Saturday, November 20, 2010

35 Big Twitter Hashtags for PR Pros

Twitter is an exciting place for new and seasoned PR professionals to come together and share ideas and opportunities in the profession. The key to optimizing your Twitter experience is to take advantage of its hashtag resource which links related topics together with a simple # at the beginning of a word, acronym or phrase.

Over the past few days, I've researched some of the top PR related hashtags and their benefits. For the new Tweeters out there, or those still thinking about taking the plunge, I hope you'll take advantage of these 35 big Twitter hashtags for PR pros!

Most Common:
#PR – Obviously one of the two most encompassing tags, it's the most optimal for 140 character tweets. Great for mixed industry related posts.
#publicrelations – This tag may be the same concept as #PR, but the tweet results are hardly the same. Great for mixed industry related posts.

Practice & Expertise Focused:
#branding – Lessons for #corporate or #smallbiz related work.
#personalbranding – Perfect for learning to promote your self.
#mediarelations – Helps develop stronger relations with news media
#reputationmanagement – Tips/case studies for building and maintaining reputations.
#marketing – Industry news and strategies.
#crisismanagement – Trends, strategies and case examples of good/bad crisis work.
#CrisisPR – Like #PR/publicrelations, this tag is just as effective while diverse.
#publicity – Often sporadic in content value when searched, the worth while tweets make up the difference.
#advertising – Great techniques and trends.

Social Media Focused:
#socialmedia – Great for most trends and strategies for social media.
#SM – A second social media tag.
#digitalmarketing – Great for emphasis trends, news and some job opportunities.
#SEO – Search Engine Optimization related content.
#SMO – Social Media Optimization related content.
#smcedu – Weekly chat (Mondays, 9:30 am PST) devoted to ensuring that college grads are media literate and capable of applying emerging lessons from social media in organizations.

PR Jobs:
#prjobs – The definite way to find career opportunities and advice.
#prjob – Despite the one character difference, the opportunities and advice often vary.
#EntryPR – A specifically important tag for finding entry level jobs that are available and additional advice.
#happoHelp A PR Pro Out constantly provides job seeking advice, internships, and job opportunities with a focus on networking. The next organized chat will be on Wednesday, Dec. 8 from 8-9 pm CT.

Professional Development:
#PRadvice – A pretty wide spectrum of content with direct advice tweets and URL links.
#prtips – A pretty wide spectrum of content with direct advice tweets and URL links.
#pr20chat – Weekly chat (Tuesdays, 8 pm EST) discussing public relations social media related issues for the future.
#u30pro – Weekly chat (Thursdays, 8 pm EST) focusing on issues surrounding PR professionals under 30.
#solopr – Weekly chat (Wednesdays, 1 pm EST) designed for independent PR professionals and those interested in learning more about this career emphasis.
#measurepr – Bi-weekly chat (Tuesdays since 2/2/10, 12-1 pm ET) focusing on all things measurement in public relations and social media measurement too.
#brandChat – Weekly chat (Wednesdays, 11 a.m. EST) with focused topics about branding and marketing strategies.

PR Students:
#PRstudents – Mostly for building student's credentials and a frequent source for internships.
#prstudchat – Monthly chat (different days and times) focused on students and professionals coming together to share thoughts.
#PRintern – Learn about current student internships that are available.
#prssa – The Public Relations Student Society of America.

PR Organizations:
#prsa – The Public Relations Society of America.

Journalism Related:
#journalism – Great for most journalism related posts.
#journchat – Weekly chat (Mondays, 7 pm CT) between journalists, bloggers and PR pros.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2nd Street Baking Co. Against the Mayhem

Two weeks ago a justice was served in the name of copyright protection as the Internet made clear its stance on infringement. This came after blogger Monica Gaudio posted a scathing e-mail from New England based Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs claiming the blogger's unpaid article in the magazine was "public domain."

But there are two sides to every coin. The Internet tirade quickly engulfed the unknowing advertisers of Cooks Source into its rage. To quote the website, How Publishing Really Works, "You can't release the hounds and then expect them to behave like lap-dogs."

The businesses that were listed as the magazine's advertisers were pummelled throughout the next few days with angry calls, emails and threats to boycott. But one small town bakery somehow managed to succeed where even some large, corporate businesses have often failed in this situation; with an effective and timely crisis communications strategy.

2nd Street Baking Co. is a custom style bakery in the village of Turners Falls, MA. The business has been open now for three years under owners Christa Snyder and Laura Puchalski. Laura first learned about the scandal at approximately 1:30 to 2pm that Thursday, just as the story was breaking online. The baking company's email account began receiving dozens of emails from people all over the country as well as Australia and Canada.

According to Laura, most of the angry e-mailers had copied a form letter that was posted on Facebook to notify the Cooks Source advertisers that they were "supporting plagiarism" by advertising with the publication. The message threatened to boycott their company and its products unless 2nd Street chose to pull their advertisements. Other emails were more brazen and offensive with lines like "how dare you support Cooks Source."

Laura immediately logged on to Facebook to find out more. Seeing the numerous posts on the Cooks Source fan page and researching about the story, she became deeply concerned about the quality of the publication 2nd Street Baking Co. was supporting.

"Not only do we disagree with the way Monica's work was used without her permission, I worried that the association with Cooks Source would negatively impact our business," Laura told me in our email correspondence.

What does it take for a small home-owned business to fight against the mayhem? Engage your audience on their playing field. Within minutes of learning about the situation, Laura began to post a public statement on Facebook that they were pulling their ads.
"As an advertiser, we are disappointed in Cook's Source as we are pulling our ads from this publication. Many of us (as is the case with our business) paid several months in advance for advertising and are unlikely to get any compensation back. We ask that you please stop emailing our business, we agree that the publication made a grave error, but the blame should be placed with them. Please do not make small businesses like mine pay for their error in judgment. "
- Laura Puchalski
(2nd Street Baking Co.)

Laura then continued to post the statement about every 20 to 30 minutes for the first few hours on the Cooks Source Facebook page, with an additional posting on the bakery's Facebook page as well. She also began posting on Cooks Source's Facebook "Discussions" page where new threads would start-up like "Cooks Source Advertisers List."

"As I posted that we had pulled our ads, I would get dozens of responses immediately and the emails would slow down," Laura said. "Then as the statement got pushed further down the page and lost in the sea of other angry posts, the emails would start up again and I would have to post again."

In Laura's research, she discovered that Neil Gaiman had posted something about Cooks Source. She then used the bakery's Twitter account to respond to him in hopes that his 1.5 million followers would pass along the message that they had distanced ourselves from the publication.

"He did help us out in that respect, and also made a donation to the Food Bank of Western MA, which we very much appreciate," Laura said. "We were getting a huge response from people wanting to send us money to compensate our lost advertising dollars, or requests to order products from us in support of us pulling our ads.

Because 2nd Street could not ship most of their products and they did not feel it was morally right on their part to accept money from people, the owner's instead asked for support by donations to the local food bank.

Laura received an email response that evening from Griggs, confirming that the bakery's ads would be removed.

"I have tremendous respect for the power of the Internet!" Laura said. "It can be an extremely useful tool for promoting your business and communicating with your current and potential customers. Unfortunately it can also ruin you, as evidenced by the situation with Cooks Source."

2nd Street Bakery's story is a positive light where others have quickly fallen victim to this kind of chaos. So what public relations strategies can small businesses take away from the experience of 2nd Street Baking Co.?

Research your dilemma:
  • Make sure you know ALL the facts
  • Appoint a spokesperson who will serve as the point of contact between your business and the media
  • Identify key audiences - your local consumers, employees, the media and the Internet
  • Develop a communications strategy - including your plan of tactics
Take action in a crisis:
  • Act quickly to resolve the dilemma
  • Tell the truth
  • Don't editorialize
  • Be accessible to the press and other publics
  • Show compassion
  • Update your message as frequently as you can
I also asked Laura to weigh in on what she learned from this experience. In her own words:
  • First and foremost, remaining calm is always best. It is never a good idea to communicate from a place of anger, confusion, or fear. Keeping calm allows you to really think about what is happening around you and decide what the best approach to take for your business really is.
  • Acting fast to minimize the impact to your business is also helpful, and respecting your customers (and potential customers) and their feelings is important.
  • Knowing that the Internet is a powerful force of positive and negative publicity for your business is also important. It is the fastest way to reach the multitudes and get your messages across. In this instance, it is where this was all taking place so it was also the logical place to communicate our position.
  • And always be as professional as possible!
I also discussed an additional tactic with Christa and Laura that they agreed small businesses should consider.
  • Use your email to your advantage in this situation. Most email providers include an automated reply message that users can program in their absence. For a small business under the gun from a continuous number of emails, utilizing this means of response will save a lot of time and emotion while helping to quickly spread your message. It will also create less of a disruption for your limited resources.

As a continuing student of the public relations craft, my sincerest respect goes out to Laura and the people of 2nd Street Baking Co. for their inspiring work. It's not often people talk about the crisis communications scenarios that go right but theirs is certainly one worth telling.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Curious Case of Cooks Source and Poor Reputation Management

The Internet set to flames this past Thursday when New England based Cooks Source Magazine became the center of a copyright infringement and plagiarism controversy with blogger, Monica Gaudio. It's become an epic tale of rightful justice and poor reputation management under crisis.

After Gaudio discovered that the magazine had published a piece she had written about apple pie without her permission, she contacted the publication requesting an apology as well as a $130 (10 cents per word for her 1300 word article) donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.

Enter the now infamous editor Judith Griggs and her response to Gaudio:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"

Following the Nov. 4 Internet explosion upon the Facebook page of Cooks Source Magazine, Griggs allegedly wrote:

"Hi Folks!
Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry -- my bad!You did find a way to get your "pound of flesh..." we used to have 110 "friends," we now have 1,870... wow!
Best to all, Judith"

And in what continues to reflect the lame duck communications of Cooks Source Magazine, the publication has released a statement on their website. The 862 word apology mostly focuses on the Magazine's own personal "victimization." Due to its length, I've highlighted two select portions of the statement relevant to this entry. You can read the full apology here.

"We have cancelled our Facebook page on Thursday, November 4th, 2010 at 6:00PM. It has since been since been hacked by unknown parties and now someone else unknown to us has control of it. Their inclusion of Cooks Source issues and photos is used without our knowledge or consent. Please know that none of the statements made by either Cooks Source or Judith Griggs were made by either our staff or her...

...Last month an article, “American as Apple Pie -- Isn’t,” was placed in error in Cooks Source, without the approval of the writer, Monica Gaudio. We sincerely wish to apologize to her for this error, it was an oversight of a small, overworked staff."

And thus, a simple analysis while highlighting a few very simple lessons to take away from this mishap. The first applies to anyone in the communications field:

Rule #1 (And the Golden Rule I might add): Don't plagiarize and know your copyright laws. As a business entity, constantly work to ensure high standards of ethical and legal business practices among all employees. Place additional emphasis on teaching proper decision making scenarios to apply their legal knowledge in. Apparently Cooks Source Magazine couldn't seem to grasp the simple logic of copyright law and it cost them.

Next, is the issue of social engagement with your publics.

Rule #2: Have a set policy for all employees when handling internal and external communications. Never assume emails are private. Once the information you publish is "sent," it's out there and anything can happen with that content. I think the Steve Jobs v. Chelsea Kate Isaacs incident gives some additional background into that principle.

Rule #3 (Also making Rule #2 obsolete): Be professional at all times when conducting all communications with your publics. This is where Griggs truly fails. Rather than acknowledging her mistake and diffusing the situation, she chooses to take a highly demeaning standpoint towards Monica. In her editorializing, Griggs also reveals her huge lack of understanding copyright infringement. The two factors, arrogance and ignorance, would only add fuel to the fire. As a rule of thumb, avoid writing aggressive, defensive responses.

Now what do you do when a reputation management crisis hits?

Rule # 4: Silence is not golden. Under crisis, engage your audience and publics. An important strategy to this rule would be to pre-develop protocol and train key communicators on how to actively and positively combat negative engagement online. Once the Cooks Source blaze took off, nothing "official" would be heard from Cooks Source Magazine for six days. Six days is a long time in the realm of the Internet. Aside from the Facebook status update from Griggs, the magazine would not respond to any media inquiry, including my own on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists.

In a recent article on integrated marketing communications, I highlighted a very dangerous aspect that some "brands without efficient response to this form of dialog within the past year have in turn suffered drastically negative exposure at the hands of consumer social media." The same holds true for Cooks Source Magazine. Not responding only lead to further suspicion across the media and Internet.

Timeliness is everything.

Much like the Tiger Woods affair scandal, Cooks Source Magazine's withdrawal from public communication only lead to further investigations like that of journalist/blogger Ed Champion, revealing that the publication had repeatedly used copyrighted material from other outlets and personalities such as NPR, Paula Dean and the Food Network.

Rule # 5: Don't Editorialize. Be short and factual. I already mentioned this in Rule #2 but it honestly needs it's own rule. If your company or organization finds itself in an a difficult situation, it's best to know when to disengage from editorializing and instead focus on straight-forward statements.

Cooks Source not only takes on a role of personal victimization, but it also tries to assume an authoritative stance in the "official" statement. Cooks Source takes to condemning the "disreputable" internet for attacking them while "protecting" the advertisers of Cooks Source, the small businesses and farms in area that rely on Cooks Source and even, Gaudio? (From the Cooks Source Statement: The misuse of Facebook discussed above also applies to Ms. Gaudio: she did what she felt was the right thing, and doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment, either.)

Unless something is missing here, no mass congregation of the Internet has taken to attacking Gaudio. Of course, taking Cooks Source's above rationale into perspective, the running Facebook meme "But honestly Monica, (insert something ridiculous about Cooks Source)" might be misunderstood as an attack on the blogger rather than the obvious attack on Judith Griggs.

Further editorializing while inadvertently trying to draw attention elsewhere, the statement goes on to back-hand Facebook when referencing their corporate number.

"Interestingly, this phone number and any other contact info is not listed on the Facebook site, and has taken four people a number of days to track down."
(Note: It took one me less than two minutes to find the same contact numbers via Google search...)

Prior to that comment, the publication identifies their Facebook page being "hacked" and "someone else unknown to us has control of it." Aside from the Griggs Facebook quote above (predating the 6 p.m. cancellation on that date), no such hacking has truly taken place. This further indicates that Cooks Source is either ignorant of how the Internet, Facebook and social media works, or they could just be lying.

If the magazine had merely published strait forward facts, none of these assumptions would be in question. This brings us to the last rule.

Rule #6: Just tell the truth. By the time readers finally arrive at the "apology" segment of the statement, Cooks Source disclaims that the article by Monica was "placed in error" due to the "oversight of a small, overworked staff." Not only is this editorializing, it's makes excuses and takes a lack of responsibility. This case is hardly an "oversight" if reflecting the number of additional infringement cases that have surfaced as a result.

The Magazine's statement that their Facebook account was "hacked" with the inclusion of Cooks Source issues and photos without their knowledge or consent is also missing a few key points in their logic. A closer look at any one of the aforementioned issues and photos will reveal Facebook publication dates going back months prior to any alleged hacking.

The curious case of Cooks Source Magazine is definitely a paradigm shift in a positive direction for copyright protection on the "world wild web" and an encompassing example of what not to do when it comes to crisis communications.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Love of Books

Last week I suddenly realized that it has been a while since I have written anything of personal note as an entry. Keeping with my philosophy that public relations is a "personal" way of life, I would like to share one of the great facets into my very "interesting" brain.

I love books! I always have!

When I was in the fifth grade, my school participated in the Accelerated Reader program. Even at that age, reading intrigued me and inspired my imagination. Unfortunately the teachers then really didn't try to gage what each individual student's true reading potential was and decided we all should start at the fifth grade level.

By sheer fate, I didn't realize this proclamation and instead picked up an 8.5 grade reading level book, "The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle." My teacher was shocked when she discovered what book I had picked up, but she let me continue as I was already half-way through reading it at the time. She was even more surprised when I scored 95% on the book's exam. She readily adjusted my reading level.

At the end of sixth-grade I was ranked second in my class under the Accelerated Reader program, behind an old friend of mine, Katie Moss, who is now pursuing a master's in English Lit. Third in the rankings was Zack Ray, a football player in high school who most of my classmates don't realize is an incredibly intelligent guy. Who knows why I remember this statistic, but I do.

Random Fact: My parents once owned a bookstore in Brookhaven, Miss. called Mullen & Scott Booksellers.

I have also slowly collected my own personal library over the past few years. It is comprised of leather bound, hard back and autographed editions of classics and other books of my fancy. Most of them I've read. Others, are what I would like to jokingly call a "retirement investment."

As a living list to be periodically updated, I would like to share what I have collected so far...

The Personal Library of Andrew M. Scott

Daniel Defoe: Five Novels
Jules Verne: Seven Novels
H.G. Wells: Seven Novels
Herman Melville: Seven Novels
The Chronicles of Narnia (complete, one book)
The Looking Glass Wars, Seeing Redd and Arch Enemy
Charles Dickens: Four Complete Novels
Wicked and Son of a Witch (one book)
The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll
The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Gone with the Wind
To Kill a Mockingbird (40th Anniversary)
Lord of the Flies (50th Anniversary)
The Divine Comedy
Bulfinch's Mythology
The Iliad and the Odyssey
Gray's Anatomy
The Complete Sherlock Holmes
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide
The Art of War
The Art of the Kama Sutra
Teo Te Ching The Art of Harmony
Relativity - Einstein
Meditations - Aurelius
The Race Beat ~
Schulz and Peanuts (Biography)
The Wine Guide
Thomas Jefferson on Wine - John Hailman ~
Planet of the Apes
Arabian Knights
Jack London: Three Novels
Bikeman - Thomas Flynn ~
Mark Twain: Five Novels
Treasure Island
Carl Sandburg: Selected Poems
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Dr. Zhivago
Citizen Hearst
The Lord of the Rings (one book, 50th Anniversary)
The Hobbit
Plato: The Republic and other works
The Audacity of Hope
The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
The Poems of Abraham Lincoln

The Reagan Diaries
The Last of the Mohicans
The Max Lucado Christmas Collection
Stephen Colbert - I Am America And So Can You
The Complete Frank Miller Batman
One Nation - America Remembers September 11, 2001
New York Days - Willie Morris ~
Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius - Margaret Walker ~
Start Something that Matters – Blake Mycoskie ~
Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson ~
Onward – Howard Schultz
Don Quixote
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde: Short Stories
Jane Austen: Seven Novels
Earnest Hemmingway: Four Novels
Crime and Punishment
The Scarlet Letter
The Three Musketeers
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Martian Chronicles
Hans Christian Andersen
Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales
The Giant Book of Poetry
The Vampire Chronicles
Anna Karenina
The Star Wars Trilogy

BOLD (Leather bound) ~ (Signed by Author)
Last updated: Sept. 22, 2012

And I still have a couple of other books that are currently on my mind - Frankenstein, Dracula, H.P. Lovecraft Complete Novels.

Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you found this random bit of information interesting in some way as a personal insight into who I am. If anything, "you stay classy!"

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Let's Get Down to Business

During the past two years of my undergraduate education, lecturers and educators collectively told me that the key to starting a public relations career was to "get a minor in business!" It's a warning I heeded very fast and despite the inconvenience of a business minor then, the benefits are starting to make sense now.

I have had three PR professionals to tell me how important it is to obtain this background. The first was FedEx's Manager of Social Responsibility, Rose Jackson Flenorl, who I invited as a guest speaker at Ole Miss once. The second was PR legend and Burson-Marsteller founder, Harold Burson, who I was lucky enough to meet at a special speaking engagement. My third person to identify the importance of the business minor was Ellen Hartman, president of the Atlanta office of Weber Shandwick, during a personal resume critique.

Some PR majors obtain their degree or emphasis from a journalism, communications, or media school (or department). On the flip-side, other PR majors may obtain their degrees from a business school. From my view of the journalism and business programs offered at my university, the choice of which path to pursue is subjective to the individual.

But one fact is for certain - each area of study needs the other. Journalism/PR majors need a minor in business and Business/PR majors need a minor in journalism to better their communications skills.

As for myself, I chose the journalism route because of my belief that it included a more personal communications technique to public relations. But that did not deter me from making business my minor. In fact, I went on to take additional classes in the business school to include business law and honors calculus because I'm such a glutton for punishment.

Most business minors emphasize classes in the core marketing, management, economics and accounting aspects of business. All off these elements will benefit a PR career.

In my first job, I'm already implementing the techniques learned through my marketing principles course and now better understand both the macro and micro economic patterns that influence the economy. And someday, when I find myself in an upper-level position, the management and accounting course work will serve their purpose in leading project teams and preparing budgets.

So do English and history minors have a prayer in PR?

Despite the advice of the PR all-stars previously mentioned above, most of my PR counterparts in the journalism school continue to seek minors in English and history. These minors can actually provide hefty support depending on your passion in public relations.

History minors can enjoy very exciting careers working for various museums and historical societies. And English minors have a leading edge when applying for publishing companies and copy editing positions with firms.

But these are very niche areas of public relations and the pursuit of these must come with a passion for the territory. These minors will otherwise serve little purpose in the corporate world of business entities and PR/Marketing firms.

How about a Political Science minor?

A political science minor would serve to benefit those looking to go into the government sector of PR. In fact, the political science minor is second only to the business minor in the hierarchy.

This area of expertise can expand from local, regional to national government work. When using the Vocus on-demand marketing software, your communications options fall under PR or GR (government relations) software.

So in short; go for the business minor. It may be overbearing at times but the education is worth it. We live in a business centric world and given today's increasing competition for PR jobs, a business minor will help propel you above the competition.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Hunt: Interviews & the Secret Sauce

Through this short series, we've "Re-covered the Basics" and looked at "Concurring the Digital Realm." Now what factor is it that's going to help you land that dream job in public relations?

It's a simple principle, even though it seems to be looked over by most entry-level candidates, and it all starts with the interview.

Interviews & the Secret Sauce...

Getting your foot in the door with a firm or organization is a tough first step; however, the interview process will make or break your chances of getting the job you're after.

Interview Basics Check List:

The Look

  1. Professional Business Attire (first appearances DO matter, be conservative)

  2. Laptop and briefcase (with tabs already pulled up to display your online portfolio)

  3. Physical portfolio (just in case you need it)

  4. Notepad portfolio (with a pen, handout samples of your work, and that business card we talked about)

The Talk

  1. Be open and honest about your skills (and how they will benefit the position you are seeking)

  2. Be observant and create a personal connection with your interviewer

  3. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the job and the firm (it shows your interest)

  4. Keep eye contact (it shows confidence)

Other than this short check list, it's best to check out other tips you can find online. My personal favorites for PR interviews are "5 interview tips to get you the job" by Marisa D'Vari and CVTips PR job interview tips. You should also prepare a list of frequent interview questions to help study by.

Can you hear me now?

In the words of the How I Met Your Mother television character, Barney Stinson, "Suit UP!" even if your interview is over the phone. Phone interviews limit a lot of your presentation. Wearing your professional attire affects your inner psyche and helps build a sense of confidence. And that confidence carries in the tone of your voice, which is important in this situation. My interview for my now job at the Society of Professional Journalists was held over the phone while I was wearing a suit.

Other MAJOR phone interview tips:

  1. Make sure you are in a comfortable, quite location
  2. Internet access is a plus
  3. Phone reception is IMPERATIVE (For me, living in Mississippi at the time with AT&T as a provider was hazardous to the interview process so it was pretty important to find a location with stable service)
  4. Post your resume in front of you

The Super Secret Sauce!!


Yes, PASSION! The greatest weapon you can possess in you professional arsenal is passion! Its influence effects everyone around you. If you're not passionate about the job and firm you are applying for, then there is little reason to apply for the position to begin with. My passion for SPJ's mission and the objectives that the communications coordinator position required is what gave me the true edge during my interview with SPJ's Executive Director Joe Skeel and Director of Communications Scott Leadingham. It set me apart from the other highly qualified candidates and got me the job.

You don't have to over do it but don't be afraid to express why you want the position you're applying for, why you want to work in that field/industry and what you do to further your knowledge (books, blogs you read). The more informed you are the more impressive you'll look.

And (if asked) it's OK to share other goals you plan for yourself; personally and professionally. Having aspirations makes you a true asset and influence in helping to build upon a firm or organization's business model.

So there you have it. These are the factors that helped me in finding my first great public relations job. I hope these tips have helped to give you a new sense of perspective and I wish you all the best in the pursuit of your job.

Happy "hunting!"

The Master of Persuasion

This past year, 2009, marked the bicentennial birth of one of America's greatest presidents and in remembrance, I want to take reflection of the works of Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln was charged with one of the most devastatingly difficult moments in U.S. history- the Civil War. In his hands, he found the strength to bring together a divided nation in its darkest moments. By many historians, Lincoln is considered to be the greatest American president. He will always be mine.

To understand the impact of Lincoln's legacy is to examine his views on the subject of public opinion, and to study the techniques he used to influence it.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."- Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln understood that public opinion is everything and it drove an ethical center in his presidency. He also knew that to shape that public opinion would take the fine art of persuasion.

He recognized that bold new ideas needed time and patience to become accepted as "inevitable." Even with drastic change, Lincoln still gave the people time, announcing the immanent issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation 100 days before hand rather than a bold immediate implementation of the act.

He also understood the principle of being forthright with the public. Persuasion, in Lincoln's view, did not include concealment in areas of disagreement. His listeners were entitled to know exactly where he stood, even if they did not agree.

Lincoln's eloquent use of language was profound and his rhetoric figures of irony, metaphor and extended metaphor reflected the styling of both the King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare. In your spare time, I highly recommend reading the series of articles by's Joe Romm, detailing the precision of Lincoln's work in these styles. It is a wonderful view into the mind of our greatest president.

Lincoln's mastery of language, inspiring determination and faith in us all are the same principles any public relations practitioner should live by. Thank you, Mr. President.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Hunt: Concurring the Digital Realm

Last time we recovered the essentials to finding that first great PR job. This post will give you insight to cracking that ice-cold barrier of online job applications on the internet and the importance to social networking.

Concurring the Digital Realm...

And we have contact!

One problem may be that you find yourself lost in the vast void that is online resume applications. In a world where personal connections and references still hold influence, these applications are easily passed over - given they present little insight into how strong your talents really are. Getting past this phase is half the battle. What you want is to create a personal connection between you and the employer.

After filling out a firm's online form, take the time to learn the name of the position's branch president (or HR manager) as well as their contact email.

Once you do, choose this as your moment to introduce the quality of what you have to offer. Your email should reference both the position you are applying for and the fact that you have filled out the online application. Doing so will let the person know that you can both follow instructions and are willing to stand out of the monotony.

Treat your email as if it is a variation of your cover letter. Briefly explain why you want the position and why you are qualified. A bonus to sending an email is that you can include some samples of your work (but not overwhelmingly) that otherwise can't be attached to an online application. Use this time to attach your actual cover letter, resume, references, etc. A bonus to sending an email is that you can provide hyperlinks to some of your online work (i.e. portfolio, twitter, blog).

But the greatest opportunity in introducing yourself through email is that it provides you with the chance to show off your creative side. Use what you already know about the firm to your advantage. When applying for an entry level account coordinator position with Current Lifestyle Marketing, I used their quirky biography pages from the firm's website to create my own bio that I put into a word document and attached to my introductory email to the firm's president, Virginia Devlin. I also used the website's phrase, "creative thinker with analytical tendencies" as an opening line before the rest of the body of the email.

Within the next day I received both an email from Virginia and a phone call from Current's HR to arrange an interview with the company!

For an online job posting with New York Business Partners, a marketing firm in NYC, their leading headline was "Ninjas Wanted!" My response email included the headline "Ninja at Your Service" and the opening line "Not just a ninja!... But a half robot, space cowboy!" After a day I received an email requesting a preliminary interview.

Get Social, Networking that is!

Professionally, the way we present our brand messages is changing to include an IMC technique that involves a demand for consumer engagement. As the new staple, having a common knowledge of social networking sites is paramount.

To get socially engaged, look to create your own blog and learn new ways to promote it to friends and colleagues. Get LinkedIn and actively tweet on Twitter. While you are at it, join a social network; preferably one like PROpenMic that will help you to better develop your PR skills by interacting with industry professionals, professors and other young PR students like you. Whatever you do, make your experiences help to establish YOUR personal brand as something desirable to employers.

Many student practitioners at the university I graduated from question the effectiveness of being so involved online. This attitude seems perverse considering this is the most tech savvy generation to-date. Some students only participate in blogs because professor's have required it as part of class projects, and the lack of enthusiasm shows.

The question of whether being involved with social networks directly provides job opportunities is only part of the game. Every firm I've applied with has asked me about my experiences with social media and how I've used it to my advantage. So while the rest of your peers are pawning-off a very crucial part of where the PR profession is going, this is your chance to impress your future employers that what you have to offer are fresh, involved perspectives that will benefit you and the firm.

We've taken care of the online hurtle in the hunt for your great PR job. In my last blog entry, we'll look at "Interviews and the Secret Sauce." You'll be surprised at what it really takes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Hunt: Back to Basics

Today's job market is a scary place. Entry level positions for graduates are scarce and tough to fight for. For me, I have been through three phone interviews, three face-to-face interviews, and countless job post emails and application forms. When facing so much, one has to wonder, "What can I do to give me an edge?" So here are the first in a series of creative tips that have helped me in breaking barriers to get my first big PR job!

Back to Basics...

Is your resume the right resume?

So you are on your way, diploma in hand and your resume is ready to print, email, fax, etc. As a public relations student; the business, communications or journalism school may have told you that one specific resume type is the preferred format. In reality, every firm or corporation is different. In public relations, the two formats that will best serve you are the objective and summary style resumes. Both will serve very different purposes in presenting your job qualifications.

This was a lesson I learned while doing a critique interview with Ellen Hartman, president of the Atlanta office of Weber Shandwick. Having more than one style of resume ready will show that you think ahead and are prepared for any situation.

The 21st Century Portfolio

Now let's take a look at your portfolio. That hard, leather binder with all of your written materials is great insurance during your face-to-face interview, but to really show off your up-to-date creative skills, you are going to need a digital portfolio website.

"Don't Panic!" -the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

This may seem a daunting idea at first but believe me, the key to creating a great online portfolio is time, patience and the use of what resources are comfortable for you. My online portfolio took an average of three very intensive months to create. I also used creative thinking to rearrange the elements of the Blogspot blog system to design it into an appropriate format.

And don't be afraid to look to other online portfolios for inspiration in creating your own design. Auburn University professor Robert French regularly posts recent online portfolios from his upper class public relations program at PR Prospects. In the early stages of designing my portfolio, I used a lot of concepts from his site.

NEVER hire someone else to "create" your portfolio for you (or any of your other written material for that matter) much less try to pass it off as your own. It is laziness on the part of the individual and when in comes time for you to replicate something similar, this lack of skill will come back to haunt you.

As an up and coming public relations professional, these online design skills are assets you need to acquire for yourself. In doing so, you're sure to stand out above the competition.

Internships, Internships, Internships!... Did I mention Internships

One of the most important aspects to your education, before hitting the road professional, doesn't come in the class room. Internships are a key element in what firms look for. Start finding internships early. Almost every employer will ask if your job was a PAID internship. This fact alone is critical in employer's decision making.

Those other basics you forgot about

I would bet you've never considered creating your own business cards! Business cards are not part of the basic curriculum in school and most entry level job seekers I've talked with don't think about them. A business card is another great tool you can use to show employers that you are ready for the big leagues.

Not only can you use the card to provide your basic contact information (cell, email), but it also serves as one more opportunity to mention that online portfolio of yours. Additionally, networking is an important part of finding a job. You are not always going to have your stack of resumes and cover letters with you. Business cards can be kept in your wallet or purse, ready to pull out when needed.

Thank ya very much!

Just because today's business atmosphere is "Go, Go, Go!" does not mean you should skip out on the Thank You note. Considering we live in both a personal and digital world (PR), you should take the time to write both a physical thank you letter as well as a shorter email version. The thank you note helps to send a stronger message that you cared about the interview and how you position your personal qualities as a professional. Considering most candidates today do not take the time to utilize this opportunity, treat it as a golden moment.

And as with any basic "how to," remember to make a personal connection with the employer in your letter, citing something you may have discussed or learned during the interview that you valued.

We've taken care of the basic elements you'll need to survive the hunt for your great PR job. In my next blog entry, it's time to take on "Concurring the Digital Realm."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Return of the Dark Horse

After a heavily loaded semester of completing my requirements for a minor in business administration, coupled with graduation and "the hunt" for my first career propelling job; I finally find myself with the time to once more share my learnings in becoming the next great public relations practitioner. Especially now that I have accepted my first job!....

The past few months have been stressful yet exciting. In April I once again found myself in the "Big Apple" of New York City for one more National Invitational Tournament with the Ole Miss basketball band in Madison Square Garden.

The following week I received a collegiate PRism Award from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi for the public service campaign I developed for the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation last semester. Along with a PRism, I was also awarded the Best of Show award which is only given to one professional and one collegiate practitioner each year.

Aside from this, I took time to moderate an innovators research program on developing environmental solutions around Oxford. I even taught a seminar on headline and caption writing during the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association annual spring conference.

In the second week of April, I went on to participate in an SPJ sponsored program honoring the University of Mississippi as a historic site in journalism. Recognizing the efforts of journalists during the campus' 1962 James Meredith race riots, the event featured words from University Chancellor, Dan Jones, MacArther Genius Grant recipient, Jerry Mitchell, and CBS broadcast legend, Dan Rather; all of whom I was honored to sit beside on stage in the Overby Center. The incredible privilege of participating in this program forever remains with my advisor, Dr. Wickham, who tirelessly worked to make this designation and event possible.

After barely surviving a brutal back-to-back final exam schedule (pushing 26 hours without sleep), I graduated that same Saturday with a bachelor's degree. Two weeks later, I found myself on a three day trip to New York, where I held my first two face-to-face interviews, one of which I received a job offer from. The following weekend was spent with my family in San Destin, followed by an interview in Memphis and a phone interview.

That phone interview was for the Society of Professional Journalists yearlong post-graduate internship for media, marketing, and public relations efforts. During the interview, I was informed that I was one of three finalists for the position I had applied for one month ago. Two days after speaking with Executive Director, Joe Skeel, I received another phone call, offering me the internship. I gladly accepted!

In the phone call, Mr. Skeel referred to me as "the Dark Horse." This title referenced the upper hand the other two candidates held over me prior to the interviews. But when the dust settled, two very important factors gave me the edge I needed to receive the position.

So what gave me the curve? Find out in my next blog post "The Hunt," where I'll share some great tips that helped me land my first PR job!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Perspective On Changing Techniques of IMC

When considering a perspective on integrated marketing communication, it is important to realize that in an age of 24/7 digital media consumption, transparency is playing a major factor in a constantly changing game of how target publics view brands. Protecting the quality of a client’s brand has never been more critical. All integrated communications resources must be taken advantage of to benefit both the client and consumer.

With an ever increasing social media based communications concept, consumers no longer desire the “one way street” approach of communicating. Especially with the use of social media, there is a drastic need for an integrated marketing strategy of not only online ad campaigns, but also consumer engagement.

For many brands that have actively implemented the use of these online communications, consumer engagement has proven a positive tool in helping to develop a stronger, more improved relationship between the brands and their publics. Social media has been a remarkable tool in protecting brand reputations. This concept has mostly taken shape in the form of blogs and recently through Twitter.

Brands without efficient response to this form of dialog within the past year have in turn suffered drastically negative exposure at the hands of consumer social media. After a Southwest Airlines flight unknowingly asked “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” director Kevin Smith to leave the plane because he was deemed over weight, Smith and his over 1.5 million Twitter followers made sure Southwest was aware of his dissatisfaction. Musician Dave Carroll’s frustration with United Airlines' due to a nine-month refusal to compensate him in repairs after he witnessed baggage handlers literally tossing guitars, including his own, led to a YouTube music video about the experience with currently over seven million views.

Both incidents have cost the two brands considerable negative publicity. Stronger social media and consumer engagement by both companies could have prevented the magnitude of these situations. As a result, customer relations and public relations are becoming more intricately mixed, and brand reputation has become highly transparent and damageable.

This is why all our clients must seriously consider integrated communication as a crisis management tool. This concept of operation demands fast, proactive communication equivalent to the speed of consumer response. A rapidly developing consumer social network requires more listening on the part of the brands we represent. Today, timeliness is everything.

When YouTube footage of Domino's Pizza employees defiling food was posted last April, the two days’ time it took for the company to respond to the video was more than enough to cost severe damage to the brand. Had Dominos responded quickly and effectively, harm could have been minimal in comparison.

In addition to the concerns of reputation management, this new era of consumer engagement provides the opportunity for brands to excel in creative innovation. Various Facebook and iPhone applications (apps) have already proven a key component in the promotional techniques of differing brands. A personal favorite of mine, the Burger King “sacrifice 10 friends” Facebook app’s sharing ability, incentive to use it, and humor all contributed to making the campaign a widely received success.

Amid the tech-savvy glamour of using online marketing tools, it is important to refrain from the dismissal of older forms of media. Despite critics’ declarations that print is “dead,” it is merely evolving. Some print aspects have and will change radically from what they were. Print’s new form will either become more directly focused or complementary in integrated marketing techniques. In the wake of what print will become, the great point is to understand what role it will play in effectively amplifying a client’s communication strategy.

Developing a focused method of using older mediums in today’s integrated communication can hold a significant impact in conveying a brand’s message. Working in conjunction with South-Africa based agency TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, The Zimbabwean newspaper developed a campaign to promote accountability of Zimbabwe’s government for the collapse of the country’s economy. Across the city of Johannesburg, murals, billboards and flyers were designed and covered with Zimbabwe’s 100 trillion dollar bill to demonstrate the worthless of the bill due to the Muagabe regime. The unique, innovative tactic of this campaign was paramount in carrying The Zimbabwean’s message.

The most important perspective in embracing integrated communications is to understand the demand for consumer engagement. Utilization of integrated communications will only increase over time and the keys to maximizing its potential are creative innovation and proactive reputation management. Fortifying our client’s brands though these methods will help ensure efficient brand management.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Galactic Fail Worth Bragging About

A few weeks ago, the University of Mississippi Associated Student Body gave a crushing blow to any return of the school's old mascot, Colonel Reb, who was first banned from the sporting event sidelines in 2003. This blow came in the form of a student body poll asking whether:

Yes, I do support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW “on-field” mascot to represent the OLE MISS REBELS.

No, I do not support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW “on-field” mascot to represent the OLE MISS REBELS.

The key scare tactic used in this "push" poll was that if students voted NO, then they would not be involved and the university may still continue in the creation of a mascot without student input. Whether the method in which this poll was applied is ethical still remains in question; however, the end result was a 75% vote for YES, including my own.

But six days prior to the vote, a comedic revolution began. To make a serious situation more light-hearted, a group of four Ole Miss students began a website, facebook group, and twitter promoting Admiral Ackbar, a squid-like character from George Lucas' "Return of the Jedi," as the forefront candidate of choice and reason why students should vote yes. This parody, based on the Ole Miss Rebel connection to the Star Wars Rebel Alliance, eventually led to national media attention as well as one of Google's top 10 searches of the week.

The day after the vote on February 23, I knew that it was time to call the one man who could weigh-in on such a candidate possiblility and pop-culture effect as Ackbar. Before the day had ended, a call was placed to the personal publicist of Star Wars creator, George Lucas.

His publicist, Laura Muhlhammer, although thrown-off by such an odd topic of request, was very open to the idea of doing a short Q and A with Mr. Lucas. Letting me know she would have to check his availability, she collected my contact information and told me she would call me the following day.

When she called back I was informed that unfortunately Mr. Lucas would not be available for an interview until some time in June due to his schedule. As this would sadly lose its timeliness by then, Laura at least offered me this statement on behalf of Lucasfilm and herself which she also emailed me:

"We are flattered that our Star Wars fans at the University of Mississippi are considering electing Admiral Ackbar as their mascot. The last time we checked in with Admiral Ackbar he was leading the Rebel Alliance Fleet on a critical mission so it will be difficult for him to show up for the games!"

Considering the level of contact I had gotten in touch with, the closeness to a actual interview, and the end result, I would have to say this was not only an epic fail, but a GALACTIC FAIL worth bragging about! In this situation, I worked as a professional and was treated as such. Though I did not achieve what I had hoped, I still have the satisfaction of knowing I pushed my limits of possibility. If I had the option to do it all over again with the same chances, I would.

This situation is a reminder that we are fueled just as much by our failures as we are by our successes. What we do with them makes us who we are.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Realizing the Democratic Process

Somewhere roughly around 525,600 minutes, One year ago, I had a wonderful idea. One that started with me sitting on a park bench somewhere at the University of Mississippi. It was a cold day as most Februarys are but it was also sunny.

I was reading the front page of our student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian (DM), to see where the editor-in-chief at the time had written an expose on the candidates running for the UM student government, the Associated Student Body. By the end of the article, knew what needed to be done.

From that article in the DM last year, I set out to accomplish two things; one was to create an outlet for students to truely feel involved and comprehend an important part of the democratic process; therefore, truely feeling confident in what candidate they voted for, and the other was to help develop a better, more open dialogue between student politics and journalism. Last Wednesday night, the first open, public policy style ASB Presidential Debates sponsored by the UM chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists took place at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

After a year, that aspiration was made possible. But no great achievement is done alone. Thankfully, the Director of Communications for ASB, Cortez Moss, who I proposed this project to is an old friend of mine from band and the opportunity never could have happened if not for his faith in what I could do. From there I worked with his assistant and now my close friend, Jajuan McNeil, to secure that this project would be one both organizations could be proud to be associated with. On top of that I had a wonderful officer team behind me every step of the way. And my adviser, Debora Wenger, never stopped suporting and encouraging me along the way. To all of these people, I am deeply greatful.

The debate concept started with a proposal that included a plan to create a debate reminicnent to the U.S. Presidential Debate that took place at the university in 2008. The debate would feature both the ASB presidential and vice presidential candidates. It also included a pre-event called "Campaign Alley," where all other candidates that were not involved in the debate could interact one-on-one with constituents.

From the moment of that proposal's approval, the real work had begun. Over the course of this event, I have acted as editor for press releases and social media use, while also designing posters, invitations, and the debate's official logo. I have organized and spoken at radio promotions, pushed for constant contact with the student media, and personally researched and developed both the debate's Conduct and Format Guidelines as well as the entire scripting and programming for the debate night. Even during the debate, Jajuan and I served as the timekeepers for the evening.

On top of that, within 36 hours until the event, a debate hall overflow contingency plan was put into place after a sudden outpouring of student interest in the debate signaled that the 225 seat auditorium would possibly surpass capacity. And despite constantly open communication on SPJ's part, the edition of the DM that day still managed to misprint that the debate would start an hour later than scheduled.

By 12 p.m. that day, I sent a message clarifying the DM's mistake was sent to the entire facebook event guest list as well as an email to the entire student and faculty population at Ole Miss with the help of ASB. The two scenarios combined was the first true crisis management mode I had ever encountered. It was exhilerating, and all problems were dealt with in a timely fashion.

For the Conduct and Format Guidelines, I researched all past U.S. debates, with special focus on the one held at UM as an omage, to develop the ASB debate structure. All of the candidates did well in the debate and Campaign Alley went incredibly well.

Our student moderator, Elizabeth Googe, who has an extensive background in politics based journalism, did an outstanding job. Never once did she stutter, crack her voice or show any sign of hesitance in what she did. The whole evening was almost close to perfect. Hopefully now the students will feel better informed in making a decision in who they want their next student leaders to be.

Below you can read through the articles the Daily Mississippian ran on the debate and a link where you can watch the recording of the live video stream used for the overflow contingency. For now, it's on to the next great project!

Additional Resources:
"ASB candidates prepare for first public debate"
"ASB candidates seek better communication"
Watch the Debate via MCast