Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Best Practices Blog

As the semester comes to an end, our class has been assigned to put together a list of best practices for public relations. Our class has learned so much about the emerging technologies affecting the PR industry today with everything from blogs and podcasts to social media and viral marketing; it was hard to narrow down just a few. So, here is my list of the five most important tips I have gathered over the semester…

Building Media Relations

o Although it is one of the most obvious, it is also one of the most important practices for PR practitioners to master. Dealing with the media is supposed to be our forte, so here are some ways to help develop and maintain these key relationships with the media.
o First, it is important to build your credibility with the media. And to accomplish that you must pitch good, interesting and timely story ideas
o When pitching stories over the phone, come up with a 30-second pitch to get your message across. 101publicrelations.com suggests some tips to convey your message clearly in 30 seconds:

 Identify who you are and why you are calling
 Ask if they have time to talk, if not, then you offer to call back at a time convenient for them
 Let the reporter know you are familiar with their publication or their work
 Explain quickly why readers will care
 Ask if the reporter is interested

o Peter Turkington of Strategic Communications Solutions advises PR professionals to pitch a story with friction, two competing agendas, because friction leads to interest. He says that PR people are responsible for making a story newsworthy to a reporter.
o Once you have proven your credibility to people in the media, you should begin to cultivate a relationship with them. Try meeting face-to-face; people are more trusting of people they have met.

• Know the news.

o Bottom-line: PR people have to know what is going on in the world.
o On top of knowing your client through and through, you are responsible for knowing its competitors, the industry and how it fits into the business world as a whole.
o Staying on top of current events is crucial in a business that operates on the next and latest trends.
o There are so many different ways to absorb the news from the TV, radio and newspapers to online news services, blogs and podcasts; you can’t get away from it.
o iTunes is offering a new way to get the news in a flash: they’re offering a podcast subscription to the New York Times, which allows you to download a 5-minute podcast every morning that summarizes the entire paper for that day.

• Incorporating CSR and acting transparent

o Corporate Social Responsibility has become such an integral part of the public relations field because it helps the industry appear more transparent while acting as the liaison between a corporation and its consumers.
o The public today feels that companies have a responsibility to give back to their communities.
o In an interview for class with Ginger Porter, SVP of Golin Harris in Dallas, she said, “consumers today are too smart, they want to feel good about where they are putting their money.”
o Porter offers the example of GolinHarris introducing the Ronald McDonald Charity House for their long-time client, McDonald’s, back when it first opened in the 1950s. Although, the fast-food chain may not be recognized for its healthy food, they are doing their part to give back to the community by providing underprivileged children with a home.
o Consumers today recognize businesses that appreciate and practice giving back to their community.

• Implementing new technologies

o Throughout the semester, we have seen the effect of new technologies on the public relations world through our experiences with blogging.
o It has become a reality that blogging is not just another fad. Blogs have stood their ground and have taken the public relations world to a whole new level.
o Porter believes that newspapers and the ten o’clock news are dinosaurs, she says, “You have to find new ways to reach consumers.”
o GolinHarris did just that when they had their client, McDonald’s, team up with YouTube, for the “It’s Your Break” Campaign, promoting McDonald’s new snack wrap. The winning video received a spot on the coveted YouTube home page for the day, and while offering exposure to the video author, the campaign also raised awareness about the client’s product, ultimately benefiting both sides.
o Social network communities like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and the blogosphere have become the new target audiences for companies looking to market their products or services.
o PR practitioners need to realize the influence of these different groups if they haven’t already.
o Dr. Nora Gamin Barnes, author of a blog study for the Center for Marketing Research, believes that companies no longer have the option of whether to blog or not. “Those businesses that choose to remain outside of this online conversation will be sidelined. Eventually they will become extinct,” she maintains.

• Monitor web content, including news, blogs, podcasts and videos

o A side effect of blogging and other emerging technologies means that companies are now responsible for monitoring all of the web content out there concerning their clients, company or industry.
o It’s crucial for companies to know about negative activity as soon as it hits the web. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult with the number of bloggers and social networks growing everyday.
o Katherine Smith came and spoke to our class about a product that her company, Visible Technologies, created in lieu of this rapidly increasing trend.
o She explained this new software in a metaphor, “It’s like trying to sell anti-virus software before anyone knew about computer viruses.”
o This brand new tool, called TruCast, will “scrape” the internet for all of the blogging activity relevant to your business and then convert the information into an easy to understand format.
o According to the Visible Technologies website, “consumer created content is the fastest growing segment on the web.” Consumers trust consumers and now have more power than ever in shaping perceptions of a product, business or service.
o Millions of posts are created everyday, and this is the first complete solution for businesses to start tracking the increasing consumer created content on the web every day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The "New Entrepreneur"

This week our class has teamed up with look-look.com, an L.A.-based trend watching company, to survey entrepreneurs in the SMU community and find out if they match the characteristics of what look-look defines as the “new entrepreneur.” According to the researchers at look-look, young people (ages 19-35) are redefining the path to a successful career.

Students and young professionals no longer feel the pressures of having to fit in with the structure of the business world as it is. They are becoming more and more aware of their ability to create something of their own, something that they are passionate about and finding ways to accomplish that. Self-employment does not carry the same negative connotation it did 20 years ago. Being your own boss has become a respectable position. Others are envious at those who can make a living out of pursuing their dream, while they are still stuck trying to climb the corporate ladder.

Many SMU students are fortunate enough to have the resources necessary in pursuing their goals as entrepreneurs. As students at a small, private university set in the heart of Dallas (now home to the city with the most Fortune 500 companies in the country), students at SMU have incredible networking opportunities as well as a city with everything to offer. SMU also offers a variety of entrepreneurship classes and has its own institute, the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, just recently named by Entrepreneur Magazine as the fifth best entrepreneurial program in the nation.

SMU entrepreneurs share many characteristics with other young entrepreneurs across the country. Both have gained success from having a good education, the capital to start a company, the drive to develop a business plan and the passion behind their ideas to establish a business. Here are two examples that caught my attention:

Trey Chappell is one of the many examples of SMU entrepreneurs that I found in my research. Chappell graduated from SMU in 2000 with a degree in finance. In 2002, he started his own college advising service, College X-ing, that would extend beyond the typical high school college prep courses and offer a more personalized, in-depth approach to finding the right college for high school students and their families. His advice to budding entrepreneurs, “Keep your brain churning; don’t stop thinking up ideas and write them down. Don’t let peers’ negative impressions deter you from pursuing an idea; you’ll be the salesperson, so if you believe in it 100 percent, you’ll get others to buy it.”

Erin Patton, a 2006 EMBA SMU graduate, had already started his own business when he enrolled in the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, but wanted a program that he said would "enhance my effectiveness as a business leader." Patton knew SMU Cox School of Business would be the right place for him to "to interact with the esteemed Cox faculty while gaining exposure to the school’s vibrant alumni network."

An established entrepreneur from the moment he received his bachelor's degree from Northwestern in 1991, he was chosen to launch Nike's Jordan brand by Michael Jordan himself, right out of college. He increased global revenue sales to $350 million in his role and received the Edison Award from the American Marketing Association. From there he started his own brand marketing consulting firm, TMG, which has counseled such clients as Pepsi, Motorola, MTV, Mercedes-Benz and more.

He attributes his successful and growing business to the skills he learned from his Cox professors and his introduction into the Cox network of Dallas’ business elite. “As a Cox alum, you add thousands of business leaders’ names to your rolodex.”

Since graduating from the SMU Cox School of Business, Patton has expanded his New-York based company with a Dallas office and has hired a Cox student as an intern. He also teaches a sports marketing class to Cox MBA students and has just finished writing his first marketing book.

Patton strongly believes that “character counts…for everything.” His advice for budding entrepreneurs is to, “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you…and empower them in ways so they manifest your vision.”

Other entrepreneur sites:
BusinessWeek.com article: “The Startup Bug Strikes Earlier”
Young Entrepreneurs
Young Entrepreneur’s Organization
The Young Entrepreneurs Network
YoungEntrepreneur.com Blog

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heal Magazine's New Blog for Cancer Survivors

When our class was asked to help Heal magazine with their blog site, a publication for cancer survivors being launched in the spring, I immediately thought of my best friend, Gina. Gina was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in the sixth grade, and after major brain surgery and radiation she is now living a healthy life at 22 years old. I remembered how traumatic the experience was for her and her family and thought I would ask her opinion on what might interest her now that she is a cancer survivor.

Based on the research I have done on existing cancer blogs and the information that Gina offered, I am attempting to make what I think will be good suggestions for Heal’s cancer survivorship blog site.

A written disclaimer, like the one found on www.thecancerblog.com should be at the top of the blog. It should explain that the information on the blog should not be perceived as professional medical advice. It’s necessary because Heal, as an open forum about medical issues, cannot be held responsible if a reader chooses to use someone’s advice that isn’t authorized to give it.

Next, it should state its purpose clearly so readers are aware of what kind of cancer blog this is, because there are already quite a few out there. And my suggestion for Heal is that it should be consistent with their magazine’s mission, which sticks to cancer survivorship as opposed to cancer patients.

Sidebar items should include other cancer survivorship blogs, but also cancer blogs that are more general, like www.thecancerblog.com, which covers various cancer topics for both patients and survivors. It also has endless links to resources that are useful for survivors, patients and families. Also, topics like medical resources and recent technology that would include several links to the latest news for helping cancer survivors.

I don’t think it is bad to use celebrity to get people’s attention about cancer because it works. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship website used fashion designer and cancer survivor Carmen Marc Valvo to design a t-shirt for their new campaign. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the National Breakaway from Cancer Initiative, which also has the support of actor Patrick Dempsey, whose mother is a two-time ovarian cancer survivor. The Breakaway from Cancer Initiative provides a direct link for patients and caregivers to various professional resources.

Lastly, this blog needs to stand out from other cancer blogs and cancer survivorship blogs. My friend, Gina, has looked at cancer survivorship information on the internet and none of it interests her. She says that it is mostly geared towards seniors and not toward her age group. A good example, though, is Glamour's blog, Life with Cancer, written by a young staff member who survived leukemia and is using her job at Glamour as a way to share her experiences with other cancer survivors. Although, Heal magazine’s readership is mostly those above the age of 60, I believe that Heal could reach out to the 20-35 age group. Blogging, as an emerging technology, already attracts a younger crowd; therefore Heal’s blog should attract a younger audience and hopefully encourage them to read Heal magazine as well as the Heal blog.

Overall, the Heal blog should act as an open forum for survivors to write about their struggles, offer advice and simply be a place to relate with others going through the same experiences. Gina is looking forward to a place where she can read about others’ experiences as cancer survivors and hoping that it will be able to attract a younger crowd who she can better relate to. I am happy to be a part of something that is not only benefiting the cancer survivor community, but also my friend Gina, who has given me a glimpse at an insider's perspective and will help me better serve our class in developing a blog for Heal magazine.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Dawn Dishes it Out"

When researching successful PR case studies, I came across one carried out by Procter & Gamble that caught my attention. I was intrigued because they managed to take an everyday household product, Dawn dishwashing liquid, and turn it into a newsworthy item. Here is how it unfolded:

-2003, Dawn dishwashing liquid was losing out to its competitors who claimed to offer more soap for less money. However, consumers were merely uninformed, because Dawn claims that just one 25 ounce bottle can clean over 10,000 dishes.
-P&G hired Marina Maher Communications to design a communications campaign to get the message out clearly, that "just a little Dawn cleans a lot of dishes." And so they created the "Dawn Dishes it Out" campaign.
-The campaign consisted of a massive eating event proving that just one 25 ounce bottle of Dawn can clean over 10,000 dishes, Hispanic market location and Hispanic celebrity (to appeal to their secondary target audience of Hispanics), "wow" visual for media coverage, and celebrity spokesperson, Robbie Knievel.
-1,685 people showed up to the main event where they started with breakfast, followed by a "wash-a-thon" with 300 washers, dryers, runners and stackers. DJ's and other celebrity guests provided entertainment. For the finale they stacked 10,000 clean plates for Knievel to jump over, and it was all captured for the TV commercial

The campaign succeeded almost every goal they projected for the event, including over 575 TV stories spotlighting Dawn, a story run by the L.A. Times and the photo of Knievel's jump becoming one of the most popular photos on yahoo.com. Dawn also saw ten percent dollar share and eight percent volume share increase in Dawn sales compared to a year ago. I think this is a great example of a case study that really got creative and followed through with their research. They transformed dishwashing soap from a low-interest category into a news spectacle.

For more information on the Dawn case study and other case studies go to: http://www.prfirms.org/resources/case_studies/Integrated_Marketing/2006/Dawn1.asp

Friday, February 9, 2007

PR Tips on getting your client ink

With the advancement of technology today, there are becoming more and more ways in which to grab the media’s attention. This is great, but it also makes it harder to stand out when the media is getting bombarded with press releases from all different avenues. Now, I realize that I am no expert on ways to get your client publicity, but I did my research and have found some great PR pros that offer their advice on ways of grabbing the media’s attention.

• Build relations with the media.
This is probably the most important way to get your client publicity. According to an online survey by indiaprblog it is important to develop a strategy when dealing with the media. Several tips they offer include, giving journalists exclusive stories, building credibility with them, handing over your client list and feeding them precise and newsworthy information. The survey also says that friendship and sharing good stories can be a good combination from time to time.

• Write good press releases.
Kirsten Osolind, CEO of Reinvention marketing firm, writes on her blog that press releases need to be straightforward and to the point. She also says to “include quotable stats, top 5/10 lists, and facts of interest that people want to know. Make your point quickly and make it well.”

• Know what is going on in the world.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to be well read. As a PR professional you need to not only know your client, but also know the industry, its competitors and recent trends. Kevin Dugan of the bad pitch blog wrote, “One of my bosses always said you have to know the news to make the news.” If the amount of news seems overwhelming to you, he suggests creating a blend of print, electronic, e-mail/RSS/online news consumption so no one approach bogs you down.

• Pick up the phone.
It may be one of the oldest forms of communication but it is still one of the most effective and direct ways to get in contact with somebody. When Al Golin spoke at SMU last year he stressed more than anything to not forget to use the phone even in our technologically advanced world. It is so much more personal than emails, voicemails and blogs.

• Build a good media list and keep it updated.
Knowing which journalists to contact for what is key in getting your client’s story out there. You should constantly be reading their articles to know what they like to cover so you can approach them in a certain way. When I interned for Burson-Marsteller last year they always kept me busy updating their various media lists and stressed how important it was to keep their information up to date.

• Use current and advanced media channels
Blogs, podcasts and YouTube are becoming so popular with PR practitioners because they are so useful in getting their client’s message out to the public in an effortless way. Golin Harris just launched a YouTube campaign for their client, McDonald’s, to introduce a new addition to their menu, the snack wrap. The contest winner will be featured on YouTube’s homepage, a coveted spot for those trying to get their message out, and usually only features big brands. You can check out the video here.

I would love to invite more tips and advice…please feel free to leave your comments below.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Blogging as a tool for PR

When the concept of blogging was first introduced to me, my first thought was, how can firms just let anyone with internet access write whatever they want for the whole online community to see? I felt it was somewhat dangerous to allow that kind of freedom. Blogs certainly don’t have the censorship that magazines, print ads and tv have. I pictured employees getting fired for misrepresenting their companies on personal blogs and people using blogs as propaganda.. But then I remembered that this is the United States, and we use our first amendment right to its full extent. So I started getting over how controversial blogging can be and began to see how it benefits the public relations industry.

When I really thought about it, blogging is the perfect tool for the PR field. Professionals can promote their own business and create buzz for their clients in a cost-free and effective way. They can use it as a networking device to see what other PR professionals are doing in the field. Corporate blogs are now open forums for employees of all levels to voice their opinions and ideas. Lots of PR blogs are from well-established professional PR practitioners who are willing to offer their advice and thoughts about the current PR industry. Jeremy Pepper’s blog, Pop! PR Jots (http://pop-pr.blogspot.com/), shares advice with other PR pros about his experiences with starting his own PR business. Even CEOs like Harold Burson (http://hb.burson-marsteller.com/) and Richard Edelman (http://www.edelman.com/speak_up/blog/) have hopped on the blogging band wagon and have their own personal blogs.

Several blogs are devoted to what not to do as a PR professional, like the Bad Pitch Blog (http://badpitch.blogspot.com/index.html), started by Richard Laermer and Kevin Dugan. They have been in the field almost twenty years and offer some pretty hilarious commentary about the don’ts of the PR field. They actually use people’s real names to cite the bizarre and amusing events that happen to them on a daily basis. Their main complaint and title of one posting: “One year later, the pitches still suck.” Blogs like Google’s (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/), use the open forum to promote new features on their website and discuss recent business deals.

Ultimately, PR professionals need to be tuned into this new online tool, because its their job to know the newest and latest ways to promote their clients. Blogging has created a new way of creating buzz and it’s a great asset to the PR field. Overall, we can see that the world of blogging has infiltrated the field of communications and is becoming widely used by more and more professionals daily

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Creating Buzz

Dallas Water Utilities carried out a very successful campaign with their Save Dallas Water mascot campaign aimed at educating the Dallas area youth about water conservation. Young voters could vote online and they selected "Dew" the water drop. "Dew" was sworn into office at a Dallas elementary school by City Council members. Children got to choose from three different candidates who each had their own promises and water saving tips. The campaign's goal is to teach young kids different water saving techniques and show the importance of civic responsibility. DWU came up with a great and creative way to help water conservation from the bottom up: educating youth about the importance of water conservation and ways to carry it out so they can pass it on. They have received numerous communication awards for their success including an award in communication excellence given by the Texas section of the American Water Works Association (AWWU) and the Water Environment Association of Texas.