Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week 6 - PR 2.0 & Storytelling

This week we read articles and blog posts about "PR 2.0" and storytelling used in PR.

PR 2.0 refers to the revolution that PR has experienced. With things like social media and the need to have a plan for PR campaigns, public relations is becoming more integrated with marketing, as discussed on the discussion board this week. Having goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics separate and defining them well is key to a good PR campaign. It is important to know the difference between each of these parts of a PR plan and how exactly to arrive at them. The first blog post we read, Outputs, Outtakes, Outcomes…Oh, my!, explained this very clearly. It is also better to have some sort of measurable unit to make "success" easier to "measure." This comes in during the objectives part of a PR plan. Having a measurable unit also helps the company succeed by having something more concrete to aim for.

In the Public Relations Princess blog, the author mentions what she believes is the "PR student's online bible," so of course I decided I should check it out. This took me to a blog by a PR professor at George Southern called Public Relations Matters. It's a pretty interesting blog basically covering whatever this professor is covering in her class (and sometimes a little extra). And, of course, the most recent post just happens to be about Facebook and Twitter.

Like comments on blogs, having customer feedback is a great PR approach to websites. Things like reviews give a personal touch to the ratings of a company which increases the credibility and trust in a company. It also allows companies to hear what customers really think (though usually it is only strongly opinionated, good or bad, that reply), making it a cheap and relatively effective way for companies to hear how to improve their goods or services and for potential customers to hear about the goods or services. Stories, however, are even better. In many ways they can be more effective than reviews because stories are more likely to stick in your mind. Stories can also turn into something big. This is seen with the Jared campaign for Subway. Subway took one story about a guy who lost weight eating its sandwiches and turned it into a huge years-long campaign. The website alone includes his story, his statistics, the diet he followed, press releases, and "friends of Jared," or other people who were inspired by Jared to lose weight with Subway sandwiches. I personally am not even sure if I had even heard of Subway (or at least, considered it a viable choice for fast food) before this campaign. So, as personal experience goes, I'd say it was pretty effective.

I also found the part about a company as a community very interesting---and completely true. I know, and I'm sure everyone has felt this way before, that when I feel as if I am part of a group, I will work harder to improve the group. An example that fits me personally is Clemson University. People who feel they are part of the "Clemson Family" are more likely to want to improve the university and are more likely to stick around and finish all four years here. It's why there are so many campaigns, like One Clemson, aimed toward freshmen and transfers so they feel as if they belong at Clemson. A university without programs like these would probably not have as high of a retention rate. "Family" spirit is essential in other types of organizations too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 discusses the different tactics public relations practitioners use. This chapter was very thorough in covering the basics for the several different traditional publics. The examples they gave at the end of the chapter were particularly interesting to me. Even though both of these campaigns happened relevantly recently, I do not remember either. That said, I was not the most observant teenager. After reading about them, I am really surprised I did not hear about them at all.
I also never realized how many different ways there are to communicate with a particular public. I also never realized how difficult it is to get a news release published and am now glad that I took a journalism class to improve my writing skills. Reading about the different tactics reminds me that there are so many ways to reach a certain public, you can always find the right one.
The three types of channels are special events, controlled media, and uncontrolled media. Each of these channels are important to understand for good public relations tactics. The idea of "pseudoevent" is very interesting and I think that I agree with the book when they say that whether or not it's a "real" event or just a publicity stunt, if it makes the news, who cares?
In the book, the authors mention the PR firm Edelman when discussing social media news releases. I decided to go to this site to see what the difference was between these and traditional news releases. This site is pretty great because not only to they have several social media news releases on their site, they also have the traditional news release so comparing the two was easy. It's obvious to me now the difference. While the examples on this website did not contain any videos, they were obviously shorter, giving only the most important information of the news story.
As someone who wants to get into nonprofit organizations, I found the section on public service announcements, the only section that specifically mentioned nonprofits, pretty interesting. I decided to go onto the Ad Council website and see what it was all about. When reading about them, I came across some of their most famous slogans, some that I never realized they came up with like "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk." The amount of famous slogans they have coined is truly impressive as many of these (including the one above) have been reused in society and other ad campaigns countless times. While this organization focuses on just one aspect of public relations, it is still impressive.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 discusses the different ways and strategies of public relations planning. The three types of public relations plans discussed in the book are ad hoc plans, standing plans, and contingency plans. Understanding the different types and purposes of PR plans is very important for a pracititioner because it sets the information for the details of the plan.

I found a blog post on prblogger.com that discusses twelve steps to a successful PR campaign. I found it to be really interesting because it combines information that has been covered in the past few chapters we've read. Here are the twelve steps that this blogger thinks are important:
1. Research
2. Situation Analysis
3. Objectives
4. Identifying Publics
5. Identifying Stakeholders
6. Key Messages
7. Strategy
8. Tactics
9. Timescale
10. Budget
11. Crisis Issues and Management Place
12. Evaluation
Also many of the responses, from PR practitioners, agreed with these twelve steps. I also agree. He gives a pretty good breakdown of all of the different steps, including strategy and tactics, two important topics for this chapter. While in many situations that PR practitioners have to deal with, there is not enough time to do all of these steps fully. This checklist is convenient to look at and I think I would find it particularly helpful when starting out in the PR business when you don't want to forget something important, yet it's not completely ingrained in your mind.

I also found this article about PR planning specifically for non-profit organizations which is particularly interesting to me because I have seriously considered working for one and truly enjoyed my internship when I did. This article does the same type of stuff as the blog post before but in greater detail and accommodating for a non-profit organization. This article also gives an example communications plan for a hospital. Seeing a communications plan written out as if for an actual organization really helps solidify the information and the importance of each step in the plan. These articles take the basic four elements of the written plan mentioned in the book and adds more details and elements to truly fill out the plan. That said, noting that the book only had four (goal, objectives, strategies, and tactics) shows that you do not always have to include every step and you should choose the most important elements for your situation when you are planning.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 of our book discusses the research (and subsequent evaluation) that public relations practitioners do to improve the methods they use and the relationships they maintain. I was definitely able to understand this chapter, especially the section that dealt with surveys and statistics, because I am also taking a statistics class this semester.
I also find the gray box on issues management very relevant because it seems like such an important management technique. Thinking about the example they gave about the U.S. cattle industry was really good because I actually remember when this happen and remember that it was handled very well. I never really realized the PR factor of this because, at the time, that's not at all what I was thinking about.
The Institute for Public Relations is an institute solely for public relations research. It seriously has research on nearly every aspect and type of public relations, from employee relations to international relations to reputation and trust. They even have articles about PR measurement and evaluation, something that was talked about a lot during this chapter. It's an issue because PR is something that is so difficult to measure accurately and the same every time.
I also decided to look up my own example of public relations research. What I found is a blog that posted a survey about which public relations agencies are best with social media and are developing the most beneficial social programs. She really goes into what the survey is about and, something I find important and interesting about this article, the demographics of the respondents. It almost seems that that part of the survey was just as important as the actual answers. This emphasizes that knowing exactly who your information is coming from is important and that diversifying it is also important.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 is about the publics public relations practitioners deal with during their workday. A public is considered any group whose members have a common interest or common values in a particular situation. That definition is copied straight from the book because I think it really covers it well and I can't think of a way to say it better.
I never thought of the different ways you can categorize publics so I was pretty surprised to find out there were so many. The publics involved in an organization are constantly changing. As our world becomes more diverse and more connected, the potential publics for an organization are becoming more numerous. I never thought about how the gay/lesbian community is a public that really has just emerged, or rather has just emerged as a potentially important factor. As it is becoming more acceptable, companies and organizations have to accommodate this community. A few decades back, the Hispanic community was probably not as prominent as they are now. Now, it is necessary for many organizations to have their consumer material translated into Spanish. Signs are in Spanish; instructions are in Spanish. This brings up the language factor. I'm sure it is much more crucial now for a PR practitioner to know another language. The different cultures of our world are colliding and we have to accommodate for that too. I am particularly interested in the multicultural aspect of PR (partially how I am hoping to use my minor in French). An article from PRSA about the importance of multiculturalism really made the issue clear when Virginia L. Kreimeyer, APR, said, "You have to look at the ethnicity and diversity from more than one standpoint. You have to be sensitive to what those cultures are, how members of the group perceive themselves and how other groups within the country perceive them." This same article discusses the sometimes overwhelming ethnocentrism that PR activities are "plagued by," meaning the tendency to see everything from the view of white, Christian, upper-middle class people.
Switching gears a bit, I also found an article about public relations on Facebook, on the pr-squared blog, that while is essentially an article about the social media revolution and the ridiculous success of Facebook, it also discusses publics. It talks about the demographic information of Facebook users that has changed from just college students to all ages (including the fastest-growing demographic of +35). The Facebook situation also reminds me of the example used in this chapter about Kablooie popcorn and reaching the teenagers on the internet. As Facebook has around 300 million users, of course companies and organizations want to get on the action and reap the benefits of having that many people in one "location." But as the article says, it's more difficult that it seems. Companies don't want to bring more business to Facebook (because seriously, they have plenty); they want to bring business to their own websites. The article suggest low-cost approach coupled with some advertising, widgets, and the like. And I agree. With the ever-changing world of Facebook (and really, the next big thing could come around any time), it's best to not spend too much money.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of our book discusses the history of public relations. I found it interesting that the book starts out the history talking about propaganda (and of course, with bad connotations and all) and publicity, two things I do not, or rather do not want to, consider public relations. Of course, the book does not say that it is public relations, just the predecessors of PR. Somewhat ironically, I was able to find a PR blog, called PR-Bridge, that discusses this very thing. This blog post talks about how we need to rethink PR history, something I found of great interest since I had just finished reading about PR history (even better, the blog talks about how history of PR is always covered in just one chapter of introductory courses; wow, hit the nail on the head). That said, when he refers to the "only favorable book-length history of the field" he is talking about a book by Scott Cutlip, a PR historian who is quoted and referred to often in our book. While the blog post doesn't delve into PR history itself, it makes some interesting points about how this PR history is created and how a new and better one should be created.

Once I read the Case Study on the March of Dimes which talked about FDR's efforts to raise money and awareness for those with disabilities, I wondered why he was not mentioned before in the chapter. I think an example of great public relations is FDR's fireside chats. These radio broadcasts given by FDR instilled confidence in and informed the public about what was going on. In the perilous time he was president, this was particularly important. Now, pretty much all presidents give some type of "fireside chat," or just a speech to the nation (President Obama takes it to the next level of technology by having his available on YouTube).

One of the most recent speeches given by President Obama and broadcast on YouTube is his speech to students. I know that I enjoyed his speech and do not take it in a bad way but I know that it started a lot of controversy so I decided to look up a little more about that. What I found were a lot of news articles that discussed the parents' views. Obviously, many parents did not approve. An article from the New York Times discussed extensively opinions about it but I think the opinions featured were a little biased. President Obama could have learned from PR history and the problems that arise often from speeches. Among all of the political disputes and divisions, a speech directed at children, even if it was with good intentions, is of course going to result in outrage and issues.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chapter 2

I really enjoyed reading this chapter because I wanted to know more about the different job duties there would be in a public relations job. After reading that, I realized that my internship I did last fall exposed me to a lot of public relations duties for a non-profit organization (it was at the Foundation for the Oconee Medical Center). At first, I didn't even want that internship because I have no desire to work in health communications but actually it was a lot of public relations and I ended up enjoying it. Now I realize that it is more helpful than I thought. It especially showed me the types of job I will probably be doing at the entry level.
I find the concept of boundary spanning to be really interesting. The idea that PR practitioners act for the good of their relationships to the public expands the definition of public relations and helps explain the importance of a PR practitioner's job. The book then goes on to point out that there are multiple relationships and multiple publics transforming the job to "intersection manager."
The other part of this blog post is to search for PR jobs and see the actual job skills that employers want. The first place I looked was PR Week US in the jobs section.
Here's one of the more thorough descriptions I found for a director of public relations for Columbia College Chicago: link
It seemed to combine many of the attributes mentioned in other ads. Many companies require good communication skills, experience with press releases, and several mentioned working with the blogging/social media community. I also saw words/phrases like "high-energy" used to describe the wanted job applicant. Many of the jobs I saw posted on this site required a lot of experience, usually 10+. So I searched for entry level jobs on CollegeGrad Jobs. The jobs posted on here seemed to be much more varied when I searched for PR jobs. Many were called "account managers" or had something to do with sales. It was interesting to look at the types of jobs I will be getting in a couple of years to start off my career.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chapter 13

I found Chapter 13 to be really interesting because it elaborated on what the first chapter said about the difference between marketing, advertising, and public relations. I decided to look further into this subject and found this little example that I believe really helps:

"If you are having a difficult time distinguishing between the three, here's a good rule to follow: Imagine you see a potential customer you would like to get to know.

Marketing is when you strike up a conversation and, during the conversation, you explain how he or she needs a great company to do his or her finishing work and your company is the right one for the job.

Advertising is when you go up to the person and confidently talk about how fantastic your company is, how it is the greatest finishing company on Earth and perfectly equipped to make his or her every finishing dream come true.

Public relations is when the prospective customer comes up to you and says admiringly, "I've heard how wonderful your company is, and I'd really like to get to know more about it."

This was found in an article on allbusiness.com. Here's the link for this particular article:


I thought this article did a good job of summing up much of what Chapter 13 said. As the worlds of advertising, marketing, and public relations melt together, knowing something about all of them to emphasize one of them is a necessity. Mass media is no longer the most effective way to reach a large audience. Companies are starting to focus on individuals instead of the crowd, which leads to the proliferation of integrated marketing communications (IMC). I found the five differences between IMC and mass marketing (focus on individual consumers, use of databases, use of a variety of approaches to send a message, use of consumer-preferred media, and favoring of interactive media) to be very helpful in understanding it. I found the discussion of database marketing to be interesting because while I have been exposed to them basically my entire life, I never realized how much they can make an impact and the effort that goes into creating them.

I really enjoy the focus on integrated marketing communications that is in this chapter. Before this class, I had never heard of this approach but now I believe that it is an effective approach to the communication field. The four P's of the marketing mix (and the subsequent four C's of consumer-driven IMC) make a lot of sense. I tend to like tips like these to remember important aspects of approaches. The detail the chapter goes into really explains it.

While I basically understand integrated marketing communications, I looked up real companies that use this approach to understand how it works in the real world. The company of Flesch, Pritchard, & Peebler explained it well on their services page. Understanding the different projects that go into IMC helps determine the directions I can go into in my career. Also, the occasion real-life example doesn't hurt either.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thoughts on Chapter 1

Chapter 1 of our textbook covers the many definitions of public relations. I really like that they explain clearly why public relations is not just publicity and should not have such a negative connotation. This chapter also covers the Hunt-Grunig Models of Public Relations, which shows the many different methods of PR that practitioners can take. I agree with the majority in the survey; I would emphasize the two-way symmetrical model also.
I like that the book chooses to define advertising, marketing, and public relations side-by-side because I was a little unclear about the difference. Public relations rely on values more than other branches because that is a lot of what practitioners deal with. They deal with the public (and others who interact with the company) and present the values of the company and how it is following them.
The four-step process that is used in public relations is a necessary cycle. I agree with the book when the authors state that the process is not linear. Each step can be repeated and they do not always go in the traditional order. The idea that values affect each step and are the basis of the entire process is an interesting one to consider because it may not always come to mind first.
In general, I agree with the book and find it has explained the current, always changing definition of public relations.