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

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!!!