Monday, November 30, 2009

Examples of PR/Marketing Strategies Using Social Media

Sometimes, it helps to see case studies of how others are doing things. For some reason today, I've come across several articles and blog posts that point you to some examples of how organizations have used social media as a communications strategy. Take a look!

"10 Social Media Campaigns that Rock! Learn How to do the Same!" ThoughtPick blog (June 8, 2009)

"iPhone Apps Put Brands in Hands," list of the successful brands and apps that best fulfill the promise of utility -- as well as some prominent missed opportunities, by Brian Morrissey (Nov 30, 2009)

"Twitter Success Stories," report details how 11 innovative businesses and associations use Twitter to improve their marketing and business objectives. (2009) [PDF]

"26 Social Media Marketing Examples in Detail," by Lisa Braziel (September 09, 2008; dated but useful)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Helpful Tool Created Jeremiah Owyang on the Eight Stages Of Listening

The decision to use social media at the organizational or corporate level requires looking at the culture of the organization itself. Are you ready to be in real conversation with your customers or partners? Are you ready to listen?

Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group has developed a web strategy matrix that he calls "The Eight Stages Of Listening." I like it because -- like most things in life -- it's not an all-or-nothing approach. Take a look and see where your organization is in the matrix. It's a good tool as we set goals for 2010.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's ahead for PR? – Congrats to For Immediate Release's 500th Podcast!

I know I have recommended to you on this blog that you listen to the For Immediate Release podcast, hosted by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. And I still do. It is an excellent podcast that is currently an hour twice a week. I know that sounds like a lot to listen to. But frankly there is that much happening in public relations – or as Shell and Neville put it, at the intersection of communications and technology. Each podcast is packed with information, case studies, resources, reports and data that you can use in your practice. It's excellent free professional development.

So why am I bringing it up again? Well, something special is happening with FIR tomorrow. FIR will be posting its 500th episode. Did you get that? They’ve done this show twice a week 500 times!

Shel and Neville have invited listeners to share what we think they will be reporting on during the next 500 episodes. So I thought I’d share some of my predictions and see what you would add.

1. Shel and Neville will be talking about the use of 3D avatars online across platforms. The 3D virtual web will no longer be limited to special programs like Second Life and gaming programs. It will become part of the natural course of our use of the web. I have confidence in this prediction because Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, when they were on a stage together, predicted this as well.

2. I also think that nanotechnology will be the poking its head into the communication world. I have no idea in what way (if I did I’d be talking to a stockbroker right now). I just think it's going to be something we will paying attention to.

3. And of course, during the next 500 episodes there will be talk about new (misguided) studies showing that the latest communication tool is a “drain on worker productivity.”

What do you think?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Finding The Perfect Definition

Today I attended the PRSA National Assembly as a delegate for the San Antonio chapter. The national organization was attempting a massive rewrite of the organization’s Bylaws, a task that has preoccupied the group for nearly 2 years.

While I was honored to attend and vote on behalf of the chapter, there are a number of things about attending an assembly of this nature that are extremely frustrating. Early in the process, we debated the merits of how to select board and directors, how the nominating committee should be comprised and other details that were mostly about housekeeping and governance.

Surprisingly, many of these items were contentious to a significant number of chapters, sections and districts.

No single item was more contentious than the basics of defining who should be allowed membership in the organization. Article III, Amendment 109, in which the organization was attempting to add the words “and communications” to every reference in the Bylaws, was the most hotly contested of all.

Semantics underpinned every aspect of the discussion, with repeated references to the concept of “expanding the definition of who can come into the tent” and many speakers spoke for and against who and what we should be called, what our job titles currently reflect. One speaker even quoted a textbook definition as part of the argument for striking the more encompassing definition.

What was disturbing about the discussion is that many speakers in favor of the amendment had a “sky is falling” approach to any changes which would expand the definition of public relations. Those who opposed felt that they already had a more encompassing definition of what they do and wanted the amendment to reflect that diversity. What delegates didn’t really consider is one of the keys to membership in the organization in the first place is that 50% of a members’ activities be focused on public relations. (Already part of the bylaws and not considered at all today).

In the end, the group voted 151-117 to keep the definition of public relations pure. This was a victory for some and a great loss for others.

Next year, I think I will propose an amendment at the assembly in which we debate the validity of including the word “society” into our name.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Apply for Free PR Counseling for San Antonio Non-Profits

There are just a few more days left before the application deadline. Non-profit organizations in the San Antonio area can submit an application to participate in our chapter's annual Giving the Gift of Guidance luncheon (on Dec. 3). Every year, PRSA, which is made up of public relations professionals, invites non-profits to send up to two representatives to its December meeting. Each non-profit will be matched with a group of PRSA members who will spend the entire luncheon consulting with the non-profit to develop a basic public relations plan. The Gift of Guidance program is absolutely free. It’s PRSA’s way of supporting charities and other organizations who contribute so much to our community. The non-profit representatives are also PRSA’s guests for lunch.

The deadline for applications is Friday, November 6. Applications may be sent to Trisha Box at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More info on the new FTC rules regarding blogger relations

The Council of Public Relations Firms has a list of "10 Things PR firms Should Be Doing in Response to FTC Changes."

Also, the Inside PR podcast has a discussion about the new FTC rules and implications. Listen to episode 174 (October 14, 2009).

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

PRSA Responds to FTC's New Rules for Blog-Marketing

The following is a bulletin just sent to PRSA members from Michael Cherenson, APR, PRSA chair (who visited our chapter last year). He presents a clear analysis of the new FTC guidelines.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued final changes to its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. While advisory in nature, the new guidelines will reset standards of behavior that public relations, marketing and advertising professionals should adopt to avoid violating underlying laws against unfair competition and false advertising.

The guide changes, as set out in the FTC's notice, make three key departures from previous guidance that could impact public relations practice:
  • The FTC advises that "endorsers" as well as advertisers can be held liable for false or unsubstantiated claims or for failing to disclose material connections between the parties.
  • The guides no longer offer the "safe harbor" whereby testimonials can be qualified by a "results may vary" disclaimer.
  • Regarding endorsements, the guides specify that celebrities should disclose relationships with advertisers.

While the FTC will approach each potential violation on a case-by-case basis, the new guidelines will impact how professionals should approach some common practice scenarios. Here are some applications of the guidelines: 

  • Bloggers who receive cash or in-kind payment (including free products or services for review) are deemed endorsers and so must disclose material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.
  • Any firm that engages bloggers by paying them outright to create or influence editorial content or by supplying goods or services to them at no cost may be liable if the blogger does not disclose the relationship.
  • Advertisements or promotions that feature a consumer who conveys his or her experience with a product or service as "typical" should clearly disclose what results consumers can generally expect or specify how the results were unique to the individual circumstances.
  • If research is cited in an advertisement or promotion, any sponsorship of the research by the client or the marketer should be clearly disclosed.
  • Celebrities who make endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media, should disclose any relationship with the advertiser or marketer.

From an ethics perspective, the new guidelines parallel key transparency principles in the PRSA Code of Ethics, as well as Professional Standards Advisory PS-9 condemning "pay for play" practices. However, for practitioners, the guidelines go beyond ethics to recommended practice to avoid legal liability. While the ethics are clear, the triggers and nature of adequate disclosure are not fixed. As I recommended in a recent PRSAY blog post, thorough understanding and self-regulation can help public relations professionals avoid legal repercussions.

While the guidelines are advisory in nature, failure to comply increases the risk of professionals finding themselves in violation of the law. Moreover, non-compliance can result in a communication from the FTC warning professionals against the potential offending action. If that warning is not heeded, it may be followed by a cease-and-desist order. Intentional violation of that order may result in referral to FTC enforcement, which may include civil monetary penalties.

  There has been information circulating publicly on the new guidelines that is confusing and conflicting. With this notice, PRSA hopes to bring members up to date on the facts as currently understood. This information is based on FTC documents and an in-depth conversation with a Commission staff attorney. Going forward, PRSA will continue to provide you with information, clarification, case studies and interpretations as they unfold.
Best regards,
Michael Cherenson, APR

Sunday, October 04, 2009

by Deborah Charnes Vallejo, Bromley Communications

On the eighth anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, 1300 people from more than 50 countries gathered in Mexico City as part of the 62nd Annual United Nations DPI NGO Conference. The theme was Disarm Now, a familiar topic to many of the participants that had been witnesses to the effects of armed conflict or violence.

While disarmament is complex and challenging, the president of Mayors for Peace, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, said at the closing ceremonies that he is “confident we can abolish nuclear weapons by 2020. We have the power, and responsibility, to accomplish it. The message of Hiroshima is no one else should ever suffer.” Close to 64 years after the atom bomb killed 40 percent of its population, Mayor Akiba claimed the success of his city was due to the power of the citizens: a “groundswell of public opinion” can make the difference.

Among the proposed action items discussed at the conference were routine elements of public relations campaigns.

“Disarmament must be visible to the public,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. “You can make it happen…rally the world around these areas. The mightiest voice of all is the power of the people.”

Marcia Lorena Miranda, a panelist from Nicaragua, exhorted all to involve and mobilize the community.

As successful examples of community involvement, one workshop showcased how art can educate the public and create lasting icons to keep disarmament top of mind. Representatives from The Ribbon International Peace Project, Women’s Caucus for Art and DJs Contra La Fam concurred that when people express themselves through the arts, it changes their thought process.

Conference-goers had their own chance to participate in a community art project. The morning of September 11, a Peace Pole was unveiled in the Alameda, Mexico City’s sprawling park that sits between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Palace of Fine Arts and the Diego Rivera Mural Museum. As reporters and cameras documented the unveiling of an obelisk inscribed with calls for peace, attendees affixed colorful ribbons with their personal messages. The monument will travel to other venues as a symbol of peace to generate ongoing exposure and participation.

“Whatever you produce has meaning,” said one of the artist-activists. “We can create a strong voice – a collective voice.”

Jody Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate from the United States, recalled her early experiences with the Cold War. “As a grade school child we’d hear a buzz…crouch under our desk or file in order, calm, into the gym,” she said. “I wanted my family to have its own bomb shelter…But would I even want to survive (if) the world as I knew it would be destroyed? It is absurd that any child in the world has to think about that.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eight Decisions Businesses Should Make for Using Twitter

For the last two days, PRSA San Antonio and the SA Public Library have kicked off our joint training sessions for local businesses and organizations on getting started with Twitter and how to use some amazing business tools that are available free on the library web site.

Since the Twitter part of the session is designed for organizations and businesses, I created a list of decisions they need to consider for using Twitter to engage customers and partners. Here they are:

1. Create a username (Twitter ID) that is short, memberable and associated with you. A factor in this decision is whether to use a branded or indiviual username or a combination. There are pros and cons to each option.

2. Select your Twitter image. Do you want a photo of yourself or the owner or do you want a logo. Again, the right choice depends on how you will use Twitter.

3. Create a background for your Twitter “home page.” This is also where you will put information about your company that won’t fit in the 160-character bio in your profile. You can either design your own template, or find a free one online or hire a designer who knows how to do it. The background and info should reflect your brand clearly.

4. Decide who in your organization will tweet and set a general guideline for how often. This is probably more important in the early stages. Later, the enagement of your followers will guide your level of activity. But I must say, if the boss’ photo and name are on the account, then the boss should be the one using the account. If he or she can’t or won’t, then someone else’s name and photo should be on the account.

5. Plan how you will promote your business’ Twitter ID. Include it in the footer of your emails, on your web site, in all your fliers and brochures, etc.

6. Plan for how you will respond to criticism. If there is any, it was happening already. Twitter gives you an opportunity to engage critics and customers who are having trouble.

7. Make sure you have set up organizational policies for your employees, including for their personal use of social media in terms of how it might affect your organization. Tie your social media policies to your existing ones. For example, that policy you have prohibiting sexual harassment applies to the online world.

8. Decide how you will measure success. Why are you using Twitter? There are very specific ways to measure links to your web site through Twitter, types of tweets that tend to get retweeted, growth in followers right after a specific appeal, etc. You can also build in processes like asking customers how they heard of you.

There is more information and suggestions about most of these topics online. In addition to searching, you can refer to our chapter's Delicious page for some links. (Click on the "Twitter" tag.) I'll also be posting the session PowerPoint slides there later today or tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Think of the Social Media Release as an Online Press Kit

The social media news release concept has been in a kind of development stage for several years. During that time, we’ve seen creative ideas and lots of confusion. The main point of contention is the mistaken idea that the social media news release should replace the traditional release. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

What is the Purpose a Social Media News Release?
The social media news release is really an online press kit. It provides your news in ways that assist journalists and bloggers to write stories about your news. It gives people tools to share your audio and video clips, download logos and photos, and immediately find key stats and quotes rather than sorting through prose. Since a sizeable percentage of stakeholders are generally online, they are more likely to get your news there.

How do You Use Both Kinds of Releases?
There is still value in the traditional release. Some trade publications in your industry may still practically print your release unaltered. And it presents your story in a narrative form. Storytelling is good. I’ve also found that when there are lots of internal levels of approval, the final traditional news release serves their purposes, while the social media version is more of an aid to journalists.

There are several places you can go to learn more. One of the best recent ones is an audio presentation delivered by Shel Holtz, ABC, co-host of the For Immediate Release podcast. You can listen to his engaging down-to-earth speech and see his ppt presentation online. It’s a great way to get a crash course on a powerful communication tool.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Tell the Boss: We Need A Social Networking Policy

At a recent PRSA San Antonio Luncheon Program focusing on Ethics, speakers Dr. K. Matthew Gilley (St. Mary’s University Chair of Bill Greehey Chair in Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility) and Earnie Broughton (executive director and ethics program coordinator for USAA), referenced a recent survey by Deloitte CCL called Social Networking and Reputational Risk in the Workplace.
The findings of this survey offer public relations practitioners a clear challenge.

  • 58% of executives said that reputational risk and social networking should be a boardroom issue. Only 15% said IT ACTUALLY IS.
  • 74% of employees responding to the survey said it is easy to damage a brand's reputation.
Even more frightening are the statistics from executives that highlight recognizing and responding to risks.
  • Only 17% had a monitoring or mitigating program in place.
  • 22% cited a formal poicy for how employees can use social networking tools.
How can you get executives to take notice or "elevate the discussion" on social networks which Deloitte's study suggests?

First, share the results of this study and take responsibility for taking the discussion with senior management to the next level. After that, do our homework. Spend some time researching policies designed and implemented by other organization (You're bookmarking them in delicious, aren't you?). You will no doubt find organizations of a similar size or culture who have started. That's a great place for you to start in your organization, too.

Finally, expand the dialogue to include other stakeholders. Get a group of your employees, customers and clients together an assess what common questions and practices are already happening. Find a way to harness it.

Last, come back here and tell us how you did it and what your new policy looks like. We can all learn from each other's success.

Monday, August 31, 2009

PRSA Condems Industry Malpractice

On Thursday, PRSA national released a statement criticizing the recent barrage of unethical cases involving deceptive online practices, front groups and pay for play. The statement is online. And I have posted it in full below.

August 27, 2009
PRSA Condemns the Growing Use of Disingenuous Editorial Content, Deceptive Commentary on Blogs and Other Venues

NEW YORK (August 27, 2009) – Over the last few months, there have been several news accounts of promotional tactics that signal a common thread of malpractice under the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Code of Ethics and PRSA Professional Standards Advisories (PSA). While each tactic varies in method and medium, PRSA states categorically that misrepresenting the nature of editorial content or intentionally failing to clearly reveal the source of message contents is unethical.

Recent reports have included:

• A public relations firm allegedly engaging its interns to write wholesale positive product reviews for online message boards.
• A lobbying firm sending letters on other organizations’ letterhead.
• Bloggers posting positive reviews of products and services while receiving products for free, as well as being paid by the sponsor for such positive reviews. (Proposed new Federal Trade Commission rules deem this practice to be false advertising.)
• A marketing firm creating a program to match clients with tweeters for positive mentions.
• Special interests setting up and/or funding organizations whose only constituent is the organizer or funder, and that take active positions purporting to represent larger constituencies in the current national health care reform debate.

While they vary in method and execution, each scenario shares a common thread of potential malpractice because they fail to conform to fundamental obligations of the professional communicator to protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information and foster informed decision making in a democratic society.

Deceptive Online Practices
Under the PRSA Code of Ethics, the source of editorial material must be clearly identified. Any attempts to mislead or deceive an uninformed audience are considered malpractice. The PRSA code calls for truth and transparency and full disclosure of the causes and interests represented. The goal should be responsible advocacy on behalf of clients, sustaining credibility with all audiences, and strengthening the public’s trust in the information they receive and the profession that provides that information. Deceptive practices produce unethical advocacy. The code also specifically targets deceptive online practices by individuals or organizations using blogs, viral marketing and anonymous Internet posting in Professional Standards Advisory PS-8.

Front Groups
One frequently used vehicle that fosters misrepresentation and unethical advocacy is a third-party organization, known as a “front group,” established specifically to deceive or mislead an audience about the position presented and its source. In Professional Standards Advisory PS-7, the PRSA Code of Ethics spells out the unethical nature of engaging in or assisting such groups’ deceptive descriptions of goals, causes, tactics, sponsors, intentions or participants. The ethical communicator is obligated to reveal all information needed for informed decision making, thereby maintaining the public trust. Withholding or deceptively concealing sources or sponsors of information or their intentions or motivations fails to satisfy the principles of truth in advancing the interest of clients and of serving the public interest as responsible advocates.

Pay for Play
Providing payment to generate or influence editorial coverage, regardless of medium, is unethical and constitutes malpractice under the PRSA code because such exchanges of value are hidden from the reader, viewer or listener. The PRSA code clearly champions the values of honesty, fairness, transparency and objective counsel to clients. “Pay-for-Play” also runs counter to the code’s warning to avoid any conflict of interest that impedes the trust of clients, employers or the public. Under Professional Standards Advisory PS-9, professionals are told to disclose any exchange of value so the reader, viewer or listener has the opportunity to make up their own minds about the value, bias, accuracy and usefulness of information provided by others.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mayor Engages His Community Through Twitter

Donna Papacosta presents a great example of how Twitter can be used to support real communication goals. In her Trafcom News podcast, she recently interviewed the mayor of Oakville, Canada. Mayor Rob Burton wants to be the “most accessible and engaging mayor in the history of Oakville.” And he is genuinely looking for opportunities to do just that. Some tactics have worked better or gained more traction than others. But the key is, he’s not afraid to try something new.

Listen to the interview in Trafcom News Podcast 88.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Finding Gold in International PR Case Studies

by Deborah Charnes Vallejo, been vice president, public relations at Bromley Communications

Americans can be rather insulated, oftentimes not thinking beyond our borders. For decades, we have been bombarded with “buy American” messages. This last presidential election season we heard “this is the best country in the world,” in almost every debate.

I am proud to be an American. As proof, I have chosen to live here, after having resided in other countries. But those flag waving commentaries make me uneasy. I hear condescension in the speaker’s voice. While I don’t mind when someone says “Chicago has the best deep dish pizza,” or “San Antonio has the best prickly pear margaritas,” there are very few people who have the knowledge, experience and understanding to claim which country is best, and why.

Throughout my nearly 30-year career that has focused primarily on U.S. Hispanic and Latin American communications, I have tried to maintain a sense of openness and neutrality, yet, it is impossible to totally erase the airs of American superiority that prevail.

This summer, I was especially careful to put on the neutrality cap as a juror of the International Public Relations Association’s Golden World Awards for Excellence. After nearly 30 days of reviewing communications case studies electronically, 27 judges convened in Warsaw, Poland. We chose 30 category winners out of 126 finalists selected from 342 entries submitted by contestants from 42 countries.

Not surprisingly, there were excellent campaigns submitted by public relations agencies, NGOs, corporations and non-profit organizations from the United States. However, the highest awards were given to campaigns from Ukraine, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Japan, Turkey and Switzerland.

Contrary to what some people may assume, PR practitioners are not just seeking positive publicity. We are seeking a change in awareness and behavior that in many cases are achieved exclusively through PR. Furthermore, as an industry we are constantly seeking better means of evaluating results and return on investment. Most of the winning case studies, beyond quantifiable solid media coverage and Web traffic, delivered hard results and ROI, without the help of any advertising.

For example, Turk Telekom, the biggest provider of integrated telephone services in Turkey, wanted to reduce its cost of issuing paper invoices. The PR team created an awareness program to launch the first e-billing service in Turkey where the vast majority of homes are not online. Since the campaign began, nearly 1 million Turkish households switched to e-bills, saving more than 4,200 tons of paper annually, equating to 50,000 trees. Turk Telekon is in the process of creating branded forests and has already re-planted 50,000 trees, beyond the 50,000 “saved” trees. Finally, the values of Turkish society have changed, becoming much more environmentally conscious than before this initiative.

Another interesting example was from the Ukraine, where the PR team was challenged with making a history book about the WWII Babi Yar massacre of interest to teens. As in most countries, Ukrainian teens don’t opt to read a history book unless there is an exam the next day. Yet the breakthrough PR campaign placed this one on the top 10 list of best sellers in the country, becoming one of the most discussed works of historic literature ever among Kiev youth.

To achieve that success, the agency created fictional personas in social networking communities. On the anniversary of the tragic Babi Yar memorial, all fictional mates “died,” leaving a mourning stripe on their avatars and the message: ‘Hi, I am dead. Today I was killed by Nazis along with 50,000 others.’ This link led to the book’s website. Off-line, the agency implemented guerrilla warfare at soccer matches and shopping malls with bold statements on posters and mirrors such as “This reflection could be alive. During WWII every other Kiev citizen died: page 308.”

Beyond the quality of the entries from all corners of the world, what was equally impressive to me was the fact that my judging team members and I were in agreement on 100 percent of the difficult choices we had to make. The jurors represented all ages…all parts of the world...many languages...all specialty practice areas. We were diverse, yet with the shared appreciation for our craft and understanding of how to achieve success for our clients or employers via our profession.

Today, in the United States, most young PR pros have a degree in Communications or Public Relations. When I started in the field, we tended to rise out of Journalism. Among the IPRA members, there is an interesting cross section. Many do not have formalized PR training at their universities. One professional explained how his engineering background was a benefit in PR, as it trained him to isolate the problem or challenge, and design and implement a campaign that would meet and surpass the objectives.

I have always been a firm believer that the best education is on the job, as evidenced by my fellow IPRA jurors. Judging the Golden World Awards has been my summer school for many years, and I look forward to many more summer studies with my colleagues.

IPRA, the International Public Relations Association, is the leading global network for public relations professionals. We aim to further the development of open communication and the ethical practice of public relations. We fulfill this aim through networking opportunities, our codes of conduct and intellectual leadership of the profession. With more than 50 years of experience, IPRA, recognized by both the United Nations and UNESCO, is now present throughout the world wherever public relations is practiced. For more information please visit

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Winners Named Today in PRSA San Antonio Drawing

It’s time for our annual “Eat Lunch and Win” drawing. Each time a PRSA member in the San Antonio attends a chapter event, his or her name goes into the bucket. Events include our monthly luncheons, senior breakfasts, teleseminars and mixers from January to August of this year. This year, there are 292 names in the bucket.

The prize is free early-bird registration ($995) to the 2009 PRSA International Conference, which this year is in San Diego November 7-10. This is just one more benefit of membership in PRSA.

The drawing took place this morning at our quarterly Senior Practitioners Breakfast. See the video of the drawing below.

We drew six names. If the first place winner cannot attend, the prize goes to the second place winner, and so on. Here they are, in order:

Josie Villela
Bob McCullough, APR
Paige Ramsey-Palmer, APR
Fran Stephenson*
Rebecca Villarreal
Jennifer Milikien

Our chapter president, Robert Sheldon, APR, will contact Josie to see if she can accept.

For everyone else, don’t let not winning keep you from this awesome conference. I have attended three times and found it extremely beneficial both in terms of both professional development and networking. Be sure to register by the September 25 saver rate deadline to save $200!

Congratulations Josie!

* Fran will be speaking at the conference and serving as one of our assembly delegates.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

“Pointless Babble” is the Stuff Relationship are Made Of

Recently, Pear Analytics, which is based in San Antonio, conducted a study of Twitter usage. Their goal was to how people are using and consuming Twitter. They reviewed 2,000 tweets from the public timeline during a two-week period and categorized them as: news, spam, self-promotion, pointless babble, conversational or pass-along value. The study focused on English-language tweets in the United States.

Their stated results were: “Pointless Babble won with 40.55% of the total tweets captured; however, Conversational was a very close second at 37.55%, and Pass-Along Value was third (albeit a distant third) at 8.7% of the tweets captured.”

There’s more info like, when during the week is best for which type of tweet, for example, when are your tweets most likely to be shared. It’s definitely worth a look.

What strikes me though is the category title of “pointless babble.” I’ve heard many people say they don’t want to know what someone had for lunch. (Despite the fact that Twitter asks, “What are you doing?” and sometimes, you really are eating lunch.)

The assumption is that any tweet that does not provide for deep conversation or breaking news is noise. And it may be to some extent when you’re looking at the public timeline. But among your connections, this kind of “babble” is far from pointless. Relationships are built around the mundane stuff of daily life.

How many marriages have you seen where the only talk is of the deep philosophical variety? None that I know of. And coworkers get to know each other by talking about traffic and weather and television shows, not strategy and core competencies.

So while the other facets of Twitter are powerful, don’t brush off the babble.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Social Media: Keeping Up

by Beth Graham

Okay, your organization has made the decision to enter the social media arena. They’ve done the research, understood that social media are just one part of a successful public relations and marketing strategy, decided how social media will further the organization’s mission, and integrated social media into the overall plan.

Now you’re responsible for the blog, or the tweets, or the Facebook page, or whatever channels your organization has decided to use. It’s been drummed into your consciousness (and perhaps your sub-conscious and unconscious as well) that the key to successful social media participation is keeping information current and interesting. OMG! What do you write about?

Special events, upcoming promotions, big fundraisers, of course. But those don’t happen all the time, and you have a blog post to put up at least every other day. It’s really helpful to remember that none of your readers will know as much about your organization as you do. Details and factoids (nothing proprietary, of course!) about your operation that you might find so familiar as to be dull could be fascinating for your audience.

Think about the standard “who, what, when, where and how” questions and come up with little-known information items that you could share: how does a library book arrive on the shelf, ready for the reader to check out? How do those huge planes that get serviced at the airport travel from one little service area to another? When was your company founded and why? Who is the most productive member of your staff and why? Where are your offices located and why?

In other words, you have complete control over the space and time of your social media posts. Use that access to let the world get to know your company or organization, on a more personal basis than could ever be possible with advertisements or news releases. It will help your readers – and potential customers – feel as if they have already become acquainted with you, and much more comfortable about dealing with your organization when that time comes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PR-Based Novel a Fun Read

There’s just two more weeks left of summer reading time, and I thought I’d tell you about a book I just read by the late PRSA Fellow, Stan Sauerhaft. Stan has been a top exec at two big global PR firms and has taught and developed PR curriculum. But this book, End Game, is a novel of the good vs. evil sort, where the protagonist battles it out with a guy who will stop at nothing to get ahead.

What I found especially interesting was that the setting was a large PR firm and its mergers and acquisitions division. Stan weaves into the story what amount to little case studies of PR work in the M&A world that few of us ever see. The best part is that, given Stan’s experience, it presents a more realistic view than the “Wag the Dog” and “Sex in the City” type portrayals.

It’s not out in audio, which is why it’s been on my shelf for a few years. But on vacation last week, I finally got to read a real book that I was holding in my hands.

Did I saw two months of summer reading time left? Actually, it’s more like 13 days.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Twitter Search Your URL

Steve Rubel, director of insights for Edelman Digital, reminds us that when we are monitoring mentions of our organizations on Twitter, don’t forget to monitor links to your web site. In his blog post, Put Eyes Behind Your Back: Monitor Your URLs on Twitter, on June 30, Steve lists a few Twitter search services that will also show you links that use shortened URLs. Others are mentioned in the comments to his post.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

5 Ways to Improve TV Coverage of your Next Event

As public relations practitioners, we often struggle when pitching television stations for event coverage. Mainly, it's because our training was focused on print journalists and their needs. Getting television stations interested in your next event is not as hard as it sounds. Here are five ways to improve the likelihood of coverage.
1. Event timing. Invite media to an event when crews are actually available to cover. Daytime events have a better chance than Saturday and Sunday, when fewer crews are on duty. Time of day is also important...the later in the day, the more likely crews are to be returning to the station to edit and post their stories.
2. Assignments editors are your friend. They are the hub of the newsroom and make daily coverage decisions. Make sure your request for coverage goes to the assignments editor on duty.
3. Use your technology. In San Antonio, the local assignments desks have recently moved from faxes to e-mail. Now they reqeust releases by e-mail so they can be cut and pasted into an electronic day book.
4. Less is more. How are you pitching your assignments desk? Keep your media advisory or RFC short -- one page only -- and demonstrate why your story is visual by adding a sentence or two on what the crew will see when attending your event.
5. Make it visual. What will they see? Make sure you pitch a visual story. Invitations to lectures are boring and will get overlooked in favor of stories with people, motion and sound.
Not sure what your chances are? A call to the assignments desk....early in their shift....will get you a brief opinion about the likelihood of coverage and could garner additional tips on what the station is looking for in future stories.

Friday, July 31, 2009

PR Week Study Finds the PR Industry is Struggling to Integrate Social Media

PR Week reported in “Top PR Firms Fail to Make the Grade Online,” last month that PR agencies are not doing enough “to capitalize on the explosive growth of interactive marketing, the incredible influence of the social Web and the oasis of opportunity in content marketing.”

The researchers used Website Grader, a free SEO tool that measures the marketing effectiveness of a web site, to evaluate the web sites of top PR agencies. The study gives detailed results and lists the scores of the top 25 agencies.

The study is based on the assumption that in order to be knowledgeable in social media tools, PR agencies need to be active in using those tools for themselves rather than just on behalf of their clients. The study rightly doesn’t claim that one social media tool, like blogging, is more important than another.

You can use Website Grader to get a free analysis of your web site.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Believe in Accreditation

Anne Keever Cannon, APR

I believe in accreditation.

We’ve seen lots of opinions over the years in favor of and against public relations accreditation. One old argument is that “APR” doesn’t equal a bigger paycheck. That may be true. Nevertheless, the process helped me greatly increase my knowledge and expertise in the field.
That’s because I came to PR through a side door. I studied Spanish in college with a vague intention of foreign service. After a 5-year stint in the Air Force, I got a master’s in theater, with the idea of becoming an actor. Finally the Army hired me as an intern in public affairs (what the federal government calls public relations).

That got me two years of on-the-job training and two months at the Defense Information School. I had the basics—news writing, photography, media relations, community relations, how to write a speech, etc. I was doing OK.

Some years later my boss at a Corps of Engineers office in Dallas told me about PRSA and accreditation. She encouraged me to join the organization. She sent me to a two-day PR seminar at Southern Methodist University. The speakers talked about measurement, strategic planning and other things that were new—and very interesting—to me. The Dallas PRSA chapter offered free accreditation preparation classes on PR history, the code of ethics and much more. I got my APR in 1991.

When the accreditation maintenance program began, it stretched me again. I took seminars, gave presentations myself, attended the national conference and became active in the Dallas chapter. (Full disclosure: I was accredited soooo long ago that I’m exempt from the maintenance program. But I still try to keep it in mind and continue my professional development.)

So I always encourage students or new PR folks to pursue accreditation—even though many of them have the educational background that I lacked. Putting together that portfolio (something I didn’t have to do back in the “old days”) can help identify strengths and weaknesses. The exam preparation serves as a skills review. The maintenance program pushes people to brush up on some areas and learn new ones.

The bottom line: Accreditation and maintenance make up an outstanding way to develop and to keep current—something that’s especially important in this fast-changing world.

Quick! This Webinar is Today: Bad Pitch Night School (During the Day)

Authors of the Bad Pitch Blog are hosting a teleseminar next week on how to “make yourself pitch machines!” Here’s their description:

All attendees will learn a smart, step by step approach to pitching that includes hilarious case studies and goes beyond that simple email. From looking at the whole pitch lifecycle, including the truth about pitching bloggers and using social media, to tips that will no doubt make you better-informed (and tell you how) plus the keys to pitch inspiration, we'll help you improve your game. Plus we will show you our tricks!
The one-hour teleseminar is today, July 29 at noon central time. The cost is $49 and includes free e-book, Full Frontal PR handbook. A few scholarships are available.

Get details and register now!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lessons Learned: The Classics File

By Paul Hart, APR

Back in my day, you didn’t dare go into PR until you worked several years in the media – newspaper, TV or radio. I came up on the newspaper side and I learned lessons that I apply to the practice of public relations to this day.

I spent several productive years on the business desk of the Tulsa World working for a terrific editor and all-around character. He taught me how to write well, but one of his greatest contributions to my career was his Classics File, a stack of press releases created over the decades and kept in his lower drawer. They were so bad they were laughable. Most, but not all, were a weak response to a crisis situation.

On the occasional slow afternoon, he’d pull out the pile and read a few aloud to the enjoyment of all us in the area. There were some beauts: How about the coal company that issued a release stating an “incident” at one of its mines occurred when “the ceiling came in contact with the floor?” No kidding. There was no mention of a cave-in or collapse. Then there was the oil refinery that suffered damage due to “extremely rapid, uncontrolled and unexpected oxidation.” Nope, nothing here about an explosion and fire.

It was only after I went into PR that I truly understood the immense amount of effort that went into crafting these gems. I came to understand the worst offenders were, sadly, the product of hours and hours of work in hot and stuffy conference rooms, trying to get something put together despite loud protests from Legal, Marketing, Operations or some other embarrassed department. A poor, overwhelmed PR staff was expected to send out the muddled result.

Our guy had a great respect for “press agents” as he called all public relations people and knew his success in maintaining our award-winning business news section depended in part on their help. He understood public relations practitioners have a particular skill set and often work with clients who do not appreciate that expertise. I saw times when a new Classics File candidate would arrive in the newsroom. After reading and laughing loudly, he would call the appropriate PR person and ask, “Now tell me what REALLY happened.”

The Classics File taught me a valuable lesson about PR: Don’t spin. Be open, honest and dependable, and tell your client why. In the long run, your client will gain.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alamo Bickering Delays Innovative PR/Marketing Plans

What do you do when your entire marketing and PR plan suddenly gets axed? That’s what happened recently at the Alamo.

The Alamo’s marketing director, Craig Stinson spoke at our PRSA chapter luncheon in March. He outlined the amazing new initiatives the Alamo board and staff were taking to diversify revenue sources and build relationships with visitors and history buffs. Strategies included becoming accredited by the American Association of Museums, creating a service mark to begin collecting revenue from use of the new Alamo logo, starting a membership program so that fans could pay for special access to events and a newsletter, and stepping up the web site to include more social media features.

But as Scott Huddleston of the San Antonio Express-News detailed on Sunday, the whole thing seemed to go down the drain beginning in May when the Daughters of the Republic of Texas voted for a “delay.” Soon after, Craig resigned. I haven’t spoken to him. There could be other reasons for his departure. But the director, David Stewart, resigned in late May, the shop director retired and some members are taking steps to create their own group.

As a proud San Antonio resident, a fifth-generation Texan and relative of an Alamo survivor, I am really saddened by this news. I can’t help but wonder, will we ever get it back on track? Surely someone can broker the peace. Can the mayor help solve this rift on behalf of the city? Will the state have to step in? How about leaders in our local tourism industry?

After all, the Alamo is the most visited historical site in the state. Its success is our success.

Update: See July 23 story, "‘Renegade' DRT member starts Alamo nonprofit."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Storytelling Key to Winning Awards

By Celine Thomasson, APR

Having submitted entries for professional awards and also serving as a judge for competitions, I have a few tips to improve your award entry.

Project summaries or narratives make or break an entry. Focus on a specific problem. Describe that problem clearly and quickly. Talk about how you went about solving the problem. Wrap up with a resolution. A compelling narrative will document opportunities that arise suddenly or describe unanticipated obstacles. If the project summary does not convey the essential story then all the flashy collateral materials are for zilch.

The presentation of collateral materials or work samples is like creating a scrapbook. It is the tactile content that supports the summary. Embellish with notes, photos, samples, and clippings. However, if you can’t secure that key chain or promotional item in the binder it would be better to include a high quality photo. Video, web, or any type of electronic materials should be included but unless the award category is specifically for this type of production don’t count on the judges to see it. A better idea would be to print samples of web content. Your website will change from the time of the project until the competition deadline. If the web content is an important part of the strategy, be sure to print or save as you go along. Finally, include only those pieces that are the most critical or best showcase your work.

Give your story a powerful ending by including photos and testimonials. The evaluation narrative is necessary but often dry. I judged an award submission that included handwritten notes from children who had participated in the event. It was a small but powerful touch to bring the entry to a close.

You be the judge! There is no better way to gain insight into how to submit award entries than to volunteer to judge competitions.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hands-On Social Media Training at Your Desk

Here’s a great resource for learning about social media without leaving your desk. Lee Aase, the manager for syndications and social media at Mayo Clinic, has set up the Social Media University, Global (SMUG) a “post-secondary educational institution dedicated to providing practical, hands-on training in social media to lifelong learners.”

He uses the university model by grouping courses into categories like: pre-admission coursework, core courses and tracks for majoring in general social media, blogging, podcasting, social networking and widgets, as well as platform-specific classes for Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and others.

Unlike the university model, the courses are all free and available at your convenience. Check it out!

Listen to an interview of Lee Aase about SMUG and his social media initiatives at Mayo Clinic conducted by For Immediate Release.

You can also follow him on twitter at: @LeeAase

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bright & Shiny Things: PRSA Awards Enhance Careers

The El Bronce award goes to esd & associates... not something you’re likely to hear at a PRSA awards banquet. You have surely seen our sponsorship credits, but you didn’t hear us called up to the stage over and over to pick up awards.

What you would hear are the names of our client-partners announced, one right after the other, to pick up their La Plata or El Bronce recognitions. Year after year, esd submits award nominations for our client-partners to say “thank you” for trusting us with their campaigns. esd & associates covers the entry fees, assembles the award entry and makes sure our clients are front and center to receive their awards of excellence.

PRSA awards are important because they are judged away from the market. Industry professionals volunteering for PRSA chapters in other cities examine the submissions and make decisions without vested interests in the market. When a client wins a PRSA award, it indicates superior achievement.

Awards surely boost esd’s image and we feel good when one of our campaigns wins a prize, but they are far more important to our client-partners. When our clients have their annual reviews or take on a new marketing initiative, a tangible award recognizing previous success can help make the case with their senior management.

The Community First Commercial Marketing team phrases it best: “We were in unfamiliar waters when Community First started offering commercial health plans. esd has worked with us for years, so we already had a productive relationship going. The campaign worked well, and Community First was able to reach a lot of new customers. The El Bronce award confirms our marketing efforts to everyone at Community First. It makes us feel proud of our work - takes it to another level.”

Entering awards in our clients’ honor reflects a core business value for esd: clients are partners. We keep our focus on the client’s objectives, we design targeted communications, we produce with a passion for excellence, we measure results and we celebrate the client’s success.

So why should you enter the PRSA awards? It looks good on your CV, it speaks highly of your skill set and it sends a clear message to management that the marketing department is focused on ROI.

Christine Kleha
esd & associates
PRSA Board Member

P.S. And when you hire a firm, choose a company that partners with you – understands your objectives and culture, shapes strategies that enhance your brand, measures impact and achieves results. If they enter award competitions and assigns full recognition to you, you know you’re working with good partners.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lessons Learned: Hunting with a Shotgun

By Paul Hart, APR

The July issue of Public Relations Tactics has an article on the simmering lawsuit between the nation of Ecuador and Chevron Corp. This has been a big issue in the energy trade press but has had scant coverage in the general media.

The case involves allegations by Ecuador that Texaco Corp., which Chevron acquired in 2001, did environmental damage to Ecuador’s pristine jungle while developing an oil field. Chevron points out the work was done under a permit issued by Ecuador’s government and it met, or exceeded, all environmental stipulations set by the nation.

The stakes are huge.

Ecuador seeks $27 billion in damages, equal to half of that nation’s annual gross domestic product. The suit could end up as the ultimate ambulance-chasing, tort-lawyer shakedown of a wealthy defendant, or a landmark environmental judgment that could alter worldwide environmental standards.

One of the first mentions of the case in the general press came in May when CBS aired a 60 Minutes piece. In response to what it feared would be a negative story, Chevron produced a video on the issue and posted it on YouTube. That sounds innovative – using social media to counter the general media. But consider the differing results:

• The 60 Minutes episode had an estimated audience of 12 million viewers.
• The YouTube video has drawn 5,916 views, as of this writing.

Which medium had the bigger impact? You be the judge: The YouTube video has had 0.049percent of the audience the CBS News program garnered. I have no idea how much time and money Chevron spent producing the video. But one has to question its effectiveness in swaying public opinion.

The point here is its best to consider the potential audience a medium reaches when deciding where to place a client’s message. True, the traditional ink-on-paper and over-the-air broadcast media have been losing readers-listeners-viewers for years. But their audiences are still huge. And they won’t go away soon.

It may be best to couple social media placements with the general media when you want to reach an audience. In other words, use a shotgun, not a rifle. That way you have a better chance of hitting your desired target.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

PR Is Not the Circus

As you probably heard, the circus was in town last week. Not just any circus, but the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I’ve got to say, for the money, they provide tons of entertainment. And they are masters of making something look bigger and more exciting than it really may be.

P.T. Barnum is credited with developing several tactics used in public relations today, like press agentry, advertising, product promotion and the pseudoevent. He called his the “greatest show on earth.” He promoted Joice Heath as George Washington nurse (at the claimed ripe old age of 161). He brought us Tom Thumb and Jumbo. Scott Cutlip says Barnum’s audiences were so hungry for entertainment, they accepted his exaggerations. The “willingly deceived,” as the London Times reported.

He was an author, publisher, philanthropist, sometime politician and amateur psychologist. Wikipedia says he was the first “show business” millionaire. But the problem is, as you know, he also used deception, hoaxes and exploitation.

Unfortunately, I believe that this part of his reputation is what plagues our profession today. For the throngs who really don’t understand public relations, it’s easy for then to believe we do what he did: Lie, spin, look out for our organization’s interest above all else. It’s easy for them to believe this because they have been lied to, spun and victims of institutional self interest.

Usually these acts were committed by people other than PR folk. But look at those who worked for organizations that most recently lied to and exploited our faith: key people in Wall Street, financial institutions, and corporations as well as politicians. Not all, but enough.

PR professionals have a responsibility when working with an organization that is headed down that road to speak up or leave. It’s never that easy. It probably sneaks up on them. But there is a point where gray becomes black.

I’ve been there myself. Speaking up didn’t work, so I left. The organization eventually had to close its doors.

But I still reserve the right to enjoy the circus.

PS: The image I used is from a great blog post by Bill Sledzick, “The 4 Models of Public Relations Practice How Far Have You Evolved.”

Monday, July 06, 2009

Bringing in the Gold: How to Build an Award-Winning Entry

By Paige Ramsey-Palmer, APR

In the PR profession, our results often are measured by the number of reporters we attract to our event or program. Yep, that’s how we let the public know that we’re doing good stuff for our organization/community. But that shouldn’t be the end of our work. Entering that project in an award program provides a “next step” in promoting what we do. Winning award recognition shows your organization that you’re doing a great job when your work is compared with a standard of professional excellence. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get this professional recognition for yourself and your team.

I entered our 6th Annual Shred Day in the Del Oro La Plata Award category, which recognizes outstanding campaigns, and I was thrilled to receive a beautiful trophy! As a tip, I consciously pre-thought the project as a future entry, keeping the La Plata guidelines in mind. These comments are based on the La Plata guidelines; the process may differ slightly for El Bronce entries or for other programs. Here are a few things you might consider for a La Plata entry next year:

• PLAN the entry BEFORE you start the project. Remember to collect your notes, communication and promotional pieces, media clips, etc. to make the entry easy to assemble. You have two pages to showcase your entry - make the words count.
• Use the Del Oro guidelines to be sure you have completely thought the project through. For example, every campaign must have research that justifies the project’s existence. Don’t forget to state your budget. This pre-thinking will help you define the range of tactics that you will eventually use.
• Goals and objectives must be itemized. For example, be sure each objective is clearly stated, measurable and time bound.
• Strategies and tactics used in implementation must be appropriate to the objectives. For example, the tactics need to directly support the objectives. All the parts need to interweave, supporting each other.
• Make sure your evaluation reflects the results of your research and planning. For example, how successfully did you stick to a budget, reach or exceed your objectives, and use creativity/strategy to get your results? Then, what went well and what could be refined for a project in the future, i.e. what were the lessons learned?

Finally, creating a successful award entry is much easier if you’ve been a judge for other award programs. Each year our chapter reciprocates in judging another chapter’s award entries. Set aside time in the spring to partner with a seasoned PRSA member and volunteer to judge a set of the entries. You’ll build confidence when you’re ready to develop an award-winning entry. Remember, if you don’t enter, you can’t win!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Eight Ways Graduates Can Prepare for the PR World

by Melissa Vela-Williamson, PRSA Board Member and a former Horizons Award winner for the San Antonio Chapter.

When I was a student nearing graduation, I had an overwhelming sense of pressure to find my first “career” job. I had learned about public relations from another student’s capstone presentation, and thought it sounded like the ideal fit for me. I read about the market and learned that PR was a competitive area to work. So what did I do? I hustled and began applying for jobs months before graduation. Luckily for me networking helped me find my opportunity to freelance and earn a full-time position at an agency.

That sense of desperation was just what I needed to start my career path. I can’t tell you how often I’ve run into interns or wandering graduates who are struggling to find a PR job. What they seem to all have in common is a sense of degree entitlement. You get the degree; you get the job…right? Any practitioner can tell you it doesn’t work that way. Additionally, today’s shaky economy has left the job ads empty and journalists pushing into our field. Couple with that the loss of some practitioners’ jobs and a new graduate with a chip on their shoulder is likely to remain jobless for a long time.

How can a new graduate prepare to earn (and keep) a place in the PR world? Here are eight essential tips that have helped me succeed through the early years.

1.Hone your writing skills
If you don’t know AP style, take a class right away. Also, continue to take writing classes once in the field. Nothing kills credibility quite like bad grammar.

2.Develop two-way relationships
Network with the purpose of building a relationship. You’ll reap endless rewards for being sincerely helpful. Being a source for journalists, a team player in the department will help others remember you…in a good way!

3. Keep up with technology and trends
If you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind.

4.Do more than is required

Problem solve, over-deliver and always do your best to stand out.

5.Be humble
The second you think you know it all, you’ve just made your greatest mistake. Look for mentors, share your knowledge and be grateful for any chance to refine your PR skills.

6.Be straight-forward; not rude
The fast-paced PR world needs straight shooters, but always watch how you craft your own messages.

7.Look for new ways to approach the same thing
New angles to view events, story ideas, and logistics can help you improve your work and keep your responsibilities fresh

8.Make the most of every opportunity
If you are interning, put all of your energy in learning everything and impressing anyone you can. Show appreciation for others’ knowledge, time and contacts. People will want to help you if they know you take advantage of their assistance.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lessons Learned

Today's post for Sizzlin' Summer is from Monica Faulkenbery, APR, and the San Antonio Chapter's Tex Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for 2009. It is an excerpt of her acceptance speech given in May.

In May, I was honored with the Tex Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award by our chapter. Not feeling quite “old enough” to receive a lifetime award but having been in educational PR for the past 30 years, I decided my speech would be about “lessons learned.” I figured that within those 30 years, I’ve probably made almost every mistake possible, and I could share some of those stories—some were funny (now); some were embarrassing (typical rookie mistakes); and some were life altering. I have been asked to share some of that speech on our blog—names may be changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

Lessons learned:
• At a college in central Texas, I was asked to do something about the apathy on campus among faculty and staff. We buried it, complete with casket, campus-wide funeral march, and kazoo band. Lesson learned: think twice before doing some stupid PR stunt.
• Coordinated a state-wide air show for several years. As planes came into the show, I signed multimillion liability contracts for military and civilian planes alike. Thank goodness, we never had an incident. Lesson learned: read the fine print on everything you sign.
• Played host to every seated President and U.S. Presidential candidate at the time. Preparing for an arrival, a Secret Service agent walked around the facility where we would have the press conference. Looking at the dingy, old room he said, “can you spiff it up a bit.” With mop in hand, it got “spiffed.” Lesson learned: don’t think you are above doing anything in PR.”• I once submitted a feel good story to local press about a third grader who was able to stop a school bus during rush hour traffic when the driver suffered a stroke. Because of that story, I spent the next month serving as that student’s agent booking him on all the major network talk shows, Jay Leno, Oprah, People Magazine, Access Hollywood, etc. You name it, he was on it. We even did a three day re-enactment for a TV show. The problem was that with all that attention he received, it changed the kid…not necessarily for the better. Lesson learned: you can change the path of someone’s life.
• Post-Columbine, I ran into an issue where a local shock radio station sent out a scantly-dressed biker dude to a high school pep rally, wearing only speedos and a back-pack with an antenna sticking out of it. The guy would not speak when asked what he was doing. Come to find out, he was broadcasting live. Not knowing that, security of course thought that there could be a bomb in the backpack. Kids, who listened to the station, knew what was going on and were going wild. Lesson learned: not sure what our lesson was…although the radio station learned a good one that day, but it makes for a good story.

I could go on, but as with my speech, I had to stop sometime, and conclude with a bit of sage advice to pass on from my lifetime of achieving. So here goes:

• Work at a job that you enjoy. I can say that I look forward to going to work every day. (I have worked at a job that I didn’t like and became a person I didn’t like, so I know the difference.)
• Join an organization – like PRSA – where you can connect with “your people.” People with similar interests and like personalities.
• Pursue your APR. Just by preparing for it will help you in your current job, help you learn more about your current field, and make you be more valuable to your current (and future) employers. By achievement your APR, will make you someone that finds their resume at the top of the pile in these tough economic times.
• Find a non-job related organization to volunteer at. We’re not on this Earth for just ourselves. Whether it is a homeless shelter, animal shelter, or family abuse shelter…by helping others less fortunate than yourself, making a difference in someone else’s life…will help you put things in perspective on those tough days.
• And, finally – don’t take yourself so serious. Enjoy your life because it truly is a short one.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From Journalism to PR

It wasn’t that long ago, well, only 22 years that I graduated from the University of
Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism
certain I would retire as a TV news correspondent.

At the time, the civil war in El Salvador raged on and I had ideals of covering that conflict; but instead worked in Lubbock for a quick six months after graduation. Newsrooms were also increasingly becoming computerized.

As technology progressed, I could never envision the change it would affect on journalism. More often than not, I was rushing from crime scene tragedy after another, focused on my presentation for the 10 p.m. news while Silicon Valley tekkies were formulating blogs and about to give birth to Facebook and Twitter.

Now, four years into my PR career, I have found a real willingness and camaraderie among PR practitioners to help newcomers and freely share information. It’s truly the economy of giving.

Leaving TV news was easy but so was the transition into public relations.

Shortly after leaving TV news without a job, I walked into my first PRSA mixer. The late Marilyn Potts, PRSA Chapter president, took me by the hand and began introducing me to members. Marilyn told me, as did Kami Watson Huyse, that public relations is about forming “relationships.” I’ll always remember showing Kami a masterful campaign we planned for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Kami looked at it and said, “That’s nice. However, you can have the best campaign in the world but it won’t mean anything if you don’t have relationships.”

As my former colleagues transition out of TV news, or anyone interested in public relations, I really encourage attending PRSA functions. Introduce yourself; let people know you’re available. Ask people how they did it and what they’d recommend.

I really enjoy public relations and PRSA. I have much to learn, but in my brief time in public relations, I have travelled the globe, literally.

You don't have to be the gregarious sterotype of PR practitioners, either. Even the more subdued have found success in PR. In short, network and keep asking questions. It’ll be your first foray into another honorable and wonderful profession as you form lasting relationships.