Friday, April 27, 2007

A Semester in Review

It’s hard to believe that this semester is almost over. In the midst of tests, papers, meetings and the general hub bub of life, time just sped by. This will be my final blog assignment for my advanced communications class, but definitely not my last experience with blogging. What I have taken away from this class has been an invaluable experience and skill set that I am so thankful for, because I have something that I will be able to contribute to future employers. So this last assignment is a review of what we have taken away from this class, and the PR tips that we find to be the most valuable. So here are my top five for best practices in PR:

1.Communication: So this sounds like a give-in based on the type of class this is, but its importance can’t be looked over. Having good communication skills can only improve your media relations. How you communicate to the press, the public, your client all reflect your professionalism.

Communicating well is more than just being able to write concisely and in AP style (which is essential), its about speech communication as well and having good relations with the media and the public. Email, phone calls, handwritten thank you cards, every little bit helps and you never know what small contribution will put you above the rest.

The Communication Tool Kit, written by R. Hershey, for non-profits lists collaboration as an essential element in public relations. This tip isn’t solely focused on non-profits, it can be very useful in corporate communications as well. Building relationships with other organizations with similar goals will help to make a project more successful in terms of funding and creative ideas.

Executive Vice President for the Shelton Group, Stacey Gaswirth, had some valuable advice on being able to communicate on the global market. Many corporate clients work on the global market and if you understand how to communicate on a global scale, you will be a valuable asset to that organization.

2.Research: READ! Our professor could never over-emphasis the importance of reading as much as you can. We had a speaker at our Legends Speak program first semester and I got the opportunity to hear from the PR legend himself Harold Burson and his advice was to read, everyday. Read everything from newspapers, to books, to educational magazines.

Research is more than just perusing books and articles, its about educating yourself. Over the past few months I have really come to appreciate the use of good resources and resource skills. Not only for this class, but for all my other classes this semester. I now know how to navigate the web (which can be a huge and overwhelming task) as well as other electronic sources. Research is critical when working with a client. You may have to conduct a survey (surveymonkey is a great place to do a survey for a good price, for your client to find information about a particular target audience or demographic.

Research will help for you to get to know your client, your subject and your audience better. Knowing how to conduct a qualitative or quantitative study on a communication topic and the difference between the two can be a highly valued skill set. A great book on this subject is by Rubin, Rubin and Piele (2005) called Communciation research: Strategies and sources. It is a great place to start when learning the basics.

3.Technology: it’s not just the wave of the future anymore, it’s now. Technology is a crucial part of communications today and for PR professionals it is a packaged deal. You cannot be successful in the business anymore without having a working knowledge of technology, because your competition will and that will be were the clients go. A great place to start with technology is of course weblogs.

Blogs range in size, content, graphics. I’ve spent an entire semester researching and reading countless blogs, and they never go in circles, every blog with a link takes you in a completely new direction toward, yes that’s right, more blogs. I attempted to undertake the task of finding out how many blogs are on the internet, but that number is nowhere to be found and with good reason. Blogs emerge every day, they are countless, but if you want to find a blog on something, then its out there. From business blogs such as Derrich ( ) or a PR blog like Jeff Jarvis’s at Even the government has blogs that you can utilize like, . If you are looking for a blog, but feel your don’t know where to start try, it’s a good jumping off point.

A blog can literally be anything you want it to be and that is an amazing tool when approaching PR. We have the world at our fingertips every time we sit in front of a computer. There is an unlimited amount of knowledge to be gained and shared many people just don’t realize it. You can only improve the more you learn about technology because whether or not you know what a vlog is or a podcast, or even if you still type using your index fingers (in the fashion of my father) if you do not utilize the web in this business you and your client will be left behind. There has been a generational shift and a technological revolution in the field of communications and PR professionals are taking advantage of the world’s reliance on the internet.

By blogging you have the opportunity to be candid and to share information on a whole new level. There is more of an open atmosphere to a blog, a personal element, that is often lacking in press releases or even a live press conference. If there has been one thing that I will take away from this class this semester it is that blogging is the new wave of communication and I am thrilled that I have this new skill set that I can take with me in my future employment.

4.Crisis Management: It goes without saying that things happen in life that are beyond our control, and in the wake of 9-11 crisis communication has become a growing field. Not every crisis is on a mass scale, but a small crisis in a company can lead to bigger problems. All About Public Relations ( is a site on public relations and devotes a lot of time giving tips on dealing with a crisis within a company and how to make the most of a bad situation. dealing with a crisis and doing so successfully can be the thin line between saving a client’s reputation and the fall-out of the entire company.

The book Writing PR: A Multimedia Approach, by Carstarphen and Wells, give basic guidelines for successful crisis communication such as: Focusing on the people, explain how the crisis situation is being remedied, and being open to criticism early if the organization is at fault (in other words apologize). The book goes into greater detail on the elements of the message, you can check out the text at

5.My fifth and final tip is simple and that’s to love what you do!
PR doesn’t always get a lot of respect in the field of communications but to do it successfully constitutes a lot of hardwork and dedication, so to really be the best in the business you have to LOVE the business. Someone who hates their work will never show quality or improvement the way someone who is dedicated to it would.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

For Today, We are All Hokies

To the students, faculty, family and friends of Virginia Tech, my thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The New Entrepreneur

My school:
To characterize the students here at SMU and not rely on the usual stereotypes, I would have to say we are privileged.Privileged more in the sense of the opportunities available to us. Each student here is unique and has a different upbringing and different family circumstances so adhering to the basic "rich kid" assumptions that many people make about the students here would be misleading. But nevertheless we are a lucky group of students because of where we go to school and the resources we have.

Not only do we go to school in a big city with lots of networking capabilities, but we also have an amazing faculty that works hard to give us the education and skill-set needed to prepare us for entering into the business world. This is why I say that we are privileged.

Becoming an Entrepreneur:
I am in the last few weeks of my junior year of college and the inevitable onslaught of the question “so what do you want to do after college?” has begun to haunt me. I of course have plans, but those plans really only extend as far as grad school, but after that is a very ominous blank in the blueprint of my life.

In the “land of opportunity” which I consider myself so blessed to be raised there is a myriad of career paths to take, and that fact I find very daunting. How do I know what the perfect job is for me unless I try all of them? Let’s face it, that is an impossibility. So I need to follow what I know, and what I know is the advice of my father which is thus: be your own boss. Weather it be a private PR firm or law office, or even owning my own business, I know that being an entrepreneur is the most lucrative (if not financially then emotionally) career to have.

So where do I start in this road to entrepreneurship? I am not a business major so the opportunities that SMU’s Cox School of Business offers through classes such as its courses in becoming an Entrepreneur are not accessible to me. My father owns his own business, but he didn’t start that until well into his thirties. So I look around me at my fellow Mustangs and realize that within my own community there are entrepreneurs that seized advantages and took the (in my thoughts scary) step in starting their own businesses.

The Challenge:
This young entrepreneur is an up and coming phenomenon in our society. Not only are entrepreneurs beginning at younger ages, but they are successful as well. For my class we were presented with a challenge from Look-Look network,, an L.A. based company that track trends within today’s youth, to research the “new entrepreneur”, and how this new breed is beginning to redefine how our generation sees business and what that means for the future of business.

Success Stories:
This generation has really stepped up and started a shift in the attitudes of business. Having your own business now doesn’t require years of experience in the field, it only requires a vision and the means necessary to implement it. Here at SMU we can boast of not future entrepreneurs, but active ones. A classmate of mine, Scott, regaled me with stories from his ventures in the oil industry and how he actually financed his own way into the business and began his search for oil. Another example is my father’s Dallas-based real-estate agent graduated from SMU only a few years ago, and now owns his own Real-Estate firm, Mustang Realty.

David Hanson is another SMU student who started his own company, Conduit Internet Systems, which is a software company that he has started alongside his consulting work. He learned the value of owning your own company from his self-employed father. At 17 Hanson was running his own software consulting firm. Read more of his story at:

Another success story is an SMU student named John C. who started his own business because he saw a need as a music fan to find a more reliable source for concert tickets.The company is called FollowMyBand which notifies clients, through phone or email, about concerts from their favorite bands. Check out John C.'s website for his business at

The Attitude Shift:
These are only a glimpse into the under recognized successes of young entrepreneurs in the business world. These New Entrepreneurs are the people who don’t wait for opportunities to find them, they create their own opportunities and thus their own successes. The great thing about these young entrepreneur's is a refreshing outlook on business. The companies they start are often unique and something that they see a need for. Like John C. and David Hanson, they often create a business out of passion which further lends to its success.

Changing the Future of Business:
What exactly does this shift signify for the future of the business world? Other than ambition and an earlier start toward becoming an executive, I can’t really say. I can’t predict future so I don’t know if our generation will continue on this path successfully or not, but I do know that we are not a generation deterred by slight set-backs, so the future of private businesses seems like a gem in our national economy and I am looking forward to contributing to that.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The ONE Campaign

For a class assignment we were asked to research a campaign, any campaign of our choosing, and to write a case study on it. While browsing the web I came across the ONE Campaign, and it immediately caught my interest.

I saw the video campaigns for ONE on tv about a year ago, it was all over MTV and the web, with faces like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and of course, Bono asking for help in the fight against poverty and AIDS.

I am going to be completely honest here and say that other than the video clip itself I really didn’t give much thought to the campaign. As a teenager in America, the grief and horrific circumstances of poverty stricken nations seemed too large a cause for just one individual to make a difference.

Now, over a year later, slightly older and more aware of the global state because it is something I will be entering into soon, I had a different reaction to the ONE campaign. The campaign is an effort for Americans to rally Americans to help end extreme poverty and AIDS in not only foreign countries, but here at home.

The site dedicated to the Campaign ( is an amazing website that has links to news articles regarding the campaign and its efforts and, what’s even more relevant to this class, a blog. Over the past few months I have read and studied a lot of blogs and this one is by far the best. It helps that the subject is something that people are passionate about, but I also like how it is open to multiple writers which gives it a great dynamic. Ashley Judd even contributes to the blog journaling about her time in India and her efforts to reach out to women there.

The ONE Campaign doesn’t ask for your money, all it asks for is your voice. It encourages people from all walks of life to commit to the cause and sign the declaration; it’s as simple as that. People standing as one, with one voice, and one goal: to end extreme poverty. The campaign’s success is dependent upon our involvement. We hold the map to the future of our world, and its up to us to decide where we want to go.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

The Heal Blog

“Courage consists of the power of self-recovery” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have personally never battled with something as monumentous as cancer. Those who manage to battle with cancer and still live their lives gives me something to believe in. Survivors that grow from the experience, those who can still have hope, they are the people that define the term heroism. For me, those who I loved that battled cancer, they are my heroes, they taught me what courage is all about.

The effects of cancer are life altering, not just for the patient, but their families and their friends. This disease isn’t something that people can just recover from, the healing process is with them from the day they go into remission. My class was given the assignment to research websites and blogs regarding survivorship of cancer so we can create a blog for our client, Cure Magazine.

I embarked on this assignment rather hesitantly, cancer has been a significant part in my life through the illnesses of family and loved ones, but actually dealing with the aftermath of the disease never really occurred. I internalized all my feelings and emotions, all the pain and anxiety I just harbored within myself. I guess looking back I felt that since it wasn’t my sickness I just had to cope with my pain, it was something to deal with later, all my attentions had to go to those I loved. So the idea of Heal Magazine, a magazine geared to survivors of cancer and to helping them with the healing after chemo, was a rather foreign concept.

How do cancer survivors begin the healing process? Is there a place for family and loved ones within that process, how do they fit in? As I began my research I found less pain, and so much hope. Hope for a cure, hope for the future, and hope that their stories might help others. To begin listing blogs or communities that dialogue regarding cancer and survivorship would take pages, but there were a few I found that really caught my attention. The Cancer Blog (, Breast Cancer Treatement ( which is one woman’s blog regarding her story with breast cancer and how she is surviving, and Cancer Story ( an amazing website that is very extensive, are all geared toward helping people perservered through cancer.

Breast Cancer Support ( is another great site for breast cancer sufferers and survivors to go and listen to other stories. Steps For Living ( is a great site geared toward younger patients or survivors of cancer, for those who think “I’m too young for this” Gilda’s Club (, Race For the Cure( and LiveStrong ( are sites that serve to educate and motivate people regarding cancer.. I believe these sites should be referenced or linked in the blog for Cure Magazine because they really seem to honestly reflect the feelings and fears regarding cancer, and I believe that they could really help someone in their own struggle with the healing process.

A few ideas for a sidebar for the Heal blog would be places for families to have an opportunity to share their stories and how they coped. Another relevant sidebar blog topic is Cancer Fundraisers. People should be fully aware of all of the strides being made to find a cure and ways that they can get involved; example would be dates for Race for the Cure in local neighborhoods. A third sidebar topic, a perhaps the most important one, would be testimonials, a place where survivors can go and share their stories with others and give and receive feedback.

In regards to the focus of Heal’s blog, I believe that it should really be focused primarily on survivorship. How people start living their lives after the battle with cancer is fought. I think it should be an uplifting site and one that continues to instill hope, and not be constantly reminding them of their treatment, but focus their goals on maintaining health.

After all this research I am really excited to start this project with my class, so please check back and see how it develops!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tips for Getting Ink

The relationship between journalists and public relations specialists is a love-hate type of relationship. Each view their roles as superior to the other, yet are dependent upon each other for stories and coverage. Successful PR professionals are the ones who are continually advancing in their means of communicating with the media and maintaining strong relationships with them. In our constantly news-worthy world how does a PR professional go about getting ink for their client, not once, but routinely? Even with the rise in popularity of the internet, PR blogs and company websites are not sufficient enough, how do they reach out to the print and broadcast media?

Jeff Crilley, an Emmy winning journalist, wrote a book about strategies to bridge the gap between media and PR. His book is entitled Free Publicity and he gives tips from a journalist’s standpoint about what will get ink. He begins with “Timing is Everything”. This would seem self-explanatory and something most PR pros would already know, yet he drives the point in with so much force. He recommends pitching a story on a slow news day, that way you are more likely to get the hit. On slow news days reporters are in greater need for a story than days when the news is at a peak.

Another tip from Crilley was pitching a story that has impact, it answers the “who cares?” question. If a story doesn’t meet this standard then it isn’t worth publishing. “Don’t be Ordinary” is his third strategy. The piece you want published should be something memorable, “we cover the extraordinary, the man bites dog story gets the lead”. He also recommends sending visual images with the PR release. Even if it is for a radio station having a visual image will help the reporter to describe more colorfully.

While continuing my search on proper protocol for PR and media relations I came across an article written by Kim T. Gordon. Gordon is an author and a leading expert in entrepreneurial success. She wrote for Entrepreneur magazine on ways to get media relations without having to hire a large PR firm. She also has some great advice on ways to communicate with the media and sets them in six basic rules. These are: to set clear goals “who do you want to reach, and what do you want them to remember about you”, to create a plan “will help you to stay on track and outline your goals”, lay the right foundation-help the press and make it easy for them to be in contact with you and know your company’s executives and products. Fourth is to shape your story “content that fits the needs of the media outlet”, make it easy to cover you is her fifth tip, “going above the basic press release” making the journalist interested but not consuming too much time. And finally to build relationships, you have to have “one-on-one interaction” with journalists and always follow-up.

Please check out her article, it is a worth-while read:

Both Crilley and Gordon give great advice on building media relations and how to score a hit. Knowing the basics, such as timing and knowing what is news-worthy, are skills that will help any PR hopeful, such as myself, gain the necessary strategies to begin pitching stories and really starting off our careers on the right foot. From my research and life experience (as little as that may be) the best piece of advice that I can give is the same advice my mother always gives me (lets face it, moms always do know what’s best) when meeting with people: “honey attracts more flies than vinegar.” Be friendly, be polite, and smile. That is the type of person others want to work with, make the experience a pleasant one and the journalist won’t want to burn the bridge after working with you, and you now have a permanent entry in your little black book of media contacts.

I hope this was as helpful to you as it was for me. Until next time!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Blogging as a Tool

We are living in a technological revolution. My generation is embarking upon a whole new form of mass media, and as the internet continues to advance, people are finding more and more ways of utilizing the World Wide Web as a means of voicing their thoughts and opinions. The internet facilitates free speech in ways that America hasn’t seen since the golden days of journalism. Inhibitions go out the door as people use the internet as an outlet for opinions.

As I delved into my research into the realm of blogs I became more and more aware of the diversity of thoughts that people posted. There are individual blogs, such as MySpace, or corporate blogs like Sun Microsystems. There are blogs for entertainment and there are blogs for news. Whatever your taste may be there is a blog out there for you, though finding it may be like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

So where does blogging as a tool for PR fit in here? Well, pretty much anywhere you would like, and by that I mean blogging for PR has adopted the same traits of a social media as any other blog on the net. From PR firms employing prominent bloggers to endorse a specific company (please reference my previous post on Wal-Mart) to sports PR (, to entertainment PR ( Possibilities in this field seem virtually endless.

A successful blog exhibits all the qualities of social media. Presenting a place where people go to share their ideas, interests, passions, and opinions. Yet, as a new blogger and one who is new to the field of PR myself it is at times hard to distinguish the quality sites from the ones who just wish to vent some steam. Blogging as a tool for PR can open doors for companies to bypass the other forms of mass media and really cut out the middle man.

It is an amazing opportunity to promote a company and the possibilities seem endless for potential and growth. The future lies here, blogs will be a tour de force in the field of online public relations and I am excited to see where this new channel will lead companies and their constituencies.