In the Office

Public Relations Dream vs. Nightmare

Celebrity drama is by no means few or far between. Whether it’s a drunk driving arrest, a divorce, or a drug charge, it seems like every time we turn our heads a new tabloid headline appears. Keeping a positive spin on events like these would be a challenge for anyone, but is particularly challenging for the rich and famous, who’s personal business seem to spread like wildfire.

However, managing PR for a celebrity would also be exciting, no doubt! Working for a client who regularly makes headlines provides the opportunity to share information quickly to a broad audience. So, would you rather take on the challenge of managing out of control rumors for the many celebrity troublemakers? Or keep things simple with those celebrities using their power for good?

It’s no question for Cindy here at Howard/Merrell—she prefers the peaceful PR of a perfect pooch. When asked what celebrity she would most like to manage PR for, this was her response:

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“That would have to be Boo, the Pomeranian.  Why?  He doesn’t talk back, doesn’t party late, gives to charities, and he’s just adorable. All the other celebrities I thought of have too much drama in their life.  I mean, really, would you want to manage Justin Bieber?  #PRNIGHTMARE”.


A positive return on emotion.

A positive return on emotion.

We at Howard/Merrell are different than other full-service advertising and communications agencies. We’re different because of the underlying values that drive our business. Of course we want to learn about our clients goals, and we strive to exceed expectations of excellent service. However, we take this business one step further, emphasizing human emotion as the cornerstone of successful, effective communication.

Branding must be relevant, self-expressive, functional, and valuable. However, what many people don’t realize is that branding evokes emotion. And emotion drives 90% of buying behavior. We’ve learned that to create this emotional response, brands must be part of a story that binds public relations, social media, advertising, media, and research. Stories evoke emotion, and emotion drives success.

So, its no surprise that after asking our employees what #hashtag best describes working at Howard/Merrell, we got this response:

We’ve always believed that the best, most effective communication is inspired by unique insights into human emotion. It’s a science we’ve turned into an art, and we’ve found there’s no better way to profoundly transform a client’s business.


When Negativity Strikes: Tips For Communication In A Crisis

If you or your company is suddenly cast under a negative public spotlight, it is all too easy to panic, shutting down important channels of communication. Knowing how and when to respond to negativity can prevent undesirable coverage from spiraling out of control and tarnishing your reputation. A properly timed and executed response can even turn a potentially costly situation into something positive for your image. More »

Welcome Amy Needham!

With a decade of professional experience, marketing knowledge and public relations expertise, Amy Needham is a welcome addition to the Howard/Merrell family.

As a Senior Account Supervisor Amy leads and manages the PR and social media efforts for her clients which include: CORDURA® brand fabric, Step2 toys, The Wine Feed and the National Humanities Center. Specifically, she focus on promoting thought leadership, executing product launches, media relations, corporate communications and social media efforts, as well as leading strategic marketing and crisis communications activities.

Before joining Howard/Merrell, Amy worked at Pierson Grant Public Relations, managing and developing PR and marketing strategies and implementing communication programs for consumer products and technology brands.

Amy graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelors degree in Journalism.

Learn more about Amy in this press release.

Congratulations to Amy Jones!

We are pleased to announce the promotion of Amy Jones to associate account executive. Since joining our family last year, Amy assisted the public relations and social media efforts for clients including Georgia-Pacific Professional, FMI, SQFI, Candy Cottage, Family Business USA, The Wine Feed and KIOTI Tractor.

In her new role, she will be responsible for managing day-to-day media relations, community relations and event marketing activities for her clients, as well as supporting the execution of strategic public relations and social media marketing campaigns.

We love her energy and drive. And, we look forward to her being a part of the Howard/Merrell family for a long time. Congrats Amy!!

Take a peak a her release.

Kaitlin Hughes Joins the Team

Welcome to Kaitlin Hughes!

Kaitlin joins us as an Account Coordinator. In this role, she helps coordinate social media and public relations projects for a number of clients. She manages and monitors social media, conducts media relations, writes press materials and supports events.

We are excited to have Kaitlin on board and that she has brought her creativity and analytical skills to the agency. For more information on Kaitlin, check out her release.

Are You the Account Supervisor for us?

We are searching for an energetic professional who can lead PR and Social Media efforts for clients as well as grow and nurture a great team of junior folks. Must be a strategic thinker, team leader, efficient multi-tasker, strong writer and good communicator. Previous agency experience preferred.

Candidate should have experience developing, managing and executing multi-faceted B2B and B2C campaigns which include national media and blogger outreach, newsletter development, social media management, product launches, executive visibility efforts, corporate communications and event management.
Knowledge and experience with crisis management and media training a plus. Experience with personnel management and growth required.

Will be responsible for managing day-to-day traditional public relations and social media activities, and collaborating with the agency’s other internal departments to execute fully integrated communications campaigns.

Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree, at least seven years relevant marketing experience (post graduation)

Do you fit this description? If so, send your cover letter and resume to

New Client: BioResource International, Inc.

We are excited to be named agency of record for BioResource International, Inc. (BRI), an agricultural biotechnology company that is harnessing the natural power of enzymes to develop sustainable solutions that help feed the world. We are working with them on website enhancements, email marketing, public relations and social media services. BRI selected us to help increase brand awareness and market share. More »

Amanda Frasca – Welcome to the Family

We are excited to welcome Amanda Frasca, who has joined us as an Associate Account Executive.

Amanda focuses on daily public relations and social media efforts for a number of the agency’s clients including Aquatic Life, Solair® Shade Solutions and Fantastic Sams®. She is working closely with other departments to execute strategic and comprehensive campaigns that include media buying and planning, advertising, market research, digital work and other branding efforts. More »

The Importance of Internships

When in high school, I was not happy that the boys’ sports teams would get coverage in my town’s small paper, but the girls’ teams would not. So, I called the editor of the paper to let him know how I felt. His response? The paper would be happy to cover girls sports, but did not have enough folks on staff or the money to hire a reporter to cover that beat. So, I volunteered to write about the girls’ games and matches at my high school (selfishly, I covered most of the sports I played) throughout my senior year.

Though becoming a “reporter” started out as a way to promote girls’ high school sports, it made me realize how much I enjoyed writing, and spurred my desire to go to journalism school. I also realized how important it was to gain professional experience…even if it was unpaid.

While in college, I worked at different companies doing a variety of tasks, so I could get exposed to many areas of marketing communications. I wrote radio copy, conducted research and employee relations work, supported events and press conferences, wrote press releases, articles and speeches, and provided all sorts of administrative support for the folks I worked with at the different organizations. As a result, I learned what types of jobs I liked and did not like, what types of organizations I liked to work at and those I didn’t, and had a general idea of what career path I wanted to take. I worked at five different organizations during college and got hired by one of them after graduation.

Since internships really helped me, I felt it was important to start a formal program at Howard, Merrell & Partners. Now more than eight years old, our program has evolved. In order to ensure interns have the best possible experience, we have a checklist of activities interns should accomplish during a semester. We also invite interns to participate in team meetings, lunch-n-learns, and brainstorming sessions (as long as they are not proprietary and/or involve sensitive client information). We also encourage all interns to ask questions and seek advice from anyone in the agency. The key is for these college students to have a positive experience while interning here. Sure, they do some admin work, but they also get some first-hand experience that is truly educational.

When possible, interns who have stood out after a semester of interning get offered part-time positions with us while they are finishing their college education. And when we have open entry-level positions, former interns are always the first folks we interview for jobs. While we can’t hire everyone who interns here, we are proud that dozens who have interned here have gone on to marketing communications positions at organizations around the country.

We’re proud of our internship program, and look forward to the program continuing to grow.

For more information, check out the recent article in the News & Observer about our internship program.