What is Public Relations? PRSA Defines the Practice and Profession

All things PR, Personal Writing, Social Media

When I told my parents I wanted to pursue a degree from the Mayborn School of Journalism, they worried I was choosing a career as a poor or unemployed writer. But when I told my parents that my future career would be in public relations, they blankly stared back at me because they had no idea what work PR practitioners do.

The “What People Think I Do – PR Consultant” meme demonstrates the confusion people have about the public relations profession.

As I discussed in a previous post, the PR industry has struggled with removing the stigma against the profession. Part of the problem was the definition for the industry. Assigned in 1982, the official definition according to the Public Relations Society of America read:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

In the past 10 years, PRSA tried twice unsuccessfully to change the definition. After a PR Defined campaign that PRSA started in November and concluded with a public vote in early 2012, the official definition of public relations reads:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

With the rise of corporate media in today’s highly technological world, brand journalism is an increasingly popular term used to describe a major part of what PR practitioners do today: “corporate storytelling through compelling and relevant content.” The term isn’t popular with everyone and widely accepted though. Tom Foremski, creator and full-time journalist blogger of Silicon Valley Watcher, poses this potential introduction as an example of why he thinks the term is ridiculous:

“Hi, I’m a journalist from the Wall Street Journal.” vs. “Hi, I’m a journalist from Hugo Boss.”

Whether or not brand journalism is an inflated term describing public relations, PR Daily contributor Dorothy Crenshaw points out that the term’s practice is not contentious. She offers some guidelines for all communicators to be better storytellers:

  • Storytelling for the long haul – build the brand with high-quality content instead of things that result in only a “quick hit.”
  • Quality content from credibility from expertise – using legitimate and relevant experts results in credibility, which is an indispensible quality of quality content.
  • Show and tell, heavy on the show – to quote Nike, “Just Do It.”
  • Highly polished doesn’t equal high quality – jargon and a lack of sincerity are hallmarks of bad storytelling.
  • We Want YOU, inspired into action – this is what truly compelling and well targeted content does.

PR Newswire joined the conversation during the 2012 PRSA International Conference in October 2012 and posed this question to its Twitter and Facebook followers: “How do YOU define modern PR?” Using the hash tag #PRis, the newswire service company received a lot of insight from the responses it received and compiled 100 of those responses in a fun infographic.

Line Cutting the Organ Transplant Waiting List

Ethics, Personal Writing

This is a reaction paper for my Ethics, Law and Diversity in Strategic Communications class at the Mayborn School of Journalism. This paper discusses a the ethics of Todd Krampitz and his family’s advertising campaign for an organ donation.

Summary of the ad and the scenario

Discovering that a loved one has an extensive cancer that is spreading like a parasite throughout their body would be an tragic revelation for anyone, but how far would people go for the chance to evade the killer of an estimated 577,000 Americans in 2012?

After being diagnosed with advanced cancer that would render it impossible to survive the average 515 days on the transplant wait list, a man and his family took action into their own hands. Drawing from community connections and his church, Todd Krampitz set out to solicit a directed organ donation, where the family of the deceased would request that their loved one’s organ go directly to Todd. His simple message, “I Need a Liver – Please Help Save My Life!” kicked off a national campaign that spanned two billboards along a high-traffic Houston highway, TV ads, media stories and interviews. Within two weeks of the start of his campaign, Todd received a donation from another family. Unfortunately, Todd’s new liver only granted him a short amount of time and he succumbed to his illness eight months after the transplant. It is unknown whether his death was related to his extensive cancer, transplant-related complications or another cause.

His decision to bypass the organ transplant wait list overseen by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) angered many of the people who were passed over when he received his donated liver. Directed transplants are legal, albeit rare, but Todd and his family’s actions sparked the controversy that he cut in line ahead of people with a greater need. Many of those shirked people and their families believe that Todd’s tactics in advertising for a transplant instead of waiting on the transplant list are questionably ethical.

Todd Krampitz was a successful Houston business owner of a digital photography company and has been described as an upstanding citizen. He married his high school sweetheart of 13 years in March of 2004. A mere two months later, their newlywed bliss was drastically interrupted when Todd was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a rare form of liver cancer in the United States where there is not a hepatitis endemic. According to reports from his family and friends, Todd endured …

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, 1,877 of the 16,796 U.S. candidates waiting for a liver donation are Texans as of September 21, 2012.

 

Reason for chosen strategy

Because Todd’s cancer was terminal, he was given a low MEDL Score (Model for End Stage Liver Disease) and placed toward the bottom of the transplant waiting list. According to a 2009 interview with CBS News, Todd credits his sister with the idea of using billboard advertisements to find him a liver. Todd and his wife explained their reasoning for buying billboard ads in that same interview, “Well, basically, the doctors said we were at the bottom of the list, and we don’t have time to be waiting around.” According to the couple, Todd’s doctors said that his cancer was so advanced that his chances of survival were grim without a transplant.

Perhaps Todd and his family were so frustrated by his grim prognosis, the transplant allocation system and wait list process, and they were so driven to preserve his chances at life that they reasoned they were justified to cut ahead of a long line of hopeful liver recipients were justified. Perhaps they believed that a person with a compelling story and enough connections and/or money is justified in seeking whatever routes available to secure a vital transplant, even if it meant overriding a system that attempts to fairly disperse donated organs to those with the greatest need. From their personal standpoint, Todd’s family and friends probably found this system unfair in deciding a person’s need, prompting them to take control of advocating his need. Rather than letting Todd waste away on the waiting list behind thousands of faceless people, his family and friends decided to capitalize on the sympathy and support surrounding Todd to help save the man they all loved and cared for. Todd and his family and friends probably also believed that his need for a transplant was as great as any other candidate and disagreed with the unfair decision (in their eyes) to assign a lower priority to him.

Supporters have defended the Krampitz’s actions by pointing out that the donor might not have given away their liver had he or she not seen the ads or media coverage. This is a good possibility, if the former owner of Todd’s new liver had not been a registered organ donor; however, we will never know for certain.

 

Verging on unethical boundaries

By disregarding the transplant wait list, Todd and his support system also disregarded the government’s attempt at a just system for organ distribution in favor of a course of action that benefited him best. By skipping ahead of thousands of equally desperate and needy patients who had been waiting on the transplant list ahead of him, Todd and his family could have cost a person, or many others, their lives. As he only lived an additional eight months after his transplant, critics say that the organ was wasted on Todd and could have better served another candidate.

Using advertising to solicit a directed organ donation borders on ethical lines because it lends the advantage to people who have the greatest reach of resources, in terms of money and connections. Brokering independent organ donation deals would make the already small supply of transplantable organs even scarcer, especially for those who are less fortunate and possess fewer capabilities to do as Todd Krampitz did. It could also lead to discrimination against a recipient’s race or religious beliefs. Advertising for a directed donation also opens the door for a demand that some may fulfill by means of illegal organ trafficking and harvesting.

Using advertising and publicity to identify a donor for oneself may greatly benefit and improve one’s life in the long run, but what about the people who don’t have deep pockets, a resourceful support system, savvy or a story as tragic? Who will advocate for their rights to receive a potentially life-saving organ donation? Many critics of the Krampitz family’s actions say that future of organ donations could be turned into a widespread popularity contest, one that will always favor some over others.

 

Impacts on society

Soliciting and brokering organ donations through print, media and online advertising threatens to undermine the current system in place, one that preserves a form of fairness in the distribution of organs. Some have argued that not regulating the distribution of organs would further exacerbate the low organ supply, placing the decision at the mercy of a popularity contest. People belonging to a particular religious or ethnic group could be greatly benefited or discriminated against, depending on how resourceful their group is.

Advertising for an organ follows along the lines of ethical egoism, which holds that people should do what is in their best interest and their actions are morally justified if it promotes their long-term self interest. While it is understandable that Todd and his supporters wanted to do everything in their power to help save his life, the question remains: what about society as a whole? Independently brokering an organ donation mean turning one’s back on the rest of the community and taking on a “get yours” mentality. If this trend becomes widespread, altruism would be buried as people become fiercely competitive in hopes of securing an organ donation.

The gift of life, an organ donation, would quickly turn into a trafficking endemic as more people lobby for the scarce supply of transplantable organs. It could fuel the illegal harvest and trade of human organs, placing society at greater risk of trafficking, abduction and sloppy motel bathroom surgeries.

 

Recommendations for future guidelines towards similar ads

As UNOS and many others have suggested, the government needs to find a way to improve the individual patient’s needs and experience through the entire transplant process while developing policies that are fair to the entire community of people needing organ donations. If society should progress toward independent organ solicitation, perhaps the government needs to regulate how organs can be allocated so that the process is fair and doesn’t discriminate another patient.

A close watch should be kept on the activities of organ-matching services that have sprouted up on the Internet. To protect the public against malicious, fraudulent or predatory activities, the government should ensure that there is a system of accountability against these online services. There also needs to be a thorough evaluation of the benefits versus harm of allowing individuals to campaign for vital organs, especially if the individual’s illness would not be alleviated by a transplant.

 ###

Sources list

PR: People React, People Respond, People Reach Out

All things PR, Personal Writing

People react, people respond, people reach out. That is what PR should stand for according to Scott Stratten, President of UnMarketing.com and author of “The Book of Business Awesome/The Book of Business UnAwesome.”

In our highly connected society today where professional communicators are no longer the gatekeepers of information and stories, Stratten’s summary of what the public relations profession should be doing is completely on point. “PR professionals need to be the catalyst for communications,” he said.

Stratten was the luncheon keynote speaker at the PRSA Dallas 2012 Communications Summit today. The conference’s focus was on the importance of building and maintaining relationships, and that means more than just those relationships with big influencers. The overarching message that came from the various speakers of the conference was that communicators need to proactively invest in relationships with sincerity and then maintain those relationships by providing open channels of communication and actively participating in those conversations.

With the prevalence of social media and the Internet, everyone now has a voice and this is something that professionals need to understand and embrace in order to thrive and achieve their goals (or their organization’s goals). Listening to what people are saying, or not saying, about your brand or company and then joining their conversations is essential for all businesses. Whether you’re trying to humanize healthcare or you’re advocating women’s rights, listening is key to understanding how to tailor your message so that it can create the greatest impact for your organization or cause.

So you’ve done your research, you’re listening to your audiences and you’re establishing a communicative relationship with them. What next? As a public relations professional, you’re either going to be getting your key messages out or putting out fires.

In the event that your oil rig explodes and dumps nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the ocean, your company’s less than ethical competitive tactics are leaked to the public, or a spokesperson for your organization accidentally sends out a highly offensive tweet from the company Twitter account, you need to already have a working crisis contingency plan in order.

Since it is impossible to respond to everyone and everything, it is important that you decide who your priority audiences are and focus your communication toward them. Conversing with others humanizes your company and could potentially squash a potential crisis. But once that crisis has occurred, which it will on some level at some point for every organization, your crisis management team needs to be speedy, nimble and human according to Melissa Flynn, APR. Flynn, the senior leader of brand management and public relations at The Richards Group, advises that PR pros need to convey what their response is to a particular situation and what they’re doing because people want to know.

According to Alison Freeman, Strategic Communications Consultant and Trainer at WRTN Associates LP, “a success measurement of crisis PR is how much a story doesn’t have legs.”

Going back to conversations and social media, when you’re not squashing stories and situations that are potentially damaging to your organization or client’s reputation, you’re working to get your messages to key audiences and stakeholders. There are many avenues through traditional and social media that allow you to accomplish this objective, particularly with the two-way communications nature of social media.

In regards to being a catalyst for communications, Scott Stratten warns “don’t try to have a presence without being present.” If organizations fail to get involved, their communication will not be perceived as genuine and sincere. This is especially true with Twitter. According to Stratten, “Twitter is a conversation, not a dictation…75 percent of tweets should be @replies.”

To achieve active participation, especially when there is market competition, PR professionals need to humanize their organization. Amy George, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Cooper Aerobics, advises people to own and embody their stories and tell those stories in a diverse and creative manner. Some of the best and most effective types of stories an organization can release are ones that highlight other people rather than corporate topics. Tell your story through other people. George suggests that you try to explain how someone’s story has or can impact, effect and change another’s life. But remember, you don’t want to minimize another person or group’s story. Case in point: the World Wildlife Fund’s ad campaign “Tsunami.”

“These are real people grappling with real issues, trying to find solutions,” George said.

 

 

Sources cited

Wentz, Laurel. “9/11 Ad for WWF Causes Tsunami of a Crisis for DDB Brasil.” Ad Age. Crain Communications, 02 Sept. 2009. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://adage.com/article/global-news/9-11-ad-wwf-tsunami-a-crisis-ddb-brasil/138775/>.

All other quotes and information are from speeches at the PRSA Dallas 2012 Communications Summit.

Brand Evolution: The Innovative New Starbucks Coffee Hut

All things PR, Marketing, Personal Writing

Some of the top and best-known brands and companies are also the longest lasting ones. Take Coca-Cola for instance. Introduced in 1886, the soda fountain drink is now one of the most universally recognized brands in the world.

Interbrand, one of the world’s largest global brand consulting firm, releases an annual report of the 100 best global brands and Coca-Cola has consistently topped the list every year since the report’s introduction in 2001.

So how does a brand survive that long? During World War II, the PR pros at Coca-Cola positioned the soda as THE patriotic beverage for GI’s fighting abroad and Americans on the home front. Committed to brand building, the Coca-Cola cornered the beverage market long ago and continues to be successful. According to Interbrand’s Global CEO Jez Frampton, “Coca-Cola continues to be successful because its brands are about head and heart.”

Another beverage company that is near and dear to my heart, and more in line with my caffeine preferences, is the premier gourmet coffee chain Starbucks. Like Coca-Cola, Starbucks has also cornered its coffee and espresso-based beverages markets, though by means of establishing its reputation of convenience for consumers and the concept of a coffee house as a main community gathering point.

Having achieved the role of market leader and establishing the community coffee house mentality in the U.S., Starbucks now has the job of holding onto that lead and further growing their brand. There are only so many stores that Starbucks can open up before it over saturates the market and its stores lose profitability, so the company had to get creative.

In this article from Co.Design, Fast Company’s business, innovation and design website, Starbuck’s president of global development, Arthur Rubinfeld, identified the neighborhood-level demand for premium coffee. The people at Starbucks came together and conceptualized an innovative opportunity for the premium coffee company to continue growing: modern, modular walk-up shops and drive-thrus that look like architectural works of art.

Starbucks’ new smaller store concept, located in Denver, Colorado.

However, the coffee company’s “pilot program” building models won’t just be fancy architectural designs nestled into local towns. Tying in with the company’s Shared Planet Initiative, its flagship coffee hut is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design)-certified and all future pilot program stores will follow suit.

“Once that connection to our mission statement, our soul if you will, was established, that became the go-forward design foundation for our stores, along with one additional very important element, and that is being locally relevant,” Rubinfeld said.

Senior Concept Design Manager Anthony Perez envisions these stores, much like the one pictured above in Denver, as high-end structures made from local materials (sourced from within a 500-mile radius, per the LEED Green Building Certification System).

Starbucks’ innovative initiatives show that the company is listening to the needs of coffee drinkers and predicting their desires ahead of time. With these individualized buildings, each store will be a unique and environmentally responsible addition to the communities, and Starbucks is investing in its relationship and reputation with the community as a place to gather and connect. The company’s new concepts are paving the way for continued success at its mission of inspiring and nurturing “the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

With that, I leave you all with a Starbucks “Secret Menu” of frapuccinos and a fun infographic about the global scale of the coffee company.

Ethics in public relations and communications

All things PR, Ethics, Personal Writing

Think about your set of ethics. Would you say that you always know what to do when confronted with right-versus-wrong scenarios? When dealing with the right thing to do, there should be one clear theory which you can apply to all situations, right? Well, that is not always the case because not everyone’s views of ethics are the same.

As a part of my final undergraduate semester at the Mayborn School of Journalism, I am studying media ethics, diversity and law in one of my capstone classes. I have learned of many different ethical theories that I, and other public relations professionals, can use to guide my decisions when I find myself in a clashing values situation. There are also two models I can use to help me make decisions when I’m in a questionably ethical situation: Ralph Potter’s Potter Box and the Navran Model.

Created by Ralph Potter of the Harvard Divinity School, the Potter Box forces the practitioner to prioritize the values and relationships of their organization in a particular situation. This decision-making model includes four steps:

  1. Define the situation
  2. Identify the values
  3. Select principles
  4. Choose loyalties

The Navran Model consists of a six-step plan that ensures that the practitioner considers a wider scope of ethical components in the decision-making process. These steps include:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Identify available alternatives
  3. Evaluate the alternatives
  4. Make the decision
  5. Implement the decision
  6. Evaluate the decision

Additionally with the Navran Model, the practitioner must apply four filters to steps 1, 3 and 6 to the process of making ethical decisions.  These are called “PLUS” filters and they call for considerations to:

  • (P) Policies – is the decision consistent with your organizational guidelines?
  • (L) Law – is it within the scope of the law?
  • (U) Universal – is it aligned with my organization’s values?
  • (S) Self – does it conform to your personal ethics and beliefs?

As I learned all this, I wondered how other public relations practitioners handled ethical situations and if their situations would have turned out differently if they had (or hadn’t) applied one of the two decision-making models mentioned above. Or are these models useless in the real world? The public relations profession has long had a stigma of unethical practices, especially since many professionals’ jobs are to manage their organization’s image and relationships and to do damage control when needed. Most PR professionals are just trying to do their job, yet the perception of spinning the truth and being liars still plagues the industry. So, what can PR professionals do to shed the reputation?

According to Mickie Kennedy, founder of the affordable press release company eReleases, the first step is for public relations professionals to personally maintain a high level of ethics.

“If the honest PR pros continue to uphold their ethics while denouncing PR pros that cross the line, then the industry can eventually shed its bad reputation,” Kennedy wrote.

On the other hand, Lord Tim Bell, head of the U.K.-based PR firm Bell Pottinger, asserts that the PR is a “lightning rod of mistrust” and that there is no solution to the industry’s challenges.

Shel Holtz, an accredited business profession and founder of Holtz Communications + Technology, calls for a public relations certification or licensing, like how public accountants must be certified, to create legal accountability for PR and communications professionals. According to Holtz, an accreditation is not enough for the reputation of industry professionals because it is not a requirement in the profession.

“Accreditation is great—I’m an Accredited Business Communicator and damn proud of it—but accreditation does not establish a legally defensible standard for an entire profession,” Holtz said.

I must agree with Mr. Holtz on this topic. Standards of ethics can become very subjective and do not enforce a high standard of ethics and behavior. Since the public relations and communications industries are still viewed as untrustworthy and biased, a certification or licensing requirement of all practitioners seems like the best step toward changing the current professional image into a positive one that all practitioners can be proud of and the public can trust.

Survival and Success as a Small Business

Personal Writing

In my blog post last week, I mentioned that I have considered someday opening my own creative agency and be my own boss. Doing so would put me in the ranks of more than 27 million small businesses in the United States (as of 2011).

According to Intuit, a tax preparation software development and financial services company for small businesses, 69 percent of small businesses survive at least two years. Those seem like generally good odds to me, but the same study also reports that small businesses have a 49 percent chance of failing within five years. Now we should note that those stats are for all small businesses, so my chances of success in the public relations and marketing fields may be significantly different.

Since I am always skeptical of statistics that companies produce, I decided that I’m going to do as much research as possible and gather all the different tips and advice that I could. The following is some of what I’ve found.

Avoiding Failure

Martin Zwilling’s article from Entrepreneur essentially embodies everything I’ve learned in my marketing and journalism classes: know your environment, know your audience, and most importantly, DO YOUR RESEARCH. If you don’t know what obstacles, internal and external, that you will encounter and you’re oblivious to how to connect with your audience and their needs then chances are those weaknesses will cripple your start-up in the end.

As Mr. Zwilling said, “There is no substitute for market research, written by domain experts, to supplement your informal poll of friends and family.”

A prime example of Mr. Zwilling’s fifth point, Too Much Competition, was the explosion of Yogurtland-style frozen yogurt stores that have popped up in the last several years. Around my apartment, there are at least five “fro-yo” stores within a two-mile radius of each other.

“Having no competitors is a red flag — it may mean there’s no market — but finding ten or more with a simple Google search means your area of interest may be a crowded,” Zwilling said.

Only one store is every really busy on a semi-regular, and most of the others usually have empty parking lots. Seeing this made me think that perhaps those business owners jumped on the Yogurtland bandwagon but never did any worthwhile market research before embarking on this venture. Otherwise, I would think they would have chosen an area that wasn’t already occupied by numerous other stores with the exact same business model.

Getting Social with your Audience and Peers

Nowadays, having all the data and using it to push out your product or service isn’t enough. For most businesses, small or large, an online and social media presence is essential to your firm or company’s longevity. If I have learned anything from my course work, it is that building and maintaining relationships is essential to all parts of business. Technology now allows the communication between professionals/organizations and consumers two-way. So if the majority of your audience and competition is a part of the online community and your company’s business plan lacks a social media strategy, you soon may be lest in the dust as consumers gravitate to your competitors who make the effort to connect and be engaged with the public.

According to Brian Solis, the problem with developing a social media presence that’s plaguing businesses of all sizes is that many are strategies prioritize the tools (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, etc.) rather than the solutions, business impact and value gained from using said tools.

“Why would we go on social networks? Why would customers connect with us there? Why would we gain any value out of online engagement? Why would any of this impact my business?” asks Solis.

Mr. Solis describes a five-step approach for social media strategy development:

  1. Monitor your environment
  2. Define yourself and how you want others to perceive you
  3. Develop a strategy that balances the business side with a personable side
  4. Develop and maintain an active and engaged relationship with your community/audience
  5. Constantly learn and evolve to the changes of all kinds

To end this week’s post is some business advice from the chairman of the board of Columbia Sportswear, Gert Boyles:

For advice from eight other successful entrepreneurs, check out Entrepreneur’s slideshow.

The Essential Toolbox for Communications Professionals

All things PR, Personal Writing

Since it is my last semester of my undergraduate degree, I’ve received a lot of questions about what I want to do job-wise after I’m done. I know I want a paying job for starters, but if unpaid internships are the road to a salary position then so be it. I plan on working in smaller agencies and corporate firms, but I’ve semi-seriously considered opening my own “boutique” public relations agency as a long-term goal.

I’m not sure if I would be happier working at a company or being my own boss, but I do know that I want to have a successful career. With graduation around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to attain that success. I know I will need a lot of experience, the type that can’t be learned from a book: real world experience.

This is exactly what Mendi Paschal, Director of Global PR at Siemens PLM Software, explained to my Integrated Strategic Communications class this past Tuesday.

“There is a learning curve for everyone,” Ms. Paschal said.

She stressed to my class that the key is that you step out willing to learn, sense others and anticipate their actions. However, if you don’t fit the culture or aren’t interested or invested, chances are that it won’t end well. Aside from working your butt off and having passion about what you do, Ms. Paschal emphasized the need to have intuition. According to her, communications pros must be like herd dogs in having that natural instinct.

In her speech to my class, she also outlined the essential, yet mostly figurative, tools we all need in our communications toolbox as aspiring public relations professionals. In summary, we need to be cognitive, instinctual communicators who answer the client’s questions before they’re even asked, and we need to constantly measure our processes and ensure that they align with the organization’s goals. If you can’t prove how your work furthers the client’s goals, they won’t see it either. You can check out Ms. Paschal’s complete communications toolbox at the end of this article.

Ms. Paschal isn’t the only one talking about alignment with goals. David Gallagher, CEO for Ketchum in Europe, discussed the frustrations of today’s communications departments and obstacles to the professionalization of public relation on the Ketchum blog. In his article, Mr. Gallagher frames his discussion around the results of a recent survey conducted by the European Communications Monitor (EMC) of more than 2,000 communications professionals in 42 countries.

According to the study, one of the greatest perceived obstacles facing PR professionals is how to align their communication processes with the business’ goals and objectives. Also difficult is proving the impact of those processes on the organizational goals.

I have heard plenty of speeches from industry professionals stressing this necessity for alignment, rightly so. You can use all the different communication tactics in the world, but if they aren’t cohesive with the organization’s goals then it will cost you in the end, or limit your success at the very least.

So armed with my toolbox and new job or internship, what next? Stay tuned.

The Communications Toolbox
(According to Mendi Paschal, MBA)

  1. Flathead screwdriver
    A very basic tool: your basic knowledge on PR and communications, such as how to create factsheets, news releases, or your basic writing skills.
  2. Phillips head screwdriver
    This tool represents your knowledge and strategic use of social media.
  3. Hammer
    This embodies things like byliners, and is the hard-hitting facts and information about your organization, client or events.
  4. Wrench
    You use this tool in the way you connect the marketing department’s words with the business objectives so that your message is acceptable without containing puffery.
  5. Screws and nails
    These are the tactics and processes you use to connect and align your PR strategy to your business goals and objectives.
  6. Measuring tape
    For measuring your strategies and tactics, because you, and especially your clients, want to know the effectiveness of your processes.
  7. Duct tape
    This is the silence duct tape, and Ms. Paschal recommends communication professionals to use this keep themselves in line.
    She stresses the importance of knowing what you’re talking about and to know when to stop talking.
  8. Stud finer
    Your awareness of your surroundings embodies this tool. Ms. Paschal advises that professionals be cognitive of who your allies and enemies are.
  9. Level and ruler
    Always ask yourself, “Is this meeting the business goals and objectives?”
    Because if it isn’t, it’ll affect your client and you down the line, either through loss of profit and market share or the loss of your job.
  10. Pencil and paper
    Always write down what you hear, and PAY ATTENTION. Be engaged and present, because you never know when you’re going to have a “brain fart” and forget some facts or quotes.
  11. Goggles and gloves
    These tools are your protection from the mudslinging, because it is prevalent in the professional world, according to Ms. Paschal. You have to know how to remain calm and cool, while still remembering to protect yourself, your work and reputation from the high-competitive and sometimes cutthroat peer that you work with.

Crisis PR Currently in Full Steam in Egypt and at Google

All things PR, Personal Writing

LAST UPDATED: 9/15/12

To say that the world has been in an uproar this week would be a generous description. If you haven’t followed the news, a crude and poorly made 15 minute anti-Islamic movie trailer originating from California went viral on YouTube. “Innocence of Muslims” incited so much rage that it led to the deaths of a U.S. foreign ambassador and three other Americans in Libya and two U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. Americans and U.S. embassies have been under siege as outraged Muslims across the Middle East have violently protested since Wednesday.

One of those protesting countries is Egypt, and I find President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brother’s position in this difficult situation especially interesting. From a public relations standpoint, Egypt’s government has another crisis aside from its enraged citizens. The United States helped liberate the Egyptian people and backed the leadership/legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood political party in the deeply religious and traditional country’s new democracy. The government, and its communications department, has the difficult job of tactfully balancing its two important relationships; and I am very interested to see how President Morsi and his officials handle this crisis.

A PR headache for Egypt.

While protesters break through the walls at the American Embassy in Cairo, Mr. Morsi is receiving heavy pressure from the U.S. to strongly condemn the violence. At the start of the protests, the Egyptian government remained fairly silent. I say fairly because on its official Arabic Twitter account, it posted tweets affirming the offended and outraged opinion of its people. After a serious phone call from Obama, Mr. Morsi’s top strategist set out to do damage control on their official English-language Twitter account, however the conflicting messages were bluntly mocked by the U.S. Embassy.

From a public relations perspective, I see their government’s struggle. There are so many eggshells for avoid when your crisis involves disrespect to the majority of your nation’s faith and threats to your international relationships. Aside from those landmines, the decisions Mr. Morsi and the government make will define their term in office. If the Egyptian people feel that their government is too influenced by international politics to correctly defend them against slander, Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood probably won’t go down well in Egypt’s history books. The pressure would be daunting for anyone.

I’m interested to see if the government can persuade its angry citizens to end their violence towards the scapegoats of a group of anti-Islam activists’ distasteful exercise of freedom of speech. Egypt’s relationship with the U.S. depends on it, since President Obama said in an interview with Telemundo that the U.S. does not consider Egypt as an ally, though not an enemy either.

Another party in the middle of a crisis is Google, owner of YouTube and gatekeeper to a large portion of the Internet. YouTube only removes content containing hate speech, a violation of its terms of service, or content in response to court orders or government requests.

Feigning ignorance to buy more time?

That is why the company’s decision to block access to the video in Egypt and Libya is very unusual, and interesting. YouTube’s situation centers on fundamental questions of online content control. The company has some difficult and uncomfortable decisions to make in the next few weeks, especially since Washington asked YouTube to review the video for violations of its terms of service, and those decisions will determine the degrees of censorship exercised with online content and its consequences.

Although blocking the video in Egypt and Libya is understandable, the issue does not end there for YouTube. According to Kevin Bankston, director of the free expression project at the Center for Democracy and Technology,

any censorship “sends the message that if you violently object to speech you disagree with, you can get it censored.”

According to YouTube, hate speech is that towards individuals, not groups. The video mocks Islam but not the Muslim people directly, which is the company’s reason why it has yet to be removed from YouTube’s website.

We discussed the topic of our First Amendment right as Americans in my ethics class the Monday before the violence began, and even then it was clear that the boundaries of freedom of speech are hazy. Where is the boundary for creative expression (or lack of it in the case of the suspected filmmaker‘s inflammatory video) and personal opinion and at what point is censorship a violation of our rights?

On the other hand, I’m sure many people across all religions consider both their ancient and modern prophets as legitimate religious leaders and individuals, so that could be argued as grounds for the video’s removal, per YouTube’s policy. Only time will tell us the outcome, and I’ll be closely following the news for the results.

PR Prominence: The Unavoidable Need to Strategically Engage Your Customers

All things PR, Personal Writing

As a public relations student with a minor in marketing and Spanish, I constantly judge a business or organization’s PR quality everywhere I go. This is even easier with the prevalence of technology and social media at the swipe of my fingers; if I ever need to find news immediately or look up a fact or reviews, I immediately pull up Twitter or a search engine on my cell phone.

I doubt there are any companies, marketers and brand managers in today’s wired world who can afford to forgo their own social media presence. Social media usage extends beyond products as organizations are increasing their focus on their reputation and maintaining relationships with and engaging customers. Thus enters the role of public relations firms. PRMarketing.com created an interesting and visually appealing infographic based on market research about online public relations, noting that online PR averages a 275 percent return on interest (ROI) for businesses. Click on the picture to the right or check the end of the post for the infographic.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Unger, Assistant Professor and Director of Urban Programs at Wagner College, notes that President Obama was not the first candidate to use social media technology to leverage his campaign and ideals. However, President Obama most successfully applied the strategic use of social media to form a campaign platform that’s reach extended beyond traditional political networks.

According to social media news blog Mashable, the all politics in the 2012 presidential campaign is social. For an interesting infographic about social media in the race for the White House, check the end of the post.

Fast Company calls him “America’s first truly social president” as his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention broke political Twitter records by averaging 52,000 tweets per minute throughout its entirety. This is not surprising to me after seeing that Twitter’s vice president of international strategy quoted the company’s total registered accounts at 200 million.

One of my favorite websites is Ad Age, which is where I found this interesting section of stories, mainly for marketers but relevant to everyone, that discuss the importance of public relations firms to a business’s integrated marketing communications plan and its effects on the marketing industry.

According to Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, the firm that works with Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox gaming system, their campaigns to engage bloggers and fans begins 10 months before the ads even launch.

“Our job is no longer doing a press conference to break the ads—we are building engagement with enthusiasts to create a runway of credibility for a new brand or campaign,” Edelman said.

This is very true; companies cannot afford to not personify their brands to consumers because those voices carry so much influence in today’s digital word. According to Rob Flaherty, president of Ketchum, the consumers, not the press, are the real owners of media in today’s highly connected landscape. Word-of-mouth, especially when it is negative, travels further and sometimes faster than any other form of marketing. Research has shown that dissatisfied customers and negative experiences are likely to generate online conversation, and who hasn’t taken to their Facebook or Twitter to gripe about poor management or lackluster customer service?

Case in point: my one night stay at an Econolodge in Kingsville, Texas resulted in the tweet pictured.

I received an email from Choice Hotels, the parent company of Econolodge, that attempted to address my bad experience and improve from it, but it was too late. My attitude of the chain’s quality is set, despite their apologies and effort to make contact with me, and unfortunately for some companies it’s just unavoidable.

One of my coworkers also told me of a prime example of lackluster PR and marketing at IKEA, a privately-held Swedish self-assemble furniture company with a reputation for the non-literal help center and employees who never help customers. During this visit to IKEA, he noticed that all the temp employees wore shirts saying,

“Temporary Team Member…Please do not ask me any hard questions.”

As a marketing manager, his mind was as boggled as mine was after hearing this story. Especially coming from a teller job at one of the U.S.’s biggest financial institutions, it has been deeply ingrained in my beliefs that in-store employees are the figurative and literal “face” of a company. These types of employees, whether they’re an IKEA sales rep. or a banker, have direct contact with the company’s most important constituencies and whose interactions can greatly impact the reputation and relationship with these customers.

Perhaps this concept is lost on Leontyne Green, CMO of IKEA North America, or maybe anti-IKEA tweets need to reach 52,000 hits before it’s worth making a change.

PRMarketing.com’s Online PR Infographic:

Mashable’s Politics via Social Media Infographic: