Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Who Do You Fly With?

Air New Zealand wants you to fly with them, and they created a eye-catching new campaign to grab your attention! The TV commercial runs with the message that they have nothing to hide; you pay up front for everything. So that means no paying extra for drinks and snacks on the place, and other fees that make travelers irritated.

Not only do they have a new slogan, the people playing the Air New Zealand employees in the spot are completely naked. They have uniforms that are painted on, to go along with the "nothing to hide" message. All of the employees seen in the commercial are actual Air New Zealand employees, too! Even the CEO appears in the commercial.

I found this interesting information on CNN.com, and you can catch the video here!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Making the Most of Your Summer Internship

It's summertime and, for many of us, that means internship time!

"Internships can provide an excellent opportunity to gain insight into a career in public relations and provide the experience and connections you need to get your first job," Valerie Simon points out. Here are some tip she gave for making the most out of your summer internship:

  • Demonstrate professionalism and dedication early on.
  • Keep up with news about the public relations industry.
  • "Those who aspire to a career in PR should be on Twitter," Simon said. She suggested using these hashtags on Twitter to keep up with what's going on in the world of PR: #pradvice, #printern, #entrypr.
  • Develop a presence on LinkedIn, and monitor groups like #PRintern, #EntryPR.

Here are some tips of my own, based my experiences at my internship thus far:

  • Keep up with the news. This can mean news about PR, national news and local news.
  • Keep up with the media. The newspaper companies in my area are undergoing restructuring, so information that is current now may be subject to change in mere days. In our business, you cannot take a passive role when it comes to obtaining critical information like this.
  • Double-check yourself. Double-check everything, from the facts you're using in releases to the files you are sending out as attachments. I've learned that it is extremely important in this business to be thorough and consistent.
  • Become active in your community. Your skills in PR give you a unique way of contributing to worthy causes. These opportunities also give you the chance to build upon your network and your credibility therein.
  • Always do your best. Even though mistakes may be made along the way, the fact that you're invested in the company and are trying your hardest also means a lot.
  • Ask a lot of questions. Don't hold back! Now is the time to learn.
  • Seek constructive feedback. This will only make you stronger- as a person and as a job candidate down the road.
  • Watch closely! Observing everything from PR pros' writing styles to the way they handle their business can teach you a lot. There are learning experiences in every moment of everyday.
  • Form meaningful relationships. Though you should always maintain professionalism, make conversation, learn from and share with others in a friendly way as well. Don't simply disseminate information to them and be on your way.
  • Seek responsibility. This gives you more chances to learn and improve on many skills, from writing to using social media to pitching!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Easy Breezy Summer Coverage

This summer has been pretty quiet so far in terms of hard-news. There has been an occasional scandal and some stories about international affairs, but all-in-all the majority of news space has been spent covering the economic crisis. The media can only run so many stories about the economy, which means that there is a lot of print space and air time up for the taking.

As Richard Laermer of the Bad Pitch Blog points out, "more space means plenty of opportunities for coverage in daily papers, on network affiliates, and in trade, consumer and business magazines"--and virtually every other medium!

Here are some tips from Laermer on the Bad Pitch Blog for making sure you score some of that space for your clients:
  1. Make it timely- Remember that it's summertime! Laermer reminds us to "tie your pitch to something in the here and now."
  2. Work the holidays- Make yourself "available on the holiday weekends- 4th of July and Labor Day- when producers have a tough time finding guests" because a lot of their staff (or your competitors, for that matter) are on vacation.
  3. Think smallish- Laermer explains "Coverage in smaller markets or smaller-circulation publications can be just as effective in achieving business objectives." He also reminds us that getting coverage in larger, more key markets can be easy if a "local summer angle" is utilized.
  4. Present company- "If you haven't submitted products to relevant holiday gift guides, get going!" These publications tend to have long-lead deadlines.
  5. Agency review- "If you're not getting the coverage you merit- or, if you're not seeing a clear return on your PR investment- summer is the time for the ole agency review." Laermer suggests making a list of five companies and simply asking them what they could do for you. "Compare this to what you have now," he says, "Even if you stick with the old firm, it's good to hear new thinking."
My own tip:
Use the economic state to your advantage- although everyone is tired of hearing about the economy, we are all feeling the economic strain. Find a way to tie your pitch- and your product- to the economy in addition to tying it into the summer season.

Have you noticed that it is easier to get coverage this summer? What strategies have you been using to cash in on the available news space?

Friday, June 26, 2009


Currently on vacation at Stone Harbor on the New Jersey shore! What has everyone else done with their summer? It's critical to take a breather in order to ensure you don't run out of steam!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Criminals using Twitter

The news has been buzzing about Iran recently and now the topic of cyberspace crime may even be an issue as well. Social media sites like Twitter can be considered a dangerous place where cyber criminals are able to communicate.

This short video from CNN.com briefly touches on the subject. Check it out below:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Are You Trying to Sell?

As students hoping to join the workforce one day soon, especially in this economy, we all know the importance of a strong resume. As prospective public relations practitioners, though, the nature of our field of work will place added scrutiny on our ability to communicate our value effectively and concisely on our resumes. I recently came across an article by Kevin Fitzpatrick in the Central Penn Business Journal that I thought shared a fresh way to think about the dreaded resume.

Fitzpatrick describes the resume as "a central point in [one's] self-marketing campaign." He goes on to explain that the purpose of a resume is to generate interest in a potential "buyer" (future employer).

"The basic principles of Marketing 101 apply when writing and presenting your resume. You must give the reader a reason to want to find out more. Your resume should position your product- you- in a way that distinguishes you from your competition," Fitzpatrick explains, with the ultimate goal being a face-to-face interview with the "initial decision maker."

Although he acknowledges that "there are more opinions than rules for preparing an effective resume," Fitzpatrick gave some general guidelines to reference when preparing a resume:
  • "You should balance qualitative and, where possible, quantitative attributes. Wherever possible, make an objective presentation of your 'value' to demonstrate the return on investment you will bring."
  • "A well-written, concise resume is an initial indication of your ability to communicate effectively. Use a direct and active style...the resume will be an indication of your writing style, use of grammar, spelling and presentation, all of which may lead the reviewer to draw strong first impressions."
  • "The resume should effectively use style, underlines and bolding to facilitate a skim of the document."
  • "Use positive language in describing results," trying to show wherever possible why or how these results were important. Be prepared to discuss these accomplishments at length.
  • "Selectively highlight your career history but leave no gaps."
  • Be prepared to discuss your objective or give your elevator speech.

Although we've all heard stories about resumes landing in the trash before receiving even a cursory glance, do not forget that the resume is ultimately your ticket to the chance to pursue a brighter future. "Your resume is part of your communication strategy, presenting reasons why you should receive consideration as a strong candidate. A sound strategic approach ensures that the key elements, assets and qualifications you bring are reflected in your resume," Fitzpatrick reminds us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shifts in Advertising

Many companies are shifting the money they put towards traditional advertising (TV, newspapers, radio) to social media advertising. Many college students have seen this new trend in the media and have experienced it at internships. During my last internship I did extensive research about blogs and blog statistics, and also helped to maintain MySpace pages for some of our clients.

In an article I read today from the New York Times talked a lot about this new trend. It said that even though many companies have been putting money into online advertising for years, social networking websites are letting consumers do the advertising for them.

This changes things in the world of advertising in terms of where consumers are being targeted, but it also has been changing advertising and public relations internally at agencies. Many agencies no longer work based on commission (they make money when their clients do, as a result from the campaigns they design). More and more agencies are charging their clients for all of the hours they spend on a campaign, because social and online campaigns can be so much more labor intensive.

Even though this is information we all know by now, it's important for us to think about this as students. In this hard economic time we need to learn how to diversify ourselves from others. One way we can do this is by becoming experts in online and social media, because that's where the money is going.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Future Path of PR?

I recently came across an interesting article in Mediaweek.

The article, "Calling on Niche Markets," was by Mike Shields. "Overall, the category [of wireless communication] is fairing better than most as mobile phones have become an essential to most Americans' lives," he writes.

As I got to thinking about it, I realized that his statement is very true. Despite the fact that many people are strapped for cash these days, people still rush out to buy the latest and greatest in cellular technology. In many ways we have become inseparable with our cell phones, and have come to see the ability to communicate with anyone at any time as a non-negotiable right.

As the economy continues to be a pervasive struggle, it got me wondering. News outlets are dying out and closing their doors, but cell phones and "smartphones" have only seemed to grow in popularity of late. Is it possible that cell phones and smartphones are the future vehicles of our messages as public relations practitioners? If the economic downturn continues, will we come to rely on smartphone technology to reach our audiences?

The world of wireless communication has also set an example for a good advertising model during the downturn, as wireless companies seem to be segmenting their advertising to strategically target their respective audiences. "With the challenging economy, there has been a clear rush to value," one analyst remarked in the article. "There has been a lot of competition around the low end. Companies have been spending to get that message out, that they offer predictability. No hidden fees, no charges sneaking up...At the high end [smartphones], carriers are willing to spend on advertising. It's worth it to get those highly profitable users. These are people who are better insulated against tough times and can handle expensive plans," he said.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Olive Garden: Get Your Statements Straight!

You've probably heard about the crisis surrounding Olive Garden recently. The company apparently pulled its commercials from The Late Show after Letterman made his now infamous insensitive jokes about the Palin family. Or did it? Sources have apparently confirmed that the reasoning behind the removal of the commercials was in fact the Letterman jokes. At the same time, in its official statements the company has denied that the jokes were the motivating factor.

Read this article for a run-down of the fiasco.

Olive Garden is owned by Darden Restaurants, and, as author Chuck Ross points out, "Like most big companies, [Darden Restaurants] abhors controversy." "Controversy is not a win-win," he says, "much better keeping as many people happy with your product and/or service as possible, so they will keep buying them." He speculates that this is the reason behind the contradictory information the company has provided the public on this issue.

Ironically, the same statements that were supposed to facilitate mass appeasement have led Olive Garden to become "embroiled in a controversy." This situation is a great example of the need for consistency, transparency and organizational unity when dealing with a crisis situation!

How do you think Olive Garden could have better handled the situation? How would you handle the situation if a similar circumstance would befall your organization?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Best Time to Network is When You Don't Have To

LinkedIn can be a valuable means of networking with other professionals - and prospective employers - in one's field. When one of my friends began to build his LinkedIn profile, his boss called him into his office and began asking him questions that aimed at finding out if he was looking for another job. In fact, my friend wasn't looking for a new job but simply looking to network and branch out within his business and field.

There are important ways that LinkedIn can be used when one is not in the middle of a job hunt, and I don't think that this is something enough people realize. Cheryl Howard makes some great points about why networking on sites like LinkedIn is valuable, regardless of your employment status.

Learn more about your industry and/or profession: Thousands of groups exist on LinkedIn, many of which have discussion boards that offer great forums for dialogue between people with careers and/or similar interests.

Promote your company and yourself: "People use LinkedIn as an information source. You might receive inquiries from people who are interested in working for your company, curious about your company's products or even looking for an industry expert," Howard points out. Use of LinkedIn to do things like share ideas also makes you more visible within your own company.

Network within your own business: LinkedIn allows employees to become more familiar with one another. It can also be a vehicle for discovering "'skills and other areas of hidden expertise.'"

As Howard points out, "the best time to network is when you don't have to." Personally, I like using LinkedIn because it shows a glimpse of how I got to be where I am, gives a complete view of what I'm involved with and allows me to make meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships with others in my field. I also like having a group of people who know what they're talking about that I could turn to for support, advice and expertise in the future, and I hope that maybe I could do the same for them. In what ways do you use LinkedIn to connect with others besides to look for a job?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bad Pitch Blog: Tips for Twitter Pitching

Quoted straight from the always-entertaining Bad Pitch Blog, four tips to utilize Twitter to your advantage when pitching:

1) Brevity. More effective writing translates into a lower word count...A three paragraph pitch (or less) should be enough for you to get your point across.

2) Links. Links point to an image, or an article, that payoff your tweets. Why aren’t you using more links, and fewer words, in your pitches? And URL shortening services allow you to track who’s clicking through.

3) Value. Consider the “law of thirds” when you tweet. You broadcast content, you converse with others and you serve up links of value. These links are not self-serving or pointing to your company website. That sounds a lot like becoming a source for a reporter, no?

4) Always On. Twitter follows you everywhere....So why are you giving these same media your desk phone number…in that pitch you sent right before leaving for lunch, or for the day, or for the week? If a reporter wants to contact you, they should be able to do so. Give them the best way to contact you so you can be responsive.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Big 'O'

One word...


Perhaps what any public relations professional fears most is when a client hopes to be featured on an episode of Oprah or just obtain her seal of approval. It's near unattainable.

Check out this article on businessweek.com about a technology application company, Poolhouse, who unexpectedly received a call from the producers of the Oprah Winfrey show; just the same it disucesses the effects from being featured on her show. This article doesn't offer any tips for PR folks but it just proves the press and feature from Oprah really is tremendous. Take the micro-blogging site Twitter, we're all familiar with... After Oprah discussed Twitter on her show the site's traffic increased 43%! The "Oprah Effect" as many often refer to it, is something authors, new technology application or devices, service providers and everything in between dream to be a part of. Oprah's endorsement covers one of "the fastest-growing demographic in social media and tech," which "are the 'soccer moms'—35- to 50-year-old women." Oprah has approved and endless amount of products, pretty much promising popularity, profit and success for each company or promoter.

In considering the "Oprah Effect," what are your opinions?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Proofreading Makes Perfect, If You Do it Right

We all know that it is important to proofread, as even one simple error can severely damage your credibility, make you seem unprofessional and/or land your e-mail pitch or press release in the trash bin.

As much as we may proofread our work, use spell checker and have others look over our copy, it is all-too-simple for one, two or even three pairs of eyes to miss a mistake. In fact, it is scary how often I receive information from professionals I know to be credible and still find an error in their writing.

So the question becomes how can we avoid these small mistakes that can be so costly?

An article onragan.com offers some insight:
  • Define the process: "proofreading should be approached with the same degree of care and premeditation as the writing of an article," author Jamie Pietras points out. Sufficient time should be set aside for editing, regardless of existing time restrictions. Also, policies should define what proofreading is and what it's not; this means making the important distinction between copy editing and proofreading and choosing one of the three forms of proofreading (see the article for more details).
  • Get organized: eliminate dirt, trash and clutter when sitting down to proofread. Keep a style guide and dictionary by your side, and use them to weed out inconsistencies. Pietras recommends printing hard copies for editing computer-generated or web-based materials. She also advocates being consistent with your proofreading marks. Important note: the writer should never proofread his or her own work.
  • Get to work: Pietras emphasizes the importance of working in phases while proofreading. For example, proof for format and for content in two separate phrases. Remember that computer spell checkers will not flag errors in diction that are spelled correctly.

See the article for more tips and a proofreader's checklist. No matter what you do, do not skimp when it comes to proofreading. As Pietras notes: "proofreading is not a formality but a necessity. A failure to execute in this area could negate hours, days, weeks or even months of hard work on a piece of copy."

Monday, June 15, 2009

To Follow Up, or Not to Follow Up?

At my internship, I am responsible for disseminating many press releases and other information through e-mail. While in general I feel e-mail is a reliable mode of communication, I often wonder whether or not my messages (and any attachments) made it safely to their destinations-- especially when the message was destined for a journalist I knew to be interested in covering the story, or when the materials I sent were deadline-sensitive.

My instinct is often to call the journalist to follow up, but I have heard conflicting advice from college professors as to whether or not this is proper practice. Not to mention the fact that it would be difficult to call every journalist I sent information when you consider the volume of writers and publications I sometimes send materials to.

Herein lies then dilemma: follow up with a call, and risk alienating a journalist by annoying them or seeming too pushy, or simply hope and trust that the message was properly delivered and received?

I recently read a post by Jeremy Porter to a blog called Journalistics. Here are some tips Porter recommended on the subject, based on conversations he had with over 50 journalists:

  • "If your information is relevant and time-sensitive, it's okay to follow up," Porter explains- especially if you've offered an exclusive to a reporter and need a definitive answer from them. He also advocates following up if you are passionate about a particular story and feel it is a good fit for a certain journalist.
  • Porter describes Twitter as an "efficient and less disruptive approach to use for follow up." He suggests using a direct message to touch base, as @replying will make your message too public. He advocates avoiding Twitter as a means of following up if you do not have a pre-established relationship with the reporter.
  • Using opt-in e-mail lists allows you to "track deliverability, click-thru and even tie the results to Google Analytics," so it can be a helpful and efficient way of cutting out the need for follow up calls.

The bottom line, according to Porter: "it's really a judgment call based on how well you know your information and the journalist you're pitching." If you do choose to follow up, don't just ask the reporter if they received the information you sent them; give them your pitch "in a convincing and efficient manner." Porter recommends the use an an elevator pitch.

Porter's rule of thumb? "Don't follow up for the sake of following up." What are your suggestions or rules of thumb for following up with journalists? If you are a journalist, how do you feel about receiving follow-up phone calls?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Don't make this social networking mistake

I recently read a blog post by Diane Charton that shed light on six mistakes to avoid when using social media.

I found all of her tips really interesting, relevant and insightful, but one in particular caught my eye:

4. Mistaking social networking for traditional advertising or corporate communication:

"You can't think of social networking as a form of advertising- it's actually closer to a form of customer relationship management. You have a chance to listen and learn from your customers, provided you can get them to talk to you. Social networking is about forging connections, creating credibility and building relationships rather than hard-selling.

Inject some personality into your social networking presence so that it is inviting and engaging. Competitions and humour are great ways to invite customers into your world.

Don't be too dry or corporate in your approach, though you should always remain professional. Also remember that anything you post in a social networking environment will be there to haunt you forever."

I really liked how Charton described social networking as customer relationship management, because I believe that sites like Facebook and Twitter allow companies to reach out to others and add a more humanistic side to their traditionally tense, formal personas. And therein is what aligns social networking with public relations and sets the two apart from advertising.

What do you think? Do you agree with Charton's characterization? How do you feel about her other suggestions?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Earnest Hemingway- PR Wisdom?

What can Earnest Hemingway teach us about PR? While the two subjects hardly seem related, there are five important lessons PR practitioners of any level can take from Hemingway and his work (from Copyblogger):

  1. Use short sentences- follow Hemingway's lead and learn to write with simple genius.
  2. Use short paragraphs- see tip #1. This tip is especially relevant in today's PR environment, where pitches are often sent via e-mail and briefly scanned (if viewed at all). It is important that a brief scan of your pitch yield its most important information.
  3. Use vigorous English-"Vigorous English comes from passion, focus and intention."
  4. Be positive, not negative- rather, say what is, as opposed to what is not. Also, pay attention to the connotation of your word choices. For example, choose a synonym for "painless" that does not contain the word "pain."
  5. Scrap the crap- Hemingway once joked that he wrote one masterpiece for every 90 pieces of crap. He confided to Fitzgerald in 1934 that he was always careful to make sure the crap made it to the wastebasket.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chill Out

While reading my Ragan’s Daily Headlines (as I often write about…) I came across a headline that practically made me jump out of my seat in excitement: Eight ways to befriend journalists via e-mail. Isn’t this something we all would love to master?

I especially thought the one tip was something we all need to take a second and think about:

Tip #7: Chill out.

We often write a pitch, have four people look over it, make sure every word is perfect, every comma is in the correct place, and possibly rewrite it five times. According to this tip, stop it.

It is recommended in the article that we don’t write a pitch that sounds like a brochure, or a super formal e-mail getting sent to the CEO of a major company. This is often the result when we pour over the words for days to make sure the end result is perfection.

According to Kacie Main, an account executive at O'Connell & Goldberg PR in Hollywood, Fla, "In order to build relationships through e-mail, you have to write them as if you're on the phone. You would never call someone and immediately jump into your pitch. You would say 'hi, how are you?' And when hanging up, you wouldn't say 'best regards,' you would say 'thanks' or 'talk to you soon.'"

Although you don’t want to waste their time with unnecessary chit-chat, at least introduce yourself and have your pitch seem somewhat like a conversation.

Another thing journalists like, according to the article: bullet points; they’re easier to digest than paragraphs of information.

Has anyone found more success using these e-mail tactics? I’d love to hear about your personal tricks to get a writer’s attention and develop a trusted relationship. As students in the PR field, we always have our ears and eyes open to learn more.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

shoes + public speaking = brand building

In an article on Businessweek.com by Carmine Gallo, Tony Hsieh offers three tips for building your company's brand through public speaking. Hsieh is the CEO of the all-too-familiar brand Zappos.com, which offers shoes, clothing, handbags, accessories and more while also offering praiseworthy company culture and customer service.

The following are three tips Hsieh offers:

•Speak about topics you're passionate about.
Hsieh believes in happiness, service and culture, these are subjects he stresses in every speech. These three topics are why he believes in his company and why he wants people to believe in Zappos.

•Tell personal stories.
Use stories as a springboard for discussion; stories are also helpful in capturing audiences' attentions. "Hsieh likes to end his presentation with what he calls his pizza story. One night, he and some vendors returned to a hotel room late. Someone in the group was craving pizza and was told room service had ended. As a joke, Hsieh suggested calling Zappos. You can probably guess the end of the story—even though Zappos doesn't sell pizza, the customer service rep found a list of local pizza places that would deliver to the hotel. It's a fun story that seriously reinforces Hsieh's theme of customer service."

•Don't "sell" your product.
"Most presenters fail to make the distinction between selling and inspiring." Thus, Hsieh hopes to inspire his audiences rather than sell shoes or Zappo products. "Ultimately, it causes people to be more attached to the brand and the company. You'd much rather support a company that inspires you than one that doesn't," says Hsieh.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Face-to-face Communication: Not Obselete!

As many of you can probably tell from my blog posts, I am very interested in social media. I find it fascinating and see it as a valuable way of interacting with others. For this same reason, social media is also changing the way we conduct business as future PR professionals. It has even made it possible to do business without ever meeting in person with some of our colleagues or clients.

It is easy to get caught up in the ever-changing, personal world of social media, but we can't forget that other modes of communication are still crucial to our profession. While so much PR is conducted through computers and the Web these days, face-to-face communication is not any less valuable as it was in the past. It still represents an important and relevant way of reaching out- to both clients and associates. As Robert Holland puts it, "face-to-face communication still has a place in the communicator's toolbox." In fact, several recent studies have shown that face-to-face is still a preferred means of communication in the workplace, so- while it may sound like commonsense- it is important to keep face-to-face communication integrated into your routine.

Here are seven of the best ways to use face-to-face communication:
  1. Make face-to-face part of your overall communication strategy- Although effective, face-to-face communication is not a panacea. It should be represent an element of your overall communication strategy.
  2. Use face-to-face communication for its particular strengths- give-and-take dialogue is a great application of face-to-face communication.
  3. Start small-start with informal opportunities.
  4. Ease into it-build trust through preferred means of communication beforehand.
  5. Provide substantive answers- be willing and prepared to ask questions devoid of spin or evasion.
  6. Look for opportunities- be creative. Opportunities do not have to come at formal moments.
  7. Provide training if necessary- even the most seasoned communicators can always use a brushing-up.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Importance of a Survey

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to go on a trip to the Almafi Coast in Italy. We stayed in Sorrento, and visited Positano, Capri and Pompeii. We booked our trip through a company specializing in youth tours, so we thought that we would have a really organized weekend and wouldn't have to worry about a thing. Even though we had a fantastic weekend, there were parts of the trip that we were dissatisfied with.

The first disappointment came when our tour guides showed up to the meeting spot at least 15 minutes late, and didn't understand why we were all there. We explained that the travel itinerary said to be there at a certain time, but the tour guides said they didn't know anything about that. The itinerary also promised a pit stop on our way from Rome to Sorrento, and the tour guides said they didn't know anything about that either.

As a whole, there rest of the weekend went pretty smoothly. Our hostel was beautiful, and we spent time at some of the most amazing coastal towns in the world. However, there were still things the tour guides did that frustrated us. From not knowing how to give directions to places and not even knowing where places were that we wanted to visit, they just didn't seem that knowledgeable about the trip that they were leading.

I know many people were frustrated at the end of the trip with the performance of the tour guides. That's when the survey from the company came. I filled out the survey, and answered the questions as honestly as I could. I expressed my dissatisfaction with some aspects of the trip, and praised them for others that I really enjoyed.

In PR, we are always creating surveys to gauge interest and satisfaction in a wide variety of products and services. As a PR student, I know how important it is to receive feedback from surveys, and that's why I took the time to complete the one that was distributed after my trip. Even though surveys can sometimes be tedious and not very exciting, it's important to remember how crucial they are for both the surveyors and the surveyed. The only way to improve something is to get feedback on it, and the only way to receive better services is to give feedback on surveys!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blogs: 'an audience of one'?

According to The New York Times, the sad truth is that more blogs fail each year than restaurants.

The article sited a survey conducted in 2008 by Technorati, a search engine for blogs. The survey found that only 7.4 million of the 133 million blogs the site tracks had been updated in the last 120 days. "That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream- or at least an ambition- unfulfilled," the article points out. Despite the fact that 7 million to 10 million active blogs exist online, one Technorati executive explained that "'it's probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views.'"

Why do so many blogs fall by the wayside? The article explained that lack of reader interest, lack of time or preoccupation with other social networking outlets (Twitter, for example) can lead writers to neglect or even abandon their blogs. Others are disappointed when they realize that their blog is not the "fast path to financial independence" that it is expected- or hoped- to become.

Interestingly, some bloggers put their blogs on hold in order to regain- or protect- their personal space and privacy. This seems ironic, because blogs were once extolled for their their ability to 'democratize' the world of ideas.

What does this all mean? Are blogs here to stay, or does this survey indicate that blogs are a passing phase in the world of social networking? What are some ways to ensure the longevity of a blog? I have been interested in starting a blog, but my fear is that I would run out of ideas to discuss, or that I would fail to capture or hold readership. Whether you are a blogger yourself or a subscriber to others' blogs, I'd love to hear your ideas about what makes a successful blog and what you see as the warning signs of a doomed blog.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tips for Using Social Media

I read a blog post today by Eric Karjaluoto that posed nine suggestions for brands using social media. I found the post really interesting, and felt that Karjaluoto's points were relevant to any user of social media. Whether you are a brand using social media, a company or an indiviual, consider these points when engaging others online:

  1. Advertise less- "try to pull people into what you're saying instead of pushing your message out to everyone."
  2. Listen to what's being said- this way you get a chance to respond to what is being said.
  3. Learn from it- use feedback- positive and or negative- to your advantage by learning from it. Whereas focus groups were relied upon in the past, social media poses a way to get real feedback for free.
  4. Define your purpose- isolating your purpose will allow you to assess the appropriate tools for reaching your audience.
  5. Speak human- "why not be a person who thinks, cares and makes mistakes? (We can identify with those people)."
  6. Have a personality- "social media is only interesting when it's social...most people are pretty interesting once you strip off the layer of corporate varnish we all seem to wear."
  7. Play- use the process of trial and error to see what works for you. Let go of trying to be perfect and try something new!
  8. Give us the good stuff- make and give away "stuff" that has value to your audience
  9. Avoid the quicksand- it's easy to get caught up in the world of social media, but don't lose sight of "where you're going and what you want to do."

Karjaluoto also includes a bonus tenth point, but you'll have to check out the post for yourself to see what it is.

What do you see as the most important tip for using social media?

Friday, June 5, 2009

2009 PRSSA National Conference

Today I was thinking about how excited I am for the PRSSA National Conference in San Diego this year! From Nov 6-10, PRSSA members from around the country will join together to network and attend professional development workshops and chapter development sessions.

On the PRSSA 2009 National Conference newsletter they gave a little sneak peak at a few of the professional development workshops:

“Grommets and the Tide of Technology PR” (Video Gaming and Technology)
“Mahalo World” (International PR Campaigns)
“Styling the Trends” (Fashion)
“Voyage to Visions” (Travel, Tourism and Hospitality)
“From Bonfire to Bona Fide Events” (Event Planning)

San Diego, here I come! Who else is planning on attending this year? Temple University sends two representatives (myself and the president of PRSSA), but we’d love to send more. Got any fun fundraising tips for us?

For more information on this year’s conference, visit www.prssa.org/conference2009.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On the Job Hunt? Utilize Social Media!

We've already touched upon the benefits and pitfalls of social media in posts before, but here is a segment from CNNmoney.com that discusses what might help or hurt your chance at finding a job.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Old Navy: Maintaining Their Piece of a Shrinking Pie

It's no secret that the economy is tough these days. Everyone, from the average consumer to the major corporation, is feeling the pressure that comes with economic strain.

As I've mentioned before, I work at Old Navy. I've got to give the brand some credit for its efforts to stay a step ahead of its competitors in this economy.

Even in tough times, there are some things people cannot- or will not- go without. Luckily for Old Navy, one of these things is clothing. That is not to say that the brand hasn't seen its share of stress. Kohls, Target and JCPenny have all surfaced as strong competitors in the market for affordable fashion, and all of these brands are fighting to maintain their piece of the shrinking pie.

Here are some clever marketing techniques Old Navy is using to try ensure that people are spending what budget they have for clothes and accessories in their store:

  • "One Day Wonder" sales that feature jaw-dropping prices on popular merchandise. The first of these was on May 23 and was a promotion for $1 flip flops. Last Saturday was $3 graphic tees. There have been hints that more of these sales are coming in the future, although the items and the prices have not yet been named. These sales help drive traffic into the store and, even if consumers do not end up buying much more than the door buster, raise awareness about the store's other products and sales. They also help raise awareness about the brand through word-of-mouth as people tell their friends and family members about these great sales.
  • Beach passes: during the month of May the company distributed cards that would get stamped each time a customer bought an item for the beach, like a swim suit or a pair of flip flops. Filled cards could then be redeemed for 40% off of one item. This promotion helped to keep people coming back to the store and, in turn, rewarded them for doing so.
  • The company had a buy-one-get-one free sale on its famous $5 flag tees Memorial Day weekend. This helps emphasize the values the company is known for, and also puts popular fashion within reach of virtually everyone. It is also clever to tie the sale with a holiday.
  • Upcoming men's sale: June 7-21, all men's "stuff" (the term the company uses on its marketing materials) will be 50% off. There will also be a free gift giveaway with the purchase of men's denim in the spirit of Father's Day (while supplies last).
  • New "Yay for Tuesday" promotion: Old Navy cardholders get 10% off their Old Navy card purchases on Tuesdays now through August. Non-cardholders will have the opportunity to get 10% off on Tuesdays as well (details pending). These promotions reward loyal customers while also building loyalty among non-cardholders. They also serve as a sort of "thank you" for shopping at Old Navy.
  • New line of advertisements featuring the "super modelquins," a tacky and corny set of ads that treats mannequins as if they were celebrities in a dramatic reality series. These ads help catch consumers' attention and at the very least help keep Old Navy memorable in the back of their minds. It also represents a return to the fun, quirky advertising that had worked for the company in the past.
  • Going back to the basics: Old Navy is returning to the old values for which it has always been known. The company is going back to cheerful greetings, a retro mix of music and mesh shopping bags. It has also redesigned its new employee orientation and re-trained existing employees to emphasize a focus on the customer. These efforts help associates assist the company in repositioning the brand and its image.
  • Though it had been trying an edgier angle for a few years, the company has also returned to its core of offering affordable, reliable fashion for the whole family. This represents the company's choice to do today what it knows has worked in the past. It also represents a choice to sell the types of goods that people are looking for- and can afford- in today's economic times.

Although only time will tell how effective efforts like these are- or if they are enough in these tough economic times- the company seems to be doing the right things as far as thinking outside of the box with their marketing to stay ahead of the curve.

Have you noticed the changes at Old Navy? Do you think they are effective? Do you think they could be doing more? Do you see other stores making such an effort?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Different Kind of Thinking

During my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to see a Temple StOC professor speak at one of our PRSSA meetings. He told us that since we were working towards our Bachelor of Arts degrees, we needed to learn something about art! As I was selecting the classes that I was going to take during my summer session abroad, I knew I wanted to take at least one art class. I decided to take art history, and I'm so happy with my choice. There may be no better place in the world for me to study this particular subject!

Part of the reason I love my art history course so much is my wonderful professor. Not only is he a professor that we can ask all of our questions to, but his mind works in a completely different way than mine does. Since I'm a Strategic and Organizational Communications (StOC) major, my thinking has turned into just that. My art history professor has such an open mind; he learns by seeing and absorbing, rather than writing tons of notes and thinking extremely logically. On a class excursion to an estate north of Rome last week, he told our class to sit on a hill and listen to him read a passage from a book. He told us to just listen and look around at our surroundings, or close our eyes and try to absorb the words he was reading.

Even though I can't go through the rest of my StOC classes with the mentality I have during my art history class, it has introduced me to a different way of thinking. I'll be able to use this in my StOC classes when I am experiencing writers block or something similar. I will be able to open my mind more, think less, and let ideas come.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Managing Tough News in Tough Times

Let's face it, the economy is on everyone's mind and on the tip of everyone's tongue these days.

"In a turbulent economy, there is no shortage of bad news," writes Barbara Pinckney in an article for The Business Review (Albany). As students of public relations and future PR pros, the economy is directly tied to our line of work. "Experts say that in a time like this, what may matter most is the way in which bad news is communicated," Pinckney explains. She also points out that how issues are handled now will likely have lasting effects on the way the business is perceived in the future.

Here are three tips Pinckney gives for "getting it right" in today's economy:

  • Be prepared- have guidelines in place for when crisis breaks out. Once a crisis occurs, businesses should assess the situation, list all affected constituencies and craft a message for each (specific to their respective needs) and select and utilize a single, consistent spokesperson.
  • Timing is everything- "'tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself.'" In today's age of technology, "'tell your news before anyone else can'" because word travels fast.
  • Tell it like it is- the news should be "complete and truthful, with as many details as can be shared." Candor is key.

As Pinckney points out, "those [businesses] who plan their messages carefully, and deliver it promptly and with candor to all relevant parties, are more likely to be remembered as good corporate citizens."