Monthly Archives: May 2010

Let’s Get Visual

by Cheryl Gale, Guest Blogger
Managing Partner and Co-founder, March Communications

As PR professional for 20 years in both the U.S. and European markets, I’ve had the fortune to experience many media trends that have come and gone and come back again. Just last month I had the opportunity to learn about one of the newest trends: data visualization.

We hosted an internal training session with media guru, Sam Whitmore, and he spoke about data visualization being one of the most recent advancements in publishing as the Web continues to turn in to a broadcast medium. Sam spoke about how widespread the incorporation of intelligently designed graphics, charts, pictures and videos will become, or are already becoming.  Publications such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are already using data visualization tactics to appeal to their audiences.

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, Fidelity Investments and Liberty Mutual are the first Boston businesses to “bring their marketing muscle” to the iPad.  When users flip through Time magazine on the iPad, they’ll see Fidelity and Liberty’s interactive advertisements on the screen.  Johnny Diaz, writer at the Globe, reports, “At a time when companies are competing for people’s attention through the Web and cable television, marketers increasingly are looking for new ways to plug their clients’ products, and they see huge potential in the iPad.”

There is a unique opportunity for PR to evolve its role in content creation and further encroach on the advertising industry — PR people have the right skills and are better placed to guide clients in this area than advertising agencies.

There has been a lot of hot air about how PR is dead and is unable to adapt to the new digital media landscape. The issue is not that traditional media is dying; it is that media is diversifying in terms of content type and distribution platform. This means there are greater opportunities for good PR programs to influence audiences and this will see PR take a much bigger slice of the marketing pie in the years ahead.

There’s no doubt that data visualization will be an increasing trend, as it is already becoming more and more noticeable in today’s most popular media. But along with this trend comes an important skill that many PR professionals will need to learn and incorporate into their campaigns.

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PR: The Experience

When I chose public relations as my college major, I honestly didn’t know what it meant. I’ve always enjoyed writing and knew communication was the field for me, but I didn’t really know what direction to take.

Once I began to take my PR courses, I thought attending class and making good grades would be enough for me to find a job. However, I started to realize PR requires much more. In the introduction course, we learned the definitions for most PR terms; however, memorizing definitions only got me so far.

I didn’t actually understand everything PR entailed until I took upper-level PR courses. I found the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. I was lucky to have the opportunity to gain knowledge and a better understanding of PR through three significant classes.

Practicum

This semester, I worked as a student intern in The University of Alabama’s media relations office. The internship counted as a class, but I also had the chance to gain experience and learn more about media relations. I was responsible for writing press releases for the UA Web site and pitching the stories to local, state and national media in order to gain coverage. The writing samples allowed me to develop a complete portfolio of work.

Campaigns
I’ve never done so much work in one class. My team and I were responsible for planning and executing a media campaign to promote UA’s LIFE Project. We conducted primary research to engage our target audience in order to produce a successful campaign. Although it was a lot of work, I learned a great deal about what goes into the planning and execution of a campaign.

Platform Online Magazine
As a member of the writing team, I was responsible for writing and editing articles and blogs for the magazine. I had the opportunity to write and approve text additions, such as changes to the PR terms quiz and the AP style quiz, for the online magazine site. The class was a great experience because I not only wrote for this magazine but also learned a little bit about what it takes to run a magazine.

Through these three classes, I had the opportunity to gain experience writing media plans, press releases and blogs; planning and executing media plans to increase awareness; and conducting primary research to reach target publics.

As graduation approaches and I look back on what I’ve accomplished, I realize I’ve learned the most about PR through experience. It’s not about the definitions or tests; it’s about understanding the PR field and what it takes to develop a successful career.

Now that it’s time to find a job and transition to the real world, I am confident I have gained enough knowledge and experience throughout college to work any PR job.

by Haley Barr

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