Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Starting Point for PR Use of Blogs

I’ve decided to deal with the new social media technologies individually to describe what it is, show ways to use them for PR and offer resources. Since this is a blog, I’m going to start there. (Note, the information I am sharing here is what I’m learning as a beginner.)

In the survey I conducted a couple of weeks ago, every one of the respondents said they either know or “kind of” know what a blog is. You obviously do since you’re reading one right now.

I’ve heard lots of people say a blog is an online journal or web diary. (If that’s all it is, then it’s not really useful to me in my own work.) I know of one CEO who thinks the blogworld is just like talk radio with a lot of people spouting of their opinions ad nauseam toward no larger purpose. (Yes, I know that’s a narrow view of talk radio. But you can understand where it comes from.)

The big picture though is that a blog is really just a type of web site. Eric Schwartzman says it’s a way for “anybody to publish to the Internet for free and to be heard” Also, people don’t have to do something special to access it (like registering for a discussion board or usenet group). Plus it’s really easy to use.

The main difference I see between a typical web site and a blog though, is that a web site is usually one-way communication. It may be highly interactive, targeted, great communication. But most are essentially one-way. At least they are when compared to blogs. Blogs are intended to be places for dialog. I’ve seen several PR blogs talking about how to foster a community dialog via a blog. Neville Hobson says blogs “give people another means, an easy means from a technological point of view, to tell a story, and that’s a basic human need to communicate” (Stated on On the Record 3-3-06 podcast).

So, blogs can serve quite a number of communication purposes. Primarily, they can help you engage your key audiences. They can help you tell your story. They can be used to exchange ideas and learn ways to improve your products, services, etc. They can be used in a crisis to exchange information fast without having to fit it into your main web site’s structure. And much more.

The best way to learn about them is to visit some and to enter the conversation. What are your favorites?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stormhoek Geek Dinner Campaign Worth Watching

So, Hugh put up a little announcement of our San Antonio blogger lunch kicking off the 100 Geek Dinners and I just got a call from Samantha from Stormhoek, (Yes Sam, I got the message) saying a parcel was “on the way.”

Hugh points to a great post by the blog Good Grape that puts this campaign into a bottom-line perspective that any corporate executive could understand. Hugh used the same kind of blogging campaign to introduce the wine in the UK, doubling sales from 50,000 cases in 2004 to 100,000 cases in 2005. Now those are measurable results!

It is worth a read to understand this type of campaign from a public relations perspective. And I will be watching the campaign, and its numbers, as it progresses in the U.S.

In the meanwhile we will have a little fun participating in the campaign next week.

Join us if you can.


San Antonio Meetup: First in Hugh McLeod’s 100 Geek Dinners

Except it will be lunch.

We will talk about social media in San Antonio, and there will be a wine tasting of Stormhoek wine, a new product coming to the U.S. market this year.

Don’t worry, it will just be a tasting, you will be able to return to work afterward. Unless, of course, you don’t want to go back to work ;-)

The meetup idea was born when Alan L. Weinkrantz,
who is also a PR blogger here in San Antonio, and I planned to meet on May 1, which happened to coincide with Hugh McLeod’s 100 Geek Dinners in 100 days (May 1-
August 9, 2006).

So lucky us, we will be the first of the 100 dinners (lunch in this case).

If you will be in San Antonio on May 1 and want to meet up with us, please contact me via e-mail at kami (at) yahoo (dot) com. I need a head count pretty quickly because Stormhoek needs to know how much wine to send.

We haven’t settled on a final location yet, but we are looking at Central Market, 12 noon on May 1, 2006. I will keep the RSVP crowd apprised on the final location via e-mail and I will also post it the day of the event here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Starting Out

When a person enters college as a freshman, whether it be at a 2 year community college or a 4 year university, it can be very daunting. Even more daunting if you are a non-traditional student. You enter not quite knowing what you want to major in, you just know it is time to make a change in your life. It is said that, 'admitting changes need to be made, is the first step to anything.'

I realized after three semesters at San Antonio College that I wanted my major to be Communication. It was not until transferring, to the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), that I realized I wanted my concentration to be Public Relations, later deciding to add Technical Communication with it.

I am excited that I chose these concentrations because they are beginning to open up doors. Besides contributing here I have recently been elected President of the UTSA Chapter of PRSSA for 2006-2007. I was actually blessed because I will be working with some really great individuals whom I have worked with previously on school projects, etc. One of those is my Vice President Cynthia Hokanson. We have been in several classes together over the last year and we work very good together.

While we look forward to the new year, we also have some apprehensions. Our organization has had decreasing membership participation. The most disturbing issue is, that when individuals have joined in the past, they have only joined for the purpose of padding their resume. I bring this up, because as a new leader I am looking for any advice that all of the PR professionals out there may have to help us to generate some new life and excitement into our organization.

We are also hoping that some of you might suggest some great fundraising ideas that will push us in the right direction, while allowing us the opportunity to generate greater participation. While diong so we also want to let the members know how important they are to us. What are some suggestions from outside of the box (campus).

There was a time from 2000-2004 when the UTSA Chapter of PRSSA was recognized nationally. We would like to work towards being nationally recognized again and going further. We welcome any suggestions of how we can accomplish this goal. Part of how we can do this is by creating PR campaigns, press releases, and many of the other aspects that are included in Public Relations.

If there are any individuals who would be intersted in being mentors we would definitely be interested in hearing your suggestions and would greatly appreciate your mentorship.

If you have suggestions or are just simply interested in our organization feel free to contact me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Just Why are PR Folk Moving “Slowly” into Social Media?

The posts I’ve been adding to this blog lately have focused on our use of blogging and other social media among San Antonio PR folk. The other day, I listened to an excellent podcast interview of Sally Falkow, APR, president and senior web strategist of Expansion Plus. Among other things, she discussed why so many PR folk are slow to adopt these new technologies for their companies and clients. One theory she offered was our perception that social media are highly technical and hard to learn. The host of the podcast, Eric Schwartzman, argued that it’s not that difficult to learn. Sally said, true, but it doesn’t matter. That’s the perception.

I think it’s more than that. We’re not afraid of trying something hard. But this is new, and it takes time to learn about it, to learn how, to learn why and to learn when. I, for one, am a working mom with a great but demanding job and two young children. Time is a commodity I don’t have much of.

So why, do you ask, am I blogging right now? I am lucky to have an employer who not only supports me in learning new things but also is pushing her staff to learn and apply new technologies. That includes giving us room to mess it up.

Part of my organization’s work involves providing really good professional development for public school teachers. One of the things we know that has to be in place for innovations to take hold, is for the teachers to be supported in their learning and trying out new things. The same is true in all disciplines.

The other reason I am blogging is because I feel it is my responsibility as our communications manager to continue to learn about new trends, new technologies and more effective communication strategies.

What do you think? Have we been slow to adopt these new technologies? If so, why?

I also suggest you listen to the On the Record podcast interview of Sally Falkow. It’s the show dated April 11, 2006. You don’t have to have an Ipod or Mp3 player to listen. Computer speakers are enough.

One last point. “Slow” is a relative term. To those who are early adopters, you know, those who stand in line and pay tons of money for every new gadget there is, to those people, we are slow. But for many of us, within our organizations and our circles, we’ll be the first. To them, we’re nowhere near slow.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Technology Use in Alamo City PR

I conducted a written survey of participants at last week’s PRSA San Antonio chapter luncheon. The survey was informal, unscientific and voluntary. In it, I asked basic questions about their use of blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, webcasts, e-mail updates, and web-based media rooms. The results show that the least known technology among our folk is the RSS feed (37 percent said they don’t know what it is). Over three quarters either know or “kind of” know what the other technologies are.

When asked if their organization provides these technologies, most said no, with the exception of e-mail updates (89 percent do provide them). About a quarter provide blogs and RSS feeds, and two of five provide webcasts and media rooms.

The third question asked whether they use these technologies in their work. Almost all respondents use e-mail updates often or sometimes in their work (96 percent). Over half use webcasts (63 percent) and media rooms (57 percent). And a small group use blogs (42 percent), RSS feeds (39 percent) and podcasts (31 percent).

For those whose organizations do provide these technologies, only 30 percent said PR people are involved in the planning or development, and 26 percent are “kind of” involved.

Just over half of the organizations represented are planning to expand their technology use in the next six months.

Out of about 65 people, I received 27 responses, which is about a 42 percent response rate. Two out of five respondents were from non-profit organizations and almost one-third were from corporate or business. Another 15 percent work with education institutions. Naturally, there is some repetition among responses since some participants work with the same organizations. Also, some respondents were confused by the term “media room,” as I was not clear that I was referring to web sites. (More on that point later.)

How are you using technology for public relations purposes? Post a comment to share.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Controversy Over VNRs Continue

A new research study called Fake TV News was released last week by the Center for Media and Democracy taking aim at the Video News Release, a product used by public relations organizations to get the word out on television news.

The study followed 36 video news releases (watch them all here) and analyzed how they were used by media newsrooms. To say the least, the report was extremely biased, using phrasing that implies wongdoing and discounts any value of the VNR medium.

The Public Relations Society of America’s advocacy committee responded by making its board members available for comment and by sending a letter to the FCC, which also included a response to comments by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, who last week told publishers at the Newspaper Association of America's (NAA) annual convention that he is committed to overturning a ban on same-market cross-ownership.

(More analysis on original post at Communication Overtones)

Friday, April 07, 2006

What I took away from, "Knock, Knock: How to Handle a Reporter with an Agenda!"

As a member of PRSSA, the greatest benefit I have is being able to go to the monthly PRSA Luncheon. This month was no different. The guest speaker was Greg Flores,vice presidentof communication and community relations with the San Antonio Water System.

The title of the topic was, "Knock, Knock: How to Handle a Reporter with an Agenda." After discussing his own background, Mr. Flores discussed in depth several steps in an organizations' steps to improving social responsibility. He opened and closed with what I took as the most important message. When it comes to social responsibility, "the best spin is no spin." For me, this means that whether I am writing for this blog or working as a professional in an organization, everything I do or say must be a positive reflection of that position.

The first step is to build good, strong relationships with the media. This takes some effort and nurturing. As you are nurturing these relationships you will be building the most important aspect and that is credibility. Especially since it seems as though journalists today work harder to find the negative stories. With this in mind an individual should strive to look for the positive stories within their organization. While being proactive, you are able to provide those positive stories to the press, in the process possibly correcting a negative story headed for print.

Mr. Flores reminded us of the importance of excellent community relations. An organization needs to look at the entire picture, not just within the corporate box. If an organization works with members of different community activist organizations, as is the case with several municipal entities in San Antonio, then it is able to allow the community as a whole to see that it is socially responsible. Part of the community relations is also making sure that the organization is constantly in touch with the outside, again looking past the borders of the organizational box.

Another topic that Mr. Flores discussed also fit into the community relations aspect for me. He suggested that when an organization decides to give, whether it be donating time, money, etc. it should find ways of giving that are not seen everyday. For me an example of this would be the homebuilding corporations that donate their time and resources as is the case on ABC's, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." One final area within community relations that Mr. Flores talked about was how an organization can measure its success. The best way to measure success is to serve the community in whatever ways the organization can. This way, your social responsibility will always be one of the ways the media will remember you, as opposed to only remembering the negative stories about the company.

One of the ways for an organization to be socially responsible is to make sure that their public relations program and the company's mission statement are strategically aligned, This means that if a healthcare organization states in their, "We will strive to provide the best healthcare to the citizens of Bexar County and South Texas," within their mission statement, then every message that their public relations department disseminates should reflect that statement.

Government relations are also very important in the realm of social responsibility. A company must adhere to governmental regulations regarding environmental issues, pricing, and any number of issues. If a company remains on top of all issues that affect their organization then they are nurturing their government relations along with community relations. Within this area I found that it was very true when Mr. Flores pointed out that what an organization says can have very legal consequences.

An important point that Mr. Flores made was that an organizations' own internal relations can play a major role in how they carry out their social responsibility. An example that I remember personally came from when I was a team manager for Sitel Corporation from 1999-2001. My relationship with my employees made a big difference in how they did their jobs in business to business marketing. My own excellent internal relations garnered me several client and corporate recognitions.

I took a great deal away from Mr. Flores' discussion. It was another educational experience which will continue to influence me in my future writings of press releases and public service announcements.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

New Beginnings

There are times when you might think to yourself, "How did I get here?". Especially if you are a non-traditional college student wanting to start anew. I say this because I am one of those individuals. I began my college years at the age of 36. I am a junior at the University of Texas at San Antonio, working on a double B.A. in Communication, with my concentrations being Public Relations and Technical Communication.

I chose those two conentrations because I have a passion for writing and I have a passion for seeing others succeed. With my degrees I will be able to do both, while allowing myself grow both personally and professionally.

The reason for today's blog is that it begins my personal and professional journey into the world of PR. When I was asked by Kami Huyse, APR to join this blog with a student's perspective from the only chapter of the PRSSA, I gladly accepted. This is the beginning of a journey that is going to be extremely educational and beneficial as I enter the Public Relations field.

I look forward to contributing, as well as hearing feedback from the professionals willing to teach me and help me grow into a long and exciting career.

Blog Bandwagon: Even 85-Year-Olds Do It

It seems that everyone is talking about blogs and blogging these days. Sometimes it makes you wonder if these things are around to stay or are just another fad. I’ve heard all of the excuses:

  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
  • I don’t have time to be a blogger or read all of those millions of blogs out there
  • Isn’t information on blogs suspect?

Well, here is something to blow all of those excuses out of the water.

Industry luminary and Founding Chairman of Burson-Marsteller, Harold Burson, has a blog.

Burston-Marsteller is one of the leading public relations agencies in the world.

Indeed, Burson has been blogging since February and posts about once a month. He is 85 years-old and still shows up at the office every day. Now, that’s dedication!

The blog is called Insights, and it lives up to its name. His posts are educational and full of historical perspective about the profession in the 21st century.

Posts include:

Still Another Lincolnian Attribute: A Sense of Public Relations
The Role of the Public Relations Counselor
Reflections on Reaching 85... Are We Getting it Right?
Being in the Know...