Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Podcast Interview with Michael Cherenson, PRSA’s chair-elect for 2009

You may remember the recent visit to our chapter by Michael Cherenson, PRSA’s chair-elect for 2009. Now he's been interviewed by Shel and Neville on their For Immediate Release interviews podcast. It's an excellent interview, and as usual Michael does not hesitate to answer the tough questions.

Listen now online or download the audio file to listen on your iPod or mp3 player.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don't Miss FreelanceCamp San Antonio on Jan 31

If you are a freelancer or independent practitioner, you may be interested in San Antonio’s first FreelanceCamp. This is an unconference for freelancers, entrepreneurs and independent business owners. What’s an unconference? It’s an open, participatory workshop event where the agenda is set by the participants. Thanks to the help of sponsors, this event is free.

It will be held on January 31, 2009 from 9:00 to 4:00 at Radius Café (across the street from the Municipal Auditorium) in San Antonio. I attended a similar event, PodCamp San Antonio, and found it useful and easy to share ideas with peers.

As the web site describes, FreelanceCamp will be a day of “user-generated sessions on a variety of topics regarding business, habits, techniques, how-to’s, success stories, all shared by both the new and veterans of the freelancing world…There’s something for everyone no matter what industry you’re in.

The organizers are Luis Sandoval Jr., Alysan Delaney-Childs, Jennifer Navarrete and Angelica Sandoval.

See the useful flier here or go to the web site now to sign up.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Insights for PR Firms in a Recession Environment

Tough economic times will affect many industries. Some will be hit hard, but experts predict others, like health care, will weather the storm just fine. I’ve come across several stories trying to anticipate the effect on the public relations profession. I’ve never worked for a PR firm, but if we just look at that sector of our profession, there are some interesting prospects. I want to share two with you.

First, a recent episode of the Inside PR podcast focused on actions agencies can take when confronted with an economic downturn. The three people in the conversation (Terry Fallis , Martin Waxman and Julie Rusciolelli) are all with agencies, and part of their conversation points to opportunities agencies can take advantage of when companies reduce their in-house PR staff (sigh) and turn to agencies to take on some of that workload.

By the way, Inside PR is a podcast that I have strongly recommended you listen to before. I still do. It’s insightful and entertaining.

Second, Joseph Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis, posted a story, “Managing through the coming recession,” from an agency exec’s point of view. It presents some strategies that those of you in similar positions might want to consider.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reflections on the PRSA International Conference in Detroit

Posted on behalf of Trisha Box, PRSA San Antonio's Vice President of Programs and Chair of Gift of Guidance Program

I recently had the honor of attending the PRSA International Conference in Detroit after winning the "Eat and Win" program hosted by our chapter. It was a privilege to be among 3,000 PR practitioners from around the world representing corporate America, independents, non-profits and many PRSSA students. Speakers like Craig Newmark founder of Craig’s List, Bob Lutz with GM, and an author and former sports anchor Mitch Albom were all engaging and educational. The many sessions to choose from offered to succeed in today’s economy and especially how to jump into social media.

I was also proud to represent San Antonio by serving as an assembly delegate. We discussed important trends and issues facing our profession. I attended our district meeting where I met members from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Next years’ conference is in sunny San Diego on November 7-10, 2009. With the ever changing economy, I highly encourage everyone to consider attending the 2009 conference to educate yourself on our ever changing profession and be a bigger value to your employer or client. Put in your '09 budgets, if you register by the end of the year you get this year’s price. See www.prsa.org.

Thanks again to the 2008 chapter board for hosting me and for voting me as an assembly delegate to represent our chapter.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Trust and Reputation in Public Relations

Today PRSA San Antonio members were treated to a presentation by Mike Cherenson, APR, Chair-Elect of PRSA and Executive Vice President of Success Communications Group. Mike is a second generation counselor, who grew up "doodling his ABC's on news release stationery."

Mike's lively presentation included numerous research examples about building and maintaining reputation, a particularly timely topic as our nation struggles with the effects of the federal bailout and an uncertain economy. Cherenson explained that public relations practitioners are the keepers of trust and repetition in a company and the CEO should be its chief trust officer. He offered a formula for the group: Reputation equals expectation plus credibility plus authenticity.

Cherenson advocates that social media is empowering more and more to join in on the conversation, but cautioned that in this age of "infodemics" it is difficult to sort out fact from fiction. Infodemics is defined as the combination of rumor, truth, fact, propaganda and interpretation. This presents new challenges for managing an organizations' reputation.

He offered a useful analogy called the Credibility Bank. Organizations make deposits each time they doing something good or well. Withdrawals, on the other hand, are made when wrongs go uncorrected. He sugggested all practitioners should develop a score card and share it periodically with their CEO. His advice to practitioners hoping to build trust among their many stakeholders is that the simpler the message, the easier it is to reach your audience. Mike's presentation will be available on the chapter web site.

Update: Kami Watson Huyse shares this video interview with Mike Cherenson on trust and reputation. Enjoy!

Photo of Mike Cherenson courtesy of PRSA Member Randy Escamilla

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Retrospective: The Power of Political Words

Like millions of Americans, I watched the election coverage last night. Beyond the sheer wonder of the computer interfaces, integration of social media, and the usual political speculation, one basic of our culture and our democracy stood tall. The power of words. The defining moment for me last evening was two moments, actually. First, John McCain's eloquent concession speech, delivered with humility and grace. You can read his speech or watch the video of his speech.

It made me recall the basics of what drew me to public relations in the first place, the writing part, and how cool it would have been to be someone's speech writer. Then, before too much more time passed, President-elect Obama took the stage more than half a country away and delivered another powerful speech, which you can read or watch .

Many social media folks and media watchers are referencing the words of the evening, including Michael Sebastian at Ragan.com.

The power of words is evident all around us, and, thanks to Web 2.0, we can read, view, listen and comment on the words that will define our next four years.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Check Your E-mail Release for Spam-like Issues Before You Send It

Another PRSA member forwarded this link to me. It’s so cool. With this tool, SiteSell’s SpamCheck, you can just test a news release or advisory before you send it by e-mail. You’ll quickly get a report telling you how likely it is to get caught up in spam filters.

I tested one I sent a couple of months ago and was happy to get a low score of 0.2. It says that any score under 4.5 is great. The really cool part is that it tells you the precise problems it identified so that you can fix them if you choose.

Note that this tool does not keep you from spamming reporters with mass irrelevant messages. We have to tend to that ourselves.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

PRSA Byline Blog Comment Policy

Given our chapter's recent programs related to social media, one of the messages that came through clearly was the need to have policies. We realized that for this blog, we had posted a policy for our blog team members, but we hadn't posted the one for commentors. So here is our official policy.

PRSA Byline Blog Comment Policy
We want to hear from you and encourage comments, critiques, questions and suggestions. We ask that you simply stay on topic, respect other people’s opinions, avoid profanity, offensive statements, illegal content, and anything else that might otherwise violate our standard terms and conditions.

Please understand that we reserve the right to edit or delete comments for any reason we deem appropriate. Obscene, racist, and otherwise objectionable comments will be deleted at the discretion of the moderator. If you do not provide a valid e-mail address, we reserve the right to delete or not publish your comment.

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions of PRSA and we assume no responsibility for such content. Please do not post any private information unless you want it to be available publicly. Please see our privacy policy for more information.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Professional Development

Hi - I'm the incoming chair for professional development, and I'm looking for your help.

If you didn't attend yesterday's workshop on Social Media, would you please add some comments to this post and let me know why?

If you did attend, would you reply and let me know what you did and didn't like?

Would everybody let me know what you'd like to see as professional development for the upcoming year?


Beth Graham

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blogging 101 with Bryan Person

Live from the Seminar!

Our last speaker this afternoon is Bryan Person, social media evangelist at Live World. Bryan kicks off by asking the questions....why should you blog and, more interestingly, who shouldn't blog. He cautions that if you are afraid of negative feedback, you may not be a candidate. However, Bryan looks at this type of feedback as an opportunity to learn about your company.

Goal-setting is an important component of launching a blog... so now, here's a theme with all of our social media presenters today. If you don't have a goal, none of these strategies and tactics will be successful for your organization. Light bulb! All PR practitioners should be setting goals, no matter what tools you choose.

Preparing to blog is an important step. Visiting and subscribing to blogs that interest you is important research. Also, people who visit your blog can find you and contact you. Targeting your readers is very important and your blog need not have a huge audience to be successful.

Creating content is the most important part of your blog. Bryan suggests that you raise your industry up with your content, particularly by creating original content and not recycling content. The more you generate, the more you can be found in search engines. Bloggers should have opinions and take a stand, particularly on issues. Visuals can really help draw people into your blog.

Promoting and building your blog is key to its longevity. Bryan hosted a lively discussion about whether ghostwriting a blog by a CEO or organization representative is a good practice.

Quality in content needs to be followed by quantity....the average blogger should post 3 times per week at a minimum. Bryan gave numerous examples of good blogs in the public relations industry, including Slice and PR Squared .

As with all today's speakers, Bryan urged the participants to maintain transparency. Another theme which all our presenters have stated throughout today's seminar.

Amended on October 8, 2008 to add link to Bryan's presentation.

Christie Goodman shares her Podcasting Strategy

Live from the Seminar!
Have you ever thought about who you might reach with podcast? A podcast is merely an audio program that listeners can download or save from and to a source. Many companies use podcasting for training, professional development, to humanize a company, reach out to fans or influencers AND can unite an organization that is challenged by distance. This is a real niche in social media. Christie is giving us a myriad of examples, from education to barbecue secrets. Her first piece of advice is to plan, preferably a written plan. Listening to a variety of podcasts can prepare you -- try what interests you and what is part of your industry. Some of the early podcasts Christie recalled were very rough and lacked polish. Goal setting is a critical step to success. Christie advocates asking yourselfsome questions: 'what do you want to accomplish?' 'Where do you want to be when you're done?'This community expects transparency and an informal style of conversation. They do NOT want someone to read to them.

The podcasts used by Christie's organization, have become a great resource for teachers. Some are still getting monthly downloads even after a year or more. These are obvious of topical interest, according to Christie.

The planning process for Christie include frequency of show, show length and format. She uses teachers and other professionals who are well-schooled in presenting to audiences, so they know their subject matter and minimizes the preparation she does as a PR professional.

Podcast content needs a predictable pattern, which includes music, interview introductions just like a radio show. One challenge for many organizations is the temptation to edit the interviews too neatly or an onerous approval process. The executives in Christie's organization have empowered her to manage the project and actually don't review the audio files until they are posted to the organization's Web site.

There are many ways to generate feedback on podcasts, which Christie also shared. What is interesting to note, is that this group lays down the audio on a digital audio recorder that is about the size of a deck of cards. She does engage professional editing to put music and ins and outs on the track.

Christie and IDRA are a great example of how to use new technology on a budget.

Kami Watson Huyse on Building Social Relationships

Live from the Seminar!
When Kami shares her expertise with our chapter, we all learn from it. Full disclosure: Kami and I have shared time on the PRSA San Antonio Board and she has a professional relationship with my company. She was also named the chapter's Public Relations Professional of the Year at this May's Del Oro awards.Read Kami's blog The key to utilizing all -- or any -- of these great technical tools, is to identify who your stakeholders are. Stakeholder identification is THE MOST BASIC task in public relations, so why should it be any different for online communities? Kami is talking about the four stages of engagement in building social networks. The first is to listen and take the time to learn about your community (formerly, audience!). The second stage, participation, is truly empowering for public relations practitioners. This enables you to truly have two-way communications with stakeholders. If you do your homework right, you will be engaging those who can influence or affect your business or organization. The third step is contributing to the community by providing content, sharing experiences and resources. The final step, evaluate, is the only way public relations practitioners can create value for their programs in today's business environment. What you evaluate can vary -- it could be interest, it could be attitude or could be some form of action. The valuable information in today's seminar is unbelievable!

Seminar photos today courtesy of Randy Escamilla, using his new IPhone.

UPDATE: This is Kami's Presentation

Monika Maeckle, Business Wire on New Press Releases

Live from the Seminar!
Monika Maeckle, vice president of new media for Business Wire is speaking right now about how to think differently about your press releases. Instead of a static document, press resources need to be enabled for searching and sharing. ONe of the easiest things a practitioner can do is to highlight items within the release using the usual formatting tricks in Microsoft Word. Boldfacing or italicizing text as well as using bullet points and subheads allow for better integration into search engines. Embedding links into releases is an easy and powerful tool to build credibility. Providing graphics, photos or videos -- in link form, of course -- will make your news more valuable to the reader. Now that Google is enabling its searches with photos, graphics and maps, this gives the press release writer the chance not only to tell their story, but to show their story. As Monika observes, press releases are traffic pointers. They should be pointing people to places they want to go and things they want to see. Business Wire hosts numerous, free webinars to assist practitioners with trying out all these new techniques. Check it out!

Social Media Cannot be Ignored

Live from the Seminar!
The big takeaway from Geoff's presentation today was you cannot ignore this medium of social media. Social media is categorized by its very nature as a COMMUNITY, not an AUDIENCE. This is a concept that is very difficult for many public relations practitioners to accept. But it is a message we must take back to our organizations, our CEOs, our nonprofits, our schools and our government agencies. Our stakeholders are online and we need to meet them online, on their terms, in their timeframe. Geoff is firmly entrenched in these communities and we can learn a lot from him.

Geoff Livingston speaking at PRSA San Antonio chapter today

Live from the Seminar!

Today, we're hearing from Geoff Livingston, who was introduced to us as a social media "guru." He is sharing with us about the fractured nature of communications today. Just launching a blog doesn't cut it anymore. You have to dedicate time and resources to build social media and networks. Livington is urging the group to let strategy guide the communications plan, using the traditional method of determining objectives and then selecting the tools to accompany those objectives. THEN, decide if social media fits into the plan. As Geoff says, don't let the nomenclature get in the way of understanding.

Watch for more from the seminar later today.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Some First Steps for PR Folk to Engage with Social Media

Let’s say you’re a high-level PR professional. A boss or an owner. And you’ve avoided dipping into these new-fangled social media things for some logical reason like the time required or because the way you’ve been doing things has been working fine.

Let me share some practical reasons you may want to give social media a try.

Blog monitoring – You need to know what people are saying about your company or client. By monitoring conversations on blogs, you can get a jumpstart on issues that could otherwise blow up. Dell reports that they get a three-week heads-up about issues before they hit the mainstream media. This is something you can do for free. And it’s a minimum. Later, you can learn to participate in the conversations to build the brand, enhance reputation and dialogue with influencers. A key audience to be monitoring is the reporters you are likely to work with. Many are bloggers themselves.

Social networks – Let’s focus on Facebook. Why on earth would you want to set up a Facebook page? Because reporters are there. They are communicating with their audiences and their sources there. I’ve even heard of one who will only pay attention to pitches he gets via Facebook, not e-mail or phone. Again, it’s a minimum. You don’t have to reveal your family secrets on your page. And you certainly should keep it professional. Later, you can use Facebook and other networks to connect with your company’s or client’s key constituencies who are there. Again, it’s free.

Social bookmarking – Services like Delicious are highly useful tools to support your media relations or community relations work. I’ve posted some how to’s on this subject before. See the last post for links. And yes, it’s free.

Twitter – Using Twitter can be powerful for public relations. The thing is, you will not understand its value until you sign up and start using it. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Twitter is not the only service of its kind, but it’s the most popular. It’s where many journalists are. It’s where portions of your audiences likely are. People will tell you it’s addictive. But that means they aren’t using it well for their business. You can. But it’s all theory until you set up your account. And guess what. It’s free.

If you try any of these tools, the worst that can happen is you won’t find them useful and you’ll stop using them.

Our chapter is holding a full-day professional development session specifically on this topic to demonstrate ways to get started or expand participation. I’m sure there will be more posts about it in the coming days.

So here’s the bottom line. Social media is not merely an additional vehicle for distributing or even exchanging information. It is not a trend. It is a manifestation of social change that we are in the midst of.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Should Twitter be Used in Church?

Two news stories came to my attention this week, both involving the micro-blogging tool, Twitter. New technologies always stretch our boundaries, and these two stories are no exception to that observation. And, they point out a traditional struggle for public relations practitioners, the ballance between an individual's right to privacy and the public's right to know.

Case #1
The Rocky Mountain News recently decided to assign a reporter to cover the funeral of a three year old on Twitter. The child died after being hit by a car driven by an illegal immigrant with an arrest record. After the initial horror of thinking --what if that were my child?--I thought about the stress of having to relive the event electronically. But that's not the central issue here. The central issue is whether the public's right to know about the funeral was justified by the live streaming of events during the funeral OR if the family's right to privacy was more important. INterestingly enough, the coverage was given a thumbs down by media watchers as being bland and uninteresting.

You can read about the coverage and follow links to other parts of the story here:

Case #2
On Friday, the San Antonio Express News ran a story on Imagine Fellowship, a local church which uses Twitter during its services, allowing the participants to Twitter about the sermon, with the comments appearing on a giant screen behind the pastor. Imagining I was in the pastor's place, I thought how harsh the criticism could be and how distracting while trying to speak. Again, though, the broader issue seems to be the line between individual privacy and public information.

As these new technologies can enhance our productivity and broaden our reach, we must insure that they don't also interfere with individual rights.

P.S. I would link to the story, but the Express-News Web site is horrendously hard to navigate if you try to find a story more than 24 hours after it appears.

A nice person from the church sent me this link to share: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/religion/Blest_be_the_tweets_that_bind.html

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quick Options for Finding Blog Coverage of Your Client, Company, Product, Etc.

I got an e-mail from a friend the other day who was looking for quick suggestions on how to monitor blog coverage or conversations. I thought I’d share my answer with you and you can add your suggestions as well if you’d like.

There are three big services – free. I use the first two all the time. I’m going to check out the third. Just like free media monitoring, it’s beneficial to use more than one source.

Google blog search http://blogsearch.google.com
Blogpulse http://www.blogpulse.com/
Technorati http://technorati.com/

The advantage that Technorati has over the others is that it somehow calculates a ranking for each blog which can help you determine which ones to target. The disadvantage is that its searching capabilities have declined significantly in the last year. So you will miss some important ones if this is the only service you use.

A really good paid service that I've tried and loved is Custom Scoop. It does media monitoring including blogs. You get an e-mail each morning listing and linking to all your coverage for each search term. You can do a free trial through: http://www.customscoop.com/fir (FIR just stands for the For Immediate Release podcast, one of three PR/comm. podcasts I don't miss.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Communication Tools ~ What Do You Use?

Communicate, it's what we do. We communicate to build relationships with our clients, colleagues, publics. We, as public relations professionals, build relationships as part of our living.

We all use different tools to do it; but, I was surprised by a recent Twitter poll asking if people still use the telephone to communicate (as opposed to just email, Twitter, and other social media). I don't know if I'm out of the norm, but I spend a substantial portion of each day on the phone. I call my colleagues, I call reporters, I call assignments editors, I probably make 15 calls a day.

Obviously, my answer to the question of using a telephone for relationship building was a resounding, "Yes!" But, am I out of the ordinary? Do you use a telephone still?

If you don't use the telephone, how do you make contact with your publics? As hard as I try, I am not able to see everyone I need to touch base with in person; and as friendly as I think I am, email just doesn't convey a friendly chat as well as a voice. So, what do you do to make contact? While I won't be giving up the telephone any time soon, I'd like to hear what others do to stay in touch, to build relationships.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Social Media Case Studies

The Society for New Communications Research has released a new research study, New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations, and made it available free online. It gives case studies of several companies regarding their use of social media. Here is the description from their web site…
Social media case studies and strategies from the American Red Cross, Blendtec, The Coca-Cola Company, Emerson Process Management, the Mayo Clinic, MARC Research, Quicken Loans, and the Seattle Union Gospel Mission highlight this research study by the Society for New Communications Research. The report also
features detailed findings from a survey of communications and marketing professionals focused on changing patterns of influence resulting from social media and other new communications technologies. This study was made possible by a grant from the Institute for Public Relations & Wieck Media.

And don't forget to sign up for our chapter's professional development session on social media!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

How Employee Online Behavior Affects your Organization -- PRSA Luncheon Program

Today (Thursday) our chapter holds its annual luncheon in recognition of PRSA’s ethics month. Our focus is on how employee online behavior affects your organization – both sides of the story. I'm so grateful to our panelists, Kelly Smith, assistant superintendent for technology services at Northside ISD, and Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, education editor for the San Antonio Express-News, who will discuss how employee online behavior away from work can affect your company and how you can encourage employees to communicate online without putting you at risk.

Below are links to further information related to today’s discussion.

San Antonio Express-News Education Blog

PRSA Ethics Information
See the PRSA Member Code of Ethics (in English) http://www.prsa.org/aboutUs/ethics/preamble_en.html

See the PRSA Member Code of Ethics (in Spanish) http://www.prsa.org/aboutUs/ethics/preamble_sp.html

See other resources, including advisories and case studies http://www.prsa.org/aboutus/ethics/

Samples of Policies
"What Employers Need To Know About Employee Blogging"

Blogging Policy Resources on the New PR Wiki

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

RUN, Don't Walk to the Chapter's Professional Development Seminar

If you're anything like me, every day I become aware of more tools and technology, many of which can help me in my professional life. BIG CAVEAT: there's very little playtime in each day's schedule to afford me the opportunity to learn about all these tools. So if you're reading this blog and looking for more, then RUN, don't walk to the San Antonio Chapter's Professional Development Seminar: New Media is Now! The details can be found here.

One thing I truly benefit from as a member of PRSA, is professional development. I know I can't afford those pricey seminars in exciting locations like San Francisco, Chicago and New York that frequent my mailbox, but the lineup of speakers for our San Antonio sessions, will guarantee that your investment will be worth it.

Start off the morning session with Geoff Livingston, author of "Now is gone: a primer on New Media for Executives and Entrepreneurs." The morning session will be filled with reasons why you need to go forth in this brave new media world.

At lunch, hear Monika Maeckle, Business Wire's vice president for new media development on launching the online conversation with web-friendly press releases. By early afternoon, you will be ready for some meaty "bytes" from an array of qualified speakers.

Kami Watson Huyse, APR, and the chapter's PR Professional of the Year and editor of Communications Overtones, will talk about building relationships with online stakeholders. She will be followed by Christie Goodman, APR, on starting on the podcasting technology. Our final speaker will be Bryan Person, who will get you started on blogging basics. (Once you have a handle on that, this chapter could use a few ambitious bloggers!).

At the end, we will share best practices and ask each other questions before wrapping up. Bring your laptop, an open mind and learn how to use del.icio.us to access course materials and background information. If you can't join us, watch this space for information on joining our Twitter group. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ten reasons to love customer case studies

Case studies tell true stories about how your products or services helped customers solve their problems—and they do so in a format your prospects can easily relate to. In fact, customer case studies represent one of the most effective ways to boost the impact of your B2B marketing communications program because these problem/solution stories help build your company’s reputation, expand your presence in trade publications and on the Web, and aid the selling process.

Here are ten reasons you should consider adding customer case studies to your marketing arsenal:

1. Build credibility – As objectively written stories of how actual customers benefited from your company’s products and services, published case studies carry high credibility with readers. Technical details and photos add to their believability.

2. Reach primary and secondary target markets – Case studies are readily accepted by trade and Web editors because they provide valuable information for their audiences. This means that you can reach secondary markets and vertical markets where you can’t afford to advertise.

3. Generate inquires – Experience has shown that published case studies are as good or better at generating inquiries and Web site visits as advertising. These inquiries give you additional sales opportunities.

4. Demonstrate results – Case studies give you an opportunity to actually demonstrate how your products benefit a customer. By following a problem-solution format, these features show how your product or service increases productivity, improve quality, saves money, etc.

5. Third-party endorsement – When a case study is published by a respected trade publication or Web site, it carries an implied endorsement from both the customer and the editorial staff. Editors are endorsing your product and company by giving you access to his or her readers.

6. Displace the competition – Since editorial space in trade publications is always limited, every article of yours that gets published eliminates an editorial opportunity for your competition.

7. Integrate advertising messages – By choosing the right customer applications for your case studies, you can support your overall advertising effort by multiplying exposure to your key marketing messages.

8. Create future editorial opportunities – When you provide editors with a regular supply of case studies over time, editors will begin calling on you with additional editorial opportunities.

9. Employ the same content for multiple uses – Once developed, case studies provide a myriad of opportunities for leveraging the material. They can be placed in a single publication, mass distributed to a variety of publications, printed as a sales handout, produced as a downloadable feature from your Web site, and used as fodder for various product and corporate brochures.

10. Low cost, high returns – Case studies represent one of the best ROIs of any B2B marketing communications tactic. Development costs are generally modest, and when you can create something of interest to editors and readers, the editorial space and Web exposure you gain is free.

Kami's Blog Now in the Second Round at PR Week

Congrats to Kami Watson-Huyse, APR, for making it to the second round of the PR Week competition for the "most worthwhile" PR blog. See my previous post, "Two Days Left to Vote for Kami’s PR Blog."

You can vote for Kami's blog, Commuications Overtones, until 5:30 est, Friday. She won't win any prizes. But it's fun anyway.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Get Olympics Update from the Ground

We’re in the middle of the Olympics. Coverage on TV and the “official” Internet sites are heavily structured to either make it easy for you to see what’s interesting to you or to limit your viewing to highly-filtered, corporate-money-making controlled content – depending on your point of view. (The official site is at http://en.beijing2008.cn/.)

But thanks to social media, you can find out what’s happening in real time from people who are there as spectators. Here are just two easy ways.

1. Tweetscan.com lists all the Twitter posts (most recent first).

Go to http://www.tweetscan.com/ and type 080808 into the search field. (080808 is the tag or “keyword” that Twitter users are using to indicate their post is about the Olympics.) You’ll see current posts (called “tweets”). The ones with the boxes were created in other languages. You do not have to be a Twitter user to use Tweetscan.

2. Qik is a free online service that lets people stream video that they are shooting from their cell phones or video cameras in real time.

3. Youtube has set up a page dedicated to videos about the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two Days Left to Vote for Kami’s PR Blog

Yes, this is a shameless plug for our own Kami Watson-Huyse, APR. I know, I know, she has practically moved out of the country (Houston). But she has remained a member of the San Antonio chapter. And she was, after-all, our Del Oro PR Practitioner of the Year.

But this isn’t really about Kami. It’s about her blog, Communication Overtones. Out of hundreds of PR blogs in the country, hers is one of 32 in the running for best PR blog in a competition being held by PR Week. It’s PR Week’s 10th anniversary, and they have decided to honor “one of the most important technological advancements in content distribution of the past 10 years” – the blog.

Each blog competes with one other in a sort of elimination tournament. And there is only two more days to vote for Communication Overtones.

But don't take my word for it. If you've never read her blog, go check it out. It's really insightful and creative.

The second cool thing is that this contest presents you with a list of 32 PR blogs to take a look at. You may find a few that become good references for you or that you want to engage with. Once you’ve identified a few, subscribe to their newsfeeds through an iGoogle page so that you can receive their headlines in one place.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Demise of List-Making? I Hope So!

It’s a ritual most public relations practitioners are familiar with – building a list of contacts for a client or building a list of influencers for an event. List-building is the first step to relationship-building in our profession, and while it is foundational, it is also tedious, thankless and instantaneously obsolete.

I frequently get contacted by someone new in travel media or a far-away print publication and they say “Put me on your list.” So which list do they go on, for how long and how much contact do they really want to have with me?

Should this outlet get our annual press kit mailing or are they interested in seasonal events or a 25-word listing about hours and days of operation? So, now you know. I have at least three lists. Okay, I have more than that. In fact, we have so many different lists that we have to organize them into a folder called “Media Lists.” And it is SO yesterday.

So why do we do it? First of all, as creatures of habit, we have to do it. Second, if we don’t add to the list, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.

But list-building gets in the way of network building. If there’s one thing social media is teaching us, it’s that the two-way conversational nature of this medium makes network-building so vitally important. And list-making is so one-way.

Enter Peter Shankman and HARO, which has been featured here before http://prsanantonio.blogspot.com/2008/06/help-reporter-out.html. I heard about and joined the HARO network when it was at 10,000 members. That was early this summer. Now, at 22,000 strong, it’s a list that is less about WHO is on the spreadsheet and more about who needs to CONNECT with whom. While the three times daily e-mails hit all 22,000 members, the unwritten rule is ever-present. You will not approach a media person on the queries list if you don’t fit the request. And so the dialogue begins and we, as public relations professionals, begin the process of “how can I help you do this story?” The connections are far more meaningful than any traditional list.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chapter Hosts Summer Mixer

Two weeks ago, I attended the PRSA Summer Mixer at the Alamo Cafe. It's not a new event; the chapter has been hosting an evening July event for several years. Based on a record number of attendees, it's definitely on the "cool" list for professionals in our city. We had the pleasure of hosting more than 70 professionals that evening, most were non-members. My job, and that of my fellow PRSA San Antonio board members, was to introduce ourselves and our organization. Many of you told us that lunch time events are often difficult to attend and that you would be interested in evening events. We heard you! Many of you had questions about the organization and what we do. We shared with you! Many of you said you would be interested in attending our professional development luncheons. We're looking forward to hosting you! I met at least six people I had not been acquainted with or worked with in San Antonio, and I thought I knew everybody. At our next board meeting, we will set a date for the next mixer. Based on our attendance, enthusiasm, and noise level in the room, it's easy to see why PRSA San Antonio is a thriving organization for communicators. See you at the next mixer!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Learn about Social Media with the Help of the Common Craft Show

I’ve been leading a series of sessions for our staff to introduce them to the world of social media and to specific online social tools they can be using right away. I’ve led a two-hour overview session a couple of times that introduced them to a world most had no idea existed. I’ve walked them through using Jott and setting up an iGoogle page and finding RSS newsfeeds to populate it with. (One senior staff member was practically doing cartwheels when he started using Jott, I kid you not.) I’ve also begun to introduce them to Twitter, which is really hard for anyone to grasp until they dive in. Soon, I’ll be leading sessions on using Delicious, which I think they’ll love.

There is one web site that I’ve found really helpful: the Common Craft Show. Headed by Sachi and Lee LeFever, this web site provides short (two- to three-minute) videos that clearly describe certain social media elements. They are simple and highly creative. But most importantly, they are instructive. They help folks get the big picture.

Here is a list of topics from the site:

Social Media in Plain English
Blogs in Plain English
Twitter in Plain English
Online Photo Sharing in Plain English
RSS in Plain English
Wikis in Plain English

The only change I would make is that I wish the video that focuses on Twitter would give a little more attention to how organizations are using it. But frankly, since they came out with this video so quickly after Twitter use took off, people may not have been using it yet professionally.

The LeFever deserve lots of praise for taking this on. They’ve developed something really innovative in order to help others. It really reflects the generous spirit of Web 2.0

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Common Elements of Effective PR and Baseball Pitching

We’ve adopted the term “pitching” from that great American pastime – baseball. In our field, it means communicating with a reporter to urge him or her to write or produce a story about whatever you are pitching. Sometimes the pitch is over the phone, in recent years, it’s been done by e-mail. But there have been other forms as well. Unfortunately, pitches are sometimes directed to anyone who will listen – and to many who won’t.

But we have to remember the key elements of pitching in baseball. The pitch is directed at one bat at a time, it is strategic (curveball, slider, changeup), and it is really, really fast.

I am not an expert in media pitching. Perhaps you are. Perhaps you’ve figured out how to peak the interest of a reporter in less than two minutes on the phone. But have you ever done so in the equivalent of 140 characters?

That’s what Twitpitch does. Using Twitter, you can pitch in less than 140 characters -- counting spaces. The concept came from the brain of big-time blogger, Stowe Boyd. And now, Business Week has published an article about it, featuring Stowe and Brian Solis.

If you have already taken my advice and gotten aboard Twitter, you’re all set up to try this out. Once you’ve gotten your pitch nailed down to 140 characters for Twitpitching, you’ll also be better prepared for e-mail and phone pitching. That’s because, you’ll be focused on targeting your pitch, being strategic about your message and being lightening fast.

Let me know how it goes!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Put Away Your Toys!

As a child, my parents would say this to me -- and to my brothers -- often. While we didn't always get why they were asking us to do it, we understood what they meant when they said it. Finish what you started, clean up your mess and move on. Fundamentally, I have been doing this all my professional life, even if the toy part as a child was lost on me. Projects are finished, you clean up, sort through the manila file, which usually contained everything related to that product launch or media event or community relations opportunity. Then, you tossed what you didn't need or what was duplicated and put a new label on the file and with some very savvy coding, filed it in a metal filing cabinet.

Then along came the Internet and electronic documents and now what do I do? There's just not one place for everything anymore. Sure, I have bookmarks and favorites, but not all my technical gizmos can be neatly placed in a manila file folder, much less the cabinet.

It may not be that the "pages" are all 8 1/2 x 11 either. The real reason may be that the projects just don't end anymore. They morph on and repeat and often the lines are blurred between finishing one project and starting another. This does not even address the issue of time compression and project overload. So the question in my mind is now: when is it time to put away my toys?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

San Antonio Express-News Playground Barrage Has Affect

As described in my last post, the San Antonio Express-News took on the city by investigating the status of city parks, their disrepair and unethical treatment of the city auditor. To date I have counted multiple articles by Todd Bensman (whose first story got the ball rolling, 6/9, 6/12 and 6/13) and Guillermo Garcia (6/22, 6/24) along with columns by Cary Clack (6/10), Jaime Castillo (6/10, 6/15), editor Bob Rivard (6/15), Ken Rodriguez (6/16, 6/20), Scott Stroud (6/28), public editor Bob Richter and the editorial board (6/19). Fourteen stories so far in one month. (Some of the articles are only available through the Express-News online archives.)

And with good reason. City leaders seemed to be much more concerned about looking good than about making sure that our children are taken care of. Though it is true, they were operating on information provided by the parks director, who turned out to be lying.

So, it took the city manager 28 days to speak up clearly. But there were some steps the city took leading up to that.

Three days after the first story hit, the city manager and the mayor announced that all 114 of the city’s playgrounds would be re-inspected.

Twelve days later, the parks and recreation department director was forced to resign. (Director of parks is forced to resign, 6/22)

Sixteen days later, a city council committee was set up to clarify the role of the auditor’s office and presumably how to keep it from being influenced by political interests. (Panel will examine post of city auditor, 6/24)

And finally, 28 days later, city manager Sheryl Sculley provided her own op ed with the opening line: “The safety of our children is a priority of the city of San Antonio.” She provided a summary of results from the inspections promised after the first story and gave a deadline for when repairs would be completed. She also pointed out that inspections did not categorize any playgrounds as dangerous. Finally, she stated that a long-term maintenance plan would be submitted to the council and that an analysis of the parks department service delivery was underway.

This case study is far from closed. There will be debates about the auditor’s office. There will be further checking into the status of playground repairs. I wouldn’t surprised if a lawyer somewhere is able to find a child who was injured on one of the dangerous playgrounds identified in the 2003 inspection. Wouldn’t you?

I’m curious about the role – if any – the city’s public relations staff played in this whole affair. I’d like to believe that they gave appropriate counsel and weren’t listened to. It’s also possible they weren’t involved at all. Perhaps some effective crisis communications training is in order for city leader staff.

photo credit: Jerry Lara/Express-News

Monday, July 07, 2008

San Antonio Playground Affair is a Case Study in What Not to Do

Twenty-eight days. Four weeks. 672 hours. That’s how long it took for San Antonio’s city manager to stand up and say we are going to repair the city’s playgrounds. Twenty-eight days.

So here's the question. What do you do when a local newspaper or television station unveils your dirt? What do you do when they won't let go of an issue that you haven't solved?

Well the city of San Antonio’s current dangerous playground affair is a case study and exactly what not to do. And it’s still playing out (pardon the pun).

For those who don't know what's going on or don't live San Antonio, here’s the set up. The San Antonio Express-News has been publishing articles revealing the high number of city-owned playgrounds that have gone unrepaired for years, some of which have been rated dangerous. City leaders reacted – to put it mildly – defensively. Their lack of transparency and poor responses are weakening residents’ trust.

Trust buster #1: It all started in April when the city's auditor wanted to conduct an audit of the process the city uses to inspect it's playgrounds. The city committee refused to allow that audit to occur and fired the auditor.

So the city paper started digging and found that the last inspection in 2003 found “15 of 114 inspected playgrounds were so dangerous or substandard that they should be torn down, put off limits to children or extensively repaired.”

Trust buster #2: Many of those playgrounds have still not been repaired and there is no formal process for safety checks.

Trust buster #3: The playgrounds in the worst conditions are located in low-income, high minority sections of the city.

Trust buster #4: City leaders still maintain that an audit isn’t necessary, leading people to wonder what else they have to hide. According to the Express-News, the mayor claimed, “I don’t think Gonzales’ audit would have found a single thing!”

Since some people new beforehand that the Express-News was investigating and would be publishing a story, you would expect city leaders to be prepared to respond. But they weren’t.

Trust buster #5-10: When the first story by Todd Bensman broke on June 9, city leader responses included denials that there is a problem, claims that the auditor was fired for overstepping his bounds (which later articles refuted), sending crews out to wrap plastic yellow construction-zone tape around some playgrounds, a campaign by the city manager to show that playground safety has been well managed and that no serious lapses have endangered children, refusals to talk with reporters, distributing packets to city council members critical of the newspaper reporting, and pointing out that the city has not been sued for injuries to children on its playgrounds.

Everyone in public relations knows the first thing that you do is admit your mistake or misstep or whatever the wrongdoing is, apologize, commit to fixing it and commit to taking actions to keep it from happening again. City leaders did exactly the opposite; they tried to gloss over the multi-pronged problem.

After stumbling along, city leaders eventually began to take better actions to rebuild trust. In my next post, I’ll outline those steps.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

All the news that's fit to print...

I have a new role with my organization, Keeper of the Web Site. I have always helped keep it updated, but now it's my responsibility. Woot!

We've recently had an overhaul of the look and content, and I've learned how to upload most of the dynamic information easily. What I'd like to expand is the ease of our site as a resource for journalists and the community at large. Right now, there is a news release archive, and my contact information, but not a very extensive "newsroom" as a resource.

I registered today for PRSA's professional development webinar "Top Ten Elements to Have in an Online Newsroom" . I'm hoping it offers a lot of good tips. There are obvious elements needed for a successful resource (contact information, physical location of organization, executive information, news release archive, etc.). But, what are your suggestions for a really useful, efficient online newroom? Have you seen some good ones? Some really bad ones?

Show me yours, and I'll imitate all the good parts! If you want to see the site as it is now, here is the link. There is some content we have to keep on as part of the parent company, but I'd love your feedback on all aspects of the site, even if it's not to fulfill my current goal of creating a stellar newsroom!

SA Business Journal’s Two PR Stories

I know I’m a week behind, but did you see the June 27 issue of the San Antonio Business Journal? There are two front-page stories related to the local public relations industry.

One profiles how real estate developers are calling on PR agencies to build support for their projects. The story, “Developers turning to PR pros to help ramp up project buzz,” by Tricia Lynn Silva, quotes Katie Harvey of KGB Texas Public Relations, José Sena of Blue Clover, Skip Wood of The Wood Agency, Marsha Hendler of Marketing +, and Trish DeBerry of Guerra DeBerry Coody.

The second story focuses on the big news from Creative Civilization’s ending its advertising account with Spurs Sports & Entertainment, “Spurs trying to score new ad agency in challenging times.” Naturally, the writer, Scott Bailey, talked with Al Aguilar. He also quotes Skip Wood of The Wood Agency and Melanie Mahaffey of Austin-based GSD&M.
I have nothing to add about these stories. I just thought it was interesting to see them both on the front page in the same issue.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Helpful Service Grades your News Release

Here’s a cool tool you might want to try out. It’s HubSpot's Press Release Grader. This is a free online service that evaluates your news release. Some results it will provide are: a “gobbledygook” score, readability levels, link analysis, word cloud and SEO score.

Todd Defren shares his summary on his PR Squared blog, as does Melissa Underwood of Ragan.com.

The grader’s web site even has provides a very helpful six-minute video overview that walks you through the process. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CBS Sunday Morning Rebuttal Defends PR

An excutive VP at CBS Sunday Morning has provided a rebuttal to Andrew Cohen's commentary (see my previous post). Author Gil Schwartz is executive VP of corporate communications for CBS. He's also known as Stanly Bing. On June 22, CBS Sunday Morning aired his response, titled "Defending Public Relations."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chapter President-Elect Sends Letter to PRSA about Andrew Cohen Rant

Related to my previous post about Andrew Cohen’s rant, our chapter’s president-elect,
Robert E. Sheldon, APR, sent a letter to PRSA’s president & CEO, Bill Murray. This was in response to the open letter the Murray released immediately after the CBS Sunday Morning show aired. Sheldon’s letters are below in their entirety (with his permission), I didn’t ask for Murray’s permission, so I’ve only summarized his comments.
Has anyone pointed out that Scott McClellan is not even a member of PRSA - and probably wouldn’t be able to abide by the Code of Ethics anyway? THAT should have been the whole point of the answer letter from PRSA - that what McClellan did was NOT public relations in the sense that PRSA defines it, it was bald-face, deceptive marketing. Reputable PR practitioners belong to PRSA and abide by the Code of Ethics. The reality is that we don’t set standards for the "PR profession," we only set standards for PRSA members. And we PRSA members are only a minority of all the people who profess to be in the public relations profession.
– Robert Sheldon, APR
Murray responded with a letter essentially stating that his strategy was to focus on conduct of all PR professionals, whether or not they are PRSA members, and to hold up the Code of Ethics as guide for all.

Sheldon sent the following in response.

Thanks for the quick reply. I agree that we need to promote our standards for the whole of the profession, but we also need to constantly clarify what is and is not public relations. In the public’s view, being a PR professional today is right up there with used car salesmen, snake-oil hucksters and greedy CEOs - because that’s all they see. But being a dissembling apologist for an unethical client is NOT public relations, in my view - it’s manipulative propaganda -- and PRSA needs to constantly tell the public what the difference is.
– Robert Sheldon, APR
We’d love to hear what you think.

Note: A misspelled name has been corrected on 7/1/08

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Help a Reporter Out

Just three months ago, Peter Shankman (Peter is the founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., a boutique marketing a PR strategy firm located in NYC) started a new project he calls "Help a Reporter Out," or HARO.

The service allows journalists to submit requests for "experts" when working on a story. Peter then compiles the requests and sends them out to his subscribers - flacks like us for the most part. The requests range from "I'm working on a story on waterproof makeup," to "What has made Americans -- especially parents -- so fearful?"

Peter encourages flacks from all backgrounds to sign up, because - as he says - sooner or later a journalist will need you or an expert from your organization for something they're working on.

I signed up for the service when I heard about it on PROPenMic, but I've also seen talk on Twitter.

I know what you're saying...this sounds like all those other listserve services where I can sign up to be an expert and pay a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars annually to be included in the "expert" list. That's where this one is different. It's free.

That's right. I said it's free.

As Peter says on the site "It takes me a few minutes each day to do this, and the good Karma is immeasurable. So I'm not charging. If you really feel like sending me a donation or something, why not just send a few bucks to an animal hospital or animal rescue society somewhere. Some good places are Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, or The National Search Dog Foundation. That'll keep the good Karma flowing."

OK...I hope he doesn't take a page out of the Associated Press handbook and try to charge me for copying all that text off his site.


I've gotten a few e-mails each day since signing up, and I've responded to one. Some of them contain the reporter's complete contact information. Others are "anonymous," which means you send your information to Peter, who then forwards it to the reporter. If that person wishes to get in touch with you, they can.

He's gotten more than 10,000 subscribers in just under 90 days, and he's now aiming for 20,000. In each e-mail he encourages us to forward information about the service to our friends (I'm choosing to do it this way) so he can get more and more people signed up.

The one thing he is absolutely adamant about is that you not waste the reporter's time. Again, to quote Peter: "Promise us one thing: When you join, you'll promise not to email a reporter with an answer that doesn't match what they're looking for. In other words, you won't waste a reporter's time. Promise?"

As far as I'm concerned, this is a win-win for journalists and flacks. They get access to thousands of experts in a plethora of fields, and we get the opportunity to strut our stuff and look like heroes when we land an interview with a journalist we might not have otherwise had access to.

Once this grows some more and is no longer taking Peter "...a few minutes each day..." I'm not sure how it will remain free...at least for the flacks...but for now...enjoy it! Sign up!

And, if you're on Twitter, follow Peter at "skydiver."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

PRSA Responds to CBS Attack on the Public Relations Profession

On June 1, CBS Sunday Morning aired a commentary by their legal analyst, Andrew Cohen, in which he accused all PR folk of essentially lying for a living. “Show me a PR person who is ‘accurate’ and ‘"truthful,’ and I'll show you a PR person who is unemployed,” he said.

The impetus for his statements was the release of Scott McClellan’s tell-all book. But Cohen took an unjournalistic leap by extending his criticism to our entire profession and directly citing (sarcastically) the PRSA code of ethics.

Later the same day – a Sunday I might add – PRSA Chairman & CEO Jeffrey Julin released an open letter in response. A little bit later, he issued a video response on YouTube.

Individual PR professionals came to the defense of each other as well. To read one of several impressions, visit the blog of Kami Watson-Huyse, APR. On June 2, Andrew Cohen responded in a blog post saying: “I am now the target of a public-relations effort to ridicule my effort, my points, my character and integrity. I expected nothing less.”

Personally, I think it’s clear nothing we say will change Cohen’s mind. So, at this point, it’s fruitless to try. First, he’s mistaken to even consider McClellan’s role as equal to that of other PR positions. That’s politics. It’s an entirely different world, which is not to say honesty is absent or excused. But it’s different.

Second, he refuses to see the true purpose of public relations. PR cannot succeed when it is based on deceit. In fact, we are in the truth-telling business. Sometimes that means telling our bosses what they don’t want to hear. And it’s about relationship building, not treating audiences like pawns to be manipulated.

I’ve been active in San Antonio’s PRSA chapter for 14 years. I don’t personally know any PR person who spends his or her days trying to “convince people that a turkey is really an eagle,” as Cohen describes.

I am not claiming we’re perfect or that we don’t need to continually hold ourselves and each other accountable. That’s why we join professional associations like PRSA.

And while Cohen is free to speak his mind, given his position and influence he bears as much responsibility to be honest and as accurate as possible. There is no evidence to support his claims about the bulk of our profession. Instead he’s given in to his emotion and personal preconceptions. And in doing so, he has damaged the reputation of the profession and of CBS Sunday Morning. He should be required to issue a correction during the next Sunday Morning program.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Join a Discussion about "PR Spam"

Have you heard of the term PR spam? It’s the practice of blasting out news releases or pitches to lists of contacts with no attempt at tailoring pitches or even verifying that the recipients might be the least bit interested in the content. It’s probably been with us as long as media have been around.

The hope is that if you shoot out hundreds of identical pitches, something will stick. There’s no real strategy involved. Perhaps it’s worked at times. It never has for me.

As many of our local PR leaders can attest, more effective media relations involves knowing who you are pitching and why. It means designing the pitch for them specifically. It takes more time, but it has a much bigger pay off.

Since spam is the electronic equivalent to junk mail. The term PR spam has come along to describe those sales, marketing and pitch e-mails that are thrust on reporters.

And because of the ease of sending e-mails, the volume of PR spam is growing exponentially. While reporters have mostly tolerated our bad and lazy behavior, bloggers aren’t so willing. We’ve seen them lately ranting online about it, blocking PR spam e-mail domains and publishing the names or domains of offenders. So, rather than the story becoming in the story, the mis-pitch becomes the story.

Of course, many of these spammers are people doing public relations work without any public relations expertise. I wish that was the whole problem. The fact is, many large and small PR firms have been called out.

That leaves us with several questions, like: How are we training our PR staff? How are we holding ourselves accountable? How are we measuring media relations success?

I am bringing this up now to tell you about a live call-in online discussion that is taking place on Wednesday, June 11, 2008. For Immediate Release will host the discussion on FIR Live on BlogTalk Radio. And you can join in. Get details on the FIR blog.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two Cents: Twitter is a Powerful PR Tool

Cross post from PRSA San Antonio Byline, June 2008 issue.

I don’t usually give advice this way. But, if you are not using Twitter yet, it’s time. Today. Normally, I would suggest you check it out when you have time to see if it’s a good fit for you. But not in this case. If you are in public relations – and likely if you’re not – you need to understand Twitter. And to understand it, you have to use it.

Simply put, Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service – meaning once you sign up (easily), you can send updates (or “tweets”) of up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter web site. You choose people to follow so you can read their tweets, and people follow you to read yours. Over time, you’re part of a community.

If you’ve been waiting to see if this fad will catch on, the waiting is over. Twitter has become a powerful tool for communication for organizations, communities and individuals. Many news stories are breaking on Twitter first because people experiencing whatever it is are tweeting about it in real time.

Here are just a few ways people and organizations have already been using Twitter:

• Comcast is using Twitter to respond to customer-service related tweets.

• The Red Cross is using Twitter to send emergency updates to communities experiencing a disaster and universities are using it to notify students about emergencies.

• Small businesses are using Twitter to drive traffic to their web sites and generate sales (though hard sell and creepy tactics aren’t tolerated among Twitter users).

• Individuals are getting questions answered quickly (when visiting a new city, Dan York asked suggestions for a store that sells boots).

• At least one charity non-profit has been formed by Twitter users in response to a woman’s honest tweets about her breast cancer diagnosis (see Frozen Pea Fund).

• Southwest Airlines uses Twitter to let customers know about deals.

• Journalists at Read Write Web discover tech news tips on Twitter first on a regular basis and they use it to solicit interview questions via Twitter.

Conference speakers instruct audience members to submit questions via Twitter and monitor Twitter traffic to get immediate feedback on their event.

• A professor uses Twitter to communicate with his students between classes.

Granted, there are other tools like this one. And some of them are more stable and have better features. But Twitter was first. I’ve listed some resources for you for when you have questions.

But don’t keep studying it. Do it. And let me know what your Twitter name is and I’ll post it on our blog so others can find you. Oh yeah, follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/clgoodman.

The 10 ways I learned to use Twitter in 2007... (aka Why and How I use Twitter)

Newbie's guide to Twitter

Twitter in Plain English

The Top 5 Ways Smart People Use Twitter

Twitter for Academia

How to Use Twitter for Marketing & PR

Sunday, May 18, 2008

QuickStart Can Help New PR Professionals with Career Direction

Here is another announcement from PRSA national.

Once they’ve left the hallowed halls of their colleges or universities, new public relations professions should have an idea (an inkling, maybe) of the direction they want their careers to head. Should they look for a job in the private sector, in a corporate communications or public relations department? Are they thinking they want to work in the public sector at a government agency, or perhaps a public relations agency?

For the undecided, PR QuickStart, is a resourceful tool that offers free Web-based training in public relations for new professionals.

PR QuickStart provides an overview of the fundamental skills required to work in public relations and what to expect if a person decides to work for a public relations agency. The updated PR QuickStart curriculum is divided into three courses: (1) What Is Public Relations? (2) The Agency Life, and (3) Media Relations.

The site is packed with case histories, news articles, video and links to other industry resources, as well as tips and advice from public relations professionals at different levels. Members will find links to industry newsletters, public relations blogs and job boards. PR QuickStart also is a great place to refresh your public relations knowledge.

PR QuickStart is collaborative partnership between the Council of Public Relations Firms and the Counselors Academy. For more information, send an e-mail to Carolyn Marr or call her at 212-460-1420.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

PRSA Launches Updated JobCenter

From the PRSA national e-newsletter

If you are looking for a PR job or if you are an employer who is recruiting PR folk, this news could be helpful. The following is from an announcement by PRSA.

Using our JobCenter is now easier and more functional than ever. PRSA recently launched the updated and redesigned JobCenter, which is now a fully featured site that offers more information and easy-to-use functionalities for job seekers and employers. Posting a resume is now free. We also added an anonymous resume posting option for job seekers. Employers now have the benefit of pre-screen filters, bulk posting and a user-friendly candidate management system. Moreover, PRSA has developed a new heavily discounted pricing structure for members. To post a job or resume, visit the JobCenter.

Posting a resume on JobCenter gives members access to a public relations and communications targeted community of more than 32,000 members, including more than 9,900 students, as well as a database of 45,000 communication professionals from across the country.

In addition to enhancing the JobCenter design and functionality, PRSA also has engaged TopRank Online Marketing to provide search engine optimization and promotion services to extend the visibility of JobCenter listings on Web sites, such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live. TopRank works with some of the largest companies on the Web, and we look forward to using their expertise to help JobCenter users get even more value from their listings through improved search engine rankings.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Massive Fire at Our Lady of the Lake

Our hearts wept for the sisters, students, faculty and community of Our Lady of the Lake University as the century-old main building burned last night.

For out-of-towners who haven’t heard, this beautiful structure was built in 1895 by the Sisters of Divine Providence. It has become a powerful symbol to San Antonians, in partas a news anchor stated, because so many of our residents would not have been able to attend college if it hadn’t been for Our Lady of the Lake.

That building contained the administrative offices, communications offices, computer labs and dorm rooms for international students. More than half of the city's fire fighters tended to the fire.

On a public relations note, the university should be commended for posting updates on its web site – while the fire was still blazing. The most urgent news update for distant relatives was that everyone was evacuated safely and there were no injuries. What a blessing.

University President Dr. Tessa Martinez Pollack last night stated that we will rebuild, reminding the community that when the sisters of Divine Providence arrived here 113 years ago, they started with nothing.

Today, their legacy is strong beyond words. And their strength is more solid than stone.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Blogging the Del Oro

By Robert E. Sheldon, APR
PRSA San Antonio Chapter President-Elect

“To have a little recognition, that is very nice, you dig. It is good for the ego, for the psyche.”
– Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon, an iconic American jazz tenor saxophonist and Jazz Hall of Fame inductee, got it right when he spoke those words – probably to an audience of his peers after collecting one of numerous awards throughout his career. I was thinking about the emotional, soothing, ego-stroking and positive quality of recognition as my wife, BJ and I were attending the sixth Annual Del Oro Award banquet on May 1.

How many of us wonder, in the push and rush of our public relations careers, whether what we’re doing is any good? Did we break new ground? Craft the perfect press kit? Create abundant awareness and goodwill for our company or client? It’s something that all of need to know at least once in a while.

Our PRSA chapter meted out 37 separate awards that night. That represents nearly a third of all our members in San Antonio, and that should be a comforting equation. It means that most of us are probably doing very good work if we are able to gather together to hand out actual, physical awards to about a third of our number. The truth is that much good work goes unrecognized by organizations and employers of all walks. That’s a shame. More bosses and organizations need to learn how recognition motivates people.

The number of different awards is also a measure of how diversified and segmented our profession has become. We are not all PR generalists or the public face of large corporations or organizations in the news media. The task of communications has become so large and important that it takes specialists of all kinds – people who talk, people who draw, people who write and people who create big ideas. None of us does it all – or we would have just one big Del Oro Award -- and a very short banquet.

We saw young up-and-comers get a nod from their peers that they were doing well right out of the chute. We saw veterans getting recognition for a lifetime of splendid, ethical counseling. And, we saw many mid-career professionals getting kudos for the results of their talents. This is as it should be, because we need recognition at all stages of our careers – when we’re first starting out and need to know that we’ve chosen a good career path; when we’re half-way through our working life and need a reason to keep going; and when we’re in the twilight of our careers and need to know that it was all worth while.

With all the celebration that evening, it was easy to forget the many individuals whose entries were not chosen for recognition. I have been in that category before – as have many of you – and it’s not a fun place to be. But on the positive side, with 37 awards to give out every year, each member ought to get some award about every three years. At least, mathematically. Ah, if only it worked that way!

No, the entries not chosen usually had some fatal flaw – underfunding, no research, seat-of-the-pants-planning, or no way of measuring results. Sometimes that’s all the company or the client gives you to work with. Maybe there ought to be a category for the best “no-budget, no time for planning, do-it-because-the-client-told-you-to” PR program. Hmm. Don’t hold your breath.

In the meantime, let’s try to imagine what it must feel like to bask in the glow of the spotlight and hear the accolades of your peers. Because, it’s one of the drivers of excellence, the explosive spark of accomplishment and part of the reason that we’re all here.

Yes, recognition is a very nice thing. You dig?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Thoughts on the PRSA San Antonio's Del Oro Awards Event

Thursday's PRSA San Antonio's Del Oro Awards banquet was quite an evening. The crowd was the biggest we've ever had. It was nice to see first-time PRSA award winners and hear about some amazing PR work. We also had winners present from the Corpus Christi police department. The news release with a photo was sent out by Business Wire yesterday.

I had the privilege of sharing a table with three sons of Juanita and Tex Taylor. Our biggest individual award is named after the late Tex Taylor. His wife passed away a few weeks ago. Several of the speakers talked about Tex's generous support of young PR professionals.

I'm also happy to say we raised good money for the Marilyn Potts Endowment Fund. In the silent auction, I personally took home vouchers for 17 pizzas (if you know me, you'll understand).

Our PR Professional of the Year winner, Kami Watson Huyse, APR, has shared her wonderful speech on her blog. I've been given permission to share the speech of our Horizon Winner, Randy Escamilla below.
Fellow Honorees or Stars as we're called tonight: Kelly, Kami and Adrianna; fellow PRSA members; Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word;ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all very much!

I have to tell you a little story: When I found out I was the recipient of the Horizon Award I sent out an email to some of my friends. One of them, quickly responded, "Could this be Divine Intervention?"

Certainly, this could not have happened without help from Above. And, fortunately I have had rich and meaningful guidance from friends along this new-found journey into public relations.

Exactly three years ago this month-I left a fun and crazy career in TV news. There was no doubt I'd transition into public relations...and I've had to learn that PR means much more than just press releases.

I would not be here tonight without the guidance and support of the Public Relations Society of America and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. There are Sisters present here tonight -- giants of our community. Please stand and be recognized.

And it's not by accident that both organizations; PRSA and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, share values and missions which mirror each other with a clear focus on ethics. Two great institutions which not only invite me to join-to be a part of---but allow me to serve. And what an honor that is.

The truth is, tonight's award is not about me. It's about the people who really have allowed me to further my knowledge, interest, investment and love of public relation
specifically Sister Walter Maher, Kami Watson Huyse, APR, and Pascual Gonzalez.

I'd also like to acknowledge Bob McCullough, APR, and Lorraine Pulido-Ramirez who nominated me for this award. Please stand and be recognized. I'm also grateful to the late Marilyn Potts, our Chapter president, who we lost tragically a couple of years ago. I met Marilyn at my first PRSA mixer and she immediately made me feel welcome. It is Marilyn's warm and genuine spirit which lives on in our Chapter and encompasses PRSA.

Never could I have imagined just a few years ago that I'd be travelling around the world as part of a team working with the world's poorest people and saving African babies from AIDS. It's part of my journey in this honorable profession. And this award is for them.

Tonight, we are called stars of public relations. Stars are bright, warm and glowing. Stars always shine brighter when they're part of great constellations.

It's an honor for me to receive the 2008 Horizon Award and to be a part of the great constellations of PRSA and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

Thank you!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Visit with Marilyn

I haven’t told anyone this, except my husband. A couple of months ago, I dreamed of Marilyn Potts. I was sitting at a luncheon table when she walked in and sat next to me. Someone was speaking at the podium, so she remained quiet. But there she was: tall, happy and kind.

I’ve never been one to take much stock in the meaning of dreams. I don’t even own a dream interpretation book. Still, this one struck me. In the dream, I kept looking around for someone else to notice that a ghost was at my table. But everyone nearby was new to our group and hadn’t known Marilyn. They weren’t aware of the legacy that follows her.

It’s fitting really. The whole reason we started the Marilyn Potts Endowment Fund after her death was to support young people as they transition from college to the professional world of public relations. It was something Marilyn did herself.

The reason I am bringing this up now is that our Del Oro Awards banquet is next week. There will be many things to celebrate, like our individual winners – Kelly G. Morris, APR, Kami Watson Huyse, APR, Adriana R. Garcia and Randy Escamilla – along with the great PR work of our campaigns and tactics winners. But we also will be raising funds for the Marilyn Potts Endowment Fund. We need to raise a few thousand more dollars in order to be able to start dispersing funds. And there is a class of seniors who could use our support right away.

So I hope that if you attend the banquet, you will either make a hefty donation or bid on several silent auction items. In fact, if you lose something you bid on, I hope you will write the check anyway. If you can’t be there, you can still make a donation.

How natural it will be someday, to see many more new and young faces at PR events unknowingly surrounding Marilyn’s spirit and fulfilling her dreams for them.