WMPRSA Member Profile: Randy Cleves

To pursue a career in communications and public relations in professional sports, you might anticipate packing your bags for the nearest top 20 market. However Randy Cleves has thrived in Grand Rapids, spending more than 15 years working with Grand Rapids teams. Randy has a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Dayton. After a two-year stint as assistant director of communications for the Kansas City Blades, a minor league hockey team, Randy moved to Grand Rapids in the late 90s to become senior director of public relations for the Grand Rapids Griffins and director of public relations for the Grand Rapids Rampage arena football team (until 2001). We asked Randy a few questions about sports PR in Grand Rapids, along with any advice he has for people looking to get into the business.

What are some of the unique PR/communications challenges your organization faces?

Our biggest challenge over the last decade is the demise of traditional sports media and the accompanying decline of newspaper and TV coverage. At the same time, that has come with a tremendous opportunity: the ability to control our messages and deliver them directly to our fans through all of our social media channels.

In addition, the sports PR realm differs greatly from corporate/traditional PR in several ways. On any given day we could have a few dozen players and coaches essentially serving as spokespeople for the organization during interviews. Adding to the potential for discordant messages is the fact that English is a second language to many of our players. Unlike most businesses, we have a large number of people (i.e. fans) who actively seek out new information about us on a daily basis, challenging us to provide it. And we’ve been known to get upset at media when even bad news (a loss) doesn’t make the front page or the top of the TV news, reflecting what we feel should be our top-of-mind status despite any short-term negative news.

What has been your proudest PR moment so far?

Our run to the Calder Cup championship in 2013 and our celebration/capitalization of it during that summer and throughout the 2013-14 season. The media coverage and fan support throughout the playoffs was incredible and the town was alive with excitement for several weeks. It made me even prouder of my adopted hometown! The whole whirlwind before and after winning the Cup was a huge professional challenge, simply in terms of managing all the requests and tasks. But our staff and organization couldn’t have handled the joyful chaos any better.

Do you have any big goals or plans (for the Griffins) that you can share?

You mean outside of winning the Calder Cup again this season? (Shhh! Don’t tell the other AHL teams.) Next year will mark our franchise’s 20th season, so the planning process is already underway for a celebration of two decades of Griffins Hockey in Grand Rapids. Nothing is set in stone yet, but a lot of fun ideas are on the drawing board.

What advice do you have for other public relations practitioners, especially those who are starting out?

Speaking for the sports PR industry specifically, you absolutely have to gain relevant experience while you are still in school, even before you apply for internships with any teams or organizations. EVERYONE loves sports (they never fail to mention that in their cover letter), but not everyone is willing to put in the hours, the sacrifice and the work to prove their dedication and acquire the necessary skills to be a valuable employee. And given the competition for jobs, I’ll always hire someone with solid experience and a proven desire over a shiny GPA. So volunteer at your college’s sports information or athletic department, write for your school newspaper or volunteer for a West Michigan Sports Commission event. Heck, simply help register runners or pass out water at the Fifth Third Riverbank Run or another of this area’s dozens of races and events. You’ll learn a little about event management and maybe sharpen your writing while building your network and proving to potential employers that you’re much more than just a fan.

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Help the Women’s Resource Center get selected as marathon charity partner

Vote for the Grand Rapids Women's Resource Center

Vote for the Grand Rapids Women’s Resource Center!

Please help the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) be selected as the charity partner for the 2015 Gazelle Girl’s Half Marathon. The charity partner is selected by popular vote. This is a huge opportunity for the WRC. Being selected as the race’s charity partner equates to approximately $10,000 in funding for the nonprofit. They’re up against solid competition – so let’s be sure to do our part to help them win. This is a low-involvement way to help our PR for Good partner – so please vote and share with your networks. Voting is open from 10/20 to 10/31. Click here to vote!

Since 1973, the WRC has empowered nearly 40,000 women in West Michigan to achieve economic independence through meaningful employment. Services and programs provided by the WRC include everything from life skill workshops and mentoring support to personalized career planning sessions and providing professional clothing for job interviews.

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PR for Good Client Hosts “Wine, Women and Chocolate” Event on October 22

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – October 10, 2014 – The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) is hosting its eighth annual Wine, Women and Chocolate event on October 22 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Thousand Oaks Golf Club (4100 Thousand Oaks Drive Grand Rapids, MI 49525). Attendees will enjoy an evening of wine, beer and chocolate tastings while sampling hors d’oeuvres, bidding on silent auction prizes and learning more about the WRC. Proceeds from the event will help fund the WRC’s services and programing.

“Wine, Women and Chocolate event is the Women’s Resource Center’s annual friend-raiser,” said Terri Demeter, development and communications manager at Women’s Resource Center. “Our goal is to raise awareness for the services and programs we provide the community while providing a fun evening out for friends and co-workers.”

Since 1973, the WRC has empowered nearly 40,000 women in West Michigan to achieve economic independence through meaningful employment. Services and programs provided by the WRC include everything from life skill workshops and mentoring support to personalized career planning sessions and providing professional clothing for job interviews.

“At the heart of everything we do is the goal of economic independence for women, regardless of their current situation,” said Demeter. “Along the way our programs and services have grown to more effectively motivate and inspire our participants, while giving voice to all women who seek meaningful employment in our community.”

Tickets to Wine, Women and Chocolate cost $40.00 and can be purchased at http://www.GRWRC.org.

About Women’s Resource Center:

Since 1973, Women’s Resource Center has advocated for women to achieve economic independence through meaningful employment. Our programs and services empower and educate. We partner with caring individuals and organizations throughout West Michigan to purposefully transform the employment outcomes for all women. For more information, visit http://www.grwrc.org.

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Media Round table: Morning TV – October 23

From remote segments to in-studio appearances, leveraging morning news media can help your clients reach their target audiences. However, staying up-to-date with the latest changes at local TV stations and pitching stories that meet the needs of the media can be challenging.

Join the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America and local media representatives for an exclusive panel discussion about West Michigan’s morning TV media. Members of the media will discuss new initiatives and changes at their stations as well as share their needs from PR pros. A question and answer session will follow.

Lunch will be provided.

Kirk Mason, morning and noon news anchor at WWMT NewsChannel 3
Angela Cunningham, reporter WZZM13
Hannah Saunders, reporter WZZM13
Brooks Blanton, news director at FOX17
Brett Thomas, Daybreak anchor and brand strategists at WOODTV8

Thursday, October 23, 11:30 am – 1 pm
Eve at the B.O.B.
20 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids

Members $25
Nonmembers $35
Students: $20
RSVP by October 20, 2014

Click here to register!

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Program Recap: Downtown Market GR

“Media Loves Hardhats”

Written by Daltyn Little, CEO of GrandPR and PRSSA Member

With the grand opening of the Downtown Market, Grand Rapids was excited and intrigued by the new business opportunities within the four walls of the first gold LEED certified building in Grand Rapids. The overarching goal of the Downtown Market is to create a hub for the “production, distribution, marketing and education about local produce.” The Downtown Market is very eco-conscious, using practices to ensure their resources are used to the max—LED lighting, “crazy recycling,” and even the wood and materials from the old buildings were repurposed and used to create the framework of the new Downtown Market.

Launching Grand Rapids Downtown Market (September 18, 2014)

On Wednesday, September 17, CEO Mimi Fritz and public relations practitioner Brian Burch of Burch Partners, welcomed a group of PRSA members and local Grand Rapids professionals to discuss the opening of the Downtown Market in the fall of 2013. Through storytelling, they were able to create a reputation with the media for openness and sustainability, as well as a general appreciation and respect for local business.

Throughout the construction process, media was welcomed to different opportunities to tour the building and property, as well as speak with the leadership, entrepreneurs, and staff. This allowed for excitement to build around the idea of the Downtown Market, always tying everything back to the community and the incoming vendors. The media was able to interview incoming business vendors and share their individual stories with the community.

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So much excitement was built up around the Downtown Market that it was actually opened in stages. Beginning with the outdoor space in the summer of 2013, weekly Farmers Market events began, resulting in even more media coverage and community engagement. Media was practically begging to see the progress on the inside of the building, and they were granted it—with hardhats, of course.

Opening day was Labor Day 2013, and staff was overwhelmed with the response from the community. The Downtown Market knew their public opening would be a big deal, but they didn’t know just how big. Welcoming 1,500-2,000 guests per hour and multiple media personnel, they maxed out at 30,000 guests walking through their doors in the first 24 hours. The grand opening included a thank-you ceremony for the donors, media coverage from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and even reached international news outlets. Throughout these openings, a total of 100 interviews were conducted, all with a positive tone.

The Downtown Market continues with positive results and high traffic, welcoming consumers to their vendors, students to cooking classes, and kids to camp throughout the year. They are constantly seeking new opportunities to create engaging events and opportunities for the local community. To learn more about the Downtown Market, visit www.downtownmarketgr.com.

More: Tweets During the “Launching GR’s Downtown Market” Program

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Job Posting: Public Relations Specialist

Renaissance Dental in Okemos is seeking a full-time Public Relations Specialist working with media relations, social media, public affairs campaigns, special events, mass mailings and special projects. This position requires a bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism or a related field and at least one year of work experience in sales/marketing writing or other writing for external audiences. Please visit our website (position 403) for a more detailed job description and to apply.

The Renaissance Health Services Corporation family is comprised of companies that focus on affordable health care benefits, employee benefit and claim management services, and access cards to reduce health care costs for groups and individuals. RHSC companies date back to 1957 and have offices in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee. Collectively, RHSC companies provide coverage for nearly 8 million people and in 2010 exceeded $2 billion in dental claims.

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Job Posting: Senior Communications Leader at Williams Group

Position overview:

This position provides overall management for marketing communications projects, acting as the primary interface between Williams Group clients and our project teams. S/he leads the process of understanding and documenting client objectives; creating plans and strategies based on these objectives; facilitating WG writers, designers and project managers in creating excellent solutions that respond to all project requirements; and maintaining strong client communication.

This position leads a range of projects involving varying scales—from five-year programs to overnight requests. We create websites, infographics, presentations, reports, exhibits, advertising and more. In addition to bringing competence in the communication discipline, this position is essential to our approach to building long-term client relationships. WG people possess a deep service ethic and genuine dedication to the success of those who trust us with their business. Plus, this position requires appreciation of and commitment to the WG culture—modelling collaborative, caring and inclusive behavior.

This is a senior position within an entrepreneurial enterprise. We are a relatively small company that works with very big expectations. The communication leader will participate in and enhance direction-setting at WG, helping guide the company based on our continual intent to thrive as a vibrant business across generations of associates. The success of WG communication leaders is determined by individual contribution to WG client satisfaction, commerce and culture.

Skills and attributes:

WG seeks a person who combines the professional acumen and personal traits that are important to our company.

Professional acumen:

Proven communication strategy and management capabilities
Critical thinker, synthesizer and problem solver; well-developed analytical and conceptual abilities
Consulting skills—able to advise and guide clients regarding sound practice
Content development aptitude—able to generate quality outputs through assessment of multiple inputs and sources of information
Confidence with project planning, research, creative and budgeting processes
Capability with digital communications—able to lead website development and social media projects
Strong written and oral communication skills; effective presenter
Aptitude for business development—able to expand and sustain our base of clients

Personal traits:

Strong character and high integrity
Self-starter, motivated to perform
A continuous learner
Calm manner; capable of prioritizing and addressing multiple demands
Emotionally mature, easy to work with, adaptable
Active interest in community and the well-being of others
Bachelor degree, Master degree preferred
At least seven years of experience in communications, with leadership of multiple projects—particularly digital media
Ability to travel (typically 8 to 10 overnight trips by car or air per year)
Competitive salary, plus bonus, with opportunity to steadily grow personal income through increased contribution to the success of Wg clients, commerce and culture. Initial salary to be determined based on experience and ability to contribute at a senior level in the context of our enterprise.

To apply:

Qualified candidates are invited to submit a resume and cover letter to Jayme DeYoung, jdeyoung@williams-group.com.

Or by mail:

Williams Group, c/o Jayme
70 Ionia Ave SW, Suite 200
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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