In Orlando Area Chapter, Professional Development

Guest Blog: FPRA-OAC Member Nancy Kinnally shares how Michael Smart, media coach who served as the OAC’s guest speaker in February 2013, influenced her work.

Nancy Kinnally & Susan Spencer-Wendel pictured beside the Mediterranean Sea in Cyprus (the birthplace of Susan’s biological father) during travels in 2010 to meet relatives Susan had never met before.

Welcome to my double life. By day: director of communications for The Florida Bar Foundation. By nights, weekends and vacation days: lifelong best friend, cheerleader, and self-appointed volunteer assistant publicist for Susan Spencer-Wendel, whose book “Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy” was released March 12, 2013 to international media fanfare and landed on the New York Times Bestsellers List. Susan, formerly an award-winning journalist for the Palm Beach Post, is dying of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She wrote her life-affirming memoir using her right thumb on her iPhone, since she is otherwise paralyzed and has lost the ability to speak clearly. The book reached number two on Amazon’s bestsellers list the day after its release. Universal has bought the film rights to her story, so a major motion picture may be next.

Susan’s real publicist, Rachel Elinsky of HarperCollins, generated the media firestorm that erupted the week of the release. I claim no credit. But my support for Susan has sometimes spilled over into the PR realm, and when Michael Smart of MichaelSmartPR spoke to the FPRA Orlando Area Chapter on February 13, my instincts took over. I saw Michael as the consummate PR guru and as someone who would appreciate Susan’s story. And − as he collected e-mail addresses from the audience to add to his distribution list − I saw him as someone with a large audience. Michael, who shared with us the cheer he came up with when he coached his son’s flag football team, the Honey Badgers, coached us all on how to write the perfect e-mail pitch. So after being schooled, I decided to practice what I’d learned right  back on Coach Smart.

My pitch scored big when Michael turned it into one of his widely broadcast e-mails. Two days after the book’s release, he sent an e-mail telling how I had contacted him after his speaking engagement. He shared Susan’s story and included the link to her book’s fan page.

“I recommend the Today show piece that aired in yesterday [in March] as an encouraging and guilt-trip-free lesson on priorities and strength facing adversity (and includes a sound bite from Nancy). More coverage from NPR, USA Today, Huffington Post, and many more outlets does the same,” Michael wrote.

Michael continued, “Thanks to the expertise of the publicists at Susan’s book publisher, her message is reaching tens of millions of people. And because a devoted friend and PR pro is leaving no stone unturned, contacting everyone she can think of, even a visiting PR speaker, with carefully customized outreach and follow-up, you’re reading about it now. Many thanks to Nancy for sharing, may God bless Susan and her family, and best wishes to all of you as you balance the loves of your lives with the powerful discipline you practice.”

Many thanks to you, Michael, for being a positive force in our profession and for reaching out to support my friend, whose tap, tap, tap with her right thumb has shown us how easy it is to tap three letters: J-O-Y.

If you are interested in receiving Michael’s weekly PR writing and pitching tips, register in the sign-up box on his website,

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