Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Scandalous Side of PR

Okay, I’ll admit it. I am slightly obsessed ABC’s hit drama, Scandal. Maybe it’s the insane plot twists and crazy back stabbing scenarios that keep me hooked. Perhaps it’s the never-ending love saga between Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and the President. Whatever it is, there is one thing I am sure of: when it comes to dealing with a major crisis, there is no scandal too big for Olivia Pope to fix. Olivia and her team of “fixers” work to manage the public images of D.C. power players. Although Pope and Associates are not necessarily the ideal PR role models, there are a few things any PR person can learn from them.

1. Confidence- Whether its addressing a room swarmed with media or doing damage control on the President’s affair with a White House intern, Olivia enters every situation with her head held high. No matter how stressful the situation may be, she handles it with confidence. It is a lesson to all PR people that when you are confident in yourself, your clients will be confident in you as well. Although Olivia may be unsure how a situation will turn out, she does not let it show. Instead, she throws on her best pair of heels and walks into the situation like she owns the room.  

2. Get the facts right- Just like any good PR person should know, Olivia knows credibility is a very delicate thing. Although she listens to her gut instincts, Olivia also knows that before acting on anything, she and her team must do their homework. All of the right facts must be gathered before addressing the public. One wrong move could destroy a client’s reputation. She also knows once you lose credibility, you lose everything.

3. Accept only the best- That is why Pope and Associates work tirelessly to provide their clients only the best help. They work hours on end to see that the job is done, and that it is done right. Pope and her team will travel anywhere at any time to help their clients. They don’t call themselves “gladiators in suits” for nothing! But when it’s all said and done, Olivia knows how to reward herself after a long day with a big glass of red wine.

So, are you hooked on Scandal too? I know I’ll be counting down the days until the crazy two part season finale airs!

This guest blog post was written by PRowl Staff Member Lauren Bentley.

Friday, November 29, 2013

How 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' Teaches Us About Crisis PR

Much like Charlie Brown and friends, my holiday gatherings never go according to plan. Either the turkey is being burnt or the dogs are getting into someone's leftovers. My family has learned to always plan for the worst. 

As I waited for dinner to be served yesterday, I happened to stumble upon this PR Daily article that compared good ole Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving special to crisis PR, a segment of PR I actually have experience in thanks to my first internship with Jubelirer Strategies.

I have learned that in any type of situation, there is always room for mistakes. Problems do arise and mistakes unavoidably happen.

Luckily, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” offers at least three lessons to keep in mind the next time catastrophe strike:

1. Communicate your message clearly

Wha-wha-wa-wa-wha-wa. Charlie Brown and friends may have understood their teachers, but the rest of the world didn’t. When you’re talking, make sure to cover the bases so that all of your audiences are notified efficiently and effectively.

2. Turn a negative into a positive

Popcorn, pretzel sticks, jelly beans, and toast served up on a Frisbee isn’t exactly the dinner that Charlie Brown had in mind for his Thanksgiving guests, but when you put Snoopy and Woodstock in charge of catering, what else could you expect?

While it was less than ideal, the meal brought everyone together around the ping-pong table. In times of crises, PR pros need to keep a level head, shifting their focus to what new opportunities a turn of events can provide.

A brand can easily save face and perhaps earn a few extra points by addressing the problem straight-on and solving an issue in an orderly manner.

3. Deliver a well-worded public statement

That loud-mouth Patty is the natural spokesperson for the Peanuts gang. But just because someone is capable of speaking over everybody else doesn’t mean people are going to listen to them.

It’s important your go-to media representative is someone who can bring a calming, dignitary quality to the problem. Find the perfect Linus for the job, and you’ll be much better off.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Great Debate: the Oxford Comma

The oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is one of those pieces of grammar that no one is ever sure if they should use or not.  For several years the oxford comma was the norm, but lately it has fallen to disuse and even gets edited out of writing.

A main reason that the oxford comma is getting used less and less is because it's just an extra, unnecessary character.  In a tweet-able world where every character is sacred, it makes sense for people to drop the extras.  This is also the logic behind only having one space after a period, instead of two.

I am a big supporter of the oxford comma (and two spaces after a period), but that's just me. According to Oxford Dictionaries, the oxford comma is a comma used before the word "and" at the end of a list.

Check out this humorous example:
Of course the PR bible (aka the AP style book) vetoes the use of the serial comma.  It says that a comma should not go before the conjunction in a simple series.  AP style shows that a comma should only be put before a conjunction with a sentence like this: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Where do you stand in the oxford comma debate? Should it stay or should it go? Let us know!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Final Countdown

Have no fear fellow stressed out students, the end is near.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Between final projects, final presentations, and final exams you don’t know where to begin to tackle your workload. 

If you are anything like me, you are sitting in classes thinking about your Thanksgiving dinner or doodling holiday graphics instead of taking notes.  A month may seem like a long time but the next four weeks are going to fly by so hold on and (try to) enjoy the ride.  Here are some tips to help you stay organized and focused: 
  • Make a to-do list.  In fact, make multiple to-do lists; whatever works best for you.  You may not be an advocate of to-do lists but in times of multiple deadlines they are a great way to keep you on track.
  • Invest in sticky notes and carry them with you at all times.  Sticky notes are useful when it comes to jotting down ideas or tasks that pop into your head throughout the day.  Then you can stick them on your wall, your agenda book, your laptop…the possibilities are endless.
  • Start studying for exams early.  Finals week may seem far off but if you make your flash cards and outlines in your spare time now, you will have more time to study them later.
  • Organize your time.  Instead of spending your Tuesdays watching Law and Order: SVU and sitting on the couch, do some school work.  Making a daily schedule that includes what and when you are getting something done may help to keep you focused.
  • Breathe. Remember to allow yourself some down time to relax.  Run off your stress at the gym.  Cuddle up with a book that doesn’t involve theories and definitions.  Have a dance party with yourself.  And if all else fails, call mom.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another”- William James, American philosopher.

Stay positive, drink a lot of coffee, and sleep often.  You are almost one semester closer to the real world!  

What is your best strategy for keeping calm and collected at the end of the semester?

This guest blog post was written by Kaylie Corallo.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tips on Conducting a Focus Group

If performed properly, focus groups can be a vital part of a PR strategic plan in order to gain valuable information for your client. Focus groups can be utilized for a wide array of topics in order to gain insight on a specific issue.

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a part of a focus group and I wanted to share with you some insights and tips for when you make a focus group part of your PR plan.

Keep it small: An ideal size for the participants per focus group is between 5-7 people. If you have it any smaller, you may not be able to obtain enough useful information and may not be able to generalize what you learn. A group much larger than 7 participants may be less likely to speak up or one person may dominate the conversation.

Create an idea-sharing environment: Most focus groups are laid back in order to get ideas flowing. When conducting a focus group, be sure to make your participants comfortable. This can be done by providing drinks and snacks, or even holding it at a casual location.

Don’t go in order: It is important that questions are not read in order so that the conversation continues to flow. If another question makes more sense because of what a participant just said, go to that question instead.

Prepare more questions than you need: You never know just how many questions you will be able to get through during the time you have allotted for discussion. That is why you should always have more questions prepared just in case.

Practice: You can never be too prepared for a focus group because you only get one shot. Make sure the moderator and note taker are prepared to fulfill their duties.

Follow Up: After the focus group is over, be sure to follow up with participants. The follow up should thank them again, along with obtaining any additional information you may need.

I hope these tips are helpful. Do you have any more tips to add? Share them in the comments section below!

This guest blog post was written by PRowl Staff Member Kaitlyn Mashack.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

PR Resources: Newsletters + Tiny Letter

Many PR Professionals utilize e-newsletters to help send messages about their clients directly to their audiences. What better way to connect someone to a person, product, or organization than by sending something that they can interact and engage with? But to what extent are audiences truly engaging when they receive one, possibly of many, newsletters in their inbox? What is to stop them from counting what you see as news as just another piece of junk mail? Or better yet, why would they subscribe to content that they may be able to easily find on a blog or website? Tiny Letter, a service from the same group that brings you services like Mail Chimp, can help take your engagement from zero to sixty!

Unlike many other newsletter services, Tiny Letter is completely free to use and and offers many unique services. For starters, Tiny Letter is set up as more of a personal note to subscribers than a traditional newsletter. It leaves less room for photos and links and more more true and sincere content. When readers receive a "tiny letter" in their inbox, it looks and feels much more like that person is emailing them personally.

Tiny Letter also includes the option for subscribers to reply to their letter -- a huge bonus for PR Pros looking to measure the reach of content! What better way to monitor or track the response to your content than by actually tracking the responses! The writer of the newsletter can also respond back and forth with subscribers via the Tiny Letter dashboard, allowing them to continue the conversation.

In addition to all of these tools for engagement, Tiny Letter does allow you to add personal flare to your newsletter. Through the easy to use dashboard, users can customize the look and feel of their subscribe pages and each individual letter. This makes it incredibly easy to add logos and branding touches, keeping all of the fine details in line.

Have you ever created or subscribed to an e-newsletter? Would you consider using Tiny Letter to do so? Let us know!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Robbed of Mayoral Duties

After several public mishaps, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is finally being stripped of most of his powers. The Toronto City Council met yesterday to discuss whether they should revoke more of Ford's mayoral privileges after he publicly admitted to buying and using cocaine. Specifically, the majority of the council (39-3) has voted to cut his office budget by 60 percent and remove him from executive committee chair. Ford will, however, "retain his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions."

Photograph by Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP Photo
What led Ford to be in jeopardy of losing his mayoral duties in the first place? His unfortunate personal affairs recently became very public. When confronted several times with the accusation of smoking crack cocaine, he finally admitted to the mistake saying, "Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago." Yes that "drunken stupor" was plural, as in more than one occasion.

Despite obvious reasons for Toronto City Council to question the competency of Ford in office, he didn't seem to take the news very well. During the council session, Ford and his brother (a council member himself) became outraged yelling "punk" and "scumbags," while the public chanted back at him, "Shame! Shame!" Ford was also heard calling the meeting a "coup d'etat." To add insult to injury, Ford knocked over councilor Pam McConnell in the midst of his frenzy claiming he was rushing to the defense of his brother. He offered no apology when prompted but simply said, "I picked her up." 

While removing some of his privileges is a start, it would appear that Mayor Rob Ford could use a little crisis communication, and some serious rebranding and damage control if he plans on running for re-election or for Prime Minister, as he has stated recently. 

Do you believe Ford can come back from these series of events and if so, what steps should he be taking? Let us know in the comments below!

Make the Most of Your Winter Break

The countdown has officially begun (26 days!) to the end of the semester.  No more tests, no more 8 a.m. classes, and no more homework keeping us up all night. Winter break is right around the corner and everyone is looking forward to a couple weeks of rest and relaxation.

Between the snowball fights, holiday meals, and movie marathons, it's easy to forget that school breaks are the perfect opportunity to better yourself, personally and professionally. You finally have the free time you wanted all semester and you might as well do something productive with it, right?

I don't mean that you finally get around to organizing your sock drawer or delving into a marathon of that show you've been meaning to catch up on. Winter break is the ideal time to be proactive.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Read a book: This is something you can finally do without interruption!
  • Do a job shadow: Even one day of a job shadow can be beneficial, and it will be a great talking point in an interview for spring.
  • Volunteer: The holidays are the perfect time to help others.
  • Hit the gym: No excuses now! You have the time and deep down you have the motivation too.

What are you most looking forward to doing over break? We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The New Kid

Being a journalism major, I’ve heard for years how closely journalism and public relations are related. This was one of the reasons why I decided to apply to be in PRowl this semester. It was something different. I wanted to see how close it really was to journalism. I wanted to see if some of the things I’d heard were true.

One major difference that I’ve noticed between public relations and journalism is the audience. Journalists are generally trained to appeal to a mass audience. In public relations, everything revolves around the client that you’re working with. One criticism of PR that I’ve found talking to some aspiring journalists is that they’re always trying to “spin a story.”  This semester, I’ve learned that is a misconception. As a public relations professional, it’s not about “spinning a story.” Rather, it’s about acting in the best interest of your client at all times. If your client is happy, then you’ve done a great job.

Another difference that I’ve noticed is that PR can be so specific at times. Your ideas, pitches, written work and presentations all depend on what the client wants. What the client wants can also change at any time. In that regard, it’s always great to be prepared with a variety of ideas. You never know when you have to pitch something new. That was tough for me to grasp at first.   But, after a few weeks, I caught on.

Even with the differences, the two go hand in hand. Both require great communication skills and some creativity. The ability to think on your feet is also a great asset.  At the end of the day, whether you are a journalist or PR person, we’re communicators. The ability to communicate a message clearly and effectively is a talent within itself. As a result, everyone needs us. Our methods of choice are just different.  The skills we’ve learned ultimately help us to create powerful messages. I’m so thankful to be a part of PRowl and can’t wait to see what next semester holds. 

This guest blog post was written by PRowl Staff Member Jasmine Barnes.