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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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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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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