Late Lights – a Novella in Stories

‘Late Lights’ Author Talks Adolescence, Challenges the Landscape for Writers Today

Late Lights, a novella in stories that explores the intensely difficult and complicated realities of adolescent experience, has won two Indie Book Awards. Even with awards, authors face increasing challenges getting their books in front of audiences. We asked Kara Weiss, author of ‘Late Lights’, to share insights she gained through the process.

On the inspiration behind Late Lights:

There is so little realistic literature about adolescents for adults, and I think this is a huge problem. The rift between adolescents and adults (which often results in screaming matches) stems from a lack of understanding. Adolescents are commonly cast off as melodramatic. Not being taken seriously can be torturous for youths rushing with hormones. Their brains are changing and they’re trying to figure out their identity. Many teens are dealing with very adult problems, yet lack the resources to address them.  I had my own challenges as an adolescent. When I was little my mom used to tell me: If you don’t like someone, just get to know them. Parents need to work harder to understand their children at this time.

On winning an award for her first book:

Winning the Indie for Late Lights has been one of the single most important events in my professional life. Writing is such an isolating experience, and it’s so easy to doubt yourself. Winning was validation that professionals in the industry valued my work. For a writer, that’s huge.

On promoting the book:

My publisher promised to help create a book I was proud of in content, layout, and cover art. Once the book was launched, however, most of the promotion was in my hands. They sent Late Lights out for reviews, but it was up to me to create buzz, and get the word out. Sales stalled after my book tour ended and the initial buzz died down.  Everyone seemed ready to move on, except me. I knew enough about marketing to know I hadn’t done much of it.

I did know that I needed to get people talking about my book again and that reviews were important. I also knew that social media was an important tool, but I wasn’t sure how to do it all and knew I needed help.

On the challenges she faced:

Late Lights is a collection of linked short stories. That format puts off a lot of people. It’s also a book about adolescents, but for adults. It takes extra convincing to get adult readers interested in adolescents (a problem which was part of the inspiration behind Late Lights).

Also, marketing a book is challenging because a reader is never totally sure what they are going to get. They are taking a chance when they buy a book. So many other books are being marketed and you have to, somehow, get noticed.

On what Weiss learned writing and promoting her first book:

I knew my book would be characterized as literary and that it was challenging content, so I assumed my readers would be literary types. I was so wrong. As it turns out, Late Lights has much broader audience – especially among those who feel called out by the book. I’ve heard from parents who’ve read the book that they could have been much more empathetic to some of the kids their kids went to school with.

I’ve also learned that marketing your book can’t be entirely outsourced. Authors need to work with their PR reps as a team to authentically engage fans and potential readers. I was surprised to learn how much money publishing houses put behind their books and that they rent the display tables at the entrance Barnes & Noble.

Knowing what I know now and how hard it is to compete for attention I would have started much earlier.

You can follow Kara Weiss on Twitter @troubler

Note from AM:PM PRs Mike Phillips:

Marketing a book is not easy. Authors tasked with self-promotion must solicit reviews from an ever-changing media landscape with fewer opportunities. New publishing platforms, editing technologies, and distribution from services like Amazon, Indiebound, Apple, and Barnes & Noble make it simple for anyone to self-publish a book and distribute it worldwide. The flood of new authors means more competition. A reviewer at a major daily newspaper once confided in me that he receives hundreds of books per week for potential review. How can anyone succeed in this environment?

Fortunately, where new challenges emerge there’s always new opportunities. Search engines are valuable tools to research and discover new avenues for authors to reach their target audiences. Talented authors like Weiss find that if they roll up their sleeves and get involved as content creators and thought leaders they can engage audiences more effectively . A dynamic website and and active social media presence will amplify all other efforts. The same foresight and planning applies to authors as to businesses. Kudos to Kara Weiss for her media savvy, creativity and dedication to sticking with it. 

You can follow Kara Weiss on Twitter @troubler

Offer content that interests your audience and take the steps to optimize it.

SEO Tips From a Portland PR Firm


Have a strategy and offer content with value to your audience

If you have a business or a brand, you must have a strong online presence. Public relations agencies are no different. Every business wants to stand out and show up on the first page of searches.

Businesses and brands face ever increasing competition to be noticed. With more than 1 billion active websites, consistent attention to Search engine optimization, or SEO, is key to raising visibility.

From 1 website in 1991 to 1 billion in 2014

SEO is the process of affecting the rank of a website in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid search results. The earlier and more frequently a site appears in search results list, the more visitors it will receive.

Basically, SEO encourages keyword use to increase traffic based on what people search for. However, there is a drawback. Focusing on keywords can stifle creativity.

At AM:PM PR, we write about what we’d want to read. We want what we write to be interesting, authentic, and worth our reader’s time. It’s always a bonus if we write something others find worth sharing.

It’s a complicated balancing act. How do you safely walk the tightrope between entertaining readers and attracting potential new clients with strategic keywords planted throughout the copy?


SEO can help your business

SEO Tips

  1. Be Subtle – While keywords are important to search, don’t litter your posts with them. In this post all focus keywords are in bold. Words and phrases like “public relations,” “search engine optimization,” and “SEO Tips” are all terms that could bring people to our site.
  2. Be Creative – Sensibility with keywords can attract visitors, but creative, useful content is what keeps them coming back. Try writing your post first without worrying about keywords and then add them where they make sense. While headlines should contain focus keywords, you also need to grab attention with them.
  3. Be Mindful – Think like the reader you want to have. What do you want your audiences to think about you? What do you want to portray? Being mindful of how copy, relevant content, and keywords work together will help attract visitors and keep them coming back.
  4. Be Visual – Google likes images. Adding images and properly naming, sizing and tagged them will help your rank and make your content more attractive and memorable.

Paying more attention to SEO does take time, but it’s part of today’s cost of doing business.

PR superhero with target

Interview Tip: Identifying Your PR Superpowers

Manipulating the weather. Super speed. Telekinesis. We’ve all thought about what our superpower would be. While for many, this thought may not have crossed our minds since our pre-teen years, now is a good time to revisit the question: What would your superpower be?

A new trend on the job market is leading employers to be more creative in their interview questions. While a few years ago, the biggest trend interview question was, “what is your biggest weakness?” Now employers want to know your greatest strengths.

In the fast-paced, unpredictable field of public relations, having superpowers in your arsenal is essential to success. Knowing what they are and how to access the skills that set you apart from the rest of the team is the first step to finding your place amongst extraordinary PR professionals.

Why it’s a smart interview question:

  1. It breaks the ice. Everyone knows that interviews are nerve wracking and a more off kilter question gives applicants a chance to take a breather and go off book.
  2. It gives more insight about the candidate. This question is essentially just asking, what is your greatest strength? However, the format allows the employer to more fully assess the applicants personality by forcing them to give a more candid answer.
  3. The answer is honest. It’s easy for an interviewee to say what they think their potential employer wants to hear and interview answers can often be overly rehearsed and impersonal. Being able to answer this question honestly conveys your strengths in a more honest, and personal way.

The reason this question works is because when you honestly consider the superpower you wish you had, it tells you something about your personality. The key to success when coming up with your answer is to identify the positive attributes of your personality that power represents and how they will be advantageous to your future employer.

For example:

“My superpower would be mind reading. I’m very in tune to people’s thoughts, emotions, and needs. It allows me to predict what clients want and need from me. It also gives me the foresight to address issues before they become a problem.”


“My superpower would be shape shifting. I’m a very adaptable person and I’m comfortable filling many different roles. To me, change is a good thing and I’m always ready to face a new challenge head on with fresh perspective.”

am:pm pr tips
In public relations, skills like mind reading and shape shifting can be necessary. We never know what our clients are going to need, and as their communications counsel we need to be in their heads. PR professionals also wear many hats, the ability to shift into who your client needs you to be is a power highly befitting an important member of a PR team. In the new world of business, successful people are ones who can answer this question immediately and honestly. So give this seemingly silly question some serious thought and for your next job interview, prepare to break out your cape or your adamantium claws.


7 Tips for Landing an Out-of-State Job

 by Dustin Nelson

I’ve been no stranger to change this last year. My two biggest changes were graduating from college, and trading a small Montana town for Portland, Oregon.

Anyone who has graduated from college can probably attest to the fact that trying not to fail your last semester of college, while also navigating your first grown-up job search is no small task. Trying to move to another state for said job adds to the overwhelming sensation of tug of war over your impending future.

Luckily, in our modern age, the marvels of the internet allow us to project ourselves into a conference room hundreds or even thousands of miles away via Skype and other video conferencing software. However, there are still several factors to consider when searching for a job or internship out of state. Which is why I now bring you, 7 Tips for Landing an Out-of-State Job.


1.) Be Open Minded

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when thinking about the future, but don’t let it happen. It’s important to be willing to say “yes” to opportunities and career paths you may not have considered. In the modern world of communications, it’s difficult to know exactly what communications and public relations jobs entail. Trust that your job may evolve and that you may be best for something you never considered.

2.) Do Your Homework

This is essential. When communicating from far away, the company you are interested in working for needs to know how badly you want it. Research the company so that when the time comes for an interview you can answer the questions in the context of the specific work that company does. It also doesn’t hurt to take notes on potential interview questions beforehand.

3.) Show Your Personality

From first contact, through the last interview, be yourself. I know it’s a cliche, but seriously, do it. Your credentials will speak for themselves and as long as being yourself is the best, most professional version of yourself you’re going to fare much better than just trying to be what you think they want. Most professional jobs and internships require close contact with co-workers and it’s crucial that they like you as a person, not just for the work you do.

4.) Be Available

When looking for a job from afar, staying in contact is key. Companies have a lot of candidates to screen, many of which they are meeting in person. You cannot run the risk of being invisible. Check back early and often. If they send you an email, respond as quickly as humanly possible. And let’s be honest, in the age of the smart phone, there’s no excuse.

5.) Shine in a Video Interview

It’s likely that as a poor college student you won’t be able to travel for an interview. No problem! Skype to the rescue. However, the video interview presents a new set of challenges. Energy and “vibes” are very real, and they’re much easier to communicate in person. Smile and dress the way you would if the interview was in person, this helps keep you in the right mindset for the interview. Just because you don’t have to wear pants, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. I’m not kidding, put on pants. Preferably nice ones.

6.) Bring Something New to the Table

In a professional field, most of the candidates for a job have the same qualifications. It’s important to remember that the things that make you different, the skills that may not seem to apply to this job, may actually land you the position. It’s important to find how all of your skills are applicable. For example, I have a background in journalism with a strong focus on writing and editing as well as some event planning experience. When applying for public relations positions, my writing and editing skills were what I sold. These different skills are what set me apart and landed me my job at AM:PM PR.

7.) Have Confidence

This seems like a no-brainer, but there’s a reason the term “fake it till you make it” exists. However, faking will only get you so far. The bottom line is that if you know you’re right for the job, then you are right for the job. If you know it, make sure your future employer knows it.

“I Graduated, Joined PR Circus” – New Intern Dustin Nelson

 by Dustin Nelson

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a professional juggler.”

While my lack of hand-eye coordination has kept me from pursuing a literal career in juggling, my passion for juggling multiple projects led me to the metaphorical PR circus that is public relations. It’s often difficult for me to explain to friends and family what exactly a public relations professional does and that’s exactly what I love about it. Working in PR allows me to be many things at once, from a writer (my first passion), to a branding consultant, to a crisis manager.

university of montana building

Hailing from the town of Missoula, Montana I studied journalism at the University of Montana where I took a four-year crash course in balancing my many passions and academic and professional impulses. While I discovered journalism wasn’t exactly the direction I wanted to take professionally, what I learned was that I love people and writing.

After graduating this spring, my passion for food, wine, and PR brought me to Portland.

At heart, I’ve always felt more like a city boy trapped in the country, albeit beautiful country, so my journey to Portland was a smooth transition. While I expected the great food and wine that your fair city delivered to my ever-expanding waistline, what I didn’t expect was how much I would love the people of Portland.

For a big city, Portland has a sense of community that rivals many of the 3,000 population Montana towns I’ve visited.

From the time I pretended to be some random girl’s boyfriend to help rid her of an unwanted drunken suitor at a beer festival, to the staff at Thai Noodle who know our orders like we’re family, building relationships with the folks around here has been easy. I’ve known since I stumbled off the airplane at PDX that I wanted to help tell the stories of this community in whatever forms they take.

oregon wagon image

Everyone has a story to tell, and while some people put it into words, others tell their stories through the things they create, businesses, products, food, and art. A public relations professional gets to be the gatekeeper to such stories, we help businesses communicate their stories to help shape the way people live their lives and interact with their community. It may be a circus in this new world, but to me, the strange is familiar and I can’t wait to learn some new acts.

Simple Solutions to Four Public Relations Challenges Facing Entrepreneurs

Wonder Sauna Hot Pants

Wonder Sauna Hot Pants

One of my favorite things about working at AM:PM PR is that we’re constantly meeting fresh, exciting and creative entrepreneurs who are willing to try off-the-wall tactics to get some well-deserved attention for their cool ideas. Unfortunately we can’t help every brilliant bootstrapped business-baron that marches through our chambers, but we can share some pointers about typical challenges we see facing these cash-conscious capitalists.

Below are four tips for entrepreneurs looking to get some guidance related to common public relations challenges. These are based on four common challenges we observe when businesspeople are trying to bootstrap their public relations efforts.

CHALLENGE: Lack of formal public relations training or experience

Some factors that negatively impact promotional efforts include: improper messaging, poor timing, and targeting the wrong audiences. It’s common to see businesspeople muddling their efforts with inconsistent language, improperly identified promotional goals, products pitched during the wrong time of the year, ignoring relevant lead times for the media, or targeting the wrong media to begin with. These are all obvious challenges for brains marinated in marketing-oriented mindsets, but for the un-anointed, these challenges are breeding grounds for time consuming trial-and-error.

Solution: Spend a little more time researching and thinking about who is most interested in your product and where you might reach them. Pick up a couple of books from the library that explain the basics of marketing and public relations and read them six-months before launching your product or campaign. 

CHALLENGE: Lack of time

Running a business is time consuming, and the nuts and bolts of daily operations often get in the way of the nuts and bolts of your marketing and public relations efforts. It’s important to take time to regularly check in to see if your efforts are in keeping with your 5-year plan, your one-year plan and your goals for the month.

Solution: Find some time throughout the month to visit less-stressful pastures that allow you the freedom to ruminate on your approach. Research upcoming media opportunities related to holidays, anniversaries, celebrations or other relevant dates on the calendar; keeping in mind that media lead times differ between print publications, radio and digital media.

CHALLENGE: Overconfidence

There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but sometimes overconfidence stands between identifying and achieving relevant goals, and obtaining the success you deserve. Think of marketing as you would accounting. Marketing should be planned for as a cost of doing business, just as accounting, production and payroll would be. Too often we see businesses with great ideas, but they can’t afford to tell people about them because they were overconfident in word of mouth. Remember the Harlem Shake? This article points out that you didn’t make the Harlem Shake go viral, corporations with marketing teams did.

Solution: Include marketing costs in any business plan or product idea. Whether you hire an in-house public relations professional or hire an outside team of professionals to guide your marketing and public relations efforts, a long term approach will ensure you have properly identified future opportunities. Developing a marketing plan also ensures consistency, budget efficiency and offers a roadmap for meeting objectives. 

CHALLENGE: Keeping pace with communications trends 

If you’re not constantly consuming media and keeping up with the latest trends, you’re missing out on opportunities. Imagine if Don Draper were parachuted into the 2013 media landscape – his ideas would be sexist and archaic (not to mention his daytime drinking habits would be a bit off-putting). During the past five years the media has experienced another sea-change and if you haven’t been paying attention it’s time to get with it, or reach out to someone who has.

Solution: Read the newspaper, magazines and industry-related blogs. If possible, find the equivalent of Don Draper’s grandson. Join us for Speakeasy and present your challenges to the group.

Conclusion: We hope these challenges/solutions are helpful. Feel free to post a comment if you have a specific question.

Other good resources:

American Express’s Open Forum’s Marketing Strategies & Ideas for Your Business

Rebranding PR 3.0 – Introducing Speakeasy

We started a little informal gathering we dubbed “PR 3.0” back in 2009 as a way to stay up to date on the latest social networking trends. PR and communications were changing rapidly so we assigned staff members specific areas of study so they could educate the rest of the team at the weekly get-together. In the beginning we religiously monitored Facebook, Twitter, social apps like Four Square, SEO and video. We held our meetings every Thursday at 4pm over drinks in our office or at a cool spot with wi-fi. We started inviting peers and clients and anyone who was interested, and the gatherings evolved.

Four years in social network time is like 40 human years. Changes in social networks are happening daily and the list of social networks worth paying attention to has grown substantially. Our jobs as communicators are increasingly more complicated with so many challenges to take stock in, while traditional media outlets shrink, and catching the attention of overburdened reporters becomes an Olympic-sized challenge.

We recently realized the name for the group was dated when a 17-year-old high school student came to our office for an informational interview to learn more about PR. She asked what 3.0 referred to.  She had never heard of Web 2.0. The name hadn’t been cool for years. We must have looked like dinosaurs.

We decided then to give our PR 3.0 meetings a makeover. With the addition of new team members, new interests, new strategy, and tactics and technology making waves in our industry, we began the search for a name that fully encapsulates this wild industry (and sounds professional enough so that our colleagues from other companies can talk their bosses into attending). After several failed attempts at witticisms, a visitor named Brie Shea suggested the name “Speakeasy.” Perfect.

So, there you have it. We’ll be hosting Speakeasy gatherings twice a month.

Click here to join the Facebook Group to receive and share the latest news.

We’ll try once a month to have a special honored guest we think is extra smart about a topic. Kelli Matthews, University of Oregon’s most popular PR instructor, has already agreed to make a special trip up for one to talk about what she’s teaching the next generation of PR pros. Our next Speakeasy gathering is planned for September 19, 2013 in our office. We’ll have some adult beverages on hand to get your big thoughts flowing. Who knows what could be happening in communications three weeks from now? If you can predict it, you’ll win.

Pat McCormick with daughter Molly and granddaughter Meagan

AM:PM PR Public Relations Professionals Off The Clock: Pat McCormick

This is part 4/4 in our series sharing more information about our team of Portland-based public relations professionals. The last post is from our Ring Master, Pat McCormick.



Pat McCormick

Currently Reading:

 “Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, the Metal that Runs the World,” by Bill Carter. Mike Phillips shared the book with me before Bill came to speak at a special event in our office. I read about a third of the book and then left in the back seat of my car. I found it last week and I’m hoping to finish it soon.

Currently Listening To:

Les Misérables – Love the soundtrack as much as I love the story. I think “I Dreamed a Dream” is the saddest non-Irish song I’ve ever heard.

News Your Are Following:

New Apple products. I’m anxious that it seems so long since the last iPhone, iPad innovations. The new OS announcements are promising, but I need new toys. And a new Apple TV would do wonders to help my mood.

Plans for the Summer:

No big plans. I’ll be down in Florence in July for Granddaughter Kaylee’s Power of Florence day of community service. I’m also toying with the idea of getting a better bike so I can get back and forth to downtown more quickly.

Favorite Restaurant Experience In Recent Weeks:

Several weeks ago I took three grandchildren – Daniel, Ian and Meagan – to lunch at a Red Robin. The food and the place aren’t that special, but the experience was wonderful. Meagan and I were just a few weeks back from our Disneyland adventure. Ian and I had our Disneyland trip last September, and Daniel and I were there in September 2010. The purpose was for Meagan to share about her trip and compare notes with her cousins. We went through hundreds of pictures recalling the fun things each got to do there. It was amazing to listen to their recollections and realize I’d gotten to share those special times with each of them.


Allison McCormick with her family in Florence, OR

AM:PM PR Public Relations Professionals Off The Clock: Allison McCormick


This is post number four in our series, pulling back the curtain on the Portland public relations professionals working at AM:PM PR.



Allison McCormick

Role On-the-Clock:

Co-Founder, Partner, Fortune Teller

Role Off-the-Clock:

Mom (actually on and off-the-clock), adventurer, critic

Currently Reading:

Too many emails every day, Gawker as my go-to news source and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” at night with my daughter.

Currently Listening To: 

NPR, my favorite weekly NPR podcasts – Snap Judgement and This American Life, my stream on Soundcloud.

News You Are Following:

Marriage equality and gay rights, the recovery of the Boston bombing victims, #FloridaMan and, of course, everything to do with our clients.

Plans for the Summer:

Adventures with the kids at the beach, crabbing, going to the Mt. Hood Adventure Park, camping and lots of paella, sangria and gazpacho.

Favorite Restaurant Experiences in Recent Weeks:

Sanborns on SE 13th, one block off Powell. The service was somewhat slow, but the food was remarkable. Tennessee Red’s on SE 11th was also pretty amazing and I don’t normally choose BBQ fare. You can also never go wrong with Double Dragon. I love the Ramen, but Juan always gets the Bahn Mi. Both are fantastic.


Public Relations Professionals Off The Clock: Alexis Dane

For part three in our campaign to introduce you to the Portland public relations professionals working at AM:PM PR, we’d like to introduce you to Alexis Dane.

2013-06-08 11.19.47Name: Alexis Dane

Currently Reading: I just finished a beautifully written memoir by a Seattle-based author called “Clearly Now the Rain: A Memoir of Love & Other Trips,” and am restarting Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84.

Currently Listening To: The Dictators. My love for this band was reignited last week when I met the lead singer at his NYC bar, Manitoba’s.

News You Are Following: The protests in Turkey.

Plans for the Summer: Though I just got back from a week visiting a friend in NYC, I’m afraid I may spend most of the rest of summer working. I’ll be sure to get some weekend hikes and beach trips in, though.

Favorite Restaurant Experience In Recent Weeks: I adore SE Division’s Portobello Vegan Trattoria.