Monthly Archives: February 2010

Did he just say the s-word?

If you follow Jonathan Cheban or Simon Huck on Twitter, you’re no stranger to the new E! reality show “The SPINdustry,” which takes viewers behind the scenes of NYC firm Command PR.

As a PR student, I had negative feelings towards the show before it even aired. I’ve learned throughout college that “spin” is a curse word in the PR dictionary. However, since I’m a TV addict, I decided to watch the show. It was hard for me to only think of it as entertainment, because it’s about the industry I will soon be a part of.

According to the show, you don’t need to know how to write a communication plan or press release, but to get your boss’ sandwich order right instead. Actually, I take that back. I think press release was mentioned once.

My issue is not really with the show because I understand it’s for entertainment. I only hate the way it makes the PR industry look. The women working for Command PR don’t seem educated at all (it could be the editing, but who knows).

When someone asks me what my major is, they look confused when I say “PR.”
Then I usually get a comment like, “what’s that?” or “what can you do with that?”
I get upset thinking about how the show will affect the perception of the PR industry.

Command PR seems to focus on the publicity of celebrities, which is completely different from PR. According to a dictionary definition, publicity is “extensive mention in the news media or by word of mouth or other means of communication,” whereas, PR focuses on building relationships with target publics.

Since the show aired last Sunday night, it has become a trending topic on blogs and Twitter.

In her blog, “Little Pink Book PR,” Sasha H. Muradali wrote “I know the show is for entertainment, but I don’t appreciate how it makes my industry, my degree and the field I work in look to people on the outside.”

Muradali also had an interesting conversation with Cheban and Huck via Twitter. Cheban replied with some not-so-nice words, which is not good PR (I might add).

Just a few negative tweets about the show:

MRiley2 : “It was painful to watch…RT @ashgin116: #SPINdustry is an embarrassment to PR professionals everywhere. ugh, lame…”

JennaGlynn: “Chatter in my office about #spindustry. Did E! Turn PR pros everywhere upside down last night?”

samhowsare: “#SPINdustry is going to make people think #PR is all about planning events and dealing w/ celebs.”

Cheban hasn’t hesitated to respond to the negative comments. If he is a big-time PR professional, why would he even waste his time responding negatively? He’s definitely not building relationships by rudely responding to tweets.

I’m not taking anything away from Cheban and Huck for their company or show. Good for them if their show is a success. In fact, I think it probably will be successful, because people thrive off the so-called “reality TV” show.

I think the show does nothing for the PR industry, and using the s-word makes it harder to legitimize PR.

by Haley Barr

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Filed under The Industry

Find Your Inner Gaga

Last Monday, I was sitting in the living room with my roommate waiting to watch one of our crazy addictions, The Bachelor. With my computer in my lap, I pulled up my Twitter account and decided to tweet something about the show (obsessive – I know). I was mid-tweet when my roommate uttered the words forbidden by social media fanatics: “I just never know what to tweet about.” As if the first comment wasn’t bad enough, it was her second comment that really made my head spin: “I’m just not interesting enough.” Not interesting enough? Why do people think only celebrities hold social media status when we’re all entitled to our own online presence? What makes people interesting on the Web?

Interesting enough?

Okay, so nobody says we have to give a Lady Gaga VMA performance to be considered interesting, but as PR practitioners it is essential we build our own personal brand. Today’s digital world makes networking easier, faster and more personal. With the click of a mouse, you can communicate with other PR practitioners, access endless possibilities and start building your career. So how do you get yourself noticed in cyberspace?

The first step to personal branding is discovering your identity. As social media users, it is our job to express our individuality and promote it to an audience. The most successful branders are those who take time to answer the question: “How do I want to be perceived?” People should get a sense of your personality and character when they view your profile. They should also be able to see what you’re passionate about, achievements you’ve made and qualities you have to offer the industry. Post things you find interesting. Share pictures of the places you’ve been. Upload videos that show you getting involved. Allow your profile to be your own digital billboard on which you can showcase your personality and professionalism.

After you have developed your identity, decide how to create your brand. Social media innovators are constantly creating new platforms and applications to facilitate networking. The days of using Facebook to connect with friends and upload silly pictures are over. Start taking advantage of these media tools to promote your brand. Think of your profile or web site as a digital resume. Everything from your picture, bio and posts should be a complete representation of you.

The most important step to building your online presence is interaction. In everyday life, you don’t sit around talking to yourself – you communicate. Start asking questions, giving advice and sharing your ideas. People want to know what you have to say. Use your profile as a way to create dialogue between you and your audience.

The more updated and integrated your profile is, the more interesting you will be to your audience. So tap into your inner “Gaga” and start your personal brand. After all, the key to keeping an online presence is being yourself, no matter how “uninteresting” you might think you are.

by Kassandra Hannay

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Filed under Trends

Editing is a Blessing. One Big Blessing.

Late Monday night I sat down to edit an article I wrote as a part of a group project for one of my PR classes. As I quickly skimmed over my work I assumed I had done a good job and there wasn’t much need for revision. So, being confident in my writing skills, I gave my work a lackadaisical once-over and assumed that between Microsoft Word’s spell check and myself, everything was fine.

Oh how I was wrong.

A couple hours later I e-mailed my “self-edited” article to one of my fellow group members for her approval, so she could then add my portion to our final project. Much to my dismay she promptly e-mailed me back with several grammatical and AP style corrections to my article. I was shocked how my lack of sincerity while editing lead to so many simple, simple errors. Not only did I feel stupid for turning in a poorly edited paper, but I also felt embarrassed that I didn’t care enough to do it right the first time.

I’m happy to say I have learned my lesson early. Luckily I was just sending it to one of my peers, and was able to properly fix my work before submitting it to my professor. Regardless, it should have never happened. This minor mishap could have cost me my job in the real world. It made me realize just how reliant I have become on technology to do my work for me.

So whether you’re writing a blog, an article, a news release or even an e-mail, it’s crucial that you always proofread and edit your work. After all, the purpose of publishing your work, whether it be in print or somewhere in cyberspace, is to share your thoughts with others and improve the craft of writing. There really is no excuse for people to be lazy authors. If you expect people to read your work and give you feedback on your writing, then you should take the time to perfect it. Editing is an indispensable tool in our field and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It not only gives more value to your work, but it is also just plain courteous to your readers.

Editing may seem like a drag, but it’s one great blessing in disguise.

by Madeline Reeves

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Filed under Uncategorized

A Social Media Ghost?

We live in a world where we expect people to write speeches for others. Our teachers tell us it could be part of our daily job description. Writing for the vice president or president of a company is not considered unethical. It is part of our normal communications lives.

If ghostwriting for speeches, company letters, memos and other corporate pieces on behalf of our bosses is okay, is it okay to blog on their behalf as well? What about if your boss asks you to respond to tweets in his or her Twitter account?

To be completely transparent, it does not seem honest to blog or tweet on behalf of another person. Social media is much more personal than bigger more corporate forms of communication like a speech or mass e-mail. Blogs and tweets are personal forms of communication where a follower should be able to trust the authenticity of the person writing the messages.

Social media is a personal way for people to connect to others. Should a person of high interest be honest when publishing blogs that are not personal? I say yes. One of the great purposes of social media from a public relations stand point is the ability to engage the readers. If the person blogging is a ghost writer, how can the company truly engage its audiences and how can its audiences trust their responses are heard?

It is a topic of much debate. Many celebrities, company executives and even the President admit to using ghost writers on blogs and Twitter to engage their interested audiences. Though it is convenient, is it honest? Is it fair to the readers if the ghost writer is not identified?

Social media is a new forum, and there are not strict ethical guidelines for us to follow. But as public relations practitioners, it is our obligation to be honest and transparent. Allowing someone else to write thoughts on a personal level seems deceiving and unfair to the audience who is expecting to engage in more personal conversations with the name on the account.

by Rachel Davis

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Filed under Ethics

Not Quite JLo

After several months of planning and preparation, with a sigh of relief, I’m happy to announce that I have successfully survived my first event planning experience. The University of Alabama’s Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter held its first regional activity on Saturday, Feb. 6, and as the vice president of UA’s chapter, I was very excited to take on the role of event coordinator.

I know many PR students get into the major because they view event planning as somewhat of a glamorous job. The title of “event coordinator” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? I certainly thought so. I could see myself now: a younger version of Jennifer Lopez’s character in the movie “The Wedding Planner.” Yes, I envisioned myself in her shoes, earpiece and all, running the show. Besides the fact this wasn’t a wedding we were planning (oh yeah, and this was real life), JLo’s character and I have a lot of similar traits. We both like to be organized, take charge of a situation and do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Stepping back to reality, I found myself quickly learning that event planning is a lot of hard work with hardly any glamour. It requires you to be a great communicator, very attentive to detail and good at managing your stress. One of my main jobs was to schedule the speakers for the entire event. I wasn’t too worried about getting this done since I already had experience with scheduling speakers for our monthly PRSSA meetings. Coming back from Christmas break, you can imagine my distress when I realized the event was a little over a month away, and I only had about four out of 15 speakers confirmed. As I took a few deep breaths in and out, I knew I had to keep myself from falling into panic mode. I had to get my priorities in order, and getting speakers was at the top of my list. With the help of our entire event planning committee, over the next two weeks, we were able to get all of our speakers confirmed. Ahhh, another sigh of relief.

Next, we had to get people registered to attend. What good were 15 speakers without an audience? Our committee started to hit our marketing efforts hard. We were tweeting, Facebooking, e-mailing, calling and anything else you can think of to get the word out. The whole objective of our event was to connect PR students with professionals who could teach us more about the field.

As our registration deadline approached, the number of attendees wasn’t as high as we wanted it to be. Oh no, another sense of panic was approaching. In order to avoid any panic, the committee made a unanimous decision to extend the deadline. With the extension, the number of attendees steadily climbed all the way up to the day of the event. The light at the end of the tunnel was certainly near.

All the preparations were made, speakers were confirmed, attendees were registered, food was ordered and the event materials were made. Now all that was left to do was actually have the event. Nervous thoughts ran through my mind the night before the event. I was trying to think of anything that I might have overlooked. I was hoping everything would run smoothly, but I knew I had to be ready in case something went wrong.

It was early Saturday morning as I and the rest of the committee arrived at the Bryant Conference Center to make sure everything was set up and ready to go. As the attendees began to arrive, another slight sense of nervousness ran through me. “This is it,” I thought. I was excited for what the day would hold and really hoped the students were going to enjoy the event we worked so hard to put together. The day went on and, to my pleasant surprise, everything was going according to plan. The speakers were great and the students really seemed to be getting a lot out of their time at the event. Ahhh, I gave one last huge sigh of relief as I saw our months of hard work being carried out.

Although I’m no JLo, I felt my first experience planning an event was very successful. It came with several bumps in the road, but I learned you have to be flexible with your plan and ready for anything. What I value most from this experience was seeing the event run smoothly and creating new relationships with the many speakers I was in contact with. Our PRSSA chapter has already received great feedback from the attendees and speakers.

As I get closer to starting my professional career, I look forward to encountering the next PR challenge that comes my way. I know with every new endeavor comes an opportunity to learn and improve your knowledge and skills, and I plan to take advantage of each opportunity as it comes.

by Megan Parks

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Filed under Career, Leadership

Blog Etiquette: Ready, set, post!

Technology today allows almost anyone to be an active participant in the world of communication. But, who sets and enforces the rules of the Internet? Shouldn’t some things just be common sense? Posting a blog or commenting on a blog should involve etiquette that even the most inexperienced blogger should understand. After thinking about some of my experiences with blogging, several suggestions came to mind.

Language

The type of language people use because they feel they are anonymous is disturbing. If the average person treated a post or comment as though they were talking to someone they cared deeply for, many of the posts and comments would never exist. My favorite issues involving blog posts and comments are fowl, rude and vulgar language. For some bloggers, using fowl language on a blog post or comment makes them feel more powerful, or at least we assume that to be the case. I often wonder if the same point could have been made and be “G-rated.” It is important to understand that the Internet has audiences of all ages, genders, ethnicities and opinions. By avoiding inappropriate language, people’s posts or comments will contribute to blog etiquette.

Subject Matter

Along with appropriate language, bloggers must realize that certain subjects are not easily accepted by the masses as public information. In past experiences, I have found that the more controversial subjects do generate more traffic and in turn, comments. The problem with controversial posts is many of the comments may be contradictive to your post. Should you allow them to remain on your blog page? Most bloggers do allow comments, even if they are contradictory. You can’t have meaningful communication without senders, receivers, messages and feedback; if you eliminate feedback, you also eliminate meaningful communication. If you are going to submit a post or comment on a blog, remember that a blog post is a public conversation. No one wants to be interrupted by someone that has nothing to contribute to the conversation. If the information that you want to contribute is better suited somewhere else, be polite and post it where it belongs. By avoiding really touchy subjects, making sure your comment or post contributes to the conversation, and allowing contradictory comments to your posts, your blog can promote good blog etiquette.

Credibility

Blogs contain information of all sorts every day, but most successful blogs contain accurate information. Accuracy is probably one of the most important points to remember when posting or commenting on a blog. Blogs are by nature opinion-based; however, opinions should also be based on accuracy. If you are consistently posting information that is not accurate, you will lose credibility and eventually subscribers. Another way to limit your credibility is to become labeled a “spammer.” By posting links to other blogs to promote yourself is simply wrong when it doesn’t contribute to the conversation. You wouldn’t set up camp in your neighbor’s front yard in hopes of promoting yourself by intercepting the traffic entering their house, so why would you camp out on their blog? Most people who spam on other blog posts have absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation anyway. Finally, if you use information from other blogs directly on your blog, please give credit. It is wonderful to see that others recognize your post as credible information. When the original writer does not receive credit for the post, a theft of information has occurred. Be sure to post and comment accurately, avoid spamming and give credit to those who deserve it to avoid landing your blog post or comment in the Poor Blog Etiquette Hall of Shame.

by Scott Young

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Filed under The Industry, Trends