Honesty: PR’s Best Policy

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Have you ever heard that PR professionals are spin doctors for a living? As a PR major, I have been exposed to the misconceptions created by individuals who have given PR a bad reputation, and I am here to tell you today that those misconceptions can be prevented.

We have all been told that lying is bad, and the truth comes out eventually. Once the truth is out, there really is no going back, and the perceptions people have of you are changed (not for the better, usually). In the corporate world, sometimes there are situations, in which a crisis occurs, that puts an organization in a bad light. They could be at fault for a tragedy or trying to cover up a scandal.

“It’s never the crime that gets you into hot water – it’s always the cover up,” says Jim Joseph, contributor for Entrepreneur.com in an article about the Ryan Lochte scandal. Whether a crime was committed or not was not the issue, but rather the story that was told to try and cover up what actually happened. The story and the facts did not align, and his reputation was essentially ruined because of it. Once again the truth came out, and being honest in the beginning would have prevented an even bigger mess, which was actually created.

As a society, we are fairly forgiving about scandals, with the passing of some time. We tend to realize that people make mistakes and can see when a genuine apology is given. However, we do not accept lying and blame as easily. Taking responsibility for an act is much more respected than trying to avoid consequences.

In business, there will be people that try to cover things up, and then those who want to do the right thing. PR professionals must learn that doing the right thing and taking responsibility as a corporation for a publicly unfavorable decision will prove to be the best strategy in the long run. Reputations will be hurt, but not destroyed; the rebuilding of an entire brand is much harder than doing some patch work.

 

Client Onboarding

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Public relations is all about obtaining a client or multiple clients and representing them in a way that is favorable to to public. It is about building lasting relationships between clients and their consumers. As a student in Public Relations Writing, I have the opportunity of having Strickler Planetarium as my client.

Since August, my partner and I have been creating and refining a campaign to bring awareness to the planetarium as well as promote an upcoming celestial event. The manner in which Strickler Planetarium became a client of mine was a process a recent speaker in my class, Rebecca Wardlow, describes as client onboarding. Rebecca is a six figure social media marketing and ecommerce entrepreneur, who’s self motivation to learn about the industry has led to her success.

Onboarding, as Rebeccca explained, involves gaining new clients and making sure both the client and PR professional are on the same page at all times. She suggested providing questionnaires to get to know client needs and what has and hasn’t worked for them in the past. Weekly agendas, meetings, tasks, and documentation are necessities in the onboarding process.

A breakdown of the onboarding process is as follows:

  1. PreMeeting: Package options, welcome letter and packet, questionnaire
  2. Project Kick-off: Discuss objectives, client overview, campaign overview, expectations, next steps
  3. Affirmation and Confirmation: Getting both parties on same page
  4. Education and Value Delivery: Informing client of progress in project
  5. Gather Info/Dig Deep
  6. Set Expectations

I have realized that my partner and I have gone through a similar process for Strickler Planetarium as Rebecca laid out. We had a premeeting with Dr. Steve Case, director of the planetarium to learn about it and get informed on the needs of Dr. Case. After the meeting we chose to be on board with him and design a campaign to fit his needs. At the end of the semester, my partner and I will present our campaign in detail to Dr. Case, who will either affirm that we have done a sufficient job and confirm that he will use our ideas for the planetarium or decide to go in a different direction. Expectations were set after the premeeting to include hardwork and fresh ideas for the campaign proposal, as well as cooperation from Dr. Case for the information needed to complete tasks.

I have been told several times throughout the semester that adding value to the work you do for a client as a PR professional is crucial; it’s what sets you apart. People will never forget how you made them feel, so put your heart and soul into your clients’ needs, Rebecca emphasized.

SoMattKelly is SoSpotOn

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Matt Kelly, PR professional from Golin agency in Chicago, IL, had too much advice for the three PR classes he spoke in this past week. He didn’t quite get through all of the material he would have liked to, but what he did get through changed some of my fellow classmates and my own perspective on the PR industry. He has experienced so much since he graduated in 2008, and I was one of many who just couldn’t get enough of his insight and advice.

In my Public Relations Writing class, one of the three Matt spoke in, the focus was on some of the basics of PR and how to succeed in the field. His spot on advice is as follows:

  • Younger generations, such as Gen Z are expected to know everything about social media, and since this expectation is unrealistic, Matt suggests that younger generations foster curiosity. Experience goes a long way, but a willingness to learn in any situation and about any subject will go further.
  • Posting content on the web is not a one click and done type of activity. Unaddressed comments on your content in a corporation leads to issues with customers. These issues eventually turn into crises, and no one wants a crisis on their hands in the PR industry.
  • Content strategy + Distribution strategy = New PR. The distribution channel for the content a company wants to get out to the public is the most important aspect of this new equation for PR today. If the wrong channel is used or used inefficiently, then the content really doesn’t matter.
  • Life in a PR agency is like playing full-pad football, as Matt describes. The ride is intense and crazy but interesting and rewarding. In a corporate environment, the values of the company must align with your personal values in order to be an effective PR professional. If the product or service the company sells isn’t authentic and you don’t believe in it, then, Matt states, no amount of PR can save the company.

I am appreciative of Matt Kelly’s honesty and openness with myself and my classmates, as most of us have been wondering what life is really like in the PR industry. I think we all now realize that all the work we put in will be worth it if we truly believe in the company or clients we are working for. Matt Kelly, whose Twitter handle is SoMattKelly, was so spot on with his advice this past week.

Ghost Writing

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What is ghost writing? Let me stop you before your mind goes in a million different directions to decipher the meaning behind this phrase. I can say that it happens all the time, especially for well known people in our society, such as the President and other big wig celebrities. In simplest terms, it means that someone other than the person delivering a speech created the speech. This is done keeping all aspects of a person’s voice and common phrases he or she may use in mind.

I understand I may be blowing some of the minds of those who actually believed all of these people write their own speeches. I am sorry for the slap of reality, but it’s better you find out now than when you too are a big wig attempting to write your own speech. Your ghost writer will want to keep his or her job and won’t give you the opportunity to spread your creative wings and write your own masterpiece of a speech.

I was forced to watch someone write a speech for me in my PR Writing class recently. After a five minute interview with one of my classmates, she was expected to know how I speak, the common phrases and words I use and the way I would tell a specific audience about my golf life. I, in turn, had to go through the same exercise, interviewing her and becoming familiar with her speaking style. Then, the fun part of crafting each other’s speeches came.

Honestly, I thought the exercise was going to be more difficult than it really was. I may have had an easier time learning the speech patterns of my partner because I have known her for a couple years and talk to her weekly. The hardest part was becoming passionate about the subject she was telling me about, since I hadn’t experienced what she had. I stepped out of my shoes and into hers when I sat down to write her speech for her.

I understand that the people who have ghost writers write their speeches are famous and don’t have time to think about the words they should say at each event they speak at. However, I think there is some trust that is lost knowing the person speaking really didn’t create the speech he or she is giving. I guess I have to accept that this concept is used frequently in our society and that being in the PR industry may require some collaboration on my part to help ghost writers produce speeches for my clients.

 

 

Baseball, Tacos and Voting

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What do baseball, specifically the World Series, tacos and the upcoming election have in common? Well, the honest answer is absolutely nothing, unless the tacos are from Taco Bell, who recently launched a campaign during the World Series offering free tacos based on live plays during Game 1. And the election? President Obama voiced his support of the taco movement as a way to encourage Americans to vote in the upcoming election.

Taco Bell‘s “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotional campaign was created in 2007 and has been an annual campaign ever since. The first player, from either team, in the World Series to steal a base becomes the Taco Hero of America, allowing people to “steal” one free taco from any Taco Bell location in the country. Francisco Lindor, of the Cleveland Indians, was this year’s Taco Hero, as he was the first player to steal second base in game 1 of the series.

The free taco day was November 4, from 2-6p.m. Obama saw an opportunity, with the end of the election drawing near, to encourage Americans to vote before they go out and get their free tacos. He emphasized the fact that if Americans have time to go to Taco Bell, then they have time to vote, as well as the push for that vote to be for Hillary Clinton. The MLB tweeted  about Obama’s support of the Steal a Base, Steal a Taco day during a campaign visit in Ohio. Taco Bell retweeted the video, tweeted a thank you to the President and released an official statement saying:

Thanks, Obama. No really, thank you, Mr. President.

And thank you, Francisco Lindor, for stealing a base in Game 1 of the World Series to become this year’s Taco Hero, which stole tacos for America. No matter which candidate Americans are voting for, or which World Series team they’re cheering for, there’s one thing all of America can rally around: Free Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell on November 2 from 2-6 PM.

What better way to build a brand than receiving a promotional statement from the President of the United States about your company. While the endorsement of Taco Bell was not entirely the purpose of Obama’s statement, I think all Americans heard was “go get your free tacos from Taco Bell.”

This combination of PR promotions is the most unique I think I’ve ever seen. I never would have guessed that baseball, tacos and voting could be mixed into a successful PR campaign, but it makes my love for Public Relations even greater. I now realize just how creative this industry can be and how an off the wall idea can be the ticket to success.

 

 

Strickler Planetarium

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What is the one activity in this world that makes you feel like a kid again? The feeling of having childlike happiness over something that most adults would shake their head and walk away from is not a feeling we can control. In fact, I suggest we embrace those activities, which bring us true joy and amazement. When I think of the things that make me giddy like a young child, I think of a couple months ago, sitting in Strickler Planetarium for a show about our galaxy.

I went to the planetarium as a way to learn more about it and determine if I would like to support it for my Public Relations Writing course at Olivet. When I say support, I mean taking on the planetarium as a client, essentially. The work would include creating a campaign and executing the PR writing pieces which lead up to the main event, the August 2017 total solar eclipse. While my partner and I, if we chose the planetarium, would be promoting this event, we would also be creating an awareness campaign to build a better relationship between the organization and the community.

After the overwhelming joy I felt coming out of the planetarium show and seeing how passionate and knowledgeable the director, Dr. Steve Case, was, I couldn’t help but jump on the opportunity to support something I truly believed in. Not only does Strickler Planetarium provide educational shows for students of all ages, but it is also open to the community to allow all ages to experience nature’s miracles.

My goal for this campaign is to generate awareness in the surrounding areas of the incredible asset the people in the community have for expanding knowledge, as well as creating a social media push for the upcoming solar eclipse. While these are my goals for my class and drive behind the writing pieces such as media alerts and press releases, media pitches, a backgrounder, etc., my ultimate goal is to show the world these types of institutions, like Strickler Planetarium, hold an important spot in our society.

We are never too young or too old to learn something new. We all have unique passions and talents which deserve to be explored and exuded. I believe Strickler Planetarium appeals to various age groups and peaks the interests of even the most unlikely viewers. To learn more about Strickler Planetarium, visit strickler.olivet.edu.

Now get out in the world and follow those activities that make you feel like a kid again!

 

Befriending the Journalist

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “it’s good to have friends in high places?” If not, then how about “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know?”

These two common phrases came to mind earlier this week, as I was learning about media advisories and press releases in my Public Relations Writing course. I have heard basically my whole life that the connections a person makes throughout his or her life can end up being the most important part of their success.

I am not saying that the only way to be successful is to know the right people, as hard work and determination are also required. However, I am beginning to realize just how important relationships are in the public relations industry.

PR professionals are required to communicate with the public. The “public” not only encompasses community members and consumers of products or services, but it pertains to journalists as well. The relationship between a journalist and a PR professional is a critical aspect of the success of an organization or specific campaign.

Media advisories and press releases created for the public are sent to journalists to create a story and relay the main message of an upcoming event or company apology for a scandal, for example. The biggest issue PR professionals have is writing these documents in a way which catches journalists’ attention. These documents must make the journalist invested in the story and want to pass on the information to the public with a positive story.

Journalists and PR professionals can mutually benefit each other if both parties are willing to see those benefits and look past selfish interests. A career in PR usually entails countless press releases and public statements, so the best advice I have for those in the PR industry is:

  • Befriend the Journalist
  • Capture the Journalist’s Attention (Make them Care)
  • Give the Journalist More Information than Needed
  • Offer Easily Accessible Contact Information