Washington, DC's official public relations podcast

Flack Pack is the official public relations podcast of Washington, D.C., focused on issues, techniques, news, and topics of interest to flacks everywhere, especially in the Swamp!

Flack Pack logo simple rectangle with hosts.png


Latest Episodes

Everywhere you turn, it’s beginning to look like… the end of another semester of college. Not what you were expecting us to say? Not in school? Haven’t been a college student for how long?

That’s OK. If you’re in PR, you’re surrounded by young talent – college kids vying for a gig in public relations.

It’s a business that thrives with the help of young people, so that’s our topic this week, as we sit down with the immediate past president of the Public Relations Student Society of America, Andrew Cook.

Like you, he’s out of school too, but it wasn’t long ago that he was taking finals and looking forward to graduation.

The Flack Pack wraps up a two-week conversation about the future of the business, as students see it, and the value of PRSSA to aspiring pros still in school.

Even if you’re not a student, you’re hiring them or working with them as interns or freshly minted grads, thus knowing what’s on their minds, and how they see our work, can be helpful when they’re part of your team.

In a way, the Flack Pack is taking everyone to school even as classes are going dark for the holidays.


Public Relations Student Society of America

Andrew Cook

It’s December and if you’re a college student that means prepping for finals and dreaming about winter break.

If you’re not a college student, then you’re probably longing for those days when you could leave it all behind, hop a plane or a train, and head home for three or four weeks of sinking into a couch at your parent’s house, swaddled in the biggest blanket you can find. Those were the days!

We’ve got students on our mind this week, as we check in with a few PR overachievers to see how they’re feeling about the business, now that the semester, and the year, are set to wrap up.

We’re dishing PR with three D.C.-area PR pacesetters—Gillian Casey, Diana Ochoa, and Brandon Johnson. Each is the president of their school’s PRSSA chapter, and each is sold out on the practice of public relations.

These students are smart, plugged in, and focused. And they’re together in studio for a special end-of-the-semester edition of the Flack Pack.


Public Relations Student Society of America

American University PRSSA Chapter

Bowie State University PRSSA Chapter

University of Maryland, College Park PRSSA Chapter

Diana Ochoa

Brandon Johnson

Gillian Casey

Flack Pack got a chance to go to Social Media Week in London! This year’s theme was “Closer." We explored the changes and impact that today’s rapid pace of technological innovation brings about, which includes social media. One discussion we had at the conference is a segment of today’s population that has some important and unique characteristics, and that uses social media pretty heavily. These individuals are called CorpSumers and they can have a big impact on brands and organizations. CorpSumers care about your values and are extremely loyal brand activists.   In this episode, Rebecca Blinston-Jones, Gareth Davies, and Pippa Ellis from MWWPR’s London office share with us why this is a part of the population that you’ll want on your side—and NOT positioned against you.   LINKS:

It’s Thanksgiving week, so naturally we’re talking about turkeys, the kind that visit the White House each year looking to avoid an untimely end as someone’s holiday feast.

The National Turkey Presentation is a PR bonanza for the turkey industry, with reporters lining up in the Rose Garden to report on the annual pardoning ceremony.

Abraham Lincoln spared the first bird, but his successors presumably ate the annual presidential gift until Harry Truman picked up the notion of pardoning the animal for all to see.

Today, it’s a PR event unlike any other and it comes with a Presidential seal of approval.


A White House Turkey Timeline

Angela Greiling Keane

National Turkey Federation

2017 Turkey Pardon News Release

Beth Breeding

West Wing Reports

Paul Brandus

Adam Belmar

The midterm elections are over and you’re probably relieved you’ll no longer have to suffer through a barrage of nasty television and radio ads from candidates blasting their opponents.

It’s true the political fights during prime-time TV have ended, but if you do PR, the fun is just beginning.

That’s because we’re surrounded by politics and as hard as you might try, you, your organizations or your clients may soon find yourselves swept up into a bitter political shoot-out that starts in January when Democrats take over the U.S. House and begin investigating everything under the sun.

It’ll be therapy for them, but could cause nightmares for you.

We’re talking about that happy topic this week on the Flack Pack with Adam Belmar, a veteran political rail bird who has done it all – network TV news, White House politics, and now, agency PR.



Deniers over Definers? Facebook execs make a PR mess even worse

CNN wins Round 1 in court

Adam Belmar

This week, we want to know how any public relations firm could still be working with the Saudi government after reports that people on its payroll murdered and dismembered a journalist critical of its policies at home?

The Flack Pack discusses a Washington Post report listing PR firms that government documents show still work for Saudi Arabia and its agents following the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

And we ask what PR pros should do if faced with this ethical question: Should you put your head down and take the money, or stand up for free speech?

Our guest, Anthony D’Angelo, is the 2018 National Chair for the Public Relations Society of America. We’ll talk about a letter he sent to PRSA members a few weeks ago, and the courage it takes to overcome the ethical challenges facing PR pros today.


Washington Post: This is what Saudi Arabia’s influence network in Washington looks like.

Saudi lobbyists in D.C. hunker down after Khashoggi’s killing.

Anthony D’Angelo’s Letter to PRSA Membership

Anthony D’Angelo

PRSA Code of Ethics

PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards

The Flack Pack honors the Dia de los Muertos with a conversation about Hispanic and Latino public relations. If you don’t speak Spanish, this topic can be as scary as a Trump tweet, but much easier to overcome with the right advice.

Our guests this week are experts in multi-cultural public relations. Christina Borrego is the Public Relations Director at Riester in Phoenix. Jessica Davila-Burnett is the Principal at JDB Public Relations in San Antonio.

They say there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to tackling a multi-cultural communications assignment provided you keep your focus on the audience.

Don’t miss this opportunity to brush up on your multi-cultural PR knowledge with two seasoned PR pros who speak to these audiences every day.

And for more on Sugar Skulls, a key part of all Dia de los Muertos celebrations, click here.

Pew Research Center

Christina Borrego

Dia de los Muertos

Jessica Davila-Burnett

It’s about time public relations people had a holiday to call their own. National Publicist Day is today, October 30th. It’s a day to celebrate what we do as publicists, flacks, communicators, and practitioners. Whatever you call yourself, the Day’s founder, Jordanna Stephen says you should take a moment to recognize the hard work you and your colleagues do every day on behalf of clients and organizations.

Today marks the 4thannual celebration of the Day. If you didn’t know about it, that’s ok. You do now. So get out there and celebrate, right after you listen to this special interview with Jordanna, about our day, and what it should mean to each of us.

National Publicist Day

Jordanna Stephen

Ivy Lee

Mr. Lee’s Publicity Book

Even if you practice PR in an industry where technology is slow to arrive, the day will come when you’ll have to face the tech monster. Good or bad, society’s reliance on the Internet of Things is only going to grow.

Every day, something new is connecting to the net, and whether we like it or not, we, as public relations professionals, need to be ready to explain that to our audiences.

Anne Potts is Managing Director and Executive Vice President at Racepoint Global. She spoke with the Flack Pack during the PRSA International Conference in Austin, Texas about the need for brands to consider how they’re going to engage a world slowly being subdued by the Internet of Things.

Caroll Spinney retires from Sesame Street

Anne Potts

Is Alexa Dangerous?

Dia de los Muertos

Digital is a normal and deeply embedded part of societies all over the world now. There's even a generation that doesn't know what the world looked like before digital became a thing. The digital revolution has created the ability to communicate information to people all over the world—and instantly. It's also been a force in decentralizing political power. It's been the catalyst for a lot of changes, including changes in our very own public relations industry.

We all know what the "digital revolution" looks like here in America, but what does it look like overseas? Specifically, what does it look like on the other side of the world in China, where everything is totally different, including the culture, the language, and the system of government?

Anthony Shop, the Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Social Driver, is also an Eisenhower Fellow and spent some time living in China to learn more about its digital trends, including the use of WeChat, Weibo, and Baidu. He joins us to talk about what he learned, how the digital revolution is different in China, and why he thinks all of this is important for us to know.

Is life working in a PR agency as glamorous as Hollywood portrays it on television and in movies? The truth is, working in an agency can be exciting, but it also can be exhausting, and not for every PR soul.

This week, we consider the ups and downs of PR agency life with Dr. Gina Luttrell, a PR and Social Media Professor at Syracuse University, and co-author of a new book, The PR Agency Handbook.

We’ll explore the agency-client relationship, discuss the book’s included client personas, and find out whether Gina recommends agency work to her budding PR wards.

Our second guest, Rob Biesenbach, preaches the lessons of improv comedy to agency managers and other PR leaders, sharing an approach based on a four-letter word – love.

The Flack Pack wraps up its coverage from the PRSA International Conference this week with an episode about PR agencies.

Dr. Gina Luttrell

The PR Agency Handbook

Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Rob Biesenbach

What if you could tell a journalist how your story will play on his or her news website? Imagine being able to predict social media engagement in a news pitch. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could shape your story to make it irresistible for newsroom gatekeepers who are increasingly focused on audience data and their own analytics?

Erik Huddleston is rapidly becoming the PR’s pros best friend. His team at TrendKite in Austin, Texas thinks it has figured out how to do all of this and more, with a new technology he calls Story Kit

It’s brand new, but those who’ve used it already have called it “life changing.” Huddleston discusses the idea behind the AI in this special PRSA Conference episode of the Flack Pack.

“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!”

Forty years ago, holograms were the stuff of science fiction movies, like Star Wars. Princess Leia’s desperate call for an old Jedi Knight’s assistance is legendary, and as it turns out, quite prophetic. That’s because this week, PR pros at PRSA’s International Conference in Austin, Texas got to see the industry’s first holographic news release.

Cathy Hackl is a PR futurist, and a former broadcast journalist. Now she preaches the latest tech to pros looking to harness new and amazing ways to communicate. And the best part? She says any PR pro can deploy this technology today.

Cathy gives listeners the latest on VR, AR, and Holograms in this special PRSA conference edition of the Flack Pack.

We also meet Jane Kovacs, a “geek-speaking” Austin PR pro who started a rowdy group called the PR Fight Club. She tells us how she came up with the idea, and why it helps practitioners in this weird Texas town improve their communications skills. 


Princess Leia’s Prophetic Hologram Message

PR’s 1st Holographic News Release

Cathy Hackl

Jane Kovacs

What does the Commander-in-Tweets (AKA President Trump) have to teach us about using Twitter effectively? It's the first day of the PRSA 2018 International Conference and we're getting right into the weeds of Twitter and our Brand-in-Chief with Shanita B. Akintonde.

Shanita calls the President the Brand-in-Chief because he expertly navigates the Twitter platform. She breaks down Trump's Twitter advantage in this special PRSA conference episode.

Shanita Akintonde is an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago. She is also the vice chair of the PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee.




PRSA keeps Austin weird this weekend, as thousands of PR pros convene for a communications convergence in Texas. The Flack Pack previews PRSA’s 2018 International Conference with Amelia Folkes, President-elect of Austin’s PRSA Chapter.

Amelia talks about the work it takes to put on a good conference, the fun attendees can expect, and a few things weirdly Austin – sombreros, a yeti, and breakfast tacos.

If you’re going to the conference, visit the Flack Pack in Booth 701 in the Exhibit Showroom. We’ll do a show from the Showroom all three days of the conference, and have some fun swag for pros who stop by for a visit. 

PRSA 2018 International Conference

Amelia Folkes

Exhibit Showroom Map and Flack Pack Booth 701

Credit creativity and a team committed to good storytelling for the social media content coming out of Mount Vernon, the home of America’s first Commander in Chief, George Washington.

This week, Flack Pack host Summer Johnson interviews Rebecca Aloisi, Vice President for Marketing at Mount Vernon, about her team’s approach to marketing the historic home of POTUS 1.

When was the last time you placed a guest column on the digital opinion page of your local newspaper? You probably pitch pieces every week, but how often do your efforts lead to publication? Unfortunately, the answer is probably rarely.

Joanna Allhands, digital opinion page editor for the Arizona Republic, says audience preferences are the reason it’s getting more difficult to publish guest columns and submitted opinions online. 

Without the newspapers metrics, which editors aren’t willing to share, she admits PR people face an uphill battle when it comes to knowing how to write content worthy of a little digital love.

In our interview, Allhands offers practitioners useful advice for those willing to attempt a solution to the mystery of the digital opinion page.

Gone are the days when a PR shop could write a news release, create a photo opportunity, call a news conference, and get every reporter in town to cover the story. Equally rare is the moment when a journalist says yes to a story pitch. 

The news business has changed. Journalists are interested in fewer and fewer stories. Meanwhile, the news and information people want and maybe even need, about decisions, programs, and policies, is being left behind, unreported and unknown to the masses.

Do you have a good story to tell? Or an angle on something happening in your community? Do you know an expert who could advance the debate? Good luck getting today’s newsrooms, themselves on the decline, to pay attention to your pitch.

For decades, former journalists Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela have been on a mission to show PR people a better way. Their cause, aided by the internet, makes sense now more than ever. It’s called brand journalism, and we’re exploring it on this week’s episode of the Flack Pack.

Brand Journalism News Sites:

American Express Open Forum

Cape Cod Health News

Cleveland Clinic

Coca Cola

Denver Water

Omaha Public Power District

University of Alberta

7 questions you should be asking about brand journalism

Is PR suffering at the hands of the White House communications operation? We explore the issue this week. 

We explore a poll done by USC’s Center for Public Relations that asked PR pros whether they thought the actions of the White House comms shop were harming their own credibility as public relations advisors. 

The survey presented a popular result, but, based on the people responding, we’ve got our questions about the findings. We interview Fred Cook, Director of USC’s public relations think tank to find out what’s going on, and then we hear from Seth Arenstein, the editor of PR Newsin Washington, D.C., to get his take on the poll results.

Additional Link:

On the Labor Day special edition of Flack Pack, we’re examining the job outlook for flacks. Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, 2018 Chair of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), talks about the jobs forecast for PR pros, breaks down the state of each industry sector, and reveals the job he would apply for if he were a college graduate today. 

Learn more about Anthony D’Angelo here.

Read the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reportabout America’s PR industry.

Looking for a job? Start in the PRSA JobCenter

Wondering why you're not getting returns on your social media efforts? You may need to try harder...or maybe you need to be more patient.

Hailley Griffis is the PR Manager at Buffer (and host of The Science of Social Mediapodcast!), a social media scheduling tool. That basically means she knows all the ins-and-outs about the ever-changing social media landscape.

If your social media results aren't what you think they should be, now's a good time to tune into the Flack Pack.

[solidcore] is a hot and rapidly growing boutique fitness company and the Flack Pack got a chance to sit down with founder and CEO Anne Mahlum to chat about the company's evolving PR strategy.

[solidcore]'s first studio opened in Washington DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood in 2013. Since then, it’s expanded into more than 25 cities with plans to expand into at least 12 more—all across the country. How does [solidcore] strategize its communications with all of this growth? Find out in this episode!

Want to hear from the Grammar Girl? This week, we hear from Mignon Fogarty, Wonder Woman of words, to talk about her award-winning podcast, the importance of grammar in PR and the kinds of mistakes she most often sees.

You can subscribe to her podcast, Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better WritingFun Fact: Mignon has released more than 630 episodes since the podcast was born.

This week we're talking truth to PR people who manage media for corporations with a veteran business reporter and columnist for The Washington Post. He thinks business reporting is dead.


How can you get creative with PR and podcasting? Ask Mac Rogers, a playwright who put together fiction podcasts for GE. For this week’s Flack Pack episode, we sat down with him in Philadelphia during Podcast Movement 18 to talk about his history with them, tips for getting started and why they can be so effective. Mac's two GE podcasts: The Messageand LifeAfter.


News releases have been a staple of public relations for ages. How important are they today? On Flack Pack episode 13, we hear from Lachlan Markay, a White House correspondent for The Daily Beast, about his take on news releases and what makes them good or bad.

We're surrounded by influencers on every virtually every social media platform. Most of us follow at least one. We see them all the time, but do we know how they really work? What if you want to communicate your message through an influencer?

Nic Yeeles, founder and CEO of Peg.co, a platform that helps you execute your influencer marketing, tells us everything he knows about the influencer space (which is a lot!) — what to be cautious about, which influencers are best for you, why you can't compare an influencer with a big following to an influencer with a smaller following, and more.

You don't want to miss out on this episode. The influencer space isn't going away — it's just getting started.

How have journalists’ jobs over the past couple of decades? On this week's Flack Pack, Washington Media Group's founder and chairman, Greg Vistica, sat down with old friend and retired journo, Jerry Ceppos, to talk about the evolving nature of journalism and his transition to educating the next generation of comms professionals.

The changing media landscape has led to the need for communications strategists to get more creative in delivering their message to their audience. On this week's episode, we talked to an expert about it. Robert Bluey, VP of Comms. at The Heritage Foundation and editor-in-chief of the think tank's news organization, The Daily Signal, discussed the changing identity of media and why creating your own content is so valuable.

Did you know there's a public relations museum in New York City? We took a trip to the Big Apple to speak with Shelley Spector, the museum's founder, about its backstory, collection and plans for the future. Listen up to hear all about PR history — and how the museum is preserving and sharing it.

It's Father's Day Weekend, so we'll be talking about the Father of Public Relations! Lucas Held and Shelley Spector join us to talk about the life and legacy of Edward L. Bernays.

You should listen up because Lucas Held is the grandson of Edward Bernays and Shelley Spector was Bernays' longtime colleague and friend. Both of them have a lot of memories to share with us.

You hear it all the time—we're in an increasingly globalized economy. But what does that mean for public relations? Whether you're in government, a nonprofit, a global corporation, or trying to enter a new market, you'll want to hear Flack Packer Crystal Zhao interview Priya Doshi.

Priya Doshi has 20 years of international strategic communications experience. She's created and implemented strategies for a number of governments and nonprofits including the Swiss and British Embassies and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She's currently a professor at the American University School of Communication.

The 2018 AP Stylebook is out and we've got the scoop on the changes every writer needs to know. We break it down with Rob Reinalda, executive editor of Ragan Communications, publishers of Ragan.com and PR Daily, and Alysha Love, a former digital journalist and editor for CNN and Politico, now with her own business, Payette Media House, in Boise, Idaho.

This is a special edition of Flack Pack featuring Gregory Vistica, former investigative journalist, author, and CEO of Washington Media Group. He joins Flack Packer Summer Johnson today to talk about Michael Wolff and Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury."

Before creating Washington Media Group, Gregory Vistica was a noted investigative journalist for Newsweek, 60 Minutes II, The New York Times Magazine and The Washington Post. He is also the recipient of the George Polk Award, a Peabody and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, among other awards and recognitions.

Mr. Vistica also wrote the books, “The Education of Lieutenant Kerrey,” a book about Senator Bob Kerrey and Vietnam, and “Fall From Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy,” a contemporary history based on his breaking the Tailhook scandal.

This week, Flack Packer Robert Johnson hosts a roundtable with bright public relations students from American University. Four of the best gathered around a table during finals week—talking shop, solving problems, and making a pitch for a job in this crazy business of ours.

Author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott, joins us today to talk to us about just that—the new rules of marketing and PR.

Podcasting guru Rob Walch—also the VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn—wants to know if podcasts are on your client’s media pitch list. He says they should be.

American University School of Communication Professor Pallavi Kumar reveals what the industry should expect from this year’s class of young PR pros.

Welcome to Washington's official public relations podcast! We will be dropping an episode every Friday about public relations strategies, crisis management, and more.


Get on the list for updates & exclusives