Gayle Lynn Falkenthal

A group of a 13 public relations professionals who operate solo consultancies across the country have joined together to offer a free communications strategy session to any small business impacted by the coronavirus economic shutdown. Locally, Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, owner of Falcon Valley Group, is the group’s representative in San Diego for the initiative called “Back to Business.”

“This is not the time for businesses and organizations to run silent,” said Falkenthal. “Instead, this is the time to work on new ways to communicate with customers and reposition their organization for a comeback in the post COVID-19 era. Only the prepared will survive. A smart communications strategy is a must.”

Falkenthal, a past recipient of a PR lifetime achievement award from the San Diego Press Club, said the PR practitioners participating in Back to Business are all members of Solo PR Pro, a professional membership group of independent public relations consultants and boutique and micro-agency owners in the U.S.

Back to Business was developed by Amy Kovar, owner of Gray Public Relations of Franklin, TN. “We are coming together to do what we do best: guide others with best practices and ideas for lessening their company’s financial impact during this time,” Kovar said.

Business owners interested in taking part in the initiative can send an email to BacktoBusiness@graypr.com. They will be asked to complete a questionnaire identifying their most pressing needs, which will help match them with a PR professional best equipped to assist.

In addition to Falkenthal and Kovar, other Back to Business participants include Empowered Public Relations of Long Beach; Grassfed Media of Arlington, VA; Jemef Public Relations of Reston, VA; Karen Couf Cohen Public Relations of Franklin, MI; Open Road Communications of St. Louis; 1L Communications of Wilton, CT; Pinkerton Public Relations of Atlanta; Rorex Marketing of Thompson’s Station, TN; Steigman Communications of Washington, DC; Thought Bubble Communications of New York; and Voice Matters of Souderton, PA.

Facebook Funds Local News Outlets Reporting on Virus

Three San Diego-area news media outlets have received a combined $270,000 in grants from Facebook’s COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program. The social media site said it received more than 2,000 applications for grants. The three local outlets are among approximately 200 news organizations across the country selected to receive nearly $16 million in grants.

They include: $96,250 to news website Voice of San Diego, $75,000 to Village News, a newspaper based in Fallbrook; $100,000 to East County Magazine, a news website based in La Mesa.

“This funding will help us continue responding to immediate community needs during this critical time,” said Julianne Markow, chief operating officer, VOSD.

Miriam Raftery

“At a time when news publications across the nation are facing extreme challenges, the need for local reporting in the public interest has never been greater,” said Miriam Raftery, editor and founder, East County Magazine. “This generous grant will enable our award-winning nonprofit media outlet to provide in-depth coverage of the pandemic’s impacts, needs and responses in our local communities, particularly vulnerable populations. It will also support development of virtual community events ranging from COVID-19 town halls to candidate debates, as well as technology upgrades, emergency reporting, and expanding community resources for our readers.”

Village News publisher Julie Reeder said the grant will help fund operations during a time when advertising has dropped by more than half. It’s especially helpful, Reeder said, because, “COVID-19 is the reason we have to work overtime writing and delivering news, and virus-related stories needed to be in front of the paywall.”

“In addition, because we are receiving this grant, we are forming our own stimulus packages of advertising to offer small businesses who haven’t been able to afford advertising. It’s a way we can pass on the blessing to other businesses and further strengthen our community.”

In addition to Fallbrook, the Village News newspaper serves the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma. Village News also publishes Nuestra Vida Hoy, a Spanish-language newspaper.

Overall, Facebook said the recent grants are part of $25 million in local news relief funding announced in March. The fund is supporting publishers who have been negatively impacted financially by the pandemic. Facebook said nearly 80 percent of recipients are family- or independently-owned local news outlets.

Canale Communications Strengthens Leadership Team

San Diego public relations firm Canale Communications, which specializes in serving life-science companies, reports it has strengthened its leadership team with the promotion of Ian Stone from senior vice president to managing director and the hiring of Steve Kunszabo as senior vice president.

Stone has been with Canale since 2013. Previously, he held an in-house role with Pfizer and an agency role with New York-based Russo Partners. He has experience as creating and implementing strategic communications for life-science companies at virtually every stage of development, the company said.

Kunszabo has experience as an investor relations executive and corporate communications strategist. Previously roles have been at Organovo, where he created and executed the first investor relations and corporate communications program for this biotech company, Iridium Communications and Centennial Communications.

“By advancing Ian into the elevated role of managing director, we have further bolstered our senior leadership team to better serve our growing clientele of leading-edge life science companies,” said Carin Canale-Theakston, founder and chief executive officer, Canale Communications. “Additionally, as we grow alongside our clients who frequently make the transition to public markets, we are thrilled to welcome Steve and his strong background in life science investor relations and corporate communications.”

Late last year, Canale Communications was sold to UDG Healthcare, a Dublin-based international pharmaceutical giant, in a deal valued at up to $31 million. According to a Canale spokesman, UDG paid $20 million to be followed by an additional $11 million after three years, depending on profits. Canale Communications became part of Ashfield Healthcare Communications, UDG Healthcare’s global agency network.

Virus Information Overload: Time for a News Break

As shelter-in-place quarantine orders continue, many Americans are still paying close attention to news about the coronavirus. At the same time, however, most of us under lockdown are agreeing to some “social distancing” from virus information overload, according to a recent Pew Research Survey.

About seven in 10 (71 percent) say they take regular breaks from COVID-19 news, while 43 percent of them say the latest headlines leaves them feeling worse emotionally, according to the survey, as reported by Insider Radio, a radio industry trade publication.

Pew said 87 percent of Americans are following COVID-19 news “fairly closely” or “very closely.” Major news sources include national outlets (56 percent), local news outlets (46 percent) and state and local elected officials (36 percent), as well as President Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force (31 percent). The survey of 10,139 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel was conducted April 20-26.

Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.

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