Friday, August 26, 2011

The Right Answer

Anyone who’s been abroad knows the problems of bribes, cheating, favoritism and kickbacks – baksheesh – that go with local cultures and officials. Airport customs agents grumble about something in your suitcase until the tourist places, say, a $20 bill on the counter. Suddenly, the problem disappears along with the bill. Traveler and luggage get waived through. A friend who lived in Mexico City for years says the police department routinely assigns cops to beats according to their ability to separate money from the public.

We often gloss over this sort of thing as just “part of the local culture.” But often we forget how stressful and disheartening all of this must be to the locals who deal with it every day. Things can reach a boiling point and people finally take action, as we see currently in India. Social activist Anna Hazare began a hunger strike that caught the imagination of the fed-up masses. The backlash has been big and many Indians now realize something must be done if India wants to become the First World power it could be. Successful nations, businesses and organizations usually attain high rank because of squeaky clean reputations.

Thus it’s disheartening when Americans dismiss ethical problems as just part of our culture. They aren’t – and should not be. Public relations faces the problem as surely as any profession and we must all work to assure practitioners aren’t dismissed as less than honest.

PRSA San Antonio will hear an excellent presentation on ethics at its Sept. 1 luncheon by Dr. Linda Specht from Trinity University. Her topic – Going Beyond Codes of Ethics: What do you really stand for? – will approach ethics in the big picture: Who are you? What are your institutional values and how do you communicate them to others? What do your relationship with employees, clients and competitors say about you? Is a commitment to “social responsibility” part of your organizational identity?

Ethics and honesty cannot be simply some oft-ignored policy that can be changed as needed. You and your organization are either ethical, or you are not. It’s a problem mankind faces everywhere and the right answer, wherever and whoever you are, is always the same.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Free Webinars on Social Media for Communications by Netbase

Wow, here’s a great resource for staying up to date with using social media for communications. Netbase, a social media insight and analysis firm, is hosting a series of free monthly webinars: “11 for '11 Webinar Series: Social Media Tips from the Gurus.” You know it’s going to be good when the speakers include the likes of Jason Falls (a contributor to the awesome, must-read-every-day blog, Social Media Explorer) and Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group, just to name a couple.

Don’t worry that you may just now be hearing about this in the middle of the year. The episodes from earlier in the year are archived to be viewed at any time.

I’m always so impressed by the generosity of people to offer such useful resources to help their peers!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Seven Questions with Melissa C. Sorola, Regional Director of Communications, Time Warner Cable

Feature article from the PRSA San Antonio Byline, July 2011 issue

If you were at the July PRSA mixer, you probably enjoyed crunchy chips, creamy queso and tangy sangria courtesy of Melissa Sorola. Melissa secured a sponsorship for the event and combined food with our fun and fellowship. It’s not surprising the mixer was a success, considering Melissa’s history with planning successful events and building strategic partnerships. Learn more about Melissa, and how, in addition to being regional communications director for Time Warner Cable, she’s also a mom, an Aggie, a runner and a travel aficionado.

How long have you worked in public relations/communications?
I started my career in public relations/communications as a student at Texas A & M University in College Station. I had my first experiences in PR during my last semester at A&M in 2001 with an internship in the Office of University Relations; I assisted with press conferences and wrote for email communications piece that were distributed to all faculty and staff. I also wrote for The Battalion, the university student newspaper, which taught me how to see things from a journalist’s perspective. I graduated in December of 2001 with my B.A. in Journalism and began my official public relations career in San Antonio in January 2002.

How did you find the industry?
I initially entered Texas A&M University as an education major thinking I was going to become a teacher. After talking with a university counselor, I realized a career in public relations was the better path for me. I had been involved in journalism in high school and loved news, reading magazines and newspapers, and current events but never realized I could have a career in public relations and help create that news. It was the counselor who suggested I switch majors, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I really enjoy the planning aspect of developing public relations campaigns and seeing these plans come to life through skillful execution. Developing these plans and seeing them implemented to successfully create positive results for Time Warner Cable gives me great satisfaction. I’m fortunate to work for an innovative and exciting company, and I have the best coworkers who make coming to work every day a complete delight.

What are your hobbies?
I love to spend time with my family and friends and to read – even running is a nice escape for me lately. Traveling for fun is a new hobby, too, and my daughter is at a great age where she’s really able to appreciate exploring new cities. We’re going to New York City this week!

Tell us about your family.
I am the mother of an amazing daughter Carolina, 15, who is going to be a sophomore at Holy Cross High School, and I am a member of a remarkably supportive family led by my mom and dad who live in Del Rio. I have a brother, Rene, who lives in Houston with his wife, Marissa, and their family, and I’m truly enjoying being an aunt to my niece, Stella, 2, and nephew, Sebastian Rene, 4 months. The majority of my extended family lives here in San Antonio, including my extraordinary grandmother and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins who have been inspirational and instrumental in the development of my career and the person I am today.

Have you had a PR mentor? How has that mentor helped you succeed?
I have a couple of PR professionals who I call mentors. Kelly Morris, who was my boss when I worked at Taylor West Advertising & PR in 2005, is one of the most respected public relations practitioners in the city for a reason. She’s the best, and I continue to learn from her. When I came to work for Kelly, I had the tactical event and media relations skills down and she really taught me to develop strategic public relations campaigns. Kelly would also tell me to come to her with “solutions, not problems.” That’s a lesson I use every day and it has made me a problem solver. My current boss, Jon Gary Herrera, is also a key mentor. Jon Gary has taught me valuable lessons in crisis management and message development and also supports me in my growth as a Time Warner Cable employee and public relations professional.

Both Kelly and Jon Gary have always pushed me to be the best public relations practitioner I can be. I’m very grateful for their continued support and mentoring.

What advice would you give to young professionals or others entering the field?
Don’t burn bridges. I can create an interesting diagram of the people I’ve worked with in San Antonio and how they’re all connected. I worked on the Time Warner Cable public relations account at two different agencies and Jon Gary Herrera, my current boss, was the client both times. If I hadn’t done a good job and built a good relationship with the client during that time, then I wouldn’t be at Time Warner Cable today.