Saturday, December 30, 2006

Like Construction Tools, Blogging Can be Dangerous to the Unprepared

Much has been written about the benefits of businesses getting into blogging. To some, it seems like a no brainer, like it should be an automatic part of your PR arsenal. If you’re not blogging, you’re among those who don’t “get it.”

Others who frankly are more in touch with the purposes of public relations know that blogging is one tool in a large toolbox. And each tool has its function. Nothing new there. But new tools can be dangerous when you don’t know how to use them. That’s a big reason more companies haven’t entered this arena. They’ve seen just how a mistake can turn into a nightmare.

Before you convince a client or your organization to dive into blogging, do some homework. Do lots of homework. Read blogs. Watch trends. Engage with bloggers. Set goals for specific audiences or stakeholders. Learn from others’ creativity and learn from others’ mistakes.

There is tons of potential in the blogosphere to turn around an issue, a business or even an industry. But faking it won’t work. Ethics aside for a moment, what may have been possible in other media, just isn’t in this one.

Noelle Weaver of Advertising Age has a great post, “What we should learn from Sony’s fake blog fiasco,” that discusses false marketing practices. There are many great resources online and off about how to blog effectively. But Noelle shares four lessons that are deeper than a how-to.

1. “Good advertising doesn’t rely on tricking, lying to or deceiving your target
2. “The consumer is smarter than you think, alternative marketing
tactics must be genuine, authentic and in today’s world, transparent.”
“Today’s interest in brand politics means that everything you do will come under
scrutiny from someone. See number 2.”
4. “Involve your consumer in the brand
conversation, give them the tools to do so and they will repay you four-fold.”

The real homework has nothing to do with the technology. As I’ve said before, for many this is a different kind of strategy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Planning Your Podcast Series

My organization has launched a podcast series designed for one of our specific audiences. We kicked it off in October and have several episodes under our belt. I thought it might be useful for others if I shared the outline of the planning document I prepared in advance for my directors. I did not have to sell them on the idea of podcasting, but I did have to map out a plan for how to get there. The text that followed each heading or subheading was no more than one paragraph (except for the list of related existing podcasts).

  1. Goal (big picture, does not mention podcasting)
  2. Strategy
  3. Objectives
  4. Tactic (This is where podcasting is first mentioned. e.g., Produce a podcast series [when] targeted to [who].)
  5. Benefits
    a. Benefits of Podcasting (adapted slightly from Eric Schwartzman’s list April 18, 2006 post – thanks Eric!)
    b. Benefits of Podcasting for my organization
  6. Details and Next Steps
    a. Frequency
    b. Sponsored by which internal project(s)
    c. Planned Topics and Schedule
    d. Staff Roles
    e. Equipment Needs (recording equipment, software, feedback mechanisms, web site)
    f. Preparation Timeline
    g. Policy Statements and Licenses (copyright, privacy policy, release form, music licenses)
    h. What do we call our podcast?
    i. Style
    j. Program Format and Length
    k. Production Process
    l. Feedback
    m. Sample Introduction Segment
  7. Promotion
  8. Measurement
  9. Other Related Podcasts (topical list from Podcast Alley)

Before I started writing my plan, I did some research by listening to PR and communications related podcasts and by participating in a webinar held by Shel Holtz. I also referred to the excellent book, Podcast Solutions by Michael Geoghegan and Dan Klass.

Once the plan was finished, we decided to deal with the technical learning curve by hiring a consultant to do the production portion, Byran Person. After we record each episode (on a $150 pocket-size digital recorder), he edits the audio, adds intros, etc. He also has advised us on several aspects of the process. We are very grateful for his assistance.

For any organization that is planning to start a podcast series and doesn’t have the expertise inhouse, I highly recommend taking this route. There are several very qualified folk who can provide this kind of assistance, and it doesn’t matter where in the world they live.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Read and Listen to Coverage from the PRSA Conference

PRSA’s International Conference is over, but if you couldn’t attend, there are a number of bloggers that covered parts of the conference, and Webmaster radio has a series of MP3s of some of the sessions and of some interviews.

And, better yet, all of the information is free!

I was thrilled to hear the entire session with Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News, who spoke about the changes in the Digital World (MP3) and why PR practitioners should care. Heyward should know since it was in his tenure that 60 Minutes aired the program that about President Bush’s National Guard service using documents that turned out to be falsified. An outcry from bloggers forced CBS to take a closer look at this incident. Heyward talks about his in his keynote.

In the Webmaster radio list, there is also an interview with Katie Payne, who will be in Austin next week to talk about measurement of internal programs. A few of us are driving up togehter to attend and will post something about the meetup on this blog.

Lauren Vargas has a list of some of the better posts from the conference and other resources. I particularly liked Katie Payne’s post about repairing America’s image abroad.

Happy reading and listening!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Report Card for Learning New Technology

I’ve been in a reflection mood lately. Perhaps because it’s the end of the year when we review the past year and plan for the next. Or perhaps it’s merely because I was in a car for 12 hours over the holiday. But one thing I’m amazed at is how much I’ve learned about using technology. It was kind-of a goal I set for myself, and I had no idea where it would take me. Here’s a summary and a key lesson in each area.

New web site
After four years of work and evolution of ideas and with the help of a technology genious, my organization launched a new web site this summer. I was in charge of the content, the structure and the process in general. The site uses a cascading style sheet and is database-driven. As a result, it is much more optimized. It has at least 950 pages and 11,000 links.

Lesson so far: A new web site may seem “so last century,” but even now-a-days it is critical to our work.

Goal for 2007: Train employees to use the CMS so they can create content.

Social Networking
I’ve taken a look at sites like My Space and Linked In, and, to help me in my work, I have referred to wiki sites developed by others. More deeply, I have dabbled with using Delicious for specific purposes.

Lessons so far: It doesn’t take a big investment of time to learn about social networking online, but there is a lot more for me to learn. The best way to learn this stuff is through hands-on experience.

Goals for 2007: Set up Delicious and wiki sites for work-related purposes. Train employees to use Delicious in their work.

I didn’t start out the year planning to learn much about blogs. I had some pre-conceived notions that turned out to only partially be true. I’ve been monitoring conversations about my organization. But the biggest change occurred when Kami set up this group blog and I joined the group.

Lessons so far: Not many bloggers are talking about my organization. Blogging is addictive. PR bloggers are really supportive of each other.

Goals for 2007: Write more and less – more often, less words. Leave more comments on others’ blogs.

Media Relations via Social Media
First, when we set up our new web site, I revamped the press room section. We’ve also added a feature for reporters to receive news via RSS. And second, of course, I have been blogging recently about my foray into using the new social media release. I don’t do enough media relations to get much practice. But I’ll keep working at it.

Lesson so far: There are a ton of details to learn to use the social media release. But it’ll be different, way into the future – meaning in the next week or so.

Goals for 2007: Improve my use of the social media release. Use other social media to be a better resource to reporters.

This is my best success. When the year started, I had never listened to a podcast. But I got an iPod and subscribed to the main PR-related ones. Then I participated in a webinar by Shel Holtz on the subject. I put together a plan and launched a podcast series at work, with the excellent assistance of a consultant, Bryan Person of the New Comm Road podcast. We already have our first three episodes online.

Lessons so far: “Low barrier to entry” is relative. You still either have to know how or find someone who does. And you still have to plan for your audience and your organization goals.

Goal: Continue to improve and promote our podcast series.
Stretch goal: Start a local PR-related podcast. Hmmm

When I look at this whole list, part of me thinks: no wonder I’m tired! But really, this has been fun. It has helped me do my job better. And it hasn’t really been so time consuming that other things suffered. (I also built a house with my husband, moved my kids into new schools, took care of my geriatric puppy, planned birthday parties, volunteered with church, PRSA and the March of Dimes, read bedtime stories, balanced the checkbook, and did the laundry.)

If you’re wondering where to start, my suggestion is to pick one thing and focus on that for a while. At least that’s what I did. I explored certain technologies but focused on podcasting because that was the most appropriate for my situation.

And naturally, the more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

100 Years and Counting for the News Release

Speaking of the status of the news release, it just turned 100 years old. On October 28, 1906, Ivy Lee created the first news release. He was working as a consultant with the Pennsylvania Railroad when an accident occurred that killed at least 50 people. The same day, he urged the company to release a statement with facts before the rumor mill took over. He also invited reporters to the scene and provided a rail car to transport them there. Impressed by the tactic, the New York Times printed the release in full. This new approach was highly praised by media and public officials.

A few months later, another incident with another client led to much criticism of the news release. One biographer says critics called them “ads disguised as stories sent to manipulate news coverage.”

So Ivy Lee issued a Declaration of Principles, which stated: “This is not a secret press bureau. All our work is done in the open. We aim to supply news… In brief, our plan is, frankly and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply to the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects which it is of value and interest to the public to know about.” This is just one of the reasons Ivy is regarded by many as the father of modern public relations.

Greg Jarboe provides more info about the first release.

Karen, who writes the Teaching PR blog, has supplied the full text of Lee’s principles.

All this discussion about the new media release (aka the social media release) in the context of this 100th birthday has led me to wonder. In addition to re-evaluating what elements ought to be in a news release these days, perhaps we can re-look at our principles for the news release.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I am a Railroad Conductor?

Salt Lake City (Nov. 10) This afternoon I attended the Chapter President’s Leadership Workshop that was presented by the executive director, public awareness initiative of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Dell Galloway. When I attend sessions, I tend to get more out of them if the presenter is engaging and truly interested in getting their audience involved. Dell Galloway is that type of speaker.

The session started with the attendees voicing what qualities they felt effective leaders possessed. The list included being: passionate; general interested in the organization; appreciative; intuitive; confident; encouraging; a good listener; able to laugh at yourself; able to have a strong moral compass; authentic; tenacious; and understanding. Out of all of these, I found myself lacking in one major area. I am not the best listener. Let me clarify, I am often not the best listener to other’s ideas. I form my opinions or response to those ideas while they are being suggested to me, instead of just shutting down the cogwheels of the brain and focusing on the speaker only.

The attendees discussed their own choices of effective leaders, which were FDR; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and someone even mentioned Adolph Hitler. Some effective leaders that Galloway had influenced him in the past were Winston Churchill, his eighth grade biology teacher, and his former supervisor at AT&T Corporation.

We all have had those supervisors who were railroad conductor leaders: This means their way was the best way and they just did everything to push through. I came to a horrible conclusion. Since becoming the Chapter President of the PRSSA Chapter at the University of Texas at San Antonio, I have been a ‘railroad conductor leader.’ While sometimes this tactic has worked, I have also faced harsh criticism and almost had a mutiny of our executive board. I sit at the head of the table at all meetings, this can be a huge mistake. By doing this I am giving the impression that I am the almighty and that things should be my way. I am not almighty and going forward I will be listening much more.

Galloway suggested that there is a greater way to lead than the top down. This is the coach facilitator method. This method is key in pulling all of the potential out individuals. The coach facilitator leader helps individuals to develop their own strengths. The way this is done is by nurturing relationships with those in your organization. Galloway suggests that relationships are like bank accounts. Things you do as a leader that are positive are considered deposits. As you lead you build on those deposits, however, sometimes as a leader you also make withdrawals. These come in the form of poor decisions, and not pulling from one or more of the above mentioned qualities.

I took quite a bit away from this session, which includes many things such as the fact that the purpose of PR must include being harmonious with your organization and the client. The three Ls: They are Listen to other’s ideas and suggestions; Learn from those in your organization and other professionals; and Lead your organization to success by implementing what you have learned by listening. I also learned that along with my passion I have to be authentic in everything I do, even when I make mistakes. Sometimes it does not hurt to eat a little bit of crow every now and then. It only proves that you are human.

“Are You the Faculty Advisor for Your Chapter?”

Salt Lake City (Nov. 10) Hello from Salt Lake City, where I have come to ‘Make the Ascent.’ I and two other members of the PRSSA Chapter at the University of Texas at San Antonio have come to the 2006 PRSSA National Conference. I planned for months for this trip, thinking how great it would be to mingle with other members of PRSSA and PR professionals from across the nation. I also thought how great it would if it snowed while I was here, being from San Antonio the only snow I ever see are those flurries that melt before they hit the ground.

I arrived in Salt Lake City at 11:30 a.m. today and will be staying for the entire conference, which ends on Tue. November 14. I chose the title of this posting because of an interesting thing that keeps occurring. I have mentioned in a previous posting that I am a non-traditional student who is 40 years young. I obviously do not look like I am in my twenties. While on my way to the Sheraton City Centre, one of my fellow conference attendees asked me, “Are you the Faculty Advisor for your Chapter?” I did not know whether to take that as a compliment or be sad that my age shows so much. I responded, “No, I am actually the President of the PRSSA Chapter at the University of Texas at San Antonio.” I thought, okay that is over with. Not by a long shot, I counted at least 15 other individuals today that asked me that question. I have embraced this question as a compliment, because with age that shows come wisdom that is demonstrated through actions of leadership.

Continue to look for additional postings throughout the rest of the weekend.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lots of Answers to My SMR Questions

Early this week I shared questions I faced when I was setting up my first social media release. There is a lot of activity currently to create standards for this new form of news release and to help public relations professionals understand how to use them. I posted my questions hoping to inform these conversations.

And wow, I have had many people provide answers and offer assistance. I’m actually overwhelmed at your generosity! I am going to sort through all of the suggestions and try them out in a real-work situation and will share how that goes in the coming days. In the meantime, I want to share with you the wonderful responses and resources that have been offered.

In “Basic Answers to Some Basic Questions re: Social Media News Releases,” Todd Defren gave very useful answers to each question.

Shannon Whitley suggested using PRX Builder (developed by Todd Defren) to create Digg and buttons without worrying about the coding.

Brian Solis also pointed me to his brief guide on “How to Write Social Media Press Releases” (which had actually been very useful to me when I was putting mine together).

Bruce Prochnau, Kelvin Jones and David provided very detailed suggestions on the New Media Release Google Group. If you are interested in learning more about the social media release I highly suggest you join this group.

The biggest news in this area is the release of the requirements (or elements) of a social media release developed by a representative working group of professionals. The requirements are on the new blog on the subject.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Questions About Using the Social Media Release Format

For my organization, I only do one big media campaign a year. And it’s roughly the same story every year. Sometimes, I really do something creative with it and hardly get a bite. Other times, I’ve barely lifted a finger, and something happens that results in tons of good coverage.

A few weeks ago, I was at it again. But this time, I tried using the new social media release format. Now, diehard SMR experts will criticize me because it’s not the full-blown deal. For example, it doesn’t include a DiggIt feature or links. But hey, it’s my first attempt. And I put it together by myself with the resources of a small non-profit.

I did some homework first. I listened to a few of the SMR podcasts (but they were more chatty and techie-speak, than instructive). I joined the discussion list on Google Groups. I referred to Shift Communications’ terrific online PR 2.0 Guide. I went to the DiggIt web site to learn how to create the link. I studied SMRs recently distributed by other firms. Etc., etc.

Still, I have questions, very practical questions…

Once you figure out how to set up the DiggIt link, how can you test it? I don’t want to put anything on a news release that may not work. But you are not supposed to Digg your own stuff. And you sure don’t want to Digg something that you’re not releasing yet.

How do you set up a purpose-built page or tags? I know this is an amateur question, but tons of PR folks are amateurs at this.

What are the pros and cons of using a purpose-built page or tags? I need to know what to expect and how it will help reporters and my organization. I don’t want to do it just because it’s a standard part of a SMR.

If you don’t have a blog but you do have a web site, do you still need to include a list of tags on the release? If so, how? I include keywords and other optimization things in my web site. How are tags different, or are they just for blogs?

If you distributing your release yourself rather than using a wire service, do you really e-mail the whole thing? Once I created mine, it was more than two printed pages. I never send that much to reporters unless they request it. I typically only send a few sentences with a great subject line.

These are just a handful of the details that stumped me. Most of the blog posts and resources I found assumed a higher level of understanding of social media and technical jargon than I and many, many PR folk currently possess.

On a related note, Todd Defren and company have developed PRX Builder which is a “Social Media News Release Builder.” Of course it came out one week too late for me. And so I haven’t tried it out, but what a wonderful contribution to the field this is likely to be!

Unfortunately, I don’t know if the response we’ve gotten in this campaign is due to the content, the timing or the methods. It’s probably a combination. So, I’ll keep trying. I would really be interested in hearing about others’ SMR trials.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

PRSSA at UTSA Shows Appreciation

It was a good showing from members of the PRSSA Chapter at the University of Texas at San Antonio for the November PRSA Luncheon Program. Dr. Steven Levitt, Faculty Advisor; Gregory L. Frieden, President; members Sarah Ceballos, Mayra Soto, Aaron Brooks, Elizabeth Noyola, and Priscilla Sanchez were in attendance. The reason for the good attendance, the Chapter was on a mission.

Recently the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Chapter of PRSA voted to give the PRSSA Chapter a $1,000 scholarship to offset the expenses of the Chapter delegates that will be attending the 2006 PRSSA National Conference in Salt Lake City, Nov. 10-14. The three delegates are Gregory L. Frieden, Sarah Ceballos, and Mayra Soto. The delegates will be submitting two essays each upon their return from the conference, with a possible presentation at an upcoming luncheon in early 2007.

Gregory L. Frieden presented Paige Ramsey Palmer, President of the PRSA Chapter of San Antonio with a Certificate of Appreciation from the PRSSA Chapter at UTSA. The mission was to show the Chapter’s appreciation to not only the Board of Directors for the scholarship, but to the Chapter’s current professional advisors Anne Keever Cannon, APR, PRSA Liaison and Cassandra Miranda, PRSA Liaison Assistant. Since May the PRSSA Chapter has been guided and assisted in many endeavors by these two exceptional advisors. The San Antonio PRSA Chapter has shown exemplary support for our PRSSA Chapter and we look forward to continuing our excellent working relationship with the Chapter.

Local Magazine Coverage Can Be Yours

(Nov. 2006) There is a myriad of local magazines that feature news about people, places, and things we know and love in our beloved city of San Antonio. Attendees of the November PRSA Luncheon Program had the opportunity to hear from the editors of two of these magazines. The guest speakers were Eliot Garza, Editor of NSIDE San Antonio, and Beverly Purcell-Guerra, Editor, San Antonio Woman. Both speakers spoke of the human-interest stories that most captivate readers and how you can develop story ideas to increase the chances of seeing your client covered in the pages of these publications. Moderator Lorraine Pulido-Ramiréz posed three important questions to the panelists and then opened up the floor for a few questions.

The first question was about the publication, the target audience, and the number of locations where the publications can be found. San Antonio Woman, celebrating its fourth anniversary, has a publication of 30,000 per issue. The target audience includes young career women, with women of all ages enjoying the insightful articles that cover many of the topics that are salient in the minds of San Antonio women. San Antonio Woman can be found in most H.E.B. stores and other selected businesses.

NSIDE San Antonio, currently in its first year, focuses on different aspects and topics geared toward the business community in San Antonio. There tends to be a focus on those who might be considered underdogs in business. NSIDE San Antonio is currently at 15,000 in publication and can be found at approximately 220 different business locations. While both of these publications offer subscriptions at very reasonable prices, it is great to know that they continue to remain free to the public due to their revenues being earned by advertising.

The second question targeted what the process is for deciding who will be featured on the cover of the respective magazines. Both Eliot and Beverly agreed that there is no particular formula for deciding who will be featured on the cover. Basically profile decisions are based on the pitches or ideas sent to the editors by their audience and others in the business community.

The third question was geared toward how the PR professionals of San Antonio might be able to make the jobs of these editors easier. Beverly and Eliot agreed that one way to do this is to research whether a story has been done by the publication, or whether it is appropriate for the particular publication. E-mailing profile ideas are encouraged because with e-mail an idea can be saved for future use. This is important because these magazines are on a bi-monthly basis so they beginning working on an issue three to four months in advance of the issue’s publication. Another area of agreement was the amount of time prior to an event should it be submitted as an idea for the magazine. Both felt that the sooner the better, for example an event being held in May should be submitted in December or January.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Follow the Money -- PRSA Encourages Financial Ed for Kids

PRSA member and former San Antonio chapter president, John Worthington, has penned a great article in the October 20, 2006, edition of the San Antonio Business Journal (pg. 31). In the article titled, “Teach your kids about managing money before they leave the nest,” he discusses five basic money skills children need to learn before graduating from high school:

  1. Basic budgeting
  2. Credit card costs
  3. Savings basics
  4. Car financing and ownership
  5. Checkbook balancing

Now clearly John’s position as senior vice president of communication at Security Service Federal Credit Union had something to do with the opportunity to pen this article. (On the accompanying page there is an article about financial education, “Texas teens to get a healthy dose of Rx in the classroom,” by Tim Haegelin, president and CEO of the San Antonio City Employees Federal Credit Union.)

But anyone who knows John, knows that this topic is one of his passions. Just a few weeks ago, he was talking to me about helping my own kids learn about saving by opening a savings account. And my youngest is only 3 years old!

Great job, John! I for one will be taking your advice.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tastes Like Chicken – Tips for Making an Awards Banquet Meaningful

If you were to ask a room full of people what their favorite activity is, I’ll bet you not a one of them would say going to an awards banquet. We imagine ourselves sitting through speeches, eating rubbery chicken, clapping for people we don’t know, and looking at our watches as the agenda drags into double overtime. We’ve all been there.

But from an organizational perspective, an awards banquet can serve several important purposes. It can:

  • Bring to the forefront an issue of concern,
  • Raise funds,
  • Extend gratitude to individuals or a group of people,
  • Support a brand, and
  • Encourage and inspire.

I’ve been to several in the last few months. Those that were really well-planned with the participants in mind, were excellent. They were even enjoyable or touching. Then there were the others. For those, it often seemed like all the planners cared about was kissing up to their committee members or funders or the like. I would have rather sat in my car with a sack lunch.

Among the banquets I attended this year, there was a significant contrast between the good and the bad. None fell in between.

Here are some tips based solely on what I observed:

• Plan with the audience in mind. Make sure all the elements of the program will be of interest to them. Think about their experience from the time they enter the parking lot through to when they leave it: lighting in the parking lot, signage to help them find their way, how to find bathrooms, will guests be looking for someone in particular, how they will know where to sit, have room at the registration table for big crowds to arrive at once, have accommodations for crutches and wheelchairs, ensure guests will be able to hear and see the program from where they are sitting, etc. There is a reason they have taken their time to attend. Make it mean something.

• Make the main award recipients feel special before, during and after the event. Don’t notify them by e-mail. At least pick up the phone or pay them a personal visit. Use their names as part of the promotion strategy both for the event and to give them more visibility. Help them notify their friends and family so that they can buy tickets or be present. Give them a sense ahead of time about what the program will look like. During the event, have someone at the door to welcome each recipient and direct them to where they need to go. Afterwards, send them thank you’s, photos and copies of news coverage.

• Be deliberate about staging. If there are 100 or more attendees, elevate the stage so that the whole audience can see what is going on. Make sure lighting facilitates the ambiance as well as visibility of the speakers and awardees. If you have a projection screen, put it to the side a bit. Don’t put it behind the presenters. (And don’t use it as the backdrop for photographs.)

• Don’t depend on doorprizes to keep the audience there to the end. The program should be made strong enough to keep them there. Either give out the doorprizes at certain intervals throughout the program or do it near the end (but not as the last thing). And, I know it’s tempting to save the best for last, but the opposite is really the best. Give the biggest doorprize first. That way everyone has a chance for the big prize. Plus, once the big ones are given out, the little ones won’t seem so little anymore. If there are more than three to five doorprizes, find a creative way to award them so that folks aren’t sitting through drawing after drawing and clapping for winners as if they’ve actually accomplished something.

• Be strategic about planning the program. Place your organizational announcements and protocol stuff at the beginning of the program. When the last award is given, people are ready to go. They don’t want to stick around and applaud the planning committee or staff or to hear appeals for money. Don’t start the awards presentations in the middle of the main course. People are too distracted trying to cut their rubbery chicken. When you do start the awards presentations, instruct the servers to stop clearing dishes. Pad your schedule a lot so you don’t go over time.

• Use a real MC. Don’t give the job to someone just because of their position in the organization. Make sure he or she or they have excellent speaking skills. They should be able to read a script without anyone knowing there was a script. The better banquets I attended recently used media personalities as their MCs. When it worked well, it worked very well. In those cases, the MC was already very familiar with the organization hosting the event.

• And speaking of the script, someone who really knows what they are doing should write the script. I mean really. This is one of the most important elements alongside booking the right location and serving food. It should touch on the purposes of the event, organization and/or cause. It should include a little info on why each award is special as well as why each recipient is deserving. It should not be filled with platitudes or partisanship (unless it is a partisan event). It should be pleasant to listen to. The closing should be as planned-out as the opening. People should leave on a high.

I am sure there are great books on this subject. And I am even more sure that professional event planners do this in their sleep. There are tons of details to deal with. It’s a really big job. But, gosh, there a lot of people planning awards banquets who do what they think is right without investigating or who are stretched way to thin. And it shows in the program.

A couple of months ago, I left an awards banquet in tears. It was held by the San Antonio chapter of the March of Dimes to thank leading family and corporate teams in its Walk America event to end prematurity. The banquet logistics were so well-planned and carried out, that as a participant, I was able to focus on the content of the program. I was deeply moved when the names of the winning teams were announced. It was clear that they were happy about winning, not because of a competition but because they knew it would make a difference. Had the event been poorly planned, that core message would have been lost.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Resources for PR Folk on Photos, Pitching Bloggers, and Using Google News

Here are some excellent resources that have been provided by PR bloggers.

Top tips for PR photos

Sean McManus of Prompt Communications Ltd writes: “Given two stories that are roughly equally interesting to readers, the one with a strong picture stands a much better chance of coverage. In some cases a weaker story with a good picture will get coverage over a stronger story. Print is a visual medium.” He then follows with 10 really good tips that we should all memorize.

Blogger Relations 101

Lee Odden of the Online Marketing Blog provides a list of five guidelines for pitching bloggers “sure to help you resonate with the blogger audience.” He then provides an excellent list of links to other resources on blogger relations.

Google News Releases Guidelines

If you depend on Google News to monitor coverage of a client or your organization, this one’s for you. Steve Rubel of Micropersuasion announced recently that “Google News has posted a bunch of new help pages that explain what content is indexed in the site and why.” Read more at Steve’s post.

Monday, October 16, 2006

An Interesting Economics Question!

I mention often that I am a student at UTSA, but I am also taking a Micro-economics class online at San Antonio College. I bring this up because my professor posted a discussion question based on an article in the Washington Post online, entitled "Virtual economies attract real-world tax attention."

His question was, "Should we tax people who play World of Warcraft and Second Life?" Below is my response. I don't know how my colleagues feel about this issue so I wanted to pose the question you. Let me know what you think about this matter by posting a comment!!

While I do not understand the draw to virtual sites like World of Warcraft and Second Life, I do know that they are very popular in many sectors of the business world. I am aware that virtual societies such as Second Life have been discussed at great length in PR circles lately.

As for whether I feel that virtual economies should be taxed, I have two thoughts on that matter. The first being, if a person's wealth aquisition remains virtual and there is no taxation system in place within the virtual society, then no, that person should not be taxed on their virtual wealth. The key word being virtual. On the other hand, if an individual has amassed enough virtual wealth, and the opportunity is there for it to be converted into U.S. dollars or any other currency for that matter in other countries, then yes there should be taxation on the virtual wealth at the time it is converted. With this being said, the taxation should be in accordance with the tax laws of the country of which the virtual dollars are being converted into that country's currency.

Does this make sense????

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tips for Gaining National Coverage for Your Local Client

I love the opportunities that are afforded to the members of the PRSSA Chapter at UTSA. One of those being the ability to attend the PRSA Luncheon program each month. The guests of the October installment of the PRSA luncheon were treated to a speaker who was both informative and extremely funny. We heard from Michele Krier, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Santikos Investments, Properties and Theatres, and Consultant for Creative Civilization. Michele Krier has worked in the PR field for 20 years, the last 10 focusing on national PR for a variety of clients including San Antonio companies Santikos Investments, Properties and Theatres and the Rivercenter Comedy Club.

Krier began by giving recognition to the many local PR professionals who have mentored her throughout her career. She gave a brief description of her professional background including how her successful pitches have resulted in getting news items published in many national newspapers and magazines, and on the national TV networks. Krier has worked with individuals ranging from movie stars, musicians, politicians, to Queen Elizabeth II.

Krier provided some important tips to gaining national exposure for the local clients of a firm. If a PR professional gains a national media contact it is important to nurture that relationship. A happy medium must be found, because it is not the goal, or job of the PR professional to be the contact’s best friend. Krier suggested that a follow up should be done no sooner than one week after a news item has been submitted. The reason for this is that some items are only placed on specific days.

Krier revealed some pet peeves of some of her national contacts. One being that before a PR professional submits a news item to a national contact they should determine whether the item will resonate on a national level or only locally. Along with this, the PR professional should research the medium they are sending the item to. What the medium covers, and what they have done in the last six months, and whether they have covered this type of item before. These questions will help determine if the item is right for the particular medium.

PR professionals should also know the deadlines of their contacts. Items pitched during deadlines are often ignored. With this, unless it is imperative that an item be immediately released due to time constraints, items should not be pitched on Mondays or Fridays for some obvious reasons.

When it came to submission preferences, Krier mentioned that a recent poll found that 50% of media contacts prefer to get items via e-mail. She did also mention that some contacts still prefer to receive items via fax. When e-mailing an item, using a strong headline in the subject line will catch the attention of the recipient causing them to open the e-mail. Pitches typically should not be made over the phone. If an item must be pitched over the phone, lead off with a strong headline. Catching the attention of the contact with the headline will help the PR professional, while not keeping a contact on the phone longer than necessary.

I walked away from this luncheon with some valuable information and having had quite a few laughs.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Get a Taste of Second Life for PR

I’m not a Second Lifer, but I do recognize that it has significant opportunities for public relations especially as more and more companies are using it.

If you are wondering and want to see what it looks like with out signing up just yet, go to YouTube. An innovative PR firm, Text 100, has put together a short video “illustrating how companies can use Second Life to improve both internal and external communications.” It’s less than three minutes long.

Then you can talk with our own Kami Huyse. She recently held a successful “meetup” in Second Life for PR folk.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shel Holtz Leaves ‘Em Beggin' for More

A couple of weeks ago we had a great visit from Shel Holtz. He led a professional development session, “Introduction to Social Media” held jointly by the San Antonio chapters of PRSA and IABC and sponsored by Frost Bank. Not surprisingly, people are still talking about it.

I circulated a follow-up survey by e-mail to participants who had registered through PRSA’s web site. Here are the results.

There were 10 responses to our follow-up survey (out of 44 registrants through PRSA, a few of whom were not able to attend). Thre were about 70 people at the session.

Most respondents (80 percent) rated the event a 5 (highest), the rest (20 percent) rated it a 4.n Below are all of the responses to the open-ended questions. I did not filter any.

When asked what was the most useful thing they learned in the workshop was, responses were:

  • Big picture truths, plus, I now have a better understanding of microformats and edge content.
  • About new processes and resources such as social tagging, edge content and RSS• I learned a little more about microcontent and the talk sparked some interesting thoughts that I will be able to use with my clients.
  • Too many interesting things to list.
  • Considering my low starting point, it was almost all useful.
  • General info on social media. Overview was great. Speaker engaging and knowledgeable.
  • All the different monitoring sites.
  • Everything he presented was new information that I was not familiar with. Very interesting and insightful!
  • That social media is real and is, to some degree, disrupting the PR business.
  • Citizen marketing

When asked what they wish they knew more about regarding social media, the responses were:

  • The rationale for elements of a social news release so I can determine which elements are right for my situation.
  • More about nuts and bolts of "how to use"
  • How to measure results of social media
  • How to better deal with pushback from upper management
  • More on open source marketing & co-creation
  • Technical training on how to create podcasts, other similar tools to communicate with our audiences.
  • Applications

Additional comments included:

  • This was my first PRSA-SA participation. If all of your future topics are as interesting and useful as the social media workshop, you will be very successful in your educational mission.
  • Unsurprisingly, Shel led a great presentation! His use of both data and real-world examples help paint a clear and credible picture of social media and communications. I'm sure this will prove to jump-start many of our professionals into the world of social media.
  • Great program!
  • Great collaboration of IABC and PRSA. We should do more of this kind of partnership. Better to have fewer great meetings than more less-than-great meetings. You're doing a great job on the programming! Thank YOU.
  • Good speaker, good event.
  • This was one of the best seminars I have been to in a very long time. Shel was articulate, funny and informative.
  • Wonderful high caliber speaker - great job!

By the way, Shel was interviewed by Shel (Israel) the other day.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

There is No Such Thing as Bad PR

Let me qualify that. Of course, public relations professionals make mistakes, and there are many – myself included – who are not as competent as they should be. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Public relations is, by definition, a field that serves the public interest.

When so-called PR activities do not serve the public interest or when they hurt the public, then they are not public relations.

Such activities include the “clueless telemarketing/spamming” of “drones” that Dan York has been “ranting” about. And they include astroturfing and other deceitful campaigns. We should call them what they are: propaganda, laziness, unethical… But we should not call them public relations!

It’s like we’ve given in to the perception that all this stuff is a part of our profession that we don’t like. Our acquiescence is a big reason for the PR profession’s PR problem that we keep talking about. It is also a key reason some people are easily led to believe that such tactics are ok.

No, it’s not all black and white. Terry Fallis and David Jones, focused their Inside PR #21 podcast (August 22, 2006) on the issue and asked honest questions about when an activity is astroturfing and when is it not. It was a healthy conversation. We need more of them. As public relations leaders, it is our job to help define the gray areas.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Astroturfing – Slippery When Wet

It’s football time again. Whew, we made it threw another off-season! Welcome back to the sounds and smells of the gridiron. The stadiums are open. The sodas are ready. And the grass is green. But is it real, or is it Memorex?

That’s the question many folk are asking about some grassroots campaigns. Is it really grassroots-driven or is it Astroturf? Which strategies are OK and which ones are foul?

Real grass is unpredictable. It doesn’t grow evenly. Sometimes, weeds pop up. Grass needs the right amount of water and sunlight. Often, it needs to be nourished by a little fertilizer. Working with it is messy business. It takes time to grow. But once it gets going, it is strong and long-lasting. Watered grass smells really good.

Watered Astrotuf is slippery. Astrotuf is, by definition, artificial. It leads to injuries. Each Astroturf field has a hand-selected texture, hand-selected fiber, hand-selected pad, and hand-selected color. Astroturf is easily controlled.

When public relations works with a grassroots campaign, it provides support. PR may provide resources or counsel. It’s complicated and it takes time.

When public relations works with an Astroturf campaign, it does so to be in control. PR becomes deceptive and manipulative. It’s relatively easy and fast.

Astroturfing clearly is not an ethical practice.

Paull Young and Trevor Cook have launched an anti-astroturfing campaign and are asking PR folk, agencies and other communicators to sign on. Go to the Anti-astroturfing PR Wiki for details.

It may not be as clear-cut as it sounds. So discussion and debate about it is healthy.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Out of Hiding!

As PR professionals, I am sure that most of you know what it is like to have too many things on your to do list and not enough time in the day. This has been so true for me over the last few weeks. That is why I have been missing in action.

In one of my previous posts "Can It Be Done?" I mentioned that one of the goals of the UTSA-PRSSA for this year was to start a Student Run Public Relations Firm and to secure our first outside client before I left the office of president. While we were sure that we could do it in that time frame, our executive board could have never imagined that we would wind up with the carriage in front of the horse, so to speak. I say this because we have succeeded in securing our first outside client for our firm. We have been hired by the Med Center Rotary Club to do their public relations and media print creations for their "2007 Nightingale Gala" to be held on May 11, 2007. This Gala will be the second held with the sole purpose of raising money for nursing scholarships to be distributed among the five nursing schools in San Antonio. The first Gala was held in May of this year and raised a total of $20,000 for nursing scholarships in the span of 4 1/2 months of the initial planning of the first Gala.

We are extremely happy and excited to be a part of something so important. Because there is a growing shortage of nurses in not only San Antonio, but the State of Texas and the country, we will be working on a fantastic cause. So because of this awesome opportunity, I have been missing in action. I will continue to keep you posted on the progress of our firm. I also ask that if you have an opportunity that you feel is a good fit for our organization to do some work for you, let us know by contacting us at

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Kami is Interviewed by Shel Israel

One of our chapter members has been interviewed by famous blogger, Shel Israel. Shel is co-author of the popular book, Naked Conversations. He is conducting a series of interviews on the issue of PR and blogging. Kami’s quick rise to prominence in the PR blogosphere through her insightful blog posting and commentary led Shel to select her as one of his five interviewees.

You can read the entire interview at “PR & Social Media Part 3: Kami Huyse.”

Note that Kami is the instigator behind this PR Byline blog as well. Without her, we’d be nowhere, blogopherically speaking that is.

Great interview, Kami!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ethics in Business Awards Nomination Deadline Extended

PRSA friend Debi Pfitzenmaier sent me the following notice about the annual Ethics in Business Awards. Since this is ethics month for PRSA, and we just held an excellent luncheon on the topic today, it is certainly appropriate that I share this opportunity with you.

Plus, the deadline for nominations has been extended. But you'll still have to act fast!

Here's the notice:

The Ecumenical Center is now accepting nominations for the 2007 Ethics in Business Awards. The annual program recognizes individuals, nonprofits and businesses that have exceedingly high ethical standards that are reflected in their relationships with individuals, businesses, employees and the community.

There is no fee to submit a nomination. It is easy to nominate an individual, onprofit or business online. The deadline for nominations was September 7, but we are accepting online entries through Tuesday, September 12.

One recipient in each of five categories (large business, medium-sized business, small business, nonprofit and individual) will be recognized at an awards dinner to be held April 7, 2007. Ethics in Business recipients in 2006 were Labatt Food Service, Monterrey Iron & Metal, OsteoBiologics Inc., Southwest Mental Health Center and Charles E. Cheever, Jr.

Established in 2005, the Ethics in Business program is designed to provide an opportunity for students - our future business leaders - to study ethics first hand in the real world, with today's leaders, as they research each of 40 finalists as part of the business ethics curriculum at The University of Texas at San Antonio. In addition, the program seeks to promote the importance of ethical business practices, recognize the efforts of outstanding local individuals and companies and provide a forum for dialog about how ethical practices can effect change in our community. Proceeds from the dinner event benefit the Ecumenical Center's programs and outreach and The University of Texas at San Antonio through academic scholarships.

For more information, please contact Vicki Boyce Ecumenical Center at 210-616-0885.

About the Ecumenical Center: The Ecumenical Center is a San Antonio-based nonprofit organization that is dedicated to alleviating suffering and facilitating spiritual, physical and emotional healing and growth. Founded by in 1967, the Center offers counseling within a faith context, education, consulting and a variety of special outreach programs. More information.

What a great way to highlight someone in your business or organization!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Accreditation Keeps the River of Learning Flowing

When water stops flowing, it becomes stagnant. Icky things start to form, like mosquitoes and foul odors. It can no longer nourish people.

The same things happen when we become complacent in our profession, when we stop pushing ourselves to learn more and when we take shortcuts rather than seeking new paths.

When we don't nourish ourselves professionally, we can't nourish our profession or the society we serve.

My friend Kami has been blogging recently about the value of accreditation (see "PR professionals should consider getting accredited"). And I just saw an excellent summary of the blogosphere debate at the Forward blog.

It's a topic that's been dear to my heart since I became accredited over a decade ago. So much so that I developed a training seminar for people who were interested in accreditation. Our chapter hosted the seminar several times over the years with folks coming from across the state to attend. Others in our chapter (like fellow Byline bloggers Monica Faulkenbery, APR, and Kami Huyse, APR) have since greatly improved the seminar.

Accreditation is important to me because professional development is important to me. I couldn't do my job well if I didn't keep learning how to do it better. And while I don't believe that accreditation is the sole answer to what ales our profession, I can attest to the fact that my employer's view of public relations became much more positive when she learned about our accreditation process.

In 1995, I was asked to write a little article for PRSA's Tactics about what accreditation had done for me. I just reread that article and found some statements that could have been written today:

"We are facing a new horizon. As a result of corporate downsizing, more and more people have created small businesses and freelance operations. The current trends of two-way communication, audience-driven messages and information on demand offer new avenues of opportunities in public relations. And computer technology, now more than ever, enables the average person to produce a publication. Anyone can put a sign on the door to advertise 'PR' services."

At the very least, accreditation demonstrates that you're not just anybody.

In that article, I also outlined some personal goals, "In [these] times, I want to be creative, trustworthy and effective."

Still true.

And I could never hope to get there by being stagnant.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Business Journal Runs Story about PRSA Workshop

Andi Rodriguez ran a story in her Marketing and Media column in this week's edition of the San Antonio Business Journal about tomorrow’s workshop that we are hosting with the IABC San Antonio chapter. (I can’t give you the link, because it’s only available to subscribers.) Shel Holtz is coming to town, and thanks to Frost Bank, will be leading an afternoon workshop for us, “Introduction to Social Media.” The response has been incredible, especially since we only had about a month to promote it. But it is Shel after all.

Walk-ins are welcome. So if you’ve got a little time to spend preparing for your future, come on over. Details are on the chapter web site.

Every time I attend a session led by Shel (this is my third) or participate in one of his webinars (three so far), my professional knowledge has leaped forward dramatically. And it always pays off big time in my work.

And thanks, Andi, for helping to spread the word!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Some AP Stylebook Rules Deserve to be Broken

PRSA’s Strategist magazine recently discussed an issue regarding diversity and the AP Stylebook. At issue was use of the lowercase black rather than Black when referring to the racial group. Some readers criticized the magazine for doing so just because the AP Stylebook says to. Interestingly, the folks over at AP say the rule is lowercase because that’s what newspapers do. And the cycle continues.

In my editing, I’ve always used uppercase for racial and ethnic terms, like Black and White. It’s both respectful and logical.

After reading the discussion, I got to thinking about other AP rules that deserve to be broken. Here are a few from the styleguide I created for my organization. Interestingly, two are kind-of gender-related.

1. Chairman, Chairwoman: I agree with AP about not using chairperson. It says to use chairman or chairwoman. I prefer chair (“The chair of the board said…”). It’s clear and brief.

2. His, Her: These AP guys actually state that “the pronoun his when an indefinite antecedent may be male or female.” (They also approve of the use of mankind.) Excuse me! The better choice is to either use his or her, use he or she, or revise the sentence from singular to plural. Though I am icked-out by combination forms like he/she and (s)he.

3. Abbreviations and Acronyms: This is the one I struggle with the most. AP says not to follow an organization’s name with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses. Every time I try to follow this rule, I hear about readers getting confused – even coworkers who know what the acronym stands for. Ed Tijerina, columnist for the San Antonio Express-News has repeatedly expressed dismay that most PR folks break this rule. It is by far his pet peeve. The conflict though is that acronyms are jargon, and the more jargon you have, the less likely the piece will be read. But taking out the first-reference acronyms causes confusion and slows reading, which means the piece is less likely to be read.

What do you think? What AP Stylebook rules do you break (on purpose)?

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Great Night for the San Antonio Chapter of PRSA

The evening of August 3 was a fantastic opportunity for the local chapter of PRSSA, which calls University of Texas at San Antonio home to see the superstars of public relations in San Antonio being recognized at the Fourth Annual Del Oro Awards. It was so wonderful for me that I had to really think about what I wanted to write for this blog posting. I first want to thank all of my executive board members for attending the event and I also want to thank Cynthia Hokanson, our vice president for acting as the student reporter for the evening.

As a student of public relations and the president of the UTSA-PRSSA it was an honor to be able to provide my executive board this opportunity. But a larger honor was being able to visit with so many of the PR professionals in San Antonio at one time, enjoying the opportunity to network and talk a little shop in order to pick brains.

I enjoyed meeting the 2006 Del Oro Tex Taylor Lifetime Award recipient, Bob Howard of the American Red Cross and learning that quite a bit of his career with ARC had been as a volunteer. It is wonderful to know that there are some selfless individuals still around.

It took some patient waiting to have a moment with 2006 Del Oro Public Relations Professional of the Year recipient Lorraine Pulido-Ramirez, Director of Marketing for CityView - a Henry Cisneros communities venture. Pulido-Ramirez was recognized for her work as the director of communications and public relations with the Edgewood Independent School District (EISD). In this position she was the spokesperson for the District. It was well worth the wait to shake her hand and tell her congratulations.

While the above mentioned recipients were intriguing and gave very heartfelt acceptance speeches, I would have to say there could not have been a dry eye in the room after listening to the acceptance speech of the 2006 Del Oro Horizon Award recipient, Carol Schliesinger who was recognized for her work as the Director of Public Relations at Southwest Mental Health Center. Schliesinger is responsible for making the media and community aware about the issues of chidren's mental health which is not recognized enough in San Antonio, let alone the rest of the country. This touched me personally as in my life I have known many chidren who have had to deal with mental health issues, and have had the opportunity to mentor some when I was a young teenager. I was extremely honored to meet Carol Schliesinger, and I am glad that she does the work that many people do not want to do.

I want to close with a final thought on Marilyn Potts, I had written previously that I did not know Marilyn. As I sit here in the position of president of my organization, I wish I had. Seeing the wonderful, fitting tribute to her did bring tears to my eyes and I got choked up. I know that if she were here today, I would have just one more mentor to learn from. San Antonio has truly lost a legend and she will be greatly missed.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It’s More than a New Media Release, It’s a New Strategy for Media Relations

Background: There is a group of PR professionals who are exploring the development of a news release that integrates the best features of the online social media world. Among them is Chris Heuer, who has started the Social Media Club, Todd Defren and others from Shift Communications who developed the first “new social media press release” (see my previous post), and Shel Holtz, who (along with Chris) is hosting a weekly podcast on the topic. There are several others and there are several ways to become a part of this conversation. (You can get all the background scoop at

Picking a Name for this Baby in the Oven
The heart of it is: how should the standard news release be changed to both be more effective and integrate elements of social media. Interestingly, a big part of the conversation so far has been what to call this new press release (or media release or news release). Is it a new media release or a social media release?

I’ve listened to the podcasts (three so far) and it sounds to me like what we are really talking about is an electronic news release. If it were a printed news release only, you wouldn’t add buttons for adding it to Delicious or for Digging it. So as far as a label goes, when I explain this to my boss, I’m going to call it a new standard for an electronic news release.

A New Strategy
Gone are the days of creating a four-page prose news release and mailing it to a list of reporters. Since that time, we’ve evolved to using multiple methods like online distribution services and e-mailing tiny descriptions of the news item with a link to the release on our web sites.

In lieu of those long-winded prose releases, I actually have been using what I call advisories most of the time. You know, with the W’ and H. But I still sent it somehow to my list of reporters.

And this group is talking about much more than that. It’s more than just a new template for a news release. It’s really a new strategy for media and community relations.

In my next media relations project, I’m going to have to decide whether or not to integrate Delicious, for example. And I have to decide how to go about setting an RSS feed and how to encourage reporters to use it. I also have to plan ahead and do a little research about what tags I will use. This is much more than using bullets instead of paragraphs. These are decisions about strategy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Online Tutorial Introduces You to Social Media

Capture the Conversation has posted on their web site a set of tutorials that are really cool. If you’re waiting for someone to show you how, you can stop waiting. These tutorials range from about three minutes to 10 and give you basic info on how to use a particular tool and why.

Here are the topics they’ve created tutorials for:
  • How to Post a Comment on Blogs
  • Receiving Blog Trackbacks
  • Setting Up a Blog Using Blogger
  • Setting Up Feedburner
  • Submitting your RSS Feed to Syndication Services
  • How to Subscribe to a Podcast Using iTunes
  • Setting Up a Account
  • Setting Up Newsgator
  • Subscribing to a Blog via RSS Feed
  • Setting Up a Technorati Account
Check it out!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Del Oro Awards Banquet Less Than a Week Away

Our chapter’s Del Oro awards banquet is this Thursday. If your planning to register and haven’t yet, you’ll want to by Monday to save a little moolah. It’s also the last day to register for a whole table (as lots of folks are doing).

I’ve been talking with some of the planning committee members, and I can tell you this is going to be a really nice event. A good number of folks will be getting awards for their work on PR campaigns and tactics. Then, we’ll also be celebrating our three individual winners:

Tex Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award – Bob Howard, American Red Cross

Public Relations Professional of the Year – Lorraine Pulido-Ramírez, Edgewood ISD

Horizon Award – Carol Schliesinger, Southwest Mental Health Center

For details go to our chapter web site or go directly to the registration page.

Students Can Be Better Writers in PR

As an individual I have a passion for writing. As a student of PR I am lacking in my writing skills. I attribute this to a couple of important factors, the first being that I did not realize until now that there should be a specific order that PR classes should be taken. I just finished my junior year at University of Texas at San Antonio, it was not until my second semester as a junior that I took a technical writing class. By all means, this should have been a class taken in my freshman or sophomore year. Tough lesson learned. This next semester will be interesting because I will be enrolled in three intense PR classes, (Case Studies in PR, Editing, and Writing for PR). For some reason I am thinking I should have taken these classes a long time ago. I did not, so I will have my work cut out for me.

Because I am not well versed in writing for PR in any sense of the word, I will need a lot of help. Where will I get this help? Besides the normal route of instruction, I will be utilizing my renewed old best friend, reading. Part of this reading will entail reading as many blogs as possible, because I am learning that there is a wealth of information and instruction that is passed through the many blogs available for students of PR. I found another one to add to my bookmarks called Forward Blog. I recently read a posting entitled Write or Wrong? that was about whether writng matters in public relations.

Writing is an extremely important aspect in the PR profession, so in order to be successful in the profession a person must also be a successful writer. In order to be a better writer it is important to constantly follow four wisely given steps that are important to be successful at writing for public relations:

1. Read widely;
2. Think clearly;
3. Write simply;
4. Proof and edit last

As you can tell from my previous postings, I get wordy. So the step that will be hardest for me will be writing simply. What was great for me were the comments posted to this blog. I believe that there is never too much advice as long as it is good advice that continues to cement your efforts in learning the craft.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Using Social Media Strategies in Traditional PR Programs

Shift Communications announced in its blog today that it has released a 30-page “PR 2.0 Essentials” document today that covers the use of social media tools for public relations. They are sharing it with the PR community free of charge.

The document includes information about how to incorporate new media strategies in your public relations programs such as: RSS, blogging, memes, tagging, poscasting, wikis, social networking, social bookmarking, the social media release, instant messaging and SMS (messaging for cell phones).

While not complete, no such resource will ever be due to the rapidly evolving nature of the Internet, it has a lot of great resources and I recommend you download the document (direct link to the pdf) as a reference.

It is also a good read-ahead companion for our upcoming professional development seminar on August 30, 2006.

PRSA and IABC have teamed up with Frost Bank to bring Shel Holtz, a well-known blogger and podcaster in the area of public relations, to San Antonio. He was the top-rated breakout speaker for the recent IABC International conference.

If you will be anywhere near San Antonio on August 30, be sure to register for the seminar.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Del Oro Award Story in San Antonio Business Journal

Andi Rodríguez of the San Antonio Business Journal wrote a nice piece about our upcoming awards celebration in the July 14 issue. The article is titled, “Journalism organizations host annual awards celebrations,” in the “Talk of the Town” section. On the opposite page, the chapter placed an advertisement to highlight our three individual honorees:

Del Oro Tex Taylor Lifetime Achievement AwardBob Howard, American Red Cross

Del Oro Public Relations Professional of the Year – Lorraine Pulido-Ramírez, Edgewood ISD

Del Oro Horizon Award – Carol Schliesinger, Southwest Mental Health Center

For more information or to register online click here.

Thanks for the nice write-up Andi!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Resources for PR Folk About Blogs

Last month, I posted about a couple of really good resources about blogs and blogging. I provided some details and excerpts. I intended to do it again but haven’t had time to more write “reviews” so I’m going to stop withholding valuable information. Below are links to several top-notch resources.

1. From Edelman and Intelliseek
Trust “MEdia”: How Real People Are Finally Being Heard (in pdf)

2-4. Waggener Edstrom Worldwide has several useful resources, including:
Are You Listening: Understanding the Blogosphere from a Communications Perspective (Part I)

Engaging the Blogosphere: Creating Connections and Fueling Conversations (Part II) (in pdf)

Also on this site are tip sheets that provide the “general rules of engagement for communicating with bloggers or introducing and managing your corporate blog.”

5. Kaye Trammel, assistant professor of mass communication at Louisiana State University provides a comprehensive list of research about blogs.
List of blog research

6-8. Hyku Author Josh Hallett includes in his blog several tips for starting a business blog, etc.:

Starting a Business Blog? Here Are a Few Questions You Need to Answer

Starting a Blog: Do These Things

Pitching Bloggers: Send Something of Interest to Somebody You Know

9+ And don’t forget Kami Watson-Huyse’s “Corporate Blogging 101: What You Said,” a list of more than 35 useful links to posts about corporate blogging supplied by her readers.

Have you come across other good resources or posts? Please share them here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

PRSA Blog Team Grows in San Antonio

Our blogging team has grown this week! We are pleased to add Monica and Melissa to our team!

Team members will be bringing their unique perspective from the industry they work in. So far we have
  • a blogger who owns an independent PR agency,
  • one in public affairs for one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state,
  • a PR person from a large federal credit union,
  • two from the non-profit world (one involved in direct service and one from the advocacy and research side), and
  • a college student and leader of PRSSA.
For our team members and others who are just starting their role as bloggers, here is one good resource on thinking of things to post about: 10 Killer Post Ideas by Chris Garrett.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

PR Majors Need Experience Prior to Graduation

At our blogging training session for San Antonio: Bline Blog I was introduced to a great blog site for students, NewPR. As the student blogger on our team I have had a little trouble being inspired and motivated to post. Until now!

I read a great blog written by Brian Solis, Colleges send marketing/PR graduates to workforce ill-prepared that struck me as very relevant to the students at the University of Texas at San Antonio(UTSA), especially those in the UTSA-PRSSA chapter. The degree offered at UTSA in the area of public relations is theory based with some excellent courses, but the only real experience a student can participate in is the PRSSA National Bateman Competition. Even then it is only a select group of students that are chosen. Solis mentions the need of universities to monitor the field for any specialized program that the evolvement of dynamics happens quickly and often. This is especially true of the PR curriculums with the growing amount of social media that has recently evolved.

I found the annual intern program that Solis hosts at San Jose State University for PR students to be an awesome opportunity for those students to get the real world experience before graduation. Solis basically places students with the PR teams of San Jose State University and local San Jose businesses charging them with their PR and marketing initiatives. Solis compares this to the types of situations that are seen in such reality television series as the Apprentice, and the Real World. The great thing about this concept is the ability of peers to work together in real-time accomplishment by utilizing their education, teamwork, and experience while working for a group of clients. This is all done in a situation where the playing field is pretty even. I feel this would be something that the UTSA-PRSSA executive board should discuss at length with both our faculty advisor, professional advisors, and the UTSA Internship advisor in regards to the feasibilty of beginning a program like this at UTSA.

Since becoming the 2006/2007 president of the UTSA-PRSSA I have been contacted by several professionals interested in partnering with our chapter, including a restaurant that is considering partnering with us for a full PR/marketing campaign. I am extremely excited and grateful for the renewed interest in our chapter, which is the only PRSSA chapter in San Antonio. This would be a great opportunity to begin a program such as that mentioned above.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Guidelines for a Team Blog

During our organizing meeting in February, members of our blog team identified our purposes for this blog (see first bullet below). Last week, we met again to welcome new members of our team and we agreed on a set of guidelines for this group blog.

We extend a special thank you to Dan York! He posted a set of guidelines a few months ago (see April 24) and said we could adapt them. Thanks Dan for giving us a good place to start! Here the are…

PRSA San Antonio Byline Blog – Group Blogging Guidelines

All posts must support one or more of our goals for this blog – The goals for the PRSA San Antonio Byline Blog are to provide and experience professional development for public relations professionals, to advocate the profession of public relations and its ethical practice, to conduct outreach to professionals and students (particularly in the San Antonio area), and to foster an exchange of ideas regarding public relations and related topics, including use of social media.

Regular posting – Each blogger in the group is encouraged to post at least twice a month – though work and family can come first.

No product pitches – This blog is for general discussion of public relations issues, not promotion of individual products or services unless sponsored by PRSA or PRSSA.

This blog is not a press-release distribution vehicle – Links to press releases are okay, but with context and preferably by a third party.

Copyright on your text is yours, but… – By posting on this blog you give the chapter permission to redistribute your content as deemed appropriate.

All articles must be your text (or appropriately quoted)

No slamming of other professionals or competitors – Praise or criticism of a campaign or tactic is fine, but this blog is not to be used to defame or personally attack anyone. Also, profanity will not be tolerated.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Social Media: Measuring Where You Are

Are you wondering how, or if, social media tools can be successfully used in your organization?

Taking the pulse of the employees that are essential to move such programs forward can be one step toward integrating some these new tools into your communications programs.

Dan Greenfield of the blog Bernaisesource offers the following survey (pdf)
to be given to employees of an organization just to see where everyone is at concerning social media.

Sometimes knowing where you are starting can help to determine the level of education needed to successfully integrate social media tools such as, blogs, podcasts, video-blogs, and wikis (among others) into your over public relations strategy.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Jupiter Research Alerts the Media, But Still Wants to Keep their Big Secret

You can’t eat your cake and have it too.

There has been an interesting buzz in the blogosphere recently about a curious study released by JupiterResearch on the gargantuan explosion we’re about to see in the number of corporations that kick off blogs this year. The buzz started when Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Blog raised some questions about the results of the study. In short, the company’s PR firm refused to answer her questions.

Then another blogger, Fard Johnmar of, shelled out $750 to get a copy of the report. And – to say the least – he still has questions. One of the responses he got to his questions over the phone was, “JupiterResearch is not revealing any more information about the survey to any member of the media.”

There are a lot of weird things about this situation:

  • Why would a reputable research firm refuse to provide even basic info about a study’s methodology?
  • Why would a research firm that specializes in Internet and Web 2.0 research disregard bloggers?
  • Why would a research firm refuse to back up its results that it surely knows are counter to findings of similar studies?
But the question I can’t get out of my mind is:
  • Why would a company issue a news release to the media when it doesn’t want to talk to the media?
What’s the strategy here? I understand that the data is proprietary. I work with a non-profit that, among other things, conducts research and evaluation of school programs. When the data and findings are proprietary, we don’t issue a news release. If the client wants to, that’s fine, and we’ll answer reporter’s questions.

My organization is in no way a competitor of JupiterResearch. I am not a client. I’d never even heard of them until this brough-ha-ha. I did review their web site and find that they release research and data very frequently (from weekly to daily). I don’t know if all of their reports omit methodology information or other explanations for their findings. But doesn’t it seem just a bit arrogant to think people will believe what you say at face value without asking questions?

PR 101 says don’t court the media if you don’t want to dance. So it seems to follow that you really shouldn't court the media if you’re planning to stomp on their toes!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Web 2.0 Name Doesn’t Promote Understanding

Names are important. Which is why posted last week about the new PRSA Counselor’s Academy needing to change its name. It is also why I offered a comment to the For Immediate Release podcast #148 about the trouble I see with the Web 2.0 name. I thought I was offering just a little “something that makes you go Hmm.” I really didn’t expect much discussion to follow, but it did.

To summarize my comment: The labels 2.0, 3.0 and so on typically refer to application upgrades. But what folks mean when they use the term Web 2.0 is much more than that. And many people are confused by the name. While the term “social media” is insufficient, it at least provides a picture of this new thing.

There are actually two issues here. The first is that there is there is little agreement about what “Web 2.0” actually means. Some conversations on the blogosphere by folks who are “in the know” demonstrate this disagreement, like the O'Reilly blog and a list of several people’s definitions summarized by Richard MacManus. Wikipedia gives a decent, but wordy definition of Web 2.0.

I kind of like the “web as platform” definition. But rest assured, if you’re confused you are not the only one.

There is a loose knit group of people whose life revolves around technology. It’s the focus of their jobs and super-hobbies. They are the ones who test beta versions of applications and operating systems. They are the ones in measure their lives in the blog world in years rather than months. They are the ones who know all about what’s next, while the rest of us are trying to get a handle on what’s now. They are the “innovators.” And I strongly suspect they are the ones who came up with the name Web 2.0.

There are two rationales, I see, for how we name things:

1. Sometimes we chose a name that has meaning to us. George Jr. for example. My first dog’s name was Marvin Alfred Elis because those were the names of my parents’ groomsmen. The name itself has no meaning to people outside the family. It’s just a name.

2. Other times, when we have something new or complex that we want others to buy, use, adopt or advocate, we give it a descriptive or other name that has meaning to them. Shel and Neville have given us a good example of this point when they agree with others who suggest we quit trying to describe “RSS” and use the term “newsfeed” instead. The name “RSS” is a barrier because it is a teckie word.

That’s my point about Web 2.0. It’s a teckie term, and it is a barrier. It doesn’t help people understand what is meant by it. It probably wasn't meant to originally.

Shel and Neville did agree that they’d be happy to use a better label if someone could come up with one. It’s tough challenge. But it’s worth it because names are important and so is Web 2.0.

This sounds like a job for a professional communicator!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

News Release Getting a Makeover

By: Monica Faulkenbery, APR, San Antonio PRSA – Published in San Antonio Byline eNewsletter, July 2006

In an age when the vernacular is becoming seemingly space age… vlogging, vloggercon, blogs, vcasts, podcasts…I came across an article that just made me feel like the old hack of years gone by. The article was titled, “The Press Release Is Dead! Long Live the Press Release!” by Shel Holtz.

Some 10 years ago at a national conference I attended, PR icon Pat Jackson, APR declared the demise of the press release, but I refused to believe that would happen. We argued, especially since my job at the time was pretty much being a Pez dispenser for news releases.

Like Holtz, I resisted jumping upon the “press release is dead” bandwagon. One of the main reasons cited for their demise is that most press releases have no news and are poorly written. I think you can say the same for some VNRs also. The drum majors for the “press release is dead” parade say that the “new media can better serve the objectives that press releases have offered in the past.”

In quoting Holtz, “There are plenty of current stories of press release effectiveness. And while the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission does not require material disclosure through press releases, press release services like PR Newswire and Business Wire know how to reach all the right audiences concurrently and satisfy the regulations that do exist.”

So, Holtz and I both concur that the “new” media doesn’t necessarily need to kill the “old” media. The old media must adapt and evolve (and us old hacks with it.)

Shift Communications has now given the press release a “nudge” along its evolutionary path. Shift’s Todd Defren, responding to others calling for press releases to get with the interactive, social, digital era, proposed an approach that would satisfy Defren’s desires. According to Todd, Shift has released a social media press release template, which the company is making available to the profession. (See June 8, 2006 post on this blog.)

Although I’m still an old journalist at heart, I’ve finally resigned myself that I need to get on the bandwagon, or at least acknowledge its existence, and go to the next level of e-news or podrelease or whatever the term is now. (Yes, Pat, roll around in your grave ….although I’m still not saying the press release is dead; I will agree that at the least it is getting a makeover.)