On the Job Vocab

5 04 2009

After a brief blogging hiatus, I have returned full force as I start my internship and the Portland Senior Experience.  My first week has been exhilarating and I and have done my best to hit the ground running. My team members are superb and, besides being exemplary professionals, are committed to helping me learn, answering my questions, handing me projects, and including me every step of the way. Some of my newly and constantly acquired knowledge includes PR vocabulary that I have found to be very helpful and that I would like to share with you.

Matte Release: An article, written by a PR professional, that is structured like a feature but contains valuable information that would be in a press release. After client approval, the publicist sends the article to publications through a distributor. Publications use the article if there is room or extra space.

Canned Message: A suggested response to a predicted or commonly asked media question.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP): The unique features of a product (or service) that set it apart from the others. The USP is often an integral part of branding and message development.

Request for Proposal (RFP): A document that a company writes to request a project proposal from various PR agencies. The agencies respond with plan proposals, and the company uses these proposals to choose which agency to select for a project or campaign.

I hope this vocab has been interesting and helpful. Professionals, if you have anything to add or any commentary on my definitions, I would be delighted to see it!

My Passion for PR

3 12 2008

Public relations is an interesting field. Many people have a hard time defining what we do, as it encompasses so many areas: media relations, event planning, internal corporate communication, writing, and strategic planning, to name a few. There are a lot of reasons to choose public relations as a career, including the excitement and variety of the job. I share in liking this field for these reasons, but my reasons for loving this field are close to my heart.

Ever since I was little, writing has been my passion. As soon as I could hold a book in my own hands I became a bookworm, and before I could write every letter in the alphabet I was already writing stories. Nothing fascinates me more than sharing stories through vivid experiences, real or not. There is a lot to be learned about our selves and others through every type of storytelling medium, including everything that can be read, heard or watched. Through classroom and internship experiences, I have discovered how to apply my passion for writing and storytelling to communicating the stories of organizations. Whether pitching a non-profit’s story of helping children with hair loss or writing about an alliance’s new, exciting research, storytelling is the part of public relations that I live for.

Another reason I feel so dedicated to the realm of public relations is how it has changed me for the better. Never really the social butterfly, I have always been shy of strangers and have had a hard time making friends. However, through diving into this world of communication and networking, I have learned how to cope with my shyness. I can enjoy a crowded event by walking up to a professional or student and striking up a conversation. I’ve met a lot of dedicated students at PRSSA meetings and fascinating practitioners at conferences. In my personal life, I’ve learned to make more friends wherever I go.

Through a career in public relations, I can continue to enjoy my passion for storytelling and conquer my shyness while telling clients’ stories and contributing to a network of dedicated and fun-loving professionals.

Tell me: Why do you enjoy public relations, or the field you are in?

Wal-Mart Meets Rock and Roll

3 12 2008

When it comes to music I love classic rock, hands down. Imagine my interest when I, eager to get my hands on Black Ice, had to drive out to Wal-Mart to buy the new AC/DC album. According to a report by Michael Ventre, this partnership between bands and low-cost retailers is part of a rising trend. In the face of declining CD sales and rising downloads, many artists and bands are enjoying the dependable sales and included promotion that is part of the deal when distributing to low-cost, or big box, retailers. Wal-Mart, Target and other similar stores enjoy the increased traffic that comes with providing their customers with the music that they like.

Image Credit: zrock.com

This scenario brings up an interesting public relations element of an organization or company relating to its stakeholders. In this case, Wal-Mart is relating to its stakeholder group of shoppers. Wal-Mart management is showing customers that it takes an interest in providing what they like at the same reasonable, reliably low prices. The company did its research to find that many of its shoppers enjoy classic rock music, and the company made negotiations with AC/DC, Journey and the Eagles to sell and promote their music at Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart is also successfully stealing the competition’s shoppers – I’m not going to go to my usual favorite, Target, if they don’t have what I want. Wal-Mart will likely lose some shoppers when the Christina Aguilera album makes its debut at Target.

The strategy seems like a win-win for all involved. Artists sell more CDs, retailers enjoy increased traffic, and shoppers find more of what they like in their favorite stores (in most cases). Hot Topic certainly drew me in when I found out that they not only had the Twilight movie soundtrack that Target sold out of, but they also sold it at a cheaper price.

Have you had to go to other retailers you normally don’t shop at for products you want? Or has your favorite retailer disappointed or enthralled you by not having or having a certain product?

The Portland Senior Experience

3 12 2008
Inside Oregon Web site

Image Credit: Inside Oregon Web site

As of last week, I was informed that I am part of the spring 2009 senior experience cohort. I cannot express enough my gratitude and excitement for this opportunity to take workshops and intern with Portland, Ore.’s premier public relations professionals.

The Portland Senior Experience is a program that I highly recommend to journalism students and professionals. It was one of the draws for which I chose to attend the University of Oregon over the University of Southern California. The program involves students taking their last capstone classes of the public relations program and workshops with professionals at the Turnbull Portland Center while working as an intern at a public relations agency in Portland. Many of the classroom and internship activities are integrated to allow students to experience more in-depth learning and create relevant, interesting portfolio pieces.

What I am looking forward to the most is networking with and learning from public relations and journalism professionals in the Portland area. So much of the expertise and knowledge in public relations is shared through storytelling and experience. From internships, conferences and networking events I have gleaned priceless knowledge through countless stories that practitioners have been eager to share.

The next few months will be an exciting process during which I will interview at agencies matched to my interest in consumer public relations, and I will finish my last term at the University of Oregon before heading back home to Portland to embark on my public relations adventure.

Have you participated or will you participate in this or a similar program? Students and professionals, I would love to hear your stories.

Communicating? Use Three

3 12 2008

Barack Obama is a powerful communicator. His post-election speech made at least two of my friends cry. He seems to be an eloquent person, but there is one technique I’d like to focus on mentioned in a tweet by @PRJobs. The “rule of three,” or “tricolon” as Richard Nordquist calls it. Some grammar enthusiasts may just refer to it as good parallel structure, using the same words or verb tenses to introduce three ideas.
An example of the rule of three from Obama’s victory speech:
“I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington–it began [1] in the backyards of Des Moines [2] and the living rooms of Concord [3] and the front porches of Charleston” (Nordquist).

As seen above, Obama uses parallel structure to introduce the three examples of the “backyards of Des Moines,” the “living rooms of Concord” and the “front porches of Charleston.” He paints a picture of a grassroots effort with concrete examples that stick in the audience members’ minds.

This speaking technique is a simple and effective one to use in many common situations, such as a presentation, a wedding toast or a blog post. Karen Burns of the Working Girl blog recommends using this technique in a job interview. Three items are usually easy to remember, and the parallel structure employed when introducing them makes it easy to follow along.

I invite you to try using parallel structure during your next speaking opportunity. You many find that your words flow more easily, your ideas seem more vivid and your audience makes a stronger connection.

Papa’s MySpace

17 11 2008
Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen & Blues Joint MySpace page

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen & Blues Joint MySpace page

Social network Web sites are no longer just for individuals. Many businesses and companies have taken advantage of the opportunity to network and relate to customers on a more personal and frequent level. For local businesses such as restaurants, social network pages can also be a cost-friendly (free) alternative or addition to paying for their own Web sites.

One example is Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen. I had the pleasure of visiting this restaurant last Saturday and enjoyed some of the best southern soul food I’ve had in Oregon (and I would know, being from Texas). The pork was melting off the rib bones, the mac n’ cheese was hearty, and the collard greens were salty and flavorful – not to mention the giant piece of milk chocolate cake for dessert. If you want to hear all about the amazing cuisine at Papa’s, there are plenty of reviews to check out on Web sites including Yelp and Citysearch.

Although review sites say a lot about the food, there isn’t much of a focus on the atmosphere, which is an important factor to restaurant patrons. This is where Papa’s MySpace page comes in, featuring a play list, artwork and a link to a Web site for the band Papa’s Soul Kitchen. Visitors get a feel for the southern music and art influences that manifest in the live music and hanging artwork at the restaurant. Papa’s MySpace friends include everyone from local blues musicians to frequent customers that vouch for the soul food experience to be had at Papa’s.

Though a PDF of a menu would be nice, it certainly doesn’t seem like a necessary addition. Patrons including myself have been enticed to visit through the excellent reviews and the passion for southern culture exhibited on Papa’s MySpace page.

How Inns Enchant Potential Customers Online

17 11 2008
Sherlock Homes Room

Photo Credit: Innsbrucker Inn Web site

Inns are lovely, especially the Bed and Breakfast kind. As a hopeless romantic, I can’t get enough of the Victorian décor, floral arrangements and homey atmosphere. Each inn seems to have its own character and charm, which makes each visit a unique experience. However, with so many inns customers can choose from, how does an inn entice potential guests?

One of my favorite inns is the Innsbrucker Inn in Leavenworth, Wash. I have stayed there several times with my parents and friends to enjoy the winter wonderland atmosphere of Leavenworth. The Innsbrucker is charming and interesting, with most of its rooms based on literary works and a couple of rooms dedicated to the culinary treats, one wine and the other chocolate. The literary rooms include books by the featured author and themed décor. Each room has its own descriptive page that features pricing, descriptions and a YouTube video tour of the room.

Another inn that I have enjoyed is the Gilbert Inn Bed & Breakfast in Seaside, Ore. The Gilbert is a very romantic place with an excellent view of the beach and reasonably priced Victorian themed rooms. Besides featuring pictures and pricing for each room, the Web site offers online customer reviews and a vivid history of the Gilbert family.

For any business in the hospitality industry, it’s important to have a comprehensive Web site with basic information such as clearly displayed rates, contact information and pictures. These two inns surpass those necessities and paint an enchanting picture through stories, descriptions and reviews of their unique attributes and welcoming atmospheres.

Twilight: How word of mouth can jump-start successful public relations

10 11 2008

I have to admit that I am a “Twilighter,” (i.e., a Twilight saga fan). I heard about the books through a friend’s sister and proceeded to read them, enjoy them and insist that my friends read them and be amazed. This trend started me thinking about how underground art forms including music and literature can become mainstream through word of mouth.

Stephenie Meyer, like J.K. Rowling, did not start out with a famous connection or prestigious degree from an Ivy-league university. She simply had an amazing idea that she crafted into a story with her excellent writing skills, and a small fan base was born. Years later, MTV is supporting her upcoming independent film adaptation of the first novel, directed by Catherine Hardwicke. So how did all of this happen without a massive public relations budget from the get-go?

Word of mouth is powerful. Who do we trust more than the people in our own lives? As I mentioned in my post about charity: water, our personal connections are the strongest. That is why word of mouth is such a powerful tool in public relations. It draws from the strongest network our stakeholders have and resounds with personal touch points.

Word of mouth is also budget-friendly. In fact, much of the success of social media tactics lies in word of mouth through social media. I just became a supporter of Barack Obama on Facebook because I saw through recent updates that one of my friends had joined the group as well. All of the information we receive through our social networking tools comes from those we choose to connect with. Social media is, in a way, electronic word of mouth.

Public relations practitioners from all industries can appreciate this tactic. For those in technology, it is the words of analysts they trust. For those in consumer products, it is the magazine editors and friends of stakeholders that spread a product’s popularity through their own positive reviews. Our stakeholders can act as publicists because they know their audience better than anyone else through personal friendships and networks.

So, anyone want to borrow my copy of Twilight?

My First Podcast!

3 11 2008

As part of a class assignment, I have put together a presentation that is a culmination of personal experience and research on how non-profit organizations can garner more press coverage and be more involved in current events. The following is my presentation in podcast form.

Show notes for Week 1: Being a Part of the News

On this week’s show, I talk about how to form relationships with journalists and garner media coverage.

Introduction                                                     :0-:40

What’s interesting to journalists                       :40-2:40

How to sustain coverage                                   2:40-3:30

How to form relationships with journalists        3:30-4:04

Conclusion                                                       4:05-5:00

Special thanks to http://www.royaltyfreemusic.com for the free music clip I used.

I hope you enjoy this podcast and find the stories and information helpful. Thank you for listening, and I look forward to your feedback.

Podcast 1: Being a Part of the News

Ben and Jerry’s Halloween: Holidays Help PR Efforts

29 10 2008

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I’ve always enjoyed the autumn festivities and spooky atmosphere. Carving pumpkins, dressing up, free candy—what’s not to love?

This year, one of my favorite ice cream brands has put up a Halloween Web site complete with an interactive Halloween world that includes a “Flavor Graveyard” with descriptions of seasonal and classic flavors on headstones. The site also includes fun games, the history of Halloween, safety tips, recipes and more.

One successful way that a company can garner press coverage and customer interest is by participating in holidays. Holidays naturally garner press coverage and include newsworthy events and issues. Ben and Jerry’s tactic of creating an interactive Web site with resources and games is part of a great strategy that shows the brand as family-friendly and wholesome, which is especially important after the controversy they had with PETA.

For me, since holidays are so festive and fun, I appreciate when a company or brand gets in on the spirit and provides ways to have fun and enjoy the season. It brings the brand back to the front of my attention. You bet I’m going to be looking for those seasonal flavors in stores!

Are any of your favorite brands implementing any holiday PR?