When it is all said and done…

April 20, 2008 at 3:12 pm (development, public relations, strategy) (, )

TeamworkLast week, I worked at my AHPR’s client event. I excited that the account was close an end for this year. Now that I reflect upon it, I’m realizing that through all the frustration, hard work, unpaid time, etc. – it was all worth it.

As the account supervisor, it was a challenge to balance and manage client relations, agency-to-agency relations and student team management. I was really excited in the beginning of the school year when I was assigned this account, but gradually got discouraged to the point where all three aspects were hitting low points, in terms of demand and feedback. However, looking back – I believe I did a great job in handling difficult situations and learning to maintain good relationships with everyone.

These are my key takeaways:

  • Do not take anything personally: I’ve developed a much thicker skull from receiving constant criticism. In the beginning, I took it to heart. But now, I realize that everyone is just trying to find the best way to approach a strategy or situation. What comes out of one person’s mouth that may seem hurtful or an attack on me, may just be the way another works and deals with situations.
  • Speak your mind: I provided my client pieces of advice throughout the year. Because I was a student, I was filtering myself out in the beginning to pick and choose the advice given, as well as downplaying the advice. Towards the end, I started speaking my mind and letting my client know what I thought would and wouldn’t work. I began to see a higher sense of respect from my client for being honest and transparent in my consultation. Though I still have little experience compared to the working world, I have value.
  • A team needs building: I wish I planned team building activities outside our weekly agency meetings. The team didn’t know me or each other, and I didn’t know them. It was until recent that I found out about issues within the team. No one brought it to my attention, and everyone seemed fine and happy at meetings and in e-mails. When the issue occurred, it came down to mainly one thing – we didn’t know how one or the other worked. In a student-run agency, turn around is so high that we often don’t get a chance to ramp-up fully on our clients and teams. We’re diving right into the work. I’d recommend that team leaders start by setting aside outside time with each team member individually and as a team to get to know each other for a more effective working environment.
  • It’s about the client, not you: Agencies working together often bump heads. In the past, AHPR and the University of Oregon’s student-run advertising agency have run into several “powerhouse” problems. It was my goal to really mend the relations between the two organizations to work for the same goal (since we had one shared account – the one I was working on). Though I had some issues (mainly related to communication) with them throughout the year, I always put relationship maintenance first and was able to overcome them. I’m sure the strategy is different in every situation, but as two student-run groups on campus – maintaining good relations is number one for future students. It worked out good in the end, where both teams did an awesome job.

To show off some of the success of my team’s public relations campaign for our client, here’s some of the coverage we received from our efforts:

I’d have to say that I learned the most about myself as a person and public relations professional working in AHPR in all my college experiences. I would also highly recommend anyone to join a student-run agency, if his or her school has one. Otherwise – start one. The experience I received is so valuable, and I can take it anywhere with me.

*Image courtesy of Flickr: lumaxart. It was taken under the Creative Commons License.

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‘Green’ needs transparency

April 2, 2008 at 7:40 pm (public relations, social media, strategy) (, , , )

Global EnvironmentAs companies put sustainability and environmental efforts at the forefront of corporate responsibility efforts, conversations stir about what it actually does to the image of the company. A recent article, posted on AdAge.com, reports that the Nielson Report shows that bloggers have a high impact and voice in discussing sustainability, including green initiatives in corporations. It talks about how bloggers are “a highly skeptical consumer group.” Bloggers are calling out companies that are forcing green efforts in key messages. The companies are over-exaggerating initiatives and often practice inconsistency and contradiction against what they are telling their audience.

I think public relations professionals of these companies need to provide consultancy about transparency and integrity. When talks of green efforts look fake and don’t coincide with actual practice, it negatively impacts the company. In a world where the digital community’s voice is so prominent, there is no way to get out of fake and unconvincing green initiatives. Corporate social responsibility is becoming so saturated with ‘green’ strategies that it no longer looks innovative, but is looked at more critically and sometimes scrutinized.

Another thing to point out is how poorly it impacts the public relations profession. People will often translate an incorrect and false image to public relations campaigns that went wrong. PR professionals need to be careful and make sure the company actually cares about its initiatives and stays transparent at all times.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Al-Fassam [Online! :D]. It was taken under the Creative Commons License.

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Tips for being a successful student

March 19, 2008 at 3:30 pm (development, public relations) ()

StudyingI’m a bit embarrassed about being away for so long, but with finals and moving – time seems to be a little tight.

I don’t know if it is that I am phasing out of the school and into the career mode, but I’ve done a little reflecting and have come up with a couple of great tips for students that are still studying public relations or communication.

These are the tips:

Be Involved: It doesn’t mean you need to join every club on campus, but it means you should involve yourself in both class and any outside experience. It allows you to engage in conversations, learn from your peers, learn from your professors and learn more about yourself.

Be Proactive: You are responsible for where you go in life. Being proactive is a way to stand out from the crowd, take initiative and get noticed. You end up making your career path, instead of letting others define it for you.

Be Positive/Optimistic: A good attitude is the key to success in any task or job. Having this characteristic sets you apart to show others your work ethic. There may be days where everything goes wrong, but a good attitude can pick you up so it doesn’t interfere with your homework and works.

Be Detail-Oriented: Paying attention to little details shows your professors and peers that you care and put full effort into what you do. You may not be the best at everything, but details will show that you try.

Be Passionate: If you have passion in what you do, everyone will be able to see it. It shows that you give 100 percent into everything. It will reflect on your work, personality and professionalism as a learning and growing public relations or communication student.

Image courtesy of Flickr: Pragmagraphr. It was taken under the Creative Commons License.

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E-mail management for the PRos

March 8, 2008 at 1:48 pm (development, public relations, strategy) (, , )

E-mail @ imageLet me just share some great news with everyone. I recently was offered a spring internship with Waggener Edstrom, which I ecstatically excepted (yay!). But this is not the point of my post.

During the interviewing process, every person I talked to emphasized the importance being skillful at e-mail in every angle. People probably usually think: E-mail, really? Isn’t it just sending a message? Isn’t it just another communication tool?

Yes, no and no. Yes, it is sending a message and it is another communication tool, but it definitely is not something that gets a “just.” For my generation, e-mail began as a fun way to connect with friends, which it still is. But now, it also is a tool for effectively communicating in a business, an industry and with clients and building relationships, especially for PR.

Brian Zafron’s post on Freelance Switch gives great tips for successfully learning the “art of e-mail.” Some of my favorites include: “brand with a meaningful subject line,” “don’t be a pompous jerk” and “brevity is key.” I’d like to add one to the list – manage your responses.

Here are my tips to managing your responses:

  • Organize your e-mail inbox into folders. You can stick e-mails you’ve responded to and ones you don’t need to respond to in the folders, so you can focus on the e-mails that need action. The uncategorized ones stay within the general inbox as a constant reminder for responding.
  • Flag e-mails by category. Microsoft Outlook and Entourage (not too familiar with Mozilla’s Thunderbird) allow you to color code flag e-mails. Flagging signifies that the e-mail is important, and the color signifies the category or importance (you can choose the one that fits you best – everyone works a little differently) of the e-mail. Plus, you can pull up all the flagged e-mails at once.
  • Respond to important e-mails immediately. The business world (and society) is extremely fast-paced, and for anything important, you must respond immediately. Even if you need to do a little more research, a simple – I will research and get back to you within 24 hours – will go a long way. Just don’t forget to actually get back to the person. It keeps the person informed and helps him or her know what is going on. It’s active communication.
  • Respond to not-as-important e-mails eventually. I would say the rule of thumb for responding to an e-mail is within 24 hours (probably 48-72 hours, if you get at least 200 e-mails a day). But this is only for e-mails that can be given some time before you respond.
  • Learn your e-mailers preferences. If he or she says – get back to me in the next day or two – you better get back within a day or two. Once you begin building relationships with the people you constantly e-mail, you’ll get to know how they work.
  • ALWAYS set up an automated response when you are out-of-town or out-of-commission and give another contact for immediate needs. It helps the person on the other side to know that they need to contact someone else, in the case of emergency.

These tips and Zafron’s tips are great starting points to writing and managing e-mails. Everyone works a little differently when it comes to organizing and writing. Start here and begin finding your ways to being a successful e-mailer.

Do you have any other tips for the PRos?

* Image courtesy of Flickr: labanderadeadiosayer.

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Airborne: thoughts of how the company is dealing with the false advertisement allegations

March 5, 2008 at 9:39 pm (public relations) ()

AirborneEveryone has his or her own tricks to overcoming or avoiding the common cold. For many, Airborne was the answer. In 2006, an ABC report sparked a lawsuit against Airborne on false advertising. Today, media are reporting that a $23.3 million settlement for refunding consumers has been made. Here are my thoughts on the good and bad things Airborne did in reacting to the allegations.

Good:

  • Responded immediately
  • Providing refunds – although consumers must show receipts
  • Revised Airborne Web site and packaging immediately to respond to “deceptive” wording
  • The health hotline gives consumers a place to ask questions about the product. I haven’t called it, but the concept shows that the company is listening and answering. It’s especially critical that Airborne directed consumers to physicians about further medical inquiries.

Bad:

  • Airborne trusted and promoted inadequate research studies. They should have renounced it as good evidence, once it was found that the trials were not run by scientists, doctors, etc.
  • Airborne is not taking responsibility of the false advertising. If the company is settling the lawsuit with refunds, it should not continue to deny any wrongdoing. It was a matter of ethics, and by not owning up, the company will always face the false advertising as an issue. Instead, Airborne should make itself accountable and move forward from there. It shows integrity and transparency.

I believe that in a situation like this, it is important for a company to face it, deal with it, be honest and then move on. It keeps everything simple and saves the image of the company by reflecting its values for its consumers and stakeholders.

* Image courtesy of Airborne.

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Thoughts of a generation Y graduating senior

March 2, 2008 at 4:15 pm (development) (, )

City Life1986. Generation Y. I’ve grown up in a fast-paced, ambitious world. At least, this is one perspective. I’ve also grown up in a value-minded, integrity-oriented environment.

Marshall Goldsmith talked to Eric Chestler, president of Generation Why, about generation Y individuals in the workplace. Personally, I find Chestler’s comments a little negative about the development and values my peers and I have. It may be that I am coming from the perspective of someone in generation Y; it may be that my parents brought me up to work hard for what I want out of life; and it may be that I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. But for what it is worth, I think my generation is a little misunderstood.

This is what I’ve seen:

  • Many of us are hard workers for the issues and tasks we care about.
  • Many of us study all night just to do well on a test.
  • Many of us thin ourselves out with activities just to stand out a little more than the other job candidate.
  • Many of us work and study, just to alleviate college loans.
  • Many of us work unpaid internships and jobs to get the experience required by employers.

I’m not saying everyone in my generation is hard working because I think every generation has individuals that take short-cuts. In fact, I’ve come across peers that join organizations without putting any work in just to stack their resumes. There is some truth to Chestler’s words. I just want to give my view as someone who doesn’t fully categorize herself with the description given.

However, it’s good to know that employers are feeling this way about us. It makes me work harder to prove myself worthy of each position I hold.

*Image courtesy of Flickr: VJ Spectra.

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Science using social media as a resource

February 27, 2008 at 12:05 am (social media, strategy) (, )

Encyclopedia of LifeCheck this out! Scientists are turning to social media as a resource for sharing consistent information. The Encyclopedia of Life focuses on creating an online database of all the species in the world. I think this an incredible step that scientists are taking to utilize business technology to their advantage. (I say “business technology” because science uses a lot of technology in other ways.) The Web site even has a blog.

I think this shows that social media can work for anyone, if used the right way. It’s incredible. The Web site designers created the software to text mine information from several natural history libraries in the world, after they electronically scan the literature into computers.

According to the project’s brochure, the Web site “will be a moderated, wiki-style environment.” This is something that requires careful analysis and attention. As a student, I’m constantly reminded on how Wikipedia is a great place to start understanding a topic, but it is not a reliable source. You never know who edits the information and whether or not it is accurate.

Luckily, Encyclopedia of Life is in its early stages of production. The Web site just launched this week. The developers need to strategically think about how they want to build the community and moderate the incoming information.

In the mean time, I’m going to keep looking through the Web site and brainstorm ways something like this can maintain credibility. Do you have suggestions?

Here‘s the article that introduces the site.

* Image courtesy of Encyclopedia of Life.

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Social media, writing and the public relations job candidate

February 22, 2008 at 3:32 pm (development, social media) (, )

hand shakeThis blog is extremely beneficial to me – not for potential future employers, but for personal professional development. I agree with David Reich of my 2 cents. I don’t think I am a better job candidate because I am active in social media. I am a better job candidate because I have some public and people relations skills under my belt, as well as actively listen and learn about the profession.

However, researching and finding things to blog about have helped me come across the conversations that other public relations professional are talking about. It’s a way to keep myself updated and interact with others.

Reich talks about how the most important skill he looks for in a candidate is writing. He then says, “It’s an acquired skill that comes from studying how media stories are written, coupled with good on-the-job training.”

Maybe public relations students need the opportunity to partner or shadow with journalists to get a better understanding of what they look for and how they write. Or – maybe public relations students should be journalists first (but that’s a lot to ask for). I bet the best public relations candidate is someone who started in news or magazine or worked in a news office before.

Since I have little experience in the newsroom, I think blogging is the next best way to acquaint myself with public relations writing and development. I practice writing with each post, finding a working style and voice. I also submerge myself into the top issues and topics.

Although social media may not be the main attributes an employer looks for, it surely is a great way for public relations students to develop a better understanding of the field before entering the job market.

*Image courtesy of Flickr: SDPanek

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Learning to podcast

February 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm (Podcast, social media) (, , )

Podcast stationI turned in my podcast assignment for class today. Let me just say, it was an interesting experience. On top of learning how to use Garageband, I had to learn to like how I sound in a recording. I’m pretty sure most people are surprised with how they sound. I’ve been a little under the weather, so I had to hear a little bit of that nasal-y tone as well. But when all is said and done, I actually enjoyed creating the podcast.

I tend to be a little bit of a computer nerd so I learned how to use, cut and edit in Garageband pretty quickly. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was how to get my laptop fan to stay quiet. Every time I started recording, it would start going crazy. When I edited the recording, I could hear a little bit of the cuts because of the background humming noise. Luckily, the “female radio” feature was there to smooth it down. Any ideas on how to get it go away completely and isolate my voice?

Other than that, I figured out a technique to make myself sound more natural. I pretended the computer was another public relations colleague. So, I did the entire podcast in one recording and talked like I was having an actual conversation (talking hands and all). I found that I could let go of the nerves from the thought of the microphone and be myself.

If you are looking for more tips to creating a podcast, Jason Van Orden has a great complete and free online tutorial. Just visit: How to Podcast. He talks about everything from terminology to promotion.

*Image courtesy of Flickr: the_scottish_podcaster. It was taken under the Creative Commons license.

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Tips for getting media coverage

February 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm (Media) (, , , )

Reading newspaperGetting Ink has done it again – another great post with more great tips. As students training for the professional PR world, my peers and I can use a little help with getting coverage for a client. Getting Ink’s post features tips from the perspective of a journalist on doing so. I think learning from a journalist is extremely valuable for PR students because it gives us the opportunity to strategically get media to cover our stories.

A couple weeks ago, I had my AHPR team update the media list. I cannot emphasize how important it is to do this. After compiling the list, each team member called the media outlets to obtain updated lead times, reporter/editor preferences for sent materials and publication general preferences. We found that some smaller town publications only covered local news. By local, it meant that only anything within the town’s limits, nothing in the bigger city right next to it.

See, when we were creating the list, we thought it would be great to include the little suburb cities on the outskirts of a large one. For some publications, it was fine because they still found it relevant (see tip 9 of Getting Ink); however, for others, it did not want anything outside of its own city. So, what did we do? We listened and understood. We pulled those publications out of the media list so we don’t waste our time or the publications’ times.

So, here is my 11th tip to add to the 10 on the Getting Ink post:

Research and communicate with the media before sending press kits and other collateral materials. Going through and updating the media list is a great way to organize yourself and your team and increase the success rate of your media coverage.

*Image courtesy of Flickr: dsevilla. It was taken under the Creative Commons license.

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