Tag Archives: Amber Parker

The three Rs according to Soledad

by Amber Parker

“Ratings, Revenue and Reputation . . . [are] ingredients for a bottom line franchise,” said Soledad O’Brien in her discussion on diversity with University of Alabama students Nov. 9. Because much of the internationally known journalist’s recognition comes from CNN’s “In America” documentary series, I wonder: How much do people care about topics surrounding minority groups? How have they impacted CNN? How have they impacted O’Brien? And most of all, how have they impacted the “bottom line”?

Ratings

The “In America” Series started in 2008 with Black in America. The two-part documentary focused on exposing disparities in education, the prison system and single parenthood, as well as the toll that HIV/AIDs has had on communities. In July of the same year, the documentary garnered approximately 2.6 million viewers. Black in America 2 aired in the summer of 2009 with a less impressive 1.4 million viewers, yet it still managed to outperform other cable documentaries from all other networks that year. It is safe to say that the “In America” series started off strong, piquing national interest in areas that had received limited coverage prior to these exposés.

However, the ratings really began to drop when “Latino in America” aired in 2010. According to a Huffington Post article, it “drew an average of 1,007,000 total viewers and 293,000 A25-54 viewers. That’s down 45% in total viewers from the debut episode of July’s ‘Black in America’.” Based on these numbers, one has to wonder if stories like these have fleeting appeal.

Revenue

It is unclear how much money CNN makes from O’Brien’s documentaries or how much money she generates personally. But it is clear that high ratings do correlate with the amount of revenue amassed by the network and, in turn, the individual.

The following is a list of O’Brien’s most recent work: “Don’t Fail Me: Education in America,” “The Women Who Would be Queen,” “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” “Pictures Don’t Lie,” “Almighty Debt,” “Rescued” and “Gary and Tony Have a Baby.” Each of these relates to concerns of minority groups, with topics ranging from homosexuality to religious acceptance. Since 9/11, O’Brien has provided in-depth coverage of a wide range of underrepresented groups, ultimately earning the respect of her peers and even her critics.

Reputation

“For me it’s about the story, it’s about telling the stories of amazing people all across this great country and the world,” O’Brien said.

This journalist has used stories to catapult herself as a trustworthy source in the sphere of journalism. In early 2012, she will return to CNN’s “American Mornings” as an anchor. After years of rotating hosts for the morning talk show due to poor ratings, the producers decided to take a shot with O’Brien. I am sure CNNhopes her reputation will help to turn the show around and eventually bring both ratings and revenue to CNN.

During a reception prior to her speech, she expressed her excitement about returning to daily news. She hopes that she can bring new perspective to the show by continuing to tell the stories of the world’s underrepresented people every day.

If CNN’s producers are right this time, O’Brien’s return will prove that of the three Rs, reputation is the most important.

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PR is not the place for a broken watch

by Amber Parker

Whether you are backstage at a Britney Spears concert, working on a press release from the White House or planning a consumer extravaganza at an agency, you will always have to be conscious of time. Timing is important in most careers, but poor planning on the part of a public relations practitioner could be as detrimental as a doctor who shows up late for surgery. It could mean the difference between the life and death of a company.

Do not miss a deadline

The quickest way to disappoint a new employer, or worse, a client, is by missing a deadline. The only thing you have in common with your co-workers is that 12 p.m. means 12 p.m. no matter how you slice it. In college, late assignments usually mean a percentage reduction from your grade but in the cut-throat world of PR, a missed deadline could mean your livelihood.

You may be thinking, “Do they expect me to be perfect right out of college?” The answer is no, but promptness and accuracy are prized qualities in this field, so learn them quickly. Not to mention that there is always an intern or new hire who will succeed in the areas that you are lacking. Don’t minor in the majors — learn time management now.

Environmental scanning

Professors have pushed me to read the news since my first communications class and now, as a senior, I scan at least three different sources daily as a part of my morning routine. As a practitioner, scanning helps to keep you up to date on any changes that might affect your client directly or indirectly. Accurate forecasting can help give you and your agency a cutting edge.

I assume that everyone who has a degree in public relations took journalism courses in college. You may have thought it was pointless at the time but I hope that one thing you took away is a clear understanding of news values.

Public relations practitioners have to be conscious of their relationships with journalists and try to ensure they are providing the best information to the right person within the most feasible time frame. A story about breast cancer in March, for example, is less appealing than one in October because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

If you respect punctuality and planning as virtues, you can buckle up and prepare for a successful career in PR.

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Perception is NOT Reality

by: Amber Parker

In America, the land of opportunity, a young scholar can go off to college and become whatever he or she desires. So what draws a college student to public relations? Why do some students change majors after only taking a few courses?

Thousands of undergraduates at hundreds of colleges across the country enroll in public relations classes each semester with no idea what they’re getting into. There is a disparity between their expectations and what jobs in PR are really like.

The Assumptions

To develop an interest in any field, you must have some exposure to it. In the case of PR, the type of exposure the media offers is rarely an authentic presentation of the multi-dimensional field.

Some assume public relations is a glamour-filled industry centered around celebrities and event planning. Others consider themselves “people persons” and intend to work face to face with the public all the time.

Then there are those students who decide to study PR because they presume it will be an “easy” degree to acquire. Some students blindly enter PR programs without researching the skills needed to attain a worthwhile job in the industry.

But is it fair to blame only the students for their skewed perceptions of what PR is really like?

I also blame television for providing a one-dimensional portrayal of PR professionals. Reality shows like “The Spin Crowd” on E! and MTV’s “The Hills” portray practitioners as high profile individuals, with fast-paced lifestyles who constantly deal with pressure situations.

The Reality

The truth is that public relations professionals work in many different capacities, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to agencies and nonprofit organizations. Entertainment PR (http://www.platformmagazine.com/index.cfm/2008/12/10/PR-The-Truth-about-Event-Planning) and event planning are possible career options. However, the major difference between TV-PR and real life is that on TV they rarely show the typical office day of preparing a strategic plan, making pitch calls and updating databases. Most jobs in PR require that you sit in front of a computer most of the day with very little physical interaction with anyone besides your cubical buddy.

Television needs ratings so I understand why networks show practitioners in high-pressure moments, but it concerns me that people enter public relations with TV as their only frame of reference.

What will my generation do when there is an overflow of celebrity managers and sports agents? What will they do when they discover that a PR education requires journalistic writing, graphic design, research, law and campaign courses? How many will stand the test of time?

Students who are genuinely interested in learning the ropes, at some point, will have to put down the remote and pick up some real world experience.

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