AIA President Mickey Jacobs addresses the conference attendees

An estimated 18,000 architects descended on Denver earlier this month as part  of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) convention. Denver has long been known for having world-class architecture and the convention highlighted new ideas and trends in the industry.

The Stasko Agency was lucky enough to be a part of the action, promoting Swinerton Builders, a construction management company that served as one of the primary sponsors of the conference. Swinerton is one of the companies leading the “design-build” trend, which pairs architects with construction firms in collaborative partnerships.  Swinerton Vice President and Division Manager Scott Conrad was interviewed on 9News about the trend.

Design Build arrangements often result in faster builds and lower costs. Swinerton and architecture firm Gensler recently completed two projects in Denver using design-build, including parking structures for RTD’s West Rail Line and Invesco’s Denver headquarters.

Check out the Swinerton website to find out more about how the company is leading new and innovative trends in construction and to see what projects they’re working on in Colorado.  And take a peek at the photos we captured at the AIA convention.

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.
Today’s blog post is submitted by a guest blogger, Duncan Shaw, Producer at KCNC News

Ultimately, you want your story to end up here!

As a journalist my entire life, I’ve can tell you I’ve been asked one question more times than any other;  What makes a story “newsworthy”?  In other words, people are always wondering what constitutes actual news?  I’m sure that to many, the process of determining what is news and what isn’t can seem like a magical, mystical ancient ritual known only to the chosen few huddled over computers in poorly lit newsrooms.
In fact, it’s nothing like that at all.  Believe it or not, there is an actual process that takes place, first on an individual level, then on a group level, and then again on an individual level.
In order to understand how stories are chosen for broadcast, you first have to understand the structure or hierarchy of a newsroom.  While this may vary from outlet to outlet and even from broadcast to print, this is, in essence, the breakdown of most newsrooms.  
Newsrooms are a bit different today
Assignment editors are generally the first line of defense for a newsroom.  Most releases and story ideas are filtered through them first.  They read hundreds of emails and answer countless calls all day while at the same time, keeping their eyes and ears focused on banks of scanners in order to catch any breaking news that might happen.  The stories that make it past the AE’s get passed on to the potential story folder where they are discussed by reporters, producers, photographers and other editors during the daily news meetings.  A handful of stories are agreed upon by producers and managers to be included in each broadcast while other stories may end up in only one broadcast.  
Occasionally, a story will find its way to a producer without going through the meeting.  At this point, the producer responsible for his or her specific broadcast will decide if that story is worthy of being included in the rundown.  In many cases, stories are pitched by individual reporters or others in the newsroom during the meetings.  Eventually, the producers head back to their computers tasked with choosing which stories to include in their rundown and in which order they will run.
But the question remains, HOW do they decide what to include?  How do they determine if a story is really news?  
The Criteria:
In simple terms, most journalists use four basic parameters to determine if a story is news or not.  Each story that passes through a newsroom is run through this gauntlet and if they meet the criteria, the story likely will be included in the producer’s rundown.  If not, it gets set aside, most likely never to be heard from again.  If you have a story you’re pitching to a newsroom, ask yourself if your story fits these criteria:

TimelinessThis seems simple enough.  If a story or event has just happened or is happening “right now”, then it is timely.  If you are pitching a story that happened a week ago, or something that is happening two weeks from now, it is not timely.  The more timely the story, the more likely it is to be news.

ProximityRemember this, all news is local.  The majority of journalists are reporting on a local level.  This means they are reporting for an audience that cares about what is happening in its own backyard, so to speak.  The audience matters.  That’s why a car crash in Denver matters more to local viewers than a worse crash in Ohio.  Your story has to be local, or must have a local tie-in to a national story in order for most newsrooms to pay attention to it.  If you’re pitching a Colorado Springs story to Denver newsrooms, it is much less likely to be picked up than if you pitched it to Colorado Springs newsrooms.

Impact –  Who does this story impact?  Remember that the greater number of the audience that is impacted by your story, the more it is newsworthy.  For instance, while a car accident may be newsworthy, it doesn’t compare to a water main break in the suburbs.  Unless the accident shuts down the highway, the water main break impacts more of the audience.  This is one of the reasons why weather gets so much attention.  A snowstorm impacts everyone in the audience.

WOW FactorThis is where stories about celebrities or sports generally fall.  This category could also be called “uniqueness”.  How unique is your story?  If your story is similar to other stories that have run recently, chances are your story isn’t going to be picked up.  The more unique you can make your story, the better chance you have of seeing your story on TV or in print.

Of course there are other elements that go into the news decision-making process.  Things such as quality of video (hey, we live in a visual society now), national news tie-in’s and whether or not a story has “legs” or multiple levels of storytelling.  HOW you tell the story matters as well.  Does your story have a main character that can be relatable to the audience?  Does it have a protagonist?  A conflict?  A resolution?  All of these things are part of the process.  But to start, if you can start to think like a journalist and consider the four categories mentioned above when creating your story pitch, you’ll find that your stories will have much more success in being picked up by local newsrooms.  

Dear readers: 
Big and wonderful changes are coming to The Stasko Agency blog.  These changes coincide with the many great things taking place for our clients as well as in the LoHi area.  To start, we are adopting a new schedule for this blog beginning today.
Each week this space will have a different focus, designed to keep you updated on what’s going on with our agency, with our clients and in LoHi.  We will also begin offering tips and ideas on how to get the most from your marketing and PR efforts.  We will also be featuring a guest blogger every month.
Here is the schedule, so keep it handy and check back every week for our latest posts and tell your friends and colleagues about us.  As always our goal here at the Stasko Agency is to provide quality information that you can use to help your business grow.
1stweek:  Stasko Agency Client Profile
2nd week: LoHi Merchant Profile
3rd week: Industry Tips
4th week: Guest Blogger

Even before we landed urbandwellers™ as a client, we were big fans of their creative and cool home furnishings and accessories. So as long-time admirers, we’re happy to see them generating lots of buzz for their new flagship showroom. The 1,000-square-foot space opened in the historic Water Tower Lofts in downtown Denver earlier this month and has already scored mentions in The Denver Post, the Denver Daily News and the online version of Denver Life Magazine.

The showroom allows urbandwellers™ co-founders Bruce Littlehorn and Larry Beard, Jr. to illustrate just how well their designs function in a small, urban space. The company’s three main collections— hōm™, flō™, and shīn™—feature products that solve challenges in the urban environment, such as limited space, noise, storage and privacy. Their pieces, which range from custom wall systems to self-contained water features, balance aesthetic beauty with practical lifestyle application. The photos below provide a peek at their innovative furnishings.

Modern in Denver Magazine also lauded urbandwellers’ unique water fountains in its Spring issue, praising the company for “mixing engineering skills with a dose of practicality.”

We encourage you to check out urbandwellers yourself. Tours of the showroom are available by appointment and can be scheduled online or by calling urbandwellers™ at 303-536-5040. Located at 2960 Inca Street, Unit 214 in downtown Denver, the showroom is open Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A big part of my job involves hosting events to help clients gain exposure and form valuable relationships with audiences they want to reach. Now, I’m not going to lie – “party” planning sounds fun, but it’s actually a lot of work! Luckily, the Stasko Agency team helped coordinate two great events recently that went off without a hitch.

On March 10th, we promoted a reception at the Denver Press Club for event planners. The purpose was to raise awareness about what a great venue the historic Press Club is for a variety of gatherings. We’re happy to report that the event was a huge success with several attendees exploring the possibility of booking the Press Club for a range of events – from a monthly business dinner to a jazz event. Just look at all these happy attendees!

I want to thank the following individuals for their support and participation in the event: Bruce Goldberg, President of The Denver Press Club and columnist at the Denver Business Journal; Jen Lester, Board Member of The Denver Press Club and co-owner of Philosophy Communications; and Carmen Green, Press Club General Manager.

I also owe a big debt to my intern, Marisa Stainkamp, who assisted me from the beginning to the end of the campaign and Denise Connor, former president of the Concierges Association, who brought a huge amount of enthusiasm and energy to the table and reached out to the event community. We couldn’t have done this event without everyone’s participation and help.

This past Monday, we used our event planning skills to introduce Highland Tap and Burger to the very influential concierge community. The popular eatery presented a menu tasting for the Concierges Association of Colorado, which includes concierges from the Brown Palace, the Ritz Carlton, the Loews Denver Hotel, and the Cherry Creek Shopping Center concierge desk. The event drew 35 concierges, who enjoyed such Highland Tap specialties as the Cutthroat Porter Braised Short Rib sandwich, Stranahan’s Barrel Smoked Chicken Wings and the Chimi Burger – a 1/3 pound Angus burger covered with aged white cheddar cheese, chimichurri sauce and lettuce. The concierges were also treated to a flight of craft beer. Check out the tasty line-up.

Our goal was to expose the concierges to a place “locals” hang out. The hope is that concierges will recommend Highland Tap to out-of-town visitors looking for local flavor.

Please keep us in mind if you’re looking to organize an event to raise your profile!

Our friends at Highland Tap and Burger are a creative bunch. They’ve worked hard to show patrons that their charming neighborhood tavern is so much more than just a sports bar. In fact, Highland Tap and Burger is turning into a great spot for a variety of gatherings.

Case in point: On February 25th, Highland Tap and Burger played host for town hall meeting and fundraiser for Denver mayoral candidate James Mejia. The event drew a great crowd, who heard the aspiring mayor-to-be outline his plans to improve the local economy and focus more attention on education. Here, Highland Tap co-owner Juan Pardo mingles with James Mejia.

Shifting from fundraisers to fine food – Juan appeared on the Gabby Gourmet show on 630 KHOW the very next day to plug the pub’s participation in Denver Restaurant Week. Highland Tap and Burger is offering a screaming deal – a $52.80 dinner for four, that includes two appetizers, four burgers and four draft beers or house wines. Couples can enjoy dinner for two (one appetizer, two burgers and two draft beers or house wines) for just $26.80. Check out Juan promoting Highland Tap on air.

Finally, on March 1st, Highland Tap and Burger drew more than 30 of Denver’s loveliest beer drinkers for the first monthly meeting of the Crafty Ladies Beer Club. The women’s-only craft beer club will meet the first Tuesday of each month to hear a speaker from one of our fine local breweries discuss all things beer – from how the ale is made to what food pairs best with a certain type of Pilsner. This month, the speaker was Kelly Tretter, a microbiologist with New Belgium Brewery.
The first event was a tremendous success and we look forward to many more festive meetings. Just look at how happy these beautiful beer drinkers are!

With March Madness and Fat Tuesday on the horizon, there’s lots more in store at Highland Tap. To celebrate Mardi Gras, Highland Tap will be offering $4 Hurricanes and $2 Southern Comfort Lime shots.

For more information click here or “like” Highland Tap and Burger on Facebook.

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.

We consider ourselves lucky to work with clients who make our job easy. Take Mountain States Employers Council, which supplied us with a great story to plug for Valentine’s Day. The organization polled its members and found that a whopping 77 percent had employees who met their spouses at work. We thought the survey results were interesting and so did local media, who featured the Mountain States poll in several stories about workplace romance.

Our release about the survey was picked up by the Colorado Springs Business Journal, the Northern Colorado Business Report and Dow Jones News Columnist Al Lewis, who featured the poll on his blog.

In addition, we landed interviews for Mountain States Membership Development Director Lorrie Ray with three television stations and Denver Post business columnist Penny Parker, who lead her Sunday column with the pros and cons of workplace romance. You can read all about it here. Kudos to Lorrie for spending Valentine’s Day making the morning news rounds. She was interviewed on 9News, KWGN’s Daybreak and Fox 31’s Good Day Colorado.

Check out the photos of Lorrie in action. The first two feature Lorrie on the set at Daybreak. Fox 31 Anchor Melody Mendez interviews Lorrie in the second, while the third shows Lorrie getting prepped for her 9News interview with Gregg Moss.

Interestingly, Lorrie was just interviewed last week by 9News reporter Kyle Cabodi about the recent resignation of Douglas County Sheriff Deputy Jeff Egnor. The interview can be viewed here.

With experts on a variety of workplace issues, Mountain States is in a good position to capture more attention in the future.

Our clients are offering something for everyone this Valentine’s Day – from couples who want to start the day toasting with mimosas to singles looking to end the day with a great burger and beers.

Gallop Cafe is giving sweethearts a good reason to get up early, with a Valentine’s Day brunch featuring a blend of breakfast specialties as well as heartier fare. Available from 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., the brunch will also include half-priced wines, two for one margaritas and two for one Bloody Marys.

The Gabby Gourmet gave Gallop lots of love earlier this month during her noon segment on 7News, highlighting such Gallop mainstays as Soul of Autumn Eggs Benedict and Shepherd’s Pie – both included in the Valentine’s Day brunch. Here are Gallop owners Glen Baker and Dave Grafke getting cozy with Gabby on the set.

For those searching for evening options, Highland Tap and Burger is offering a four-course dinner for two, complete with wine and beer pairings. The special Valentine’s Day deal (which is $38 not including alcohol), includes an Amuse Bouche, Two Hearts Salad (fried artichoke hearts, Haystack goat cheese and hearts of palm), and the Surf ‘N Turf burger – a one-third pound burger topped with lump crab meat, grilled asparagus and bearnaise sauce. The restaurant was recently reviewed by the Denver Post’s Bill Porter, who called Highland Tap and Burger “a place for a raucous good time in a sprawling room, a wide range of brewed beverages, and an ambitious menu presided over by a top-drawer chef, Elijah Odell, and a friendly, attentive staff.” You can read the review here.

Of course, if you want to give that someone special a gift that will last a lifetime, consider couples massage classes. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Symmetry Therapeutic Massage spa is offering three-hour massage classes for just $150 per couple. Couples can choose from traditional massage or specialties such as Thai massage and hot stone. Symmetry also has couples massage sessions if you prefer leaving the work to someone else.

We feel so lucky to have so many great Valentine’s Day options so close to home. Happy Valentine’s Day!