Life in Intro to PR

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When I transferred to Indiana State University this past fall, I wasn’t really sure why I chose to study public relations. My first semester wasn’t the greatest and I was still on the fence about what I want to do after I graduate. When it was time to register for the spring semester, I selected Intro to Public Relations, with Professor Mullen, as one of my courses. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about taking the course. If I did poorly or absolutely hated it, then that would mean I was in the wrong field…again.

However, I am extremely pleased with the results of taking this course. I’ve been gaining real life experience, as well as, building a portfolio. The portfolio, along with my online presence, will be something that could possibly allow my abilities to be shown off more than any competition I may have in the “real world.”

Aside from the fun and interesting work load, Professor Mullen is an incredible teacher. Her ability to be on the same level as her students is great for the type of course Intro to PR is. She’s not afraid to “tell it how it is” and that aspect is exactly what we, as students, need. Also, having a professor that makes sure you receive a head start on gaining connections is perfect.

I realize I’m bragging about my professor, but when you have a teacher that is enthusiastic about the course she/he is teaching, then you are more willing to enjoy the class and strive to do well. That’s exactly how I feel about Professor Mullen and the Intro to PR class.

Now that the year is almost over and I’m a week away from completing this course, I’ve discovered that I actually am interested in Public Relations. But more specifically, I found that I enjoy working with non-profit organizations and Christian ministries. After working with Ryves Youth Center for our group campaign project, I realized that working with such an organization would be a lot of fun and something I could enjoy doing for the rest of my life.

This summer I am working at Mt. Carmel Ministries, a family camp, in Alexandria, MN. The Christian camp will be a great opportunity for me to gain more experience working with this type of organization. I’m hoping the summer goes well and it solidifies my decision to work for an organization such as this camp.

All I can really hope for is more courses that challenge and prepare me for my future. With one year left in my college career, I plan on working hard and finishing strong.

As football star, Vince Lombardi said, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

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How Do You Measure Up?

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Measurements have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom used to be a seamstress, so she was always pulling out her tape measure checking for correct lengths. But it wasn’t just the tape measure that she used. When she was cooking, she’d use measuring utensils to find the correct amount of the ingredient needed for a meal. I’m sure that’s pretty much the same for a large majority of our society. We measure to procure accuracy, clarity, and success.

PR practitioners are included in this majority. When it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of a campaign, measurements are always needed.

However, in the Public Relations world, the style of measurement is slightly different than pulling out a tape measure and holding it next to the data from the campaign. Some campaigns use analytic softwares to measure data compiled on the computer. Other campaigns use the amount of money raised, the number of attendees, or anything that is quantifiable.

The Institute for Public Relations provided guidelines for measuring the effectiveness of a PR campaign. The following are a few of the guidelines provided by the institution:

  • Establish a clear program, strategic and tactical objectives, and desired outcomes before you begin, to provide a basis for measurement of results. PR goals should tie directly to the overall goals of the organization.
  • Measuring media content needs to be viewed as only a first step in the PR measurement and evaluation process.
  • A combination of different measurement techniques are needed. Consideration should be given to any one or several of the following: media content analysis, cyberspace analysis, trade show and event measurement, polls and surveys, focus groups, and experimental designs.
  • Being prepared ahead of time, by clearly identifying the organization’s principal messages, the key target audience groups, and the desired channels of communication, will assist in measuring the PR effectiveness.

It is absolutely possible to successfully measure the effectiveness of a campaign, as long as the PR practitioner follows some set of guidelines. By measuring effectiveness, PR firms and other organizations can continue to produce successful campaigns.

Author H. James Harrington said, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”

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Opportunities Ahead, Proceed with Assurance

In my freshman year of college, I played tennis during the fall semester. There was one day when we were playing against another school in an extremely nice indoor facility. I was warming up with my opponent when the strings on my racket suddenly broke. This had never happened to me before, so I was a little freaked out. I believe you could call it a crisis. How did I manage that crisis? I went and grabbed my other tennis racket, which was heavier and smaller, and continued practicing. I had to adjust my swing and take it easier during my serves, but I played just as well as I would have if my other racket had not broken. Whether it’s in the moment or directly after, the way a person handles a crisis is utterly important.

Robert Ulmer, a published author of the Communication Currents, a publication by the National Communication Association, wrote an article on how to create opportunities out of a crisis. The article suggests that “an organization that is able to mindfully view crises as both threat and opportunity increases their communication choices.”

For example, we all remember the 2008 economic crisis that led to a scandal on Wall Street, right? Many of the Wall Street scoundrels fled without any ounce of consideration to what it may do to thousands of innocent people. The nation was devastated and furious. However, Rahm Emanuel, the current mayor of Chicago, was remembered for suggesting to take this crisis and form opportunities that weren’t an option previously. By looking at the positive aspects of this crisis, Emanuel was able to stay above the turmoil and figure out a list of possible opportunities.

Image Credit: Jason Tester via Compfight

Image Credit: Jason Tester via Compfight

Steve Jobs, previous CEO of Apple, used dropping out of college, getting fired from Apple, and being diagnosed with cancer as opportunities to do something better. By dropping out of college, Jobs was able to take other courses which ended up helping him develop the typography for Apple. The company firing him was his ticket to more time and creativity and his diagnosis of cancer reminded him that life is short and one must always continue to make the big choices in life.

Conan O’Brien, the once hilarious host on The Tonight Show, lost his job a few years ago. This news was very public knowledge and it makes a person wonder how O’Brien handled the situation. During his 2011 commencement speech at Dartmouth College, he expressed to the graduating students how important it was to remember that people’s lives are forever changing. A person’s dream may not always stay the same and if it does change, opportunities will arise. He even said, “If you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.”

By following the steps of these three men and turning a crisis into an opportunity, many businesses and corporations should be able to provide successful crisis management. It’s all about the approach and the way you look at a possible disaster. Just remember, be proactive and optimistic and changing the course of a crisis is quite possible.

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Blog Much?

Image Credit: Mike Licht via compfight

Image Credit: Mike Licht via compfight

I remember back in junior high, when blogging was big among the “pre-teen” girls. My mom had heard horror stories at work and came home asking if I had one. I told her no, which was the truth, and asked why. She went on some spiel about the dangers of having your personal information online. At that time, I couldn’t care less because I was just a kid. But now, I completely understand her fears. But as I look back on that time, it’s not her fears that I remember most, it’s the growth of blogging that surprises me.

Blogging has become a world-wide phenomenon not just for whiny little girls, but for professionals, businesses, politicians, students, and entrepreneurs. Since this activity has become such a big thing, I thought I’d shell out a few tips I found while doing research. I guess you could say that if you want to be successful, these tips for effective blogging will definitely be a helpful tool.

Talascend, “A world leader in technical resourcing solutions,” gives ten tips for effective blogging. Those tips are:

1) Have a purpose: people won’t want to read your blog if you’re just talking about random things, or if it’s your stream of consciousness.

2) Keep strictly to a schedule: this is pretty self explanatory, but if you have a schedule and stick to it, your readers won’t be sitting around anxiously awaiting a blog post that isn’t even being written.

3) It’s a marathon, not a sprint: if you only get a few readers your first time, that’s alright. Just continue blogging and using these tips and more readers will come.

4) 200 words is not a blog: anywhere between 400-1,000 words is a decent amount for a blog post. Any less has the ability to disappoint your readers and any more might reduce them to skimming rather than reading.

5) If you’re blogging for a business, don’t promote it directly: people don’t want promotions thrown in their faces. You can include information about your business on an “about me” page, but don’t try and include it in your blog post.

6) Learn something new: if you are learning something while writing your blog post, then you’re most likely going to be excited. This excitement shows in your writing and is beneficial for both you and your audience.

7) Remember you’re not a journalist, but you are a blogger: your blog is your opinion, necessary references aren’t always required. However, if you’re using someone else”s idea, make sure to give them all the credit they deserve.

8) Encourage people to comment on your blog and accept them without growing angry: if you post the critiquing comments without going off on the person, then people are more likely to trust you and what you have to say.

9) Keep it a bit relaxed and don’t go formal on your audience: like aforementioned, this is your opinion. If you start writing in a way that isn’t typical to your own voice, then it’s not going to be as fun to blog. Also, by keeping it simple, more people will be able to read your blog without hesitation or confusion.

10) Remember your two audiences: the readers and the Google spiders: Your audience will find your blog, but for the people that haven’t heard of it yet, that’s when the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes in. The SEO is what ranks news most relevant to the person using a search engine. By keeping this in mind, you can write your blog in such a way that gains you attention.

These tips may be focused more on the business style blogging, but all in all, they will work for anyone hoping to create an effective and successful blog.

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Hashtag #nightmare

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Image Credit: misspixels via compfight

Twitter is basically one of the hottest sites for social media. It’s an easy way to say what you’re thinking whenever you want or, in the case of companies, it’s a great way to promote and advertise. Along with Twitter comes the ever growing hashtag. You might be thinking, “What’s a hashtag?” Well, according to urban dictionary, a hashtag is a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic and start a conversation.

Alright, so we have the hashtag, but what happens if someone mistypes or people take the hashtag the wrong way? It could become a hashtag #nightmare, unless someone steps up and handles it well.

For example, the Switzerland PR team working on the film The Hobbit started the hashtag #hobbitch. What people didn’t realize is that CH is an abbreviation for Switzerland. The hashtag became the center of a variety of jokes. Considering the tweet went over well in Switzerland, it’s hard to determine how the company handled the attacks in the U.S. However, if I was working for this PR team, I would have most likely sent out a tweet explaining the meaning behind the “ch” at the end of the hashtag. I have to say though, if I felt like being a sarcastic employee, I probably would have continued the joke, enjoying the responses.

A true hashtag #nightmare would have to be the #McDstories fail. McDonald’s started a hashtag campaign that asked their followers to tweet stories about times they were at the fast food restaurant. What they didn’t expect was the nasty responses that included stories of finding fingernails in burgers or rats running across the floor. The social media director for the company, Rick Wion, later admitted the campaign was a complete fail and claimed that the responses were negative enough to result in a change. The company then started tweeting out stories from workers or companies who provided supplies to McDonald’s using the same hashtag.

In a world where one innocent hashtag can become a terrible disaster, is it a good idea for companies to use twitter for advertising? In my opinion, I think Twitter campaigning could be very successful. But, it all depends on whether or not the company does their research and incorporates correct hashtags. The companies should always keep their audience in mind when selecting what to tweet.

It’s a time of overtaking social media and immediate advertisements. Stay aware and proactive and please don’t fall victim to a hashtag #nightmare.

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It’s All About the Release… Press Release That Is.

It’s a rare moment in our lives when we go somewhere without hearing a piece of news. Social media, news stations, print media, the internet, and word of mouth keep us updated at any given moment. However, all of these sources typically gain their information from one central source. Two obvious questions are, where is that source getting its information and in what form is the source receiving it?

The simplest answer to those questions would be a press release from any reporter, journalist, or public relations practitioner wanting to gain publicity or get a story out there as soon as possible. You might be thinking, “Well what in the world is a press release?” Don’t worry, I was thinking the exact same thing until I did a little research.

According to prlog.org, a press release is a statement prepared and distributed to the news media communicating something newsworthy. Alright, so we now know the definition, but how do we write a press release?

Prlog.org also stated a few necessary pieces included in a successful press release. When writing, you must remember to include a headline, a summary, the body, an about section, and media contact information.

The headline is the same as any news story in which it is the first line of text explaining what the press release is about. The summary is a short paragraph selling your press release to the media. The body paragraphs include a dateline, an introduction, and all of the details. The about section typically includes background information on the press release issuing organization. Lastly, the media contact information is included in order to share the contact info for the media relations contact person.

Now that we know the basic necessities for a press release, ABNewswire gave us seven helpful tips on how to write a press release:

1) Make sure it is interesting and catchy. The press release needs to grab the readers attention right away.

2) Know who your audience is. Using terms and phrases they identify with will definitely help keep their attention.

3) Be straight to the point and be real.

4) Provide value to the readers.

5) Eliminate all errors.

Image Credit: The Pix-Jockey via Compfight

Image Credit: The Pix-Jockey via Compfight

6) Don’t mess up the headline.

7) Display your contact information.

Now that we know what to include in a press release and a handful of tips on how to be successful in writing one, it’s just a matter of time before our stories begin appearing in the news. Just remember, news is everywhere, you just need to get your story out there. It’s all about the release…press release that is.

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Who Says Greed is Unethical?

Greed. You hear the word quite often, whether it’s from annoyed parents, jealous coworkers, or “powerless” citizens. It’s considered one of the Seven Deadly Sins and often leads to the destruction of many powerful people. Greed is exactly what brought a frenzy of angry bloggers and consumers to show their distaste for Walmart.

Image Credit: El Neato via Compfight

Image Credit: El Neato via Compfight

In 2000, former Walmart employee Deborah Shank was involved in an automobile accident. Her minivan collided with a semi-trailer, leaving her sitting in a wheelchair and dealing with brain damage. The brain damage lead to short-term memory loss and her inability to work. In Walmart’s healthcare plan, it states the company can recover the cost of expenses if the employee receives a payout during a lawsuit. Shank sued the trucking company involved in the accident for $1 million and received $417,000 after the legal fees. Walmart then sued Shank for the $470,000 it expensed in medical bills.

In 2008, Shank appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court but was turned down. After angry bloggers took to the internet, Walmart sent a letter to the Shanks explaining their process in adjusting the health care plan and their decision to not take any of the money used for Deborah’s care.

It took eight years for the multi-billion dollar company to make an ethical decision. Now, I know Walmart wasn’t participating in any illegal activity, but the fact that the corporation wanted to sue Shank for more than she even had, is pretty unethical.

If you find yourself dealing with the green monster try focusing on creating the greatest good for a greater number of people, also known as Utilitarianism. Greed only brings temporary happiness for those in power. Beat down that deadly sin and focus on keeping your employees, clients, and yourself happy by producing the greatest good.

American psychologist Erich Fromm said, “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” Follow Fromm’s wise words and stop exhausting yourself. It’s definitely not worth it in the end.

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If I’m Number Two, Then Who Is Number One?

I remember back in high school, when there was a leadership conference for the student body. After the conference, my friends were walking around with stickers that said, “I’m number 2.” Whenever someone asked them, “Well if you are number 2, then who is number 1,” they would look at them and say, “You are!” It’s very similar to the relationships in public relations. A PR practitioner should always put his or her clients and publics first.

Image Credit: Mark Deterding via LinkedIn

Image Credit: Mark Deterding via LinkedIn

I was interviewing Mark Deterding, President of Triune Leadership Services, the other day. I learned quite a bit about his company, which he created in 2011. Mark created his company in order to train business executives in service leadership skills. In a typical week, Mondays and Wednesdays are spent coaching 15 executives for one hour increments every other week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are spent with senior leadership executives within their businesses, teaching them to build servant leadership skills throughout the company. On Fridays, Mark leads group training on servant leadership with his leadership round table executives.

Mark’s Leadership Round Table happens to be the proudest part of his business. Having sent out special invitations to all of the top leaders, business owners, superintendents of schools, police chiefs, and the heads of the hospitals, around 200 leaders accepted this year. The Leadership Round Table is a seven month commitment where the leaders meet once a month and train for three hours. During these three hours, Mark and his partner, a local pastor, work with the executives to illustrate how Jesus led within his life. The skills the executives learn are then used to lead their employees within their businesses. What Mark found to be truly inspirational, is how the executives enhance their relationships with God throughout this seven month process. The leaders see an impact in their personal lives, as well as, their professional.

Besides staying busy with conferences and meetings, Mark stays up to date with several different social media sites. He currently has over 8,100 twitter followers and gains close to 160 each week. His twitter is linked to his Facebook page, as well as, his blog. The blog is updated weekly and used to stay connected with all of his followers and clients. As Mark mentioned to me, staying connected is the best way to maintain relationships and gain new clients. Even the clients that aren’t on social media receive personal emails including his blog and any new news found from blogs he follows.

In this day and age, being a part of social media is one of the main ways to stay connected. If it wasn’t for Mark’s personal coach, he wouldn’t be as tuned in as he is now. However, other than social media, Mark had a few tips for new or practicing PR professionals.

One: PR is all about the relationships and getting to know people one-on-one.

Two: Always think about advancing other people’s businesses and other people’s lives.

And above all, for any college student out there, a “college degree is a license to start learning out in the real world.”

After learning a lot about Mark’s business and the way he stays dedicated to his clients, I would definitely enjoy being a part of the PR world. So all in all, remaining number two to help number one will continue being a goal of mine.

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The Greatest Party in Football

Two weeks ago, on Sunday, February 3, the 47th Super Bowl took place in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers both played an interesting game, but despite the power outage and the exciting performance by Beyoncé, the commercials were the object of my interest.

Taco Bell, Dodge Ram, Doritos, Go Daddy, Budweiser, and Oreo all had interesting commercials. Some critics claim the Taco Bell commercial was a bit controversial, but the company definitely got their slogan to Live Más across. Out of all the commercials, I would have to say the Oreo’s Whisper Fight is my favorite.

The commercial consisted of numerous library patrons arguing over whether or not the cream or the cookie is the better part of the Oreo. However, the arguments never grew louder than a whisper. Even though stacks of books, bookshelves, and chairs were being knocked over, as well as, a car driving through the wall, the sound remains soft and appropriate for a library setting. At the end of the commercial, Oreo sends viewers to Instagram in order to choose the side they are on.

The fact that Oreo is trying to include its consumers and possible consumers in the discussion, shows how dedicated the company is to its public. A variety of people enjoy eating Oreos, whether it be the cream, just the cookie, or the cream and the cookie. But the commercial was aimed more towards the young adult and older generations, or the people who can actually drive to a store and purchase the delicious cookies.

Alongside having an interesting commercial, Oreo took to twitter during the power outage. The PR professionals utilized this time to promote their product. A picture of an Oreo in the dark with a caption of “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” was retweeted thousands of times.

So, congratulations to a job well done Oreo! I look forward to seeing what next year’s commercials will bring.

Image Credit: Stephen Vance via Compfight

Image Credit: Stephen Vance via Compfight

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