Tag Archives: public relations

For the PR practitioner, no news is bad news

by Dorothy Griffith

As public relations students, it’s easy to get bogged down with writing news releases and frantically editing our work for AP style errors. But what happens when we get too immersed in the world of public relations and neglect to observe what is going on in the world around us?

In her article “How to get the most out of a PR major” from Ragan’s PR Daily, Alexis Morgan stressed the importance of keeping up with current events. “It’s vital to know what’s going on around you,” she said. She suggested turning to Internet news stories to stay up to date with newsworthy events of all varieties.

“Money, local, crime, national, international, travel, politics, entertainment, sports, health — read it all,” she said.

An article by the Carolina PRSSA also listed “Keeping up with current events” as the number one way to ensure a well-rounded public relations experience.

Being cognizant of a variety of topics will also set you apart from your competitors. Stay interested in many different things and you’ll be surprised how it can benefit you in the future.

Morgan’s advice to PR students is to “be familiar with multiple areas of expertise.”

“The most effective way to begin your career is to set yourself apart from everyone else,” she said. “You can do this by becoming familiar in areas apart from public relations.”

Knowing about the intricacies in the current state of the economy, for example, will help you create a better budget for your organization; being familiar with journalistic principles will make it easier for you to pitch ideas to news outlets.

Much of the role of the PR practitioner is reacting to and anticipating local and national events and how they may affect the organization that you are working with. Neglecting this responsibility could be detrimental not only to your organization, but to your career as well.

 

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CSR: More than meets the eye

by Hope Peterson

I usually pick out cereal according to which brightly colored, sugar-packed, questionably nutritious snack looks the most appetizing. Like many others, I don’t normally make my decisions based on what kind of corporate social responsibility (CSR) the brand I am contemplating has engaged in.

Is this because we, as consumers, don’t care about CSR? Or is it because CSR is already combined with public relations in consumers’ minds — a part of the total packaging we perceive?

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development CSR is defined by a business’s “continual commitment . . . to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.”

Wouldn’t that make CSR crucial to all public relations firms that need relationships to build communication?

In a Holmes Report article, Paul Holmes suggests that CSR is actually an integral part of public relations, that you can’t have one with out the other. This proves how important CSR is, even though it might not be recognized by consumers.

Holmes said, “An organization can’t have good PR without good CSR.” He explained if a company does not have good relationships, then its foundation won’t be solid or reliable. And to build those relationships with consumers, companies have to behave responsibly and ethically to gain trust.

This symbiotic relationship explains why companies that are not interested in “saving the trees” still valueCSR in their everyday business operations and, similarly, in their goals and mission statements. According to the Holmes Report, capitalists are even interested in CSR because it leads to happy employees, loyal customers and less strict regulators; CSR benefits the money-driven as well as the environment-lovers.

And the reason for these dual beneficiaries of CSR could be because CSR and public relations are often synonymous. Ogilvy Public Relations World Wide (http://www.ogilvypr.com/en/content/corporate-social-responsibility-more/) said CSR is the “ongoing process of aligning corporate behavior with stakeholder expectations.”

Ogilvy developed an eight-step process for CSR that even further supports the theory that CSR and PR are woven together.

The first two steps are conducted through the planning process and include “identification” and “prioritization/classification.” These steps involve research and gathering data pertaining to the issue or the company.

The next two steps are “monitoring” and “preparation,” both dealing with preparing specifically for the issue researched in the previous steps.

The next steps are “action to influence” and “issue/crisis response.” These two steps involve taking action to solve the problem at hand.

The last two steps are “evaluation” and “reclassification.” These steps force professionals to look over their work and make sure that the issue was handled correctly so that future situations will be solved more efficiently.

When choosing a public relations strategy, professionals often follow a similar multi-step process: researching the situation, forming a plan related to the specific target audience, using their research to carry out a plan through structured tactics and finally evaluating the plan’s success.

CSR is much more than just the pink cups companies use to promote breast cancer or the recycling symbol they place on bags; it is the continual relationships the companies are building.

For example, Nike has implemented its CSR plan, the Environmental Apparel Design Tool, that aims to decrease the use of scarce natural resources. Nike engages in multiple small campaigns, initiatives and ads to promote its overall mission but, ultimately, its goal is to build relationships with customers who value its same environmental interests. Nike uses CSR to gain consumers and build target audiences for its campaigns.

Although CSR is often only equated with environmental promotions, would effective public relations be possible without a successful CSR plan? The relationship building public relations relies on might be lost without a little undercover help from CSR.

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Banking on good PR

by Alex Reichenbach

If you’ve been watching the news for the last few weeks, you’re probably familiar with the complaints Bank of America has been receiving. On September 29, Bank of America publicly announced its plan to charge customers a $5 monthly fee for those who use debit cards to make purchases.

The bank faced backlash from customers only a day after the announcement was made.

According to a Washington Post article, “the debit card change has sparked fury on the Web and cable channels. Consumers complained on message boards and in the social media, vowing to take their business elsewhere.”

It’s no surprise customers are going to be outraged with this additional cost in the current economy. The last thing people want is another fee to worry about. The result of a TIME Moneyland poll indicates about 75 percent of customers plan on switching banks if Bank of America follows through with the charge.

When a crisis like this occurs, it is the public relations practitioner’s job to find a way to turn the negative publicity into an opportunity for the business. One of Bank of America’s initial attempts at recovery was seen in an October 18 Bloomberg Businessweek article.

In the article, Brian T. Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, stated that the reason for the charge was to build consumer relationships.

“The company’s new $5 monthly fee for debit cards may attract business by encouraging customers to use more services so they can avoid the charge,” Moynihan said.

By enforcing the monthly charge, Bank of America hopes to build stronger relationships by providing various other services to clients. Moynihan could have easily dwelled on the fact that his so-called “loyal” customers were turning on him, but because of successful public relations tactics, that was not the case. Instead, he publicized the new opportunities that will result from this monthly fee, in hopes that it will change the negative feelings of the bank’s customers.

Bank of America is not the first bank to enforce this monthly fee.

According to a USA Today article, “SunTrust began charging a $5 debit card fee on its basic checking accounts this summer. Regions Financial, based in Birmingham, Ala., plans to start charging a $4 fee next month. Chase and Wells Fargo are also testing $3 monthly debit card fees in select markets.”

So why is it such a big deal if Bank of America decides to join in on this current trend? This announcement sparked much more commotion because, according to the USA Today article, Bank of America is the largest U.S. bank as measured by deposits.

The customers of Bank of America also tend to rely more on their debit cards rather than their credit cards, compared to other banks.

According to a TechNewsWorld article published on October 25, this reliance will drastically change if the monthly charge is put into effect in early 2012: “Thirty percent of U.S. consumers would leave their bank over debit card fees and another 43 percent would move to paying with cash or credit.”

It has been about a month since the initial announcement and public relations practitioners continue to deal with backlash from Bank of America customers.

Moynihan’s explanation in the Washington Post article was a successful first step in the recovery process. But how are public relations practitioners going to turn this crisis around once the charge is put into effect in a few months?

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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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HILEAF at its best

by Emily Diab

Throughout my academic career, I’ve been constantly harassed by the phantoms of my own mind in creating the most creative, and sometimes downright stupid acronyms, in hopes that my college mind could cram just one more list for just one more exam. We’ve all done it. And it works! But we usually forget about the silly series of letters a few weeks later, and the ever-so-important test question never comes up again.

As the end of my long road of intense study habits draws near, I still remember one of those creative (this time NOT downright stupid) acronyms. With the help of my just as study-crazed classmates and our teaching-crazed professors, we have somehow managed to engrave the six letters of this special acronym in our minds.

HILEAF.
Honesty, Independence, Loyalty, Expertise, Advocacy, Fairness.

If you have ever taken a public relations course, dated a public relations nerd like me or have been surrounded by a building full of communications freaks like my classmates, you’ve heard of HILEAF. And if there was ever an acronym that I can’t forget if I tried, HILEAF is it – and a good one to hang on to at that.

Because HILEAF has stuck with me as a special charm to my world of accessories, I want to share a little dry, tough-love advice on how to understand HILEAF, why to follow it and how it will get you where you want to go.

Honesty

We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public. –PRSA Code of Ethics

We all learned this one early in life, when you stole the cookie from the cookie jar, lied to mommy about it and then pouted in the corner for time-out, all with chocolate spread around your mouth. You lied. You got caught. Don’t do it again. Real world punishment is much worse than staring at a blank wall.

Independence

We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions. –PRSA Code of Ethics

They drill it into our brains on every syllabus I’ve seen since I’ve entered the University system. We read it, sometimes ignore it and hope to get through the class without the need to copy and paste. I wish luck to the people who still think that it’s possible to get through life depending on other’s work. Don’t copy. Don’t paste. Don’t depend on others to carry you through. Do your own work. What happens when you show up for work on the first day in the real world and the keyboard is missing Control+C?

Loyalty

We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest. –PRSA Code of Ethics

Just like man’s best friend, we have learned to stay true to the ones we love. Or in the work world, we will stay true to the ones who pay us. Represent wisely. Serve the public. Be an honorable delegate. It will pay off, literally and figuratively. Just as we need cash to stay alive, we need a good friend or coworker to have our backs. But you must have their backs first.

Expertise

We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research and education. We build mutual understanding, credibility and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences. –PRSA Code of Ethics

It’s a scary world out there. People are better than you and are fighting for the same life you dream for. Achieve excellence every single day. Stand out among the best. Do everything you can to be specialized in every subject you can handle. Maintain expert status and the scary world of professionalism will be a little bit lighter.

Advocacy

We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate. –PRSA Code of Ethics

A business thrives on support from its employees and partners. Intelligence and common sense make a great pair when representing your company. Luckily, your intelligence probably got you the job, but now its time to turn on the common sense. Represent wisely. Don’t be stupid. Think about what you’re doing at all times, and keep your job fresh on your mind.

Fairness

We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression. –PRSA Code of Ethics

Life’s not fair. But we should be doing everything we can to make it that way. Pay it forward and do what youshould, not just what you have to. Remember the Golden Rule and apply it at all times, even if you don’t feel like it. Suck it up and make your environment the best place it can be. After all, you’re working there too.

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Fierce in pink: “A Crucial Catch” initiative

by Hope Peterson

Sunday night you are sitting down on the couch about to watch the Falcons and Panthers play some ’ball but instead of focusing on if your team wins the coin toss, your eyes are drawn to the 250-lb. men with black-striped, intimidating faces wearing . . . pink.

Yes, you read me right. A pink tint fills the screen on ESPN channels as some of the country’s fiercest athletes support breast cancer awareness. NFL players are now “pretty in pink.”

An article on the American Cancer Society website explains the beginnings of its partnership with the NFL. In 2009, the NFL supported the American Cancer Society in its campaign to gain funds to improve access to breast cancer screening.

Families of NFL players, including Redskins guard Derrick Dockery and Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, attended the campaign along side the society. Tanya Snyder with Arizona Cardinals player Larry Fitzgerald soon became the face for what is now known as “A Crucial Catch” campaign.

According to a New York Times article, Snyder and Fitzgerald began by passing out pink gloves, wristbands and cleats for NFL players to wear during October games. Goal-post legs are also wrapped in pink.

Snyder said one of her daughters would push “pink ribbons onto reluctant men by telling them, ‘Real men wear pink.’” It was straight from the mouth of a child to an NFL player.

Now, as October begins Breast Cancer Awareness month, the NFL has kicked off its third annual “A Crucial Catch” campaign. The campaign aims to remind women who are 40 and older to schedule regular mammograms to promote the importance of annual screenings to fight breast cancer.

The goal of the American Cancer Society is to “save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early.”

“Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel, on-field pink ribbon stencils, special game balls and pink coins – all to help raise awareness for this important campaign,” the NFL said in its description of the “A Crucial Catch” initiative.

Even though the color pink is associated with femininity, what better way to show women their support than for men’s heroes to broadcast a bold color they are proud to wear. These men who love their wives, moms, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins, nieces, girlfriends and friends brave up and don the pink, proving to women everywhere that “thinking pink” can be powerful.

While pink has been the universal color for breast cancer awareness since the June 1990 Susan G. Komen walk, pink had yet to publicly cross that gender bridge until recent campaigns like “A Crucial Catch.”

However, professionals aren’t the only ones repping the pink. The NFL is asking coaches and players of all ages across the country to help campaign “A Crucial Catch.”

And, it has “caught” on very quickly. On Friday nights and Saturday mornings, high school and middle school football fields across the nation are filled with teenage boys in pink apparel. Now doesn’t that say something if a teenage boy will wear a “girl’s” color, just to tell his mom he cares?

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Millenium hippies

by Dorothy Griffith

“My favorite part about life these days is the ability to complain about it online.”—@hipstermermaid

First they were beatniks. Then rock-n-roll fans, hippies, punks, rappers and more. Every generation has its version of counter culture and ours is no exception.

Today’s seemingly rebellious youth have come to be known as “hipsters.” They are characterized by an interest in lesser-known music and an eclectic fashion sense. They are young, intelligent, creative, politically knowledgeable and tech savvy. Most importantly, however, they are easy to mock.

In the article “Hipsters” by Dan Fletcher for Time Magazine, he defines the term as one used “to describe a generation of middle-class youths interested in an alternative art and music scene. But instead of creating a culture of their own, hipsters proved content to borrow from trends long past.” He uses their fashion sense as an example of this, saying: “Take your grandmother’s sweater and Bob Dylan’s Wayfarers, add jean shorts, Converse All-Stars and a can of Pabst and bam — hipster.”

But as much fun as hipsters have being hip, hipster-haters have even more fun making fun of them. The increase in the popularity of hipsters has spawned numerous parody sites, blogs and Twitter accounts that take joy in mocking the hipster-esque style of elitist cultural commentary and disillusionment with societal norms.

Unhappy Hipsters, for example, is a blog with the tagline “It’s Lonely in The Modern World” that takes pictures from modern interior design catalogs and gives them overly dramatic captions.

Hippesthipster and @hipstermermaid are Twitter accounts that pose as hipsters, tweeting fake commentary about what they deem to be the hardships of their trendy lives and their opinions of the failures of society. These accounts espouse things such as: “the hardest part of my day is getting my ear buds untangled” and “steve urkel was a fashion icon” (hippesthipster), or “To do list: 1- Untag unflattering pictures of myself. 2- “Like” various pretentious things. 3- Convince internet I’m interesting” and “I’m double-majoring in art and unemployment” (@hipstermermaid).

How long this trend will last is unknown. Will hipsters go the way of beatniks and hippies, eventually moving on and outgrowing their rebellious phases? Only time will tell. But until then, I’m going to enjoy the hilarious entertainment that it provides as I read through my Twitter timeline.

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