.

Believe it or not, the chilly deal was so popular that Little Man nearly ran out of ice cream and at one point, people lined up on the sidewalk on 16th Street for what Paul had dubbed the “pink-cheeked pints”! Check out the photos of Paul’s interviews with the stations and customers taking advantage of the offer. You can also view the 9News story here.

We had a great time helping Paul publicize the deal. Thanks to the hearty camera operators for covering the story and the loyal customers who made the offer such a success. Remember, Little Man also has sandwiches, soups and hot drinks if you’re in the mood for something warm.

We’re thrilled to share the news that popular hot spot Highland Tap and Burger is our newest client! The neighborhood eatery and pub opened last September and has been drawing steady crowds ever since, thanks to its friendly atmosphere and food that is several notches above typical bar fare.

If you want to learn more about the mastermind behind Highland Tap’s delicious dishes, check out Westword writer Lori Midson’s interview with Executive Chef Eli Odell here. Several of the restaurant’s signature items were also featured by the Gabby Gourmet as part of her “Food Finds” feature on 7News. Here’s a great pic of Gabby with Eli and Highland Tap Owner Juan Pardo.

Even more impressive than the food, is just how entrenched Highland Tap is in the community. The restaurant sponsors the North High School wrestling team and has hosted fundraisers for A.C.T.S Resource Center and Servicios de la Raza among others. The restaurant has also created a Wednesday night running club, whose members meet at the bar and then embark on a 5K loop around the neighborhood. <!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} —

We’re proud to call Highland Tap a client and can’t wait to help them grow their business! Hopefully, we’ll see you there on Super Bowl Sunday!